Wednesday, 28 November 2012

A Diseased Tree and Two Disparate Housewives

Tues 27th. November. We drove toward Arhangelos with the ever-present reminders as to what time of year it is all around and ahead of us. Every so often the road bore evidence of weary olive-harvesters having already passed this way in their pickups, either taking their olives to the mill, or perhaps transporting precious logs for winter fuel homeward, the latter having deposited olive twigs and sprigs at regular intervals along the route. Josie, my friend and fellow writer (From Lindos With Love) had called and we had sprung into action (Thundergardeners are go, Scott!). One diseased tree near the house needed drastic surgery, plus there were various other odd jobs that she needed a bit of help with.

Soon thereafter I was up on a wall wielding the chainsaw to severely decrease the size of the ailing fruit tree, whilst the better half was strimming for all she was worth. As it happened, we'd arrived a little early for Josie and she'd gone off to shop for a while. It didn't matter, we knew what we had to get on with and do did so, safe in the knowledge that she'd soon be back home. The only problem which developed was, we'd forgotten where she leaves the house key and the old bladder soon began to require a decreasing of internal pressure. With Josie still not having returned, we decided a frappe was a good idea anyway and so walked the few minutes or so to Arhangelos' main street, where we flopped into a couple of chairs in the sunshine and - once the coffees were ordered, proceeded in shifts to go to the kafenion's loos.

I was reminded during my turn, whilst standing there in the semi-darkness provided by a 40 watt bulb, of all the taverna-loo experiences of yesteryear. I'm sure you know the drill. Quite often you could enter the cubicle to find that the whole tiny room is tiled up to about eye-height, which gives one the distinct impression that the place is OK. I mean OK as in creepy-crawly-free. The mistake one would make was to look higher than the top layer of tiles. This loo was very much in the old style. The tiles (although a mucky brown colour; why do they do that?) did indeed go up to about eye height, but above that the walls were a kind of very rough stucco effect, with every little ridge of the stuff thick with dust. There was no window to speak of, merely two or three unfinished holes through the walls where some pipes ran, and through which there was only dense darkness to be seen. Add to the effect created by this uncertainty the fact that the edges of these holes were well lined with old cobwebs and you have the makings of a Greek-loo danger alert. See, the thing is, you could complete your business in such a cubicle with no problem whatsoever and most times will, but there is always that horrible possibility that something with more than two legs, and in the worst case scenario, eight, could emerge from one of these apertures and you, that's if you're a bloke of course, can't do a thing about it. I mean, whilst you're busy making sure that your aim is steady, you can't afford to go thrashing around in wild attempts to extinguish the life of some scary scuttling thing which threatens to jump on to your face, now can you? And let's be honest, as and when such creatures do faze you, they're always going to be hatching a plan to jump on to you aren't they? Of course they are.

Anyway, I survived and was soon back outside in the sunshine, allowing my cold sweat to gradually dry. Tell you what, those fading b-list folk on "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here" (which I've never watched anyway) wouldn't stand an earthly in an old-style Greek loo. There are still some to be found in Arhangelos, take it from me. Mind you, as a plus-point, the drinks were cheap and we were soon strolling back to Josie's, having received a text saying that she was now home.

Not long afterwards I was again up on the wall and Josie was directing as to which boughs would have to go and which could stay to fight another day. Once we'd lopped most of the poor unfortunate tree's last decade of growth, we were faced with the task of clipping all the stuff I'd cut down to manageable size for disposal. Once again I was chainsawing the larger boughs and branches, with Josie and Y-Maria secateuring for all they were worth, when two women from across the road, both in black and probably widowed, approached up the lane from the street excitedly pointing at the smaller logs and twigs that had begun to pile up on Josie's path. We hailed them. They replied, pretty sharpish:

"What are you going into do with that wood? Can we have it? We don't have fuel for the winter, we haven't got a man to cut it for us. Could we have it, please? Could we?" Oddly enough, they were carrying a couple of plastic crates. Nothing like thinking positively is there.

My wife's first reaction was to say that we have a log-burner and so would be taking it home, but she quickly realised that it would be a nice gesture to let these women have it. We already had plans to go logging with some of our neighbours later in the week and they have a trailer, so we're not going to go short this winter anyway.

When we told Josie's two unfortunate neighbours that they could indeed have the wood, they were very excited and arrived at our sides in seconds. No sooner could I cut some foot-long logs and branches than they had them stacked into the crates and before long we'd cut all that we could that would be of any use. They were very appreciative and couldn't thank us enough. They asked us to convey their appreciation to the Anglida (the Englishwoman) and swore that they thought she was only inches short of being beatified. Whilst me and the missus headed off in the car to purchase some heavy duty black bags, Josie and the two neighbours three-handedly carried a huge pile of green waste on a tarpaulin about fifty metres to the nearest wheelie bin and shot the whole lot into it.

Buying black bags is another palaver. In the UK you just nip into any local store and there's a nice choice of variously sized and coloured bags, usually sold in a roll of, say, ten. You can select the heavy duty ones (usually black) and soon be back home stuffing them for all you're worth. Here it's not quite as straightforward. The only supermarkets which seem to have a regular supply are those in Rhodes town, which is, of course, a bit far for the likes of us to just nip out and buy some. We tried the DIY store within walking distance of Josie's, no joy. Then we drove to the large builders' merchant on the main road, where an excited woman at the till shouted instructions to a bloke who ran up this aisle and down that one, (It was like supermarket sweep, only without the 'sweep') only to finally discover that they only had the small domestic ones, fit for the kitchen bin. I mean, why would a huge builders' merchant, with piles of bricks and sand outside in the yard, only stock tiny domestic rubbish bags?

Anyway, off we went again and went into the garden centre, also on the main road. We like this place and the people who run it are a very friendly and helpful family. I'd been in there very recently to buy a new yard brush, so the girl behind the counter greeted me warmly and asked what I'd forgotten to buy from before. I told her I wanted some heavy duty plastic bags. She replied:

"What are you going to use them for?" I was tempted to say I'd chopped up the body of the bloke I'd just axe-murdered and the heavy duty ones tended to be better for not leaking blood, but thought better of it.
"I've got a lot of garden waste. You know, pointy twigs and stuff too."

"Aah," she replied, with some degree of drama I thought. "You'll be wanting the black ones then." She said this as though wanting the "black" ones meant I'd reeeeally got a job on my hands.
"Yes, I would." I replied. She began to retreat from the desk and, just as she was disappearing behind a shelf unit stacked with all kinds of whatever, into the bowels of the "staff-only" area, she called out,

"How many do you want?"
I was tempted to reply, 'three hundred', when it struck me that they didn't have these in paper-wrapped rolls of ten then. 

"Ten would do!" I answered.

There then came the sound of all sorts of activity, involving a fair bit of that noise that PVC sacks make when being man (or woman in this case) - handled. Some minutes later she finally emerged and came to the desk carrying the bags. Eureka! I thought. "How much?" I asked, fully expecting this to knock me sideways, when she said "€3.50 please."

Not half bad in the end. Once we'd returned to Josie's and inspected them we were well pleased and Josie agreed that these would be re-usable for quite some time to come. The only irritant was how much a of rigmarole it had been to finally procure them. We were reminded of the time when we'd tried to buy hot water bottles. We'd had to go to the pharmacy in the end and the assistant had brought them out from the deepest recesses of the storeroom behind the counter. Dangerous things hot water bottles if they happen to fall into the wrong hands. Likewise black bags I'd say.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Light Fantastic

November 12th was one of those glorious days when the humidity is very low and everything glows in the kind of light that the Greek islands are famous for. The early part of the month was blessed with a couple of weeks of the kind of settled and warm weather that so often comes during the month of November. Yes it's sometimes punctuated with periods of cloud and rain, which is good and everyone loves it. But then the sun comes out again and we can swim and do the gardening in temperatures ranging from 20 to 25ºC.

The light being so crisp and fantastic on that Monday, I found a pretext to go out in the car and snap a few coastal shots in the local area. So, folks, here they are...

View near the entrance to the Lindos Mare Hotel. Vlicha Bay and Kalathos Beach in the distance.

Same place as above, only looking the other way!

Is that place magnificent or what? How wonderful to see the sharp shadows as the sun is lower in the sky now. DG's house clearly visible too.

At the Pefkos end of Psaltos Bay. Feeling a bit bucolic (bet that one got ya, eh? Look it up!!)

From Pefkos "top" towards Lardos Beach and beyond

Heading out toward Lothiarika from Pefkos. Not far from the Illysion

Similar spot. With Kiotari across the bay.

Just trying to be arty. Never  gonna match up to Nigel Sparks though, boo hoo.

And, yes, it is swimmable. the water's still only just dipping (did you catch the subtle pun there?) below 20ºC.

Lardos Beach
 A couple of days after this, we had a frappé at the Gré Cafe, down the road from our place here in Kiotari, where we sat next to a nice couple who've just retired and returned to their home village of Asklipio after several decades of living in Canada. They introduced themselves as Yanni and Georgia. They'd lived in Montreal for 40 years and were happy to tell us that they were glad to be receiving their pensions from the Canadian Government, which means that they won't be hit too hard by the austerity measures here. 

What was most interesting was something they told us about the sea here in Kiotari. From the front of the Gré Café you can see the sea just below the Rodos Maris Hotel across the road. As we were remarking on how inviting it looked, Yannis told us that he believed that under the water out there, not too far from the beach, there are still some huge stone columns. George, one of the two Georges who run the café, also said that he'd heard from divers that there were also some stone armchairs, perhaps thrones of sorts, that had been seen by sponge and octopus divers.

It just goes to bear out what we so often hear. When my wife asked why these artefacts hadn't yet been recovered, the answer was that there is simply too much "archeology" around this island. The fact is there is a lifetime's worth (and more) of stuff out there under the sea, and also under the soil on the island, still to be discovered.

Yea, well, OK. Maybe another day then!!

(As usual, if you'd like to see the photos in more detail, hover your mouse over a pic and then click. Once you get the new view, you can make them even larger by right-clicking and selecting "View image". You'll then notice that your pointer is a magnifying glass, click and it gets even larger!!)

Friday, 16 November 2012

Kalymnos Trip 3 (told you, didn't I!)

See, now there you were out there thinking, "he's never gonna get around to another post about that short break in Kalymnos", when he goes and turns up with it. Here it is, part three...

That reads, "Καλ' Οδον, abbreviated from Καλα Οδον (Deliberate mistake!! see comments below)

The front at Myrties

Myrties and Masouri

A view of Chrysoheria Castle on the hill as we wearily walked back into Pothia after a total of four hours on foot!

"If it were up to me I'd shot his kneecaps off!" So spoke the proprietor of the "Kal' Odon" (The Good Road, or Good Way. ...Actually, since I got it wrong [see comments below] I ought to add here that it's actually kath odon - roadside) Kafeneion in the village of Panormos, to which we'd repaired for a well-earned frappé break during a much longer than expected walk from Pothia to Myrties, on the island's west coast and facing the coast of Telendos, the tiny island situated just across the way.

Having acquired a map of the island and perused our walking options, we decided to walk from Pothia to Myrties, after I'd attempted to gauge the distance and declared that we ought to be able to make it in about an hour, or just over. Having now passed an hour on the road and having only reached Panormos, we had good reason to stop for a break. October 18th it may have been, but it was exceedingly hot still, and liquid refreshment was definitely an essential by now.

Also, from a few hundred metres after leaving the hotel's front door, the better half had been saying, "We must find a bakery. I need to buy us some bread, to keep us going until this evening." To which I'd replied, on innumerable occasions by the time we'd reached Panormos, "There's bound to be one any minute now. There are always bakeries in villages". By the time we'd reached Panormos my conviction was wearing thin and I was getting earache from my wife who had started repeating the bright idea that we should have toured the backstreets of Pothia before setting out along the road, since we'd not passed a singly bakery (least, not one which was actually open) in an hour of walking. Even the delightful village of Horio hadn't yielded the desired result and I'd confidently had to assure her that we'd be bound to come across one sooner or later, she just needed to have a little faith. Trouble was, it was becoming more difficult to assert that she ought to have faith in me when my own faith in myself was beginning to falter.

So, when we came across the "Kal' Odon" we'd become a little fractious with each other anyway, but at least the sight of such a traditional bar cheered us up a jot. The bonus was, no sooner had we ordered a couple of frappés, than we glanced across to the other side of the road to see a large sign saying "Artopoleon" yes, BAKERY!! What's more, it was open. No sooner had we clocked it than the cafe proprietor trotted across the road with a frappe for the woman within, who was very friendly when selling my wife a couple of delicious psomakis.

Having settled down to sip our straws and gulp from the cool glasses of water which were served along with the iced coffees, we got down to the business of listening to the café man talking to another couple of regulars about the hot topic of the day. Incidentally, in the post "A Stopgap Measure" the photo of the two old guys playing backgammon was taken at this very kafeneion. It was now that we overheard the comment at the top of this post. Unable to contain herself at this, my wife interjected into their chat to ask what they were talking about.

Now the bloke who ran this Kafeneion was anything but typical-looking. He looked more like a reject from a Hell's Angels audition. He was very tall, thirty-something, broad-shouldered and wore faded jeans and a black vest top, which showed off his ample pects plus the tattoos which covered large areas of his shoulders and upper arms. That said, he proved to be a very friendly and affable guy and he was delighted to explain his apparently needlessly aggressive comment.

"It's this man who we're all getting sick and fed up of," he explained, "We all know who it is and he's stealing from people's houses and gardens and the police aren't interested in doing anything about it. He's the bad apple and this island would be better off without him and his tatty little family." Apparently, the previous night he'd been spotted once again fleeing the scene of a house break-in. It seemed that he was indeed known to be a felon and, for some reason or other, the police hadn't done anything about apprehending him. One's first reaction to such a story could be to decide that it's not safe on a Greek island any more. This would be a kneejerk response. The very fact that a few locals were talking in this way demonstrates the fact that, mercifully, such things are still the exception rather than the rule out here, even though the austerity measures have indeed resulted in a rise in petty crime. Only the fool would assert that the islands are crime-free, but we still feel a great deal safer out here than in most of the UK to be honest.

The comment about shooting the bloke's kneecaps was an exaggeration born out of exasperation that this low-life had apparently been getting up to no good for far too long without having been brought to justice. Our host was indicating his desire to do something desperate in order to cramp the criminal's style.

Our frappés consumed and a few coins having been deposited on the table, we bade goodbye to our new friends, including the fellows playing backgammon and set off once again for Myrties, to the sound of those we were leaving behind us expressing admiration and bemusement that we'd walk so far.

About another forty-five minutes later we finally descended the hairpin bends of the hill dropping down to Myrties, only to be very disappointed by the seafront there. Having been hopeful that the sea would be calm and that there would still remain a few sunbeds along the strand, we were let down on both counts and so walked along the beach even further until we came to Masouri, where we ascended some steps to a hotel terrace which advertised that the pool area was open to all. We became some of the 'all' and settled into a couple of hours of serious chilling. Well, we'd hoped that this would be the case but, although there were only a few people around the poolside, these included a family with two children of somewhere around 10 to 12 years of age who spent the whole time running around the pool, jumping in and screaming a lot.

Ah well, at least it was warm and I had my iPod, so I could shut out the world for a while. Mad we may be, but we also made the trip back later that afternoon on foot. We'd done over four hours walking by the time we got back to the hotel room, punctuated by probably two or three hours recuperating poolside.

For all that, we both felt that delicious tiredness that only a lot of physical exertion can give one. Plus, before us there was the prospect of another taverna evening in the bustle of the harbour below our balcony. Gin and tonics poured and placed on the balcony table, we sat and watched the sky darken before venturing out to see what the evening would bring.

This hill dominates the northern side of the valley as you climb out of Pothia
 . Click to view the image, and you'll see a fascinating abandoned village up there among the rocks

Kalymnos Trip-1 Post
Kalymnos Trip-2 Post

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Stegna Safari

Visiting Josie in Arhangelos yesterday, as we left at around 3.15pm we decided that, since we were so close, we may as well nip down to Stegna and take a couple of out-of-season photos.

Big mistake. If you're familiar with the road from Arhangelos down to Stegna you'll know that it probably takes about ten minutes to follow the road from the centre of the village along the river conduit, past the olive press and up the hill, then past the T-junction with the road that leads left, past the Tramonto Bar and back up to the main Lindos Road just above the Health Centre, and on down to the front at Stegna. If you've visted the area during the 2012 season, you can't fail to have noticed that there's been a fairly big earth-moving and re-landscaping thing going on down the steep part of this road for the entire summer. Quite what they had in mind we didn't know until yesterday. We have a better idea now.

Heading along the road out from Arhangelos we were just about to pass the right fork which leads up a few narrow backstreets to the Castro when we noticed a large, new and unmissable sign pointing up that lane and saying: "PROS SEGNA", TO STEGNA. Having no alternative but to take the right fork in obedience to the new sign, we were soon wondering quite where they were sending us. Pretty soon we left the "suburbs" of Arhangelos behind and were driving along a winding dirt road through some olive groves and it was quit evident that whatever direction we were going in, it wasn't the right one for Stegna.

The further we went the more agitated my better half became. "This isn't right. We must have gone wrong somewhere." She asserted. I replied that I'd watched the new signs and that we were definitely going where directed, notwithstanding the fact that Stegna was nowhere in sight, just a winding road of one moment concrete, the next dirt, heading away into the distance and over a ridge a kilometre or so away. At least we could see the sea!

Pretty soon there was precious little sign of civilisation, and none at all of Stegna. There was, however, the small compensation of this scene at one point:

Nice, eh?

After another ridge or two had been crested, and one or two very, very steep inclines negotiated, I was surprised, to say the least, to spot the seaside resort we were seeking ahead and still a couple of kilometres away. Just when I'd expected to come across Paul Hogan, standing in the middle of the road waving his two end fingers gently at a wildebeest or something, there was our destination, promising to be within reach in, ...oooh, about ten more minutes!!

As the eagle-eyed among you will have noticed from the shot above, we were approaching Stegna Bay from entirely the opposite end from that which we'd expected to. The usual winding road drops down the hillside to the North of the village and here were were getting our first sight of the place from far to the South. By now my wife's bladder was adding to the exasperation which she was feeling and even I was getting pretty fed up with how, what was to have been a quick dash down a hill, was turning into a safari.

Finally, after negotiating a couple more narrow sections where there were still puddles of mud from the rains of a few days previous, and driving down a few lanes which were so steep that you could hardly have stood erect on them on foot, not to mention that they were so narrow that it would have been a disaster if we'd met a vehicle coming the other way, we emptied out on to Stegna seafront. Where I took this...

Following a few more grumbles from my wife, now suffering from the excessive amount of fluid stored in her bladder, I resolved to attempt the return trip by driving up the usual lane, which ought to bring us up to the junction just below the Tramonto, where I'd planned to take the right in order to pass the said bar and regain the main Rodo-Lindos road in short order.

No good. We only got a couple of hundred yards up the lane to be confronted by a complete road block, festooned with signs telling us that there was no way we'd be going up that road for the 'foreseeable' and beckoning us follow the diversion signs, which soon had us re-climbing the precipitous hill to the South of the bay where I'd taken the second photo shown above.

By the time we eventually regained the outskirts of Arhangelos my wife was briliiant scarlet of face and groaning a little and we'd lost 45 minutes on a wild goose chase that ought to have taken twenty minutes max.

Quite how those few tavernas and bars in Stegna are going to survive this winter with such a ridiculously long, bumpy and in places quite dangerous detour to be negotiated by their potential clientele is a mystery. I mentioned to Y-Maria that I'd hate to have to make that trip either at night, when you'd be driving across some wholly wild Greek rural terrain totally exposed to the worst that the elements could throw at you, or in the rain, when large tracts of the lane would be a complete nightmare of deep mud.

She didn't reply. For some reason she was somewhat preoccupied with the need for me to put a couple of Km of road between us and Arhangelos and find a place to stop where there was an ample supply of bushes. I got this message through her body language.

I hope you Stegna fans out there appreciate the lengths to which we'll go to snap a shot or two for you!!!

PS: Looks like the normal Stegna access road will re-open at some stage. It's just that the size of the job they're doing has necessitated closing the road for an unspecified period.

Part three of the Kalymnos report will follow soon, honest.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Full of Ourselves?

Why do travel writers write, if not to sound off about their experiences, in the belief that some of the people in that big wide world out there may find what they read interesting and enriching, perhaps even entertaining? I mean, let's face it, there aren't enough hours in a life for all of us to go everywhere and see everything that there is to see on this rather interesting planet of ours, I'm sure you'd agree. So we the great public content ourselves to taste faraway places and experiences through the writings of others.

I was prompted to write this piece by a particularly scathing review of my second book, Moussaka to My Ears, which has appeared on Amazon a while back. See, I can't quite get my head around where exactly this person's coming from. I don't mind if my work doesn't do it for some readers. That's life after all. But I wonder why some choose to read travel writing at all, when they're going to come up with words like this person has. Not one to shy away from criticism generally, I'll illustrate. To quote, he/she wrote: "…The author managed to bore me senseless in a very short timespan with trips he had made to the computer shop to arguments with airport check in desks, Come on just because you live abroad it doesn't mean the general day to day crap suddenly becomes something of interest…"

Hmm. Do you think he/she perhaps didn't like it then? See, I'm a huge Bill Bryson fan and I don't even feel that I'm worthy to tie his bootlaces, but, but!!! - Bryson writes about precisely the kinds of things that this "reviewer" seems to take exception to. I think that we all have to realise that a travel writer is someone who writes about him or herself. A prerequisite to travel writing is the feeling that you think your audience will want to read about  all kinds of trivia. It's the only way to give a really complete picture. Just to make the point, in one of Bryson's books he manages to make me chuckle with an account of ordering a snack in an American diner. The waitress keeps coming and asking him if he's ready to order. Finally, after several such visits to his table, he tells her: "Look, give me some time here. I'm not used to these menus, as I've only just got out of prison."

"Really?" The waitress asks, "What were you in for?" To which BB replies, "I murdered a waitress who hurried me."

Now is that day to day trivia or is that day to day trivia? But maybe Bryson's a lot better than me at the witty stuff, OK. Nevertheless, he's managed to get in a paragraph or two about ordering ham and eggs.

I know that my books will appeal primarily to those who either love Greece, or love travel writing as a genre. But I ask myself when I'm writing, why would I want to read someone else's experiences? The answer is simple. We read other people's experiences...
a) for the reason cited in the opening paragraph above,
b) because we want to learn about places we haven't yet been,
c) because we want to be reminded of somewhere we've been,
d) because we want to know about the trivia of daily life as it is experienced somewhere unfamiliar to us,
e) because the author's writing style entertains us while enabling us to do all of the above.

My erudite critic continues: "I admit I only managed to read a quarter of the way through the book but PLEASE what condescending pompous drivel!
So many observations were made looking from down his nose, how hard it must of been to step over the back packer in his scruffy t shirt at the airport, and how funny it sounds when a German attempts to speak English. Come on Please....pass the sick bucket."

The vast majority of feedback which I receive from those who have read my work suggests that I write in a "self-effacing manner," so quite how I could at the same time be "looking down from my nose" is a mystery to me. As stated above, you have to blow your own trumpet a little bit simply to attempt travel writing, because you hope that others out there will enjoy reading about your experiences. Once again, Bill Bryson's work is full of just such trivia as stepping over backpackers at airports, yet I avidly read anything that he's written that I can get my hands on.

There we are. Mustn't let it get to me. I suppose too that there must be at least one person out there who thinks they'd like the sick bucket passed when reading Bill Bryson. I mean, the law of averages and all that eh?

Friday, 2 November 2012

Kalymnos Trip 2

Some decades ago, it was not at all unusual to go out to a regular taverna for an evening and find a bit of dance action. Very often during the seventies and eighties, we'd be on some island somewhere and there'd be more than one taverna nearby where, at least a few times a week, they'd have a bouzouki player sitting in a corner, sometimes with accompaniment, sometimes on his own. He'd be playing all evening and occasionally the staff would spontaneously break out into a Sirtaki or something whilst on their way back to the kitchen from serving a table or three. They'd throw their white towel over their shoulder and pretty soon have the entire place clapping as they ducked and dived to the audience's delight. Cameras would flash and, in fairly short order, my wife would  be up there with him, or her.

The beauty of this situation was that if you were married to someone who had Greek dancing in their blood and had been doing it since she was a wee child, you didn't have to put up with a fortnight of investigation, looking for a venue where your better half could get her fix for the year. How often in more recent years did we spend holidays forever asking where there might be a bit of a Greek Night, not the kind laid on for a huge herd of tourists, but the kind referred to above, where the staff at a taverna would simply put on an impromptu show whenever the fancy took them. These days, sadly, it's become very rare indeed. I was just talking to my friend Ray in Gennadi this morning, who works at a hotel in Pefkos, and he was making the same point. He told me that all season long his guests would be asking where they could see a bit of Greek culture. Most of the bars and restaurants there are playing modern American or British music these days. Some of Ray's guests even said that, although they liked Pefkos, it could almost be anywhere in Europe, since there wasn't enough "essential Greece" there any more. If anyone who runs a taverna or bar in Pefkos reads this, here's a suggestion that I reckon would work wonders for your business. Bite the bullet and pay a bouzouki player a few Euros a night and clear a modest area among your tables. Now and again just dance. Don't plan anything, just do it when the mood takes you. You'll be amazed at how quickly word will get around and people will be flocking to "that taverna where the staff dance when the mood takes them."

I speak from long years of experience. Tavernas where this kind of thing goes on would make a killing nowadays simply because it's getting so rare. It needn't even be a live musician. Still the best taverna I ever visited for this kind of thing was Taverna Lucas almost 40 years ago on Poros Island (see the new "Ideas" page). George Lucas would simply wheel an old Wurlitzer jukebox out on an extended cable to the taverna's front door (there's a story about this in Feta Compli!) and dance to a scratchy old 45 on the "Minos" label.

So, why am I going off on this one? Well, it's funny how things work out sometimes. There we were, on our first evening in Pothia, "capital" of Kalymnos, and we were just trotting down the several flights of stairs from our room to the harbourside below at around 9.00pm. Next-door-but-one to our right there was a nice traditional fish taverna with the required blue check tablecloths, but we wanted a bit of a walk before deciding where to eat. Before leaving reception, we'd asked our host, Kyrio Kariotis, where we could get a good meal and he'd mentioned the name of a taverna some ten minutes walk to our left as we left the building. So, we'd eventually eaten at the taverna that he'd recommended and, although it had been OK, we'd not found as much home cooking on the starter menu as we'd have liked. Never mind, it had been a nice meal and now we were strolling back along the harbour front late on the evening of Wednesday October 17th, looking at all the lights and thinking how wonderful it was that we only needed t-shirts at this time of the evening as it approached midnight.

My wife raised the subject of whether we'd find anywhere where she might be able to dance and I'd been quick to tell her not to get her hopes up and be too disappointed. 

As we drew nearer to our hotel, however, there came drifting on the evening breeze the definite sound of some live bouzouki music. The closer we came to our destination, the louder grew the music. We eventually arrived at the bar outside the hotel to see that the taverna just two doors to the right of the hotel (as you exited the front door) did indeed have something going on. There was a four-piece band playing, consisting of keyboards, fiddle, mini-bouzouki and regular bouzouki and they were in full swing. What a result!!

Having thrown ourselves into a couple of chairs outside the bar, where we were afforded a good view of the action, we ordered a couple of drinks and within seconds my wife had both arms waving this way and that in the air as she chair-danced to the tzifteteli that the band were riproaring through. It didn't take long for one of the men at the taverna to look around and spot her and pretty soon (though she didn't need much persuasion) she was up and among the other dancers...

That's my better half, in the black dress. Once she gets up, I'm alone for ages...

Episode 3 to follow.