Friday, 31 December 2010

New years eve ...

Its rather quiet here on the rock ...

A leisurely lunch, in Taverna Batis with friends to see out 2010.

A tsipouro or two (maybe three) a coffee on the paralia, and a walk through woodsmoke scented lanes here in town.

The music is playing on the loudspeakers again from the clock tower over town. January 1st is Christmas day in Greece - Santa is expected here tonight, children are waiting expectedly ...


Happy New Year from a small rock in the aegean ...


Thursday, 30 December 2010

Greeks bearing gifts ...

Its that time when the Greeks pay you a visit ...

Well its Christmas and what better time to get in for a look around, and see what you have been up too in the last year. Its an opportunity to be told your coffee is made the wrong way, its not sweet enough and you have lost weight, and do not dress warmly enough.

I am pretty easy going about it, especially as they sometimes bring seasonal gifts. Now i am getting quite partial to these. I had them last year and had forgotten how nice they are ...

On the left Kourambiedes - Greek shortbread biscuits with walnut
On the right - Melomakarona - Cinnamon, Honey & Walnut cakes


Some rules to eating these:

Kourambiedes:

Do not inhale near these as the powered sugar will go up your nostrils; this is very embarrassing and could be confused with having the white powder habit

Don't keep them too close to your nose/mouth as when you exhale the icing sugar goes all over the person standing in front of you

Melomakarona:

Sweet, crumbly and the crushed walnuts go everywhere, delicious and the dentists best friend. Beward of sticky fingers and honey drips that will stay forever

So basically, try and take a bite and move away from the
biscuit/cake. I am sure the Greek's have it sorted but us non-Greeks are still trying to master eating them without having a layer of white powder or sticky walnuts all over our faces and clothes.

Bye for now, off to practice on the contents of the box in the photo ...

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Breezy ...

Winter has blown in, and lets say - Its a bit draughty ...

The temperature has dropped, the waves are like sea horses. Logs are being sucked up the chimney, and a fragrant smell of woodsmoke filling the lanes.

So what can you do on a dark windy evening in Skiathos ?

Throw another log on the fire, a glass of wine, a piece of pizza, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant and the best Christmas song ever ...



Monday, 27 December 2010

Afternoon delights ...

Lunch was delayed slightly ...

Today is Monday, Yorgos arrived at 10am with a lorry load of logs that were due on Tuesday afternoon. I now know what a what a truck of Olive firewood, looks and feels like ...

However, we had a nice lunch, the lamb went down a treat, as did the 'Roc de Lussac 2007' - St Emillion Grand Cru ...

A late appearance by Christmas pudding, and mince pies, were put to bed by a particularly good white from Thessaloniki, and a Greek Merlot. The fire was lit and in the warm glow of a late afternoon, the chocolate fudge provided by my friend Stamatis, melted on the palate.

As dark descended the heavens opened and we are thinking about buying a dishwasher to tackle the washing up ...


Free food ...

Over a glass of Merlot, last night i was feeling quite pleased with myself ...

Friends coming for lunch, I had been out to gather some lovely fresh rosemary, from a little place i know in town. Fragrant and with tiny blue flowers, it was soon in use tucked into pockets in the lamb, with slivers of garlic, and half a bottle of Merlot.


I glanced up at my Olives which have been curing for three weeks. They were collected from Kechria, when i was out walking a few weeks ago.


Its a great shame so many olive trees are not harvested, the fruit of the tree provides oil and delicious snacks. It requires patience and dedication to bring them to table, these are my first efforts - and are work in progress ...

Unlike these beauties ...




Saturday, 25 December 2010

Leisurely lunch ...

Our first Christmas lunch in the house ...

We had a lovely afternoon spent with friends, a glass or two of wine, and a flambeed Christmas Pudding.

Quite what my Greek mate made of the pudding remains to be seen, but we enjoyed it. Mince pies by the fire to the sound of Christmas music over the town.

A lovely jar of Skiathos honey, and a bottle of Olive oil, as gifts, and from his English girl friend, a taste of home - a box of 'after eight' dinner mints ...

Christmas day ...

The house is still sleeping ...

Meanwhile downstairs the kitchen is busy. Guided by 'Saint Delia' i have been hard at work with preparations for lunch. I have guests coming a good Greek friend and his new English girlfriend

The turkey stock is ready, Turkey stuffed and seasoned, and anointed with Skiathos olive oil and lemons. I also have the bread sauce in progress.

Vegetarians and Vegan's look away now ...

Skiathian's oven ready turkey at 8am




Chefs tasters ...

I feel like the turkey - stuffed ...

My friend is a chef, and lives just about as high as you can on the island. in just three months, they have renovated their house into a piece of heaven, and a garden that is becoming a profitable oasis.

Sitting by the fire, under the vaulted ceiling, eating lovely chefs tasters - preserved Olives, sausages, pate's, and breads with a glass of wine - a meal in itself.

Only to be followed by a banquet, seated by the picture window overlooking town, and away to the twinkling lights of distant Skopolos.

Mushroom soup made from cepes, and garden herbs, Prawn salad with leaves picked from the garden. Duck with chestnuts in a rich red wine reduction. Ice cream made from Skiathos mandarins. Hand made chocolate truffles

We had some very interesting wines, but the big surprise of the evening was the desert wine.

One of the guests was from Canada, as was the wine (A big surprise for me) and it came from near Niagara falls. The wine was an 'eiswein' made from grapes picked when they were withered like raisins, and frozen with frost in the early hours.

It was as near to heaven in a glass, as we were up in Krio Pigadi ...

Friday, 24 December 2010

Delia ...

Is the patron saint of Christmas cooking ...

So the book was out this afternoon as preparations began for Christmas day.
Only for me to find out, I had the only turkey ever supplied - without giblets

Back across town to the supermarket butcher as it was late, and the Albanian butcher was very interested when i said i wanted some turkey necks for a stock pot.

One stock made, then on to the secret mincemeat jar, and created these - my first Mince pies made on the Island

My Secret Santa mincepies ...


There was enough mincemeat to make 10 pies, and i had 20 cut outs, two are not here, they were wrapped for my friends who were desperate for a taste, and very keen to locate the source of my supply.

Sage and onion stuffing made too, with fresh sage that i picked myself yesterday up in the hills.

Out for dinner tonight - Krio Pigadi, which is about as high as you can get on this island, there should be some great views from up there ...

Christmas Eve ...

A busy day for me ahead ...

Up at crack of sparrows, and out to get the car down near to the house. There are new cops in town and they seem to have bred overnight, they are the municipality police. They seem to be a traffic warden and are mainly handing out parking tickets.

I watched them in Papadamatis street yesterday, outside the post office, they arrived by bike lowered the barrier, a quick blast of the whistle and started ticketing cars and motorbikes.

Anyone who rode round the barrier on their scooter was stopped and had the choice, ticket or go back. At €60 a go it’s an expensive short cut.

Their other haunts where they wait are the junctions of the roads into Papadamatis street at Evangelistra Street and the harbour. The harbour control affects me, as like everyone else, I can get round the lowered barrier, and along the port. But this is now forbidden - except before 8am.

The car was fully loaded, with 24 x 1.5 litre bottles of water, and a boot full of firewood collected from the beach. So my new time for deliveries to the house is 7am, so out before border controls are in force for the 8.15am flying cat ...

Five trips up from the harbour later, back out from the Paralia and round the ring road, to Carrefour for the last of the shopping on the list just after 8am. Then returned to the harbour just as the morning sun was breaking through the clouds, for the walk back up to the house.

I rewarded myself with a coffee, and then headed back out to the butcher in Tries Hieraches church square. Mistake - he just sold the last chicken breasts at 08.30am - and I need some for Monday ...

On foot this time across town to the ring road butcher, and this guy had everything in his busy shop - it’s an Albanian business, and I find them quite good. Two huge complete chicken breasts for €7. He also had huge lemons, almost like Grapefruits. He said they were from his house, I had not seen lemons like that for some years - they are unique variant to Greece, and I last saw them in Lefkada.

Returning across town, down the newly paved Evangelistra Street, many people wishing me Καλά Χριστούγεννα (Happy Christmas) and Χρόνια Πολλά (Many years)

I popped in to Nikos the baker on Church square for fresh bread, and as its Christmas – a special bread was on offer - here it is ...



Children were going door to door armed with their musical triangles. They sing you a few verses of a Christmas carol with a few key taps on the triangle for accompaniment. It seems quite profitable, by the number of children out singing this morning ...

Thursday, 23 December 2010

It must be Christmas ...

Christmas carols are being played on the loudspeakers, from the clock tower overlooking the town ...

... and the whole island appears to be leaving on the Express Santorini, for the mainland !

Ooops ...

Fun and games at the airport ...

Some Christmas plans lay in ruins, The Olympic 'puddle jumper' could not land this morning. Two attempts but the cloud was too low, so they returned to Athens. This will be the third time its not made it this winter.

The passengers who were on board have hired a coach, and are making their way up to Evia, where a boat will transfer them to the Island eta 5pm.

Those left here are probably in the supermarket, as they have missed their onward flights ...

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

There is a glow ...

In the corner of the room ...

Its rather warm in here and there is a roaring noise.
Yes 'Regina' was fired up just after 7.30pm.


Ok its not the coldest night of the year, in fact to me its pretty mild, but we needed to test drive the stove. We also need get rid of the new paint smell when its first in use.

Its a heady mix, but there is smoke coming out of the new chimney and the heat is radiating round the house.

Off to put on my shorts and a T Shirt ...

The earth moved ...


Just got in from the fun and games at O'Batis ...

A glass or two, with friends, good food, a drunken reindeer and a Birthday cake, Then nature turned up for the party - a little late and uninvited ...

There was a 'Boom' and the house swayed, and i could hear the sound, as it went across the town like an echo. Friends up in Kalivia felt it the most. The epicentre was under the sea North East of Skiathos, and it was reported as a magnitude 3.1


A couple of the beams downstairs, are showing some nice new cracks, but the old house stood up to it quite well.

However the reindeer did not ...




Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Xronia Polla ...

... to me !

Its my Birthday and after a fun packed day, I will be off out for a few drinks, and a bite to eat at O'Batis with friends later.

The glow from the candles becomes ever brighter, but there is life in the old boy yet ...

Yammas apo Skiathos ...


Final countdown ...



Like a Saturn 5 rocket in my youth ...

Yes i can remember them, However sitting in the corner, fuelled up, pipes connected and waiting to roar into life - 'Regina' is sleeping peacefully ...

Ladders were found, brackets made, cement mixed and then the chimney installed. If you are into Healh and Safety - Look away now ...


It took another two hours to clear the house of dust, and rubble, and sweep the street.

Now i need to get spick and span ...


Extra ventilation ...

Living in an old house, its esential to keep a flow of fresh air through the property ...

Seal it up and the humidity will cause damp spores to appear as if by magic. You need a good de-humidifier, and not too be afraid of having a window open especialy if there is a breeze about.

However its not a problem at the moment, as the chimney vent for 'Regina' is being fitted. So first make a "Mark one inspection hole with a hammer" If that does not wake up the neighbours, then proceed with a Kango ...

Clouds of dust, as expected Greek plaster is soft and powdery, however the walls are made of rock stones pebbles and wood. One here was two feet thick and nearly saw off Costa the electrician. Add to this there is a concrete ring and steel reinforcing, just where i want to put the pipe.

So engage the kango hammer with breaker, and two hours later the result is a hole for a four inch chimney pipe. They have done well, its more or less in the right place and somehow i think Leonhidas knew he was in trouble when he got this job this morning. The Kango is glowing gently in the corner where 'Regina' will be ...

Now all we need is a ladder, the one outside is too short ...

Monday, 20 December 2010

A quiet night in ...




So what do you do ...



Find a good DVD ...



Fun ...




Games ...




Violence ...




A Happy ending ...




I hope my daughter likes what I have in mind, only 159 episodes to go ...


Sunday, 19 December 2010

The Christmas Bazaar ...

Held at the school was a very well attended island event ...

Its mainly aimed at the children, however its a great opportunity to meet your fellow islanders - perhaps share a glass of mulled wine or a tsipouro whilst the children have fun.

There was a display of childrens dancing, and a spicy adult version on the stage to keep us entertained too ...

But the childrens day it is, face painting, art, a very noisy games room and prizes to be won made for a great day for everyone.

We snapped up a bargain, Maria's book of recipes from Calma taverna at Pareskevi was on sale at the reduced price of €3 a copy (Was €9) from the book stall run by Mrs Plomaritis, wife of the Mayor.

We headed off from all the fun, through the back streets down to the harbour, for a tsipouro meze, in the sun at Kabourelia.

However it appears something is planned for my birthday in a few days time ...

Saturday, 18 December 2010

A new arrival ...


Arrived Saturday at 12.30pm ...

Weighting 80 kilos, and taking two strong men to bring her into our world, after a difficult delivery from the mainland ...

Our darling 'Regina'

Very royal don't you think ?

Father was a little out of breath, after carrying her over the threshold for the first (and last) time.

She is sleeping soundly in the corner after being admired by visiting neighbours. Just waiting to be fed, before she can burst into life.

Before that happens like all babies, She will need a good clean tail pipe ...

Friday, 17 December 2010

It cannot be true ...

The log burner has arrived and is at the freight company office.

The only thing is its friday, they called at 13.40 and the island closes on a friday at 2pm as workers go for team building ...

... Thats a tsipouro with their workmates, to those who do not know.

Not a bad end to the week ...

The Log Index

Day 377 on the rock ...

Outside temperature - Cold
Shutters - Closed and secured
Interior temperature - 68 degrees
Open fire in use - Yes

Firewood used:
Logs 0
Olive 0
Driftwood 11 logs
Branches 5

Substantial amount of sawing undertaken, of driftwood into 30cm logs

Must buy a chainsaw, or will have one arm like a king crab !


Wood, wood and more ...


Driftwood galore ...

Headed back out again, and watched the sunrise changing the colour of the sea, from grey to a silver blue. Two beaches later the car boot is full of drift wood again.

Its amazing what gets washed up on the beaches after a storm, drift wood, fishing nets, plastic bottles, suntan cream bottles, crates, tiles, bricks - you name it you can find it.

... and always a lonely shoe or flip flop to accompany the fishermans industrial glove that makes its way ashore.

However the beaches i patrolled this morning were very clean, large sand dunes, washed up by the waves. There was a tree washed up on Pareskevi, it will not be there for long, thats for sure.

Plenty of small logs and branches, for me though and soon collected enough, including a nice beach ball, which had made landfall still inflated.

Loading the car, i noticed that i was not alone, there was a scoops owl calling very near me.

The European Scops Owl (Otus scops)


Returning along the main road at Megali Amos, the sun was reflecting off the water as if the whole sea was on fire. A golden sea that even with sunglasses, hurt the eyes.

Its going to be a nice day today, clear blue skies and turquoise seas, with a very gentle breeze ...

Ashes update: Oh dear - England all out and the Aussies lead by 81 runs ...



I'm a lumberjack ...

Early in the morning when all of Skiathos is snoring ...

I have been unloading firewood from the car. It seems i did quite well on my last rumage down on Vromliminos beach. I knew the boot was full, but four trips to the car by 6am, I had quite a sweat on ...

I now know why lumberjacks are called that - Lugging wood hurts the lumber region of your back.

Ashes update - England in big trouble at 98-5


Thursday, 16 December 2010

Masterchef ...

No I am not there yet ...

But this cold weather has made me seek out things in the shops to cook, and an urge to rattle the pots and pans.

I picked up some great beef from the "island ladies favourite albanian butcher" in Asteras. My local butcher in the church square is great, but he keeps waving knives at me - I know he is just being friendly and acknowledging me, but with a filleting knife or boning knife, it can look a bit serious ...

When in the supermarket, strange things happen. Today was no exception, a rather mature lady with a twinkle in her eye whispered in my ear. "I have something you might be interested in" ...

Eyes looking left and right, eager for our conversation not to be overheard by passing ex-pats. She whispered softly "Mincemeat"

"I want to make sure you have some mince pies for Christmas" Honestly i was overjoyed, the tears welled up. I did not know what to say, she patted me on the back and headed off towards tinned tomatoes after promising me some mixed peel ...

What were you thinking !!!

Packing the car was fun, its still full of firewood, but eventually made it home, in biting cold winds along the old harbour.

This afternoon i have made a beef casserole - more than enough to freeze for later use, and a Rice pudding. Try finding nutmeg in Greek, then locating it in the supermarket.

Nutmeg = Μοσχοκάρυδο

Well a whole one grated makes the pudding very tasty, but i think i can improve on it after the taste test this evening.

English puddings in Greece - It will never catch on - Next up will be Apple pie ...

Its raining its pouring ...

Tipping it down and blowing a gale here on Skiathos ...

Its been like this all night and the house is reverberating to the sounds of the wind and rain. Behind closed shutters and the sounds of the rain on the roof, I am monitoring the Ashes test match in Perth.

Australia are in trouble at 68-5

Come on England !!



Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The log index ...

Day 375 on the rock ...

Outside temperature - Cold and breezy
Shutters - Closed and secured
Interior temperature - 65 degrees
Open fire in use - Yes

Firewood used:
Logs used 9
Olive 2
Driftwood 7
Branches 11

Wine consumed - 1/2 bottle red Merlot between two of us (€2.75), warmed by the fire to an ambient temperature.





Its December - Its time to riot ...

Just over 100 miles away in Athens, Greeks are rioting against the austerity measures imposed by the EC. We are a million miles away from this, yet it fills the TV screens and headlines. Lets hope it cools down later and no-one gets killed ...


The following is the current Times newspaper article on the issue ...

Last updated December 15 2010 1:58PM

Thousands of protesters clashed with riot police as violence broke out in Athens today during a general strike against a string of harsh austerity measures and the proposed restructuring of loss-making state-run enterprises.

Several people were injured during the violent clashes, including Costis Hatzidakis, a main opposition New Democracy MP and a former transport minister who was attacked by a group of protesters shortly after he came out of Parliament.

According to an eyewitness, Hatzidakis was cornered by a small group of self-styled anarchists on a central pedestrianised street behind Syntagma Square across from the Parliament building. The angry mob shouted abuse at him and some of them hit him with sticks, while others reportedly punched him and threw objects at him.

One witness told me Hatzidakis had blood running down his face but managed to escape further injury when he found shelter in a nearby building. At least two other people were injured, according to initial police reports, while at least a dozen protesters were detained.

The area around Syntagma Square was thick with the acrid smell of smoke and tear gas as dozens of rubbish bins were set alight by protesters and round upon round of tear gas and stun grenades were used by riot police to try to fend off fire bomb and stone-throwing protesters.

Rubbish bins in and around the square smouldered, while many of the surrounding streets were littered with stones, broken glass and chunks of masonry that several hundred protesters had earlier smashed from paving stones or the marble façades of nearby buildings and used to throw at riot police around Parliament and the surrounding area.

At one point a group of about 200 protesters, many wearing hoods or crash helmets, threw more than a dozen petrol bombs at riot police, as well as at cars and a Jeep parked outside three luxury hotels on Syntagma Square. A black luxury Jeep and a van were completely destroyed after having their windows smashed and set on fire.

Banks and several shops had windows smashed and graffiti scrawled, while paint was splashed on the entrance of the Bank of Greece, the country’s central bank, and boarded-up shops on the central Stadiou and Panepistimiou streets.

Graffiti included “Fight against the apathy, rise up now”, “Government and the troika (the colloquial reference by Greeks to the EU, IMF and ECB) out now” and “Strike until victory”. Banners held by demonstrators included “There’s a solution: Let monopolies and multinationals pay for the crisis”, “The plutocracy should pay for the crisis” and “We won’t live like slaves”.

Earlier tens of thousands of people took part in what had been a largely peaceful but noisy march through central Athens during Greece’s seventh nationwide general strike this year. Police estimated that 20,000 people took part, while organisers claimed the number was nearer 40,000.The 24-hour general strike by the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE), the country’s largest private sector umbrella union, and by ADEDY, the civil servants’ union, led to transport chaos across the country, with flights halted by striking air traffic controllers, while ferries remained at port and rail services were again suspended.

Public transport operated for only a number of hours in Athens to allow strikers to take part in the demonstration, leading to traffic chaos for commuters on a cold, drizzly day. Banks and government buildings were also closed by the strike action, while public hospitals operated on a skeleton staff.

Schools and universities were closed as teachers and lecturers joined in the strike action, while taxi drivers, pharmacists, dentists and the courts were also hit by work stoppages. Greek journalists also took part in the 24-hour strike, leading to a news blackout by the country’s radio and TV stations.

Greece, which is in the midst of its deepest recession for nearly 40 years, has been hit by a string of strikes and protests, many of which have turned violent, since the country was effectively forced to turn to the European Union and the International Monetary Fund in May for a €110 billion bailout loan to avoid a sovereign default.

The loan was granted to Athens in exchange for a series of tough austerity measures and structural reforms as Greece tries to reduce huge debts and deficits and tries to get its fiscal house in order.

Legislation was passed in Parliament the early hours today to allow the restructuring of state-run enterprises and a new framework law relating to collective labour agreements that will effectively see further pay cuts for public sector workers and a cap on maximum annual salaries at state-run enterprises at €48,000 (£41,000).

The Bill was passed with 156 votes in favour and 130 against in the 300-seat Parliament after a heated debate in which one MP from the ruling Pasok socialist party voted against and found himself expelled from the party, bringing to four the number of dissenting MPs from Pasok who have been expelled and are now sitting as independents.

Parliament will on December 22 vote on the country’s 2011 budget, which aims to reduce the budget deficit to 7.4 per cent of gross domestic product next year from a projected 9.4 per cent this year and 15.5 per cent in 2009, in an attempt to finally get below the 3 per cent ceiling for eurozone members by 2014.

Public debt, however, is expected to top 150 per cent of GDP in the coming years, prompting fears that a debt restructuring or rescheduling may be unavoidable unless the EU and IMF grant Greece an extension to the existing bailout loan.

Unemployment, officially at 12.6 per cent of the workforce in September, is forecast to top 14 per cent next year, while youth unemployment (those aged 15-24) is above 30 per cent, prompting fears of further social unrest in the future.


Beat the strikes ...

"How to pay and not to pay " - for the want of trying, that was the question ...

Athens man was very understanding, considering he had already taken the package to the freight handler. Amazing - It was on its way just because i had called and said we wanted one.

Pay me later he said, you are English, i know you will pay me he said. Well i know a few on this island who would not, from both ends of the social spectrum!

So imagine what he thought when i phoned back and told him, how a good friend had Emporiki online banking and had transferred the money to him.

Its getting near Christmas, Good Samaritans etc, and as you all know - God is an Englishman ...

Footnote:

Todays strikes mainly affect the ferries, and airports, however the flying cat is operating to Volos.

However its probably best not to go to the bank, and walk into their new security doors and hurt yourself, on the way to the striking school. The doctors at the hospital are on strike and the ambulance crew are only answering emergencies. I guess you call them to find out.
Hope you do not need a lawyer to make a claim as they are on strike today. If you need a pharmaist - bad luck, and if serious enough to need transport to Volos on the ferry - Well ts just not been your day has it ...

Keep up to date with the latest strike news at http://livingingreece.gr/strikes/



Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Off to the bank ...

Pay the money to me at Emporiki he said ...

I have a little knowledge about banks, and am getting quite an expert at the Greek system

The rules are as follows

Queue for everything
Realise that you are getting on the said persons nerves by being there
You will have to sign lots of paper
The ATM is your greatest friend
Before the end of the year - you do have to present yourself in person, so the bank book can be updated.
Smile gracefully at all times, and always speak in the street to the worst cashier.

I use the Alpha bank on the harbour. I have encountered all the above, but am now very happy with the service. In fact they now "Know me" and i have even been bumped up the queue on more than one occasion.

Now i know inter bank transfers can take time, so I had a "Bright idea"

Take the bank book in, get it updated, withdraw the money, and nip round to Emporiki and credit "Athens man" in Emporiki. Only bucking the system is not always that easy ...

There was a hold up earlier this year at Emporiki, so Alpha have had a security door fitted. Its the type that protects computer rooms. Its an Interlocking air lock system and is very efficient.

Press button to enter bank.
Light goes green - Enter air lock
Close door behind you
Press button to enter banking hall
Light goes green - Enter bank

All accompanied in a ladies voice in Greek and English ...

Now it does stop the old fashioned bank robber doing a runner with the cash. It also stops customers getting in and out of the bank. There we were one outside, one in the air lock and one in the inside, all pressing buttons and getting no-where. Anyway when i made it in there were no queues, only one cashier, where there were three previously.

Eventualy i made my way into the street, with the voice of Michael Caine in the Italian Job, springing into my head. "you were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!"
I give it a couple of months and it will be wedged open in summer ...

Into a very quiet Emporiki bank (One hold up and no security doors) A man looked up, looked at his colleague reading the paper, and dragged himself to his feet. He shuffled to the cashiers position, and with no eye contact and hands in pocket said "Were on strike"
"Strike - what strike?" I said
"Two days of strikes against the government and the austerity measures" he replied
"What are you doing here then?" i enquired
"We are on strike - just not serving customers - we are closed" was the reply

I got it, Its still cold, he was keeping warm in the bank, rather than using his heating at home ...

So he suggested an inter bank transfer;
"Go to Alpha -they do not all strike, but it will take two days after the strikes for the funds to reach us" he said, as we made eye contact.
"It must be easier to pay in here on thursday then" i quipped

"You should work for a bank" he replied, not knowing may silent reply ...


Monday, 13 December 2010

Can it be this easy ...

As Victor said, "I Don't believe it" ...

After hours of studying thousands of websites, fruitless visits to various suppliers there is a new scenario to add

Hello Athens - Do you sell ...
... Yes
Good - Can i buy one ...
... Yes
When will i get it ? next week (or the week after - or the month after)
... Thursday
What this Thursday ?
... Well you can have it next Thursday if you wish
Can i order one ...
... I will deliver it to the transport company in the morning

It cannot be this easy can it ???

PS After a freezing morning with chill winds, its now tipping it down
The shutters are closed and rain is hammering on the roof ...

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Its fire time ...

No not in the hills - the house ...

Its cold, the temperatures have dropped and there is snow in the air. Time to take a more than a passing interest in all things heat, as the chill of winter starts to bite.

After all this morning, a cold one, the islands electricity was cut for essential maintenance. Brrrr

I have a nice pile of logs, but if the cold continues they will be quickly reduced as we try to keep warm. The car has been pressed into transport for beach scavenging, and is host to a pile of logs in the boot, somewhat sandy and damp!

The island businesses do not help. Its been six weeks now trying to buy a log burner on the ring road, and i am as far as a brochure or a chinese imported unit - what happened to "Made in Greece"

My scenario ...............

Hello - Do you sell ...
... Yes
Good - Can i buy one ...
... No we may have some next week (or the week after - or the month after)
Can i order one ...
Go away we are on the internet updating our facebook page ...

I do try to support island business, but tomorrow it's going to be "Get a quote from Athens day" Watch this space for further developments ...

Off to the beach, wood required back later ...

Friday, 10 December 2010

The storm goes on and on and on ...

We appear to have escaped the worst ...

Nature has been venting its fury for 24 hours now, TV is showing us that Greece has taken a battering from the elements.

However we have so far escaped the torrential rain that was forecast for the afternoon and evening. The wind is still rattling the shutters and its much colder than yesterday.

Its been the kind of day where you throw another log on the fire, and enjoy a glass of red wine. Only i was up early, met a builder friend, went shopping on the ring road, and spent a few hours this afternoon under a warm duvet catching up on sleep.

I was met on the doorstep by one of my lovely neighbours this morning. She must be in her eighties, yet she brings me firewood, and kindling for the fire. Today she gave me some logs, and she will not take no for an answer.

Tomorrow i will give her a madeira cake, made with the lemons she gave me. Its small recompense, but hopefully appreciated. Maybe as it gets colder i can relocate some of the logs back to her too ...

Kalee Nikta from a cool draughty island in the aegean ...

What a night ...

Howling winds that are shaking the roof tiles and rattling the shutters.

The gales will reach full intensity tonight. The rain showers drumming against the roof and shutters. We are battened down for the storm, and its getting colder too - a windchill of -8 is forecast ...

There will be no ferries today, its far too stormy. Probably none tomorrow either - better go shopping ...

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Storm approaching ...

Getting ready for a winter storm, Friday and Saturday are going to be very windy. Beaufort 7 near gale conditions, and heavy rain ...


Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Then the phone rang ...

I had a busy morning ...

I had watched the sun rise, filled all the water bottles, had a trip to the hardware store on the ring road, and firewood collected all by 9am.


Just settled with a coffee and planning what to do next, when the mobile rattled into life. "We are going to do walk number six, its Kolios via platanias to Ag. Paraskevi just 4.3 miles and will take about three hours"

Give me a few minutes i said (The house was still sleeping) to see if i am free. Sleep was the winner and my pass was negotiated easily. I was on my way to Kolios within half an hour, kitted out on a sunny morning in my walking boots and clutching the trusty Canon, and a bottle of water ...

I have to admit, my plans had been for a meet up with friends, but on the Paralia and over a Tsipouro. However after about 30 minutes hard climbing, I was rewarded with this view ...


I think i did the right thing ...

We visited a tiny chapel near Katsarou, this was a modern one built in 2000. It had great views, however i had to sneak a look inside.

The key was hanging on the hook, When i opened the door ...





From the chapel it was a steady downhill trek, most of our effort having been in the ascent of the hill. Now using muscles that had been apparently sleeping for some time we descended the red road to the Olive groves.

Pausing to look back where we had been earlier ...


However some of the locals took a passing interest ...


Before nature took precedence, over the passing humans ...


and as Zebedee never said to Florence, we headed home for a well earned frappe and a biscuit ...

Monday, 6 December 2010

Saint Nicholas Day ...

Its the feast of St. Nikolaos, when many Greeks exchange gifts ...

So what better way to celebrate, than to switch on the christmas lights down on the Paralia











Sunday, 5 December 2010

Magic forest, trolls and haunted houses ...

Well it was a lovely day for a walk ...

I had a few hours free, so joined Andrea & Tommy for a walk. It was a tough one, from Ag. Antonios to Panagia Kechria then the to the Magic Forest. 4 hours 5.6 miles, and a strenuos hike just as it says in the book ...

There was a cool breeze and some cloud cover adding to the chill as we made our way up the hill beneath the aerials.



We set a brisk pace, and soon the heart was thumping and the ears ringing, but we still managed to collect some ripe strawberry fruits, and picked wild sage on our way.

We paused at the Church of Konstantinos, which is hidden in the woods alongside the road. Its tiny but very impressive ...




When we crested the hill, i suggested we pause to take in the view, The west of the island with the Pelion distant ...


We made our way down the valley towards Kechria, taking time to view the Kechria Monastery.

... and the hand painted icons and religious artefacts within the domed roof, which are sadly decaying away with ravages of time and the island humidity ...



The bell is interesting, it was made in Germany. Its a German shell that was deposited on the town in 1944 ...


However i did find time to pick some lovely olives, before we made our way again down through the olive groves into the valley. Overhead a kestrel was calling and hovered nearby.

The path heads off into the 'Magic forest' and crosses the Kechria Brook on a number of occasions. Further into the forest you find the old Olive press.
Its now a ruin, however the mill stones are still there, guarded by an old goats head ...

The old bag press is slowly rusting away in what is left of the building, which must have collapsed many years ago ...


Leaving the Old Olive press behind, we headed downstream, and the trees and foliage were notceably different to the rest of the island ...


The Valley is almost permanantly shaded. Huge ferns reach for the sunlight, below moss covered plane trees and ancient sycamore trees.

A home for a troll perhaps ...


All the time the brook meanders through rock pools , with vivid colours as you look into the deep, as roots and marble are washed bare ...


This old ruin we passed lower in the valley, It appears the owner had built the chimney up the tree trunk, to get a good draw on the chimney from its sheltered position.

However i wondered if as the tree grew, it ripped the chimney off in a storm and the roof went with it too ...



Slowly there is more light, through the woodland cannopy, and the valley widens out to reveal a large pool, shafts of sunlight and the entrance to another old ruin ...


The old ruin, just waiting for someone to love it again ...


Walking through the yard of the old house you emerge into the olive grove, branches bursting with ripe olives, just waiting to be picked ...


Beyond was the blue sea, and crashing surf of Kechria beach ...



The flag clearly had seen better days, and what was left of it stood firmly to attention in the stiff breeze ...


The waves crashing on to the rocks below, showering us, the air fresh and full of ozone, and misty salt water spray ...


We paused for reflection and to rest aching muscles and limbs. These were rejuvenated by a beer and a cornish pasty as we sat ibn the sun, befire starting the trek back to town.

The rather windswept taverna, lent us some seats for lunch on the lawn ...


After a bracing stiff climb i stopped to look back at the flag, still holding out against the breeze ...

Pausing to scare a pheasant. We were probably the only humans, the poor bird had seen that were not armed with a shotgun.

We climbed further into the hinterlands of the island, scrub areas that had once been forest and affected by forest fires in the past. Trees down in the valley below were being attacked with chainsaws and areas cleared for some unknown reason.

Then climbing onward and upward to return to civilisation, with shadowy friends ...