Category Archives: Uncategorised

Spring in Kavousi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        

But also there are beautiful flowers in our garden.

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

And also signs of oranges and musmula (medlar) fruit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and it hopefully will be resolved soon.

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

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

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

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

Sheila

 

 

The coronavirus strategy in Greece

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sheila

When the world was normal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sheila

 

 

Canada: cannabis, climate change, cousins ……………………and Trump

John and I set off at the beginning of July for a 5 week holiday in Canada, a country I first visited in 1973 when I was 21, This would be my 7th trip there. Why so many visits? Both John and I have the enormous good fortune of having kind and generous, close family and friends who live in different parts of Canada and quite simply we want to see them!

We flew by Airtransat from Athens to Toronto, where landing was delayed due to a thunderstorm, which was a surprise. However from then on, we had good weather throughout the whole trip.

The first 10 days were spent on Palestine Island, near Parry Sound, Ontario staying with John’s brother-in-law, Herb, who has a wonderful cottage there.

His next door neighbour is his son, John, wife Caroline and their daughter and son, Sarah and Nicholas.

It was great to see them. Herb, John and Caroline cooked fantastic food, but we also went over to the  Kilbear Marina in the boat

for a meal,

Herb guided us in morning walks, round the island,

There was a little bit of drama when we saw bear poo on one of our walks.  John and I would have liked to see a bear but maybe not too close!   We loved the swimming and playing a variety of games with Nicholas.

and John made a new friend,

We learned that Caroline now has an internet business and makes YouTube videos showing people how to sew and knit. She can work at home in London, Ontario or at their cottage on the island. Her knitting and her sewing are beautiful.

And one of the talking points of the trip started in Palestine Island.  The use of cannabis will become legal in Canada on October 17, 2018.  As we made our way across Canada, the pros and the cons of this policy as well as the implementation of it were discussed by many of the people we stayed with. It is only the second nation in the world to do this.  I have always believed that it is a  positive step to make and I shall be interested to see how it works out over the next year.

But there was someone who we didn’t see but who’s presence was with us, particularly in the first 10 days of the trip. Bridget, John’s sister died three years ago from a massive stroke.  We did miss Bridget very much, as we were constantly reminded on our visit of how much she personally brought to our lives and we kept wishing she was there, just so that we could tell her.

We had a wonderful peaceful time in one of our very favourite places.

We then flew to Calgary and stayed with our good friends, Cathy and Bruce. We had just missed the Calgary Stampede but we had enjoyed that experience on a previous occasion. This time, we looked at the developments in the centre of the city

and visited Fort Calgary at the confluence of the Bow and the Elbow Rivers,

where the North West Mounted Police built a fort in 1875. The following day, we spent at Heritage Park Historical Village which is described as Canada’s largest living history museum with exhibits from the 1860’s to the 1950’s. Right from the start of our exploration, it was fascinating. There was a building specifically recognising the contribution of five feminist women who have contributed to improving the status of women in Canada.

I particularly liked the way they had volunteers specifically there to make the exhibits come to life

The next day we went south, through some very flat land

to stay for two nights at the unique Prince of Wales Hotel at Waterton Lake near the US border. This was the hotel and the view from the window of our room.

At Waterton, there had been a huge forest fire in the autumn last year which was stopped only just before it reached the village. Bruce, Cathy and I walked in a landscape which was very strange. The trees had been burnt but new flowers were emerging.

We went on a boat trip down the lake with our engaging guide.

More wonderful scenery

We got off at the other end in the US but fortunately no immigration and after a short break, we went back again to Waterton.

The next day we survived US immigration and drove into Montana to experience the amazing Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park. The views were just out of this world and impossible to capture on camera although I did try!!!  But, I was amazed to read that by 2020, there would be no glaciers in the Park at all. This seemed to me a big sign of climate change! But the journey was a fantastic experience. I marvelled at the mountains, the waterfalls, the road and finally the river on the other side.

It was nature at its most supreme, combined with engineering brilliance by man to produce such a road.

Eventually we arrived at a resort in Columbia Falls which we enjoyed very much.

And we just happened to arrive at Happy Hour!

We continued to enjoy the facilities including the introduction to shuffle board which I really enjoyed (but not the golf though!)  We also visited the Hungry Horse Dam where we saw this nest of ospreys.

We had a great time with Cathy and Bruce who organised a wonderful trip

and we are hoping that they will come to Greece next year and we can visit Meteora.

Cathy and Bruce kindly drove us back into Canada to Edgewater, near Golden, British Columbia so that John and I could stay with my second cousin, Norm and his wife, Loni. I have three second cousins altogether, Norm, Carol and Gord and we saw all three in the second half of our trip.

Norm and Loni have a beautiful house with a fantastic view and grow amazing vegetables and fruit which we sampled.

The next day we went by car to Golden and went up on the gondola for a walk and a fantastic view.

We were extremely surprised to have an adventure on the way back. The weather deteriorated with thunder and lightning and the gondola was closed. Eventually after a couple of hours, we came down the mountain by truck with a driver called Nigel, who was very interesting on many topics relating to evacuating people from the tops of mountains!

Next day, we woke up to hear of the terrible tragedy of the forest fires in Attika, Greece. In BC too, there was much concern about the reality and possibility of forest fires.

We set off for a 4 day tour of the Kootenay area of British Columbia and along the way, sampled hot springs at Fairmont, Lussa and Ainsworth.

They were a real treat! We met Loni’s brother in Cranbrook and a stayed in an interesting bed and breakfast In Creston.

It doesn’t look much from the outside but we had an amazing breakfast, cooked by a retired French chef. The next day, we crossed on a ferry at Kootenay bay and were amazed at the size of some of the traffic.

And there was no charge for the ferry ride!

We travelled through Nelson which was a very attractive ‘hippy’ town

On the third day, we discovered a wonderful museum in Midway, in the heart of the Kettle Valley, close to the US border, a small place where the community have really worked hard to tell you about its history through its museum. There were some wonderful exhibits, including the train, but it was the sense of community that I liked the most, mainly through the words of the woman who provided information there.

We carried onto the Okanagan Valley, to Osoyoos, and then to Penticton where we met Norm and Loni’s daughter, Heather, their grandaughter, Aila

and her boyfriend, Dylan. We ate very good pizza

and later travelled onto Kelowna, passing a forest fire on the other side of the lake and were amazed to see flames.

Norm and Loni then took us to Kelowna bus station and we enjoyed a spectacular journey to Vancouver. Christa, Gord’s daughter, met us and drove us to the ferry to the Sunshine Coast. There we stayed with Carol and her husband Bill in their lovely house and garden in Roberts Creek. We enjoyed their company, great food and entertainment, the facilities including our clothes being washed and access to the internet!  I walked with Carol and saw more of the immediate neighbourhood.

We spent time in the family summer cottage, right beside the beach with Gord, his wife Debbie and their children and grandchildren.

The cottage is used by my 3 second cousins over the summer months. It is a wonderful place to relax, to watch any odd bit of human interest

or bird life,

or sunsets

and there were many opportunities to swim in warmish water. It is a wonderful place for children and I just love this fantastic spot.

 

There was even a chance for the women to escape for a little while on a shopping trip to Gibsons.

While we were at Roberts Creek, we enjoyed a 2 day visit to Hardy Island, where we stayed with Pat and Jerry. We met them in Vietnam on a tour three years ago and were amazed to learn that they lived on Hardy Island, quite close to my cousins family cottage in Roberts Creek. So we contacted them and were very pleased that they were happy to see us!!!  Carol and Bill kindly drove us to the harbour where we started our small adventure.

Pat and Jerry have a lovely house, in a fantastic spot on Hardy island.

The house is spacious

and has many places to sit and watch boats going past, the seals or whatever.

They have a lovely garden too, where they grow dahlias, amongst many other things.

One of the highlights was going out in a boat to pick up our dinner – some fantastic prawns.

We went back to Roberts Creek, told my cousins about Hardy Island and settled down to more days of fun there.

But finally, it was time to leave but only after many photos had been taken and promises made of proposed visits to us in Crete.

Gord and Debbie took us to the Accent Inn near Vancouver Airport and the next day we flew home to Kavousi. We set off at 8am on Tuesday 7th August from the hotel and arrived home at 6pm on Wednesday 8th August. Time is a strange thing and it took quite a while to sort out meal times and bedtime!

I hope I have managed to express how much John and I enjoyed our trip and our appreciation of everyone who made it such a fantastic experience.  We also learned a lot, including the fact that Canadians, whom I always used to think could be pretty critical of other Canadians, seem united in their outright dislike and outrage at Donald Trump and his comments about their Prime Minister and Canada!

Sheila

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday season in Kavousi

Our friends from the UK generally like to visit us in May and June (April too, but this year John and I were in the UK!) as the weather is warm but not too hot, the sea is warming up and there is some green in the landscape.

Our friends came but unfortunately the weather did not quite live up to expectations. I have heard taverna owners calling it this year, ‘παραξενο’ (strange) and that is what it has been. Each of the different sets of people who came, experienced 2 or 3 days of cloud and coolness, as well as occasional rain. Nobody seemed to worry about this but I felt I had raised expectations of what people might expect, particularly in June and felt a little responsible. More to the point, occasionally there appeared to be warmer, more settled weather in the UK which is completely unacceptable!!!!  Adaptations had to be made to holiday programmes, including sitting inside taverna’s in the evening because it was too chilly outside.

My good friend, Liz is the same age and has the same birthday as me and this and the fact that we like each other has always made her pretty special to me. We went to the same school and the same university, Aberdeen, and we shared a flat together in 1974.  My first trip abroad was with her and some other friends on a skiing holiday in the Alps in 1973 and she included me in a trip to Alaska some years later. We don’t don’t see so much of each other these days for obvious reasons (she lives near Kendal and I live in Kavousi) but I was delighted that she had booked a week here at the beginning of May. We spent much of her week chatting (John was left to his own devices) and we took the opportunity to explore Gournia,

Spinalonga,

the old olive tree

and Mochlos

and other great views

while catching up on news and gossip. After Liz retired, she embarked on a  project to extend her house and garden and is very happy with the result. I felt much more in touch with her life again and one day will enjoy a trip to the Lake District.

Liz left and I had an unexpected, unscheduled treat after an email from a friend in London who told me he was coming for a week’s all inclusive holiday to Elounda. One Sunday, I drove there, picked up Ro and brought him back to our house

and afterwards we ate at Bobo’s, where he experienced simple food, cheap wine, a lot of laughs and a beautiful view of the sea. I worked with Ron’s wife, Brenda, in my first job in London at the Bexley Council of Voluntary Service. She died a few years ago and I am very fortunate to keep in touch with her family. I was very sad to hear from Ron that there was nothing much left of the Council of Voluntary Service as funding had been withdrawn in the last couple of years. It seemed unbelievable that an organisation, which was about supporting volunteers to carry out important roles in the community, had virtually gone. Is this progress? I don’t think so!

A day or two later, Jane, from London arrived with her present of Yiannis Varoufakis’s new book ‘Adults in the room’.  John has since read it and will no doubt comment on it at some stage. Jane comes here regularly and this year brought with her two friends, Judith and John. We have only one spare bedroom so we had arranged with our friends, Pauline and Chris, that they could stay in two of their renovated buildings – one a studio, the other a two room apartment at a very reasonable price. They are situated on the west side of the village (our house being on the east). Pauline and Chris were in Holland and so John and I introduced them to their accommodation and afterwards they met the neighbours. All went well.

The first morning I walked with them to the ancient olive tree. It was a perfect start to the holiday because after admiring the tree, we went to the taverna beside it. There we had an early drink and met Vasili, the owner

and his wife, who showed Jane and Judith how to make stuffed dolmathes.   Jane hired a car and for a couple of days she took John and Judith to various places she had either been before or wanted to see, while John and I stayed at home!  Added to that,  Jane found a new excursion that we didn’t know about, which was a trip to Spinalonga on a boat from Agios Nikolaus, organised by Nostos Cruises.

It was a beautiful afternoon and we sailed past some of the expensive Elounda hotels and then we were shown where the sunken city of Olous was, (not that we could see it!). I had a swim at Kolokitha (Pumpkin) Bay

and after that we went onto Spinalonga. Included in the deal was a very interesting Spinalonga tour guide and we returned by the cave of the pirate, Barba-Rossa and Kri-kri island where apparently we might have seen some Minoan goats. This was all for 16 euros and very good value. On the last day we walked up the  gorge beside Kavousi

which was a very nice end to the trip.

Later in June, John and I went back to Spinalonga Island to watch a concert, by the Young Peoples Symphonic Orchestra of Crete, marking the 60th anniversary of the closure of the leprosy colony. It was held in the evening and attended mainly by Greeks of all ages, not the usual tourists that come to see Spinalonga. It was a very moving occasion, first with small groups of the orchestra playing in different parts of the island

and then they all came together

to play small, classical pieces from Bach, Elgar, Grieg etc.

Robert and Sally came next. Sally is from Linlithgow and we have many shared memories of our childhood, particularly in relation to guiding. Sally became the Chief Guide for Scotland and it was good to have time to talk about her experiences of that important position as well as discussing a whole range of other issues. I am not quite sure what the topic was here but it looks pretty light hearted!

She and Robert had the pleasure of being around here on the morning of the UK General Election results, when there was little chance of any sensible breakfast or plan for the day, as it emerged that Jeremy Corbyn was perhaps electable after all!!!

They coped admirably with the excitement and we did manage a trip to the east of the island later

on their holiday and and eat one of John’s excellent dishes of pork chops in the oven.

And finally Sarah and Mark arrived after a bad start, when they missed their plane, due to a series of unfortunate events. However they arrived only a few hours later and they were happy with a few days of relaxation,

including swimming at Tholos beach when I became a big kid on a lilo

a beer at the new taverna at Tholos

and a morning at Psarapoulis beach which is conveniently situated next to the venue of our Greek class in Koutsonari.

We attended Greek classes until the end of June by which time, we definitely felt we had improved during the year but were in need of a holiday!! John was assisted by Mark in putting some anti-pigeon netting in place, as his height is very useful for such jobs!

The grapes were beautiful then (although not now!)

John’s garden too looked beautiful in June

as did the geraniums

and the bougainvillea with the butterfly.

And in between our guests, John and I went on a short holiday of our own to the Εleonas Hotel in Zaros, south of Heraklion, with our friends Brigitte and Walter. it was the only weekend that we could go with them before they went back to Germany and it happened that Hanneke and Hans were also there. Unfortunately the weather was bad with some thunderstorms and torrential rain and for much of the time, it was chilly and grey. But we found a nice taverna in Zaros which had lovely mezethes

while we looked at the cloudy sky!

However, luck was on our side as Brigitte and I walked up the  Rouvas  Gorge, in 3 hours

and managed to avoid serious rain, although Brigitte and I were forced into rainwear at one stage!

John and Walter picked us up at the top and we then enjoyed a jeep ride in some spectacular countryside. We visited the Vrontisi monastery in the torrential rain but were rewarded with a raki by a monk as we hid in the shelter. The Eleonas is a lovely hotel with individual bungalows

in a wonderful setting but the weather was not on our side.

And to end with a couple of local events that were very nice to attend. Our Greek tutor invited us to a basketball final, in which he was playing. Neither John nor I know much about basketball but it is very popular here.

The wrong team won but we enjoyed it very much.

Finally, my friend Margarita was dancing in an event ‘Patchwork Dance’ organised by the Milan School of Dance in Ierapetra. There were many people there to watch adults and children participate in ballet and modern dance sequences. It was a treat to watch and in particular, Margarita and her small group were fantastic but unfortunately the pictures are on my camera which is currently being repaired!

Sheila

 

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!