Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Suction, Saucepanlids and Sunshine

Regular readers will know that I've often gone on about the perils of trying to get a simple spare or replacement part for a domestic appliance when you live not only on a Greek island, but fifty plus kilometres from the main town on that island into the bargain. Occasionally, and I do mean very occasionally, one of our expeditions into Rhodes town turns out to be a successful mission and we drive all the way home with smug grins on our faces after a day when things went right.

So often we set out from home with a long list of missions to accomplish and end up driving home feeling frustrated because, if one particular task fails (though it's often more than one that fails), we're faced with the prospect of yet another sortie on another day, involving a long drive all the way up the island, when we'd rather be hanging around locally, going for a walk or pottering around in the garden.

Well, yesterday was one of those missions that can be counted as an "almost" success, but also a failure. Of late we've managed to break the vacuum cleaner's "foot", you know, the largest of the attachments that go on the end of the tube, the one that lets you flick the brushes up and down with that little lever which you operate with your foot. Without the "foot" you can't get a lot of vacuuming done and, since we have a rug in the bedroom (that we bought to keep our tootsies warm during the winter months, when a ceramic tiled floor can create the impression that you've suddenly found that your bed's situated in the middle of an ice rink if you step out of it during the night for one of those bathroom visits) that makes a hobby out of collecting fluff and little bits of white cotton, so now the better half likes to whip out the vacuum a little more often than she used to.

Why is it that all those little bits of cotton that collect all over a brown rug are white? What happens to all the dark-coloured bits then? Plus, of course, since we're rather partial to a cup of Earl Grey with a digestive biscuit in bed before rising on those days when we haven't got too much to do, the number of digestive crumbs visible on the floor seems to have increased exponentially since the arrival of the offending rug, kind though it unquestionably is to the soles of one's feet during the night.

So, that was mission number 1. To get to a domestic appliance spares store and purchase a new "foot" for the vacuum cleaner. 

Mission number 2? We have a rather good set of stainless steel saucepans. We've had them for many years and they're still in excellent condition. They came with a "lifetime" guarantee. They have glass lids with metal rims and circular knob-like black bakelite (is that a bit old fashioned these days? I dunno what else to call it though) handles in the middle. That "lifetime" guarantee was put to the test a couple of years ago when we left one of the lids protruding over the side of the pan for too long and the gas flame from the hob caused the glass in the lid to shatter. I Googled the manufacturer's name and contacted the company by e-mail and asked if I could order a replacement lid, since glass is mind-bogglingly more useful than a steel lid, which doesn't let you see what's going on in there while you're doing a bit of simmering. Without hesitation the company sent me a complete new lid without charge - to Greece!! In fact I was so amazed at this, since the set was already probably ten years old, that I e-mailed the company a long effusive paean of praise for being the kind of company that I didn't think still existed these days. 

Well, anyway, the knob on the largest of these saucepan lids broke the other day, rendering the lid almost impossible to lift from the pan when it's in place, ...not good. After a frustrating trawl through my huge file of paperwork from manufacturers, all of which I usually keep for ever, if not longer, I was dismayed to find that, well, I couldn't find the paperwork for the saucepan set. What further added to my fury was remembering that the last time I'd e-mailed the company was on my previous Mac, which has long since gone to that great pile of old hardware in the sky and so the previous e-mails don't still exist either. I Googled once again and this time drew a complete blank. Looks like the manufacturer's gone bust. All that honouring of their lifetime gaurantees I suppose. Thus, you have mission number 2, to find a replacement knob, or, failing that, complete lid for the largest of our saucepans.

There were other items on the list too, a cable to connect my iPad Mini to the TV through the HDMI socket, a new belt for my smart suit trousers, new windscreen wiper for the car. Yea, you're gonna say that garage forecourt shops sell wipers these days, even in Greece. Yup, they sure do, but not the kind you get on a new (well, newish) Skoda Fabia. the wipers are all very swish looking, not having any of that metal superstructure that wipers always had on my previous cars. No, on this one they're just a blade with a hard plastic bit attached to the back of them and a widget that clips them on to the arm fitted in the middle. Nope, my trusty mechanic friend told me, with that look of "poor sod, he's got a trek before him now, just so he can see out of his windscreen when it rains", "you have to go to the dealer for that." The dealer, of course, is in Rhodes Town. So, mission number ...whatever. There was a new bathroom cabinet on the list as well, and a new stapler, I could go on.

In the past week or so we've had quite a lot of rain and cloudy skies. The last really beautiful clear day was in fact Monday December 23rd, which was the day when Gallery Photography, bless 'em, did the photoshoot for the cover of the forthcoming new book. The forecast had given yesterday, Monday December 30th, as another sunny day with temperatures of 17ºC and upward, so it was a good day to plan the campaign. Missions duly listed on a scrap of paper, we set off for town full of optimism.

Now, just before we get to the stuff about what happened in town, a word about Greek drivers. In one of the "Ramblings" books, I think it was chapter 7 of "Moussaka to My Ears" but it's all a blur these days, I explained about how to be a Rhodean. Most of that stuff probably applies to Greeks in general too I'd hazard. Well, once you get as far as Kolymbia on your trip to Rhodes town, which is a little over half-way for us, it's dual-carriageway virtually all the way into town. This has reduced the journey time for us it's true, but it's also enabled Rhodeans to indulge in another of their favourite sports, that of outside-lane-hugging. My wife calls me Victor Meldrew and I don't really mind. I damn well sound like him when I'm driving up to Rhodes town. See, I think I do have a point. Every time we make the trip I come across car after truck after pickup after van, all of whom resolutely whizz along in the outside lane when there's not even a cyclist in the nearside lane for miles. Yesterday morning was no exception. There were several times when I was approaching slower vehicles, sometimes four or five cars in a row, and they were all in the fast lane with absolutely nothing visible for miles in the nearside lane. Now, I don't like overtaking on the inside, but you do reach a point where you don't have a choice. Usually to the sound of my beloved screaming "HE'S COMING OVER!!! HE'S COMING OVER!!" I resort to zipping up the inside of these imbeciles not simply to make a point, but to get where I'm going in a reasonable time. 

I wonder whether these people who persist in hogging the fast lane don't quite understand the meaning of the word "fast," eh? Could that be it? In the rare cases where a Rhodean does use the correct lane, which of course out here would be the right hand lane, they'll still pull into the left-hand lane ooh, about a hundred miles before they reach a set of traffic lights where they are planning to turn left. Can't be too careful, they're probably thinking. I'd say that probably every time I drive to town I also have to swerve to avoid someone who's fiddling with his or her phone and thus drifting into the other lane just at that moment when I decide to try and get past too. It's a wonder we ever make the trip unscathed really.

Anyway, to the successful aspects of the day. My wife had various suggestions as to which stores she thought might be able to supply the vacuum cleaner foot and the saucepan lid knob. I disagreed. I'd been to a store once before, way up in Analipsi, which is a manic suburb of town where double-parking is a sport and you play "dodge the motorcyclists" on a regular basis. It's all three and four storey blocks and shops of all kinds. the width of the roads is usually carefully planned so that, with a line of parked vehicles on both sides, you're bound to lose a wing mirror if you try and pass the car coming the other way without stopping to almost slide along the doors of the cars parked beside you. A tub of vaseline would be a useful accessory for the sides of your car here. Plus in every street without exception there's always someone double parked. You know the kind, they think that if they've left their hazards on then it's OK, so that all the traffic in both directions comes to a standstill while the driver in question picks up a loaf of bread or chats to his or her pal before deciding to let the rest of the world go about their business again.

Well, this store where I'd been a couple of years ago to buy a new switch for our vacuum cleaner after a power surge had done for the previous one is up a side street in Analipsi. Almost by a miracle I found a parking space and, after waiting about ten years for some kind driver behind to let me reverse into it we exited the car in triumph, clutching our sick saucepan lid and our fractured vacuum cleaner foot, and I folded in my driver's doormirror. That's an essential in these parts.

It's a fact that you get so used to stores either not having what you want, or even being closed, after you've driven fifty five km to visit them, that you always approach them with an air of despondency and resignation. With just such an air the two of us strolled into this tiny domestic appliance spare parts store and joined the queue of four or five people in front of us. Surprise number one: The people before us were served with great dispatch and very soon one of the three women behind the chest-height counter was asking us if she could help. I flopped the broken "foot" before her and she instantly turned, went to a shelf unit behind her and returned with a new "foot" in a sealed polythene bag and placed it on the counter. My wife almost fainted at the prospect of once more being able to bring that bedroom rug up like new and I decided to go for it, so, relieving her of the saucepan lid and broken knob, showed this too to the very helpful young woman. What? Could this be real and not merely a dream? Surprise number 2: She took the knob, disappeared around the corner for not more than half a minute and returned with a brand new knob, and a Philips screwdriver. She fitted the knob to the lid for us there and then and the two of us were stunned. A double whammy!! Boy did we exit that store feeling good. The future of boiling pasta or steaming potatoes also having been secured in that wonderful little backstreet store, it was time to head into town for a celebratory coffee.

Did you ever see anyone looking so pleased with themselves? What an effect a vacuum cleaner part and a saucepan lid can have, eh?
Of course, nothing lasts forever and, after we'd enjoyed our coffee in the nice street café, things started to go awry. Ah, well, I suppose it was too much to hope for everything to go well. I almost died from shock when the shop assistant in Multirama (a computer store in the town centre) told me that a tiny six inch long lead which plugs into your iPad Mini at one end and gives you an HDMI socket at the other was a mere €50. I do love Apple, but folks, that's a rip-off. The girl in the store agreed with me as I told her to put the thing back on its hook on the wall display before walking out feeling ill. I didn't find the belt I wanted either, but I did get a new stapler from the little old-fashioned stationers just off Cyprus Square that I so love to go into, plus we were able to order a new bathroom cabinet that, of course, we'll have to drive up to town to collect when it comes in.

All I had to do was get my new wiper for the car before we hit the food stores for a "big-shop". Surely the main dealer will have a windscreen wiper, won't it? I  drew up outside the service and parts centre and then looked forward to the usual wrestling match as I try and get the old blade off of its arm. I'm sure that blokes reading this will identify with me when I say how I've always had a rather antipathetic relationship with wipers. Whenever I've had to replace a wiper myself I've always managed to draw blood or sustain a broken fingernail, maybe some bruising, while pushing, pulling, pressing and tugging in a vain attempt to get the old blade to disconnect from the arm. I'm sure they're designed to cause maximum injury. Wiper designers are all tucked away in their little labs going "Aha, let's see how hard we can make it, so that the poor idiot trying to replace this will turn the air blue while bending the arm in his attempt to get the original blade off. Then, when he fits the new one, it won't go on the same way, owing to that extra little piece of plastic we've put in the package to confuse him and it'll disconnect on the first rainy day when he switches them on, thus causing the arm to scratch a nice arc all across his windscreen."

I lifted the arm on my very own wiper and pressed a small square section in the piece that holds the blade to the arm and it popped off, clean as you like. I stood there flabberghasted for a moment. It couldn't be that easy, could it? Just to be sure, I popped it back on again, snap! Done! Something not right here. Anyway, take it when life smiles on you, take it gratefully, which I did, and strode henceforth into the parts dept. with my blade in my hand. I walked up to the counter, where a swarthy Greek Parts Department chappy took one look at it, then relieved me of it and disappeared behind the acres of shelving units that car parts departments always seem to have in abundance. "Just a jiffy!" he said.

Ten minutes later he reappeared with nothing in his hands. Noticing my puzzled expression, he assured me, "It's coming!" and walked off in another direction, leaving me once more alone. Another ten minutes later, an old bloke with white hair appeared from the bowels of the parts department shelving and he was, sure enough, carrying my old blade as well as what looked like a new one in red-coloured packaging. This old bloke said to me, "Hmm, we don't have the right one, but this one will fit with a little persuasion. Hold on, I'll have to make an adjustment. I'll put it together for you."

He then proceeded to disappear like the other bloke. Ten minutes later (I tell you no lie) he came back to the counter and said, "Well, I don't want to damage this one 'cos you'll have to put it back on. I'll get a new one put up for you in a day or two. Give us your number and we'll call you when it's ready."

"But, I live in Kiotari!" I replied, "it's a long way away." He shrugged apologetically and said, "Well, can't be helped I'm afraid". So there I was, a good half an hour later, re-fitting my old damaged wiper blade while my wife gesticulated from inside the car, Greek music blaring on the hi-fi to pass the time, in the unmistakeable sign language that said, "Told you didn't I!? Things were going too well."

Ah, well, at least we got the opportunity to stroll around town a while, and in doing so, snap these...

If you're a Rhodofile, you'll spot the locations for the above shots I should think. Anyway, off now to stare at the spotlessly clean rug on the bedroom floor. At least it'll make me feel a little better.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Ups and Downs of the Rhodean Winter Weather

Just thought you may be interested in two photo albums I've placed on Facebook. One is the photo shoot for the new book's cover, and was taken two days before Christmas. Just look at the weather there folks...

The other is an album of a few shots I took during a beach walk on Boxing Day...

Those two albums well illustrate why I tell people that a Rhodean winter is much like a British summer - totally unpredictable and never boring!!

Today, it's stair-rodding it down outside, my wife's making bread and I'm sitting in bed writing my second novel and this will be the scene tonight in the lounge...

and this is what my beloved likes doing when it's raining...

Keep warm, safe and snug.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Power Showers

After two days of fairly consistent rain, which we enjoyed watching from the French windows, it's clearing up today and tomorrow it looks like being the start of a run of days with temperatures in the upper teens. It took its time today though, which is why we were treated to some beautiful scenes out on the bay of passing storms, some of which were pretty heavy, but most of which passed us by.

We'd just finished a nice cup of coffee from the cafetière (and a nice slice of home-made flapjack) when the sky began to darken again and I dashed inside for the camera. So, here are a few shots of the showers that drifted across the view from the house, going East-West, but missing us...

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Goats 'n' Roses

 Driving home from Brenda's today we saw this baby goat stranded on the wrong side of the fence from its mother. How they get themselves into such situations I can't imagine, but they're obviously not too bright!! Anyway, let no one say that we don't have hearts. The other half and I stopped the car and spent the best part of a quarter of an hour trying to catch the little devil so we could pass him over the fence to his mum. Would he let us catch him? Would he 'eck as like!! Once I even pulled the fence up from the bottom (hope the owner's not reading this) and suggested he might like to wiggle underneath to where his anxious winnying mother was pacing back and forth, but would he come near me? Nope.

After he'd run out into the road for the third or fourth time we had to give it up as a bad job. Better he hang around near his mum against the fence, than get knocked down out in the road.

With heavy hearts we had to drive away and leave the pair of them to their fate. Probably won't sleep tonight now.

Yesterday we did our first bit if DIY-ing since my op. Her indoors did all the lifting, carrying ladders, tools etc. - it's at times like these I'm grateful that she labours (appropriate verb there) under the misapprehension that she's an Irish Navvy really - and I did the thinking, pencil marks and staining (the brains of the outfit, see?)!!! But, we managed between the two of us to clad the back end of the car-port with T&G after the polythene sheeting that I'd put up there five years or more ago had finally cracked and been ripped to shreds by the winds of a couple of weeks back...

Aah, T&G eh? Sounds so much more appealing the other way around.

Finally, Maria's been out there with her trusty secateurs again, as she usually does at this time of the year, and she's cutting roses from the garden for our small breakfast table in the kitchen. I just can't imagine a garden without roses. Blossoms like these will grace our table for several weeks (if not months) now - and the smell! As I've mentioned before, the closest I can get when describing the aroma of roses in the kitchen when I get up in the morning is to compare it to fresh raspberries. Enticing or what?

So, there we are folks, a few thoughts from today, December 17th. Only four days to go the shortest day. That's why the pagans of old invented what's now known as Christmas of course, to celebrate the re-birth of the unconquered sun. A week-long carouse of drinking and overeating, exchanging gifts all the while. Hasn't changed really has it.

Goats 'n' roses - sounds like a good name for a band. And there was that mummy goat worrying about what she called her "sweet child of mine" on the other side of the fence. There, you didn't know I could speak 'goat' did you.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

A Bright Morning and a Good Night

Sunday morning December 15th. It's starting to warm up a little now, the weather that is. Still only 4ºC during the night last night though, but as I went outside to tip the ashes from the log-burner on to the compost heap and take the air whilst gathering fresh kindling and logs so as to prepare the fire for tonight's cozy session, it felt a lot warmer than it had a few days ago, when there was that "bitterness" in the air that cuts through you.

It's another one of those mornings, though, when the light's so beautifully clear that you just want to stare at everything in creation. More particularly, I wanted to stare at our little lemon tree near the car port. It's been in "situ' now for several years, each year attempting to grow into something resembling an actual tree and each year thinking better of it. Twice now it's put forth a tiny green lemon that we'd hoped would be the first of many. On both occasions they've stayed about the size of a large olive, turned black and fallen off. This year, however - success!! we have one lemon!!!! There is a tree out in the orchard that's been producing for several years, but this little one near the house has struggled to get itself going. Now, though, it looks like its roots have finally scythed their way into the rock-hard earth and it's decided that it's going to make a go of it.

Quick as a flash, I was out there at 9.00am with the iPad and I snapped a few piccies...

This is the best rose in the garden, always sending up wonderfully fresh-raspberry-smelling blooms in wintertime

A result!! Soon to be gracing a long tall glass containing an enjoyable recreational tipple.
In fact, I took a couple more...

There's our little lemon tree, cute eh? It's taken it years to get to that stage! At one point a couple of years ago it had one leaf and we thought it was dying. Never give up!!

Green enclosure = veggie patch

Fresh grapefruit from the tree in the orchard, a-ma-zing. (Where's Craig Revel Horwood when you need him?)
After a few days of really chilly weather, even in the daytime sunshine, it's now set to return to something like normal temperatures for this time of year. Yesterday we were able to take lunch out on the terrace, so that was encouraging. But, as usual, (same in the UK and probably across the whole planet), when you get a few cold days and nights, someone will always say, as did Anthoula, a friend of ours from Kalathos, just last Thursday evening, "It's gonna be a cold winter!!" Soothsayers all, I say. I'm firmly convinced, however much we like to watch the long-term weather forecasts, that no one, not even the meteorologists, really knows what it's going to be doing more than 48 hours in advance. Witness the fact that as you follow the ten day forecasts on the internet, they change so much as the next week approaches that a day you'd looked at seven days in advance often bears no resemblance weatherwise when it arrives to that which was foretold a week earlier (pauses for breath).

I like to think I'm pragmatic. I'll take it as it comes. Get the cocoa on...

If you've been following this piffle for years, you may remember a post, which has now become chapter 41 in "A Plethora of Posts" [Get Your Ya Yas Out], wherein I refer to a friend of ours from a village not too far from here. She's called (names changed to protect my bodily integrity) Despoina, has a voice, as described in the above mentioned chapter, like Chris Rea mixed with Rod Stewart, with a bit of Peggy Mount thrown in, in other words a raspy foghorn, and is only four years older than my wife, but that didn't stop someone we bumped into in Rhodes Town once asking Maria if Despoina was her mother. My wife spend the remainder of that particular day feeling very pleased with herself.

Anyway, Kyria Despoina is very large of girth. In fact, when I see her from the rear I'm often tempted to smash a bottle of champagne against her ample rump and declare "God bless all who sail in her!" She walks with a permanent waddle, which would make me seasick in no time. When she's in the car with us I often feel like my ears are going to implode, she's that incapable of talking quietly. All that said, she's a lovely person and has a very hard life, which is why we try and do little things for her when we can. 

A couple of days ago we were driving along with our corpulent friend spread across the back seats and we had the hi-fi on quietly. We always turn it down if we have passenger in the back, manners and all that. Well, as it turned out we were playing a recent album by Vasilis Karras, one of Greece's biggest current singing stars in the "Laika" genre. That is, predominantly Bouzouki music and traditional rhythms, the kind you dance to in the Bouzoukia. I'd never really thought about Despoina's musical preferences, or even if she had any. So she surprised us somewhat by saying "Turn it up! I love music, I always have."

Well, not needing much encouragement, my wife spun the volume knob and Karras was soon belting out even louder than Despoina talks. A moment later and I was listening to Karras, accompanied by the two women in the car with me, both of whom knew all the words to the songs. "When I hear this I want to dance!" declared our passenger. "I always danced when I was younger. I had my team, you know." Just then a Hasapiko started and Despoina continued, "We used to practice for hours. You have to have four to dance the Hasapiko, and everyone dances it with different steps [a fact which we were already aware of, since we do a basic version, but it's different from every version we've witnessed on Rhodes, my wife's family hailing from Athens], so I had my team. We would wow the boys I tell you. When I was 19 I'm talking about now. Long time ago."

Then came a Tsifteteli, the belly-dance that the Greeks have kind of adopted from the Turks. My wife, though I say so myself, does a mean Tsifteteli. It's the most popular dance in Greek nightclubs, where you'll see girls by the dozen girating all over the place. Occasionally a brave bloke will pitch in and do it too, but it's very much a lone dance really. Hands stretched aove their heads, fingers clicking, the girls hips are going this way and that, legs bending then straightening again. It's a mesmerising dance to watch, so I hear (ahem!).

Despoina continued: "I used to do this so well that they'd always put me on the table," I'm proud to state that this has been my wife's experience on numerous occasions too, "I remember one time they kept giving me ouzos and wouldn't let me get down off that table. I tell you, I must have drunk 20 ouzos!! What a night. I ended up with my butt on the floor and my feet still resting on the table. I don't know how I got there."

At this point my imagination was running rife. I couldn't quite imagine how slim our friend must have once been, so I had this mental picture of her up there on that table in the shape she is now. Boy, would that have had to be a strong table.

For all the possibilities in a scene like the one she'd described though, from my own experience I can say that it would have been quite respectable. Let their hair down they certainly do, but I'm still amazed at the respect they accord women, at least in the more rural areas and on the islands.

"We gotta go to a Bouzouki one night!!" declared Despoina. I couldn't help thinking that it might be a pretty good idea. It would probably be a night to remember, that's for sure!

And the tables in the establishment are going to have to have steel legs.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Polishing Off the Olives

The inexperienced British couple arrived at the olive mill full of pride and expectation. It was their first ever visit with a few sacks of their own olives, harvested with their very own hands. When their turn eventually came and a couple of mill workers undid their sacks in readiness for pouring the olives into the stainless steel hopper at the start of the oil production process, they were rather put out when the two men exchanged grins and then turned to their customers, their faces only a gnat's whisker away from a laugh.

At first our couple of harvesters didn't discern that there was benevolence in the grins. They were a bit worried when the older of the two men asked, "Did you polish them too?"

Alan and Julie have lived out here for quite a number of years. Their house backs on to some olive groves which are owned by a friendly and now somewhat ancient old Horiatis called Fotis. Fotis is one of those old Greeks who has more olive trees than he knows what to do with. Maka'ri [I wish] say many of those who hear this.

Just beyond the boundary of Alan and Julie's garden are some really beautiful olive trees which are probably a couple of hundred years old, so still quite young, then. Fotis has been acquiring trees by the dozen or more for a few decades now, mainly through deaths in the family, or perhaps cases of other relatives who've lost the taste for labouring away in the groves for three or four weeks, thus sustaining substantial injury to the forearms and enduring aches in muscles they never knew that they had, every year in the run-up to Christmas.

This year isn't a good one for the olive harvest, apparently. Our old friend Gilmas, who knows just about anything there is to know about horticulture on Rhodes, told us the reason why a week or two ago. We'd been asking around, all our usual contacts - Dimitri the Horse, Taki and Naomi down the lane, Mihali the smallholder in Kalathos, George from up north near Rhodes Town, plus on or two more - but drawn a blank. Owning up here: I too, this time around, didn't feel like the hard graft that would have been involved. Mind you, having just had surgery I suppose I can ever so slightly be excused for feeling physically fragile. The better half though, ever ready for a bit of spit and graft in the groves (bless her), would readily have rolled up her sleeves if there was any work to be had. Kyrie Gilma though, enlightened us, as he also lamented on his own dearth of oil supplies. But this time we just wanted to buy some oil off someone, anyone!

"Last May was the problem, paidia," began Gilma. I always love the way he leans slightly forward when telling us such things, almost as if walls had ears and we weren't in fact about twenty kilometres from the nearest village and at least a hundred metres from the nearest neighbour. "Last May it was windy. The wind blew the tiny fragile flowers off of the trees, along with the already-forming olives, which were still only about the size of a sesame seed. If it's too windy or it rains too hard in May, there will be few olives in November and December," he continued, to the sound of the two of us also joining in the spirit of the thing by leaning forward and uttering our "aaaahs" of understanding.

Thus it is that we have, for the first time in seven years, an empty 35 litre barrel which we shall have to take to the mill and beg them to fill for us at a hopefully reasonable price.

Alan and Julie, on the other hand, whilst conversing with their neighbour Foti, were thrilled when he told them that there were eight trees right outside their garden fence that they were welcome to harvest, if they'd be prepared to do the work, and thus to keep the oil as their own. Fotis is in the enviable position of owning trees which are in a low valley, well sheltered from the direction from which the wind was blowing last May. Fotis could afford to be generous.

I've described a few times our own experience of harvesting olives. There are accounts in both "A Plethora of Posts" and chapter 5 of "Moussaka to My Ears" (which you'll have read if you've followed my mutterings for any length of time. If not, why not? Catch up, will you!!). In the "Moussaka" account I talked about the first time that we ever took part in an olive harvest, working for Dimitri "the Horse". Not long after we'd begun gathering the little black slippery marbles from the net beneath our very first tree we'd become aware of Dimitri hovering, intent on saying something but without wanting to make us look like idiots, which of course, in this regard, we were.

"You're being too thorough," he'd told us, as he'd watched us sift out every leaf, every twig (however tiny) before pouring the luscious little balls into the crate for stacking in readiness for their trip to the mill. He had a kind of contraption of the type which we've now become well used to seeing everywhere, sitting in the grove. It's about waist height, with a metal mesh table, beneath which is a sloping tapered channel down which the fruit roll into the crate or sack. The mesh is large enough to allow the olives to drop through, accompanied by a goodly number of leaves and twigs to keep them company. There we were, wet behind the ears harvesters, worrying about every leaf, every twig, thus ensuring that each crate or sack contained nothing but olives and olives alone.

Photo borrowed, with thanks, from this blog.

Of course, when we'd eventually gone to the mill ourselves and seen how much general debris fell out of all the Greeks' sacks or crates as the contents were being tipped into the hopper, we soon realized that an early stage in the process, carried out by the machinery itself, involves all this extra material being separated from the fruit before the olives are washed and sent into the grinder.

Alan and Julie, on the other hand, set about their first ever olive harvest alone. Full marks to them, they did all eight trees and took a goodly number of sacks to the mill. They slaved away for a week or more, cutting out the middle of the tree as they'd seen the Greeks do, for it to "breath". They'd crawled around on their hands and knees collecting every last olive so as not to let a single one go to waste. They'd rolled up their nets, packed their sacks full and loaded them into the back of their car and come to realize as had we some years back that a car-full of sacks of olives tends to sit right down on the stops, the weight being rather more than they'd expected. They'd driven their family saloon in a sit-up-and-beg attitude, the front was so high, along the road among the pickups and trucks all the way to the mill at Arhangelos and waited their turn in the queue. They felt accomplished. They felt (as indeed had we) assimilated. They felt like they belonged just that little bit more than they had before.

Then the men tipped out their harvest into the hopper and found it hard to restrain themselves from bursting out laughing, partly too from amazement. They didn't want to upset Alan and Julie, but they simply couldn't believe what the were seeing. Never had such a clean sackful olives, in fact sackful after sackful of the same, been tipped into their hopper as these they were tipping now. The men were genuinely in awe of just how meticulous this couple had been. Thus they asked the question, "Did you polish them too?"

As the couple were telling us this experience over a hot coffee recently, they said that they hadn't known at first how to take this question? Had they been remiss in some way? Ought they to have "polished" the olives before taking them to the mill? Did "polishing" involve some process that one does in the grove that they hadn't known about? Only when the men slapped them both on the shoulders and explained what had amused them did they get it. 

All's well that ends well, they told us. It ended up with the four of them falling about. The British couple over all that wasted effort and the Greeks in relief that they hadn't upset their clients.

Alan and Julie have the last laugh anyway. They have a barrel-full of oil this winter. We don't!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Rain, Sun and Stitches

Yesterday morning, Wednesday December 4th, it was time to drive back to the hospital to have my stitches out. Forty years ago, when I'd had the other side "done" they'd used those new fangled metal "clips", and I know that in the UK quite often these days patients don't need to have their stitches removed because they dissolve.  Well, OK, so probably the dissolving types are more expensive, I'm only a layman. But I felt anyway that it wouldn't do any harm for the experts to see how the thing was healing up. Plus I had a box of choccies and a card for the whole team on "B Surgical" ward to deliver.

The capriciousness of a Rhodean winter was brought home to us as we drove north. Starting around the Lardos area and continuing all the way as far as Afandou we were struck by how much mud and how many rocks had been washed on to the roads during the previous night. We had expected to wake up to continuing rain, when in fact it was mainly sunny. Here in Kiotari we'd heard the rain in the darkness outside in the early evening of Tuesday, probably about 7.00pm. It then rained on and off, occasionally heavily until well into the small hours, but nothing to write home about (so I won't!).

But as we drove north we were a bit non-plussed to see so much muck on the roads, occasionally so thick that it necessitated slowing down to a crawl to get through it safely. We both agreed that we'd never seen so much mud on the roads in the more than eight years that we've lived here. 

It was a cold day yesterday. The cloud increased as the day wore on and the temperature never surpassed 15ºC all day, that's cold for Rhodes. Arriving up on the 4th floor of the hospital I went to the Sister's Station in the ward and was told that I'd just need to pop around the corner and tap on the door of the surgeon's office and he'd sort out the removal of the stitches. I don't know what I expected really, but in all probability it was that a male nurse or junior doctor would do the deed. I obeyed and duly 'popped' around to the other corridor where the surgeon's office is situated and tapped on his door, to the sound of voices within. A second later the door was opened and the surgeon, seeing me, said "Ah, John. Just pop round to the examination room and I'll be there directly."

As he was closing the door I just caught sight of an elderly woman sitting across from him at his desk, her body framed by a background of the cornucopia of potted plants that adorn the surgeon's private sanctum. So, once again I 'popped' back around to the ward and waited outside the examination room. I know where everything is in that ward now! Minutes later I was alerted as to the surgeon's approach by his voice as he was carrying on an animated conversation on his mobile phone as he strode around to see me. Pointing first at me, then at the door, he suggested I enter and he'd be there in a jiff. So, enter I did and he soon followed me in, all the while still conversing on the phone. Using hand signals he bade me prepare myself on the black vinyl bench, covered as it always was with a fresh strip of white absorbent paper from end to end. 

Having concluded his phone conversation he told me that it was a close friend of his from Athens who'd had a liver transplant and a few other serious surgical procedures besides. It helped me to place my own experience in perspective! Job done and I was soon joining my wife, after presenting our little gift of appreciation to the duty nurse at the desk in the ward.

We had a list of errands to perform in the town and were soon parked up and walking about from store to store trying to cross things off our list. We were also going to visit an old friend who lives in the Old Town, somewhere not a stone's throw from the Palace of the Grand Master. Thus it was that I whipped out the iPad and snapped three shots...

Seems that even in the middle of town there are cat lovers who leave out a bit of food for the feral moggies

Just as you enter the Old Town from the Mandraki end (over and under the bridges). If you're here in summer you don't see the vehicles all over the place like you do in winter time. Locals and residents are allowed to use much more of the Old Town for driving around and parking during the winter months. The souvenir shops open if there's a cruise ship in, which there was yesterday.

Look left or right as you climb the Street of the Knights and you'll often see a scene like this.
It's quite strange to be seeing a bunch of tourists from Germany being led round by a guide and they're all dressed in long trousers, quilted jackets, hats and scarves. Frankly, we two had underestimated (clothes-wise) how cool it was going to feel and that's probably why we felt chilled. Plus the "igrasia" [humidity] means that the damp gets into your bones too.

Feeling pretty worn out we arrived back home at something like 3.40pm and both needed warming up. I powered up the Mac to take a look at "The View From Kleoboulos'" Facebook page and was gobsmacked to see that several of our friends in the village of Pilona had been flooded out during the previous night. Muddy water had invaded their homes to a depth of several inches. They'd apparently had a much worse rainstorm than we'd had, situated as we are just a few kilometres south of them. This often happens and we can only put it down to the fact the villages of Lardos and Pilona have much higher hills around them, which trap the cloud and even make it thicken, hence heavier rainfall results.

Y-Maria's probably going to spend Monday helping one of our friends with the clear-up, although they all have by now at least banished the water from within their houses. I can't do an awful lot myself, for obvious reasons (that's my excuse anyway). What's a huge plus point about the winters here, though, is that once the sun comes out everything dries out. This was made evident as we'd driven home, since the further south we came the more sunshine there was and the thick mud that had lain across the road in parts was already turned to dust and quite frequently worn completely away in two lines, where vehicle tyres had been traversing these patches all day. Back in the UK we remembered that, during the deepest winter months from December through February, the best you can expect from the very low sun is light, but no heat. The result being that muddy roads and lanes would remain so for weeks sometimes.

As I sit here in bed typing this on Thursday morning, it's bright sunshine outside and 19ºC. A glorious day by any standards. We're both in bed because we both came down with "something" after yesterday. That's our excuse and we're sticking to it. 

Last night too was the first time since last March that we lit the log-burner. December 4th. Can't be bad, can it?

Friday, 29 November 2013

Only When I Laugh

I don't suppose the easiest of circumstances in which to strike up a casual conversation with someone is at the time when they're dragging a Bic razor (sorry about the advertising) all over your privates. "Off anywhere nice for your holidays next year?" doesn't seem the appropriate thing to say when you're flat on your back and naked from the chest to the knees, then you look down and see this bloke, all in green 'scrubs', lifting certain parts of your family allowance out of the way in order to make sure he doesn't miss a bit.

There's something that makes one feel deeply vulnerable when one's pubes are all gone and you look down at the area around your nether regions and it looks like a chicken just about to go into the oven. Having at the time still sported my hernia, the resemblance to the unfortunate bird was even more striking. I found myself wondering, "Does this bloke spend all day shaving people before surgery, or are there other aspects to his daily grind that make his life a little more worthwhile? What does he talk about when he's propping up the bar of an evening with his mates? Does he have a scale of 1-10 by which he measures the blokes he's shorn? "Tell you what Kosta, you'd have been dead jealous of this bloke I did this afternoon..."

Anyway, as you probably already know if you read my rubbish with any degree of regularity (like I said before, try therapy), I was in Rhodes General Hospital, "Andreas Papandreou Hospital" to give it its full and grandiose title, for a hernia operation. I was in two minds as to whether to inflict my tale on you, to be honest. But after having heard so many negative comments and derogatory words about the place from other ex-pat Brits who live out here, I now can speak from considerable experience and wanted to set the record straight, possibly also putting a few readers' minds at ease, should any of you out there in web-land ever find yourselves in need of treatment out here on Rhodes.

For starters, I was amazed at how soon I was booked into the system to get my op done, as you'll know if you've read this post, plus maybe this one too. So, there I was at the ridiculously early hour of 8.00am last Monday, November 25th, checking in at the patient reception desk at the hospital. Paperwork out of the way and a wad of A4 photocopies stapled together now in hand, followed by my trusty wife (laden down like a beast of burden) I made my way to the fourth floor, B Surgery Unit.

Why was my better half laden down as described above? Well, the Greek system has always been a little different from that in the UK. It has nothing to do with austerity or anything like that. It's merely the fact that here in Greece the culture is that a hospital patient usually has someone from their family at their bedside for the duration of their stay, you know, someone to find and put on your slippers for you; put them on your feet of course, not theirs. If they put them on their own feet you'd be seriously thinking about whether you made the right choice of hospital carer in the first place. This is due to the fact that the Greek health system never has spent money on some of the little extras that we expect in a UK hospital. All the staff that do look after you are professionals and extremely good at their jobs, let's get that out of the way first. But they don't employ as many ancillary staff as in the UK and they don't always provide stuff like a jug of water at the bedside, that extra cup of tea half-way through the afternoon and so on. 

So, my wife, ever the pragmatist, decided to come prepared for all eventualities. I had with me a rucksack containing my toiletries, tracksuit bottoms and a t-shirt for my stay (haven't had a set of pyjamas since I can't remember when!) and my slippers. She, on the other hand, conscious of the fact that she'd be "camping" by my bedside for the three days or so of my stay, carried a pillow, replete with fresh pillowslip, a bag of mixed nuts and raisins, some crisps and savouries to nibble, a couple of bottles of squash, a vacuum flask, a bottle of water and a toiletries bag stuffed with all her creams and stuff. Oh, and a full-sized bath towel plus one of those 'scrunchy' things you use in the shower to lather up the shower gel, which she also brought along too. Then there was a bag of fruit (bananas, apples etc.) and a wind-up torch in case of there being no power during the nights. I thought she was being a little mega-cautious there, but she brought it anyway. Nearly forgot, she also had in a bag with her a few changes of underwear, whereas I'd brought one spare pair of briefs, which I only ended up changing into on the morning of our departure.

When we rolled up to the Sister's desk in the ward I swear they looked at her and thought she'd just come out from under a railway arch. Mind you, since there aren't any railways on Rhodes, perhaps not, but you get the picture.

I was soon signed into the ward and a very nice receptionist took us along to our room, which consisted of four beds, an ensuite and a fabulous view. There was even a wardrobe near the door for each patient in which to cram all the stuff they wouldn't need until it was time to check out and go home. There was the usual bedside cupboard and shelf, in fact, the whole place looked exactly like you'd expect of any modern hospital ward room. Mine was the bed furthest away on the right, beside the window, from which we had a view across to Turkey and Symi, plus of the coast at Ialyssos and we could see the northern end of the airport runway at Diagoras. Had it not been for the fact that that I was in for surgery, it would have made a very acceptable hotel room. I reckon the view was a lot better that quite a lot of hotel rooms on the island anyway...

During our hour-long drive up to the hospital, the weather had been dull. Not long after checking in, it deteriorated and all day long on Monday it was awful. Just as well we couldn't go anywhere really.
There then began the round of things that they need to do before you get "surgerized". First, I had to go for a blood test. Young chap in blue scrubs, busily chatting to his mate in similar attire about football, soon gets that out of the way. Well, actually it was his second attempt to find a vein that surrenders some of my blood which succeeded. I'm sure my body doesn't want to let any of its component parts go without putting up some resistance. It's understandable.

Then it was back to the ward to sit on the bed and wait. An hour or more goes by and then you're told, "off you go to get your chest X-rayed". Got to see if anything would affect you going under the anaesthetic. Nice little jaunt down to the ground floor, where I hand in my bit of paper along with the rest of the waiting inmates and I'm soon called in by a businesslike woman who tells me to stand in front of one of those unwelcoming cold panels. I was immediately put in mind of those newsreel clips about women going for mammograms. I had my hands thrown around each side of the panel and my chest pressed up against it. Before I could say "cold nipples!" she told me it was all done and I could return to the ward.

The day drifted by as we watched the weather close in ever more...

We were very pleased to find that my next door patient, a very nice bloke called Theophilos, was extremely amenable, as was his wife Soula. There were no patients in the other two beds, something which was to prove most useful. Chatting together helped to pass the time and eventually, some time around dusk, I was told to go and have my interview with the anaesthetist. Theo had already gone down for his surgery (same problem as me) in the middle of the afternoon. So I was rather keen to see what kind of state he'd be in when they brought him back, since it would have a bearing on what what I could expect. 

The anaesthetist was very nice, as was everyone I'd so far encountered. He told me that I could elect to have local or general. Local?! For a hernia?? I told him I was well and truly intent on being asleep for the duration thank you very much. Imagine actually hearing what's going on!! No way José.

They brought Theo back to the ward about two hours after he'd gone down. He was wide awake and chatting with the porter who was wheeling him along. Good sign then. The op itself only takes about half an hour, and his wife had followed his bed down with him and came back with him too. At this stage we didn't know whether she'd been allowed in to watch the whole thing, but rather expected not.

Next was my turn to be shaved, hence the scene described at the top of this post. After the bloke had completed his work and stood back to admire his accuracy and the cleanness of the whole thing, he hit me with: "Now, if you'd just turn on to your side, I have to give you an enema. This won't hurt..." Resisting the urge to say "I hardly know you!" or , "ooh, Matron!!" I did as requested. No further comments necessary about this bit.

My last "appointment" of the day was a final interview with the surgeon himself. I entered the examination room where he said, "Hello John. Everything OK? Drop your trousers, let's have a look." It's only people of a few very specific professions that can say things like that when you think about it. He told me to remain standing as I exposed the offending bulge. "Poh Poh!" He rather helpfully exclaimed, "einai mega'li!!! [it IS big!]". I have to say that he was right. To be honest, if I'd told you that I'd swallowed a tennis ball and it had migrated to the area of my lower left groin, you'd have believed me. Anyway, he then sat me down and ran through the results of all the tests I'd had done that day. The blood had revealed no problems with diabetes, no kidney problems, in fact everything hunky dory. In fact [and this is where I have to boast, folks, with all humility...] he clipped my chest x-ray on to the light box above our chairs and raved about how clear it was. "Like an 18 year old!!" he exclaimed. "Totally clear. Perfect!"

 See, there's a plus point to such an experience. You get a free MOT test thrown in. (For our non-UK friends, that's the UK annual roadworthiness test for vehicles over three years old)

By the middle of the evening I'd sampled the hospital food a couple of times. They allowed me to eat up until the evening and to drink water up until midnight. After that it was "nil by mouth" until after the op. The food is very acceptable. No, it's not Cordon Bleu, but it fills a hole and I certainly wasn't so averse to it that I'd have wanted to complain. They'd been told when I checked in that I was vegetarian and they gave me a pasta and cheese dish for supper on Monday evening, accompanied by a small side dish of Greek salad. There was yogurt and chopped fruit for dessert and a nice brown bread roll too. If I had any complaints at all it would have been that I'd have liked more salt. But that may well have had something to do with the fact that I was in a hospital anyway. In fact, the paper napkins that came with the food were emblazoned with the "Omorfos" logo. Omorfos is the very company run by my friend Vaso, the young lady who provided the lunches on the lazy day cruises that I did all summer for Thomson (TUI). Small world. If you go in to hospital out here, take a salt cellar with you, job done.

Next morning at six o'clock sharp the lights went on and a loud woman's voice announced that they were going to change Theo's drip (Ringers Lactate I think, to re-hydrate and take away hunger pangs while one recovers from the anaesthetic). That's something that seems to be common to hospitals the world over. No one, but no one gets to sleep on past 6.00am.

Three hours later, me now dressed resplendently in that paper gown thing that does up at the back, along with some knee-length stockings that are meant to help with the circulation while you're out for the count, the lady porter arrives to wheel me down for my surgery. My wife has an anxiety attack, then quickly recovers and follows the bed as I begin the trip down two floors to the theatre. As I'm wheeled along the corridors everyone I pass looks my way and says "Kali epitikia", which means something like, "good luck". To be strictly accurate, it translates as "good success".

Once out of the elevator (OK, "lift") we arrive at the swing doors leading into the surgery area and the porter tells my wife that it's thus far and no further. She can wait just over there, where there are a few chairs and a couple of other people looking anxious. Once through the doors I'm struck by how all the decor is now brilliant white, whereas elsewhere it's a kind of cream motif. Before a few seconds have past, and a few medical staff have done likewise, all looking like they're on a mission, I'm wheeled into a side room, where a bloke in the ubiquitous green "scrubs" is waiting for me. He wheels a stainless steel operating table alongside my bed, stretches a green sheet over me and bids me take hold of the top corners of it. Once I have done that, he, quick as a flash, reaches under it and whips away my bedclothes. Then he helps me transfer myself on to the operating table, which he'll then wheel a few metres further into the theatre itself. I find myself saying to him, as much for my own comfort as anything else, "It's like a factory isn't it. A constant stream of bodies coming in this door, out that one."

He replies, "Yes. Actually, we often say we're like bakers, shoving trays into the oven and pulling them out when they're done!" I'm now a figurative loaf folks.

Once I was in the theatre it all happened very fast. The anaesthetist I'd had the interview with the day before was there and soon began preparing to administer the anaesthetic. Next thing I knew, I was coming round and the surgeon himself was speaking to me. "All fine John. You're done, Everything went well."

A woman's voice to my right. I turn my head and there, not more than a metre from me, is a young woman, evidently waiting to go in from where I'd just come out. She's pretty wound up, not settling to this very well. I find myself, still woozy, saying to her, "Don't worry love. It's all going to be fine. there's nothing to it." before I can realise what's happening, some member of the surgical team pulls back the white sheet that's over her body and she's starkers!! But evidently very pregnant. I assume she's in for a Caesarian. Either that or it's their way of really waking you up! I have the presence of mind to look the other way and I'm instantly on the move again.

They keep you in there until you come around properly. Before long, though, I was back in my own bed being wheeled out through the double doors, where my wife arrives at my side. I'd been in there all told about two hours. She later told me that she'd been comforting a bloke whose wife was in there giving birth. I think I may have met her.

Back in the ward I am vaguely aware that there's a drip in my left hand, through a catheter. It has two stop-valves, through which they, over the next 24 hours or so, administer the Ringer's Lactate, some antibiotics and some pain killers. For most of the rest of the day (Tuesday) I sleep, wake up, sip water, then sleep again, feeling to be honest, extremely comfortable and protected, which indeed I am.

There's a substantial team of nurses and whatever else you call them, constantly coming and going, checking my pulse, taking my blood pressure, administering my drips, and every one of them kindness and professionalism itself.

Of course, once you're over the op, it's mainly downhill from there on. So I'd be up at the window gazing at the view and watching as the weather improved...

As you can see, I had a good view of the helipad, which was put to use twice whilst I was there.

The helicopter departs.

Meet Walter. He came to visit a few times.

Sea view at no extra cost.

All in all, when we finally "checked out" we almost felt quite sad. We'd only found out on the last evening that one can rent a telly [digital service] for €3 a day, so we did watch "Κάτι Ψίνεται" ["Something's Cooking", or in the UK, "Come Dine With Me") once. I thanked all the staff, the whole team on the ward, as I signed out at the desk and I'm even looking forward to seeing them again on Wednesday when I go in to have the stitches taken out.

The whole experience from beginning to end left me feeling deeply grateful to have been looked after so well and by such kind and professional people who work their socks off, much like medical staff the world over, it seems.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Snap Happy

I've been going a bit mad lately taking photos, but since I believe (you'll tell me if I'm off the mark here, won't you) that readers generally like to see what this island's like during the winter months, I hereby present yet another clutch of photos taken during the last week or so.

Off we go then...

I've no idea what this is called, but it hold endless fascination for local children. Each year it puts on all these pods, every one bursting with seeds. Bursting is the operative word. Our friend's young son Konstantinos caught me with this a few years back. "Just tap a pod with your foot uncle John", he says, butter wouldn't melt and all. So, of course, I obeyed and was immediately showered with wet seeds and water. The merest touch and the pods explode with such vigour you'd think they were manufactured in a grenade factory. They explode so vigorously, in fact, that the seed can end up in your hair - and I'm six foot one!! Definitely a successful way of self-propagation though.

Just a nice shot from a few days ago at Kabanari Beach. It's about 20 minutes walk from our place. This view looks northward, so you can just about see across to Pefkos Bay on a clear day. You might see a little better if you click on the photo, then do the "right click" thing to see it even bigger, but to the left of the trees, on the beach there's a couple in their swimming cozzies!! Right through the trees themselves, only metres from the sunbathing couple, is a bloke in his jacket fishing!

We had occasion to drive along Psaltos [Navarone] Bay on Saturday. The big storm had just moved on and the day passed with a gradually clearing sky. By mid-afternoon it was really quite hot. It read 22ºC when we got home. So here are a few shots taken at Psaltos, then at what 's known as "Pefkos Top"...
Just in case you didn't know (and I can't really believe you don't!!), the cliffs over there are the ones that feature in the movie "The Guns of Navarone".
I thought the baby lamb under the tree was cute, but didn't take a very good photo I'm afraid.
Through a few trees from the road at "Pefkos Top" is this abandoned water cistern. It's very photogenic and has exceptional views across to Lardos Beach and Kiotari. Incidentally, it's not very clear, but the bird perched on the old ventilation "chimney" is a Black Redstart.

Looking across the old cistern's roof. Lothiarika is just along the coast.
...And looking down across Pefkos itself, of course.
This is Vlicha Bay, just over the "pass" from Lindos. Usually in summer the waters are crystal clear and deep aquamarine blue. But as this was taken the day after a humdinger of a storm, there are some quite interesting colours in the water where mud has been washed into the bay and weed all stirred up.

Finally [almost], this is my vegetable patch right now. If you scroll right down to the bottom of this post, you'll see what it looked like on Nov 5th. From the back to the front: Onions, spinach, beetroot, carrots and lettuce. The garden's enjoying the weather, it's official.
A few have wondered how we fared with the big storm that hit us a few days ago. It was Friday night when we had the worst of it here in Kiotari. On and off it turned a bit torrential, but only for short periods. The worst inconvenience we had here was that the power went off at 7.50pm and didn't come on again until almost 1.00am, which meant that we had to dust off a few candles and the old oil lamps...

Other parts of the island further north however, as is quite usual here, fared much worse and there were floods in several villages, cars piled up one on top of the other here and there and even a couple of deaths. We've been told that several people from the Maritsa area are missing too, so we really must be grateful at how little the whole shooting match affected us here down south.

Tomorrow I'm off to the hospital at literally the crack of dawn and the forecast is stormy again, so we'll have to see what conditions we encounter. All being well folks, I'll be back in the saddle a little later in the week.