Thursday, June 26, 2008

It is hot. It is so hot, a large tin of ham in the pantry exploded and, of course the meat was off. Such a waste. What cans of meat were still in the pantry have been transferred to the fridge just in case. That, by the way, “Just In Case” is the title of the Thornton King book, sequel to “Dead On Time” which hopefully will be published this year, “Just In Case” that is. “Dead On Time” came out last year. Strange thing about titles, the fact that they are not copyright but which are, according to all the experts, so important, I had no sooner decided “Just In Case” was to be my title when I read a review in the DAILY MAIL on a Friday that some lady had just had her first novel published and what was its title? You’ve guessed it, but I was buggered if I was going to change a title that so obviously suited the story just written. As for “Dead On Time”, there are at least five books with that title. If titles are SO important and give off so much information, often being the difference between success and failure, what does “Glengarry Glenross” tell you? I still haven’t a clue on that one.
Back to the heat. Could it really be global warming? I’m not in the least surprised. It’s not just factories and fossil fuels causing too much carbon emission, it’s another problem caused by this little old world fast becoming so overcrowded. Just over ten years ago, when we decided to move to this beautiful island, estate agents hardly existed. There was Jannis in Rethymno and a company called Contract in Xania, hidden away in a little office on the fourth floor of a building on a little side street. Advertising for property was there none. Suddenly in the small seaside town of Kalyves there were no fewer than fourteen; land was being flogged off everywhere on the Apokoronas, the roads saw a constant stream of builders lorries and concrete mixer trucks, builders and builders merchants have been having a field day with houses and shops going up as though there were no tomorrow. I wonder how many olive trees have been uprooted to make way for this excess of building, and these are not just holiday homes, many are for permanent residencies. The Cretans, who had never seen so much money in their lives, were selling off their heritage at the rate of knots. When asked why, the answer went something like, “My children will no longer have to pick olives and farm for a living but can go to university and become doctors and lawyers.” The first few thousand immediately went on a top of the range BMW or Mercedes.
Much of the problem was created by the fact that the price of British property had become totally ridiculous and gone through the stratosphere so that people could sell expensive there, buy here cheap, and have money left over to last them the rest of their lives. “Your dream home in the sun” was the slogan, fostered by cheapo television programmes but in some instances they, the estate agents, and the builders were selling false dreams. People bought without doing their homework, without thinking. They came out in the summer when the weather was hot and dry and they could laze away their days on the beach. They didn’t think that Crete also has a winter which, although short, can be wet cold and windy. They were in cheap houses with no heating (that’s extra), no insulation, damp, cold, and miserable. There was nothing to do but get pissed in the local taverna and regret their move. Bored and miserable because they had never thought out what to do with time on their hands, now it was time to sell up and go back home but, alas, for one reason or another, nobody wants to buy their dream home in the sun and they are well and truly struck. They don’t want to learn a foreign language. They expect the locals to all speak English and they don’t want to participate in any of the local customs. There interests lie in booze, karaoke and curry nights. One woman I knew actually said, “I can’t stand church bells, I hate sheep, I don’t like the Greeks.” In which case the question is, why on earth did you come out there and why on earth are you staying?
This scenario does not apply to everyone of course. There are those who have just been unfortunate and suffered because of developments and the passing of time. For example, some friends bought the most charming old house in the small and very quiet village of Drapanos. They are both ex-school teachers, intelligent, funny, and generous, and obviously adored both their new home and living in Crete. They no longer live in Drapanos but have rented an apartment in a different village because their beautiful house, which appears to be unsaleable despite enormous reductions in price, is now surrounded by actual housing estates. There is no doubt that with everyone trying to jump on the bandwagon, the whole thing has come off its wheels and one cannot help but ask, when is the bubble going to burst? Is it going to burst before more of the countryside is spoiled? There is no doubt the Crete we came to just over ten years ago is not the same and not for the better. The horrid increase in crime is an indication. Our dear old friend Anna just a couple of doors down the road who died some years back aged 93 used to say, “Why is all of Europe coming to Crete? Soon there will be no more trees, only houses, only houses.” Dear Anna, she should have lived to see this. It’s true the Greeks have a love affair with money and concrete.

1 comment:

Steven A Schwab said...

People are people wherever they may be. Behavior is consistent across the continents and cultures. The story of the Brits seeking warm climates and cheap land ring true in many areas of Florida. I watched it all happen throughout much of my life. As a matter of fact, even the rural area where I now live was beginning to bloom with gated communities at the height of the housing bubble. Today those gates (walls) cordon off empty rows of plotted parcels behind some ridiculous entry way with an empty guard house and perhaps one speculative home or none built at all in a compound of 30 plus acres. I laugh when I see them. They are monuments to "get rich quick" greed and dumb-ass decisions. Why the hell do people move to the country anyhow? We don't want to live in gated communities with cookie cutter homes and neighbors so close we can hear their toilet flushing.