A dander in the Dodecanese

Firstly, many apologies for a lack of Posts since August. This has resulted from a combination of laziness, visitors and an unscheduled trip to Scotland. Anyway, here we are at last but in view of the time period to be covered, this Post will mainly consist of photographs, together with some explanatory commentary.

Bruce and Cathy arrived from Canada at the end of August and spent five days with us here in Kavousi before all four of us went to Rhodes for the best part of a week.

We started off our stay in Lindos where we split the time between sunbathing/swimming and sight-seeing.

And we ate well!

Then we moved on to Rhodes Town where we adopted the same combination. The Old Town is very impressive but it was all a bit of a shock after a summer in quiet little Kavousi!

When Bruce and Cathy left for home, Sheila and I started our ‘island hopping’ extravaganza!

Our first stop was Symi, where we stayed at the little village of Pedi.

Symi is an attractive island with imposing architecture reflecting the Italian occupation.

We didn’t do a lot – water taxis to nearby beaches and a fine walk to the top of the old town.

Next up was Nisyros which involved two ferries. The main attraction is the volcano which is hugely impressive and still steams!

And requires a degree of scrambling skills!

Again, we combined sunbathing/swimming with sight-seeing. The beaches are black and the sea quite dark but cooling all the same.

Mandraki, the main town is an interesting place with a fine castle and an attractive setting.

Then it was on to Lipsi – again by two ferries and and including a bus ride. Lipsi was my favourite island because it remains relatively unspoilt by tourism and we found many fewer people speaking English, which of course was good for our Greek.

We hired a car one day and bicycles another. The beaches were virtually deserted and the sea was beautifully clear.

Our final stay was in Leros, the scene of a relatively large battle in WW2, which as we discovered led to the death of the father of the future ‘Cream’ drummer Ginger Baker.

That apart, it is an interesting if not spectacular island. The beaches are OK but its main claim to fame, for me at least was its stunning castle, with perhaps the best situation anywhere.

The food was brilliant too!

It was a great trip. We saw so much but still had time to relax on the a variety of beaches. Now we have the bug, we want to see more and check out the islands that we missed in the Dodecanese this time round, of which there were quite a few!

After three weeks away, we returned home by air from Kos and brother Tim and wife, Liz arrived shortly thereafter. They had never been to Crete before, so we had plenty to show them, interesting walks and a number of food experiences to savour.

While they were here. it was Sheila’s 65th birthday and we had a lunch time party in the plateia to celebrate, having invited all our friends in Crete. There were a few absentees regrettably  but it was still an impressive turnout. Many thanks to Katerina for preparing the food.

Liz T (cousin) was our next visitor. Liz has been many times before so we re-visited old haunts like Bobo’s taverna but also took in new experiences like cocktails at Mochlos and lunch with our German friends on our terrace.

And I’ll leave you with Sheila and Maria (our neighbour) and her present for Sheila’s birthday -perhaps the most important of all!

John

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Summer in Kavousi

By the time we got back from the UK it was the middle of July and time for the next influx of summer visitors.

First up was daughter Rosie who came for a week as she put it, simply ‘to chill’! And what better place than Kavousi to do just that. She cycled, swam, walked, talked and ate her way through seven days of fun, the only blip being when she dropped her new phone in a bowl of water! That apart, we had a great time.

She walked with Sheila in the hills

and to the ‘secret’ beach at Agriomandra and they were supposed to meet me at Tholos for lunch but got lost, so never arrived!

We went to the outdoor cinema in Ag Nik and she and Sheila topped off her stay with a final day shopping trip in Heraklion, before she got the flight back to Gatwick en route for Cornwall.

Next up were son Graham and the day after, son James and partner Claire. James and Claire had arrived a few days earlier and spent  some time on the south coast at a favourite haunt. Graham arrived direct from London and took up residence in Stan & Jann’s house round the corner (they being home in Cambridge).

It was really enjoyable having all these young folk around for a week. Graham cooked sea bass and kalamari, which were amazing with prep help from Claire who rather foolishly offered her assistance and was taken up on it!

No one wanted to do anything much

although they did all go off to the Water Park for a day

and Sheila and Graham managed three games of tennis.

We had Claire and Graham’s birthdays to celebrate and we had a memorable last night in Mochlos drinking cocktails at sunset (see cover photo).

The house seemed very empty after they all went back to the UK.

One sad event happened during the summer while we were in the UK in July and that was the death of one of our dear neighbours here – ‘old’ Γιάννη as we called him, who lived down the lane from us.

He has been very kind to us ever since we arrived. A quiet reserved man, he invited us to our first καζάνι, which is a party in November/December when raki is made and provided us with the most delicious new potatoes cooked with rosemary.

He died when we were in the UK so we could not go to his funeral but one of the customs relating to death here in Greece, is a church service or μνημόσυνο, which takes place after forty days, to celebrate the fact that the soul has left this world for the hereafter. Although the service meant little to us, it was not a particularly sad occasion and it felt good to pay our respects  to someone we counted as a friend, especially as the church formed such an important part of his life.

In contrast, one of our favourite Greek singers, Γιάννης Χαρούλης had a concert in Sitia just after everyone had left, which gave us the opportunity to  cheer ourselves up.

Χαρούλης was in good form and we bumped into our Greek teacher, Μανώλης there.

The only blot on the evening was that I was feeling unwell with the beginnings of a summer cold, which over the next ten days turned into something worse leading to three visits to the doctor, two separate X-rays and a diagnosis at one point of bronchitis! I am more or less over it now but for a while I was pretty unhappy!

Our garden has been one of the joys of the summer.

My flower garden and banana plantation have been the subject of earlier reporting but in addition nearly all of the plants have flourished in the hot summer weather.

In particular, the bougainvillea have been wonderful and at last the climbing one has reached the top of the κρεββατίνα (pergola), so hopefully next year we will have pink flowers among the grape leaves providing shelter from the sun above the terrace!

Unfortunately, the grapes, although abundant were attacked by blight which seems to have attacked most of the crop in our part of Crete. So while we have plenty and they taste all right, they do not look very attractive!

 

 

We have also been visited by some interesting looking beasties.

There have been a couple of noteworthy home improvements carried out over the summer. When we got back from the UK in early July, we got Alkis round to install a new solar water heating panel and tank. This turned out to be very straightforward or perhaps Alkis and his colleague are particularly skilled at it. Anyway, it didn’t take long and now we have plenty of hot water again!

Further, I managed to fix up the ‘Chinese’ lantern we brought back from Vietnam last year. It now throws out a rather lurid red light in the evenings when we sit round the table on the terrace – not perhaps Kavousi’s red light district but there again?

There were also a number of memorable events, which happened in and around Kavousi during the summer. Our friends Chris and Pauline organised a boat trip and party to celebrate twenty years since they left Holland eventually to end up in Kavousi.

There was a wonderful summer full moon which led to the telescope being given an outing.

A new documentary about the ancient olive tree received its ‘World Premier’ here in the village. Unfortunately we didn’t know which church it was happening at, so missed it! Finally, a few days ago there was a βραδιά προσφοράς (Bid evening) held in the grounds of the main church here in Kavousi (there are fifteen others). This was a fine evening with music, dancing and very good food and drink and we think donations were expected for a church restoration project.

However, no one asked us for money and there was no obvious place to leave it. No doubt everything will become clear in the fullness of time! Our young and apparently popular Papas, did a good turn on the dance floor as well!

What with visitors, illness, very hot weather and strong winds, I am afraid  that cycling down to the beach and through the olive groves has not happened to the same extent as usual, this summer. I had thought that this would be remedied now that I am feeling better from my summer cold and wasp stings but yesterday, I discovered that a critical part of my electric bike has sustained some damage. So until I get the part from the UK, there will be an enforced interlude until later in September when we get back from our holiday in the Dodecanese, which no doubt will form the subject of the next post!

However, our dear old Citroen did get a much needed clean, inside and out at the πλυντήριο των αυτοκινήτων (car wash) in ierapetra! What a transformation!

John

Friends, friends and family

While John and Dave were exploring in the south of England, I flew to Inverness and started a two week holiday which finished back in London. It was prompted by finding out earlier in the year that my good friends Annie and Gideon, who live in Arusha, Tanzania, were to be in Scotland in June and July and so I decided that I would arrange a visit around this period in order to see them but also to meet up with other friends and family. The trip was more wonderful than I could possibly had hoped, mainly due to the efforts of a number of people who I was keen to see.

I could not use my camera because it had a developed a fault and so the pictures below are from my phone. It is still is a bit of a mystery to me and I found I was less enthusiastic about taking pictures than I usually am. On the positive side, being in the UK for two weeks was enough time to get the camera mended and it is now back in my possession.

My friends, Kate and Annie, met me at the airport on a night described by a man sitting beside me as ‘dreich’. It was really not a night to be out but Kate and Dod live in Cummingston on the Moray Firth which is maybe some 50 minutes from Inverness airport and there was no alternative way to get there. We arrived safely and after two gin and tonics, I was happy to be there!

Kate and Dod’s house is one of my favourite places.

It is a wonderfully, spacious comfortable house with many things being grown outside, including some very nice looking grapes,

it has fantastic views of the Moray Firth,

and you can see the changes in the weather and dolphins, if you are lucky.  The only down side is that it can be pretty grey at times!

Annie had suggested to Kate that she might like to invite a few friends there, while we were there which would save us having to go and see them! Kate is a wonderful organiser, took the task very seriously and 75 people turned up two days later for a party. Given the scale of the operation, Kate looks remarkably relaxed here!

What a treat the day was! There was fantastic amounts of food, including wonderful smoked salmon, and drink and plenty of space to talk. People came from throughout Scotland, most of whom I knew from the variety of jobs, I had. It was just a joy to gossip abut the past, find what had happened in the meantime and discuss the wonderful opportunities retirement gives us.

The best moment came in the middle of the afternoon. I met Annie and Kate in 1976 as we were attending a post graduate course in Youth and Community Work at Aberdeen College of Education. Six women attended – myself, Kate, Annie, Claire, Mary and Diane on that course (plus some men!)  At this party, all the women were there. It was a highly emotional moment when Claire arrived at the party and we realised that we were all present. Not only that, one of our lecturers, Ian, came and we were just all so happy!

Fortunately there was great music in the evening, otherwise I think I might have had a serious sore throat from talking! Thanks to Stewart, Davy, Claire, Jake for this.

A huge thank you to Kate and Dod who planned and organised this, with the help of Annie and Gid. It was fantastic. The next day, there was still a large group of people around for breakfast who had stayed in various hotels, bed and breakfasts and even a tent (the weather was still a bit ‘iffy’). A group of us set off for nearby Burghead by the beach and enjoyed a good walk.

I stayed for another couple of days and enjoyed a visit to Anne and Alan, who used to live near us in Strachan but now live in a lovely house near Elgin. I had not seen them for some years and communication has been limited to some Christmas cards and the odd email. So there was much to catch up on, including our childrens progress in life, what I did in Crete (now that is a bit challenging!), their huge dog etc

while I ate a lovely dinner.

Kate, Annie and Gid and I had a day out to Logie Steadings, where there are wonderful gardens.

Everything is so green!

I took the train to Inverness and then to Dunkeld where I was met by Maggie and Andrew. Maggie and I have been friends forever and she organised a lovely walk

which involved lochs, trees, spectacular views of the river as well as sunshine and a tasty picnic and a bit of sunbathing.

When we got back to their house, I had a very nice time picking strawberries and rasperries

and then ate a number of vegetables from the garden. Andrew has a great selection of very delicious red wines and I was touched that he had selected a bottle of Skillogalee which comes from a vineyard in Australia and was the name of our canal boat.

And Andy Murray won too, while I was there!

I travelled onto Aberdeen,  where I was met by Gillie, who was my neighbour, when we lived in Aberdeenshire. She and her husband, Alan, have been living abroad for some years (John and i visited them in Shanghai last year) but Gillie has now retired and for the time being they are living in a lovely cottage in Birse, near Aboyne, so quiet and peaceful Everybody knows I like walking and we set off from their house,

straight into idyllic countryside

and this brought back many happy memories. I walked in the rain to have a quick look at Deeside Community Centre where I worked for 4 busy years and then onto to chat with Evelyne, who was a colleague at times over the years and a great friend. She and I can talk forever but I took a moment off to take a picture of her and her garden.

The garden is not large but it is full of beautiful flowers which will win prizes in the forthcoming flower shows.

Gillie and Alan drove me back to Aberdeen railway station, past our old house. The sun was shining and the countryside very beautiful. After 4 hours in the train, I was met at Newcastle station by Janet, who was my manager when I worked at the University of Aberdeen. She drove me to Stocksfield where she lives and I found myself sitting outside in her garden in the sunshine. The house and the garden were delightful. And StocksfieId has some wonderful trees.

I did not know this part of the country well and so it was really nice that Janet and her husband, Mark, took me to see Hadrian’s Wall

and Hexham Abbey.  I enjoyed meeting their daughter after so many years and I am keen to return to this part of the world. The Sage Concert Hall sounded particularly interesting!

Then onto London, to stay with Graham for a couple of days. I arrived in London wearing two fleeces and thought I was going to pass out as the temperature was considerably hotter there. Graham and I enjoyed a couple of evenings eating and drinking in nice places, although the cost of wine was a bit astonishing for me, being used to a μισό κιλό κρασί for 3 euros! I walked past the Arsenal football ground the next day

to visit Tom and Sheila who I knew from cycling days in London in the 1970’s. Tom produced a delicious soup which had a lot of pumpkin, chick peas and spices in it. It was delicious and I felt that I needed to get the recipe as there is a huge pumpkin in Crete waiting for something to happen to it.

The last day was spent in Cambridge with Lis. She and I met in St Thomas’s hospital in 1983 and we gave birth to sons on the same day. She lives in Norwich but we decided to have a day out in Cambridge which was very nice. We didn’t visit any colleges because we would have had to pay but instead had a nice lunch in the Fitzwilliam Museum

and sat in a park. We were really more interested in our own news than being tourists!

Finally, I met up with John and James in Battersea, went to a very nice and reasonable Italian restaurant there, talked about Battersea becoming Labour again after all these years and finally on the last morning, I went to Clapham Junction and bought a new pair of trainers. Then off to Gatwick with John and looking for a quiet time when I got back home in Kavousi.

A great trip!!!!

Sheila

Rural ramblings

At the end of June with Greek lessons finally finished for the academic year, Sheila and I set off for two weeks in the UK. At Gatwick we separated, with Sheila taking a flight to Inverness to do her own thing for two weeks and me meeting up with Dave Kendall, an old friend from school days, for ten days in deepest Dorset. Sheila will be writing separately about her time in Scotland and northern England, so what follows is an account of my trip with Dave and a few days at the end in Wivenhoe, Essex with another old friend, Pat Marsden.

Dave had booked us into an AirB&B cottage in the village of Marnhull which is situated more or less in the middle of the Blackmore Vale in North Dorset and which also happens to be the location where his paternal ancestors originated.

It is also just a few miles from the village of Templecombe, over the county boundary in Somerset, where he and I spent our formative years!

So as can be imagined, in addition to a lot of catching up (he lives in Sweden and we don’t see each other that often), there were some trips down memory lane planned as well as a gentle degree of ancestor hunting.

Our cottage was originally the barrell store for an old brewery which closed in 1919 apparently and may well have brewed the ale for the local pub where one of Dave’s ancestors was the publican.

 

This gave us a perfect excuse for an early visit to sample the local brew! However, our first day simply involved a scouting visit to the local Family History Centre in Sherborne to enable us to plan a longer day there, later in the week. The weather was beautiful and in the afternoon we took a walk around the straggling village to get our bearings.

Over the following week or so, we visited a number of churches and abbeys (a particular interest of Dave’s), went sight-seeing to a number of beauty spots both in Dorset and Somerset and checked out the ancestors:

Churches and Abbeys

Dave was very keen to see the now de-consecrated Norman church at Winterborne Tomson so one fine day, we set out on a quest. It took a bit of locating even with a map and directions but find it we did and what a gem! Take a look if you are ever that way, I guarantee that you have rarely seen the like!

Another day we visited the ruins of Shaftesbury Abbey. This must have been a wonderful building before the Dissolution and the hour or so we were there, was one of the highlights of my trip. It was just so peaceful. Later we saw Muchelney Abbey in Somerset and again, I was struck by the sheer beauty of the location. Here you can see my contemplative but scary Benedictine friend:

Hitherto, I had always thought that breaking the power of the Church was, on the whole, a good thing but having now seen what at least two of these buildings would have looked like, I now have to admit that we lost so much of our heritage to Henry’s greed and sheer vandalism.

Sherborne Abbey was saved from his avarice by being purchased for use as the parish church by the townspeople, with the monastic buildings eventually becoming Sherborne School.

Beauty spots

For old time;s sake, we decided on a visit to Swanage on the Dorset coast and had the obligatory paddle to prove to Sheila that the weather in the West Country really was much better than Scotland!

Then it was off for a pub lunch before we went to Durdle Door

and then to Portland Bill for a breezy selfie!

Another day, we climbed to the top of Cadbury Castle, a Bronze and Iron Age hill fort, which is thought by many to be the site of King Arthur’s Camelot. Difficult for two old fogeys to make the top and even more difficult to get a photo which does it justice – nice views though and a lovely path up!

And a highlight of the trip was visiting the Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum in Dorset.

Steam Railways

One morning we visited the Shillingstone Railway Centre on the old Somerset & Dorset line and whilst there was not much that related to the old S&D (on which my grandfather and uncle were drivers and on which Dave and I used to go to school), we enjoyed the experience and saw some interesting old WW2 steam locos from the US.

And then unexpectedly, we saw a Southern Railway ‘Battle of Britain’ class 4-6-2 at Swanage which brought back happy memories of childhood  trainspotting at Templecombe!

Family History

At the Family History Centre, Dave managed to locate records from our old school dating from the early 1950’s, which fortunately did not include either of us but did have my Dad, who also went to Sexey’s Bruton.

And this was where we lived in Templecombe.

We also visited Almer Church in Dorset where my namesake, John Burt, my 4x great grandfather, married Jane Terrell over 240 years ago and I stood on the spot where he would have taken his wedding vows – quite a moving experience!

We also visited the village where I think said John was born about 1754 – the son of Benjamin Burt and Mary Newman. They were married in Child Okeford Church in 1730.

We had a day in Mells, where I lived as a child and where my parents and sisters are buried, meeting Dave’s brother and his wife for lunch at ‘The Talbot’ just round the corner from where the house where we stayed.

It was a great trip.

Thanks for your company, navigation (in your own inimitable style), general good cheer, all round knowledge of the area and for making the arrangements for the Air B&B, Dave!

We had a very pleasant lunch with Liz Turner in Wiltshire, took the car back to Gatwick and went our separate ways.

After a night in London with James, I spent three days in Wivenhoe with an old friend, Pat Marsden. It was good to spend some time with her, catching up with our lives and on what has been happening in Wivenhoe in my absence.

The weather continued to be generally fine so we managed to take in a number of walks along the river, although we did get stuck in ‘The Black Buoy’ for an extended lunch one day, which was no great hardship as they were serving a very pleasant dark ‘Mild’ which took me back to student days at Keele.

We also had a meal out at a Syrian Vegan restaurant which has opened up recently. I hadn’t realised that it was vegan but have to admit that the platter, of what was in effect a selection of meze, was delicious and very reminiscent of Cretan starters.

Pat also cooked  a number of tasty meals on the occasions when we decided to stay in and continue the long discussions on a complete range of topics, from family history through to community action, gardening, books and films and then back to Wivenhoe ‘characters’. I can’t remember when I have talked so much for so long! Thanks Pat.

Then it was time to return to London, meet up with Sheila and spend one last night with James in Battersea, before we returned to Crete for the summer.

It was a memorable two weeks, with England looking at its best.

John

Holiday season in Kavousi

Our friends from the UK generally like to visit us in May and June (April too, but this year John and I were in the UK!) as the weather is warm but not too hot, the sea is warming up and there is some green in the landscape.

Our friends came but unfortunately the weather did not quite live up to expectations. I have heard taverna owners calling it this year, ‘παραξενο’ (strange) and that is what it has been. Each of the different sets of people who came, experienced 2 or 3 days of cloud and coolness, as well as occasional rain. Nobody seemed to worry about this but I felt I had raised expectations of what people might expect, particularly in June and felt a little responsible. More to the point, occasionally there appeared to be warmer, more settled weather in the UK which is completely unacceptable!!!!  Adaptations had to be made to holiday programmes, including sitting inside taverna’s in the evening because it was too chilly outside.

My good friend, Liz is the same age and has the same birthday as me and this and the fact that we like each other has always made her pretty special to me. We went to the same school and the same university, Aberdeen, and we shared a flat together in 1974.  My first trip abroad was with her and some other friends on a skiing holiday in the Alps in 1973 and she included me in a trip to Alaska some years later. We don’t don’t see so much of each other these days for obvious reasons (she lives near Kendal and I live in Kavousi) but I was delighted that she had booked a week here at the beginning of May. We spent much of her week chatting (John was left to his own devices) and we took the opportunity to explore Gournia,

Spinalonga,

the old olive tree

and Mochlos

and other great views

while catching up on news and gossip. After Liz retired, she embarked on a  project to extend her house and garden and is very happy with the result. I felt much more in touch with her life again and one day will enjoy a trip to the Lake District.

Liz left and I had an unexpected, unscheduled treat after an email from a friend in London who told me he was coming for a week’s all inclusive holiday to Elounda. One Sunday, I drove there, picked up Ro and brought him back to our house

and afterwards we ate at Bobo’s, where he experienced simple food, cheap wine, a lot of laughs and a beautiful view of the sea. I worked with Ron’s wife, Brenda, in my first job in London at the Bexley Council of Voluntary Service. She died a few years ago and I am very fortunate to keep in touch with her family. I was very sad to hear from Ron that there was nothing much left of the Council of Voluntary Service as funding had been withdrawn in the last couple of years. It seemed unbelievable that an organisation, which was about supporting volunteers to carry out important roles in the community, had virtually gone. Is this progress? I don’t think so!

A day or two later, Jane, from London arrived with her present of Yiannis Varoufakis’s new book ‘Adults in the room’.  John has since read it and will no doubt comment on it at some stage. Jane comes here regularly and this year brought with her two friends, Judith and John. We have only one spare bedroom so we had arranged with our friends, Pauline and Chris, that they could stay in two of their renovated buildings – one a studio, the other a two room apartment at a very reasonable price. They are situated on the west side of the village (our house being on the east). Pauline and Chris were in Holland and so John and I introduced them to their accommodation and afterwards they met the neighbours. All went well.

The first morning I walked with them to the ancient olive tree. It was a perfect start to the holiday because after admiring the tree, we went to the taverna beside it. There we had an early drink and met Vasili, the owner

and his wife, who showed Jane and Judith how to make stuffed dolmathes.   Jane hired a car and for a couple of days she took John and Judith to various places she had either been before or wanted to see, while John and I stayed at home!  Added to that,  Jane found a new excursion that we didn’t know about, which was a trip to Spinalonga on a boat from Agios Nikolaus, organised by Nostos Cruises.

It was a beautiful afternoon and we sailed past some of the expensive Elounda hotels and then we were shown where the sunken city of Olous was, (not that we could see it!). I had a swim at Kolokitha (Pumpkin) Bay

and after that we went onto Spinalonga. Included in the deal was a very interesting Spinalonga tour guide and we returned by the cave of the pirate, Barba-Rossa and Kri-kri island where apparently we might have seen some Minoan goats. This was all for 16 euros and very good value. On the last day we walked up the  gorge beside Kavousi

which was a very nice end to the trip.

Later in June, John and I went back to Spinalonga Island to watch a concert, by the Young Peoples Symphonic Orchestra of Crete, marking the 60th anniversary of the closure of the leprosy colony. It was held in the evening and attended mainly by Greeks of all ages, not the usual tourists that come to see Spinalonga. It was a very moving occasion, first with small groups of the orchestra playing in different parts of the island

and then they all came together

to play small, classical pieces from Bach, Elgar, Grieg etc.

Robert and Sally came next. Sally is from Linlithgow and we have many shared memories of our childhood, particularly in relation to guiding. Sally became the Chief Guide for Scotland and it was good to have time to talk about her experiences of that important position as well as discussing a whole range of other issues. I am not quite sure what the topic was here but it looks pretty light hearted!

She and Robert had the pleasure of being around here on the morning of the UK General Election results, when there was little chance of any sensible breakfast or plan for the day, as it emerged that Jeremy Corbyn was perhaps electable after all!!!

They coped admirably with the excitement and we did manage a trip to the east of the island later

on their holiday and and eat one of John’s excellent dishes of pork chops in the oven.

And finally Sarah and Mark arrived after a bad start, when they missed their plane, due to a series of unfortunate events. However they arrived only a few hours later and they were happy with a few days of relaxation,

including swimming at Tholos beach when I became a big kid on a lilo

a beer at the new taverna at Tholos

and a morning at Psarapoulis beach which is conveniently situated next to the venue of our Greek class in Koutsonari.

We attended Greek classes until the end of June by which time, we definitely felt we had improved during the year but were in need of a holiday!! John was assisted by Mark in putting some anti-pigeon netting in place, as his height is very useful for such jobs!

The grapes were beautiful then (although not now!)

John’s garden too looked beautiful in June

as did the geraniums

and the bougainvillea with the butterfly.

And in between our guests, John and I went on a short holiday of our own to the Εleonas Hotel in Zaros, south of Heraklion, with our friends Brigitte and Walter. it was the only weekend that we could go with them before they went back to Germany and it happened that Hanneke and Hans were also there. Unfortunately the weather was bad with some thunderstorms and torrential rain and for much of the time, it was chilly and grey. But we found a nice taverna in Zaros which had lovely mezethes

while we looked at the cloudy sky!

However, luck was on our side as Brigitte and I walked up the  Rouvas  Gorge, in 3 hours

and managed to avoid serious rain, although Brigitte and I were forced into rainwear at one stage!

John and Walter picked us up at the top and we then enjoyed a jeep ride in some spectacular countryside. We visited the Vrontisi monastery in the torrential rain but were rewarded with a raki by a monk as we hid in the shelter. The Eleonas is a lovely hotel with individual bungalows

in a wonderful setting but the weather was not on our side.

And to end with a couple of local events that were very nice to attend. Our Greek tutor invited us to a basketball final, in which he was playing. Neither John nor I know much about basketball but it is very popular here.

The wrong team won but we enjoyed it very much.

Finally, my friend Margarita was dancing in an event ‘Patchwork Dance’ organised by the Milan School of Dance in Ierapetra. There were many people there to watch adults and children participate in ballet and modern dance sequences. It was a treat to watch and in particular, Margarita and her small group were fantastic but unfortunately the pictures are on my camera which is currently being repaired!

Sheila

 

Can you imagine?

For a variety of reasons, we have found ourselves in recent weeks thinking more about the Minoans. Some might say these mysterious folk who created such a rich and influential civilisation here in Crete over four thousand years ago, are a regular feature in our Blogs. This is true simply because for all sorts of reasons, many of our visitors want to see the sites, famous and otherwise and then often go on to visit the archaeological museum in Heraklion and of course we take the obligatory photos and then dutifully write up the details of their stays, each time we compose the next Post.

However, on this occasion there are other reasons for considering the achievements of the Minoans. One night last week, we were walking back from the taverna after an evening with Chris and Pauline and fuelled no doubt by a small (?) quantity of excellent wine made personally by Yiorgos, we were looking at the stars. It was a cloudless night and as anyone who has been here will know, the sky was simply filled with twinkling stars of all sizes, together with bright planets, none of which we knew the names of.

We climbed onto the roof and marvelled at the cosmos and were reminded both of a failure to spend time using the telescope and of a fundamental lack of knowledge of what was laid out above us. The Minoans and indeed our own Bronze Age ancestors in the UK were not so ignorant as we now know.

On Monday evening we attended a public lecture entitled ‘The Minoans in Time and Space’ in the Conference Centre attached to the Bishop’s Palace in Ierapetra, which formed part of an international conference of astrophyicists who for reasons best known to themselves had chosen our corner of Crete to consider ‘Polarised Emission from Astrophysical Jet’. As light relief presumably, Dr Alex MacGillivray, an archaeologist from the British School in Athens, had been asked to enlighten the attendees on Minoan astral navigation.

Interestingly, we have recently both read a book by Alan Butler which in part deals with similar issues. Butler is an engineer and mathematician who has an interest in both astronomy and archaeology and brings an approach to these subjects which is based on his specialisms. As a result, it seems that he is not popular with mainstream archaeologists but his theories are nevertheless quite interesting to the layman and struck something of a chord with what we were told at the lecture.

Dr MacGillivray’s thesis was that the Minoans who of course were great traders and therefore needed to be good at getting from A to B, based their navigation on the stars which they saw above them in the generally clear Mediterranean skies. Indeed, he believes that they adopted Egyptian methodology in this respect and spent much of his lecture taking us through the thirty-six stars (the decans) on which their calendar system was based. Initially the decans were stars that could be observed to rise at 10-day intervals. The Egyptian calendar had 360 days marked by decan stars rising at 10-day intervals, plus five inter-calculated days. It was an easy step to use the decans for navigational purposes as they moved, one by one, across the heavens.

As you can imagine, much of this was way above our heads (so to speak) but we got the gist and what was really amazing about it was when towards the end he showed an overhead of a diagram of the relevant stars as they appear in the sky for a latitude of between 40 and 50 degrees N. This is it.

Not hugely interesting you might think. However, then up came a copy of the bull-leaping fresco from Knossos. Notice any similarities?

Illustration of Bull-leaping Fresco from the Great Palace at Knossos, Crete

it is hard not to agree with him that the Minoans used the star diagram as the basis for the mural – a rather neat conjunction of art and cosmology!

However, Alan Butler believes that the Minoans adopted a somewhat different approach to navigation based on a calendar of 366 days which was common across much of Bronze Age Europe. He bases his argument on his analysis of the so-called Phaistos Disc.

Whether in the round, it makes much difference whether the Minoans used a calendar of 360 or 366 days, we are of course not in a position to judge but what is clear is that navigation was done by the stars and  for whatever reason, the ancients used the same or similar stars to determine where they were. Further, amazing though it may seem, the ancients whether in Crete, Egypt or Bronze Age Britain not only knew that the Earth was round but had worked out its circumference and as a result were able to divide the distance into manageable units.

In Bronze Age Britain, these units were used to measure out the plans for building stone circles like Stonehenge and all such circles have the same basic measurements. Whilst the ‘megalithic yard’ is different to the Minoan foot, this is only because the Minoans chose a different way to divide the circumference of the Earth, according to Butler.

So, now it’s time to have a good look at some of these stars.

John

Catching up.

Impossible though it seems, we have now been back from our Easter trip to the UK for over two weeks. Good intentions of writing up our visits to Scotland and Cornwall have been lost somewhere along the line, so what follows is a very brief attempt at a catch up and to thank all those who were so kind to us while we were away.

The visit started with a degree of stress because the installation of the new kitchen went to the wire with Manolis, Adonis, Alkis and Michalis all working here during the evening before our departure to get it finished. It meant that we spent the morning of the day we left hurriedly unpacking various boxes of kitchen utensils and shoving the contents into any available space, which included the oven! The result was that when we arrived back here, there was a job to be done before we could get round to actually using any of the new appliances! However, two weeks in and we have just about found where everything is and it is all brilliant and we are very pleased. It is however, just a kitchen so no need to get too excited when there is so much else going on in the world!

We arrived in Edinburgh very early at the beginning of April and took a taxi to Dalgety Bay in Fife where we stayed a few days with Sheila’s brother, catching up with Sheila’s extended family and approving of the progress made by the four great-nephews.

It also gave us a chance to recover from all the kitchen excitement and to note progress on the new Forth Bridge.

Then we moved on to Edinburgh where we stayed with Fiona in Juniper Green and later, Sally and Robert in Currie. It was great to catch up with their news and enjoy their company.

Then we hired a car and went to Kirkcudbright where we used to live, having taken in a visit to some elderly friends of Sheila’s Mum, who live in Glasgow. It has to be said the Kirkcudbright was not looking at its best – the weather having taken a turn for the worse but we enjoyed re-visiting the town and staying with Alasdair and Yvonne, Christine and Mike and Bev and David. Again, it was good to catch up and relax with kind friends. Probably the highlight for Sheila was visiting the tennis club and seeing a number of her old colleagues who made her very welcome and she was particularly pleased at how well the Club is now doing – a fitting tribute to her past endeavours.

We visited our flat (which is now on the market) and did a little cleaning in the hope of stimulating a sale – so far to no avail! We even found time to frequent a few old haunts.

Then we flew to Cornwall where we stayed with Rose in our flat in Newquay and were blessed with some stunning Spring weather for the ten days we were there.

Sheila found time to do a little painting while I did a few odd jobs around the place. Rosie showed us the garden at the hotel where she now works full-time and treated us to a meal in the restaurant there.

It clearly is a good idea to be friends with the chef because we were given at least two extra courses and everyone was so kind and friendly because we were Rosie’s Mum and Dad, so clearly she is both popular and valued!

It was fun spending some time with her and we really enjoyed our stay.

She also took us to see Caerhays Castle grounds, which as stunning, both as regards the floral display but also the setting. Sheila even managed a paddle!

While we were in Cornwall we visited Graham Hilder, late of Mochlos in Crete and one of Sheila’s tennis pals here. He provided a packed programme for us, including a visit to St Ives and a stage to screen performance of ‘Copelia’ from the Sydney Opera House.

I also met up with my old school friend, Terry Larcombe who I had not seen for the best part of fifty years. It was great to see Joe (for such I have always known him), after all the years and to catch up on our lives and I look forward to seeing him again soon.

Then it was time to return to Crete where we found the house in good order and the flowers well-looked after by Maria, in our absence. Since returning, we have had Phil from Bracknell and Liz from the Lake District to stay and Jane from London has just arrived for a week’s walking with friends.

Judging by recent weather (it was 37.7 C the other day in the shade), they may be simply walking into the sea to cool off rather than walking in the hills but we shall see!

Since we have been back, we have also found time to see a tax accountant with a view to considering re-locating to Crete on a more permanent basis. There are some difficult decisions to be made in this respect – none more so than affordable health care but since our recent trip to the UK, we are increasingly of the view that this is something we need to consider seriously.

This is partly a result of the Brexit vote last year but also because each time we visit the UK, we find life in Britain is more and more depressing. Probably the film, ‘I, Daniel Blake’ sums up what I mean. While there are of course many and notable exceptions, the generality is that many people don’t seem to care for anyone beyond their immediate family. There seems to be a lack of generosity of spirit, little value put on teachers and health workers and a growing dislike of foreigners.

As I write this, the opinion polls are still pointing to a Tory win at the General Election, a result which I find personally disturbing because it is my generation which seems prepared to vote back a Party bank-rolled by hedge funds and banks, and which cares so little for all that I value in Britain.

The main reason however is more positive. We like living in Greece. We like the people and we approve of the way they value family and community. We feel happy here and whilst there are of course problems, we feel we can deal with them.

We are not sure we want to live in the kind of society on offer from Mrs May – hence the need to look at an alternative which suits us better, at least for as long as the Greeks will allow us to stay. More to follow on this, no doubt!

John