Friday, 9 January 2015

Skiathos: the final frontier ...

These were the voyages of an ex-pat Englishman. 

His five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life, and new civilizations, to boldly go where no Englishman had gone before ...

Well on the way, he told you all about it ...

Only its become a lot more difficult of late. You see SWMBO is going through hell. Cancer has torn our happy life apart, there is not a lot that I can say, that will make it seem better than it is.

Its going to get a lot worse, over the next few months ...

So regrettably I think its time to close another chapter - the blog.

Over half a million visits from strangers to our little world. Sometimes over a thousand hits a day. Some of you  paused to chat, some just sat and stared, some became good friends.

I have to support SWMBO through her darkest hours, Junior needs daddy to be there too.

So until we meet again, whenever or wherever that will be ...

 

So its goodnight from me ...

... footnote - 13/01/15

Thank you, one and all for your very kind and positive comments, here on the blog ...

Its when you are going through tough times, you find out who your friends are. We are stunned by the response, and the huge number of comments left on the blog.

Tough times ahead, thank you once again, for your support ...

Skiathian, SWMBO & Junior


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

UK pensioners ...

News from Blighty ...

If you are still battened down here on the island, braving out the gales, after freezing after the snow and ice. You will probably be less than delighted to read the news here.

Something to mull over next time you have to free, the frozen water pumps.

The next storm system across the Atlantic, promises as it disrupts weather north of the alps, to send more Siberian air south over Greece ...

Daily Mail article
Perhaps it's time to head a little further south, Santorini anyone ?


Even the beaches down in Crete, were blanketed in snow yesterday ...

OK - Start chopping the firewood ...


Tuesday, 6 January 2015

θεοφανια ...

Today is the celebration of Theofania or Epiphany ...

This is the day that celebrates the baptism of Jesus, a blessing made with water. So here in Greece there will be a blessing of the water by the local Pappa.

Our very own Pappa Yorgos, has been reminding us of the event since 06:15am. With a hearty ringing of the church bells, at Tries Hieraches.

Then a little later after the church service, we will gather on the old harbour. There to see the brave swimmers leap from the Mata Hari into the icy water. Diving in to retrieve a cross, cast by Pappa Yorgos into the deep. He or she, will be rewarded for their efforts, by the residents of the village, as they pass by with coins as reward.

Captain Lambros, moved Mata Hari into position last night. No mean feat in the windy conditions. The smaller boat being used today, perhaps indicative of fewer swimmers, are taking up the challenge this year.

Its very cold, anyone taking the dip needs to be rewarded, along with the champion who retrieves the cross ...

Mid morning update:

They brave boys and girl did it ...

Pappa Yorgos prepares to cast the cross ...
Leap of Faith - The brave swimmers, dive into the icy water ...
I have it ...
They all deserve a medal, icy water and just before they took a dip, there were snow flurries too ...

All content, including Photographs, graphics, text, © The Skiathian 2010-2015. All rights reserved

Monday, 5 January 2015

Man on a mission ...

5am at the Ski village ...

That's Gatwick airport, where you fight your way through the boot bags, cases, skis, snowboards and their owners to check in. Not many skiers heading my way but who knows, after the recent weather in Greece.

My how things have changed at Easyjet, I went to hand my case to a human, and,was directed to the bag drop area. Bag drop is, two humans managing a visual document check and directing you to the scales.

Scan your check in voucher, pop your bag on the scales. Is it under 20kg ? Yes proceed it prints your luggage strap and you attach it to the case. Stick a small one on your voucher, and another on the side of your case.

Press yes to go and your bag is accepted, and off it goes into the computer generated and managed luggage warehouse under the airport. Presumably doing battle with all the skiers kit.

I did notice the chip and pin reader, if your bags weigh over 20kg. Remember the tv programme where the great and the good, argued for our entertainment? Next year's version will be a hidden camera, live stream of someone arguing with a set of scales.

How many flights will be missed, whilst someone there, argues with the scales about how many shoes they need in Skiathos ...

Under 20kg you fly, over 20kg you pay or stay behind, as a no show. Must admit it's a brilliant way to run a business. Make money on the strength of someone else's bathroom scales ...

Security, extremely swift, efficient. Just like arrivals, however no one shouts at you from behind the equipment.

You emerge into the neon world, that is the shopping mall that used to be the departures lounge. You have to pass through the entire duty free lounge, to get anywhere else.

Since the airport was privatised, the architect took a shopping mall like Blue waters, and bolted it onto the airport. It's visually stunning, . I did not recognise most of it from before. I had to look around, because I was lost in the retail machine ...

Tired, sleepless and hungry, where to eat? Frankie and Benny or Cafe Rouge?

Cafe Rouge, which was a mistake. We do not have sausages, pastries, the list went on and on. I asked if they had any eggs, making light of what must be a very bad morning for the people working there.

It was worse, it was their last day. They closed that evening. They were being fired, some had found jobs, some had not. They looked tired, they were working their last night shift, and some had problems ahead. I did feel sorry for them ...

Years ago Cafe Rouge was where the bar was located, it was a wall of floor to ceiling cigarette smoke, even at 5am. It must have come in handy for the nicotine effect paint job when Cafe Rouge took over.

It has 'Location Location Location' and still has a great view of the fire engines, racing to meet an arriving aircraft. Which is just what happened as I awaited my Eggs Benedict. Who needs the plasma screen BBC world news, when you have live emergency action outside on the tarmac ...

Back in duty free, the service was painfully slow by the little old Asian ladies. The East European lady was serving customers at a rate of three to one and smiling. Some oik was extremely rude to her about the wait. I saw her shake her head in disbelief, and smile for the next customer.

Little old Asian lady, no greeting of acknowledgement, slapped my goods on the counter, and pointed to chip and pin. I thought about the lady serving in Cafe Rouge, if I was someone like Alan Sugar, someone else may have been getting fired ...

Back into the shopping centre, where the plasma video wall, said go to gate 90. This is where Greece was besieging the desk, regardless of the announcements, as the rest of the world does not speak Greek.

However Easyjet LGW speak English-language, OK with a West Indian accent, and smile to match, and expect you to obey the rules. So it takes time to get the 'non so speedy boarders' and 'easyjet pluscard' holders through the melee. The kids and pushchair eventually made it through and down the stairs.

By the time I got on board, the returning Greeks had boarded, and stowed their ten pieces of hand luggage. I sat next to a Greek guy, seemingly untouched by austerity.

Clearly he ate well, and overflowed into my part of the seat. Presumably it was his seat, as he was firmly located in mine. The curved section of fuselage more of use to him than me ...

We departed, a few minutes late into the rain and grey skies, turning right towards London, emerging into the sunrise above, heading east climbing very swiftly.

Easyjet service, seamless efficiency, they tried to flog me a copy of the Sunday Times, and Hello magazine, which years ago I used to get free ...

Very bumpy over the Alps, the captain advised us to fasten seat belts. The crew told us to stay seated, the toilets were out of use until further notice. The announcement was made in Greek, guess who ignored it and went walkabout?

I admire the patience, of any steward, stewardess on any form of transport dealing with the public, who always know best. Especially when told in English, 'You should speak Greek' ...

We landed 30 minutes early, my bag made it through the computer, and one of the last onto the conveyor. I later found out it had been opened, and checked somewhere on its journey. I was carrying goods for impoverished, and starving islanders (as usual) ...

Thessaloniki was sunny but cool after the recent snow. Wind from the north chilly, and breezy. Fought my way on to the bus across the city. A 55 minute ride for just €2, you must buy your ticket before the journey from the lady in the kiosk. Validate it or if caught expect a hefty fine.

From what I saw about half did, mainly young people. Many of the older ones travelled without paying, perhaps keeping an invalidated ticket in their pocket just in case.

The KTEL bus terminal very busy. Ok it's holiday time, no problem, made my way to window 18, three very sour people on duty. Second time today I thought about the lady in Cafe Rouge, as the money snatched from my hand. The change and ticket slapped on the counter. Welcome to Greece ...

Into the cafe, a slice of Pizza, as recommended by Simon and Donna, whilst I waited for the bus. The Volos bus departs from Bay 18, along with five others. Make sure you put your bag on the right one.

Departing on time, sitting in my allocated seat under darkening skies. Angry clouds starting to deposit rain. No announcements, in fact the coach in silence apart from the young lady across the aisle. Streaming cold, coughing and sneezing. Bet I have the cold soon ...

I sleep when I can, just like on the aircraft, it's the only way to travel like this. Non stop to Volos, only dropping people off on the way. Approaching Pelion you see the snow, the hills blanketed in it, we turn off the motorway and the national road is a slush run. The melting snow and all around the land is a winter landscape.

Volos has snow piled up by the road, where the snowploughs had left it, slushy pavements, but it's Christmas here, the decorations, pipped music, people sitting outside in the rain drinking coffee, having a great time.

Street decorations Volos style ...

I must admit, I do like Volos, but it's very cold and windy. I am a man on a mission, will I be here for the holiday or Skiathos for Theofania. ...

Later update:

Made it with a dash across town from Volos hospital. Still in one piece despite the wind rocking a very full Proteus ferry. Very bumpy in the open water between the mainland, and the shelter from the strong Northerly winds. Quite a few taking advantage of the 'comfort bags' handed out by the crew.

Most of Skiathos on the boat all relaying news from the island. Not all of it good.
Spray from the bows, washing the windows, and obscuring the wintry showers outside. Managed to glimpse the sun setting over the clouds and mainland.

The house is cold, it feels unloved. The woodburner is doing its job but consuming logs at quite a rate.

Tea and biscuits, and heat. Snow expected again tomorrow as more bad weather rolls in to chill us. Windy again rattling the roof.

Goodnight from the rock ...

Friday, 2 January 2015

Sad news ...

RIP Sean Dixon who passed away yesterday ...

Sincere condolences to Jacqui, Carly & Jade, from Skiathos friends near and far, at this sad time ...

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Kαλη χρονιά ...

Happy New Year ...

Its just another day, but its a fun way to change the numbers.


Many of you will be longing for your return to the island this summer. Your trip just a few months away, Some of you will share a desire to live there too.

This morning please spare a thought, for friends back on the rock ...

The bad weather of the last few days, is taking its toll on the islanders. Heavy snow, has been followed by strong winds, and freezing rain. The ferries have not been able to sail, due to the strong winds.

Photo - Darrel Woods
Power supplies are being interrupted, wood supplies are being swiftly used up, as they try to keep warm. Not the start to the year, that many will have planned ...

Later news:
Volitaki reports the flying cat from Volos was due to depart at 16:00hrs, it was delayed until 18:00hrs. It is not expected to sail before 20:00hrs due to the strong winds ...