Life in our new home

Crete 76 010 02

During the last week, the weather has warmed up significantly. The weather forecast for Kavousi today says the temperature is 30 degrees and I can believe it. Up till now, John and I haven’t been that concerned about shade on our terrace. But a few days ago, a couple with a small baby came from lunch and suddenly we were having to move the outside table into a corner which avoided the hot sun. We managed but today after our Greek class and a swim,

Crete 76 005

we bought an umbrella. Now we can keep the table in the best place to admire the mountains and the sea.

Crete 76 040I love the house and the terrace.  Since the outside of the house has been painted, it looks so much more attractive.  And the terrace offers opportunities for trees, flowers and herbs.

We have a tree which has both oranges and lemons, a separate lemon tree and a couple of vines.

Crete 76 038Now we also have some geraniums which grow in abundance here and even I feel that I can’t do them any harm.

For years, I had a geranium from my Great Aunt Jane and it survived in my un-tender care. So I have some experience to offer!

And in our little yard outside the kitchen, there are now pots of basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme and parsley.

I have never been very interested in gardening, preferring other activities. However, here I love it because I can enjoy garden produce without any of the work! Most of our neighbours, both Greek and English, have gardens. Some are a distance from their houses but they have a surplus at times and we are a major beneficiary!

Last week, Nikos, brought round a huge pumpkin. My experience of pumpkins is limited to Halloween so while delighted to receive such a gift, we weren’t sure quite what to do with it. But the next day, Nikos, came round and proceeded to cut the pumpkin in half, tell us to put one half, covered in cling film, in the fridge and then gave some advice about what to do with the other half. He speaks Greek with a very strong Cretan accent and I decided that probably I would need to rely on the internet for a recipe. Pumpkin soup is now on the cards.

Our English neighbour, Christopher, came round the other day with a lettuce and cucumbers from his garden. He has vegetables surplus to requirements. The salad ingredients were delicious. He also makes jam so today, I was given a jar each of cherry, strawberry and apricot, apricot and strawberry as well as some chutney.

Crete 76 037

Christopher gave me a taste of each of them and they all were wonderful.

Crete 76 027Last week, John and I ate very economically. The supermarket sells fresh, local eggs and we enjoyed an omelet on one night, with a salad made up of contributions from the neighbours.  We also had three meals out of a great, Greek dish called briam. It is a baked vegetable dish with the aubergines and peppers slowly baked in a tomato (provided by my tennis friend, Margarita) and onion sauce with a cheesy breadcrumb topping.

It became even more tasty the longer you kept it.  So while I like the meat here, the vegetarian option is attractive on many grounds – quality, freshness, taste and cheapness.

Crete 76 029I do not consider myself a great cook – mediocre at best. You may well be asking is she good at anything?  Anyway, I asked my Greek friend, Maria, if she would show me how to make ντολμάδες or stuffed vine leaves. We have vine leaves in our garden so Maria and I collected a number of the leaves from here. In her house, she put the leaves in boiling water for a few seconds and mixed together the ingredients for the filling (no measurements taken of anything!).

She then showed me how to role up the vine leaves with the filling. They were put in a casserole, water and oil added and then left simmering and covered on the cooker for half an hour, during which we had a well deserved Greek coffee. The ντολμάδες were delicious and even go well with avocados!

Now I just have to make them myself the next time!

I have started playing tennis again and am getting coaching. Now, I do believe this would have been more effective when I was a lot younger. I played loads of tennis in Linlithgow as a teenager, then played nothing till I was about 40 and got some lessons in volleying at Banchory tennis club. Then life got in the way again and I started to play again when I was about 55!!! Then I had a few lessons. But I realise my play is built on enthusiasm, the ability to run short distances and the development of some serious concentration. But none of this was about learning technical skills !  The coach at the club is very good and while he must despair at my backhand, he clearly feels I can improve. So I have been learning how to do drop volleys, smashes and slices and enjoying it immensely, although I must look a complete idiot at times as I try to learn several things at the same time.

On the sport theme, I was relieved that Arsenal won the FA cup. It is not easy being an Arsenal supporter. I don’t consider myself one but because I am living with someone who has supported them all his life, it is hard not to want them to win something, sometime soon. It had all started hopefully in the autumn, was still looking positive in the New Year and then, of course there was the seemingly inevitable dip before a recovery too late at the end of the season. The Premiership was over but there was still the possibility of a trophy. John and I went to the watch the match at Meryl and Brian’s. There was a problem getting a picture and by the time it appeared, Arsenal were two down. Fortunately, things improved and while Meryl and I pretended we weren’t that interested, we shouted as much as the men when the winning goal was scored.

Thomas Vermaelen lifts the trophy

John and I also watched the European Cup final in a taverna in Makrigialos, a few miles from where we used to stay in Ferma. It was so relaxing watching a game, without supporting a particular team!  It was exciting and now I’m looking forward to the World Cup.

Crete 76 018And last, but by no means least, Linda and Gordon came to visit for a week recently.

I met Linda in about 1990 and worked with her on and off over the years in Aberdeenshire. It was great to reminisce about people I knew there, catch up with news of her family, remember the family holidays we had together as well as show her and Gordon something of the life we lead here, having a leisurely beer,

Crete 76 011

eating breakfast on the terrace

Crete 76 003

and trying out the latest fashions!

Crete 76 014

Gordon had never been to Greece before. He is a sailor and just loved being in the water (not in a boat) but the next best thing.  They kindly fitted in around Greek and tennis lessons although we did have a trip or two, including Spinalonga and along the south coast.

Linda is working two days a week for the Community Learning Service and is retiring completely next year.  Since their visit, I saw on the internet that the Scottish Government is launching a National Youth Strategy, an Adult Learning in Scotland Statement of Ambition and a refreshed Adult ESOL Strategy. I read the adult learning document and the enthusiasm and the intent seemed pretty familiar.  I guess over the years I have read and listened to too many fine documents and words. Inevitably it seems that the document lead to too little change on the ground with too few resources. Hence another document is required! And there seems to be even less resources now. Linda is now doing a job on two days a week, that 25 years ago I did full time. It always seemed to me that most things are known about good practice in youth work and adult learning.  It is also known that effective change happens slowly and that there needs to be a commitment to proper resourcing for a long period of time by politicians, not a piecemeal approach.  So much money could be saved if this happened and people’s lives could be so enriched. As a result, I am sad to write this but I am glad selfishly that I can focus on my own learning here, rather than be paid to read yet another Statement of Ambition!

No time to comment on the European elections and the new garden shed – these will inevitably follow!




4 thoughts on “Life in our new home

  1. Mairi Marlborough

    Sheila you are a great wee cook – don’t do yourself down – very fond memories of your student day cooking in Orchard Street especially your lemon meringue pie!


    1. John Post author

      Thanks Mairi. But the reality is that after 40 years, my speciality is still lemon meringue pie! Although I have just added to my repetoire and made pumpkin soup and it was good. So who knows what next?


  2. Annie Francis

    Roasted pumpkin is really nice to try! Cut into 1cm cubes, mix with salt, pepper and olive oil [i believe you can get that in Crete :)] and put in oven for 40 mins, give it a stir around half way through. Especially nice using butternut squash… I’m envious of the weather! Imagine in Tanzania?! It’s 15 degrees this morning, cold and wet. This year the cold season has started early so I don’t know if our firewood supply is going to last us.


  3. Doug Thomson

    You might find your Arsenal loyalties under strain this Friday when France play Germany in the World Cup – three of last season’s Arsenal squad on each side!

    I suggest you stick to watching Wimbledon. No question of who to support there.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s