Saturday, 4 April 2015

Ramblings From, ...Bath?

Yea, you guessed it, we're back in the UK. First time since summer 2013 when my dear mum left us. Whenever we do return to these shores it always affords us occasion to reflect a little, which is what I'm gonna do now.

Firstly, the flight. We came on the always-one-third-full first direct EasyJet flight of the summer season from Rhodes to London Gatwick. As I've probably said before, we lurve EasyJet. The plane was an Airbus A320 and it was only three weeks old!! I could tell, because there was an owners' handbook and a spare set of keys in the luggage compartment. No, only joking (like you didn't KNOW that). The crew told us. 

After what had happened to the Germanwings flight there were more than a few nervous passengers on board, all hoping that both pilots were well-adjusted mentally. Frankly, following that awful and has-to-be-said selfish deed, one can quickly lose one's perspective if one allows one's mind to run riot, but it's daft to do so. 

For starters, whenever one of the flight crew left the cockpit one of the cabin crew went straight in, thus displaying the proof that EasyJet have adopted new protocols already, ie: to never allow a single person to remain alone on the flight deck. We'd pre-booked front row seats owing to my rather longer than normal legs, so we were sitting knee to knee with the Cabin Manager and one of the Flight attendants during take-off and landing. 

Frankly, having heard the statistic not long before flying that every 2.5 seconds an Airbus either takes off or lands somewhere on the planet, plus another that you've something like a 2 million-to-one chance of suffering injury or death while flying and only a couple of thousand-to-one chance of the same thing happening when you cross the road, I wasn't overly concerned.

What did concern me, however, was the procedure that I have to adopt every time I go for a jimmy riddle in the aircraft's toilet; the front one that is, since we were sitting no more than a few feet from its door. How many times I've been thru this I couldn't remember, but if you're anything over five-five you'll know what I'm on about. I'm sure that the guys who designed the front loo on short-haul aircraft are hobbit fans. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that the front end of the plane is sharpened a bit like a pencil isn't it? So the wall in front of you when you atempt to stand and do the business in there is angled not only at you at something like 30º, but also from left to right as the aircraft tapers toward the sharp end. 

I get in there, lift up the seat and attempt to re-arrange my trousers in the regular manner (trying to keep the specifics to the necessary minimum here, OK?). At this point I am faced with the realisation that to get my tackle sufficiently near to the bowl to prevent the offending fluid from hitting the floor rather than going into the bowl, I need to become banana-man. If you didn't know it you'd suspect that I was a Michael Jackson fan, only instead of grabbing my privates in that rather unpleasant way that he used to, I'm trying to effect a directional flow so as to keep the place clean and splash-free.

I have to place my head against the wall in front of me and then peer sideways into the mercifully large mirror to keep control of the situation and accomplish my goal. For the briefest of moments I fleetingly begin to understand how obese people feel when they can't ever get a glimpse of their own privates without the aid of mirrors, something that I work very hard at avoiding fitness and diet-wise!

Of course, once I've adopted the correct bodily pose, I can usually get the job done, but don't even ask me what happens if the aircraft hits a spot of turbulence right at the time when I'm in the process...

Anyway, as usual it was an excellent flight and we (despite having faced a 100 mph headwind all the way) landed only ten minutes late at the huge sprawling monstrosity that is London Gatwick airport. The cabin crew were courtesy itself (as they always seem to be on EasyJet) and we made our way to the passport control area. Some friends from Rhodes who were on the flight briefed us about how to use our recently renewed passports. As it was our first time with these "chipped" ones we were a little nervous about how to do it right. You place your passport face down, opened to the ID page, on a glass panel, then a couple of moments later the two metal barriers in front of you open and you grab the passport step forward and then you're standing in a booth. I thought about reaching for the scrunchy and shower gel when I was invited by an illuminated sign to stare at the screen in front of me. Resisting the urge to also say "beam me up Scotty" I was well impressed when the final barrier slid back and I was through. Piece of cake. Isn't technology wonderful - when it works that is.

So here I am now, on Saturday morning, well, lunchtime, sitting in my brother-in-law's rather comfy conservatory in Upper Weston, Bath, reflecting on the fact that we haven't seen hide nor hair of the sun since landing. And that was Wednesday afternoon. Hey ho, eh?

It's rather wierd being in this part of Bath, though, because I spent many years of my childhood not a stone's throw from this very conservatory, which, of course, wasn't here then. Not much was because I'm talking more decades ago than I'm comfortable with these days. Here I am banging away on the keyboard with Chico keeping me company...

 ...and I find myself mulling over the differences between living on Rhodes and life here in Bath in 2015. Before I go any further, I do hope that some readers won't come down on me like a ton of bricks because last time I wrote about comparing Rhodes to Britain as a place to live, some accused me (only the tiniest minority I have to say) of "dissing" my motherland. Anyway, ever prepared to live dangerously, here goes:

1. Wi Fi: Rhodes 1, UK 0. 
Look, folks, it's 2015, right? You can't go anywhere on Rhodes - and I'd venture to say in most of Greece - without enjoying free wi-fi in every food or drink establishment you care to enter. This morning I was walking along Weston High Street, where there are at least three coffee shop/tea rooms, all of which I have to say are charming and inviting, dead keen to get settled, order a mocha and whip out the iPad and not one of them had Wi Fi. What's going on folks? I know and I heartily agree that seeing folk sitting in such places and virtually all of 'em peering at their devices is probably not good, but misuse of something doesn't justify it not being provided at all. If I'm in company I either don't use the Wi Fi or, if I do, I use it for the briefest time and then put the device away. I'm one of those old fashioned types who hates to see people not conversing because they're all tapping away with their thumbs. But as it happens my dearly beloved is still in bed with the flu and I was walking alone and thus could have done with a coffee and a surf. No chance. It's something that I expect to find rectified each time we come back to the UK and usually find to our dismay is just the same. What gets me even more is that where Wi Fi IS advertised it's not simply a case of asking for the code and getting connected, oh no. You get to a page in your browser that expects you to sign up for something first. You have to register and become a member so as to receive even more junk messages than you're getting already. No way José! 

I was on a bus last night (UK scores heavily here, buses are brill) and the window boasted "FREE WI FI" on board. Wow, methinks (or rather methought) that's really forward thinking, so I whipped out the iPad, found that it would log on without a code and - you've guessed it - the browser window said "Welcome to .......FREE WI FI, Log in or sign up to enjoy..." So I folded the iPad away.

2. Food shopping: UK 10 Greece 2
I don't care what anybody says, food shopping in Rhodes makes your eyes water. The kinds of thngs that we would buy in the supermarket in the UK are all available in Greece, sure, but at ridiculously high prices. Tesco Everyday Value Peanut Butter - 62p. The equivalent on Rhodes? 3 or 4 Euro!! Even our trusty Lidl, where everyone on Rhodes goes regularly (even if they don't admit to it!) where one can make a direct comparison because the UK Lidl stores stock a huge number of identical products, charges a lot more for stuff. OK, locally grown fruit and veg on Rhodes is very cheap, but supermarket shopping is much more expensice than the UK. We used to say "ah yes, but at least we don't pay council tax" but there is now a property tax in Greec of course, albeit less than in the UK.

3. People: Rhodes 2 UK 0.
Y'know, we're so used to greeting people that we pass while walking at home on Rhodes that it comes as a bit of a shock to be walking the pavement (sidewalk, guys) here in the UK and to see people quickly cast their eyes to the ground as they walk past so as to avoid eye contact and a simple "Hi" "good morning" or "lovely day". OK, so the last one's a bit hopeful at the moment. I passed so many people while out doing a spot of shopping this morning and only managed to elicit one "Morning" from a woman about to get into her car. The rest, well, I find myself thinking how sad it is. It's rude to walk past someone out in Rhodes without at the very least a smile and more usual anyway a "Kalimera!". 

Anyway, I could ramble on for hours about comparisons and it's not really the way to go, I know. Fact is, things I love about coming back here...
• British beer
• The countryside
• The dawn chorus
• Snooker on the telly
...and some other stuff.

Living in Rhodes? You get sunshine. Even during a wetter and more changeable winter than is the norm, as we've just experienced, there wasn't a week that passed when we couldn't enjoy a coffee out of doors at least once. 

Since arriving here in the UK I've already had two conversations with people asking me "How are you coping? You know, with all that's going on?"

Here's my answer folks!! If you're thinking of coming to Greece for a holiday, the sun is still the same, the food is still the same, cafés and bars are still filled with Greeks sipping frappés and Fredducinos and flicking their worry beads. The beaches are exactly as they've always been as are the rich archeological sites for those interested in such things. The people still smile and (by and large) make you feel very welcome. In short, normal life goes on. Where we live people still go about their work, they go shopping, they cook their meals and check their blood pressure.

That last comment? Well, it is Greece after all!!

You know what? the sun's just coming out...


  1. Great blog post John, I`m off to Paros for Easter next week & looking forwatd to a bit out of season Greece x

    1. Paros, how lovely. I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time. One of Greece's biggest singing stars of the past 30 years is from there, Yannis Parios. Ask a local while you're there! I bet they all claim to know him!!

  2. Lovely blog John. A week today we'll be in Rhodes around ypur neck of the woods before we go to Tilos. Please get some sunshine ordered for us!!

  3. Enjoyed this blog - agree with everything in this part of the country - even walking along the tow path people just ignore your greetings! Hope you're enjoying the Bath sunshine today, and perhaps working on a new scenario for your next book!

    1. Dunno about the next book, but boy has the weather changed for the better!! Wall to wall sunshine, magic!