THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

Ithaki

We’ve been in the home of Ulysses for three days now and just beginning to really wind down, even though an early decision was made NOT to disconnect from the grid. Much as I lecture and coach on the balance between work and play – the fact is that this year has been a toughie (you may have noticed), we are running a lean start-up and much as the 7connections team are doing a fantastic job of keeping the business growing and the clients happy, I have to keep a careful eye on my personal and professional lives whilst we are catching our breath on the lovely island of Ithaki. I also have three out of five children studying for and/or taking University exams (two on finals) and we are exchanging the occasional text, email or FaceTime to keep abreast of the inevitable emotional roller coaster. Meanwhile Annie is keeping her eye on her Apex social media clients from the breakfast room at the ever-fabulous Perentzada Hotel while the angelic Fotini keeps us supplied with coffee and information about the many local characters we have come to know over the years. The only significant disappointment of the trip is that there is no boat hire available anywhere on the island – so my plans to take the lads (my eldest son Jon and his former University buddy Alun) to some of our favourite haunts have been scuppered. No dips on inaccessible beaches or high-speed dashes beneath the cliffs as the flying fish glide before the bow – perhaps another time. Tomorrow we pick up an open-top jeep for a couple of days and we will show the boys around this beautiful island and enjoy stunning views across the Ionian as well as explore the interior towns (Facebook followers keep watch as I have my camera with me on this trip). It is Greek Easter this coming weekend and that provided the original impetus for us to book our 9th trip to The Perantzada in as many years – this Thursday evening the town of Vathi is slowly waking up from a winter of economic hibernation and preparing for an influx of primarily Greek visitors and tourists – families gathering together for an important date in the Orthodox and national calendar. Processions around the town begin tomorrow morning and will continue for 4 days with street parties, midnight church ceremonies and many gatherings of friends and family to enjoy that wonderful sub-tropical pastime of eating and drinking al fresco. We are slowly learning about traditions that are indigenous to the country and this region. This morning after breakfast we were introduced to a large bowl of freshly laid eggs – all painted red and that will be “tapped” on Easter Sunday morning (we await our instructions). There are a variety of special dishes ahead of us, including something that sounds very much like a Greek haggis, made from the ‘orrible bits of a lamb – I’m ready. The usual jugs of local wine will be abundant at the staple 6 euros a litre (and its not half bad you know) – a large beer is 3 euros and food is magnificent and still very reasonable if you take care on the location. After all these years we know our favourite restaurants (and the owners) and so eat plentifully and well every lunchtime and evening. The vegetables taste like vegetables and are all super-sized. The meat and fish taste like nowhere in the UK and even breakfasts of yoghurt and honey have a magical quality to restore the spirit after a late night of chatting by the pool over ouzo and water. After Sunday’s marathon I’m enjoying a week off the Paleo nutrition and shoving plenty of bread (dipped in delicious taramasalata or spicy cheese) and potato (cooked to perfection with lamb in a pot or lamb kleftiko) down my neck – normal service will be resumed next week and I will become a hunter-gatherer again. Our days are slow – breakfast is followed by an hour or so at the computers in the lounge. In the absence of nautical adventures we intend to walk (over 2 hours this morning to a remote chapel by the sea) and drive to take in the sights, sounds and culture. The afternoons begin with a long and extremely lazy lunch by the harbour, followed by an enthusiastic siesta by the hotel pool. Even at this time of year sundown isn’t until after 20:00 and it is warm enough to sit out until then and enjoy the sunshine. Early evenings are for reading (and typing blog posts). I’m currently reading Cricket by Candlelight, written by my former client and Glasgow dentist Lloyd Jerome and chronicling his adventures following emigration to New Zealand some years ago – Lloyd you have a real talent and I’m throughly enjoying both the story and the style – thank you. At home, we dine at 19:30 and retire at 23:00 most nights – here we dine at 21:30 and retire after midnight. The welcome we receive at our restaurants each evening is that of a friend. We all know that the economy here is on its knees – unemployment nationally is at 20% and everyone is being taxed out of pocket – even civil service pensions are being unilaterally reduced and so it becomes almost impossible to plan a financial future. For that reason – our custom is welcomed with huge appreciation that is clearly genuine. Ithaki is a small island with no real heavy tourism except the flotillas that overnight and numerous apartments that are rented by those who are looking for a very quiet time. Quiet is the most important word around here. Vathi itself is a small town – everyone knows everyone else’s business and Fotini’s husband is the postman so she knows more than most (although like a good business coach, she keeps 99% of it to herself). There are no bars with thumping beats – no rowdiness on the streets (in fact I don’t think we’ve ever seen a drunk here, even though we have staggered back to the hotel a few times, giggling all the way), they have never heard of “fish and chips” or “Full English”. There is beauty, abundance, friendship and peace. In short – we discovered this paradise island many years ago and intend to visit every year for as long as we live, perhaps one day to own a home here. That would be something worth working hard to achieve.

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