Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Weather or Not

I guess I've always been, as the old song goes, a "cock-eyed optimist", but I really am a "glass half full" type of person, as opposed to someone who bemoans the fact that it's half-empty.

So many of my fellow ex-pats living out here start a conversation with a moan about this winter's weather when, frankly, I just don't get it. I think the first and major factor must be the propensity which all British people have to talk about the weather before all else. This then requires that a conversation be started with a comment of some kind about the elements and I think it's a peculiarly British thing to not be seen as an optimist. It's like admitting to being naive or something, but it's maddening sometimes. 

I hope I'm not going to lose any friends over this, but here's a report about the Rhodean winter weather of 2012-2013 so far.

"I'm fed up with all this rain" some have said to me. What, WHAT? Been away from the UK for too long I reckon. As any reader of my ramblings over the years will know, plus if you're reading this having met me on one of my excursions, when I'm 'working' (I know, galling isn't it)... 

See, look, beavering away at the desk job... (or perhaps: "Now, where DID I put those trousers?")

...you'll know that I often describe a Rhodean winter as like a good British summer. Plus, my wife and I (this bit's sad I know, but...) have a habit of recording days upon which we get some kind of precipitation. In plain English - days when it rains. This, mark you, includes a day when it may only be a shower of half an hour or so, but a little "R" goes on the calendar nevertheless. So far dear reader, we still haven't lived through a calendar month after seven and a half years on Rhodes when it's rained on more than 9 days, yes, 9 days!

Granted, this current winter has seen more heavy periods of rain than for a number of years. Like, ...so? OK, yes, this week sees the first run of successively dry days (expected to last for 10 days or so) for a couple of months, granted. But, there hasn't been one single week so far since the winter began (which means from November 1st until now) when we haven't been able to sit outside to eat lunch or take coffee in warm sunshine at least a couple of times. I'd say that this winter so far is very like a British summer. Changeable, yes, but also well blessed with periods of sunshine between the rainy times. This piece of video below was shot two days ago, on Jan 28th, whilst sitting out front of the house. Note the pleasant silence too (the birds having gone to ground for the afternoon as they often do in the UK in the early afternoon) and there being almost no wind to speak of...

video

The night time temperatures this winter have also been much milder than for some years. Last winter went on record as containing the longest sustained spell of very cold nights for decades. This winter we've hardly used our log-burner. Quite often this past couple of weeks we've spent an entire evening without even thinking about lighting it as we haven't felt cold enough. Now, I'm not trying to rub anything in for you poor mortals still living in Northern climes, but we used heating from September through to May when we lived in the UK. Almost gets annoying when we think of how hard we worked (along with our kindly neighbours Taki and Naomi) to gather logs a few weeks ago.

This past couple of days we've done a lot of work in the garden and I've been sweating away in just a short-sleeved T-shirt. Fed up with all this rain? Not me folks, not me. Frankly, we need all the rain we can get, knowing that, come the summer we're not going to see a drop for months on end.

Average night time temperature this past couple of weeks: 7 - 12 Celsius
Average day time temperature this past couple of weeks: 15-22 Celsius

View of Asklipio Kastro as we walked up there to collect the mail a couple of weeks ago. Can you spot the buzzard?

Yup, the Chrysanths are in full bloom and it's late January

Used to keep this kind of plant in pots in the UK. Have had several of these in the garden for some years, but this is the first time they've flowered. Fab flowerheads aren't they? What are they called, anyone know?

A view south towards Gennadi from the fledgling orchard. Ships often anchor in the bay when the winds are the other side of the island, which is the prevailing direction. We enjoy finding out what they are here. You can zoom right into your area of coast and click on the vessel for loads of photos and interesting info.
Anyway, I have a piece of friendly advice for any other Brits living out here who think their glass is half empty.

Leave it outside. The rain'll eventually top it up for you!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Water and a Wild Goose Chase

Living out here by choice, we oughtn't to gripe. But there are occasions when we'd kill for a B&Q Depot. Or maybe, if you're Stateside, a Home Depot store.

The water supply to our house is a rather convoluted affair, since the land on which these houses are built is a little higher (above sea level) than the local water cistern that feeds them (along with all the other homes and businesses in the area). This has necessitated the installation of a holding tank on the top of the hill above the houses, to which water is pumped from what we call the "spitaki" [little house], which is a small block-built shed down the valley a little way, near the pig farm. The "spitaki" is several metres lower then the cistern, which is located a little higher and a few hundred metres away over a couple of gentle hills, hence it receives water by gravity. From there an electric pump sends it a further 600 metres up the hill into the holding tank that supplies these houses.

We hadn't had the system installed very long some years ago when the pump burnt out and had to be replaced with a new one. This was due to the fact that it was August, high summer. All the local hotel guests and apartment dwellers nearby were busily showering away, having come back from the beach or poolside, in readiness for their evening out, thus creating a situation where demand exceeded supply and the local cistern dried up. Our holding tank atop the hill above us has a float-switch in it, which is designed to activate the pump when our tank needs its supply replenished. The float-switch activates a relay that, in turn, switches on the pump.

So, after having to fork out for a new pump, the builder decided to install a "slave" tank in the "spitaki", inside which was a regular ball-cock, which is attached to another float switch. If the "slave" tank were to become empty, the float switch would turn off the pump's electricity supply, thus avoiding another burn-out. usually, our tank at the hilltop has ample capacity to keep us hygienic for a few days, by which time the local water supply would be up and running again and we wouldn't even have noticed that there'd been a temporary "drought".

Now, I'm sure you're totally riveted by all the foregoing, but it's essential if you're to get what the story's about, honest. For the first time in years, our neighbour at the top of the hill, whose water pressure isn't as good as ours owing to her house not having such a "head" (height of water tank above house) rang me the other day to tell me that she had no water. Alarm bells rang and I asked her to check with Mac, who lives between us, since he's better clued up on such things than I am. Before long Mac rang me to tell me the bad news. Our holding tank up on the hill-top was almost empty. Something had gone wrong with the system.

To cut a long story ever-so slightly shorter (but not much), after chasing around finding out where to buy a new float switch and electrical relay, we thought we'd sorted out the problem. That is, until we noticed a Niagara-like torrent flowing out from the "spitaki" all over the lane, thus creating a lovely miry patch just after we'd had the "grader" up here to sort out the problems (see the post "Scraping By") caused by the heavy rains we'd enjoyed of late.

OK, OK, I'm getting there, really I am. Call me stupid, but (now, now, I wasn't being literal, ...please!) but at first I thought, "How on earth can the pump be running in reverse? It doesn't make sense".

Then it struck me. It wasn't the pump running backwards at all. It was the ball-cock in the slave tank not shutting off the incoming supply. Quickly assuming my Quasimodo stance, which is needed in order to enter the "spitaki", which was built, I'm sure, well and truly with Hobbits in mind, I crawled in there and unscrewed the large plastic lid of the tank, all the time feeling my feet growing wetter and wetter with the torrent which was flowing out of the tank's overflow. Sure enough, the plastic ball on the brass arm of the valve was submerged. Turning off the water supply at the tap outside I re-entered the hobbit-house, this time with the trusty better half in tow to hold a torch so I could see whilst I undid the grub screw which held the ball in place. After almost giving up in desperation, owing to the corroded nature of the screw head, I finally got it to budge with a pair of grips and drew the ball up out of the tank in much the same way as a gynaecologist holds up the newborn baby. Resisting the urge to slap the ball, I cried "YES!" triumphantly and gave it a vigorous shake. The sound which emanated from it left us in no doubt that it had been taking in water for a while and thus was the reason why the valve wasn't shutting off the flow of water, hence the flood. It was probably at least half-full with water.

Yea, that's the exact model (courtesy of http://www.made-in-china.com/showroom/xh33399/product-detailwqbxnfvGHJWF/China-Ball-Cock-2.html)

OK, so far so good. All that we now needed to do at around 2.30pm was to whip along to Despoina's, the nearest DIY store, which is, as luck would have it, within five minutes by car from the "spitaki". After all, something as simple as a plastic float ball for a brass ball-cock shouldn't be difficult to find, should it?

Entering the store the young and, it had to be said - very pretty, daughter of the usual incumbent (who is Despoina herself) looked up from the laptop screen to which she was almost superglued and gave me a helpful smile.

"Oriste," she said. I held up my faulty ball (now now, no need for that) and shook it. The sound of the ocean swishing around inside told her all she needed to know. "Aha!" She cried and, finishing off whatever it was she'd been doing with the PC, she arose and trotted off into the bowels of the store, whilst I waited hopefully by her desk. Sorely tempted as I was to take a peek at the PC, because I was fully expecting to see Facebook (yes, it's big among Greeks too) plastered all over it, I resisted. From somewhere behind a couple of displays laden with tubes of adhesive and boxes of screws of all shapes and sizes I heard the occasional "Hmmm" and "phwww" accompanied by the sound of various cardboard boxes being moved around and riffled through. The longer I waited, the more the doubts crept in. My worst fears were eventually realized when she trotted back into view empty-handed, shaking her head into the bargain. I knew what she was going to say...

"Sorry, I was sure we had one [ONE!] but it's not there. I can order one for you, though."

"I was rather hoping to fit it today and get the job done, since it affects the water supply to our house." She adopted an expression which indicated a deep understanding of my position. I continued, "I think I'll carry on down to Gennadi and see if Pandeli has one."

"Sure. No problem," she replied, "If he doesn't, drop in on your way back and we'll order one anyway."

To be honest, I'm in the habit of going to Pandeli first, but in this instance, because it was a fairly urgent need and promised to be a modest outlay, I'd chosen the apparently quicker option. Never mind, Pandeli's it would be anyway.

As is usual when I go in to Pandeli's store, he gave me a huge bear hug and asked how things were. Then he asked after Maria, my wife, and I had to explain that she was, in fact, in the car, but wasn't going to come in because she hadn't dressed for the occasion and didn't have her face on (Venus, Mars? You with me here fellas?).  Once again holding up my plastic ball and watching as a miniature shower of droplets came out whilst I shook it, I asked if he had one.

"Of course!" he replied, to my palpable signs of relief. "Hold on, it'll be downstairs." Off he went down the stairs to his Aladdin's cave of a stockroom. Once again I listened to a succession of crashes and bangs, various items being thrust this way and that, the occasional thing dropping on the floor to the accompaniment of the odd Greek expletive. Then there was the sound of footsteps on the concrete steps and soon my friend again came into view triumphantly brandishing a black plastic globe (exactly like the one in the photo above), with the correct fitting containing the required grub screw confirming that it would indeed fit. Slightly larger than the old grey one, which I was continually turning around to try and find a position that didn't result in it dropping water all over the place, I stared at it and exclaimed, "Thavma'sio!"

Ah, yes, but. As is usually the case in such situations, things weren't as they seemed. Just as Pandeli was going around his desk to his electronic cash register, he noticed, as did I simultaneously, a hole in the side of the ball, looking very suspiciously like it had been gnawed by a rat or something. The hole was surrounded by scrape [teeth?] marks and was probably a quarter of an inch in diameter. Mind you, quite why a rat should want to gnaw away at a plastic ball was a mystery to me. But the fact was, there was a hole - thus rendering the ball useless for the purpose to which I wanted to put it. Of course, this being Greece, Pandeli grimaced when I asked if he could just nip down and get me another one. He couldn't. This was the last one he had in the store. Oh joy!

Spotting the look of almost suicidal disappointment upon my visage, he perked up and said, "No worries!! Hold on, I can fix this!!" and scurried off toward the other end of the store and was soon invisible among the racks of DIY products on offer. He was back before you could say "Apogoee'tevsi [disappointment]", carrying two small tins of epoxy resin mix. Deftly flipping off each lid he spooned the appropriate amount from each tin with a small screwdriver and was soon cheerfully mixing the grey paste on a handy piece of corrugated cardboard. Once he was satisfied with the mix, he bade me hold the ball tight while he applied the paste to the hole. As he spatula-ed the stuff over the hole I was doubtful as to whether this would work, as the mix kept dipping in the middle and the hole reappeared a few times. Finally, though, he looked up at me with an air of a professional craftsman who'd just completed another perfect job and said: "Give it half an hour and then shove it in."

My reservations must have been evident. I asked, "Will it really be 'gone off' enough to put it in water within half an hour?"

"All right then, an hour." He smiled, doubtless hoping that his confidence would rub off on me. I asked him, "How much?" and he replied, "Don't worry about it now. See if it holds first. If it does, you can come back and pay me then."

Back in the car and driving toward home, my wife holding the balls one in each hand, trying still to stop the older grey one dropping rust-coloured water over the car seat, she remarked on how the resin on the "new" one was slowly dropping into the hole. I suggested she hold it the other way up, so that it would swell outwards again, which she did. But this had us both thinking seriously that it would be a bad idea to fit this ball this afternoon. So she suggested we drive up to Kalathos, where there's a fairly new electrical store selling all things water and hydraulic, plus a "homebase" DIY store. Not yer real Homebase of course, just a rather huge shed with lots of dusty stock inside, but at least they had a large range of stuff. They'd be bound to have a ballcock ball, wouldn't they?

Fifteen kilometres later, my wife still tutting about the advancing and retreating epoxy resin, we pulled up outside the first of the two Kalathos stores. I took the old ball from her and sprinted across the road, ever conscious of the fact that the afternoon was running out and we needed to get this sorted a.s.a.p. The man behind the counter was already tutting before I'd advanced further than the store door. "We only do electrical stuff here, sir. That's mechanical." OK, so that left us with "Homebase" then, a few hundred metres further up the road. Once again I pulled up, received the old ball and ran inside.

Now, this store is huge and the modest number of staff are in the habit of keeping the lights in each section out unless they need to go there for anything. Very thrifty, but not altogether conducive to browsing around, since it's essentially a windowless tin shed of quite large proportions. Plus, all the stock always seems to be covered in a layer of dust that suggests that very little of it is ever actually sold; yet the place has been there since before we moved out here seven years and more ago, so they must be selling something. Anyway, this afternoon the boss himself, a bearded, stocky man in his early sixties, appeared behind me in such a manner as to give me the heebeejeebees, lurking in the half-light as he was, and asked what he could do for me. Showing him my ball (OK, that's worn that one out by now, all right?) he took it from me, shook it and, doing a passable impression of the surgeon who has to explain to his patient the risks involved in his upcoming operation, nodded his head, but upward first. Now of course, this is the British equivalent of actually shaking it. If a Greek's head goes upwards first, usually accompanied by a "Tch", you know it's a "no".

"Don't have any in that size. Got a larger one though." A glimmer of hope was seeping through the symbolic clouds of this frustrating afternoon. I must have registered a very enthusiastic "yes" for he then tilted his head sideways, in a gesture of "follow me" and headed off into the bowels of the store, throwing light switches here and there as he went, thus illuminating all kinds of dusty DIY delights on Meccano-style shelving racks which were higher than my head. Eventually arriving at such a distant part of the store that I'd have been hopelessly lost trying to find my way out alone, he pulled out from a huge box a black float-ball which resembled the black one which Pandeli had "repaired" in every way except one. It was larger than a football. He must have known that it would be a lost cause, because no sooner had I clapped eyes on it, he secreted it away again in the box, shrugged his shoulders as if to say without words: "well, I did say it was larger, didn't I?"

Twenty minutes later, as we pulled once more into the yard out front of Despoina's DIY store near our home, I saw that Despoina herself, along with her husband Niko were now also present. I'd intended to simply ask their daughter to order me a new ball, but Nikos, ever the genial and helpful chap that he is, grabbed the faulty ball from me and, pushing his glasses further up his nose, proceeded to inspect it as a philatelist would a penny black. 

"Gianni, you can repair this," he declared, shaking it and holding it upside down, whilst yet more of its liquid contents seeped out and dripped on to the floor. I groaned inwardly. It was now a couple of hours since we'd set out from home to simply replace a ball for a brass ball cock. All both Y-Maria and I wanted to do at this stage was get home and have a nice cup of Earl Grey, but here I was, whilst my wife sat in the car studying a patch of epoxy resin as it "cured", having to wait while Nikos explained that I could re-install the old ball and cover it in silicone. 

"But Niko," I replied, "it'll take a couple of hours for the water that's in there to all come out, which means holding it in a certain position for the duration. Plus, you'll notice that the leak appears to be inside the slot where the brass rod slides. It wouldn't be easy to get silicone into that area. And this ball cock is in a very strategic place, if it goes wrong again it'll waste gallons of water and possibly result in another burnt-out pump. No, I'd rather you simply ordered me a new one. No, make that two. I'll keep a spare from now on."

Turning to Despoina, who was sitting in one of her 'customer' chairs, since her daughter was still in the chair behind the desk, with her face a milimetre away from the laptop's screen, I asked, with a note of desperation in my voice, "Can you order it for me please?"

"Sure," she replied, "I'll phone the order through first thing tomorrow. It'll be here at the latest by the day after."

The better half and I drove in the twilight up the lane to the "spitaki", where we stopped and I switched off the master switch for the pump. The water in the tank at the top of the hill would be more than enough to keep our three households going for a few days anyway. We'd gone out at around 2.30pm and been out - all told - for two and a half hours in the hunt for a simple plastic ball. 

Next morning at first light I inspected Pandeli's repaired ball. The resin appeared to have remained intact without a hole appearing again. So I strolled the couple of hundred metres down the lane and installed the thing, opened once more the tap allowing the water from the 'main' through to the valve and switched the pump back on. Tomorrow I'll drop by Despoina's for the new balls, always assuming that they'll have arrived that is. I shall not enjoy going in and asking, "Do you have my balls?"

Couldn't help thinking that, had we been in the UK, I'd have simply tootled along to the nearest B&Q, found a huge stock of the balls in question and been home in a jiff. Mind you, would it have enhanced my life experience in quite the way this particular wild goose chase had? Probably not I suppose.

Fancy playing ball anyone?

Sunday, 20 January 2013

A Slight Misunderstanding

We Brits living out here have a lot to answer for. I mean, we go about our day-to-day affairs with scant regard for how we may hurt the feelings of the locals around us. I shall proceed to illustrate.

Quite regularly we meet a few Greek friends on a Sunday morning. Last Sunday, however, our friend Kostas was missing. He it is who keep sunbeds on a beach in this area and he's the character you'll have read about if you've read the item entitled "Please Do Read This" a little way down on the News and Stuff page. 

Now Kostas isn't great at English. He does speak a little Italian, but English he struggles with. We asked where he was and his brother said, "Oh, he's gone to a garaz [that's how they pronounce it] sale today, somewhere down near the gymnasium [at Kalathos that is]." Both Kostas and his brother Petros (who features in chapter 10 of Tzatziki For You to Say) used to live in Canada, although both are Kalathos originals, having been born here. Having lived in Canada, though, they are well used to "garage" sales, which are fairly common over there, whereas we in the UK seem to suffer from an overdose instead of "Car Boot" sales. Of course, to a former Canadian resident (and indeed anyone living in that slightly warmer country just south of Canada) a "boot" is something you pull on to your foot when you're going outside. To them, what we in the UK would call a "boot" in vehicular terms would be a "trunk", which - of course - anyone knows is really something you store your old memorabilia or blankets and clothes in isn't it?

So, there was Kostas looking at a notice in the village a few days before the aformentioned sale took place and he read...

CAR BOOT
SALE

Now, as I said, Kostas isn't great at English. When I bumped into him three days after the Sunday in question, I asked him, "Did you get anything at the 'garage' sale then Kosta?"

He replied, a huge expression of disappointment all over his face, "No Gianni. It was rubbish. All it was was a few 'Angli' [Brits] with their trunks open. Just clothes and old ornaments and stuff. Not one boat and not one car was for sale!"

"I did wonder," I replied, "when Petros said it was a 'garaz' sale. I rather thought that he meant 'car boot', since it was British people running it. We were a bit surprised that you went, since most Greeks don't tend to go to these events."

"Gianni," replied Kostas, "It clearly said 'BOAT' sale. I saw it. It said CAR and BOAT sale on the sign I saw."

You see what I mean about the responsibility we have toward the locals now? Poor Kostas was all hopeful of picking up a secondhand boat and all he got to see was a collection of old sweaters, dresses and the occasional vase or painting. "It was a waste of time, Gianni" he told me, and I didn't have the heart to tell him he'd read the sign wrong!


Thursday, 17 January 2013

Scraping By

Some things you take for granted living in the UK or, for that matter, most other parts of the "developed" world. Apart from farmers, most of those who live there have a nice, firm asphalt road to drive along, right up to their own drive or front door. When we moved out here it was quite romantic to think that we'd be living up a kilometre of dirt road. After all, when it's dry the only problem it creates is the dust, clouds of which are created behind every vehicle that negotiates the lane in either direction during the greater part of the year.

Thing is, when we have a really wet spell in the winter, what is usually caked hard and dry during the summer months has the tendency to become mud; clingy, gungy, sloppy mud. To be honest, the greater part of our lane drains OK and remains firm even when the rains are very heavy, but since some bright spark of a Greek decided to re-route about fifty metres or so of it a couple of years ago, he's created a water trap which usually means that, after a spell of heavy downpour, we have to negotiate what bears a striking resemblance to yer average British village pond.

Despite some very acceptable weather recently, we've also "enjoyed" some spectacular storms, one of which was arguably the heaviest since we moved here, throwing at us, as it did, some hailstones which did bear more than a passing resemblance to yer proverbial golf ball. A couple of years back a lot of cars were permanently damaged, sustaining little indentations all over their roofs and bonnets (hoods, guys, hoods), during one such storm. Looking out at the barrage this time we were so pleased that our car was under the carport. The lane, though, which had been deteriorating for well over a year, on inspection after the storm had passed, was seriously threatening to "bottom" the car as we drove down it to get to the main road. 

In the UK you're well accustomed to seeing new road surfaces being laid quite regularly. Here, well, it does happen, but a surprisingly high number of people live, as we do, along dirt lanes that are usually "scraped" about twice a year by the local council using a "scarifier" or "grader"
It looks like this...

Image courtesy of http://www.brandt.ca/Divisions/Tractor/Products/Pages/Product.aspx?cat=Industry&pid=670GP_001%28Brandt%29
Granted, the one which usually "scrapes" our lane isn't as smart-looking as the one shown above, but it is roughly the same machine. Sadly, owing to the austerity measures, the local councils are broke and such luxuries as the regular semi-annual lane-scrape haven't happened for about 18 months or so. This isn't so much of a problem during the summer, when the surface is packed hard, but once the winter comes and the storms send river-like torrents charging down the country dirt roads doing passable imitations of rapids the result is the formaton of some very, very deep gullies in the lane's surface. If you get one of your car wheels down into one you'll be "bottoming" before you can say "have a souvlaki".

So it was that, last Friday the better half and I walked the length of the lane to see what could be done. Time was when I knew which lady to see in the local council offices (the "Dimos") in Gennadi, but she's been long-gone this past two years and all I now get is, "You'll have to talk to the Deputy Mayor." To which I reply,

"Who is he and when is he here, please?"
The next response is usually, "He isn't. He's in Rhodes Town most of the time."
To which I then reply, "Can I call him?"
Then I'll be told, "Yea, sure."
But each time I do I get the same answer. You've guessed it, "He's not here. Try tomorrow".

So last weekend we spent several back-breaking hours digging, shovelling and wheelbarrowing at the worst places down the lane before, in desperation, I remembered that it may be a good idea to ask Taki, our neighbour from down the bottom of the lane, if he might know someone in the Dimos who could get something done. Although it was Sunday lunchtime, I called him. 

"Sure," he said, "I'll call someone. But it won't be before tomorrow, as it's Sunday today."
"No problem," I gratefully replied, "Just as long as you have someone you can call. Thanks Taki."

Fifteen minutes later he was back on the phone, "Yanni, they'll be here tomorrow. If they don't arrive call this number..."

I thanked him, punched the red button on my mobile and shared the news with the missus, who replied, "Hmmm. Tomorrow, eh? Let's not hold our breath," a caution born of experience.

We packed up the tools in the mud-caked wheelbarrow and wended our weary way back up the lane to the house. At least the few yards that we had tackled looked much better. But there were still a couple of hundred yards-worth of gullies threatening to "ground" the car should we venture out.

Next morning, after an unusually good night's sleep, I was awoken at around 8.15am by a rumbling sound. You know how it is during those first few moments of consciousness, when you're not quite sure what planet you're on, which day of the week it is, or whether to put up with that bursting bladder for the sake of a few more minutes under the duvet, well, there I was thinking, "It's an earthquake!!" Quickly sitting up and throwing my legs over the side of the bed, I told Y-Maria, "There's something happening outside. Not the army playing war again down at Plimiri is it?"

"Sounds more like distant thunder to me," she replied, from under a mountain of duvet cover. "Cup of tea would be nice," she considerately continued.

Throwing on my dressing gown and shoving my tootsies into my slippers, I went outside just as the "grader" was passing the front gates. Like, WOW!! I've never kown a Greek response to be so swift.
All the spade, shovel and rake-work that we'd done the day before was wasted, but we didn't mind, as the entire lane from house to main road a kilometre away down the valley was once more as flat as a snooker table. Well, maybe not a snooker table, but relative to how it had been just hours before, it's a good analogy.

That, my friends, is not only a result, it's a beautiful sight!!!
I owe Takis two drinks now, since we haven't yet shown our appreciation for all the wood either. But it just goes to show, these Greeks can still surprise you.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Thank You Lou Reed

In 1972, Lou Reed came out with the album "Transformer" and it transformed his career. Prior to that he'd been a bit of a cult artist and wasn't really known to anyone who wasn't into the Velvet Underground. The album, produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson, spawned a couple of huge hits that have since become rock "standards". One was "Walk on the Wild Side" and the other, the one that I spent all day humming today, was "Perfect Day".

See, that's the thing, as I'm sure you'll agree. In our age of electronic communication, moments in our lives are defined by the music we listened to at the time. At least, that's the case with mine, since I've always been a complete music freak. But I reckon I'd be on pretty safe ground if I made the assertion that just about anyone in the "Western" world would hum that tune if they decided, as I did today, that they were indeed enjoying a "perfect day".

Yes, OK, so a few days ago it snowed here; a first - at least in the more than seven years that we've been living out here. Yet I'm quite sure that some who read about this on Facebook, but who were in other parts of the world, had visions of us all wrapping up with scarves, woolly hats and gloves and rushing outside to throw snowballs at each other. The fact is, it "snowed" for about twenty minutes and the flakes were so small that my camera wouldn't pick them up, thus I abandoned my attempt to capture the moment with a view to sharing it on this blog. Stick? It certainly didn't. Yes we have had arguably the coldest couple of days and nights for many years this past week or so, even colder than the persistently cold winter that we endured from December 2011 through February 2012. But today things were already returning to normal and it thus spawned my propensity to hum Lou Reed's wonderful ballad all day long.

Well, I say "all day long", but it actually came to my mind as we were eating lunch out on the terrace. The thermometer was showing only about 15ºC in the shade, but on the terrace, out of the breeze, it was almost too hot. We had to have our faces in the shade in order to stick it. But there we were eating a light lunch of pittas, topped with my wife's delicious home-made hummus, grated carrot and sliced tomatoes, accompanied by a few black olives and a glass of retsina and we remarked on why Rhodes is such a fab place to live. To be strictly accurate here, why Kiotari is such a wonderful place to live.



Gazing down the tree-filled valley below us today, we were quite taken with how clear the light was, how definite was the horizon, where the deep blue of the sea met the paler blue of the cloudless sky. On days like this we are entirely happy with our own company. Quite often, pottering about from dawn until dusk, we don't even open the garden gate. When you hear that Rhodes enjoys in excess of 300 days of sunshine per year, you have to be here during January to really appreciate that fact. We get the rain alright, sure. But to have such wonderfully perfect days as this between the rainy days drives home to us the fact that we're very privileged to be here. I know, on occasion a post such as this has the tendency to come across as a bit smug. But, then, it's difficult for it not to!! Just taking a deep breath and feeling the sun baking on your chest, you really do have to pinch yourself to remind yourself that it's only January 10th. Once the sun dips down below the hill to our right later during the afternoon it's time to light the log-burner, true. But when you're staring at creation in such vivid light and feeling warm and well-fed you do get a bit, well, "trite" and find yourself thinking, "yes, the best things in life are free".


This one was actually yesterday, when there were a few clouds around

The Chrysanths are all out in the garden now
As we ate, a huge bird of prey came into view from behind us, appearing above the house and gliding further on down the valley in silent grace. We're so used to buzzards, hawks and golden eagles that we often don't even remark on them nowadays. Sometimes, though, when the sky is clear and we're not moving around too much, it's exciting to see how close to us they'll come now and again. Driving home up our lane last night in the dark we were amused to be following a hare in the headlamps as he (or she, maybe) bounded along the lane before us. Maybe the Buzzard we saw was doing a reccy to see if it was still around.

So, as it was such a perfect day, I of course got the camera out, hence the photos, some above, plus these two...


It's worth having a winter when you've got one of these anyway

Walking to Gennadi a couple of days ago, this Greek local came past walking his dog. Well, at least the dog was walking!! But this bears out the truth of the comment at the end of the 4th para in this post.

Anyway, thank you Lou Reed. I'd have been hard put to find another song to hum if you hadn't given us "Perfect Day".

Monday, 7 January 2013

One Sunday Morning (well, and the Thursday before)

It's a trusty camera post this time folks...

(Don't forget, for a larger view, click on any image. When it opens in a new window, you can then right-click and select "View Image" to see it even bigger)


Thursday 3rd Jan. Kiotari. About midday. 18ºC

Also as above time and place-wise, but in summer the tourist never gets to see this stream flowing across the beach.

Once again, Thursday 3rd Jan at Kiotari. A simply beautiful day.

Pefkos. This little band of cats walked towards us as one. They must be family, eh?

Midday, Sunday January 6th. Just down the valley from our home. We love seeing the stonechats as they so remind us of coastal walks along the Glamorgan Heritage Coast and on Gower.

Yea, well, birds are supposed to be in the trees, but...

Also Sunday 6th Jan. This is just to show how green much of the countryside on Rhodes can be during winter time.

Down near Plimiri. This time of year wouldn't be complete without the newborn baa-lambs. All together now, "Aaaaaaah."


The wild anemonies are everywhere at this time of year. They come in many colours, but in this field they were mainly pink and white. Nevertheless, they're beautiful, don't you agree?

By the way, The new novel is now out in Kindle format!!! Click HERE.