Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Fulsome Trees and Flat Tyres

Had a stroll along Haraki sea front last Thursday. That's where the above shot was taken. 

Yesterday though, we had coffee with a couple of friends who live just outside of the village of Gennadi. They have an almond tree that's simply stunning right now. It was 25ºC, a good 5 to 7 over the expected temperature for a sunny day in February.  I asked if I could snap a shot of the tree because it's amazing and surrounded by the busy hum of thousands of honey bees. Magical, quite magical...

The plant below is one that we used to have in a pot in our conservatory back in the UK. Here lots of people, ourselves included, have them in pots or in the ground out in the garden. Ours, however, have seen their leaf clusters grow progressively smaller until the plant is all stalks. Our friend's version, though looks like this right now...

What's thrilling about those yellow, cone-shaped flower clusters is that they display quite clearly the fibonacci sequence. Now, I'm not going to go too far down this road, but logic tells me that design is very evident in the natural world when one looks at such wonders (No preaching at me through your comments OK? Good, ta. Grant me this please!).

What's galling is that our versions of that plant would have a problem keeping any sense of pride were they to be paced alongside these. Anyway, returning to that tree, here's another shot...

The title of this post, though, also involves "flat tyres". This is a reference to the fact that my wife could have been killed by a 90+ year old local driver when we were on a walk along the beach road last week. Well, TBH, it's more to do with what happened to the driver of the rogue ropey and ragged pickup, just after he'd swerved around a bend on the wrong side of the road and almost disappeared into the undergrowth.

I remember hearing him coming up around a curvy bend, just above the beach, turning to watch and seeing him careening off the road (on the wrong side too as it happened), running his two offside tyres over some pretty rough grit, dirt and discarded detritus on the verge, before again getting all four tyres back on to the asphalt and trundling on past us as we walked. Only moments before this my dearly beloved had been on that very spot, since we quite often end up on each side of the road whilst keeping an eagle eye out for discarded beer bottles to recycle, not to mention the odd piece of good 'burning' wood for the log-burner at home. Had the pickup been a few seconds earlier he would have collected my wife on his bonnet (hood, guys. Not, however, the "little red riding" version).

After the vehicle in question had coughed its way past us and disappeared around the next bend, we remarked on the difficulty it seemed to be having with staying not only on the correct side of the road, but also on the road itself.

About ten minutes later, we approached that self same vehicle, which scarcely had a single panel that didn't have a dent or scrape which no doubt could tell an interesting tale, as it was now stationary on the left hand-side of the road (the wrong side again) and we could see a couple of feet protruding out on the tarmac from the front end. It appeared at first as though it had run someone over.

Drawing up alongside and taking in the scene, we could tell that the driver was trying to get a rather ancient hydraulic jack to lift the front end of the truck, but with limited success. It was this type of jack (right), only several centuries older than the one in this picture.

The driver was prone on his back grappling with the somewhat bent jack handle and not managing to get very far with actually pumping up the jack itself. As is her usual habit in situations like this, my better half thrust a hand against the small of my back and suggested that I may want to give the poor fella a helping hand.

As it happened, the driver proved to be a very ancient bloke. We later learned from his own lips that he was well past 90 and lives in Asklipio, the nearest village to where we live. He was on his way home in the late afternoon with a couple of plastic crates of shopping in the bed of the truck, both of which were in danger of never making it home since they had been vibrating themselves slowly toward the back of the bed, where the rear tailgate was conspicuous by its absence.

As I approached to ask the man if I could be of any assistance, he struggled on to his backside, then on to his feet (with an extended hand-up by yours truly) and expressed his appreciation while gesturing with both hands at the jack with the words, "You think that's a good jacking point?"

It was, in fact, not the correct place to put the jack, but it seemed a strong enough part of what was left of the ancient vehicle's chassis and so I assumed the prone position that he'd just vacated and began pumping on the ancient handle. Fortunately the jack rose and the driver's-side wheel began to lift, thus allowing the evidently punctured tyre to assume its normal profile again.

The tyre needed replacing all right. And not just because he'd just sustained a puncture. There was very little indication of it ever having had what we would call 'tread' and there was plenty of canvas in evidence, not to mention deep cracks in the walls. Gets his money's worth out of his rubber does this guy. Working at the jack handle, I continued to get the front raised up enough to make it worth trying to loosen the wheel nuts with his also ancient wheel-spanner, which was one of those simple bent lengths that are only about a foot long, if that.  Like the one in the photo, but with much more rust.

Anyway, once I'd got the thing high enough to have a go at the wheelnuts, I became aware of a slightly damp feeling on the leg of my jeans from where they'd been pressed to the road surface as I 'worked'. There was indeed a damp patch on the otherwise bone-dry road surface. How could this be? It was a wall-to-wall blue-sky day after all. It was then that I noticed the equally damp patch on the trousers of the poor bloke I was trying to help, only the location of the patch on his trousers testified to where the dampness had come from. He was over ninety, after all.

Approaching the first of the five wheel-nuts with the spanner, I gave it a pump with my foot to try and get it started. No joy. After trying all five there was still no joy. Not one of them would budge a milimeter. At this point it occurred to me to ask if he did indeed have a spare, to which he replied, "Yes, I do" and reached over the side of the truck to lift it over. He just about managed this and dropped the still-inflated (wonder of wonders) spare on to the road beside the wheel that we were trying to get off. Needless to say, the condition of the spare was scarcely any better than the one with the puncture.

By the time I'd made several more attempts to loosen the wheel-nuts, a crowd was beginning to gather. Well, when I say a crowd, this was a rural coast road with a fairly sparse population along it, but we attracted the attention of a local Greek lady who does a lot of walking and we often pass her on this road. She noticed that when I belted the wheel-brace with a hammer (I found it in the back of the truck), it would spring right off the nut and on to the floor. So she offered to hold the end of the wheel-brace with her foot while I gave it a bash. We weren't getting very far when Roland, a local ex-pat from Germany, happened by, since his house was just around the corner. He spat on both palms, asked if he could have a go and set to with the wheel-nuts while I took a welcome break.

All the while the truck's owner was offering profuse apologies for putting us all out like this and also thanking us endlessly for nevertheless doing what we could. We didn't like to tell him that we thought it highly likely that he oughtn't to be driving. In fact, while Roland, slightly better built than I as he is, managed to loosen the wheel-nuts, which gave off the distinct impression that they hadn't been off that axle for many a long year. Tom, another British ex-pat who lives next door to Roland, then appeared with his three dogs.

Tom asked us what was going on and we all chipped in with our tales about how we had struggled to get the wheel off and how our unfortunate ancient friend had been driving rather erratically and had probably sustained the puncture during one of many forays off of the actual road surface. Tom, as it turned out, knew the old codger. He proceeded to tell us that it was Panayiotis, father of Manolis (and various others) from up the village and his son had taken the pickup's keys from his recalcitrant father on more than one occasion, telling him that he wasn't to drive any more under any circumstances.

Fat lot of good it did. Τhe crafty old boy would somehow discover the keys and would soon be whizzing off down the road again, despite the fact that he could hardly see, could hardly hear (we all had to speak rather loudly to make ourselves understood, but only with limited success) and would often end up driving all over the road. It was a miracle that he hadn't already killed either himself or someone else.

Despite hearing all this, we couldn't help liking the man and he was almost brought to tears by the efforts that four virtual strangers were making to get him rolling again. After all, it was not much more than half an hour to sunset by now and he was still 5 km from home.

Eventually Roland and I managed to get the wheel with the flat tyre off of the axle and, with a lot of jiggling, finally got the spare into place and the wheel-nuts back on. Lowering the jack a little to make sure that the wheel touched ground and wouldn't spin, I tightened the nuts up as much as I could and Roland gave the wheel-brace a belt on each nut with his foot, just to be sure.

Just when we were congratulating ourselves on a good deed done, whilst also looking with dismay at our totally blackened hands, which meant that scratching one's face was going to leave a fetching black smudge, and Panayiotis was thinking about getting back behind the steering wheel, Roland said,

"I don't think you'll be going anywhere just yet."

Noticing the puzzled looks on all of our faces, since we'd just (so we thought) got the old boy mobile again, Roland pointed toward the rear of the vehicle.

The rear tyre was flat as a pancake.

 It seems I'd got the old man's wee wee on my jeans for nothing.


  1. Brilliant! I'm sure this happens to you too, whenever we have UK visitors with us the inevitable question arises, 'Err, do they have MOTS in Greece?' My answer is, yes, but they dont take an old jolopy in that is bound to fail. Trouble is, I'm not joking.

    1. Yes Yvonne, there certainly seems to be a correlation between the condition of some vehicles and the further into the country areas you go!