This piece is part of our 2022 Community Flash Series showcasing new writing by the Wandsworth Carers Centre Writers Group. You can read more about the background to this project in our introduction to this series, find out more about Wandsworth Carers Centre on their website, and find them on Twitter @CarerWandeworth.
Summer in Riakia, a small village outside Katerini in Northern Greece (near Thessaloniki) in 1981 was both blissful and idyllic. The days were long and sunny, but tempered by the gentle breeze rolling and strolling from the multitude of mountains surrounding the peaceful and sedate village. My uncle was a sheep farmer, and I helped him with his flock on a daily basis. We also harvested the hazelnut trees, an event made more memorable by my mother's frantic, frenetic, frenzied dance (due to being stung several times inside her blouse).
The other reasons for these memories being firmly entrenched in my mind were the cafe society of men drinking strong Greek coffee, playing both backgammon and with their komoboli; and, the cold bitter nights made comfortable by heaps of hand-woven blankets being plied high on my bed.
However, the most enduring memory was the food- simple, rustic, nutritious. For 2 whole months, I literally lived off 4 staple foods: hot, fresh, crusty, delicious, home-made bread; scrumptious, juicy, mouth-watering watermelon sold for 10 drachmas a piece; shop-bought strawberry thick-set natural Greek yoghurt — a pure taste of Heaven. So much so that I would lick the inside of both the lid and the pot. However, the piece de resistance was number four, home-made (by my aunt) Greek feta. It was tangy, salty, zesty. You could almost taste the sheep and the goat. It was to die for literally.
Speaking of which, it was the Summer of no meat. I had become a voluntary or involuntarily vegetarian depending on your viewpoint. The only time that I ate meat was to celebrate the huge country-wide festival of 15th August (the Assumption of the Virgin Mary) when copious amounts of pork and pitta bread did pass my lips.
Oh, how I long for those unforgettable days and nights of Summer 1981. The memories will have to suffice.