Tο σπίτι μας – our house

I sit here and listen. Just sitting here and listening with my eyes closed and suddenly it’s like I have hearing for the first time – as if wax has been unblocked from my ears. I hear the birds chirping away merrily, a couple of dogs barking in the distance, their sound enlarged and amplified by the hills, and a few goat bells tinkle away. Then a wood pigeon coos – it’s a sound that takes me back to childhood. A late summer echo from years ago. The wind stirs the trees, rushing and whistling, if I strain I can hear the sea…

And so here we are renting a little house in a village by the sea. With all its unfamiliar new noises and eerie early season silence. It’s a simple little single storey whitewashed ‘spiti / house’ – I’m going to describe it as traditional, simple kitchen and a basic bathroom. It has blue shutters and a big terrace running the length of the front, overlooking a big open space. Two big pine trees shade the house, we think planted after it was built and now towering over the terrace, there’s an olive tree at the entrance and a fig tree at the back. Scrubby grass dominating with four hibiscus bushes and 2 oleander’s to the left of the house, there is also a very wild looking passionflower climber which I’d like to train around the terrace. It is mostly very sandy soil, dry and almost clay-like. I think growing in pots will be best – our landlord advises the same and as soon as he noted my interest in gardening offered to bring over pots and plants he had spare. I feel very welcomed and already at home. In fact it look less than an hour to unpack…making a list of things to pick up from the big shop in Ermoupol. Rugs, bottle opener, seat cushions. All we need to make a home.

The first few nights were cold, we shivered under 3 blankets, both with full sleeved clothing and the AC set to heat. That’s the thing with a lot of the old island houses, built to protect them from the ravages of summer heat, they don’t fare well in the winter with cold tile floors and high ceilings.  Even through it was Easter week and daytime temperatures were 19c…after we moved in last week they started to dip to 14c and then down to 9c on an evening, now that really did feel cold!

Now a week after moving in the sunshine is back and the Easter tourists have gone home.

The water pump is fixed – a little problem on the first day as a new pump had been installed to pump the water from the ‘sterna’ (basement water tank) under the house. This is an old traditional system of storing water that should last the whole summer – now the houses have heated water it needs to get pumped to the roof and then to the boiler. But the pump had a few teething problems, so the local plumber (also our neighbour) spent considerable time here figuring it out. So much so we escaped to the souvlaki café out of politeness…where we met some locals and were bought a round a drinks courtesy of the landlord.

The following day, the plumber left us a bag of lemons from his tree. Making good on his promise, the landlord brought round 6 tomato seedlings and a pepper, as well as pots and herbs. I went for an early run this morning. ‘Yassoo / Kalimera’ – friendly waves from the bar, the taverna, the workman sweeping the path, the sly cats still glare with suspicion and the dogs bark.

But still in a week we feel welcomed in the village. We now have a place for the summer, a million lemons and some baby plants to look after….oh and a friendly stray cat that meows outside on the terrace.

I think that makes it a home already.

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