Thursday, 23 July 2015

A Mix of Midsummer Musings...

First and foremost. Yippee. Our fig tree has now begun producing in earnest and it's looking like a bumper crop this year. I picked this lot at dawn this morning and there were more ripe figs on the tree but I couldn't get any more into the bowl...

This amazing tree, which goes from strength to strength, will go on producing well into August and I'll be taking bags of 'em on my Bay to Bay excursion as usual to offer the guests. It's always fun seeing who'll take the plunge and try a fresh fig when they've never eaten one before.
Thank goodness something's working out right in the food-producing stakes in our garden. We put in about eight tomato plants a while back and now, whilst we gaze enviously at other people's vines looking all lush and luxuriant, ours look like a few withered up twigs, from which we managed ( a few weeks ago now) to harvest four modest tomatoes. I say "modest", I mean they weren't hanging there fluttering their eyelids and asking to be taken into consideration for picking, but rather they were about the size of the biggest marble I used to have in my marble set when I was a nipper.

On the Greek night excursion last week we had an interesting situation on the way home after the evening had come to an end. There are usually four of five coaches in the parking area and one by one they'll fill up with their slightly inebriated revellers and slip away into the night. On this occasion my coach was the last one in the parking area and as I was about to board, having waited for yet another guest who'd decided that a trip to the loo before we departed would be a smart move, a fairly distinguished-looking couple approached me with some degree of anxiety and told me that their coach had apparently left without them. Dear dear, the rep or driver (or both) on that bus hadn't done a very good job of gathering their sheep had they. 

"Where are you staying?" I asked,  
"At the Sunrise Hotel, Lothiarika," they replied. 
That's a good 45 minutes down the road and it was approaching 11.30pm by this time. After having a quick word with my driver we let them on to our coach as we knew that we were going right past the door of their hotel. It's not one we stop at, but we regularly pass it. Most of the guests there this year are from France and it just so happened that this couple were British, but had lived in Paris for many years. Chic or what?

The story wouldn't be particularly noteworthy had it not been for the fact that, as we were passing Arhangelos, we came up behind another coach. My driver said, 
"Gianni, that's the bus that left without this couple we're giving a lift to."
Of course, that's something a driver would instantly know, since the drivers all hang out together while their passengers are pacing the floor learning the simpler version of Zorba's dance.

We followed the negligent bus all the way through Kalathos and as far as the left-turn for Vlicha beach, which the bus in front took, thus ensuring that we'd now be passing the hotel in question about fifteen minutes before it did. It seemed pretty obvious to us that the driver and his rep didn't realise that they were two people short, and so we decided not to try contacting them. After all, the couple now stood to get back slightly faster than they would have done on their own coach.

But here was where I had an idea. I trundled back along the aisle and explained to the couple what we'd seen. I said:

"Now, when you get off the coach, wouldn't it be a blast if you didn't mind hanging around just for a few moments, so that, when your coach turns up and slows to a halt and the driver is opening his door in the expectation of seeing you two come along the aisle to get off, he'll instead be a bit fazed when he sees the pair of you standing there glaring at him?"

I sooo hope they decided to implement my suggestion. I'd love to have seen the faces of that driver and rep.

For a few weeks now we've been following our normal pattern for the high summer months of walking down for a swim at around 6.00pm, when the temperature drops to an almost bearable lower 30's. Our route follows a dusty track which drifts alongside the "allotment" as we call it, of Agapitos, an old fellow who farms an olive grove within as well as a pretty impressive vegetable patch too. Don't even ask me how good his tomato plants look.

Every morning and most evenings his old white pick-up will be parked outside the gate while he tends to his plants and animals. In there he has a caged area containing a half a dozen or so dogs, and another with chickens and a cockerel. The dogs amuse us because, on the occasions when we go past and Agapitos is not there, they'll howl with enthusiasm as we pass - some thirty metres from their cage - and each of them will do something different to attact our attention. They vary in size and shape enormously, but six tails will be vigorously wagging as they go delirious with hope. One large black hound in particular we always look for. He'll jump on top of a makeshift wooden hut that's been fashioned to keep them out of the sun if they want it and he'll always be sporting a large battered aluminium bowl in his mouth, while he gazes our way vainly hoping for something to be put in it.

Now don't get me wrong here. I know that there are many Greeks who keep dogs chained up 24-7, but this isn't Agapitos. He really loves his dogs and when he is present, they'll be running all over the compound as he lets them roam free. He'll also take a couple of them out for a walk a few times each week, which we know for certain because on more than one occasion I've been staring eye to eye at one of the mongrels as it's bounded up to me and placed both huge paws in the centre of my chest.

A couple of days ago we were wending our sweaty way back along the track after a swim in the sea, which is now a gorgeous 28ºC by the way, when Agapitos spotted us and hailed us with a "Hold on!"

Rising at his leisure from his bent position as he'd been tending some plants, (of course, such a Greek will never do anything like this in a hurry. Having lived here long enough I fully understand why too. It's usually too flipping hot to move with any despatch. You'd need another shower ...every five minutes or so) he strolled over to a large white plastic paint pot, the kind with an aluminium handle for carrying it, and rummaged inside with his hands. Lifting something from the pot, he then trotted sedately over to his block-built shed with the corrugated iron roof which is quite near to the gate where we were standing, casting us a smiling glance in the process, while we stood and perspired in anticipation.

After having ducked inside the shed he emerged with both hands cupped around a couple of cucumbers of exhibition quality girth and a few eggs of varying sizes. You always know when the eggs are fresh, 'cos they'll be all different sizes. He came over to the gate and proffered his gift which we accepted eagerly, of course.

"There," he said, "Those are real eggs. Not like you get in these big supermarkets. You'll find the yolks are yellow. Not red."

Now, when he said 'red' he almost spat the word out with disdain. Of course, for 'red' read 'orange'. You know how some egg yolks are more orange than they are yellow? Well, now we know why. Agapitos continued,

"No farmaka! [chemicals]. My chickens eat natural food and the egg yolks are yellow, like good egg yolks ought to be. You see a red yolk, you can be sure there's farmaka used in the breeding or farming those hens. Antibiotics and stuff. Not mine!! These are organic eggs. delicious, you see of they aren't."

You know what? those yolks were truly yellow and those eggs were delicious. My gratitude for the excellent and as it happened timely-provided cucumbers knew no bounds. 

It was only slightly tinged by envy at the pathetic state of my own vegetable patch though.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

So, Where Are We Now?

Look at that folks. Let's be honest, with all that's been going on of late, the scene above, which is the Il Porto Café/bar/restaurant in Kiotari by the way, is still looking the same. Good eh? A few more people might be nice though.

Just read some news this morning about Mr. Varifocal, sorry, Varoufakis, and his views about the deal they're putting together. Now, as you'll know if you visit this blog with any regularity, I tend to steer clear of politics and stuff. But this time I'm going to make a few observations. 

But first let me establish some ground rules. 1. I dont' do politics and 2. I don't pretend to understand the workings of the international banking and political systems, except to say that they're all probably riddled with - let's just say "irregularites" shall we? 

Right, good. That said, I'll make a few observations as a layman living and working in Greece.

I have read with interest and some bemusement hundreds of comments from folk who don't live in Greece yet seem to know what should be done here. I've lived here for ten years and so can claim to have a fairly good idea about daily life on an island in Greece under the current crisis.

It seems to me that loads of people didn't want Mr. Tsipras to do this deal. All kinds of expressions like "betrayal", "blackmail" and the like are being bandied about. Now, I'm no expert, but one thing that's patently clear to me is that politics is about compromise. All those folk clashing with police in Athens, or spouting on Facebook, expressing their view that Mr. Tsipras shouldn't have done this deal, what alternatives would they suggest? It's always been easy to protest. 

I have been championing the message for months that the situation on the ground on the islands is such that tourists can still come here and probably spend a couple of weeks having as good a Greek holiday as ever without even noticing that there is a crisis going on.

But that was about to change. If this deal hadn't been struck then we most certainly would have been facing a lack of literal cash circulating among the populace, a shortage of fuel and a virtual halt in imports, all of which would have had catastrophic effects on tourism, which is of course Greece's main industry bar none. Now as someone living and working among Greek people I talk to them all the time about how they're reacting to all that's going on. You know what? At grass roots level it seems to me that most people just want the uncertainty to end. It has been affecting tourism, since people believing all the media hype in the UK, Germany, Lithuania (I talked to some Lithuanian friends just this week) and elsewhere have been cancelling their holidays, however misguidedly.

But if this deal hadn't been struck, then in very short order tourism here, not to mention normal life, would have been hit with a brickbat within weeks. I have no idea how many people work in tourism on the Greek islands, but it's got to be hundreds of thousands. Before very long there would have been massive lay-offs, meaning no more wages, meaning rents not being paid, shops not taking as much over the counter ...the domino effect would be huge and incalculable.

I know people who own tavernas, excursion boats, apartment blocks and cafés personally and by and large they are sick of months of arguing and ever increasing worry and anxiety. Now they just want to know that the banks can open and the tourists can still come, knowing that their holiday is still going to be a good one.

 It's reached a point where many Greek folk don't care any more about how it's done, as long as a degree of normality can be resumed in their daily lives. This deal which - as I understand it - Mr. Tsipras himself has said he doesn't like, but is pragmatic enough to know had to be struck for the reasons I've referred to above, will at least restore some immediate equilibrium here, which is vital to the income and wellbeing of most of the populace.

All around me here on Rhodes I hear audible sighs of relief. So, where are we now? We're awaiting the arrival of you Mr. and Mrs. Grecophile, or simply Tourist, to come and enjoy your Greek holiday, which once again I can say with a degree of confidence, will be brill!!

(No I am not a supporter of Mr. Tsipras, or anyone else for that matter. I don't pretend to understand a lot of things. But when something or someone looks reasonable to me, I say it!)

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Four Snaps

Just four snaps from the past few days. 

Apologies to Amanda Settle, who's idea I nicked regarding photographing a detail at the kantina near Lardos Limanaki...

The landing stage at Stegna, where we go ashore for lunch on Sunday's Bay-to-Bay. The ship is ours too, the Mandelena.

A moment onboard during the cruise back to Lindos on a Bay-to-Bay Sunday afternoon.

At the Kantina near Lardos Beach and Limani. It's so near to our home and we've been promising ourselves a frappé there for months. Finally got there on Monday July 13th.

As above. Not a bad spot for a drinky-poo, eh?
That's it. Just wanted to share these with you. More ramblings soon.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

When all else fails, dance!!

Taverna Mimakos has a wonderful sea view, which disappears into the darkness as the evening draws on and the sun sets
Y'know, the internet is awash with stuff from people like me, those who live on a Greek island and are aggrieved by all the misinformation that's been going out about the situation here during the financial crisis. And I don't suppose we'll be stopping any time soon, not until at least we get the idea that people understand that all the essential ingredients for the perfect Greek holiday are still as they ever were on most, if not all, of the islands. My "Bay to Bay" excursion for tomorrow is over-subscribed, ...again. I have two coaches converging on St. Paul's Bay in Lindos tomorrow morning for another brilliant swim-cruise along the coast on board the Mandelena.

Plus, the Greek night at Taverna Mimakos that I'm doing every Tuesday evening this season is a rip-roaring success. I keep hearing that tourists aren't coming, and I'm sure there must be some truth in that, yet I continue to experience nights like the one you can get the feel for on this Facebook page. Take the time especially to watch the three videos posted on that page by Boros György László, which give you an idea of the atmosphere that prevails during the evening. It's anything but subdued.

As you can see from my everso-slightly not-so-good photos, you could be forgiven for not thinking there was a crisis going on at all. See, the thing is, whilst it's very true that many poorer Greeks are definitely suffering under the current situation, by and large they're determined that life should go on as normally as possible - and it does.

When you arrive at around 7.30pm at Taverna Mimakos for the Greek Night, you're greeted by "Mimakos" himself, Dimitri, a stocky 50-something Greek who's sole mission is to make sure that every one of his several hundred or so guests on any given night has a flaming good knees-up. He welcomes us all every week and immediately sorts the nationalities of the guests according to tables, so that Russians can meet others from their country, Poles from theirs, and so on through the French, the Italians, the British, the Scandinavians and a few others besides.

Once the show gets under way it's pretty relentless. While the guests are fed and watered with an abundance of Greek cuisine and free-flowing white and red wine, the six dancers of the "Rhodean Dance Group" not only go through a series of dances from various islands, but they also clap their hands sore getting the audience to join them both in the clapping as well as on the floor itself. In the second part of the show the lights are dimmed as Mimakos himself dances the Zembehiko, which they announce as the fire dance for obvious reasons. You will have seen why too from one of those videos on the Facebook page linked above.

The band is, as is often the case nowadays, only two men. One plays the keyboard, which produces an array of sounds including a very convincing set of drums! The other the Bouzouki and a pretty good Bouzouki player he is too.

By the time the show comes to its climax at something approaching 11.00pm, the audience has melded into one multi-national family and Mimakos, whilst the finale is taking place and the individual dancers and musicians take their bows to rapturous applause (or, as the keyboard player pronounces it - Applaouse) vigorously waves a huge Greek flag left and right on a long pole until the lights finally come up and it's time to shepherd our charges back to their coaches.

The staff have all charged back and forth servicing the tables for several hours, a fact made evident by the patches of sweat on their blue shirts, the several hundred revellers have experienced a great display of the Greek spirit on a surprizingly low budget, and yet more visitors to this great country have seen how the Greeks enjoy themselves and revel in their country's rich cultural heritage.

On the coach going back to the hotels the guests are raucous, but well behaved, given that they've all had copious quantities of wine and other alcoholic beverages, and they invariably descend the coach at their respective hotels and studios with a wave of bonhommie which is well illustrated by the fact that last week, given that of my 11 or so Russian guests staying at the Miraluna in Kiotari, none of them spoke any English, one man descended the bus after his wife and grasped me in a huge bear hug. Exhaling 100% proof breath all over me, he gabbled on in Russian with a huge grin across his face, and so I gabbled back in English and we both laughed, each of us thumping the other's chest as if to say, "it's what's in there that really matters."

And we'd be right.

Monday, 6 July 2015

You Can NOT be Serious...

Y'know, generally I try to keep politics off the blog. What I like to focus on are the positive things in daily life about Greece and of course Rhodes in particular. But I have to confess to being more a than a little fed up with what I keep hearing coming through the media in the UK, if not elsewhere on the planet too, about this beautiful country.

First and foremost, I can cite a "good" example of the bad impression, the wholly inaccurate impression, that the public abroad is being given about what's going on here. Bear with me, it's coming below.

Yesterday (Sunday) I did my usual Bay-to-Bay excursion. it's a really wonderful day trip that leaves all the guests feeling well and truly chilled out. We cruise along the impossibly beautiful east coast of the island from St. Paul's Bay in Lindos to as far north as Tsambika beach, where we do our first "swim-stop", then make our way back to Stegna, where we go ashore for a scrumptious lunch in Grigori's restaurant, plus we give the guests plenty of time to laze about in one of the beachfront cafés in the resort or perhaps on the quite beautiful beach that Stegna can boast of, before returning to the boat (The Mandalena) for the next leg of the cruise. We stop mid-afternoon for another swim from the boat at the picturesque golden sandy beach of Agathi, in the shadow of historic Feraklos Castle (see this post too), before once again cruising at a leisurely pace all the way back to Lindos for a 4.30pm arrival and the transfer of the guests back to their accommodation.

I had guests yesterday from four different countries. There was a handful of Russians, a couple of dozen Poles and a dozen or so Germans. We also had nine from the UK, including one couple that I was delighted to see again, because they'd done the same excursion with me last summer too. The whole bunch of 50 or so grown-ups and children gelled together seamlessly and everyone had a thoroughly good time. Chatting with one of the British couples, we got around to the subject of how the British public perceives what's happening here in Greece.

   "When I told my mother we were coming to Greece again she was mortified," said my female guest. "She said, 'please don't go to Greece - you'll get mugged.'"

Fortunately, my guest had the good sense and indeed the knowledge to reply to her concerned parent, "Mum, if you think that, then you don't know the Greek people." Of course, they stuck to their guns and they came. They're having a wonderful holiday. Now. Here. On Rhodes. Shock horror.

This is what you would have seen on the trip yesterday for example (tongue firmly in cheek for the captions by the way)...

The beach at Stegna, Sunday July 5th 2015. So unsafe for tourists, eh?

This is Andonis, son of Kosmas, who runs the boat the "Mandelena", jumping overboard out of sheer fear...

That's our boat, and this is again Stegna Beach. Look at all the muggers, I was literally trembling with apprehension.

One of my young German guests at the bow, expecting a Greek to assault him at any moment for simply being German.
You know what I think? I think that the BBC (for example) has a reporter in a hotel in Athens. That reporter goes out into the street and looks for some graffiti on a roller shutter and then tells the camera how society here is falling apart. When, though did you last see one of those reports coming from one of the islands? Hmm? And how much graffiti and low-life can be found in every city around the world?

Here on Rhodes (and it's pretty typical of the islands in general) daily life goes on. People sit in cafés with their frappés, you can buy water melons or freshly picked cherries or nectarines from roadside vendors, you can draw as much cash as your own bank in your country permits as a daily withdrawal limit from the local ATM, several new ones having recently been installed at key positions for the convenience of tourists here in the south of the island. Waiters stand at the entrance to tavernas trying to tempt passers-by to sample their delicious local cuisine, tourists amble the streets of Lindos feeling the cheesecloth shirts and fiddling with the trinkets festooning the souvenir shops, Greek Bouzouki music wafts across your ears as you order your Retsina and Greek salad, old ladies are hanging out their washing and cats are stretching lazily on shady windowsills and door steps.

And over all this hangs the pallour of fear and menace, right? WRONG.

I want to do something here that I've never done before on this blog. I'd like to ask you the reader to do your best to contact the media in your country and tell them that they're getting it wrong. Just because Greece has a major financial crisis to contend with does not mean, does NOT mean that people coming here for a vacation need overly concern themselves. You know the best way to help Greece climb out of the pit she's in? 

Come here for your holiday. Dead simple. See for yourself. 

Those who have not allowed themselves to be put off by the hype that's pumped out through the foreign media can all testify to the fact that here in Greece, particularly on the islands, the holidaymaker would be forgiven for not even realising that there IS a crisis.

Next month my wife and I will have lived here on Rhodes for ten years. I am sometimes asked, "Would you leave, maybe go back to the UK?" Our answer, which is echoed by thousands of ex-pats all across Greece, is a resounding "you must be joking."

Saturday, 4 July 2015

A Post About Someone Else's Post

I've never done this before, but I would be remiss not to share this with my readers. It's marvellous.

Amanda Settle, I take my hat off to you...

Click here folks.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Under the Great Big Tree

Last Monday we made another visit to Gilma, our old friend who lives in his modest little cottage down a path from the main road somewhere south of Plimmiri. When you arrive at the gate, which is to your left as you proceed along the lane, you are looking into a fairly large fenced-in area that I'd hesitate to call an avli, because it's kind of a cross between a courtyard and a farmyard. There is a spacious gravelled area, in the middle of which is a very large tree. The tree is so large in fact that you can park a pickup and a car under it and there is still room for a rickety old table, a couple of plastic crates of garden produce and three or four mismatched chairs in various states of disrepair, although all just about still strong enough for one to sit on without worrying (well, without worrying too much) about it collapsing and depositing you on the floor in a heap. There's also a length of hosepipe permanently parked near the tree's rather substantial trunk as well.

As we arrived at the gate we were pleased to see our friend's immaculately preserved old pickup parked under the shade of the tree. To its left we could see the hunched figure of the old Greek as he busied himself doing something with some freshly picked vegetables. From our vantage point at the car window it wasn't as yet possible to make out any more details than that. Gilma is 76 years old and his hearing is usually pretty good. But it seemed that he hadn't registered our arrival, so we got out of the car and called a "Yassou fil'e mas" to him.

After a longer pause than we'd have usually expected, he turned his head from the job which held his rapt attention and registered our presence. As per usual he broke into a wide grin, threw both arms out in a gesture of welcome and rose to come and open the gate. I can never leave the car in the lane outside, he always insists that I bring it into the yard. So without arguing, once he'd drawn the gate back far enough, I reversed the car into the yard, whereupon he made it very clear that I should carry on reversing until the car was well shaded by the tree, alongside his pickup. Can't say this wasn't a welcome idea. If there's one thing I hate at this time of the year it's getting back into the car after its been left out in the sun for any length of time, like five minutes or more.

Hastily dusting off a couple of the old chairs so that my wife and I could be seated, he told us to hang on while he nipped inside his modest little one-storey cottage and returned with a chilled bottle of water and two glasses. Cracking the top and undoing it he poured us both a glass from the condensation-covered bottle and placed them on an upturned crate for us. He also opened a box of something that at first I thought may be something like Turkish delight, but was in fact something much nicer. It contained sugar-dusted cubes of compressed, dried figs, which kind of resembled Oxo cubes in size and colour, but there the resemblance ended. At his invitation we both popped one into our mouths and I was instantly fearful for my fillings. Viscous or what! Attempting to chew it my jaw encountered a much stronger than anticipated resistance as my teeth made brave attempts to masticate the cube. tell you what though, it was worth persevering. After I'd got it to finally begin to emulsify with my oral juices it was delicious and naturally sweet from the flavour in the fig. In fact, by the time we'd begun a conversation I was on my third. Hang the risk to the fillings, these babies were more-ish!

   "So, old friend, how goes it?" I asked him. 
   "Aach, Yianni mou. OK now, but last week not so good."
   "What do you mean, what happened?"
   "I was home in Kritika when my left ear started making a strange sound, it didn't hurt, but my hearing almost went completely and I felt like a timpani drum was playing in it. After it hadn't cleared up for a couple of hours I thought it best to go to the hospital."

Of course, we both immediately thought of the dreaded tinitus, but, as his story developed, it appears that he just had a dense build-up of earwax that needed clearing the operating theatre! He was kept in for a few days, during which they shoved all sorts of stuff into his ear. In fact he said there was still a small tube in it which the surgeon was going to remove on his next visit. But there was no pain and the noise was gone now, just a hearing loss which he'd been assured would be only temporary. In a couple of weeks he'd be back to normal. But the tale explained why he'd not heard us when we'd first arrived at his gate.

Of course, this story sparked off a further discussion about health in general. He was well pleased with the fact that, since he was in the hospital, they'd given him a bit of a general medical and declared him in excellent shape. His heart too is apparently as strong as an ox. My wife remarked that this most likely had something to do wth his lifestyle, which he readily agreed with. Lack of stress from spending his days complying with the rhythm of nature had to be a factor in his wellbeing we all agreed.

   "Not like the young folk of today, eh?" He remarked. "You know, Yianni and Maria, there is an unprecedented rise in eye problems nowadays, the doctor in the hospital told me. You know why, don't you? Everywhere you go you see people staring at little screens on all those gadgets they carry. You know what? I must be the only person on Rhodes who doesn't have a mobile phone. Hate the things. We survived for thousands of years without them. Not that a lot of people today would believe that."
The conversation inevitably came around to the fact that this was the first day of at least a week when the Greek banks would be closed for business. What was his take on that, we asked?

   "What are banks for?" He asked, apparently rhetorically. "I'll tell you. They're somewhere you can put your money that's generally more safe than shoving it under your mattress, right? Where's the sense in all these people, all of them panicking and creating a problem that wouldn't otherwise have arisen anyway, where's the sense in taking your cash out from where it's relatively safe so that you can shove it under your bed and have it stolen from you?"

He had a point. OK, so crime on Rhodes isn't all that high, but since the austerity kicked in five or six years ago there has been a rise in villa break-ins. Plus in the two major cities it's become all too often that you turn on the news to hear of an old couple or single pensioner being beaten about by thugs who'd broken in to steal the cash. Such things were unheard of ten years ago in Greece. Things are changing and they're changing for the worse.

   "I'd much rather leave my money where they can't touch it, wouldn't you?" Gilma asked us. OK, so one could argue that the banks aren't as secure as they used to be, but they would still be in a lot better shape if the general public weren't so of the "every man for himself in a crisis" persuasion.  Ah well, we always love to hear the way he reasons. Not always the most sound argument, but always interesting.

Mind you, he'll never starve. We've never visited him when he hasn't been busy with some produce or other from his fields. Today was no exception. When we'd arrived he'd been busy sorting out a huge crate of beans. He was just tearing the pods from the vines and chucking them into a plastic crate between his legs. He was doing it at a very leisurely pace of course, as he does everything life.

As our visit drew to a close he insisted that we take a huge bag of beans with us. Scooping almost the entire contents of the crate out with his hands, he filled the carrier bag amidst vain protests from us that this was far too many, surely he needed more for himself, and thrust it into Maria's hand, whilst simultaneously patting her on the shoulder with his other.

The beans were a variety that I'd never seen before. the runner bean-sized pods where predominantly white and the beans inside resembled birds' eggs, since they too were mainly white with speckles of red all over them. Once we'd come home and made sure that Wimbledon was on the TV for the remainder of the day, I set about shelling the beans on the coffee table...

Once they were all shelled (and not a few had found their way into my tummy in the process) the better half used them to rustle up a wicked Briam, which lasted us several days. OK, so that many beans can tend to have an after affect that's not so good in company, but since it's Wimbledon fortnight, we probably won't be keeping much of that for a while yet.

At least, not until the effect has worn off.