Author Archives: John

A Strange Kavousi Summer

In a sense, the above photo sums up what for us has been a strange summer in Kavousi – extreme heat, wild fires, regular small earthquakes and a covid related absense of visitors, which has meant an increased reliance on the presence of local friends for social contact.

The above photograph comes from a video taken recently by our local village journalist, Leonidas Koudoumogianakis (thank you Leonidas). As  wild fires go, it was quite small and because it started on the main road near the village of Episkopi, it was quickly extinguished but it was only a few miles from Kavousi.

We saw it first from the road above, as we were returning from a lunch date in the village of Thripti with both sets of our Dutch friends, Pauline and Chris and Hans and Hanneke. Regular contact with local friends has been a feature of this summer for all of us because none of us have had friends or family visiting from abroad.

Once we reached the main road from Ierapetra at the bottom, we were confronted by a number of fire engines and folk from the emergency services assisted by local volunteers, who were working hard in a strong north wind to extinguish the flames. Fortunately, they were successful but it brought home to us just how quickly these situations can get out of control and all apparently caused by a cigarette thrown carelessly from a passing car.

It has been the hottest summer on record in Greece for thirty or forty years and as has been widely reported in the Media, there have been a number of wild fires on the mainland and especially on the island of Evia, which have been made worse by a continuing strong north wind. Crete has been on high alert for some time but until now, we had seen little or no evidence that there had been a problem here. Now we know just how dangerous they can be.

The heat has been intense since we returned from the UK in mid-July and for a few days, all one could really do was survive with a mix of drinking plenty of water, switching on the airconditioning/fans, the occasional swim and just generally not doing a lot. This comes fairly naturally to me but for Sheila, who needs much more exercise, it was a particularly difficult time.

Eventually, we decided that a beach holiday was needed so we booked three nights in the small village of Kato Zakros.

We have been there many times and some of you who have stayed with us here may recall walking the gorge and visiting the remains of the Minoan Palace, before having a welcome swim and a meal at at one of the tavernas fronting the beach.

We were fortunate to be able to book a room in high season just above the beach and spent three glorious days doing very little, under a sunshade

with plentiful books on our kindles and cooling down with frequent swims and/or a beer.

Sheila had two longish walks early(ish) morning – one each way along the coast and discovered what looks to be a well-marked coastal path which needs further exploration but probably with fellow hikers. Any takers?

We ate well too starting each day with a continental breakfast provided by our hosts,

a light lunch at the same venue

and then the main meal in the evening from a choice of tavernas. It was a great break and we are about to plan the next one!

I mentioned earlier that since we returned  from the UK there have been a number of small earthquakes with epicentres close to Kavousi. This probably has nothing to do with climate issues and more to with the Earth’s tectonic plates and the multitude of faults in our area. Our geologist friend, Chris, is relaxed about it and described it as ‘a good thing’, allowing the pressure created to ease on a measured basis, thereby avoiding ‘the big one’ which everyone here fears! Personally I find the frequent small rumbles, somewhat akin to a lorry trundling along a dirt road, rather alarming but after a while, i suppose you do get used to it. And they were quite small on the seismic scale!

After a delay of over a year, Sheila finally got to play a couple of sessions of tennis recently. John-Pierre and Marina arrived from Belgium and with local resident Nigel making up the foursome, they got up early to avoid the worst of the heat and managed to shake the rust from the rackets.

As I mentioned, exercise has been a problem in the heat and it was only a few days ago that I got back in the saddle for the first time since our holiday. I was a bit stiff the next day after even only a few kilometres but it was good to be out, even if a tad too hot for my taste.

Some readers may recall that I have a project here at our house which involves buying a very small piece of land adjacent to the terrace, on which I want to built a staircase. The negotiations have been going on for nearly a year now and finally we hope will be brought to a conclusion by the end of September.

The land is owned by a local family and the complications relating to multiple ownership has been but one issue of many but finally this summer, we met Vicky from Athens who is the family member who first brokered the deal. She and her daughter came for coffee last week and today we went to her village summer house so that she could show us her Aunt’s house which the family would like to sell as a renovation project.

A project it will certainly be for someone (not us!) but it will make a lovely home when completed. It is situated off a small pedestrian lane not far from us which is always beautiful with flowers and trailing plants and indeed is one of the places in the village which first attracted us to Kavousi. Let us know if you are interested!

As regards our house, we have also acquired a new lamp, made for us by Lydia who is the wife of Gregory, our hairdresser. Lydia searches the beaches on the south coast for a suitable bit of driftwood, dries and oils the wood and mounts it on a suitably large pebble and then creates the most amazing lamps.

She has been working on ours for some months and finally it was installed when we got back from the UK and then we all went out to celebrate in Mochlos with a superb supper at Giorgos’ taverna!

We also have another flower on our Bird of Paradise plant – the second of the summer!

and we celebrated with haggis for supper!

The last two weeks has been dominated (for me at least) by computer issues. I switched on my desktop one morning to get the dreaded ‘blue screenof death’.

A trip to the computer shop confirmed my worst fears – the hard drive would have to be wiped and Windows re-installed. However, I was not too worried because I had taken the precaution of backing-up all my important files to an external hard drive, or so I thought. Just about everything was there and after re-installing all the programmes, I was quickly back up and running except that is, for my family history files! I thought it was all there and much of it was but not my family tree. Luckily I found a file from last year but much of the work done since will have to be re-created. Take notice, friends!

Summer here would not be the same without visits to the outdoor cinema in Agios Nikolaos. We have been twice with Pauline and Chris – on the first occasion to see live opera and on the second, a showing of the 1973 movie ‘The Sting’ with Robert Redford and Paul Newman. We had seen it before of course but there is something special about seeing it outdoors on a warm summer evening in Greece. On both occasions, the entertainment followed supper at ‘Paradosiako’ taverna with our friends and such social contact has been an important part of our summer.

Indeed, as I mentioned earlier, seeing friends here has been one of the particular pleasures of this strange summer. Usually we are busy with visitors but this year being able to spend time with our local friends (both ‘foreign’ and Greek) has provided not just friendship and social contact but also entertainment and laughter. We’re very lucky to live in such a pleasant place as Kavousi, with so many nice folk around.

And finally, for those of you who like a good baby picture, here is one of our two month old granddaughter, Isla, with her first proper smile! They are all planning to come in late October for a week and we can’t wait.

John

 

Home Improvements

At the end of this month we hope to be making a trip to the UK for two very important family events which are expected to take place in June and July.

Firstly, all being well, our daughter, Rosie and her boy friend Ed, will present us with our first grandchild in late June in Cornwall and then in early July, our son Graham will marry Rhiannon in London, before they leave for a two year teaching contract in Mexico. So in the space of a few short weeks we will have a new granddaughter and a new daughter-in-law!

Neither of these two much anticipated and exciting events had anything to do with our decision to splash the cash and to give the house a major refurbishment but I mention them only to explain that this will be the last Post on the the Blog for at least a couple of months until we return to Crete sometime around the middle of July.

Further, whilst house refurbishment is not of itself a very interesting subject, except for those involved, one purpose of the Blog is to provide a record of our life here in Kavousi, so it seems appropriate to include not just accounts of beach holidays, visits to archaeological sites etc etc but also more mundane day-to-day activities which make up much of our life here.

So, a few months ago, Sheila raised again her often expressed wish to replace the well-worn

and much marked floor tiles

in all of the main rooms of our house and given that I plan to spend a small fortune on my project to provide an alternative means of access to the house, it seemed only reasonable to agree and to exhibit as much excitement as the prospect of new floor tiles can generate!

I seem to recall that there was originally a budget of sorts but this appeared miraculously to increase after a couple of visits to the tile shop in nearby Pachia Ammos, where eventually and perhaps inevitably, the most expensive tiles available were selected after of course much necessary deliberation.

What is more, there seem to be an amazing number of other bits and pieces required to put down new tiles which are not limited simply to the type of glue, as I now know to my cost.

Moreover, I had decided that whilst Alkis our builder was here, it would be sensible to paint the outside of the house which needed refreshing

and of course with new tiles inside, then an interior refreshment was also needed.

Even the ‘snake pit’ got a make-over!

Still, budgets are for busting apparently, so what the heck!

What follows therefore, is a photographic record of the past couple of weeks which involved moving just about everything from room to room so that the tiling could be done

and what there was not room for, went to the spare room of our new neighbour Anca, who kindly and graciously loaned us the space. Even our bathroom was pressed into service.

Everything is now more or less back to rights and I am very pleased to say looks pretty much as it did before and the new larger tiles, which even I have to admit are beautiful, also give an  impression of a more spacious interior to our little house, a sense which is aided and abetted by the fact that the dining room floor is now on the same level as the sitting room.

Many thanks to Alkis and his ‘boys’ for a great job well done!

But life goes on and given my unfounded reputation in the village as a keen cyclist, my services were recently required to explain to Anca how one mends a puncture!

And any Post from Kavousi would not be complete without the obligatory sea shot. This one is from the beach at Istron last week.

Best wishes for a great summer and please note that I have not even mentioned the ‘C’ word once!

John

Topical Matters

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. 

John

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!

Birthday burbles and more …..

Next week is my 75th birthday. I mention this not because I want the readership to rush out and buy me a present or send me a card (although either would be nice!) but stems from the fact that we are now back in lockdown here in Greece.  As a result, I am not going to be able to have the usual celebrations, given that the tavernas are closed and we are not allowed to meet friends or entertain in our houses. 

So, after the initial disappointment, I got to thinking that perhaps this was not such a bad thing and that I would not just postpone the celebrations until some time next year when hopefully things will be back to normal but rather just remain 74 for the rest of my days!

I tried out the idea on my cardiologist when I saw him last week as he had just declared me ‘perfect’ for my age. Coming after a visit to the dentist when I had to have nothing done (unlike someone else I could mention) and the ENT man who, while not quite so fulsome, did at least say that I might make it through the rest of my life without needing a hearing aid, this seemed to me to represent good news. And my cardiologist after some consideration, declared that it was a good plan and I might even consider going backwards each year. I don’t think I will go quite that far because 74 seems like a good age health-wise and it has been a good year too, despite the blessed virus. So, I think I will keep it!

Whilst on the subject of birthdays, Sheila had a particularly good one this year. We decided to have a few days in Agia Galini which is a small town on the south coast, even though the weather did not look too promising. In the event we had three great days on the beach and any plans we had to visit sites of interest were quietly shelved while we indulged in (very) late summer activities.

Present time!

We had chosen a taverna with rooms right on the beach, where the food turned out to be excellent and really there was little need to go anywhere else.

However, we did manage to struggle to a cocktail bar one evening and then on to the best restaurant in town for the birthday meal

and Sheila also fitted in a little retail therapy in Heraklion en route.

Perhaps the unexpected highlight among many, was a visit one evening to a bar for live music. It was late season so there were not many people there but at another table were a party of women of less than a certain age who were out to enjoy their evening. Before long they had persuaded the singer to join them and then proceeded to have an impromptu karaoke session followed by Greek dancing. On reflection, perhaps it was not so impromptu after all but then the waiter started dispensing raki to one and all – us included – direct from the bottle with heads tipped back. The singer was certainly well-oiled as were the ladies! We eventually staggered home somewhat bewildered!

Since we returned to Kavousi, life has followed a fairly quiet pattern. A number of ‘summer’ friends who did manage to get out here this year have now returned for the winter, including Stan & Jann and Victoria & Paul. Our little world is more limited without them but until lockdown re-started we were seeing Pauline & Chris, Hans and Hanneke and Rich and Shona on a regular basis usually for a meal in a taverna somewhere but sometimes at home.

Pauline also organised a visit to Azorias, one of our local archaeological sites, with Melissa, a local archaeologist to explain what was what. We had been on a similar visit a couple of years ago so it was interesting to find out how the archaeologists’ findings had been updated in the meantime.

We feel a special affinity for Azorias because we can it from our terrace and Sheila often walks past it on one of her favourite circular trips.

Swimming for us ended in late October when the weather became wet and windy and the temperature dropped by six or seven degrees. We now get an occasional decent day but so far nothing warm enough to tempt us back in.

That said, our exercise regime continues. As mentioned Sheila walks on a regular basis and sometimes accompanies me on her bike when I head off into the olives. However, the recent rain has made some of my favourite routes rather tricky, so my outings are more limited than I would like. Before lockdown curbed our activities somewhat, we sometimes took the car and then walked for a while. This is a favourite spot.

We may shortly have some new neighbours. Anca and Mark from Uttoxeter are hoping to buy a house just down from us. It has been on the market for sometime. Indeed we looked at it ourselves when we moved to Kavousi. It needs a little work doing so I have put them in touch with Alkis and yesterday there was a site visit. As a result Alkis will start work soon to make the place a bit more water and damp proof and if everything works out, they will take possession in the New Year. It will be good to have some new English neighbours.

Whilst on the subject of Alkis and building work, I have a new project.

We are hoping to buy a small piece of land below our house and have a flight of steps built down to the road below.This is partly to give us a second access but also if practical, to have an electric stair lift installed against the day when I am unable to climb the hill from where we park the car. (Sheila has just pointed out that as I shall be a healthy 74 year old for ever, this should not be a consideration!)

Also, I hope that it will be possible to have the staircase built in such a way as to provide additional support to the ‘Great Wall of China’ which basically prevents our house collapsing into the ravine below! Matters are at an early stage but there is nothing I like more than a good project!

It is of course that time of the year when pumpkins are in plentiful supply and readers with long memories may recall that Maria’s husband, Nikos, is known to us as the pumpkin man.This year he brought us a monster.

It took two of us to move it and it had to live in the sitting room for a week or two because there was no room in the kitchen! Eventually, I summoned up the energy to deal with it and it took nearly another week to cut it up and break it down into manageable portions for soup and chunks for the new freezer.

Well worth the effort though because the soup was amazing!

Sheila’s friend Margarita and her husband run a greenhouse business and kindly gave us a box of tomatoes and cucumbers.

I have never seen so many cucumbers and we have had to be quite inventive to find ways in which to eat them. Cucumber soup was an interesting experience!

One of the things I like the best about living in Crete is the way in which the changing seasons are reflected in the activities of local people in the village, particularly as regards their fields. November is the time for picking olives here and currently the factory at Kavousi is running at full capacity.

And next, we can look forward to a stunning crop of our own oranges!

I could mention elections but I think all has been said that needs to be said about the US election and were I to get into that, I would also need to comment on the equally nonsensical internal Labour Party elections, where the number of those taking part has dropped by over half in the last two years, as a direct result of the change of leadership, move to the right and suspension of the previous leader. We have been here before. Democracy is in the doldrums!

Finally, my family history project is moving slowly forwards and I will shortly be issuing to family and interested friends, the results of my research over forty years as it relates to the family of my paternal grandfather, Sidney Burt. This section alone runs to 90 pages and counting and there are still three more grandparents’ trees to write-up. It will be quite a tome when finished, although of course, I shall still be only 74, assuming that I am spared!

John

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,

John

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!

John

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.

John

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!

John

Summer 2019 Part 1 – Happiness to Ηardship and Χαρούλης.

It is mid-summer here in Crete and we are also mid-way through our visitor season, although oddly, while this is the best time of year, as some would say to come to Greece, not many people choose to visit in July and August because they think it is too hot.

Still, the current lull at least gives me time to catch up on a long outstanding update to the happenings in our lives here over the past few months, since Sheila last wrote following our trip to the Peloponnese in April.

Please forgive what might seem to be rather a long list!

Towards the end of April, our good friends Walter & Brigitta arrived back in Crete from Germany and although it proved to be a short visit it was very good to spend some time with them and we hope to see them in London at some point over the winter for a long weekend, particularly as their visits to Crete in future may not be as frequent as we would like.

April was also significant because we changed the basis of our Greek lessons. After five years of struggling with Greek grammar, we both felt that what we need now is more conversation with native Greek speakers and so we started a new regime with our teacher Manolis, whereby we do just that. It is early days yet because commitments in May and June meant that we only had a few lessons on the new basis. Indeed, more recently still, we have had a couple of additional sessions with the girl friend of a Greek friend of ours and these have proved very useful as she speaks very clearly and understands precisely what we want. So we pick a theme – family, music, films etc and then we chat. It is fun. We think we are making some progress. We shall see.

In mid May, Sheila went for a in the gorge at Kritsa with her tennis friend Marina and Yvonne and Alan Payne from INCO. It was a bit of a clamber apparently as Yvonne’s photo makes clear!

A few days later, my cousin Liz arrived from the UK for her customary annual visit. I don’t think she will mind me saying that she is in her 80’s and it is amazing that she is able to cope still with the demands of the journey. Long may her visits continue!

We did not do very much sight-seeing on this occasion but there were two trips to Bobo’s taverna in Pachia Ammos because Liz is a big fan of Bobo (who isn’t) and we also went to Mochlos on her last night for cocktails and supper overlooking the bay at Yiorgos’s taverna.

During the week following Liz’s departure, we went on an INCO trip to the Katharo Plateau which is above 1000 m above sea level and is situated in the mountains behind Ag. Nik. INCO is an organisation for foreigners based in the Ag. Nik. area and has become quite dynamic over over the past few years with activities ranging from walking, through food, archaeology to opera streamed from New York, as well as a useful information service. The Katharo day trip was a morning walking tour to see the early summer flowers, followed by lunch at a local taverna.

Sheila went on the walk while I decided to put the new car through its paces by using the 4×4 to go on the dirt road through to the slightly lower Lassithi Plateau.

Sheila enjoyed the flowers and the walk and I enjoyed the excitement of a sometimes hairy trip through the hills!

One of the highlights of our summer so far. was the wedding in May of Bobo’s son, Γιώργος (George) το Ευαγγελία (Evangelina), to which we were invited. We have known them both for years, Γιώργος from the taverna of course and Ευαγγελία because she used to work at our hairdressers.

The wedding was held in the early evening outside a small church on the sea front overlooking the Gulf of Mirabello, not far from Elounda and the reception at a ‘wedding palace’ just outside Ierapetra. There were probably about 500+ guests and it was all amazing from the weather to the setting, the bride’s dress and the reception – a memory to treasure but unfortunately no close-up photos of the actual event! (Footnote: Γιώργος  was given the weekend off from the taverna but was back at work on the Monday. The honeymoon will be during the winter!)

Our next visitors were Nick and Jude who arrived at the end of the month for a short visit. It was very good to see them here again. they were our first visitors to Ferma, when we arrived in Crete seven years ago, so we were keen to show them our house and the delights of living on the north coast.

The highlight of the trip was a visit to Zakros, where Sheila and Jude walked the gorge (in the company of a great deal more water than is usual!), while Nick and I swam and enjoyed a chat at the beachside taverna over a beer or two.

In early June, we went on another INCO trip, this time to the village of Patsos in central Crete, where we visited a cave used by Patrick Leigh Fermor and the team of British Agents and Cretan andartes in WW2, when the German General Kreipe was abducted, which subsequently was made into the film ‘Ill Met by Moonlight’.

Also included in the tour was a visit to a Byzantine church, a gorge walk and a tour of a new vineyard.

Once Marina and Jean-Pierre arrived back from Belgium in late Spring, Sheila re-started her regular tennis sessions at the Istron Bay Hotel and despite Jean Pierre requiring an operation on his knee, tennis in one form or another (singles/doubles – fun or competition) has been a good source of both fun and exercise for Sheila over the past months. Current start time is 8.30 am to avoid excessive heat which means an early start for everyone!

Mid-June saw us in the Dodecanese for more island-hopping with friend Phil from the UK. We met up in Kos and took the ferry to the Fournoi Islands where we stayed for four days.

Fournoi is really out of the way and frankly there is very little to do but because it is off the beaten track it remains a special place. In days gone by, it was a haven for pirates and there remains something wild about the place and the people. It was a good place to start our trip, relaxing on the beach,

exploring by hired car and foot (and relaxing in tavernas)

and having fun at the village party where Phil showed off her Greek dancing skills.

Next stop was Ikaria, famous as the birthplace of Icarus.

There we stayed at Therma, which as the name suggests has a thermal spring. This provides hot water for a Hammam, which of course we visited and also heats the sea, which was an added bonus. Sheila and Phil managed a couple of decent walks (and meals)

while I toned up the tan on the beach and we all enjoyed the rather different atmosphere of this special island.

In the past it has been the dumping ground of left-wing political prisoners from the time of the Civil War to the Junta and as it was election time it was amazing to see the number of posters up, supporting the KKE (Greek Communist Party). Ikarians also have a reputation for being somewhat laid back and apparently in some of the villages, shops stay closed all day and only open in the evening and for much of the night! Perhaps this relaxed approach to life, in part explains their tendency to live to an extremely old age!

At the end of her week, Phil returned by ferry to Kos and from there to the UK,

while we moved on to the north coat of the island for a few more days on the beautiful and largely deserted beaches there.

Then it was on to Samos where we had rented a studio next to a taverna and very close to a beach on the south coast. A little Greek was attempted

but frankly, we were so laid back by then that it was hard to do anything but drink cocktails

or lie on the beach

but eventually we hired a car for the day and visited ancient Heraion where Hera, wife of Zeus, was supposed to have been born. It is a rather special place and remained an important religious centre from classical times, through the Roman period and even for the Byzantines.

Then we went to Pythagorio, named after Pythagoras who was born there and on our way home bought some items of the rather famous Samos pottery. The island is beautiful and there is more tourism than Ikaria or Fournoi but it is largely unspoilt and Sheila was able to enjoy an early morning walk to a cave, where Pythagoras is alleged to have hid from the tyrant Polycrates, even allowing for the 3 km and three hundred or more steps to get up there!

It was hard to drag ourselves back to Crete but a visit by our daughter Rosie, awaited us in early July and so needs must! Fortunately, she really only wanted to chill out and soak up the sun, so it was not too much of a hardship! Possibly the highlight of her stay was a visit to Stan and Jann’s new house on the hill above Tholos and a swim in their infinity pool. Rosie’s picture was a sensation on facebook!

One sad event darkened what was otherwise a very happy time. My old friend from university days, Vince and his wife Rosy had been intending to visit us at Easter but called off because Vince had become ill. This problem was eventually diagnosed as cancer of the oesophagus and when we returned from the Dodecanese trip, I found out from his brother that Vince was in hospital and had only weeks to live. Suffice it to say that the diagnosis was correct and mid-July found us both on a plane to London for his funeral. Whilst there were happier moments on the trip – seeing friends and family and being able to go to Sarah’s 70th birthday party, overall it was very sad. Vince was a good man, a true friend and I will miss him badly.

To finish on a lighter note, we returned to find everything in order here, the weather fine and sunny and summer festivities in full swing, including a concert in nearby Pachia Ammos by our favourite Greek singer, Γιάνηης Χαρούλης but these will feature in the next Post!

John

Feeling welcome here in Greece – Σε ευχαριστούμε Ελλάδα!

The following is the text of a letter from the Greek Foreign Minister to his counterpart in the UK regarding post-Brexit Citizens rights.

It is both heart-warming to see immigrants welcomed and valued in these terms and for us  (as immigrants to Greece) a source of huge relief but perhaps of greater significance is the positive approach to immigration expressed therein, compared to the usual negative attitude adopted by the British Government in recent years.

 

HELLENIC REPUBLIC

MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

THE ALTERNATE MINISTER

Athens, 15/2/2019

Dear colleague,

Thank you for your letter dated 23 January 2019 regarding the protection of Citizens’ Rights after the withdrawal of the UK from the EU.

The UK has been an essential and valuable partner for Greece within the EU family and will be greatly missed. But we respect the decision of the British people and stand ready to continue our strategic partnership in all sectors of mutual interest. We welcome, in this context, the UK Government’s position that the UK is leaving the EU, not Europe.

We believe that the Withdrawal Agreement is the only way to ensure an orderly and predictable withdrawal, as well as legal certainty for public administrations, citizens and businesses alike. It can also fully guarantee the protection of our Citizens’ Rights, which remains a top priority for both of our countries.

For this  reason,  we  strongly  advocated,  during the  Withdrawal  Agreement negotiations, for a most generous approach in securing the rights of EU and UK citizens and their family members. There is a substantial Greek community in the UK and a sizeable UK community in Greece and we wish for both of them to continue to enjoy fully the benefits and privileges they had before withdrawal. This is why we stand firmly behind the need for the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement’s before 29 March 2019.

The ratification remains uncertain however and we are obliged to prepare for the eventuality of a no deal scenario, in close cooperation with the EU and other member states. In this scenario too, Citizens’ Rights is a top priority and our aim is to ensure that both Greek and UK citizens who chose to live, study and work in each others’ countries will continue to do so without obstacles and will fully enjoy similar, if not identical, rights as before withdrawal.

We welcome the UK government’s announcements for the use of the EU Settlement Scheme in case of no deal as well and for the clarity and certainty provided for all categories of EU citizens therein.

Let me assure you, in this respect, that British citizens already living in Greece are welcome, valued and an important bridge of friendship between our two countries. Their rights will be fully recognized and guaranteed, in line with the reciprocity offered by the UK to EU citizens. Our state services work expeditiously on fast-track draft legislation that will be voted in time before 29 March 2019 and will give British citizens and their family members already living in Greece before the withdrawal date (29 March 2019), the opportunity to remain here and continue to live, study and work, as well as enjoy social security and health care benefits. For the latter, as you know, a draft Regulation currently discussed at EU level aims at contingency planning for the no deal scenario, specifically for the coordination of social security systems after the UK withdrawal.

Our national draft legislation will also aim to cover categories of citizens arriving in Greece after the withdrawal date (29.3.2019). I have already consulted my fellow ministers responsible for the matter and intend to make a public announcement shortly. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in close coordination with all other government departments and services, will continue to be at the disposal of the British embassy in Athens and your government services.

I look forward to continuing and enhancing our excellent cooperation across the various sectors that bind our two countries together and I hope to meet you in the very near future.

Yours sincerely

George Katrougalos

A random immigrant!

Looks like we may be able to stay, whatever happens with Brexit and nice to know that the Greek Government actually want us here!

John