Monday, January 23, 2012



23 January 2012

Oh it is good to be Grandma Replugged!
Getting a computer repaired in Corfu is a slightly surreal affair. Mine went away to the mastoras as experts of all kinds are called here, and after some enigmatic and dramatic announcements about the hard disk it was returned to me, without any real explanations, and pronounced OK.
I find that Corfiot computer wizards treat their customers – especially their female customers -  with the contemptuous disdain once practiced by Victorian doctors – since we cannot be expected to understand what they are talking about they do not feel the need to share any information with the patient, or customer, as the case may be.

Rather like Dr House really, who rarely shares any information with his patients, only with the TV audience, and then only at the end of the show.

My ‘OK’ computer, however, once reinstalled in its cozy corner in my house, sat, sullen and silent, refusing to work.
Since my mastoras lives nearby, he condescended to call in after work to have a look at it. After a few desperate bleats from the computer, he opened the back, ripped out a small piece of metal and announced: ‘You don’t need this. It should be alright now.’ (See what I mean about Dr House?)
The alarming thing is that the small piece of metal represents a chunk of random memory, it seems.
So has my computer just had a lobotomy?
Only time will tell.
And what is ‘random memory’ anyway? I seem to have plenty of random memories myself, and with time you do lose a few. But I would never dream of deliberately discarding any of them. Whatever next!

The weather has changed – after days of quite extreme cold, tempered by brilliant sun, we have rain again and though that has brought the temperature back up it sounds as if that is a temporary thing. The thermometer is set to drop again this week. Some days ago, the temperature in Corfu plummeted to minus 12C at night. Pretty unusual for our island. At least when it is cold, it isn’t damp.  Damp - the scourge of Corfu, the downside of winter here.
If you go away in winter, you are almost certain to return to a house where, in your absence, monstrous flowers of mould have erupted from your walls while a slimy coating of black lurks in the corners. Suede and leather clothing and accessories are covered in a green patina, books have fallen apart. And if you unplugged the fridge but forgot to prop the door open you are in for a horrid surprise when you open it again – it is like staring into a Harry Potter, demon-infested cave.

There are ways of combating mould of course, and one of my favourite solutions has always been to turn my back on it and go off for a restorative coffee at the Liston in Corfu Town.
During a normal winter, we get many beautiful days of sun, when we can all enjoy the outdoor life, though this does not necessarily mean strenuous activity. It is more likely to mean some gentle lifting and stretching, of the kind required in order to raise a coffee cup at regular intervals.

There is probably no finer place to indulge in this pleasant pastime than on the Liston n the town of Corfu. This experience has been compared with taking a coffee in St Mark’s Square in Venice, a tribute no doubt to the elegance of the setting, but there is an intimacy about the Liston that St Mark’s can never have. It was built by the French during their occupation of Corfu in the early years of the 19th century, and its design was based upon the buildings of the Rue de Rivoli in Paris.

It overlooks the main square of the town, a huge area that is anything but square and is apparently the second largest public ‘square’ in the Balkans. The main square is also known as the Spianada, a name that derives from the English word ‘esplanade’. (Or is it the other way round?) During the British Protectorate (1814 - 1864) this huge flat area was the parade ground of the British garrison, based in the Old Fortress.
You could spend an entire holiday exploring the attributes of this square and its environs – the architecture of the surrounding buildings, the many gardens (including one dedicated to Lawrence Durrell), the statues, the bandstand, the monuments, fountains, art galleries and churches, the fantastic views, the Old Fortress, the Palace, and the cricket pitch where matches are still sometimes played amidst the encroaching vehicles of the car park. Here in this square parades and processions pass through, and Carnival reaches its climax, while the wonderful Easter celebrations are not to be missed.

Above all, the Liston is the setting for the oldest, smartest and probably most expensive cafes in Corfu.

Times are hard, and people seek out cheaper coffee venues, but the Liston still has that elusive glamour that sets it apart.
. Where else in winter for example, would you be able to spend hours sitting at a café table enjoying your pick of designer coffees, idly observing a never-ending fashion show, with friends dropping by to join you, and with all the gossip you could imagine (or not) being passed on and even created all round you? Not to mention the attentive sales people who bring their wares right to your table – CDs and DVDs, designer lighters come to mind.
There are café enclaves all over the town, but none of them can quite compare with the cachet of the Liston. Over the years, a few things have changed, chiefly the chairs and the age of the waiters. Otherwise the atmosphere is much the same as it always was.
At the Cofinetta end of the Liston, it is mostly older people who gather and sales of Greek coffee are high. Few of the patrons at this end can be bothered to pronounce the foreign names of the newer types of coffee and are faithful to tradition anyway - some of them still play chess at one of the older cafes. Ouzo and tsipouro are popular, along with tapas-like mezedes or cheese pies. Its winter, and scarves are worn, plus overcoats and even hats – tweed caps, trilbies, berets, fedoras – a formal style of winter dress that younger men have turned their back on. By the way – if you wonder at the name ‘Cofinetta’, let me reassure you that this does not refer to a district of funeral parlours. Rather, it was once home to basket weavers who specialised in a particular type of basket, long and narrow and roughly the shape, I suppose of a coffin. Now, of course, Cofinetta is home to – more cafes!

As you stroll further south along the Liston, you seem to pass through one of those wibbly-wobbly transparent walls that feature so heavily in fantasy films. This is largely composed of testosterone and pheromones and once breached, thrusts you into the ‘younger’ end of the Liston area, where much flesh is bared even in winter and while gossip is still popular it is frequently interrupted by smouldering glances and incessant cigarette-lighting. It is hard to negotiate the tables without tripping over boutique bags and sunglasses are de rigueur. In this section of the Liston, the waiters are young too and in their black outfits scarcely distinguishable from the customers.
(Why is black so popular for clothing in this country of such superb light that surely demands bold colours?)
What is more, women over forty are invisible to the waiters. On the whole, men are thin on the ground. They spend their winter mornings in banks.

I love it – where else would you want to be in winter? All life is here; alliances are forged, marriages dissected, reputations ruined and transactions of all kinds made.
And all for the price, albeit exorbitant but thoroughly worthwhile, of a coffee or two. Well, at at as much as 4.50 euros each, probably just the one.
If you are going to be miserable about the economic crisis, you might as well be miserable in style.
See you there my dears!

Reading through this before publishing it and being damned – I realised that some of my readers may wonder why it is that so many people in Corfu have time to go off for long coffee mornings when surely they should be at work.
The answer is that some of us live a rather strange life here – when you are employed in the tourist industry, since Corfu has no winter tourism, you are unemployed throughout the winter. So our lives are split into two distinct kinds – winter life and summer life. It can be good – it can also be very difficult economically. More about our schizophrenic lives another time perhaps.


  1. Hi.
    Just read this and has made me very hungry to return to our villa even tho' the weather is as bad as here by the sound of it.
    All you say I heartily agree with, there is something that cannot be explained about Corfu and the way Corfiots, young & old, enjoy life.
    You have to experience it to know it.
    I look forward to more of you jottings and roll on March when e return.

  2. Hi Angela lovely piece. The Liston is a very special place. Some of the same waiters still at "our cafe" from when Liz was a baby and she is 27 in May! Regards Sue. (Kaminaki)

    1. Sue - thanks! I will get yr email address from someone and contact you! xx

  3. Message for 'Chris':
    Thanks for your lovely comment - do I know you? please let me know - email

  4. Usual delightful, rambling piece, leaping from thought to thought, great. Makes me want to be there, of course.

  5. Enjoyed reading of life in Corfu.


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