Human tourists might be unable to travel but the migratory birds have no such problems. The barn swallows are nesting in quiet corners of Pedi and every evening we hear the owls calling across the valley.
As 1 May is a big holiday in Greece and falls on a Friday this year, once again a strict vehicle curfew will be in place for that weekend to prevent people leaving the cities to head for country houses and islands. Effectively the lock down definitely remains in place until at least 4 May for this reason. We are, however, expecting an announcement, either this evening or tomorrow, outlining the proposed stages for re-opening the country. Starting with easily controllable businesses such as bookshops and hair dressers and, eventually, seasonal hotels.
We have already been told that the most we can hope for is a 3 month tourist season, from 1 July to 30 September, with various restrictions in place concerning which country nationals will be allowed in and what measures will be taken to ensure the safety of both the tourists and the locals. This is all being hammered out with the EU as a whole to make a co-ordinated plan. Proposals including opening up the larger hotels first but reducing the number of rooms occupied as it is easier to impose social distancing in larger premises, replacing buffets with table service, changing bars so that drinkers sit at spaced tables with table service and so on.
It will be interesting to see how the airlines tackle the issues of social distancing, disinfection and hygiene and still keep their planes in the air. We saw huge changes in the travel industry after September 11 but this is going to be even more momentous. Even if people like Mike O’Leary of Ryan Air complain about the costs involved and refuse to fly within the limitations unless the state picks up the shortfall, the reality is that airlines are going to have a hard time persuading people to travel on their planes unless they feel safe. With awareness of the importance of hygiene at an all time high, the average person is more likely to be conscious of just what might be lurking on armrests, tray tables, back rests, upholstery and the like, not to mention plastic bins at security checks, airport seating and so on. It is not just the recycled air which people have been complaining about for years. Now the threat is not just catching a cold or flu. Unlike trains, buses and other forms of public transport which are a daily necessity for many people to get to and from work, it is rare for flying to be essential so consumers have the luxury of the last word.
Actually to call them April Showers is a bit of an understatement. Deluge is more like it and on Monday the rain was so heavy that all the water courses flowed, coming down in torrents through the square in Yialos, under the bridge and into the harbour. The water remained muddy for several hours after that. Lightning strikes knocked out phone lines in parts of Chorio and a number of home owners had floods indoors when their roof gutters failed to cope with the downpours. An inconvenient quirk of Symi’s pretty neo-classical architecture is that the gutters are channels in the tops of the walls, converging on some sort of down pipe inside the wall leading to the house’s rainwater cistern. If the down pipe gets blocked or the rain is so heavy that it cannot drain away down the pipe fast enough, the gutters overflow over the sill under the eaves and down the inside of the house. Very exciting if you are inside at the time – but worse to come back to if your house has been closed up for the winter and no one has been inside to clean up the resultant mess.
Greek Easter falls on the last weekend of April this year, giving everyone a bit more time to prepare for the start of the Easter. Just as well really, considering that there is yet more rain forecast for Monday next week. The charter flights into Rhodes started about a week ago and Dodecanese Seaways started a daily catamaran service to Symi this week. This was a bit of a mixed blessing as the weather disrupted the schedule and some people experienced a very bumpy ride on Wednesday. Mal de mer aside, I have seen a few tourists about, exploring Pedi on foot with Nordic poles (Tuesday) and with hire bikes (Thursday). Neither of the tavernas is open at the moment. Apostoli’s is still in boatyard mode and Katsaras is working frantically between storms to get their waterfrontage open. Both minimarkets, however, offer hot coffee and one can buy rolls, chocolate and so on for an impromptu picnic. Of the hotels, the only one that is sort of open is Galini , the small pension on the road, opposite St George’s church.
With the elections coming up, more candidates are coming forward for positions on the town council. Will the status quo be disrupted? This could be interesting! As Brexit has been stalled until October 31 those British expats on the Symi Voters Roll can vote in the Mayoral and EU elections this year, possibly for the last time. Among other things, the opposition candidate, Ilias Tsavaris, is pushing for more resources to be directed to the forgotten areas of Chorio and Pedi. As parts of Chorio still bear the scars of the storm of 13 November 2017 and the old town area, which is where a large proportion of the population lives, has been underfunded for years, this could be a hot ticket. If you are on Facebook, you can keep abreast of all these developments as campaigning hots up.
Meanwhile, the Easter lambs are munching their way through the daisies, the chamomile is fragrant under foot, the tadpoles may or may not turn into frogs and toads and the street lights are back on in Pedi.