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A gentle reminder!

We’ve noticed that some folk who followed this Blog (and previous versions) have not signed up to our new Blog – Daft Days in Crete.

If you haven’t signed up to the new Blog and have wondered why things have been so quiet, you can find us at:

https://daftdaysincrete.wordpress.com

However, you will need to click the button on the front page, if you want to be informed of future posts on the Blog. Of course if you are fed up with hearing about our life here and have made a positive choice not to switch to the new Blog, that is fine and thanks for reading in the past.

John

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Rain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

flashy  crabs

and some pretty pineapples, to name but a few.

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

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

Sheila

As we look back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and the dogs!

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

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

boating,

tubing,

making lego models

and chat.

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

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

that people had sent about her.

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

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

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

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

The highlights – the CN tower,

with rather scary, fantastic views of the city,

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

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

sculptures by Henry Moore at the Art Gallery

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

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

used the lilo that Graham bought,

swam in the wonderfully warm sea,

and swam long distances,

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

we saw the full moon rise abpve our terrace

and we ate wonderful food.

The usual package!

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

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

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

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

Sheila

 

 

 

 

 

Rain and more rain

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Today, as I look out of my window, and watch the rain and the sleet, it is hard to believe that only 10 days ago, I was taking photographs of flowers and blue skies.

Α week ago, John and I went to Θόλος  beach and there was not a ripple to be seen on the sea.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe also had a trip to Αγίος Νίκολαος.  We wanted to have a look at the new piece of the road (sad people that we are) between Αγιος Νίκολαος and Ίστρον. It will take about 5 minutes off the trip to Ηράκλειο airport, saving us a very twisty part, so clearly it is very important in our lives!!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen we went to the British shop,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAlooking for haggis. It is really the only essential food that we can’t get in our local supermarket and so we bought four of them. As we were out and about we went back along the new road and had a walk at the beach at Ίστρον beach. Again the sun was shining and the water so calm.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were a bit peckish by now so stopped off for lunch at one of our favourite taverna’s in Παχειά Άμμος. The lunch had all the essentials – beer, tsaziki and a Greek salad.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASomeone had clearly been busier than us this morning with a trailer full of bags of olives.

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It all added to the ambience!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut then the wind blew that evening and we felt snug with our new, nicely fitting doors, windows and shutters. We did not hear the clatter which there must have been when the chimney fell off.

In the morning John looked up and saw no chimney and then found the offending piece of metal a couple of metres away.

Fortunately we had decided to go for a meal with friends in a local taverna that evening so did not need the fire then but there was urgency in the situation as the following week’s weather forecast was dire!

 

 

John worked out what he needed, bought the necessary bits that had fallen off, cleared out soot from the remaining piece,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfixed the new on,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand shortly we had a fire.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn Impressive piece of DIY!

John and I have plans for a OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnew pergola to give us some shade in the summer on our terrace. Θάσος, the man who welded our railing and made our gate, came to agree what needed to be done but before he made the measurements, he gave us 3 bottles.

The green one is fresh olive oil, still warm from the processing plant. It won’t be ready immediately but will be delicious. Then there is some red wine and in front, some lemon raki, made by his wife. I ‘tested’ the latter immediately and found it completely delicious. Peple are very kind here.

 

On Sunday, I went to an Ιεράπετρα Tennis and Athletics Club celebration. It is called  Η κοπή της πίτας, the cutting of the New Year’s cake. The cutting of the Βασιλόπιτα symbolises good fortune for the coming year and is done by many organisations as a gesture of good will. It was a lovely occasion, held in the Astron Hotel, Ιεράπετρα . The large room was full when I arrived, with young people, their parents and other adults.1926839_889053347813373_6404951698977075065_nMy friend, Γρηγόριος, found me a seat. Three priests carried out the ceremony and cut the cake which was delicious.

10897788_889053527813355_9134720038903260287_nThere is a hidden coin in it but it certainly was not in my piece! I spoke to the two peoplesitting on either side of me who turned out to be brother and sister. They were charming and my Greek stood up to the challenge, although after I discovered the brother was in fact the deputy mayor of and he had better English than my Greek, I did lapse into the easy option!

10959598_889054497813258_4741094516556812215_nWe discussed amongst other things the impressive English of the new Greek finance minister, Γιάννης Βαρουφάκης!

John and I went to a meeting of our Greek class on Monday and discovered that the classes are starting up next week. It was nice to see everyone again and I am looking forward to the new term.

And then the rain started on Monday evening and it’s still raining today. Yesterday, John and I ventured out and went to our four favourite spots for sea watching. We could see from our house that it was wild at Θόλος beach.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe island of Ψείρα, which we can see from our house, has such a great shape and looks fantastic when the sun peeps out on parts of it, especially with the sea having different colours from the storm.

Then we went to Παχειά Άμμος, admired the rough sea

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand then went to have a look at the small harbour, which was extremely calm.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the small channel which keeps the rollers from the boats.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen we went to a viewpoint, high on the main road to Σιτεία  and looked again at Ψείρα.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand Θόλος beach.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd finally, it was on to Μοχλός. The small island opposite always has tremendous currents round it

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand the coast line was wild,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand the sky got blacker,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand the waves higher.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANature is a powerful phenomenon even in the island of paradise.

Sheila

Another scoot round Scotland

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We are just back from four weeks in Scotland, taking in friends and family, a last trip on the canal boat, the Commonwealth Games Flotilla, the Kelpies, a return to Sunnyside, the Edinburgh Festival fringe and so much more.

Scotland was looking at its best. The weather was generally very good – Glasgow was even as hot as Crete one day when we were there!

After a long gap, just wanted to let you know that all is well with us and that we had a great holiday. Many thanks to everyone for their hospitality and good company – too many kindnesses to mention everyone by name! I’ll just let the photos do the talking. Hope we see you all out here soon.

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We actually arrived back in Crete ten days ago but spent some time in Heraklion ‘doing’ the musems. Then we rented a small house for a few days in Pachia Ammos near Kavousi because James and Claire and her two girls were staying in our house. It was arrangement which worked well because we spent time with them at the beach and in the evenings at local tavernas so we had lots of time together but they had space to enjoy their holiday.

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Now we are back in our house and it is very strange being here without Bonnie. New routines have to be developed and there is a certain re-arrangement of the furniture and of course there is no wet friendly nose arriving by my side when I sit down in the evenings! We saw H2 on Sunday and visited Bonnie’s grave and when the weather cools we will plant a ‘Bonnie’ tree at the spot. What a great view she has!

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John

Life in our new home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Vermaelen lifts the trophy

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

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

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

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eating breakfast on the terrace

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and trying out the latest fashions!

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

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

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

Sheila