Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Nooks and Crannies

Largely a photo-based post this time. I've been wandering around the old Town and Mandraki area both during the day and in the evening this past week while doing my first few excursions of the season. So I thought I'd bring you these...


"I'm just popping across the road darling..."

You may recall I mentioned this before a while back - these arches are earthquake measures. They work! 500 years proves it.

"Yea, so anyway, this fella in a baseball cap was driving it. He asked me where the golf course was. I told him, I said "You're way off mate. You need to be in Afandou..."

Hmph. Still no tourists to pet me yet then...

All you need now is a gin and tonic.

Spiros, I think you could have squeezed a little more on to that board...

Room with a view. Just not much of one that's all.

Handy storage space for kitchen cleaning utensils.

Elvis? You in there?

Lights, camera, action?



Just in case passers-by forget which country we're in.

Left here...

The Mandraki windmills at dusk.

Scootersville.


Well I hope you liked those folks. If Avril and John are reading this, I thoroughly enjoyed your company last night by the way. Would have probably liked a bit more shop talk with John, but then, probably better as it was, or Avril would have gone off in a huff (Only joking Avril!!).

Avril and John, for the rest of you out there in web-land, were a couple on my excursion to Rhodes last evening. John was in the same trade as me in his former life, graphic design. Oh, and Vicki and Keith - guess what, they're from near Norwich!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Agatha Christie Lives! (Only she's now a bloke and she's Greek...)

Avid readers will all know about the great Agatha Christie, of course. In most of her books someone (or several someones!) meets a grizzly end and the reader is led a merry, yet absorbing dance while the whole thing unfolds, culminating in a great exposĂ© at the end. Gripping stuff.

If you've read all of hers though and wish she'd written more, fear not!! Not only is there a contemporary version of Agatha, but she's a 'he' and the tales he writes take place in our beloved Greece.

Don't let it put you off coming here for your holidays though. Despite what you may read (it is fiction, after all) you really are relatively much safer on a Greek island than you are back home (wait a minute? What was that noise?).

Cue my latest interview "coup", because I've only gone and got Luke Christodoulou for you haven't I!



Now, even if some of his stories put you off your breakfast, I'm quite sure that the interview won't, in fact it's a fascinating insight into what makes the man tick. You carry on reading this while I go wipe the blood off this knife...

Where do you live?
I live in Limassol, a cosmopolitan town on the picturesque island of Cyprus.

What do you write about?
I write murder/mysteries set upon the majestic Greek Isles. Each book is a stand alone, yet feature the same investigating duo and a few side characters.

Why Greece?
Heaven on earth! No other way to explain the beauty of this country. [Couldn't put that better myself - ed]

How long does it take you to write a book?
As I do not write full time (I work as an English teacher, too), it takes the whole process from idea to publication a whole year. I form the outline in a month, write for eight, then a couple of months it goes back and forth from me to my editor and, finally, it is ready to be unleashed.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
Everything! The planning of the mystery, the clues, the scenery... the creation of the characters (especially the villain [get some therapy Luke! - Ed])... the search for the right adjective, the perfect verb... all of it. 

What, in your view, is/has been the greatest gift from Greece to the world?
It is here, where man first discovered his true powers. Before ancient Greece, man was just a pawn of the Gods/nature. Greeks showed him how to set his mind free. Philosophy, art, history, democracy, astronomy etc. followed. [Yea, but apart from that, what have the Greeks ever done for us? - Ed 😂]

How do you come up with an idea for a book?
To be honest, I do not know. I have twisted, dark corners in my mind. Leave me alone for a few hours and a murderous plot will be born. Psychotic killers follow. [see my earlier aside! - Ed]

How do you go about writing, that is to say, are you organised, do your research, disciplined, are you a messy sort who gets it done one way or another?
I consider myself disciplined when it comes to writing, yet creativity follows no logic, no program. I will follow my time schedule and my rough outline, but surely will go off tracks.

Which other authors do you read?
The mother of my genre, Agatha Christie. I enjoy the ‘big names’, too, like King, Patterson, La Plante. I will try and read anything if the blurb draws me in. Also, as a father and a teacher, I read a lot of children’s books. Julia Donaldson. Dr Seuss and Eric Carle are my favourites.

What's your preferred kind of music? 
It’s hard to explain what makes us enjoy a certain song and not another. It is almost as if it is not me making the choice. I could hear a song and fall in love with it or immediately change the station/press next. I listen to a variety of genres. Pop, dance, rock, RnB cover most of my car’s play list.

Do you like Greek music and if so, which kind?
It is not my top choice of music, though I have lots of songs that will have me singing along. I like oldies for the lyrics and anything with a good beat from latest offerings. I listened to a lot of Hadjiyianni when he was at his peak.

Favourite Greek dish?
Every single one! All meats! Seriously though, wine-marinated octopus tops the list!



Wine-marinated octopus is what does it for Luke. Wait, is something moving in there?

Favourite place in Greece and the reason(s)?
So many. I will name two. Parga on the mainland and Santorini for an island. Both stunning and alive. My favourite places to walk around without a care in the world, to soak up the scenery and to enjoy an amazing meal. Also, nothing can beat Parga’s waters or Santorini’s view.


Parga, one of the most beautiful bays in Greece, and it's mainland, not an island. Incidentally, it gets a mention in my second novel (can't let an opportunity like this pass) - A Brief Moment of Sunshine.

What links would you like the readers to explore in connection with your work, including, of course, sites where your work may be purchased?
All my Greek Island Mysteries are available through Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&text=Luke+Christodoulou&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Luke+Christodoulou&sort=relevancerank

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&text=Luke+Christodoulou&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Luke+Christodoulou&sort=relevancerank

Feel free to follow me on FB:
https://www.facebook.com/Greek-Island-Mysteries-712190782134816/?ref=bookmarks

My website for further info:
http://greekislandmysteries.webs.com/

And finally, reading device or real book?
Both, though I admit, lately I have switched nearly completely to ebooks. Cheaper, more environmentally friendly, less space and no guilt when you delete a ‘bad’ book.


Hope you enjoyed that folks. Here are a couple of Luke's covers...



All of Luke's work can of course be checked out on his Amazon Author Page.

• 

There's already another interview in the pipeline. After a few weeks of my regular posts, it'll appear.

Going Out and Coming In (or maybe the other way around)

Saw this on Facebook last night. Some of you might have already seen it, but perhaps didn't understand the Greek, so I thought I'd shove it on the blog because it's sooo real!

It's a conversation, a brief one, where a young girl, still living at home, is going out. She opens the front door and calls out to her mother, who's not in her line of sight, perhaps in the kitchen or something...

"Mum, I'm off out!"

Here are the likely replies in various countries...

USA - "See you!"
UK - "Bye, then!"
France - "Au revoir!"
Spain - "Adios!"

Greece - "What? Where are you going? Who with? Why? Who's taking you? Who's going to be there? When are you coming home? Every day you go out. This house is a hotel! How much money will you waste this time? Aaach! You never have any time for your poor parents! Only going out matters to you. Aach, when I die - then you'll understand!"

Now, if you don't know much about Greeks then you might think that's an exaggeration, But it doesn't stop even when someone gets married. More often than not the newlyweds live above or below one or other set of parents. I have some close friends who even moved islands so that the young daughter-in-law didn't have to undergo this grilling every time she and her husband got in the car. Her pethera [mother-in-law] would lean out of her kitchen window and say the above virtually word for word, perhaps adding:

"What do want to go there for? You won't like it, you'll spend too much, My son won't thank you for taking him to that place. Not his scene. What are you wearing that for? You'll catch your death! Do you really need all that makeup?"  - and more besides.



Now, the above photo was taken when we were staying in Barry, South Wales, last month. What's it doing here? Well, I was showing the holiday snaps on my iPad to a friend, a Greek girl who's never been to the UK. Never been outside of Greece as it happens. She's not, like, a child or anything, she's almost 30 years old and has a couple of small children.

I wanted her to see where we came from, plus to demonstrate the fact that in the UK we do now and then see some sunshine. I found myself saying...

"We walked across that beach, which you can only do when the tide's out. When it's in that harbour wall to the right is sticking out into the sea and boats can sail in and out."

Her expression was one of puzzlement. She looked at the photo, then at me and without a word told me that she didn't quite 'get' what I was on about. After a few seconds she said:

"What? What is a tide?"

I'm being straight up here, honest. I replied:

"Don't tell me you've never heard of the tide? You know, 'high tide' and 'low tide.' The distance between where the sea is when it's out and where it is when it's in, every twelve hours or so. That tide."

"The sea moves?"

"Of course. All that sand you see there is under water every twelve hours or so, when the tide is in. That photo was taken when it was out, which was why we could walk across the harbour entrance."

I could tell that she was that far away from saying, "You're having a laugh, aren't you. How can the sea move?"

I could tell, because that's what she then proceeded to say. It was then that it struck me. She's only ever seen the Mediterranean, she's never seen the Atlantic or any other ocean. Here in her home country, give or take a couple of feet or so, the sea's always in the same place. All I could do was try and give her an explanation of how the moon affects the sea levels and why it doesn't happen in the Med. Straights of Gibraltar and all that stuff.

I dunno what they learn in Geography, or even physics, in Greek schools. Maybe she just didn't pay attention, too busy thinking up replies to her mother's rants when she went out I suspect. But the old expression that my mum used to say sprang to mind...

"There's nowt sah queer as folk."

My mum wasn't Yorkshire, but her father, my grandfather, was. He was probably 'on Ilkley Moor bar tat' as often as not, thah naws.

Google it.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Another Quickie

This one's a quickie. Things are waking up tourism-wise and I start work on my excursions this coming week. Not a lot of time at the mo', plus I'm preparing the next author interview with Luke Christodoulou. 

So this one's just a few recent photos...

Sun beds and umbrellas at the ready at the Rodos Maris Hotel. At least they're still leaving our quiet little corner of beach (bottom right) alone, phew!

One of our favourite walks off-season is to stand on that headland and watch the vast sea. This was just last week though.

One of the neighbours while I was gardening in Pilona last week (see this post)

...and another.

Fancy a stay at the Paraktio Beach Apartments near us?

St. Paul's Bay, Lindos, looks all right doesn't it.

As I mentioned above, the next author interview is with Luke Christodoulou and it ought to be getting posted fairly soon now.

See you soon!

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Megaphone Marketing

I was over in Pilona yesterday, doing some of my regular gardening for a friend there who hasn't got the manpower to keep her garden in the manner to which she'd like. There I was attacking the weeds, that were defiantly thrusting their way up through the gravel, with my trusty old screwdriver, glove on the right hand to help prevent, or at least delay, the inevitable blister that usually forms in the palm of my hand, when a familiar sound began wafting across the olive grove across the lane from the main part of the village a little way up the gently sloping hillside. Even the two donkeys grazing across the lane from me under the shade of an old olive tree perked up their ears.

A few hundred metres away a megaphone was garbling away in Greek. Someone was slowly trawling the narrow village lanes peddling their wares, in this case patio furniture. If you've ever been in a Greek village when one of these enterprising traders comes by, it does have entertainment value. Usually the patio furniture salesmen will be driving a pick-up piled so high with stacked plastic patio chairs that they ought to have a flashing red light on top to warn any passing aircraft.

If anyone actually wants to purchase a few of these chairs, which are often carried in several fetching colours, I have often wondered how the vendor gets up there to take them from the stack. These pickups are usually so laden with the seller's wares that it's difficult to imagine quite how they got it all on there in the first place. I'm quite sure from the ones I've witnessed, that if I were the one trying to load the flatbed, I'd be continually cursing as, while I attempt to load one huge pile, another comes crashing back to the ground.

Not many minutes later another, quite different, megaphone-amplified voice began to declare its presence. This time it was the scrap iron collector. Pretty soon it was interesting to listen as the two scratchy voices could be heard cruising different parts of the village, each evidently trying to keep his distance from the other. They were almost circling each other like two animals checking out the opposition before setting to with a fight. It doesn't do for two vendors/collectors to arrive at the same time after all. They don't want some householder struggling into their avli with their newly acquired shiny plastic patio furniture set while at the same time the old iron collector comes by to collect their old washing machine. That would be too irritating and just too stressful.

In fact, the scrap iron collector so puts me in mind of my childhood. It was as far back as 1957 when Peter Sellers the actor released the song "Any Old Iron" back in the days when it was quite a regular occurrence for the scrap metal collectors to come around the streets collecting old mangles and stuff (Point of interest, Sellers didn't write the song, he took it from the old music hall entertainer Harry Champion. What a mine of useless info I am, eh?). Here in Greece it's still a regular occurrence. 

Other mobile vendors that regularly do a tour of the local villages include those selling freshly caught fish (cue all the local cat population to turn out en masse), Chickens (live ones), Carpets and rugs, clothes, Fruit and veg and plants in pots. 


Yea, that's the kind of thing. Photo courtesy of hellenicnews.com

The clothes and rug salesmen are more usually to be seen in closed vans, the ones with the sliding side doors, but the others are more often driving pickup trucks. The plant sellers often have such a top-heavy cargo on the back that you do well to keep your distance, especially if they're moving. They'll often be seen on the roads between villages, trundling along with half a dozen fifteen-foot high palm trees swaying in the breeze from their terracotta pots stowed on the flatbed. All kinds of other exotic plants may be on there as well, in fact I wouldn't be at all surprised with some of them if I saw a blowpipe below a nose with a bone through it slide out from between the lush foliage now and then. I've seen huge pots roll off the back of these pickups on more than one occasion. When you consider that the seller may well be asking a hundred Euros for a large palm that weighs so much that it needs two people to lift it, you'd kind of expect them to be slightly better at securing them on their vehicles.

Anyway, the two donkeys soon went back to their lazy grazing and I took that as a cue to carry on weeding. I've got a blister on the palm of my right hand today by the way. Just thought you'd like to know. In case, you know, you may want to express sympathy or something.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Spring is Sprung

"The spring is sprung, the grass is riz.
I wonder where the boidies is.
They say the boidie’s on the wing.
But that’s absoid. The wing is on the boid."

My mum used to love to repeat that verse. You have to say it with a 'Noo Yoik' accent for it to make sense. My mum was good at accents. She'd have loved to be here now, in our garden in Kiotari, because it would for sure have elicited those words once again from her lips. Why? 'Cos the blossoms are a riot at the moment. We came home just in time to see the flowers at their best. They're never quite as good as they are now all through the summer.

Here, take a look...

We cut all the rose bushes in the garden back really hard every February, usually to something like 10" above the ground. They always reward us a few months later.


That's a bottle-brush hiding behind the yucca leaves.

Don't know what those pink babies are called, except that we theorise that they're of the daisy family. They're soooo flamboyant though.


When we left for the UK on 29th March, the fig tee was bare except for very tiny leaf buds. We came back to this.
The weather last Saturday evening when we landed was not a lot different from what we'd left behind in the UK, but I rather think that now there's quite a difference. It's been 28ÂșC outside today and, owing to the fact that I've spent a couple of days slaving away in the garden to try and get it into shape after a few weeks of neglect (and done my neck in as a result), I've actually taken my first couple of outdoor showers of the season. OK, so the water was a tad cold, flamin' freezing in fact, but afterward it's worth it for that tingling sensation you get all over your skin as you dry off under the sun.

The new book is currently being proof-read and edited, so there's not a whole lot I can do for a little while longer yet, but I hope to at least have the Kindle version live within the month.

Regarding the new book, "A Jay in the Jacaranda Tree", I hope you'll give it a go. It's got shades of the old "Ramblings" series in it, in that it does contain some anecdotes and experiences of over a decade of living on Rhodes, but it's generally quite different in that it's really a treatise on the Rhodes and the Greece of the past ten years, with all the turmoil that's been going on regarding the economic woes, the political upheaval and the refugee crisis for starters.

Hopefully it'll answer a few questions too, ones that the guests on my excursions ask me so often. Things like whether we'd ever go back to the UK, how the financial crisis affects ex-pats living over here and others. 

It delves into the realms of controversy too and gets pretty frank about animals, ex-pats and their ways, the religion and its effect on the general populace, tourism's good and bad sides, stuff like that. It looks at the Greek health service from the angle of someone living 'on the ground' as it were, as it does the situation in Athens, something that I feel has been grossly distorted by the overseas media, especially in the UK.

Overall I hope that readers will sense my underlying affection for this country and its eccentric people. I'm being provocative here and there and thus the quote that I've chosen to preface the whole thing...

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

- Evelyn Beatrice Hall (under the pseudonym S. G. Tallentyre), reputedly quoting Voltaire.

I fully expect some readers to disagree with my 'findings', but mature folk can think along different lines, completely disagree in fact, without becoming enemies. Mature folk don't fall out, in fact they applaud the rights of others to express their views unhindered (that's covered that then!).

The bee-eaters have arrived early. The swallows, martins and even the odd swift are swooping in the early evening, the deer have retreated to higher altitudes in search of fresher air and the presence of half-naked people down the road near the local cafés and shops indicates that the summer season is once again waking up. I'll soon be welcoming guests aboard my occasional excursions and my wife has already begun work. It is good. It is right. It is nice. As we always say here in spring - "it's nice to see things waking up," after months of the winter's sleepiness. Come late September we'll once again be saying of the tourists, "bugger off home and leave our island to us again please."

But every year at this time we find ourselves glad to see them again. Spring is sprung, the grass is riz ...bring it on.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Once Seen...

I'm all charity shopped out. No, seriously, during the last three weeks we've hit them in Swindon, Barry, Cowbridge, Llantwit Major, Wootton Bassett, Burford, Weston Village, Bath, Bath city centre, Midsomer Norton, Radstock, Marlborough, Calne, Chippenham and Devizes. If we've hit one we've hit at least twenty and probably considerably more.

I shouldn't complain. After all, one thing I quite fancied was finding a pair of blue jeans without paying for them over twelve months by DD (you know what I mean, eh?). I'd all but given up when, just last weekend we entered the British Heart Foundation store in Midsomer Norton High Street and, almost as an afterthought, having found zillions of pairs in any number of other stores but not having found a pair to my size or liking, I stumbled across a pair of Marks and Spencer Blue Harbour jeans that were brand new. They still had the cardboard thingie stapled to the back pocket with those little plastic wotsits and the M&S price label, still attached, showed that they were £19.50 new. I went to the till and told the lady "These are coming home with me" and she looked at me as if I'd spoken a foreign language. Some people just don't have a sense of humour do they.

Actually, she was OK in the end, she'd been preoccupied by the fact that the cash register was fighting back and thus she wasn't able to get it to open.

"Do you have the correct change by any chance?" She asked us, fraught. The prices was a princely £4.49 and the best we could do was garner together from both of our purses the sum of £3.99 in change. She told us that would do. I'm not in the habit of asking for discount in charity stores but, well, you know, what else could one do?

I was wearing these very same jeans just yesterday when we went with my brother-in-law to Calne and Devizes to get out of my sister's hair while she prepared a special anniversary dinner for us, since it was our anniversary yesterday, did I tell you? Can't tell you how many years though, the light of my life would have my guts for garters, since she's now younger than the number of years we've been married.

Calne is a delightful little Wiltshire town that many years ago was dominated by the Harris sausage factory. It used to employ over 2,000 people, but was demolished in the 1980's. The only thing that reminds the current visitor to Calne that it once subsisted on the meat from dead pigs is a rather curious bronze sculpture that can be found at the entrance to a not-very-attractive shopping precinct...


Oddly, the inscription (not visible here) makes no reference to the Harris factory.

Anyway, I digress. There is a charity shop in this precinct run by the Scope organisation, which specialises in helping those with disabilities to integrate into society. I rather admire their efforts.

In the Scope shop I stumbled upon a virtually new pair of Diadora sport shoes that were my size and simply too good to pass up. There was I, telling my wife and brother-in-law that I didn't want to see another charity shop for at least a year and yet, much against my will at the start, I went into this one. I tried the shoes on and that was it, had to have 'em. I took them to the till and the man there was having trouble with the cash register (sound familiar?). As he did what every self-respecting man would do in such circumstances, he called his female colleague to see if she could sort it out, we carried on a lighthearted conversation about trivia. Then he said something that made my ears perk up ike a piggy's.  He said:

"You know, you remind me of someone."

I get this all the time. Pierce Brosnan, Roger Moore (in his younger days!) - in my dreams. 

"Really?" I asked, expectantly. "Who might that be then?"

"Well, a couple of years ago I was in Rhodes, Greece and we went on an excursion. You remind me of the guide on the coach." OK, so he (like every other guest I've ever had) doesn't know the difference between a guide and an escort, but this was strange indeed. Tempted to ask what he thought of the man in question, I resisted and asked where he'd been staying and what tour operator he'd travelled with. Lindos and Olympic Holidays were his replies. Bingo.

"That was me." I replied. There were never two more gobsmacked blokes staring at each other so incredulously in the history of synchronicity I can tell you. "I live in Rhodes, toward the South of the island and I pick up guests from Lindos every week." You may or may not believe this, but I'm not in the habit of telling everyone I interact with in the UK that I live abroad. It's not nice is it? But here was a circumstance that demanded that I own up. Imagine though, here he was volunteering in the local charity shop down the road from where he lives, and in walks this bloke who'd taken him on a day trip whilst on a foreign holiday a couple of years before.

After a little more chat during which we established irrefutably that I had indeed been his escort on the excursion, we shook hands and I exited the store, well pleased both with my purchase and the sheer odds against such a thing happening.

I often say when people say they remember me (when they actually do know it was me that is) "Once seen, never forgotten." Only because it's one of those trite little phrases that we all seem to know, of course.

Oh I dunno, maybe there's an element of truth in it after all.