Thursday, 4 June 2015

Book quilt

Dear ______,

How are you? We hope you and You-know-who are both well and happy. At the moment, we are in the middle of our school exams. We know that this is a poor excuse to talk to you less often and we feel terrible about this, but we hope this letter makes up for the lost time(s). So far, we have been tested on Maths, Physics, Biology, Modern Greek, Composition, Ancient Greek, Religion, the Odyssey, the Iliad, English (we didn't have to study for that) and German. (Mum helped us to study for that, but she thinks it's not the most useful foreign language to learn. She wants us to learn Chinese during the summer.)

We also think it's time we presented you with a gift. You've given us so many, and all we say is 'Thank you.' It's time we gave you something more tangible, as a keepsake. Actually, Mum made this gift for you, and not for You-know-who, because she says that if she gave it to You-know-who, then You-know-who would probably flog it on e-Bay. That's why Mum made this quilt just for you, to settle the ownership issue. (If she made a bigger quilt for both of you, You-know-who might divide it into two, take one piece and flog that on e-Bay).

My fourth quilt - a book quilt for a friend

We watched Mum making this quilt over the last three weeks. She was working in the living room, while Dad was watching TV and we were studying. (We like studying in the living room, each of us taking up one sofa. Mum says she now wished she had bought us a desk for our rooms from a second hand shop, like her parents did, because it would have been cheaper, since we don't use our desks. But she remembers that when the bedrooms were being renovated, Hania didn't have second-hand shops. There are lots now.) The noise from the sewing machine drove Dad nuts, so she'd take her sewing machine into the kitchen and do her sewing there. We really didn't know what she was sewing at first. It simply looked to us as if she was cutting up fabric and sewing it back together, with totally unmatched colours. We didn't worry so much because we'd seen her doing this before. She's made quilts for all of us. When she started making them, it looked like she was going crazy, cutting up large pieces of material into smaller pieces and then putting them back together again. We could never really see the patterns in the fabric which she could see.

But as the quilts all grew, we began to see what she was making, and we all really liked them. Even the cat liked them. Since there isn't enough space anywhere to lay out a quilt, as she was making each one, she would spread it out on the floor in the living room. The cat would walk around the room slowly and then take a last step on one of the corners of the quilt and sit there. Then we'd go and pick it up off the quilt and put it on the rug, but the cat would go back to the same spot on the quilt. Eventually, it would get the message and leave the quilt alone. But it really did prefer the quilt. (Don't worry about the cat sitting on your quilt: Mum put the quilt in the washing machine when she finished it - it's fully washable. It won't smell of Mum's cooking, either, when she was working in the kitchen on it. Mum always laughs when she reads crafts sites selling 'pet-free, smoke-free' products. "The Western world thinks it can be so sterile," she says.)

We would really like to present you with the quilt ourselves, but travelling is getting a little difficult for us now. We don't want to leave yiayia alone at home. She's in her nineties now, and looks like she's on course to celebrate her 100th birthday. Now that it's not cold, she goes out into the garden and does some weeding, or she looks after her rose bushes. She always cooks for herself, and she washes and irons her own clothes too (by hand). She doesn't take any medications. She says that if she has to take medicines to keep her alive, she'd rather die. But even though she feels so strong for such an old person, we don't feel we can leave her alone on her own while we go away on holiday to see you. So that's why you'll have to come and pick up the quilt yourself. It's time you took a Cretan holiday yourself, come to think of it.

We told Mum that she can go on holiday by herself and take the quilt to you, but she said that the political and economic instability that Greece is going through right now doesn't give us the luxury of making holiday plans. We told her that if she books flights early, she will get a better price, but she said: "Booking flight tickets for a future date just might mean that our holiday plans may coincide with national elections, or the closing down of banks, or even the airports, if things get that bad." We know what an election is, and we heard about the banks in Cyprus not letting you take money out, but we don't know what she means by the airports closing down. She says it has happened before in Greece, in 1974, while she was holidaying in Greece with her parents (and Cyprus was involved in that episode too):
"After three and a half months, our holiday had finally come to an end: our return tickets to New Zealand stated 21 July 1974 as the departure date. On the eve of our departure, we woke up on a hot summer's day in Pireas. It was a local holiday in the neighbourhood, as the district church was celebrating its patron saint, the Prophet Elias. Our bags were packed and ready for our departure the next day. Peace and quiet is expected on holidays, and the neighbourhood was silent. My father's sister told us to get ready to go to church. She was about to prepare a picnic to eat near a park in the churchyard's garden. We turned on the radio to listen to some music. Every single radio station we tuned in to was playing the same pre-recorded message: "... state of war..., ... emergency... γενική επιστράτευση (mobilisation of military forces into combat)..." Now my aunt was worried. Turkey had invaded Northern Cyprus and the Greek airports closed down to all international flights. Overnight, from holidaymakers, we had officially become overstayers." (
It's difficult to believe that things like this have happened in our country. We don't feel this fear at all, but our parents tell us these stories about our country's past, and we try to relate these details to the present, but it doesn't always seem to fit in well. We think we have a lot of freedom here, and we can live pretty much how we want, just like you. Mum agrees with that. She says Greece is one of the most democratic countries in the world, and it is little wonder that democracy was invented in Greece. But she also says that too much democracy is not good. Even Dad agrees with her on that one.

Mum says that you should not think of this quilt as a big present, because she made it entirely from scrap material (even the batting) that would have ended up in the wood-fired heater (ready to be used next winter) if she didn't look up the internet for ideas on how to use fabric scraps. "I could make a hundred book quilts if I wanted to, it won't cost me much at all," she said. She says the same things about the food she cooks, too.

We hope you enjoy the book quilt. Till you come to visit us, we will enjoy looking at it.

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