Monday, 24 August 2015

"I Have No Thought of Leaving"

Further reflections on the first ten years of living on Rhodes...

Can't get "Who Knows Where the Time Goes?" out of my head at the moment. It's not such a bad thing anyway, since it is, as I mentioned in the previous post, a very beautiful and dare I say haunting song. If by any odd chance you are not familiar with it, please do take four or five minutes to listen to it here. It's arguably one of the best vocal performances of Sandy Denny's all-too-brief career.

In July 2005, this was the scene outside our house in South Wales. One newly acquired 15-year old van and one soon-to-be-sold (boo hoo) Mini. There's plenty about the van in "Feta Compli!" so I won't go into that here. Fact is though, it got us to Rhodes without complaint. Apart from one fairly unimportant exhaust bracket, there were no mechanical calamities during the whole four days of the trip.

Of course, while we were busy preparing the van for the journey, this was what the house was looking like...

Tell you something though, this house is that tough, if we had an earthquake of even a massive 12 on the Richter scale, I reckon the house would still be intact, granted it maybe a half a mile or so further down the valley, but we'd still be able to carry on with our breakfast while enjoying the trip down.

Of course, not long after arriving we had to sort out a car and ended up with a nippy little Suzuki Swift...

Third week of October 2005, we became the proud owners of Stelios. We always give our cars a male name, dunno why really.

...and thus had to learn all about the legalities of running a vehicle here. I remember that we'd had the car a couple of months when we sort of noticed the little stickers in car windscreens with the year printed on them. Little blue squares with 04, 05, etc. adorned most front windows. Not all though, it has to be said (ahem!). Ours did have an 05 on it and we hadn't given it much thought until, toward the end of December I finally remembered to ask someone about renewing the "Road Tax". In the UK the system was based on whatever month the car was first registered, thus there was never any bureaucratic logjam, since every month of the year there were owners renewing their tax disc. Routine and easy.

Of course, I had absolutely no idea how the system worked here, until I asked Adonis, the mechanic who'd looked over the car before we'd parted with the cash for it. I had, however sorted out the legalities of ownership, which in itself is a rigmarole far more complicated and much more antiquated than the system in Britain. If they tried to run the "log book" (or, to give it its correct name, "Registration Document") system in the UK that prevails here, it would be complete and utter chaos, which is almost what it is here really.

Try to imagine it. In Britain, you have the Registration Document, over a nice friendly cup of tea in your own kitchen you and the new/previous owner both fill out the relevant details in the space provided, tear off the appropriate section, pop it in the post to DVLC Swansea and a week or two later your new document drops through your letter box. Job done.

Here? Well, both you and the previous owner have to pay a visit to the KTEO office, where you are led along a paper trail of various desks and documents until you finally arrive at the last desk in the series, where some bloke or woman will take a long sip from the straw of their frappé before their hand flies around with the ubiquitous rubber stamp and you're finally ready to leave with a couple of dozen (well, it felt like that!) photocopied sheets of A4 paper in your sweaty palm and a promise that the new "Log Book" would arrive one day before you die. When I say "arrive", let me qualify that. you have to ring the office until they eventually tell you it's come and you then go and collect it. I'm not kidding. Imagine every time a car changed hands in the UK both the seller and the buyer having to visit some government office or other to get the paperwork organised. No don't, it's too much of a nightmare.

If you have an accountant, which anyone who owns a car or a house in Greece is required to employ (it's THE business to be in folks), regardless of whether they pay tax or not, you have to add to the equation the "Solemn Statement" which the local KEP (Sort of "Citizens' Advice") office has to issue, and which both parties are required by law to sign and which the local Police also have to endorse with yet another rubber stamp and a dated signature. Yes, you've guessed it, it's another photocopied A4 sheet and - once it's signed and rubber stamped - you have to give it to your accountant, who'll probably mount it in a glass case and throw sugar at it. If that last statement makes no sense to you then you obviously don't live in the UK and have never heard of Terry Wogan. I've no idea why he used to say that, but it always sounded sort of appropriate.

Oh, and of course, both the seller and the buyer need their own versions of the "Solemn Statement" thus requiring four signatures and two Police rubber stamps. Small wonder that a lot of Greek islands are running low on trees these days.

Now, all the above having finally been sorted, we now received the answer from Adonis that we needed to renew the road tax before the end of December, and the chance of doing it at a post office had now gone begging since it was Christmas Eve and only about three working days remained until January 1st. Oh joy, another visit to the tax office in Rhodes town loomed large. Another round of queues up stairwells, along corridors and around in circles in stuffy offices until we eventually reached a glass screen with a hole in it where a very bored-looking woman took some money off us and handed us the coveted little sticker. I have to confess to stifling with great difficulty the urge to skip and dance out of that office waving my little blue sticker in the faces of the woebegotten folk who still had a mere two hours or so to wait until they finally got to the front of the queue.

If you don't get your road tax sorted in time, there are fines which crank up with the passing of time until you get it done. Of course, with all the austerity and the government having to find ways of saving cash, for the past couple of years the system has been different. They've done away with the screen stickers entirely. Now you just go to the government website, download a PDF, print it out and trot off to the National Bank of Greece or a Post Office some time during early December, hand over the cash and walk out with half of the document (the other having been retained by the clerk), now rubber stamped (you just knew I was going to say that, didn't you) which you must keep in the vehicle for potential Police inspection should you get stopped, which we have been ...twice.

The fact still remains though that every single vehicle registered in Greece has to renew its Road Tax at the turning of the year, thus placing a huge logistic burden on the system for just two or three weeks and that in the run-up to Christmas, when no one's very busy are they? (insert ironic laugh there).

Am I complaining? Well, oddly enough, no, not really. See, here's the thing: you get into the swing of it. You get used to the amount of time you have to spend pursuing the annual photocopied bits of paper and the annual this, thats and the others. You kind of accept that this is how it is. In Greek civil service offices all over this wonderful land there are civil servants staring at computer screens wondering exactly when they're going to be able to use them to the extent that is truly possible and thus cut down on the sheer volume of A4 photocopies that this country produces regularly. Mind you, they'd all need a wealth of extra training to get any new streamlining up and running I suppose, but then, hasn't that happened the world over?

I would have it any other way, sure. But I wouldn't let all the foregoing make me want to leave either. It's kind of quaint in a niggling sort of way. It gives you something to talk about when you're sat in the café of a morning sipping your frappé, so there's a silver lining right there eh?

Plus, yesterday, a day that I passed most of on a boat doing the Bay to Bay excursion again, we celebrated our anniversary, having arrived on Rhodes on August 23rd 2005. I took these...

...and you know what? I was asked for the umpteenth time, "Why did you make the move?" and "Would you ever consider going back to the UK?" I never, ever tire of holidaymakers asking me these things. Why? 'Cos it makes me count my blessings.

The better half and I stopped off at Afandou beach for a cold drink on the way home with our shopping on Friday too...

I'll be honest, I can think of much worse places to sit when we have half an hour to spare. All that stuff, the sea, the sun, the people, the food, the lifestyle, the learning all about how to live at a completely different pace from that which we'd lived in our previous life - all that confirms that, as I said before, "I have no thought of leaving."

Next time I'll post a whole bunch more captioned photos from the first 10 years.


  1. Love it, as you say John those idiosyncrasies really add to the enjoyment in their own way! Now I'm off on a venture to the police station in Lindos. I wonder how much paperwork will be involved, maybe I should take them all some frappes to help smooth things along a little!

    1. Absolutely Amanda, walk in with a couple of frappés to go and you'll be out of there, job done in no time!! We may just have stumbled on a formula for success here!!

    2. I find the tales of bureaucracy quite endearing but I'm sure I wouldn't feel like that if I lived there and had to endure it as you poor souls do!
      Glad to see you watched the video clip of Asterix, John, and adapted it for this post!!

  2. Congratulations on the ten year anniversary John and good to see you are still enjoying it....

    1. Thanks Andy. Must catch up with the "Vines" soon too, been a bit negligent lately!

  3. I haven't posted on the vines for a while but have developed a blog on my web site here which is more about Devon....

  4. My husband works here and had to go to accountants to do his tax returns
    From last years experience we expected a long wait and several returns to the office
    Imagine our shock when we went and it was done in less than 10 mins AND all online. YES ONLINE.
    Apparently the tax man owes HIM money
    No sign of it arriving yet
    Hey ho as they say.....THIS IS GREECE

    1. Yes Helen, occasionally we've been surprised like that too. But it's always worth taking something to read - just in case!