I ordered the stones and rocks to build my house in August ( we are back in 2007 now) after visiting the quarry with my Builder. Quarry owner is a very large, powerful, rangy, seemingly epsilon semi-moron who lives at his quarry with his deranged brother in a little shack. They share a little bedroom
separate beds with firearms hung above them along with the obligatory Panagias and Orthodox wot-nots. He insisted that we admired the bedroom and tiny kitchen, and all was indeed, neat and tidy and quite homely in a very odd sort of way. Fine. Each to his own.
Outside, Lunatic Dogs are leashed to rusting machinery and the whole place looks forlorn and does not inspire confidence. No matter, I have been in Greece long enough not to judge by appearances. He has the stones I want.
Having consumed the mandatory bucket of wine, hospitality from the host and goodwill from the visitor, we get to business. Haggle haggle. Out to see the stones. Large quantities; hills of quarried rocks and boulders, cover the landscape for an awful lot of square metres. These ones. No others. Exactly these ones. All fine. When? When you like but not till October. Also fine. Who wants to build in summer?
Two months later visit quarry, drink smallish bucket of wine – decline whisky, bad move, wimpy, drink whiskey – go out to review stones.
Now? Quarry is in the lowlands, my land is high in the moutains. Drive time in fully laden truck at least an hour. Loading stones on truck another hour…in one hour it will be dusk. In the hills, an ominous fog is building and for certain, it will be raining.
I point this out to my Buider who is a thouroughly delightful Albanian who speaks no English but fluent Greek. My Greek is pathetic. I do not command the Albanian language. Ensueing discussion between Builder and Mr Quarry indicates a now or never situation. Builder is up for it..okay, let’s go.
Later in the lowering gloom, we climb into the horribly overloaded Mercedes truck of uncertain age but being charitable, it is at least post – Junta, that is, post 1974 and trundle and grind up into the hills.
Half an hour later, we are approaching a saddle, beyond which there is no feasible turning back…for a truck. In the dark. With fog.
The road narrows….
and from here on doesn’t widen again, and the plain has disappeared from view. It is now past sunset, if we could see it, and even the lights from the village we have just gone through are no longer visible. One headlight works. The heating and blower do not. It begins to sheet down with rain
Mr Quarry begins to curse in good, rounded, fluent Agamottos as he struggles with the not-power steering, steamed-up windscreen and one headlight. Which, with vast indifference, points skywards I now realise.
The mountain bends begin in earnest. The windscreen wipers give up. Kali-fucking-nichta!
Mr Quarry abandons his soul to the fates, drives doggedly on at 2 kms per hour, and begins to sing.
Me and Builder laugh nervously and feel cold and try not to know that we know every bend in this road where there are no crash barriers and sheer drops into uninhabited ravines where the remains of over-confident buses and trucks lie in their maquis-scented graves.
A lifetime later, lit (haha) by a torch carried, in the now drenching foggy piss of a night by Builder ( who deserves a name; a good man Vasilis ) the maniac Quarryman reverses up the track to my land, flattening fences, barriers, walls and unwary goats in the fithy murk, and under my shrieked instructions ( I know every inch up here, even in the dark…it’s mine.) tips the 10 ton of rock and stone with a mighty thunder and the job is done. Let us not forget the struggle to free the pins from the rear flap of the wretched truck that almost cost us our fingers and the fact that the stones (well, boulders really) scudded out without further ado which almost cost us our lives, or at the very least, our manhood…peanuts ….
We won’t mention the return journey.
But of course, we made it back or I wouldn’t be writing this would I? On arrival Chez Quarry, Vasilis and I look at our respective cars which we left there, with working heaters and wipers and headlights and glance at each other in disbelief that we decided to drive in Mr Quarry’s leviathan. We are soaked to the skin, shivering, and saying Hail Marys. I have lost my specs, my cigarettes are sodden and I can’t find my lighter anyway. Our clothes are ripped to shreds from encounters with Sirmata ( wire fences ) near my land and it may be ‘mission accomplished’ but hot showers and bed are about all I care about. I give Vasilis money for bravery beyond the normal call of duty. Mr Quarry is in fine spirits now. He is positively glowing with pride. He did it!
This will be his story for the coming winter. How he drove a mad Brit and a stupid Albanian up into the moutains blah blah, and how he didn’t want to go but they insisted etc etc . He suggests 10 euro extra for the unusual circumstances.
I feel he should give us a couple of grand each for risking our lives, but it is a ridiculously modest amount and I give it him gladly. We are all still in one piece.
I have my bloody stones!
Mr Quarry, by the way, is a very sharp bunny indeed as it turns out. He is the long-time Mayor of a not negligable community. He has been working his quarry illegally for years and nobody will call him, or his loony (maybe) brother out. God knows how much they have stashed under their sibling matresses or in pits beneath the broken rocks or under the Lunatic Mutts who bark their miserable Greek existence out in forlorn hope of some affection, play, or a good honest lump of raw meat. They are probably guarding one of Greece’s biggest hoards. They need to be hungry and angry.
the maniac quarryman reverses up the track to my land, flattening fences, barriers, walls and unwary goats in the fithy murk…