Friday, 25 September 2015

September 22 – Dangling breasts

(The village of Agiasos)

The only assholes we met in Greece happened to be in a lovely chapel in Agiasos: a gang of teenage boys who threw rocks and spit at us as we left the chapel.This message on FaceBook shocked me: I have never heard of something like this happening on Lesvos.

Many years ago a friend once said that people from the charming village of Agiasos are crazy. I am somewhat suspicious and do not always believe everybody. The ancient psychiatric institute above the little town, now closed for tens of years, still fuels the imagination, even though it no longer functions as a mad house and its location is still called Sanatorium. It is possible that these mountain villagers are just a touch crazy, because their carnival is the hottest of the island, performing theatre is still a great art in Agiasos and the people there have always taken up arms against whomever dared to grab their liberty.

A wellknown saying on the island is: Never take a woman nor a donkey from Plomari or Agiasos. Well, I know some women from these towns and they are very fine people. And donkeys? About ten years ago you could still find plenty of donkeys roaming the streets, especially around Plomari. Nowadays these donkeys (except for those who are engaged to joggle safaris around Molyvos) are part of the list of the Levorian Big Five (wild boars, wild mountain goats, wild horses, dolphins and donkeys). Wherever they come from, they soon will be on the list of endangered animals, even though one or two farmers - due to the crisis - have exchanged their cars for a donkey.

The friendly face of Greece is showing some cracks, also here on the island. Some foreigners who have lived for years in Molyvos (or come regularly) are truly shocked after attending some of the meetings about the help for the refugees. Just as Europe has showed its true face when debating with Greece, some Molyviotis have shown theirs. Are all Greeks nice? No, I am afraid not. And by the way, people from Molyvos are seen as arrogant, especially by their neighbouring villages.

Not long ago I told my Greek neighbour about a plan to make a transit station for the refugees in the village of Klio. She immediately answered that her mother taught her that the best people of the island live in Klio and in Sigri. This is just to remind you that there are also good villages on the island.

Are there any bad tourists? Yes, of course. The month of August is notorious for its catastrophic tourists, like arrogant Greek towns' people, who boss the islanders around like donkeys. This group of people although was dearly missed last summer; most of them did not show up because of the crisis.

July and August also are the months for the foreign sun-beach-and-sea folk, people who do not come further than about fifty meters from their hotel. As long as the sun shines, they do not care if they eat paella, souvlaki or kebab. They move from their beds to their sun beds and are not ashamed to lie naked under the sun, regardless if there is a Greek family with children next to them on the beach.

Last week I was on a family beach and a lady with dangling bare breasts strolled along the tide line. She enjoyed herself with the water and the sun, and behaved as if she was all alone on the beach. The day before I had been in tears because of the endless stream of refugees passing by this beach. In the soaring heat, at least twenty boats arrived with refugees! Women, children and lots of men, all looking tired though chatting loudly, walked happily past this beach, many of them coming from a culture where a woman cannot even show a bare toe. Imagine if this topless lady had then walked this beach

Since the publishing of the picture of the little Syrian toddler who washed ashore on a Turkish beach, the numbers of the rescue people have explosively increased. Some of them dress a bit naïvelyin the tiniest of t-shirts or bikinis. On the nudist beaches it even can be worse: naked sunbathers remain comfortable on their beach towels while a boat with refugees washes ashore and the nudists are even too lazy to put some clothes on.

There are many differences between the Western and Arabic world. Here you can read a clear document about the people who arrive by thousands on Lesvos, to start their journey further to the north of Europe:

(With thanks to Mary Staples)

© 2015 Smitaki

Sunday, 6 September 2015

September 4 - Will Europe go knitting?

(Red socks, Albert & Victoria Museum, London)

Did you know that one of the oldest examples of knitting is a pair of red socks from the period 250 – 420 AD? These feet warmers were found on an archaeological site in Egypt, in a onetime Greek settlement. So we could say that this was possibly the first pair of Greek Knitted Socks. They are made to be worn with sandals and they have space for incredibly large and long big toes.

According to Wikipedia the English word knitting comes from the Dutch word knot. So in Dutch the actual word breien should be knotting. The knitting started with one needle and making knots (nålebinding) and is said to have been invented in the Middle East. The Muslims brought it with them to Europe and European colonists took their knitting needles with them to America.

Around the 14th century knitting became fairly popular, proved by several paintings depicting a knitting Virgin Mary. Or maybe it was a campaign to get the women to take up the needles. Watching such an industrious Mary calms you down, so much that you immediately start looking for your knitting gear.

The first knitting machine appeared in 1589. But only in the mid 19th century did industrial machines take over the woolly handwork business. Now knitting is seen as a hobby. I took up the knitting needles again when I saw what beautiful and colourful wool they make nowadays. In one winter I can now fabricate a total new winter collection. My hands must be busy doing something while watching a movie or reading a book and I am now as hooked to my knitting needles, as some persons are to their mobile phones.

I mostly only knit in the winter, in times that the weather gods have cooled off a bit. When you work with wool threads in the heat, your hands get sweaty and the knitting stiff. The warm climate of Lesvos might be a reason that there is no great knitting tradition on Lesvos, even though there used to be plenty of sheep and goat wool. The women preferred to make embroideries and sat down at their looms. Besides wool they also used clothing and drapes, torn in strokes, to weave into colourful carpets.

Like centuries ago when the knitting works came to Europe, there is a new run from the Middle-East to Europe. The refugees now use Lesvos as a gateway to Europe and the stream of refugees is like a dam that broke; there is no way to stop the flood of people. This year the number of refugees has largely surpassed the number of inhabitants of Lesvos (about 85.000) and last week the daily arrival had risen to 2000. Sheltering those people is still done by volunteers, helped only by a number of officials that can be counted on one hand.

When those refugees step out of their rickety dinghies, they get wet. Result is that on places where they take a rest fences are modified into clotheslines, just like the lines where normally the squids are dried. The hot sun is a super dryer, but when the winter comes, the washing program will have to be changed and wet clothes will become a burden. Had Europe at the beginning of the summer put tills on the Greek islands, now, one season on, it would not be surprised and overwhelmed by the number of refugees knocking on the doors of the ‘ruling’ European countries. Unlike the politicians, I do look forward and this summer I started to knit.

When I was young there were plenty of faraway aunts who gave me the most poorly created handknitted sweaters which I had to wear. I hated them so much that until now I have not dared to surprise a friend (or a refugee) with a handmade sweater. So I knit caps. One evening I realised that it will take some time before I can make enough caps for the passengers of even one boat (on average 50 people) and I will never have enough for a one day arrival (50 – 70 boats), so I called in help.

I have found an organisation for the elderly that organises knitting clubs all over Holland (Samen breien). There the wise and old people teach their tricks to the young ones. They want to help me, knitting for the refugees for the winter. It would be fantastic to create a television show like The Great British Baking Show. In the Netherlands this show is called: Holland is Baking. Imagine if the whole of Europe sets out to knit again: Europe is knitting. Making caps and shawls is a relaxing pastime, so come on, take up those knitting needles and help.

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

© Smitaki 2015