Category Archives: Scotland

Friends, friends and family

While John and Dave were exploring in the south of England, I flew to Inverness and started a two week holiday which finished back in London. It was prompted by finding out earlier in the year that my good friends Annie and Gideon, who live in Arusha, Tanzania, were to be in Scotland in June and July and so I decided that I would arrange a visit around this period in order to see them but also to meet up with other friends and family. The trip was more wonderful than I could possibly had hoped, mainly due to the efforts of a number of people who I was keen to see.

I could not use my camera because it had a developed a fault and so the pictures below are from my phone. It is still is a bit of a mystery to me and I found I was less enthusiastic about taking pictures than I usually am. On the positive side, being in the UK for two weeks was enough time to get the camera mended and it is now back in my possession.

My friends, Kate and Annie, met me at the airport on a night described by a man sitting beside me as ‘dreich’. It was really not a night to be out but Kate and Dod live in Cummingston on the Moray Firth which is maybe some 50 minutes from Inverness airport and there was no alternative way to get there. We arrived safely and after two gin and tonics, I was happy to be there!

Kate and Dod’s house is one of my favourite places.

It is a wonderfully, spacious comfortable house with many things being grown outside, including some very nice looking grapes,

it has fantastic views of the Moray Firth,

and you can see the changes in the weather and dolphins, if you are lucky.  The only down side is that it can be pretty grey at times!

Annie had suggested to Kate that she might like to invite a few friends there, while we were there which would save us having to go and see them! Kate is a wonderful organiser, took the task very seriously and 75 people turned up two days later for a party. Given the scale of the operation, Kate looks remarkably relaxed here!

What a treat the day was! There was fantastic amounts of food, including wonderful smoked salmon, and drink and plenty of space to talk. People came from throughout Scotland, most of whom I knew from the variety of jobs, I had. It was just a joy to gossip abut the past, find what had happened in the meantime and discuss the wonderful opportunities retirement gives us.

The best moment came in the middle of the afternoon. I met Annie and Kate in 1976 as we were attending a post graduate course in Youth and Community Work at Aberdeen College of Education. Six women attended – myself, Kate, Annie, Claire, Mary and Diane on that course (plus some men!)  At this party, all the women were there. It was a highly emotional moment when Claire arrived at the party and we realised that we were all present. Not only that, one of our lecturers, Ian, came and we were just all so happy!

Fortunately there was great music in the evening, otherwise I think I might have had a serious sore throat from talking! Thanks to Stewart, Davy, Claire, Jake for this.

A huge thank you to Kate and Dod who planned and organised this, with the help of Annie and Gid. It was fantastic. The next day, there was still a large group of people around for breakfast who had stayed in various hotels, bed and breakfasts and even a tent (the weather was still a bit ‘iffy’). A group of us set off for nearby Burghead by the beach and enjoyed a good walk.

I stayed for another couple of days and enjoyed a visit to Anne and Alan, who used to live near us in Strachan but now live in a lovely house near Elgin. I had not seen them for some years and communication has been limited to some Christmas cards and the odd email. So there was much to catch up on, including our childrens progress in life, what I did in Crete (now that is a bit challenging!), their huge dog etc

while I ate a lovely dinner.

Kate, Annie and Gid and I had a day out to Logie Steadings, where there are wonderful gardens.

Everything is so green!

I took the train to Inverness and then to Dunkeld where I was met by Maggie and Andrew. Maggie and I have been friends forever and she organised a lovely walk

which involved lochs, trees, spectacular views of the river as well as sunshine and a tasty picnic and a bit of sunbathing.

When we got back to their house, I had a very nice time picking strawberries and rasperries

and then ate a number of vegetables from the garden. Andrew has a great selection of very delicious red wines and I was touched that he had selected a bottle of Skillogalee which comes from a vineyard in Australia and was the name of our canal boat.

And Andy Murray won too, while I was there!

I travelled onto Aberdeen,  where I was met by Gillie, who was my neighbour, when we lived in Aberdeenshire. She and her husband, Alan, have been living abroad for some years (John and i visited them in Shanghai last year) but Gillie has now retired and for the time being they are living in a lovely cottage in Birse, near Aboyne, so quiet and peaceful Everybody knows I like walking and we set off from their house,

straight into idyllic countryside

and this brought back many happy memories. I walked in the rain to have a quick look at Deeside Community Centre where I worked for 4 busy years and then onto to chat with Evelyne, who was a colleague at times over the years and a great friend. She and I can talk forever but I took a moment off to take a picture of her and her garden.

The garden is not large but it is full of beautiful flowers which will win prizes in the forthcoming flower shows.

Gillie and Alan drove me back to Aberdeen railway station, past our old house. The sun was shining and the countryside very beautiful. After 4 hours in the train, I was met at Newcastle station by Janet, who was my manager when I worked at the University of Aberdeen. She drove me to Stocksfield where she lives and I found myself sitting outside in her garden in the sunshine. The house and the garden were delightful. And StocksfieId has some wonderful trees.

I did not know this part of the country well and so it was really nice that Janet and her husband, Mark, took me to see Hadrian’s Wall

and Hexham Abbey.  I enjoyed meeting their daughter after so many years and I am keen to return to this part of the world. The Sage Concert Hall sounded particularly interesting!

Then onto London, to stay with Graham for a couple of days. I arrived in London wearing two fleeces and thought I was going to pass out as the temperature was considerably hotter there. Graham and I enjoyed a couple of evenings eating and drinking in nice places, although the cost of wine was a bit astonishing for me, being used to a μισό κιλό κρασί for 3 euros! I walked past the Arsenal football ground the next day

to visit Tom and Sheila who I knew from cycling days in London in the 1970’s. Tom produced a delicious soup which had a lot of pumpkin, chick peas and spices in it. It was delicious and I felt that I needed to get the recipe as there is a huge pumpkin in Crete waiting for something to happen to it.

The last day was spent in Cambridge with Lis. She and I met in St Thomas’s hospital in 1983 and we gave birth to sons on the same day. She lives in Norwich but we decided to have a day out in Cambridge which was very nice. We didn’t visit any colleges because we would have had to pay but instead had a nice lunch in the Fitzwilliam Museum

and sat in a park. We were really more interested in our own news than being tourists!

Finally, I met up with John and James in Battersea, went to a very nice and reasonable Italian restaurant there, talked about Battersea becoming Labour again after all these years and finally on the last morning, I went to Clapham Junction and bought a new pair of trainers. Then off to Gatwick with John and looking for a quiet time when I got back home in Kavousi.

A great trip!!!!

Sheila

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Catching up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John

Weather, culture, a new kitchen and more

March has come and gone and while there have been no exciting trips away, there has been much of interest to do both in the house and out.  March is never a month to be sure of what to wear but the weather this year has been extraordinarily mixed. Sometimes heavy rain, sometimes warm sunshine and sometime just in between.

So from day to day, plans and clothes could change.

One day, I set off on foot up the Kavousi Gorge, with no clear plan except that I wanted to be in the warmth of the sun and enjoy a walk.  In fact even though I was out for four or five hours, I did not walk very far.  I met no-one else but there are always interesting plants, goats or in this case, many small churches to look at.  Before I had reached the village of Μέλλισσες, I found a beautiful small church, the Church of the Holy Spirit hidden from the road.

I sat there alone and contemplated this and that and then walked on to the village,

which is is made up of a number of houses, sheds and much cultivated land. Nobody was around but it is not a village where people live all year round. They come up from Kavousi or farther afield and look after the land. What was surprising was that there are four churches nearby,

and I enjoyed another rest at one of them.

The flowers in March are beautiful and on a rather rainy day, John and I had a walk near the archaeological site Gournia, and the highlight had to be the fantastic range of colours of the flowers.

Because there has been lovely weather at times, it has encouraged us both to lie on the beach, a swim or two for me and a bit of cycling and walking. On one day, John and I cycled again in the direction of Theriospilios Cave and we still didn’t find it but we enjoyed the beautiful olive trees and the fantastic coastline.

On a more cultural note, at one of our Greek lessons, Manolis told us about a film he had seen at the cinema in Ierapetra. It is a Greek film, recently released, telling a story from the Greek War of Independence. Whilst not understanding all, the story and the symbolic meaning it has for Greek people was interesting. It stimulated some reading on the subject. I did note however, there were only 4 of us at the showing and the next adventure film, did appear to be more popular with the young people of Ierapetra!

As readers of the blog know, John and I have attended a pantomime for the last couple of years before Christmas. This is organised by INCO or the Cultural Association of the Foreigners of the Agios Nikolaos Region. We get information from them and decided to go to their Annual General Meeting and find out more. The meeting was held in the Palazzo Cafe beside the sea.

I haven’t been to an AGM for a long time and realised soon that I was happy to hand over 10 euros to the organisation but I don’t want to do anymore than that. But the speaker, Olympia Theodoli, from a local organisation called Crete for Life, was very interesting both in terms of what her organisation does and her description of what she had learned from spending time at the refugee camp at Skaramagas, near Athens. She is making links between some of the people living there and her own project which organises local camps for kids from Belarus. She was somebody who clearly understood the huge challenges and difficulties of providing educational and other support to refugees, bur then tries to make things happen for some individuals at a local level. She was very inspiring.

When we were in Agios Nikolaus, we had lunch, sitting outside with our favourite beer and a Greek salad

and then I looked over to a sign saying Karaoke.  I brought my karaoke machine from the UK

and it has stayed in the shed for all the years we have been here. I got it out recently and it works with our TV. So John and I have been having a sing with it every so often. I think singing in the privacy of my own home is good for me and good for other people too but there are clearly opportunities around here for a more public performance!

John had a health scare in the middle of the month. Fortunately it was not another mini-stroke but to begin with there was some anxiety about what it was. After a phone call to the heart specialist, who felt that the symptoms (dizzyness) sounded more like an ear issue, John phoned  the ENT specialist, whom he knew from an appointment last year. Constantinos could see him in half an hour and as it turned out, is an expert on ‘Positional Vertigo’, which is apparently what John had! After three appointments John was fine. What a relief!

There has been work around the house. John was very upset one morning to find that his flower garden was looking very sad and on closer inspection, he discovered a veritable army of snails. He went off to the supermarket, came back with pellets and it has been a full scale massacre down there. The plants looks a lot better though!

Our neighbour, Nikos, came over to advise on the vine

and also brought me some flowers which were lovely.

I bought some hanging baskets and they seem to be surviving too.

John painted our tatty looking chairs, in preparation for the holiday season

And finally, work on our new kitchen started last Monday, a week late, causing us some anxiety as we travel to the UK this coming Tuesday!  However, the kitchen was demolished on Monday by Manolis and Adonis and then Maria and Nikos took away some of the cupboards which was great. In return Maria has fed us regularly during the week because we have no cooker. On Wednesday, we went to our friends Jann and Stan who entertained us with wonderful gin, food and chat and I have just used their washing machine. Great to have good friends, particularly at times like this!

Alkis laid the floor tiles and painted the room between Tuesday and Thursday, Mikalis worked on the electrics and today Manolis and Adonis came back with the cupboards.There was a scare that heavy rain might mean they couldn’t come as the kitchen units were to be transported in an open truck but the Gods were on our side and the rain stopped in the early morning. Not all the appliances are here but they are promised either tomorrow or Monday. John and I have been pushed into the dining room but we are hoping by the end of the weekend that we will be allowed out.

 

Sheila

Postscript

I wrote the above a few days ago but did not want to post it until the new kitchen was finished. This happened last night, 24 hours before John and I leave  for a visit to the UK!

We are really pleased with it. Manolis and Adonis worked hard

with Alkis and Mikalis, to transform all these boxes

Into a beautiful new kitchen

We have been very fortunate in having such a wonderful group of workmen, who have been so kind in going out of their way to make it happen before we left for the UK.

The kitchen is much lighter now because of the paler colours and the lighting. There are brand new stainless steel (called Inox here) appliances and a washing machine which is hidden by a door. The floor is a particular success in my opinion. This was suggested by Eleni who helped us choose the tiles in the bathroom and so we went back to her for advice on the kitchen floor and the colour of the paint.

So I’m looking forward to showing this off to our guests who come in May and June and now, I must pack my bag!