It has been brought to my attention as my old headmaster used to say that yesterday’s Blog was a repeat. Stupid me. I don’t know how that happened but this is the one that should have gone out so have it a day late and a day early.
Rain rain go away, come again another day. Isn’t that the old children’s rhyme? I’ve never known so much rain for such a length of time. Mind you at least we’re not flooded like parts of Australia at the moment and although it has been the coldest we’ve known it in Crete, we haven’t had the snow and freezing conditions suffered by the rest of Europe. It has become a bloody nuisance though because it has made a part of the house (the walk-in pantry) so damp it keeps on tripping the mains switch. There is a fridge and a freezer in there so Chris has unplugged both and run a cable from the other end of the house, a long way over.
Rain or no rain there have been more demonstrations complete with riot police standing by against the Troika and its demands for further wage and pension reductions and the unions have called a forty-eight hour strike. Two days ago we were in our doctor’s surgery to renew prescriptions and for me to have my monthly blood test just to see if the rat poison is doing its job and she excused herself to answer the telephone. When she put down the receiver she looked at us and said quite simply. “That was IKA. No money.”
Afterwards I went to Maiky’s kafenio for a coffee and it was packed – mainly with smokers! I said from the very beginning that the Greeks, particularly the Cretans, would ignore the EU law regarding smoking in enclosed places. They seem to have accepted it in banks, utility offices etcetera, but no way are they not going to have their cigarettes with their coffees and tsigouthia (raki). No one in Maiky’s seemed unduly worried about the situation as they puffed away and the noise was at his usual level when Greeks get together. The night before having dinner in a local taverna there was a woman (English) chain smoking and no one thought of stopping her even though both she and Manolis, the owner, could have been heavily fined.
Still talking of bad weather I was reading an article about Napoleon’s Grande Armee and the retreat from Moscow (Why has no one ever made a film about this? Or have they?) Of all the challenges faced by generals through history, moving armies has been one of the greatest - and Napoleon Bonaparte's invasion of Russia 200 years ago illustrates just how badly things can go wrong when it is underestimated. The same thing applied to the Wehrmacht 129 years later. Both Napoleon and Hitler envisaged a quick victory but it was not to be and winter and vast distances did for them both. In Napoleon’s case evidently it has been put down to the horses wearing the wrong shoes resulting in only one out of every twenty men surviving. The Russians refused to stand and fight but employed a burnt earth strategy destroying crops and supplies as they withdrew, luring Napoleon ever further across forests, marshes and steppes. His troubles, however, were just beginning. Having entered Russia in June, and anticipating a short campaign, his horses were still shod with summer shoes and with the brutal Russian winter fast approaching, this tiny logistical oversight was to cost him dear. Winter horseshoes are equipped with little spikes that give a horse traction on snow and ice, and prevent it from slipping. Without them, a horse can neither tow a wagon uphill, nor use them as brakes on the way down. They would have slipped, fallen and the result would have been broken and mutilated limbs. The long retreat from Moscow has gone down in history as one of the greatest logistical disasters of all time. Without adequate horse transport, 2,400km (1,500 miles) from home, his army had no chance. He should have learnt a lesson from the ancient Greeks who in the snow shod their horses with leather boots just to prevent this from happening. And Hitler should have learnt his lesson from both.