We went to Crete at the end of May. We have been there several times, We like it a lot – the island, the people, the food, the climate.
We go with friends and we walk – on the rather relaxed principle that to get to know a place you walk in it rather than drive over it.
We linger – enjoying the stony paths, the smell of herbs in the air, the depth of the gorges, the occasional eagle (and the vultures), the warmth of the sea at the end of the day.
One of us lingers a lot around quays and harbours and fishing boats.
We usually find a taverna at certain points in the day. We talk about this and that.
This year we did it all . . .
except . . .
in the second week, a broken ankle changed the routine.
And something kicked in that most people only experience occasionally – the kindness of strangers.
I approve of the guidelines for the Jester Azores Challenge:
- no regulations: skippers will be entirely responsible for the equipment they take, based on their own experience
- only hint of bureaucracy will be the signing of a form of indemnity accepting the skipper’s full duty of care for himself, his dependants and his fellow seafarers during his participation in the JAC.
To travel on land or sea is to accept responsibility for yourself, your own safety and, if accompanied, the safety of those with you.
If you get into trouble, you may not be able to deal with it all yourself, then you turn to others for help, but that help is at their disecretion, it is not your right.
So, one morning in June, on Gramvousa Island off north west Crete, on a long descent of sometimes uneven steps, an ankle turned and, by the angle of the foot, it was obvious bones were broken.
Peggy, Chris, Mike and I looked at Peggy’s ankle, then at each other, then at the tourist boat some distance away. All with the same thoughts: what should we do immediately, how should we get her to the boat, and how were we going to get the medical help she so obviously needed?
From that moment on, people appeared:
- French ladies who insisted Mike and I carried her ‘correctly’ – (messieurs!), and insisted on taking our gear;
- the young French rep who made two splints out of driftwood and carefully bandaged the ankle;
- the boats crew who made ice packs;
- the many fellow passengers who came to express their sympathy and talk to her;
- Manolis, our hotel manager, who, after a phone call from the boat,organised the taxi driver;
- the taxi driver himself, who took us to the local hospital in Kastelli and insisted on finding a wheelchair and looking for the doctor;
- the doctor, her assistant and the nurse who examined and properly splinted the ankle;
- the radiologist the following morning who promptly provided the x-rays that showed the extent of the injury and the need to go to the regional hospital in Chania;
- the taxi driver who came to our aid once again and delivered us to the Accident and Emergency Department at Chania General Hospital, where the x-rays were viewed, the ankle examined, the bones manipulated gently into a better position, the ankle resplinted and more x-rays taken;
- the orthopaedic surgeon who did all this and explained the problem.
There followed a week in hospital, including an operation to place plates and screws on the day we were supposed to fly back to the UK.
And more people:
- the clinical nursing staff;
- the nursing care staff who helped us when they could despite being assigned to particular patients;
- the elderly lady in the same ward
- the Belgian couple, she run down by a motorbike, he shocked at what had happened;
- Stelios and Costas of the Cellar Tavern in Kastelli-Kissamos. We ate there most nights, enjoying the stunning view of the sea and the excellent food. Valuing our independence, we didn’t go on Stelios’ walking tours – perhaps it would have been sensible if we had done. However, every evening we saw those that had walked with him and were impressed by the way they had so obviously enjoyed the experience.
- But above all, Manolis, manager of the Galini Beach Hotel, who went far beyond the call of duty to make sure that we were managing in the hospital ok and were as happy as possible in that situation. He found a wheelchair for us, organised a car for me to drive to Chania, taxis when we needed them. Hotels are as much about the management as they are about anything else. He was superb. We will stay there again.
Greece, of which Crete is a part, has had difficult time over the past years. A lot has been said, and politics has taken its toll. The national self-interest of many countries have led to sometimes misleading comments, designed to satisfy a home audience rather than allowing a balanced view. But we were reminded of something important in the week that we were sorting out the ankle problem: the deep well of humanity in Crete – a willingness to help each other on a person-to-person level.
Throughout Europe we are buying into regulation, as if this is ‘the answer’. The very existence of the regulatory bodies allows them to regulate more and more. This is what they do, with the tendency to depersonalise the organisations that they are intended to monitor. It is not that regulation itself is wrong. It is that it has been overdone and, in doing so, diminished those involved.
The values they espouse are shorter-term economic ones. But where are the longer-term values of trust, goodwill, generosity of spirit – vital ingredients in the complex range of values that drive people forward? Where will they be in ten years time?
In Crete, we felt those values in action and were lifted by them.
Thank you to all those mentioned above. We will come back.