Earlier this week, we headed off to Agios Nikolaos to have our interview at the Police Station as part of the application procedure in order to obtain our new biometric residence cards. The new cards are not really anything to do with Brexit as I understand it. In other words they were going to happen throughout the EU anyway but the authorities here are fast-tracking Brits as a result of the UK’s departure.
We went armed with the necessary prescribed information including four passport sized photographs and our old residence cards. We have only had these for three years and we were very pleased to get them at the time as I recall, partly because they were for permanent residence but also because we managed the process entirely in Greek. I was sad to have to hand the old one in. Here’s a copy of Sheila’s (not the best photo of her!).
We were a little concerned about the interview, partly because there was an outbreak of covid in Ag Nik at the end of last week and we felt a little anxious about going there especially as a helpful friend described the police station as chaotic. In the event, it was quite the opposite, empty except for two policemen, the WPC whom we had to see and someone in the lock-up which is adjacent to the waiting area. Covid restrictions applied throughout (masks/social distancing/plexi-glass etc) and everything was in English. More important we had all the correct information and now we await a call for a further visit to another police station to have our finger prints taken! Thereafter, we should receive our news cards from Athens in a couple of weeks or so, although we have to return to the first police station to get them. We are becoming quite expert on police stations!
I mentioned to Sheila on the way home that had this been the UK, I would have been chuntering on about fingerprinting being an invasion of my human rights but because we are here, it is a case of when in Rome etc or in this case, Ag Nik!
Whilst on the subject of official documentation, Sheila was very relieved to receive her spanking new blue British passport a few weeks back. She was told just before Christmas that even though her old EU maroon one had a year to run, she would need to renew it immediately. The reason was not clear but the process turned out to be remarkably hassle free – totally online, no need to find a JP or other responsible person to sign anything and you can even take your own photo and check that it will be acceptable! What is more, it was quick and they even give you updates on progress. Quite clearly Dido Harding is not in charge at the Passport Office. Bravo to them! Whilst sad to lose her old maroon one, Sheila was very pleased when the courier arrived bearing the replacement. Not having your passport here at the moment is quite stressful!
As those of you have visited us here in Crete will know, our village of Kavousi is situated on the main road from Heraklion to Sitia. As main roads go it is no great shakes and to be honest there is relatively little traffic but it is nevertheless a designated Euroroute. As such, it is due to be upgraded and last year, plans were unveiled for a by-pass of the village. These caused a degree of consternation because the new route will be driven through the olive groves between the village and the beach and literally straight through a number of largely foreign owned villas on the hill above! A lively village meeting at this time last year took the roads authority to task and it was thought that the plans would be changed, particularly as they were working from a map from the 1980’s when most of the houses had not been built!
Recently, it was announced that, except for a vague intimation that they will look again at the route through the villas (difficult to see how this can be done to anyone’s satisfaction – see opposite), the route through the olives will be unchanged! Because of covid, there cannot be a village meeting to object to this but the Village Council, led by Maria our ‘mayor’, is raising the necessary 7,000 euros to lodge a formal appeal.
Any readers who have been involved in these campaigns against the decisions of generally faceless bureaucrats, will recognise the scenario. We made our contribution to the fighting fund and watch from a distance, hoping that the alternative of a tunnel under the village will not find favour, as the projected northern portal might be quite close to our house!
My project to buy the land adjacent to our house and to have a staircase built thereon has been slowly progressing over the winter. Greek land practices and the law relating thereto, has slowed things up somewhat and covid restrictions and closures have not helped. However, just this week we heard that papers have been lodged with the land registry which may mean that very soon, we can at least move to having a contract of purchase drawn up. Once that is done, we will feel confident to commit to spending money on having detailed plans drawn up to enable the necessary permissions to be obtained. Watch this space!
So far covid had largely spared our village but lately there have been outbreaks very close to us – the most recent only last week in Agios Nikolaos as I mentioned above. This prompted the Greek Government to upgrade the whole of Lassithi Prefecture to Level Red which meant still more restrictions, although to be honest they did not impact greatly on us as we don’t tend to be out during the night and nor do we do much shopping other than at the supermarket and bakery. However, we heard yesterday that the additional restrictions are being lifted from Ierapetra Municipality so that is an improvement, I suppose. I find it hard to keep up!
We have been quite careful taking all the recommended precautions and generally sticking to the rules. However, it is hard not seeing friends and of course we still have no visits from family – indeed it is now nearly a year since we saw any of our children, which is hard especially given the news that all being well, we will become grandparents for the first time in June and we need to get to Cornwall!
We are hoping that by then we will have had the necessary vaccinations to allow us to travel but these matters are progressing painfully slowly here compared to the roll out by he NHS in the UK. Unfortunately, the EU has not covered itself with glory in the way it has organised the vaccination procedure. Still, we live in hope.
I mentioned that we miss seeing friends and this applies especially to those from the UK. However, in this respect technology has helped a lot and Zoom meetings have become a regular feature of life here in the pandemic.
Burns Night was celebrated with haggis from the British shop but to make it more palatable to foreign palates, I cooked it in the form of Balmoral Chicken (chicken fillet stuffed with haggis) about which I was somewhat dubious! I have to say though, whether it was the whisky sauce or not, it was delicious. Of course there were no neeps but carrots helped out and with Sheila’s trifle to follow, we enjoyed a splendid meal.
The weather has improved a lot this week and Sheila has been swimming twice. She tells me that the water is not too cold but the breeze is a bit too strong for me at present and despite everything she says, I note that she does not stay in long!
I am still enjoying my bike rides through the olives which are becoming easier now that nearly all the olives have been picked and the trees pruned and Sheila takes regular walks in order to get her daily dose of exercise.
Whenever we want to go out to do this, we have to send a text message to a designated number saying whom we are, where we live and giving a specific code (6 for exercise for example) and then wait for a reply giving permission! It is quite regimented but allows the police to check why people are out and about and hopefully keep us safe.
And for now that is about all we can do but we are dreaming of the day when the tavernas re-open and we don’t have to cook!
And just in case you are wondering, the header photo was taken by Sheila a few weeks back when she was reading in the sunshine on the roof and liked the contrast in colours between the washing and the background. Someone thought she ought to enter it in a competition! And yes, that is snow on the mountain.
PS As a post script, I could not resist including this picture of Kavousi taken this afternoon on my bike ride through the olives. How lucky we are to be living in such a beautiful place!