I adore Crete, have done ever since I first visited back in 2010. This year, for complex reasons, I am not able to go over there – much as I would love to.
So, instead, I am, in my imagination, packing a suitcase full of sounds, sights, smells, tastes and precious people of Crete. This case, placed in the hold of an imaginary aeroplane, travels from the Greek Islands right back to Bristol Airport – and, once it is home, I unpack it – and inhale the gorgeous, sensual memories:
The heat; the rugged and stark beauty of the landscape; the mountains, lilac-pink and clear in the setting sun; smells of wild herbs; the soaring of raptors in a bright cloudless sky; the winding roads and blessed tumbling of sun-sparkling waves in the sea so far below; goats sheltering from the hottest part of the day…
And then, from the case, I draw the vibrancy of people and place and music and food and drink: the owners of tavernas visited in years gone by, especially Vassili and Katerina of the magnificent Castello Taverna, in the village of Kastellos. Many happy evenings have I spent there – and the edible ghosts of meals float before me, tantalising and piquant. Many laughs and happinesses have been experienced in this lovely place – and, in my mind, I am there now!
I think of the traditional Cretan dancers, and the musicians who play this wild and heated music. I recall, last year, linking arms and dancing, haltingly at first, with them – and remember the Cretan bagpipes, which, uninflated, looked like a sleeping small dog!
I feel the warm sea undulating around me, and see the raspberry colours of sunset moulding the hills into a woman, lying, bosoms upthrust, to receive the sun’s dying seed, a pubic line of gold sexing the water.
I cradle, in my imagination, the wonders of Rethymno Old Town at night, and smile at the feelings conjured up.
And now? I shut the suitcase, enclosing its delightful contents once more – but I know I can always re-open and re-visit whenever I want.