We had a day off from pruning and shovelling a few days ago and took ourselves off to Olympia, home of the Olymipic Games (same name: spooky). Keith was up for it and I was a bit ‘rocked out’ from all the stuff in Athens, but we went all the same – and it was quite astonishing.
I don’t really have access to the kind of clever descriptive words for this sort of thing and I’m not cultured enough to know much detail about history, but I read all the signs and walked all the way round, and even went to the museum, but then I got all ADHD kind of twitchy, overloaded with visually sensoryness and had to leave. But it was all quite incredible. It even made me come over all ‘Olympian’ (the camera is broken so we’ve only got Keith’s phone which is not great for zoom).
In fact, I used to do athletics when I was young and wasn’t too bad at it; this was in the 1980s when 5’10” was considered exceptionally tall, unlike these days when loads of young women are that height it seems. More protein; less Crispy Pancakes. In the 1980s, being 5’10” just meant that I had longer legs than anyone else and therefore could cover more ground than the others. I’m not convinced I was actually faster. I won my Athletics badge at Brownies by simply stepping over the bar set at the required height. I think it was supposed to be more of a challenge. I got to some County Finals kind of thing with running, nothing special. I had discovered boys, alcohol and a desperate need to be liked at about the time that I might have progressed to be a decent athlete. I told my daughter, Jess, this when she was 5 years old. Unfortunately, she got the wrong of the stick and went to school and told her teacher that I’d been in the Olympics. Well, we did tell Jess that her elderly Scottish teacher rode a motorbike and was often to be seen falling out of a pub (lies) so I supposed her sense of reality was a bit askew. I’d love to have been in the Olympics, but this is as close as I’ll ever get – although if I ever get to the point of needing a new kidney, there is the Transplant Games to aim for. I thought I’d make the most of it and enter the main arena to the roar of the crowd.
Not a soul. Not one. The tiny pinpoint at the end of the 218m track is me. At the other end, beyond Keith and the camera, is a slightly bemused and suspicious security guard wondering what the hell we were doing. You can’t even see me. It’s a tiny black dot in the centre of the photo at the very far end. Honest, I went all that way. It was a very evocative place, actually. You could imagine what it would be like with 45,000 in that arena.
The site of Olympia itself is just huge and every structure in it is just huge. The site was a sanctuary for the pursuit of religious and sporting activities from around 8 BC until around 4AD when some fella called Theodorius (or something) decided to ban all pagan sites and knocked the whole lot down. The Greeks have been trying to put it back together ever since.
All of the bronze statutes were melted and many of the marble frontages of the temples are gone, but a surprising amount remains and is in the museum in pretty good nick. It is incredible to imagine what it would have looked like with all the buildings intact and so very decorative and brightly coloured.
Anyway, it was good.
We left our work exchange today a couple of day earlier than planned, mainly because I have trapped a nerve in my back and am henceforth both in pain and useless. We changed our flights and headed off back through the mountains. Keith and Rod spent a long day yesterday laying a concrete base for a swimming pool and being the Chuckle Brothers in their matching boiler suits. Keith has been so relaxed and almost (dare I say it) like a normal person. It’s been great to see.
We really enjoyed our experience and were very fortunate to have hosts that we got on with and that were real genuinely nice people with an incredible interest in others and almost constant contact with their adult children back home. I have tried to contact my son, but his monosyllabic answers and bewilderment as to what I want, make these interactions largely painful for all concerned, so I just text him here and there to remind him I am still alive.
We couldn’t get a flight home for another day so had to be tourists again and find a hotel for the night en route to Athens. We found the Dias Hotel in Nafplio (£28 for double room including breakfast), a beautiful little town on the coast a couple of hours out of Athens. It was populated by well-dressed Greeks on this Sunday afternoon and is full of shops selling upmarket woven linen, honey and crafts.
There is a castle on the hill which we can see from our room and the place has a Venetian feel to it. I hobbled about in a pained and crooked fashion in the sunshine.
It’s January and there were three people swimming in the sea in just their trunks. They didn’t look Greek because the Greeks were wearing their coats indoors like sensible people. I’m putting money on this one being German. He had that look about him. Whilst he was in the sea in January in his pants. That look.
Our hotel receptionist told us she is off to London for a 5 day visit in February and grilled us with lots of questions about the Tube, Buckingham Palace and other obvious tourist sights. We told her it would be cold and probably rainy because we are purveyors of absolute truth. She asked how often it would rain. I said maybe 4 times a week, which I thought was breaking it to her gently and was also frankly a potential lie. Her eyes almost popped from her head at the concept of such a place. She was equally visibly dismayed that the temperature was unlikely to rise beyond 10 degrees C. I felt terribly responsible for the British weather and wanted it not to be so. It will be grey, wet cold and miserable. That’s why we’re in bloody Greece, love. She’ll have a great time. I told her to go to Brighton.
My back is so painful and my ability to walk is so limited that for the first time ever in my life, I have requested Special Assistance at the airport for the flight home. My fear now is that I’ll wake up completely fine tomorrow and look like a right malingerer. I’ll have to put on a limp.
So if you happen to see me doing skids in a wheelchair round Gatwick in the early hours of Tuesday morning, please remember that I could have been an Olympian and have some respect. And if you are in Gatwick in the early hours of Tuesday morning for Keith’s sake give us a lift home because I can’t carry my rucksack and we’ve got to get the train back to Worthing in order to be home for precisely 30 hours before we head back to Portugal to open a bank account in order to buy our new house. This life is getting absolutely bloody stupid.
To finish off this trip’s blog post, here is a photo of me that looks like I have an enormous penis. Yasos.