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.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Phone Calls and More Photos

Well, thanks all you Greek doctors who are going on strike next week. No, I mean it. It's because of the upcoming strike that the surgeon who's doing my hernia op called me (to my endless amazement and amusement) personally to re-schedule my op to an earlier date!! He talks to me on first-name terms too, like we were old buddies. I have to say that I rather like this personal touch. The guy's really put me at my ease about the whole thing. So now I'm checking into the hospital at 8.00am on Monday 25th to have the op on the Tuesday. 

All being well, then, this time next week it'll only hurt when I laugh...

Here's a clutch of recent photos for you, since we're getting out for long walks much more often now that the temperatures are more conducive...

La Strada  taverna's section of Kiotari waterfront, November 7th

Fancy a date then babe? In the garden of the Rodos Princess Hotel, also Nov 7th

The pool terrace of the new Boutique 5 hotel, same date again.


A scene we're seeing more and more often these days. Greeks are ploughing up land they'd left fallow for years and once more growing vegetables. It's one of the positive things to come out of the current crisis.

Nice view of the gathering storm, looking toward Gennadi, 4.50pm

A welcome guests in the garden, well, on the terrace to be precise. Mantis' are the gardener's friend. They're also quite harmless to humans. She's about three inches long by the way.
She (Least I think it's a she) is a bit nervous as I approach a little closer to 'snap' her. If they feel threatened they'll rear up and spread open their wings. Note how her head is swivelled my way to keep a close eye on me! A lot of females tend to do this. Can't think why.
After we'd gently persuaded her on to the soil, she got spooked even more. She's quite beautiful though, don't you think? Anyone know if mantis' can change colour? I ask because during the night there was another of similar size on the house wall on our terrace, but she was bright green, whereas this one's brown.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Things Don't Half Change

An era is drawing to a close. Ever since we arrived here [8 years and counting] we've been collecting our mail from the Agapitos Taverna up in the village of Asklipio. Athanasia is a down-home Greek housewife who is almost never missing from the taverna's kitchen. As I've often said before, the Agapitos is a no-nonsense, no-frills traditional taverna set in a charming old village. It's run by Athanasia, who's probably in her mid-fifties. She's fairly short (well, since I'm just over six foot, I could be exaggerating!) and quite full of figure. She's invariably dressed in brown with an apron seemingly perpetually attached to her front. Her husband is Agapitos himself, after whom the taverna is named. He's about the same height, has swept back white hair and a white moustache. He's probably at least ten years older than his wife, something quite common in Greek villages. I've yet to encounter Agapitos without a smile plastered across his face. 

He's often to be seen tending the garden that sweeps steeply down from the taverna's terrace, carefully deadheading his huge geraniums, clipping his rose bushes or - if it's winter time - cutting back the climbers that grow continually over the pergola that covers the taverna's terrace whilst perched precariously on a wobbly stepladder. He'll rarely let us visit without stopping to pass the time of day. We usually stroll into the taverna's interior, where in wintertime there will be a few locals either playing cards or dominoes, occasionally Backgammon, perhaps one or two already thumbing through stacks of bills in the shoe-boxes that serve as containers for the electricity or phone bills, which is often what we've come up here to do ourselves. Every one will have an Elliniko on the table before him, accompanied by a glass of water (there are a few recent shots of the taverna's outside terrace in this post).

In summer the inside of the premises are usually devoid of human life, with the immutable exception of Athanasia herself, who'll wipe her hands on her apron as she exits the adjacent kitchen area and steps behind the small desk in the corner, which was originally supplied by ELTA, the Greek national postal service, and which is usually piled high with mail of all shapes and sizes. Stacked on the floor in front there are also cardboard cartons sporting the "Amazon" logo awaiting collection by someone who ordered something, probably several weeks before. Athanasia is organised. When you approach her tiny sub-post office, which occupies an area of probably only a couple of square metres in the rear corner of the taverna, she'll soon be riffling through pile after pile of assorted envelopes and jiffy bags in order to locate the mail you've come to collect. Once she's handed you yours, you can be 100% confident that there is nothing else. Athanasia knows. That's all there is to it.

But now, it's all going to change. The powers that be somewhere high up in the ELTA organisation have deemed that there is no further need for a sub-post office at Asklipio and that all those who'd formerly collected their mail there will henceforth have to go to the Post Office in Gennadi. Rationalisation, cost-cutting, call it what you will, but it means that lots of people who for years have visited taverna Agapitos will now have no further need to climb the 4 km from the main coast road to this village unless they simply live up there or want to visit voluntarily. I'm sure that the taverna's business is going to suffer. When I asked Athanasia how she felt when she told me about this, she simply shrugged her shoulders and replied, "Eh, Gianni. Etsi pa-i [that's how it goes]."

Of course, the Post Office in Gennadi is only a Post Office, nothing more, which means, of course that its opening hours are  7.30am until 2.00pm Monday to Friday. No longer will we be able to send a letter or collect our mail on Saturdays or Sundays. No longer will we be able to collect our mail in the evening. At a stroke, several thousand more people will need to crowd into the tiny office of the Gennadi Post office to sift through thousands of envelopes to find the mail that's meant for them.

Hey ho. Progress eh? Of course, getting all melancholy about how things change, I was sifting through the shelves in my office at home earlier today and came across an old photo folder. You remember those. In the days when we'd take the film into the chemist to get it developed and then we'd hardly be able to contain ourselves waiting for the time when we could go in and collect our photos, they'd always come in that little folder, wouldn't they. Well, I found one with a diverse selection of old prints in it.

I soon found myself absorbed in memories and, before I knew it, I was scanning a few of them in so that I could amuse you with them. Well, hopefully you'll be amused, 'cos you're going to see a few of them anyway!!!

Here goes...

This is Kyria Despoina, who runs the Helios Studios at Makri-gialos, Crete. She'd turn up poolside each evening with something she'd made. In this case it was some milopittas (apple pies) made with filo pastry. We stayed there back in 2003 and 2004.

All together now, aaaaah!! It's me and the better half in the taxi as we were setting off from our wedding reception for our honeymoon in exotic Babbacombe, Devon.
This one's even older!! It was taken in a proper studio [Mower's, Bath] so we could each have a photo of the other whilst I was away at art college.
Finally, this is Sotiri (left) and Petros, waiters at Taverna Lagudera with her indoors, circa 1980 on the front on the island of Poros. Hopefully next year we're going back there for what will be the first time in 31 years!!!
Now stop laughing, it's not nice!!!

Monday, 18 November 2013

Vati One Day, Vilcha the Next

Some photos from this past Saturday morning in the Village of Vati. It's interesting that on Facebook, all the ex-pats living out here are quick to comment when it's thundering and raining, yet go curiously silent when the next day it's wall-to-wall sunshine and 21ºC again...

The local feline "Steki" [hangout folks]...

...and just around the corner: "I vont to be alone."

And on Sunday, we breezed through Vlicha...

All this winter weather. I dunno how we cope with it, I really don't.

That's the terrace of the Lindian Jewel hotel to the right

Not bad for November 17th, eh?

(And please note Vicky, no mention of alcohol!)

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Getting it Fixed

An important shortcoming of Greek culture now addressed
Forget all the prophets of doom and the soothsayers who go on about how they don't want to live in Greece any more. They may not like it, but there are loads more people who will heartily disagree with them and tell you how they love living here, warts and all. Let's face it, there is nowhere perfect in this world, but the Greek climate and lifestyle still takes some beating.

Mind you, up until recently one could have argued that the woeful lack of any decent beer here has been a problem for lovers of, well, real beer. Lager's all well and good (or call it "blond beer if you like, but it's still lager) and some would argue, with a little justification I'll admit, that lager goes with the hot climate and all that. Yes, it does, but I for one still get a little fed up with the lack of decent ale. 

Now, of course, there are places out here where you can get, say, a bottle of Newcastle Brown or some such. Maybe even a draft beer. But, and for me this is a big but, it would necessitate visiting the kinds of resorts or bars which don't exactly exude Greekness, but rather a little slice of Britain abroad. Horses for courses and all that, but it's not me I'm afraid.

So, regular readers of my ramblings (get some therapy, some would say) will know that I've been championing Fix Beer for quite a while now. Fix is the oldest and original Greek beer and for me its taste is better than most of the others, but all said and done it's still a lager. But now folks, well, to be precise, for the past year or so, the boffin brewers at Fix have come up with FIX DARK!!

When I used to live in South Wales there was something singularly advantageous about living there. There is a Welsh brewery (based in Cardiff) called Brains and they make some splendid ales. One of their best for me was Brains Dark, which is very smooth and is almost a cross between a dark mild and a stout. I would run out of superlatives were I to try and describe how wonderful is a pint of Brains Dark, which is a handy way of avoiding trying to think any up.

Now, as you can see from the photo above, Fix have come up with Fix Dark and I have to say, it finally means that there is a Greek beer that is half as good as a British one, or even more than half. Oddly, they still describe it on the bottle or can as a "lager" but I wouldn't. Perhaps the people at Fix think that "lager" is the word for "beer", who knows? More importantly, who cares?

If you're a Brit coming out here for a holiday you could do a lot worse than sample Fix Dark. If you enjoy a real beer and get just a tad cheesed off with lager when on holiday, I think the Greeks have finally got it Fixed.

Umm, if any execs of either Brains Brewery or Fix are reading this, I'm entirely un-averse to tangible token offers of appreciation for the free publ-hick-icity.

Monday, 11 November 2013

More Snaps and Some Surgery

I don't know if I should tell you this, but I have a hernia. It's a bit of a saga of a story really because, way back in the mists of time, about three months before I got married in fact, which would have been, ooh, before there was hair, I had one then too. It had sprung (right adjective there?) from the fact that I'd done a part time job for a while in a TV and radio shop in Bath called Ryland Huntley, at the bottom of Milsom Street and just two doors away from Carwardines, the delicious fresh coffee shop which used to roast its own blends of ground coffee on the premises. 

To have described working in Huntleys as torture, when I was unpacking TV sets and lovingly dusting B&O hi-fi systems that I'd never be able to afford myself, whilst being perpetually tormented by that delicious coffee aroma drifting along the street would be putting it mildly. See, back in those days it was the TV sets that were huge, with great big pregnant backs and very heavy cathode ray tubes inside them, whilst more men were slim and lithe owing to their doing a lot more physical graft. These days of course, it's the other way round. TVs are wafer thin and most couch potato blokes have the huge bellies, eh? You've probably seen this before, but it's very accurate, I think...

The One on the left is spot on for me in 1973!!
So, anyway, after a few months of precariously climbing very high step ladders, holding huge cardboard boxes which contained TV sets like the one on the left above, so that I could stack them on top of a dozen other boxes of similar size, I knew I had something wrong down below. A visit to the GP confirmed that I had myself a hernia on the right side and this was going to need surgery.

Well, here I am now 40 years later with a similar problem, only on the other side, so it was off to the local doctor's surgery in Gennadi a couple of weeks ago. Now, the system out here is quite different from way things are done in the UK. In the UK the GP will assess the situation and, having decided that you need to go to hospital, will refer you, right? I mean, you'll go home and wait for the letter summoning you to attend at such and such a date. Here it's much more laid back. I'll explain.

There I was dropping my trousers just far enough for this young doctor (who looked to me like he'd just put his Lego bricks down, he was that young) to have a gander and then he says, "Hmm, yes. It had better be sorted out. Do you have a surgeon in mind?"

I kid you not. I really felt like saying, "Oh yes, of course. I'm on first name terms with all the staff at the Rhodes General Hospital. We're always hobnobbing over a Metaxa or two, don't you know!" What I actually said was, "Well, no." The Doc replied that there were several surgeons in Rhodes who carry out such procedures, and I'd be better deciding myself which one to approach. He then looked at me questioningly once again. In a blinding flash I suddenly thought of my businessman friend Stelios in Rhodes Town, someone who regularly visits sick friends in the hospital and does know a lot of people there. He's that kind of guy.

"Shall I call my friend?" I asked the child across the desk, to which he said, "Yes, sure."

So, you can picture the scene. Here I am sitting in the local surgery calling my friend on my mobile phone. He answers and asks me how I am, how's Maria, what's the weather like down our way and the like. I reply affably and then cut to the chase. "Stelio," I begin, "Can you recommend a surgeon to operate on my hernia by any chance?"

Stelios replies, "Well, there's so and so, and then there's also..." whereupon I interrupt and suggest that he talk directly to the GP across the desk from me. So now, I'm feeling that all this is very surreal as I end up sitting and waiting while the GP chats to my friend on my mobile phone, saying things like "Yea, OK. Well he'd be a good one, 'cos he knows me. You have his mobile number by any chance?" ...and so on.

The upshot was that a surgeon was agreed upon and I was given his mobile phone number and told that I'd need to call him to arrange an initial examination at the hospital, before being booked in for the operation. Now I don't know about you, but I felt a bit nervous about cold-calling a surgeon. 1: The bloke who'd done my other side way back in Bath, UK in the middle ages was the kind of man who wore half-glasses and struck fear in the poor mortals who he deigned to help with his scalpel. I had vivid memories of him sitting on the end of my bed after I'd been "done" and feeling like I was in the presence of greatness, what with his high forehead and greying temples and stuff. After all, I was only about twenty and he was probably 60-ish.

2: What if I called the bloke just as he was inserting a scalpel into some other patient in theatre? I wouldn't want to be responsible for some other poor soul getting a bigger and more untidy scar than he or she deserved, always assuming that the shock of the phone ringing didn't lead to some inner organ being punctured or anything like that!

So, I decided to text him. I know, ...weird isn't it. I texted a surgeon I'd never met before to tell him that he'd been selected to sort out my hernia. Mind you, I came up trumps I think. The bloke called me back right away (evidently not in theatre then. That is of course, unless he was holding someone's carotid between his thumb and forefinger and telling his assistants around the operating table, "I'll just get this"!) and he was friendliness itself. We arranged a time of mutual convenience and I duly drove up to the hospital last Saturday morning, which brings me, finally, to why I can call this post "More Snaps and Some Surgery". On the way back from having seen the surgeon, who was a really nice bloke it turns out. Not at all condescending and very good at putting one at one's ease, I was able to take a detour down to Agathi Beach, so that I could snap a few shots showing how amazing the place is once the sunbeds are all gone. A couple of winters ago I had a request to show a shot or two of Agathi and I was only able to oblige after some delay with one quick shot. This time, with the weather absolutely perfect at 23ºC, a clear sky and hardly a breath of wind, I took these folks...

Looking over the back of Haraki and across to Lindos, from the lane leading down to Agathi Beach
We'd have done a skinny dip, had there not been a couple of blokes fishing, drat!

Hope those give you a brief moment of pleasure. Plus, a few days earlier, when it had in fact been mainly cloudy, I took these in Lahania...

It's amazing how they get palm fronds to grow out of electricity posts like that, isn't it?

...And this one in a quiet part of Gennadi...

Finally, to return to the story of my upcoming operation: what is very good here is that you don't wait for months to get your op done. Whilst I was with him, the surgeon had flipped open his appointment book (nothing as advanced as a computer diary in sight) and apologised that I'd have to wait a couple of weeks, which was owing to the fact that he's nipping off to a conference in Berlin this coming week, then operating in a hospital in Crete before returning to Rhodes. But, I'm booked to check into my hospital bed on November 28th, for the operation to take place on Friday the 29th. So, further reports will follow.

That is, of course, as long as some other bloke with a hernia doesn't call the surgeon just as he's inserting his scalpel into my abdomen, thus causing me major injury and loss of life...