Author Archives: John

A dander in the Dodecanese

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

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

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

And we ate well!

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

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

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

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

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

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

And requires a degree of scrambling skills!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The food was brilliant too!

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

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

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

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

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

John

Advertisements

Summer in Kavousi

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

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

She walked with Sheila in the hills

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

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

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

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

No one wanted to do anything much

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

and Sheila and Graham managed three games of tennis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

We have also been visited by some interesting looking beasties.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John

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

Can you imagine?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John

Catching up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John

Reflections from Hamburg, Peace and the Portals of Prina

peace-garden

In her last post, Sheila touched on the destruction of Hamburg during WW2.

During the last week of July 1943, the city was largely destroyed as a result of night raids by the RAF and daytime raids by the USAAF. ‘Operation Gomorrah’ as it was codenamed, claimed the lives of over 42,000 people, many of them killed on the night of July 27 when more than 700 RAF bombers took to the skies and as a result of concentrated bombing inadvertently created a firestorm over the city.

hamburg-bombing-02

Wikipedia has a detailed description of exactly what happened if anyone wants the full story.

I mention it because for the two days we were in Hamburg on our recent visit to northern Germany, it was difficult to avoid being reminded of what happened to Germany’s second city. As someone who is interested in history, I wanted to find out more about why this happened and whether it did anything to shorten the war.

The stated reason given at the time by the British authorities was retaliation for the Blitz and the bombing of Coventry but it seems clear that the switch from bombing industrial targets in the Ruhr was actually a change of policy – literally an attempt to shorten the war by breaking the spirit of the civilian population. There is some evidence that had it continued, it might have been successful but for reasons which are not entirely clear, this did not happen to any significant degree, at least not until February 1945 when Dresden was reduced to ruins and an unknown number of people perished.

Sheila and I spent some time while in Hamburg visiting a memorial in the crypt of the ruined church of St Nicholas. It commemorates not just those who died but also those air crews who took part, many of whom suffered severe psychological problems when the full horror became apparent afterwards. It also deals with other cities which suffered aerial destruction, particularly Warsaw. Interestingly, it does not seek to apportion blame but deals with the issues of aerial warfare and civilian population in a reasoned and open manner. However, underlying everything is a feeling that somehow this was divine retribution for Germany having started the war and for the awful treatment of Jews, gays and other minorities.

I was left feeling uneasy about this and decided to re-read ‘Love in the Ruins’ by Harry Leslie Smith which I had first read a couple of years ago. He tells his own story of life as an RAF wireless operator stationed at Hamburg at the end of 1945 and his love affair with a young German woman who would ultimately become his wife. I thoroughly recommend the book to anyone interested in the subject. It deals with some of the issues raised but in the immediate aftermath of the war, which is probably the best time to consider them. However, it’s also fundamentally a love story and a good read too!

I think it’s easy to moralise at a later date and to reach ‘fireside’ conclusions which are all very well when survival is not at stake but all the same, it is surely worth considering how war is now increasingly waged against civilian populations and how we British, from the time of the Boer War onwards, have had a hand in the development of this unfortunate aspect of modern warfare.

But of perhaps more immediate relevance to our world today, is the fact that the institutions put in place in Europe post WW2 have in the main prevented the scourge of previous generations, ie major European wars and allowed my generation, a virtually unprecedented period of peace. We can only hope that Brexit and the rise of neo-nationalism both in Europe and worldwide, will not endanger this precious legacy.

On a lighter note, we have of course, now returned to Crete after our stay in Germany and the weather since we returned to Kavousi, has been generally warm and sunny, at least by day.

So, the week before last, freed from Greek lessons by the upcoming carnival and greeted by a beautiful spring day, we decided to have a day out and started our tour by visiting Prina, a village in the hills above Istron, which had been recommended by our fellow Cretan blogger, Yvonne Payne.

The village itself is not particularly attractive but has a fine church situated high above,

with a view to die for and an access road, on which you might just do that!

img_20170223_113750

What struck me most about the village was the wonderful variety of doorways and alleys and being a fan of alliteration, I came up with the last part of my title, which in fact probably sounds better in Greek than in English – οι πόρτες της Πρίνας.

img_20170223_115628 img_20170223_120133 img_20170223_120526 img_20170223_120548 img_20170223_120729 img_20170223_120912

We had a short stop in Istron for a beer and a pie and then headed for the beach where Sheila had her first swim of 2017. Although it was warm enough to get into my dookers, I decided against a dip having picked up a cold in Athens on the way home from Germany. Nice weather though!

img_20170305_1109361And finally, my flower bed! For quite a while I have been intending to do something about the courtyard/alley in front of our house, here in Kavousi. We don’t own it – no one does apparently but it is a bit of an eyesore. Two of the ‘sheds’ are owned by folk who are no longer with us (according to Maria and Nikos) and although our elderly neighbour, Ευτυχία, occasionally pulls up a few weeds, it is clear to me that she feels that it is really my responsibility! Last year, I did manage to clear an area for my banana plants and this year, when we got back from Hamburg, I set to work on the Bermuda Buttercups, keeping a keen eye out for snakes! I am not a gardener but am pretty pleased with my small flower bed – το μικρό παρτέρι μου – which finally got some bedding plants last week and returning to my main theme, I decided to dedicate it to a peaceful and united Europe.

John

 

January blues and Spring hopes

023-02

We’re just back in Crete after a long trip to the UK. We spent Christmas in London with Graham and Emily and her family.

img_20161225_184233Bruce and Cathy were great hosts and organised a splendid celebration. Unfortunately the wine flowed so copiously that photographic evidence is in short supply. Believe me though – we all had a great day.

Many thanks to them for all their hard work and good company and we look forward to seeing them here in September.

Thanks also to Graham and Emily for hosting Christmas Eve celebrations – especially the mulled wine and to James for the loan of his flat.

While in the London area, we visited any number of friends, who spoilt us rotten with both kindness and hospitality. Many thanks to everyone and especially to those who put us up – you are too numerous to mention but it was great seeing you all!

New Year was spent with cousin Liz in Wiltshire who looked after us in fine style despite being under the weather

img_20170101_171615

and then we moved on to Cornwall to see Rose and the new flat. We were very pleasantly surprised by how relatively spacious it is (although still quite small in truth!), warm and how much Rose had done already to make it comfortable (see cover photo). We helped out a little by doing a few jobs and supplying one or two extras and had a really good stay.

001

Now we’re looking forward to going back in the Spring when hopefully the weather will be better and we can get out on the Coastal Trail and see the flowers.

It was an action packed trip and the following photos may give a feeling for some of things we got up to.

img_20161222_191505

img_20161216_152323

img_20161218_123221

img_20161221_143457 img_20161225_111838

 

img_20161225_131246

img_20161225_140350

img_20161229_131350

img_20161228_195832

img_20161230_222123

lila-01

The baby (Lila) is the first grand-daughter of our good friend Jane. She was born a week before Christmas and Chloe and Felipe could hardly have produced a better present for Grandma!

Conversation flowed with friends and family, although two topics tended to dominate – Brexit and Trump! Perhaps fortunately, we can’t do anything about either but we found few folk in the south-east who seemed enthused or excited about either. From a purely personal perspective, it is an anxious time for those of us who spend considerable amounts of time in Europe, where we expected to be able to come and go as we pleased without fear of visa restrictions or red-tape. Having just listened to the PM talking about ‘controlled rights’ for both EU citizens in the UK and vice versa, I feel no less anxious. We can however only sit back and enjoy the next two years and see how the dice fall. No point worrying! 2016 was the year when I was ‘Mr Positive’ after all. You can ask Sheila what I am for 2017!

On a lighter note, we discovered Uber taxis while we were in London. I know that they are not universally popular but as someone who rarely uses taxis whether in London or elsewhere (mainly because of cost), we were delighted to find out how cheap they were. For example, our journey back to James’ flat on Christmas evening cost only £20 for the three or four mile trip (which by the way we had walked in the morning due to the absence of public transport). Apparently Uber makes a loss and the drivers do not get paid a lot BUT in my view the black cabs drivers shouldn’t complain about loss of business because they only have themselves to blame for being so expensive. And Uber is so easy. Free ad over!

img_20170117_165224We returned to Crete to very cold weather. The previous weekend there had been snow in the village which is unusual and there was decidedly more than a nip in the air when we walked to the car at Heraklion Airport. The car started first time however but the house seemed like the inside of a fridge. It took a couple of days with the wood stove running at full tilt and the aircon working in reverse before we warmed up. Oddly, we were never so cold in the UK! However, out came the ‘long johns’ and the fleecy trousers and all was well.

Previous to the snow, they had had driving rain and storms in Crete but the house was dry when we returned so no problems there and the water will be a relief to the farmers, who were getting worried that it might be another winter without rain.

img_20170113_143727That said, now the weather here is better with blue skies and a feel of Spring in the air. My first bike ride revealed the first Spring flowers and a good crop of red peppers

img_20170117_143959and a walk later in the week gave an even better display (see below).

img_20170115_150926

So, whilst it would be premature to think that Spring is just around the corner (the woodpile is still going down alarmingly quickly – see photo below), there is

some hope that any January blues will soon be dispelled and normal service here can be resumed.

No specific New Year’s resolutions this time around but we both feel the need to get more involved in what is going on here. There are supposed to be a number of refugees being re-settled in Crete so we thought we might try to find out if there are any organisations involved in this work, where we could lend a hand. Feelers are being put out accordingly.

Sheila started back at her regular weekly tennis session over at Mochlos. The new (and very expensive racket) was in action for the first time. She is too modest to admit that there was any huge improvement but seemed quietly pleased with her performance!

img_20170117_165412

Greek lessons have re-started, although poor Manolis, our teacher, has just checked in sick so no lesson tomorrow. We intend to make a big effort in the next six months to get off the plateau where we both feel anchored at present. We don’t however have any firm plans about how to achieve this, except hard work and trying to use our Greek at every opportunity. It is coming along but so slowly – σιγά, σιγά.

Last night we went to the cinema in ierapetra. The ‘Premier’ has recently been re-opened after renovation and they were showing ‘La La Land’ in English with Greek sub-titles. It was a really good film and the sub-titles were well done too. We know that because we could read them! Now we just need to persuade the operator to have Tuesday lunchtime movies with soup and a roll at half price! I could become a regular.

We came back intent on taking forward plans for a new kitchen but on reflection, financial concerns relating to the fall in the value of the £ against the € have made us have second thoughts. So in a small way Brexit has hit home here already and our British friends are beginning to show some concern. Falling incomes brought about by the falling pound (down by over 20% since last June) with perhaps more to come must be causing anxiety in British ex-pat circles all over the EU. All those Brexiteers might wish to reflect on this before they book their next foreign holiday. It’s going to cost you all a whole lot lot more and you may also have to look after a lot of elderly folk who can’t continue to live abroad!

Finally, it was my name day while we were away, so Maria, our favourite neighbour made me a cake to celebrate and it tasted as fine as it looks!

030

John