The Leaking Roof

The hotel I stayed at on Anti Paros was a pleasant old-fashioned hotel of faded charm, a taste of tourism in Greece before the onset of mass tourism. There was a ‘for sale’ sign in the window and the hotel may by now have been modernised beyond recognition.

The weather was not the sort for countryside walking, not of the sort that GNTO adverts lead us to believe we will find in Greece; and I was glad that I had walked to the cave the day before. The clouds brooded dark and low. Rain was in the air and on the ground but not actually falling when I first peered out of the shutters that morning.

I had hung my washing on the line on my balcony, covered my bed with my sleeping bag, left other items dotted around as one does, as I do at any rate, some on the twin beds, on the floor, on a chair. Pardon me mentioning my domestic arrangements. You will see why later. Don't I tempt you to read on, don't I tease you, dear reader. What did happen? Like a detective story writer, I have already given you a clue.

I went to Paros for the day. I had been to Paros on my first trip to Greece in 1981. In the late 1980s had been on a day trip from Naxos to Naoussa, and gone on to Paros Town. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Paros had changed for the better. The shops were mostly upmarket and tasteful, not the ranks and ranks of gold jewellery shops that I was to find on Mykonos, but small shops that it was a pleasure to look at. Or would have been a pleasure to look at if it had not rained. And what rain! I have never known rain like it before. The skies opened and the rain deluged down by the bucketful. Huge splodges of rain fell in the downpour in Paros that morning; rain drops the size of fifty drachma coins. I soon felt like a prize contestant in a wet T-shirt competition. The rain continued almost without intermission for the whole day. Locals made plastic carrier bags into nifty little plastic hats. I was reminded of Diana Elena, a Romanian girl we met on Amorgos. Diana Elena was given a plastic dustbin liner by a shop keeper in Apollonia, one step up from a plastic carrier bag, but that was on the day in April when there was snow fell on the mountains of Naxos.

I caught a bus up to Naoussa. On my earlier visits, there had been tourist development in Naoussa, but not on the scale I saw now. There was a huge amount of development outside cold centre of Naoussa? The older buildings nearer the centre remained unspoilt, but with a larger percentage than in Paros Town devoted to tourist related business. I was pleased to see that the old harbour had kept its charm. I would have liked to sit outside by the harbour, but weather conditions being what they were I plumped for lunch at a taverna with a very sturdy and waterproof outside canopy. The Ουζερι κογτεοβρας was doing a roaring trade. Other customers had spotted the sturdy canopy. Not only the weatherproofing was good. The food smells and the food was good too. I had what has become my traditional lunch at Naoussa (and my favourite lunch any time) little fish and white wine. The fish were described on the English menu as "sardines"; I checked the Greek to make sure that they were really marides.

I got back to Paros a minute or two too late to catch the 14.00 bus to Punta, and had to wait for the 16.00. The rain was still coming down in torrents. I dashed from shop doorway to shop doorway, sought refuge in a pleasant coffee shop (but did not linger long as it was small and crowded with others seeking shelter from the rain). I revisited the church, then sat under the large outside covered terrace of a cafe overlooking the harbour. No shortage of space there, even with many people seeking refuge from all that the elements threw on Paros that day. I have never before seen so many umbrellas in Greece, or at least umbrellas in use. In the Dodecanese the number of shops selling umbrellas (duty free in the Dodecanese) had surprised me. I naively assumed that people bought them just for show. Now I know otherwise.

This morning there were quick heavy storms. Now the rain is a little less heavy but consistent, oh so consistent. I am looking forward to getting back to the hotel and changing into some dry clothes. The day before, the weather had been boiling, hardly a cloud in the sky, and I sprayed myself with my cold water spray at the entrance to cave. In Paros, I was so wet, even my pen went through the paper I was writing on it was so wet. I thought with envy of the chap we saw on Sifnos wearing a Barbour jacket and flippers. No doubt soon (as on Siphnos) the storm will be but a memory and hot sunny weather will return. A chap outside the harbour office was wearing a yellow oilskin or similar. My lightweight nylon jacket is usually only a token jacket, for use at night at sea perhaps, and offered no protection in a storm such as this. The rain would have soaked straight through it. I had not even brought it with me. Although wet, I was not cold and the fewer clothes I had to dry the better. My jacket was more of a windcheater when worn in conjunction with other clothes than a keep-out-rain sort of jacket. I was thankful that the directors' chairs at the Cafe Milos near Paros harbour were dark blue in case my newly dyed shorts (Greek sun, when it shines, bleaches them pale), sopping wet from the rain, ran. These shorts have been on last few trips. Elasticated waist, pockets, loose legs, were beige - but I like navy shorts (and my co-ordinated outfit (ha ha)) - and dyed them. The dye started to fade - I know that faded clothes are fashionable - but these were on the shabby side of fashionable - so I re-dyed them. They still release blue when I wash them. That reminds me - My washing (i.e. my theoretical dry change of clothing) was still on the washing line in Antiparos.

I got back to the hotel at five o'clock. Mr and Mrs Hotel had cleared off for the day. The rain had arrived on Antiparos, had arrived in my bedroom. I saw puddles of water on the floor, saw puddles of water on the sleeping bag on my bed, and saw water everywhere. I looked up and saw a damp patch either side of the crack on the ceiling. The roof had leaked. It was not only the washing on the line that was wet. Everything was wet. Puddles on the floor of my room. Wet mattress. Sheet, blanket, sleeping bag. Everything I possessed was wet, wet, wet.

The rain had stopped and the sun was weakly gleaming. The sun was at the back of the building, not on my balcony. The sun was shining on the steps to the hotel, so I put all my wet clothes, sleeping bag, sheets over the railings and on the line I rigged up there. They did not dry, but were less damp by the time I retrieved them. The sheets and other bedding I draped around the wardrobe doors. Luckily, the second twin bed had not been leaked on so I slept in that bed that night. If Mr and Mrs Hotel had been around I would have asked for a dry room. It was lucky that this room had a solid wardrobe - it kept the rain off the contents. Now that is a use for a wardrobe that I had not thought of before. I can imagine the advert: "Solid wardrobe for sale, will keep clothes dry in the heaviest of storms."

By seven that evening the sky was cloudless, innocent, butter would not melt in its mouth.

On the main street, I had noticed a huge heap of rubble, a fallen house that I had not seen before. Had the rain brought the house down? I slept uneasily that night and the crack in the roof above me grew larger in my dreams.

Next morning I left a note in my room in Greek (I had to compose it with the aid of my dictionary: phrase books do not run to such phrases as "there is a hole in your roof"). When I got downstairs at half past seven, I found that the bar was open and Mr Hotel was there. The luck of the draw. If I had waited to Thursday to pay you can bet that he would not have been there. I explained in halting Greek and gestures what had happened upstairs. He smiled, looked apologetic, and said "sorry".