The commercial puppetry that inject a garish and energetic form of life into a tourist place are abandoned at five in the morning. You find the place like you find a puppet in an empty box.It’s like you can see the strings dangle from the box as the dead unfocused eyes of the puppets stare at the lead sky. The occasional bird that circle into view as one stands in the car park looking at the dead thing just underscores how dead it is. How fake. How pretend. There’s nothing more dead than a tourist place at five in the morning.
Up in the hills above Rethymno lives a bloke called Kostas and his wife Camilla. They are twenty-somethings; he is normally a university student in Athens, but now he was here visiting his home-town. She stays at home to look after and try to raise a one-year old while he tries to study engineering. Mark and I met them in a bar the other day, and we talked for hours.
Camilla dreams of England. She thinks life will be better there. We were interrogated thoroughly about England, but what can we say about it that won’t kill her dream of a better life? Coming into their small kitchen with a toddler happily slapping his hand up and down in the bowl of food in front of him, I don’t want to break their dreams about a better life somewhere else.
The cinnamon wind blew in from the mediterranean when we and Kostas and Camilla were at the bar. Out there, just over the horizon, beyond sight, refugees are struggling for their very lives on smuggler boats to reach the promised land. Which, in a painful irony, proves that God, if he does actually exists, is a cruel jokester. Because the promised land is Greece. Camilla wants to escape to England to have a better life. The people out on the boats wants to escape here to have the same.
Where do the English escape to for the better life? News from home says that Jeremy Corbyn is now the leader of the Labour party. The most radical Labour leader in generations. After Scotland, after the General Election, I don’t want to speculate about how things will become, except when I sit at the bar talking with Kostas and Camilla about better lives elsewhere, it struck me that those who voted for Corbyn want the same. They’re not having it anymore, and are throwing out the conciliators and the compromisers.
So on both sides of the continent, the edges are fraying. England, Scotland are convulsing politically. Greece is convulsing economically. The centre in Germany is in turmoil because of the refugees. It feels as if something is struggling to be born. It’s in the air, like the cinnamon wind in a Greek tourist town at five in the morning in a car park overlooking a dead pill-box-hotel painted in white and pastel blue.
Standing there, thinking those things, making the connections in my head, I had goose bumps. Mark saw my furrowed brow and recognised my brooding. He does what he always does; he corrected a piece of my clothing. This time he pulled my jumper tighter around me.
In his eyes there’s this light, this spark. Either he’s amused, or pitying. Europe may go to hell, but he’s here to pull my jumper around me. Things will be fine. I have the better life already. I don’t need to uproot myself and go look for it elsewhere. But, as John Donne wrote:
“No man is an iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee….”
Things will be fine.