A Health and Safety break in Skiathos

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Skiathos from the old port

In early September we spent a week in Skiathos , a tiny island in the Aegean sea.It was , to all intents and purposes , a chance for us to relax after a particularly stressful house move. So avoiding stress was high on the agenda.

It appears to be quite high on the Greek agenda too.

What we first noticed was the volume of mopeds whizzing up and down tiny streets , on main roads , dirt tracks , everywhere. Not only were they whizzing about but they were whizzing about with riders with no helmets and generally no protective gear at all. In some cases they were used to pick up children from school by slightly overweight dads who then precariously balanced up to three small children on the moped and proceeded to whiz up and down streets as before.

As we sat down for a few pre-dinner cocktails looking over the picturesque old port we perused our menus and saw that there was a lack of any indication or notification of the calorie content of any drink , no indication of whether anything contained nuts , gluten or other additives. Their one consent was to state if a dish was suitable for vegetarians. But you did get a feeling that it was done grudgingly.

Wherever we went on the island stone stairs wound up hills with alarmingly irregular steps. There was an absence of warnings about the perils of getting too close to the edge when enormous ferries came in to dock.

Best of all however is the cafe that caters for aeroplane spotters with a difference. The airport runway in Skiathos is alarmingly close to the road. So close in fact that if you stand on the roadside while the plane is turning before take-off you can see pilots and passengers clearly waving to you. You are kept from harms way in all of this by a 3 foot high barrier and a sign saying `Be aware of engine blast when planes take off `. As the planes were a mere 100 yards from us blasting hot air at a rate of knots into our faces it was hard not to be aware of it.

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Precariously close to the runway

Similarly when planes landed , flying over the road at a height of no more than the average house , there was no warning to anyone of engine noise or potential danger of planes not quite making it to the runway and landing unceremoniously on your head.

The point of all this is that no-one cared. No-one cared a jot that motorcyclists had no helmets and were transporting small children clinging on like baby chimpanzees. It was their responsibility. The children seemed perfectly happy.

No-one cared that the meals weren`t labelled telling us of every possible allergy and how many calories we`d be consuming. It was our responsibility.

In fact during our whole week there the Greeks showed a refreshing disregard for the Nanny state mentality that we suffer in the UK on a daily basis. What they were saying was , “This is how it is. We know it might be dangerous , it probably is. But hey, you`re grown-ups. Take some responsibility. If there`s a motorbike with a dad and three children coming down the same street as you , get out of the way.”

The Greeks on Skiathos seemed extremely content and happy with their lives. They were , as far as we could tell , being left to get on with things like adults and to make decisions like adults. If they got hurt because they were too close to an airplane taking off then that`s their problem. It`s an airplane , what do you expect.

In the UK the balance has tipped too far the other way and we are led through our lives each day with everyone too petrified to do anything that would endanger anyone. Maybe the Greek way is too far the other way , but from our short time there I think I know which I’d prefer. I’m just off to get my moped.

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