Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Suction, Saucepanlids and Sunshine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  1. John. It was a surprise to meet you at that cafe in town.
    We too had a partly successful trip to town.Did change my shoes bought as a Christmas present & got a usb lead for Gloria's phone.So now we can download photos taken on the phone camera. As we told you yesterday, we were looking for a food processor. Well we are still looking. I am sure we have already looked in Carrefour but as you said you saw a Carrefour own brand, we will look again this coming week end.
    Here is hoping 2014 gets off to a drier start.
    The old year is sodding as it comes to and end

  2. Good one John,indeed that is a very unbeatable store(nearly).Dont complain about 55 km.is 2.5 hrs for a shop and now bank trip,to the mega city !!
    Happy New Year..
    Tilos Edward

    1. Yep. point taken. At least I don't have to go to another island for all the "stuff" I need!

  3. And one lady, at least, reading this can identify with you on the wiper blade situation. It's been my job for years now to purchase and fit many spares on a variety of cars and vans as if I don't have enough to do trying to find bits of dark fluff on dark carpets and bits of white fluff on light coloured ones!!

    1. Hmmm, and you still have all your fingers? (wiper blade joke there)