Books and Good Reading
|The Author of 'Ela - A Greek affair'
Michael Saunders and his wife Pauline at their home in Lower Afrata, Crete, 2000. They finally realised their dream and took up permanent residence early in 2002....
Title: Ela - A Greek affair: Author: Michael Saunders.
Publisher: Efastathiadis Group SA. ISBN 960 226 524 1
Published 1979. Price 1800drx (About 3GB Pounds).
Source. Bookshops. Almost any shop in Crete selling books - including gift shops.
This is really an autobiography of half a Cretan mountain village! Lower Afrata. About the often hilarious and occasionally sad happenings experienced by Michael Saunders and his wife Pauline as they arrive from England in the early nineties to seek a home in NW Crete. It is a light-hearted, seriously honest presentation of the village of lower Afrata,
nestling along the narrow mountain road in a small gorge at the base of the Rodopos peninsula.
The building of relationships with the villagers is a joy to read. The small gifts of food left on their doorstep; the more lavish examples of family meals to which they were invited (and left Michael reeling when he mistook a first course for the meal only to find that there were several more courses to come!); their developing friendship with the family Papaderakis ('Papatherakis'); attending the annual
distilling of Tsikouthia at the village still; being asked to choose the rabbit (live) which was to become Kouneli Stifado for the visit to Taverna Roxanni of the then Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis and the French President Mitterand; attending the local village religious celebrations; trekking by somewhat hair-raising motor vehicles to the annual August 29th pilgrimage to the church of Ag Ioannis high
up on the Rodopos Peninsula; witnessing the obviously bewildering scene of hundreds of campfires on the mountainside around the church; the cuisine which included stewed sheep's head, complete with floating eyes which just could not be refused!; the trek back down to Rodopos village stood on the back of a truck with heads literally in the clouds and the beautiful, to my mind, rendition of the musical celebrations at
Rodopos; the description of Alekos and Roxanni Papaderakis, themselves grandparents, dancing in the village square is a beautiful, magical piece.....
"....under the captivating spell of the haunting rhythm, the years fell away and it almost seemed as if the couple before us were in their twenties, as they danced so perfectly together." This description typifies the way Mike Saunders speaks of his Cretan neighbours - with an admiration totally lacking the "they's" which sometimes mars the work of foreign writers.
His tale of how Roxanni's father had once set out to kill Alekos; of how Alekos persuaded him not to; and how the officer of a German patrol in WWII made Roxanni drink water he had demanded for his men first, fearing poison, is a fact of life. Mike Saunders' admiration is well placed and well written.
There is also another side to the book. The very obvious wit and humour so often directed at himself and his wife, not at other people, as they try, eventually successfully to buy and modernise their dream home in Lower Afrata, complete with an English country garden! Their highly electric bathroom, complete with shocks; vanishing water supply with a tap several minutes walk away; the Cretan woodstove
with non-heatproof paint; Mike's fight with non-closable shutters on a stormy night; and with his greatest nightmare - rats in the roof-space. Explaining to a neighbour that he had finally trapped the rat in the roof together with poison; the neighbour explaining to Mike that the dead rat would smell ("O Ponticos - he smile!"); and mike's admission that three weeks later "O Ponticos - he
smiled!" The escaped mule and the goat-kids which enjoyed snacking in an English country garden; the customs officer who thought they might be smuggling a computer into Crete - when really it was an electric radiator; and onwards into the merriment of trying to become a local!
This Story has no end really. Mike Saunders final remarks - "Ela - come. Like us fall in love and enjoy a lasting affair" has become very, very real. He and Pauline now live permanently in Afrata. They are about to remodel their English country garden and are still improving their house.
Buy the book. Get the story from the horse's mouth. If you happen by and see the door open, demand that they sign it! (But make sure they understand that you mean the book...) Or demand a full English breakfast - I do. But that's another story.....