Thursday, 21 January 2016

Honey, Health and some Hardy Holidaymakers

I know I’ve posted photos of these jars of honey before, but each time it happens I’m so dead chuffed that I can’t help but snap another one. Last week I was out at the far end of the orchard digging over a small bed when the honey men came by again in their white truck. Spotting me over the fence and the oleander bushes, as per usual they stopped, backed up and one of them jumped down from the cab, rummaged around on the flatbed and then extracted the jar you see in the photo, handing it to me over the fence. If it’s happened once it’a happened at least half a dozen times in the past few winters.

We exchanged the usual pleasantries and then he said to me, 

“See the phone number on the label?” His finger jabbing at the appropriate spot, “Keep a note of it and call us if you see anything untoward. Would you do that for us please?”

I assured him that I’d be only too pleased to repay their kindness if I did indeed see anything out of the ordinary and they were once more on their way. What exactly would ‘something untoward’ be then? Well, I’ve probably mentioned before some time ago that they have had beehives half-inched before now. It seems almost impossible that anyone would steal beehives, but honey-making is a serious business and the obtaining of new swarms and their queens is evidently an expensive outlay. I spend a lot of time during the summer months telling guests on my excursions about how low the crime rate is on Rhodes, which broadly speaking is still true, yet sadly our local bee-keepers have been victims. They’ve had to resort (as I believe I’ve mentioned before) to placing a group of empty hives here and there to frustrate the would be thieves.

We know the bee-keepers’ truck very well now and indeed have seen various other vehicles (including the occasional closed box van) trundling up and down the lane from time to time. These could well be entirely innocent and yet now it seems it would be a good idea for us to call our friends the honey-men and at least describe what we’ve seen, in case there is indeed a theft about to take place. 

It is a cause of some sadness the thought that in the wilds of the Greek mountainsides there may be sculduggery afoot. Alas, our modern world, eh?


Last Friday (January 15th) we held our fund-raising event here in Kiotari to garner funds to purchase medical supplies for our local Health Centre in the village of Gennadi. The staff there work tireless and sometimes without wages to help keep people living in the area healthy. A large number of ex-pats living here as well as local Greeks, Albanians, Bulgarians and a few more besides rely on the place for their immediate health needs. 

The centre is run by a young doctor, Dr. Nikos. As it happens I’d consulted him myself a few years back when I needed to arrange an operation to correct my abdominal hernia and found him a very personable and patient young man. He gets a “mench” in this post, the first of several in which I narrate the experience. My wife too had the benefit of his assistance a while back and not a few of the ex-pats we know here attend his surgery regularly owing to ongoing health issues that they suffer with.

So we organised a coffee morning at a local friend’s house and people came. they brought along a wonderful array of muffins, cakes, homemade biscuits, cheese scones and a collection of bric-a-brac to be sold for the cause and we held a raffle which consisted of names in a hat for prizes all of which were donated by local folk wanting to help the whole thing along. I’ve probably mentioned far too often that a Rhodean winter rather resembles a British summer and I mention it again here to remind you that the weather can be capricious in January. One day it can be hot sunshine and t-shirt weather, whereas the next it can be thunder and lightning, strong winds and temperatures that demand a thick coat and the log-burner to be fired up PDQ.

So, we’d been watching the forecast avidly and were delighted that it proved right and we were treated to a hot sunny day, sunburning weather in fact, which certainly contributed to the whole event going off with a bang. 

By the time the last few stragglers were hanging around sipping the remnants of their cold coffee and others were packing away the stuff that they couldn’t shift, we popped open the contribution boxes to see what we’d managed to cobble together. We’d have been well pleased if we’d made two or three hundred, but we ended up with well over €700 by the time the last few contributions drifted in over the succeeding day or two. TBH I was quite choked up. I know, I exude this air of gritty toughness, but inside I’m a kitten really.

Owing to the ridiculous rules here, we couldn’t simply give Dr. Nikos the cash because in all probability the tax men would have pounced and taken a sizeable percentage of it off of him before he could consult the medical supplies catalogue, so he advised us that we’d need to donate “goods to the value of” and thus this is the arrangement that we came to. That didn’t stop us doing a photo shoot of a presentation though, which we did at the centre on Monday 18th. I have to say I enjoyed the whole process and feel like we’ve achieved something good there. Who knows, we may even do it again some time.

We actually got into the local paper with this event too. It's in Greek, but click here if you like.

Finally, last Tuesday, which turned out to be a bright sunny day again after a wild wet and windy Sunday night and Monday, we spent a while hacking back some oleander bushes in the garden, you know, showing them who’s boss really, before setting out quite late in the afternoon for a walk around the block. By the time we finally left the house it was approaching 4.30pm and, since we’re entering another two or three day cold spell, with the dreaded north winds coming down from the Urals (I don’t really know why it always has to be the Urals, but it makes it sound, like, really cold eh?), it was starting to feel quite chilly, so we actually dug out our leather gloves, which we almost didn’t bring with us when we moved here, thinking as everyone does, that it’s always warm and sunny on Rhodes. We do get to wear them once or twice a year and this was going to be one of those rare occasions.

When I talk about a walk “around the block” I refer to primarily dirt tracks among olive groves, but one of our circuitous routes does take in a few hundred metres of the man road, on to which empties out our lane 1km down the valley below us. 

On a recent walk up to Asklipio

The kastro at Asklipio, just last week

That's my girl. She finds it impossible to walk without finding something to drag home (apart from me that is). In this case we sectioned that bough and it was added to the wood-store.

So, there we were walking briskly to keep warm when a metallic blue Nissan MPV sped past and honked its horn a couple of times at us. Now, the fact is, we’re such a rarity around here, owing to the fact that we actually walk a lot, that we get quite used to locals who know us honking their horns as they drive past. There is, of course, the Major (Colonel, General, I’m never quite sure) who lives down the valley from us and walks every day with a cane, but apart from him no one, and I mean no one, walks anywhere.

The locals by and large have finally given up on pulling over and offering us a lift, since it doesn’t compute that we may actually be walking for pleasure, having long since concluded that we’re either quite mad or desperately poor and can’t afford fuel for the car. The vehicle in question, however, came to a halt a couple of hundred metres ahead of us at the entrance to the upper car park of the Rodos Princess Hotel, whereupon it reversed around so that it was at right angles to the road as we approached. There were four persons inside as far as we could tell, but no one got out. Ever-so slightly scary, eh? It was like one of those movies where you’re under surveillance and are about to be apprehended as felons, even though you protest your innocence. Vivid imagination, I know. I’ve been cursed with it since I was little. 

Remember that old Spielberg movie “Duel”, where that sales rep (Dennis Weaver if my memory isn’t defective) is relentlessly pursued by a dusty old tanker, which seems hell-bent on ending his tawdry existence as son as it can? Well, I almost had the idea that someone in that car was planning something, …something I wouldn’t like. All ridiculous I know, but see, I didn’t recognise the car.

When we got to within about 30 metres or so the doors opened, out climbed four (to my relief) very normal-looking people and they strode purposefully toward us, all smiles and hands extended for a shake. They’ll forgive me for not remembering their names, but the first of them, a smiling woman, said: 

“It IS you isn’t it? It’s John, right? You don’t know us, sorry, but we thought it was you when we drove past.”

It only turns out that they were four people from Scotland who actually read this stuff!! They were taking, if I remember right, their second winter holiday on Rhodes, staying in Lindos and having a thoroughly enjoyable time. They were finding plenty to do and were able to eat out as and when they wanted to. Seems, though that they had an idea that we lived in Kiotari and so as they drove past they were amazed to see that, as circumstance would have it, here was that loopy blogger out for an afternoon walk with his better half, so they stopped to say hello.

I wanted to give them a mention for two reasons. Firstly, because it’s always a delight to meet friends who follow the blog, which means that someone out there actually is reading this prattle, even dare I say, enjoying it, and secondly I’ve often championed the idea for the more adventurous of taking a DIY holiday here during winter time and they were actually doing it. It’s an entirely different experience from a summer holiday of course, and you run the risk of experiencing some changeable weather (like a British summer!), but there’s lots to do and see if you don’t simply want a beach holiday. There is always accommodation to be had, especially if you’ve been here during the summer and taken the contact details of a few locals who keep apartments and rooms. Our new friends were staying right in Lindos village, gloriously quiet during January, and even had a log burner to warm them on their evenings in.

Lindos, just a couple of weeks ago.

Maria’s Taverna in the centre of the village is open all year round and patronised by quite a few locals. In fact on the Monday when we arrived home from Crete (November 30th) we ate lunch there with our neighbours who’d collected us from the airport. In Lardos the wonderful Savvas Grill is always open too, plus loads of other restaurants dotted about the island are open at the very least on the weekends. If you’re fond of walking there’s no shortage of spectacular countryside to explore, plus the village kafeneions are always there to slake your thirst in the process. Rhodes town too buzzes with pavement café culture all year round.

All it takes is a little enterprise. Yes, you’ll fly into Athens first, then the short hop from Athens to Rhodes, but this winter has seen even more flight options becoming available at even better prices than ever before. You can plot the route from several UK airports through EasyJet, RyanAir and Aegean for starters. Go on, have a go some time.

So, another “hi” to those hardy holidaymakers who quite made our day by stopping to say hello. I hope they didn’t see that huge sense of relief on my face that I was actually going to survive when they proved themselves harmless and friendly!

Steven Spielberg, you have a lot to answer for.


  1. I always read your blogs John and hope that we may 'bump' into you once we make the big move this March! Sounds like we will be quite near to you as we will be at our house in Lardos!

  2. I always wondered where the north wind came from. I had a feeling it was the Urals...

    Ian Smith

    1. There's nothing like a touch of the Urals in yer wind to freeze yer assets Ian.

  3. So glad that your fund-raising efforts produced such a great result for a local cause. Too easy, with all the news about refugees, to forget the hardships faced by Greece and her people over the past few years and still ongoing.

  4. Lol at the hardy holidaymakers part of your blog, your imagination certainly ran riot there! So glad we stopped after tooting our horn, as speaking to you and Yvonne Maria made our day too. We had a fabulous holiday, absolutely love Lindos/Rhodes in winter. Have been coming to Lindos since 1987 and as you correctly said this was our 2nd winter visit and we are hooked! To see Lindos empty of holidaymakers is to see Lindos even more stunning. Being able to spend time with the greek people we have made friends with over the years is so nice whether its for a coffee in the ice bar, which is the winter meeting place, or a meal in one of the many open tavernas. We sometimes felt like we were on the tv programme Man V Food we were eating so much. Highly recommend mixed grill from Bakis in Embonas if you've not been, to say the lamb chops were delicious is an understatement. Anyway we are now back home with another pile of photos, memories and stories which will keep us going until our next visit in September, as will your blog of course. It was a pleasure to meet you both and will certainly toot and stop again should we see you on our travels which all being well will also include January 2017. Don't give up the writing and certainly don't stop your imagination running riot.
    The Harmless Hardy Holidaymakers
    Karen and Brian
    Christine and Chris

    1. Let us know your dates next January. Maybe you can come over for coffee one morning.

    2. Thanks for the invite for coffee John, will take you up on it. Will be in touch