Σάββατο, 1 Μαρτίου 2014

Amola Kaloumba!



When I was young, Clean Monday meant three things to me. First a possibility that I would go hungry, or at best make do with a piece of "lagana" (the traditional flatbread with sesame baked specifically for the day...) and a piece of cheese that my mother would hide from Grandma (it was Lent and thus sinful to eat cheese...).
Second that we might get to have our first  swim, and third, the flying of our kite!!

The first was due to the fact that I was a rather "difficult" child as regards food and practically all the "nistissima"" (food allowed to eat when fasting for Lent) was definitely in the weird food zone to my eyes..shellfish, octopus, kalamari, taramas..there was something distinctly fishy about it all... no,no,no...
The swimming, what can I say, other times? Where we children and ready for everything? I dare say the swimming season then was like the tourist season...longer and it started earlier....

And I come to the third...the kite!


My father made his own. It was an art he learnt as a kid in Piraeus. He was a carpenter by trade, so very much comfortable with the wood, measuring and glueing required.

About a month before Clean Monday, he would organise his supplies from Piraeus. He used a kind of waxed paper, not unlike baking paper or the stuff used to wrap up cheese. It came in a a few basic colours, and could not be sourced on the island. Thin pieces of wood, glue, some special "decorative" papers, in silver and gold, kilometres of string and scissors completed the kit, and he was ready to start work.

The "tail" alone would sometimes take days, every little tuft of paper carefully cut to the same length, often many colours bunched together and all spaced out evenly. Where the bridle connected to the edges, he would add more tufts of coloured paper,  to make for better balance.

Ready for take off..
Every year he made a different one. He never made the same one twice, and he never kept one for next year. He would either take it apart and recycle the frame, or once it was high enough, he would cut the string and set it "free".

One year the plan was to get it as high as possible. Armed with 2000 meters of string, we proceeded to Kassiopi, our favorite kite-flying and picnic spot. Reel by reel, we joined the string, until the kite was so high we almost could not see it. A piece of string that went up to the sky, on its own, and we in turns, held on to it, happy and laughing. To my eyes the kite was flying somewhere over Albania, amongst the birds and clouds...

Another year he made a different one, a "Smyrna" kite as he called it.  It had a very different shape, and it also was a bit more "technical" to fly. The frame was made of bent bamboo strips. I think he had always wanted one, since he was a child, and he finally made one. His mother, my grandma, was a refugee from the Asia minor catastrophe in 1922.

The "smyrna" kite

Another "thing" about the kites was the matter of "size" (men...) Obviously he wanted to make them bigger and bigger, but there was a limit. The size of our car. Or rather cars! My father had a car rental business at the time, so we had a choice... So one year he decided to make a really big one and use the company minibus. If my memory serves me well, that years design was a Sun. Golden rays, a bright smile, yellow and orange... but it was too big!! So he had to opt for putting it on the roofrack...

Getting near to Kassiopi, my mother was looking out the passenger window at the shadow of the car as it sped on its way. There was something wrong. Shadows were dancing on the roof... "Yianni, I think you had better stop, something is not right..."

He pulled over and got out, took a look at the kite, and got back into the car, without speaking. The mood was not good. He stopped at a local "bakaliko" (grocery store) and asked to buy some of the brown greaseproof wrapping paper they used for the feta... We then proceeded to the port of Kassiopi where he set down to fix it. He gathered the left over strips of paper, cut some patches, glued them up. The kite, even patched up, flew as high as ever. As well as ever.  

a typical Papageorgiou kite

Moments from Clean Mondays past...

my little sister, looking incredibly like her son with long hair and a skirt on!
The picnic

My cousin Vassilis
Grandma next to her son, and my mum and sister behind
In the first photo at the top, and the previous four, did you notice something they have in common?

There is something that "ties" them all together...

It is a piece of string.

This piece of string is something we all need to take care of. This piece of string may be something different to each of us, that doesn't matter. What is important is that it should be recognised for what it is. A connection to our past, a connection between us, a continuation, a feeling of consistency.

In the difficult times we are going through, it will be bits of string like this that will keep us connected, tied together, remembering our past so that we may have a future, and so that we may look upon this future in the same may that Yiannis the kite maker looks up at his kite in the next picture...



Attentively, with hope and with joy in his heart





Looking at the future


PS I was intending to "tie in" the story of the kite that was damaged but was repaired and flew, with the ending, but it eluded me...  so Ι will add the lesson as a postscript. Against all odds, against all the problems and setbacks, we CAN make this world, this life, "fly"...
The world and our lives are changing. The change is our very own kite. And as much as some people are intent on tearing it up into little pieces, we have to use our brains and ingenuity, to patch it up and get it off the ground...

And a little note on the title. Amola kaloumba, is a greek kite flying expression which means let more string out...

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