Category Archives: Politics

An update on the Crisis – rape and pillage.

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We are often asked by visitors and friends from abroad about what is happening here in Greece as regards the economic situation and related economic and social conditions and rather embarrassingly, the truth is that we don’t know! Living where we do in a small village in relatively prosperous Crete, we have only anecdotal evidence to go on and so we end up giving a rather lame response.

I was reminded of this last week when we met up with a young Greek friend, his wife and their very young son, for coffee in Ierapetra. The purpose of the meeting was to check out the new baby, offer up the presents and see how our friends were coping. Well, in that respect all seems to be well. The young lad is a very good baby, appears to have two of everything he should have and ten of everything else, sleeps a lot at the right times and the parents are very proud, as indeed they should be!

After the initial baby talk, the conversation turned to politics and the economy. Our friend is trained as a teacher of Greek but has been told that it will be 2025 before there is a job for him within the State sector! As a family, they get by financially but life is clearly difficult and their situation sums up life here for the young professional. If you have transferable skills, the temptation is to emigrate because in Greece, there is little work but Greeks are generally proud and understandably, want to stay and bring up their families among their own culture.

Our friend is of the left but clearly disillusioned both with politics and the EU and in this respect, he seems to reflect what we see about us. The Greeks see little hope for improvement, no way out of the mess and irritated that the increased taxes (as they see it) go straight to Germany without doing any good to help anything improve here!

Anyway, as a result of this conversation, I decided to find out more about the current situation, so in future I can answer the perennial question more informatively!

Facts and figures (Source: FOCUSECONOMICS)

Greece Economic Outlook

July 26, 2016

Greece’s GDP contracted significantly in the first quarter of the year and recent economic indicators suggest that a recovery remains elusive. While some improvements have been recorded in economic data—the manufacturing PMI returned to expansionary territory in June—overall the picture is bleak as high unemployment persists and austerity dampens consumption. In addition, the Brexit vote has sparked concerns over the implications for one of the Eurozone’s shakiest economies. A large share of incoming tourists to Greece are from the UK, which is expected to face weaker growth prospects following the vote. On a positive note, fears of a near-term Grexit have been dispelled as the country has made over EUR 2.5 billion in debt repayments in recent weeks and its international creditors gave the green light to ease capital controls in mid-July.

 

Greece Economy Data

                                                                                2011       2012       2013       2014       2015

Population (million)                                               11.1       11.1        11.1         11.0       11.0

GDP per capita (EUR)                                        18,613   17,190    16,306     16,152  16,028

GDP (EUR bn)                                                           207        191         180           178       176

Economic Growth (GDP, annual variation in %) -9.1        -7.3        -3.2             0.7       -0.2

 

Exports (G&S, annual variation in %)                     0.0         1.2         2.2             7.5      -3.8

Imports (G&S, annual variation in %)                   -9.4        -9.1        -1.9             7.7      -6.9

Unemployment Rate                                              17.9        24.6      27.5           26.6     25.0

Public Debt (% of GDP)                                            172        160       178            180      177

 

Greece Economic Growth

July 26, 2016

The economy is expected to remain in a deep recession this year amid fiscal tightening and poor confidence levels. On top of this, downside risks to the outlook have increased against the uncertain European backdrop following the Brexit vote. The FocusEconomics panel sees the economy contracting 0.8% in 2016, which is down 0.2 percentage points from last month’s outlook. For next year, the panel sees the economy rebounding to a 1.2% expansion.

So there you have it! I am not an economist but even I can see that these figures do not make good reading and whilst there some indications of a small improvement, as the commentator concludes, the outlook is bleak.

Is the medicine working then? Well, even the IMF who were and remain, one of the instigators of the bail-out apparently accept that they knew from the outset that the programme would not work, at least for Greece!

Commenting on a recently published report by the IMF’s Independent Evaluation Office, the Telegraph journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, writes:

“While the Fund’s actions were understandable in the white heat of the crisis, the harsh truth is that the bail-out sacrificed Greece in a “holding action” to save the euro and north European banks. Greece endured the traditional IMF shock of austerity, without the offsetting IMF cure of debt relief and devaluation to restore viability.”

 “The International Monetary Fund’s top staff misled their own board, made a series of calamitous misjudgments in Greece, became euphoric cheerleaders for the euro project, ignored warning signs of impending crisis, and collectively failed to grasp an elemental concept of currency theory.”

So what of the future? If one reads Yannis Varoufakis, the ex-Finance Minister then more of the same just means that things get worse.

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Understandably he is bitter that the Troika refused to listen to him and finally forced his resignation but he argues forcibly that debt relief for Greece and extended terms of debt repayment are the only solution.

But and here is the rub, it seems that unless and until Greece rejects its left-wing Government, a Government, it must be remembered, which is heavily criticised by its erstwhile supporters here in Greece, for slavishly following Troika demands for more cuts and discounted privatisations, there can be no such debt relief available to the Greek people. This is an intensely political decision on the part of the power brokers in Europe to support the right wing administrations (particularly in Spain) who support the Schauble line. Evidence for this less than even-handed approach is shown in the ‘relief’ allowed by the German Finance Minister recently, to Spain and Portugal who were in breach of EU budgetary deficits and liable for a fine. German magazine Der Spiegel criticized Schauble for his double standard approach: treating Spain and Portugal mildly, while he pushed for tough austerity measures that strangled Greece’s economy and people. “In case of Greece, Schauble vehemently rejected any proposal for mild treatment.” The reason? Mariano Rajoy is one of Schauble’s political allies and he is at the moment facing difficulties in forming a government in Spain. On the other hand Greece’s SYRIZA government is not favoured by Schauble who has openly expressed hostility against it.

Our new bougainvillea

Our new bougainvillea

How is all this gloom reflected in lives of ordinary folk in Kavousi, Crete, you may well ask? Bear in mind firstly that Kavousi is a fairly traditional Greek village with an ageing population. Most people have some land on which they grow fruit and vegetables, largely for their own consumption. They are not self-sufficient but with their pensions can get by. However, their pensions have been cut by upwards of 25% and taxes have gone up too. Everything in the shops including food has gone up in price. Belts are being tightened and there is less money around but here in Kavousi at least, it does not seem that folk are starving or losing their houses.

Contrast this situation with Athens and other large cities and there is a stark contrast however, assuming that press reports can be believed. Here there have been huge increases in unemployment and resultant hardship but we have no direct experience of this except to see on TV the crates of fruit and veg being sent to the Capital from generous farmers in Crete. OK this is probably surplus produce but it would not be going unless it were needed.

Greece has largely disappeared as a news item on foreign TV screens because it is no longer news. The German and French banks have been saved, largely at a cost to the Greek National debt and so the richer countries of Northern Europe have lost interest. Those responsible at the IMF have been promoted or have moved on but none of this means that the problem for Greece has been solved. It has not!

IMG_20160729_132951Don’t let anyone tell you that the European capitalists have done anything good for Greece. They have not. The country has literally been raped and with the forced privatisations is now being effectively pillaged in a blatant exhibition of mainly German economic imperialism. Perhaps the worst example of this that I read about somewhere, is the case of the Greek State Oil Company which apparently the Germans are trying to get their hands on. As yet unproven reserves of oil and gas have been identified under the Aegean which if reports are correct, would more than clear the Greek debt. Such assets are held by the State Oil Company and Schauble and his chums are apparently trying to buy it for a song as part of the privatisation process! How true this is, I don’t know but based on the last eight years, anything is believable of these people.

On a lighter note, the sun continues to shine, the sea is warm, the food delicious and the wine tasty. The Greeks as always, argue good-naturedly with one another, are interested in the wider world and drive erratically. Oh and the beer is cold!  We love it.

John

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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

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

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

 

On top of the world

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Yesterday certainly, did not start with me feeling on top of the world! We had had Chris and Pauline (Dutch friends recently returned from the Netherlands) round for supper on the previous evening and considerable quantities of vino had been quaffed and the next morning, didn’t I know it!

So it was a bit of a struggle to get over to Koutsounari for midday to meet up with Rich and Shona for a trip to the mountains in their 4WD. Ever since we first came to this part of Crete we have wanted to get to the top of Afentis Stavromenos (commonly known as Thripti, after the village which nestles in a mountain plateau at the base of the final summit). It dominates the landscape of Eastern Crete and when we lived in Ferma, we looked out onto its southern flank from our kitchen window. Now we are in Kavousi, we can view the peak from the north-west when we are at the beach in Tholos. It stands at 1,476m and as such, is a tad higher than Ben Nevis.

Sheila, our daughter Rosie and Sheila’s tennis partner Margarita tried to climb it once from our house. They took the Minoan path from Kavousi to Thripti village to a height of about 850m where I met them with the car (for the return trip) and we all set out for the top.

Unfortunately, the route is not well posted through the straggling village and it took us a long time to find the correct path and by the time we got to the foot of the final ascent (very steep scree and rock) with still about 500m to go, everyone, including me was completely knackered. So, we re-traced our steps, sank a beer or two in the local taverna and left the summit for another day.

To be honest, I think my days of scrambling up that final ascent are over but Sheila is still keen and just waiting for someone to challenge her to do it (meaning some one fool enough to accompany her!). It really is a walk for the spring or autumn when the weather is suitable but a good clear day without wind is also required as well. So far, this year, neither the conditions nor the company has been forthcoming.

So, when Rich and Shona suggested a trip to the top in their Suzuki Jimny, it was too good an opportunity to miss. The mountain is topped by a communication mast and small chapel with a dirt road which zig-zags up from a somewhat better dirt road connecting the mountain villages of Thripti and Oreino. At first sight, it is hard to see how the road can penetrate what seems like an impregnable wall but eventually as we crept higher and higher around ever sharper and steeper hairpin bends, a way through the rocks appeared and suddenly we were in a different world – a truly lunar landscape of unforgiving greyness.

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However, before we got to the top, to our surprise we had to descend to a bleak upland basin at which point the walking path from Thripti joined us before the final half dozen hairpins up to the summit car park. We left the Jimny there, next to the rammel of unsightly buildings surrounding the radio mast, to walk the final few metres to the chapel.

Just above the chapel is the Greek equivalent of the trig point which served as a useful resting place for at least one of the party – literally sitting on top of the world!

We even saw a vulture but no one got a picture!

006Although the day was a little hazy, the view is stunning – a true 360 degree panorama and we spent half an hour or so with no one else there, just enjoying the beauty of the day and the wonderful solitude of the mountains.

The Chapel looked well-kept, even well-used and was the usual mix of icons and other religious paraphernalia.

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Then, poor Rich had to negotiate the return journey back to the main road which allowed the rest of us to take a few photos of just how spectacular a road it is.

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And then it was back to Kimeri taverna in Koutsounari for a late lunch before heading home to watch the results of the Greek General Election with Walter and Brigitta who are just back from Germany. Pleased as we were with the unexpected decisiveness of the result, the celebrations were muted on my part at least, due to the excesses of the night before!

Today, the weather has broken and we have had heavy rain accompanied by thunder and lightning. Just as well we were not up the mountain today!

Many thanks to Rich and Shona for laying on the entertainment, especially Rich who did the driving, hair-raising (and open-mouthed) to say the least.

A great day

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Yesterday was Saturday 12 September and it was a great day for both of us!

It started with some anticipation because the results of the Labour leadership election were to be announced late morning and given that we are two hours ahead of the UK here in Crete, we had to wait rather longer to learn the outcome.

Both Sheila and I had voted for Jeremy Corbyn but despite all the predictions from the media, we were not sure until the end that he had actually won. Now for the first time for thirty years, we have an avowed socialist as leader – something I never expected to see again in my lifetime, especially through the dark days of Blairism.

I was thinking about what I felt about all this, when I came across this piece by the Fabian, Marcus Roberts in The Guardian. He sums up better than I ever could, how this may pan out:

“Offering clarity on politics that for years now Labour has given complicated answers to will be well received by an electorate tired of long, caveated policy statements from politicians. Rather Corbyn will be to many voters refreshingly direct with a political stance which might be boiled down to ‘immigration good, spending good, welfare good; war bad’.

This clarity will underscore his authenticity – a vital ingredient for connecting with voters as the electorate will know swiftly who he is and what he stands for – hurdles that Ed Miliband even after five years in the job struggled to overcome. Expect even voters who disagree with Corbyn’s politics to give him high marks for having the courage of his convictions and clearly stating his beliefs.

The risk is that this may create a strange polling situation in which Corbyn enjoys artificially high personal approval ratings as even those with no intention of voting for him tell pollsters they view him positively whilst still having no intention of voting for him.”

We shall see but just for now, we are enjoying the moment. It was especially good to hear him being positive about the link with the Unions in his acceptance speech. That hasn’t happened for a while!.

JC win

It feels a bit like election night 1997 all over again. Let’s hope for a different outcome and that the membership really does take back control of our Party!

The weather here continues to be very hot, so how better to celebrate than to spend the afternoon at the beach! It’s interesting that we find that we do not do this quite as much as we used to. Time was when we were seeking the rays like tourists but this year we often just go for a swim and then come home for a beer. Does this mean we are beginning to go native, I wonder? The Greeks only usually spend a lot of time at the beach when they are on holiday, so perhaps this is the case. Certainly, it cannot be that we are busy. Heaven forbid!

While we were at the beach, I spent some time looking for a suitable large pebble to use as the base for a table lamp. An open window and a strong gust of wind caused a breakage earlier in the week and I am going to try to achieve something creative for just about the first time in my life! Watch this space.

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Arriving back at the house, I find that Arsenal had managed to beat Stoke City for a first home win of the season. Can this day, get any better?

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Well yes is the answer because what I haven’t mentioned is that yesterday was also our 32nd Wedding Anniversary! We had intended to have a weekend away to celebrate but having booked an apartment, we remembered in time that we had to feed a neighbour’s cats. Getting anyone else to do it was impractical, so we cancelled the booking and decided just to have a meal out in the evening.

So, it was into the glad rags and off to Mochlos (a small seaside village about five miles away) to see what Dimitri’s had to offer. Several people had recommended this restaurant and although we didn’t think the food was wildly better than your average Greek taverna, we did have a lovely evening. The menu refers to it being a ‘ταβέρνακι’ which basically means a small tavern and that is exactly what it was.

And it was packed and we were lucky to get a table! What really made the evening was the live music, especially when the two man band played some Theodorakis numbers that we know and like and one of the locals felt moved to get up and dance. OK – it was for the tourists really but it was fun.

And the star performer – well of course, my radiant beautiful wife, of course!

Plus supporting cast…

It had been a long day for the anniversary girl, so after watching the Women’s Final at the US Open, it was off to bed with her kindle…

And finally, when we were in Ag Nik last week, we spotted a haggis lurking in the bottom of the deep freeze at the British Shop. So of course we liberated it and ate it for supper on Friday. Very good it was too! Unfortunately, neeps are a step too far and so carrots had to do.

John