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Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Greek Islands: Garbage Collection, 1960; George Johnston, Hydra

They seem to have got their priorities right on the island of Hydra in the late 1950's and early 60's.

I've just read George Johnston's opening line of "Closer to the Sun":

"The most important man on the island of Silenos was Dionysios, the public garbage collector".

Johnston goes on: "The garbage man...was important every day of the year to one section of the town or another. For without his high-wheeled cart and his string of basket-burdened donkeys, and, most important of all, his goodwill, how was the rubbish of the town to be carted away in conformity with the proclaimed and printed order of Lieutenant Fotis, the police commandant, that streets, walls, and courtyards should be kept clean and all houses in a state of reputable whitewash?"

At the end of the novel, we discover where all the garbage went...into the sea:

"The Twelve Apostles made the last turn around the buoy, and its bow was lifting and falling now in a slow, graceful dance to the run of the clear gulf seas...the wake of the boat had come in and slapped quick waves around the base of the rock chute, where Dionysios had been emptying the garbage down from the high houses in the pannier-baskets of his donkeys."

From Beverley Farmer, White Friday

"And this is Greece, yes avalanche of rotting rubbish poured down to a gulf like a slit in the sky with a rowing boat anchored".

From Charmian Clift, Peel Me a Lotus (1959):

"It is a rare thing to capture the old magic. The iron net with its clanging drums...has made a sort of trap in front of the cave, and the municipal garbage, which is dumped into the sea near the town, drifts down on the current and is captured inside the net, Often one swims, if one can, through decaying melon rinds, rotten tomatoes, cigarette butts, torn paper of all-too-obvious origin, and dubious rubber objects. On slaughtering days the place becomes a horror, for the intestines and offal from the slaughtered goats, sheep, and bulls also drift to the net and for days hang there rotting in obscene festoons...Across the bland blue water a flotilla of tin cans and vegetable peelings bobs purposefully towards the cave".

1969 edition

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