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
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.


  1. My word, what a shock that must have been! Who was it once said that avrio (tomorrow) conveys a similar meaning to manana (in Spanish) but without the sense of urgency!! Clearly, in this case,they were wrong. Looks very smart, by the way.
    PS Wanna see some snow pics?

  2. that is one constant factor in greece the unexpected .that is how it has always been and i would go far as to say that' s the way it will stay.enjoyed the photo of your front room with the woodburner.i can see you being very cosy there on a cold!night.