Naxos has got me thinking about them because, well, they’re all over the place. Back in Oz, older women wear one-piece swimsuits with frilly bits around the tummy and little skirts over the thighs because, you know. Older men wear whatever, because men will, whatever (fancy a shirtless hunk on a scooter with his beer belly hanging over the handlebars? Greece is your ticket). On the islands, people don’t seem self-conscious about imperfect bodies. Possibly they are at home, but here just about every woman wears a bikini, irrespective of fat rolls, droopy bits, acres of burned skin, etc. It reminds me of something I read in a book, My Brother Jack (which I didn’t like, btw), where the hero has to draw naked older women in Life Drawing Class. He’s thoroughly disgusted, naturally. So should we be?
Well on the one hand beauty is a fact and old age (however full of inner wisdom we might be) is not beautiful. On the other hand perhaps we should look more kindly on the faltering of the flesh … changing the subject I accidentally went to the nudist beach one day. I could’ve stripped right off amongst the stringy and bloated and burnt, but I kept my weird Aussie sun-smart gear on – shorts and a sleeved top – because… Because I’m sun smart? Ok, let’s be honest. Because the days when me taking my kit off on the beach was the signal for collective sighs of envy and lust are long gone, and I don’t want to be reminded of that. Keep the kit on, and I can still pretend that underneath is the perfect body that used to be.
I didn’t take any photos of the subjects of this essay, for obvious reasons. I’m sure you can imagine what I mean. So here instead is the beach. Which would make anyone want to tear off their clothes and prance around with their willies and boobs flopping out, to be fair…
And so on to Thera (which name I prefer to Santorini, because it reminds me of Greek history textbooks).
I read on the interwebs that this place is going to blow. Again.
When it does, it’ll take a couple of hundred thousand people (most of them tourists), a lot of infinity pools and hot spas, thousands of white-washed holiday units, over-priced mini marts and a whole bunch of deck chairs.
The Greek Government has a Plan for this, apparently. However, if they organise their volcanic eruption emergency response the same way they organise their buses, nobody will survive.
Never mind (I’m in Crete now, so no skin off my nose). I wanted to see Thera because of its famed loveliness, and because the last big eruption, roughly in 1600 BC, blew half the island off and destroyed Minoan civilisation. Which was pretty civilised, at least for the upper classes; plumbed toilets, multi-storey mansions with airy windows and charming wall paintings, piped water. Now I have seen it and it is stunning (at least, the views of the caldera, with its sweeping cliffs and sapphire bay, are). But the purpose of Thera nowadays is unquestionably to host holiday-makers. (In fact some would say that’s the purpose of Greece.) There’s something weird and unsettling about a place that has no reason to exist other than so people can get brown, have Sex on the Beach, and waft around in Greek goddess outfits. Speaking of which, it feels to me like a place that the gods have marked for imminent destruction (being gods, this might mean anywhere from tomorrow to next century).
Random things noticed/overheard; a pile of rubbish, mostly empty plastic water bottles, at the foot of a monastery on the spectacular path between Fira and Oia. The sewerage whiff off the view end of the upscale villas lining the bay (where does that shit go?). An argument between a young couple at a cafe; (he) ‘I just don’t see why we have to be out doing things all the time, it’s so expensive!’ (she) ‘Well you can stay in the room all day if you want to!’. A fat old lady to nobody in particular at a bar (…and I said, she’ll be here later, she said she was coming, like I told you before, and I don’t know why she innt here yet but…and…). She was still muttering away to the distracted nods of the waiter when I left half an hour later. A girl posing for photos on the porch of her luxury caldera-view apartment, her long red satin dress blowing out in a gale behind her. Obese stray pooches sunning themselves outside an abandoned church. An old couple standing in the surf on black-sanded Perissa Beach, kissing.