Greece

At Sea in the Ionian

It’s never too late, no matter what they say about old dogs.

The first time I took out my boat, I was a nervous wreck, eventhough I had two friends to crew with me. I sat drinking coffee looking over the jetty, while a Swiss couple encouraged me.

-you will take it out yourself soon-

This was the farthest thing from my mind as I noticed my two friends arriving, coolbags in tow.

I nervously introduced everyone and then we abruptly left, the Swiss insisting on standing me the coffee. I tried and failed to relax as we settled on to the boat, and I went through the written out procedure for starting the engine. The throttle was slow to respond, so the rope holding the bow had well and truly sank by the time we moved for ward. I inched out of the berth and past the hundreds of assorted boats, power boats, sailboats and then the superyachts, tied up at the farthest jetty.

The adrenaline was pumping until we got out into the bay and I was able to take a deep breath. We put out a fishing line and caught a tuna first time, the only one of the summer,as it turned out.

The following week, I was swept along by my friend from Dublin, let’s call her the Dynamo, who showed me the ropes , literally. We sailed the channel from Kassiopi to Benitses, until , passing Corfu town, I said to her- let me take down the sails and steer. I pointed the boat into the wind and when the sails were in and we were motoring up the channel again, I glanced at the Dynamo. She was smiling from ear to ear with satisfaction at her pupil doing so well.

So the seeds were set. The day the Dynamo left, my eyes scanned the marina to add to the stash of enthusiastic crew. I noticed a sailor heading out on his own, standing tall at the back of his 34′ yacht, so I interrupted his meditations at the bow of his boat one day and asked him how he learned to sail alone.

He’s a man of few words, and with a strong South African accent he said- Next time I go to Sayada, you come with me in your boat.-

And so, the following week, I was given an hour’s notice, to leave on a trip south. I stocked up on food, water and for the first time, I slipped my lines myself.

The fish that were follwing me…

The European Project

The ideal of a United States of Europe was born of a need to control the supply of Coal and Steel, used to make military weapons. The original name is ECSC or European Coal and Steel Community, and was the brainchild of French and German thinkers and leaders, Jean Monnet and Konrad Adenauer, who wanted to make sure there was never another World War. It tunrned out the Atom bomb became the real deterrent, but the ECSC moved in the direction of economic union.

When Ireland joined in 1972, our Western seaboard was one of the poorest parts of Europe, along with Greece and parts of the south of Italy. How things have changed for Ireland. Standards of living having soared and the country ranks high among the developed nations.

Brexit coincided with me leaving Ireland for another European country, Greece. The largest number of non Greeks here are British. Very few realised Ireland would not leave the EU when the UK left. It left me with a mixture of disbelief and some anger that our nearest neighbours, and the ones that felt inclined to travel, who you would think had more broadened minds, appreciated so little about British domination of Ireland.

I became a little notorious for saying ‘there’s no such thing as Southern Ireland ‘ when asked whether I was from Northern or Southern Ireland. Most people just thought I was mad, but some loved the idea of being challenged to think the thing through and enjoyed the banter. I have toned it down a bit now, and I’ve begun to see myself more as a European.

The body language of Ursula van den Leyn showing Boris where to stand – away from her -at the press conference when they failed to reach agreement, speaks volumes. It were as if she was dealing with a child who needed to be indulged, She was distancing herself from him in more ways than one. Britain will now be just another country, with no special status in Europe.

What is it in the British psyche that won’t allow it to be one of the lads? Why do they always have to be one cut above? It’s a trend that seems to be led from the higher echelons of society, not the man in the street, who it seems is sick of the idea of Brexit and feels conned. Their beloved holdays in Spain will never be the same. The dreams of a house on a Greek island take on a legion of difficulties and I haven’t met one Brit out here who wants to leave the Union. Most of them are trying to get Irish passports.

I’m very proud to be Irish. We tend to pick up the Greek language better, having learned a second language from our first day at school and this lends a strong sense of identity. It’s all made me feel incredibly lucky to be Irish and to be here. Or should I say to be European and to be here.