Category Archives: Politics

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!





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!


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.


Keeping busy in lock down

One of the more interesting aspects of being in lock down has been reading how friends and family have been keeping sane whilst their normal lives are on hold. So it has been rather fun getting detailed recipes from the ”Corona Kitchen’ in Edinburgh’, a daily Blog from Uppsala in Sweden covering meanderings off the beaten track whilst taking daily exercise, as well as regular updates on facebook providing  gardening hints and problems associated with laying turf in Essex.

My contribution to all this endeavour has so far at least, been purely personal. For nearly forty years I have been researching my family history in an on-and-off kind of way – mostly off if I am honest and pre-pandemic, I decided it was time to write it up before I wandered off to some cloud to learn to play the harp.

So just before we left for the UK in February, I managed to circulate to my immediate family the first part of my magnum opus which deals with my four grandparents. I read somewhere that this is a good place to start because there is a good chance that you actually knew them and/or other family members are still around, who did.

For me it worked. They became real people, not just old folk whom I barely tolerated in my grumpy teenage years and the project encouraged me to continue with the second part which is to deal with the generations which came before.

Lock down has given me both the opportunity and no excuse not to do it!

At this point I can discern an urge in you dear reader, to hit the exit button as you begin to suspect that you are about to be deluged with all sorts of stuff about which you have no interest whatsoever. You can do that if you wish but you will miss the tale of one family who lived, loved and suffered in nineteenth century rural England and abroad

I bring you the lives of my 3x Great Grandparents, Benjamin and Caroline Burt.

Benjamin and Caroline were born in rural Dorset about the end of the eighteenth century and thus well before the time when the official registration of births, marriages and deaths was introduced in England. Hence for much of the information relating to them, we are heavily dependent on parish records, many of which have survived but with varying degrees of both quality and accuracy. There are no photographs of these people and given the fact that they and their families were agricultural labourers, they have left very little trace of their lives beyond that which can be gleaned from the limited records which are available.

Agricultural labourers at the beginning of the nineteenth century were almost by definition, poor. Life was hard, brutal even, for the whole family. Increasing farm mechanisation and depressed wages during and following the Napoleonic Wars, meant financial hardship for many rural folk, and perhaps just as important, with the passing of various Land Enclosure Acts, little or no possibility of producing their own food on common land, which they had been able to do in earlier times.

Benjamin Burt

Benjamin was born around 1787, the son of John Burt and Jane Terrell. He was baptised on September 16 of that year together with his twin brother Thomas in the Parish Church at Sturminster Marshall, in Dorset which was and remains, a small village a few miles north of Poole.

The twins had two older sisters and a further brother and sister were to follow.

We have no information relating to Benjamin’s childhood but it seems likely that at some point his twin brother Thomas, may have died. I can find no record of him anywhere although it has to be said that nor can I find a record of his death. However, Benjamin’s first born son was called Thomas and i think this may be significant.

Benjamin himself does not appear again in any parish records until he married Caroline Gooby on March 6 1820 at Sturminster Marshall.

Note that both Benjamin and Caroline could not write and made their respective marks. This would have been normal among the labouring classes at that time.

Caroline Gooby (or Gobey) was the fifth child of Thomas Gobey and Mary Pardock (nee Syms) and was baptised at Corfe Mullen, Dorset on July 27 1794.

There are a number of variations on the spelling of her surname but I have chosen to use the one which appears on the record of her marriage.

There is also some confusion too, regarding her Christian name. It is Caroline on her marriage and death certificates but Anne seems to have been the name she used when she had her children baptised.

This has caused me a problem over the years because I thought for a long time that there must have been two separate families – Benjamin/Caroline and Benjamin/Anne but I could never find a marriage for the second and I could never find a death for Anne. There again, I could not find any children directly associated with Caroline.

Eventually, I decided (like everyone else researching this family) that Caroline and Anne had to be one and the same. All the other evidence fits, even including one reference which I read, that Anne was sometimes used as a diminutive for Caroline. This, it was claimed, is explained by the fact that in a West Country accent the two rhyme! Coming from Somerset, I can just about accept this but even so, I have to admit, there remains a small element of doubt regarding the names.

Benjamin and Caroline had at least six children:

Mary born c. 1821 bapt. Lytchett Matravers  Mar 17 1822
Thomas born c. 1821 bapt. Lytchett Matravers  Mar 17 1822
Jane born c. 1824 bapt. Lytchett Matravers Nov 7 1824
Caroline born c.1826 Lytchett Matravers
Sarah born c. 1829 Lytchett Matravers
Henry born c 1832 Lytchett Matravers died c. 1835

Lytchett Matravers is another small village which lies about three miles west of Sturminster Marshall. We know very little about the day-to-day lives of Benjamin and Caroline but there is some not inconsiderable evidence which indicates that it was not easy. I say this partly in the context of economic factors referred to earlier which meant that the life of the agricultural labourer and his family was difficult in the early half of the eighteenth century but also because we know that the Overseers of the Poor in Lytchett Matravers clearly saw this family in particular, as one which they would have preferred had not moved there from Sturminster Marshall.

This move took place not long after Benjamin and Caroline were married because Mary and Thomas were both baptised in Lytchett Matravers in 1822. In 1826, the authorities there, attempted to challenge the settlement order under which responsibility for the family had been transferred from Sturminster Marshall. The case was lost and the family were allowed to stay.

This action may have been prompted by the fact that Benjamin had been charged in 1825 with stealing apples. Although he was acquitted, it was not the first time he had had a brush with law. Indeed over the years there were to be a number of such cases, all relating to what nowadays we would call petty pilfering but in those harder times, any transgression was regarded in a much harsher light with corresponding punishments.

As his criminal record indicates, Benjamin was clearly someone whom the authorities had their eyes on and were out to get. That said, with one exception he was never convicted although, as will become apparent, he was not the only member of the family to have brushes with the law.

Benjamin Burt – Criminal Record

Date                         Where             Alleged Offence   Convicted/Acquitted     Punishment

06/02/19       Dorchester Prison     Stealing an Axe                Acquitted           Discharged  23/04/19

01/10/25       Dorchester Prison     Stealing Apples                Acquitted           Discharged 04/10/25

25/02/40       Dorset Assizes           Receiving Stolen               Acquitted          Discharged                                                                                      Stockings*

07/02/41       Dorchester Prison    Stealing Potatoes              Convicted   3 months Hard Labour

*           Benjamin’s son Thomas (Aged 19) was also charged with this Offence and acquitted 

Henry the second son of Benjamin and Caroline died about 1835 but I have been unable to find any record of his death and indeed, there may have been another daughter, Eliza born c. 1825 for whom no records survive. Whatever, Caroline perhaps worn out by years of child bearing, poverty, insecurity and concern for her family, became ill and died of consumption (TB) in August 1839 .

In February 1840 just months after the death of their mother, daughters Caroline aged 13 and Sarah aged 10 were charged and convicted of stealing stockings and both sentenced to one week’s hard labour!

Worse was to follow because in October 1840, Jane and Caroline were arrested and subsequently convicted for stealing a cap and a pocket handkerchief. Aged just 16 and 14 they were sentenced to be transported and in April 1841, they left for Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), never to return to Dorset.

While they were in prison their father was convicted for stealing potatoes and sentenced to three month’s hard labour.

Words fail me. This was clearly a family in crisis and yet they were treated no better than animals by the authorities.

Presumably it was left to young Thomas and Mary aged just nineteen or twenty to keep the remaining family together but how they coped, we can only imagine. However, just to compound matters, we do know that Mary died in 1844.

Thanks to contact with Marion Taylor, a distant cousin in Australia, I was given a wealth of information on what happened to the two young women transported to Australia.

Both married within a few years of arrival and were given their freedom, never to transgress again. Jane had a number of children and her descendants are numerous. Caroline also had children but she, her husband and three of their children succumbed to various illnesses contracted in the unhealthy conditions found in the temporary settlements which accompanied the Goldfields of Victoria in the 1860’s.

It seems doubtful if there was ever any contact with Benjamin or the rest of the family because no one could read or write.

This is a photograph which Marion sent me of Jane and her husband James Wright in later life.

As for the behaviour of the British authorities, in his definitive work on transportation, Robert Hughes writes:

‘Australia was settled to defend English property …. from the marauder within. English lawmakers wished not only to get rid of the ”criminal class” but if possible to forget about it.’

So the teenage daughters of my 3x Great Grandparents became two of the 160,000 convicts who were transported between 1787 and 1868.

In this context, Marion Taylor comments:

Do not think too badly of Jane and Caroline because many of the convicts sent to Australia were guilty of petty crimes which today would not even attract a prison sentence. Many of these people were victims of the times with unemployment and poverty forcing them to obtain food and clothing by whatever means they could.  Because of the system in force in Britain and Ireland during the late 1700s and early 1800s, the powers that be saw transportation as a means of ridding their countries of the underprivileged as well as petty criminals.  I have 9 convicts in my direct line and all were transported for petty crimes. None of them ever committed a crime after their arrival in Australia, which says something about them. It certainly proves that they were no habitual criminals.

On a lighter note, the Criminal Records are interesting from another perspective. They describe the appearance of the person who is the subject of the record and thus, pre-photographic images, we can get an idea of what people looked like.

So, for example, we know that Benjamin was 5 ft 10 ins tall, with grey hair, dark hazel eyes and a sallow complexion, with a cut to the middle of his forehead, a pock mark to his left eyebrow, another pock mark to his top cheek bone and with several moles to the bottom of his left cheek.

Thomas was 5 ft 9 ins tall with rather dark brown hair, grey eyes and a rather sallow complexion, with a mole to the side of the right side of upper lip and a cut on the right side of the middle finger to the right hand.

After Mary’s death in 1844, the tasks of running the household must have fallen to young Sarah but in 1847, then aged 18, she took perhaps the easier option and married George Christopher. By the time of the 1851 Census they were living in Lytchett Minster with two children and with Benjamin installed as a lodger.

At the time of the 1861 Census, Benjamin who is described as formerly an agricultural labourer, was lodging with Hannah Wilkins and her daughter at Waterlane Plot, Lytchett Minster.

I like to think of him perhaps nursing a pint in the St Peter’s Finger pub in Lytchett Minster.

Thanks to the Upton Millenium Project for the historic photograph.

Benjamin died aged 82 in the late spring of 1867 and was buried on May 9 at Lytchett Minster. He had had a hard and eventful life with his wife having died young from a disease of the poor and two of his children transported for trifling crimes. He was clearly a bit of a rogue but he seems to have tried to do his best for his family and he was also a survivor. I rather admire him.

The cover photo is the house where I believe Thomas Burt lived in Lytchett Matravers.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.




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!


Summer 2019 Part 2 – Family, fun and celebrations

At the beginning of August, we  enjoyed, yet again, a wonderful Yiannis Xaroulis concert in Pacheia Ammos. This was followed the next day by the presentation of a book of poems, Λευκό Χαρτί written by Κωστής  Δερμιτζάκης at the  Melina Mercouri hall in Ierapetra. Κωστής is the father of our first Greek tutor, Nikos, and of Maria who is our pharmacist. John and I are great admirers of the talents of this family.  The presentation included readings of the poems by a number of people, including a well known actor, whom I recognized from watching a Greek soap opera!

There was also music from Nikos and Maria. It was a really nice evening.  A week later, there was a a lively Kavousi village party.

And we celebrated our friend, Jann’s, 60th birthday

Then, John’s son, James, his partner Claire and her two daughters, Iman and Farah arrived in Crete for a two week holiday. First, they stayed on the south of the island near Koutsouras at the Big Blue Beach Bar and Apartments for a few days and we enjoyed a lovely meal with them at the nearby Robinson taverna. Then they came to stay in our house in Kavousi for 10 days while  John and I moved to nearby Pacheia Ammos.

James and Claire are fantastic people to stay in our house. They leave it cleaner and tidier than it was before!  This arrangement suits all of us.   James has come on a regular basis to Kavousi, and like on previous occasions, many a beer was consumed while the issues of the day are discussed!!!

James’s friend, Paddy, stayed in a small house in Kavousi, owned by our friends, Pauline and Chris.  We all met up on the beach or in a taverna.

I particularly enjoyed spending a bit of time with the two teenagers, who are great company and told me a bit about their interests and their ideas about the future. And I was impressed by some of the projects in which they are involved at school.

John and I relaxed on the beach in Pacheia Ammos,

although there was a problem with plastic in the sea and on the beach. It was cleaned up every night but it does lead me to believe that plastic bottles and straws should be banned!  One day, we looked out of our apartment window and saw with some surprise a man riding a horse in the water.  I do not know the context to this but it was definitely an unusual sight!

We enjoyed a trip to nearby Istron, and visited an archaeological  site called Παρινιάτικος  Πύργος  which we had been to before. It is hard to find but so beautiful and quiet.

We then enjoyed a very nice pizza at the Italian Pizzeria Ricardo.  You can see how relaxed I felt during these days with James, Claire, Iman and Farah!

During this time, john and I went to a public lecture in Ierapetra about the Greek language by an Athenian Professor.

It was a challenge for our Greek but we understood some of the gist of it!!

After James and Claire and the girls left, we moved back to Kavousi and started to prepare for a two week trip to Scotland, to celebrate my sister-in-law, Winnie’s 70th birthday. We hired a car from Arnold Clark (after having immense difficulty hiring  car from anybody else as other firms wouldn’t accept our Greek driving licences, without a translation or wanted a credit card). Arnold Clark decided to upgrade us from a small car to a Mercedes!

Now for most people, this would be a real treat but for me, it was anxiety provoking not just because it was automatic but more important, I knew everything would be strange to me.  John was a bit shocked when one day while we were driving, a woman’s voice suddenly asked him what he wanted her to do! It took two attempts at telling her to go away before she stopped talking!

John drove in the rain from Edinburgh up to Cummingstown, on the Moray Firth coast where we stayed with Kate and Dod and also our mutual friend, Annie, who is now living more in Scotland, than in Tanzania.

We enjoyed the chat and the fantastic hospitality and whilst I have been avoiding Brexit news, I did get get caught up in the issues which are paralysing the country and was particularly impressed by the coverage on Channel 4.

John and I are proud of our grapes in Crete but we were even more impressed by Kate and Dod’s grapes and apples

and much more wonderful produce, grown in the north of Scotland! And lovely to see the hens,

reminding us of happy days at Sunnyside, Aberdeenshire.

Our next stop was Cray House, a big country house with delightful grounds near Glenshee, where Winnie’s birthday celebrations were held.

We parked the car and a few minutes later another Mercedes arrived and parked next to ours. That was a good moment!!!  The weekend was wonderful,

spending time with family, people who I usually only meet at weddings and friends of Winnie and Sandy from Dalgety Bay. In addition we had very smart accommodation to enjoy and fantastic food, including delicious langoustines, venison and glorious puddings. On top of all that, there was some wonderful countryside to admire

We saw our fiends, Maggie and Andrew briefly in Pitcairngreen, (more on them in the next post) and then we went to Aberdeenshire, in our smart, very low Mercedes.  John drove very, very slowly up a rough track to a lovely house on GlenTanar, where our friend’s Gillie and Alan live. The car was parked outside their house and did not move till we left! There were some worrying sounds from the bottom of the car as we crawled towards the house.

The house had amazing views. It was all great fun – the chat and the walks and the bathroom was one of the best I have ever had the privilege of using!!! We were introduced to the excellent Finzean Estate Farm Shop and Tea Room (not that we drank tea!)

Then a quick visit with Linda and Gordon in Lumphanan.  Gordon was about to retire the following week so it was good to toast this particular milestone in his life. We were joined by Linda’s daughter, Sarah and family, which was an added bonus. Since we left, I gather that a new collie dog has joined their household which is very exciting.

On our 36th wedding anniversary, we drove on south to Elie, Fife and there we were entertained by Mairi and Norman. They live in Edinburgh but have a holiday home in Elie, a part of Scotland  that I don’t know at all.

There are beautiful beaches there

and the beer  and fish and chips are pretty good too! John and I were very impressed by the Secret Underground Nuclear Command Bunker (obviously not so secret now), near Anstruther. It was built to help safeguard Scotland during the Cold War against a nuclear attack.

It was a scary place but a timely reminder for me of the horror of nuclear weapons (graphically shown in a film we watched in the Bunker). There was lots to see, much to reflect on and they had a very nice cafe!   With Mairi as tour guide, we explored the charming fishing villages of Anstruther, Pittenweem and St Monans.

John and I then moved onto Linlithgow where I met a friend, Joyce, who I know through being a Guide so many years ago and then John and I had a short visit to the house, where I lived until I left home aged 17,

and viewed  some of my childhood haunts. The last few days were spent in Edinburgh, staying with Sally and Robert. We met three of their grandchildren, which was so nice, we saw Europe win the Solheim Club ( I don’t usually watch golf but it was exciting!) and we learnt about impending  work on their house. We had lunch with Sandy and Winnie in Aberdour

and to get there we travelled over the Forth Railway bridge and admired the various bridges.

We went to Princes Street and met Nick, who had visited us in Kavousi earlier in the year. I did some shopping but also went to have a look at the ‘Oor Wullie’ Bucket trail which was in Edinburgh at the time.

Oor Wullie was part of my childhood and so seeing all these wonderful ‘Oor Wullie’s’  was a real treat. A friend of mine sent me an Oor Wullie calendar this year and it sits beside my computer and I look forward every month to a new picture!

We arrived home on the 17th September, after a very varied and enjoyable two weeks and for the next month, it would be our turn to look after family and friends in Kavousi.


Spring is a Dog’s Brexit this year

I think everyone is agreed here that there has been a lot of rain in Eastern Crete this winter and it has been pretty grey. And we certainly had a lot last weekend with torrential rain falling for over 24 hours and much damage caused in the area. In Kavousi, a tree fell down below our house, making it a little tricky to reach our car and the ‘river’ nearby which rarely sees water,  was definitely a river and continued to flow for three days!

On the positive side, there was a need for water and the shortage problem has been solved for the time being. And when I look at the photos, I see that whilst sunny days have been fewer, there have been some fine, really pleasant days, just not as many as would be expected! So there have been cycle rides,

and I have swum in the sea once,

and enjoyed some limited sunbathing.

Many times, I have walked from the house (the one that has a very tall tree beside it),

and I admire, not only the flowers at this time of year but the vibrant green foliage as well.

The insect life has also survived the rain,

are there are signs of new fig life

On the 11th March, the sun was shining for ‘Clean Monday’, a national holiday in Greece and we sat on Tholos beach enjoying the endeavours of adults to fly kites and entertain their children on a perfect day.

John has been nurturing his garden at the entrance to the house and it has coped extremely well with the very variable weather.

As you can see, I had my hair cut in a ‘pixie’ style, thanks to Gregory, which indicates that I was confident enough to think that hot weather will come eventually!

We had our house painted inside and outside in March in exactly the same colours as before, but it all looks nice and fresh. Alkis and Mario did a great job in a very short space of time!  John and I moved a bit of furniture around, but nothing much more than that. Wonderful!  And, they also improved the entrance to our house by putting a layer of concrete on it and laying some very much needed steps.

It looks good and it is better from a health and safety point of view!

Near the end of February, when I was beginning to feel a bit depressed about the weather, Rosie announced that she had some extra holiday. We met up for a short, three night break in Paris and it was such a lot of fun. Rosie had never been to Paris before and I was last there in 1974!!! We travelled on an open air bus, in the sunshine,

and stopped every so often to have a coffee or in my case a crepe,

or to visit Notre Dame or the Louvre or other magnificent buildings

In the evenings, we found a restaurant to eat and to chat. It was such a treat and very relaxing.

I was a bit sad to leave Rosie and Paris but the trip had been designed to fit in with a weekend trip to Athens with John. So Aegean Airways flew me back to Athens and John and I met at the airport.  The first highlight was on the first evening, when we saw our friend , Nikos, play with his band at a venue very close to our hotel. it was a complete surprise for Nikos and his Dad (hopefully pleasant!) and we had a great time.

We did stay up quite late!!!! On Saturday, we bought tickets on the open air bus, similar to Paris but unfortunately the weather was sooooooooooooooooo cold. I have only this one picture of the sightseeing in Athens!

But we did enjoy a visit to the Benaki Museum and we took the bus on Sunday to Piraeus. On a nice day, we would have explored the city but instead we went straight to the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Centre, which was the main purpose of our visit to Athens. We had tickets to see the opera, Lucia Di Lamermoor, and were excited about this and to see this comparatively new opera house, library and park. We didn’t linger in the park because of the combined wind and cold but we did enjoy an exhibition in the library about George Zongolopoulos and his vision of public sculpture.

Then we had a wonderful, quick view of Athens from the top of the building (it was freezing!) and then enjoyed the very smart and stylish opera house and the opera.

We love going to the Cinema Rex in Agios Nikolaus to see the streamed opera from New York but it was different to see a live opera. Clearly, there is a lot of talent in the Greek opera world and it felt very special to be there.

I am pleased to say that I now possess a Greek driving licence.  On the Greek language front,  John and I now are attending a smaller class where, with Manolis, our teacher, we speak and listen and we don’t do any grammar!  We need to speak more Greek!

On the Sunday of the weekend that Brexit should have happened, we invited our four Dutch friends for a British meal of roast beef, roast potatoes, brussel sprouts, carrots, yorkshire pudding and gravy, followed by apple pie. John spent time on the internet and at the butchers deciding on the piece of meat and learning how to roll and tie it up. It was so tasty and tender and the left-overs lasted for the rest of the week!

It was a really good afternoon and evening.

I have felt anxious and angry about the Brexit ‘process’.  But I have enjoyed three cheerful moments in relation to it.  One was hearing Mr Varoufakis on Question Time call the process a Dog’s Brexit which sadly, made me  laugh!. The second was that apparently no negotiation could take place with a ‘Marxist’ as described by various Conservatives and newspapers i.e. Jeremy Corbyn, the elected leader of the Labour Party.    I was glad to see that he was actually being seen as a threat to the politics of the UK of the last twenty years.  Finally, John and I watched the old film, ‘Carry on up the Khyber’, with Sid James and Kenneth Williams.  The last scene of this film summed up for me the Brexit negotiating process. The English ruling class are being served with dinner in a big house on the Kyber Pass. An attack by the locals commences. The British rulers continue to drink their wine and eat their food, despite the bombardment and the general chaos all around them.   One part of me laughed but the other part was desperately sad.

Back to the weather, the sun is out and I am off to the beach!



Feeling welcome here in Greece – Σε ευχαριστούμε Ελλάδα!

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

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





Athens, 15/2/2019

Dear colleague,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours sincerely

George Katrougalos

A random immigrant!

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