Category Archives: Cycling

A Strange Kavousi Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a light lunch at the same venue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and we celebrated with haggis for supper!

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

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

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

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

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

John

 

Home Improvements

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

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

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

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

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

and much marked floor tiles

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

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

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

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

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

Even the ‘snake pit’ got a make-over!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John

Spring in Kavousi

When I think back on the last couple of months, John and I have both moaned about the movement restrictions, tavernas not being open and being unable to buy a cup of coffee in Ierapetra. But we also feel very fortunate to live where we do, as I hope the following text and pictures will illustrate. 

In March, we gained new neighbours, Anca and Mark. They have bought a house which is close enough for me to speak to Anca from our patio! 

Anca is from Romania and Mark is from England and they have lived in England for many years. 

Their house has been empty for some time but the previous owners left a lot of their possessions behind.

So, it was arranged that Alkis and his men would paint both the outside and inside of the house. Then, our neighbour, Maria cleaned and tidied the house and by the time that she had finished, it looked very smart. 

Anca arrived here on the 22nd March after a long journey and Mark will join her later, after he has had his second vaccination. Anca was in quarantine in her house for 10 days after she arrived and she took a covid test before she ventured out into the village.

Since then, she has organised banking and communication essentials, bought a new fridge/freezer

and experienced the delights of our local supermarket and the larger one in Ierapetra.  She and I have enjoyed a number of walks round the area including one to the archaeological sites at Vrontas and Azorias, to the sea at Tholos and to the Agriomandra gorge.

She loves Greece and is enthusiastic about living in the village. She is quickly getting to know her neighbours and her ability to communicate in Greek is impressive.  John and I (and our neighbours, I think) are enjoying her company a lot and it was great to get her text message encouraging me to look at the wonderful sky and rainbow from our patio. She had a similar view from hers!

We have had a mixed bag of weather over the last two months with a few days of warmth and sunshine which is quickly followed by cool temperatures, wind, rain and even snow on the hills.

Recently, it was very warm but the wind came from the south and brought with it a lot of dust in the air which is particularly horrible. John in particular and I to some extent, have been bothered by dust settling in our eyes. But now we have warmth and sunshine, so we are very happy. Either by foot or by bicycle, we have enjoyed seeing the spring flowers which are a great treat. These are some of my favourites from when I have been out walking.

        

But also there are beautiful flowers in our garden.

The picture below was taken from the roof of the house after lunch!

And also signs of oranges and musmula (medlar) fruit

Very near to our very clean car,there is a wonderful bush, which has been a great delight to us for weeks.

As everybody knows, I just love the varying shades of blue in the sky and the sea, and it has been particularly dramatic recently

In the last post, John and I had completed the new biometric Greek residence card process. A few weeks later, we picked up the cards from Agios Nikolaus police station. John has been asked for the card already.  He produced it at the KEP office (similar to the Citizens Advice Bureau in the UK) and all the staff there crowded round to have a look at this completely new card. John and his card became quite the centre of attention! We are very glad to have them in these uncertain post-Brexit days. 

We have also received our new Royal Bank of Scotland cards which were sent from the UK. They took over 3 weeks to arrive on Monday. We used the tracking service, so we could see that nothing seemed to happen for a week after they left Heathrow and then nothing happened for another week when they arrived in Athens. We don’t know if the problem is anything to do with Brexit or not. Anyway, when Manolis our postman, arrived with the package, he was a very popular man! I am, however, grateful that Anca brought out my new kindle with her from the UK. I think I would be waiting for it still, had it come by post!

John is now fully vaccinated and has a certificate to prove it. The Greek Government have now called people between the ages of 65 and 70 for appointments. I had my first dose last Saturday and the second is on the 7th May. The rate of people being vaccinated in Greece has been increased recently with new centres being opened. However, the number of new covid cases continues to be high (around 3-4,000 a day) and the number of people intubated has increased significantly. But the statistics are still low in eastern Crete.

It was Easter in the UK at the beginning of April but the Orthodox Easter here is not until May 2nd. Even though it is late and central to the Greek calendar, there is still some doubt about what will be permitted by then.   The Churches are open now and we expect to see family members from Athens and other parts of Greece.

Recently, I completed a walk with friends that I have wanted to do for a long time. John drove me to Lastros, the next village towards Siteia, and I walked along the path on the other side of the mountain, Kapsas with friends. We can see can see Kapsas from our house (see the picture of it with the rainbow above). Here, I am looking down on Lastros.

After admiring the village, I looked up to my right and caught a glimpse of a church at the top of this hill. This is a walk for another day.

We came down the other side and then walked to Melisses from this gate. Some years ago, I tried to do this walk from Melisses, but failed to find the path. There is a good path as seen below 

and it goes all the way to Melisses with red dots to help. But I found out this time, the reason why I couldn’t find it in Melisses – the path ends up in someone’s garden and there is no sign to indicate its existence!  Anyway, I will know now where to go. I am grateful to Kathy for showing me the way!

We have a steady input of home entertainment. We enjoyed two excellent zoom presentations by members of INCO. One was on the subject of Scouts in Crete. It was interesting to hear about the history of the Scouts and that there are Scouts and Guides groups both in Ag Nik and Ierapetra. The other was about Thomas Spratt, an English Vice-Admiral and geologist who wrote ‘Travel & Researches in Crete’ in 1865 which describes the geography, geology and natural history of the island.

Back in March, John and I attended a meeting  in Ierapetra with a notary and the owner of the land, directly  in front of us.   The meeting went well and the contract is being drawn up now. It is a little complicated because our neighbour, Giannis wants access through this piece of land to his but John met him recently

and it hopefully will be resolved soon.

Our son, Graham and his girlfriend, Rhiannon, are off to Mexico City for two years at the beginning of August. This was a surprise but John and I are both excited by it. Graham is going to teach Chemistry at Greengates International School there. We are certainly looking forward to visiting them!

I am hoping that by the next Post, the tavernas will be open. The need for a meal out, is reaching crisis point!!!!  I have added a few more recipes to my limited range including a very nice blueberry and lemon cake by Ottolenghi, but I do miss the fun and atmosphere of going to a taverna. And not having to cook will be absolutely wonderful!!!

There may be changes locally soon. While I was walking back from Tholos beach one day I saw this sign.

It indicates the start of the development of a luxury tourist resort on the hillside to the left of Tholos Beach. John is grumbling! I expect there will be more information about this soon.

Sheila

 

 

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

 

 

 

Birthday burbles and more …..

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

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

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

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

Present time!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well worth the effort though because the soup was amazing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

John

Summer routines

July and August are usually quiet months for us here in Crete because except for younger family members who enjoy the heat and beach life, most of our friends think that it will be far too hot for them. This year they may well have been right because we have had a hot summer – not a very hot summer but nevertheless a sustained period of temperatures in the low to mid 30’s. Usually we fit in a break in the UK during this period but this year although it might have been possible, we felt that as it did not need to be done, it might be safer to stay here and hunker down, avoiding the tourists as much as possible.

So, it has been a quiet time for us and we have got into routines which may not have led to a very exciting summer but have at least ticked all the boxes – the main ones being staying safe, keeping cool and enjoying the warmth and the waves!

One of our new routines is to swim first thing in the morning. Invariably this sees us heading off to the beach at Tholos in the car about eight in the morning before breakfast and enjoying an empty or near empty beach. At this hour the meltemi wind from the north is not usually up and blowing so the sea is calm, indeed often mirror like, which makes for a pleasant swim as the sun rises over the mountain. Wonderful and a great start to the day!

We also decided that once a week we would spend the morning on a different beach and having tried one or two on the south coast, we now tend to frequent a quiet beach in Istron (see cover photo), which as those of you who have visited us will know is on the road to Agios Nikolaos. Arriving about ten, we have the beach more or less to ourselves for the morning before the locals arrive just as we feel the need to leave for lunch, often taken at Bobo’s which of course is on our way home Very convenient!

The expected influx of foreign tourists has not ever really happened, at least in our part of the island. It appears that those who have come, have tended to stay in the larger hotel complexes and because we don’t have many of those in our area, we have not seen the usual numbers of tourists on the beaches. However, there have been large numbers of Greeks about, perhaps because they have decided not to travel abroad for their holidays this year. The beaches on the south coast are apparently jam-packed with Greek families at the moment because the first three weeks of August mark the traditional Greek summer holiday period.

Holiday time always means more people in the village. This year, we have had an additional interest in this respect because one of the ruins next to our house has been done up over the winter as a holiday home for a family from Athens, with roots in the village.

Whilst looking forward to meeting them, I had some anxiety as to whether our peaceful existence would be impacted by party loving Athenians enjoying their summer holiday. Sheila, of course, took a more positive view! In the event, we have hardly seen them and they make less noise than us! What it has done however, is to put even more pressure on the limited parking available and more than once I have been tempted to don my parking warden’s uniform and lay down the law about priority residents’ parking. Needless to say perhaps, my Victor Meldrew tendencies have been heartily restrained by one S Wood!

Naturally, the hot weather has tended to limit the extent of physical activity, other than swimming of course. Nevertheless, Sheila often takes a circular walk to the top of the village at the end of the day and has had a couple of longer outings, notably a walk to Thripti which is a village in the mountains above our village. In July she did this with Chris while Pauline and I went by car and met them in the taverna for a leisurely lunch. Roger, for whom the trip had been arranged, didn’t come at all but that is another story.

I try to get out on my bike two or three times a week for an evening ride and recently Sheila has been joining me. It is cool cycling through the olive trees at the end of the day and gives me an excellent excuse for a cold beer when i get home – not that I really need one!

Meals out are an essential part of life here especially in the summer when it is really too hot to cook. Although we have air conditioning in some rooms, we do not have it in the kitchen which in any case gets very hot from the afternoon sun. So, cooking is limited which of course means braving the virus at a taverna in the village or further afield. Gradually over the last two months, we have been re-visiting our old haunts in part brought about by the need to celebrate birthdays or seeing folk who have returned from foreign parts. One such was a birthday celebration in Mochlos with cocktails of course at Barraki, followed by supper at Giorgos’ taverna. Those who have visited us will know these well!

There have also been a number of family birthdays in the UK recently which of course we have missed. James’s partner, Claire and her daughter Farah both seem to have had a great time. Farah was fourteen and that meant that she could join the Labour Party which was an ambition fulfilled for her – nothing to do with me Guv! Graham celebrated his while on a walking holiday in the Yorkshire Dales with Rhiannon. Apparently the weather was a bit mixed but they had a great time by all accounts.

A combination of factors has meant that we have seen nothing of Eva with whom we were having Greek conversation sessions much earlier in the year. We are hopeful that these will start again soon because the new Music Academy for our area will open in Kavousi shortly and her husband is the Head. In the meantime, we have been reading together a series of Greek novels which have been re-written in a simplified and shortened form specifically for language students like ourselves. Manolis, who some may recall as our Greek teacher, suggested them to us and we have spent the summer working our way through four of them. One of us reads a page or so out loud and the other listens and corrects any mistakes/mispronunciations and then we work on the translation together. It is a companionable way to learn, although I have to confess that Sheila’s vocabulary is far superior to mine.

We have both also been progressing our respective family related projects – Sheila her autobiographical summary and me, my family history. I will leave Sheila to comment on her endeavours, if she so chooses in a future post and I will only say that this Post would probably have been published a week a so earlier had I not had a break through in my research which may (and it is a big may) take me back on one of my paternal lines to a fellow born in France in 1390! More work to be done though. Ooh la la!

Friends who have holiday homes here in the village have been filtering back slowly of late. Stan and Jann are still in self-imposed quarantine but Victoria and Paul have been around for a couple of weeks. Victoria is a great cake maker among her other accomplishments and has been keeping us supplied with an array of delicacies.

Finally, I have to mention a fine end to the season by Arsenal who of course won the FA Cup against all expectations. I started to watch the final but when Arsenal went behind early on, I switched off. Sheila got very cross and gave me a very hard time, accusing me of not being a very good supporter and more besides, so I turned on again and Arsenal immediately equalised. We ate supper at half-time and later I turned it back on and we scored again! The rest as they say, is history.

Keep safe,

John

Empty beaches – hospitality unchanged

It’s now the middle of July and over the past few months, it has been a great pleasure to watch the grapes grow around our patio.  My father, who grew grapes in a green house in Central Scotland would have enjoyed seeing these as well as the bouganvillea which has finally burst into flower.

When I looked at my calendar 6 weeks ago  for June and July, the majority of engagements had been crossed out.  Usually John and I  have people to stay in Kavousi, particularly in June. Last year,  we went island hopping with our friend Phil last year to Ikaria and Fourni.  But since March this year, all plans to travel have been cancelled. On June 3rd, I should have been in Edinburgh for a school reunion marking 50 years since I left.  After 10 days there, I was traveling by train to Newcastle, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, then onto Bridgend, Wales  to visit friends and fly back from Bristol.  Yesterday, Easyjet returned the fare of my cancelled flight, which was a pleasant surprise.  John was going to Somerset to meet a friend and explore churches and villages there.  When we booked all of his, we believed you could plan travel!

So what to do in June?  Lockdown had been gradually eased here in May and by the beginning of June, we were free to travel in Crete. We both love our little house in Kavousi but the thought of having a short change of scene was appealing. We also knew that in July, flights with tourists would be arriving and it seemed this was an opportunity to explore a bit and feel completely safe.   On June 17th, we set out for Tsoutsouros for three nights on the south coast. It was picked purely on the basis that we had never been there before!  We looked on booking.com for accommodation but in the end the room in the Michalis Studios was booked directly by telephone. From our room we could see the sea and  the small harbour of Tsoutouros.

We were welcomed warmly by Maria,

and we were delighted that she spoke slow and clear Greek with us. There was no-one else staying there and we enjoyed her company and her cooking. We liked particularly the selection of vegetables, grown by her husband, Michalis.  One morning, she had a surprise for us – a fresh duck egg!

Maria was sorry that the choice of food was limited because of the lack of people but we were very happy with fresh food, cooked personally for us and the friendly hospitality!

Maria had some wonderful loungers, placed underneath tamarisk  trees on the beach opposite.  There, having finished a very good biography of Leonard Cohen, I read Henry Miller’s book ‘The Colossus of Maroussi. I knew nothing of his life or his writing but this book is about Greece in 1939 and I was swept along in the book by his passion for Greece and his views on the current state of the world.

I enjoyed a lovely walk to a small village called Maridaki, which involved ambling along a coastal path, admiring the colour of the sea,

having  a brief conversation with a goat,

with a clear destination,

and even having the possibility of buying a small house!!!

The only down side was that there was no possibility of a cool beer! There was nothing open . On the way back, I got a good view of Tsoutsouras, which shows the sun beds but actually there were very few people to use them.

Later in the day we drove to nearby Kastri,  where we had a beer with our friends, Eva and Jurgen, who live nearby. We were in the same group learning Greek for many years.

As in many conversations at present, Covid19 was high on the agenda for discussion!

On the way home, we hoped to visit ancient Priansos, which is highlighted in my walking book. It has a wonderful location with the promise of a wonderful view as well as ruins and ancient churches. We had assumed there would be a dirt track that we could take the car but this was not possible so another time, I will follow the walking instructions from the Rother Walking Guide. But in our search for a road,  we did get some great views, this one of the amazing Messara Plain.

We came home for a few days but decided the following week to have another three day adventure.  This time we booked three nights at Maridatis Apartments, 3km from Palekastro at the east of the island.  It was recommended by our good friends, Walter and Brigitte.  On the way there, we went to Choni beach which was lovely.  Afterwards, we went to a taverna on Kouremenos beach, famous for surfing.  The man who served us looked and sounded very unhappy, saying there was no-one coming to the taverna during the week.

Our lunch of a Greek salad and a beer was not going to make him much happier!  The economic cost of Covid 19 was plain to see.  We arrived at Maridatis apartments and we were welcomed by Eleni. Our room was enormous and we looked out over olive trees.

The beach was only a couple of minutes away. We were the only customers again!  Manolis was a great host at dinner with lots of chat and he cooked some wonderful meals!

including  lamb chops,

and more

We looked across the olive trees from the taverna, and could see a rock where we were surprised to see a face, which someone had made some effort to paint!

On summer weekends, in previous years, there is music here on are regular basis. Eleni sings and plays the guitar with friends. We bought her latest CD.  She is also a psychotherapist and novelist and showed us her latest book. As you can imagine, it was a delight to meet her and Manolis

One day I walked to Kouremenos beach, which was quicker by foot than by car.

Another day, we went to Itanos, probably our favourite beach in Crete and very close to Maridatis. There was lots of beautiful thyme,

the sea was calm,

and there were lots of stones to admire.

John and I went back home, having experienced Greek hospitality at its best, even in bad circumstances.

International flights started arriving on July 1st. From our conversations with local people and from our trips away,  we have heard a lot of ambivalence and nervousness about the arrival of tourists on the island, even amongst people who would benefit from their income.  People on the island have felt safe because they have obeyed the rules and have kept people out over the last few months. Now, the arrival of tourists means increased health risks!

Since we came back, we have enjoyed the summer. Most mornings at 8 o’clock, John and I have swum in very calm waters at Tholos beach. We have not always been alone. Others have also enjoyed the view.

Some work has been done outside,

and john made a hard decision to throw out an old banana plant which I bought as a present for him in Ierapetra market 8 years ago for 3 euros! One year there were bananas but they didn’t ripen.  We have high hopes for the baby banana plant put in its place which is growing rapidly.

John has been cycling regularly whilst I have a series of different length walks, that I do, depending on my energy level!!!  This time, i walked to the old olive tree. The whole area had been tidied up recently by Kavousi folk and looked very smart.

On the way back, I couldn’t resist taking a picture of this!

We have now a water storage tank to deal with fluctuating water pressure, which Alkis installed on our roof

and a new small freezer in our shed delivered by Kotsovolos, the local equivalent of Dixons.

This was made possible because we sent three boxes of our daughter’s possessions back to her in Cornwall.  They had languished in our shed all the time we have lived here!. They included her football medals which, her Dad reluctantly decided should be in her possession at last. They were on the piano, but here are displayed outside before they go into a box!

We eat with friends occasionally, in this picture, we are at the taverna, Alatsi, sitting on the beach with Hans and Hanneke, eating grilled kalamari. Delicious!

We read and listen daily to a selection of simple Greek books. Recently, John was saved from having to cook a meal by our neighbour, Maria, arriving with two big portions of patsitsio and we had a good laugh over two new naughty Greek words that she taught us!!!   I have had many wonderful conversations with friends and family over the last two months. And when we are not doing anything,  then John and I sit and look at our lovely view,

and be glad of what we have.

Sheila

 

The coronavirus strategy in Greece

 

John and I are well and safe. We should have been in Uzbekistan on a 2 week tour ‘doing The Silk Road’  at present but of course, that has not been possible. Instead, we have stayed at home and the days have gone by peacefully. We keep in touch with family and friends and even had a family meeting last week, courtesy of Zoom. Most days I have a walk, admired the empty Tholos beach (see picture above) and John has a bike ride. We watch series and films on TV and last night watched an old BBC adaptation of Jane Eyre on Greek TV. Our hair is getting longer and we complain sometimes about the amount of cooking we have to do. We speak to our neighbours at a distance and are now enjoying warmer and sunnier weather. There is not much more to be said!  But, I would like to write about the general coronavirus strategy in Greece because for us, this has been the reason that we have kept healthy and safe.

The death rate and the number of cases of corona virus in Greece is comparatively very low in relation to the rest of Europe. With a population of nearly 11 million, there have been 2,620 cases of coronavirus, the first case diagnosed on 26th February.  Contact tracing was introduced on the first and all subsequent confirmed cases with all contacts being tested and isolated. 143 people have died, with the first death on 12th March.  In the last 24 hours there has been 3 deaths and 21 new cases reported. These figures are very low in European terms.  In Crete, there has been one coronavirus death reported.

The Government coronavirus strategy has been based on the need, first and foremost, to  prevent the disease from spreading. Greece’s health service and, in particular, hospital resources were severely damaged during the Crisis.  It doesn’t have the resources in hospitals to care for large numbers of seriously ill people.  So, the Greek strategy was about prevention of the disease and also developing good communication with the whole nation. Social distancing was crucial and public goodwill was key to the success of the approach.

From the start, there has been a scientific committee advising the government.  It appears that science was and still is being prioritised over politics.  Sotiras Tsiodras, an infectious disease specialist, is in charge of Greece’s management of coronavirus.

His advice has been at the heart of the  government coronavirus strategy and he is also the main communicator with the Greek nation on television.   The Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis

announces the main policy changes. Nikos Hardalias was upgraded to the post of deputy minister of civil defence and crisis management and is the state co-ordinator to deal with the virus.   Every night at 6pm, Mr Hardalias and Mr Tsiodras are on TV to provide information and answer questions. Mr Tsiodras reads a prepared statement with up to date statistics, the reasons behind Government policies, explains how they will affect individuals and all the time emphasises the seriousness of the virus and importantly, the need for people to do as they are told. There is no spin.  He tells it how it is. He answers questions and never has good news!  He is serious, honest, respected and trusted. Apparently now, he is the most popular man in Greece. Public goodwill has been  nurtured by honest, clear, evidence based communication which has been a key factor of the coronavirus strategy here.

Action was taken early and swiftly by the Government and its advisers to ensure that small and large gatherings of people were cancelled. The first case of coronavirus , reported on 26th February was a woman who had returned from a visit to Northern Italy. The next day, after 3 cases had been diagnosed, the Government cancelled all the traditional carnival events, in Greece, due to take place over the weekend of 30th March. Greece’s Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said “Based on the experts’ recommendation, and to protect public health, we have decided to cancel carnival events in all of Greece, as other European countries have done,”   All schools were closed on the 11th March and  important soccer games were postponed.

On the 13th March, it was agreed to close all cafes, bars, museums, shopping centres, sports facilities, archaeological sites and restaurants. There were serious fines for those businesses carrying on trading. We arrived back in Greece on the 16th March and soon after air travel became much more limited. Travel restrictions are in place now. On 18 and 19 March, the government announced a series of measures of more than 10 billion euros to support the economy, businesses and employees.

On 23rd March, the Government announced lockdown, restricting all non-essential movement.  Essential movement was defined as going to work,  visiting the doctor, pharmacy, supermarket, bank, assisting someone in need of help, go to a funeral,  walked your dog or going out for some exercise.  The Government also introduced a system of control.  Anybody wishing to go out must inform the authorities with a sms or a signed form, giving the reason for leaving your house and some form of identification must be taken with you. If this isn’t done and a policeman stops you. the fine is 50 euros.  There were stiffer fines in place over the Easter period as the authorities attempted to prevent people from travelling to their relatives in other parts of the country.

There was fairness in the government decisions. Basically no-one or no institution, was exempt from the Government actions.  The Greek Orthodox Church wanted to be exempt but the Prime Minister himself ordered them to close their churches. And when individual priests disobeyed, they were arrested. The message was that the virus does not respect religion or class or colour or gender or age and so everybody must obey the rules which are in place to protect each individual.

The Government have introduced new digital reforms, in order that people can access serves online. This has meant that repeat prescriptions have been accessed without having to go to the doctor. These reforms were badly needed in Greece, and the virus has been the catalyst to make them happen.

The Greek people have, in the main, accepted the Government measures.  In the newspaper, the Greek Reporter, the headline of one article on the 28th April was ‘Coronavirus lockdown busts myth of Unruly Greek’. The vast majority of Greeks have stayed at home. There has been considerable revenue from fines but there appears to have been a general acceptance that  lockdown was the right thing to do. The impressive communication system has also contributed to this. The celebration of Easter usually involves a high degree of church attendance but this year it took place at home.  There were concerns beforehand but in general people kept to the rules.

In Greece there are few residential homes. It is, in the main, the responsibility of the family to care for the elderly. The daughter of our elderly neighbour has stayed with her since February. The daughter lives on the mainland but family responsibility includes this support. The chances of catching the virus are higher in a residential home. The Government have provided more funding to a Help at Home scheme, employing 3000 permanent employees to support vulnerable groups. Refugees in camps, where conditions are tough, have, as yet, not been a target for the virus.

Last Tuesday, 37 days after Greece went into full lockdown, the Greek Government announced that it was moving into a new phase of the battle against the coronavirus. This second phase will start tomorrow on Monday 4th May and there will be a gradual implementation of measures which will enable people to work, go to school and socialise.  Here, the motto of the first stage was μένουμε σπίτι (stay at home) to μένουμε ασπηαλής (stay safe). It is a risky decision but the Government feels that it is now in a position to introduce this.

The focus here has so far been on the health of the nation with its slogan μένουμε σπίτι. Now, other needs of the nation such as education and work will be given more of a priority. Hopefully, this can be managed as well as the first stage.

Sheila

Winter Blues

I started writing this Post on what is apparently ‘Blue Monday’, the most depressing day of the year! Oddly enough, I woke up that morning thinking much along the same lines and decided that I needed to do something to shake me out of the lethargy which seems to have descended on Kavousi since the turn of the year. Then I looked out and decided that it would be better to stay in bed!

Graham arrived for Christmas on December 23 and the weather since has been appalling – cold, wet and windy. This happened last year and we determined that this year we would go away and had thoughts of the Antipodes, the Gambia and various other exotic locations but for one reason or another, we did nothing and here we are hunkering down in the Cretan winter.

However, it is not all gloom. We did have a really good time at Christmas with Graham and later Rhiannon joined us.

Unfortunately there was no swimming this year and Crete did not put on its best front for Rhiannon’s first visit but we took them to see the streamed version of the ballet ‘Raymonda’ from the Bolshoi, in Agios Nikoloas and had a fine lunch at Yiorgos’ taverna in Mochlos

and  a number of late nights were passed in the company of the ‘Mexican Train’ (a domino game for the uninitiated), Labyrinth (a family game from the 1990’s)

and playing cards.

Graham and Rhiannon also borrowed the car one day and visited Gournia and the South Coast. It was good to see them both and Kavousi was a bit flat for a few days after they left.

Prior to Christmas we had been swimming until late November but the first winter storms arrived in early December and although there were some nice days thereafter, they were usually accompanied by a cold breeze from the north which meant even the hardy Scot among us was not keen to risk the nippy waves!

The rainstorms led to a few minor floods in the house which severely tested my patience as I had expended considerable time and money last year trying to avoid this eventuality by having new shutters made for the front door and an aluminium sliding door to cover the back.

However, the new shutters would not close and the aluminium door leaked. Alkis, our builder, sort of dealt with the former and eventually I solved the problem at the back by getting an extra piece of aluminium made to cover the top.

Now it just needs painting (and the light replacing). I was very pleased with myself for doing this because it involved going to the workshop and largely conversing in Greek!

And on that subject, readers with good memories will recall that we stopped going to our Greek classes at Easter last year.  However, this does not mean that we have lost touch with our teacher, Manolis, and he was kind enough to invite us to his end of term ‘outing’ which involved visits to the studios of a local artist and a sculptor.

At the latter we were encouraged to make a pot, which was actually quite fun, although the pots we made have not been retained for posterity!

At the end of October, Manolis was the interviewer at a book presentation at the Melina Mercouri Theatre in Ierapetra at which Victoria Hyslop was launching the Greek version of her new book, ‘Those Who Have Loved’.

The discussion took place in Greek which she managed extremely well although there were occasional repeats in English for those, unlike our good selves of course, (believe that if you will!!) who could not understand. It was a really interesting evening and Manolis was very good.

We have been trying to develop an alternative approach to formal Greek lessons which focus more on speaking more Greek on a daily basis. This has been partially successful but also we asked Maria to give us cooking lessons in Greek and have so far learned how to make fava and cinnamon biscuits.

For a while we also had a weekly chat with a young Greek woman who came round for coffee. This was both enjoyable and very useful but unfortunately for us (although fortunately for her), Nikoleta has now got a full-time job and does not have to time to come any more!

Culture has also not been neglected and we have seen ‘Madam Butterfly’ from the Met in New York and ‘King Lear’ and ‘Hamlet’ from London – all at the Rex cinema in Agios Nikolaos to say nothing of a five hour screening of the film ‘Novacento’ at Chris and Pauline’s house just before Christmas. We also saw ‘1917’ at the Rex recently, which quite rightly, seems lined up for awards at the Oscars later this month.

Cycling has been intermittent because of the weather but before Christmas Sheila had a good walk on the south coast with a new walking group she has discovered and followed this up a few weeks later, with a walk up the gorge with a family who live locally who are members of the group.  Since Christmas, we have both tried to get out as often as possible with Sheila getting in a short walk most days and me out on my bike along the dirt roads.

We had a number of trips to Heraklion in November and early December, including a weekend over my birthday, which were all related to our new car. Its first service was due early in November and I reported a problem with the shock absorbers which they replaced under the guarantee. However, the first lot which came were the wrong kind but they did not discover this until we had taken the car there! Nevertheless, we had a good stay in a hotel in Heraklion for my birthday

including a lovely day trip to various beaches

and the foothills of Mount Ida (Psiloritis) with lunch at a small taverna

and a meal at Peskesi in the evening, where the food was amazing as usual.

Unfortunately we had to return home a day early because Sheila had an eye infection but not before the hotel had provided champagne and a bowl of fruit!

Early winter is also the time when we both have various health checks. I am pleased to report that even though Sheila’s tests seemed to go on for ever (partly related to the eye infection mentioned above), we have both been signed off as being likely to last until next time, although I now have new glasses and Sheila a number of new pills. However, exercise seems to be the cure for all ills, so we are both trying to do what we can in our own ways and to be more careful with our diets.

The cold days and long nights have meant that we have both to some extent, been marooned in the house, so a number of old TV shows have been revisited, Fawlty Towers among them and a lot of books consumed, including of course, the new Victoria Hyslop (very good).

For myself, I have got back to my family history project, the first stage of which is nearing completion and I think I may have made a breakthrough with my own name, after years of bashing against the proverbial brick wall!

And while on the subject of walls, Alkis has kept us entertained during the bleak winter as he and his mate Mario rebuild the ruin next to our house in what will become a beautiful summer get-away for a family from Athens. Whatever the weather, Alkis is always smiling!

And on those positive notes, I will draw to a close and try to enjoy the remainder of ‘Blue Monday’ week without having even mentioned the General Election or Brexit. Whoops!

John