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...


  1. I sympathise with you over the nasty, bitey things. I too am a magnet for them! My sister tells me that in the Bahamas they call them 'no see'ums', very apt.
    PS Google says 'Did you mean weird?'

    1. I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about (I'm getting paranoid about typos these days...)

  2. Concerning the larger "livestock" I am sure you are aware of the existence of Anopheles and Aedes mosquitos in this area. It is a matter of some concern that the African migrants may be bringing certain protozoa and viruses with them. It should be remembered that "the ague" was also called the "Roman disease". Better yet cheque out what Aedes carry! You are quite right to be paranoid about such things.

    Regarding language; did you do Chaucer?


  3. For cheque read check!

  4. Trevor Mcilveen19 May 2015 at 13:02

    John The ones that really,really annoy me are the ones that look like little house flies. Boy can they bite.

  5. These are Tabanus (that's the Genus there are a large number of species. They hurt so much because they do not suck though a proboscis. The mouthparts are like a pair of scissors designed to chew through the hide of such as donkeys. They then slurp up the blood from the wound. In my experience they fly very low biting bare legs.