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.


  1. Hi John

    You have just confirmed my suspisions, I had gone into thr field roud the back of us to have nosey at the new swimming pool being built next door but one to us and on the way back saw this huge bird suddenly take off from the tree at the side of me scared me witless at the time a great rustling and swishing of wings as it took flight did not see the actual beak but it was much larger then the buzzards so thought it must have been a golden eagle but was not too sure

  2. Yea, when we first got here we were hesitant about ID-ing them as Golden Eagles, as it seemed too good to be true, especially as we knew them to be native of the far North of Scotland. But a fair bit of ornithological research and vigorous thumbing through various bird books eventually left us in no doubt. They do tend to retreat up the mountains in summer time, we assume because of the heat. But in winter we usually have their company for a few months. Good, eh?

  3. A heart warming post John, forgive the pun. Glad the weather is back to normal. Amazing that you have Eagles, are they respected by the hunters?

  4. Did you say "pun" or "bun" Andy?

    As for your question, we hope so. Haven't yet seen any evidence that they shoot them. It's certainly against the law, as is shooting deer, but we have seen one or two evidences of that one being flouted, sadly.

  5. Is that law always in force,John, or was it brought in after the devastation caused by the 2008 fires? And if so, how long will it be in force, do you think?

    PS Enjoyable post, as always.

    1. A complete three year blanket ban was introduced in some areas after the fires, but that's now no longer valid. Deer are protected though, as are the eagles. What the hunters are permitted to hunt is things like small game birds (Partridge, Chuka) and mammals like rabbits and hares. What do they actually kill though? I've heard many tales, not all of them encouraging!

  6. hello John. Sunday 15th December. A remarkable day .Whilst out driving today as we approached Kalavada over on the west coast, an eagle flew across the road about 4 feet in front of the car
    Then later on our way home up the east coast , driving thro Gennadi , blow me down it happened again. So 2 sightings in one day
    Just wish we had some warning to take photos

    1. I just got me a new carry case for the camera, one that goes on my belt. It's fab and means that I can whip the old camera out like a colt 45 whenever I see something worth snapping!! It's made it a whole lot easier to snap away with minimum delay! Got it from Amazon for a pittance! Wanted it for precisely the problem you mention Trevor. If I had a Euro for every missed opportunity...