It's no good, something's going to have to give around here. Can't possibly stretch the 24-hour day any wider. Life was busy enough before the Internet became an obsession. Then blogging made surfing the Net seem like the carefree hours of childhood. Then Ravelry started and the meaning of black holes became a lot clearer. Now we have online competitions, events and KALs, which occupy every waking moment and, on all too many occasions, eat into sleep time too.
Yep, housework is definitely going to have to go. It's a waste of time anyway, isn't it? I mean, you dust the house and sweep the floors and tomorrow it all has to be done again. Or next week. Whatever.
Got back from Crete more than a week ago but catching up with the backlog of work took some time. That, and Rounds 4 and 5 of Sock Madness which followed each other with breakneck speed. I'm out of the front line contest now, which is a relief, but still knitting happily along with each new pattern, discovering strange techniques and ideas every time and liking at least some of them.
Getting to Crete outside the official summer season isn't all that easy. Come the end of May through to September, any travel agent will find you a nice package holiday to an over-developed tourist resort. That, however, means the searing soaring temperatures that you get so far south, and the arid, exhausted landscape that goes with it. We wanted to see Crete in spring, with all the wild flowers, but it took some searching and finagling on the Internet before we finally managed to organise a flight via Amsterdam.
Which meant getting up very early indeed on the morning of departure. Fortunately not earlier than the release of Pattern 3 in Sock Madness which popped into my mailbox a whole eight minutes before we had to leave for the airport. Had already thought to pack the wooden circulars, so knitted all the way to Amsterdam -
knitted on those moving trackways...
- and took advantage of a brief wi-fi link to post the requisite progress pic.
Didn't realise that was the last we would see of modern technology for quite some time...
Knitted all the next day as we drove through the beautiful Cretan mountains, through timeless whitewashed villages, along twisty roads through olive groves, over hump-backed bridges -
- past ruined churches -
with fragments of ancient frescoes still to be glimpsed on their ceilings.
A lovely and totally unexpected thing happened as I sat on a grassy bank in the late afternoon knitting busily while DH photographed birds coming down to drink at a tiny stream. A man drove up in a dusty little truck and nodded to me as he passed up the lane on the way to his fields. Concentrating on the stitches I heard him opening his gate, the clang as it hit against the stone wall, then the truck starting up again and moving through. The silence returned, with only the murmuring of bees collecting pollen from the wild thyme as background. Then I heard returning footsteps. Oh heck, we were blocking his access in some way. I mentally rehearsed apologies in my rudimentary Greek as they came closer. They stopped. I looked up.
He was standing there with a bunch of freshly-picked roses in his tanned fist. He held them out. 'For you', he said simply. Then he bowed, smiled, and went back up the lane and into his fields, out of sight.
I was totally taken aback. What a lovely, lovely, courteous gesture from a complete stranger.
The northern coast of Crete is pretty well developed now, with extensive tourist resorts reaching out their neon and plastic claws towards each other, but once you head into the hills and down towards the south, you enter another, timeless world, where modern life doesn't seem to have intruded at all.
This old man, his tanned face creased into a thousand wrinkles, was peacefully riding back to his home somewhere in the hills, the plastic bag containing his few groceries slung on the antique pack saddle. It probably took him half the day to get down to the nearest village, and the other half to get back. That was all right. It was his day for going to town.
And in every village you saw the black-garbed women, dignified, expressionless, but bending their heads in acknowledgement of your wave, your smile, as you passed.
Or you saw them toiling along the roadside with bundles of freshly-cut green herbage which they were taking home as fodder for their animals.
I wondered about those women. Oh you saw the young ones too, in the larger villages - slim, dark-eyed girls with long hair and seductive glances at the Adonis-like young males who roared past on their motorcycles. But when, I wondered, did one become the other? Was it on marriage? Did a young vibrant girl, full of the joys of life and fond of fun, marry a man from an outlying village and thereafter have to dress in unrelieved black, take her place in the strict code of an older world? Did she ever look back longingly to a time when she wore bright light colours and danced for sheer exuberance?
In these villages, there are always cafes, tavernas, but you never see the women sitting at the tables. Always the men, the older men, brushed and combed, their moustaches perfectly arranged (they favour moustaches on Crete). They often spend the entire day and most of the night there. I asked the man of one house where we stayed why the women didn't go to the cafes or tavernas.
'They do not like to be seen there', he said firmly. 'They have their own meeting places.' His wife, busying herself around the kitchen while he sat and talked, didn't even look up. She didn't have time.
I worked on those Round 3 socks like fury, and by Sunday afternoon - a hot, breathless afternoon, with nothing stirring in the remote mountain valley where we had stopped under the shade of some olive trees - they were done, finished, toes grafted, the lot.
DH ceremoniously took the requisite picture amid wild orchids.
Then for the first time, I wondered just exactly how the picture was going to be sent. For Sock Madness you have to post the finished socks on Flickr, then email the moderators with a link to that. Time is of the essence. We didn't have a cable to use the mobile phone, and even if we had, there was absolutely no reception amid those mountains. So where was the nearest Internet cafe?
A very good question. And one which would be posed again at increasingly frantic intervals.
Evening was falling. We drove onwards, and finally found one of those typical Cretan villages with its traditional stone-built houses. One had a sign offering rooms to rent. The black-clad lady smiled, nodded, and showed us to a scrupulously clean, whitewashed little room with threadbare but spotlessly clean linen sheets. Diffidently I asked about Internet access. She looked puzzled. I showed her my laptop. She gave a bewildered smile. In desperation I asked about television (the word does come from the Greek after all). She beamed, bustled out, and returned with two saucers of thick Greek yoghurt with honey on top.
Well the yogurt was delectable. And by the time we went down to the local taverna for souvlaki grilled over charcoal with wild herbs sprinkled on top, I had almost recovered my sense of humour. Tomorrow, I said, I would post the picture. Who knows, perhaps my fellow-competitors were having a slow day. I might still make it through.
The next day we drove right to the south coast, to Plakias, which is a fairly thriving tourist resort in summer but now was shuttered and asleep. Certainly no Internet cafes. Too late to drive further, but next day (Tuesday at this point), got as far as -
- the delightful fishing village of Aghia Galini, near the ancient Minoan site of Phaistos.
Don't know if you can read those signs, but one of them says Internet. Information. Wireless Lan. Just what we needed! They were closed, of course, as it was the middle of the day, but we were assured by a woman shaking a carpet out of a window that they would open again in the evening. In jubilation, we found a marvellous little hotel built into the side of the steep cliffs, run by a gentle East German couple with a passion for Sixties music. As soon as dusk fell, rushed back to the Zanzibar clutching my laptop.
The bartender spread his hands in gentle apology. Ah if only they did have Internet access. It would be so good for business, so popular with visitors. Perhaps this year they would get the connection. It had been applied for some time ago, some years now. They even had the signs ready - perhaps we had noticed them outside, admired how well they looked? But alas, no connection. Not even a little one.
After three chilled Mythos beers, despite myself I started grinning, and by the fourth both DH and I were laughing like idiots. What did it matter after all, when the main course was pork grilled with honey and there was more of that delectable yoghurt for dessert?
The next morning, we actually found another Internet cafe, at the other side of the town, and one that really did appear to function as such.
Appear is the term advisedly used, since, despite the fact that they advertised breakfast from 7 am, they were not open at 10 am to eager Irish travellers bearing laptops. 'Perhaps later,' said the man selling wooden toys across the street. 'He was here very late last night, Christos was.'
Eventually Christos did turn up, I did get online, posted my picture, and found, as I had expected, that the divisions had closed long since. But I didn't mind. Well - not really. Not all that much. At least I could now go back to enjoying Crete.
And there was plenty to enjoy. The flowers - ah the wild flowers of Crete in spring.
Fields of poppies like a 19th century painting.
Delicate gladioli vying for space with brilliant white and yellow marguerites.
And the orchids - dear heaven, the orchids! Shy and retiring, they remained invisible until you actually walked across a stony little field, sat down on a rock to rest. Only then did you see the delicate little bloom right at your feet.
There were so many different kinds that we were hard put to identify them all.
Oh hang on - almost forgot. Would you like to see me modelling my Sock Madness Round 3s for a group of Cretan naked men?
Thought you might.
I had every intention of posting this picture on the Sock Madness site, and calling it Cavorting With Cretan Naked Men In My Round 3 Socks , but thought that the moderators might object.
That is the correct name of this orchid, though, The Naked Man.
DH thoughtfully took this closeup so you could see why it got that name.
One aspect of life, however, which I had very much hoped to find but which, sadly, was not in evidence, was yarncraft of any kind. Spinning, weaving, knitting - nowhere was anyone practising these age-old arts. I know they were doing them in the mid-20th century - Angeluna particularly warned me to look out for spindles and distaffs - but they appear to have gone forever.
The only spindles I saw were in a museum case. I saw another set displayed in the same way in another museum, which makes me conclude that all the old traditional implements were simply gathered up and preserved behind glass forever. Not the life any self-respecting spindle would want, do you think?
More worryingly, the waitress in one restaurant was fascinated by my knitting, to the extent of coming over and touching the fabric in puzzlement. She was about forty, I would say, and simply did not know what knitting was. She knew how to crochet - I gathered that much - 'but this, what is this?' I didn't expect that total lack of recognition. Didn't take long for the knowledge to disappear, did it?
But everything else was delightful, especially the cats, which of course were everywhere. Well fed and happy, too, and clearly much loved.
This marmalade mouser was fascinated by the Addi Turbos and felt sure he could do a pretty competent job on the heel of the Falling Rain socks if I would only let him.
There were nimble-footed goats on every cliff and ravine, and great flocks of sheep moving across the landscape wherever you looked.
The young man with this flock could have posed for any of the friezes on the Parthenon. (No, I deliberately didn't show you a close-up, I have to think of your blood pressure.)
It was rather endearing that this elderly shepherd, plying a timeless occupation in a timeless landscape, should have condescended to adopt at least one modern convenience. Maybe he was making arrangements for the get together at the taverna that evening.
Yes, we did leave enough time (just) to visit Crete's greatest archaeological treasure, last vestige of the fabulous Minoan culture.
It really is rather breathtaking. My own personal opinion is that Sir Arthur Evans did us a great service by recreating parts of it as he thought it must have looked in ancient Minoan times. It gives you a real feeling for the place.
Peering into these dim interiors, you wondered how many whispered assignations, how many intrigues, how many tiptoeing feet and gasps of terror are held within their memory. I felt like trying one of those dowsing techniques - you know, the one with a ring or an amulet on a fine hair which you let hang and see which way it describes a circle - just to see what I could pick up.
OK, here it is. This is the picture we had to take. It meant nipping over a few barriers and being quick about shedding the shoes before we were caught, but here, especially for you, fellow fibre fiends is -
KNITTING AT KNOSSOS!