Author Archives: sheilahwood

Beaches, a new bathroom and at long last, some bananas!

I was told officially this morning by my neighbour Nikos, that summer is over and it is now autumn. Today, I was supposed to be on the island of Spinalonga today with his wife Maria but I woke up to thunder and rain so the trip was postponed. This is the first rain since the end of May and badly needed but for me, I wish it had waited until tomorrow! However the rain is very much needed, so I am not complaining.

I start with the fun. Throughout the summer, we have had some very invigorating cycle rides to Tholos and a nice walk up our local gorge.

We celebrated a birthday.  Birgitte lives nearby and invited us and many others on the local boat for the day.

and we went to the island of Pseira,

and then onto the beautiful beach of Agriomandris. It was the first time, John and I had arrived there by boat and it is such a lovely experience to see this beach from a different angle.

There were a few random people at the beach already but they were quickly included in the proceedings – bubbly, wine, a wonderful barbecue produced by the captain of the boat and a lot of chat, plus this magnificent salad.

This beach is the first contender for paradise in this post.  The trip back was pretty dramatic however, with a very wild sea and rocks to avoid.

It reminded me of being in a funfair where you have complete faith that you will survive, but on the other hand my body does not like the sensation and I did feel a bit queasy. But it was a wonderful day.

John and I celebrated 33 years of marriage in our favourite local spots – Bobo’s taverna in Pachia Ammos

on Tholos beach where our friend Tasos bought us a glass of wine each

and in Mochlos for some lovely food.

More recently we booked an apartment 50 metres from Kouremenos beach, near Palekastro on the east coast, only 20 minutes from Siteia. The beach is lovely and has some human interest too as it is a prime spot for those who enjoy watching windsurfers.

Palekastro, a village of over 1000 people,  is only 5 minutes away in the car and given the very narrow streets, John parked the car in a small car park on the edge of the town. I got out of the car and my first view was of pomegranates,

which are beautiful to look at but hard work to eat!

Then we visited the local Folk Museum, set up by the local Cultural Σύλλογος which was a real joy, partly because of the interesting and well displayed exhibits but also because our guide Δήμητρα, proved to be an excellent communicator.

She has a degree in social work but cannot find a job and is considering her future. In the meantime, we benefited from her knowledge and her very friendly personality.

We learned that Palekastro was a very small place until the 1940’s and then people started coming there to live instead of in villages in the hills.

The museum was set up like a house with different rooms to display the traditional clothes, tools, bedding, furniture etc.

I would really recommend a visit.

On the wall of the school, there were some murals which were very nice. Some were pictures of well known Cretan men and another of Kouremenos Bay.

On the following day, we went to the Minoan archaeological site at the settlement of Roussolakos.

We had gone there before with our friends Vince and Rosie. It was a lot warmer this time and so nice to relax and enjoy the atmosphere. The archaeologists have hoped to find a Minoan palace there but as yet, it has not yet been unearthed. However, like many Minoan sites, the setting is so wonderful that  sitting amongst the ruins is enough.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe visit also encouraged me to think of a winter project, starting in Sitia Museum where I could look at what was discovered in Roussolakos.

We were staying only a quarter an hour way from another beach which I also put in the ‘paradise’ category – Itanos.  We drove past Vai, where bananas are grown on a large scale and then a huge area of melons (the car had to be stopped so that I could appreciate fully the sight)

and then to Itanos,

where all we did was sunbathe and enjoy the wonderful clear sea (not our boat though!)

But the important development this summer, apart from buying a flat in Cornwall has been the new bathroom in our house here in Crete. It is very beautiful and well worth the wait.  There was a scary change early on when the old bathroom was demolished.

And then, there was some delay. Some of the appliance ordered, like the wash hand basin, were late because of Greek holidays in August and the electrician was on holiday when the electrics were ready for his attention. During this time, John and I decided the living room and dining room paint looked distinctly grey so decided to show we still could something in the DIY stakes and painted both rooms.

Άλκης, who was in charge of all the work, kept smiling in all the adversity and in the end coped with the pressures and now we have a beautiful bathroom!

The bath has some jets and with some bubble bath (το αφρόλουτρο), you can sink into a wonderful whirlpool of froth (ο αφρός)! This new Greek vocabulary arose during our first Greek lesson on the new session when I tried to describe my new bath!!!

And finally the best news is left to the end!  John’s banana plant is producing some bananas.

Ever since we arrived in Kavousi over two years ago with the plant, there has been some expectation that we would have bananas. However there has been increasing resignation over the last few months that nothing was going to materialise! But a few days ago before we went on the small break to Palekastro, there was an indication that what at first had seemed to be yet another leaf was in fact, something else. Four days later we returned and we can now see the bananas. Every five minutes we look at the plant and the bananas are bigger! Just keeping fingers crossed now that we can actually eat one eventually!

Sheila

 

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It really is summer!

It is really summer now  and we are eating our own grapes from our terrace.  For those of us born and bred in the UK, this is seriously exciting!

The temperature for the past two or three weeks has soared well above 30 degrees and one of the biggest challenges is to keep cool. John and I have implemented one or two pieces of action. The first occurs first thing in the morning. We get out of our already hot house, take the bikes out of the shed, fill the water bottles, resist the temptation of coffee and off we go downhill to a little beach at Tholos.

At 9am in the morning, the sea feels particularly wonderfully cool and refreshing. I wake up properly when I am in the water and am aware early in my day that life is good!

There is, of course, the return journey, which is uphill.  But because we are attempting to be a bit fitter and do this on as regular basis as we can, it is not such a difficult prospect as it was. Added to that, John has done some work on my bike and it does feel like it moves better than it did. I am hot by the time I get back but after a cold shower and breakfast, there is no doubt that this is a great way to start a day.

Another important improvement in our lives in the attempt to keep cool, is the new air conditioning unit in the bedroom. Occasionally, it is put on during the day with the outside doors closed and is always put on before reading in bed at night.  One of our chairs outside is kept in a shady area so the afternoon siesta or reading time can be outside, particularly if there is a breeze. All this being said, it is very hot, day after day, after day.

John and I did decide to have three days away for a change of scene. We went to Xerokambos on the south east coast, a long time favourite of ours. We stayed in the Fytrolakis             Apartments, about 50 metres from the beach,

and had a nice view of the sea.

We met up with Mikali and Eleni, whom we have talked about in previous posts, and who run a taverna there. We caught up with their family news.  We had not thought to look at the weather forecast as every day seemed to be same but Manolis, our Greek teacher did give us a little warning of what was to come which was an extremely strong wind, only I think in Xerokambos! The first night, staff in a local taverna had to pull the down the plastic windows to protect us all from blowing away. But the beaches were as beautiful as ever.

And John looks particularly fetching, wearing his favourite pink tshirt.

On one of the days, we decided to forego the beach, because of the wind and we went to the nearby village of Zakros.  For us, Zakros has always been a place to go through to somewhere else or to start the walk through the gorge to Lower Zakros. So this time, we wandered into the centre of the village where we were surprised to find a new tourist development. We walked into the Digital Museum,

met a very pleasant young lady who told us we could buy a ticket for 5 euros to visit 3 museums. We bought a ticket and on finding out that we spoke some Greek and lived in Kavousi, she gave us a bottle of Zakros olive oil. I suspect that everybody who signed up to the deal, got this gift but it was a nice gesture. We then watched a film about the attractions of Zakros wearing 3D spectacles. We learned about the Minoan Palace and the Zakros gorge with which we were familiar and also about  a cave and information about the importance of water to the area.

After this input, we set off going up the narrow streets to the water museum and to the source of the water. I was struck by how well kept the buildings, the paths and the gardens were.

There was even an opportunity for a new development!

We looked on the water museum and were treated to a number of old pieces of equipment relating to the pressing of olives/grapes?

We arrived at the top of the village and had a quiet moment outside the church.

The signage and information were great too and now I know where the next part of the long distance path, the E4, is.

Finally we looked into the Natural History Museum before having a beer and lunch. The taverna owner said he was part of the committee that had developed this package of interesting information and way of seeing much more of a very beautiful village. John and I congratulated him and now tell everybody that we meet about how Zakros is such a nice place to go.

One of the highlights of the last two weeks was meeting up with our first Greek tutor, Nikos, his wife Efi and their two month old son, Konstantinos. I gave Konstantinos a nice rattle so that he can join his fathers band and he seemed immediately to work out what you had to do! I also found a bath book with the numbers in English on it. I felt some early English input would be educational for this lovely small chap!

Because it really is summer, there is a lot of music about. Last Saturday, John and I went to the nearby Pachia Ammos to hear the Greek singer, Melina Aslanidou,

and her accompanying band. She is very well known in Greece and after buying a CD of hers, I realised that I knew a few of the songs from listening to the radio. There were huge numbers of people there, with many families enjoying the music. Again, as in so many of the concerts we have been too, the audience knew the words of the songs, to the extent that Melina let the audience sing on their own.  The band were very good with a particularly impressive fiddle player. I wondered if he had ever met Aly Bain! The lighting was very atmospheric,

and what a joy to sit outside, beside the sea at midnight, still feeling warm!

The next night we met our friends, Shona and Rich in Koutsoras, ate a nice meal at Robinsons taverna, right beside the sea and then went to a nearby park to listen to a Cretan band,

who were there to provide dance music for the many  people in the audience who wanted to show off their skills.

Again, it may me think that I would like some lessons so that I could participate in this.

Because it is summer, John and I have been getting pretty tired at times because of the heat and this has meant searching for shade and a view of the sea and where better to find it than in a Creta taverna at lunchtime and an increased beer,

tzaziki and Greek salad consumption than usual!  However it has also meant that we see some of the issues that face people working in the tourist industry at this time.  It is not a soft option for people running a taverna, working huge long hours and sometimes not appreciated that much. We saw a group of Russian tourists come into a taverna, where we were sitting and who seem to feel they could treat the people who worked there with contempt and rudeness. Basic rules of civility did not seem to apply and because the owner did not speak Russian they walked out.  The owner was sanguine about the experience. We were very angry on his behalf.

An important part  of our summer is that John and I are about to exchange contracts on a flat in Newquay next week. The process of buying a flat without seeing it, has not been so difficult, given modern communication and the fact that Rosie, our daughter, who will live in the flat, has been doing a fine job, being our eyes and ears. It was a little tense though yesterday as John and I needed to sign the documents and then go to Ierapetra Post Office to send the package. Unfortunately, the electricity supply went off at 9am and as we needed to photocopy some stuff, this was an issue. I found out from Maria that it would come on again at 12 but as the Post Office shut at 2pm, there was a bit of pressure added to the proceedings. Then our neighbour, who had agreed to be a witness to our signatures, wasn’t in when we went round with the papers. Eventually, we located Roger, who lives a mile or so away, who very kindly signed the forms.  Also we discovered that the name, Sheila Helen Burt, had crept into one of the forms that needed to be signed. My name is Sheila Helen Wood so this wouldn’t do!  After a phonecall to Newquay, our solicitor had the change made and sent the form back by email which of course we couldn’t open because the electricity was off. However at 12.30, the sound of the washing machine (having been stopped at 9am) alerted us to the good news that we had electricity and after some photocopying, we finally left for Ierapetra. The documents were posted ‘express’ and all we can hope now is they arrive safely in Newquay at the beginning of next week.

Summer has also meant watching a few films – Captain Correlli’s Mandolin, In the Loop and What we did on our Holiday – and reading some lighter material. Reading about the politics in Cambodia  was making me pretty depressed so I made the decision to go in for a bit of escapism (because it really is summer and holiday time), reading some of my favourite detective authors such as Ian Rankin, Elizabeth George and Robert Galbraith.

Now I think I deserve a few of these grapes………………….

Sheila

 

EU blues, summer hues and good times in paradise

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People ask how the referendum result will affect us and I just say that I don’t know. And more worryingly, I don’t know that anybody knows what it is going to mean for individuals and communities in the UK. But I don’t think it is going to be good!  I voted for the UK to stay in the  European Union. I never thought David Cameron should have agreed to a referendum on this issue. I hated the Brexit arguments which seemed mainly to do with immigration, not about what it actually means to be in or out of Europe. I am an immigrant in Greece, and I have been treated by another European country with kindness and respect. Kindness and respect are not part of Mr Farage’s or the Sun’s vocabulary .

But I was sad also because a lot of people in the UK clearly don’t acknowledge any financial or social benefit from being part of Europe. That could be because there is still a view in the UK that it runs the world or it could be that the political parties have essentially ignored the lives and the views of many of its own people.

But we are where we are and I am trying hard not to get too involved in discussions about UK politics. One of the symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease which I now have, is anxiety. It is an extremely unpleasant feeling and so I try to avoid issues or situations which exacerbate this feeling. Accordingly, I continue with simpler and more positive observations!

Back in Kavousi, there has been a lot to be positive about.  The temperature is at a constant high and it is a joy to sit outside in the evening on our terrace and watch the light on the mountains,

the moon coming over the hill

and admire our bunches of grapes in the darkness.

The down side is that there is a lot of plant watering to be done but last week I was rewarded by the flowering of the hibiscus plant.

And to be honest, I find it extremely pleasant focusing on the needs of our plants, rather than considering the bigger issues of the day!

As John said, in the last post, we now have a Greek Will for our possessions here. But what he didn’t include was a picture of our dear friend and neighbour, Maria who came to Sitia with us as a witness for the Will.

After the signing of the Will, we went to a taverna on the waterfront of Sitia and enjoyed lunch of kalamares. It was the first time that we have spent time with her out of Kavousi. She has many family responsibilities here and so it was a real treat to go for a little adventure with her. Recently, she indicated that she would like to go to Spinalonga as she has never been there. It will be arranged!

On the 11th June, 2016, my parents would have been married for 70 years. I had a reflective moment thinking of them and wondering what they would think of my life here. I know my Dad really liked coming to our small-holding in the north east of Scotland from their home in Linlithgow but Crete might have been a step too far for him. On the other hand, he and Mum had holidays in Greece and there was one, in particular, when they came to Crete. The holiday was advertised through ‘The Scotsman’ (it is funny how my very erratic memory comes up with a detail like that!) and they spent a week in Hania and a week in Sitia. They enjoyed it hugely. My father was a not a fan of ‘fancy food’ and really liked souvlaki and chips and grilled chicken. So while I know he wouldn’t enjoy the heat in the summer, he might well have made the journey at other times of the year.

Our friends, Hans, Hanneke, Walter and Brigitte and ourselves had a day out to the island of Koufonisi, south of Makrialos.

It was a well organised, delightful day with good friends. First we sailed east along the Crete coast. The wind blew down from the hills and the waves were big.

We turned right towards Koufonisi and it was calm. We swam in this beautiful bay,

looked into a cave and then had a nice picnic on another wonderful beach.

There was a bar and music on the boat and on the way back, some dancing on the rough seas! I would recommend highly the cruise. The website is http://www.cretandailycruises.com

Our good friends, Sarah and Mark came for the week that co-incided with the referendum. They were looking for relaxation

and so we enjoyed lying on a number of beaches, swimming in the nice warm sea and going to nearby tavernas, including the ones at our plateia in Kavousi.

Some of the children in the village were just round the corner from us, minding their own business.

One day I played tennis at Mochlos and afterwards we ate and admired the light of the dying sun.

The relaxation was interrupted by the referendum result but that was completely out of our control, unfortunately. But on the last night we did have some food with Walter and Brigitte

and music to lighten the gloom when we went to Μύρτος to see our good friend, Nikos, play with his band, Φε’ρ το Φοκο (Hand me the lighter!).

Nikos has just become a father so there was much to celebrate. The band had to contend with very strong winds but provided some great, uplifting, rock music

Another highlight of the month was the final lesson of the Greek classes before the summer. Helene and Bernard, from Brittany hosted it at their house and it consisted of checking our homework, conversation and then eating Breton crepes and drinking wine.

It was delightful. Lessons start again in September but Μανώλης, our teacher, has agreed to meet just John and me, once a week in July for speaking practice. Hopefully with this and the fact that our little part of the village is now very lively because our neighbours families have returned to Kavousi for July and August so there is plenty opportunity for practice!

The month has slipped by with John doing some DIY, making fly screens for the windows,

and picking up the guitar again.

I have been playing tennis and meeting up with my friend, Margarita who gave me helpful advice about living with Hashimoto’s disease. I also finished reading the Odyssey by Homer (not in Greek though) which I enjoyed and a book by an English travel journalist, Christopher Somerville called ‘The Golden Step’ which is a very interesting read of his walk across Crete and the people he met and the culture he encountered.  John and I have ventured into the world of considering a new bathroom for the house and bought a new microwave and kettle for the kitchen.

What was more exciting was that on Saturday we travelled to Exo Lakonia,near Ag Nik, to hear the very well known Γιάννης Χαρούλης (Yannis Xaroulis) and his band play. We have heard them before and enjoyed them but this time, the band were playing in the place where Γιάννης Χαρούλης grew up.

It was held in a stadium with thousands of people there. It was wonderful to be there and the music was just fantastic.

But I finish with politics and immigration. There was much publicity about the referendum here, comments even reaching the front page of the local paper in Ierapetra. But maybe of more concern to the people of Greece was a report by the Bank of Greece, announced on Saturday, saying that since 2008, half a million Greeks have left the country in search of work. The population of Greece is only 10.9 million people now and this is a very worrying trend for the country. Apparently the current exodus is being led by young professionals and graduates, going to Germany, the UK and the United Arab Emirates. Discuss!

Sheila

Rain

This afternoon, I should have been at Tholos beach, listening to music. It is a public holiday in Greece called Καθάρο Δευτέρα  (Clean Monday) and marks the beginning of Lent.  Unfortunately the afternoon is cold and wet and while I do like to support community initiatives, a huge shower of rain and hail,

dampened my enthusiasm.   Instead I am consigned to the house, making bean soup and writing about the weather!

Despite the rain this afternoon,  the conversations with my neighbours have been dominated by the lack of precipitation over the winter.  John and I we were pleased that there was no sign of water getting into the house while we were away. In fact, there was no rain, so our new doors and windows have not been tested.  An article in the newspaper, Νέα Κρήτη, on Saturday, showed the extent of the problem and confirmed our neighbours’ concerns. There has been a serious drought over the winter. The bar graph below shows that that compared with last winter, there has only been a sixth of the rain in Agios Nikolaos  this year.

Last year was exceptionally wet but it is still less than half the average water for the winter. We wait to see what will happen over the next few months.

Whilst the lack of rain could be serious for everybody around here, the rest of what I write is not of huge consequence to humanity!  Last week, I did have a major personal crisis when I discovered that the main documents relating to the car (tax, insurance, MOT, manuals ) were not in the car. Before we left for China, I decided that if we were leaving the car for 6 weeks, then it would be safer to put them and the road atlas etc in the house. When I came back, somehow the road atlas etc. did get back to the car but not the important documents.  I checked and checked in our small house for the missing wallet but to no avail. John came up with the most likely theory that for some peculiar reason, I threw them in the rubbish bin by mistake.  The irony, of course, is not lost on me. I end up losing documents that I moved for security reasons! Anyway, we have lost the car and service manual  but the rest has been brought back to life through the computer and a nice man at the MOT office. John has been very kind about all of this except I know what he really thinks…….

Despite, the fact that we have not been here for six weeks, the house was surprisingly dirty so some cleaning has been required. And our friends, Maggie and Andrew, arrive tomorrow and a visit from someone always sparks some critical look at our home. The inside of the house has therefore been subjected to some serious cleaning. It was so serious that I decided photograph albums needed to come off the shelves that I could dust the shelves. When I tried to put some very heavy albums back on, the shelf protested and was not to be persuaded to keep the status quo.   I was lucky that John had time for a small project and brackets have been put in place and the photo albums are now back in place.

I always have had severe reservations about dusting!!!!

On Thursday, my eyes looked at the outside of the house and in particular the sunbeds and decided that at least one of them definitely needed to go.  I put the broken sunbed down beside the village dustbin. There is a derelict truck there (I don’t think the dustbin men see vehicles as their remit but worth a try!).  Next day, I was amused to find that the sunbed had been put into the truck.

The day after, it was removed from the truck but it is still there. Generally things are recycled by somebody but I think it has been recognised that the sunbed is not fit for purpose!

By the end of the day, we had ordered new cushions for the outside chairs and bought two wooden sun beds.

The driver who brought the sunbeds tried to get his van as close to our house as possible and in doing so a tree has one less branch!  We have also some new hanging baskets so all we need now is some warm weather!

There was some major wind a couple of days ago which was very good from a washing point of view,

although I did have to peg it seriously and check it on a regular basis that it was still on the line. But the gale did mean a severe reduction in the blossom of our two mandarin trees which have been a source of enormous joy since we came back.

From some meters away, you can smell the wonderful scent and here the insects are buzzing. But much of it is now on the ground. Nothing lasts forever!

I have been particularly appreciative of having a really good supermarket in the village. When we came back from our trip, I couldn’t face going to Ierapetra and just wanted to potter about in Kavousi. The supermarket has most things, except fresh meat and for a number of days, I was a very regular customer. I expressed my thanks and a couple of days later, Κατερίνα gave me a bottle of preserved komquats. That felt very nice. It is good to be back in the village and appreciate all the things that it offers – the greetings in the morning as I go down to the bakery, the chats with my neighbours, the gifts of oranges and peppers, the wonderful blossom

and the general feeling of well being I have about here.

Yesterday we went to the carnival parade in Ierapetra. Our Greek tutor, Μανώλης, had recommended it and so we viewed it with our friends, Shona and Rich. It was impressive, firstly because of the huge numbers of people who took part in it and secondly that the floats and costumes were fantastic.  There were owls from the local school,

flashy  crabs

and some pretty pineapples, to name but a few.

There were one or two queries about politically correctness but in the main it was a joy. There were streamers, confetti and big smiles everywhere.  Afterwards we had a nice meal at a favourite taverna near Ιerapaetra, beside the sea (Σχεδία) and we were entertained by lightning and thunder which was right on top of and it started to rain! And it’s been raining ever since.

So, I finish with reference to the weather. I would like there to be more rain, but I also want a nice week for my friends. Anyway as my mother wisely said ‘There is nothing you can do about the weather, Sheila!’

Sheila

Christmas is coming

 

ManolisI am not tempted to go out today and so it is a good opportunity to write a small contribution for the blog. The reason for the lack of movement here, is that the weather is pretty dull, a bit cold with some rain in the air. This has been the case for a few days.

It is not like this in the south of the island. Yesterday, John and I went to Ierapetra, only 15 kms away and there was a line across the sky, grey on one side, blue on the other. And so we walked along the fairly empty front in Ιεράπετρα in bright sunshine,

drank coffee with our friends Hans and Hanneke  and watched a lone swimmer in the sea.

I suspect there would a lot less chance of seeing such a person indulging in this activity on the north coast. The reason, I think, is do with the prevailing north wind. Cloud accumulates on the hills behind us while the south coast experiences more wind but bright sunshine. It appears rather unusually that this weather has got stuck! However, there is always a positive to be found and that came last night when the sun finally arrived here, still with a background of dark clouds but it did make for a dramatic picture!

And anyway, who wants to go out?  I love the tinsel, cards, presents, music etc that all go with Christmas. We put up the Christmas decorations on Wednesday.

Our house is small so it is not too big a task.

But then on Friday we went to see our friends, Shona and Rich. We had a great time,

but their house and its wonderful decorations (my camera does not do them justice)

 

made us think that we did need some coloured lights!  Now we haven’t had them all the time we have lived in Crete, so it is possible to live without them but suddenly I felt my life would be enriched by some!  So yesterday, John went to his favourite electrical shop in Ιεράπετρα where they have everything. And we are now the proud owners of 80 lights. John found the ideal, and possibly only location in the house, to put them – round the mirror.

We showed them off to friends last night at dinner!

Christmas here, as has been said before, has a quieter feel to it than in the UK. Many families are involved in November and December, in olive picking. The word ‘κουρασμένος’ meaning ‘tired’, is often heard at present when one asks how someone is. Our neighbours or their families have all been out in the fields and that is the priority for people’s livelihoods. But last week, our neighbour, Μαrία, had finished olive picking and brought over a colourful salt and pepper and a jolly, little tea pot as a gift

and I gave her a poinsettia plant so we were both very happy.

But I can’t stop myself getting excited a little by Christmas. So when our Greek teacher, Manolis, told us about a pantomime locally, that he was appearing in, John and I decided we had to go. The pantomime was ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ and was organized by, as it says on its website, ‘The Cultural Organisation of the Foreign Residents of Άγιος Νικόλαος’ called in short ‘INCO’. It was held in α church hall in Neapoli and was a delight from beginning to end. It was a very British production and so funny from my perspective. All kinds of characters appeared, not just those related to Jack and the Beanstalk, such as Angela Merkel, dwarfs, fairies, Mr Bean, Rose and Jack from the Titanic, ‘Take That’ and dancers from ‘Grease’!  Μanolis was the Giant (see cover picture) and he was very good. I particularly enjoyed the scene where he was eating an enormous souvlaki. Below is the cast and Μαnolis receiving the applause, he deserves.

There was a raffle at half time, a solo performance by Βαλάντω Περάκης who has a beautiful voice and then singing some carols with the choir of INCO, led by the producer of the show, Carolyn Watson, who became the conductor! It was hugely enjoyable and congratulations to all those involved.

I sent most of the Christmas cards and presents from Ierapetra Post Office. This took some time, not because anybody else was sending Christmas presents and cards but because many people have bills to pay at this time of year. Inevitably I did not buy enough stamps for the number of cards I wanted to send.  I remembered later that someone had recommended giving letter and cards to our excellent postman, another Manolis, who comes to our door with our post and to pay him for the stamps, which he would send later. But I decided, instead, to go and buy a few stamps in the nearest Post Office at Pacchia Ammos.

It was closed to my surprise on a Tuesday at 10.30am. I was about to come back home and then decided to ask in the supermarket next door for times of opening. To my surprise, an old lady sitting near the till, got up very slowly and I was told that she would open the Post Office for me. We walked slowly to the Post office, she opened the door and I walked into what turned out to be her living room with a counter for the Post Office. I asked for 10 stamps at 90 cents. I ended up with 3 stamps because that was all she had, but we had a nice conversation about where I lived and I learned a little about her and her house. It was not such a good experience in terms of the service provided by the Post Office but I would love to go back and find out more about her life!

Our Greek classes continue and Manolis, not only delivers the lessons, but he sees his adult education remit as including letting us know about events in which he thinks we will be interested. We can’t go to everything but it is great to find out more about what is available. So one Friday in December, we went to a lecture in Agios Nikolaos with our friends Pauline and Chris, about the Minoan Civilisation, given by Αμαλία Γεναράκη (Amalia Generaki), lecturer in English language and Terminology from the University of Crete. The lecture was held in the Lyceum Club of Greek Women, which in itself, has an interesting history having been set up 100 years ago to promote and support traditional skills and crafts of women. You can see some of the exhibits in the pictures.  The club is still very active today.

The lecture was geared to English speakers like ourselves and there was a handout.  Amalia gave a fairly comprehensive overview of Minoan society and the contributions it made to later civilizations.

ΔΙΑΛΕΞΗ ΓΕΝΑΡΑΚΗ 4We felt we deserved a good meal afterwards and guided by Chris and Pauline, we went to the taverna, ‘Portes’ in Agios Nikolaos where the food and the ambience were fantastic.

The bookings for friends and family coming to visit next year are coming in now but first, Annie and Gideon arrive on Tuesday night for a stay of over two weeks, followed next week by our mutual friends, Kate and Dod. The work in the spare room is finished and it looks very nice.

John has booked a Christmas dinner of roast goat and duck at our local taverna, Zorbas, where he had his birthday party. And most important the Christmas cake is nearly finished.

Now, I do need to go out and feed our neighbour Christopher’s, cat. I thought I would feed her in his garden but found that most of the other cats in the area seem to think I was feeding them too! So she is now fed inside

but only once a day, which she is not so happy about and seems to think that meowing outside our door will make me change my mind. She has not been successful so far!!!

Merry Christmas, everybody

Sheila

The light in Crete

This is a rather self indulgent post, highlighting one of the reasons, I love living here. It is simply about light and colour.

In a period of 5 days on a trip to Triopetra, near Agia Galini, I captured with my camera the different blues, greens, silvers and greys of the sea and the reds, yellows and oranges of the sunsets, sometimes taking the same shot in different lights and times of day and getting dramatic and stunning differences in the colours, of the same view. What we saw was, of course, even better but pictures are a wonderful way of reminding you of the moment you were there and of how, with the same walk, things can look so different, depending on the weather, the time of day and the light.

049John and I had been to the taverna Apanemia earlier in the summer and it was my choice to spent a few more days there over my birthday. I think it is a perfect place for someone like me who appreciates lovely beaches, a warm sea, a friendly and hospitable taverna, simple food,  a nice room and some walking. Every morning, I woke up to sunshine and warmth and then went for a swim.

Then we would find a spot in a quiet, sandy beach and while away a few hours. I would occasionally stir myself for a walk up on the sand dunes, pick up a few pretty stones or admire some pretty flowers which were still coming out, even at this time of the year.

Later we would come back to the room, have a quiet read and go for an evening stroll, maybe discovering  a small church

032

or climbing to the top of some cliffs and look down on ‘our’ taverna and beach in one direction

016and the other Triopetra beach  on the other side

019After that, I definitely felt we deserved a good meal and a few glasses of wine.

There is a local yoga centre nearby and I can understand why they chose this spot. There is no stress, only peace. And it seemed that yoga also involves exercise in the water.

Of course, providing this idyllic existence means that the staff and owner of the taverna are not experiencing the same emotions as myself, particularly at the end of a busy season! But they still managed to create a very relaxing environment and here, Andreas, one of the waiters helps us put up the sun shade in our little terrace.

AThe only day here the routine varied, was on my birthday – receiving cards and presents, drinking fizzy wine in the largest glass I could find,

030eating a cake from the taverna

047and feeling good about all the best wishes from around the world through facebook. But really, the day was pretty similar to the rest (only slightly better!) and I loved it.

Just before we left , there was a magnificent contrast of colour from our own house,

and this rather summed up our stay in Triopetra.

From our room we saw the rocks which give Triopetra, (πέτρα meaning rock) it’s name. I took a number of photos because I felt I was taking a different picture each time.

Then there were the sunsets

026039

And the different colours of the sea

008I can never get tired of the range of blues.

Sheila

 

As we look back

For me, the blog is a means of keeping in touch with friends and family through words and photos. Usually, it is mainly description, although sometimes there is a little bit of analysis and comment about politics or cultural aspects of life here. Sometimes it is an attempt to remember things I have done, although I do try now not to think that I have to justify my existence by ‘doing’ things!  But this post is slightly different in that writing it, meant that I felt I needed to reflect more seriously on the last month and, in particular, the effect of losing a dear member of our family. For me, this post has a therapeutic aspect to it which is very valuable.

As John said in his last post, his sister Bridget, died very suddenly on the last day of July. Suddenly, things felt very different. How could this happen? I feel weepy even writing this a month later.  She lived in Ontario, Canada and spent retirement winters in Madeira, so we didn’t see her often but when we did, it was always special because of her genuine interest in our lives, her domestic and organisational abilities and because she was so completely modest and unassuming.  She and her husband, Herb, have a cottage on an island in Georgian Bay and with our children and on our own, we loved going there on holiday.  And with email, we kept in touch and found out about her life,  how the grandchildren were doing, whether Andy Murray was going to make a grand slam this year etc. So when she died, it felt like a huge loss. John always laughs at me as I frequently announce in amazement how the sea here is so blue, but suddenly it didn’t seem so blue anymore.

And there were regrets too. Bridget and Herb were going to visit us in January but couldn’t because of bad health. They were planning to come in the autumn and we had decided anyway, that it was far too long since we had seen them, so we would visit Canada next summer anyway. There is a clear message to be learned here.  Don’t put off seeing people, just because they live far away.

In the middle of August, we went to Bridget’s memorial service in Parry Sound, Ontario. We wanted belatedly to celebrate her life, tell people how much she meant to us and to provide as much support as we could to her family.We flew by Air Transat from Athens to Toronto. From living in a quiet village in a Greek island, we suddenly found ourself on an airplane for many hours. We treated ourselves to a drink and I was somewhat bemused to find out I could only pay by card. In our world here in Crete, we only use cash so this was a bit of a cultural shock. We stayed the night in a hotel near the airport and woke up to a view of rain, greyness, a never ending line of traffic and noisy planes!

But it had its own beauty, just a bit different from sunny Kavousi.

3 hours later, we were at the island in Georgian Bay, which we love so dearly.

We stayed there for a weekend with John’s brother-in-law Herb, his niece Heidi, his nephew John and wife Caroline, the grandchildren, Jonathon, Sarah and Nicholas and Bridget’s friend, Pat

and the dogs!

And we had a fine time, enjoying being part of ordinary family activities swimming,

looking over to the smaller island where I love to swim to,

boating,

tubing,

making lego models

and chat.

It was the best way to remember Bridget. We just wished she was there!

Bridget would have loved all of this and it was a very special weekend for us. It was also good to read all the messages

that people had sent about her.

And the memorial service was a fitting tribute to her life. We sang her favourite songs including ‘Hark the Herald Angels sing’, Caroline played the flute beautifully, playing tribute to Bridget’s love of birds, a fine summary of all Bridget’s talents by her son and two poems, one of which was by Bridget’s son in law, Ezio. He had never written a poem before and it was so beautiful. John spoke of Bridget’s early life and read a poem ‘As We Look Back’. It starts:

“As we look back over time, We find ourselves wondering….. Did we remember to thank you enough, For all you have done for us?”

And it finishes: “If we have forgotten to show our Gratitude enough for all the thongs you did, We’re thanking you now. And we are hoping you knew all along, How much you meant to us.”

We became tourists in Toronto for 3 days on the way home. We used an on and off bus tour to do this.

The highlights – the CN tower,

with rather scary, fantastic views of the city,

a boat trip providing magnificent views of Toronto’s skyline,

paintings of northern Ontarian landscapes that we know well from our holiday visits,

sculptures by Henry Moore at the Art Gallery

and complete escapism, enjoying the musical ‘Kinky Boots’.

We returned safely back to Kavousi and continued the summer here, with a visit from Rosie, our daughter. To have both of our children for a while over the summer was a great treat but it was good also for us to share with them our feelings about Bridget. We sampled a number of beaches,

used the lilo that Graham bought,

swam in the wonderfully warm sea,

and swam long distances,

John and Rosie collected many pretty stones, some of which are now in Newquay, Rosie’s home,

we saw the full moon rise abpve our terrace

and we ate wonderful food.

The usual package!

So now we are on our own and back to some of the more everyday activities. When we got back from Toronto, the TV wouldn’t work and a new cable from the satellite to the TV was required. This involves putting a new cable under the paving stones

and John has taken this on as a DIY project, just completed successfully! We have a number of small banana trees which are being nurtured by John

and I am feeding a cat and kitten, belonging to a neighbour who is in London for a couple of weeks.

I played in a tennis competition, winning and losing one game and the study of Greek has recommenced. Life is simple and good.  The final message to myself is to appreciate every day of it.

Sheila