Friday, 25 November 2011

Taking a break ...


Time for a break, and a short holiday away, from the small rock in the Aegean we call home ...

“We shall not cease from exploration.  And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

T.S. Elliot
Little Gidding


Back soon ...




Monday, 21 November 2011

Panagia Kounistra update ...

Yesterday it was the Panagia Kounistra, here on Skiathos ...

It was a great afternoon, i returned without any blisters, but a sprain to the Achilles is proving to be a right pain ! That's what you get, if you are standing on twisty rocky paths - trying to take photos ...

To see my photos of the event, taken as I crossed the hills yesterday - Click here

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Panagia Kounistra ...

The Skiathos Calendar by Betsy Barnard mentions ... 


21st Panayia Kounistra (The presentation of the mother of god in the temple, 
i.e. when she was taken to serve in the temple as a child aged about 12) 
On the morning of the 20th the miraculous icon is brought up to the top 
church and taken out of the town about 2.30. The bells ring in town at about 
1.00. People follow on foot on the old road to Kounistra. At the monastery 
of Kounistra an evening service, all night vigil, bonfires food, much 
feasting. Buses run to the monastery all evening. 
Early next morning, about 5am the icon is taken back along the old road to 
town, people following on foot. To Ayia Triada about 8am, down the old paved 
road to the Kalo Pigadi and along the main road to the Tries Hieraches. 
Service 9 - 10.30 ... 


Its a sunny morning here and the church bells at Tries Hieraches are ringing ...

Today its Panagia Kounistra, the days when the townsfolk return the icon, to the monastery at Kounistra in a pilgramage across the hills on the old paths.

Most of the village will be walking just after noon, heading up to Acropolis - this year minus the band due to the austerity cuts, we have no bandmaster.
Young and Old alike, many of the old ladies will be barefoot. They will be met at Acropolis by men with guns who serenade with a volley of gunfire as the icon passes. Then climbing up on the old paths to Katsarou, then over the hills, visiting shrines and finally up to Kounistra.

Once at Kounistra there will be a service and the villagers will rest and take Coffee, Tsipouro or make the return to town on special buses. Many will stay overnight with the Icon, then return in the morning over the hills to Tries Hieraches at first light.

I will be one of them ...

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Congratulations ...

To the visitor from the USA, who has read 77 pages on the blog today.

Thank you for visiting ...

Noisy neighbourhood ...

Not only just me ...

My neighbours are undertaking renovations, the street reverberates to the sound of the kango hammer. This morning i joined in for an hour with the chainsaw.

One hour later  the chansaw was rather warm - so too was i ...

However i now have a large box of manageable logs, and a box of kindling for the mighty woodburner to consume. There is a nice bag of sawdust too, for anyone with a hamster.

Tomorrow is Panagia Kounistra, the announciation of the icon, wnen it makes its annual pilgrimage over the mountains from Tries Hieraches with the village.

A great excuse for a sunday afternoon walk ...

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Bubbly in the yard ...

Nothing like a glass of fizz is there ...

This evening I joined friends here in town, to celebrate their new house. Its an old house that will soon become an exciting renovation project. Hopefully one of many, as the old houses in town that have left to go to ruins, suddenly become a source of capital in these tough times for our Greek neighbours.

We had fun whilst toasting their new adventure (As it will be) with friends and neighbours, in their yard. Lit by tea lights, visited by local cats and kittens, looking for scraps. They shared their ideas and plans with us for their new home.

After sharing experiences, laughter and a glass or two, they closed the door, and we wandered through the lanes. I pointed out houses that I liked, and had gained inspiration from, during my own adventure some years ago.

I had not been in this part of town, for a while. It soon became very apparent, that a number of the old houses, are being renovated. I recognised some that had been on the market for quite some time.

Whether they are being renovated to be sold, or had been recently, I do not know. But the renovation works, signal investment taking place, and that cannot be a bad thing at all.

In tough times, it seems, bricks and mortar are the place to be ...

Fair weather at last ...

These last few days its been more like January than November, and its been icy cold here.

However overnight, the skies have cleared - Its milder this morning, the winds have died down, it looks much more promising for the day ahead.

This mornings early morning sortie was to bring supplies to the house. Fresh water, and dry kindling as we had used all our supply up yesterday. Three Ikea bags returned and stored, containing small branches. I also recovered a cauliflower box, an orange box, and a wooden wine crate for primary kindling too.

Looking out of the window, its blue skies, and there are passing footsteps in the street - Not a bad start to the day ...

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Out for Lunch ...

... and very nice it was too ...

Winter still has its icy fingers gripped around our little green island.  Braced against the winds we headed out for a lovely lunch, and a glass of Rapsani ...

As Greek wines go, this is a good one, and well worth the extra few euro's. We were treated to a lovely Vegetable soup, Chicken and Briam, (Great Briam recipe here) and Panacotta. Truly spoilt on a really cold day.

Junior also enjoyed the excursion, depositing different balls to all corners of the olive grove, and the much more fun option of the pool. Our friends cats and dog were also reduced to nervous wrecks, by the attention of being stroked and patted in rather a rough manner, but seemed to take it well.

It was all too soon to drag ourselves away, as grey skies threatened, and a sleepless afternoon, started to take effect on us all - most noticeably the little one.

Now relaxing in the afterglow of a lovely day, fire on around woodmark 5, and the 2nd Olive log just loaded ...

Monday, 14 November 2011

Ferry free day ...

No boats today according to the ferry office.

Too windy it seems, Some rain this morning, but nowhere near enough for the island -

It's winter  ...

Austerity ...

Seems the rubbish collections on a weekend have now stopped ...

The bins are overflowing, aided by the local obsession of leaving waste by the bin rather than in it. Then the cats and dogs, assist it being distributed down the street, aided by the winds.

Waste truck just arrived and its now completely full - just like summer ...

Footnote: One bag of cold fire ash, deposited into the centre of the truck, from first floor window. Direct hit - I should have been in the RAF.

Strange noise on the roof - Rain - lots of it ...

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Cold draught ...

... from the Russian steppes

Yes we are feeling the cold down here on the rock. Autumn has turned to winter and we like the rest of Greece is feeling the chill. Cold winds from the north, have sent temperatures plummeting, and decreased the woodpiles, as we burn our firewood to keep warm.

The weather is set to remain cool and windy, all through Sunday night and Monday, before the breeze calms later on Monday yet remaining cold this week.

Sunday wood index - Fire on at 1pm, six branch logs and two olive logs consumed to ash. Temperature indoors nice and warm.

One glass of mulled wine consumed - I was not offered a drop ...

Saturday, 12 November 2011

In the kitchen tonight ...

Pan roasted Chicken breast, stuffed with prunes.
This had been poached, and the prunes had been marinaded in Metaxa 3*

Poached pears a' la Propogos kokkino

The poaching stock, which was aided by a couple of cloves and a cinnamon stick - with a touch of sugar, made a lovely post dinner digestif treat to keep out the cold.

Better feed the mighty woodburner, or will need to make some more ...

Tad breezy ...

Seems as if winter storm is approaching ...

For days people have been preparing, and there is not a piece of wood to be found, anywhere on the paralia. Overnight discarded pallets have been spirited away, as if by magic.

Its very breezy this morning and more than a hint of rain in the air. The temperature has dropped, and there is a distinct chill in the house. This will be remedied later.

My early morning excursion was 'fruitful' - as i recovered 6 orange boxes, for primary kindling in the mighty woodburner. Fresh bread from the bakery, and an indulgent chocolate croissant for me as reward.

However life in the port goes on. Flying cat 6 is due in, despite the weather and the huge fuel tanker EKO1 has arrived.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Remembrancetide ...

At 11.00am this morning, forty two friends gathered at the submarine memorial, to observe the two minute silence for those who died in wars

Afterwards the following words were read by Alan ...

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them"

Then an emotive poem, written by a serving member of the forces serving in Afghanistan ...


Photos © Sally and Beccy

A lineup of digits at 11 minutes past the 11th hour, on 11.11.11 marks a moment that won't repeat for 100 years ...

I will be on the paralia, after we pause to remember ...


Thursday, 10 November 2011

Music to my ears ...

No not my neighbour Christos ...

Who has returned for a short break from Athens, and who is serenading me daily from his balcony.

He decided he needed a break from his lovely wife and has popped up for some decent food with his stepmother. The debate in the front room is decidedly louder, each evening as he seems to get the old ladies going, with laughter and singing.

However this morning the town was alive to the music of the chainsaw, so if you cannot beat them join them ...

Once again, I was sawing up parts of my neighbours house, the last of the door frames and some ancient joists, that were riddled with woodworm, and hard as rock.

When i made the delivery, i was asked in to the house, shown where to store the wood under the stairs. and a photo of an elderly gentleman above the fireplace. I assume her husband or a relation that built the house.

There was much discussion (One sided) and pointing to the chimney - I assume she wants me to clean it ...

Back home, I sawed up some large logs into more manageable pieces, and had quite a sweat on - its mild and the juices were flowing. So was well pleased when the phone rang, and was invited for a coffee on the paralia.

We had both been active with a chainsaw, and coffee was foresaken for a well earned beer in the sun ...

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Grey skies ...

... for the last few days

We have a promise of rain over the next few days, it will be welcome - If only just to dampen the ardour of the bonfire setters across the island.

There was a great get together the other day, by the Green Fox group. They held a bazaar and exhibition in front of the Bourtzi, The ladies have collected thousands of plastic bottles and sent them for recycling on the mainland, rather than the island landfill.
However whilst we were celebrating their success, someone stole the collection bins, from seven of the island bus stops. Somehow I think they are being used to collect olives somewhere on the island - lets hope they are found or returned soon.

I hear over on Skopolos, wood piles are relocating overnight - times are hard ...

Tonight some more psarithas were enjoyed, perhaps tomorrow some prawns from the trawler. As a special treat we had a slice of cake from Ioannis cake shop here in town - simple pleasures are the best.

Time to throw another log in the mighty woodburner, friends on their way tomorrow ...

Monday, 7 November 2011

Still hard at it ...

... cutting wood this morning

It amazing the difference a sharpened chainsaw blade makes. This morning i motored through the door frames, whilst dodging nails and ancient hinges. I delivered the wood, and there was some indication that there may be more to come. The old ladies of the street, seem to approve of my actions, 'zesty' warm work, nods and smiles ...

We had an invitation out for lunch, this was spent running up and down the paralia, with junior. However we managed to get a few words in, with our friends in split shifts.

When we returned home hanging on the door was a carrier bag, and something in tinfoil. I just opened the bag whilst making a cup of tea. Inside was an assortment of sweets.

I wonder who left them, but as the smoke rises from her ancient chimney - I think i know who ...

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Distractions ...

I was on my way back from the chainsaw shop ...

I should have been going shopping, but it had already been a busy morning. A trip up to the taxiacharis spring, where I collected four bags of firewood kindling, from my mountain store. A coffee with friends, whilst watching the sunlight rays dancing on the sea between the islands. A tour of an olive grove, and preparations for their next years wood store.

I was shown some lovely Olive wood trunk cuttings, that when polished, will grace someone's table, as a bread board or Lemon board. Bought petrol for the chainsaw and returned home.

And that was all before 8am ...

However cutting up door frames and ancient wood had severely blunted the chainsaw - it had to be sharpened. The man at the chainsaw shop does this in minutes for the princely sum of €2 - a bargain.

On the way back, popped in to see my friends new 'soupa' or wood burner.

He seemed very pleased to see me, as he was having a few problems, as the soot on the windows signified. I had given him the details of the shop in Athens (Bruce are you reading this) and being a man usually careful with his Euro's - had compared prices with here on Skiathos.

Having compared prices, he had purchased the Rolls Royce of Wood burners. It stood around a metre tall, metre wide and around 40cm deep. It also had an oven, where presumably he was going to bake bread. Luckily he knew someone with a crane, they had lifted the beast and two pallets of wood up to the first floor where it was now sited - still on top of a pallet - as he could not lift it to fit the legs ...

From the top, the chimney climbed then wandered like a snake, with all the same twists and coils, across the room before exiting through the wall.

To support the weight of this impressive structure, wires were used, notably from a curtain rail, to take the weight. Silver duct tape being applied to keep all the 'umbilical like' plumbing together.

In the grate some kitchen towel was smouldering, under some plywood which was being used as kindling. When you opened the door you choked on the fumes. I looked out of the window and up, the chimney 'structure' rose through a lighting well, around 10 metres, and was leaning against the roof. It was however supported by some plastic fibre packing tape, secured by a wall nail.

He is a very good friend, so I had to word things carefully ...

Can I suggest something ... ?

Luckily he is open minded for a Greek, and seemed happy to take on board the suggestions. Within five minutes we had straight lines, a vertical chimney, and the beast still minus its feet (we need some trolley jacks to lift it) had been moved 4/5 cm  (it took the two of us to shift it) and everything was more or less right within the house.

From the upper terrace, I suggested that he needed to brace the external chimney at least twice, and clamp it. Then increase the height by at least another metre, to clear the pitch of the roof.

We returned to the first floor, where painting had been in progress recently, two sheets of an old Ta Nea, were screwed up, placed under the plywood, and within minutes there was an inferno within the beast - and no leaks from the chimney.

The mobile signified i had to return to base, with my friend promising a glass of something - by the beast with something cooked from within its mighty oven ...

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Breaking News - Flying Cat ...


This morning's Flying Cat to Volos was stopped in its tracks over on Skopelos, when a large piece of floating plastic was sucked into the engine. The crew is trying to remove the plastic and we've heard that a diver has been called in to assess the situation below the waterline.


The flying cat is our only connection to the mainland today  ... 


Update: 20.30pm
Flying cat 6 is on its way back to Skopolos, running around four hours late after repairs 



Friday, 4 November 2011

Old ladies ...

with a glint in their eye ...

I had been back to the dentist for a final instalment in a root canal treatment. Excellent work by the lady dentist, who has a surgery, that would be at home in either Athens or London.

Last night, just as the anaesthesia was wearing off, I heard the rattle of knuckles on the front door. There she was around 4 feet tall, and launched into a dialogue, that was way above me. My speech still being an issue she may have thought, I had had a glass of something (however on the seventh day of antibiotics) she gripped my hand and off she went ...

Only to return, a few minutes later with a length of timber, complete with bent rusty six inch nails. 'Soupa' she said, which means woodburner, and showed me where she wanted it cut. I picked up the saw, and she said 'avrio' which means later or  tomorrow, many times. I was rather confused, but she headed off into the night. A few minutes later, the lights went off - she had gone to bed ...

This morning, I opened the door to a large pile of wood - frames from the old windows on her house. These were replaced earlier this year.

A friend in need ...

Her door opened and over she came for another chat, the size was explained to me again, and we went back to her house. I was invited into her kitchen, thankfully nice and warm, and offered coffee from her 'beke' on top of her ancient, but rather warm small woodburner.

No petrol in the chainsaw, so an afternoon with a hand saw, making them just the right size. Then delivering the first supplies to my lovely neighbour ...

Thursday, 3 November 2011

If a picture told a thousand words ...



... Oh dear, someone is on the naughty step


As someone said to me recently "I am off to the bank, to transfer my money to a special no interest, but secure 'under the mattress' account"

"So around half a percent less than what you would get from your bank anyway" I replied ...

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Watching the TV this morning was an education ...


Four Greeks all talking over each other at the same time on the crisis. Over on the satellite channel some very interesting reporting from across europe, as the story changed during the day

Online the English Daily Mail had this headline (Much vevised) ...

A cout d'etat ?

I looked out of the window, and there was some cooing from a feather footed pigeon on a neighbouring roof. 

True there was some machine gun fire - then i realised it was a kango hammer, from a neighbours house, as he made a new apartment.

Shock. there was a tank on the corner of the street, but the Dimos are rather lax at picking up discarded water heater tanks it seems, of late. 

Yes - Some of the younger men are dressed in combats, but they had probably taken them home, at the end of their national service ...

Nothing like hysterical reporting to make more of a Crisis out of a Drama, being played on a national stage. 

A cout d'etat ? You could not make it up could you ? 

But it was on the front page of the DM - I checked the date - but they did get that right ...

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Bonfire day ...

No I have not wound the clocks forward five days ...

Its the 1st November - the greeting is Kalo Mina (Good Month) and the island is covered in low cloud. Actually its smoke from the bonfires being lit all over the island. Today is the first day of the bonfire season, and also the hunting season.

There is a pretty good chance you can get some '12 gauge' in the rear. If some hunter stalks you in the bonfire smoky mists, when you are out walking, whilst he is after small birds.

As my friend up in Kalivia said earlier - why do they all have to light them at once ...