Margaret Hogan is a post-menopausal woman with a passion
for travel. Her most important possessions are a small suitcase
on wheels and her well-used passport. Margaret writes...
Walkies with Hugo...
is alluring because the unpredictable will happen.
This maxim is always true in Greece. It's May on the
island of Symi in the Dodecanese and I am walking
a leashed dog along a most elegant waterfront. Why
Symi? Because I love to walk. And, in Walking Magazine,
I read about hiking with English expert Hugo Tyler
who knows every path on Symi and who is a departure
from the ordinary. His T-shirts proclaim "Walkies
with Hugo " and his rest stops are ouzo stops.
isn't very populated or touristy, except for daytrippers
from Rhodes. Better yet, there is no airport and,
as far as I'm concerned, that's a good tip off for
a first rate island holiday. So, here I am "ready
off the boat from Rhodes, I'm greeted by Hugo and
his youngish dog, Mitsubishi. We are pushed and buffeted
from all sides in the frantic chaos that can only
happen when you disembark in Greece. "Vroom!
Vroom!" I don't yet know what Hugo is shouting
or why, but a little woolly mutt, leash trailing,
scatters. Not for long! All of a sudden--four minutes
on Symi--and between Hugo and me are two dogs mating.
Pleased to meet you, Hugo. Pleased to meet you, Mitsubishi,
bitch in heat. Hello, Symi.
have lunch at the far side of the U-shaped harbour
in Symi town. "Dromo!" Hugo shouts. "Dromo"!
He tells me that the word, a variation of "Aerodrome,
Hippodrome," is the Greek equivalent of "Hit
the Road." "Dromo!" Dogs pee on nearby
chairs. Mitsubishi, an eight-month old virgin, seems
confused but willing--miserable both at wanting the
unknowable and being restrained from getting it. After
awhile, as we eat, she creeps under my chair to lie
quietly. We eat surrounded by a ring of eager dogs.
Mitsubishi trembles, yet for a few minutes all is
I think about this
male-female push-pull. The trouble is that these days
when we travel to Greece, we're all in the shadow of
the ubiquitous Shirley Valentine. Is Hugo a roue of
grand proportions? Will I have to leap off a small boat
and swim ashore? If I have to fend the guy off (flattery,
I know, to my gray hair and matronly proportions), will
I be able to concentrate on my week of hiking?
I can only reflect that I'm on the other end of the
continuum and happy to sink into a post-menopausal unisexual
calm. Hugo appears to be doing some mulling of his own.
He is probably wondering if I'm doing a pilgrimage to
find myself, and if he'll have to fend me off. Would
it help to explain these sexual politics to poor Mitsubishi?
pairs of doggie eyes watch...
the slowness and ease of time in Greece, the afternoon
moves on. Hugo and I keep chatting, particularly about
how far and where I'd like to hike. We drink wine. Mitsubishi
sleeps. At least six pairs of doggie eyes watch. I can't
stop looking out at the busy harbour and at the softly-coloured
neoclassical houses of this most beautiful town--houses
which rise to the sky and remind me of Venice. But the
reverie eventually ends. It is time to move for Hugo
must re-write the chalk board on the quay, advertising
tomorrow's walk. Since Mitsubishi has accepted me, I
hold the leash.
Now I'm shouting
"Dromo!" and "Vroom, Vroom! Vroom!"
(which Hugo now says doesn't mean anything but sounds
like it does) and I'm lunging at assorted dogs and stamping
my sandals and striving to protect the virtue of Mitsubishi,
my new four-footed friend.
never found me this interesting before," I comment
in a dry aside to the day-tripping horde which surrounds
Hugo, our canine entourage, his chalkboard and me on
the Symi waterfront. (And, I know for sure that I am
now immortalized on home videos in Derbyshire, Sussex
and Liverpool--a crazed gray-haired lady shouting, kicking
and, at times, forcibly interrupting the act itself).
So it is that mixed
into a tangle of dogs in heat, I am introduced to Symi.
This is the unpredictable, the chaos, the serendipity
that is Greece.