The wine of 1986

At the village school in the old days, the children of the policeman, the priest, the retired army officers, the teachers, the postman and the shop keepers stood out from the rest – they were well-dressed with polished leather shoes.

Theodoros, the postman of the village, being salaried, had the opportunity to save money and bought the piece of land where our family had their threshing floor, right on the main road through the village, with two huge mulberry trees nearby which provided shade during harvest time. If you know about farm work, you can imagine the position, the view, and the light wind at the end of summer to help with the winnowing, separating the grain from the chaff.

On this plot of land, a modern house was then built with concrete columns and slabs and bricks and mortar, duly rendered on the outside, plastered on the inside, then painted a cypress green colour, just as if it were in a city. The roof had European-style tiles, first ever in the area. The front section downstairs was used as a storeroom, the family lived at the back, and upstairs was rented to the state as the doctor’s residence and rooms for receiving patients.

As time passed Theodoros no longer used his fine white horse to go to the nearby villages to deliver the mail but instead used a brand new car which he parked on the side of the house behind his tractor. His full head of hair was now silver grey making him look quite distinguished, his eyes as merry as ever.

Then a second postman was taken on to deal with the villages, there was a full-time clerk at the post office, so Theodoros only looked after the postal delivery in the sprawling village itself, which now boasted a branch of the Agricultural Bank of Greece. He would deliver on foot going from house to house in the busy centre of the village, greeting everyone, knocking on doors to leave letters. He used his car to drive up to the highest neighbourhoods. It made a very personalized service.

His wife Angelika was thin, head always covered with a scarf for protection from the sun, helped with the farmwork, looked after her ailing mother-in-law and three children. Those children spent quite some time peeping around the corner of the house giggling when I first visited the village all those years ago.

An Englishwoman who had married at another village started coming to the primary school on Saturdays to give English lessons. The children, now handsome boys and a beautiful girl, joined the class. They finished junior high school, then senior high school, then went to study in Athens, found well-paid jobs, married and produced children. An exemplary family all round.

Theodoros still had a good income even when retired, as civil service pensions in Greece are renowned for being high. He had time on his hands, so could visit grandchildren in Athens and a relative here and there who had moved away. Angelika was happy to stay at home, still taking care of her mother-in-law and the vegetable patch at the back of the house.

One year in the first days of September, before the grape harvest and not long after the lively village fair and dance which lasted until dawn, Theodoros made use of his free time and his spare money. He went to Mykonos, the most expensive and cosmopolitan island in Greece in the 1980s. Not with his wife. He took Dina with him, a still shapely luscious housewife his age who lived in the centre of the village.

They returned to their respective houses a few weeks later, and the village settled down once more to its usual rhythm. It was time to harvest grapes and make wine, and Theodoros and his wife Angelika gathered their grapes from their vineyard near the vegetable patch. The wine that year was exceptional.