Thirty years is too long to be away from Corfu

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When I was 17, I spent a month hitching down through Italy with a schoolfriend, and took the night ferry over to the island from Brindisi. We arrived at dawn and stayed in Corfu Town for a night or two, watching games of cricket on the Spianada, before setting off to find a beach to sleep on. Hitching out of town, we had the good fortune to be picked up by a watermelon seller and, installed on a pyramid of melons on the back of his van, were treated to a day’s tour of the inland villages. As we arrived at each one, he would switch on a snatch of loud bouzouki music and we would join him in yelling out “Karpoussi!” and hand down the huge watermelons to the shoppers.

At the end of the day, he drove us close to a beach called Agios Georgios, near Paleokastritsa, and pointed the way to the sea. We walked the last couple of miles, carrying a watermelon and sleeping bags, and ended up staying half of the summer on the beach. And what a beach it was: a vast crescent of sand that could have absorbed Torremolinos, but was graced by just three small tavernas, each run by a man called Spyros (as is the way on Corfu). We camped alongside the cheapest Spyros, a lovely man whose menu consisted of a daily recitation “meat, fish, pasta”, and lived well on about £1 a day, which generally meant the pasta. On the beach, I read The Colossus of Maroussi, Henry Miller’s best book, written on Corfu 40 years before, during a stay with Lawrence Durrell, and imagined the island wasn’t so different, even at the tail end of the 1970s.

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