On Monday just gone, me & Paul spent our last couple of hours together in Argostoli. Apparently the chill nights & the frugal existence had become less a novelty & more a burden, & so he decided to live it up large in Athens for a week before catching an early flight home. So we sat by the harbour a while, & with a flurry of man-hug-loving said adeiu, as he caught the coach to Athens (via the ferry). I hung on a bit longer in Argostoli, hoping to catch the local newspaper with my Phorcys Cave story – but they must have opened up & closed in about twenty minutes. ‘I’ll just have to go to Athens & find a newspaper there,’ I thought, & set off on my adventures.
I was alone for the first time in weeks, but solitude is the wet-nurse of poetry, & the lines began to flow. It was kinda daunting, to travel about 400 miles to Thessalonika, via loads of mad places, with fuck all money & mostly on foot. Still, Im here now innnit? From Argostoli the road climbed & climbed, & thgo the views were glorious my hitching attempts terrible.. until, that is, a PE teacher in her late 30’s stopped & took me the 20K I was hiking to Sami! That night I camped in a camp site, empty for the winter, & wrote poetry by the harbour drinking beer. Sami itself is a calm, lushness of a place, full of high verdant peaks, as across the silvery waters of the bay the island of Ithica lay.
Next morning I set off studying the topography of the place – Im sure its where Odysseus had his palace – then was picked up by a giddy, young-looking, silver-haired yet middle-aged truck driver who took me 26K down to Poros & as I was with him I got a free 10 euro ferry ride to the mainland! He was a cool chap, a littl;e camp, which was confirmed when after asking his limited english where was cool in Greece, he very exitedly went on about this gay island with a ‘do-you-want-a-blow-job’ glint in his eye. He never got one, but I did help him unload his out of date milk products on to a truck that arrived at Killini a few minutes after on from Cephalonia’s neighbouring island, Zakynthos.
So I’d landed on Greece proper. The Cephalonians take pride in that they were under both Venetian & British control – never the Turks – but here I was in the peloponese surrounded by all thinkgs Greek & those curious Phoencian letters of theres. Its cool though – The greeks seem more laid back than the Italians – & darker skinned -, there’s orange trees full of nicely ripe fruit growing everywhere, & public transport consists mostly of plush coaches. On the down side, the dogs here seem all to be good dogs & bark furiously as you pass them, & being a rural place there are cockerals everywhere. Trust me, the pre-dawn operatics of dog & rooster are not good for a hangover!
So my new best gay mate – Constantinos I think his name was – drops me off at exactly the same stretch of motorway where me & paul got off on the way in to Killini, & a set up camp a coupel of k downstream. Then I was up with the dawn – only 50 k from Olympia, teh main reason for me doing this ‘insane quest (to quote victor pope) in the first place. The idea is that as a british poet with histrionic pretensions Im gonna write some victory odes when the games come to my ‘hood. A little pilgrimage to their home, then, wouldnt go amiss, so after catching a coupel of buses, thro the refined city of Pirgos, I’m here. On arriving, I wwandered round a bit, through a savgely ridged countryside, toward these watchtower things which I presumed overlooked the site. The sun was beating down as I passed a guy hunting wih hound & gin, & little pockets of olive pickers with their nets spread below the trees… & then, I’d made it. Below me I saw the oval track where the idea of competetive sport began. Its a bit like Burnley atheletics club but without the chimneys, with orange rooved museum complexes snaking from the centre. That night I chilled out in my wooden watchtower, a great wind creaking & groaning it all over the place – but I held my nerve & listened to music well into the wild night.
The next morning I was up with the rose-pink dawn, & descended into Olympia itself (via a hop over a fence). Its an absolute wonder of a ruin, from the gogantic coloumns of temple of zeus, which were scattered by an earthquake in the 500s, to the stadion itself, where of course I did a one man running race along the length of (I won). While there I etched a wee sonnet which I rather like, a sort of exhortation to the budding sportsmen of the world;
If the world that you live for is noble
& to do yer damn best is yer dream
You must train through the pain & the rain, son,
Then you might just get in the team.
Then its time to alight on the beaches
For your captain, your country & all
Thats when passion becomes more a duty
& yer name might just hang off a wall
So c’mon, lad, you know yer can do it
Dig down deeper than you’ve dug before
With the grace of the gods in thy favour
You might just win it, no matter how sore
Yes, you might be a true bloody hero,
So what the hell are yer waiting for!?
After an enchanting couple of hours wandering the sanctuary Im now in the lovely town of modern Olympia, shopping for food & doing free wi-fi in a cafe over a cup of thick & tasty Greek coffee. Soon Im gonna retire to my hilltop enclave, gush out some lines & munch on my collection of foodstuffs, herbed up with the wild lavender prospering eagerly around my tent.
Paul’s gone with the camera now, so here’s somebody elese picture of olympia its quite a good wee film actually