Sunday, 3 January 2016


Well, whilst November and December brought us clear skies and warm weather, leading to us swimming in the sea right up until a few days before the festivities, we're now quite glad that we nevertheless continued gathering wood for the log-burner, because we've just "enjoyed" the lowest temperatures that we've witnessed in ten years on the island.

When people ask me what a Rhodean winter is like, my usual reply is that it's like a good British summer. By and large that's a pretty good description of our winters, yet just now and then we get what I'd call a "cold snap", when freezing cold air from the Ukraine and Russia is brought down across the Black Sea and Turkey to afflict us with frigid temperatures. These are usually lows of around 5 or 6ºC, with daytime temperatures hovering in maybe the lower teens, but this past two days we've dipped well below that. In fact, driving home on Friday evening through Lardos, where we dropped off a friend on our way, the car registered -1.5ºC outside. A first. Plus, yesterday it only managed a measly 10º in the middle of the day. Like the title of the post says, Brrrr! (Did I put enough "r"s in there?)

It did cause us some amusement then, to be watching a TV show from the UK where the presenter was talking to a couple about their wanting to move out to the Paphos region of Cyprus, which has a climate very similar to ours. The couple were shown three different properties to see if any of them would tempt them to part with the readies. Of course, as per usual in these programmes, they wouldn't make a decision. But what caused us a degree of amusement was that in each of the properties the couple were shown a log-burning stove in the lounge area. The couple seemed to think that these, whilst nice to look at, would be a bit surplus to requirements, surely. More than once they said that they expected to be living in shorts and t-shirts most of the time, dining outside and so forth.

Yea, well, OK. It's true that at any time of the year it's a possibility. But the couple seemed to be suffering from what we all used to suffer from before we did our homework, the "Isn't it always hot and sunny out here?" syndrome. Anyone considering making the move would do well to either visit at least once during the winter months, or definitely talk to locals and get the low-down on what kind of weather we can experience from time to time from November through March.

The presenter, Anita, who was recently a celebrity contestant on "Strictly Come Dancing" (and flippin' good she was too. That bolero - phew!) actually tried to make the point that it can be raw on occasion during the winter, but the couple didn't really seem to want to hear it.

A rude awakening awaits, one can't help wondering.

They also, as part of the 'research' done on their behalf by the programme, were taken to meet another couple from the UK who'd been out there for some years and were (yup, you guessed it) helping out at a dog sanctuary. During their little natter the subject of the language came up and it was so much like what we hear here on Rhodes very often. The woman from the couple considering the move commented to the effect that one of her worries about moving out there was the potential language difficulties. They were assured by the couple already living there that this wouldn't be a problem. All the Greeks love the British and they're very friendly too. The fella actually said something like:

 "As long as you make the effort with the occasional Kalimera or efharisto, it goes a long way". Sorry and all that, but it did sound rather patronising of the Greeks. It was a bit like saying, 'keep the natives happy, you know.'

I do confess to being slightly frustrated at a lot of British living out here. It's not like they're really busy or anything. To learn Greek only requires determination and a little motivation. Time is seldom an issue. Laziness though, well, shoot me down in flames (and some will) but I'd say that's the main problem.

"Ah, but," as indeed the couple living on Cyprus did say, "Talk to them in Greek and they'll reply in English anyway."

True, but that's not because they don't think you should learn Greek. It's because they want to practice their English. I've yet to meet a Greek who didn't applaud my having taken the trouble to learn the language. I often try and put the shoe on the other foot. I know what we Brits think about foreigners living in our country who don't learn English. Right, eh?

Anyway, no good soapboxing is it. Sorry. But it is a bit of a bee under my bonnet, as you'll have guessed, no doubt. Being deadly serious, the Brits often don't seem to notice that they're 'colonising' villages and creating British ex-pat 'ghettos' that the locals become more and more resentful of. It's understandable isn't it? Making more of an attempt to assimilate would go a long way towards assuaging the build-up of that resentment.

I keep telling myself, "John, you're a guest in their country. Treat them with due deference." Learning the language has brought a huge amount of friendship and respect from Greek friends that we've made here. It's always going to be worth the effort.

Changing the subject slightly. We took a long walk all around the perimeter of Pefkos yesterday (Saturday Jan 2nd). It was about 10ºC and mainly cloudy. In fact my wife had one of those rare opportunities that only happen two or three times in a winter, that of wearing her long winter coat. We even wore our gloves! Pefkos at this time of the year is a world away from what it's like during the season. As it was cold and, of course January 2nd, the place was nigh on deserted and it was a really enjoyable walk. That's when I snapped this with my phone...

You even get a glimpse of the better half in her winter coat!
And finally. I'm not going to say "happy new year." Know why? because I'm an old pedant, and to me the number on the calendar changes every single day. Why not say "happy new day, week, month" too? Who thought up this calendar we're using anyway? Some sixteenth century pope by all accounts.

I do, though, sincerely wish happiness, prosperity and good health to everyone. I would wish such things on you at any time, any day. Spread a little positivity and it'll come back to you in time. 

And don't be minding an old curmudgeon like me!


  1. Lots to agree with there John. It's even colder in Lesvos in Winter (regularly in minus figures at night) but we still like to come here for a Christmas/New Year break alternate years. Last year we went to Cyprus instead early Feb staying 4 days in Paphos hotel (sunny weather) then 10 days in village of Anarita, OK but rain & cold. Lots of ex-pats but our talking a bit of Greek with local Cyrpiots in the kafeneion we adopted was much appreciated and we were invited to join their 'tsiknopembti' barbeque. I had expected some of the ex-pats there, but no, just us, the partner owners & local Greek Cypriots. Cyprus is warmer than Lesvos, but tiled floors and only aircon heater in apartment were decidedly chilly so best to brave wind & rain to get to nearby kafeneion.

    1. Trying to be modest, but I'm known in my local area as 'o anglos pou milaei Ellinika" Sylvia, simply because I'm the exception! You illustrate that well with your experience. If I phone up a local business, they instantly know who it is!!

    2. I should add that there are more women ex-pats who speak Greek than men, which is primarily because they married one!

  2. Another fab post! We head back to Crete soon and my husband is already congratulating himself that he laid a fire in our wonderful log burner before we left last October. My guess is that within 5 mins of arriving 'home' a roaring blaze will take the chill off our old stone house. Like your wife, I have a lovely winter coat out there that, with luck, I'll only wear a few times. Best wishes, X

    1. Planning, eh? Forethought. I should keep him if I were you

  3. Great post as ever! Thank you.

    Agree with the learning Greek thoughts. As someone who has enjoyed some success would you share with us who are just starting out any tips, resources etc. that have helped you?


    1. Graham, if you google "Learn Greek Without a Teacher", it's a book that I can't recommend highly enough. I think it's about £7 plus carriage, but I know it's still available. Plus, watch Greek TV, especially the crappy soaps! They're full of everyday Greek. The news is good too, because they always post captions and you can sit there with Google Translate open and look up words. Game shows too. On Star every night of the week there's Troxos Tis Tixis" (wheel of fortune) and it's fab for language learning!! Finally, surround yourself with Greek friends, don't fall into the trap of mixing exclusively with the ex-pat community, it'll impede your progress and no one will encourage you. Be humble, accept correction with good grace and smile when you drop a clanger! Don't subscribe to Nova and end up watching all the UK TV!!

  4. Another great post John, Thank you!

    For those of us just starting out on the learning Greek road, are there any tips, resources etc. you might share with us that helped you?


  5. I've Just found your blog and I do agree with a lot of what you say. Certainly to really understand and become involved in Greek life you must speak Greek. The television is the easiest tool for improving 'Greek as it is actually spoken' skills, I think. Meantime καλή μέρα, καλή εβδομάδα και καλό μήνα - and καλή χρονιά as well!