Category Archives: Cycling

Kavousi Stargazers and other matters

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Well over a month has gone by since the last Post and although when I check my diary I can see that much has been going on in our lives, it is nevertheless hard to believe that so much time has passed and that neither of us has found time to put pen to paper or in our case to hammer at the keyboard!

There are reasons for our tardiness but whilst these may seem valid to us, I fear that for those who are still working they will sound rather weak. However, speaking solely for myself, I can blame the start of a new season of Greek lessons, an unexpected trip to the UK for a family funeral, an important birthday and entertaining various visitors, combined with an Indian Summer which has forced us to concentrate on other more important matters such as cycling and swimming!

img_20161023_1235161Greek has taken a rather different turn this new ‘school’ year. Manolis, our teacher, quite rightly believes that three years of grammar should have left us in a good place as regards the basics (although whether this corresponds with reality is a different matter!). So (or λοιπόν as I should say), we have moved on and now spend our time reading basic books, the first one of which we have just finished.

The idea is that for homework, we translate a couple of chapters and then write a summary in Greek, together with a list of critical words. At the lesson we are questioned in Greek about the text and answer questions using out ‘trigger’ words but without reference to the text. This means that we have to listen to the question (in Greek) and then respond, again in Greek. It should be easy but actually is quite difficult and it does mean a lot more homework than we are used to because you really do need to know the text as Manolis’ questions are quite detailed and sometimes he engages you in a dialogue! I find it quite a challenge being someone who likes  a more structured and exercise orientated approach to homework!

Now on to the next one.

In addition, we are also being given links to various popular Greek songs where we get  a youtube video plus the lyrics in both Greek and English. the idea is, I think, that we learn the words in Greek so that we can sing along when the hear the song on the radio or at a concert!

This is one of our favourites – we went to see Γιάννης Χαρούηλς back in the Summer ……

Greek lessons had only been running for a week or so when I heard that one of my cousins had died. She was also my godmother and my presence in the UK was definitely required so I combined the trip with a visit to see our sons in London and my other cousin (sister of the deceased) in Wiltshire.

London was great with a deal of Young’s beer consumed on the Friday night with the ‘boys’. I was soon on halves being unable to keep up! Wiltshire was fine too with some good weather and jaunts out and about with Liz, including a number of excellent pub lunches and a visit to Littlecote to see the Roman mosaic.

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And I need to include a photo of Liz’s new cat, Toby who arrived from a rescue home back in the Summer. As you can tell he has already made himself at home!

The funeral itself was the usual mix of sadness at a life being over but also pleasure at seeing relatives and catching up on their lives, news etc.  The following day, it was back to Crete to enjoy that Indian Summer!

But then we had a car crash – our first in Greece! Well without wishing to over dramatise, it really was little more than a bump and left the car with a small dent in the front wing and some new scratches to add to those already there.

A car came out of a side turning in the village and didn’t see us but the fellow was charming and immediately accepted responsibility and as things turned out the garage banged out the dent for only a small charge so we didn’t bother to claim.

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Still, a new experience for us here and one Sheila won’t want to repeat as she was the one nearest the point of impact!

Then we were invited to supper by Eleni from our Greek class and her husband Bernard. Readers who have been paying attention to previous Posts will recall that they hail from Brittany and Eleni is a star cook. On this occasion, the meal started with Crudités swiftly followed by a huge plate of fresh langoustines which had arrived from Brittany the day before. The next course was a selection of French cheeses and the feast was rounded off by cakes and pastries from the local Ζαχαροπλαστείο (Confectioner) all washed down by a selection of French wines, which Bernard serves with some panache. Follow that! (Sorry but no photos – we were too busy over-indulging!)

img_20161027_1108591The terrace is looking good with the flowers and trees which Sheila has watered assiduously during the hot summer months, doing well and it looks like we may have a few oranges this year although the bananas may alas come to nothing as it is probably now too late in the year fro them to fill out and ripen. Still, there’s always next year!

Clear skies at night mean that we are often blessed with the most magnificent views of the planets, stars and the Milky Way. Sheila gave me a telescope for Christmas because I had had a Patrick Moore moment but for various reasons, I have not got past looking at the Full Moon which often seems to rise directly above the gorge, giving us yet another stunning Kavousi tableau. Stars and planets are a different matter however because of ambient light in the village and in any event I know very little about the sky at night.

Enter Stan stage left, who claims to be a bit of an expert and Gary stage right, who has a large telescope and lives out in the country where there is no light. So, Kavousi Stargazers is up and running! It ticks the box that Sheila thinks it would be good for me to have an interest but it has to be admitted that we have not yet met! However, we have talked about it  and we did try last week but there was too much cloud, so we drank champagne instead!. That said, the rumours that it is just an excuse for a Gentleman’s drinking club are most definitely false and malicious and we have instructed our lawyers to take appropriate action.

img_20161027_1110311Now I did mention at the outset an important birthday and various visitors. I can now report that these items will be dealt with in the next Post which my co-author, I am assured, is thinking about! But first things first, there is still the washing-up to be done!

Finally, I need to report that this will be the last Post on this Blog but before you all start howling in protest, let me re-assure you that there will be a new one starting very soon and I will let you know the details in due course.

The reason for a new Blog is simply technical. We have no media space left on our ‘free’ platform with WordPress, which has meant deleting photos from the early Posts from three years ago. This means that anyone reading that material cannot see the photos which makes the whole process rather pointless. So being mean, we have gone for the option of starting a new Blog rather than buying additional space!

John

 

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

 

Fruits, Flowers and a Pigeon War – it must be Summer!

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Last week we had my son James come to stay. In many ways, he is the ideal guest. He made his agenda clear from the outset – sun, sea, a modicum of exercise and plenty of beer! He read, sunbathed, swam, slept and was generally very self-contained. We enjoyed his company, conversation and good humour. It was a great week and we miss him now he has returned to London.

He and Sheila did the two gorges walk to the top of Kastro

and returned via the ancient olive tree where the small taverna has now opened, so I joined them for a celebratory beer.

We had already cycled to the ‘secret’ beach earlier in the week which was fabulous.

Later he borrowed my electric bike to put it through its paces with a trip to Mochlos and then back to Tholos. He covered nearly 30k which is not bad considering there are two major climbs,. He was impressed with the bike and I was pleased that he enjoyed it too!

A further highlight of his stay was a battle which we had with a flock of determined pigeons who suddenly showed a perverse interest in our grapes! It has to be said that said grapes are still far from being ripe but that did not seem to be the issue. The grapes were there and the Greek pigeon clearly has no respect for the property of foreigners!

We tried just about everything – water pistols, hand clapping, shouting, even the use of a high powered water jet but to no avail. As soon as our backs were turned, they would fly in from their vantage points on nearby telegraph wires and posts, land on the pergola and attack the fruit!

Finally, I had the idea of buying some green netting so James and I turned to, spread this over the vines and ‘wrapped’ the grapes so that the pigeons would be thwarted.

Then we sat back and waited. Sure enough, back they came, landed as before but clearly found the netting uncomfortable and retired to re-think their tactics. They still occasionally engineer a fly past just to check whether things have not changed but for the time being at least, they appear to have turned their attention to easier pickings elsewhere!

In a week when the European Football Championship was at its height, I felt that we had managed a narrow victory, perhaps 2-1 but on the other hand, the reality is that it is still only half-time!

Ripening grapes illustrates what a marvellous time it is here in Crete at present as fruits and flowers burst forth to brighten our lives.

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IMG_20160711_185528My banana plants are looking splendid but as yet have not produced any bananas! Imagine my dismay then, when our neighbour Christopher announced last week that his one plant now had bananas! So we walked round later to have a look and sure enough, there they are!

My ‘plantation’ is now looking quite good, so I live in hope.

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The ‘mother’ plant is splendid in appearance but a disappointment, so far …..

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Christopher gave us a gift of one of his aubergines

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and on the walk to his house we saw some pomegranates ripening up nicely.

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Our neighbour’s fig tree is loaded with fruit so August should see us well provided because we can reach over and pick them from our terrace! That said, I am not that keen on figs.

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Sheila’s hibiscus has produced some beautiful flowers of late (see cover photo) and the new bougainvillea is looking beautiful.

The ‘old’ one, we discovered, was actually a bush variety and therefore it was not surprising that it refused to climb and additionally, it hated the windy corner where we had put it. Now it has been moved, it has perked up no end and we now look forward to it flowering later in the year.

And the red chilli plant which Pauline and Chris gave us last year is producing extremely hot fruit, to the extent that we need rubber gloves to pick them!

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Last but not least, is my latest avocado pear plant. They always seem to look OK at this stage of their development but at the end of the summer, they lose their leaves and never seem to recover. However, my cousin Liz tells me to be patient and they will come again next year. We shall see….

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And finally, it is almost two years to the day that our beloved collie, Bonnie had to be put down. I still miss her and here is one of my favourite photos of her, taken at Sunnyside when she was still little more than a puppy.

Bonnie 2003 in heather

But to end on a lighter note, Andy won again at Wimbledon which is about the only good ‘Summer’ news to come out of Britain for the past few weeks. Now, is he Scottish or British???

John

Don’t count your chickens!

Working out on the Spa Day!

The title of our last Post was ‘And life goes on’ and for those of you with good memories, you will recall that the piece ended with a reference to an upcoming trip to the UK, the main purpose of which was to attend a Memorial Service for my sister.

With the advantage of hindsight, I can now attest to the fact that it is not a good idea to offer yourself as a hostage to fortune with a title such as that ascribed to this last Post! My sister died of a massive stroke last year and the day following her Memorial Service at Mells, I had a mini stroke (TIA) just after we had arrived in Cornwall for a short holiday! Whilst my life was never seriously in danger, I now appreciate what a fine line we walk between life and death and that it could so easily have been different for me, just as it was for her!

The service itself went very well and it was good to see so many family present from all over the world. Thanks to Tim and Liz for organising the event, for hosting lunch the next day for close family and for putting us up! Thanks also to Liz Turner for her hospitality. Good to have Rosie and James there too.

Graham was unable to make it because he was in China but he came down to Somerset later in our trip. He came by train for the day and arrived in some style! The train pulled in, a few folk got off and the train departed. No sign of Graham! A few moments later, Sheila’s mobile rang. He was on the train but the doors in his carriage did not open and he went on to the next station where we had to pick him up!

Meanwhile, it is still not clear what caused my TIA, although a spike in my cholesterol level clearly was a significant factor. The NHS in Cornwall was fantastic and if anyone ever had any doubts as to the justice of the ‘junior’ doctors case, take it from me, they do a marvellous job. I cannot thank all the staff – medical, nursing and administrative, both at Truro and Penzance, enough. The care that I received was special.

It was good to have our daughter Rosie on hand while all this excitement was going on and she lowered our anxiety levels with a visit to (blustery) Land’s End

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and to the Minack Outdoor Theatre to see ‘Oliver’, eating out at local pubs and restaurants and for Sheila, a Spa Day at the sister hotel to the one where Rosie works. Thanks Rose for looking after us so well!

 

Thanks also to Bill and Ann in East Grinstead for looking after us both so well at short notice, particularly after Aegean Airways had refused me permission to fly after having previously agreed. Bill made four trips in all to Gatwick, before we finally got away!

 

 

Life since our return to Crete has been pretty much along normal lines. Greek lessons are often now held outdoors as Summer has clearly arrived and a recent welcome development has been a change of venue to a taverna where we get free coffee!

 

And now finally, we have moved on to passive verbs – B2 level!!!

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We are back in swimming mode too and although the water is still a little chilly, it feels so good to be able to cycle down to the beach, have a quick dip and then (electrically powered) zoom back up the hill to the village – maybe to a waiting cold beer! Sheila has also found a group of local ex-pats to play tennis with every Tuesday afternoon, who are about her level, so she is really chirpy.

Last week, we had our first multi-visitors of the year – Phil, late of Midmar in Aberdeenshire and fellow goat keeper

and mutual friends John and Nicky from Petersfield in Hampshire, where apparently there is a fantastic museum!! Whether there is anything else there of note, remains unclear! The more perceptive readers amongst you, will suspect that there might be an in-joke here somewhere. Thanks to Stan and Jan (whom we look forward to welcoming back to Kavousi next week) for the use of their house for the overflow guests.

We had a fine time with our visitors, which included a couple of walks, (including the lower gorge), the Παναγία Κερά church at Kritsa, the Dorian fortress at Lato and a trip down memory lane for John and Nicky to Agios Nikolaos where they stayed in the mid-1970’s. We also took them all for a long day-trip to Toplou Monastery, Vai Beach (of Bounty fame), Itanos, Zakros and Xerokambos on the east coast of the Island. They also helped with putting up the cover for the pergola. Great to catch up with everyone and hope to see them all again soon.

We are following the media accounts of the Referendum Campaign with growing anxiety. Whichever way it goes, it looks like a close run thing and whist we are keen, for obvious reasons (we do live in Greece after all) that Britain votes to stay in, we hope that if this is the case that it will play a more positive role in European affairs in future. We can but hope! From our perspective, we cannot understand how Britain will survive if the vote is to leave. Any number of jobs which are connected to membership – just think of all the factories belonging to foreign companies which are only in the UK because of Britain being in the EU – must be at risk. Anyway, we can vote and we have registered so we are keeping our fingers crossed that common sense will prevail.

And whilst on political matters, particularly ones that seem not to be getting any coverage in the British media, there is increasing concern here relating to shenanigans in Europe over the next payment of the Greek bail-out money, with the IMF apparently at odds with Europe over what might happen in 2018 if Greece does not manage to hit an unlikely target for a surplus in the economy. In theory, this could bring the Greek Government down and throw the country back into political turmoil. The dead hand of Christine Lagarde seems to be at work again!

But enough of politics. I am as you all know, officially retired from all that nonsense. That said, I have just finished reading Paul Mason’s magnum opus ‘PostCapitalism’. I cannot in all honesty say that I recommend it unless you are already well-versed in economics, especially of the Marxian variety (which I am not). It is probably however, an excellent way to get to sleep at night if you are an insomniac! Fortunately, that is not a problem I usually have and as a result, it did take me rather a long time to finish it.

And now I am looking forward to reading something lighter – ‘Counting chickens for beginners’, perhaps?

John

 

From Kavousi to the Great Wall and back

Regular readers will be aware that we have been away for six weeks travelling in China and SE Asia. We arrived back in Crete last Monday tired after the long flights, to find all well with both house and car. So όλα καλά (all is well) as they say hereabouts!

It’s too early to digest everything that has happened to us while we have been away and to be able to put anything in context, let alone comment on the multitude of contrasting emotions and experiences that have engulfed us. At the moment, we are just concentrating on getting our diaries up to date and sorting out the photographs but you can be assured that if great thoughts should burst to the surface, we will be granting you the favour of our wisdom at some future date!

Suffice it to say for the present that we had a memorable, somewhat tiring but extremely enjoyable six weeks.  I liked almost everything about our trip, especially the Great Wall and the Terracotta Army in China, time spent with Gillie and Alan in Shanghai and with Emily in Hangzhou, the fireworks in Hong Kong, Halong Bay and cycling in Vietnam and the temples at Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Temperatures ranged from -15C in Beijing to +35C in Phnom Penh so there was lots to carry!

The local people we met were nearly all friendly although we did manage to become the victims of one minor scam in Beijing! Generally the food was delicious and very cheap and the hotels were normally very comfortable. We also got on well with the folk on our tour of Vietnam and Cambodia and hope to see at least some of them again.

However, on the downside, I realise that I do prefer to eat with a knife and fork rather than with chopsticks and we did spend many hours whilst travelling in Vietnam and Cambodia, sitting in buses which was not very interesting because the country was generally very flat. China is also very polluted and the cities everywhere, with the notable exception of Hong Kong are pretty uninviting places in terms of the quality of the air, prevalence of rubbish and obvious poverty.

Rather than ramble on about individual places and issues, I have chosen a selection of photographs which sum up my memories. Sheila may have others and if so, episode two may follow!

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Oh and the beer was pretty good too!

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Since we got back, the weather has been warm and sunny. Yesterday in particular gave every indication that Spring may have arrived.

We cycled the high road to Tholos (our nearest beach) and stopped at a secluded cove for an unscheduled swim.

The water was OK but there was a strong undertow so the dip was short!

However, we were able to dry off in the sun before pedalling back to Kavousi, noting that the almond blossom was beginning to come out.

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Our Greek lessons re-start tomorrow morning, which is a cause of some anxiety as no doubt we will be expected to report in detail on our trip. Help!

John

The power of positive thinking and related matters

Being a man who normally sees a glass half empty rather than the opposite, attempting to change the habits of lifetime does not come easy! However, for the last couple of years I have tried to amuse my family by adopting an approach to life (in name if not necessarily in spirit) which contradicts normality. So for 2014, I created a certain amount of hilarity as Mr Fun, then last year as Mr Adventurous and for 2016, I have decided to be Mr Positive!

So, the year has started on a ‘positive’ note but whether anyone has noticed any difference, has yet to be reported!

But the purpose of this particular Post is really more to let our avid readership know what we have been doing over the past few weeks and to inform you all know that we will be away in China and south-east Asia for the next six weeks. This means that there will not be another Post for at least until March, partly because I doubt we shall have time but also because the WordPress site is apparently blocked by the Great ‘Firewall’ of China. It seems somewhat unlikely but is apparently true!

We have had a hectic time over Christmas and the New Year. Annie and Gid arrived from Tanzania a few days before the festivities got underway.

We had a ‘traditional’ Christmas meal on Christmas Eve at our house,

a swim at Tholos Beach on Christmas morning

and went to Bobo’s taverna later for roast goat, which we had arranged in advance.

Kate and Dod arrived from the north-east of Scotland the following week and took up residence in Pauline and Chris’s wee guest house in the village, coming to us for meals, fun and film watching etc.

Pauline and Chris hosted a party on New Year’s Eve (about fifteen or so folk). Everyone contributed food and a great time was had by all.

As there were a fair number of Scots, a demonstation of Scottish Country Dancing featured as the main entertainment – ‘The Gay Gordons’ and ‘The Dashing White Sergeant’ being enthusiastically received! (No pictures – sorry!)

We fitted in a number of trips to local places of interest

and then, a few days later, we all went to Hania where we stayed in an AirB&B in the Old Town. It was a great place to stay and although many restaurants and some tourist venues were closed, we had a great time, including watching the Epiphany celebrations and eating some wonderful food.

While there, Sheila and I also made a trip down memory lane to visit Blue Beach on the Akrotiri peninsular, NE of Hania where we spent a holiday with friends (Moira and Linda and families note) in 1994. Much has changed since then but the beach remains the same – just waiting for small children (and in some cases big kids  – Stewart) with their lilos to ride the waves!

The recent snow on the White Mountains made a beautiful backdrop to Souda Bay

and Falasarna beach was as beautiful as we remembered (see also cover picture).

Everyone then returned to Hania, Annie and Gid to get the flight home (via Frankfurt and Amsterdam) and Kate and Dod to visit Knossos and the Archaeological Museum – a great trip with great friends!

We pushed on for home and settled down to get ready for the Orient. Greek lessons re-started this week so we have been getting back into studying and we hope Manolis will give us a few exercises to do while we are away, just to keep our hand in, so to speak.

The weather has been great for the last week, so this afternoon, I had a short cycle ride along the dirt road to Tholos, high above the olive trees.

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The beach was looking at its best and the sea inviting. We did swim earlier this week – Sheila for somewhat longer than me – but the water was quite cool!

So in my new spirit of positivism, the new year has started on a good note. It was great to have friends here to share the festivities and the house seems very quiet now everyone has gone. We are looking forward with a mixture of excitement and trepidation to China where in addition to seeing the sites, we will spend time with our friends, Gillie and Alan and also, Graham’s partner, Emily who is studying Mandarin at Ningbo. We are going to Hong Kong with her to celebrate the Chinese New Year and in a rather strange quirk of fate, hoping to meet up with friends from Banchory who just happen to be in Hong Kong at the same time. And then onto Vietnam, Cambodia and fly back from Bangkok at the end of February.

We’ll be back in March to report positively on the latest developments!

John

 

The Party’s over, so ride on!

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Many apologies to all those avid readers who must have been disappointed by the absence of any new postings over the last month or so. As you may recall, we were in the UK for two weeks in November with the sole purpose of having a good time celebrating my 70th birthday. And celebrate we did and more!

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Many thanks to everyone who made the Party happen, particularly Jane, Mark and Sarah and to our children who took us out for a surprise birthday meal.

Thanks also to everyone who came to the Party, to those who provided accommodation and meals both in England and Scotland and to everyone else  who played a part. You really did make it a birthday to remember and here is the evidence to prove it – me dancing at a ceilidh in Aberdeenshire!

Before any of that happened however, there was a Party here in Crete at Pacchia Ammos where a number of local friends enjoyed a meal at Bobo’s. Many thanks to both Manolis (Bobo) and Maria and their family for making it such a wonderful occasion and for Rich’s brilliant video of the highlight:

Now we are safely back in Crete, enjoying late Autumn weather as all around us the olives are being picked. The fine weather has prompted a couple of cycle rides, which also gave me an excuse to make use of the cameras on my new smartphone so to all of you in the Northern hemisphere who are suffering under leaden skies, snow, wind and/or rain, eat your hearts out as you view the following!

Last week, Sheila and I took the high dirt road from the village towards the sea at Tholos and then dropped down to the beach where we lingered long enough to record the scene.

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Then we cycled back up the road which passes the Olive Oil factory where we happened to meet our neighbours, Maria, Nikos and their elder son, Yiorgos who were delivering the fruits of their labours to be transformed into the best extra virgin olive oil in the world (or so we are told!).

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It has been a tough time for them. Nikos has a potentially life-threatening blood condition, Maria has a bad back and poor Yiorgos has a business to run. We feel bad that we are no help but frankly we would probably only get in the way and in any event, my days of manual labour are long past.

Then today, the weather was warm and sunny again (after a weekend of rain it must be admitted) so after returning from our Greek lesson this morning, I decided to go for a ride – Sheila deciding to stay at home. Originally, I was going to pedal through the olive groves to the other side of the valley but as Sheila had decided not to come, I thought I would put my new bike through its paces and see if it would get me up to the ancient olive tree.

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It might have been better if I had thought to charge the battery first however because although we started off well, it was clear after the second steep bit that the battery was not at its best. The advantage of going up first on an electric bike is that you can always turn round and free wheel down if the battery fails so I persevered and was glad that I did because we made it, even though I had to work somewhat harder than I was expecting!

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I had the place to myself. There were a few distant voices of locals picking their olives but otherwise I was able to enjoy one of my favourite spots hereabouts without 4X4 safari tourist jeeps, burly hikers or dogs barking from the back of trucks. It was just wonderful.

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The journey home was easy – just holding on to the brake levers and admiring the views and stopping every so often to take a picture. Just so lucky to be alive and living here!

John