Saturday, 20 December 2014

Up the Pole

There's a strange rule that applies to new buildings in rural areas here. Basically it says that a new house, or indeed business premise, that has a garden or yard around it, must have its electricity meter mounted on a concrete obelisk somewhere on the edge of the property near to the road, protruding from the top of which there should be another couple of metres or so of metal post, often looking to me like it's a scaffolding pole sunk into the concrete on the top of the obelisk. It's to the top of this pole that the power cable is first attached as it descends from the overhead cables, connects to the meter and thus from there the supply runs into the property, often underground.

Where perhaps a number of properties are built quite near to each other, you may see quite a large concrete "bus shelter" with a recess in one side, into which are mounted all the electricity meters for those buildings, to make it easier for the meter reader, who'll take the readings whilst differentiating each meter by its code number. There are some recent housing developments not too far from us where you can count up to twenty electricity meters all together side-by-side in one rather ugly five meter wide recessed concrete obelisk. The homes that these metres serve can stretch to something like 150 metres away, whilst the nearest one has to put up with this monstrosity dominating the corner of their front garden.

Nattering with our neighbour from further down the valley over a coffee in 21ºC of sunshine yesterday morning, he got to telling us about Johan, who's almost completed a new house down near the beach road. This new property has a grand rectangular garden with a driveway that goes all the way around the house. It's a posh looking place and no mistake. Apparently, Johan contacted the electricity board, having had the builder erect the concrete obelisk and its pole, as per regulations, to ask if they'd install the meter so that he can have electricity in the property. I'm not sure, but I think the builders are meant to inform the electricity company when the obelisk and pole are ready, so that the installation of the meter box and meter may proceed. Following an inspection, during which the man from DEH (The Greek electricity company) comes along and casts a beady eye over the pole to see if it contravenes the quite strict parameters for such things, a meter box and subsequently the meter itself may be installed.

So, our soon-to-be distant neighbour Johan rings up the DEH office and the conversation goes something like this:

"Good morning. My property is [here he quotes the location and the building permit number, plus his own name as the owner], do you think that you could now supply a meter box and meter please?"

"Of course we shall, once you have a pole installed."

"But I do have the pole installed. I'm looking at it right now."

"No, sir, you don't. You must have the post and pole before we can install your meter."

"But the builder erected it last week. It's all ready to receive the meter and I can see it from where I'm standing."

A slight pause…"You will need to have the pole erected first, sir."

"I don't think you're hearing me correctly. I HAVE THE POLE. It's been erected. I just need my meter now. Please will you supply my meter."

"Can you wait, please sir?" Johan says he'll wait. Muffled sounds of pieces of paper being rustled, then the sound of computer keys busily getting hammered. Voices exchange a few words of indiscernible Greek. No doubt the sound of a frappé being slurped through a straw too I shouldn't wonder. Johan twiddles his thumbs, symbolically of course, since one of his hands is holding his mobile phone to the side of his head. He waits.

Then he waits some more. Eventually the voice cackles back at him, "Mr. ---------," may I put you on hold for a moment please?"

"OK, OK. I'll hold." He finds himself listening to a tinny recording of "Jingle Bells". Finally, the voice come back at him.

"Right. Umm, sorry to keep you waiting. You are right, of course Mr. ---------."

"Great. Fine. So I can have my meter fitted now then, right?"

"Yes, your meter may be installed."

"So, when can I expect the men to arrive and fit it?"

"Just as soon as you get a pole installed."


  1. I blame all that sunshine (you did say you had temperatures in the 20's?) must do something to people's brains!
    Have you read Angela's Ashes, John? Your title has a very different meaning in that book!!

    1. Indeed I have. I've also read 'Tis, the follow up, but it was a few years ago now, so I can't remember what you're referring too. Just as well by the sound of it!

  2. Perhaps it is just my suspicious nature, but the DEH man could be waiting for the good old “fakelaki”. I have had reports of similar selective deafness from the same organisation on Halki. I know it’s not British, but times are hard and some things never change.
    My place had been extended illegally in the past, and the changes had not been registered. I found this out some years after the purchase. I sorted it all out and paid my dues. Somehow I wonder if my neighbours in the similar situation have done anything. Again, there was an equivalent shake-up on Halki, “submit accurate architectural drawings of your property to the Dimos”, and only the ex-pat community abided by the rules. The Halkiots did not. Yet nobody has been pursued for non compliance!
    That said, we love Greece and there is no point in raising our blood pressure over local customs. Just go with the flow, pay up and smile.

    Happy Solstice!

    1. You make a very valid point Simon. I'd forgotten about the fakelaki of late. I also agree entirely with your final point. We do get driven up the pole (note the clever ref to the post's theme there, eh, eh?) by the beaurocracy, the selective deafness and the way they seem to be able to hit expats for dosh in ways that locals never seem to be bothered with, but our affection for all the good things about living here far outweighs all that. We can have a laugh about such things, even when it hurts!

  3. Spelling John, spelling!


    1. Ah, so you WERE paying attention then. Well down Brown. Gold star.