Friday, August 16, 2013


A few random thoughts on August


Yesterday was  the Fifteenth of August, a very important festival in the Greek Orthodox Church and a  public holiday. Even though it is the height of the holiday season, and Corfu is full of visitors, there will be many who will observe that holiday, however much it may inconvenience the holidaymakers, such is its importance.

On this day, the Orthodox Church commemorates the Dormition (death or ‘falling asleep’ ) of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus. Women especially are expected to observe this day by not working or performing normal tasks.
Times change and necessity impinges, but when I first lived in Greece, with my mother-in-law and her own mother, I was ordered not to do any housework that day. When I brought some crochet materials out into the vine-shaded courtyard in order to do something with my hands, I was severely reprimanded.

Non-humans welcome a day off too.

On the island of Tinos there is a huge annual event, with a pilgrimage to the Church of the Holy Virgin, a white wedding cake-style edifice, home to a sacred ikon that is believed to have miraculous powers.

The devout come from all over the eastern Mediterranean for this celebration and many of them crawl on hands and knees the 800-metre distance between the ferry dock and the entrance to the church.

In Corfu, there are many churches dedicated to the Virgin and each will have had its own festival.

I always think of this time as midsummer, but of course it is not. Midsummer occurs on or around 21st June, the summer solstice. It is celebrated in many countries, often in ways that have come down to us from the old pagan religions. Scandinavia is well-known for its midsummer festivals; Stonehenge, Maypoles and flower festivals are examples of midsummer madness in Britain and men jump over blazing bonfires in Greece. In Britain, it probably heralds a re-run of the old and well-loved TV series ‘Midsomer Murders’. (was there anybody left alive at the end of that corpse-strewn series?)
There is bound, surely, to be a performance in London of Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ – when I was very young my grandparents used to take me to see it every year at the Regent’s Park Open-Air Theatre.

Magic, pure magic.

Mid-August on the other hand cannot but remind us that the end of summer is approaching, and I have a funny feeling – that rain is on the way, that we may soon have more than the few drops that tumbled out of the sky a few days ago.
In fact, editing this blog prior to publishing it, I discovered, thanks to Facebook, that in some parts of Corfu last night there were indeed a few flashes of lightning, rumbles of thunder and a scattering of rain. My family and I, on the other hand, sat on the hot, dry balcony and talked about the possibility. Wishful thinking!

Here in Corfu, the humans on the whole seem to love August, with its strong sunshine and intense heat, though the only place to walk in town is in the shade.

Not all the other inhabitants of the island derive the same pleasure from the heat…

The bays and blue waters of Corfu play host at this time to pleasure-craft of all sizes, from the vast

To the merely big

And the realistic

My front door knob, on the other hand, plays frequent host to the gifts left discreetly by our neighbours and friends - welcome gifts, in bags or laid out with artistry in a basket on the doorstep.

It's a great month for visitors, as long as they make themselves useful -

There are always, of course, a few visitors that you can't stand -

The Americans celebrate National Back to School Month in August but Greek kids have another month to go. As for me, I have to confess that I have ordered two new winter sweaters on line. I have this funny feeling you see...
Not quite the end of summer, then, though one of my grandsons seems to share my premonitions…

 Some of the photos are my own, for the rest, thanks to Katy, Jo and Frosso.

1 comment:

  1. With words and image you convey the sultry heat of our least favourite Greek month (we're in Birmingham a few more weeks). How the church does bind people, especially in these horrid times. I very much appreciated this quote from a Greek academic paper: '....we may suggest that Orthodoxy in Greece may be better understood as a 'way of life' rather (than) as an attachment to metaphysical beliefs. Unlike what happens in other European countries, being a communist, atheist, or agnostic does not preclude someone from attending Church celebrations in Greece (my italics). This attitude of the Greeks towards Orthodoxy is graphically exemplified in the words of a Greek dentist as it is narrated by Ware: "Personally I am an atheist; but because I am Greek, I am of course a member of the Orthodox Church" - See more at: Me too!


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