15 August

It’s one of four major public holidays here. There are others observed, of course, along with local and family occasions. But this is one of the four big ones, declared also by government as obligatory. This day, on Christian calendars worldwide, is one to celebrate Mary, Jesus’ mother. Here, for the Eastern Orthodox, today marks her Dormition: literally, her ‘falling asleep’. Today has indeed dawned sleepily.

I live on a commercial street, above a bakery and a printing press – this street never sleeps. The road normally hums, judders and splutters with a trail of traffic from 6am onwards (this is not to discount the explosion of unlicensed scooter engines under the balcony from bakery customers at 4am, you understand). Parents call down the street to their children, workmen move their loads from warehouse to van to shop to delivery, shoppers shout their bread orders across the street (too lazy to leave their cars or bikes and enter the bakery). Today, the needle’s off the record.

You can feel the space between the vehicles on the road. There’s been no shouting (not even the Anglo-Saxon expletives which punctuate the day from the Albanian workman remodeling the upstairs apartment). The bakery and the printing press are closed. Those who can are sleeping late, those who can’t are already at work (visitors still need to be catered for). For everyone, the aspiration is a day of rest – ideally spent with family. I’m under doctor’s orders to rest my injured leg, so the rest of me has to follow suit. Today, whatever you’re doing, wherever you are, I wish you the peace you desire on this day of Dormition.

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