Thursday 15th December. We walked the 4km down to Gennadi to pay the car tax (the "sima"), which was €120 this year, not too bad I suppose. Parked ourselves in the usual cafe and ordered a couple of frappes. We asked the "new girl" where Sylvia was. Sylvia is Bulgarian and she got to know us very well. Seems she's gone back to Bulgaria. As is the case with so many young migrant workers, they're here one moment and gone the next. But she was a nice girl and it seems she's now able to pursue her desire to go to college, so we hope she makes it.
The frappes were up to the usual standard though. While the better half minded the coffees I nipped into the bakery in the corner of the square to face Mr. & Mrs. Grumpy. The couple who run the bakery are not known for their willingness to smile. They're probably in their fifties and their bread is excellent, although I've said before that the Horiatiko from Stamatia in Lardos pips theirs a little. But otherwise, no complaints. Except that is about their grumpiness. I always view it as a personal challenge to get a bit of brightness out of them. I'll breeze into the shop with a beaming face and say with an ear to ear grin: "kalime'ra!! Pos pa-ee simera? Ola kala?" If that doesn't elicit a happy response then I'll grab my psomi and retreat. This particular day I chipped a bit of the armour from Mrs. Grumpy. She actually apologised for not having any plastic bags big enough, "We're waiting for them to come in, sorry!" she said and I felt that I detected the merest hint of a curl at the two ends of her mouth! Could have been sarcasm mind you.
Bum safely parked back in my seat at the table with the coffees (bread bearing the unmistakeable evidence of having been purchased by yours truly, ie: teethmarks all over the end! - see chapter 31 of A Plethora of Posts, "A Bit of Banter in the Bakery"), it was my turn to "coffee-sit" while my significant other trotted along to the Post Office to get the car tax sorted out. That's when I whipped out my mobile phone and snapped the above image.
Today is December 20th. That means that tomorrow is the shortest day of the year. It's still hard to appreciate such things living here as we do. With all the sunshine we've had during the last few weeks it hasn't got dark before twenty past five in the evening yet. Mind you, the forecast does give us storms and lower temperatures for the coming week, even snow in Thessalonika where if anyone's "dreaming of a white Xmas" they may well see their dreams come true.
For a few weeks now Gareth, of Gareth and Vicky fame (Vicky's the budding new writing talent here by the way), has been reminding me that he's prepared to take me with him as he takes his trusty old white Transit (yup, folks, Gareth is a "white van man!") into the hinterland - meaning the deepest darkest hills above Lardos and just beyond yet another monastery whose name escapes me, to do a bit of logging. He knows that in our Suzuki Swift, which is a game little motor mind you, we can't really gather enough wood to get us through a whole winter. Now a great big Transit is another story, so I finally e-mailed him and arranged for us to go out logging this very morning.
I turned up at the house on the edge of Lardos just before the agreed time of 9.00am. I actually had to set the alarm this morning, aaaaaargh! Not only was Gareth, plus his "velcro" dog Kara (apologies to Gareth if I've spelt that wrongly) ready, but so too were Vicky's son Thom and his mate Emille, two strapping teenage lads up for the "crack" as it were. Two chainsaws, fuel, gloves, oil and two lads were thrown into the back of the van and the three of us (Gareth/dog/me!) got into the cab and then set out. Not twenty minutes later we were in a beautiful wilderness not a couple of miles above the village of Lardos, where I was moved to chat to Gareth about how those who say that Rhodes is ruined by tourism are talking out of their armpits (now, now, children present!). Notwithstanding the fact that the hills were studded with charred trees from the 2008 fires, it was still a wonderful environment to be in.
We were soon all zipping through fallen tree trunks and throwing logs down the hillside toward the van and at one point I was was so hot that the sweat in my eyes was making it hard for me to see! Well, it is December. Mind you, since they have forecast rain almost immediately, we couldn't have chosen a better day for it.
When we finally got all the logs back to the van and started to load them, Gareth surprized, nay gobsmacked me by letting on that all this wood was for Yvonne-Maria and I.
"What?" I exclaimed? "But I thought that we were going to split it!" (no pun intended, but rather good anyway, eh?) I added.
"Don't be daft," said Gareth, "I've got plenty already, but I knew that you couldn't get enough in one run with that car of yours, so that's why I offered to use the van." Now this was after almost three hours of all three of them sawing, throwing, sweating and heaving logs and all for me! What do you say in response to such kindness? "Thanks guys" seems a bit insufficient somehow.
A lot of the charred tree trunks are simply neat soot to the touch. So it's no surprise that we got a fair bit of it on our clothes and skin. But Emille looked like he'd been on an army assault course by the time we finished the job. To top it all, after dropping the excellent two lads back at his house, Gareth drove the van and all its woody cargo the several miles out to our place to deposit the cargo on our drive for us. He's got a bad back too folks! The rain began as we were unloading, talk about timing. All right, we did spend a day helping them clear up after their home was flooded during last winter's storms, but still and all this was generosity to a fault.
I wasn't going to suggest to Gareth that hopefully he'd get flooded out again this coming January so we could return the favour.
Gareth and Vicky come from the same area of South Wales where we ourselves had lived for 24 years. From experience I don't exaggerate when I say that South Waleans are pretty good in the friendly generosity stakes. Anne Robinson didn't do her research very well (Let me know if you don't understand that last remark).