A Greek 'Del boy' was our host and the bar doubled as a mortuary but my love for this beautiful island will never fade / Dave Thomas
And I love the Greek Islands more than anywhere.
We had a wonderful 12 years heading there every summer, sometimes twice a year. Our chum, Bob, had a villa business out there on Paxos and then Lefkatha, so whenever he took on a new villa, out we went to check it out see that all was well.
We’d go for four weeks sometimes, moving round different properties. Blessed is not the word. He’s retired now and sold the business so those holidays stopped when all we had to pay for were the flights.
Needless to say, when he announced his retirement, our hearts sank. What do we do now, we thought? Turkey filled the gap for a while.
Covid stopped plans to return to Paxos in May 2021 for Mrs T’s big birthday bash and see old friends who remember us still, thanks to the wonders of facebook and the pictures we put on. It’s just about 30 years since we were last there but the memories never fade. So now we are booked to visit again in June, ’22.
It’s changed, of course. When we first went there was minimal fresh water, no street lighting, there was just one jewellery shop; fresh milk and fresh veg were luxuries boated in on old fishing boats.
You arrived on the Kamelia, a battered old ferry, with room for one small truck at the back, hens in crates and goats tied to the rails. It chugged down from Corfu at a snail’s pace while we dozed in the setting sun. If you were lucky your luggage was still at the back of the boat and hadn’t fallen into the sea.
Without street lights the rep led you to your villa by torchlight and the first time we went we wondered where the hell we were heading. Up the narrow main street we went and then round to the back alleyways. To the house of Alexandros, it turned out, a sort of Greek Del Boy; we never did find out exactly what he did all day. He had a few acres of olive trees up in the hills.
Today he has a villa there and runs a small bar; times change.
Paxos is the only place I know where one bar served as a sort of temporary mortuary. When a tourist, alas, died of a heart attack on one of the water-taxis, he was brought ashore and laid out in the Kirki bar by the harbourside.
A couple of tables were cleared for him, the drinkers paid their respects and carried on with the ouzo. They still talk about it. What a way to go, on a boat trip, tootling round a Greek Island. The old Kirki bar is now a jewellers, a sign of the times.
We sat having morning coffees in what we christened the Dead Cat Café in the square. The best breakfast I ever had was in another café in the square in the summer when I stopped headteachering. I remember it to this day.
The fishing boats were just returning with the rising sun behind them, never did a breakfast taste so good as I contemplated not having to go back to the chalkface. Bliss.
No more crocodile days, said Christos, no more days when things go wrong.
That was when I planned to write hilarious best sellers that would make me a fortune about the quirky little school and village where I worked and that I had left behind me. That never happened.
Instead, I’ve written football books that don’t make a penny after you take into account what it costs to write them.
So: back to Paxos next year, and this year instead of Greece, we celebrated Mrs T’s big birthday up in
the Dales with cut price cup cakes.
But that’s another story.