-300 Goats, chips, yoghurt and back ache. (80’s).

Sometime in the late 80’s/early 90’s.

I had finished work in the Red Lion pub in Limassol, Cyprus and scoured a map of Greece looking for the smallest, out of the way yet accessible island to continue writing on. There it was, Antidespotiko, at the far end of Despotiko. I took a ferry to Athens, busked a bit to pay for the next ride and got a lift in a row boat across the remaining half mile stretch to ‘antiwhateveritwascalled’!

I had the usual supplies, pen, paper, carrots, water, sleeping bag. The farmer had a small hut on the island and said he came over every week or so to tend his 300 goats. I was to share an island with 300 goats!

I found a great beach on the south side. A huge gorge spread back inland with a perfect cave just 10 yards from the sea edge. It’s interior was lined with quartz crystals.

I spent my days running about the beach. I always find it amazing how quickly self judgment falls away when you are alone and with nature. Life’s pressures and torments seems to recede and your creative powers have the space and time to reveal themselves. I guess this a little how meditation works. You are giving yourself the time and space to be free.

The carrots and water lasted quite a while but the fear and feelings of loneliness still managed to get the better of me. I tried walking the island. It was only 5 or 6 miles square. I walked into the evenings and tried to sleep elsewhere but I always found myself stumbling back over the rocks in the dead of night to find my seaweed mattress and sleeping bag waiting for me.

I was no good at this solitude lark. I craved it. I thought it was the only way I could live yet could not bear it when it got tough. I felt ill and afraid and needed the companionship of others and the taste of chocolate, chips and mayonnaise. (Not all together!).

I grudgingly packed up. The real World was beckoning me back. I reached the farmer’s hut at night fall and saw his rowboat on this side of the water. I was in luck. I had a little bit of money on me so in no time at all I could stuff myself silly again.

The Grecian returned from over the hill, his huge manly hands clasping a dead goat slung over his shoulder. We grinned a greeting to one another. He put the dead goat down and through sign language told me that the sea was too rough to cross tonight. Damn, there goes my feast, and I was so hungry. Selfish me.

My new friend(!) then picked up a stick, sharpened one end to a point and handed me a torch. I then proceeded to help him do what he had to do. He rammed the stick into the goat’s hind leg, pulled it back out, put his mouth to the cut skin…and proceeded to blow the goat up! He blew and blew and blew, and within thirty seconds the goat’s skin had separated itself from the animal. For the next couple of minutes I desperately tried to forget I was a vegetarian. The skin was carefully cut free and then the remaining carcase was literally hung from the roof of the hut and cut into manageable pieces. I gave him back the torch!

We had a superb evening after that. We ate dozens of small fish for supper with masses of fresh bread covered in oil and sugar. After a bottle of wine and some ‘interesting’ conversation which was a little bit like a game of sharrads we took to our hay beds and slept very well.

The next morning apparently we had a job to do. Grecian had a very bad back and consequently I was in charge of anything physical-great! We rounded up about 50 goats into a pen and it was my job to catch every single one of them by their hind leg and take them to Grecian where he milked them. He had a bad back I am sure as a direct consequence of this job, because after having caught 50 of the devils, I too had a very very painful back!

We lit a fire under a huge cauldron and made a batch of cheese and yoghurt from the milk. The cheese was left to mature. The yoghurt we loaded onto the boat to take directly to market.

Having sold our wares the kind man took me back to his family where we had a roast dinner, (without meat for me). I left, fed, happier, and wiser and I took the ferry back to ‘busking town’ to earn a small temporary living and to plan for my next venture.


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