Sitting here on the high terrace of our old Greek house, enjoying the view of the Ionian and the hazy brown mountains of Albania, delighted by the excellent condition of the garden (cherished in my absence by Angeliki, our treasure), relishing the entirely selfish epidermal pleasure of a clean white shirt after a forceful shower after a salty plunge into the aforementioned Ionian, I sense one final detail might complete my happiness. There is no clock in the olive groves but the heat and the lengthening shadows confirm the whispered suggestion in my mind that it must be getting on for Campari Time.
How did the old actor put it when the waiter finally reached our table…?
“One thing alone can slake my summer thirst. Find you some water that splashing from a virgin spring is unsuspecting caught by winter’s breath and clenched to crystal, transfixèd by the cold. Tumble four cubes like clumsy dice into a glass. This is your alpha. Then seek that red elixir that the Romans call Campari – scarlet as Satan’s tights and sweet as nectar, bitter as Iscariot’s kiss. Pour on and listen to the ice protest, cracking and squeaking in that thick embrace: incarnadine, the frozen water drowns! So swiftly reinforce the element, add other water now wherein the air itself does seethe and fret at its confinement. And last, in case the battle swings too surely to the wet, take thou thy knife and cut an orange slice to lie upon the top. This is your omega. Can you do this?”
“Yes, sir. One Campari soda.”
I have always tried to order mine in just such a fashion. A Campari soda is impossible in winter, unheard of in autumn and inappropriate in spring. But when summer clasps this island in its hot embrace and the house martins appear at sundown, darting and dipping down across the valley in aerobatic genius, nothing else will do.