A slice of Feta and two black olives

If I glance up from my writing, and look through the open window straight in front of me, I see dark blue mountains in the background, and a calm bright turquoise sea that reflects the blue of the sky perfectly. If I walk down the road outside my old village house on the mountainside, I see dark green olive groves and a sea of multi coloured spring flowers that stretches far away to the horizon. If I walk behind the house on the steep elevation that is Aerostatos, I see yet more olive trees, still wearing their skirts of black nets to catch the last few olives that remain, waiting for the last storms of the winter to wash them down off the trees. If I glance back behind me in time, I wonder what happened to the twenty years that have passed since we moved here, to Corfu in Greece.

We just had to leave the North East of England to find a new life here. The levels of crime in the area where we lived in Britain were horrendous. Our house and car were destroyed by a neighbour who was high on drugs, and we moved away for our own safety. We came to Greece for a holiday as we were so stressed, and by the third day I knew that I belonged here and had to stay. We eventually sold our house in England to a dealer and moved our belongings across Europe in an old caravan. We rented for a long time, trying out different locations on the island, before finally finding a house we both loved in a mountain village on the west coast.

After thirteen years of searching for a suitable property I had given up all hope of finding anything. Everything we looked at seemed to be overpriced, in need of too much renovation, not what we wanted, or in the wrong area for our needs.

After a long day at the beach we called for a coffee at our friend’s little coffee shop. He asked if we were still looking for a house to buy, so I answered no and my husband answered Yes! It took them both three days to convince me to go and see it but the moment I looked around I knew it had to be mine. It was perfect, I loved the village and already knew some of the people there. It took us a few months to complete but once we did , we moved in and made it home. Twenty years later, Greece is our country now, the people are our extended family, and that house is our true home.

Corfu is the greenest island in Greece. It has a humid, almost tropical climate, which is similar to that of Florida, although our summer temperatures are hotter. It can be very wet in the winter, and we often have thunderstorms that shake the earth and the windows and doors. In the summer , Corfu becomes a tourist islands, with visitors from all over the world coming here for the sunshine and the scenery. But if you move away from the resorts and their tourist attractions, just a little way out you will find the true Greece once more.

There are thousands of tiny villages all over the island, many of them are not on the maps, they are unmarked, but no less attractive for it. They are full of characters, the Corfiots are as individual as the villages they inhabit. Their families have lived in the tiny village stone houses for generations, and they have no intention of changing their lifestyles to please others. They still collect the olives from the family trees to make their living, and either press them for olive oil or soak them in brine for eating later in the year.

They still grow the wine grapes on vines that the family have owned for generations, and press them and allow them to ferment naturally in the hot sunshine until the wine is ready for drinking. No yeasts, preservatives or chemicals are added. It is totally natural, with a rich fruity taste and an alcoholic content that takes most visitors by surprise.

They eat one of the healthiest diets on earth, with lots of fresh fish, fruit and vegetables. The fish is caught every day by the village fishing boats, the fruit grows year-round in the garden, with fruit trees bearing fruit and blossom at the same time. The vegetables are usually grown in the garden, or in the village co-operative gardens just outside the villages . The excellent Feta cheese , butter, yogurt, and tender lean meat, come from the local sheep and goats that are kept by the villagers. Almost everything is organic here, it is never labeled as such, as it is all organic, from the olive oil to the free range hens that wander around the village. Each wears a coloured thread of wool around its leg, so the villagers can identify it as theirs.

People live to a ripe old age here, often living into their nineties. There is a very low rate of heart disease , thanks to the healthy diet, the good olive oil which they have at almost every meal, and the frequent pleasure of a glass of local red wine. The lifestyle is relaxed and stress is uncommon, they take life as it comes, and are so relaxed they could slide off the chair.

They are truly family people, and if you become a friend of a Corfiot you have a friend for life. Friends here greet each other with hugs and kisses, and genuine concern about how you are, and if things are going well for you and your family. The Greek people make you feel loved, as if you are an important part of their lives. They are hospitable, and friendly, and generous, both with their time and their love.

It is April now , and the summer has come early this year. In the past three years we seem to have missed out the spring season altogether, going from the rain and cold of winter straight to the sunny days and high temperatures of summer.

The fields are full of lambs which will be part of the Easter celebrations ,a time all the Greeks look forward to, as it is the main event of the year in Greece. I look forward to it as well, it is a time to celebrate the coming summer and all that it means, and to celebrate the fact that we have all got through another winter here, and have the sunshine and joy of the summer to look forward to together.

Janet Linda Darbey
janetlindadarbey@gmail.com

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