"Sheila and I have just returned from a week's holiday break on the Greek island of Crete. While unfortunately, the chest infection I have been fighting off for the past ten weeks worsened again and confined me to bed for two days of non-stop coughing, I treasured the five days that I was able to get out and enjoy the island and I am eager to return at a future date, God willing. As I wanted and needed a complete break, I decided to cut myself off from my usual world and daily activities. For the first time in the past four years, I missed seven 'Thoughts for Today' on my Facebook post. I deliberately left my watch, phone and lap top at home, I refused to read a newspaper or watch television and for all I knew, David Cameron and Nigel Farage had agreed to form a coalition government.
Sheila and I spent a welcomed week in the beautiful village of Stylos, which is snugly nestled between mountains on three sides and the idyllic Cretan Sea coast line on the fourth side. This was our first visit to Crete and we leave with an unforgettable experience of 'another way of life' in which no one hurries.
I had only been in Crete less than a day before I realised that the greatness of Greece lies not in its glorious past, but in the maintenance of its peaceful presence. We were overlooked from the balcony of our rented compartment by high mountains and terraced terrains of olive trees, interspersed with lemon and orange groves, all dressed in an array of more shades of green than I ever knew existed. Just to let the watcher know that humans live on this magic island also, house roof tops can be caught peeping through their branches. The surrounding mountains stand proud in the clear skyline and they shelter and protect all within their embrace in a perfect green silence of ecological stillness.
Access to the mountains by car is often a perilous experience for foreign visitors who have not yet learned the Greek way of riding the middle of the narrow, unmade road. Instead of doing what any sane-minded motorist would consider natural to stay alive (particularly when no vehicle is coming in the opposite direction), the overcautious British driver prefers to place your life at risk by hugging a sheer drop of a thousand-feet at the passenger side of a Left-Hand-Drive vehicle they are wholly unacquainted with, just so not to contravene 'The Highway Code Handbook!' It didn't affect Sheila in the slightest, as she never saw the drop from her side of the car and in truth, if I was to ignore 'the fear factor', I'd have to say that even the Greeks would have admired her sheer bravery as she negotiated the mountain gorges and tried to show how the British driver observes central road lines by never crossing them; even if there is insufficient space for two cars to pass each other without at least one doing a 'Thelma and Louise' over the cliff edge!
As for those marvellous mountains, they possess a beauty that runs riot in a feast of visual splendour which settles both soul and senses in a feeling of eternal belonging.
Unless we chose to visit the village of Stylos daily which was a mile from our apartment, and had we chosen instead to stay in the apartment, we would have heard no human sound between sunrise and sunset apart from cockerel crows, the bark of a dog, the bleating of goats and the constant song of the birds, who even chirp at a more leisurely pace than British birds. We found the sunny weather of May a thing to be enjoyed, not endured. The people were hospitable without exception and even when we got lost on our way home one night, the cafe owner we asked directions from gave me and Sheila a complimentary drink while three customers discussed the best way back in their mother tongue. It was almost midnight and we were both ready for bed and facing the realistic prospects of sleeping in the car overnight while parked in the middle of an olive grove. Eventually, the Cafe owner's partner decided where we were staying after Sheila wisely showed him a photograph of the apartment and he kindly escorted us home.
As to the food on offer; magnifico! The sheer variety, taste and value was sufficient to satisfy the pallet of any gourmet and the purse strings of all. The sheer taste of their tomatoes and oranges were the best I ever experienced; even better than the Italian produce we tasted a number of years ago. A Greek salad (considered to be a starter or a side plate), costs a mere €5 and believe me , is a meal in itself.
Whether or not fate provides me we the opportunity to revisit this beautiful Greek island, I know that my mind will return to it many times during the period ahead. When next a troublesome thought seeks to sneak past my sentry of positivism to unsettle my inner sanctuary of peaceful equilibrium, I shall simply visualise Stylos and know that I am looking at somewhere very special on earth; a country which spins on its own access of peace and a people who believe in 'letting things be.' William Forde: May 29th, 2016.