Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Overtime at the Office

Yea, well, sometimes we all have to put in a bit of overtime I suppose. yesterday it was my turn. I was doing the "Rhodes by Day" (or, as the company calls is, "City Delights") excursion and had a nice manageable 18 people to drop off in Rhodes town, after first leaving the crazy ones at the water park.

After giving the guests their free map at Spiro's Top Three bar, I decided to trot off with the trusty digital camera in an attempt to fill the five hours "down time" with minimal boredom. Mind you, However many times I do this trip I can honestly say I'm never actually bored when in town. It's so vibrant at any time of the year, not to mention incredibly beautiful, both the old and new parts.

I'd explained to some of my guests, four very young and very attractive young ladies, that out at the far end of the Harbour there's a fortress, which usually you can walk inside of and up a few flights of stone stairs to a room where there's an audio-visual presentation, which lasts for about fifteen minutes and gives the viewer a brief history of the harbour. So I decided to head out there first just to be sure that it was open. Of course, on arriving at the arched stone entrance I was dismayed to find that it was locked with an iron gate. Ho hum, austerity measures I suppose. But I was now a bit worried that they'd walk all the way out here and then curse me for having sent them on a wild goose chase...

Camera poked between the iron bars of the gate toward what might have been.
Turning around to inspect the shot, I noticed the four girls in question approaching rapidly, so I decided on damage limitation. Hailing them, I apologized with all the profuseness that I could muster (in the profuse stakes, I reckon I managed "most profusely" with ease, I was that embarrassed).

Having a well, tanned face can be an asset on occasion. People can't see you blushing as easily. Having explained the situation, they very graciously said it didn't matter as it was a great place for a photo call anyway. Covering my failure even further I offered the usual info about the harbour entrance; you know, the deer (doe and stag either side), the legend of the Colossus and so on. They were well pleased and so - I have to add - was I at the outcome...

Three of the girls in shot here. One's got her back to me as she takes a photo. No idea where the other one was at this moment. Hadn't even asked their names by this stage.
A little more conversation soon revealed that they all lived in my home part of the UK, the Bath area. What a coincidence. After a few moments exchanging place names and saying things like "Yea, I know it well!", the idea sort of evolved that perhaps I could show them around a bit, some of them having never visited Rhodes before. The idea was instantly appealing to me, but I ventured the thought that perhaps they wouldn't want an old geezer (old enough to be their father) tagging along, to which they replied to the effect that they'd be well-pleased to have a personal guide (don't breathe a word of this to the professionals, all right? I don't want to be thrown into the harbour next time I set foot in town after all) show them around. So, that all settled, we headed off to the the old town for a mooch around...

Don't jump!! Things can't really be that bad...
  Here they all are with some geezer who didn't have much conversation, but probably would have given a fortune for a can opener...

And before you start, I know there was no one inside, OK? I just thought it made a good joke.
I'd taken them up the Street of the Knights, then through the above "lane" back on to Socrates Street...

 ...all the time strolling proprietorially into shops with them to make sure that they got a good price for anything which they may want to buy. Then the question of hunger and thirst kicked in and, to my delight, they were up for a visit to a nice traditional back-street taverna, so I took them to Yianni's for lunch. 

Photos of YIANNIS, Rhodes Town

This photo of YIANNIS is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Over a very enjoyable lunch I learned that their names were Helen Altoft, Claire Collins, Lucy Cannon (no obvious jokes here guys) and Alison Walker. Our appetites sated and thirsts quenched over an expectedly excellent repas, I led them down to the main square where the stone fountain is situated, gave them a few more pointers and bade them farewell until it was time to rendezvous at the Top Three to await the arrival of the coach for the return journey to Pefkos. Never outstay your welcome, eh?

When I saw them off the coach back in Pefkos I think their reaction was quite genuine when they thanked me for the personal "guiding" services and waved me goodbye, assuring me when I told them that I had around 4,000 hits a month on the blog that I could now expect 4004! I think somehow that this wasn't going to be their last visit to this island. Hi girls and thanks for helping me fill a few hours very pleasantly too.

The last drop-off on the coach was the Miraluna here in Kiotari, where my wife met me in the car. Dashing home I just had time for a quick shower, change of clothes and off out again to report for work at the gate for the big finish of Rhodes Rock. The stage having been re-located to right in front of the ancient amphitheatre in Lindos, I was looking forward to another fix of live Floyd music and Think Floyd didn't disappoint. They never do. That reminds me, I must put a permanent link to their web site on my links page soon.

The opening two bands were equally good. I'd never seen Walkway before, but they are outstanding, and Ben Poole is simply to me the British Joe Bonamassa - which is the highest compliment I could pay the young lad!!

Think Floyd finally arrived at the closing chords of "Comfortably Numb" at around 1.00am, so while Eddie, Elaine and I plus a couple of thousand others wiped the tears away the team began a round of goodnights as the crowd ebbed away and I was able to head for home. After dropping a couple of Floyd fans back to their accommodation at the Med Bar in Pefkos, I finally crawled into bed at around 2.45am.

So, a long day but - to be honest - there are much worse things I could be doing for work.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Bubbly on Board

I dropped into the office last Tuesday (19th June) for some wages and, when talking to the girls at their desks, was struck by the bottle of bubbly (not literally, of course, as in "and God bless all who sail in her...") which was standing on the desk among the keyboards and monitors. I decided not to refer to it as it probably was nothing to do with me. A very fetching bow of ribbon was tied around the neck, just below the cork. An occasion then, but what precisely...

Katerina eventually called to me while I sat waiting close by, "John, we have a proposal for you on Thursday."

"Hmmm," I thought, "this sounds interesting. Maybe some very impressed guest has gone back to the office after coming on one of my trips and given me a glowing report." Chest swelling in readiness, I replied with a look of humble surprise on my face and waited for further information to follow. It did, but was not at all what I'd begun to expect that I'd hear. Katerina proceeded to fill in the blanks:

"On your Lazy day Cruise you'll have a couple who are staying at Kolumbia. The thing is, the man is going to propose to his girlfriend and we want you to take this bottle, keep it at home and take it aboard the Magellanos with you. Captain Adonis is aware of what's going to happen and will set aside one of the below cabins for the couple. At your signal, the man will take his girlfriend down to the cabin and surprise her with his proposal of marriage. Romantic yes?"

Romantic, yes. But not quite the kind of proposal I'd almost decided that I was going to hear. "Yes, John, we're making you a partner!" or "We propose to double your wages!"  Perhaps, "Well done, escort of the month!" Ho hum, never mind, chickens counted early again. Still, rather fun though and sooo romantic.

So, for the next couple of days the bottle graced the inside of our fridge at home and on Thursday morning the 21st (...longest day of the year, again! Where's my life ebbing away to then?) Ι slipped it into a bottle-cooler and placed that inside my shoulder bag before leaving home for the day's adventure.

Katerina had gone on to explain that the prospective bridegroom would give me a nod as to who he was and that I'd have to surreptitiously take him to one side and explain about the cabin. Easier said than done. As I walked the guests from the coach to the quayside I was frantically trying to work out ways of accomplishing the deed without the girl in question sussing anything untoward. Apparently the couple had already been together for ten years, so I had actually expected two thirty-somethings. I was, however, surprised at the relative youth of the couple when I clapped eyes on them. I was only able to deduce correctly which couple (of several possibilities) they were by the fact that they were staying at the hotel whose name was printed on the ribbon around the neck of the bottle. I was very relieved to note that they were the only two people coming with us from that particular hotel (The Atlantica Aegean Blue) on this occasion.

Walking aboard along the gangway, Adonis excitedly whispering sideways into my ear words to the effect of: "Which ones are they Gianni? Does he know we have a cabin for them to use? You'll have to point him out. You'll have to give him the signal so he can come below and we can show him the cabin which we've prepared!"

I tried to assure Adonis that all was in hand, which it wasn't really, but I didn't want him freaking out with nervous excitement, like I almost did! Pretty soon the guests were all "camped" around the boat and we were casting off. I made all the initial announcements regarding what they could expect of the day, where they'd find the boat's toilets and bar and some other stuff, then set about a brief tour of the decks to get a fix on where the couple were. Once I'd located them, sitting as they were right beside Adonis where he'd settled into his seat behind the ship's wheel on the top deck, I made my approach, trying to look nonchalant and mentally conjuring up ways of getting my quarry aside in a way which wouldn't alert his girl.

Rather unimaginatively I whispered to him, "Could you come below for a moment?" Talk about inventive, eh? Following his ever-so slight nod, I retreated down to the main deck and back into the cabin to await his arrival. He arrived seconds later and assured me that the girlfriend hadn't sussed anything. I showed him the cabin, in which Adonis and Ilias had placed the bubbly in a packed ice bucket, along with a huge stainless steel platter of ruby grapes and chopped water melon, plus serviettes. Standing beside the ice bucket were two real glass champagne flutes, aah. Following our suggestion that he wait until we'd departed our first swim stop at Stegna, which meant we then had a full hour's cruise on the boat before dropping anchor again in Lindos Bay, he retreated back to her side to rustle up some excuse as to why we wanted to talk to him. Not sure what he said, but it worked and she evidently was still none the wiser.

Once we'd weighed anchor and were under way Adonis, Ilias and I watched Kyle (that's his name folks) to see when he was going to make his move. For an agonising several minutes nothing happened. they carried on talking in hushed tones and looking at the magnificent coastal scenery that we pass as we head south. Finally, they were on the move. They climbed down to the main deck, came into the cabin and Kyle showed Amy (I know, you've already got there haven't you) the waiting privacy of the cabin. Once they were inside you could have been forgiven for thinking that Adonis and Ilias were expecting a baby to be born any second, they were that expectant. I couldn't help thinking that if she said no maybe I'd get to drink the bubbly.

They were in there for perhaps fifteen minutes, during which the two crew were almost frantic with expectation, old romantics that these Greek are, when they emerged all smiles and both sipping from their champagne glasses, the deed done and the proposal accepted. they emerged on to the deck and climbed back up to the top, where they started explaining what had just happened to the other guests whilst sipping their bubbly and Kyle offering a sip from the bottle to one or two. I too did manage a sip at this stage. Have to admit I asked him though!! A kiss on both of Amy's cheeks later I joined in congratulating the pair of them as we all wished them a happy life together.

Their apparent youth was due to the fact that they'd been together as sweethearts since they were both 14 and still at school. Pause here for another "aaaah" do you think?

Have to say that, as I sat and chatted with them later they both came over as pretty sensible about life and they clearly knew and loved eachother well enough to know what they were doing. When I asked about how long it may be before they actually tied the knot they replied "Maybe up to another two years yet!" No sense rushing it now I suppose.

All in all, it was a really nice twist to the day. On the coach going back later all aboard gave them a cheer in response to my brief announcement, for the benefit of those who'd been so zoned out on the boat that it had all gone over their heads while they went about the serious business of chilling out, that Kyle had proposed and Amy had accepted. She'd even told me that she'd been hoping he'd pop the question some time soon.

So, as they fly off back to Staffordshire, join me in wishing every happiness to Kyle and Amy. Kyle's surname is Adams and Amy's is Walthall. I reckon there's a definite aristocratic ring to "Amy Walthall-Adams", don't you agree?

(By the way, I rather stupidly didn't have my camera with me. But Adonis did take a few photos, which he's promised to upload on to his Facebook page. So if you want to see them, keep a watchful eye there. As of this post being published, he hasn't done it yet though)

It's Photo Time!!

Just a selection of photos taken during the past few weeks to hopefully whet your appetite for a bit of Rhodean sunshine soon...

OK, so it's handy to have friends with fast boats!! Here's our "landlord" John about to put "Cast No Shadow" through her paces to see if Ron's hat will fly off!! She'll do over 60 knots this baby.

John's slightly mad, as can be seen from the fact that he let me at the controls for a couple of minutes!

Check out my "Friends of Pefkos" comments about this one

View from the stern of the Magellanos whilst anchored off Stegna on our Lazy Day Cruise

Another Magellanos moment. Boy do I work hard!

Taken at the Il Porto Bar/restaurant on Kiotari waterfront. It's run by Anastacia, who's very nice. It's right nextdoor to the Pelican's Nest. Il Porto used to be called "To Steki", by the way, which means "local hangout" or near equivalent. There's no exact British phrase to equate it to.

Lunch at Babis, on Halki, Friday June 22nd. Still working my socks off as you can see.


The toilets are upstairs at the Babis. Worth a visit just for this view really.
Usual routine. Click on any photo for a larger view.

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Sun is Not in Crisis

Ships that pass and all that. Seems that me and my better half are a bit like that at the moment. I'm working on the days when she isn't and visa versa. So we were more than a little pleased to find that, for a second Sunday in succession, we were both off. She had the rather appealing idea that we go down to the Lighthouse taverna/bar, right on the beach here in the "real" Kiotari, and crash out on a couple of sun beds for a few hours. "Let's pretend we're on holiday like we used to do all those years ago," she said. I was all for a bit of pretense today, so off we went.

Laying there under our umbrella in 35ºC on that spotlessly clean beach, with the flat-calm sea lapping a few metres away, watching all the Greek families from Asklipio and those who had come down from Rhodes Town for the weekend (Kiotari is a favourite weekend bolt-hole for them), we were struck with a very important thought. On the BBC website just days ago I was looking at an image of a tatty doorway in Athens, evidently of a closed-down shop or something, in which were laying forlornly a young couple with their small toddler. Here we go again with the propaganda. Doubtless this unfortunate young family (if they indeed were a family) are having a hard time. But I was left with the overriding feeling that once again the media was putting across this impression of a country which was packed to the gills with abject poverty and depravation. Yet here I was on a June Sunday afternoon, watching Greek families at play. The teenagers were all frolicking about in the sea, getting up to nothing worse than perhaps a girl running off with the beach ball which a couple of boys were throwing to each other, or laying around in groups in their bathing costumes, towels over shoulders, talking the talk, as it were. The parents were "visiting" with one another as the Americans would say, all dressed in smart bikinis or swimming shorts and some toting babies on their hips. Guys walked by carrying two or three fresh frappes, all appeared to be getting on with the day off in question in much the same way as normal. 

A couple of conversations which I overheard concerned the election, which of course was taking place this very day. One young mother, walking past our sunbeds, called to her friend in response to her hailing and said, "Yes, just been to vote. Manolis is on his way down to the beach now."

"Who did you vote for?" Asked the voice from somewhere nearby. "For so and so." Came the reply,  "After all, he's a cousin of my husband's." There you are then, strong political views eh? This is very often the governing factor in local elections too; you vote for someone who's related to you. It's the done thing, you don't have the luxury of considering whether their policies are in line with your way of thinking. After all, you couldn't show your face in his Bar again if you hadn't voted for him now could you? Sorry to burst your bubble Mr. Samaras.

You could have been forgiven, though, looking around at all the local Greeks enjoying their few hours on the beach, for thinking that there was no such thing as an economic crisis going on. This is good. Why? Because I believe that Mr. controversial, Jeremy Hardy, said on the BBC Radio 4 "News Quiz" just recently, something to the effect that, despite all the political intrigues and talk about currency collapses and bits of paper getting pushed around hushed conference tables in Brussels, people will always need to get on with normal life. They need to shop, eat, raise their children, clean their teeth, talk with the neighbours. So, ruminating on the BBC website's choice of which Greek photo to place on their "Images from around the world" page this week, I was not a little annoyed to see that yet again they had selected one that would encourage the British to shy away from visiting Greece this year. They were continuing with this campaign to make potential tourists from colder climes think that they'd be faced with so many unpleasant social conditions that they wouldn't enjoy their holiday on a Greek island.

Stretched out on her sunbed just across the wooden walkway from us was someone we knew. Maria's family are from Asklipio and we'd made her acquaintance only days after moving out here almost seven years ago. She'd lived in Canada for many years and so now speaks perfect, accent-less Canadian English. We called out a hello and so began a chat about the tourist season and how sad it was that the numbers were down so far this year. Having agreed that the media are misleading people from the UK, Germany and other countries, I made a comment about how normal life was continuing as usual here and she replied, casting her hands skyward, "The sun is not in crisis, is it?"

We enthusiastically agreed. What do you want to come to Greece for? Yes her culture, yes her warm people, perhaps her cuisine, but certainly for her wall-to-wall sunshine for several months every year, eh? I talked to my mum in Bath, England, on the phone just last Saturday. She still thinks of temperatures in the old money, as I believe the Americans do too. So I told her that it was 102ºF in the shade, to which she replied that it would not suit her to be so hot, but that she'd be willing to take a gamble, since it's been struggling to top 59ºF over there - in JUNE!

To return to that photo for a moment. Do you mean to tell me that you couldn't take a similar shot in just about any of the cities in the UK or across Europe? Yet would that mean that everyone in that country was down and out, on the streets? Scenes like that have been evident on Britain's streets for decades as we all know. So it shouldn't surprise us that they exist in Athens too, should it.

If you clicked on the Lighthouse link further back in this post, then you'll have seen that piece of video showing the place off. There is a circular bar in the middle of the lawned area to which I'd trotted after we'd plonked our stuff on our sunbeds. While Yvonne-Maria sat on a bench by a table under the trees to survey the turquoise sea, I ventured there in search of a couple of frappes (or, to be more correct, in Greek it's "frappe'thes" with the "th" soft as in "the"). Who should I see seated there and chewing on a toastie, but George from the Pelican's Nest restaurant, further up the road. Two iced coffees ordered, I walked around the bar to be greeted by a "high five" and George's expressions of appreciation for the post I'd done about his place back in March. It seems that someone out there actually reads this stuff, as he was able to report that quite a number of diners had told him since that they'd read about the place on "Ramblings From Rhodes." 

I called to my wife to come over and join us, but before she got there two things happened. One, the frappes arrived, the barman telling me that they were on George, and two, I'd succeeded in making George, the barman and an old Greek who was sitting sipping at an Elleniko to my left fall about laughing. George had asked me what the better half and I do when we have both have that rare day off at the same time. He asked this with a bit of a twinkle in his eye. I'd replied innocently that we'd come down here to "chill" for a few hours.

"NO, No, Gianni," he said. "You don't do anything else? Like, you know, having a rare moment at home together?" Had he been Eric Idle, he'd have probably added 'nudge, nudge, say no more'.

Now I caught his wicked drift. So I said, "Wait a minute, what year is it?" He looked bemused, so I continued, "It's 2012 isn't it? Yes, Right, that means October then. This years it's gonna be October." This touched his funny bone and so ensued the laugh, which I was able to milk a little more by adding, "Well, I hope so at any rate!"

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Balderdash and Ready Cash

So, the great expert on travel who's always being interviewed on BBC news when they do a piece about possible difficulties when visiting "problem" destinations has advised that if you're travelling to Greece from the UK this summer, then it's best not to change your Sterling into anything larger than €20 notes. I would suggest that this bloke, who I used to respect greatly at one time in the past, get his facts right; maybe actually come here and find out from the horse's mouth before offering such stupid advice.

I've lived here for seven years this summer and only yesterday was having a conversation at the "Top 3" Bar in town with my fellow Excursion Escort and friend, Tim and some UK guests when this topic came up. Tim and I would have laughed if we weren't so livid to hear that this was the kind of balderdash being served up to the public, which the BBC must think are so gullible.

The €50 note is probably the most common note in circulation out here. The ATM machines dish them out perpetually and - incidentally - these aren't running out of ready cash either. Just about the same percentage of businesses are accepting credit and debit cards as ever and I have yet to see any "unrest" on the streets of a Greek island, apart from perhaps someone getting jumpy over the late arrival of their souvlaki. Yes Mr. Paxman, a "kebab" is Turkish, in Greece it's called "SOUVKALI" mate.

I'll tell you something else. This perpetual "talking up" of the idea of Greece leaving the Euro is pointless as well. It's not going to happen, but even if I'm wrong and it does, do you think that businesses here in the tourist areas will not continue to accept Euros? Go to Turkey and you'll find that, even though their currency is the Turkish Lira, you can spend an entire fortnight there without seeing one, as the Euro is accepted everywhere. Plus, plus...if the Drachma were to be resurrected it wouldn't happen overnight, probably not even during the course of this year's holiday season, so please be assured that, as stated in another recent post, it's business as usual here in Rhodes.

For those of you thinking of coming, here are a quick few snaps taken just yesterday in Rhodes Town...

The main thoroughfares are pretty busy, but just off the beaten track you get scenes like this
...and this...

...and this.

Postscript added July 1st.  
This article has appeared in the Independent. Seems the "expert" in question has finally come here and redressed the balance. Read it all the way through though!!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Cicadas and Cruising

The cicadas are about, a sure sign that the summer is now upon us. Once you start to hear their rasping sound in the trees, you can be sure that sweaty armpits and an insatiable thirst, that a blindingly hot sun and the sight of cats sleeping perpetually in the shade, are with you now until at least the end of September. Starting my first excursion of the 2012 season at Krana Square in Lindos, Thursday May 31st, I was sitting under the tree beside the kiosk and the supermarket waiting for the coach and my first few guests to arrive when I heard one above me, my first cicada of the season.

Soon thereafter, while walking down the lane from our home a few days later when I was conscious of a cacophony of cicadas in the trees and shrubs beside the lane. I have spotted them on many occasions, but it's notoriously difficult to do so, since as one approaches on foot, they'll go silent and usually wait until you've put a few yards between you and them before starting up again, which is really irksome if you want to take a look at one, which I usually do, of course. I'd say they're about thumb-sized, which is pretty big for an insect. They're also totally harmless to humans and so it's sad when some of our species react adversely when coming into close contact with one. 

(Photo courtesy of Bruce Marlin,

As I said above, since they don't begin to "sing" until it's regularly about 29ºC every day, you know that summers's truly arrived once you hear them. In fact, on the Wikipedea page it says:
"Average temperature of the natural habitat for this species is approximately 29 °C (84 °F). During sound production, the temperature of the tymbal muscles was found to be slightly higher. ...Cicadas like heat and do their most spirited singing during the hotter hours of a summer day…"
In fact, on that very page ( you can also listen to some cicadas recorded in Ithaka, Greece.

So, the above now dealt with, we can proceed with the story, which revolves around a rather beautiful boat called the Magellanos. Last year I rattled on about the Free Spirit and the Pegasus, each of which I've worked on and enjoyed for differing reasons. Both appear to be anchored in Lindos Bay this year, but more than that I don't know about their movements in 2012. This year it's a new boat to me and we're starting the voyage from the tiny quayside at Kolymbia, which is really good because it means that the guests and I can embark and disembark at each end of the trip by simply walking along the gangway between the boat's stern and the quayside, so civilised!

Adonis awaits his guests for the day

Adonis left, Ilias right. The "stains on Adonis' polo shirt are only water by the way. Least, that's what he told me! The over-sized Coke can is where they keep the drink straws

Ilias mans the anchor chain as we prepare to move to the next bay

The boat's owner and captain is Adonis and he is aided by a retired friend and "first mate" called Ilias. Both guys are good at smiling. Both guys are intent on ensuring that the guests have a good day. No names, no pack drill, but I've been on boats where - for example - the crew go bananas if a guest comes aboard after a swim and attempts to enter the cabin to get a drink from the bar, or perhaps use the toilets without first towelling themselves off.

"Gianni, Gianni!!" They'd shout, whilst usually tugging at my sleeve, "Tell them they can't do this!! The sea salt from the water ruins the carpet on the cabin floor!! They must dry off before coming into the cabin!!"

On my first day out with Adonis on board the Magellanos, at the first sign of a guest about to commit this cardinal sin, I asked Adonis if he wanted me to say anything (in Greek so as not to alert or upset the potential offender) and he replied, a sour look of “are you serious?" about his face, "Gianni, why should I ask them to do this? They are on their holidays. It's only a bit of carpet for goodness sake. Panagia mou, this is a boat after all!!"
We exchanged smiles, mine bearing ample evidence of both relief and approval of his attitude.

Something else which really warmed me to this guy too was the fact that all the drinks in the refrigerator at the modest bar bore known brand names, like Fanta, Coca Cola, and Greek beers in the shape of Mythos and Fix. His bar prices are very reasonable when you consider that he has a captive audience for the day. In fact they are the same as those of a boat on which I'd worked in the past which procured all its drinks from the Rhodes branch of Lidl. Now, don't get me wrong, I rate the quality of the products sold in this particular store quite highly, but if you're asking a couple of Euros for a beer and it can be bought in this aforementioned foodstore for about 35 cents, it does rather tend to get a guest's goat somewhat. In fact, the single largest national group of guests which I hosted last year were Germans and Lidl is a company based in Germany. On frequent occasions during a cruise I'd have a German guests say to me, "You know John," as they tugged at the ring-pull to get that pfizz sound, "that this is the cheapest beer you can buy in Germany." They didn't need to say more. All I could do was to shrug my shoulders and explain that such things were out of my hands, but that if I'd had my way, things would have been different.

So I told Adonis this story and commended him for stocking known brand names. You know what he said in response? "Gianni, so I may make a little less on each sale. But the important thing is the guests are happy. If you have a happy guest, they will tell their friends, perhaps even come with us again. So we all win in the long run." See, there's living proof that some Greeks are not just preoccupied with cash in the pocket at the expense of customer satisfaction.

The cruise ambles down the East coast to our first swim-stop, which is Stegna Bay. From there we carry on down to the furthest point South of the day, where we make a u-turn at the mouth of St. Paul's Bay in Lindos, before coming around into Lindos Bay where we drop anchor and take our second swim of the day. before moving on from there, Adonis & Ilias will serve up lunch. it's not a huge variety of food, but it's definitely not short on quantity. They'll personally serve every guest with a huge chunk of Pastitsio (it's pasta and mincemeat pie, so I pass on that one, but have to concede that for meat-eaters it's damn good!), some delicious Greek salad, a dollop of tzatziki large enough for Cleopatra to take a bath in (usually homemade by Adonis' wife), some Greek bread and a piece of fruit for dessert. This time of year it's liable to be water melon, chilled of course. As he scoops the Pastitsio on to each guest's dish, Adonis repeats, "You can come back for more, there is plenty!" They also hand every guest a complimentary bottle of mineral water to go with their lunch, brought out from the ice chest at Ilias's feet.

Once lunch has been taken we eventually weigh anchor and head gently Northwards again to the next stop, which is Agathi Bay. From Agathi we head North again to the final swim-stop of the day, Tsambika Bay. The boat, having departed Kolymbia at around 10.30am, ambles back the the quayside there at around 5.00pm and by then all the guests are decidedly chilled out and browned off (in the appropriate way, of course). I lead the weary gang back to the waiting coach and we take them all back to their accommodations, usually reaching the last stop down my way (Lindos or Pefkos area) at about 6.00pm.

During the day at various stops I rattle on over the ship's P.A. about a few details which will be [hopefully] of interest to the guests. Between these moments of deeply interesting erudition (who am I kidding, eh?) Adonis plays music. Usually it's Laika, Greek bouzouki music, but he tends to succumb to his 80's CD with stuff like "Careless Whisper" and "I Will Survive" at least once per cruise. When I quizzed him about this last Thursday, he replied that it took him back to the carefree days of his youth in the playground that was Faliraki. "Aaah, Gianni," he wistfully mused, "Those magic times when I was young and free and the tourist girls so wanted a Greek lesson in love…" I'll duck out of his recollections at this point, but I think you get the idea.

"Mind you!" he warned, a look of seriousness coming over his face, "we weren't like the youth of today, oh no! We had respect for a young lady, not like today. And we didn't drink like they do today either. Today they are getting out of hand…"

By these words I was reminded of an occasion, which was indeed back in the 1980s, when my wife had, in a reckless and emotionally charged moment, gone and booked herself a week's holiday in Kefallonia alone. We'd been there together earlier in the season and, as the British summer hadn't been very good, she'd pined for the place and, one early September day whilst browsing Teletext (remember that? It was so cool for booking holidays in those days) she'd seen such a good offer, which involved staying in the exact same studios as we'd done during June, that she'd picked up the phone and booked it. Then she'd spent the rest of the day rehearsing how to break the news to me when I got home from work!

Needless to say at the outset I wasn't well pleased. But once the prospect a a few nights down the snooker hall with my old mate Chris Lewis had sunk in, I agreed to let her go (like I really had a choice in the matter!) and that was that. Truth be told, I was already mentally running my duster along my mature ash cue, chalking the tip and taking a first sip of that glorious pint of mild. I wondered if the author of Shirley Valentine knew my wife?

Any road up. Why am I going on about this particular occasion? It's because, having dropped my better (although slightly irksome at that moment) half at the airport, I'd admonished her to ring me now and again since, amazingly, I was going to be worried about her. I mean, her out there all alone every day on the beach in her bikini. Then out at some taverna or other every night for a whole seven nights without her man gazing protectingly and lovingly at her across the table. All kinds of scenarios flooded through my mind, most of them scary!

As it turned out, her experience bore out what Adonis had said about how the young Greek would-be lover behaved in those times. I was very relieved when we first talked on the phone to hear that she'd teamed up a with a couple in the room next door and they'd been inviting her to dine with them during the evenings. But there was one occasion which she chose not to relate to me until she got home. Just as well, because otherwise I'd have been half way to Greece before she'd finished telling me. She'd got talking in a bar to a group (yes a flippin' group) of young Greek boys, maybe numbering seven or more, and they'd suggested that she accompany them to the beach after the bars closed (so we're talking not just dark here, but very dark). You can imagine what my mind was doing even at this point in the story. All the things that may have gone wrong in such a scenario flew around my cranium at once and I don't mind admitting that I was very agitated!!

But, she said, all that happened was that they piled out of the small car in which they'd gone to the beach, one of the guys got out his guitar and they'd all sat around in a ring singing Greek pop songs for an hour or so beside the lapping surf and under the twinkling stars. After this they took her back to her room and bade her goodnight. No impropriety, no attempts at anything that would have caused me a mild coronary. She assured me that she knew what she was doing and she was right.

Now can you imagine what was quite likely to have happened had this taken place in Northern Europe, or, dare I say, the UK? It doesn't bear thinking about. I never really savoured being interviewed in the studio during a live broadcast of "Crimewatch" even though I think Fiona Bruce was doing it then and she's quite ...oops, sorry going off the subject a bit there. But this well illustrates the truth of Adonis' words about how the young Greek behaved. To be honest, yes things have changed a little, but it's still more than likely that she'd have been as safe today. Mind you, she's thirty years older now too.

If you feel like making Adonis and Ilias' acquaintance aboard the Magellanos, I don't know if they're running any regular cruises independently of TUI, but once over here you could contact a Thomson (TUI) rep, if you can find one, and they'll be happy to book you on to a Lazy Day Cruise if it takes your fancy. Mine begin, as you'll have noticed, in the Pefkos/Lindos area on the coach at around 9.00am. We go Thursdays and Sundays until the weather breaks, probably some time during October.

Must get to bed now, it's past 2.00am. Got to go out cicada-spotting tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Business As Usual

You know when June has arrived because the temperatures are ratcheted up a notch (talk about English shooting itself in the foot, there's a case of single consonant, short vowel. If you don't know what that's about, you probably have a life). I know it may not sound true, but it is. As soon as May rolls into June the daytime temperatures go from the upper 20's ºC to the lower 30's, virtually overnight. It's rather nice as it also brings with it the prospect of warmer evenings when you can dispense with the jumper or cardigan, making do with just a t-shirt or polo shirt. Plus, it's Rhodes Rock month.

Don't tell me that you've read this blog and still haven't heard about Rhodes Rock? Shock horror! (or as the Greeks would spell it, Sok horror!) Every June, usually the third weekend, Lindos resounds with the sound of some fab live classic rock music under the stars and it's all organised for love by rock music addicts Eddie and Elaine Yates, a couple of real stars! This year there are several new bands on the bill, as some of the old faves make way for some different sounds. If you think that you may still be able to be in Lindos from June 23rd to 26th and still haven't experienced Rhodes Rock, click here to go to the official website. All things being equal, I'll be on the gate again, so if you think you wanna risk saying hello, please do.

Went to town today, just to do a couple of mundane things. We had a frappe and spinach pie each at "People & People" a really nice small cafe right under the nose of Starbucks, which we don't patronise on principle, because they don't do table service!! "People & People" is really rather lovely and is always crammed with Greeks, many of whom work in the court house next door and can be seen perusing their briefs (they can't touch you for it) while they sip their Elleniko or Frappe. Two iced coffees and two delicious ample slices of spanakopita (spinach pie) and the bill was exactly €10. What was really nice too, was the fact that the waitress came around after we'd almost finished and asked if we'd like a top-up of iced water. You always know if you're in a good Greek Cafe if you get a glass of water with whatever drink you order. If you don't get the water, it's a tourist trap, usually.

The water top-up was indicative of something else, which is very important. In the tourist-trap cafes and tavernas, they want to keep the turnover of bums-on-seats moving and so quickly clear away any glasses or crockery which they think you may have finished with, often leaving you with an empty table whilst you may still not feel inclined to depart yet. But this puts you in the embarrassing position of having to order something else, or vacate so they can get some more fresh clientele in. Either that or sit at an empty table whilst the staff glare at you. To be offered some more water shows that this is the real deal kind of cafe. Greeks don't hurry their coffee. They don't hurry their meals either. We Brits still seem to not have learned the secret of whiling away an hour or two over the dregs of a drink or crumbs of a meal whilst taking in the surroundings. It's how people-watching became a popular pastime, for those who've learned the sport. But I often find if we dine out or have a drink with some Brits, that no sooner have they drained their glasses or wiped their garlic bread around their plates that they're getting restless and asking for the bill and showing an anxiety to move out.

It's as I mentioned in one of the books, I think it was Feta Compli! but it's all becoming a blur now that there are four! We have this tendency to snap photographs and hurry to get home so we can look at them and wish we were back there at the place and time where they were taken. We need to learn how to savour the moment. Sit at that café and breathe. Watch the world passing by around you and listen, smell, feel the air on your skin. let the moment live and linger.

This is what my wife and I try to do. We feel at home in "People & People" because, even though it's in Mandraki, a bustling part of a busy town, there are gentlemen sitting at tables tossing their komboloia, those beads which you often see a Greek fiddling with. They're sometimes called "worry beads" and they are not in any way religious. They're not like the Catholic Rosary. We have a Komboloi hanging from the rear-view mirror in the car and it annoys me when someone says, "I saw your rosary." Sorry, but I'm that averse to established religion that this really annoys me!

Anyway, so why is this post called "Business as Usual"? It's because whilst sitting at the cafe we remarked on how the summer season here in Rhodes is now well under way and proceeding as it always has. Yes, the tourists are perhaps 15% down on last year - so far. But when you consider how many tens of thousands come and go here on a weekly/fortnightly basis, that doesn't amount to a noticeable difference in the streets of Rhodes Town. Take note if you're swallowing all the propaganda from the media whilst still ruminating about whether it's "safe" to come here. The only evidence of any civil unrest which you're likely to see on a Greek island this summer is two Greeks arguing over a parking space. The likelihood of an ATM running out of Euros is no more than of a taverna running out of Tzatziki. The chances of being a victim of crime whilst spending a couple of weeks on Rhodes is probably hugely more remote than where you live back home.

Please, as I've said before and will continue to say, I live here and I know a bit more about what's happening on the ground than all those "experts" they keep interviewing on British (for example) TV. They're scaremongering and risking the possibility of damaging the poor working Greek's prospects and financial hardships even more by making potential tourists think that there are issues about spending a holiday here.

Here are a couple of pics of the Old Town wall...

See you soon?

English Language Logic

Further to the last post (da, daaah, da da daah...) about the problems some non-Brits have with our language, a Greek once told me when I told her that Greek was a difficult language to learn, that English was much more difficult. The following will perhaps explain what she meant...

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you
on hiccough, thorough, laugh and through!

Well done and now you wish perhaps
to learn of less familiar traps?
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard but sounds like bird.

And dead: it's said like bed, not bead -
For goodness sake don't call it 'deed'!
Watch out for meat and great and threat,
They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.

And cork and work and card and ward
And font and front and word and sword
And do and go and thwart and cart -
Come now, I've hardly made a start!

A dreadful language? Man alive!
I'd mastered it when I was five!!

Monday, 4 June 2012

Chips With Everything (pic added Ju 14th)

It's a well-known expression regarding the languages spoken by Americans and that spoken by the citizens of the UK, that we are "two nations separated by the same language" (Oscar Wilde or Bernard Shaw, take your pick, but it wasn't Winston Churchill who came up with it first, right!). The thing is, this unfortunate state of affairs, much to the annoyance of us Brits, spills over into international English, such as is understood in third party countries, like Greece.

To illustrate. What are chips? See, we Brits come from the country where "English" originated, don't we? Thus, when we say "chips" we know exactly what we're talking about. They are potatoes cut into fingers and fried. There, see, it's not difficult is it? The trouble is, that when we talk about "International" English, we ought really to be saying "American" English and thus begin the problems for the poor unfortunate British visitor to Greece. There we were thinking that "English" was our language, when in fact it's been hijacked!! The Greeks, just like the Spanish, the Italians and probably every other country that isn't actually part of the UK, only understand the American version nowadays. Sorry folks, but that's the reality of it. Mind you, it has to be said that not a few inhabitants of the UK don't understand Queen's English any more, and I'm not talking about the immigrants either!

Now I'm sure you'll know, you don't have to have been to the States to have found this out (since American movies and TV "educate" us all these days), that over there they understand "chips" to mean something entirely different. Granted, they'll usually prefix it with the word "potato", but the damage is done, they're already thinking about CRISPS. Whose language is this anyway? "Crisps" is even a much better description of the thing described, don't you think?

Talking to some British guests on the boat last week, I was reminded of this problem when one of them told me that they'd ordered something (I think it was a salad, but whatever, can't rightly remember now) in a taverna and added to the waiter: "Can we have chips with it please?" The waiter had nodded and walked away, only to return later with the required salad, accompanied with a pile of crisps!!! What IS this world coming to, eh?

Uh, those are crisps guys. I rest my case.
So, for the benefit of all those Brits out there who want to be sure that when they want chips, chips is what they get, here's some useful information for you.

Of course you can opt to say "fries", but am I alone in disliking this version? Where did "fries" come from? Yup, right first time, the American tendency to refer to actual chips as "French Fries", but they've largely dropped the "French" these days. A lot of people say that's a good idea, to drop the French, but I rather like 'em. Mind you, being able to speak their language scores heavily there. We could explore the whole reason why chips had to become "French" to be understood for what they are by people in other parts of the globe, but why bother? The fact is, we British invented "fish and chips" didn't we? Imagine ordering that in an American diner.

A lot of Greek menus these days refer to "fries", thus illustrating my point about "international" English really being "American" English. But you'll score a whole lot more points with your Greek waiter (that's always assuming you're eating in family-run taverna, and not one of those that employs Polish girls for the summer season) if you hit them with a bit of Greek. Great! You'll score on two fronts, one: you get real chips and two, they'll think you're cool for knowing the Greek and possibly either give you a freebie at the end of your meal, or a discount.

So, why not, if you want real chips that is, ask for them in Greek? The Greek for what we Brits understand as chips is πατάτες τηγανιτές (which, much to my extreme annoyance, Google Translate comes up with as "Fries"! In fact, it means literally "Fried potatoes"). Here's a phonetic way to say it correctly:

Pattah'tes tigganitez'. Now, be sure to stress the right syllables. it's the middle syllable of the first word and the last one of the second. Go on, practice it. I've placed the apostrophe at the end of the syllable which you need to stress (and for no other reason!!). The double consonants are to help you to shorten the vowels.

Once again, here we see the difference between English English and American English. If you place two consonants together in Queen's English, it makes the preceding vowel short by following a simple rule. Like, cater or catter, get it (short "a" or long "a")? If I had a Euro for every American word that's dropped the double consonant and yet still shortens a vowel, I'd be a rich man. Like, you may have "travelled", but in American, you "traveled". According to the rule, you ought to pronounce that traveeled, but Americans don't. But it breaks the rule, folks!! I know, stable doors and bolted horses, but it still irritates!

Tell, you what. Why not drop the chips/fries/crisps anyway. Ask for πατάτες φούρνου (patah'tes for'nou - oven-baked potatoes) anyway. They're much more traditional and taste better!!

(In order to not cause offense to anyone [you have to be so careful these days, everyone's paranoid! -allegedly!!] I should add that I love Americans. I have no argument with them as human beings. Indeed, some of my closest friends are American. I have only ever met delightful Polish guests on my excursions and aren't the French such nice people..?)

Saturday, 2 June 2012

A Reeally Good Frappe (Iced Coffee)

 Above: On board the Magellanos, off Stegna

...and Anchored off Tsambika Beach

On my "Aegean Cruise" excursion last Thursday I was talking with one of my guests, a very nice lady from the UK, who asked me, when perusing the chalk-written drinks tariff beside the boat's modest bar, "What's a Frappe? I see it on all the menus and tariffs, but I've never had the courage to ask what it is."

Naturally, of course, I was horrified to think that this lady, who was old enough to have a couple of pre-school-age children, had reached thus far in her life without having enjoyed such a pleasure. Having explained to her what a frappe actually is, it set me to thinking, why should I keep this - one of life's richest, most gorgeous experiences - to myself? After all, if I do say so myself, I make a mean frappe. So as not to take all the credit for this fact, I will interject here that I was taught how to do it by a Greek girl, who'd been making them for a couple of decades already. So she ought to take the credit, Rebekah Tsikola, thanks darlin'!

I've noticed that there are already a bunch of videos on Youtube demonstrating the art of frappe-making and I'm not going to knock the others, as all have their merits, of course. But mine ought to appeal to the Grecophile who may just want to re-create that superb frappe moment when back home in the UK (for example) on a sunny day. And before you say anything, I'd be the first to acknowledge that the UK does indeed get warm (if not actually hot) sunny days sometimes. Rarely it's true, but it's been known.

So anyway, to see me doing my poor impersonation of Jamie Oliver, click HERE folks. Incidentally, I dunno why the video is back to front, but if I can fix it I will. But it's only the tanktop that gives it away really!! Plus, in the UK you may find that it's evaporated milk you need. Here in Greece it seems they label evaporated milk as condensed milk. Thanks to Janet Griffin for flagging that up on Facebook.