Country walks in June
Summer is here and the temperatures are rising, so my
and I take our walks in the early morning or after 6 pm to catch the
cool of the day.
The countryside is beginning to look brown and dry now under the olive
groves, partly due to some of the farmersí fondness for herbicides.
But many people have ploughed up some of the flatter pieces of ground
to grow vegetables for their own use, and fodder crops for the sheep
The potatoes are ready for cropping, so the foliage looks a little sad,
but the rows of silvery onions, big healthy red tomatoes, and green
shiny courgettes, look to me just as beautiful as the brightly-coloured
spring flowers that grew here earlier in the year.
As we climb the hill the Spanish Broom Spartum junceum is still
in flower, filling the air with scent, and the sun brings out the pungent
smell of sage. And it seems that every dry stony bank is covered with
creeping tendrils of the Caper plant Capparis spinosa, with
its big pink flowers.
The spiky, ground hugging leaves of spiny Bearís Breech Acanthus
spinosus are also appearing everywhere, and some lower down in
the valley are already flowering.
And - although it is common on every roadside - I really like the plate-shaped
bloom of the Wild Carrot Daucus carota: each bloom looks at
a glance as if it has an insect sitting in the centre, but in fact
it is a single, tiny purple floweret.
Farming activity is minimal in the olive groves now. The main sound
on our evening walks is the gentle drip of water from the hundreds
of black irrigation hoses that trail among the trees.
We did have another sound recently: of the digger that was clearing
the dead spring foliage and mini-landslides caused by the heavy winter
rain, off the agricultural roads. It squeaked and clanked among the
trees, sounding like a rusty Second World War tank.
The dog and I are grateful for its activity however, in spite of the
noise. Our walks are made more comfortable, not to have to wade through
prickly dead plants dropping spiny or sticky seeds that stick between
the dog's toes and make her lame. Now, she's able to happily
bounce along and chase the little coffee-brown lizards that scuttle
away at our approach. These at first look unremarkable, but if one
sits still long enough you can see they are rather pretty, with a darker
stripe down each side and a jade green tail.
At the top of the hill I pause for breath and enjoy the views. To my
left I look back to the village on the opposite hill, and ahead straight
down the valley I can see the Gulf of Kissamos, with the sea looking
silvery under the heat haze.
Down the other side of our small hill we come to the river. The water
poured down it in torrents in January and February, but now it is just
a trickle, dotted with a few pools that contain late-hatching tadpoles.
From the bridge, you can see that the river bed is lush with vegetation.
bright green leaves of young Plane trees, and shrubs in flower such
as pink Oleander Nerium oleander, creamy-coloured bristly-fruited
Silkweed Gomphocarpos Fruitisosus, and Lilac Chaste tree Vitex
Agnus-castus, all intertwined with vines, brambles and other climbing
What a pity that someone has dumped a load of builderís rubble off
the bridge amongst this beauty! But the problems of waste disposal
are a subject for another day ...
The newspapers at the moment, are full of the education ministerís
proposals for reforming higher education. The Karamanlis Government
want to introduce such things as: a systematic evaluation of individual
faculties and professors; a limit on the number of years a student
can enrol before earning an undergraduate degree; and a plan to let
private universities operate in Greece from 2008.
They would also like to have libraries on campus with a variety
of books without relying on just the one set course book, which is
often written by the tutor! Furthermore, when necessary, the police
will be allowed on university campus, without seeking permission from
the universityís own staff/student committee.
To us these proposals seem far from radical. In fact, it is strange
to our way of thinking that a university does not have a library but
only one course book, and that students can remain students for years
reportedly up to fifteen years in some cases.
These same people are then absorbed into public service jobs for life,
so they do not need to strive for excellence or, in some cases, even
competence. Surely, a meritocracy is vital for the running of a modern
efficient economy! The Greek government is aiming to raise standards
to the level of European Union countries, because they fear that in
the future, Greek degrees may not be accepted by fellow EU members.
The present batch of students, however, are not in the least bit grateful
and in response, they have staged sit-ins to take over university and
technical college faculties, and organised protests that have ended
with street riots. Meanwhile their professors have also gone on strike.
However, as the English version of the Kathimerini newspaper
reported on June 24: "These strikes will end by July 1. Why, you
ask? Have the government backed down? Well no, but university holidays
are due to start and these cannot possibly be disrupted by protests!"