Monday, July 24, 2006

Another Island we love!

It was in 1987 that we first visited the Greek Island in the Saronic Gulf known as Anghistri. This is the spelling we choose to use. It is also known as Angistri and Agistri. The locals say "Anghistri". Our bungalow in Anglesey is also named Anghistri and many believe we have chosen a Welsh name. The Welsh people know it is not Welsh but are equally interested in its meaning. It is Greek for "hook!"

My readers may wonder why I have chosen to show a grave for my picture. I will tell you. One day during our first fortnight in Anghistri we saw an English couple talking to a man we thought was Greek. It turned out that he was English and lived next door to them in Disley near Stockport. His name was Don and his wife, Dena, was Greek and born on the island. They stayed each year on holiday with Dena's sister, Athena.

Eventually we became friends with Don and Dena Lofthouse from Disley. They came to our house and we went to theirs in the off season. Sometimes we went out for the day together. However, one year Don was very ill during Christmas and he thought it was all up with him. But he recovered and got better. The bad news was that he had cancer and died the following autumn. We went over to his funeral and from time to time afterwards we visited Dena. The next year saw our daughter remarry, with me as the officiating preacher at the wedding. Dena and her other sister, Sofia, came to to the wedding. Only a few weeks later our son, David was married and Dena and Sofia came to this wedding too.

Our children loved Dena and thought she had a wonderful sense of humour. But the following year she too succumbed to illness. She had a stroke and was in Stepping Hill hospital in Stockport. As I worked fairly near Stockport I visited her in hospital where I saw she had been quite badly affected by the stroke. After some time she was tranferred for convalescence to another hospital nearer home. Whe Pauline and I visited her there she told us the doctors had said she would not be able to walk again. Dena had other ideas. She decided to return to Anghistri to make contact with a relative who was a consultant in a big hospital. "He will find me a good physio" she declared.

Back she went to that lovely island and she was referred to a good physiotherapist. I rang her there some months later and she told me she was walking again! That was the last time I spoke to her. A couple of years later we went on holiday there to find that Dena had died only weeks earlier. She had experienced great problems having had another big stroke since which she could not communicate with anyone. It had left Athena distraught, and she was still in this state when we visited her just a few weeks after Dena's death.

The grave in the picture is Dena's. As soon as I heard of her death I went down to the cemetery to visit her grave. I noticed that another sister, Maria, had died before Dena and was buried there too. As I walked round the cemetery I saw the graves of a number of people I had known during our holidays on the island.

Whenever we return to Anghistri we are greeted enthusiastically by the people we know in the capital village, Megalohori (in English this means the great place). Our days often start with the ritual of my walking down the road to buy beautiful fresh bread from the village baker, Vangellis. We get our food from the supermarket which has grown in the village centre. Ireni, the woman who runs the shop with Theo, her husband, greets us with the most beautiful smile you could wish to see. Theo has grown like Nontas, his late father, and is serious with never a smile. He became like this, I think, to carry on the family tradition of showing a miserable face!

Across the road is Taverna Fotis which is also the village butcher's shop. Fotis, who comes from the island of Poros, runs it with the help of his wife Katerina. What characters they are! Fotis has the longest face you could imagine but is an artist with a barbecue when cooking octopus or pork chops for his customers. Katerina is the one who goes out each day to catch the octopus. She is a great swimmer and diver and once got a very nasty bite on the shoulder from an agressive jellyfish. It kept her out of the water for many months.

After a long absence we returned one year to the island and Pauline was overwhelmed at the welcome Katerina gave her when she met her! No matter how long we stay away we go back as if we were going home to friends and family.

Anghistri is not a particularly lovely island but we love being there. Many English friends go back each September and re-cement their friendships. This year will be no exception. We shall be there for a whole month in order to celebrate our Ruby Wedding Anniversary on 1st October. Need I say that we are looking forward to it?

The last time we were there the island made the Greek front pages. Readers will recall that some years ago the British Milatary Attache had been murdered by terrorists. Well, the leader of the group had the nickname, "Manifesto". Just before we arrived on the island he had walked into a police station in Athens to give himself up. Interrogation showed that he had been hiding in a cave on Anghistri's nudist beach! As we sat in a bar that evening. when the news broke, we noticed a young blonde English looking woman being interviewed by the TV people. I suddenly recognised her as the young woman behind the bar who had served our drinks. The Greek press had descended on the island to find out everything they could as to whether any of the islanders remembered meeting this criminal. Most of them owned up to having had a conversation with him in a bar or taverna! It was probably untrue but they were going to get what publicity they could!

From time to time we leave the island for a sail to another island and find out what life is like in the Saronic Gulf. But we are always glad to return. It's just the same in Anglesey. We are always able to completely relax when we are in Anghistri. We are welcome and we feel at home. The sea is warm so we have just bought new snorkelling gear to explore beneath the surface whenever we can. We hope to explore some of the mainland this time with perhaps a visit to Corinth. Hopefully we shall make it to the island of Hydra to see all the jewellery shops there. It is definitely our plan to stay for a night at least on Poros which is so accessible and handy for seeing Galatas on the Pelopponese peninsular.

The last time we visited the island we told all our friends that we were hoping soon to retire to another island beginning with ANG - Anglesey. Well, we have made it and can back to report on it this year in September.
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