Greece

The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.
L. P. Hartley, The Go-Between (quote reblogged from Zimmerbitch)

Lefkada 07: past, foreign country, differently. Photo: MP

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My blog is one year old

It was on this day one year ago that I settled on the Volkswagen-looking sign (above left), chose my profile photo and published my first blog piece ever.

It is not an easy piece but it’s quite symbolic. Not symbolic of my blog, which I do my best to keep upbeat, but of my original country. It concerns a certain escaped lynx and what happened to her. As for me, I’m still roaming wild.

These are four of my favourite photos that have not been published yet. This one is Flying Carpet, in Monticiano.

It is rather strange to be me and have a blog. I don’t feel like advertising. I don’t strive to make myself seen. I joined Facebook a mere month or so ago for the first time and now at least my posts are published there as well.

It’s rather like when I was travelling in Greece, around the Peloponnesus and several islands. In more touristy places the restaurant owners were loud and obnoxious, it’s true. They were also quite slick. I remember one of them, standing at the entrance to his restaurant. His game was trying to determine the origin of each group of tourists before they reached his place, and then barely audibly uttering a name of a sportsman from this country. In our case it was Jure Zdovc (basketball player), perfectly pronounced. And this is how he got us to chew on his mediocre calamari.

Domestic Bliss, in Porto Ercole

Another example is the lady in a restaurant in Ljubljana, Slovenia (it was Brinje, for the locals). She had just served my family and me an entire lunch full of national dishes and we were ready to start emitting Slovenian after-meal noises, which are so perfectly described by Mr. Michael Manske (his radio programmes on How to Become a Slovene deserve a special entry).

When she asked us whether we wished any dessert, all of us started to plead incapable of swallowing anything more. She smiled and already turned to leave but then turned her head a little and whispered almost audibly: “We’ve got strawberries.” Guess what followed.

I took this approach at the time when I was selling my mom’s book of poems for children at a fair. The fair was full of toys and this was what most of the kids were interested in. I could see how they looked away as soon as they saw books. And yet, the stall next to me was occupied by a highly successful, cute and productive book seller who put a child or two in her lap and her first question was: “Do you like to create?”, while her aid, dressed as Noddy (hugely popular cartoon and book character), took care of attention-drawing.

I stood there, with one single book on the stall, looking at all the passing children and thinking things over. Then I started to whisper at the passing parents: “We’ve got poems!” At least three fathers bought the book.

And it is not because the book was somehow not worthy. It is one glorious book, if I say so myself, and my plan is to translate it one day and see what the world thinks. Because in Slovenia people love it, children love to learn the poems by heart and colour in the illustrations (provided by Mina Fina) which have been left in black and white for this purpose.

Looky here, in Orvieto

The point is that I prefer the tactics of the restaurant owner on the island of Karpathos, just to the right of Crete, where I had dinner every night for one week years ago. The most memorable meal consisted of a calamaro – yes, in the singular – because one specimen was so huge that it covered the entire plate.

Nobody stood at the entrance there, they were too busy serving. The guests were not tourists but rather locals, and the permeating emotion was that of quiet pride: “Nobody is forcing you to eat here but when you do, you will be served excellent food and you will want to return.”

In this way I have been quietly waiting for a year to see what will happen, but also not really waiting since I put here stuff that I wish to see myself. To have it at a ready.

A few times it happened that a single piece gathered much more attention than normally: one time it was a poem by a Slovenian politician that did it, another time a writing site decided to use my entry with a poem by Tomaž Šalamun as a teaching aid and I still have people flocking over on account of it. Thank you, Tomaž, for writing it.

Beside own writings I have here several own English translations of famous Slovenians who probably have no idea that I have done them, but this is better than have them complain 😀

I have here plenty of own photographs which I can only hope nobody is stealing – but if you do, watch out, Karma is off and running!

I have here birthday wishes for my family and friends, and now we can start the year again and slowly repeat them.

Magliano selfie with uncle’s arm

Photo: MM

Thank you to everybody who have somehow managed to find your way over here despite. And I hope you are well fed.

≈ Manja Maksimovič ≈

August

Image

A peugeot 504 off the net, but this is how it was, just light yellow.

There was an August, years and years ago, that I spent on the island of Crete. In my Peugeot 504 (with yellow headlights!) and with another car-full of friends, in my heavenly blue one-piece swimsuit which I practically only took off to sleep, sleeping on beaches all together on a big black spread, not a roof above my head for the whole month if you don’t count brief visits to shops for food and the car roof and a tree when we found one.

The most peaceful month of my life. As it was coming to a close, my friends were getting jittery, missing this and that, anxious to return home. Not me, I could have had it forever: figs, blackberries, lamb, fish (= psarì, psomì = bread, krasì = wine, most useful Greek words), the sea!, the hot wind from Africa in the south of the island that dries up your mouth, the sensation of a return to civilization after spending a few days in a bay without a soul in sight, and as you near a city you realise your swimsuit will not quite suffice, and you hop in the car to change into your long blue-on-blue dress which you bought in a hippie shop in the previous town (NO SIZE) and leather sandals and your sea-wild hair turn you into an instant goddess.

There is a little island, to the left of Crete, Elefonisi. A little ferry took our cars there. We made it to the top of the tiny island and laid out our spread next to some sleeping turkeys. I made pasta with beans and some dried meat which may have been the reason for my upset stomach and troubled sleep. I remember taking a bit of every medicine I had with me: a black carbon pill, a pill against heartburn, one for sore throat and one aspirin. I never take pills so as I was popping them I discussed it with my body, imploring it to take them seriously and calm the fuck down as I’m on holidays.

As I stirred from sleep the next morning, I heard voices whispering as if trying hard not to wake us. I peeked towards the group of villagers standing by the turkeys, looking at us, chirping among themselves. I thought: Oh, well, let’s do this. I stood up in my Kelly’s family night dress (as a friend considerately nicknamed it) and slowly moved towards the group.

When they saw me approaching, their expressions lit up. A woman extended her hands and said in broken, efficient, Greek English which I came to love so much and use it now with the Italians: “Thank you for choosing our village to sleep in.”

Another August is approaching. Cicadas are the same. The wind is less strong and less hot, neither is heat as fierce, but it’s breezy and scorching all the same. The greenery is more but the produce is similar and tastes so good. The Italians are not the same as Greeks, but their pride is similar. Olive oil too. The calm is here (until it’s not and ferragosto starts).

The pack is different, and this time it’s mine. I have the roof, and the car too (not a thirsty old peugeot but a sensible diesel one). I’ve yet to sleep on the beach but I sleep every night in the arms of the man I love.

And I have it, eternal holidays, eternal August. It could have never happened, easily. Thank you for giving it to me.

(Written in July 2013.)

≈ Manja Maksimovič ≈