Monthly Archives: July 2017

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