Saturday, 6 October 2012

Counting Down

Well, here we are in October already. It's Saturday the 6th to be precise and it's 26ºC (80ºF) outside. Yesterday afternoon we had some convectional cloud and a little thunder, along with a very brief shower, but so far here in Kiotari we've yet to have a good downpour. There's been nothing since May in fact. It makes it a nightmare to keep the car clean, since we drive up and down a kilometre of dusty lane every time we go out or come in. And since we've just changed the car (finally said goodbye to the trusty old Suzuki Swift. Quite sad about that, but an almost new Skoda Fabia with a wicked hi fi alleviates the pain to some degree!), I feel duty-bound to hose off the dust every time we get the car under the carport when we get home. It won't last, but you blokes out there will understand where I'm coming from here, eh?

Changing the car here in Greece, as you'll already guess, is just a tad more complicated than in the UK. Both purchaser and seller have to go together to the local K.E.P. office, which is a government-run organisation and the initials stand for Citizens' Service Centre. It's a bit like the Citizens' Advice Bureau in the UK but with more practical hands-on ways to assist the citizen. For example, you can renew your driving licence there. 

When buying or selling a car, though, although the staff are very helpful, there's the usual bureaucracy to wade through. Plus, as is so often the case in numerous Government offices here, if the person who does what you require isn't "in" when you call, you don't get anything done and have to come back another time. Once you finally get seated across the desk from him or her, along with (in my case, since I was the buyer) your seller, you then have to present your residency permit, your Passport, your Tax number and your green receipt from the Ethniki Bank to show that you've been and paid the tax required of all car purchasers. So I'd had to go previously to Arhangelos to pay €135 (commensurate with the car's engine capacity) in order to be ready with my green receipt before we could do the transfer of ownership.

Then the fun begins. The girl across the desk has to fill in an A4 form upon which she has to record your full name and your father's name, if I remember correctly your mother's too!! The same for the seller. Then all the relevant numbers [tax/passport/residency permit] for both you and the seller. Then she'll write your details on the existing Registration Document for the car and rubber stamp that. She'll then photocopy that and give you a copy because you can't get the vehicle insured without proof of ownership, since it'll be a week or two if you're lucky!) before the new Registration Document comes through.

Then, whilst the two of us on our side of the desk sign in the appropriate places and date the Transfer Document, the clerk will fill out a couple more A4 sheets, which we don't even get to look at. By the time we were done I was looking at a healthy pile of A4 sheets and photocopies under the clerk's right hand and asked her, "How do you cope with all this stuff?" To which she replied, "We don't really!"

Of course, I had to look forward to doing the whole thing again once I'd found a buyer for the Swift. Happy days. In the UK you just fill out the lower portion of the Registration Document with the new owner's details, you both sign it and send it off in the mail. Some days later the new owner receives the updated Document. Job done. I asked the girl if my new Registration Document would be arriving by mail, and she told me that, no, she'd ring me when it arrived so I could collect it. That made me nervous right away. I mean, how often does a Greek tell you that they'll be ringing you and then they never do. I live in hope that she'll prove my fears ungrounded.

I began this post with the intention of musing over the fact that the season is soon to draw to a close. Got a bit side-tracked as usual. 

The last few weeks have seemed to slip by as quickly as the the last grains of sand in an hourglass. Coach drivers and waiters, boat-owners and souvenir-shop owners are all now sighing and saying tiredly, "just a couple more weeks, then we can rest". The bee eaters have almost all flown South and there are baby turtles in the small lake behind the beach down near the new Hotel here, the Princess Adriana. Thankfully, as I've mentioned before, the Hotel's builders made sure to leave this body of water intact. It's a very useful little haven for these delightful little creatures to breed in. In fact, on Monday evening my wife and I stood on the tiny bridge above it and were happily turtle-spotting when a Kingfisher flew out from beneath us and along the lake toward the beach before darting to the right into the rushes which line the banks. It was a brilliant flash of turquoise-blue which certainly brightened our afternoon.

As usual the goats are getting desperate again. Every summer they seem to spend more and more time in our valley as the end of the season draws near, ever searching for something more interesting than a dried up tough stalk on which to chomp. They'll wander listlessly along the lane beside our fence, eyeing the lush vegetation just metres away. The compound down the valley, which some local Greeks cleared and fenced off a couple of years ago, and in which they've planted a clutch of fruit trees, has already been invaded twice in recent weeks and the goats have stripped the trees down to stalks just a couple of feet high. The owners turn up on Sunday morning to water and instead they have to resort to finding out where the goats got in and making good the defenses. The trees are resilient though and soon begin to sprout green leaves again. In the long run it's probably quite a beneficial prune that the goats have given them.

We really need the rain now so that the countryside vegetation can sprout and the goats then no longer need to study people's gardens in the hope of a decent meal.

My wife and I rejoice too that the temperatures are now dropping to the level at which we feel like attacking the garden with gusto once again as the sky begins to sport fluffy clouds now and then, rather like one sees on a typical British summer's day. We live in hope that before long some of these will turn darker and really drop some decent rainfall.

The prospect of long walks and quieter roads appeals, as does the chance to catch up with friends whom we've not seen too often during the summer season. November through December and into January will bring the olive harvest, long mornings spent putting the world to rights over a coffee outside a local bar and the planting of vegetables which we hope to be eating come the spring.

Yes the rhythm of the seasons plays loudly in our symbolic ears and it is good. It is comfortable. It reminds one of all that is good about life on a Greek island, despite all the woes that beset this noble and brave little country.

By the way. I've just finished Victoria Hislop's latest book, "The Thread" and can agree with my wife that it's a very good read. She even said that it was one of the best books she'd ever read. I wouldn't go that far, having found the writing style a little banal in places, but the story is nevertheless well told and it's an education for anyone wanting to learn the modern history of the city of Thessalonika, told through the lives of some fictional characters who lived through some of the most turbulent times ever in man's history. It covers a period from just after the First World War down to the present day.

Well, time to go gardening. Or shall I have a beer instead?


  1. John, Cant you do gardening & have a beer at the same time?
    I bet Maria could because women are good at multi tasking

    1. Whose side are you on then? It's a known fact that multi-tasking is less efficient (sip) than doing (sip) one thing at a (sip) time!!!

      By the way - how did the move go?

  2. Hi John!
    Just found your blog after your unashamed advertising onboard the Magellanos last week! We're the young honeymooners who came with you for the trip on the 27th. If you've forgotten who that is, I've seen the facebook pictures on the Magellanos page and tagged a few of us.

    We're having withdrawal symptoms... stepped off the plane at Gatwick at about 5am and my instant reaction was "let's go back... IT'S TOO COLD!" I (at least, though I'm sure Ian has been converted at least a little) am now a Rhodofile. It's gorgeous!

    We followed your advice and on our last day we went for lunch at the Palestra restaurant on the beach of Lindos. So glad we did! The service was flawless, the mussels were heavenly (we shared this as a starter between the two of us but really I could have willingly devoured the lot and looked around for more!), we were unhurried, the view was amazing and we had a very cute furry visitor who decided that we looked like the biggest sapps, most likely to give up a bit of fish or two his way (we didn't... we may look stupid but we're not, honest!). We also went against your advice and climbed up to the acropolis in Lindos at 12pm wearing only sandals...errr...yeah... bad idea. one piece of advice you can give to anyone planning on climbing up there... FOLLOW THE DONKEYS. They take the easiest route and it's less crowded. Being a bit of a rider (horses), I saw them and logically thought "donkeys won't go up 300 steps, a few maybe but not 300 and the guys leading them... they will take the easiest route possible if they have to do it a few hundred times a day... let's follow them and see where they go". Best idea I ever had! It was a fairly gentle slope up to the donkey point. We went the regular way down and because it's slippy from thousands of feet smoothing down the steps and not very wide, I ended up slipping on my backside and almost taking everyone down the mountain with me like a bunch of skittles (yet another reason not to wear sandals up there!).

    Thank you and the team for giving us the best day of our honeymoon. The food onboard was delicious (I'm gonna be searching the net to find the recipe for the pasta and mince dish... though I can't spell it so not sure what we'll end up eating :-/ ), the crew were excellent, you were friendly, funny, knowledgable and kind, the boat was beautiful and seeing the Island from the sea was just wonderful! The waterpark trip was a lot of fun, but I did end up doing something dodgy to my chest when I decided it would be fun to hit the water off the mat racer slide at an awkward angle with my limbs all splayed out like a drunk flying squirrel. In case you wondered, I was NOT drunk (nor am I part rodent), I slipped in an effort to beat Ian to the bottom...pride commeth before a busted rib it seems! I'm still in pain now and on strong painkillers but hey ho, life goes on, tis only pain!

    Having a quick look through your blog I have to say I'm rather taken with your style of writing. So I will indulge my withdrawal symptoms and download a book or two of yours to my kindle ap and plan our next trip while trying not to get my hopes up too much... a student (even a "mature" one) budget doesn't often stretch far enough to allow holidays. Our honeymoon was actually paid for (spending money as well) by our wedding guests who were exceptionally generous! Oh well, maybe as a special 30th/graduation present!

    Thank you again, I'll be keeping my eye on this blog and hope to see you again in Rhodes at some point in the not too distant future (the Megallanos Lazy Day Cruise is top of my "must do again next time", list).

    Georgia (and Ian).

    PS. BEER HAT!!! Perfect solution to the gardening vs. beer dilemma!! (see, not just a slightly odd looking face!)

    1. What lovely comments Georgia. It was a pleasure and a privilege to meet the pair of you too. It's pastitsio by the way. I really do get a thrill when someone says that it was a highlight of their holiday. Makes it all worthwhile. See you next year - all three of you perhaps, eh?

  3. John. Thank you for asking about our move from Kalithies to Faliraki.A low loader truck took all our large or heavy items including most of Gloria's flower pots.
    We took our time over 3 days with a hire car to move the rest of our ' stuff '
    Being so close to the beach now, it seems a shame not to go swimming every day. So we do LOL
    Amazlingly it only took 2 days for OTE to re connect us. Our new landlords quickly found us a sparks to do the internal phone wiring.
    We are easy to find as you pass through Faliraki on the coastal road [ We are close to the beach you know ] so do come see us next time you are going to / from town
    Phone first [ no change to numbers ] to check we will be in, & get directions

  4. Hi John,
    I take it you're staying in Rhodes for Winter?
    If you come back here, we should meet for a cider or two. My local is the White Hart.
    Cheers, Dave

    1. You bet we are, we've lived out here for seven years and the winter is the best time to be here. Going home to see my mum in Midsomer Norton next March-April, maybe get in touch then.

  5. Well I think it goes without saying you should have a beer first, do the gardening, then since you will have a thirst, have another beer lol. I too read The Thread and have also read her other 2 books, The Return and The Island, and enjoyed them too even though a few tears were shed at sad parts. Waiting for your next book now lol. Have a great winter and well deserved rest and hope to catch up with you both next time we make it out there which will be 2014 for my birthday (50th eeek), and more walking, if not before and hope you can join us for a drink at sometime over the fortnight.Missed Rhodes big time this year but lovely to have your great blogs to read to keep me connected :)