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.


  1. Oh wow those figs look gorgeous how can anyone not like them. Enjoying the blogs as always and looking forward to coming back to Rhodes start of October.

  2. I love fresh figs too. There are lots of fig trees in the hotel grounds laden with fruit, but they are all green! We have one more week, I hope they ripen soon!

    1. Diane, it's worth remembering that some varieties of figs are green when ripe. Feel them, if they're soft to the touch, gently twist one off and you may be surprised to find it's ripe for eating.

  3. Just hope you don't have another 'All at sea' experience if you are offering fresh figs to all on board! Could be a disaster in the making.........

  4. On the subjects of eggs and fruit, your man Agapitos may well be correct regarding Greek eggs. Caged birds are fed on compounded food to produce the “correct” yolk colour. In the UK it is determined to be a pale colour. In reality the colour of the yolk is also influenced by natural foods. The magic word is xanthophylls these are derived from carotenes (as in carrot!) Pigments found in green leaves etc. Consider the Goose which eats entirely green food. She lays huge eggs with very dark yolks. I guess the Greek free range chickens don’t get much green food.
    Some years ago I planted seeds from a purple passionfruit, Passiflora edulis. Finally this year I had flowers, and with a little help from me and a cotton bud I had fruits. These fall off when ripe. Mine mostly fall off green, but are delicious none the less, and full of juice! I cannot recall seeing them for sale in Rhodes. Certainly my next door neighbour’s face was a picture when she tried one for the first time. “It tastes like everything!”
    My next hope is dragonfruit which are not wonderful, but in my opinion better than the Frankosika which grows like a weed everywhere.