Our next adventure with Rocinante involved us taking the her over the hills of the middle of Corfu and up the east coast. After promising Sarah that there would be no boats or two wheeled hairpin turns, we buckled up to explore the northern end of the island.
The Eskimos have twenty seven different words for snow the Corfu Greeks should have many more words for green. There are the greens of the sea, the greens of the, valleys and the greens of the mountains. The steep hillsides are covered by CinemaScope Cypress trees that poke up into the humid air. Along side them are the pines of a darker hue, then there are the Eucalyptus, the Fig, the Oak and the Carab, all competing for space on the tight gradients. As a result, and despite the heat the air is fresh and clear. It was as though we were surrounded by oxygen factories, with a thousand green chimneys belching out tons of O2.
Descending from the hills we reached a long thin strip of road with bars and restaurants on one side and a long tape of scruffy beach on the other. Bathers shuffled uncomfortably under sunshades trying to get comfy on shingly patches of sand. Sarah asked if I wanted to stop. I dithered for a moment until we reached the end of town where we came upon a watering hole named Dirty Nellies. I clicked my tongue, dug my spurs into her metal, whereupon Rocinante bucked, panicked and took flight.
We reached Kassiopi at noon. Where Ipsos is a gaudy ingot of tat, Kassiopi is a smart little marina full of medium sized yachts and motor boats. We parked Rocinante and settled under a wide awning to refresh ourselves with coffee.
The younger crowd of Ipsos was replaced by an entirely different demographic. The profile of the holidaymaker in this tiny port was so different from the raucous young crowd of the previous resort that a Martian landing in Kassiopi might think some unseen hand had imposed a kind of English ethnic cleansing.
Kassiopi was full of English. But not just any random Brit. It was full of Middle class English families from London and the Home Counties. Wherever I looked, I could see identikit solicitor types and PR Execs sat around mumbling to each other.
The chaps – Deck shoes, hooped jerseys, ray bans, tight jaw lines honed on the squash court. The Ladies – white linen trousers , Pastel striped shirts, pale boat shoes, massive designer handbags. I looked at the bags. Sarah cooed over names that meant nothing to me. I was about to embark upon an extended diatribe castigating these women for falling foul of some cynical marketing ploy when I was upbraided by my betrothed.
“Tom, you slagged off the chavs in the last place, who are on holiday just like you, now you’re having a go at these perfectly normal people. No one can win, you’re just a massive inverted snob!”
I examined the bottom of my cappuccino cup. Sarah stared out to sea. It was time to knot my hanky and head for the beach.
Round the corner up a one way road lined by strange Narnia-like lamp posts was a small shingle beach shaded by trees.
A charming deck chair attendant with an ochre face and long legs arranged our sun loungers along the back of the little cove.
This was surely one of the prettiest pebble beaches I had ever staggered along. The different sizes of pebble drained your energy as you slipped and skidded towards the Tiffany blue water.
We hopped and danced into the surf. As the sea bore me up, the smooth stones brushed my feet as I began to paddle in one of those aimless semi circles you do when you have neither the ability nor the inclination to set course for a specific destination. Stood in shoulder height water I considered the Albanian coastline on the near horizon. Grim brown blasted heaths loomed out of the mist. Whereas northern Corfu was apparently green and pleasant enough for Middle England, Albania’s topography looked as austere as its economy.
As gravity took over from the buoyancy of seawater I began dancing over the cold stones as they dug into my soles. I staggered back to my damp sandals, turning back to gaze at the horizon. The deck chair guy saw me considering his near neighbour. I mentioned the distance.
“Albania is closer than you think, isn’t it?” I said.
“Too close my friend.
“Do they try to sail over?”
“They don’t sail over here my friend.”
“Really! You would have thought they would at least try to come over here.”
“Oh they do. But they don’t sail, they swim.”
“They swim over ?
“Yes, then we catch them and send them back. Then the game starts all over again.”
I thought of the Berlin Wall, the TexMex border, Sangatte. And those Albanians trying to grab their own little bit of paradise.
Even with my rubbish paddling, if Corfu was the prize, I think even I would swallow my pride and attempt the crossing.