Category Archives: Holidays

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

 

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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

 

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

 

A boat trip, a bare bum and a wedding!

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I see that well over a month has elapsed since our last Post but life has been busy here in paradise and time for such fripperies has been in short supply. Summer has arrived and there is much to do, including looking after our suntans and getting regular swimming!

Various visitors have come and gone – cousin Liz and her brother-in-law David, friends Rosie and Mike from Kent and cousin Felicity and husband Stuart, from Scotland.

Liz is known in the family as my favourite relative (or is it the other way about?). Either way, it is always fun having her here and as expected we had a lovely time with her and David.

Towards the end of their stay, we spent a couple of nights at Sisi which was great fun. The weather was great. We explored the village and surrounding area, ate some excellent food and managed a couple of swims.

The highlight of Mike and Rosie’s stay was a boat trip to Pseira

which for those of you who know the area is the island in front of Tholos beach, which has the remains of a Minoan village just waiting for the archaeologists to start digging!

We had a great day in the company of a number of friends, including Walter and Brigitte and Pauline and Chris, got to see the far side of the island which is dominated by sheer cliffs and small caves,

as well as having a swim from the small beach near the ‘harbour’ – if indeed it can be called that (λιμινάκι in Greek, meaning tiny harbour).

There was also a picnic on the beach to which everyone contributed. On the way back, Mike was even allowed to steer the boat – boys with their toys!

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We were also invited to Eleni and Bernard’s house on the south coast for a lesson in how to make crepes. They are from Brittany and Bernard was particularly keen that Mike spoke Welsh to him because it is quite close to Breton. Other than the hilarity caused by our generally poor attempts to cook crepes, it was particularly amusing to hear the Welsh National Anthem being sung in Breton!

 

 

 

With Felicity and Stuart we walked the Gorge of the Dead at Zakros, which is always a treat.

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The oleanders are out here at present so not only was the gorge looking especially beautiful, the road to Sitia was also very attractive too, which in part at least, makes up for the nightmarish twists and turns along the way. The trip was nearly ruined by the car getting a puncture as we arrived in the upper village to start the walk and for a while it looked like I might not be able to go. However, the fellow at the local garage produced some magic substance to insert in the hole with a sort of bodkin which sets and seals and we were on our way in under a quarter of an hour.

Perhaps the highlight for Felicity however occurred earlier in the week when we were in a taverna at the beach in Galini on the south coast. I realised at one point that she was not concentrating on whatever boring story I was relating and it transpired that her attention had been broken by the sight of a bare (male) bum on the beach in front of us, which clearly she found particularly attractive! It turned out that it belonged to our friend Hans (of H2 fame) who was of course delighted that his nether regions caused such excitement!

In the middle of these two sets of visitors, we made a short visit to Scotland to go the wedding of Linda and Gordon in Aberdeenshire. The trip started badly in that when we got to our hotel, they had let our room despite us having confirmed the booking the day before. The hired car then failed to materialise and when it did, I managed to prang it.

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To cap it all, the weather was terrible!

However, we got to stay with Sandy and Winnie and it was good to see them and there was also a visit to Claire and James in Stirling, where the great-nephews were inspected and found to be delightful.

On the way, we inspected progress on the new Forth Road Bridge.

Then, as we drove north on the Friday, things improved and by the time we arrived at Moira and Stewart’s in Crathes, the sun even made an appearance. On the day of the wedding itself, the weather turned beautiful as the bride and groom arrived at Craigievar Castle for the service.

We had a great time meeting up with old friends and were so pleased for Linda and Gordon that they had such a brilliant day. Scotland was looking at its best.

We then returned to Edinburgh and lunched with Philippa and Malcolm and the other set of great-nephews who we can confirm were also delightful.

In Edinburgh, where the weather continued to be grand, we stayed with Mairi and Norman and Sheila managed a few sets of tennis on the lawn.

Some retail therapy was undertaken on the Monday and I fitted in lunch with my old friend, Nick.

Thanks to everyone for there hospitality.

During all this excitement, Sheila had been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease, which for the uninitiated is an auto immune disorder related to the thyroid. She had been feeling out of sorts for a while which she put down to concerns following my mini-stroke but the problems continued and finally she went to our GP here in Crete who send her for a blood test. Within a week she had had two sets of tests and had seen a consultant endocrinologist twice and by the time we left for the UK had been given medication. It was all very impressive and the cost for everything – just 180 euros! We don’t believe in private medicine but ….. Congratulations and many thanks to the Greek Health Service.

Now she has to get the dosage right which will probably take a few months but other than the fact that she will have to take a pill for the rest of her life (which she hates), we hope the problem will be solved.

Thanks to Mike and Rosie and Felicity and Stewart for being so understanding during their respective stays, if we weren’t always up for trips hither and thither, and also to those who have kindly agreed to re-arrange their visits later in the year.

Last week we went to Sitia with Shona and Rich to see a notary with a view to getting our Greek wills prepared. The procedure was strangely reminiscent of what we had to do in Scotland except that we needed three Greek nationals, who were not related to one another to act at witnesses. So we took our neighbour Maria who seemed to think it was a great excuse for a day out and Shona and Rich took their dentist and Gym manager! All went well, although the cost was astonishingly high and at the end we were not allowed to take a copy away, the reason for which was lost in translation! So, as I said to the notary, we can now die and it will all be OK!

And now it’s back to that sun bed!

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

 

And life goes on

Vai Beach

Sheila is about to order prints from our holiday to the Orient for the photograph album, which is a sure sign that the trip has been consigned to the memory! Greek lessons are well and truly back on track and our first visitors of the new season have been and gone, although as you shall learn that was not without its difficulties. So life in Kavousi resumes its usual pattern as we get on with our lives here in paradise.

Spring has arrived – it’s official! The buds on the σταφύλια (grape vines) are beginning to appear, sometime after our friend Thassos came, unbeknown to us, to prune back last year’s growth. I have been looking out for them ever since we arrived home and finally, at the beginning of the week, after a few days of sunshine, out they came – including new growth on the cutting that I grew and planted out last year.

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Flowers too are beginning to appear

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although they must have got a tremendous shock from the terrible winds which we have had here over the past few days (of which more later). Unfortunately, the blossom on the mandarin and orange and lemon trees have suffered badly and it remains to be seen how our crop will develop as the year progresses.

As mentioned, our first visitors arrived last week from Scotland. Crete was a new venue for both Maggie and Andrew so we could have hoped for better weather for their arrival, particularly after the sunshine of the previous week. Unfortunately, their first few days were not great but it did at least mean that a few walks were undertaken, to Tholos along the high road and back on the paved road (with me on my bike),

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the lower gorge, Azorias and the ancient olive tree and the highlight last Saturday in the sunshine, up the E4 to Thripti where I met them in the car. As an added bonus, the taverna in the village was open so we enjoyed a drink (well-earned on the part of the three of them) together with copious plates of μεζέδες (mese).

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Food-wise, we also had a memorable evening at Bobo’s taverna eating κατσικάκι στο φούρνο (goat in the oven)

We also took in a trip to Tertsa and Myrtos and back through the mountains

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and last Sunday, again in the sunshine, a visit to the east coast, including Vai beach, Itanos and Xerokambos.

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On their last day here, they walked to the waterfall in Koutsounari while we had our Greek lesson and then caught the afternoon bus to Heraklion where they intended to stay for two nights, taking in Knossos and the archaeological museum before returning to Scotland on Wedenesday.

As we all know however, the best laid plans do not always work out! We are used to very strong winds here in Crete but the last couple of days have been unusual even for here. The southerly winds have a profound effect in the north of the Island where the wind picks up speed as it comes over the mountains. Apparently it was Force 12 in the west and the Force 10 in Heraklion was enough to mean that no flights departed or arrived on Wednesday. In fact the airport was closed. This meant that Andrew and Maggie had to stay another night. No great hardship in itself of course, as long as you are retired with nothing important to get back to, although I seem to recall that Maggie was supposed to playing golf the following day!

One other aspect of the southerly wind which is worth mentioning is that occasionally it brings with it, clouds of dust from the Sahara. What this meant on Wednesday was that the sun was blotted out and the world was turned yellow. Our cameras are not sophisticated enough to record this phenomenon but our friend Rich took the following shot from their house on the south coast (thanks to Rich for use of the photo).

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There were three ‘casualties’ here, as a result of the wind. Firstly, the remaining ‘old’ plastic sun lounger smashed itself to bits against a wall, the cupboard outside the kitchen door blew over, smashing all the clay and china flower pots inside and the car was covered in brown dust. So, with great glee, Sheila dispatched the sun lounger to join its ‘friend’ at the rubbish tip (see last Post), we now have lots of broken pottery for the base of what will in future be plastic flower pots and this morning we had to wash the car! It could have been worse.

And finally, next week we go back to the UK for ten days or so. The main reason is to attend the UK memorial service for my sister Bridget, who died in Canada last year. The service will be held at Mells in Somerset where we grew up after WW2.

Village legend has it that Mells is the subject of the ‘Little Jack Horner’ nursery rhyme. John Horner was a King’s Messenger at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries in England and for his efforts, Henry VIII, allowed him to choose one of the deeds of various Manors, whIch he had brought from the Abbot of Glastonbury to London. He ‘put in his thumb and pulled out the plumb’ – being the deeds of Mells Manor, where the Horner family lived until recently. It’s a good story but I now read that there is some doubt as to its authenticity! All the same, I prefer to believe it.

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Mells is a beautiful village and I always love going back but this of course will be a bitter sweet visit. For the last day or so, I have been dusting off my tribute to my sister and re-writing it for the UK audience. Life goes on!

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