Thursday, 28 July 2016

Naturewatch

Trawling through the photo archive of late, I began to see just how many photos of wildlife (not all of them very good, admittedly) I've now got accumulating on the HD. So, I thought I'd shove just a few of them in a post, along with a brief caption to accompany them.

Here goes then (Usual reminder: Don't forget you can view the photos larger by clicking on them)...

This is a female black redstart. As with most bird species, the males are usually more colourful. Black redstart males have a black face and a more brightly red-coloured tail. When the weather is dry they go to the nozzles on the watering system in their search for water.

Same bird as the picture above. They're about robin-sized (The European robin that is, not the American one, which is more like a blackbird size-wise). They behave very much like robins too, bobbing their head down while their tail goes up and visa versa. In fact, when we first encountered them here, I thought that they were a southern European robin, but they aren't.

There she is again, can you see her on the truncated palm frond?

Ditto

This is a sad photograph, but serves to show anyone who may have their doubts that we have a thriving red fox population on the island. This one had been struck by a vehicle during the night and was left on the side of the road. Such a handsome fellow too. TBH, I don't know whether it's a male or a female. I was just hoping when I saw this that there wasn't a clutch of cubs awaiting to be fed in some nearby den.

We frequently get birds of prey sitting on the telephone posts down our valley. In winter time we're sure which birds we are seeing because they have their circuits and habits and often sit on the same post on a daily basis, scanning for potential prey. I'm fairly sure that this one's a buzzard. We do get golden eagles and a whole host of hawks and falcons. I can never tell the difference between most of these, but buzzards are among the easier ones to ID. Even so, we have several types of buzzard too. Where's Bill Oddie when you need him, eh?

You may have to study this shot, but you'll spot the cicada, sitting in our olive tree just the other day. Cicadas, as I'm sure you'll know, can be a devil of a job to spot, because they have an uncanny ability to stop making their rasping sound whenever a human gets within a few metres of them. Walk on past and when you're far enough away they'll start up again. This one I managed to catch unawares. They're as big as your thumb and totally harmless. What fascinates me about them is the fact they they have a built-in temperature gauge. They only start their "rasping" when the temperature reaches 28ºC (about 82ºF). We always know when summer has arrived because there will be a day, usually in June, when the daytime temperature reaches 28 and all of a sudden you notice that the cicadas have started up. Sometimes their cacophony can be deafening. In the evenings they all stop in unison if the temperature drops below 28 again. Clever little blighters they are, eh?

During my Bay-to-Bay excursion one day last summer, we were cruising along Kalathos Bay when this mother dolphin with her calf came to keep us company. You always stand a better chance of dolphins putting in an appearance if the sea is, as the Greeks say "san lathi", which means "like [olive] oil". Of course, we northern Europeans would say "like glass".

OK, so not actually wildlife, but this little baby goat was only hours old when we walked past last February. Mum was keeping a beady protective eye as we passed.

Ditto.

And, finally. Full marks to the staff at the Rodos Princess Hotel, just along the road from our place. We always take a cheeky shortcut through the hotel when walking home from a dip at the beach. This swallows' nest is situated half-way up a stairwell, on the wall of the corner landing, and the staff I'm glad to say didn't knock it off, but let the parents build it and, as I type this, rear two broods so far this summer. Anyone who's had swallows nesting on their property will know the mess that can accumulate on the floor beneath the nest. The staff at the hotel have been diligently cleaning that up and keeping the area spick and span, whilst mercifully allowing these most beautiful of visitors to do what comes naturally. The parents have to fly out from the stairwell and along a short section of corridor before they reach the open air, so they regularly fly very close to the human guests at the hotel.

We're fairly sure that this was the last of the young to fledge. They look very much like adults before they finally flee the nest. When we passed a couple of days ago the staff had still left the nest to remain. The parents are very likely to rear another brood yet before they fly back to Africa for the winter.

So, there you are folks. My attempt at a little nature-watch. I was hoping to meet Kate Humble, but she hasn't put in an appearance. Drat.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Figs, Foreigners and an Unnecessary Flow (but not necessarily in that order)

It's been a nice couple of days. Maybe excepting the fact that I keep thinking it's Saturday today when it's actually Monday. Her indoors never works Mondays, but this week she's had to. So I suppose I ought to rephrase that. She doesn't work Mondays as a rule. You've got to be so careful how you word things these days.

So today's Monday and I've been pondering over yesterday's excursion whilst also out picking figs in the garden. They're ripening early this year. I can only put that down to the lack of rain last winter. 

On that subject, one of the local newspapers [The Rodiaki] has posted a photograph of the reservoir near Laerma and suggested we're reaching a dangerously low level. The word is going out for people to conserve water where they can, since last winter was exceptionally devoid of rainfall. Of course, it would help if local women washing down their terraces and courtyards would at least have a nozzle or gun on their hosepipes. I've commented many times about how much water is wasted in this way. Gallons (sorry, litres!) could be saved simply by correcting this situation. Even now, if you drive into Pefkos early in the morning from the Eclipse Bar end, there is always a huge wash of water flowing across the road just past the Terpsis Restaurant. I'm not going to get specific, but someone in that area washes down their floor (and it must be a large floor) with a flowing hose and a brush every single morning, sending a huge amount of precious water flowing all across the road. It's a complete waste and is sadly repeated everywhere you go. Someone please post a photo of a mop and bucket on every Greek Facebook page, together with the words - Shock!! [Or in Greek, SOK!! They can't say their "sh's" the Greeks, see] This will work just as well as an uncontrolled hosepipe!!...





But I didn't begin this post with a view to having a gripe again. No, I was thinking nice thoughts about my guests on the boat excursion yesterday. I had a larger than usual number of British, which was nice, a smaller than usual number of Polish, which was odd, and for a change the largest language group was the Germans, who - thankfully - continue to display their love for Greece despite what the politicians get up to.

What I was particularly pondering though, was the one single bloke from the Czech Republic who came with me. He was staying at the Illysion Hotel near Pefkos and was the first guest from his country I'd had with me in quite a while. He was probably in his sixties, with greying hair and some salt and pepper whiskers, plus a straw fedora. He wore a predominantly yellow flowery shirt over his portly torso and exhibited an anxiety over the language difficulties right from the "off". As soon as we arrived at his hotel in the coach he was gesticulating at me with a pen and a piece of paper to write down a phone number for him. Which number he wanted I hadn't the faintest idea. Apart from "hello", "Goodbye" and a few numbers, he had no English at all and I, much to your surprise - not, have no Czech.

So I simply wrote down my mobile number at it seemed to satisfy him. At each stage as we went from coach to quayside to boat he was trying to ask me stuff, without much success. As we stood on the quay I did manage to get that he was wondering what time we'd be back at St. Paul's Bay and was able to show him with my watch the answer to that one. I had begun to understand though, that he wasn't being aggressive or belligerent, he was merely anxious and wouldn't you have been. He was travelling alone and the only person among almost 50 others who spoke his language.

As the morning progressed he could be seen at various locations around the boat, snapping photos with his rather expensive-looking SLR and now and again he'd approach me to ask something, usually with a lot of angst on his face and lots of hand gestures. I managed to deduce usually what he wanted, which was often simply a beer. We went ashore for lunch at Stegna and, owing to my A4 clock-face sign, he at least found it easy to see what time we'd be leaving. When we take lunch at Grigori's Restaurant at Stegna I usually sit with a couple of other reps from both my company and one or two others. These are on the boats that come down from Mandraki and this will be their furthest point south on their day's programme, whereas we, of course, come up from Lindos in the South. On Sunday there was a female rep whom I didn't know, but she was glad to meet me because she was with the company that brings guests here from the Czech Republic and knew about my lone Czech gentleman.

"You have one of my guests on your boat, John. A Mr. Dobrovolski. Is he OK? How are you managing with the language?" she asked me. I assured her that we were managing OK, but it would be good while we were all here at Stegna if she could seek him out and check that he was doing OK. It would be an opportunity to communicate through her as an interpreter if there were any issues. I didn't see either her or Mr. Dobrovolski until it came time to leave, but there she was waiting for me on the beach and she told me that she'd chatted with him and that he was very happy. Phew! I thanked her and with the launch we shuttled our guests back out to our boat and off we set again.

When we got back to St. Paul's Bay at around 4.00pm, my genial Czech gentleman got me to snap a couple of shots of him with that fabulous view behind him and we all climbed aboard the coach. When we reached his hotel and it was time for him to leave the coach and say goodbye he did what one or two of my Russian guests have done in the past, he gave me a genuinely warm bearhug and, even though much of what he said as he crossed the road waving goodbye to me I didn't understand, I certainly caught the spirit of it. He was showing an appreciative gratitude for what little help I'd been to him all day, but was evidently going back to his hotel a happy man.

Why did I share this tale with you? because little experiences like this do wonders for one's belief in the general brotherhood of all humans, in the fact that we are all the same species, despite cultural or linguistic barriers. It leaves me with the abiding feeling that people are, by and large, good. With all that's happening in this world at the moment, little times like this work wonders to redress the balance.


And finally...



Every summer we are astounded at the way our fig tree produces fruit. This photo, taken a couple of days ago, shows just how many figs we pick on a daily basis for several weeks, starting usually in late July. As I mentioned at the top of this post, they're ripening early this year.

I'd recommend anyone to plant a fig tree. There are of course many varieties, so it's worth taking some advice from the garden centre staff, but in our experience they're so trouble-free that they knock oranges, mandarins and soft fruits like peaches and apricots into a cocked hat. Citrus fruit trees, at least our citrus fruit trees, have been in the ground for a decade and still often don't produce well. Of course I "lime" the trunks and hang little bottles of some sweet liquid in them to lure pests away from the fruit, but only with a limited degree of success. Plus, they need watering.

Fig trees, once established never need to be watered. We haven't watered ours for several years, they obviously send their roots very deep. What's great about them is they always produce and year-on-year the crop gets bigger. Plus there don't appear to be any pests that attack them or spoil the fruit. The fruit by and large doesn't drop off and have you ever eaten a fig straight from the tree? Forget those dried things you get in the UK at Christmas, or those abominations that they call "fig rolls" that come in packets, a fresh fig picked seconds before you eat it is one of life's greatest pleasures. 

I shall be taking a load with me next Sunday to offer to my guests on board the Madelena during our Bay to Bay excursion, as I've now done for a number of years. It's great seeing the reaction of people who've never tried them fresh before. Even better seeing the look of delight on the faces of those brave enough to try one.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Smell the Roses, ...er, Jasmine.

I probably speak for a great many people when I say that those who've chosen to settle here in Greece have done so out of a love for the country, pure and simple. Of course, any situation involving true love involves seeing the other person, animal, object or - in this case country - in a realistic light. True love is not blind, it is not infatuation or a silly whim that passes. True love is in it for the duration, warts and all.

Anyone who's ever been to Greece, perhaps especially the islands, will have observed that the country is abundantly blessed in the areas of archeaology, scenery, culture, cuisine, light, hospitality and no doubt a few more. What other country in the world has such a rich variety of islands, all with their own distinct characteristics, idiosyncrasies, architecture, flora and fauna, beaches even?

Then there's the people. Cynics who spout their opinions about a desire to get ahold of your cash being the primary motive behind the hospitality that's shown to visitors is wholly and entirely wrong. their opinion is possibly coloured by what they found in other parts of the planet. I have had so many experiences in the forty-plus years that I've been coming here, including the past almost eleven years of living here, that demonstrate that the common folk ooze kindness and generosity and often show this in situations where they already know that there will be no financial gain from their kindness. One rather lovely way that this was illustrated was in a TV commercial from some time last year. It showed a man, a tourist, walking in a rural area coming across some orange trees on which were hanging some ripe, juicy oranges. They were within easy reach of the road and so the man gave in to temptation and picked himself one.

As he held the newly 'stolen' fruit to his nose to smell it's divine aroma, he became aware of a burly-looking man gazing at him from deeper within the orange grove. The man emerged, a stern look on his face and held out his hand, as if to say, "That's mine. Give it back please." The tourist, feeling slightly embarrassed and also apprehensive, dropped the orange into the other man's palm, at which the man started off along the lane, beckoning the "felon" with a finger to follow him.

Of course, as they walked, one man slightly ahead of the other, the hapless 'thief" was evidently worrying about what was going to happen. Was this man leading him to the local Police to report him? Was there some other unpleasant outcome awaiting him when they reached their destination? We were soon to find out.

Turning off the road and along a path through an old iron gate the orange farmer looked back to be sure that the tourist was still following him. Within minutes the path opened out into a patio area in front of an old house. On the patio, beneath an ancient pergola bedecked in grapevines was a table and some chairs. Seated at the table were the members of the orange farmer's family, his aged parents, his wife and a couple of children. All arose as one to welcome the worried guest and soon the women were laying a feast before him. The family was about to eat and he was now to be their guest.

Some hours later, satisfied after a sumptuous meal and not a little home-made Retsina, the lone light-fingered tourist was ready to leave and make his way back to his accommodation. He wasn't allowed to leave, however, without first being handed a plastic shopping bag full of fresh oranges from the family's orange groves. Oh, and of course, he had to exchange kisses on both cheeks with each and every one of his hosts, all of which stood as one to wave him off as he left, thoroughly enriched by the whole experience.

OK, so that's to illustrate the pros. True love isn't blind, as I stated above. What about the cons?

Many ex-pats choose to remain here in the face of some really horrendous financial setbacks. These are due however, not to the common or garden Greek folk, but to the ridiculously complicated and cumbersome bureaucratic system that prevails in this country. I would say (and ex-pats who live here, or indeed have lived here in the past, will quickly identify with this) that the majority of folk I know who have bought property here have been shafted, as much by the system as by builders who weren't really builders. 

Here's an all-too-common scenario. You contact someone in Greece who you think is a builder and you discuss plans for your new dream home on a Greek island. You agree a price for the house, assuming that this price includes the property being ready to be lived in once completed. Only after you're in up to your neck do you discover that the tiles for the kitchen, bathroom, outside courtyard etc. are extra. You are told that doors and windows weren't included in the original price. Who do you complain to? Only someone who's going to tell you that you went into this with your eyes open. You only have yourselves to blame.

So, after you smart at having to fork out 5k more than you bargained for you tell yourselves that it was probably a misunderstanding and now you can commence living your dream. Why, though, is your electricity supply coming by a precariously hanging cable from a meter on a concrete post outside the house next-door? How come your property doesn't have its own meter? Two or three years and a lot more cash later, you gaze at your very own electricity meter on its very own concrete post at the end of your garden and once more resign yourself to the extra expense that's severely dented your retirement nest-egg and decide that things could have been worse and now you can get on with enjoying life in the sun.

Maybe a couple more years pass before there's a knock on the door. You open it to find a smartly dressed man standing there with some kind of electronic gadget in his hand, along with a clipboard under his arm and a camera around his neck. This man is a civil engineer working for the local authority and he's come to check if your property is legal. By this he means that its footprint is as the architect's original drawings showed, that your pool was shown in the original plans as a swimming pool and not simply as a water cistern. He's come to see if your house is a link-house or if it's detached, since the original planning permission was granted to the builder for a row of four linked properties. You very soon understand that there could be trouble brewing, since your house is one of three detached properties and not one of a row of four that are linked together. 

Your detached garage, according to this 'helpful' visitor, isn't on the plans at all. Where your kitchen is now, there should have been an integral 'built-under' garage. Your kitchen should have been where your entrance hall is. How amazing, your property is two metres longer in both directions than it ought to be. Your visitor adopts a grave face and informs you that you don't own the freehold to your property's boundary, you in fact are a joint owner of the three plots, that ought to have been four, with the other folk who bought the other two houses. If you ever decide to sell, you'll need the agreement (in writing of course) of the other two joint owners of the land.

Now the visitor wants to measure upstairs. You gingerly follow him up there and watch as he goes out on to the balcony of the master bedroom, measures and starts "tch-ing". Apparently the balcony is too small. Should be a metre larger and the bedroom a metre smaller inside.

Eventually he's done with his demolition of your confidence and sits down at your kitchen (that should have been garage) table and scribbles figures while inviting you to make him a drink. 

"Right," he begins, trying to sound conciliatory, but not trying very hard, "There will be fines to pay for the illegalities". The footprint of the house is several square metres too large, there is no licence for that swimming pool and the garage oughtn't to be there at all. The balconies aren't the right size and adding it all up he cheerfully informs you that (you really ought to be sitting down for this) you'll be needing to find €9500 in total, in order to have all the discrepancies legalised. There is no recourse. The house is in your name and you are the ones responsible.

Can you imagine that happening in the UK (or any number of other countries for that matter)? That's why we have ombudsmen and there are regulations in place to protect the innocent consumer. The fault lay with the builders, the original civil engineer who signed off all the stages the of build, the bankers, the architect, but not you, the innocent purchaser. 

You want to go after them? Get a lawyer and be prepared to fork out a few more thousand for a case that's liable to drag on for years.

Tell you something else that's crazy. In Greece the government tells you how much money you earn and taxes you accordingly. It makes no difference how much you actually earn or receive through, for example, investments or pensions. No, it doesn't work that way. If you live out here and have bought a car, not even perhaps a house, then you are compelled by law to have an accountant. He or she will tell you that, once you've outlined the value of the property in which you live and declared how much you paid for the car, the government in its infinite wisdom then calculates that you must need X amount annually in order to survive. Forget how much you actually earn, they tell YOU that you must be netting X amount. 

So, for example, if you are receiving €4000 a year for summer season work, but the government says that in your case with your home, car, shopping bill (oh yes, they tell you how much your shopping bill must add up to for a 12 month period) you must need 10,000 to live on, then they'll tax you on the missing €6,000, making the assumption that you must of course be earning it on the black labour market, thus dodging tax.

Forget the fact that you're simply living frugally and managing on a shoestring. Nope, be prepared to be told that you must pay 25% (or whatever the current rate is, it escapes me at the moment) of €6k that you never even saw. Good, eh?

As you can see, the cons can be formidable.

Time to redress the balance again, agreed? I do believe that the majority of house buyers who experienced the nightmare described above were those who bought at the tail end of the "boom" that "busted" in 2008 with the world economic down-turn. Many people out here, who I know personally, bought from locals who weren't actually builders, they were opportunists. There are, I feel it has to be said, many genuine hardworking building companies who do a good job and build according to the architect's drawings and whose customers end up with what they ordered, their perfect retirement home, along with all the correct paperwork. The trouble was, from around 2000 to 2008 a lot of buyers didn't have a clue who belonged that this category and who to the former. Why indeed should they have? No one from for example, the UK, would have dreamed that such sharp practice could be allowed to go on. 

And the bureaucracy? As I've often said in my ramblings on this blog, it goes with the territory. The Greek system has evolved the way it has over decades and lumbers on under its own momentum. Those of us who see the positives, many of which I talked about at the top of this post, just grin and bear it, as indeed do the Greeks themselves. We British think we are the world's greatest "queuers", but those of us who think that way have never had to queue up at the IKA office during November, or the Tax office in late December when it's "car tax time". Maybe too at the DEH [electricity company] office when they need to pay their electricity bill. I pay ours on-line but the very idea of doing this is still to many Greeks like the video player used to be to us adults in the 1980's when a four-year old could operate this totally newfangled invention that it didn't do one any good to trust. 

You wake up in the morning on July days when you don't have so much to do and you walk outside at 6.30am, where there's a breeze blowing through the oleander or the palms at a very acceptable 28ºC and you wander the garden studying the impossibly wonderful hibiscus flowers, the slowly swelling green jewels that are developing on the olive trees carrying the promise of freshly milled extra virgin oil come November, the figs that are now fast beginning to turn that gorgeous aubergine purple and then you gaze down the valley at the immense, turquoise ocean, where there are a few sailing craft already out there catching the breeze as they set off early for their next island adventure and you say to yourself, "This is what it's really all about. Nothing else matters when you stop and smell the jasmine."

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

In the Meantime

There's a fairly long post under construction, but I'm still editing and adding to it. 
For now though, here are a few recent photos...

On board the Triton during a recent Bay-to-Bay excursion

Ditto

This couple were the subject of a recent TV documentary. They've been married almost 60 years and still farm together in a remote rural area. They were full of humour and their close relationship shone through in the conversation. heartwarming.


Here the wife is tending their substantial herd of goats. She makes her own cheese, cooks from vegetables and "horta" that they grow in their own soil and of course they also produce their own olive oil.

Aboard the Triton anchored off Tsambika Beach.

Returning to the Triton after lunch at Stegna Beach (Grigori's Taverna)
Hopefully the new post will appear within the next few days. It will be an opus!

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Village Hospitality

You can say what you like about the Greeks, and many would, but despite all the trash that's said about their "industrial" level of tax evasion, their willingness to sell their own mother for a few Euros and their wiliness in all things financial, you can't fault their culture of hospitality.

Firstly, those stereotypes I refer to above are wildly exaggerated anyway. In fact, when I find myself talking to tourists or even ex-pats over here who start on about Greek tax evasion and craftiness, even sharp practice in business, I usually refer them back to the stock-in-trade of daytime TV in the UK these days.

I shall proceed to illustrate. On a weekday morning, you'll see programmes like Ripoff Britain, Crimewatch Roadshow, Don't Get Done Get Dom, Fake Britain, Cowbow Builders, Saints and Scroungers and more. Evening viewing often features shows like Watchdog, where they hunt down charlatans who rip off the unsuspecting public. Now, I'm not knocking the UK (too risky, the backlash is usually very defensive!) but I'm just making a simple observation. Greece is not unique. In fact a recent UK radio documentary on BBC Radio 4, which was dedicated to uncovering the truth behind the rhetoric, concluded that when you compare wages and working conditions, Greeks work far harder and for much longer hours than most of the rest of Europe. In my experience of not only having had Greek relatives for 40 years and more, but also having lived on Rhodes for almost 11 years, I reckon they got it about right.

What the critics (who so often go off half-cocked without a full grasp of the facts) forget is that the vast majority of Greeks are working in PAYE jobs and thus not in a position to sneak income past the taxman. Their wages and pensions have been slashed in recent years, those that do run businesses have seen the taxes hiked to breaking point and yet still most common or garden Greeks exhibit a stoicism that is admirable.

Which brings me to the real point of this post. Me and the better half frequently find ourselves walking the streets and alleys of the local villages, many of which are up in the mountains, on a summer's evening when the temperatures are slightly more bearable and the breeze in those places helps one cope. Recently we were up in the tiny and 75% deserted village of Mesanagros and, as we wandered, we passed a small orchard where a sun-grizzled man was busy picking some small ruby-red fruit from a tree. He was not more than ten feet from us and so we hailed him with a polite "kalispera sas". He replied with a smile and thus we exchanged a few pleasantries. As usual he asked us all about our background, where we lived, whether we worked and what we did for work once we told him that we did, if we had children, how often we cleaned our teeth (well, I lied about that one, but you get the general idea).

I asked him what the fruit was that he was harvesting, because to us it looked like red grapes, but it couldn't be because it was growing on a regular, green-leaved tree. Instantly he tossed us some to try and told us that they were Bourne'les, for which there is no English equivalent, but it refers to a particular species of small plum. Once we got a hold of them they were indeed like Victoria plums in miniature, the same size as your average red grape in fact. They were deliciously sweet and tart at the same time and had a pit inside exactly as do their larger relatives. As soon as we declared that we liked them he picked a big handful, walked over to the fence and filled our hands with them as a gift.

A little later we were drifting down a narrow back alley when we passed an open door, within which we could see a senior couple lounging on a bed watching the news on an old TV, one of those with a huge pregnant back to it and a v-shaped antenna on the top. It's not unusual to see a bed in the same room as the kitchen in an old Greek village house. They hailed us with a "Kalos tous" and we returned the greeting. Within minutes we found ourselves seated at their modest kitchen table, which was laden with courgettes, aubergines, onions and tomatoes, all of which of course came from their own garden. They told us their woes, largely blaming the financial crisis (justifiably) for most of them. They had two grown-up children living far away in Rhodes town. 

"There's no work to speak of down here," they told us. "Our children have to go to town to survive." The fact that they have a house here in the village is about as useful as a bubble on the breeze, when there's no way to earn a livelihood while living in it. Of course, there is now beginning a gradual movement of many younger Greek families back to the land as a result of the current situation. In fact on the TV just recently there was a family of husband, wife and two small children who were now farming aloe vera plants and beginning to turn a healthy profit at it too. The kids, who were about 4 and 6 respectively, were bursting with enthusiasm and happiness at their new lifestyle. Every cloud, eh?

Our hosts insisted that we drink a glass of fresh fruit juice and eat something. The old wife was soon at the kitchen sink and quickly placed a plate of chopped honeydew melon before us, with a couple of forks and some paper serviettes. This experience is by no means rare. When we eventually left they insisted that we take with us some of their produce too.

I had occasion to be out alone just last evening and so my wife went to the beach for a swim. On her way back she had about two kilometres of dusty lane to walk and that takes her past the "allotment" of our old friend Agapitos, who is probably in his mid seventies and lives in Asklipio village, four kilometres up the mountain from us. As she passed she noted that his pickup was parked on the lane, indicating that he was inside the fence among his olive trees, chicken run and vegetable patch and so she called out a "kalispera" in case he could see or hear her from within. Indeed he could and he returned the greeting, my wife just noticing a rustling among the dense undergrowth about fifty meters in from the gate in the fence.

She carried on walking, but by the time she'd made it to the far end of our fence, about fifty meters from our front gate, Agapitos had approached in the truck and drawn up beside her. She expected him to trundle past with a peep of the horn and a wave from the driver's window, but no, he drew to a halt with a squeal from his old brakes.

"Here, Kyria Maria," he said, proffering some eggs that his hens had only just laid. She told me when I got home that he fairly beamed with delight to be able to share his abundance with his neighbour. We were down to one egg in the fridge too. Timely, or what?

The real Greece is still alive and well if you go looking for it. Here are a few links to sites about the village of Mesanagros...




And. here are a few recent photos from around the island. Not related to the story above, just things I've snapped as they took my fancy. Hope you like them...

Another delicious lunch at the Odyssey Restaurant in the Old Town. Aubergine Saganaki with Greek Salad (Odyssey style)

View from Grigoris taverna, Stegna, during a recent Bay to Bay excursion.

The local bus passes us during our lazy cruise.

Onboard the Triton, with Captain Mihalis at the wheel.

Ditto.

Umm, OK, so yes, another lunch at the Odyssey! I ordered fried potatoes for a change and they come like this - fab-you-lus. Plus my favourite - Halloumi Salad, with more squeeky cheese than you'll get anywhere else! Oh, and a beer for medicinal purposes you understand.

Anyone who knows Rhodes will know where this is.

Ditto.


Minutes away from Mandraki, the most oft-used entrance to the Old Town.

Ditto.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Another Sigh of Relief


Tuesday night broke a three year musical fast for me. I had worked at the last "Rhodes Rock" festival that was held here in Lindos in June 2013, after which it upped sticks and went to Spain. There was a "Lindos Music Week" the following year but, perhaps rather unfairly, I didn't investigate it, thinking it a probable disappointment after the dizzy heights that the Rhodes Rock extravaganza had reached before it left us all bereft.

In 2014 the first Lindos Music week was scheduled, but I'd been given the impression by my former employers at RR that the carnival may well once again be putting in an appearance and so was left a bit confused. Probably I wasn't alone there.

In 2015, Lindos Music Week showed no signs of going away and "Rhodes Rock" scant signs of returning so I began sitting up and taking notice of what LMW had planned. OK, so there wasn't going to be a venue on quite the size of the stage at the far end of St. Paul's Bay that RR used to use, plus there would be no Floyd band playing in front of the ancient amphitheatre in Lindos village, but a respectable number of bands seemed to be lined up and there was a Floyd band among them. The only problem I had last year was the fact that I was working on a Greek Night on the same date as the Floyd band and thus had to miss it (sulked for weeks).

This year, having seen the advertising and hard evidence that this new event was building year-on-year, I decided that I would give it a go and attend at least one of the gigs. The band "Floyd in the Flesh" were playing the Amphitheatre Club, Lindos, supported by Dizzy Lizzy and Bigfoot

For starters, I'd never set foot (not even a big foot) inside the Amphitheatre before and so was curious. Let's face it, the place is usually packed to the gills in the small hours with the young and the beautiful (and, no doubt nowadays, the tattooed), dancing I'm sure to the latest tunes that grace the young folks' pop charts. I'd be rather out of place, not to mention driven mental by the sounds anyway. I'm an old hippy and the idea of DJ thingabmybob and snazzy chazzy wrapping (for wrapping read: shouting aggressively) away over a persistent thumping beat and synthesised backing isn't really my glass of ouzo.

This time though, the stage was set for some decent rock music, culminating in the music that I grew up to, that of the awesome Pink Floyd. Let's face it, there have been so many great bands and artists, yet what band still captures the hearts and ears of every upcoming generation of serious music fans more than the Floyd? Anyway, I was going and, just for a change the better half consented to come along too. That, my friends, was a real result.

We hadn't been inside the venue for more than a few minutes before I decided that it was the best venue on Rhodes for a rock concert. Open, of course, to the night air and twinkling stars, the brightly illuminated Lindos Acropolis gracing the view from the bar terrace and a full moon rising as the 2016 summer solstice night wrapped itself around us, this place truly is perfect for an intimate evening of musical nostalgia. It may not hold quite as many people as the square in front of the old Amphitheatre down in the village, but it's a close-run thing. The wall (get it? I amaze myself sometimes) one sees from the outside is deceptive. The place is much bigger inside than I'd expected. Plus, there's a hard floor everywhere, no dust, no ants' nests (I stood on one once at Rhodes Rock, didn't realise until half my lower leg was crawling with the little wotsits).

We arrived as Dizzy Lizzy were just getting into their stride. The fella who plays Philip Lynott is perfect. If you didn't know he'd left us, you'd swear this was him...






Incidentally, to see all the photos I took at the gig, including those of Floyd in the Flesh, click here.
Thin Lizzy were one of those bands about which one so often thinks, "Well, they didn't do all that many songs I'd recognise, did they?" Turns out they sure did. I can't claim to have ever been a dedicated fan, but I might just invest in an album or two after this. Dizzy Lizzy's score in my humble book of tribute band excellence? Ten out of ten, no hesitation.

After the stage was re-set it was time for Floyd in the Flesh. These guys will forgive me if I'm wrong, but they're still quite new at being a Pink Floyd tribute band. First and foremost, they are all excellent musicians. I, speaking as a humble bassplayer of old, plus having played flute in my school orchestra and also plucked a mandolin now and again, can lay claim to being able to discern such things (just establishing my credentials here folks, ta) and you may take my word for that.

They started off just slightly shakily, the vocalist and bassplayer Daniel Heenan on more than one occasion actually apologising for his slightly (in his view) off-tone vocals, putting it down to the climate change he'd experienced on being out here not only in June, but in June during a heatwave for us! TBH I'd have not mentioned it Dan, I thought it was just a case of settling in, which I reckon it probably was because you got better with every number.

Apart from some niggles with guitarist Andy Pennington's amp now and again, which meant we didn't get the benefit of some of his excellent solo work, they nailed it. They darn well nailed it. According to my understanding the female vocalist (who'll forgive me for not remembering her name) didn't have as much rehearsal time as she may have liked, but boy did she send shivers through the audience when she did the extremely intimidating (for her perhaps) Great Gig in the Sky. My hair was on end, as I suspect was that of most of those in the audience who still had any. That piece takes on an even greater poignancy since its composer Richard Wright has sadly been taken from us by the big C.

Highlights for me? Undoubtedly the fact that they tackled the 25 minute long Echoes, which is my favourite Floyd piece ever. The twin soloists worked a dream and on several tracks took turns at being David Gilmour, but during the massive solo, which just builds and builds into the crescendo at the end of Comfortably Numb, my eyes were growing moist. Each guitarist took a section of the solo while the other reverted to the chord sequence which we all know and love, the result being for me one of the best end sections of that song I've ever heard. And I have to say, I've heard a few, including the actual Pink Floyd themselves.

A few photos of FITF...


Lindos and the Acropolis, across the bay from the venue.


The Great Gig in the Sky. Definite tingle factor moment.

Bassplayer and vocalist Dan Heenan. He'll forgive me for saying that he looks like he belongs in Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention! Damn fine player though and made a pretty good fist of both Waters' and Gilmour's voices.

One of the guitarists, Andy Pennington, whose appearance put me in mind of the great Johnny Winter now and then. I'm a sucker for comparing people. It's an affliction I have to live with.



As mentioned above too, all the photos are here.
In conclusion, what can I say. I am able to heave a massive sigh of relief that rock music is once again not only alive, but in strapping health here in Lindos. If you are in any way tempted, are perhaps slightly miffed that you missed this, then fret not. The Lindos Rock 2017 event is already well along in its planning and you may like to check out the links below:

Rockers Reunited Facebook page
Rockers Reunited website (Lindos Rock 2017 page)
Lindos Rock 2016 Facebook page
Lindos Rock 2017 Facebook page

Ageing hippies everywhere, who love Greece and even more so Lindos on Rhodes, you may now officially rejoice that every June you can once again combine a holiday in one of the most beautiful and evocative places in the Med with a good dose of great music.

It's a pretty safe bet I'll see some of you here next June, right?

PS - I neglected to mention that if you reside in the UK, you'll be able to see Floyd in the Flesh next year, as they're setting up a string of UK dates. Go see them.

Friday, 17 June 2016

A Little Slice of Cyprus

The largest village on Rhodes, outside of the urban sprawl of Rhodes Town and Ixia/Trianda Bay, is Arhangelos. It has a population of around 5,000, but if you factor in the villages of Massari, Haraki and Malona, which come under its jurisdictional oversight, you can increase that to 7,000.

If you've lived on Rhodes for long and speak Greek (even if you don't, probably) you soon come to identify the Arhangelos accent. They have a very distinctive way of extending the last syllable of a word that quickly reveals that the person speaking is an Arhangelitis.

Regional accents are of course common in every language group on the planet. I may not be an American, but I can recognise the Texas 'drawl' or the NY 'Yankee' accent instantly. In the UK the eagle-eared listener can very quickly discern if the person they are hearing speak is from the West Country, the far South West (Cornwall, Devon), Norfolk, the North West (Lancashire, Cumbria) or the North East (Yorkshire, Northumberland). Very often those wishing to put on a Scottish, a Welsh or Irish accent may not realise that they are actually only mimicking a small region of that country. Having lived in South Wales for a quarter of a century, we soon came to discern that there were individual accents for every valley south of the "Heads of the Valleys Road", the A465. People from Sennybridge or Brecon have a much more musical lilt to their accent than do those from Cardiff. During our first few months living in Cardiff we found ourselves wondering why so many 'scousers' were living there. Then we realised that the Cardiff accent sounds more like 'Liverpool' than anything Welsh.

Here on Rhodes you'd be forgiven for thinking that perhaps the 'Rhoditis' accent is island-wide, but you'd be wrong. What I never realised until this very week was that the Arhangelos accent is not merely due to it being a region of the island of Rhodes, but that it actually derives from Cypriot roots.

A recent article in the island's own newspaper, the 'Rodiaki' revealed that the Arhangelites are actually descended from a group of Cypriots who moved to this island a long time ago. The village is distinctive in quite a few ways. They adhere to many old traditions that pay no mind to the modern world, they have their own FM Radio Station, playing modern Greek pop, Laika and Nisiotika music at various times of the day. Nisiotika [islands] music is characterised by the use of the violin, the lyre, the Greek versions of those of course, plus a clarinet-like woodwind instrument and something that resembles a zither. They don't use the bouzouki in island music, that's primarily from the Rebetiko dens of Athens and Thessalonika.

Thus, the accent from Arhangelos is descended from the Cypriot way of speaking, which still pervades the way the villagers talk today. Those who have studied such things think that the similarities between the Arhangelian accent and that of Paphos in western Cyprus indicate that a few centuries ago it was a group of Paphians who settled in this part of Rhodes in an attempt to escape the Ottomans. There are even local words that are common only to the two locations, thus lending weight to the theory. If you can read the link to the Rodiaki Newspaper's web site that I placed further up, you'll see there toward the bottom an extensive list of words that are peculiar to the two places.

Arhangelos isn't the only place on Rhodes that has a community descended from a community that came here from another island. In the 15th century a group of people from Crete (Kriti) came to Rhodes in an attempt to escape the Turks on their own island and set up the community now known as Kritinia (literally, 'New Crete'). 

So, there you are folks, a little history lesson that will perhaps encourage you to check out the places mentioned above some time. I'll tell you one thing, since Arhangelos isn't on the main tourist trail (although it is being discovered gradually with each passing season), the prices for drinks and food there go easier on your pocket than in other parts of the island where tourism is evidently the main source of income.