Monday, 30 January 2012

Pefkos Moods on a Cloudy Day

We don't often get cloudy days here when not accompanied by rain. When clouds arrive, so usually does the rainfall and then it clears up again. Just occasionally we'll get a day like yesterday, Sunday 29th January, when the sky was predominantly cloudy, with the sun peeking through only occasionally. Such days we tend to call "British" days; days when there's "no weather" to speak of.

Also unusual was the fact that there was hardly a breath of wind, rendering the sea as calm as during the summer months, making it much easier for those with fishing boats to use them in complete safety.

So, this post is largely a clutch of photos taken around Pefkos on such a day.  
Each photo opens in a larger view if you click on it. Right clicking on the larger view, then selecting "View Image" enables you to blow it up even further.

 Above: down the bottom of the lane which peters out on Ag. Thomas beach.

 Above: The fishermen were just tidying up after an excursion, having taken advantage of the calm sea to make a catch. They were just making final preparations to leave the boat at anchor and come ashore in the launch.

 The new villas being built right under the mountain, just out beyond the Palm Bay and Coralli are clearly visible in the one above.

 You don't need any explanations as to where this one was taken, I'm sure. A strange but comfy "quiet" hangs over this area during the winter months, although a couple of hundred people still live in the village, plus those who come down from town for the weekend. Apostolas supermarket and bakery is always open all through the winter months.

 Above: Cop a load of these beautiful anemones, which always brighten up the grassy areas from late December through to February, when the blood-red poppies take over, followed in spring by the huge, cream-coloured margarita daisies, giving the fields the "cheesecake" effect.

For the botanists out there, the yellow flowers seen in the picture above, which often completely carpet the olive groves in January and onwards, we've recently discovered are (courtesy of Wikipedia):
Oxalis pes-caprae (Bermuda buttercup, African wood-sorrel, Bermuda sorrel, Buttercup oxalis, Cape sorrel, English weed, Goat's-foot, Sourgrass, Soursob and Soursop; (Afrikaans: Suring) [1]), a species of tristylous flowering plant in the wood sorrel family Oxalidaceae. Oxalis cernua is a less common synonym for this species. These are the ones which the children love to pull and chew the stems, which taste of lemon.

 Above: A couple of local residents show off on the wall below the Lia Studios, next door to the Finas Hotel

The main beach, Pefkos, resplendent in fine sand, smooth sea and not a sun-bed or umbrella to be seen! You can tell from this photo, though, that a good cleanup is usually undertaken before the season begins.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Wednesday Evening Musings...

It sounded like the gods were ten pin bowling on our roof. Either that or six people were banging on corrugated iron sheets right outside of our bedroom window. Then there was the sheer volume of water tipping out of the skies, occasionally with some hailstones in the mix for good measure. Oh the joys of a Greek thunderstorm in the small hours. Even on a rare night when I could tell that I could sleep well, I was woken up at regular intervals by the "show", and what a show. You know when the storm is directly overhead when these things happen:

1. The flashes of lightning momentarily illuminate your bedroom, like it was the middle of a summer's day, for just a millisecond, even though the roller blind is three-quarters rolled down.
2. The thunder crash accompanies the flash, with no delay at all between the two. Plus it's so loud that you feel it shake the house. You genuinely have to decide, "now was this an earthquake, or just the effect of the rumble of thunder?"

Thus passed Tuesday night into Wednesday, January 24th-25th. At 4.35am we made a cuppa and read our books for a while before attempting to reclaim a little of the lost sleep. When we awoke at somewhere around 9.45am, the sky was cobalt and the temperature outside a balmy 15ºC in the shade and rising. A winter on Rhodes is anything but boring.

You can always tell what time of year it is when you see your car looking like this…

Tuesday January 24th was a day of two halves. The morning dawned bright and clear, but by lunch time the rain clouds had gathered and the spitting and spotting has begun. No matter because I had some graphic design work on the go for a UK client and the better half had a car-full of oranges to deal with. 

We passed the day quietly. Well, assuming that also making homemade orange juice by the gallon, splitting a few logs into "cheeses" (before the weather closed in) and turning out the wife's wardrobe for a re-organisation session, vacuuming the house from end to end and a spot of ironing along with the aforementioned activities qualifies in the "quiet day in" category. Maybe a marginal there, eh?

Tuesday evening into Tuesday night saw the storm drift across us as described above and, once again, Wednesday morning greeted us with bright sunshine and 15ºC while we partook of a trusty bowl of porridge and some chopped fruit for breakfast, partaken right by the French windows while we gazed down the valley to the sapphire sea.

After a shower around lunchtime, the skies once again cleared for a pleasant afternoon of sunny intervals. So, donning our sweaters, we decided to walk down to the beach. We'd been a bit lucky on the bird-spotting front lately, so perhaps we'd see something exciting today. On Monday evening, as we'd dropped the little Bulgarian off at her house at 10.30pm or thereabouts, she'd organised the orange-donation session that resulted in Yvonne-Maria sitting in the back for the remainder of the journey home. We couldn't put the citrus wonders in the boot (OK, trunk for you guys on the other side of the pond) owing to the fact that it was already full of shopping, since we'd made a pit-stop at Lidl earlier in the evening. As we'd thanked Dhopi once again for ensuring that our Vitamin C intake would be more than adequate for quite some time, we'd just started driving slowly back towards the main road at Kolymbia when we'd heard the cry of an owl.

We quite often have the pleasure of seeing a barn owl swoop across the road in front of the car during dark evenings, usually around the Lardos area, but this cry wasn't that of a barn owl, which is usually a blood-curdling screech. This was in all probability a Scops or Tawny, but we couldn't see it as it was deep into the olive grove beside which we were slowly passing, windows down to listen the better.

On our afternoon walk back up from the water's edge here in Kiotari, where we'd waved to George, the proprietor at the waterfront Pelican's Nest Ouzeri, Photos of Pelican's Nest, Kiotari
This photo of Pelican's Nest is courtesy of TripAdvisor 

...surprised but delighted to see that he's decided to open during the daytime for coffees and such (mental note: must drop by soon), we ambled back up the brief stretch of road from the beach to the Asklipio crossroads and were near-deafened by the cacophony of sounds coming from the now babbling brook running down the valley in the hollow to our left. In summer it's bone dry, but this time of the year sees brooks (of the babbling kind, of course) running all over the place which would make any Welsh valley proud. This hollow, just about ten feet down a steep slope between the road and the grounds of the Ekaterini Hotel, is densely packed with reeds and at the moment of our passing, also with what sounded like enough frogs to make Paul McCartney proud to add to his chorus. We stepped as close to the bank as we could without being certain to slide and slip all the way to the watery bottom, but despite straining our eyes, couldn't catch a glimpse of a single amphibian. We cursed ourselves that we always seem to forget the bins when we need them the most.

Once we'd again entered the lower reaches of the lane leading up to our house, we watched as blackbirds worried their way from bush to bush, making that particular flustered sound that they do as they take off. This always reminds us of the walks we used to do around our old home in St. Athan, South Wales. During the summers here, we don't see them much, although happily we do enjoy their song in the early evenings as summer approaches. Did you know that only the males sing? Did you also know that they only sing from February until late July and sometimes early August. Despite the climate differences, that also applies here. We used to love hearing them in the UK because the first blackbird heralded the advent of Spring and as long as you heard them singing you knew that there was still some summer to come (well, hopefully!).

The final delight we enjoyed on the one kilometre walk back up the lane was a Hen Harrier, which are as indigenous to Rhodes as they are to parts of the UK, though you don't get the chance to see one at close quarters too often. He'd been sitting on a seven-foot high bush when he saw us coming, took off, gave us a magnificent view of his underside, wings outstretched, before darting across the valley to our right at astonishing speed. We weren't sure what kind of hawk it was at the time, only that it was a hawk. A few minutes poring over our trusty selection of bird books once we'd got in and made a cup of white tea brought us to the "Hen Harrier" conclusion, owing to the clearly visible white rump we'd witnessed as he sped away from us. I say "he", but it could have been "she", as the two sexes of hen harriers are quite markedly different, the female being much larger than the male. Oh, where's Bill Oddie when you need him, eh? Be great if we could keep him in a drawer somewhere and whip him out on demand to make a positive ID wouldn't it?

All in all an eventful, yet pleasurable couple of days, punctuated by a chat with the neighbours as we'd handed them a plastic bag full of oranges over their gate to help them share in our citrus plenitude (admit it, you're impressed again aren't you?).

Monday, 23 January 2012

Noise Pollution

Something else which we discussed with Evgenni'a and Theo'doro (see previous post) was noise pollution, Greek style.

We'd begun talking about the subject of dogs in villages and how much their barking narks the minority of non-dog-loving residents. Apparently Pilona is an example of this phenomenon. There seem to be more domestic dogs (in other words, not counting the strays that are hanging around the village at any one time) per head in that village than can be said of any of its close neighbours like Kalathos, or Lardos. Someone had told us not so long ago that they'd moved out of Pilona owing to the fact that, during the night, it was becoming all too frequent that a dog would start barking in the small hours, only to have it's bark answered by its neighbouring canines, which would add their "voices" to a rising crescendo, the result being that various Brits would be grabbing their pillows and placing them above their heads in an effort to get back to sleep.

Theo'doros had become quite grave and it became apparent that he had a tale to tell of the malevolent act of one of his neighbours from a village which they'd lived in further up the island a few years back.

"I'd kept geese, ducks and chickens," he said, "as do many villagers. After all, eggs cost money and we always had a ready supply. Saved us a pretty penny you know. Then of course there was the ready supply of white meat."

We nodded in that kind of way that says, "We know, oh yes, we know." plus: "and we're paying attention, do go on." So he did (even though we probably didn't really 'know' in the sense that he'd implied we ought to, since we've never kept birds):

"Well, one morning my neighbour had a go at me about the noise my birds were making. I mean, how much noise do ducks, geese and chickens make anyway?" before we could insert a meaningful response, he added: "Not as much as a dog or dogs, eh? Eh?"

"Well, no. Quite." I replied, in sympathy. To which I considered it a good idea to quip: "We used to live on a small housing estate in one house we'd owned in South Wales. Right behind our back garden the road through the estate snaked, just outside the six-foot wall which the previous owners had erected to add a little privacy to the lawn, barbecue area and flower beds. But now and then, on Saturday nights, we'd be awoken at some unearthly hour by people (usually men, but not always) staggering home from the pub along that road, not more than twenty metres from our bedroom window, shouting and "effing and blinding" as they went past about some disastrous football performance or wrecked love affair or something. If we ever had people staying over we'd be laying in our beds privately getting embarrassed about what our genteel guests were having to listen to, assuming that they'd been woken up too, which we could safely assume that they would have been, since we had.

"Then we'd also have the local bus service to contend with, which used to stop extremely close to our back gate, whilst passengers aboard on the nearside of the bus could sit and gaze out the window at me trimming me roses whilst they waited for new boarders to pay their fares before making their way to their seats. There were two factors at work here, one was the intruding gaze of the bored-looking passengers, the other was the noise. No, I lie, three. There was also the issue of the diesel fumes which would drift across my veggie sausages if I was barbecuing at the time
(Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. If you don't get that link, write in)."

Warming to my subject, I went on about people living in cities where they had to contend with  passing trains or factory hooters, I could have gone on, but Theo'doros interrupted to express his complete agreement. We all four of us agreed that the sound of dogs, chickens, geese, ducks and, yes, here in Greece, the ubiquitous Cockerel, were all to be preferred to the noises of industry and man-made pollution-producing concoctions.

Theo'doros now skillfully brought us around to why his neighbour had acted heinously. "We lost all our birds in one fell swoop." He told us, now wearing the kind of expression on his face that betrayed disgust at what he'd suffered. "After a few occasions when he'd commented on how the birds disturbed him, he crept round one night and let all my birds out! When we got up in the morning, the gate in the fence was open and all our ducks, geese and chickens had disappeared. Now I ask you! For a starter, we had to start buying eggs again!" Facial expression now extremely grave, inviting sympathetic gasps, which, of course, were given. We didn't ask how he knew it was this complaining neighbour who was to blame for the dastardly deed.

I couldn't help wondering though, whether that traitorous neighbour owned a pick-up truck piled up with wooden boxes with metal grills comprising one side, all of which were suitable for carrying domestic fowl on his rounds, selling good egg-layers to his customers in villages not a stone's throw away. You know, retail therapy, Rhodean style, as described in chapter 26 of "A Plethora of Posts."

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Just a Brief Visit

It's around eleven in the morning and we're bouncing along a rough dirt road, out in the wilds somewhere north of Kalathos. I'm taking it steady on account my my ball joints. Now now, none of that if you please, I meant the car! We're on our way to visit our fairly new friend Evgenni'a, who's not far short of our age but suffers from extremely poor health. Her heart is so fragile that the doctor has advised her not to go out - ever! It's like paper she told us, like the heart of a 90 year-old. On top of that she has diabetes and her kidneys are only operating at around 50% efficiency. It's people like Evgenni'a that make us appreciate what we have, both health-wise and in other ways.

We've never met her husband Theo'doro, so we're wondering whether he'll be at home today. We've no idea what to expect really, but we'll soon find out. The lane is fairly level and passes through huge olive groves, trees framing our view in both directions along part of the way. Jays flit from tree to tree, occasionally swooping low across the lane ahead of us. Now and again the olive groves drop away, being replaced by the usual scrub and maquis and we see Stonechats sitting atop shrubs and bushes (we're not far from the coast, close to which Stonechats seem to prefer living, as in the UK). Robins and Black Redstarts bob up and down on fence posts and everywhere is bathed in brilliant sunshine as the sky is cloud free. This is more like it.

Mind you, we're still experiencing the coldest Rhodean winter for decades. Just two days ago I went to the local Dimos to pay the water bill, popped into my local service station to take out a mortgage on some fuel for the car and also paid a visit to Pandeli's DIY store for a couple of odds and ends. In each location I heard the very same comment: 

"It's never been so cold for so long in living memory!" Usually we drop below 10ºC three of four times during a Rhodean winter - usually for perhaps three or four nights on the trot - before the night-time temperatures rise again to their usual 11-15ºC. In daylight, if it's sunny we usually enjoy 20-23ºC and, if it's cloudy, 13-17º. This winter we've now had about two months of single figures (ºC) overnight and, even when it's been sunny, only 13-17 during the day. Mind you, if you're sitting in the sunshine on your terrace, as we were with our guests Trevor & Gloria last Tuesday afternoon, you can still enjoy an al fresco lunch and feel too hot in the sun. So I don't suppose I ought to be complaining really.

Anyway, we're driving along this pot-holed track to Evgennia's house and we see signs of the recent rain in the huge puddles which punctuate the lane. Some of them are so established-looking that we half expect there to be a few ducks paddling about on them. We just manage to skirt them without the car getting stuck in the mud alongside. Eventually we round a bit of a bend and the house comes into view. Unusually for Greeks they don't live in a village. Their house, which is still a long way from being finished (what's new eh?) is alone and only metres away from a huge stretch of deserted beach, even in summer. Nice, but very exposed to the wind, which today is the kind that cuts through you if you're not wrapped up enough.

Evgenni'a is at the door to greet us and waves us inside with despatch. Despite the strong sunshine it's too chilly to hang around on the doorstep. Hugs and double-cheeked kisses take place inside a closed kitchen door, in the warmth of her kitchen. A man is talking animatedly into his mobile phone. Evgenni'a tells us that this is Theo'doros, her husband. Once he finishes his conversation we exchange greetings and he sets about making us hot coffee in the way that so many Greeks still do, using their Briki! You know, it's that little long-handled saucepan which is normally used for making Cafe Elleniko. This, of course, means that for four cups of coffee to eventually arrive at the table the ritual of filling the briki, placing it on the gas and waiting for it to boil has to be followed four times. No, I'm afraid that many Greeks, however modern an impression they may give one, still haven't come to trust that cunning new invention - the kettle.

The conversation begins in earnest and we learn that their families originated on Symi, although both were born here on Rhodes. We tell them of our two decade-long love affair with their island of origin and we're delighted to learn that they even know Sotiri, who runs our favourite taverna there, Taverna O Meraklis. The usual subjects are then covered, starting with the church and the antics of your regular Greek Orthodox Priest, the "papas". Theo'doros tells us of a bloke he knows who used to hire sunbeds on Tsambika Beach and packed it in to become a priest because the pay was better. Talk about a spiritual vocation.

Then we tackle poverty and how people are coping with the current financial crisis. Theo'doros tells us that many decades ago, on Symi (and doubtless elsewhere in Greece) at Christmas time the entire village would contribute food stuffs to the priest, who would make the donated provender up into packages and, during the night hours of December 23rd, volunteers would prowl the village streets, playing knockout ginger at the houses of those known to be very poor. The occupants of these homes would answer the door to find no one there, but a package would be on their doorstep, within which was bread, cheese, olives, meat and other stuff to help them survive a while longer. They, of course, had no idea who had shown them this kindness.

"That," asserts Theo'doros, to our nods of agreement, "is what I call giving. Didn't Jesus himself say: 'In matters of giving, don't let your right hand know what your left hand is doing?' These days," he goes on, "people like to shout about what they're doing for those less fortunate than themselves. Although, for the most part our politicians and our priests are far more interested in what goes into their own pockets than in what goes to help others. I despair of the lot of them I really do." Again, he witnesses our nods of agreement.

The conversation carries on for an hour and a half or so and we then rise to bid them goodbye. Evgenni'a, as always, begs us to stay a while longer. She doesn't get many visitors. So we assure her that we won't leave it so long before the next visit. Having learned that Theo'doros is owed 3,500 Euros from his previous employer (not an unusual situation here, sadly) and that he is without work at present [he's a skilled Parkay floor layer as well as carpet fitter. In fact all things "floor" are his field of expertise], we decide that the next visit we shall bring a few things along. Maybe some bread, milk and stuff. Before we can leave though, we exchange the required hugs and double-cheek kisses once again and Evgenni'a opens a kitchen cupboard and pulls out two polythene bags of preserved black olives, which she insists we must take with us.

You can't refuse such simple expressions of kindness. See, there are those who shout loudly about what they perceive to be the "unforgivable" traits exhibited by some Greeks (please note the word "some"), like the penchant for laying poison wantonly around the countryside, but the culture of gift-giving to your guests is a huge saving grace in my book. One of many in fact.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Loaves and Laments

We've just arrived home and it's early afternoon. We're quite excited really. We've just seen our first Golden Eagle for a few months and he was sitting atop one of our telephone posts at the bottom of the valley as we drove up from the main road.

The weather forecast for today was wall-to-wall sunshine, but it was wrong. There is some cloud (and even the odd shower) about and it's really what you'd called a "sunny intervals" kind of day. None the worst for that though, as it's bright and dry, and after an unusual four days of intermittent rain, the warmth of the sun on your face is very welcome.

As we approached the raptor he spread his wings and flexed them a while, before gracefully gliding to a safer distance, but not before the car had approached to within a few yards of his perch on top of the pole, so we were able to make a fairly positive ID. We've seen tons of buzzards around in recent months and had not seen a Golden Eagle in a while, so at first we thought it was a buzzard. Only when we got close enough could we see his colouring, his size and his regal turned-down beak, which is more pronounced on the eagle than the buzzard's.

We'd just returned from visiting our friend Despina in Lardos. She it was who dispensed her sagacity and wisdom to Dhopi, the little Bulgarian, in chapter 41 of "A Plethora of Posts" entitled "Get Your Ya Yas Out", when they were discussing the fact that Dhopi's charge, a ya ya who's in fact younger than she is(!), had been found wandering around in a field in her undies a while back, owing to the fact that she was recalcitrant about taking her medication.

Despina's not very well off, living as she does with help from a couple of sons as her health isn't good and she's not getting a state pension. Something to do with the fact that she lived in the USA for many years before relocating to Lardos about twenty years ago. So we took her a loaf of bread, which we'd purchased in Kyria Stamatia's bakery. We'd walked in to find Stamatia alone and customer-less for a few moments. After a vigorous hand-shake each over the counter and a couple of "Kali Hronia"s, we asked after her heart, as we must of course, do.

"Aaaach, theo mou," she replied. "What can you do when you have sunk all your money into a business so that your son can benefit from it and he goes and marries a girl who doesn't like the sound of hard work. They'd not been together five minutes when she declared that she wasn't going to work in any bakery. I mean, what kind of respect for your husband's parents is that? They'd have had it made, but he's just as bad. Call him a son? I tell you, He's caused me that much stress and I don't need it, not with my heart. The Doctor told me, he said, it's either stop worrying and fretting or you'll be up that graveyard in no time. It's your choice. With your heart it's the stress-free life or the cemetery, you choose. So that's it! I don't worry about him. He's useless anyway. He doesn't want to work. Prefers to parade around the plateia with his nose in the air, or take his coffees with his 'palikaris', …pah!"

For someone who says she's not going to let it get to her she appears to be letting it get to her. She carried on: "Look at Manoli, my husband. He's a good man, but he doesn't want to be working evenings in the bakery at his age. He's seventy you know. I'm sixty five and in bad health. We should have handed the business over to our son by now, but he's not interested. The youth today! No respect!"

After having commiserated to the degree commensurate with the occasion, we availed ourselves of a couple of her delicious loaves, one for us and one for Despina, and took our leave. As we left her son came in, with his toddler of a daughter, at which Stamatia instantly broke into a huge proud smile and called to us: "My son!! And look at his daughter, koukla eh?"

Once at Despina's I whipped out the loppers I'd brought along and set about hacking back the plant growth which had made it a near impossibility to get to her front door. It had become so bad that you feared that a blow-dart from some lurking native would pierce the skin of your neck just before you made it to Despina's door. Well, maybe that's a little over-stating of the case, but after rain it certainly meant that you got heavily dolloped with huge wet droplets from, among other things, the rubber plant leaves which are in there with several other species of vigorously growing shrub which had all but obscured the pathway to the front door. Rubber plant leaves can hold a deal of water and no mistake. Tickle one of those babies after a storm and you're wet with capital W.

Anyway, having chopped, lopped and cleared away the fallen branches we availed ourselves of a clutch of oranges from one of her several orange trees before tapping on her door. We spent a pleasant hour with her, after asking if she approved of our pruning skills, over coffee and, as we were rising to leave, asked if she'd minded that we'd helped ourselves to a couple of oranges. She doesn't always hear that well and, before it had registered that we had already picked a few, she opened her fridge and whipped out a huge carrier bag, almost bursting - it was that full of oranges. Rustling through her stash of plastic bags, she pulled one free and deposited a whole bunch of the ripe bright sunshiny balls into it.

"If you can't eat them all, just juice 'em!" She declared.

So we came away well stocked for a while. As I sit down to type this post, the better half is busy making fresh orange juice for the fridge and, after that, she prepares a simple lunch of "soldiered" carrots, chunks of Gouda cheese, our own brined-olives with cloves of garlic in the mix for extra flavor, chunks of tomato and several hand-sawn slices of fresh bread from Stamatia's bakery. All this is liberally drizzled with extra virgin olive oil produced not a stone's throw from our front door, some dried oregano and a little salt.

The sighting of that Golden Eagle just iced the cake of a perfect winter day on Rhodes.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Staying In

Well, winter's finally decided to remind us that it's actually here. I sit in bed at around midday typing this on Saturday January 7th. We've just had breakfast. It started raining yesterday lunchtime and hasn't stopped for more than a few moments ever since.

The rain's been seriously heavy sometimes, and by that I mean Greek-heavy, as in, "Now where were the plans I drew up for that ark?" heavy. The rain we don't mind. After all, we don't get more than thirty or forty days in the year when it actually falls. The wind, on the other hand, we don't appreciate. There were moments during the night when I fully expected to find the entire roof (which is all curvy terracotta tiles) about half a mile away in an olive grove or something. But, this morning when we finally opened the blinds at 10.30am or so, it was still on, as a quick trip out to the wood-store for the necessary supplies of logs quickly established. Fortunately the garden's survived so far fairly intact, with one exception.

We have a cactus in our cactus bed (yea, I know, like: where else would it be?) which I think may be one of those you find in Arizona. I don't really know mind you, it's just that it looks like one of those you see in the Peanuts cartoons where Snoopy's brother Spike is shown reclining against one of these spikey wonders ruminating on the deep things of life. It was given to us a couple of years ago when it was only about eighteen inches high and I had to buy a packet of breakfast cereal just to get an appropriate cardboard box with which to manhandle it as I planted it, the spikes are that lethal. After emptying out the inner packet of rice crispies or whatever, I knocked the bottom of the box through, flexed it to make it into a kind of tube shape and slid it over the plant in question. There was no other way to get it from its pot into the ground without sustaining serious injury. Anyway, this cactus settled in happily and began to grow. Having started out with just two of those arms which kind of grow out a little, before bending upwards and ascending vertically, parallel with the main stem, it now sports about five or six and its height and girth have doubled. Looking out of the French windows this morning and anxiously scanning for casualties of the night's storm, we saw nothing untoward except for the aforementioned cactus, which is now leaning at an angle of maybe 40º from the vertical. 

The problem is, the forecast indicates that this weather is set to continue for at least another eighteen hours or so. So there's nothing we can do until tomorrow and then there remains the problem of working out how to set it back at 90º to the ground without ending up in hospital. Still, I suppose there are people with worse problems than a leaning cactus.

This cactus is a feature and no mistake. We do love it - except for one thing. It's the place to which those vicious, leaf-eating locusts do tend to retreat when we attempt to slay them, and I have to admit that we do do that. Sometimes in high summer we notice plate-sized holes appearing in the leaves of the fig tree which we'd planted a few years ago and usually there will be this locust, quietly lurking on a branch hoping not to be spotted. If we do spot it we'll attempt to smash it with a trowel or something, whilst trying to spare the fig tree any injury, not always with enough success, granted. The locust, ever ready to take to flight on being attacked, will frequently flee to the nearby cactus and settle on the main central "trunk", in among the spikes, which project further out from the plant than the locust's body. Aaaargh! It makes me mad! I mean, how does it even find enough space to get in there without spearing itself? After all, it's bigger than my thumb, the swine. I'd swear I hear it laughing as I walk away dejected. What's more irritating is the fact that, a couple of hours later we can go out to inspect and find that the enemy is back among the fig leaves.

It's still raining out. The track from our house down to the main road will now be seriously slippery, even flooded in places and on days like this we just give up on the idea of even trying to take the car out. We were up drinking tea at 2 o'clock this morning, plus the regulation couple of digestive biscuits of course. It's not that we worry overmuch about what's going on out there. Well, truth be told, the missus gets anxious when the thunder crashes overhead. It's simply that the sound of the wind and the rumbles of thunder keep one awake. Even with the iPod on at a higher volume than usual, and Yvonne-Maria having stuffed lumps of cotton wool into her ears, it gets through.

So, just to make you readers in the UK feel better, we're staying in bed all day today. Well, we'll probably rise this evening and light the fire as, if the forecast is to be believed, it'll still be raining. Watched the BBC news on the internet over breakfast (with the MacBook in bed with us) and saw that at least in Wales you're having a nice bright day today.


Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Couple of Snaps and a Video in Rhodes Town

 Right outside and across the road from the Mediterranean Hotel, January 3rd at around midday.

 Ditto as above for the location.

 As this picture shows, Rhodes Town is anything but dead at this time of the year!

 After a lazy time shopping, we partook of lunch at the Pueblo de Cafe at the top end of town. I had a delicious Ciabbata with salad & melted cheese filling, her indoors shared a veggie club sandwich with Janet and Ron chose a chicken Ciabbata - all of which was delicious. I ordered a cup of tea, which came as hot water in a glass, accompanied by a tea bag of Green Tea and with a small sachet of honey on the side. Flippin' great, I loved it!! Above us was this beautiful orange tree, resplendently dressed in its brightly coloured fruit, sadly too high for us to filch any!

Returning to the car, which was parked right outside the Mediterranean Hotel, there were these guys playing bat and ball, one of whom was only wearing swim shorts. When we'd arrived there were quite a few swimmers, maybe he was one of them (He's the furthest player away in the video below, although he's not very clear. One has to reduce the resolution on these videos drastically to get them to upload). The girls declared that he must be freezing, trussed up as we were in sweatshirts and jackets. Mind you, we'd taken the jackets off when drinking frappes at the "Courthouse" Cafe in Mandraki, it was sweltering in the sun! Anyway, to that video...