Thursday, 15 October 2015

Comings and Goings

Well , it looks like I've done my last excursion for this season. I've really enjoyed myself this year and met some very nice guests from upward of nine or ten different countries. You do get a kind of "feel" for the different nationalities in this job. Whilst I'd be the first to say that one should never "group" judge, there are definitely characteristics that certain nationalities display.

For example, whilst I've met some really nice personable Russians, by and large they're quite stern and not too ready with a smile. The Scandinavians virtually all speak English and the Germans, whilst not dressing exactly like the British, do have about the same level of taste in the apparel department, which isn't much. The Italians nine times out of ten wear something white or navy and always look chic. Plus they're generally little of stature, totally disorganised and yet always chirpy. The Dutch are usually intelligent and also speak very good English and the French will never use the "hello" word, which is universally recognised when greeting someone who you probably won't be able to communicate with too well. No, the French will always respond with a "Bonjour". I wonder if they ever heard about that UK comedy TV series set in France during the war, "Allo Allo," probably not.

I have to say that the country that wins hands-down for me this season is, wait for it - Poland. I've had loads of guests from there and virtually to a man (woman, child...) they've been happy, courteous and appreciative. I've had some boat excursions where 50% of my guests have been from Poland and right from the first, when the coach pulls up outside their accommodation, they've come out smiling. By the time we get them back at the end of the day and I've made a feeble attempt at ingratiating myself by saying "Jin Koo Yeh" [my phonetic spelling! Means thanks] and "Doh visania" [Bye!] they're hugging me and telling me how wonderful the day has been and all full of how helpful I'd been, even though sometimes some of their number had had to translate my information for the others who didn't understand any English.

And the women! I tell you, every woman under about 40 in Poland is drop dead gorgeous. Why is that? I can't explain it but it seems to be the case. Now, of course, I'm a happily married man of some decades now and have absolutely no plans to upset the apple cart in that department, but were I ever to find myself on my lonesome, I'd be purchasing a ticket to Poland to window shop.

So the tourists will soon be gone. Another week or two and Kiotari will return to its winter state of slightly more active than comatose, exactly how we like it. As the last tourists depart so too do the bee eaters. they've been here all summer, from about early May and we always drop everything to gaze at them when we have the opportunity. Usually during the summer months they'll be circling overhead in the early evening, dining on anything with six legs and wings that they can catch on the fly (wot? eh? Call me Mr. Pun if you like).

They tend to be flock birds, although not in huge numbers. That is except for when they're gathering on the wires in preparation for their flight across the Mediterranean from north to south, in order to winter in Africa. When they're preparing to leave they can be seen in huge numbers and it's always a marvel to behold. I thought that they'd all gone by now, so I was surprised yesterday, when doing a spot of gardening, to hear one and then spot it sitting on the electricity cables coming up to our house. I grabbed my camera from inside and managed to snap this...

OK, so it's not that great a shot, but it's the best that a modest point-and-click can do.
I confess to having felt somewhat sorry for the bird, because it was quite alone and thus I concluded that maybe it got left behind. No sooner had I snapped this, than it was up and away, so I hope it catches up with its mates.

The comings and goings of the animal population really help us feel the rhythm of the seasons. For the past few weeks we've had wheatears in the valley. Every spring and autumn they're here for a while, evidently passing through. But if you see them you're reminded of the fact that it's either April/May or September/October. Then there are the larger raptors. During the "winter" months we usually have a few resident buzzards here in the valley. In fact I'm fairly sure that they're very similar to the species of buzzard one sees on the UK. But here they tend to disappear for the hotter summer months, retreating as I theorise at least, to the higher ground up around Embona and Siana, near Mount Attavyros, the highest peak on the island at around 1,215 metres [just a little under 4,000 ft]. There is already a buzzard who's taken up residence in the valley below us, although the daytime temperatures are still pushing 30ºC. The golden eagles will usually arrive during November, having too stayed higher up for the summer months.

The goats of Manolis and Felitsia (who get several mentions in the Ramblings books) are once again in evidence, their bells clanking across the forested hillside below and their sneezes and farts noisily announcing their presence across the lane from our front gate where they're discovered some lush nosh amongst all the green garden waste that we deposit there on a regular basis. For them I'd imagine it's like eating rusks for weeks on end and then being confronted with a plate of green salad and vegetables. The vegetation they've been dining on has steadily dried and stiffened throughout the summer and they're to be seen chomping on tough, yellow straw quite frequently by this time of year. Oh how they must long for the rains to begin turning the landscape green again. No sign of that happening any time soon as yet though. Under an old fig tree on a hill down toward the valley floor there is once again to be seen a battered old patio chair. That gives away the fact that Manolis or his wife will have placed it there so that they can sit and pass a few hours keeping a beady eye out for their charges and doubtless contemplating the vastness of it all while taking advantage of the shade offered by the huge fig leaves, which even now are beginning to turn brown, since a fig, of course, is deciduous and by the time the end of the year arrives will be totally bare until the new leaves begin to shoot in March.

We often don't see hide nor hair of the goats during early to mid summer. Then, usually in August, the goatherd's pickup will be in evidence down the valley and the sound of clonking bells will announce their arrival and we'll begin our months of nervousness over whether the perimeter fence has developed any weaknesses of late. It'll be some time in February when the winter rains will have finally produced enough resulting green vegetation for the goats to no longer gaze longingly through our fence at the veritable feast that awaits within.

The lizards are still very much in evidence too, as they sun themselves during the daylight hours. Once the shorter days really kick in and the temperatures drop to the upper teens during the day, they'll slip away and not be seen for a few months. 

Something that reminds us of the UK too, is the fact that at this time of the year those rather unwelcome beasts with eight legs put in an appearance. if I understand it correctly, it's because during spring and autumn spiders go looking for mates. Quite often too, once they've done the deed the female will eat the male. Remind me to put in my order not to come back as one in my next life. I mean, what can be much worse than being a spider? Not only do you risk getting splatted at any moment while you amble along someone's living room wall or ceiling, but assuming you're lucky enough to dodge that fate, you find a female, you think "whoop de doo!," get it on and instead of laying back for a smoke [I know, it's bad for you and I don't approve, but it adds a certain something to this story, agreed?] you look down to find that half your body's already been devoured while she chomps away. Zip, that's you done mate.

The difference between here and the UK though is that the eight-legged beasts here can be seriously large and lightning quick. I, as you probably know, tend to be up and about a lot during the night. Just this past week I've had an "encounter" no less than three times. It makes one shudder to think what could be going on around one while one's dreaming of all kinds of nice things in the land of nod, laying there in the dark. The night before last I was just about to turn off a table lamp quite near the front door when the arachnid version of Lewis Hamilton shot across the floor and under the chest of drawers on which the lamp sits. There was nothing for it. I had to pull out the chest, then go find a duster to clear away the dust and cobwebs anyway. Where the hell was that fiend now? Oh, there he was, cunningly hiding on the transformer from which emerges the cable for the cordless telephone. I gingerly thrust the tickling stick at him (you have a lot to answer for Ken Dodd, I can't for the life of me call it anything else now) and he dropped to the floor and again set off at a pace. There was no way I'd be able to go back to bed until the situation had been resolved and it was already about a twenty to four.

As luck would have it (this has happened before too) he headed toward the front door. Quick as a flash (as I was conscious of the possibility of other "livestock" making an entrance at the sight of some light) I whipped open the door and he ran right over the sill and out into the night. 

Phew. There was no way I'd be opening that door again until daylight returned.

So, there we are. My musings over another summer drawing to a close. As we begin our eleventh winter here, we're thankful for what we have. Rhodes has had some refugees, but nothing like the numbers that have arrived on the shores of Kos or Lesbos. When we watch these poor wretched people and feel for their plight, we can only be grateful for our lot in life. By the time we reach next March we'll be looking forward to the tourists, the bee eaters, the lizards and various migratory birds arriving again. The raptors will again disappear for the summer months and the goats will make themselves scarce. The first time we see a big black lizard sunning itself we'll doubtless be gearing up for, in my case another series of excursions with some lovely people (hopefully lots from Poland again!), and my better half will be chafing at the bit to start doing some real work for a few days every week.

All in all, apart from the prospect of meeting those eightlegged guests again, we'll be in seventh heaven.


  1. We get large spiders down here in deepest darkest Devon John and like you I am not too fond of them. I do find it very satisfying to hoover them up on maximum suck strength but you may not be popular doing that in the middle of the night.....
    Enjoyed your comments about your guests and the different nationalities.
    Have you bought the new Gilmour album yet?

    1. Yes I have Andy. Must say it's better I feel than On an Island. I bought the deluxe version which has some nice videos of the band jamming in a barn with Rick Wright. rather poignant, especially since the final one has Rick addressing the camera and expressing how he was enjoying the way the band gelled together. Have you splashed out for it too then?

  2. I haven't as I was waiting to see what the consensus was having been stung by the pension top up, Endless River previously. Having read your comment I will give it a try I think.

    Other recent purchases include Captain Beefheart, Live 1966-67. Robert Plant, Lullaby..... Kevin Ayers box set. Gregory Porter, Liquid Spirit. Mbongwana Star, From Kinshasa. John Martyn, On Air. War on Drugs, Lost in the Dream. Zazie, Totem and Durutti Column, Idiot Savants. Oh and Depeche Mode, Delta Machine on vinyl. Apart from that.......

    1. Flippin' 'eck Andy, you trying to bankrupt me!!!? (Great to see Kevin Ayers in there though. Aah, such fond memories...)

    2. If I may join in this 'old music lovers' (take that however you like!) discussion Keith and I have tickets to see the Magic Band next month. Not really sure what to expect but will report back!

    3. You talking about Captain Beefheart's old outfit Vicki? If so, res-pect!

  3. I am indeed! Would you believe they are playing in Norwich? Not sure how many 'survivors' will be on stage but I'm certain the audience will all be pensioners!

    1. Having looked at their website amd also Wikipedia, I'd be there like a shot. The members are all original past members of the band, although not necessarily at the same time! but the drummer, John French now does the vocals and he sounds very like the good Captain himself. The videos on their websites show him off very well and by and large the whole experience ought to be rather good I'd say.

    2. John French has always been a terrific drummer in my view, on a par with Bruce Mitchell who has featured for The Durutti Column over the years. Sounds like an amazing musical experience in prospect Vicki you lucky thing! Must look up and see if there are any other dates. Music eh! certainly brings people together like nothing else. maybe I need to introduc some into my property web site blog down here in deepest darkest Devon....