Weeding in the Dodecanese

The street is winding, and cobbled. Next to each of its doors there is an eccentrically decorated post box. Some of the boxes display huge initials, casually daubed onto the surfaces in thick white paint among flowers and swirls in chalky pastel. Others, the more disappointing, bear only a faded business card with greying letters, which spell out the names against yellowing white. Vespas lean against stone walls and dilapidated wooden gates, some covered in cobwebs and seemingly forgotten, others occasionally whizzing past at breakneck speed. Cartoons and adverts accompany delicate paper flowers and gold- rimmed iconography on walls, door frames, windowsills: Mickey Mouse and the Virgin Mary share wall space here, divided only by lines of faded masking tape.

A door opens, and an elderly lady potters onto the cobbles, walking stick in weather- beaten hand. Her face is as brown and crumpled as an endlessly re-used paper bag, but her eyes are black and beady beneath the gentle creases. Despite the heat, she is clad resolutely in thick brown stockings, and a heavy dress reaches almost to her stout black shoes. I am standing at the stone archway where this side street joins a slightly wider avenue, and she doesn’t look up at me, but instead begins a solemn procession down the passage, her head down, her back slightly stooped. Every so often, she pauses and jabs violently at something with her stick- a mound of dog dirt, a tin can, a poster screwed into a ball- before carrying on.

When she reaches the point where the passage winds away to the left, she turns back. I make a concerted effort to consult the map which had in any case brought me here accidentally, embarrassed that I have been staring at her progress so intently. She doesn’t seem to notice me, but moves a little further along the passage and looks down, at the tiny flowers which are sprouting where the cobbles meet the stone wall under her own window. She prods at the clusters of purple with her stick, surveying the situation. Tutting, she leans the stick against the sill and squats. The sudden, deft movement belies her doddering, and after a few moments of insistent tugging there is a scattering of uprooted shoots at her side. She picks them up, shaking the soil from the displaced spindles and letting it fall onto the uneven cobbles. As she stands, I hear the creak and groan of knees which have known too many inconsiderate weeds. Taking her walking stick from its resting place, she retreats once more behind the wooden slats of her front door: triumphant.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2013.

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