ROMAN ABRAMOVICH AND THE SEAL OF CORFU’S CHARM?

Vido-on-Vidovdan-pano[1]

Well, it’s not often you come around the corner, through a forest of shedding pines trees, to see two sealions clapping flippers and gulping fish. It was in a little seabound enclosure off the tiny islands of Vidos, opposite Corfu town, where a glass bottomed ‘underwater’ cruise boat opposite Albania had stopped for the fishy show. Vidos is a kind of island nature reserve and camping site, just a ten minute boat trip from Corfu island, modest at 2 Euros, and populated by rabbits, tame pheasant and Guiney foul. If the mark of a people’s civilisation though is how they treat their animals, the people behind the trip should triple the size of the enclosure, with little hit to their profits. At around 30 by 12 feet in the water, it is not nearly big enough for two adults, however deep, although they certainly looked sleek, healthy and well fed. It helped a little Human economic enterprise and yet, as the boat left, there was still the mournful bark of trapped nature in their cries. They could easily increase its size.

Back down at the restaurant with the human animals, one of the cheapest, best and emptiest around, intrepid Phoenix Ark Press was attempting some investigative travel writing again, which of course can only be the Gonzo journalism of an unhearing world! The sweet waiter put it brilliantly when he said that now it’s ok, you cannot see it in the touristy months, but when winter comes people feel the effects of the cuts everywhere. He was convinced, like many, Greeks would be rich if they still had the Drachma. But he also told me that just two nights back Roman Abramovich had hired the whole island after five PM (surely just the restaurant) for a little party. Russsians sang for four hours. Perhaps it’s because Vidos served as a hospital and quarantine for sick Serbian soldiers during WWI and 5000 were buried at sea. The white flowers still on display were courtesy of the Chelsea Football Club owner and of course the man linked to that meeting near Kassiopi with British Labour peer Lord Mandelson. Ah, to dream of life in the fast lane.

Determined not to have any relevance to the modern world though I was simply concerned with trying to engage with the pretty English redhead at the next table, determinedly locked in her ereader. Courage was useless, despite pretending to be interested in her bus timetable, as I discovered she had astonishing eyes, was an International teacher, dreaming of Greek romance, no doubt, but caught up in The Hunger Games! Woe. She hurried away and I got the boat back, discovering how long it takes to discover a place, and real people in it, beyond surface travel. Lovely to see Corfu town though from a different angle, the big Venetian castle, the pretty nineteenth century shuttered houses, the promontory topped by the old English fort, and why seeing life from a boat is such a different thing from land. Wind comes in, weather, tying up alongside and navigating both people and hard matter. All in our isolated cells, trying to connect, or dock, or be a pirate. We raced towards the giant five story Cruise Liner out of Medeira, with a funnel like a fluking blue whale, billowing smoke, and hooted them bravely before drifting back to land. The tourist season is slowly closely down here, with clouds massing around the island and a brilliant electric storm last night, but it makes the edges clearer, the colours purer, the painters isle a richer place.

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