Category Archives: Cornwall

What a wonderful world

At the end of May, John and I travelled from Kavousi to London and then on to Cornwall where we stayed at our flat in Newquay.  In spite of covid restrictions, we spent socially distanced time with our daughter, Rosie and her partner, Ed over the next few weeks and then on June 28th, Rosie gave birth to their daughter, Isla Rose Broom. 10 days later, we were present at the wedding of our son Graham, to Rhiannon at Islington Town Hall, London. As you can imagine, we are incredibly happy about all of this!!!

Isla was born in Truro Hospital at 7.30 am. She was 9lbs 7ozs (4.28kg) at birth and looked completely adorable from the start.

For some days, we had been expecting the baby to be born and I put my phone on immediately when I woke up. But no news for days. And then on the Monday morning, about 8am, I looked at my phone and saw three pictures of a baby. It was a wonderful feeling and I still feel emotional when I think of that moment. Excitement, relief, wonder, pure happiness, tearful ….

Ed, Rosie and the new baby (with no name at that point) were home at their flat by 3pm that day which seemed amazing to me, given that I remember spending some days in hospital after childbirth.  John and I took flowers round to their flat and we couldn’t believe how well the baby, Rosie and Ed were.  I felt very nervous picking her up as her head seemed so wobbly and she seemed so small. But holding my granddaughter was a wonderful feeling and brought tears to my eyes.

After a couple of days, the baby was named Isla Rose.  John and I thought these were lovely names and they suited our precious granddaughter. For the next week, we saw Isla most days and on the last day, John and I were in charge for an hour as her parents went shopping.  Isla had the good sense to stay asleep!!! . Both parents are very relaxed and so happy with their new daughter.

It was difficult to leave Rosie, Ed and Isla but we did have another family celebration to attend.

Graham and Rhiannon married on July 8th.  When I first heard about the wedding, I was delighted but had selfish worries about what I was going to wear as I realised that shorts and a  t shirt  would not be appropriate! I went to a shop in Agios Nikolaos and the staff there, helped me choose a very comfortable, suitable and colourful outfit and they even took me to another shop where I could buy shoes! After months of lockdown and casual dress , I looked at myself in the mirror in some wonder that I looked so smart!!! The material survived the travel and I bought another dress in Truro, when I was in Cornwall, for the evening. My wardrobe has improved no end!!!

Graham and Rhiannon’s wedding was a delight.  A small group of us attended the ceremony at Islington Town Hall – parents, grandparents, James and Rhiannon’s brother, Nye.  In the circumstances, Rosie decided sensibly not to come.

The bride and groom were very happy.

as were all the relatives.

Afterwards, we went to a restaurant nearby, where we were joined by a few friends of Graham and Rhiannon. The company and the food were wonderful.

 Speeches were made by the bride and groom as well as their fathers. Graham’s friend, Neil, introduced some music into the occasion, including ‘The bonnie banks of Loch Lomond’ which we all had to sing, of course. The evening was spent at the St Pancras Rennaissance Hotel where conversations continued until eventually the young folk went off to a karaoke session and the parents continued to drink and chat. Graham and Rhiannon had arranged for their parents to stay overnight at the hotel which was another treat. Whilst I ate a good breakfast, the next morning, I did not feel so well later on. But it was all well worth it!!!

A few days later, Graham and Rhiannon invited us and our friend, Jane, for dinner at their flat. It was quite dramatic as we arrived by taxi in a huge deluge of rain. They cooked us a lovely meal and we talked about their plans for the next two years. They leave for Mexico City on August 8th and Graham starts work as a chemistry teacher at Greengates School there later in the month. They sounded so excited and all set for adventure!. They are renting out their flat and putting their furniture into storage. We had a lovely evening and we felt very happy for them both.

Recently, Graham and Rhiannon met Isla in Newquay (see cover picture).

While they were there they checked out the new, superb  Airbnb accommodation and they helped to organise Isla’s first barbeque experience which included some rain!

During the four weeks before Isla’s birth, we were unfortunately and reluctantly in quarantine  for 10 days in the flat, so it was good to have a project for that period and then up until the baby was born!  Now Rosie is no longer living in our flat, she had the good idea of renting it out on Airbnb.  There is great demand in Cornwall at present for such accommodation.  But the flat needed some work done to it before this could happen. By the time we arrived, Ed had laid a new floor and he and Rosie had painted much of it. So our job was to finish the painting and complete some other jobs.

We decided also to update some of the appliances – the boiler, cooker and dishwasher – as our contribution to the venture. These were bought and installed so that they would be completely reliable when people came to stay. By the time we left Newquay, the new boiler would not work which was the reverse of what was intended!  However, it was not such a big problem and was fixed after we left, although we had to use cold water for a couple of days!

John and I were also given the task of taking pictures of the flat for Airbnb advertising.  This was a bit of a challenge, not only do we have limited photographic skills but the flat is quite small. The living room/kitchen was easy,

the rest was more tricky.

The second bedroom is quite small!  Fortunately, Ed’s mother, Sue, reassured us that the photos were not so important!  In fact,  Rosie has had no trouble in renting it out for August and September so we are taking some credit for this! The first group of people have arrived and all is good so far.

We also had time for some fun in Cornwall, which is just so beautiful especially in the good weather which we were fortunate to enjoy. Rosie took us to the famous Lost Gardens of Heligan which were lovely and it was especially good to have a professional gardener as our guide!

and I particularly enjoyed the flowers,

the trees

and the Mud Maid sculpture.

On another occasion with Ed and Rosie we had lunch at the Bowgie Inn, near Newquay and were stunned by the most spectacular panorama. I think that the blues of the Cretan seas are unbeatable but actually the view that day of the Cornish coastline was, without doubt, in close competition.

There was another pub outing to meet Graham and Sally  We met Graham in Kavousi, but he lives in Camborne and it was so nice to catch up with them again.

We also went further afield for 4 days. We spent a couple of nights with John’s cousin, Liz and enjoyed her hospitality,

her flowers,

and the wonderful green countryside of Wiltshire

We visited Tim and Liz in Devon and later they also came to see us and Isla in Newquay. While they were there, we enjoyed a local walk showing off the wonderful coastline around Newquay,

  and on another excursion sat watching the ferry from Rock to Padstow

Tim brought with him two local pictures which now are features of our flat. Apparently, John and Tim’s parents went to Newquay for their honeymoon in 1937 and bought these pictures by a local artist. Rosie and all of us were delighted to have something so personal to display in the flat.

It was then time to move on to London for the wedding. At first, we stayed with our friends Sarah and Mark, who with their son, Tom, coped very well with our comings and goings  regarding the wedding and confirmed that we looked fine as parents of the groom!  The next day when we returned, we brought some flowers which had been on a table at the restaurant.

One day I walked with Sarah in Battersea (we used to work together there in the 1980’s) and we went to an Arts community project in which Sarah is involved which was very interesting.

Later we watched England play Denmark in the semifinal of the European Cup which had a good ending!

Then we moved to stay with Jane for three days. She had moved since we saw her last so we were curious to see her new house and garden as well as catching up with her news.  We visited the nearby old Rookery which is one of London’s many wonderful parks!) and Jane was keen to show me West Norwood cemetery.  In 1842, a section of it was acquired by the London Greek community for a Greek Orthodox cemetery.  There are many impressive looking monuments and mausoleums there.

The highlight of the visit was a barbecue with her daughter Chloe, Felipe and their children. Felix, aged nearly two, managed to say my name and Lila was very good at games and cheating at them! It was such good fun!

We watched the football final which was going well until Italy scored and then there was a certain inevitability about the result!  On the final day, we had a good chat and pint,

with Jane, John and Maureen in the County Arms on Wandsworth Common and we then spent our last night catching up with news with our friend Phil in Bracknell in her lovely mobile home

and the beautiful garden she has created.

It was a very nice end to our trip.

The journey there and the journey home had moments of stress, particularly at Heathrow Airport, both going into the UK and coming out of it. But, we feel very lucky that we made the trip!

We arrived home safely by taxi from Heraklion Airport. All was well at home and it was a good feeling to be here. I also like to tell as many people I can that I am a grandmother and a mother in law!!!!  Since then, we have recovered from our trip, enjoyed meeting friends and going to tavernas. I played a game of tennis which was a treat as was swimming in the sea!

Do we miss Isla? Yes, of course but we do get regular reports of her and we receive photos and videos. It is delightful to see the changes in her. I just love her expressions and general development and everything about her!

We hope to see her before long!!!

Sheila

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!

Happy New Year

A Happy and Healthy New Year to everybody. I toast you all with an orange juice,

made with our own oranges!

We are also enjoying mandarins from our garden.

2020 ended in lock-down.  The Greek Government announced  a national lock-down in Greece on Saturday, November 7th, for three weeks because of the high rates of covid in the country. We are still in lock-down nine weeks later. Because of the lock-down  John could not host a gathering to celebrate his 75th birthday celebrations on November 21st.  However, there was an impromptu celebration as Pauline, Chris and Maria joined us in the afternoon for an appropriately socially distanced glass of fizzy wine!

and Maria also brought a cake which was delicious.

Then, we had a family zoom session with James, Claire, Iman, Graham and Rosie which was fun and In the evening, John and I ate steak and chips

and I made a trifle,

the first for a long time. It involved making my own sponge and custard. Impressive for me!!! My present to John of a selection of DVD’s was not so exciting but it suited lock-down! My brother Sandy’s present of a DVD of ‘Doctor Finlay’s Casebook’ was inspired, which will be watched once we have finished from the many, many episodes of Taggart.  This Scottish nostalgia would not have happened without lock-down!!!!

November is the time for me to have annual medical tests and I prepared this year by abstaining from wine for a number of weeks before. Whilst this may have had nothing to do with the outcome, I was pleased with the results and it meant that I can continue with the pills that I was already taking. That seems a success at my age!!! I did inevitably celebrate and started to have a glass or two of wine again!

I did need a glass of wine when I found out that I needed a new UK passport. My passport was supposed to expire in December 2021 but when I put the information into a UK Government website, it told me it wasn’t valid. I felt that this wasn’t fair but I was not arguing!  Now, you can apply for a passport on-line.  John helped me by taking photos of me and one of them eventually was accepted as of good enough standard for the document. The photo is horrible with my hair all back and no nice smile!  At the end of the process, I was asked to send my old passport back to the UK. I panicked a little at this. I did not like the idea of having no passport, particularly in these covid days where it is important that you can prove your identity as required. Eventually, I photocopied the relevant pages of the old passport and I hope this, with my Greek residence card and Greek driving licence, will be enough to prove who I am, if required.  Then I put the old passport in a jiffy bag and sent it to Belfast by registered post. It arrived there in 8 days but I am not optimistic about getting the new one back so quickly!

We have good memories of going to Athens to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre to watch the Greek National Opera Company performing ‘Lucia di Lammermuir’. This year, whilst we couldn’t go to Athens, we watched  ‘Madame Butterfly’, performed by the same company but on-line. It was wonderful with an excellent performance by Ermonelo Jaho as Madame Butterfly and whilst live performances are the best, it was such a treat to have the opportunity to see such high quality opera.

Early last year, John wrote about his four grandparents and what he knew about them. He then circulated this to his family.  Before Christmas, he finished writing up the family history of the first of his grandparents – his paternal grandfather. It consists of a table outlining the births and deaths of his grandfather’s parents, grandparents and great grandparents and beyond. What makes it come to life is that he provides a lot of information about the individuals, speculates on the reasons for some of their actions and gives some background as to what was going on in that part of the country at the time. There is a lot of detail about some of the individuals and they come to life as John reflects on their characters and what he feels about them. It is a great piece of writing and all members of his family now have a copy of it. Now, he is writing about the ancestors of another of the three remaining grandparents.

Christmas approached and shopping was tricky as the shops were essentially closed except for a few days before Christmas. Even then it was not so easy to buy much but we did manage to buy a new Christmas tree (a little bigger than the last one!).

We were really sorry not to have other members of the family with us at Christmas, but we did have a wonderful piece of family news. Our daughter Rosie and her boyfriend, Ed are going to have a baby in June. As you can imagine, John and I are very delighted and looking forward to becoming grandparents. Rosie is very well and happy and a trip to the UK is high on the agenda for us now.

Christmas was highly enjoyable. Many people had sent cards which decorated the living room. We opened our parcels.

John bought me a new outfit on-line from Next, who have an online shop in Greece. The Body Shop, too, have a base in Greece so my favourite hand-cream and perfume could be replenished. We had a swim at Tholos Beach which was surprisingly OK!

We drank a bottle of lovely white Santorini wine from the mixed case which Graham had sent as a Christmas present. There are another five bottles to drink, which is, in my opinion, a very good present.  Graham had bought the wine from a Greek company and it is one of the features of this year that there are many more Greek on-line businesses. We talked to Graham, Rhiannon and Rosie during the day and later ate some turkeyvand Christmas pudding.

Please note my lovely new ‘Next’ top.  We ended the day watching the first engaging episode on Netflix of the Queen’s Gambit, recommended by Rhiannon, about a female chess player.

After Christmas, I enjoyed a rush of phone calls to friends before the New Year.  The weather was good so it was also a pleasure to go for walks.  One of the best was a walk to Chrisokamino on a beautiful day. John met me there on his bike. I sat and looked at this view below for a long time.  The sea has so many shades of blue and the light is so beautiful.

And now the anemones are out and what a pleasure to stop and look at them, close up or further away.

On another day, John and I walked near Mochlos.

There was rain in November/December and the colours, especially the greens were just so vibrant!

We have visited Tholos a few times on bike or by foot and I am back to gazing at the sea, as well as John!

Another day, John and I walked over to the next bay near Tholos and you can tell that I am enjoying being out in the fresh air.

One of the unexpected pleasures of the year has been watching many more films, documentaries and series, recommended by other people.  In particular, we both enjoyed and learnt a lot about the planets from Brian Cox. At present, at lunchtime, we are watching a Christmas present series, some of which I have seen before, called ‘As Time Goes By’ with Judy Dench and Geoffrey Palmer. It is a good way to describe 2020 and maybe 2021!  Every day at lunchtime, we sit down to another amusing episode.

Just before New Year, John and I finished reading (to each other) the novel Σοφία by Ζωρζ Σαρή, aimed at young people. We enjoyed it a lot and while the expressions and vocabulary were tricky at times, we were enthused enough for John to buy another novel of hers.

We spent Hogmanay watching a feel good film, eating pizza, bringing in the New Year with a Greek TV programme, singing along to Scottish favourites and playing cards. It was a fun way to bring in 2021. I thought about Brexit the next day and felt sad but the weather was lovely and I sat happily outside reading a good book on our roof.

2021 started with a load of wood being delivered by Alkis, which looks like it will last for a couple of years!

The schools are going back next week and there is a possibility of the restrictions being lessened generally on January 18th.  We wait and see. We are eligible for the vaccine here and I am optimistic that we will get it in February/March. Whilst we would like generally to be able to travel again, the news from Cornwall has made it even more important!

Sheila

 

 

 

Sojourn in Southern England (a pre-pandemic peregrination!)

On the 25th February, we set off from Kavousi to London Heathrow. We enjoyed a comfortable, Aegean flight, changing planes at Athens and arrived on time just after 3pm.  In order to reach our friends house in Battersea, in south west London, we decided to use the underground. However, there were no trains because of an ‘incident’ on the line and so we got a bus instead to Victoria. The driver warned us that London was full of roadworks so the journey would be slow and he was correct. Then the taxi journey from Victoria was long and expensive also because of the roadworks and the rush hour. It took 4 hours to go from Heathrow to Sarah and Mark’s house which was a similar time to that taken to fly from Athens to Heathrow!!! However, after we arrived at our destination, we immediately relaxed with our friends, and their son Tom and his girlfriend, Tiff and celebrated Shrove Tuesday with some delicious home-made pancakes.

After a day relaxing with Mark and Sarah, we travelled to north London to see our friend Rosy, who’s husband Vince died last year. Then, we went to the British Museum where we looked at the Elgin Marbles,

but thought  that  they really should be back in the Acropolis Museum in Athens.  We also saw the nicely presented exhibition about Troy. We were familiar with most of the content,

but we did not know about the excavations trying to find the actual site of the city, which was a good story in itself!

In the evening we met up with Graham and Rhiannon and Graham kindly treated us to a tasty noodle meal at Wagumama in Covent Garden and to see the opera, Carmen, by the English National Opera at the London Coleseum Theatre.

What a treat to see Graham and Rhiannon and to enjoy the wonderful opera of Bizet!

At the weekend, our friends, Brigitte and Walter, arrived from Hamburg for one of the main purposes of our trip. They wanted us to show them London over a long weekend. I met them at Victoria Station and we went by train to nearby Battersea where we stayed in an apartment,  close to where I worked as a youth worker 40 years ago! We went to the nearby Masons Arms for dinner which produced traditional fare such as fish and chips but it and the beer and wine were definitely a lot more expensive than they were in 1979! It was busy with lots of young people and definitely a good choice to experience a London pub.

The next day we returned to Victoria and found our pre-booked open top ‘hop on and off’ bus. The weather was not good and much of our day was inside the bus but even this could not hide the fact that London is a very beautiful city. Walter and Brigitta had specific requests of places that involved getting off the bus. This included Trafalgar Square where Brigitta wanted to see the fourth plinth.

John and I looked at Trafalgar Square more closely than we have done in the past and agreed it was pretty impressive!  We carried on to Westminster Abbey.  Again, this was a request from our friends.  John had never been in the Abbey before and with the help of an audio guide, he found it very interesting.  I was somewhat distracted having lost my glasses somewhere (how could I do this!!!!) but after the Abbey tour, I ran back to where we had drunk coffee and fortunately they were there!!!  In the afternoon, we went to the City, saw the Tower of London, the London Eye and so much more and finally returned to Victoria.  Sarah and Mark had met Walter and Brigitta in Crete and kindly provided a delicious dinner in the evening and also facilitated discussion on a wide range of topics including family, politics, Brexit, impressions of London……

Next day, we went on a boat trip to Greenwich from Westminster Pier.

The weather was much better (hence more pictures!) and with the help of a jolly guide, we saw the sights of London from a different angle.

 

Our final visit as a tourist in London was to go to Buckingham Palace. John was a little unwilling so there is no record that he was there!

The next day, sadly, we went our separate ways. Walter and Brigitta spent the morning at Tate Britain and then back to Gatwick Airport while we went by underground to  Paddington Station for the next stage of our adventure. We had a great time together and hope to see them again in Crete in September.

We spent the next week to the West Country.  We were lucky to be travelling by train because during this period, the airline Flybe, which served Exeter and Newquay airports, collapsed into administration. This is a serious loss in the area.  We saw the Exeter MP, Ben Bradshaw on the train to Exeter on the day after the announcement on his way to some important meeting no doubt.  We stayed with John’s brother Tim and his wife Liz. who live in Sampford Peverell in mid Devon. We enjoyed two days with them in their wonderful house and we sampled the local pub, the Globe Inn, for dinner one evening. One day, we went to Exmoor and then onto  the stunning village of Lynmouth,

where there was a terrible flood in 1952 (the year that I was born, not that the two events are related!).  There is a very nice community museum there which gave us lots of detail of how after the flood in which 34 people were killed, the community came together and rebuilt the village.  For lunch, we ate delicious pasties. I sent Rosie a message telling her about all this excitement and she commented that now we had now experienced the supreme Cornish/Devon speciality, there was little need to carry onto Cornwall to see her!!!  But we did, two days later.

After this unexpected visit to this fascinating village, there was yet more excitement to follow. We went to Westward Ho! on the coast. This is the only town in the UK, whose name comes from the title of a book Charles Kingsley wrote in 1855 and the village was built 10 years later with this name as it was thought it would encourage tourism. It is mainly known for its beach and surfing.

The next day, we travelled to Templecombe, Somerset,  to check up on the gravestone of John and Tim’s grandparents, Sidney and Edith Burt. As you can see, It is in a bad state of repair,

but now the wording has been agreed so that a new stone can be purchased. We pottered around Templecombe, visiting the church and  childhood haunts of John and Tim.Maybe the highlight of the day was lunch at a very good  cafe called Jasmine and Bay which produced delicious soup and a toasted sandwich.

Next day, we were on our way to Newquay by train and we stayed with Rosie. On the following day she was at work, so we met up at the Red Lion with Graham and Sally, who live in Camborne. We met Graham some years ago in Mochlos, Crete where he had a house.

We covered a range of topics from issues relating to our respective travel plans because of coronavirus, life in Camborne, life in Kavousi, Sally’s swimming achievements, and we finished with a desert to die for, suggested by Sally.  We did share this, you will be glad to know!!!

In the evening Rosie cooked a lovely dinner and we watched the film, ‘The Two Popes’  which was really good. The next day, Rosie drove us to Tintagel Castle in her nice blue van.

We enjoyed walking around this attractive site, associated with King Arthur, on a very grey and windy day

although, I did think English Heritage were charging too much for the pleasure!!

On the Sunday, which was International Women’s Day, Rosie and I went to St Michael’s Spa in Falmouth,  This was my Christmas present from John.  We had a fantastic day, enjoying a morning of  complete relaxation in a pool, sauna, hot tub and steam rooms. We had a lovely lunch with a glass of fizz and then, both of us, survived a massage treatment for our bodies with some wonderful scented oils. I felt really good afterwards and I couldn’t think of a nicer present than spending a spa day with my lovely daughter.

Next day, we were off again to see John’s cousin, Liz, who lives in Ogbourne Maizey, near Marlborough. I enjoyed a number of walks including one to see a plaque in memory of Bill, Liz’s husband. Bill would not have been amused at the spelling mistake!

The River Og, usually, has very little water in it but I know Bill would have loved to have seen this picture on 11th March!

We had coffee with Liz’s good friends, Angela and Dave and then went to the pub for lunch.

We are hoping that Liz will come and visit us in Crete this year (she has been every year since we came here) but circumstances out of our control may prevent it!

We arrived back in London and stayed again with Sarah and Mark for another four nights. Two of these nights were to have been with John’s son, James but unfortunately, he was ill with flu like symptoms, so we did not see him.  We were extremely grateful to Sarah and Mark for their hospitality.  On Thursday, I went to Cambridge to see my good friend, Lis, who lives in Norwich.

Our son’s have the same birthday and we met in St Thomas’ Hospital! We both arrived at about 11.15 at Cambridge railway station, coming from different directions and we left at 3.15. We went to the Fitzwilliam museum coffee shop and we talked for 4 hours. Time went by quickly, there was lots to say and it was such a pleasure to see her!  While I was in Cambridge, John went to Wivenhoe and celebrated his friend, Pat’s, 80th birthday a bit early.

The following day, we met up with John’s old colleague, Mike and his girlfriend, Val in a pub in Wimbledon and we hope that one day they will visit us in Kavousi.  On Saturday, we saw our good friend, Jane, her daughter, Chloe, and husband, Felipe, and their two children, who are staying with Jane at present until the house that they have bought is ready.  We had a delicious meal and enjoyed seeing the very agreeable baby Felix for the first time and Lila who is a bundle of fun.

In the evening, we took an Uber taxi to Denmark Hill to see our friend Barbara, who both John and I have been friends with since we lived in London in the early 1980’s.  We ate a delicious meal too with her and had a delightful evening of ‘catch up’. And to complete a perfect day, she drove us back to Battersea.

On Sunday morning, there were one or two texts checking out whether this last visit would take place because of coronavirus worries. But in the end, we were so happy we went. We saw Annie, Matt and two year old, Emerson. Annie is the daughter of our friend Nick, who lives in Edinburgh.  We drank coffee and ate delicious home-made biscuits. The conversation involved

much about family health issues but Emerson’s presence always ensured that we smiled and laughed a lot.

The last bit of this story is about getting back to Crete. After we arrived back in London for the last few days of our trip, everything felt different than when we arrived. The news was all about the virus, there was an air of expectation that things were going to change.   We were booked to go home on Tuesday 17th March, but on the Friday before, John got an email from Aegean Airways to say that they had cancelled our flight. There was little other information but eventually, we found a UK number for Aegean. After waiting for sometime, John did get through to them and he was offered a flight on Monday. We agreed to this but our anxiety did not end till the next morning when finally confirmation arrived.  At this point, we both felt that we wanted to get home to Kavousi!  But unfortunately this meant that we did not see our good friends, Richard and Jill, who we were planning to stay with on the Sunday and Monday evenings. Richard had already ordered a joint of meat so it was pretty upsetting not to see them and not to eat the joint!!!  But instead we booked into the Heathrow Travelodge on Sunday evening and after two busy flights, we arrived in Heraklion at 8pm on the Monday. Both Heathrow and Athens airports were so quiet. John and I were so happy to be home and were ready for self isolation!!!

Sheila

It never stops!

Agathonisi

Late Summer and early Autumn has been a very busy time for us – island hopping in the Dodecanese, a ten day trip to the UK, a visit from Sheila’s family and then sailing in the Ionian with friends from Australia. It never stops!

Last year, we had such a good time island hopping that we decided to repeat the experience and ‘tick off’ the remaining islands in the Dodecanese, which we had not visited. We didn’t quite manage that but we did have a great time visiting Agathonisi, Patmos, Arkoi and Kalymnos in the company of our friend Phil from the UK, who usually comes every year to check up on us in Crete. This year, we thought we would give her a different experience.

We met up in Kos and the next day took ferries (two) to Agathonisi which is very close to Samos and the Turkish Coast in the north of the Dodecanese. It is a small island, with few tourists and even fewer cars. Our accommodation was right on the beach

and there was absolutely nothing to do except, swim, sunbathe and walk! In the mornings, Sheila and Phil yomped around the roads and tracks,

while I took to the beach and met up with them later for a beer and Greek salad. Then it was back to the sea and sand. Even stumbling to the taverna in the evening was a bit of a struggle!

It was the ultimate antidote to stress – not that we have a lot of that!

Next up was Patmos

which is larger and more devoted to tourism, largely because of the imposing monastery which dominates the island.

It is reputed to be the place where St John the Divine wrote the Book of Revelations and we duly visited both monastery and the cave where the muse struck. Personally, I think he must have been high on something to have lived in that cave but it perhaps explains why he had such an imagination!

We hired a car one day and tried out various beaches around the island which were extraordinary simply because they were all so different.

After Agathonisi it was good to stay in a bustling town and one night there was even live Greek music at the taverna where we ate.

Our next stop was tiny Arkoi, which was my personal favourite island venue.

Amazingly, it was even quieter than Agathonisi and Sheila and Phil had a problem finding anywhere much to walk because there is only one road and very few tracks (which might account for their expressions!).

I had no such problem with the beach – my only complaint being that I had to walk a kilometre to get there!

We had a choice of three tavernas to choose from in the plateia, which made for a difficult decision each night but otherwise life was simple and uncomplicated!

The highlight was a meal at the port taverna while we waited for the ferry

with great banoffi pie!

Finally, we visited Kalymnos which was different again from the others being busier and more touristy. We stayed in the small village of Emborios in the north west

where the highlight was our last evening when the owner of the local taverna, Giorgos – an ex-professional musician – and his wife, performed solely for us.

Phil is a singer and was able to join in for a number of the songs and it was the kind of magical experience that will remind us of Kalymnos for ever!

We had time for some sight-seeing

and then it was time to return to Kos and head our separate ways. The sun had shone brightly for the two weeks, the sea was warm and just the blue that Sheila likes and the company brilliant. It was, in short, an excellent holiday!

We were home for a week or so and then it was time to go to the UK separately. Sheila went first and I followed a couple of days later. Sheila went to Scotland to stay with good friend and fellow tennis player, Chris and husband, Mike in Kirkcudbright, where we used to live before moving to Crete. She caught up with the gossip, played tennis and met up with a number of friends from the tennis club and former colleagues. Then she went further west to Wigtown to the Book Festival where she joined friends from her youth, Liz and Mairi in a rented cottage for four days.

It sounded a busy programme with the usual format of talks by various authors but also included a play performed in the smallest theatre in Scotland, poetry reading and a Persian supper! She then had a couple of nights in Dumfries with David and Bev before returning home.

Meanwhile, I was in Cornwall visiting our daughter Rosie and trying to progress the proposed new bathroom. The weather was not great but we managed a visit to the Lost Gardens of Heligan which was special.

The highlight was Rosie’s birthday meal (a week early) and although I didn’t manage to make much progress on the bathroom front – this was mainly because Rosie had it mostly in hand – I did have a lovely time with Rosie and also met up with my old childhood friend Joe, for a good natter.

Then it was a brief visit with Liz Turner in Wiltshire where we had out usual trips to the Outlet Centre in Swindon and to ‘The Silks’ for supper and finally I had a night and day in London. I caught up with James and Graham in a wonderful old pub in Kentish Town and the following morning saw Jane for a coffee before getting the flight back to Crete where I met Sheila at the airport (she had flown in a little earlier from Manchester).

We were only home for a few day , when Sheila’s brother, Sandy and his wife, Winnie arrived for a short holiday. The weather was still warm so a number of swims at Tholos were managed as well as visits to Gournia and Spinalonga.

Unfortunately their trip had to be cut short because of a bereavement in Winnie’s family, which meant that flights were changed and they went home a day early.

We stayed in Heraklion and celebrated Sheila’s birthday the next day, visiting CretAquarium

which was surprisingly enjoyable, particularly the 3D experience and even had time to order our new car. The birthday meal was not quite what was intended but delicious nonetheless at a local (to the hotel), very Greek roadside taverna.

The final piece of excitement in this busy schedule then followed when we flew to Kefalonia to meet up with Judy and her husband David from Brisbane, who had kindly offered to take us sailing for a week.

 

We first met Judy in Kenya over thirty years ago, lost touch for a while and reconnected when I found an old letter as part of the de-cluttering exercise when we left Kirkcudbright. Since then she and I have become friends on facebook.

Still, it was a little anxiety provoking, wondering how we were going to get on after all these years not just with them but also another Australian couple whom they had invited. We needn’t have worried though – Judy is one of those people who is naturally inclusive and we were soon established as a ‘group’!

Sheila, in addition to being assistant fender girl and galley wench, was also appointed ‘Ship’s Story Teller’, while I never got beyond Assistant Cabin Boy! We also won a million dollars three times on ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’!

 

It was a memorable trip as every day we seemed to visit even more beautiful spots, in Kefalonia, Meganisi, Antipaxos and Paxos as well as Preveza and Parga on the mainland.

The weather was brilliant for the whole time, so we were able to swim and sunbathe. The good weather did however mean light winds, so actual sailing was limited, which in some ways was a rather welcome relief for this landlubber, although Sheila would have been up for more excitement (as usual)!

We finished up in Corfu after a memorable week and sincerely hope it will not be another thirty-three years before we see Judy again! Hopefully, she and David will come and see us in Crete next year and who knows, one day our travels may take us to Queensland.

 

Now we are home in Kavousi and back in the swing of things here. Greek classes have started again, We have met up with Pauline and Chris and Hans and Hanneke, inspected Stan and Jann’s new house and have said goodbye to Walter and Brigitta, who have returned to Germany for the winter. Sheila has also been playing tennis. Now we await our new car

and wonder what is happening in our close, where it appears that we may soon have new neighbours if the preparations for building work actually materialise. The weather is a little colder and autumn is upon us, so it will soon be time to light the wood burner and hunker down!

John

Wombling through Winter

We spent Christmas with Graham and Rosie in Cornwall. After some initial minor (though not at the time!) problems with a delayed flight and a missing turkey, we settled down to a family celebration which brought back memories of times past when we were all much younger!

Suffice it to say that we had a great time. Rosie made us very welcome in Newquay and despite the poor weather, we enjoyed an extremely high quality of cuisine, loads of laughs and general good cheer.

We then moved on to London where we were based with Jane in Wandworth. She spoiled us with her usual wonderful hospitality, introduced us to her relatively new grand-daughter, Lila and laid on a party for New Year to which just about everyone we knew in south London came.

We caught up with James and Claire for a meal in Battersea and spent a couple of nights with Vince and Rosy in north London

and still had time for a meal with Mark and Sarah on our last evening. Thanks to everyone for making our short stay so memorable.

Much of January after we returned from the UK was dominated by poor health. I picked up a cold and cough in the UK which eventually turned into bronchitis. Sheila caught the local variety and for a while the pair of us just hunkered down trying to keep warm and get well. The weather in January did not help – damp, windy and cold. On occasions it was worse here than in the UK but thankfully, February has generally been better. We are now both back to normal health- wise. Sheila has been swimming (I haven’t yet) and the bikes have been back in use. Sheila has also been walking and made it to the beach at Αγριόμαντρα and back last week.

The better weather meant that we could have a jaunt or two. Last week we had a trip to the out of season flesh-pot of Malia and found a rather pleasant beach and harbour and away from the hotels and night clubs, an attractive ‘old village’ area. A late lunch/early supper at Bobo’s in Pachia Ammos finished off a fine day out!

One of the advantages of staying indoors, during January was that I had time to make a film! Our friend Rich from the south coast had lent me some software which digitalises ‘old’ analogue video tape. It also allows you to edit and then produce a film. I was surprised to find that I had a recording of the whole game of Rosie’s girls’ football team winning the Under 15’s Aberdeenshire League Cup in 2001. So, Speilberg I may not be but there is now in circulation (to a small but select audience admittedly), a film of the auspicious occasion! Video quality – usual standard – poor and editing similar but fun to do all the same!

I am also in the process of expanding my flower garden. I have already cleared a small area and planted a few new plants but have designs on a much larger area nearer the house.

Our neighbour’s son Γιάννης, has been busy for weeks making a new door to his αποθήκη (shed) next door to our house, as a result of which he has cleared the outside area as well, so once the now dangerously leaning cypress tree has been taken down, I can plant the area with more flowers.

The winter evenings, whilst not so long as in the UK, still require some activity. We have watched a number of recorded TV shows, ‘New Tricks’, ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and have just about got to the end of nine series of ‘Are you being served’, courtesy of YouTube, which neither of us had watched before – brilliant British humour and we laugh our socks off! Νot sure what we are going to do, once we finish! We have also watched a number of films since we returned from the UK. Most of these have been on TV but the cinema in Ierapetra showed ‘Darkest Hour’, which we both enjoyed. We had watched ‘Dunkirk’ the week previous, so it was an interesting comparison.

The local Expat Organisation now facilitates tickets at the cinema in Ag Nik for both Ballet and Opera, streamed from top locations around the world. We went a number of times before Christmas and recently saw a performance of ‘Tosca’ from the Met in New York, which was absolutely brilliant.

Those who know me, may be surprised to read this but it really was one of the best such events I have ever attended! Coming up are ‘L ‘elisir d’amore’ and ‘La Boheme’ in the next few weeks, so lots to look forward to!

In addition, I was given ‘The Mexican Train’ as a present at Christmas by Sheila. It is basically a game of Dominoes with a twist and played with a lot more tiles (of higher values and colours). We had played it here in Crete with quite a large number of people and were not sure about just two! But it works and is fun.

A few weeks back, we played ‘Scrabble’ in Greek at our Greek class and decided to buy a set.

So, we have had a couple of games on our own. It is basically the same rules and board as the English version but with Greek letters. However, the nature of the play is quite different because Greek nouns and adjectives decline and verbs conjugate more than in English so there is a much larger number of potential ways of using what is basically the same word. Sheila even got a seven letter word the first time we played at home (but still lost!).

And finally we, or mainly I, have had a few frustrations with bureaucracy in various countries over the past few months/weeks. As many of you will know, we still have a small flat in Kirkcudbright, in south-west Scotland, where we used to live before we moved to Crete. We have been trying to sell it for the best part of year and there have been no tenants there for nearly a year, Scottish Power have been particularly poor in transferring responsibility for both the gas and electricity supply from the tenant to me. Their customer service (the clue is not in the name) is frankly appalling and they seem incapable of accepting that there is no one living there (and so no electricity or gas is being used) and continuing to send ridiculous bills. Eventually, I lost patience and put the matter in the hands of the Ombudsman.

The Canadians are no better. Sheila and I are planning a trip to visit friends and family later in the year. In case you didn’t know, you now need a visa for Canada and the application form states categorically that you cannot use the visa application process if you have (or might have) a right to permanent residency. Back in the early 1970’s I was a ‘landed immigrant’ but have no idea whether or not I still have any rights to live there. I rather doubt it but following the instructions, i decided to renounce any rights that I might still have. After 48 years, I have no documentation relating to this period of my life and told them so BUT it now seems that unless I can come up with something, then there may be a problem!

This last two weeks, I have been trying to change my UK driving licence to a Greek one. According to the internet, the process should be seamless. Not true! However, after spending two more hours at various offices and the bank this morning, we may be approaching a successful outcome. Watch this space!

I mention all this because sometimes here in Crete we are astounded at the incredible nature of the State bureaucracy but on reflection I think it is probably much the same wherever. And here at least, we benefit from the generosity, both in spirit and in kind, of ordinary people who have to cope with these frustrations ever day and still go out of their way to help these two crazy ξένοι (foreigners) who gabble away at them in terrible Greek.

Τι να κάνουμε;’ (What can we do?).

John

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

November started well with a late birthday present for myself from Graham arriving by courier to the house. it was a good choice – a very, very tasty bottle of gin and I have sampled it on a number of occasions now!

But of course, the highlight of November is John’s birthday. This year we went for a few days to a small village called Lendas on the south coast, not so far from Matala and about 2 or 3 hours from here. On one side of it, there is ‘the lion of Lendas’ and on the other some nice beaches.

It was not so easy to find somewhere to stay at this time of year but our friends, Brigitte and Walter, suggested the Villa Nostalgia, and it proved to be ideal.  The road down to the village was twisty and there was an inconsistent surface to it. This meant that the driver needed constant vigilance to avoid the potholes.  We were delighted that we did not have to go back up the road until our holiday was finished because for three says the sun shone from morning till night.  Being sun lovers, we found the empty beaches, sunbathed and swam,

went for a walk

and admired the odd cat on the beach.

Very peaceful.  We celebrated John’s birthday drinking prosecco and eating cake on our lovely balcony overlooking the sea.

Lendas is primarily a tourist village but not at this time of year.

We  were possibly the only tourists in the village, thus not being able to sample any of the above!  It was a particularly interesting experience eating in the village. We found one taverna that was open

and after discovering that the menu advertised was not available, we ate what was suggested which was pork chops on the first night. From then on, each night we ordered something for the next night. The food was simple but it was freshly cooked, we had the taverna mainly to ourselves and we got to watch Greek TV news and a game show as we ate. And we chatted to our personal cook, Evangelia. There was no nightlife so we admired the sunset

and focused on trying to improve our backgammon!  I have been reading that there are moves to develop winter tourism in Crete but I am not sure that Lendas will be a priority and selfishly for us that is just fine!

The local ex-pat organisation, INCO, has been pretty active recently and we have enjoyed a couple of events related to the Minoans. One was a visit to the Kefali Minoan site, near Sisi, which is not open to the public. The site is right beside the sea and you can see from its location why it emerged as a trading and administrative centre .  The archaeologist, Gavin McGuire, is an excellent communicator and an enthusiast too, about this particular site, which has proved to be a lot bigger and more important than previously thought.

It has not yet been given official ‘palace’ status but he told us that is, what it is. He told us what they found in specific rooms (such as loom weights) and that the range of activities, supported the view that there was an artisan infrastructure underpinning a large and important settlement. He also explained that people lived and worked in the same building.

We visited the cemetery and learned something about the Minoan people. For example, he told us that women generally lived only till they were in their early 20’s and had babies much earlier than us. He gave us a vivid description of what it must been like for the people, who lived here after the volcano in Santorini erupted in 1450 BC.  What a scary and miserable experience!  After the tsunami resulting from the eruption, people experienced 20 or 30 years of darkness where nothing grew and there was evidence of cannibalism. He also argued that evidence is emerging that the Minoan civilization was not quite the peace loving, matriarchal society that has been previously presented. We heared a little about the techniques the archaeologists use now, to learn and speculate more about the Minoans. It seems that there are artifacts from the site being DNA tested in many centres in the world. As you can tell, all of this was fascinating to me.

The following week, we found out a bit what the Minoans ate. The event was held at Agios Nikolaos marina,

a perfect setting to drink wine and eat tasty food at lunchtime, chat to friends and hear a talk on Minoan food in warm, sunny weather. Again, Gavin McGuire was there, helping with the cooking as well as answering a range of questions.

Jerolyn Morrison, from ‘Minoan Tastes’,  told us that the ingredients of the food that we were about to eat such as pork, goat, lentils, apricots, figs etc had all been found in Minoan sites.   The actual recipes, which used these ingredients, were though the product of more modern thinking!

The food was very delicious.

John and I have attended a couple of operas at the cinema, live from The Metropolitan Opera in New York. The first was The Magic Flute and the second was a new opera called ‘The Exterminating Angel’ by Thomas Ades. The latter is based on the film of Luis Bunuel. I enjoyed both but the latter was the more interesting and thought provoking. The singing was unbelievable and the sounds are designed to emphasize the surreal and frightening situation in which the group of people find themselves.  We also went to see the new film, ‘Nikos Kazantzakis’ at the cinema in Ierapetra which has just been released.

There were no English subtitles and we do look forward to seeing it again when it does come out with them on DVD! There was too much talking and too little action for us to make too much sense of it but it did trigger some discussion between us and John is now reading Kazantzakis’s book written near the end of his life ‘Report to Greco’, on which the film is loosely based.

Over the last few months, our neighbour, Ευτυχία, (which means happiness) has been ill and her daughter from Athens has been staying with her. She has been in hospital and I have hardly seen her. I am used to climbing up on the roof, to put out my washing and seeing her sitting outside her house. We wave to each other and sometimes I go round and enjoy her lovely smile and our limited but friendly conversation. Anyway, the good news is that her daughter is back in Athens and she is back to sitting outside again and she looks very well. Her son and daughter in law, who live near by, are back in charge of the support network that families provide here.

My friend, Margarita, invited me to spend an afternoon at her house and a visit to the greenhouses in Stomio, where she and her husband, Nikos, grow tomatoes as a business. Whilst in the past, she had described to me some of the financial difficulties of running such a business, it was not till I saw the lines and lines of perfect plants,

that I appreciated the scale of the enterprise, the work involved and the decisions you have to make to produce and to sell such wonderful tomatoes. I was given a box of them to take home and John and I have been  savouring their taste and texture. Margarita also gave me a late birthday present, which was a complete surprise.

It is a picture of poppies and the colours are sensational. We used to go walk together and I told her that I just loved poppies because of their vibrant colour and delicate petals. She remembered this, painted the picture and it is now on our dining room wall. Because she is so busy with producing tomatoes she doesn’t have time for walking any more but does have a little time for painting!

it is very quiet in Kavousi and it is a time for sitting in front of the fire in the evening. The weather has been warm during the day but the evenings are cool. John has organised plenty of wood

so we are very snug.  It has been tempting to stay inside and settle down to a series or two on DVD and even old comedy favourites such as ‘the Good Life’ and even one that I never saw in the 1970’s, ‘Are you being served?’. But on Tuesday we did go to Bobo’s taverna and enjoyed a lovely evening of friendly chat and nice food and came away with a bottle of new olive oil. We also made our way to Makrigialos, where our friends Shona and Rich live. First, we sat out on the balcony of their house in the sunshine and drank fizzy wine, then we ate a wonderful meal of moussaka and tiramisu. Rich is a great games fan and picks up games from many sources and in this case, it was Marks and Spencers! One person had a card with the name of a person, place or object and read out a clue. If you guessed the name, you got 10 points, if you didn’t, you were given another clue and so it goes on. I didn’t so so well but Rich loves prizes and so we all got a prize. And then the finale was the switching on of outdoor Christmas lights round the balcony. It was all just perfect!!!

For those of you who have stayed in our guest accommodation, you will, I think, approve of our latest building works here. The bathroom was certainly in need of some improvements, particularly the lighting. Normally there would be no such building work done at this time of year because the main activity is picking olives. But this year, the olives locally were damaged earlier in the year by the weather or a bug and so Alkis was very happy to tile, paint and install the new bathroom. It started like this

And now it looks like this.

Whilst he was here, John asked him to paint the ceiling of our living room and dining room, in order to make them lighter.

And what a difference, this has made.

Because of the bathroom work, the very nice weather and my preference to be out walking looking at the lovely countryside locally,

we have no decorations or cards in view yet. Hopefully this will be done this weekend. On Thursday we fly to Newquay (Aegean airways and Flybe) for Christmas with Rosie and Graham and I am so looking forward to seeing them and enjoying a bit of fun. And then on to London to welcome in 2018 with our friends, Jane, Sarah and Mark. Might be a bit cold but definitely worth it.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everybody who reads this and we will be back in 2018.

Sheila

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

January blues and Spring hopes

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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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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!

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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!

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John