Category Archives: Greek language

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

 

 

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

Happy moments

Whilst John and I read about  the reality and horror of Covid 19 throughout the world and we worry about our family and friends, life for us continues quietly here in Crete. We see no sign of the virus around here but we know the importance of obeying the rules and keeping safe.

Our life this autumn would have been a little different as we had planned to meet up with our Canadian friends, Cathy and Bruce and visit Northern Greece. And we would have had at least one of our children here over the summer. We might have tried a little island hopping if there had been time and certainly booked flights to go the UK in October/November. For a few days, we were tempted to get the ferry from Siteia and visit the island of Karpathos but decided that on many grounds that it was better to stay here.

It was a good decision because there have been many happy moments over the last 6 weeks. John and I celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary in Mochlos on September 12 with the usual, unbeatable ingredients of cocktails,

wonderful fish

and friendly environment.

That day, we had returned from a five day trip. First, we spent two days at Mikali’s studios in Tsoutsouros,

which we had visited in June. Sadly, we did not see Maria, who was in Athens because her mother had died but her husband, daughter and son in law did a great job looking after us.

We decided to go on an excursion to the small village of Treis Ekklisies (Τρεις Εκκλησίες), which we had heard was very lovely. On the way there, we went on a route which involved a dirt road and a stop at Μουρνιά, a village in the mountains, to check with some friendly locals as to whether we should carry on or turn back. They assured him that our car was fit for purpose and it was. It led to one of these amazing, unbelievable,  twisty, steep and now covered with tarmac roads in Crete which take your breath away in terms of the engineering involved.

Treis Ekklisies was at the bottom of the hill in the most stunning location.

We swam there,

ate a leisurely lunch

found one of the three churches,

and stuck to tarmac all the way back to Tsoutsouros,  I am used to seeing lots of small churches in Crete but on this journey we passed so many beautiful ones with no obvious signs of a village nearby.

The next day, we arrived at a taverna called Agia Fotia,where we stayed for 3 nights.

It is situated right by the sea and is many kilometres from the main road.  When we arrived at lunchtime, we were surprised at how  busy it was, given its location . There was no big town around about but the reason soon became clear. The food was wonderful and it is in a very lovely location. In the evening, I chose red snapper, which was the dish of the day. It was so delicious and will remain in my memory for a long time. And the prawns and the chicken on the other two nights we were there, were also fantastic.

On one day, we drove to Preveli and went to the famous monument, dedicated to the brave Allied soldiers and the priests of the Cretan resistance in World War 2.

I had seen it before but you cannot help but be moved by it. We decided not to visit the beach,

or the monastery. There were too many cars there for comfort and we drove on to Damnoni beach. In 1983, just before John and I were married, we had a two week holiday in Plakias. We arrived by bus, found ourselves a room and walked to Damoni beach, of which we have find memories. So 37 years later, We went to have a look at our old haunt and whilst it is still pretty

in my view the  sunbeds and terracing  spoil it a little bit (John thought rather a lot). When we arrived in Plakias, we found a cafe and then went back in time, looking for signs of Plakias in 1983. It has grown a lot!!!  We think our room from that time, might have been up there!

and we found a bus stop

but I think it was not where we arrived in 1983!  Eventually we just admired the beach!

The roads around Plakias and Preveli have improved a lot in the last 37 years and there were no worries now about dirt roads!

The next day we found another beach and enjoyed a morning there.

It was beautiful, empty and there were wonderful stones there.

I wanted to take them all home!

We moved onto Triopetra for lunch, which is one of our favourite places in Crete and ate at the Taverna Apanemia and enjoyed meeting Stelios again and eating aubergine and feta cheese.

When we got back to our hotel, John found that he couldn’t close his car window. It was left like that overnight and we left early to get to Ierapetra so that a mechanic could look at it. On the way back, John realised that the two back windows wouldn’t work either. Finally, he asked me to get the manual out which is huge and we avoid having anything to do with. I read out basic instructions from the manual and it was sorted! We There was a button that I must have touched the day before which locks all the windows except the drivers. We were very relieved and happy but felt very stupid!!!

When we came back to Kavousi, we found that the water pump supplying the village had been damaged. It was 10 days before a new pump was installed. In the meantime, water was available from another source between 8 and 3 which was good but the evening shower was sorely missed. It is not until something is taken away, that you really appreciate its worth! Two days after the water in the village returned, it rained. It was the first rain for many months.

It only lasted a few hours but our neighbour, Maria, was very excited and the plants immediately looked happier!

At Christmas, I gave John a bird of paradise plant, without much expectation that it would flower. But for a few weeks there have been two stalks that did not look like they were going to be leaves. Everyday, for a week or two, I have been rushing out to check on these. Finally, it was clear that there were two flowers. One of them came out completely last Thursday (see the cover photo) and I was so excited. It is such an exotic flower and I am enjoying sitting outside admiring its beauty!!!

In the evenings as we ate outside in early September, we were lucky to see the moon rise over the mountain behind us and also to see the planets, Jupiter and Saturn (You can see Jupiter in the picture just!) . One time, our neighbour also provided a light show.

Who needs to go out for entertainment!!!

Throughout the summer, John and I have been reading to each other, a group of five books which are Greek novels about the past which have been simplified for people like us.  Most days, we are now reading the Η Φόνισσα (The Murderess) by Alexander Papadiamantis.

We have found reading them challenging at times but because they have been simplified, we have understood the basic plot and the themes of the book, without first sinking into a pool of unknown vocabulary and expressions.  These are the first books of Greek literature that are accessible to us and we are very grateful to Manolis Petasis for recommending and giving them to us.

John and I have also become addicts of ‘Judge John Deed’, a BBC series from early 2000. John picked up series 2 from the British shop and has obtained series 1,3,4 and 5 from Amazon. Both of us enjoy this immensely.

Finally, communication with family and friends  based in the UK and Crete has continued to be very important  to our general well-being.  We are lucky to be able to access the phone, Facebook, WhatsApp and Zoom. In particular, a conversation with a friend, Qaisra, comes to mind.  John and I first met her in Aberdeenshire in 1997, then later I met up with her in London and together, we climbed Scafell Pike, in the Lake District together. I have not been in touch with her for years but John and she started a Facebook group which included me and she and I arranged to speak on the phone. It was lovely to hear her voice and the phone call reminded me of how I just loved her values and her humour. We both agreed that what makes us both very happy is to chat to people, learning about them and their lives. That is what I liked most when I was a youth and community worker, as I met all kinds of interesting people. It was a very happy moment talking to Qaisra and getting an update on her life!

Sheila

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

 

We exit lock-down, have a mountain adventure and the tavernas re-open

Monday May 25th was a day we had been waiting for. It was the day that the Government had decreed that the tavernas and restaurants here in Greece could re-open and we had promised ourselves for some weeks that when the day came, we would treat ourselves to a whole week of eating out because we were so fed up with cooking every night!

But where to go with so many choices? It had to be Bobo’s of course but what to do with the rest of the day?

Sheila had scheduled two lengthy phone calls during the morning and early afternoon, so I amused myself doing odd jobs around the place, including doing a little dead-heading of the geraniums

and keeping an eye on the renovation of the neighbouring house which is quickly nearing completion.

The owner has arrived from Athens and we thought we should introduce ourselves. Maria told us that he does not speak English so it was an opportunity to practice our Greek. Sheila met him in the courtyard and exchanged a few pleasantries but he seemed shy and did not give his name so I asked Maria, who said he was called Yiorgos. When I met him later, I told him my name and addressed him as Yiorgos. He looked confused and said his name was Manolis! I tried to explain that Maria had told me his name but he look confused again and said he did not know a Maria. This was going from bad to worse and as I had exhausted my Greek, I decided to  withdraw, silently cursing Maria for giving me duff information. Such are the perils and challenges of learning Greek.

It was a lovely day so at lunchtime, we decided that we would have an adventure before eating at Bobo’s.

When we bought our new car one of the determining factors for choosing the Suzuki Ignis was that it came with a 4×4 option and we thought it would be good to explore some of the dirt roads that go through the mountains. In particular, I had my eye on the road which goes past our house, up to the ancient olive tree (allegedly the oldest in the world), past the post Minoan archaeological site of Azorias which sits in an elevated position immediately behind our house, then to village of Melisses which is only inhabited in the summer and thence by way of a steep zig-zag dirt and stony road to the mountain village of Thripti.

For various reasons we have never got around to doing this but Monday seemed like a good day to try!

In retrospect it was not an entirely sensible thing to do at this time of year because the municipal road grader is yet to appear after the winter rains so the road was not in the best of condition. Indeed, in places it was barely passable and I spent a lot of time keeping an eye open for possible turning places, should the need arise to re-trace our steps as it were.

Not only was it an exciting and challenging trip, the scenery up there in the mountains was both amazing and beautiful and we even saw a Belted Galloway goat but unfortunately there is no picture, as the goat leapt up on to a rock and disappeared as we approached!

The distance cannot be more than perhaps six miles but it took an hour and a half, mostly in first or second gear. Walking by a somewhat more direct route up the E4 path from Kavousi takes only two hours so there was really not much advantage is taking the car except that I can no longer walk the path!

It was a wonderful experience but somewhat of a relief when we met the concrete road on the outskirts of Thripti, which nestles in an upland valley/plateau below the highest mountain in the area from which it takes its name. The taverna there had re-opened on Monday too and we were tempted to stop for a beer as it was thirsty work driving up the dirt road but we wanted to get to Bobo’s. So we took the tarmac road down the other side to the main Ierapetra – Pacheia Ammos road and thence to the seafront taverna, which any readers who have visited us here, will know as being our favourite.

It was great to be back there and the family were their usual welcoming selves.

Bobo could teach Dominic Cummings something about sticking to the rules whilst managing to introduce a fair degree of humour into the situation, which no doubt Mr Tsiodras, an infectious disease specialist here who has fronted up the nightly Government coronavirus TV presentation would approve of. He is now stepping back from the limelight but having become a modern national hero, signed off with an excerpt from a poem by Odysseus Elytis, which I rather feel Mr Cummings and his boss might like to reflect on.

“I’ve always told the truth. The truth can’t be lied to and the lie can be told the truth.”

Of course, we drank too much at Bobo’s and Tuesday saw both of us a little worse for wear! So regrettably, we decided that that we would not go out again but have a quiet night in. It’s a hard life!

In the past few weeks, we have been allowed to meet with friends, so we have had a socially distanced dinner party here in Kavousi,

a picnic at Xerokambos with Rich and Shona,

lunch on the South coast with Hans and Hanneke

and a day out on a remote beach at Itanos where we got rather sunburned.

We also had a pop-up virtual party to celebrate a rather important birthday of Pat, a friend in the UK.

Goodbye from my lock-down curls, now sadly consigned to the hairdresser’s floor!

John

When the world was normal

When I look back at my diary in January and in February, I find the usual mixture of trips and social activity in our lives.  A trip to the UK followed which I will write about in another post.

Early in January after all the Christmas festivities had finished, John and I visited a local church, St Fanourios, which is on the way to Pacheia Ammos. The church, itself, is quite new and was built by a Kavousi man, commemorating his brother, Fainourios. The setting is amazing with a view over to the entrance to the Ha Gorge.

Then we went onto the harbour at Pachia Ammos and admired the power of nature!

We enjoyed a late Christmas celebration of lovely food and games at Shona and Rich’s. The view

from their house is stunning!  Of course, we also frequented local tavernas with our neighbours, Victoria and Paul, Pauline and Chris and Birgitta and Roger. We enjoyed nice evenings at home with Val and Garry, who were shortly going back to the UK, and with Pauline and Chris. We met up  with our old Greek class, Shona, Eva and Jurgen for lunch and caught up with their news.  We visited Hans and Hanneke who have transformed their living area in their house and now have a wonderful new room with with a view to die for.

The picture does not do it justice! Afterwards, we went to a taverna in Ierapetra, called Vira Potzi, which was a bit more upmarket than usual for us but the food was delicious, particularly this salad.

We picked our mandarins which have many pips but taste very good.

John tried out some new recipes, including fennel omelette, which was delicious. The fennel came from our dear neighbour, Maria.

We saw the Philip Glass opera, Akhnaten, at the Theatre Rex. This provided a big talking point, given that neither John or I knew anything about Philip Glass.  It introduced us to the superb voice of countertenor, Anthony Roth Costanzo, to the conductor, Karen Kamensek, who was clearly very comfortable with the Glass score and to music and singing which was so different to anything else that we have seen so far in our ‘beginners opera journey’!!!  It was all a bit puzzling on first impressions but for me, it is always good to experience something completely different. At the cinema, we saw Little Women, which I enjoyed although I had a little trouble at the start, with the going back and forward in time.

The weather was, in general, mixed with quite a lot of rain and also some snow on the faraway hills,

but it still allowed walks where I could admire the dramatic colours,

and the beautiful anemones, who poked their heads out, even in the rain.

I enjoyed very much a circular walk near Stavrohori, on the south coast with Cathy, Doug and Fergus and their friends.

Two of their friends live in Siteia and are friends of Susan, who was our Greek tutor, when we lived in Kirkcudbright. It is a small world! A highlight of the walk was to have a meal at the Stravodoksari taverna in Stavrohori. The meat there was to die for!!!

 

Our saddest news was that Michalis, who helped us out so much when we arrived first in Crete, died in Germany, after a terrible accident.  There was no possibility of recovery but it seemed so unfair that this should happen now, after much stress and bad health for himself and his wife Inge, in the past few years,

INCO (The Cultural Organization of the Foreign Residents of Agios Nikolaos) Annual General Meeting took place in February and the new committee were elected. There were impressive reports of the work that happened in the last year,  particularly information provided relating to Brexit and development cultural opportunities.  The AGM was held in the Lassithi Chamber of Commerce, courtesy of the Mayor ( a big change from previous AGM’s which have been held in hotels or cafes) and I think this reflects the hard professional work that the committee have done over the year to develop positive links with the council and to try to meet the needs of the foreigners in the area. John was responsible for overseeing the votes for the new committee but was not tempted to take on a bigger role!!!

John and I visited the house of our friends, Stan and Jann, throughout the winter, just to check it was OK, while they were in the UK. One day, to our delight, we saw that the path up to the house had been given a new surface of cement. Walking or driving up to the house is so much easier now!

In January and February, we were lucky that Eva, who has moved to live in Kavousi from Athens  with her husband, agreed to meet up with us twice a week for Greek conversation in return for help with her English conversation at the end. John and I both enjoyed it very much and are sorry that at present, it is not possible to continue because of the coronavirus restrictions but we hope it will restart in time.

Maria, our neighbour, came round regularly for a chat. On one occasion, she was talking to us and her phone rang. It was her sister and then we all had a chat with her, with Maria being the speaker. It worked really well!!!

Sometimes, conversations with people here are a great source of amazement.  John went to pharmacy in Ierapetra to pick up some pills.  Somehow his conversation with  Maria, the pharmacist, became focused on Wessex!  She watches the series ‘The Lost Kingdom’ with Uhtred, son of Uhtred and was very familiar with this period of English history. John was delighted to talk to her about his own part of the world!

Last year, the road where our car is parked, was damaged in a storm. Parts of the bank fell into the ‘river’ below.  The new Mayor, Maria, informed us that the road would be closed for a period of time in order that the work could proceed. We parked our car in the main car park, behind the supermarket, which was not a problem. The surface of the road was replaced and there was some strengthening of it,

but the actual bank itself remained untouched and we wait for part two of the work, when there is money to fund it. But our parking space is much improved as has the surface of the road. As you can imagine this work provided much entertainment and comment for a few days!!

When the weather wasn’t good, we came up with some ideas to improve our living room area. This involved moving bits of furniture about, throwing out an old side board, buying a new one and having our small table and TV table varnished.

We are both really pleased with the result.  The question is do we now still need a new settee and chairs???  We have also bought some new, lighter, outdoor furniture.

John continued with his family history project and circulated to his family a very interesting document ‘on line’ about the lives of his four grandparents.

It has been well received and it has encouraged him to carry on writing up research that he has already done.

In the meantime, I started reading ‘Greece, Biography of a Modern Nation’ by Roderiick Beaton and learned much, particularly about the build up and during the Greek Revolution.

Brexit date came and went, without much acknowledgement on our part (this was a moment of resignation to this inevitable crazy decision!).

Then we left on 25th February for a three week trip to the UK with no idea of how coronavirus was about to make an enormous impact on all our lives.

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

Autumnal action

Tholos Beach in Autumn

After John and I returned to Crete in the middle of September, the next month flew by in a social whirl.

Gord, my second cousin, and Debbie, his wife, who live in Coldstream, British Columbia, arrived first. We saw them last year at the Sunshine Coast, north of Vancouver and they said then that they were keen to come to Greece. They have visited us in Scotland and spent time with us on our canal boat but they have never experienced Greece or Kavousi!   After a few days in Athens, they arrived here and then we explored the east of the island by car and by foot.  Their first day here was a special one in Kavousi as each year the village hosts an important mountain running event. We had a good view from our house of the competitors, crossing the bridge down below before they set off up the Havgas Gorge.

Of course, we ourselves did not take part but Gord, Debbie and I did manage a number of walks which included going up the Havgas gorge, visiting the impressive post Minoan site of Azoria,

admiring the ancient olive tree, whose branches were used for olive wreaths of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and finally drinking a well deserved beer at the very friendly taverna, which is situated next to the tree. We travelled further afield to walk down the Zakros gorge,

and again enjoyed lunch and a beer at the end of the walk. It is always good to choose walks with refreshments guaranteed! Our guests liked the Minoan village of Gournia, and throughout

they were full of wonder at all the evidence of the Minoan civilization, so long ago. We admired the Lassithi plateau and Zeus’s cave,

and we clearly were enjoying the sights and the company!!!

I can’t help taking photographs of blue sea (this time at Spinalonga)

or sunsets (this one taken from the wonderful ‘Panorama’ taverna and

the cocktails in Moxlos.

After a few days, we drove our lovely, newish car to the south of the island and I realised that it was a rough ride in the back seat.  Every time the car was driven over a hole or a dip in the road. Debbie and I experienced a very bad sensation. Debbie was too polite to make a fuss but after my moans,  John did raise the issue with the garage later when the car had its first service and I feel vindicated because it is being fitted with new shock absorbers so I hope that will make a more comfortable ride!  But it was all worth it to see the beauty of Phaistos, one of the Minoan palaces, where one can also view the Messsara plain and the highest mountain of Crete, Psiloritis.

We drove onto Matala for a swim,

and then to Agia Galini where we enjoyed the view from the hotel,

and sampled the tavernas and the beach. On the last couple of days of their visit to Crete, we stayed at a very nice AirB&B in Herakleion.  The main purpose was to see Knossos,

and to show Gord and Debbie the wonderful exhibits from the Minoan period which are in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. This museum presents Minoan life and culture so vividly and each time, I go, I see something  else to be dazzled by, like an amazing piece of jewellery,

or a beautiful pot,

or an old favourite, that just stuns you with the craftmanship.

And as Gord and Debbie said, these works of art were made so long ago!

John and I enjoyed our last meal with them at Amalia’s kitchen.

The next morning, they travelled by ferry to  Santorini. We hope to see them again in a couple of years in British Columbia where there is a plan for another adventure!

Sarah and Mark arrived a few days later from London for a different type of holiday. We joined them for a period of complete relaxation! We walked to Tholos beach, we swam,

we talked and we ate. And it was all centred around Kavousi. Perfect!

Then our Scottish friends Maggie and Andrew arrived for 24 hours!  Maggie and I have known each other since we were children!  They were on holiday for a week in Fodele, west of Heraklion with their family but took a day out to see us. We made the most of that time. I walked with them to Tholos beach, we all swam,  had dinner at Mochlos and the next day I walked with them to the secret beach at Agriomandra.

It was all really good fun!!!!

Then Pat and Jerry, like Gord and Debbie, also from British Columbia arrived for four days.

They had as much to tell us as we had to tell them!  John and I met them on a tour around Vietnam and Cambodia a few years ago and we visited them in their lovely house on Hardy island, British Columbia last year. We hoped they might come to Greece and we were excited when they decided to make the trip.

They flew to Athens and then explored the Peloponnese by car. Whilst they had places they wanted to go to, (some of which John and I had recommended based on our experiences there,)  they were also very flexible, exploring whatever seemed interesting to them. There were occasions when they turned up in a village and found a room, without a previous booking – real travellers!

From the mainland, they went to Santorini for a few days and then flew to Heraklion where they hired another car and explored the west of Crete, finally arriving in Kavousi (the best was left till last!!!).    We found out about their trip and enjoyed interesting discussions about their travel and their impressions. They were very enthusiastic about Greece and curious about aspects of culture that they had glimpsed.

We showed them our village,

the Havgas gorge,

and Azoria.

We went to the east of the island and Spinalonga,

before they left for the Air Transat flight home.

A few days later our friend Susan, our former Greek tutor, from Kirkcudbright, arrived from Herakion by bus on her way to Siteia for a holiday.

We ate lunch, had a nice chat and then she got on the next bus to complete her journey!!!  I hope she will come for a bit longer the next time!

Life had been hectic for a few weeks and when everyone had gone, it was a bit of a surprise for John and me to have no-one staying in the house, other than ourselves! But more of that in the next post!

Sheila