Summer routines

July and August are usually quiet months for us here in Crete because except for younger family members who enjoy the heat and beach life, most of our friends think that it will be far too hot for them. This year they may well have been right because we have had a hot summer – not a very hot summer but nevertheless a sustained period of temperatures in the low to mid 30’s. Usually we fit in a break in the UK during this period but this year although it might have been possible, we felt that as it did not need to be done, it might be safer to stay here and hunker down, avoiding the tourists as much as possible.

So, it has been a quiet time for us and we have got into routines which may not have led to a very exciting summer but have at least ticked all the boxes – the main ones being staying safe, keeping cool and enjoying the warmth and the waves!

One of our new routines is to swim first thing in the morning. Invariably this sees us heading off to the beach at Tholos in the car about eight in the morning before breakfast and enjoying an empty or near empty beach. At this hour the meltemi wind from the north is not usually up and blowing so the sea is calm, indeed often mirror like, which makes for a pleasant swim as the sun rises over the mountain. Wonderful and a great start to the day!

We also decided that once a week we would spend the morning on a different beach and having tried one or two on the south coast, we now tend to frequent a quiet beach in Istron (see cover photo), which as those of you who have visited us will know is on the road to Agios Nikolaos. Arriving about ten, we have the beach more or less to ourselves for the morning before the locals arrive just as we feel the need to leave for lunch, often taken at Bobo’s which of course is on our way home Very convenient!

The expected influx of foreign tourists has not ever really happened, at least in our part of the island. It appears that those who have come, have tended to stay in the larger hotel complexes and because we don’t have many of those in our area, we have not seen the usual numbers of tourists on the beaches. However, there have been large numbers of Greeks about, perhaps because they have decided not to travel abroad for their holidays this year. The beaches on the south coast are apparently jam-packed with Greek families at the moment because the first three weeks of August mark the traditional Greek summer holiday period.

Holiday time always means more people in the village. This year, we have had an additional interest in this respect because one of the ruins next to our house has been done up over the winter as a holiday home for a family from Athens, with roots in the village.

Whilst looking forward to meeting them, I had some anxiety as to whether our peaceful existence would be impacted by party loving Athenians enjoying their summer holiday. Sheila, of course, took a more positive view! In the event, we have hardly seen them and they make less noise than us! What it has done however, is to put even more pressure on the limited parking available and more than once I have been tempted to don my parking warden’s uniform and lay down the law about priority residents’ parking. Needless to say perhaps, my Victor Meldrew tendencies have been heartily restrained by one S Wood!

Naturally, the hot weather has tended to limit the extent of physical activity, other than swimming of course. Nevertheless, Sheila often takes a circular walk to the top of the village at the end of the day and has had a couple of longer outings, notably a walk to Thripti which is a village in the mountains above our village. In July she did this with Chris while Pauline and I went by car and met them in the taverna for a leisurely lunch. Roger, for whom the trip had been arranged, didn’t come at all but that is another story.

I try to get out on my bike two or three times a week for an evening ride and recently Sheila has been joining me. It is cool cycling through the olive trees at the end of the day and gives me an excellent excuse for a cold beer when i get home – not that I really need one!

Meals out are an essential part of life here especially in the summer when it is really too hot to cook. Although we have air conditioning in some rooms, we do not have it in the kitchen which in any case gets very hot from the afternoon sun. So, cooking is limited which of course means braving the virus at a taverna in the village or further afield. Gradually over the last two months, we have been re-visiting our old haunts in part brought about by the need to celebrate birthdays or seeing folk who have returned from foreign parts. One such was a birthday celebration in Mochlos with cocktails of course at Barraki, followed by supper at Giorgos’ taverna. Those who have visited us will know these well!

There have also been a number of family birthdays in the UK recently which of course we have missed. James’s partner, Claire and her daughter Farah both seem to have had a great time. Farah was fourteen and that meant that she could join the Labour Party which was an ambition fulfilled for her – nothing to do with me Guv! Graham celebrated his while on a walking holiday in the Yorkshire Dales with Rhiannon. Apparently the weather was a bit mixed but they had a great time by all accounts.

A combination of factors has meant that we have seen nothing of Eva with whom we were having Greek conversation sessions much earlier in the year. We are hopeful that these will start again soon because the new Music Academy for our area will open in Kavousi shortly and her husband is the Head. In the meantime, we have been reading together a series of Greek novels which have been re-written in a simplified and shortened form specifically for language students like ourselves. Manolis, who some may recall as our Greek teacher, suggested them to us and we have spent the summer working our way through four of them. One of us reads a page or so out loud and the other listens and corrects any mistakes/mispronunciations and then we work on the translation together. It is a companionable way to learn, although I have to confess that Sheila’s vocabulary is far superior to mine.

We have both also been progressing our respective family related projects – Sheila her autobiographical summary and me, my family history. I will leave Sheila to comment on her endeavours, if she so chooses in a future post and I will only say that this Post would probably have been published a week a so earlier had I not had a break through in my research which may (and it is a big may) take me back on one of my paternal lines to a fellow born in France in 1390! More work to be done though. Ooh la la!

Friends who have holiday homes here in the village have been filtering back slowly of late. Stan and Jann are still in self-imposed quarantine but Victoria and Paul have been around for a couple of weeks. Victoria is a great cake maker among her other accomplishments and has been keeping us supplied with an array of delicacies.

Finally, I have to mention a fine end to the season by Arsenal who of course won the FA Cup against all expectations. I started to watch the final but when Arsenal went behind early on, I switched off. Sheila got very cross and gave me a very hard time, accusing me of not being a very good supporter and more besides, so I turned on again and Arsenal immediately equalised. We ate supper at half-time and later I turned it back on and we scored again! The rest as they say, is history.

Keep safe,


Empty beaches – hospitality unchanged

It’s now the middle of July and over the past few months, it has been a great pleasure to watch the grapes grow around our patio.  My father, who grew grapes in a green house in Central Scotland would have enjoyed seeing these as well as the bouganvillea which has finally burst into flower.

When I looked at my calendar 6 weeks ago  for June and July, the majority of engagements had been crossed out.  Usually John and I  have people to stay in Kavousi, particularly in June. Last year,  we went island hopping with our friend Phil last year to Ikaria and Fourni.  But since March this year, all plans to travel have been cancelled. On June 3rd, I should have been in Edinburgh for a school reunion marking 50 years since I left.  After 10 days there, I was traveling by train to Newcastle, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, then onto Bridgend, Wales  to visit friends and fly back from Bristol.  Yesterday, Easyjet returned the fare of my cancelled flight, which was a pleasant surprise.  John was going to Somerset to meet a friend and explore churches and villages there.  When we booked all of his, we believed you could plan travel!

So what to do in June?  Lockdown had been gradually eased here in May and by the beginning of June, we were free to travel in Crete. We both love our little house in Kavousi but the thought of having a short change of scene was appealing. We also knew that in July, flights with tourists would be arriving and it seemed this was an opportunity to explore a bit and feel completely safe.   On June 17th, we set out for Tsoutsouros for three nights on the south coast. It was picked purely on the basis that we had never been there before!  We looked on for accommodation but in the end the room in the Michalis Studios was booked directly by telephone. From our room we could see the sea and  the small harbour of Tsoutouros.

We were welcomed warmly by Maria,

and we were delighted that she spoke slow and clear Greek with us. There was no-one else staying there and we enjoyed her company and her cooking. We liked particularly the selection of vegetables, grown by her husband, Michalis.  One morning, she had a surprise for us – a fresh duck egg!

Maria was sorry that the choice of food was limited because of the lack of people but we were very happy with fresh food, cooked personally for us and the friendly hospitality!

Maria had some wonderful loungers, placed underneath tamarisk  trees on the beach opposite.  There, having finished a very good biography of Leonard Cohen, I read Henry Miller’s book ‘The Colossus of Maroussi. I knew nothing of his life or his writing but this book is about Greece in 1939 and I was swept along in the book by his passion for Greece and his views on the current state of the world.

I enjoyed a lovely walk to a small village called Maridaki, which involved ambling along a coastal path, admiring the colour of the sea,

having  a brief conversation with a goat,

with a clear destination,

and even having the possibility of buying a small house!!!

The only down side was that there was no possibility of a cool beer! There was nothing open . On the way back, I got a good view of Tsoutsouras, which shows the sun beds but actually there were very few people to use them.

Later in the day we drove to nearby Kastri,  where we had a beer with our friends, Eva and Jurgen, who live nearby. We were in the same group learning Greek for many years.

As in many conversations at present, Covid19 was high on the agenda for discussion!

On the way home, we hoped to visit ancient Priansos, which is highlighted in my walking book. It has a wonderful location with the promise of a wonderful view as well as ruins and ancient churches. We had assumed there would be a dirt track that we could take the car but this was not possible so another time, I will follow the walking instructions from the Rother Walking Guide. But in our search for a road,  we did get some great views, this one of the amazing Messara Plain.

We came home for a few days but decided the following week to have another three day adventure.  This time we booked three nights at Maridatis Apartments, 3km from Palekastro at the east of the island.  It was recommended by our good friends, Walter and Brigitte.  On the way there, we went to Choni beach which was lovely.  Afterwards, we went to a taverna on Kouremenos beach, famous for surfing.  The man who served us looked and sounded very unhappy, saying there was no-one coming to the taverna during the week.

Our lunch of a Greek salad and a beer was not going to make him much happier!  The economic cost of Covid 19 was plain to see.  We arrived at Maridatis apartments and we were welcomed by Eleni. Our room was enormous and we looked out over olive trees.

The beach was only a couple of minutes away. We were the only customers again!  Manolis was a great host at dinner with lots of chat and he cooked some wonderful meals!

including  lamb chops,

and more

We looked across the olive trees from the taverna, and could see a rock where we were surprised to see a face, which someone had made some effort to paint!

On summer weekends, in previous years, there is music here on are regular basis. Eleni sings and plays the guitar with friends. We bought her latest CD.  She is also a psychotherapist and novelist and showed us her latest book. As you can imagine, it was a delight to meet her and Manolis

One day I walked to Kouremenos beach, which was quicker by foot than by car.

Another day, we went to Itanos, probably our favourite beach in Crete and very close to Maridatis. There was lots of beautiful thyme,

the sea was calm,

and there were lots of stones to admire.

John and I went back home, having experienced Greek hospitality at its best, even in bad circumstances.

International flights started arriving on July 1st. From our conversations with local people and from our trips away,  we have heard a lot of ambivalence and nervousness about the arrival of tourists on the island, even amongst people who would benefit from their income.  People on the island have felt safe because they have obeyed the rules and have kept people out over the last few months. Now, the arrival of tourists means increased health risks!

Since we came back, we have enjoyed the summer. Most mornings at 8 o’clock, John and I have swum in very calm waters at Tholos beach. We have not always been alone. Others have also enjoyed the view.

Some work has been done outside,

and john made a hard decision to throw out an old banana plant which I bought as a present for him in Ierapetra market 8 years ago for 3 euros! One year there were bananas but they didn’t ripen.  We have high hopes for the baby banana plant put in its place which is growing rapidly.

John has been cycling regularly whilst I have a series of different length walks, that I do, depending on my energy level!!!  This time, i walked to the old olive tree. The whole area had been tidied up recently by Kavousi folk and looked very smart.

On the way back, I couldn’t resist taking a picture of this!

We have now a water storage tank to deal with fluctuating water pressure, which Alkis installed on our roof

and a new small freezer in our shed delivered by Kotsovolos, the local equivalent of Dixons.

This was made possible because we sent three boxes of our daughter’s possessions back to her in Cornwall.  They had languished in our shed all the time we have lived here!. They included her football medals which, her Dad reluctantly decided should be in her possession at last. They were on the piano, but here are displayed outside before they go into a box!

We eat with friends occasionally, in this picture, we are at the taverna, Alatsi, sitting on the beach with Hans and Hanneke, eating grilled kalamari. Delicious!

We read and listen daily to a selection of simple Greek books. Recently, John was saved from having to cook a meal by our neighbour, Maria, arriving with two big portions of patsitsio and we had a good laugh over two new naughty Greek words that she taught us!!!   I have had many wonderful conversations with friends and family over the last two months. And when we are not doing anything,  then John and I sit and look at our lovely view,

and be glad of what we have.



We exit lock-down, have a mountain adventure and the tavernas re-open

Monday May 25th was a day we had been waiting for. It was the day that the Government had decreed that the tavernas and restaurants here in Greece could re-open and we had promised ourselves for some weeks that when the day came, we would treat ourselves to a whole week of eating out because we were so fed up with cooking every night!

But where to go with so many choices? It had to be Bobo’s of course but what to do with the rest of the day?

Sheila had scheduled two lengthy phone calls during the morning and early afternoon, so I amused myself doing odd jobs around the place, including doing a little dead-heading of the geraniums

and keeping an eye on the renovation of the neighbouring house which is quickly nearing completion.

The owner has arrived from Athens and we thought we should introduce ourselves. Maria told us that he does not speak English so it was an opportunity to practice our Greek. Sheila met him in the courtyard and exchanged a few pleasantries but he seemed shy and did not give his name so I asked Maria, who said he was called Yiorgos. When I met him later, I told him my name and addressed him as Yiorgos. He looked confused and said his name was Manolis! I tried to explain that Maria had told me his name but he look confused again and said he did not know a Maria. This was going from bad to worse and as I had exhausted my Greek, I decided to  withdraw, silently cursing Maria for giving me duff information. Such are the perils and challenges of learning Greek.

It was a lovely day so at lunchtime, we decided that we would have an adventure before eating at Bobo’s.

When we bought our new car one of the determining factors for choosing the Suzuki Ignis was that it came with a 4×4 option and we thought it would be good to explore some of the dirt roads that go through the mountains. In particular, I had my eye on the road which goes past our house, up to the ancient olive tree (allegedly the oldest in the world), past the post Minoan archaeological site of Azorias which sits in an elevated position immediately behind our house, then to village of Melisses which is only inhabited in the summer and thence by way of a steep zig-zag dirt and stony road to the mountain village of Thripti.

For various reasons we have never got around to doing this but Monday seemed like a good day to try!

In retrospect it was not an entirely sensible thing to do at this time of year because the municipal road grader is yet to appear after the winter rains so the road was not in the best of condition. Indeed, in places it was barely passable and I spent a lot of time keeping an eye open for possible turning places, should the need arise to re-trace our steps as it were.

Not only was it an exciting and challenging trip, the scenery up there in the mountains was both amazing and beautiful and we even saw a Belted Galloway goat but unfortunately there is no picture, as the goat leapt up on to a rock and disappeared as we approached!

The distance cannot be more than perhaps six miles but it took an hour and a half, mostly in first or second gear. Walking by a somewhat more direct route up the E4 path from Kavousi takes only two hours so there was really not much advantage is taking the car except that I can no longer walk the path!

It was a wonderful experience but somewhat of a relief when we met the concrete road on the outskirts of Thripti, which nestles in an upland valley/plateau below the highest mountain in the area from which it takes its name. The taverna there had re-opened on Monday too and we were tempted to stop for a beer as it was thirsty work driving up the dirt road but we wanted to get to Bobo’s. So we took the tarmac road down the other side to the main Ierapetra – Pacheia Ammos road and thence to the seafront taverna, which any readers who have visited us here, will know as being our favourite.

It was great to be back there and the family were their usual welcoming selves.

Bobo could teach Dominic Cummings something about sticking to the rules whilst managing to introduce a fair degree of humour into the situation, which no doubt Mr Tsiodras, an infectious disease specialist here who has fronted up the nightly Government coronavirus TV presentation would approve of. He is now stepping back from the limelight but having become a modern national hero, signed off with an excerpt from a poem by Odysseus Elytis, which I rather feel Mr Cummings and his boss might like to reflect on.

“I’ve always told the truth. The truth can’t be lied to and the lie can be told the truth.”

Of course, we drank too much at Bobo’s and Tuesday saw both of us a little worse for wear! So regrettably, we decided that that we would not go out again but have a quiet night in. It’s a hard life!

In the past few weeks, we have been allowed to meet with friends, so we have had a socially distanced dinner party here in Kavousi,

a picnic at Xerokambos with Rich and Shona,

lunch on the South coast with Hans and Hanneke

and a day out on a remote beach at Itanos where we got rather sunburned.

We also had a pop-up virtual party to celebrate a rather important birthday of Pat, a friend in the UK.

Goodbye from my lock-down curls, now sadly consigned to the hairdresser’s floor!


The coronavirus strategy in Greece


John and I are well and safe. We should have been in Uzbekistan on a 2 week tour ‘doing The Silk Road’  at present but of course, that has not been possible. Instead, we have stayed at home and the days have gone by peacefully. We keep in touch with family and friends and even had a family meeting last week, courtesy of Zoom. Most days I have a walk, admired the empty Tholos beach (see picture above) and John has a bike ride. We watch series and films on TV and last night watched an old BBC adaptation of Jane Eyre on Greek TV. Our hair is getting longer and we complain sometimes about the amount of cooking we have to do. We speak to our neighbours at a distance and are now enjoying warmer and sunnier weather. There is not much more to be said!  But, I would like to write about the general coronavirus strategy in Greece because for us, this has been the reason that we have kept healthy and safe.

The death rate and the number of cases of corona virus in Greece is comparatively very low in relation to the rest of Europe. With a population of nearly 11 million, there have been 2,620 cases of coronavirus, the first case diagnosed on 26th February.  Contact tracing was introduced on the first and all subsequent confirmed cases with all contacts being tested and isolated. 143 people have died, with the first death on 12th March.  In the last 24 hours there has been 3 deaths and 21 new cases reported. These figures are very low in European terms.  In Crete, there has been one coronavirus death reported.

The Government coronavirus strategy has been based on the need, first and foremost, to  prevent the disease from spreading. Greece’s health service and, in particular, hospital resources were severely damaged during the Crisis.  It doesn’t have the resources in hospitals to care for large numbers of seriously ill people.  So, the Greek strategy was about prevention of the disease and also developing good communication with the whole nation. Social distancing was crucial and public goodwill was key to the success of the approach.

From the start, there has been a scientific committee advising the government.  It appears that science was and still is being prioritised over politics.  Sotiras Tsiodras, an infectious disease specialist, is in charge of Greece’s management of coronavirus.

His advice has been at the heart of the  government coronavirus strategy and he is also the main communicator with the Greek nation on television.   The Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis

announces the main policy changes. Nikos Hardalias was upgraded to the post of deputy minister of civil defence and crisis management and is the state co-ordinator to deal with the virus.   Every night at 6pm, Mr Hardalias and Mr Tsiodras are on TV to provide information and answer questions. Mr Tsiodras reads a prepared statement with up to date statistics, the reasons behind Government policies, explains how they will affect individuals and all the time emphasises the seriousness of the virus and importantly, the need for people to do as they are told. There is no spin.  He tells it how it is. He answers questions and never has good news!  He is serious, honest, respected and trusted. Apparently now, he is the most popular man in Greece. Public goodwill has been  nurtured by honest, clear, evidence based communication which has been a key factor of the coronavirus strategy here.

Action was taken early and swiftly by the Government and its advisers to ensure that small and large gatherings of people were cancelled. The first case of coronavirus , reported on 26th February was a woman who had returned from a visit to Northern Italy. The next day, after 3 cases had been diagnosed, the Government cancelled all the traditional carnival events, in Greece, due to take place over the weekend of 30th March. Greece’s Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said “Based on the experts’ recommendation, and to protect public health, we have decided to cancel carnival events in all of Greece, as other European countries have done,”   All schools were closed on the 11th March and  important soccer games were postponed.

On the 13th March, it was agreed to close all cafes, bars, museums, shopping centres, sports facilities, archaeological sites and restaurants. There were serious fines for those businesses carrying on trading. We arrived back in Greece on the 16th March and soon after air travel became much more limited. Travel restrictions are in place now. On 18 and 19 March, the government announced a series of measures of more than 10 billion euros to support the economy, businesses and employees.

On 23rd March, the Government announced lockdown, restricting all non-essential movement.  Essential movement was defined as going to work,  visiting the doctor, pharmacy, supermarket, bank, assisting someone in need of help, go to a funeral,  walked your dog or going out for some exercise.  The Government also introduced a system of control.  Anybody wishing to go out must inform the authorities with a sms or a signed form, giving the reason for leaving your house and some form of identification must be taken with you. If this isn’t done and a policeman stops you. the fine is 50 euros.  There were stiffer fines in place over the Easter period as the authorities attempted to prevent people from travelling to their relatives in other parts of the country.

There was fairness in the government decisions. Basically no-one or no institution, was exempt from the Government actions.  The Greek Orthodox Church wanted to be exempt but the Prime Minister himself ordered them to close their churches. And when individual priests disobeyed, they were arrested. The message was that the virus does not respect religion or class or colour or gender or age and so everybody must obey the rules which are in place to protect each individual.

The Government have introduced new digital reforms, in order that people can access serves online. This has meant that repeat prescriptions have been accessed without having to go to the doctor. These reforms were badly needed in Greece, and the virus has been the catalyst to make them happen.

The Greek people have, in the main, accepted the Government measures.  In the newspaper, the Greek Reporter, the headline of one article on the 28th April was ‘Coronavirus lockdown busts myth of Unruly Greek’. The vast majority of Greeks have stayed at home. There has been considerable revenue from fines but there appears to have been a general acceptance that  lockdown was the right thing to do. The impressive communication system has also contributed to this. The celebration of Easter usually involves a high degree of church attendance but this year it took place at home.  There were concerns beforehand but in general people kept to the rules.

In Greece there are few residential homes. It is, in the main, the responsibility of the family to care for the elderly. The daughter of our elderly neighbour has stayed with her since February. The daughter lives on the mainland but family responsibility includes this support. The chances of catching the virus are higher in a residential home. The Government have provided more funding to a Help at Home scheme, employing 3000 permanent employees to support vulnerable groups. Refugees in camps, where conditions are tough, have, as yet, not been a target for the virus.

Last Tuesday, 37 days after Greece went into full lockdown, the Greek Government announced that it was moving into a new phase of the battle against the coronavirus. This second phase will start tomorrow on Monday 4th May and there will be a gradual implementation of measures which will enable people to work, go to school and socialise.  Here, the motto of the first stage was μένουμε σπίτι (stay at home) to μένουμε ασπηαλής (stay safe). It is a risky decision but the Government feels that it is now in a position to introduce this.

The focus here has so far been on the health of the nation with its slogan μένουμε σπίτι. Now, other needs of the nation such as education and work will be given more of a priority. Hopefully, this can be managed as well as the first stage.


Keeping busy in lock down

One of the more interesting aspects of being in lock down has been reading how friends and family have been keeping sane whilst their normal lives are on hold. So it has been rather fun getting detailed recipes from the ”Corona Kitchen’ in Edinburgh’, a daily Blog from Uppsala in Sweden covering meanderings off the beaten track whilst taking daily exercise, as well as regular updates on facebook providing  gardening hints and problems associated with laying turf in Essex.

My contribution to all this endeavour has so far at least, been purely personal. For nearly forty years I have been researching my family history in an on-and-off kind of way – mostly off if I am honest and pre-pandemic, I decided it was time to write it up before I wandered off to some cloud to learn to play the harp.

So just before we left for the UK in February, I managed to circulate to my immediate family the first part of my magnum opus which deals with my four grandparents. I read somewhere that this is a good place to start because there is a good chance that you actually knew them and/or other family members are still around, who did.

For me it worked. They became real people, not just old folk whom I barely tolerated in my grumpy teenage years and the project encouraged me to continue with the second part which is to deal with the generations which came before.

Lock down has given me both the opportunity and no excuse not to do it!

At this point I can discern an urge in you dear reader, to hit the exit button as you begin to suspect that you are about to be deluged with all sorts of stuff about which you have no interest whatsoever. You can do that if you wish but you will miss the tale of one family who lived, loved and suffered in nineteenth century rural England and abroad

I bring you the lives of my 3x Great Grandparents, Benjamin and Caroline Burt.

Benjamin and Caroline were born in rural Dorset about the end of the eighteenth century and thus well before the time when the official registration of births, marriages and deaths was introduced in England. Hence for much of the information relating to them, we are heavily dependent on parish records, many of which have survived but with varying degrees of both quality and accuracy. There are no photographs of these people and given the fact that they and their families were agricultural labourers, they have left very little trace of their lives beyond that which can be gleaned from the limited records which are available.

Agricultural labourers at the beginning of the nineteenth century were almost by definition, poor. Life was hard, brutal even, for the whole family. Increasing farm mechanisation and depressed wages during and following the Napoleonic Wars, meant financial hardship for many rural folk, and perhaps just as important, with the passing of various Land Enclosure Acts, little or no possibility of producing their own food on common land, which they had been able to do in earlier times.

Benjamin Burt

Benjamin was born around 1787, the son of John Burt and Jane Terrell. He was baptised on September 16 of that year together with his twin brother Thomas in the Parish Church at Sturminster Marshall, in Dorset which was and remains, a small village a few miles north of Poole.

The twins had two older sisters and a further brother and sister were to follow.

We have no information relating to Benjamin’s childhood but it seems likely that at some point his twin brother Thomas, may have died. I can find no record of him anywhere although it has to be said that nor can I find a record of his death. However, Benjamin’s first born son was called Thomas and i think this may be significant.

Benjamin himself does not appear again in any parish records until he married Caroline Gooby on March 6 1820 at Sturminster Marshall.

Note that both Benjamin and Caroline could not write and made their respective marks. This would have been normal among the labouring classes at that time.

Caroline Gooby (or Gobey) was the fifth child of Thomas Gobey and Mary Pardock (nee Syms) and was baptised at Corfe Mullen, Dorset on July 27 1794.

There are a number of variations on the spelling of her surname but I have chosen to use the one which appears on the record of her marriage.

There is also some confusion too, regarding her Christian name. It is Caroline on her marriage and death certificates but Anne seems to have been the name she used when she had her children baptised.

This has caused me a problem over the years because I thought for a long time that there must have been two separate families – Benjamin/Caroline and Benjamin/Anne but I could never find a marriage for the second and I could never find a death for Anne. There again, I could not find any children directly associated with Caroline.

Eventually, I decided (like everyone else researching this family) that Caroline and Anne had to be one and the same. All the other evidence fits, even including one reference which I read, that Anne was sometimes used as a diminutive for Caroline. This, it was claimed, is explained by the fact that in a West Country accent the two rhyme! Coming from Somerset, I can just about accept this but even so, I have to admit, there remains a small element of doubt regarding the names.

Benjamin and Caroline had at least six children:

Mary born c. 1821 bapt. Lytchett Matravers  Mar 17 1822
Thomas born c. 1821 bapt. Lytchett Matravers  Mar 17 1822
Jane born c. 1824 bapt. Lytchett Matravers Nov 7 1824
Caroline born c.1826 Lytchett Matravers
Sarah born c. 1829 Lytchett Matravers
Henry born c 1832 Lytchett Matravers died c. 1835

Lytchett Matravers is another small village which lies about three miles west of Sturminster Marshall. We know very little about the day-to-day lives of Benjamin and Caroline but there is some not inconsiderable evidence which indicates that it was not easy. I say this partly in the context of economic factors referred to earlier which meant that the life of the agricultural labourer and his family was difficult in the early half of the eighteenth century but also because we know that the Overseers of the Poor in Lytchett Matravers clearly saw this family in particular, as one which they would have preferred had not moved there from Sturminster Marshall.

This move took place not long after Benjamin and Caroline were married because Mary and Thomas were both baptised in Lytchett Matravers in 1822. In 1826, the authorities there, attempted to challenge the settlement order under which responsibility for the family had been transferred from Sturminster Marshall. The case was lost and the family were allowed to stay.

This action may have been prompted by the fact that Benjamin had been charged in 1825 with stealing apples. Although he was acquitted, it was not the first time he had had a brush with law. Indeed over the years there were to be a number of such cases, all relating to what nowadays we would call petty pilfering but in those harder times, any transgression was regarded in a much harsher light with corresponding punishments.

As his criminal record indicates, Benjamin was clearly someone whom the authorities had their eyes on and were out to get. That said, with one exception he was never convicted although, as will become apparent, he was not the only member of the family to have brushes with the law.

Benjamin Burt – Criminal Record

Date                         Where             Alleged Offence   Convicted/Acquitted     Punishment

06/02/19       Dorchester Prison     Stealing an Axe                Acquitted           Discharged  23/04/19

01/10/25       Dorchester Prison     Stealing Apples                Acquitted           Discharged 04/10/25

25/02/40       Dorset Assizes           Receiving Stolen               Acquitted          Discharged                                                                                      Stockings*

07/02/41       Dorchester Prison    Stealing Potatoes              Convicted   3 months Hard Labour

*           Benjamin’s son Thomas (Aged 19) was also charged with this Offence and acquitted 

Henry the second son of Benjamin and Caroline died about 1835 but I have been unable to find any record of his death and indeed, there may have been another daughter, Eliza born c. 1825 for whom no records survive. Whatever, Caroline perhaps worn out by years of child bearing, poverty, insecurity and concern for her family, became ill and died of consumption (TB) in August 1839 .

In February 1840 just months after the death of their mother, daughters Caroline aged 13 and Sarah aged 10 were charged and convicted of stealing stockings and both sentenced to one week’s hard labour!

Worse was to follow because in October 1840, Jane and Caroline were arrested and subsequently convicted for stealing a cap and a pocket handkerchief. Aged just 16 and 14 they were sentenced to be transported and in April 1841, they left for Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), never to return to Dorset.

While they were in prison their father was convicted for stealing potatoes and sentenced to three month’s hard labour.

Words fail me. This was clearly a family in crisis and yet they were treated no better than animals by the authorities.

Presumably it was left to young Thomas and Mary aged just nineteen or twenty to keep the remaining family together but how they coped, we can only imagine. However, just to compound matters, we do know that Mary died in 1844.

Thanks to contact with Marion Taylor, a distant cousin in Australia, I was given a wealth of information on what happened to the two young women transported to Australia.

Both married within a few years of arrival and were given their freedom, never to transgress again. Jane had a number of children and her descendants are numerous. Caroline also had children but she, her husband and three of their children succumbed to various illnesses contracted in the unhealthy conditions found in the temporary settlements which accompanied the Goldfields of Victoria in the 1860’s.

It seems doubtful if there was ever any contact with Benjamin or the rest of the family because no one could read or write.

This is a photograph which Marion sent me of Jane and her husband James Wright in later life.

As for the behaviour of the British authorities, in his definitive work on transportation, Robert Hughes writes:

‘Australia was settled to defend English property …. from the marauder within. English lawmakers wished not only to get rid of the ”criminal class” but if possible to forget about it.’

So the teenage daughters of my 3x Great Grandparents became two of the 160,000 convicts who were transported between 1787 and 1868.

In this context, Marion Taylor comments:

Do not think too badly of Jane and Caroline because many of the convicts sent to Australia were guilty of petty crimes which today would not even attract a prison sentence. Many of these people were victims of the times with unemployment and poverty forcing them to obtain food and clothing by whatever means they could.  Because of the system in force in Britain and Ireland during the late 1700s and early 1800s, the powers that be saw transportation as a means of ridding their countries of the underprivileged as well as petty criminals.  I have 9 convicts in my direct line and all were transported for petty crimes. None of them ever committed a crime after their arrival in Australia, which says something about them. It certainly proves that they were no habitual criminals.

On a lighter note, the Criminal Records are interesting from another perspective. They describe the appearance of the person who is the subject of the record and thus, pre-photographic images, we can get an idea of what people looked like.

So, for example, we know that Benjamin was 5 ft 10 ins tall, with grey hair, dark hazel eyes and a sallow complexion, with a cut to the middle of his forehead, a pock mark to his left eyebrow, another pock mark to his top cheek bone and with several moles to the bottom of his left cheek.

Thomas was 5 ft 9 ins tall with rather dark brown hair, grey eyes and a rather sallow complexion, with a mole to the side of the right side of upper lip and a cut on the right side of the middle finger to the right hand.

After Mary’s death in 1844, the tasks of running the household must have fallen to young Sarah but in 1847, then aged 18, she took perhaps the easier option and married George Christopher. By the time of the 1851 Census they were living in Lytchett Minster with two children and with Benjamin installed as a lodger.

At the time of the 1861 Census, Benjamin who is described as formerly an agricultural labourer, was lodging with Hannah Wilkins and her daughter at Waterlane Plot, Lytchett Minster.

I like to think of him perhaps nursing a pint in the St Peter’s Finger pub in Lytchett Minster.

Thanks to the Upton Millenium Project for the historic photograph.

Benjamin died aged 82 in the late spring of 1867 and was buried on May 9 at Lytchett Minster. He had had a hard and eventful life with his wife having died young from a disease of the poor and two of his children transported for trifling crimes. He was clearly a bit of a rogue but he seems to have tried to do his best for his family and he was also a survivor. I rather admire him.

The cover photo is the house where I believe Thomas Burt lived in Lytchett Matravers.


Sojourn in Southern England (a pre-pandemic peregrination!)

On the 25th February, we set off from Kavousi to London Heathrow. We enjoyed a comfortable, Aegean flight, changing planes at Athens and arrived on time just after 3pm.  In order to reach our friends house in Battersea, in south west London, we decided to use the underground. However, there were no trains because of an ‘incident’ on the line and so we got a bus instead to Victoria. The driver warned us that London was full of roadworks so the journey would be slow and he was correct. Then the taxi journey from Victoria was long and expensive also because of the roadworks and the rush hour. It took 4 hours to go from Heathrow to Sarah and Mark’s house which was a similar time to that taken to fly from Athens to Heathrow!!! However, after we arrived at our destination, we immediately relaxed with our friends, and their son Tom and his girlfriend, Tiff and celebrated Shrove Tuesday with some delicious home-made pancakes.

After a day relaxing with Mark and Sarah, we travelled to north London to see our friend Rosy, who’s husband Vince died last year. Then, we went to the British Museum where we looked at the Elgin Marbles,

but thought  that  they really should be back in the Acropolis Museum in Athens.  We also saw the nicely presented exhibition about Troy. We were familiar with most of the content,

but we did not know about the excavations trying to find the actual site of the city, which was a good story in itself!

In the evening we met up with Graham and Rhiannon and Graham kindly treated us to a tasty noodle meal at Wagumama in Covent Garden and to see the opera, Carmen, by the English National Opera at the London Coleseum Theatre.

What a treat to see Graham and Rhiannon and to enjoy the wonderful opera of Bizet!

At the weekend, our friends, Brigitte and Walter, arrived from Hamburg for one of the main purposes of our trip. They wanted us to show them London over a long weekend. I met them at Victoria Station and we went by train to nearby Battersea where we stayed in an apartment,  close to where I worked as a youth worker 40 years ago! We went to the nearby Masons Arms for dinner which produced traditional fare such as fish and chips but it and the beer and wine were definitely a lot more expensive than they were in 1979! It was busy with lots of young people and definitely a good choice to experience a London pub.

The next day we returned to Victoria and found our pre-booked open top ‘hop on and off’ bus. The weather was not good and much of our day was inside the bus but even this could not hide the fact that London is a very beautiful city. Walter and Brigitta had specific requests of places that involved getting off the bus. This included Trafalgar Square where Brigitta wanted to see the fourth plinth.

John and I looked at Trafalgar Square more closely than we have done in the past and agreed it was pretty impressive!  We carried on to Westminster Abbey.  Again, this was a request from our friends.  John had never been in the Abbey before and with the help of an audio guide, he found it very interesting.  I was somewhat distracted having lost my glasses somewhere (how could I do this!!!!) but after the Abbey tour, I ran back to where we had drunk coffee and fortunately they were there!!!  In the afternoon, we went to the City, saw the Tower of London, the London Eye and so much more and finally returned to Victoria.  Sarah and Mark had met Walter and Brigitta in Crete and kindly provided a delicious dinner in the evening and also facilitated discussion on a wide range of topics including family, politics, Brexit, impressions of London……

Next day, we went on a boat trip to Greenwich from Westminster Pier.

The weather was much better (hence more pictures!) and with the help of a jolly guide, we saw the sights of London from a different angle.


Our final visit as a tourist in London was to go to Buckingham Palace. John was a little unwilling so there is no record that he was there!

The next day, sadly, we went our separate ways. Walter and Brigitta spent the morning at Tate Britain and then back to Gatwick Airport while we went by underground to  Paddington Station for the next stage of our adventure. We had a great time together and hope to see them again in Crete in September.

We spent the next week to the West Country.  We were lucky to be travelling by train because during this period, the airline Flybe, which served Exeter and Newquay airports, collapsed into administration. This is a serious loss in the area.  We saw the Exeter MP, Ben Bradshaw on the train to Exeter on the day after the announcement on his way to some important meeting no doubt.  We stayed with John’s brother Tim and his wife Liz. who live in Sampford Peverell in mid Devon. We enjoyed two days with them in their wonderful house and we sampled the local pub, the Globe Inn, for dinner one evening. One day, we went to Exmoor and then onto  the stunning village of Lynmouth,

where there was a terrible flood in 1952 (the year that I was born, not that the two events are related!).  There is a very nice community museum there which gave us lots of detail of how after the flood in which 34 people were killed, the community came together and rebuilt the village.  For lunch, we ate delicious pasties. I sent Rosie a message telling her about all this excitement and she commented that now we had now experienced the supreme Cornish/Devon speciality, there was little need to carry onto Cornwall to see her!!!  But we did, two days later.

After this unexpected visit to this fascinating village, there was yet more excitement to follow. We went to Westward Ho! on the coast. This is the only town in the UK, whose name comes from the title of a book Charles Kingsley wrote in 1855 and the village was built 10 years later with this name as it was thought it would encourage tourism. It is mainly known for its beach and surfing.

The next day, we travelled to Templecombe, Somerset,  to check up on the gravestone of John and Tim’s grandparents, Sidney and Edith Burt. As you can see, It is in a bad state of repair,

but now the wording has been agreed so that a new stone can be purchased. We pottered around Templecombe, visiting the church and  childhood haunts of John and Tim.Maybe the highlight of the day was lunch at a very good  cafe called Jasmine and Bay which produced delicious soup and a toasted sandwich.

Next day, we were on our way to Newquay by train and we stayed with Rosie. On the following day she was at work, so we met up at the Red Lion with Graham and Sally, who live in Camborne. We met Graham some years ago in Mochlos, Crete where he had a house.

We covered a range of topics from issues relating to our respective travel plans because of coronavirus, life in Camborne, life in Kavousi, Sally’s swimming achievements, and we finished with a desert to die for, suggested by Sally.  We did share this, you will be glad to know!!!

In the evening Rosie cooked a lovely dinner and we watched the film, ‘The Two Popes’  which was really good. The next day, Rosie drove us to Tintagel Castle in her nice blue van.

We enjoyed walking around this attractive site, associated with King Arthur, on a very grey and windy day

although, I did think English Heritage were charging too much for the pleasure!!

On the Sunday, which was International Women’s Day, Rosie and I went to St Michael’s Spa in Falmouth,  This was my Christmas present from John.  We had a fantastic day, enjoying a morning of  complete relaxation in a pool, sauna, hot tub and steam rooms. We had a lovely lunch with a glass of fizz and then, both of us, survived a massage treatment for our bodies with some wonderful scented oils. I felt really good afterwards and I couldn’t think of a nicer present than spending a spa day with my lovely daughter.

Next day, we were off again to see John’s cousin, Liz, who lives in Ogbourne Maizey, near Marlborough. I enjoyed a number of walks including one to see a plaque in memory of Bill, Liz’s husband. Bill would not have been amused at the spelling mistake!

The River Og, usually, has very little water in it but I know Bill would have loved to have seen this picture on 11th March!

We had coffee with Liz’s good friends, Angela and Dave and then went to the pub for lunch.

We are hoping that Liz will come and visit us in Crete this year (she has been every year since we came here) but circumstances out of our control may prevent it!

We arrived back in London and stayed again with Sarah and Mark for another four nights. Two of these nights were to have been with John’s son, James but unfortunately, he was ill with flu like symptoms, so we did not see him.  We were extremely grateful to Sarah and Mark for their hospitality.  On Thursday, I went to Cambridge to see my good friend, Lis, who lives in Norwich.

Our son’s have the same birthday and we met in St Thomas’ Hospital! We both arrived at about 11.15 at Cambridge railway station, coming from different directions and we left at 3.15. We went to the Fitzwilliam museum coffee shop and we talked for 4 hours. Time went by quickly, there was lots to say and it was such a pleasure to see her!  While I was in Cambridge, John went to Wivenhoe and celebrated his friend, Pat’s, 80th birthday a bit early.

The following day, we met up with John’s old colleague, Mike and his girlfriend, Val in a pub in Wimbledon and we hope that one day they will visit us in Kavousi.  On Saturday, we saw our good friend, Jane, her daughter, Chloe, and husband, Felipe, and their two children, who are staying with Jane at present until the house that they have bought is ready.  We had a delicious meal and enjoyed seeing the very agreeable baby Felix for the first time and Lila who is a bundle of fun.

In the evening, we took an Uber taxi to Denmark Hill to see our friend Barbara, who both John and I have been friends with since we lived in London in the early 1980’s.  We ate a delicious meal too with her and had a delightful evening of ‘catch up’. And to complete a perfect day, she drove us back to Battersea.

On Sunday morning, there were one or two texts checking out whether this last visit would take place because of coronavirus worries. But in the end, we were so happy we went. We saw Annie, Matt and two year old, Emerson. Annie is the daughter of our friend Nick, who lives in Edinburgh.  We drank coffee and ate delicious home-made biscuits. The conversation involved

much about family health issues but Emerson’s presence always ensured that we smiled and laughed a lot.

The last bit of this story is about getting back to Crete. After we arrived back in London for the last few days of our trip, everything felt different than when we arrived. The news was all about the virus, there was an air of expectation that things were going to change.   We were booked to go home on Tuesday 17th March, but on the Friday before, John got an email from Aegean Airways to say that they had cancelled our flight. There was little other information but eventually, we found a UK number for Aegean. After waiting for sometime, John did get through to them and he was offered a flight on Monday. We agreed to this but our anxiety did not end till the next morning when finally confirmation arrived.  At this point, we both felt that we wanted to get home to Kavousi!  But unfortunately this meant that we did not see our good friends, Richard and Jill, who we were planning to stay with on the Sunday and Monday evenings. Richard had already ordered a joint of meat so it was pretty upsetting not to see them and not to eat the joint!!!  But instead we booked into the Heathrow Travelodge on Sunday evening and after two busy flights, we arrived in Heraklion at 8pm on the Monday. Both Heathrow and Athens airports were so quiet. John and I were so happy to be home and were ready for self isolation!!!


When the world was normal

When I look back at my diary in January and in February, I find the usual mixture of trips and social activity in our lives.  A trip to the UK followed which I will write about in another post.

Early in January after all the Christmas festivities had finished, John and I visited a local church, St Fanourios, which is on the way to Pacheia Ammos. The church, itself, is quite new and was built by a Kavousi man, commemorating his brother, Fainourios. The setting is amazing with a view over to the entrance to the Ha Gorge.

Then we went onto the harbour at Pachia Ammos and admired the power of nature!

We enjoyed a late Christmas celebration of lovely food and games at Shona and Rich’s. The view

from their house is stunning!  Of course, we also frequented local tavernas with our neighbours, Victoria and Paul, Pauline and Chris and Birgitta and Roger. We enjoyed nice evenings at home with Val and Garry, who were shortly going back to the UK, and with Pauline and Chris. We met up  with our old Greek class, Shona, Eva and Jurgen for lunch and caught up with their news.  We visited Hans and Hanneke who have transformed their living area in their house and now have a wonderful new room with with a view to die for.

The picture does not do it justice! Afterwards, we went to a taverna in Ierapetra, called Vira Potzi, which was a bit more upmarket than usual for us but the food was delicious, particularly this salad.

We picked our mandarins which have many pips but taste very good.

John tried out some new recipes, including fennel omelette, which was delicious. The fennel came from our dear neighbour, Maria.

We saw the Philip Glass opera, Akhnaten, at the Theatre Rex. This provided a big talking point, given that neither John or I knew anything about Philip Glass.  It introduced us to the superb voice of countertenor, Anthony Roth Costanzo, to the conductor, Karen Kamensek, who was clearly very comfortable with the Glass score and to music and singing which was so different to anything else that we have seen so far in our ‘beginners opera journey’!!!  It was all a bit puzzling on first impressions but for me, it is always good to experience something completely different. At the cinema, we saw Little Women, which I enjoyed although I had a little trouble at the start, with the going back and forward in time.

The weather was, in general, mixed with quite a lot of rain and also some snow on the faraway hills,

but it still allowed walks where I could admire the dramatic colours,

and the beautiful anemones, who poked their heads out, even in the rain.

I enjoyed very much a circular walk near Stavrohori, on the south coast with Cathy, Doug and Fergus and their friends.

Two of their friends live in Siteia and are friends of Susan, who was our Greek tutor, when we lived in Kirkcudbright. It is a small world! A highlight of the walk was to have a meal at the Stravodoksari taverna in Stavrohori. The meat there was to die for!!!


Our saddest news was that Michalis, who helped us out so much when we arrived first in Crete, died in Germany, after a terrible accident.  There was no possibility of recovery but it seemed so unfair that this should happen now, after much stress and bad health for himself and his wife Inge, in the past few years,

INCO (The Cultural Organization of the Foreign Residents of Agios Nikolaos) Annual General Meeting took place in February and the new committee were elected. There were impressive reports of the work that happened in the last year,  particularly information provided relating to Brexit and development cultural opportunities.  The AGM was held in the Lassithi Chamber of Commerce, courtesy of the Mayor ( a big change from previous AGM’s which have been held in hotels or cafes) and I think this reflects the hard professional work that the committee have done over the year to develop positive links with the council and to try to meet the needs of the foreigners in the area. John was responsible for overseeing the votes for the new committee but was not tempted to take on a bigger role!!!

John and I visited the house of our friends, Stan and Jann, throughout the winter, just to check it was OK, while they were in the UK. One day, to our delight, we saw that the path up to the house had been given a new surface of cement. Walking or driving up to the house is so much easier now!

In January and February, we were lucky that Eva, who has moved to live in Kavousi from Athens  with her husband, agreed to meet up with us twice a week for Greek conversation in return for help with her English conversation at the end. John and I both enjoyed it very much and are sorry that at present, it is not possible to continue because of the coronavirus restrictions but we hope it will restart in time.

Maria, our neighbour, came round regularly for a chat. On one occasion, she was talking to us and her phone rang. It was her sister and then we all had a chat with her, with Maria being the speaker. It worked really well!!!

Sometimes, conversations with people here are a great source of amazement.  John went to pharmacy in Ierapetra to pick up some pills.  Somehow his conversation with  Maria, the pharmacist, became focused on Wessex!  She watches the series ‘The Lost Kingdom’ with Uhtred, son of Uhtred and was very familiar with this period of English history. John was delighted to talk to her about his own part of the world!

Last year, the road where our car is parked, was damaged in a storm. Parts of the bank fell into the ‘river’ below.  The new Mayor, Maria, informed us that the road would be closed for a period of time in order that the work could proceed. We parked our car in the main car park, behind the supermarket, which was not a problem. The surface of the road was replaced and there was some strengthening of it,

but the actual bank itself remained untouched and we wait for part two of the work, when there is money to fund it. But our parking space is much improved as has the surface of the road. As you can imagine this work provided much entertainment and comment for a few days!!

When the weather wasn’t good, we came up with some ideas to improve our living room area. This involved moving bits of furniture about, throwing out an old side board, buying a new one and having our small table and TV table varnished.

We are both really pleased with the result.  The question is do we now still need a new settee and chairs???  We have also bought some new, lighter, outdoor furniture.

John continued with his family history project and circulated to his family a very interesting document ‘on line’ about the lives of his four grandparents.

It has been well received and it has encouraged him to carry on writing up research that he has already done.

In the meantime, I started reading ‘Greece, Biography of a Modern Nation’ by Roderiick Beaton and learned much, particularly about the build up and during the Greek Revolution.

Brexit date came and went, without much acknowledgement on our part (this was a moment of resignation to this inevitable crazy decision!).

Then we left on 25th February for a three week trip to the UK with no idea of how coronavirus was about to make an enormous impact on all our lives.




Winter Blues

I started writing this Post on what is apparently ‘Blue Monday’, the most depressing day of the year! Oddly enough, I woke up that morning thinking much along the same lines and decided that I needed to do something to shake me out of the lethargy which seems to have descended on Kavousi since the turn of the year. Then I looked out and decided that it would be better to stay in bed!

Graham arrived for Christmas on December 23 and the weather since has been appalling – cold, wet and windy. This happened last year and we determined that this year we would go away and had thoughts of the Antipodes, the Gambia and various other exotic locations but for one reason or another, we did nothing and here we are hunkering down in the Cretan winter.

However, it is not all gloom. We did have a really good time at Christmas with Graham and later Rhiannon joined us.

Unfortunately there was no swimming this year and Crete did not put on its best front for Rhiannon’s first visit but we took them to see the streamed version of the ballet ‘Raymonda’ from the Bolshoi, in Agios Nikoloas and had a fine lunch at Yiorgos’ taverna in Mochlos

and  a number of late nights were passed in the company of the ‘Mexican Train’ (a domino game for the uninitiated), Labyrinth (a family game from the 1990’s)

and playing cards.

Graham and Rhiannon also borrowed the car one day and visited Gournia and the South Coast. It was good to see them both and Kavousi was a bit flat for a few days after they left.

Prior to Christmas we had been swimming until late November but the first winter storms arrived in early December and although there were some nice days thereafter, they were usually accompanied by a cold breeze from the north which meant even the hardy Scot among us was not keen to risk the nippy waves!

The rainstorms led to a few minor floods in the house which severely tested my patience as I had expended considerable time and money last year trying to avoid this eventuality by having new shutters made for the front door and an aluminium sliding door to cover the back.

However, the new shutters would not close and the aluminium door leaked. Alkis, our builder, sort of dealt with the former and eventually I solved the problem at the back by getting an extra piece of aluminium made to cover the top.

Now it just needs painting (and the light replacing). I was very pleased with myself for doing this because it involved going to the workshop and largely conversing in Greek!

And on that subject, readers with good memories will recall that we stopped going to our Greek classes at Easter last year.  However, this does not mean that we have lost touch with our teacher, Manolis, and he was kind enough to invite us to his end of term ‘outing’ which involved visits to the studios of a local artist and a sculptor.

At the latter we were encouraged to make a pot, which was actually quite fun, although the pots we made have not been retained for posterity!

At the end of October, Manolis was the interviewer at a book presentation at the Melina Mercouri Theatre in Ierapetra at which Victoria Hyslop was launching the Greek version of her new book, ‘Those Who Have Loved’.

The discussion took place in Greek which she managed extremely well although there were occasional repeats in English for those, unlike our good selves of course, (believe that if you will!!) who could not understand. It was a really interesting evening and Manolis was very good.

We have been trying to develop an alternative approach to formal Greek lessons which focus more on speaking more Greek on a daily basis. This has been partially successful but also we asked Maria to give us cooking lessons in Greek and have so far learned how to make fava and cinnamon biscuits.

For a while we also had a weekly chat with a young Greek woman who came round for coffee. This was both enjoyable and very useful but unfortunately for us (although fortunately for her), Nikoleta has now got a full-time job and does not have to time to come any more!

Culture has also not been neglected and we have seen ‘Madam Butterfly’ from the Met in New York and ‘King Lear’ and ‘Hamlet’ from London – all at the Rex cinema in Agios Nikolaos to say nothing of a five hour screening of the film ‘Novacento’ at Chris and Pauline’s house just before Christmas. We also saw ‘1917’ at the Rex recently, which quite rightly, seems lined up for awards at the Oscars later this month.

Cycling has been intermittent because of the weather but before Christmas Sheila had a good walk on the south coast with a new walking group she has discovered and followed this up a few weeks later, with a walk up the gorge with a family who live locally who are members of the group.  Since Christmas, we have both tried to get out as often as possible with Sheila getting in a short walk most days and me out on my bike along the dirt roads.

We had a number of trips to Heraklion in November and early December, including a weekend over my birthday, which were all related to our new car. Its first service was due early in November and I reported a problem with the shock absorbers which they replaced under the guarantee. However, the first lot which came were the wrong kind but they did not discover this until we had taken the car there! Nevertheless, we had a good stay in a hotel in Heraklion for my birthday

including a lovely day trip to various beaches

and the foothills of Mount Ida (Psiloritis) with lunch at a small taverna

and a meal at Peskesi in the evening, where the food was amazing as usual.

Unfortunately we had to return home a day early because Sheila had an eye infection but not before the hotel had provided champagne and a bowl of fruit!

Early winter is also the time when we both have various health checks. I am pleased to report that even though Sheila’s tests seemed to go on for ever (partly related to the eye infection mentioned above), we have both been signed off as being likely to last until next time, although I now have new glasses and Sheila a number of new pills. However, exercise seems to be the cure for all ills, so we are both trying to do what we can in our own ways and to be more careful with our diets.

The cold days and long nights have meant that we have both to some extent, been marooned in the house, so a number of old TV shows have been revisited, Fawlty Towers among them and a lot of books consumed, including of course, the new Victoria Hyslop (very good).

For myself, I have got back to my family history project, the first stage of which is nearing completion and I think I may have made a breakthrough with my own name, after years of bashing against the proverbial brick wall!

And while on the subject of walls, Alkis has kept us entertained during the bleak winter as he and his mate Mario rebuild the ruin next to our house in what will become a beautiful summer get-away for a family from Athens. Whatever the weather, Alkis is always smiling!

And on those positive notes, I will draw to a close and try to enjoy the remainder of ‘Blue Monday’ week without having even mentioned the General Election or Brexit. Whoops!


Autumnal action

Tholos Beach in Autumn

After John and I returned to Crete in the middle of September, the next month flew by in a social whirl.

Gord, my second cousin, and Debbie, his wife, who live in Coldstream, British Columbia, arrived first. We saw them last year at the Sunshine Coast, north of Vancouver and they said then that they were keen to come to Greece. They have visited us in Scotland and spent time with us on our canal boat but they have never experienced Greece or Kavousi!   After a few days in Athens, they arrived here and then we explored the east of the island by car and by foot.  Their first day here was a special one in Kavousi as each year the village hosts an important mountain running event. We had a good view from our house of the competitors, crossing the bridge down below before they set off up the Havgas Gorge.

Of course, we ourselves did not take part but Gord, Debbie and I did manage a number of walks which included going up the Havgas gorge, visiting the impressive post Minoan site of Azoria,

admiring the ancient olive tree, whose branches were used for olive wreaths of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and finally drinking a well deserved beer at the very friendly taverna, which is situated next to the tree. We travelled further afield to walk down the Zakros gorge,

and again enjoyed lunch and a beer at the end of the walk. It is always good to choose walks with refreshments guaranteed! Our guests liked the Minoan village of Gournia, and throughout

they were full of wonder at all the evidence of the Minoan civilization, so long ago. We admired the Lassithi plateau and Zeus’s cave,

and we clearly were enjoying the sights and the company!!!

I can’t help taking photographs of blue sea (this time at Spinalonga)

or sunsets (this one taken from the wonderful ‘Panorama’ taverna and

the cocktails in Moxlos.

After a few days, we drove our lovely, newish car to the south of the island and I realised that it was a rough ride in the back seat.  Every time the car was driven over a hole or a dip in the road. Debbie and I experienced a very bad sensation. Debbie was too polite to make a fuss but after my moans,  John did raise the issue with the garage later when the car had its first service and I feel vindicated because it is being fitted with new shock absorbers so I hope that will make a more comfortable ride!  But it was all worth it to see the beauty of Phaistos, one of the Minoan palaces, where one can also view the Messsara plain and the highest mountain of Crete, Psiloritis.

We drove onto Matala for a swim,

and then to Agia Galini where we enjoyed the view from the hotel,

and sampled the tavernas and the beach. On the last couple of days of their visit to Crete, we stayed at a very nice AirB&B in Herakleion.  The main purpose was to see Knossos,

and to show Gord and Debbie the wonderful exhibits from the Minoan period which are in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. This museum presents Minoan life and culture so vividly and each time, I go, I see something  else to be dazzled by, like an amazing piece of jewellery,

or a beautiful pot,

or an old favourite, that just stuns you with the craftmanship.

And as Gord and Debbie said, these works of art were made so long ago!

John and I enjoyed our last meal with them at Amalia’s kitchen.

The next morning, they travelled by ferry to  Santorini. We hope to see them again in a couple of years in British Columbia where there is a plan for another adventure!

Sarah and Mark arrived a few days later from London for a different type of holiday. We joined them for a period of complete relaxation! We walked to Tholos beach, we swam,

we talked and we ate. And it was all centred around Kavousi. Perfect!

Then our Scottish friends Maggie and Andrew arrived for 24 hours!  Maggie and I have known each other since we were children!  They were on holiday for a week in Fodele, west of Heraklion with their family but took a day out to see us. We made the most of that time. I walked with them to Tholos beach, we all swam,  had dinner at Mochlos and the next day I walked with them to the secret beach at Agriomandra.

It was all really good fun!!!!

Then Pat and Jerry, like Gord and Debbie, also from British Columbia arrived for four days.

They had as much to tell us as we had to tell them!  John and I met them on a tour around Vietnam and Cambodia a few years ago and we visited them in their lovely house on Hardy island, British Columbia last year. We hoped they might come to Greece and we were excited when they decided to make the trip.

They flew to Athens and then explored the Peloponnese by car. Whilst they had places they wanted to go to, (some of which John and I had recommended based on our experiences there,)  they were also very flexible, exploring whatever seemed interesting to them. There were occasions when they turned up in a village and found a room, without a previous booking – real travellers!

From the mainland, they went to Santorini for a few days and then flew to Heraklion where they hired another car and explored the west of Crete, finally arriving in Kavousi (the best was left till last!!!).    We found out about their trip and enjoyed interesting discussions about their travel and their impressions. They were very enthusiastic about Greece and curious about aspects of culture that they had glimpsed.

We showed them our village,

the Havgas gorge,

and Azoria.

We went to the east of the island and Spinalonga,

before they left for the Air Transat flight home.

A few days later our friend Susan, our former Greek tutor, from Kirkcudbright, arrived from Herakion by bus on her way to Siteia for a holiday.

We ate lunch, had a nice chat and then she got on the next bus to complete her journey!!!  I hope she will come for a bit longer the next time!

Life had been hectic for a few weeks and when everyone had gone, it was a bit of a surprise for John and me to have no-one staying in the house, other than ourselves! But more of that in the next post!


Summer 2019 Part 2 – Family, fun and celebrations

At the beginning of August, we  enjoyed, yet again, a wonderful Yiannis Xaroulis concert in Pacheia Ammos. This was followed the next day by the presentation of a book of poems, Λευκό Χαρτί written by Κωστής  Δερμιτζάκης at the  Melina Mercouri hall in Ierapetra. Κωστής is the father of our first Greek tutor, Nikos, and of Maria who is our pharmacist. John and I are great admirers of the talents of this family.  The presentation included readings of the poems by a number of people, including a well known actor, whom I recognized from watching a Greek soap opera!

There was also music from Nikos and Maria. It was a really nice evening.  A week later, there was a a lively Kavousi village party.

And we celebrated our friend, Jann’s, 60th birthday

Then, John’s son, James, his partner Claire and her two daughters, Iman and Farah arrived in Crete for a two week holiday. First, they stayed on the south of the island near Koutsouras at the Big Blue Beach Bar and Apartments for a few days and we enjoyed a lovely meal with them at the nearby Robinson taverna. Then they came to stay in our house in Kavousi for 10 days while  John and I moved to nearby Pacheia Ammos.

James and Claire are fantastic people to stay in our house. They leave it cleaner and tidier than it was before!  This arrangement suits all of us.   James has come on a regular basis to Kavousi, and like on previous occasions, many a beer was consumed while the issues of the day are discussed!!!

James’s friend, Paddy, stayed in a small house in Kavousi, owned by our friends, Pauline and Chris.  We all met up on the beach or in a taverna.

I particularly enjoyed spending a bit of time with the two teenagers, who are great company and told me a bit about their interests and their ideas about the future. And I was impressed by some of the projects in which they are involved at school.

John and I relaxed on the beach in Pacheia Ammos,

although there was a problem with plastic in the sea and on the beach. It was cleaned up every night but it does lead me to believe that plastic bottles and straws should be banned!  One day, we looked out of our apartment window and saw with some surprise a man riding a horse in the water.  I do not know the context to this but it was definitely an unusual sight!

We enjoyed a trip to nearby Istron, and visited an archaeological  site called Παρινιάτικος  Πύργος  which we had been to before. It is hard to find but so beautiful and quiet.

We then enjoyed a very nice pizza at the Italian Pizzeria Ricardo.  You can see how relaxed I felt during these days with James, Claire, Iman and Farah!

During this time, john and I went to a public lecture in Ierapetra about the Greek language by an Athenian Professor.

It was a challenge for our Greek but we understood some of the gist of it!!

After James and Claire and the girls left, we moved back to Kavousi and started to prepare for a two week trip to Scotland, to celebrate my sister-in-law, Winnie’s 70th birthday. We hired a car from Arnold Clark (after having immense difficulty hiring  car from anybody else as other firms wouldn’t accept our Greek driving licences, without a translation or wanted a credit card). Arnold Clark decided to upgrade us from a small car to a Mercedes!

Now for most people, this would be a real treat but for me, it was anxiety provoking not just because it was automatic but more important, I knew everything would be strange to me.  John was a bit shocked when one day while we were driving, a woman’s voice suddenly asked him what he wanted her to do! It took two attempts at telling her to go away before she stopped talking!

John drove in the rain from Edinburgh up to Cummingstown, on the Moray Firth coast where we stayed with Kate and Dod and also our mutual friend, Annie, who is now living more in Scotland, than in Tanzania.

We enjoyed the chat and the fantastic hospitality and whilst I have been avoiding Brexit news, I did get get caught up in the issues which are paralysing the country and was particularly impressed by the coverage on Channel 4.

John and I are proud of our grapes in Crete but we were even more impressed by Kate and Dod’s grapes and apples

and much more wonderful produce, grown in the north of Scotland! And lovely to see the hens,

reminding us of happy days at Sunnyside, Aberdeenshire.

Our next stop was Cray House, a big country house with delightful grounds near Glenshee, where Winnie’s birthday celebrations were held.

We parked the car and a few minutes later another Mercedes arrived and parked next to ours. That was a good moment!!!  The weekend was wonderful,

spending time with family, people who I usually only meet at weddings and friends of Winnie and Sandy from Dalgety Bay. In addition we had very smart accommodation to enjoy and fantastic food, including delicious langoustines, venison and glorious puddings. On top of all that, there was some wonderful countryside to admire

We saw our fiends, Maggie and Andrew briefly in Pitcairngreen, (more on them in the next post) and then we went to Aberdeenshire, in our smart, very low Mercedes.  John drove very, very slowly up a rough track to a lovely house on GlenTanar, where our friend’s Gillie and Alan live. The car was parked outside their house and did not move till we left! There were some worrying sounds from the bottom of the car as we crawled towards the house.

The house had amazing views. It was all great fun – the chat and the walks and the bathroom was one of the best I have ever had the privilege of using!!! We were introduced to the excellent Finzean Estate Farm Shop and Tea Room (not that we drank tea!)

Then a quick visit with Linda and Gordon in Lumphanan.  Gordon was about to retire the following week so it was good to toast this particular milestone in his life. We were joined by Linda’s daughter, Sarah and family, which was an added bonus. Since we left, I gather that a new collie dog has joined their household which is very exciting.

On our 36th wedding anniversary, we drove on south to Elie, Fife and there we were entertained by Mairi and Norman. They live in Edinburgh but have a holiday home in Elie, a part of Scotland  that I don’t know at all.

There are beautiful beaches there

and the beer  and fish and chips are pretty good too! John and I were very impressed by the Secret Underground Nuclear Command Bunker (obviously not so secret now), near Anstruther. It was built to help safeguard Scotland during the Cold War against a nuclear attack.

It was a scary place but a timely reminder for me of the horror of nuclear weapons (graphically shown in a film we watched in the Bunker). There was lots to see, much to reflect on and they had a very nice cafe!   With Mairi as tour guide, we explored the charming fishing villages of Anstruther, Pittenweem and St Monans.

John and I then moved onto Linlithgow where I met a friend, Joyce, who I know through being a Guide so many years ago and then John and I had a short visit to the house, where I lived until I left home aged 17,

and viewed  some of my childhood haunts. The last few days were spent in Edinburgh, staying with Sally and Robert. We met three of their grandchildren, which was so nice, we saw Europe win the Solheim Club ( I don’t usually watch golf but it was exciting!) and we learnt about impending  work on their house. We had lunch with Sandy and Winnie in Aberdour

and to get there we travelled over the Forth Railway bridge and admired the various bridges.

We went to Princes Street and met Nick, who had visited us in Kavousi earlier in the year. I did some shopping but also went to have a look at the ‘Oor Wullie’ Bucket trail which was in Edinburgh at the time.

Oor Wullie was part of my childhood and so seeing all these wonderful ‘Oor Wullie’s’  was a real treat. A friend of mine sent me an Oor Wullie calendar this year and it sits beside my computer and I look forward every month to a new picture!

We arrived home on the 17th September, after a very varied and enjoyable two weeks and for the next month, it would be our turn to look after family and friends in Kavousi.