You know when they say “today is the first day of the rest of your life”. Well, they obviously haven’t spent enough early mornings in airports waiting for a group of people in the same track suit to turn up. And so Day Zero came about, the day before the first day of the rest of your life.
Well, as we say “there’s always one…” and lo there was!
This year in an efficiency drive we combined the sickie with the late person. On through the the travails of security airport, breakfast, survival supplies from the Duty Free and into lovely airplane seats. Ahhhh. 3 and 1/2 hours of meditation later (“I am not in a tin can 30,000 feet above solid ground surrounded by hundreds of people”) ended with a reassuringly bumpy landing.
A warm welcome from our accommodation manager, the car hire operators, and the restaurateurs sets us up for a week of training with a warm glow inside…and outside (it’s 34 degrees). At least the supermarket staff managed to retain their froideur, but then they work in the the aircon. Surprisingly early to bed ready for up at dawn (again).
Up at dawn… There was a groan of dismay that the Hill of Death was taking early retirement and so it will be recommissioned tomorrow. Instead it was stretching after the gentle 6.9km run. Breakfast as usual looking over to the White Mountains and groves of olives and citrus.
Then off to the beach.
There was an interesting opinion piece in the Sunday Times last week about the age at which women should stop wearing bikinis. Clearly the Sunday Times doesn’t get to Kalives very often as there was blatant disregard for the 39 years of age cut-off. Will spend this evening getting the smell of mothballs out of my glam two-piece then. When in Rome….
Slow training this morning by which I mean slowed-down and thoughtful rather than lazy. Our “volunteer” model was left in position whilst we gathered behind Dennis to give a critique of his positioning.
This involved leaving him there long enough for his weak point to show and the wobbles to build to a point where anyone could have spotted it. As he stood up a cheer went up through the young tourists on the beach and our new poster boy took a bow.
Lunch – enormous or recovery food – take your choice. But eaten under shade as the waves thundered up the beach after a morning of training – bliss!
Afternoon sparring session is followed by our first meal from that maestro of Cretan cuisine, Christos at Kritiko. Now meatballs and potatoes from the oven may not sound that exciting but your taste buds belie your intellect. Of course dinner from Christos is never so simple and the entrees with artisan bread set up our digestive processes.
Over dinner a morning training/lunchtime discussion of the meaning of “wants” versus “needs” resurfaced. The geopolitical aspects gave way to the microcosmic over dinner. Wonder how much further the discussion will go tomorrow – molecular perhaps.
Alternative responsibilities kept me off the beach this morning which meant that I missed an opportunity to frighten everyone with my bikini. However I hear that the training went swimmingly. Everyone starting to understand the slow approach.
Red and yellow flags up on the beach put a stop to the pre-lunch volleyball in the water so we took it to the sand. Didn’t know you could bellyflop on sand – looks painful but apparently didn’t hurt.
Want to hear about lunch? – well this is going to get repetitive – delicious recovery food. It’s not too hard to follow a balanced diet here though a little self-regulation is required (which as martial artists we of course have in bucket-loads – another stone-oven-roasted potato? Don’t mind if I do…and are you finished with that chicken?. I think someone down the other end wants the salad.)
Siesta is traditionally a coma from 3-5pm. No noise, no swimming, no diving, no laughing, no giggling. Well we managed the first one by taking the spoon diving lessons very seriously – quiet entry into the water a must and no applause just marks awarded. Spoon diving? It’s going to be the next big thing. The angulation of the spoon assists with a smooth curved profile in the water. You’ve got to try it!
So in a spirit of competition the afternoon sparring got underway. Competitive events included: 1. walking into someone else’s fist, 2. ducking and weaving, and 3. working out how long your partner has been training based on their competence at 1.
Then to dinner. A round of applause once again to the Kritiko crew led by Captain Christos. Mouth-watering risotto, enviable chickpea purée, and divine baked aubergine were succeeded by melting pork with potatoes. It was hard going to force down a bit of melon as dessert.
Spoon-diving and sparring were not enough for some of our doughty band. The Art of War lives in them and their martial spirits were unsatisfied. A few rounds of Tactical Dispositions were called for once Supplies (troops) had been mustered. As you may know (1) dinner at Kritiko occupies a good 3-4 hours and (2) there is a massive outdoor chessboard for use between courses. So waste not want not. All those not actively engaged in intellectual discourse were commandeered to take the place of the chess pieces and battle commenced.
The “pieces” took to their roles with the commitment of method actors – the Dark Knight surely meriting an Oscar if the White Knight doesn’t get it. The Pawns were not taking any prisoners either – “I can’t believe you ended up as a pawn!”. “Come over here and say that.”. It would seem like favouritism if I told you who won, and the fact that the loser was hoping for an early night had nothing to do with it. Having the two Queens fight it out was left for another day.
And so to bed.
Nice routine going and an absence of interesting news. Morning training revolved around the acquisition of expertise, and tuning your instrument.
Each day our fruit shoppers try to outdo each other. Today’s 11kg watermelon was the smallest one available – “you chose it -you carry it”
Wifi at lunch time allowed for a quick email catchup. This prompted a discussion of why some scientists find it difficult to write in plain English – in case the rest of us understand I suppose. Apparently lawyers can also be guilty of this one, though barristers less so than solicitors. Blogging does not require plain English – the more obscure the better I think. Hello? – is anyone reading this?
Actually the lunchtime wifi is a bit of double-edged sword because the people here with me decided to check what I was writing and give me direct feedback. Oh well – nothing I can’t handle. Off to dinner soon so will choose my chess position wisely.
Blogging is more about making mountains out of molehills than anything else, but when someone actually climbs a mountain it doesn’t really work.
So in plain English here is some real news. We never seem to travel without a couple of scientists. Today Yevheniia from FWC Cambridge heard that she has secured funding for a research project. Yevheniia is going to submit her PhD thesis in Neuroscience at the end of this year. She has received an award for highly promising young scientists who want to make a step change in their career, and bring their area of expertise to a new discipline. Her new research project will be between the Universities of Cambridge and Loughborough and will bring her neuroscience background to their sports science team in a study of the psychology of resilience in Olympic athletes. Congratulations Yevheniia.
So as it was a rest day the Hill of Death was resurrected but I will leave it to the survivors (ie everyone) to tell you about their own personal epiphanies when they get back to class. Visualisation, the art of slowness, and self-awareness formed the basis of morning training.
We also decided to try a beach picnic combined with truly local food. Truly local? – that means something that I would never eat at home right? Correct! On the menu: Kokoritsi, Lambs’ unmentionables (front and back), artisan sausages, vegetables’ unmentionables (all right, salad) and artisan bread. “Artisan” is so fashionable nowadays that I think it should get a daily airing. Tomorrow will be artisan chips.
“Kokoritsi?” you cry, “what is that?”. Well, that in part depends on your understanding of the term “artisan”. If you think of it as something that is chewy, substantial, difficult to obtain, and likely to championed by a celebrity (unmentionable) chef, then Kokoritsi is as follows: the most delectatious and under-appreciated parts of a lamb wrapped in natural sausage skins and roasted to perfection over a charcoal grill by an under-appreciated master of his craft.
If you think of “artisan” as a pretentious word used to increase the price of food then Kokoritsi is the innards of a lamb not otherwise wanted or unmentionable, wrapped in its intestines and turned on a spit until cooked through and crispy on the outside.
Either way – delicious, and undoubtedly nutritious. Most people also enjoyed the deep-fried unmentionables (do you have to explain this to your children?) which had an unnerving whiff of KFC about them, and the grilled front end of the lambs (the bit above the neck – see brackets above).
The afternoon was left to everyone’s discretion post-picnic. Some lolled on the beach, and some headed into town for artisan ice cream (somehow that doesn’t work – not chewy enough). We parked at the “pay and display” marketplace car park. I was trying to force euros into the recalcitrant parking ticket machine, when accosted by a magnificent drunk dressed only in jeans and braces who insisted that “Today the sunshine is free!”. Managed to work out that he was trying to let me know that parking is free on Saturdays! If you are ever stuck in Chania for a couple of hours and want something to do that you can bore your social circle with, then head to Dekatria on the 1884 Square and have the kataifi ice cream – an unlikely but heavenly marriage – and available when the rest of the town is immersed in its cultural coma, sorry, siesta.
Made it back to Kritiko for dinner – all fish – divine marinated anchovies, risotto of mussels, and cod-like fish only found in the Mediterranean cooked in the stone-fired oven with tomatoes. “Artisan” would seem like an insult to one of Christos’ calibre (though there were artisan-like chips). Everyone is looking rested and relaxed.
The evening ended with a discussion of timing the birth of your children to coincide with the selection dates for the Canadian junior hockey leagues and the scholarships for Eton – apparently there are some thoughtless parents who let nature take its course! Followed by clarification of the ice hockey rules which allow fighting as long as helmets don’t come off, even in the junior leagues.
Today is Sunday. Someone went to church. Rest had a quiet morning training on the beach watched by whoever thought it was a good idea to stand and stare. Lunch. Siesta. Afternoon training. Dinner. That’s it. No molehills to turn into mountains so I’ll leave it there.
Stop press: I am informed that there was a dead hedgehog and a fifty pound Monopoly note on the roadside during the morning run – the connection between the two items is not immediately obvious but I am sure we can come up with something. And there was chocolate cake for dessert – apparently that is newsworthy after a week of watermelon for pudding!
I shall not complain about quiet days. Tell me why I don’t like Mondays. Today was a bit too eventful. First we lost someone who needed a bit of “space”, then found them again after a successful search and rescue operation.
Then we scraped the car.
Then someone who shall be forever nameless went swimming with our house keys in their pocket – we retrieved them eventually (the keys that is – the fate of the nameless one shall remain a mystery).
And now we are here at the restaurant and the chef has forgotten what we are having for dinner!
I suppose the highlight of the day (apart from dinner – delicious though forgotten) was the arrival Rhodes University Professor of Archaeology, Manolis Stefanakis on the beach with full excavation equipment, all right a bucket and spade. Manolis is known affectionately within the club as “B!00dy M@n?l!s to those who partook in our fundraising to support a culturally important dig. Brave club members took part in the Sunday instructor-only training sessions for the month of June and were sponsored by their dear friends – don’t worry they’ll be on speaking terms soon. Full news item in plain English will follow on our return.
Tomorrow is the last training session – let’s see how much you can learn in one morning! (enough to last a lifetime I expect).
What can I say about our final day? Well we all got home safely and are going about our daily lives with a smile on our faces!