Thursday, 24 September 2015

By Any Other Name

Wasn't it Will Shakespeare who wrote that "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet"? I don't count myself among the Shakespeare elite fan club, so, whilst we did thoroughly enjoy Romeo and Juliet at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall on a magical starlit August evening a few years ago, the only other bit of his writings I could lay claim to knowing is the "Alas poor Yorick" bit that Hamlet speaks when he discovers the poor unfortunate's skull while doing some serious gardening some time. 

Of course Romeo and Juliet all ends in tears doesn't it? Which is, or at least was the case when I spoke Greek to Greek people in the early years of our living here whilst gamely trying to get to grips with the language. I'll not say that my Greek is perfect even now, but it's a great deal better than it used to be. Heaven knows even my English could be better, even though it was my best subject in school, but at least I do know where and where not to use an apostrophe (don't get me started on that one).

The thing is, in Greek there are sooo many pitfalls, words that to the untrained ear sound very similar and yet mean something entirely different. Add to that the "tonos" as the Greeks call it, and you're stepping out into a field sprinkled with mines. If you look at written Greek (as in typed, not handwritten, which may as well have been Arabic to me in the early days), you'll notice that every word that has more than one syllable has a kind of tick above one of the vowels somewhere. This can give one the impression that it's like an acute or gràve accent, like in French. It isn't.

The tonos is to tell the reader which syllable needs to be stressed. That's all it's for. All vowels in Greek are short, like for example the "a" in 'at" and not the "a" as in the word "state", which is long. Got that? good. Ahem, right. The tonos itself can throw you. In another context "tonos" means tuna. So you risk saying, when trying to talk about pronunciation, "I always try to take note of where the tuna is." Well, one would wouldn't one?

In one of the "Ramblings" books, I can't rightly remember which one now, I mentioned that I once heard someone say, much to my chagrin and bemusement, that marriage isn't exactly a bed "for thirty friends". Hmm, I thought, just what do they get up to in the more remote villages? Of course, what he meant was "a bed of roses", as it seems that this is one expression that is common to both the English and the Greek languages. But the Greek word for roses is remarkably similar to the two words "thirty friends" if you're still on the steep part of the learning curve.

When you order a draft beer in a bar you have to be careful not to ask for some hate. "I'll have a 'hate', or 'hatred' please," you may say when meaning a "half" as in half a litre, merely by getting the tuna in the wrong place. How many times have I said to someone, "we'll have to go to the table because we need some cash," or one could find oneself saying to a child, "eat up your greens if you want to be an old man." The word "geros" can mean either "strong" or "an old man", depending on which syllable you stress. You're getting the idea now, eh? Trapeza is a bank, trapezi a table.

"They're having a yogurt in the village tonight!" I once said, to the sound of guffaws all around. Why? because yorti (with the stress on the "i" at the end) means celebration and yaourti (with the stress on the "o") means yogurt.

It's so tricky that one could end up saying: "Fries, I have a challenge for you. Prayer because your apron might get muddy. Never are you coming over, bring your hard (wince) with you. He can stay in Cyprus. I think it'll stay fine so the patio will be wood. If you're driving and can't drink then you can have a doom, or perhaps a bulk (loose) and we'll have a potassium time."

In case you didn't get all that, with just a few different verbal inflections, it ought to have sounded like this: "How's it going? I have an invitation for you. Careful because your feet might get muddy. When are you coming? Bring your dog and he can stay in the garden. I think it'll stay fine so the patio will be dry. If you're driving and can't drink then you can have a fruit juice and we'll have a good time."

I've been known to refer to one's pillow as a hard rusk-like biscuit, somewhat similar to an Italian Biscotti. Plus, although they're spelt a little differently, I frequently end up saying I'll give someone a flight when I mean a phone call. 

So then, in behaviour... Sorry, in conclusion, the best thing you can do is be prepared to laugh at yourself, because everyone else will be laughing at you. It's not a nasty laugh, it's all in good fun. There are though one or two more risky pitfalls. the Greek swear word in most common use is one I'm sure most of my readers will be well aware of. But it's a derivation from other, more acceptable and frequently used words. 

Trust me, I've been there. Fabric softener is "malaktiko roukon" and if something feels soft to the touch you can say, quite innocently that "aisthanetai malako".

So, if you're not really careful, you'll end up saying "When you use the washing machine, don't forget the w••ker," or maybe "Such lovely material your table cloth is made of, like a w••ker." ( You know the word. It rhymes with banker! But in order not to offend any sensibilities...)

I know. I've got the t-shirt. It doesn't, however, have Will Shakespeare's face on it.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Wildlife and a Propensity to Wound

Innocuous. It's one of those words I like. It well describes too the vegetation in your average British garden. We had a few gardens in our homes in the UK and, generally, the plants within them were lush, verdant and quite soft. Yea, OK, one would afford the average tea rose bush a degree of respect owing to the thorns, and perhaps there were a few shrubs like pyracantha that could pack a scratch, but by far the majority of your UK garden growth could be waded amongst and hacked back with near impunity.

Many's the time back in the UK when I was up to my chest in plant life while wielding my secateurs and yet would emerge completely unscathed when her indoors would yell that there was a mug of tea to be had, maybe with a chocolate hobnob to accompany it. Here, though, it's a different story.

Here the vegetation is vicious. Here virtually every plant has an attitude problem (maybe to do with its upbringing) and it's out to wound you. And if the vegetation doesn't get you then the wildlife will. We hadn't been here long when we took a liking to lantana. See, it's so clever that it fools you with its beguiling flower heads, which sport such an array of different colour schemes and patterns. Plus the humming bird moths, the butterflies and the sardinian warblers all love it. We had to have some. We had, in fact, to have a lot. There are so many colour ways that we ended up with lantana in every bed. There's no getting away from it, it puts on a tremendous show of colour for most of the year and after the flowers die it sports green berries that the warblers gorge themselves on, allowing us to gaze in fascination from just a few feet away through the glass of the French windows from time to time.

But you try pruning lantana and then raking and gathering up the prunings to chuck into your wheelbarrow. the stalks are all trying really hard to mimic hacksaw blades and you soon end up with forearms liberally sprinkled with bloody spots where the barbs have gashed your skin like miniature fishing hooks. 

Lantana - oh yea, they LOOK innocent enough.
Agave Americana, now there's another plant that has murderous intentions. The spikes at the ends of the - what would you call them, blades? Yea, very appropriate - the spikes at the ends of the blades definitely look like they're dressed to kill or at least seriously maim. We have to go around snipping them off in order to be sure we survive a session in the garden when we're working near any of the Agaves. Not content with sporting the very vicious spikes, they also have barbs all the way along the edges of each blade and these take great delight in puncturing the skin of your arm when you're trying to pick one up and throw it away. Soft they are not.

Agaves, spikes snipped off the ends, but look at those barbs. Get one of them stuck in your arm. It's not dissimilar to a dog bite!
 We thought that a bunch of yukkas dotted about the place would be good, would be "architectural", and indeed they are. But a six foot tall yukka plant has leaves that resemble swords and daggers and I've lost count of the number of "paper-cuts" I've sustained from working in the near vicinity of one of them. Boy do those cuts sting as you're dabbing one with some tissue in a vain attempt to retain some of your body's blood stocks.

Choose your weapon, dagger, sword, or carving knife. They'll all slit your arm in similar fashion. Not to mention poke yer eye out if you're not careful.

Don't even get me started on these palm prunings. They go so hard that your chainsaw blade needs sharpening for every one you try and cut. Don't, whatever you do, brush against this as you amble past. Not if you want to keep your t-shirt from resembling one of those that grungy youths wear nowadays, complete with blood spots.

And there's a particular kind of weed too that, when it dies, scatters little seed "burrs" about the size of a small garden pea just about everywhere where you're likely to be walking. These malicious little devils are veritable balls of spikes that are cunningly camouflaged in exactly the same colour as the dust on which they lay in wait. Unless you pay attention to the crunching sound that your shoes make as you tread along, you'll be blissfully unaware of their presence. Not for long though.

Woe betide you if you go gardening in a pair of those soft rubbery "crocs" that are so ubiquitous these days. They afford you absolutely no protection whatsoever. These little belligerent burrs will happily spike right through the sole and soon have you hopping around in agony. You flip your foot up to catch a glimpse of the underside of your shoe and you see it covered with a dozen of these nasty little sods. What do you do then? You try and stand on one leg as you're usually just too far away from anything that can be leaned on for support. You whip one foot up, the one that hurts the most, slip off the croc and try to extract the little balls of misery and then what? Yup, you lose your balance momentarily, then involuntarily your shoe-less foot heads toward the ground out of an automatic desire to stop you falling over, only to make contact when it gets there with four or five more of the ever-present murderous little burrs and you're soon hopping all over the place cursing all and sundry and wishing you were wearing hobnail boots, despite the heat.

The act of trying to extract the tenacious little tyrants from your shoe will also see you instantly whipping your hand away and shoving your fingers in your mouth owing to the pain inflicted by the spikes on those feisty foes.

Walking in the countryside is even more dangerous. There is an abundance of spikey gorse all over the hillsides, the thorns on which are all at least and inch and a half long and stronger than your average sewing needle. This stuff grows along both sides of the lane leading from our house down to the road, a whole kilometer of it. If we allow it, the gorse is soon sending new growth out across the lane and, if not checked, will happily wreck the paintwork on your car door if you happen to run it along a sprig of this stuff. So, every now and then we set off with gardening gloves, a wheelbarrow, some secateurs and some loppers and attempt to show the stabbing shrub who's boss in a campaign to force it back away from the lane. We've never yet gone and done this without returning home with trickles of blood running down both forearms. And if you don't gather up every clipping from the ground where your tyres will be passing, it'll sure as hell puncture your tyre as easily as you slice a piece of cheese. Easier in fact. Since moving out here we've had on average two punctures per year. In the UK in several decades of owing cars I don't think I ever had more than two or three punctures - ever.

Don't even think of wearing a pair of crocks to do this job. You'll end up in hospital.

Talking of ending up in hospital, we know at least two UK ex-pats who've done just that from sustaining scorpion stings. Once again, the wildlife in a UK garden is cute and cuddly and largely benevolent. Here? Well, you soon learn never to attempt to move a stone with your bare hands or even a sunlounger that's been leaning agains the house wall without first giving it a kick with your foot. Scorpions, it seems just love to tuck themselves under things. You know what they say about the kind of life that crawls under a stone.

One of our friends a few years back found a towel that had fallen off of her washing line on to the ground in the garden. So she scooped it up without thinking. After all, in the UK the worst you'd find sheltering under it might be an earwig or a woodlouse. Without knowing what had hit her she threw the towel away instantly because s searing pain had sent shockwaves up her arm. A scorpion had been idling away the time under the towel and was not best pleased to be disturbed, a fact it made plain by shoving its sting into our friend's forearm. Off to the hospital with her it was.

I went out just the other morning to don my dusty pair of crocs (yes, we do use them for some things!) and as I shoved my left foot into the left croc (no flies on me, eh?) I soon whipped it out again because my tippy toes detected something alien living in the front end of the shoe. Giving the relevant piece of economy footwear a hefty slap on the ceramic tiles of the terrace, I wasn't surprised when a cricket or grasshopper (I don't flaming know which is which, do you?) about the size of my thumb, with a set of back legs that were significantly larger flopped out and assumed an air of disgust.

That came as a huge relief to me after some of the experiences I've had with the spiders we get out here. If you want to know more about them (have you taken leave of your senses?) check out chapter 2, "Livestock" of "Tzatziki For You to Say". Maybe take a sedative first, though.

Now, probably after reading all this, you're thinking, "why on earth would I want to live out there amongst all that botanical and biological enemy territory?"

Well, to be honest, it's not all bad. We do get European bee eaters, hoopoes, scops and barn owls all around the place at certain times of the year.In the cooler months we often spot a golden eagle. Right now, in fact, the wheatears are back and in evidence every time we go along our lane. They're a handsome bird in my view. I feel a bit sorry for them too owing to the way they got their name. poor souls []. There are bird of paradise plants and delicious citrus fruit trees here, there and everywhere. Our fig tree produces arguably the most delicious fresh figs one could ever imagine for several weeks every high summer.

Mind you, those leaves on the fig tree are very abrasive. Got a few pieces of wood I'm going to be fashioning into something some time soon. Think I'll use a couple of fig leaves as sandpaper.
Just off to sand down a nice piece of timber... Hmm, why are my thighs chafing? (See below...)

Now doesn't that make your eyes water. Remember Adam and Eve and what they did with a couple of fig leaves?

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Here and There II - Save a Tree? Hmm...

Following on from the post "Here and There" about Greeks and how they view the keeping of promises, another aspect of life on a Greek island that you have to learn to roll with is the bureaucracy. If the Greek bureaucratic system were to be streamlined (a porker just flew low over the house), a forest or two may well be saved in the process. Yea? Yea? I hear other ex-pats already saying aloud: "Tell me about it!"

Well I shall, but they already know, of course. But first, in order to satisfy the thirst for photos of Rhodes that not a few of my readers will now be gasping for, here are a few recent photos before I begin whinging...

The first six are studies of the Old Town taken just a few days ago.

The arches (have I mentioned this before?) are medieval earthquake damage-limitation measures. They must work because the place is over 5 centuries old and still standing!

And these are taken just down the road on our local beach...

There's a newly opened bar/taverna right on the beach. It's called the Anemos (the Wind) and it's a building that's been sort of waiting to be used in this way for a couple of years. As of yet we've only dropped by for a frappé, but our neighbours ate there the other evening and the feedback sounds positive.


Our local beach where we sat and sipped some chilled Rosé and ate a few savoury nibbles after a swim the other evening. So crowded down our way, eh? (I know, I do sound pleased with myself, sorry!)

Ditto, plus, that's the other half sitting there admiring the vastness of it all. It's amazing how pleasant it can be do do that when you have a flask of chilled Rosé to help you along.

So, on with the whinging then. Bureaucracy, what a great word eh? Comes from the French you know. In the UK we're so used to the entire country's infrastructure being run by computers that it comes as a shock when you get out here and find that, despite the fact that every government office you go into sports an array of desktop computers, printers and other peripheral devices, most employees who work with such wonders of modern technology use them to prop their Frappé on.

If a Policemen in the UK, for example, wants to check up on a vehicle, right there on the roadside he can tap a device and find out who it's registered to, whether the road tax is paid and - I don't doubt too - whether it's been reported as stolen. That's 'cos all those various aspects of society's infrastructure are in databases somewhere and all those databases are linked through an intranet or somesuch. Yea, impressive, eh? I know what an "intranet" is. What?

Anyway, here it's not quite so clever. Yup, the government for several years now has been running a system whereby motorists can log on to the correct site and download their road tax form. That's progress. But when you go into a Police station it's still completely normal to see piles of A4 photocopied forms and on every desk an inkpad wherein sits the ubiquitous rubber stamp. And it's not just Police stations, this applies to any government office you care to mention. And they worry about fires decimating the forests.

I'm amazed that for the past year or two I have been able to receive our telephone and electricity bills by email and I can log on to my Greek bank account and pay them on-line. Things are looking up. On the other hand though, as you'll know from the post "I Have No Thought of Leaving", to change a vehicle here involves horrendous paperwork if you do it legally. The rigmorole involved is in my view what tends to lead to lots of ex-pats running around in vehicles (or, indeed on them in the case of the two-wheeled variety) which they've acquired from someone who also couldn't be bothered to go through the seemingly endless round of office visits and rubber-stamping of photocopies and thus they've simply been handed the keys and off they go.

Trouble is, so many people in that situation have ended up in rather difficult legal messes when they've either had an accident (which you're far more likely to do on a Greek island in the "mad" season, ie. the summer months, than you are in the UK), and have found themselves faced with the courts, the paying of fines and even a few hours in a Police cell. Not fun.

The area where lots of people get tangled up is that of landing a job. In recent times the government(s) [See the "s" there? Let's face it, I'm running out of fingers to count how many governments we've had here in the past few years] have been trying to clamp down on illegal causal workers, working for companies who don't want to do the paperwork and thus pay their employees' IKA (a kind of national insurance) or indeed income tax. The idea was to protect the workers from being exploited, but in reality the system isn't really succeeding in that area. Anyway, what really gets me into a lather is the paperwork that you have to do if you are an employee and you're being taken on legally.

Off you go to the KEP office, then you perhaps visit the accountant of the person, people or company that's taking you on, then you probably visit your own accountant. You'll have to throw into the mix a visit or three to the IKA office with a fistfull of, you've guessed it, A4 photocopied forms which all need to display a rubber stamp which is date and signed too. Then you will have to get used to queueing for about three years at each government office you visit, after probably having set your alarm for 3.00am and got to the office in question before 7, only to find a hundred people already camped outside the as-yet locked front door before you. I tell you, I'd rather try and get into Wimbledon on finals day.

Having been through all of this and doubtless been told at least once and probably several times that you need to go away, get this or that other form which you had no idea even existed, then return, you'll be overjoyed to learn that you'll be going through this procedure every flaming year. And, of course, when you've gone off to your accountant and asked him/her for whatever form it was that the unhelpul clerk told you you'd lacked, and your accountant has told you that you don't really need that form, you'll probably be ready to throw the whole wad of papers in the air and march off to find the nearest bar.

And, when you'd gone back to your accountant for the second or third time you'd probably found the office closed at a completely normal business hour. You'd have called him/her and eventually, when you got an answer because you'd caught them unawares, they'll have told you that they "had to go to Rhodes town to the Tax office on that particular day, sorry. Never mind, come in tomorrow, I might or might not be there."

Now, I'd be remiss not to mention that some accountants are switching on to the internet. Ours in Kalathos, for example, now communicates with my wife's employer's accountant on-line and is able to fill in the relevant parts of our tax returns with minimum fuss before submitting them on-line too. Whoop dee doo. One more tree can heave a sigh of relief there then.

We'd been living out here for seven years before we even knew we needed an accountant. All right, someone reading this will say "Didn't you do the research?" But, in our defence, we didn't earn anything like enough money from our dabblings in part-time work out here to even see the tax threshold over the distant horizon. Yet, after those seven years we discovered that if you own either a house or a car in Greece, you must do an annual tax return and you must do it through an accountant. This is why in almost every village around here, however quaint or traditional it may look, there is at least one accountant, outside of whose office at certain times of the year are to be seen long queues.

A few years ago, there we were sitting at a taverna table in a narrow street in a nearby village, enjoying an al fresco meal, when we began to notice the house across the street. The street was barely wide enough for a car to drive along it without taking half the taverna's tables with it, but there across the street as we were busily stuffing our mouths we began to notice a rather heavy flow of human traffic going in and out for it to be a private house. Eventually, there was a bloke who we knew leaning over the wrought iron railing outside the house in question and he gave us a nod and greeted us with a "Kali orexi."

Now was our chance. I called over to him, "What's going on in there then? Some kind of village organisation, are they planning an event or something?"

"Nope." He replied, "It's the village accountant!" Tell you what, the owner of that office makes a lot more than your local dentist. And with the added bonus that they don't see anything like as meny epiglottises on a day-to-day basis.

I tell, you, it brings a tear to your eye to see the old traditions being maintained, eh?

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Here and There

Further musings over our ten years here on Rhodes. I've been thinking a lot lately about the major differences - and indeed some of the unexpected similarities - between life here on Rhodes and life there in the UK. So I may (covering myself in case I don't bother after this one) post a series of observations over such things. Here's one anyway, it's all about...

You know you're living in Greece when you've asked an artisan to come and do some work at your house. It may be a plumber, an electrician, a carpenter, a tree surgeon (where did that come from?), whatever. It's invariably the same. The conversation will go something like this:

"I need a new flippety drangle dobbit fitted and I don't think it's something I can do without the proper tools. Would you come and have a look at it for me?"

"Yes, of course. No problem. Where is your house?"

"It's down there, up the road then right at the old taverna sign."

"Ah, yes, that's near where Manolis used to keep his pigs and Takis has most of his olive trees. Stefanos - you know Stefanos, he's the one who married Vaggeli's ugly sister and has been hardly seen inside his own front door for several years now - well he keeps his tractor in that shed up the back of Taki's olive groves. That is right isn't it?"

"Close enough. tell you what, you tell me when you can come and I'll keep an eye out for your truck. Maybe call me if you're in the area and not sure where I am." You rather hopefully give him your mobile phone number, which he scrawls on the back of his current cigarette packet (which rather ominously has only two of the original 20 offending health-damaging products remaining inside), after shouting to Giorgos the bar owner for a pen or pencil to write it down with. Giorgos has come over, whipped a two-inch long HB from behind his ear and hovered to make sure he gets it back right away.

"Why not put it straight into your phone?" you tentatively reply. 

"S'in the car. No problem, I'll do it when I go."

You now have to wait while the two men have a five or ten minute animated discussion about politics or some snippet of gossip from the nearest village. Tapping your fingers on the table and sipping at your drink, you sense your opportunity and jump in with...

"So, anyway, when can you come?"

"What day is it?" 

You tell him it's Tuesday, adding "all day" with a slight smile to inject a degree of levity. He looks at you as if you've just taken leave of your sanity.

"OK, Tuesday, eh? I'll come Friday."

"You can't make it tomorrow, then."

"Tomorrow I go to Rhodes Town all day. I have to go to the dikastyrio [court]."

"What's that for then? Have you been accused of something?"

"No, not me. It's complicated."

You don't press it. You want to get home before dark and it is 11.00am. So you reply with gratitude, "OK, so I'll expect you Friday morning then, what time?"

"I didn't say Friday morning, I said Friday. I'll do my best. I have to take the pethera [mother-in-law] to the yiatro [doctor] first."

"And you can't do that Thursday?"

"Of course not, it's Thursday."

Aah, you think, fair enough. 

Friday morning rolls around and you keep glancing down the lane for any sign of a cloud of dust that may indicate the approach of the man's pickup. By 3.30pm you want to call him but you realise that he'll probably now be sleeping, so you wait until 5 and then do it.

"I thought you were coming today. What happened?"

"Don't worry. I'll be there. See you soon." He helpfully hangs up.

The following Monday you stroll into the kafeneion and there he is, sitting at the same table, pulling a fresh cigarette from a brand new packet. He's about to imbibe his first frappé of the day. You go straight over and start:

"Hey Lefteri. Where were you on Friday? I waited in all day."

His answer neatly sidesteps the issue of Friday. "You going to be in this afternoon?" You nod, "Good, I'll be there this afternoon. I may need to borrow a twin-sprocket-whipshaft extractor from Anastasias."

You walk off vainly hoping that this time he'll arrive as promised.

Two weeks later when he's called you to say he can be there in ten minutes, but now you're forty kilometres away in Rhodes town on a few errands, you almost bust a bloodvessel.

See, the thing is, a Greek will promise you anything and it's infuriating when they don't deliver. But what you have to remember is this: when he makes the promise he thoroughly means it. He does really mean it. It's just that no Greek that I've ever met seems to be able to plan anything more than a few minutes in advance. There have been so many times over the years when I've been phoned by a Greek friend to invite the two of us over or to meet them somewhere with some more friends for Parea [company, fellowship] and it's - say 6pm - and they're talking about that very evening. We've had something else planned and so miss out on the good time that may have been had.

If I say in response, "If you'd told me a couple of days ago we'd have loved to have come." It doesn't compute. They'll think "That's daft. Who'd have known a couple of days ago what they'd be doing today?" So, when the plumber turns up a week and half after the day he'd first promised that he'd come he'll be genuinely mystifed if you're annoyed.

"I've come haven't I?" He'll say. Then probably add, "You know me, Gianni, I always keep my promises."

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Reflections (10 Years After - part 3)

Marmalade started out in the sixties as a pretty sugary band, but in fact ended up as a pretty credible soft-rock outfit. I still have "Cousin Norman" and "Radancer" on my iPod, but the song that they are probably most remembered for, and rightly so, is "Reflections of My Life" which is a tremendous ballad that never ceases to make me go a bit goose-bumpy.

It came up the other night while I had the player on "shuffle" and, as always, it had me doing just that, reflecting. I suppose we do tend to section our lives into decades after all and, as you probably know, August 23rd saw the tenth anniversary of our move out here.

The previous two posts went on about a couple of things that happened in the first year or so that we lived here. This one though is photo-heavy. I've garnered together a bunch of shots taken over the first couple of years and here they are, along with captions where I can think of something to say about them...


The stuff we dug out of this area. White stuff, yellow stuff, all kinds of builders' stuff in fact, much of it doubtless poisonous to plants. Yet we were determined to make this into a bed, situated as it is right in front of John and Wendy's patio doors.

The local inhabitants often came a calling at the house. As you can see, they may be Catholics (get it?). Those little terrors used to run riot up and down the valley and used to squeeze through the gaps in the pigpen fence at will. The damn things were dead cute, but boy could they eat plants when they wanted to.

Behind that row of roof tiles was my first attempt at growing lettuce. Should have known what would happen though. I wrote the whole sordid tale in chapter 8 of Feta Compli!. Let's just say that the previous photo hints heavily at what transpired. Pretty wicked washing lines too eh? Those welded poles had originally served as our wardrobe!

The driveway when it consisted of only the edging blocks. The rest was sand when this was taken.

First attempt to mark out where a future vegetable patch would be. No point planting at this time though, since no fence and no gates equals Fast Food joint for goats ...and pigs.

Sampling the local beach for the first time.

This was the very first plant we ever put in. An Agave Americana. We'd gone and had a drink around the pool of a hotel in Pefkos with some friends from the UK who were staying there. As we sipped our gin and tonics, I noticed a huge Agave with lots of "babies" growing out of the soil all around it in the bed beside the pool terrace. Quick as a flash I nipped out to the van (we hadn't yet bought the car at this point), grabbed a trowel (what? You mean you don't travel with a trowel in the vehicle?) and we were soon driving home with this in the footwell. It now looks like this...
That's it, just to the left of my head. Agaves grow for about twenty to twenty five years before thrusting those great "poles" twenty feet into the air, which then sprout a huge spray of flowers before dying off, wherupon the whole plant dies and has to be dug out. We've still got at least a decade to go with this baby then.

It wasn't long before we had a few more plants to put in. This was in April of 2006...

Fortunately, a Greek friend told us before it was too late to ditch the one on the left, but not before they'd fallen about laughing at our poor judgment. We'd dug it up in the wild, but were told that it stinks like rotten flesh when it flowers. It didn't stay long after that.

May. And we actually put our hands in our pockets and (gulp) bought that hibiscus.
July. First attempt at a woodstore.

October. That's my dad, who helped me build that gate in what was to become a picket fence between the garden and the orchard. The man was a genius at DIY. I didn't have a "square" so he quickly cut a few pieces of wood, screwed them together and showed me, saying "Now THAT's a 90 degree angle." I still have that home-made wooden square in the shed.

Yea, I'm reflecting all right. We both are. Tell you what though, that song says "the world is a bad place, a terrible place to be, oh but I don't want to die." In view of the stuff we see on the news nowadays one would have to agree that the song was right on the button. But how good it is to still count one's blessings, assuming one has any to count. 

We do and we're losing count.