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This photo was taken on a day in August 1999. It started as a solo excursion up an hillside on an island outside of Athens, and ended with a chastened amateur photographer feeling more like a three-year-old wanting her mother.

Greek cocks (apologies) have a habit of belting out their favours at the crack of dawn - much the same as anywhere, I suppose. We had arrived the previous evening, in the dark. I had thought, upon waking on that fresh Greek Sunday morning, 'carpe diem' (to seize the day). I put on a light summer dress and grabbed the basics for a walk up the hillside to take snapshots of the marvellous views, viz. camera and shades. No hat, no drink - spot the novice. As I walked farther and farther up the hillside, the views got better and better. As I took photo after marvellous photo, I was engrossed and feeling very pleased with myself.

Gradually the heat of the day began to kick in. I had set out at about 5 am, and it was now 7.30 - ish. I started walking back down the mountain, clicking as I went. There was not a soul on the asphalt. It was Sunday, and every self-respecting Greek/tourist was still in their bed, including my hosts and my teenage son.

As I walked down the hill, I realised that I could not recognise any landmarks. We had arrived in the dark the previous evening, by car. I did not speak Greek. I certainly did not read Greek script, to remember the name of the road I had started out from. In my smugness, I had first walked up a dirt track before doubling back to the asphalt 'main' road down to the estuary. I did not even know what the end of my host's road looked like. No need to panic. But it was getting hotter and hotter, with no-one on the street and no 'shelter' except the trees under which were the rubbish skips; all smelling like they had several dead bodies in. I approached a private house, but was treated as though I were a beggar. I must have appeared so; carrying so little and obviously in distress, and speaking no Greek. I have not felt so helpless since I was a child. No-one understood me. I could not read the road-signs. I could not speak the language.

Life is strange. A local woman (no more than a girl), who had spent a year in Sheffield, ferried me to the police station several kilometers away. First an interrogation from a large Greek police chief sitting on high:

"Where do you live? Who owns the house? Where is it?"

I could only sob, "I don't know (if I knew, I would be there now)". I panicked that my son would be worried about me. At last, I was put into a police car with two enthusiastic Greek policemen. One, wearing his regulation policeman's gun, drove silently. The other spoke in English to me:

"Is this the road you live in? Do you recognise this?" Thoughts of the ground opening and swallowing me up.....

We passed a white van (don't they get everywhere, though?).

"Do you recognise this road. Do you recognise this van?" and, to the van driver, "Do you recognise this woman?"

Suddenly I thought, "They might know my friend's son." Thomas is very gregarious, half-Greek, and likes nothing better than to roam the local countryside, attracting an entourage of younger children and dogs.

"Ask them if they know Tomas?" From the enthusiastic response, I knew I had said the right thing to get me home. Within five minutes, we were there: back with my friend, her husband and Tomas. My teenage son was still asleep. He was making up on beauty sleep and had not missed me.

I subsequently discovered that I had walked too far back down the hill and had overshot my 'mark'.

Everything looked the same that morning in Paradise, as I covered the same ground, back and forth. The experience showed me how transient 'security' is. How our boundaries are formed by those we know and love. It also showed me how strangers can be very welcome angels. Mainly, it showed me that I did not want to spend the rest of my life on a foreign hillside.

But the photos are great.... WMC



this 'reflection' written Autumn 2002

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