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  • Crete July 2000

    Crete was blissful. Stone built house at the head of a valley in a rough old village high above Paleochora. Sheep drifting on to terrace where we ate in the evenings. Goats' bells in the darkness. Long walks in amazing sunshine with the scent of herbs: wild sage, rosemary and thyme (but no parsley). 

    A pretty disparate group. Gary with painted toenails and a foofy little finger ring was endlessly 'comfortable with his sexuality' and bedded a blonde lawyer called Sara to prove it. Sarah was a Liverpuddlian lifelong hippy with cats that have tried every psychotropic known. We tai chi'd in an olive grove by a stream. Azigores describes itself as a paradise village, but Eden is deserted these days. Ruins all around and two scruffy bars with a very un-reconstructed clientele.

    On Wednesday we walked down the gorge to a deserted beach for a swim. Gary, the course leader and I had marched on ahead and as he wondered out loud about not bothering with clothes I slipped in the water. It was only slightly embarrasing wading out afterwards -without a stitch - once the rest of the group had assembled (fully clothed) on the beach to watch us... 

    On Friday there was a barbecue. A man who'd been brought up in the house where we staying was always around the place. He was poking sticks into the firebox of a great rusting piece of apparatus that evening. A pipe connected with another container and from it ran a thin stream of clear liquid. Firewater! He was making the most astonishingly potent raki and it seemed incredibly churlish of me not to try it. 

    Our meals were vegetarian but on Sunday morning we were woken by the screams of a pig being slaughtered. Later the corpse hung dripping in the doorway of the bar where the owner had been so welcoming the previous evening. 

    She gave us all apples and showed the bread oven she still uses. As a young woman without a dowry she'd embroidered astonishing pictures from local silk as a dowry. Her elderly husband slumped in a vest in the bar. 

    We went our ways with promises of a London reunion. Something very satisfying about cheating the season by flying south at the end of autumn. The effects are just wearing off two weeks later.