During the second month of coronavirus lockdown in a marina in Athens, we started to develop a “new normal” – long joint video chats at the weekend with our son and daughter and partners, chaotic Zoom sessions with my extended family (20 – 25 of us at a time with a range of ages from 7 to over 70) and weekly activities with our “bubble companions” from S/V Polykandros.
The little family of four aboard “Polly” were on the brink of a new life – a sailing adventure that had seen them bravely sell up their house and contents and leave their everyday existence in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. Instead of sailing into the wild blue yonder, however, they were, like us, confined to their sailing yacht at Alimos Marina in Athens for who knows how long, due to the Greek Corona Virus lockdown.
We discovered that the children Luca (13) and Nina (10) enjoyed art but all their art materials were in boxes that were still stuck in New Zealand. So Jonathan, who went to art college many moons ago and had a couple of sketchbooks and some pencils stashed away somewhere, “volunteered” to run drawing classes.
I also elected to join in as I am totally useless at drawing and have always wanted to test Jonathan‘s oft-quoted assurances that “anyone can learn to draw”. Our daughter Hannah who appears to have inherited my lack of prowess with a pencil decided to join in remotely. Then my two sisters (who appear to have more talent than I was blessed with but who also felt their skills needed upgrading) also decided to join in via Zoom.
The children and their Mum Silke could already draw really well so my lack of skill was glaring in contrast. I battle on however, and will now admit that while I could never be a Picasso, or even a half decent amateur artist, it is possible to learn “tricks” and techniques that with practice could allow even me to draw a possibly recognisable portrait. Practice and application is what’s needed now!
Another regular activity (for me anyway) has been twice weekly yoga classes with Silke who had a yoga studio in New Zealand called “Heartspace”. (https://heartspace.nz/my-services/online-yoga-classes/)
After ten sessions, Silke’s carefully selected yoga postures have caused the annoyingly persistent pain in my shoulder joints to vanish. Amazing! At weekends, afternoon teas with delicious home baked scones, pies, cakes and biscuits or barbecues have also helped life feel much more “normal “.
Jonathan and I have been walking each day – some days along the seafront and on others around the marina and along many of the piers looking at all the boats.
Some days we hit the suburban streets inland a little for a change of scene and sometimes we have had lovely Lucy dog canine crew member of Polykandros to accompany us.
One day we took a fairly substantial walk (8.5 km round trip) to Lidl to restock our wine cellar which had taken rather a Covid related hit during the previous weeks! We felt rather embarrassed that a dozen wines rolled out of the trolley along with some meusli, a bottle of gin, some lemons and a packet of rocket! Not everyone ‘s idea of essential supplies!
On one of our strolls around the marina we found a brand new Lagoon 50. We were having a good old “sticky beak” when out popped Igor, the skipper we had hired last year to show us the ropes on Sunday.
It was great to have a chat and a guided tour of the brand new boat that he had just skippered all the way from the manufacturers in France.
The following weekend Igor and his almost nine-year old daughter came to visit Sunday and we met up later with the young people from Polykandros for a game of bat and ball.
At the end of April we celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary. No dinner out for us but we did pop a cork on a bottle of Prosecco and we enjoyed some luscious pasta with an indulgent mushroom and cream sauce!
Around this time the marina in which we are staying completely closed down. We hadn’t seen any of the workers from the charter boats since we first arrived in Athens but most days we had seen a few people take a stroll through the marina during their evening constitutional or cyclists enjoying the quiet road to exercise in. Once the marina was closed down we saw nobody except for the security guards who patrolled up and down the marina piers.
We were very lucky to hear of a secondhand Magma BBQ from Tim, skipper of Polykandros. He had made enquiries from the German seller but in the meantime had found a good one locally so he handed the details on to us.
The BBQ was in good condition and selling at an excellent price so we grabbed it gratefully. Despite the coronavirus shutdown it arrived quite quickly and we soon had it installed and gave it a trial one Saturday evening.
Greece had done so well in keeping cases of coronavirus at a very low level (only 146 deaths as of 4 May), that on that date restrictions began to be relaxed. By 12 May it was announced that for the first time since measures were introduced, people could move around outside of their immediate area.
This relaxation meant that after almost two months confined to barracks we were able to hire a car and go shopping for household items (at IKEA) hardware (to fix things on Sunday,) and to larger supermarkets to find items we weren’t able to buy at our small local food store.
I had been hankering after some proper English cheddar cheese. Much to my delight I found Cathedral Cheese (a family member is Marketing Manager for this brand so it’s a must-buy for our extended family!). It was extremely expensive but we threw caution to the wind and purchased three 350g blocks.
We were even able to go out and buy a new dinghy and motor as the one that came with the boat had some serious age-related issues and the engine wouldn’t “idle”.
We purchased our new runabout from Leadmar Marine – George (Georgios) and his Dad were very charming, helpful and very easy to work with (George makes good coffee too). We ended up buying a Canadian designed Gala and a six horse-power Mariner four-stroke engine.
One evening we drove north along the beautiful coastline to the Temple of Poseidon for a picnic and to watch the sun set over these lovely and historic ruins.
It felt so good to have the freedom to take a drive, admire the view, have a picnic, feel the breeze on our faces but we almost didn’t go. We were all tired from our mammoth shopping trips but more than that, I believe we had developed a weird sort of “Stockholm syndrome” (https://www.britannica.com/science/Stockholm-syndrome).
We had become so used to being cocooned in the safety of our own space that instead of feeling claustrophobic and confined we started to feel happy to be confined. It was actually quite challenging to push ourselves out of the routines and rituals we had established and to get out of our “comfort zone”.
When it came to it, we all felt so glad that we had made the effort as the view of the temple was stunning, especially in the evening as the sun was setting
PS In case anyone is wondering how our grandducks are going here is a recent photo of them enjoying a camp fire in our son and daughter-in-law’s garden! Haven’t they grown?!