Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Don't Make Me Laugh

Yesterday, whilst doing my 2nd excursion of the season, which involved taking some guests from the South of the island up to Rhodes town and letting them loose to go exploring for a few hours, I had occasion to go wandering myself, iPad in hand (as you'll probably know I do from time to time), so that I could snap away to my heart's content at little scenes tucked away in the bowels of the Old Town.

Before entering the Old Town though, I trotted up to the harbour entrance at Mandraki to snap the clock tower that will be familiar to most people who know Rhodes. 

Of course I say "clock tower" but the clock is only in evidence on the side facing the harbour itself, so you can't see it in this shot. I wanted to snap this because one of the most asked questions to which I try and supply an informative answer (apart, of course, from "Why did you move here?" or "Would you ever go back to the UK?" and even "Is there life before breakfast?" - that last one I tend to ask myself quite often ITBT), is "Did the Colossus stand astride the harbour entrance?"

The answer to that last question is, ...check out my Rhodes Trivia page! Loads of essential info about the Colossus is there for all who wish to to browse and absorb. But I snapped this shot above owing to the fact that the height of the Colossus was virtually the same as the height of this tower. There you are, helps a bit doesn't it.

Then I hightailed it down to the Old Town to begin searching in earnest for those photogenic little nooks and crannies that are so loved by dedicated Rhodes fans. Here are a few...

To see a whole lot more, by all means check out the album I've uploaded on my  "John Manuel The Novels" Facebook page, here.

See, the reason why I like to shoot these kinds of scenes is this: On the coach heading back down south and chatting to the guests and asking them if they enjoyed visiting the Old Town, occcasionally someone will say, "It was OK, but it's over-commercialised. I was disappointed." Don't make me laugh, please.

Right, let me address this point right here, right now. Firstly, everywhere on the planet that tourists visit has its element of commercialisation. It goes with the territory doesn't it? Yes, you can stroll up Socratous in the Old Town and be jostled by thousands of bare, sun-creamed, tattoed and peeling shoulders, while you stare at the shops peddling gold and silver jewellery, leather sandals (some will even make you a pair to order while you wait), handbags, sunglasses, olive oil soap and other natural products which will add years to your lifespan (like, uh, yea),  CD's of dodgy old Greek music, brash paintings by artists who think your eyes need to be assaulted by over use of intense, bright colours, fake football shirts and folk trying to get you to sit in their café or restaurant. Yea, you can do that.

But, as I try and suggest to my guests before they go a wandering, why not just take a turn, any turn, down a slightly narrower alley or "street" rather than walk straight past it. Doing so you'll almost instantly be transported back into a world of old women hanging out their washing, cats asleep on windowsills and old men sitting in chairs outside their front doors, watching nothing in particular while they wait for another day to drift by. For the Old Town of Rhodes isn't just a movie set, it's a living community of thousands who go about their daily lives largely unobserved by the hordes who invade them every day of their lives.

Lovers of Rhodes won't need convincing anyway but, hopefully, if you are a doubter, checking out those photos, taken at a time when metres away from these scenes one could mingle with the hordes, you'll see what I'm saying and you won't make me laugh!

Finally, I took lunch at the wonderful Odyssey Taverna again and was welcomed by Babis, Dimitri, Christos and Adonis, plus the new guy, Memi. I ordered courgette rissoles and oven-baked aubergine, with a half-litre of draught Alpha. Here it is partway through my process of devastating it...

That lunch was quite perfect, as I'd expected it to be!!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Don't Panic

Been hearing lots of irritating tales again lately about what the UK media and so-called "expert" travel writers, newsfolk and journalists are saying about conditions here in Greece.

Folks, please, ignore it all. They've been bandying round this same tripe now for over five years, since the days of the Papandreou administration. Stuff like "Oh dear, you'd better take a shedload of ready cash if you're taking the 'risk' of going to Greece. The ATM's are empty, the hotels don't have any food, you won't be able to use €50 notes." ...and so on.

It's all total trash. The ATM's are only ever empty after there's been a run on them due to the extra tourist demand and I've never yet known one on Rhodes to stay out of service more than a few hours, a day or two at most. It's not a shortage of printed Euro bills that's the problem, it's manpower to get around to re-stock the machines.

Look at these photos that I took yesterday on my first Rhodes excursion of the season...

Does it look like society is crumbling around our ears as we watch in horror? Or does it look like somewhere you'd like to be right now - having a great holiday? 

Finally, I'm not usually inclined to go down this route humour-wise, but this did make me smile. This is a photo of the side window of the coach above the driver's head that I took as we were trundling along. See the yellow and black sign? It says: "I'm awesome in bed - I can sleep all day!!" It made me chuckle anyway.

The Greek islands are open for business. I've said this before too, but it bears repeating: Whatever currency is legal tender, or becomes legal tender here, it won't make a scrap of difference to holidaymakers because all the restaurants, bars and shops will still take Euros, just as they do in Turkey, where I've been many times and never changed my currency into Turkish Lira!!

Don't panic - buy your flights!!

Monday, 18 May 2015

Livestock, Lunch and Learning

Summer has arrived. You want to know how I know? It's because I'm being eaten again. Summer for me is always a two-edged sword. Yea it's warm, often too warm, but outdoor evenings are fab. Trouble is, once the weather starts to warm up, the creepy crawlies - which a friend of ours once called "livestock" [see ch. 2 of Tzatziki For You to Say], a term which I rather liked and so we always use it now - have begun to make their appearance.

Now the beetles I don't mind. I quite like the beetles. So often we find one upsidedown (gawd knows how they get like that) and I feel soooo righteous when I tickle it with my fingers, gently helping it to right itself and scurry away. Beetles don't phase me at all. I even surprize myself these days with how many spiders I find on the walls and in corners that I actually allow to live, scooping them up in a bit of tissue and releasing them into the wild on one of the flower beds outside. Time was when a spider in the house simply died. End of story. Their problem is bad PR don't you think? We're so conditioned to shiver when we see one and I don't really know why that is. They even eat flies and other insects that bother us humans, yet, somehow me and eight-legged visitors still don't see eye to eye very often; but at least I now occasionally let one live. Progress being made, albeit slowly.

No, what really tells me that summer has arrived is the tiny midge-like things that I call "flying full stops" (I know, in the past I've alluded to what you Americans might call them, but I'm not going there this time). Forget mosquitos, these irritating little gits are what make my summer a misery. I don't care any more, give me deet, citronella, just about anything in a bottle or can that I can spray on my skin, only don't leave me in the bedroom at night with a flying full stop. I woke up the day before yesterday and, even while still dozing, I knew there had been one in the room during the night. As I slowly surfaced I was aware that I'd begun frantically scratching a part of my forearm which was itching for Greece's Olympic itching team. Sure enough, as I reached for the Lane's Tea Tree and Witchhazel cream in my bedside drawer, there it was, a huge "Uluru" (Ayers Rock) all red and raging with such itchiness that I couldn't divert my attention anywhere else. There on my forearm was a swelling a half an inch across. Then I noticed another on my shoulder. 

All through the winter they're nowhere to be found. Once the weather starts to warm up, though, they're back and just desperate to take lunch on my skin while I sleep. While trying to drink my morning cup of Earl Grey and read my Wilbur Smith, whilst also dunking my digestive bikkie, the little culprit only decided to taunt me by hovering right past my face didn't it ...several times. I almost sprayed the bed with tea and soggie biscuit in my futile attempts to grab the little terror in my fist. Each time, though, that I opened my palm, no sign of it. Crafty little...

You remember when you were at school, right? OK, so it may have been more years ago than some of us like to own up, but wouldn't it have been weird if we'd had lessons about 15th Century English, agreed? I mean, no one speaks in forsooths, verilies and gadzooks my liege and all that stuff nowadays, right? Right. Yes, OK, we do do history and some poor sods still have to learn Latin, but old English? It would be a total waste of everyone's time and effort. Yet, here we were driving along the road yesterday with our young 13 year-old Greek friend Soula in the back of the car and she was telling us that she's revising for her exams that start this very week.

"What subjects do you like?" I asked her. 

"None of them" she replied. Honest, I'll give her that. 

"OK, so what subjects don't you like?" I asked, fully expecting her to then reply "all of them," but she didn't. She did said she could well do without what she called "Archaia" (soft "h") though. Now, both the better half and I assumed that she meant "archaia" as in ancient history, since it is the Greek word for "ancient" after all. It's where we get words like archeology from for instance. But "Archaia" isn't ancient history. Know what it is? It's old Greek, as in old Greek language. That's about as useful for young folk growing up as a tissue paper boat in the Atlantic these days. Yet they have to learn old Greek as a subject and then sit an exam about it!! 

The only explanation we could surmise was that it has something to do with the church. If you do read Greek you may have seen the roadsigns in the Greek countryside that sometimes sport letters that don't quite look right. These will be signs pointing to some church or monastery or "holy" site of some kind or another. These signs invariably employ "Old" Greek lettering, as if in some way conferring holiness on an old building full of icons. It's a bit like in the Church of England where they still seem to think that our all-wise, almighty creator for some odd reason wants us to talk to or about him using "King James" English. You know, suddenly when the vicar bows his head he switches to thou, thine and thee instead of you/your or whatever. Always struck me as stupid that did. I mean, is the God of the entire universe stuck in a British 15th century time warp? You see where I'm coming from here, right? 

So, it seems that the young Greek secondary school student has to learn old Greek and take exams in it, before setting off into the world and never having to use it again. Our young friend Soula reckoned the whole exercise to be a waste of resources and we had to agree with her. In these times of austerity, maybe some practical subject would be a better idea. Far be it from me to tell the Greek education authority what they ought to do, but...

Just before I go, here are a few snaps we took in Arhangelos yesterday. Mooching around and talking to a few locals, we were once again pleasantly surprized at how much of the "old" village is still around in the maze of back streets that one often doesn't go anywhere near.

Yup, that's the kitchen.

We've seen these trees before, but never knew that you can eat those white berries, which also carry tiny green spots. Eleni, our Greek friend, just grabbed some and ate them, prompting us to have a try. Know what? They taste a bit like blackberries - and I'm still alive so they can't be poisonous after all!

And, last but not least...

This rose bush is the pride of our garden. After I took this, my dearly beloved counted 120 flowers on it.

As you no doubt are aware, every house out here has mosquito nets on the windows and most of the doors. Sadly for me though, those bounders the "flying full stops" just fly right through the mesh, they're that small. Once inside our bedroom, they take one look at me and scream "Lunch!".

Of course, to add insult to injury, they never touch the wife do they. Now what about Greek schools teaching self defence against tiny flying terrors...

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

A Modest Homage to the Late Angie Loukas

Having referred to Angie Loukas, from Lardos in the last post, I was overcome with a wave of desire to recount again the story that's also related in the book "A Plethora of Posts", chapter 29, entitled "Angie and the Stove." which of course began life some years ago as a post on this blog anyway. I decided that the many new readers who probably never read it before might just like to hear the tale of my first encounter with Angie, and so I've edited it a little from the book and, well, here it is again. If you like this tale, there are another 43 along similar lines to be found in that book ("A Plethora..." mentioned above).

Angie and the Stove
In the village of Lardos there was a small workshop where the proprietor rented motorbikes. The proprietor's name was Angelos, but he liked his British friends to call him Angie. I don't know whether anyone tried explaining to him that in the UK Angie would be more appropriately applied to those of the other gender from that to which he belongs, but I certainly wasn't going to be the one to mention it when I first met him.

See, the thing is, Angie was big. No, not fat, obese, overweight in the sense of being full of podge. Podgy he was not. Muscular he was, but I'll come back to the relevance of the shape of his physique later. The foregoing notwithstanding, he was not a boaster or a man of conceit, he was simply built like a brick-outhouse, if you're old enough to know what one of those was. It's his physical condition that brought about this little experience, that's all.

A few winters ago we realized that we'd be needing to change the wood-burning stove in our living room. When the house was built the stove was installed as an afterthought, some months in fact after we'd taken up residence and pointed out to the builder that either a Tza'ki or a So'ba was part of the deal.

"Whoops", was what he probably thought when it was made clear to him that on our side of the house there were to be winter residents and thus there was a need for some heating source other than the air-conditioning units. So he turned up one day with the original stove which we were to use, which turned out to be second hand. It was quite a large stove; so large in fact, that during winter days or evenings when it was stoked up and brightly burning, we would shed vast quantities of clothing and sit fanning ourselves in our undies with a magazine, whilst throwing all the windows open, to keep from overheating. When your missus is also getting hot flushes …well, say no more (I know, to our transatlantic friends that's "flashes", but since in the UK someone who flashes is an altogether different proposition, I'll not go there. Suffice it to say that George Michael might feature in there somewhere …allegedly).

It never gets overly cold here. It's usually just cool enough that you fancy a nice flickering flame, but not really cold enough to actually need one. A more modestly sized so'ba would have been OK, but the builder obviously had the chance to get his hands on the one which we eventually received, so we stood and watched as his "man" installed it. It worked OK for five winters, whilst each year another part would fall off or further rust away and crack to pieces inside. Seems to me that it had been left outside unused for a while in a previous life, the worst thing for a cast-iron stove really. Anyway, the quick duly being "cut to" here, the winter in question was almost upon us when we asked our friends and landlords John & Wendy, if they'd finance the replacing of the now too-dangerous-to-use stove.

Have you ever tried lifting a wood-burning stove? They're quite heavy. In fact they're hernea-inducingly heavy. We'd spotted a rather fetching new one in the garden centre on the main road in Arhangelos and, following John & Wendy's nod of assent, we ordered it. This new one was much more modest in size than the old one and we were looking forward to at least being able to wear shorts indoors on cool winter evenings. Perhaps I could add that my better half would also include a bikini top. The man who was to deliver the new stove was the father of the bloke who runs the garden centre and he's probably 70 if he's a day. So he asked if, on its arrival, we could organize a couple of extra pairs of hands to get it off of the van and into its new situation in our lounge. This, of course, we promised to do, whilst also realizing that we'd need to get the old stove out of the way first.

I set about disconnecting the existing flue and, once that was accomplished, enlisted the help of a local neighbour or two and thus four pairs of hands went to each corner of the retiring stove, lifted it an inch or so off the floor and carried it gruntingly and puffingly out to the drive and finally to a rather fetching position outside of the front garden gates. To be honest, we didn't know what we were going to do with it. Since its "innards" were too far gone for anyone to seriously want it for the purpose for which it had originally been manufactured, we had a dilemma on our hands. My wife suggested filling it with compost and growing geraniums out of it. Nah, we thought, best try and dispose of it. But how? That was the question. The answer to said question proved altogether unexpected. Enter our new friend Angie.

There was a spot of welding required on the front gates, since over the years the posts had moved as the ground settled and the gates were pulling apart to such a degree that within a very short while they'd be swinging open in the breeze, owing to the fact the latch wouldn't reach between them any more. Now this may not prove to be much of a problem in some locales, but in "Goat City" here it would have spelt disaster. So I asked around for a decent metalworker, not expecting to come up trumps. Soon a friend of ours in Lardos suggested that we talk to Angie.

My first reaction was, "Ummm, can a woman weld? Would an oxyacetylene torch not play havoc with a nice set of fingernails, not to mention the mask probably inducing lots of 'bad hair days?'" No, no, said Gareth, our friend. Angie, it appears, is a man. A man called Angie? I began to ask myself the same questions again. Gareth continued to explain and so, satisfied that this "Angie" wasn't just of the male gender, but was the sort that could be described as "all-man", we went to find this "Angie" at his workshop, after Gareth & Vicki had shown us what an excellent job he'd done on their garden gates and walls with all sorts of wrought iron and stuff.

A couple of days later, at the arranged time (amazingly, since he's Greek), Angie beeped his horn as he turned his long-wheel-based, double rear-axled ancient, windowed Ford Transit van in forty shades of all colours around outside the front gates. I went out to meet this big bear of a man, who grabbed me in a bear hug, slapped me bone-breakingly hard on the back and asked, "How you like my sex machine, eh?"

Yup, I thought, no doubts about Angie, despite the name. He inspected the gates, quoted on the welding job and we agreed his price. We arranged for him to come up a couple of days later and, just as he was leaving, he asked me "What you do with that So'ba? You want to get rid of it?" To which I replied with the obvious, "Yes. Why, do you think you can take it away for us?"

"Sure!" he replied then slipped behind his steering wheel and called out whilst starting up his "sex machine" - "I take it when I come for the welding, OK?" OK. He turned up once again as arranged (this was seriously challenging our pre-conceptions about Greeks and their promises) and within a few hours had completed the welding job. As I went out to inspect the workmanship, which was truly excellent, he asked,

"You think your neighbour up the hill can help us load the old So’ba into my van?"

I said I'd go inside and call Mac up the hill and see if he could pop down and add a couple of hands to the job. This fire needed not just lifting a couple of inches, but a whole foot or so up into the flatbed interior of the Transit, double doors now open at the ready. I called Dimitri from further down the hill as well. Both agreed to come and would be over in a few minutes or so. I went out to the gates to give Angie the news, just in time to see him sliding the stove on to the Transit - alone. That's like, by himself, unassisted. This was a stove that four of us had carried out by just getting it a couple of inches off the ground a few weeks earlier. Now you see why I referred to his physique.

He noticed that I was exhibiting an expression that could best be described as "aghast" and a huge smile broke out across his face, a face that was framed by a shoulder-length mane of wavy part-greying hair, and - flexing his biceps - said,

"Feel that Yianni, did you ever feel anything so solid, eh? While I was waiting I just think, maybe I can do it. So I had a go. Good eh?"

He then did something similar with his thigh muscle, inviting me to wonder admiringly at how hard it was. Like an upside down Coca Cola bottle, in fact. I made a mental note to call Mac and Dimitri as soon as I'd waved him off, to tell them there was no need to come after all.

"Do you work out?" I asked, to which he answered, "NO, I always like this! Just how I turn out I suppose. But it has its advantages, not least when I use the van in it's other role. Is why I call it my…"

"Yes, I got that. Fine. Anyway, thanks for solving the problem."

"Is nothing. Thank YOU. I can do something with it, you don't mind?"

"Not at all," I responded, "Just happy to get it off our hands really. Thanks for the welding job too, An-geleh [that's how you say the name Angelo when addressing the person directly. Sorry, maybe a grandmother sucking eggs thing going on there]."

"Is OK. But hey, all my friends call me Angie!" he chirped. 

Angie it was to be then.

In memory of a truly larger-than-life man with a big heart, Aggelos Loukas.

Be My Valantina?

The neighbours are in next door. Landlords John and Wendy have been in residence together with a family of mutual friends of ours whom we've known for more years than I care to remember. Their kids, now 23 and 20 respectively, have the tendency without even trying to make me think I must be getting very old!! When we used to socialise with them back in South Wales these two progeny were toddling around. Tempus fidgets and all that latin stuff.

They've all been here for a couple of weeks and they're off back to the UK today. So, last night they invited us to join them in an evening out at Valantina's in Lardos, a restaurant that they go back to again and again every time they're here on their hols and it's not hard to see why. The other couple have a wedding anniversary looming and the rest of the clan were planning a surprize meal, with a cake at the end and everything. John and Wendy know the staff at Valantina's [different link there] better than we do because, in the ten years (well, come August it will be) that we've been here, they have eaten there dozens of times more than we have. You know the scenario. When you're on your hols you eat out a lot, right? I mean we always used to eat out every single night when we had Greek holidays. May have taken a sack of muesli to make breakfast in our room (along with, of course, some local Greek yogurt plopped on top with a chopped banana), but evening time is wasted in Greece if not passed in a taverna, right? [Take note you All Inclusive types!! You're missing out big time!]

Living here, we tend not to go out every night (!!). Plus, we have such a huge choice of places to go that we like to keep trying new places, partly so I can scribble about them here. That said, whenever the neighbours are in we often end up eating out with them at least once and 9 times out of 10 it'll be Valantina's. I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again in case you're wondering about the spelling, I am spelling it correctly. Valantina is the name of the mama of the family and one of her daughters too, who waits at tables. She's in the photo below (courtesy of Tripadvisor)...

Valantina's the one in the middle, but then you probably worked that out. Far left is the ever cheerful Petros. The rest? Can't tell you their names, sorry.

The atmosphere's always good. It's a nice traditional place where you can people watch too if you sit at one of the outside tables. Note the sign, giving you the correct spelling!!
John usually telephones to tell them we're coming because often we'll be a fairly large party. Last night altogether we were 8 and the couple who's anniversary we were celebrating didn't know anything had been prepared upfront. Valantina and Petros know John and Wendy well, better than they know us in fact, and so they knew that it was an occasion. They did us proud.

The table was laid with a central strip - I dunno what you'd call it - "throw" maybe? Whatever, it was in wine-red silk and buff linen and embroidered with decorative stones and stuff. Valantina told us when we sat down that she'd brought it from home, plus there was a huge glass vase in the centre which was full of deliciously blousy red, cream and yellow roses, picked from her garden especially to brighten the table for the happy couple. I have to say that, in almost ten years the service and quality of the food here hasn't changed a bit. They still do too some unique dishes, along with all the traditional stuff you might look for in a Greek taverna, and they still serve up mammoth portions.

I opted for the swordfish in pepper sauce and it was almost more than I could eat. Just as well it wasn't though, because once we'd eaten and all that remained on the table were half-empty glasses and carafes and the usual debris, Valantina arrived with a specially prepared cake, sparklers fizzing on top, and placed it in front of Mike and Pauline, the couple around which the evening revolved. Pretty soon we were all looking at our own individual slice on a plate in front of us and we tucked in. I haven't got a particularly sweet tooth, but I have to say, whoever baked and decorated it got the balance just right. My wife, incidentally, had ordered salmon in ginger and garlic sauce (well illustrating the slightly more original stuff on the menu), which she said was arguably some of the best salmon she'd ever eaten. She too had trouble polishing it off. 

All in all a very pleasant evening. Petros and Valantina, who looked after us well, were happy, attentive without being in your face and we didn't have to wait longer than would be expected for the food. Plus the little extras that they laid on made for a slightly more special feel to the occasion. Mike and Pauline have been married 27 years, still on honeymoon eh? 

Walking back through Lardos square, making our way home, it was fairly quiet, although with the lights twinkling out from the bars and restaurants it always has a nice feel to it after dark. There were still plenty of people having animated conversations over a late night drink and a few mopeds weaving this way and that. 

We walked back past Angie's place on the way to the car. If you've read chapter 29 of "A Plethora of Posts" you'll remember my tale about the redoubtable Angie, who was a bloke by the way. His old workshop where he'd wrestle with wrought iron and, some time back, rent scooters too is all closed up now. I'll never forget the way he singlehandedly lifted our old cast iron woodburner into the back of his passion-wagon. He was a big bull of a man physically, but personality-wise would do anyone a good turn. He died suddenly very recently of a heart attack (I think). He was only about fifty as I understand it. So sad.

Anyway, onward and upward - whatever that's supposed to mean. If you're in the south of Rhodes any time this year, I can heartily recommend you try Valantina's, I'd be very surprised if you're disappointed. Incidentally, it's spelt right on tripadvisor too!

Friday, 8 May 2015

Make it Snappy

OK, this time around it's a few snaps along with some brief comments about them. Well, TBH, some of the comments may not be so brief...

 The snap above has a story behind it. We were invited to dine at a friend's home in the Old Town. The street where she lives is in the south east corner, just inside the wall, not far from The Liberty Gate (Πύλη Ελευθερίας). Efdokia is in her 60's, not much more than five feet tall and almost as wide. She knew that we were vegetarians and so prepared a sumptuous spread which included the dolmades shown above. These I photographed once we got them home because, even though we'd eaten loads of them, she insisted we take the leftovers home with us. What's the white stuff on the left hand side? Yogurt. Yup, I was surprised too. Efdokia told us that when they make dolmades with mincemeat they don't eat them with yogurt, but when they make "pseftikes dolmades" [ie, the vegetarian version], they eat them with yogurt, so she spooned a dollop or two into the plastic container with the ones we were to take home. I have to say that not only were they superb (even my better half partook of quite a few and she's not a great dolmades fan), but the yogurt smeared atop each one really added to the whole taste experience thing. We managed to make two more meals out of these!

A corner of Gennadi village, just a few days ago.

Glystra Beach May 7th. Very unusual not to have the umbrellas and beds out by now, even the kantina wasn't yet up and running. For some daft reason the local councils have been slow off the mark with the auctions this year.

Between Glystra Beach and Lardos Limani. Go on, tell me you don't want to get into that water. We did, later that afternoon!

One of my sister's works. A study of a Lindos doorway.

This plant's still a bit pathetic-looking, but the two blooms it does have are fab, aren't they? (in the garden)
And finally, here's me folks, with our bottle brush plant. We almost cut the buds off, thinking that the flowers had already gone over while we were in the UK. Then the dearly beloved spotted flashes of red along the elongated buds and withdrew the dreaded secateurs. Result? You see it before you above!
(Do you really need me to tell you about how to get to see the larger view of any of the above snaps? Nah, thought not.)

We're hearing the old scare stories again. People reputedly cancelling their holidays because they fear that there will be no money in Greek ATMs, or that the Greek banks will all be shut down, or that tourists won't be able to use cards and thus ought to come with shedloads of cash. Well those who don't come are missing out. What's the biggest industry in Greece?

Tourism, right? Right.

So the Greek government is going to shoot itself in the foot and frighten all the tourists away, right? I don't think so folks.

If you're still umming and ahh-ing, take a gander at this video and make your reservation henceforth!!

Unhelpful panic-spreading like this has been going on for five or six years now. But we're still here and so is the Greek welcome.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Gathering Momentum

Well yesterday it nudged 30ºC under our car port for the first time this year. Not so sure if wearing my vest was such a good idea now [see this post].

Since we've been back from our visit to the UK we've bumped into all the usual suspects, including George from the Pelican's Nest, which he assures me is well and truly now a select souvenir shop and I promised him that I'd be down there henceforth, without delay, if not sooner to take a nose around and snap a shot or two for the trusty readers. Haven't been yet and it's already a week. Oops. must set that to rights before long. He told me he'd had a natter with Vicki and Keith from the UK, who began as correspondents, but then (owing to a fair degree of kindness on their part in bring half a suitcase load of stuff over for us last season, thus making it difficult for them to pack even their own undies I shouldn't wonder) became friends. They went to the Pelican's Nest from my recommendation I think. Vicki'll soon put me right on that score if I've got it wrong though.

Nipped into the Gré cafe yesterday morning on my bike (thighs still screaming "Unfair, ref!" but I persevere) and had a natter with the two Georges. It was weird in a way, because all the time I was sitting there watching the newly arrived tourists wandering this way and that in various stages of undress I found myself thinking, "have we actually had a winter?" it seems to have gone by that quickly. But then, everything does doesn't it. No matter how long something seems to take, once it's past and done it seems like it went by in a flash. Steady on John, getting all philosophical aren't we?

The season's off and running, albeit apparently slightly slowly, but it's gathering momentum and in the next couple of weeks I should be starting on the excursions.

We actually walked down for a swim last evening. The first couple of minutes in the water felt like we'd suddenly landed in the arctic, but I have to say that staying in for a while soon made it feel much warmer, but there were still parts of the anatomy that took a while to return to their normal size and position after we emerged. Ahem. Some weather websites say that the temperature of the water here in Rhodes is now about 18º. Not sure whether they mean Fahrenheit or Celsius though.

On the way down to the beach we ran into a friend from Asklipio who was inspecting his veggie plot and exchanged a few words about vegetable growing. He promised us he'd show us how to ensure that our winter lettuce (which we usually plant around late October into early November) actually grew, since ours resolutely refused to grow any larger than tennis balls this time, even though we'd planted three different types! We've got a lot of tomato plants in this year too, primarily 'cos people keep giving them to us. We've never been able to harvest more than a handful of pathetic little cherry-sized ones over quite a few years of growing them, and those were not even from cherry tomato plants! Once again, Vasili assured us that next time we were passing he'd show us what we could fertilize them with something which wouldn't be a cocktail of chemicals.

The better half is already into her work schedule and thus had to pay the annual visit to the accountant used by her "boss". He's based in a tiny Lindos whitewashed street, which means you have to park three hundred miles away and walk into the village just to sign a piece of paper or tell him a few details. One time when she went in, having been assured that a visit was unavoidable, the accountant took one look at her and said "What have you come for? It's all sorted." Great eh?

She had to park even further away this time because there's a film crew at the village end of St. Paul's Bay, thus eliminating parking for about a hundred cars. Oh well, she had to tell herself, "I need the exercise" (even though she doesn't really) as she walked back along the road from the far end of the bay and gazed as she passed it at the gaily coloured plastic tape flickering in the breeze and cordoning off the car park that she would have used.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

What Do You Expect?

Y'know, they've been talking about a "Grexit" now for seven years. I had people tell me that long ago that Greece was going to get booted out and everything was going to come crashing down around us. Economic woes would become so bad that Greece would return to being a third world country.

Tell you what, if you're hesitating about coming here this year. Maybe this'll help. Just watch this one minute video from Greek Gateway's website, also available on their Facebook page, then decide...

All that stuff you see there is just the same as it's always been. The way of life, the climate, the sea, the dancing, the islands, the cuisine, the archaeology, it's all still here folks.

I'm willing to take my chances on staying here, as are the vast majority of folk I know who have chosen to make the move. 

After all, nowhere's perfect, but TBH, living on a Greek island, despite all the doom and gloom, is pretty damn close! 

By the way - If you click the link to Greek Gateway's Facebook page, you'll be able to watch it in high resolution.