Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Getting Versatile For a While

https://versatilebloggeraward.wordpress.com/I'm deeply grateful to fellow author Yvonne Payne, who writes a beautiful blog herself by the way, for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award.

Yvonne's blog is HERE. There is a lot of info on that blog including details of her first novel Kritsopoula, which has garnered as of today no less than 6 five star reviews on its Amazon Kindle page. I'm not jealous at all (my new one so far has all five star reviews too, but, ahem, only 5 of them. Can I leave that with you, perchance?)

It goes without saying that this award is, of course, very flattering to be nominated for. The only problem I'm going to have is that it's a kind of chain thing, meaning that you're expected to select and nominate 15 other blogs yourself. That's where I'm going to fall down because it's all I can do to keep up with life and my work, leave alone follow that many other blogs. There are probably only two or three that I have time to read with any regularity I'm afraid.

But, but, but! I did want to post this firstly out of appreciation for Yvonne's evidently (albeit mistakenly!) very positive opinion of my ramblings and also to flag the whole thing up for other readers out there who may just not have heard about this and would like to get involved. 

So, thanks again Yvonne and I am deeply grateful. I just don't quite know if and when I'll be able to do what else is required of me!! Something else one is supposed to do is post seven interesting things about oneself. Now, where do I start? Umm, well there's... No, perhaps, yeah, I know... umm. [this may take some time].

If you're a budding blogger though, check out the link by clicking on the logo above.

Sunday, 29 March 2015


So there we were this morning, sitting inside the French windows sipping our filter coffees and waiting for it to start raining, when my better half froze and said, "Don't move! We have a visitor".

Now, there are quite a few pretty birds that we get here every summer and not a few that we still have here during the winter months too. If you've been reading this stuff for any length of time you'll have read my "waxing lyrical" posts [now so old they've been removed and placed in the book "A Plethora of Posts"] about the European Bee Eaters, which grace us with their presence every summer and we often watch them during summer evenings as they wheel above us, taking their evening meal on the wing. We watch them too as they gather on the wires in October making preparation to fly south again for the winter months.

Another bird that we've often caught all-too-brief glimpses of is the Hoopoe. If you've ever seen one you'll know that they are quite spectacular, especially when they raise the crest on the top of their heads. They arrive about now and spend the summer here, breeding here too apparently. But you only have to move and they're gone. They are very timid. Thankfully, though, our French windows tend to make our situation resemble that of a "hide" on a bird reservation or nature preserve somewhere. If we sit there long enough we usually see something. Trouble is, by the time I get the camera whatever it was is long gone.

So, today, when the beloved said the words quoted above, I was cock-a-hoop, we both were, to see a Hoopoe casually strolling right past us on the flower bed, foraging for grubs. He (or maybe she?) was not more than three feet away and quite oblivious to our presence. I did manage to grab the camera and, by the time I returned to the French windows the bird had walked on around to the side of the house, but I was still able to snap the photos below out of a few different windows as it did a complete circuit around the building.

Here then folks, are the shots. I hope you like 'em (I'm sure that by now you'll know how to open them in a larger view)...

Monday, 23 March 2015

Peel Appeal

Y'know, we've lived her nigh on ten years now and every single year, come March, we see the signs on the road advertising the annual orange festival in the villages of Massari and Malona and every year we say to eachother, "We'll have to go to that" and, prior to this year, we never have!

I dunno what it is about living where we do, but so often it's hard to motivate ourselves to actually open the front gates and get the car out when it's so much easier to whip up a frappé and sit in the garden. This year though, we decided that it was about time. The weather for the past couple of weeks has been really bright and mainly blue and more often than not very pleasantly warm out. In fact we've only had one or two rain days so far this month and the lane is already getting dusty like it is in high summer. They have forecast rain for this coming week though, so we'll see.

But yesterday, Sunday 22nd March, the day after the spring equinox, it dawned bright and warm and so we finally managed to get ourselves into gear and off we toddled to see the festival for ourselves. Oddly enough we had driven past once or twice over the years and seen the road littered with cars by the dozen, all parked in whatever space the enterprizing owners could shoehorn them into. This year, arriving ourselves with a view to seeing the spectacle, we turned off the Lindos-Rhodes main road at the first turning for Massari and, within a hundred metres or so were being marshalled by a ...well, a marshall I suppose in his orange coat, sunglasses and whistle into an adjacent recently-mown field where we had to take our chance at finding somewhere to get out the shoehorn; somewhere where we could hope to return to the car later and find it a) without a puncture from the very suspect ground beneath the tyres and b) still without a dent or scratch from someone slightly less careful than us.

Having slithered the car into a tight gap between two others and put away the tube of vaseline (only joshing, it was grease) we were soon strolling along the hundred meters or so of rural road to the site where the festival was taking place. People were still arriving by the shedload as we walked into the tarmac area on which the huge stage was set up for the dancing and around which were situated lots of stalls all offering orange-related wares. The photo above, for instance, showing that rather clever and quite engaging "flower" display made entirely of sculpted oranges, shows a stall where one could grab a plastic cup of freshly squeezed juice for free.

So, what else was there to see... I'll let the photos tell the tale...

As soon as we entered the smell of roasting corn cobs tantalised out tastebuds. See the oranges still on the trees in the orchards beyond.

The displays of all things orange were pretty impressive.

First up on the dance podium, before the local dignitaries did their totally inaudible speeeches were the local kids of course.

...and waiting in "the wings" the slightly older dancers in their fetching traditional costumes.

Delicious orange fritters being prepared for the hungry hordes.

Can't begin to imagine how many dead pigs all that souvaki added up to. Most of the food was free by the way. You only paid for drinks, and they were cheap!

Local women were making fava on site...

...then making it available to the public for free, topped with grated orange zest. Flippin' marvellous it was too!

Our rather splendid and what's even better - FREE - lunch of fava, beans in tomato and herb sauce, fresh bread rolls and olives, washed down with some free orange juice.

The platform was almost continually drumming to the sound of dancers' feet.

..and everyone who had any relative up there of course had to capture their moment of celebrity in a photo.

Dunno quite why, but there were quite a few dances of Cretan origin too. Well, I say I don't know, but there are many people of Cretan origin living on Rhodes. See the Rhodes Trivia page, under the heading Kritinia.

Mandarins going mandaround a couple of palms.

Soon became quite hard to find somewhere to park your botty.

When I was a nipper (as we used to say in the West Country), from the ages of 18 months until I was about 10, we lived in a small rural village several miles outside of my home town of Bath. I remember that my dad, bless him, was the one that used to organise the village's social calendar from a table upstairs in the pub over the road, surrounded by half a dozen snooker tables, which for most of the time were too high for me to even see the green baize. Once a year he'd arrange the village fète, where they'd have stalls selling local produce, a portable skittle alley around the business end of which there would be a protective wall of hay bales to stop them losing the balls, a coconut shy, one of those bell things where you'd have to strike a metal dome with a hammer and see if you could get that sliding thing to go all the way up to the top and ring the bell, ...you know the kinds of thing. I had a go at that bell thing and was rather dismayed to find that I couldn't even get the slider half way up. Mind you, I would have been still in single figures age-wise at the time. Why does this all spring to mind? 

Well, as we were sitting there watching the local community display its dauntless spirit in the face of the current woes, I couldn't help but admire these people for their culture. These kinds of celebrations go on all the time here, especially during the winter months when they don't have to be at work seven days a week. Everyone and his mother turns out and everyone has a good time. There's scarcely any crime and just about everyone knows everyone else. Toddlers and kids of tender age wander around in safety and no one drinks to excess. Quite a lot of people came up to me and slapped me on the back and I'm dashed if I could remember how I knew some of them. I'm pretty sure I'd worked with a few on excursions over the years, but some - well, when one bloke who was busy making half a million souvlaki on the barbie high-fived me and said "Yianni!!! How you doing?" with a huge grin on his face. I found myself remarking in reply on what a nice day it was. The better half asked me, "Who was that then?" All I could answer was, "No idea! But he knows me all right!"

Everyone knows the dances and everyone sings along to the tunes they dance to. Fun though they were, my dad's village fètes were never like this.
As we finally left to make our way back to the car we were able to pick up a set of three respectably-sized geranium plants for €10 Euro (making a saving of the princely sum of 50 cents over the price from three individual plants) from a market gardener selling his stuff on the roadside. The blooms are a deep vivid red, a colour we don't yet have in the garden. As my wife selected the ones she wanted, fluttered her lids as she "darling"ed me 'cos she'd conveniently found that she'd left her purse at home, the man said to me, "Yea, you're always 'darling' at moments like this, eh?"

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Sweet Passtime

It's so useful being out in the garden. The honey men have just passed in their truck again, three of them, with the one in the middle still wearing his protective stuff, looking like something out of Quatermass!!

But, seeing me hard at it with my rake they slowed to a stop just below our wall and, guess what, one of them jumped out and gave me another jar!!! It amuses me to see that the label mentions Kos, but who cares? These guys are stars and they do this so often it makes it worth being out there, just in case they pass again!!

A previous post where I've mentioned this rather nice habit of the honeymen is here...

What you get for gardening up a dirt track in Kiotari - near where the honeymen place their hives.
As I've probably said before, the only reason we can think of for their consistent generosity is the fact that their bees make plentiful use of our blooms as they go about their daily business of honeymaking.

Whatever the reason, boy does it make you feel good when this happens!!

Where Are You Monte?

Staggered as I am that quite a few of my friends and readers have as yet never visited the Rhodes Acropolis, formerly known as Monte Smith (see previous post "Alas Poor Doric" and some of the comments on it), maybe this will help. 

Monte Smith and the stadium are both clearly marked...

Monday, 16 March 2015

Alas, Poor Doric...

I had occasion to be in Rhodes Town yesterday and so took a walk around the area they used to call Monte Smith, although more recently they've taken to calling it (more correctly too) The Rhodes Acropolis, a rather beautiful and quite spacious park wherein lies the restored 3rd century (before Christ) stadium and the remaining Doric columns (partially restored) of the impressive ancient Temple of Apollo.

It occured to me that most tourists only get to see this area when the vegetation is parched and dry in the summer months and so they miss the beauty of the place when it's green, as it is in mid-March. As the Hoopoes flew this way and that, I snapped away with the iPad and the results are here for your delectation and delight (hopefully!)...

The wild flowers at this time of the year are splendiferous

The 2,300 year old stadium was restored by the Italians between the two world wars. If you click to get the larger view you get a better impression of the scale, since there are lots of people out enjoying the weekend sunshine in shot.

Moody eh? Oh, all right then, I'll settle for "arty".

The columns are Doric, by the way. Thus my rather dubious attempt at a humourous title for this post.

Typical Greeks, never finish a building...

C'mon guys, dead impressive isn't it?

The view down over the town, with the snowy peaks of the Turkish mountains visible to the left.

This one's my new desktop photo.

After shooting that lot I went straight down the road from which the last couple were taken and into the Swedco Café. There's one on the corner with the traffic lights. If you haven't sampled their "Sorbeto" then you haven't lived. You can have either chocolate or caramel flavour and for €2.50 you get something resembling a "triple-thick-shake" that's simply TDF!! You know the kind of thing, they have to use extra thick straws otherwise you wouldn't be able to suck the stuff into your mouth. Glorious!!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

The Greek Husbands Club

Dropped in to see our old friend Gilma yesterday morning. We hadn't seen him in a while. As usual he was pottering about in his rather large parcel of land, this time very near to the house. Also as usual he was alone, his wife and grown-up son (someone big in the mechanic-ing section of the Rhodes Bus company) being, as they always are, up at their house in Kritika. 

During our conversation he let on about how his wife is always nagging him to spend more time up there with her. He replies that she ought to spend more time down here with him. The son's needs win out, of course, which is ever the case in a Greek household when such things reach the "push-come-to-shove" stage. Something he said which we found ourselves agreeing with heartily, though, was the fact that he'd read somewhere recently that many consider that Rhodes has not only the best weather in the Mediteranean, but even in the whole world. Not that we'd be biased about such a thing, of course. but it does have some merit.

I mean, there are those who'll champion the cause of the West Indies. Never gets below 25ºC any time of the year. During certain months, though, you can expect to see your car blown away along with the roof of your house in a hurricane. It would be just my luck to be sitting on the loo at the time... Then there's the fact that you never get those long summer evenings 'cos it always gets dark at around six pm. Uh oh.

Then there's the Far East. Hmm, typhoons and all that ridiculously high humidity spring to mind. I have a friend who lived in Calcutta for many years. He told me they can't use toilet paper, it would simply shred to moist pieces in seconds. Eeeeuuaah. You have to wash your bits after going to the loo and then don't bother with a towel 'cos you'd be instantly soaking wet again as soon as you'd finished with it. 

All the tropical areas would freak me out for another reason too, 'cos the insects are the size of your average London bus aren't they (shivers running along spine as I type)? What about further North - nah, too cold in winter.

See, you get the picture. OK, so Rhodes can be a bit too hot in July and August, but at least you can plan outdoor activities safe in the knowledge that you'll be able to actually do them. Yup, we get rain during the winter, but the winters are short ...and I'm often wearing mine in the garden during January too.

I did mention to Gilma that we do get the occasional earthquake though. Well, let's face it, nowhere's perfect after all.

He did tell us though, that he simply has to spend as much time as possible down here in the far south (he lives a lot further south than we do), because when he's at their house in Kritika his main passtime is watching the traffic go past the window. My wife asked him, "What about going down to the kafeneion, isn't that what Greek men are supposed to do?" To which he replied, "Kafeneion? Where all they do is argue about politics and football and play Backgammon while they wait to die?" Not for him it seems. Waving an arm around him to refer our attention to the beauty around us he went on, "How does a Kafeneion compare to this, eh?" He was planting new rose bushes at the time.

He does have a point. So, he is a fully paid-up member of the Greek Husbands Club, which doesn't actually exist, but ought to. 

What does really exist however, is The Greek Wives Club and it's run by the very witty [not to mention easy on the eye - she'd kill me for saying that. Mind you, doesn't matter, 'cos when you're old enough to be someone's father you can get away with that kind of stuff more easily] and erudite Ekaterina Botziou, a Greek girl living in the London area (UK) with her Greek Cypriot hubby and almost-born (only days to go apparently) first child. This girl is sickeningly talented. She writes books, acts, keeps this very entertaining website, a Facebook page for same and a bunch of other stuff, like being a capable Greek wife for starters. Check out her profile shot on the "About" page and you get an idea as to what kind of spirit the girl has. 

The website is a great place to mooch around in if you love all things Greek. As you'll probably know, I recently started a Facebook Group myself, an action borne of my own desire to have a single easy source of Greek-themed reading material. It's called "A Good Greek Read" and that's how I first got wind of Ekaterina. She's a member, I'm quite proud to say, as are a number of other successul authors of Greek fiction and factual books. If you'd like a handy reference point for authors of Greek-themed books, on the "A Good Greek Read" FB page there is a downloadable list, along with easy links to each author's work. You have to join to access it, of course, but I'm the one who has to approve your application, so it's not likely you'll be refused entry, now is it?

Returning to Ekaterina and The Greek Wives Club. if you want to know a bit more about Ekaterina herself, this link will help no end. The girl's got talent, she'd even a Law Graduate. Told you, she makes me sick! I really can't recommend her writing enough, and indeed her website, for absolutely anyone who's a serious Grecophile. She stresses that you don't have to actually be a Greek wife to join the Facebook page, so I scraped in by being a Greek husband. 

Our old friend Gilma wouldn't know one end of a computer from the other, which is quite sad really, because he'd definitely qualify, with senior citizen's discount too!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Surfin' USA? Or Surfin' South Rhodes...

8th March, 23ºC today, a harbinger of what's to come. Yes March can still throw the occasional spanner into the weather-works, but by and large it's downhill into summer from here. I was a bit sad yesterday, it would have been my father's 86th birthday had he survived. We lost him in January 2009, but whenever we're in the garden, he's on our minds, since he loved gardening almost more than anything else, apart from my mum of course. But it was close.

Both yesterday and today we've spent lots of time in the garden. There's always plenty to do at this time of the year. But before we began yesterday we went to visit a few folk along near the seafront in the Gennadi area, which was where I snapped these...

There was a strong, warm wind coming in off of the sea, which here in Kiotari means Southerly, thus the temperature was a very pleasant 21 or so (70F in the old money, or if you're American), but the sea was "up" in a spectacular way. Unfortunately these photos don't do it full justice. How often do we folk who have modest cameras (or, as in this case, modest mobile phones!) snap something with a wild enthusiasm to share it with others, only to be a bit let down when we see the end result. Never mind, if you click a few times to get the largest view it may help. The sound was deafening and all I could do was sing along to old Beach Boys songs all morning!! 

Today, though is a red-letter day and no mistake. Today was the ceremonial hanging of the hosepipe gun on the nail under the car-port. As I've probably said before, most Greek houses don't have swimming pools, but what they always do have is an outdoor shower. Well, ours is a hosepipe hanging from the car-port at just the right angle...

Not exactly a pinnacle of technology, yet amazingly effective.

After a couple of hours toil, I was ready for shower and so today, folks, the first outdoor shower of the season took place amid precious little fanfare - well, apart from me going "ooh, ahh" rather a lot. Got to admit, the water was a little on the parky side, but I went through with it and then the better half did likewise. 

See, it's that time of year now when, although we've enjoyed the winter, we're ready to see a few more people about and ready for the warmer weather to set in at last. It has been by and large a mild winter here, although somewhat more changeable than normal. The last cold snap was probably to coldest we've known in almost 10 years of living here, but that only lasted 3 days and prompted a few to proclaim on Facebook that it was the coldest winter they'd known. Have to disagree there I'm afraid. Lots of people who, like us, have log-burning stoves, are remarking that they've used them much less frequently than normal, which is certainly the case with us.

Returning to today though, once more (after the winter months) the parasol went up over the garden table and we took lunch out there. The better half rustled up some rather tasty aubergine salad, olive oil, tomato and lettuce open sandwiches and we washed them down with a glass of delicious rosé.

Oh, and the sea calmed down markedly today too. Thus I am no longer prompted to sing "Everybody's gone surfin', surfin' USA."

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Give It To The Greeks

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned in a post on Facebook (I think it was either the rather excellent group "We're Mad about Greece and the Greek Language" or perhaps it might have been "Living on Rhodes Together", but I think it was the former) that I was a part-time excursion escort during the summer season. [Thinks again: Ah, yes, may also have been Destination Lindos. I'm definitely losing it...]

After I'd answered someone's query about the subject and told them about my work, someone else commented, rather curtly in my view, that the person to whom I was replying ought not to go on excursions, but rather ought to - and I quote "Give your money to the Greeks".

Now, regular readers of my ramblings will know that I usually write in a mildly amusing way (oh, yes I do!!) about life here on Rhodes. This post, however is about what to me is an important subject, so forgive me if it's a bit lacking in smiles. Thanks. I will look for opportunities though, trust me on that one.

See, the thing is, when me and the better half used to take holidays in Greece, we weren't the types to go on excursions, but that's not to say that those who do are in any way lacking in imagination or the independent spirit. It's purely a matter of "horses for courses" [two words that give  Greek who are learning English nightmares, …see why?]. In my experience, which is now pretty extensive in this field, I have met guests on my trips of all different intellectual levels and social backgrounds. The thing they all have in common is the fact that, since they're on holiday, they like to take the stress out of the excursions and let someone else do the worrying for them. Nothing wrong with that, right? I've done this work since the summer of 2007 by the way and I've worked for a number of different companies here in Rhodes, so I can talk from inside knowledge on the subject.

So then, to this person's comment, "give it [your money] to the Greeks." Let me tell you something that I hope will be enlightening. Every company that I've worked for has been staffed entirely by Greeks, the coach drivers have all been Greeks and those running the boats we've used for excursions at sea have all been Greeks. The crews manning the boats have also all been Greeks. Without exception, these Greeks work seven days a week for six months during the season, often doing split shifts too. The boat owners who I can say with gratitude I can now call friends, all depend entirely on their contract with the excursion company for their living. Keeping a boat on the water is a very expensive business, often involving dry-docking during the winter months while the hull is repaired, painted and otherwise maintained, all of which costs a pretty penny.

Some of the owners of the boats have sunk their entire life's savings into the boat and without the excursions would be destitute. When you book an excursion for a day trip whilst on holiday out here in Greece you are most definitely giving your money to those who really need to earn it. Yes, the tour operator takes a cut, of course they do, but they entrust the entire operation of running their excursions to local Greek people, millions of which all across this great country would be very much poorer without such work. The coach drivers here on Rhodes often come from Thessalonika and don't see their wives and children for the entire season, because they're here ferrying folk to and from the airport to their accommodations and also taking them on day trips. OK, if you want to duck out of using the tour operator's transfer that's a personal choice and I don't have any argument with that. All I say is, don't talk out of your…. The coach driver is a Greek who needs the work. Fact.

On board the "Lindos" on last season's Bay to Bay cruise.


This is the Magellanos, a boat I worked on a few years back. The owner Adonis is a gent.

The Romantika, tied up in Mandraki. Another boat that depends on excursions for survival.

Another shot from one of last season's bay to bay trips.

Dimitri (front) and his dad Kostas (driving) ferry our guests ashore at Stegna for lunch during the Bay to Bay cruise.

On some excursions too, we also make use of local bars and tavernas, and guess what: …of course! the staff and owners are predominantly Greeks who absolutely depend on our patronage, especially with the growing cancerous threat of the dreaded all-inclusive, which is the real villain of the piece.

So, there you are folks, beef firmly off the chest. Incidentally, the company I work for here on Rhodes is a 100% Greek-run company which organizes excursions for innumerable tour operators, including Olympic Holidays from the UK. So, if you're staying in the South of the island this summer, you may well have the dubious privilege of my company if you come on one of the excursions.

One more point I will make. Many will say, if you're staying down South that is, "Don't take the excursion to Rhodes Town, take the bus." OK, do so by all means and I have no problem with that. But what I will say is this: Those who shell out a little more to come with me most definitely get their money's worth. They get door to door service, a guaranteed seat for the journey (which is shorter anyway), loads of useful info as we travel up and down the island, plus help when we get into town regarding all kinds of stuff that they'd have no idea about if they arrived in town on the bus with no one to ask about anything. Plus, should anything go wrong, they have the added insurance of knowing someone's there to sort it out.

You know what, I'm really looking forward to starting work again this summer. I'll probably be doing what we call the "Bay to Bay" a couple of times each week and "Rhodes Shopping" once. If you do read this and you come out here on holiday with Olympic, book an excursion and find that your escort is wearing a white T-shirt with "Ramblings from Rhodes - Google it!" on the front - it'll be me folks. Say hello won't you. AND, tell me when you get back in the evening that you didn't have a cracking day out!

Oh, and you'll be able to sleep easy knowing that the majority of the cash you shelled out went to help a dozen or more Greeks feed their families and pay their bills.

Rhodes Old Town. Wish you were here?