Monday, 25 February 2013

The Spice of Life

Lately we've really had some amazing changes in the weather. Today, Monday February 25th, it's been around 18-19ºC and we've been up to town to do a bit of shopping. We had coffee in one of the chic new cafe bars near the new marina and stared out in bright sunlight at a choppy sea.

Just a couple of days ago, however, it was a different story. Perhaps I should say a "couple of nights" ago, since at around 1.30am on Saturday morning, we experienced the hailstorm to end all hailstorms. During the Friday evening there had been quite a few big thunder crashes, following a few flashes of fork lightning, all par for the course during a Rhodean winter. But as the evening wore on the thunder abated and so did the rain which we'd had during the early evening. All gone  ...or so we thought.

As I mentioned above, it was around 1.30am and I was lying in bed listening to music on my iPod. It was another of those nights when I wasn't sleeping too good, so a bit of Jethro Tull was easing me through the small hours. My wife was sound asleep until she was woken up by the hail. It had started coming down so heavily that I couldn't hear the music on the earphones properly!! So we both got up and took a look on the terrace outside the front door...

The above was taken after my dearly beloved had decided to try sweeping it up. I suggested that it perhaps ought to wait until morning and so she gave it up as a bad job. It's strange because, the thermometer was showing around 11ºC, yet here was all this hail pelting down on every surface and making more noise than a football crowd when their team has just scored. So much hail fell here in Kiotari in the space of probably only about 20 minutes, that the following morning, which dawned clear and bright, I was nevertheless able to take this...

In seven and a half years of living here we'd never seen anything like it. It looked as though we'd had snow. And, here, we got off lightly. Despite the intensity of the falling hail, it was all small stuff. Paying a visit to our friend Gilma down near Plimmiri, he told us that mixed in amongst the small stuff down there were some hailstones as big as tennis balls. It was hard to believe that he wasn't exaggerating, until he pointed us toward a nearby huge prickly pear plant, which bore the battle scars of the rock-hard chunks of ice that had bombarded it...

Gilma told us that he couldn't recall such a storm, and he's in his seventies. 

During the afternoon of Friday 22nd, we'd gone for a walk down to the beach because the sea was really up and I wanted to snap a few photos. If you've ever lazed on Kiotari beach during the height of the season, taking the occasional dip in the flat-calm crystal clear water of the Mediterranean Sea, you may just about recognize the place in these...

Yup, somewhere along there is Gennadi village, about 3k away

This is across the road from the La Strada taverna

S'a bit like a view of the Scottish coast, yea?

They say that variety is the spice if life. Well, the weather lately has certainly proven the point to us. Just yesterday we ate lunch out under the parasol in 19ºC and bright sunlight. I even partook of a cold beer!

Finally, walking to Gennadi a couple of weeks back, we walked past this...

Sadly, it's a not altogether uncommon sight on a Greek island. Tell you what though, it certainly makes you think about whether it's a good idea to send or read a text message, or even answer your mobile phone while driving. It just might turn your whole world upsidedown.

Monday, 18 February 2013

A Cock and Ball Story...

I wouldn't say that I'm the world's greatest expert at handling full-grown cockerels. The last time I had any close contact with such feathered creatures was probably about fifty years ago, when, as a schoolboy, I used to help out on Billy Ashley's farm, down the Carlingcot lane in Tunley, the village where I spent nine years of my childhood primarily in the 1950's and early 60's.

To be frank here, I haven't been on the same side of a fence as a cock for as long as I can remember. Thus I was a little unprepared for what was to befall me this Monday afternoon. If you were bored enough to have read the entire saga in the post "Water and a Wild Goose Chase" then you'll be familiar with the ballcock incident. I'm particularly pleased with myself for having ordered two new balls for the ballcock in our "Spitaki's" tank since, not a week after installing one of them, the water was overflowing again and - having replaced the new one I'd fitted with the spare - I shook the one which I'd just taken out and heard the tell-tale sound of water swishing about inside it. Hey ho.

So, this afternoon as I was going to be passing Despoina's DIY store, which has a large gravelled parking area out front, into which one turns to get off the main road when visiting the store, I decided to take the faulty ball back and ask her to order me yet another new one. When you turn off of the road and enter the parking area for Despoina's store, you are confronted with rolls of wire fencing, rolls of that green material which we all have the habit of using as a windbreak to protect our veggie patches and fruit trees, lengths of plastic tubing, several wheelbarrows, PVC fluid storage tanks and all kinds of other stuff which the local Greek needs in a rural area of an Island such as Rhodes. All this stuff forms a kind of channel leading you up the ramp and into the entrance.

What you don't always bargain for is a rogue hen and cock. The store is a free-standing building and, as you face it from the road, to its left is a recently installed wire fenced pen around a tree, into which have been installed a clutch of hens and a cockerel. I haven't actually asked Despoina, but I get the impression that she's not particularly impressed with this arrangement. Probably it's a favour for a friend of family member, since I get the feeling that Despoina would rather the feathered incumbents weren't there, truth be told. Why is this you ask?

Well, when I drew up just level with the store's fairly wide front entrance and leapt from the car, black plastic ball in hand, in readiness for me to shake it dramatically near Despoina's ear in order to show her why I needed another replacement, I was confronted with the sight of the amply sized lady in question brandishing a broom and shouting "EXO!! EXO!!" at a pretty large hen and a cockerel, both of which displayed a distinct reluctance to comply with her command to "get out" by leaving the premises.

Quick as a flash, the chivalry in me took control and I headed off around the back of one of the displays in the store, so that I could come at the cock from inside, thus forcing it to flee in the direction of the front entrance. 

Hold that scene just for a moment. Now, we ought to have have suspected that the hens and their male protector were adept at escaping their wiry abode because a couple of weeks ago I'd been buying some small DIY need or other in the self-same store, whilst my wife sat in the car listening to Radio Arhangelos, when, having returned to the car, turned down the stereo (follow me there, guys? Huh?) and begun to drive away, she told me that she'd just witnessed a canine kidnapping. 

"You'll never guess what I've just seen," she said. "A stray dog just wandered in from the road and disappeared round the side of the store. Not thirty seconds later he skulked back, passing within a couple of feet of the car, with a chicken firmly gripped between his jaws. He trotted off out of the compound and off along the road as bold as brass!" Apparently, no amount of clucking (well, can a chicken still cluck with its neck held vicelike in a dog's jaws?) and flapping of its wings could gain its release. She was a little distressed over this. My wife, that is, not the chicken. I mean that's pretty obvious because I'd say the chicken was much more seriously distressed. Mind you, all's well that probably ended well, at least for the bird if not the dog since, not ten minutes later we passed the same dog trotting back toward the store chickenless. There's no way it could have killed and eaten a live chicken in that amount of time so we surmised that she'd made good her escape (the chicken, of course) and the dog was going back to try his or her luck again.

So, armed with the knowledge of this recent experience, we ought not to have been surprised to pull up outside Despoina's store entance and see her jabbing at a couple of fowl with a broom handle.

Returning to my confrontation with the cock, which loomed alarmingly large when I came to within a couple of feet of the beast, I didn't give it a second thought but to threaten it with all the menace I could muster, including a loud "Exo!!" of my own and a few vigorous waves of my arms, fully expecting it to do a "roadrunner" and zip out of the store before you could say "foghorn leghorn". But it did just the opposite. It damn well took a step or two toward me with its comb all erect and made as if to lunge!! I had no idea that a cockerel would be so plucky, if you'll excuse the pun. Flippin' cheek. But the fact was, I was now in serious danger of losing my cred with this lady in distress, store owner Despoina, who was standing aside in full expectation of seeing me drive the offending bird right past her and out of the store. The bird's beak was noticeably level with my family allowance too, thus causing me to break into a cold sweat at what could possibly transpire imminently if I didn't handle the situation properly.

Well, don't ask me how I did it, but a couple more rather ginger gestures later and the cock evidently thought better of a showdown and strode defiantly out of the store at his own pace (just to make it known that he was exercising his own choice in the matter), while I followed at a safe distance trying to show Despoina that I was quite the expert in cock-driving. I think I got away with it.

Well, I wouldn't have liked Despoina to think I was chicken, now would I?

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Power Shower

A quick pic of a sharp shower out on the bay a couple of days ago...

No twisters as yet this winter. Just as well really, since one came ashore and totally destroyed a taverna, ripped the roof off a house and beheaded a poor unfortunate cow last winter.

Good joke someone told me today. A customer asks for a burger in a Tesco cafeteria. "What would you like on it?" asks the assistant, "Oh, I'll have a tenner each way," replies the customer.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Names and Natural Phenomena

In the piece "Weather or Not", which I posted on January 30th, there's a photo showing the castle taken during a recent walk up to Asklipio to collect our mail. On that particular day we decided to take a stroll around the village but only got as far as the Nikolas Taverna...

Photos of Nikos Traditional Taverna, Rhodes
This photo of Nikos Traditional Taverna is courtesy of TripAdvisor

...where, sitting out front on the wooden terrace, we spotted the diminutive and ever smiling George, who owns the Pelekanos taverna [Pelican's Nest] on Kiotari beach, sitting with his uncle, whom we'd met previously at the Gre Cafe [mentioned in two posts, this one and this one] down near our place some weeks back. He and his wife had not long retired and moved back to Asklipio from Canada, where they'd lived and worked for a few decades.

The two men arose as one and displayed all the body language that suggested that they were expecting us to park ourselves at their table with them and so, naturally, we acquiesced, as you do. An animated discussion soon ensued in which George told us about a fishing expedition (it was this big, yea) and why he'd decided not to open the taverna this winter. He'd tried it last year but with limited success and so it wasn't worth his while. This sparked further talk about how little extra cash locals have available these days and thus it also came around to us asking how the taverna got the name.

Well, we kind of knew that it was because his surname is Pelekanos, but that in itself had always puzzled us. It's a very common surname around these parts and yet doesn't sound particularly apt. I mean, the etymology of the name isn't obvious right off the bat now is it?

"Aha," said our friend, "it's an old Greek word and relates to the kind of work done by my ancestors. It's actually one of the oldest surnames on the island."

"So, what does it mean then?" we asked.

"Literally, Ax-man. My ancestors were tree-fellers. If you look up the word 'πελεκά' [peleka] it still means 'ax'."

"But," said Maria, "I thought someone who works with wood was called a "ξυλουργός [xylourgos]."

"Yes," said George, "but that means carpenter or joiner. An ax-man was a 'pelekanos'."

Of course, it all made sense then, because, recent fires aside, along with several hundreds of years of deforestation, the south of Rhodes is thankfully still blessed with huge pine forests, where the deer still find refuge, even today.


Changing the subject completely. yesterday I snapped a photo of an interesting phenomenon, which we often see during the winter months, where the sea assumes the appearance of two entirely different liquids for anything from a few hours to a few days. We've gazed at this on many occasions, but haven't really got an explanation as to why this happens. Take a look...

The sea nearer to shore has that wonderful turquoise colour that makes it appear as though the bottom is pure white sand, like on a tropical island. In fact there are a few locations down the east coast of this island (in Psaltos Bay for example) where this is the case all year round, but here in Kiotari the bottom is more the darker sand and rocks - yet here was this well-defined line right across the bay which demands one's attention.

Just wondering if there's an oceanologist (or anyone with an 'ology' for that matter) reading this who can explain it, perhaps?

Anyway, a little milk, no sugar, but a nice digestive biscuit with mine please...

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Shooting Deer and Smashing Scenery

No animals were harmed in the making of this post. The deer were shot with a camera...

Tuesday February 5th at 3.00pm, just a few metres from the road near the Proton Store (Billy's) in Kiotari. There were seven deer in the herd, but one was behind the tree when I "shot" them.

Sunset on Monday February 4th.

A lot of people ask me about the dried-up river beds during the season. Here's one in wintertime folks.

Most olive groves look wonderful in winter, with the sunlight throwing shadowy stripes across a lush green carpet.

As above

The beach at northern Kiotari, across the road from where Dimitri runs his horse-riding business in summer. Cornwall or Kiotari?

Same spot. The beloved washes out a 500ml Amstel bottle she's just found. That's 14 cents back next time we're at AB (supermarket). We decided not to take a dip today!!