Friday, 30 December 2011

Time Passes

Well, here we are at the turning of yet another year and going through our seventh winter since moving to Rhodes. The rhythm of the seasons sways gently around us as we finish chainsawing some longer logs (the ones we cut when out with Gareth before Christmas, see the post "Footslogging and Serious Logging") out under the carport, wheelbarrow them around to the log-store, where I take the axe and split the ones with the larger diameters, whilst my strapping wife stacks them tight and tidy. 

The blackbirds are emitting their panicky chatter as they flit from bush to bush in the valley below and the black redstarts, robins and warblers dart around the garden, occasionally - in the case of the redstarts and robins - perching on the wall and cocking their tails cheekily up and down while clicking in that way that they do. The rose bushes in the garden, despite the fact that I've pruned them hard, are now putting out some spectacular flowers, some of which Yvonne-Maria cuts and places in a small glass on our coffee table, where they not only brighten up the room wonderfully, but also make the entire living space smell simply marvellous. The smell of a rose always puts me in mind of fresh raspberries, sublime, simply sublime.

The weather so far this winter has been the coldest, at least during the nights, for many years. In fact one or two Greeks tell us that they can't remember the last time when the night time temperatures were as consistently low as they have been this past month or two, hovering as they have done, between 6 and 10ºC during the hours of darkness. We even touched a bone-chilling 2ºC the other night. Having consulted our calendars for the years that we've lived here, we can agree. During the previous two Novembers/Decembers (2009-2010) for example, we only had one night when the temperatures dropped into single figures, usually bottoming at around something between 11-16º in the dead of the night. Daytime temperatures have also been low, but not unpleasant. We've had less rain and more sunshine than average and when the sun shines you feel warm anyway, even if it's only topping out at 17 or 18, instead of the more normal 20-23. How grateful we are for our soh'ba (log-burning stove) and Gareth's kindness in helping us achieve the largest stock of logs we've ever had in the store out behind the house.

Returning to the birdlife for a moment. A winter or two ago we had a distressing moment with a Sardinian Warbler. We'd been drinking coffee inside the French windows one morning, gazing as we do in never failing appreciation at our view down the valley to the sea, when a thud drew our attention to the glass immediately in front of us. A Sardinian had flown right into the glass, perhaps thinking he had a rival for his partner's affections, we don't really know, and stunned himself. I flew (yea, I know, puns just trip out of me don't they?) out of my chair and opened the French window to see the little mite laying on the tiles outside. At first we feared the worst (a broken neck maybe), so I picked him up and stroked his immaculate little chest, then his head. I was mightily relieved to see his little heartbeat thumping away through the feathers and so stood out on the drive with him in my hand for a minute or two.

Sure enough, he regained consciousness, but remained in a daze, since he made no immediate attempt to flee our vicinity. I even held my hand next to my wife's, and he hopped across and sat there while I nipped inside, retrieved the old digicam and snapped this...

All of a sudden he seemed to realize where he was, freaked and flew off, much to our relief that he seemed none the worse for his little escapade. Oddly enough, a female flew straight into the lounge one day when we had both French windows open on a bright and sunny day. She eventually responded to our directional coaxing and fled out the way she'd come in, but not before she'd rested to get her breath back on one of our hi-fi speakers...


Changing the subject again; back to the rhythm of the seasons. Yesterday we went to Arhangelos. Apart from the fact that we wanted to visit our friends Josie & Jos, a visit to Tzambikos' fruit and veg shop was well overdue. Plus, the best place to get your chainsaw serviced is just outside of the village of Malona, which is almost on the way. In fact, at this time of year a trip around that road, which passes through the thick of the local orange groves before winding its way up a precipitous and spectacular valley (almost a gorge) before depositing you back at the crossroads just outside of Arhangelos, is something which we don't need an excuse to make. I know that I've said it before, but you have to see the orange groves at this time of the year to fully appreciate their beauty. The foliage on the citrus trees is rich, leafy and luxuriant and is punctuated with thousands of bright orange baubles, the fruit itself. The aroma alone as you pass through this valley is enough to get you salivating. As we slowly cruised along we saw people of both sexes up ladders and bent double among their trees as they picked fruit and packed it into crates for either a bit of roadside trading, or supplying the local market or village stores.

Arriving in Arhangelos well before the time at which we'd arranged to go to Josie's house, we filled a clutch of carrier bags (needless to say, taken from the running stock which my wife keeps in the car boot, to avoid using new ones unnecessarily) at the fruit and veg store and emerged later, arms groaning under the weight of all the fresh veg and fruit which we found hard to believe had only cost us eleven Euros. Groceries safely deposited in the boot, we took a stroll up the side street which leads to the little bakery which we rather like, in order to acquire a couple of tyro'pites and spanakop'ites. I'd not noticed their sign before, but this time as I looked at it I thought someone could be forgiven for thinking that, in addition to bread and cakes, they also specialized in Chiropractic or Osteopathic therapy. Why do I say this? See for yourself...

Munching on hot pies as we walked, we whiled away a half an hour or so before making for our friends' place. Meantime snapping away with my phone....

The above we thought were quinces. But now we don't think so (amazing what a quick look at Wikipedea can do for your confidence). Don't they look just fabulous? Any ideas? (evidently - yes! See comments on this post below)


Well, just before I close. I thought you may be interested in the last photo, below. I was trawling through some older digital photos for a friend who wants to use some on her upcoming web site and came across some of the shots we'd taken whilst the fires had raged during July-August 2008. The flames reached to within a kilometre of our place and we really did have moments when we thought that we'd would soon be evacuating. On occasions the sky was a truly foreboding though awe-inspiringly beautiful scenario, and this picture ably shows what I mean...


  1. You've done it again, John. Written a beautiful piece for reading on a winter's day in Norfolk. Not only am I longing to be back on Rhodes, I am almost, but not quite, ready to experience your 'cold' winter!
    Thanks also for identifying the little birds we saw flitting amongst some scrubby bushes at the very far end of Pefkos, last visit.Glad your little visitor survived.
    PS Yes, one year we will remember to bring binoculars and bird book at the same time!

  2. how big was that fruit?? Is it Persimmon?? (Look at me being all knowledgeable!!) Actually I was on another site and saw a pic...and thought oof your post

  3. John. Gloria looked at the fruit & said it is sharon fruit , otherwise known as persimmon
    We could buy them in Tesco in Oxford

  4. What a hugely knowledgeable readership I have in the ex-pats living here!!! Thanks both, seems you're right!!!

  5. Beautiful roses--I could almost smell them. I'm trying to imagine what it would be like to look out the window this time of year and see roses instead of snow. Your stories and pix of the birds made me smile. Thanks for sharing.
    Happy New Year from Alaska.
    Judy Markadakis

  6. Thank you Judy, it's good to hear from the other side of the earth!!! So glad you enjoy the posts. Best wishes and Kali Xronia to you and hubby!!! Keep warm!

  7. That tree is laden with persimmons, aka sharon fruit or lotos in Greece. They divide opinion; some adore their syrupy, jelly-like flesh while others declare it vile slime! It's incredibly astringent if not fully ripe and can make your mouth feel stripped of all saliva and full of orange blanket fluff... but, when ripe, it's heaven..

  8. Thanks for a most educational comment!! Whoever you are!!

  9. The Backery - really tickled me!! The photo's are wonderful, especially of the birds (my cats would be very interested in those little birds!). I don't know what the fruit is on the tree but I do like going to lovely bakeries in Greece!!

    Annette Robinson

  10. Well Annette, at least some other readers have cleared up the fruit dilemma. As for your cats, just as well they're not here then, eh?

    Yes, the aroma alone makes it worth visiting a Greek bakery on a regular basis doesn't it. Plus, if you can get your spine clicked into place...