Monday, 9 April 2012

An Anglo-Greek Rumination

It's mid morning on Bank Holiday Monday, April 9th. I'm sitting in my mum's conservatory about ten miles South West of Bath, UK, sipping coffee and listening to the raindrops on the roof. Out on Rhodes I don't get much pain in my right hand. Here in the UK I'm reminded that I do have a little arthritis in the joint of the forefinger, since it pains me most days. I can forget it's even there when on Rhodes, thankfully.

The Greeks who live on Rhodes continually bemoan the fact that the island is prone to much more humidity than is experienced on the mainland, Athens in particular. In winter the temperatures on Rhodes are usually warmer than Athens, but in high summer, they're quite few degrees cooler, which accounts for all the Athenian Greeks who take vacations on these islands whenever they can get away during the months of July and August, when it's a cauldron on the streets of the capital. But the humidity on Rhodes is blamed for a whole host of ailments by Rhodean residents. We, however, find that, hailing as we do from the UK, it's hardly worth a passing remark. It can't be as high as the UK generally, otherwise my barometer of a finger joint would remind me, I'm sure.

Having been back here in the UK for a week and a half now, we've had occasion to reflect on the differences in life on Rhodes and life here in the UK. A while back I was "attacked" by one respondent to a post I did called "Hold Your Horses" for, in his or her words, "doing the UK down", although I was pleased to receive quite a few more comments, even from UK residents, who agreed with where I was coming from. So perhaps if that person still reads this blog, they'll find this post a little more "balanced" in their view.

Weather-wise, of course, there's no contest, but it isn't all about weather, is it. Hmm, well, to be honest, the weather is a huge factor in one's general sense of well-being. Better weather enables one to live a more simple, outdoor lifestyle and on a lower budget too. This is so because when it's bright and dry outside, you don't get the urge to go shopping! Or perhaps to decorate, yet again. More often than not we tend to potter around, go for a walk or a swim and leave the car beside the house. Also, not for a Rhodean resident is the light-box needed for those who suffer from S.A.D. syndrome; some friends of ours in the UK being among them. I have to say that the number of days in any 12 month period on Rhodes when you don't even feel like setting foot outside because of the weather can usually be counted on one hand. fifteen love to Rhodes.

But the other day Yvonne [Maria] and I were strolling around the walkways which surround my mother's home  here in Midsomer Norton and we found ourselves remarking on the sheer variety of birdsong which surrounded us. It's not that we don't have a pretty good variety of bird life around us in Kiotari, it's rather that, for whatever reason, we don't hear so many different songs at such close proximity as we do when staying with my mum. As small country towns go, Norton-Radstock has a lot going for it. When I was a young lad in the 1950's the last of the coal mines were being closed down around here. Somerset finally ceased being a mining area as late as 1973, but by far the majority of the pits had been closed long before that. A fascinating piece about this can be read here. Why do I refer to the industrial past of this area? The answer is, that, where there formerly was a criss-crossing network of railway lines to service the coal industry, those former train tracks are now wonderful nature walks and cycleways which have been colonised, not only by lycra-clad joggers and cyclists, but also by a fascinating variety of wildlife - and everything's so green! In Rhodes, towards the end of the winter, the landscape does eventually turn as green as it is in the UK, but upon close examination one sees that the grass is still quite coarse and wouldn't take a picnic blanket very well at all. The landscape in rural Rhodes, whilst fascinating and beautiful, isn't picnic-friendly folks, it usually hurts! Fifteen all then.

The UK also has something else going for it. It's organised. The Greeks, however hard they try, just can't seem to get their heads around advance planning. I mean, to illustrate in a very simple fashion: We sometimes receive an invitation from some Greek friends on Rhodes to go around for an evening meal, but the invitation is usually given on the same morning as the meal in question! Now, call us dyed-in-the-wool Brits if you like, but we like a little more warning. But you're just not going to get that in Greece I'm afraid. This characteristic extends to local government level too.

Walking up through the area called Westfield a couple of days ago we were struck by the bus stops/shelters here, all of which sport electronic digital read-outs informing passengers of any delays which may be expected. If the buses are running on time, the LEDs say something like "no warnings in force, consult timetable for bus times". I probably didn't get that exactly right, but the essence is there. What amazed us too, was the fact that these electronic signboards at the roadside bus-stops were in good working order and hadn't been vandalised. Seems that there are areas of the UK where one can overdo the "crime" paranoia. On Rhodes the bus stops are an ancient piece of metal, with faded orange writing on them which is just about still evident enough at the top of a usually-leaning pole to inform the would-be bus passenger that it is indeed a bus stop. Mind you, at least the buses are modern and comfortable. Nevertheless, 30-15 to the UK.

I'm often asked, would I/we move back to the UK to live? It's a daft question really. The fact is that we're very settled where we live on Rhodes and enjoy our simple, yet enjoyable lifestyle. But my mum may some day in the not-too-distant future need one or both of us with her on an indefinite basis. We would have no hesitation about providing whatever help and company she may need at that time. If we had to live over here for a time, there are a lot worse areas than this, I'm sure. In fact, climate notwithstanding, we have both agreed that we could live here quite happily. Last week we went out with my mum's neighbours for a pub meal at the Jolliffe, in the pretty village of Kilmerston which, incidentally, is where the nursery rhyme about Jack and Jill is said to have originated (is this blog educational or what?). We hadn't been out to eat in a British pub for a good long while and so asked Adrian and Gemma to make the decision as to where we'd be going. It was a good decision. The food was wonderful, the helpings huge and, best of all chaps - the beer!! In Greece you can get a British ale, but only if you're willing to endure the environment of somewhere like Faliraki, which I am most definitely not! Otherwise it's lager, lager, or lager. Now, when the temperature's nudging 40ºC, I admit that I'm partial to a glass of Mythos/Heineken/Amstel etc. But I do occasionally, especially during winter on Rhodes, long for a good pint from the pump at the bar, yes good flat warm British real ale. Hmm, one could be forgiven for thinking that the UK is going to win the match here.

So, to swing things back a bit. I'm still typing and the rain's still hammering down (heavier than ever in fact) on the conservatory roof. My wife's given up and gone into the lounge to watch "60 Minute Makeover". Yuk. In Rhodes we hardly remember what a TV is from the moment the clocks go forward in March until the day when they go back again in October. In the UK you can usually bet on the weather scuppering your plans when the bank holiday comes around. As I mentioned in the "Brrrrr!" piece on the "News and Stuff" page, the unreliability of the weather in the UK, whilst making for a beautifully rich landscape - agreed, can be extremely irritating. My mum's neighbours are at this very instant cooped up with their two small toddlers in a caravan somewhere down near Bridport as it stair-rods down outside, having planned this week away based on the fact that during 2010 and 2011 the weather was perfect for virtually the entire month of April.

Game, set and match to Rhodes I'm afraid.

(Now, the above is meant to be taken light-heartedly, before any paranoid reader decides that I'm "diss-ing" the UK again!!!!)


  1. Trevor Mcilveen9 April 2012 at 16:40

    hello John. Just so you know, its been raining hard on & off all day here on Rhodes,
    So you arnt mising much

    1. Yea, but that doesn't always mean it's raining in Kiotari, but hope it is, as the garden will be needing it!! Bet it's warmer there now though.

  2. Trevor Mcilveen9 April 2012 at 21:05

    John Its going down to 14 C here tomorrow
    According to BBC weather in Bath tomorrow April 10th it will be 10C

    1. You poor things!! But check out the general forecast Trev, you aren't going to compete!!! Like, scroll right to the bottom of this page for a starter...

  3. Wow 2 posts in one day! John it must be pouring outside! I'm glad you find the electronic wizardry at the bus stop to your liking. To someone (me) here in UK all the time, I find them unnecessary and further evidence of the 'nanny state'.The system in Rhodes, if you can call it a system, whereby the timetable cannot be relied upon for more than a few weeks at a time and you take pot luck when the bus might arrive is charming.............but on holiday you have all the time in the world, I guess. I have to say that in my neck of the woods the self same gadgetry has indeed been vandalised, and you thought Norfolk was bootiful!

  4. Read this while hail battered us in Dorset! Had just returned from visit to Washington DC where every meal was eaten outside in warm sunshine. Finished "Tzatziki" on the plane home. Thank you for the inspirational and informative books and posts. In 15 months' time comes retirement to Greece!!!
    Graham H

    1. Very kind comments. Thank you Graham. Where will you be settling when you retire out here?

    2. We have fallen in love with the area around Lixouri in Kefalonia. Although we did like a bungalow in Rhodes on the "A Place in the Sun" website last week!

    3. Spent three holidays on Kefallonia back in the 80's. Stayed twice at Argostoli and once at Poros way down South. We really liked it and went over to Lixouri a couple of times too. Hope you'll be very happy there. Keep in touch.