I’ll be honest with you. I’m not one of those Greeks who goes on complaining about English weather all the time. I actually don’t mind not having to bear the heatwaves when you get to work and you’re dripping with sweat and your boss (who is a cheap bastard) doesn’t turn the air-con on because he says it affects the electrical circuit (?! – what he really means is that he doesn’t want to pay the bill).
I do miss the food though. I can be found describing several dishes to my friends and I feel that I can almost taste the tastes in my mouth. Stuffed peppers and tomatoes with bulgur wheat that my mum makes with a huge chunk of nice salty feta. And bread. Bread that comes from the baker where they bake it in the morning from a batch they made there and didn’t just get out of the freezer. Bread that doesn’t crumble into a thousand pieces when you try to cut it with the knife and has a nice thick crust and a good solid centre.
When people usually ask me if I miss home (they tend to ask that especially on a crappy, rainy day), I usually say not that much. And I am honest. There’s many things I don’t miss about home. And I’m pretty content where I am and I don’t mind carrying an umbrella with me because, yes, England IS the only place in the world where you can experience all 4 seasons in one day.
But yesterday night, after a day out with beloved Greek friends who make me laugh even when the skies are grey, I came home shivering and I wrapped myself in my pink blanket. I turned on the TV and My Big Fat Greek Wedding was playing. My face lit up inexplicably. I had just missed my favourite scene where the groom’s family brings over a bundt cake which causes great confusion to the Greek mothers and grandmothers. (You can watch the scene here.)
Here I was on my big London couch at the end of June under a fluffy blanket watching the cheesiest movie about Greeks ever made after having spent a week of showing photos to people of the tiny island where my family owns a house; an island where there’s only one taxi and where beaches don’t have umbrellas and sun lounges; where people still own donkeys to get around and bring tomatoes and aubergines from the garden to cook in their little tavernas. Where my cousin’s bar is next to the church which still tolls the bell at every hour (one toll to indicate it’s half past and sad tolls to let people know there has been a death on the island).
And here I was on my big couch with my pink blanket when homesickness struck and I almost got tears in my eyes when my flatmates asked me why the Greeks were spitting on the bride and groom. Homesickness is a sneaky little bitch (I’ve decided she must be female because the equivalent noun in Greek ‘nostalgia’ is feminine). She creeps up when you least expect it and messes you up without you even knowing.
It’s not that you just miss your mum or your dad or your sister or your friends. It’s not that you just miss the sun and the sea and spending your nights in the open air because you’d be caught dead inside on nights like these. It’s not that you just miss the gorgeous food and the watermelons that taste so much better when it’s 35 degrees outside.
It’s the feeling that there is part of you that you’ve kept under a blanket (maybe not a pink one) hibernating all this time and this part now just wants to be out for a while, to have awkward tan lines and some ‘barbounia’ by the sea. To listen to cicadas while taking an afternoon nap with the fan creating a breeze.
I think I need a pair of ruby slippers…