about Corfu

Scottish Sailing post flurry of excitement in UK

We broke off our sailing summer to return to the UK for two very exciting events a first grandchild and a wedding – different offspring involved in each event!

Two days before our flight I had a late night call to say that Emma had given birth to our first grandchild – a little boy.  To Nick and Emma a son!!  I thanked all the gods that were listening and such is modern technology that within minutes I was gazing at his little face and becoming completely captivated and soppy.  I could not stop smiling and did not sleep the rest of the night. Papous (grandpa in Greek, snored on unmoved!), no that’s unfair he is very excited but just doesn’t get as animatedly excited as yiayia (grandma).   We were booked in to stay with Nick and Emma on our return and so got to see him at just two days old.  He is of course beautiful and a genius.  He has a grand name – Maximus Alexander.  We then drove north leaving the new family to settle and spent a week at home sorting various things and seeing Christina and John, Andy’s aunt and uncle, who were over from Australia for an 80th birthday party.  Then we drove south for our second event which was the marriage of our Matthew to Sophia.  It was an extremely happy weekend organised brilliantly by the two of them, we had a marvellous time. Click here or on the wedding picture to get more photos.

So back to the real world of Greece and sailing.  We had two days to get north to meet Alastair and so I went shopping early.  On the way back peering uncertainly down the streets to make sure I was on the correct track back.  A small round man clad in blue work dungarees and white T shirt and clasping a plasterer’s tool stopped his scooter and asked if I was OK.  I said I was just going back to the port and he indicated I should jump up behind him and he would take me.  How exciting! No hesitation, I leapt on, wrapping one arm firmly around his gentle rotundity and clinging onto my shopping with the other.  We set off whizzing down the tiny streets back to the boat and I was able to direct him left and right in Greek!  It was exhilarating; I so wished I had shot past Andy – what a surprise he would have got.  What a kind man.  I thanked him and he zoomed off back to work.  

We were stuck in the bay at Corfu for 24 hours while a storm raged, the aeroplanes were grounded.  Our anchor held fine and being in the south of the bay we missed the worst although had some good pitchy and rolly periods.  Bizarrely we saw a man swimming past us in huge waves the first morning.

So on to the pretty northern fishing village of Kasseopi and north west to Mathraki Island, the latter reminiscent of Scotland in its setting and characters.  The morning ferry being ‘an event’ drew people down to the pier, I watched as it disgorged amongst other things - building materials, supplies for the shop and a stocky lady dressed all in black who came off loaded with bags - back and forward she went, disappearing inside the ferry and returning to pile up cases, and supermarket bags, a broom and finally a fat old man with a small dog before they were all born off in a numberless old banger which had to have its contents emptied before fitting everything in.  The car sagged as they bounced off down the pier with a clang and a cloud of smoke returning later to collect the displaced items.

Pt Timoni

Pt Timoni is the secret bay that Andy spotted in the Sailing Holidays brochure.  The stunning picture was not acknowledged but through clever guesswork he worked out where it might be and we went straight to it – it is perfection and the sun obliged in a week of disappointing weather with cloud, rain, squalls and limited sun shine.  As I write we are doing some Scottish Sailing in that Alastair and Andy are in the cockpit clad in oilys and raincoats and actually enjoying sailing through squalls, knock downs and occasional torrential rain.  I am snug and smug!  But I guess I’ll make them a toasty soon.

Back to Timoni, if that is indeed the name for the place we were.  After swimming and snorkelling we went ashore and climbed up a little path to a coll over which we looked down into another bay, wide open and mint green.  Walking in the other direction toward what we thought was a white sign post was a heady experience – as we climbed we paused occasionally and in that moment were hit by the scent - strong sweet honey.  There was an abundance of plants - purple and white heather, cyclamen and squat evergreens with tiny yellow berries; holly and quercus, the oak small with tiny scratchy leaves and even tinier acorns; there were autumn crocuses and honeysuckle and curry plant and plenty others that I couldn’t identify.  The sign post turned out to be a cross in front of a cave or grotto in the hill.  Its niches around the white washed walls crowded with numerous icons to various saints, votive candles and incense burners and a bowl containing offerings of money.  Someone tended this place; there was a table and chair, a broom and containers for water and carrier bags with newspapers.  From my reading of the inscriptions it was a shrine to St Stylianos about whom I will find out later.

A Sunday in Corfu Town

Sitting in the Liston cafe, tall arches shield you from the autumn sun.  We look out on to the wide flagged street thronged with people. Beyond this is the cricket ground and they are warming up for a match - their whites contrasting sharply with the green, green of the grass.

There is a buzz of constant chatter, a clatter of plates and the high piping voices of children.  Seeping through all this we hear the sound of a brass band which gradually gets louder and soon appears from around the corner.  Dressed in blazing white, heads topped with shining plumed and gilded helmets, the bandsmen lead a procession which includes both Greek and Russian sailors, three tall imposing Orthodox priests, dignitaries and wreath bearers.  The noise and the mystery are compelling and we follow.   They gather around the statue of Ionnis Kapodistrias a Greek who became a Russian foreign minister before returning to a newly independent Greece as its first President in 1820.  

Saint Spiridion

Later we found our way to the church of St Spiridion, the patron saint of Corfu. We stepped into the dark interior, the darkness emphasized by the dark wooden pews in the middle and around the edges.  Candelabra and the frames of icons shone dully gold and silver, the only other colour coming from bright spots of red and yellow reflecting on the floor from sun shine in the windows above.  A pigeon fluttered in and settled on a saintly representation.

There didn’t seem to be a service as such but a series of events which flowed around one another.  Sometimes it seemed to be a purely social event.  Young and old were there, suitably respectful but relaxed, tourists in shorts wandered in and out; the guests of the baptism were very finely dressed while the congregation in general were casual. There was constant chatter, mobile phones went off, and nobody seemed to mind.   Handsome old ladies creased with fine wrinkles came to have their own private moments, candles were bought and the queue built to visit St Spiridion.  He had had such a write up.  I had read about kissing the slippers of St S in Lawrence Durrell’s Prospero’s Cell and was disappointed.  I had expected at least to see his feet sticking out of the tomb which held his mummified remains. However there was a lot of kissing of his tomb, the coloured pictures fading with the pressure of centuries of lips! Gold censers, many with images of boats slung underneath, hung above the tomb in the small recess where he lay.  

The baptism appeared to be a full scale production with a two person camera team recording the ceremony.  The child at the centre of attention was about 15 months old and had lovely blue black curls, the priest seemed to have a lot of costume changes and disappeared and appeared with theatrical effect.  The large golden font was filled with warm water and oil was added, the child was taken away into a side chapel and returned naked to be dunked three times into this oily watery mixture, then handed with due ceremony to the two godmothers who had been draped in white towels to protect their outfits.  As we left for a lunch rendezvous we noticed another baptismal party waiting in the wings.

I leave you lying at anchor off Vidho Island, of which more later.

Jinti and Andy

Selkie Dancer under the Greek Flag off Corfu

Alasdair and Andy - ‘Scottish Sailing’

Selkie Dancer - the only mast at Mathraki

Selkie Dancer at Timoni

Corfu Cricket - Jinti and Alastair on the boundary

Saint Stylianos Grotto

At anchor off Vidho

Yiayia and Maximus