Official statistics tell us that over 2 feet of rain fell upon the island of Skiathos on Tuesday 5th September 2023: more rainfall in one day than the Greek capital of Athens has had in 2 years!
Many parts of the infrastructure has either collapsed or lifted, whilst the businesses along Papadiamantis Street have had both their buildings and their stock damaged by the relentless torrent of water that turned the main street into a fast flowing and unstoppable river.
Residents and tourists alike could only watch on in horror, as tables, chairs, plants, trees and much more besides, were violently pushed towards the port and into the sea. It was a heartbreaking scene to witness and one could only feel great sadness for the business owners, whose livelihood was literally being washed away before their eyes.
Thankfully, no lives have been lost as a result of this unusual phenomenon and in the scheme of things – compared to major tragedies happening around the world today – it could be construed as relatively minor event.
But, I couldn’t help but wonder: How does one recover from such a blow, and, given that some of the airlines have cancelled flights to the island in a knee jerk reaction, how might they recoup lost money if the very economy that they depend on (tourism) grinds to a premature halt?
The answer, I discovered, is resilience. A spirit for recovery and an attitude that addresses the situation as: [quote] Just one of those things! [unquote].
It’s a state of mind that reminds me so much of how true Mancunians in the U.K. think and react to events that threaten their city; and let’s be honest, they’ve had a fair few of those in the past.
Fast forward a little and it’s now 07.30am on Thursday 7th September 2023 – 2 days after one of the worst downpours in Skiathos’ history – and I am sitting outside Foodie Cafe, enjoying a latte.
Inside the premises – that only yesterday was literally caked in mud, silt and debris, left behind by the receding flood waters of the storm – everywhere is gleaming. The cabinets are filled with a wide selection of croissants, pastries, pies and sandwiches, whilst the coffee machine gurgles and hisses away as if nothing has happened. Business as usual.
I look up and down the street and see a multitude of people (including the Mayor himself) cleaning, repairing and re-opening shops in record time and am once again reminded of a community spirit that I have witnessed so often in Manchester. It’s inspiring to see that – in this part of the world at least – there is still a strong desire to help one’s neighbours and raise the defiant two fingers to the unexpected turmoil of life.
And, as I sip on my second latte of the day, the radio set inside Foodie Cafe begins to belt out a classic tune and I cannot help but smile.
The undeniable irony of Queen’s “We are the champions”, couldn’t be more fitting. Given what I’ve witnessed over the last two days, Skiathonians are indeed proving to be true champions.
P. A. Davies.