Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Cheer Up, Might Never Happen.

Did my first excursion of the season yesterday, the latest I've ever started. So, since I had a few hours to kill in Rhodes Town, I decided it was time for a bunch of photographs to shove on the blog, to illustrate just how awful it would be for the poor tourist coming here to Rhodes in the current conditions (heavy irony there, which I'm sure you sussed!).

Have a look at this lot then...

I'm always interested to see side streets like this one, which have oodles of Greek charm, as I wander the modern town's hotel district. The area isn't renowned for its character, yet lots of little nooks an crannies like this are to be found if you just look out for them.


It's amazing how much of the Moorish influence can be seen too in some of the older houses. This one's only a stone's throw up the road from this archway just above the old Lido (now a redeveloped café/bar area)...
(This photo courtesy of Google Street View)

Entering the Old Town via the Gate D'Amboise (just down this lane)

As you can see, we are enduring harsh conditions owing to the hordes of refugees...

These folk look as if they're all desperate to leave and fly home, don't you think?

Have to admit, I never tire of wandering around and getting slightly disoriented. Without the aid of strong drink too!

Just an old doorway that took my fancy. Doesn't it make you want to step inside and see what's in there?

So often I'm so taken with the shape of the old town buildings that it's only when I look at the photos when I get home that I notice the rather "happy-go-lucky" way in which they've brought electrical power to the old town homes and businesses. You don't really notice the cables unless you kind of "zone in" on them.

So, there we are then. Better not come this year eh? Such a difference from how things used to be, don't you think? And if you think I actually mean that, well, what can I say? Cheer up, it might never happen. In fact, it hasn't.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Still Exasperated

I'm still seething Im afraid. I wish some of these irresponsible "journalists" who are responsible for what goes out over the media in the UK could see firsthand the damage they are doing to the livelihoods of so many hardworking locals out here on the Greek islands.

I've just received an email from someone who's been gracious enough to follow my writings for some years now and has, to her credit, still been coming to Rhodes despite her media-credulous "friends" saying stuff like, "You're going THERE? With all those refugees lying about the place?" On her return home last year they also said things like, "You must be sooo glad to be home," as if to implicate that her experience out here on a Greek island must have been so unpleasant.

I suppose it oughtn't to surprise me really. After all, don't the great unwashed also believe all the promises politicians make before they actually get elected and then set about forgetting them all? Call me an old cynic, but having now spent six decades and more on this planet, the only thing I can summon up to say if someone wants to discuss politics is "Animal Farm".

Why is it that the media continue to look for and splash all the bad news, yet conspicuously ignore the opportunities that they also have to redress the balance with the good? Take Lesbos as an example. OK, that island bore the brunt of the tidal wave of refugees last year. Not much was said, though about the fact that the beaches where those poor souls came ashore were only a small minority of all the lovely seaside areas elsewhere on that island. Nothing has been said in the general media either about the fact that this year things have returned to normal and yet, 80% less UK tourists are travelling there for their holidays.

What's also galling is the fact that from what I am hearing the majority of Joe Public in the UK have the idea that just about every Greek island is buried in refugees and thus they're frightened to come here. It's simply not the case. 

If you read the piece on my "News and Stuff" page entitled "Still Misinforming the Public", which I posted on 29th April, you'll understand what I mean. This year, I'm again doing a few excursions, a job I really enjoy. Usually I start with the basic Rhodes Town trip from here in the south on the 2nd Wednesday in May, with the "Bay to Bay" sea-and-swim trip starting at the end of May or the first week in June, owing to the sea conditions being just a little later in settling down to what you need to enjoy such a trip. This year I have just been informed that I'm finally starting the Rhodes Town trip tomorrow, May 31st, and that with only a handful of guests, probably using a 15 seater minibus instead of a usual-sized 50 seater coach.

This will be the first time ever that I've had so few guests at the start of the season for this trip and I can only put this down to the fact that lots of misled people in the UK are still labouring under the misconception that the Greek islands are not a pleasant place to go right now.

It's such a shame that people like me are doing what we can to redress the balance, but our voice is like a straw in the wind against the prevailing impression that the public have been given by the media.

Those who do come to Greece this year will have the last laugh though. They'll find the same Greek welcome, scenery and experience as they always would have, probably even better since the locals will be so glad to see them!

I don't think I'll be wanting to go to the UK though. Did you see this?


Obviously the UK is completely overrun with refugees, camping in public parks and harrassing passers-by. I wouldn't want to experience that, now would I?

Saturday, 21 May 2016

No Wild Geese in Sight

It looked like an easy enough expedition. We had a map of the island and the owners of our studio in Naxos had offered to let us use their rather expensive mountain bikes whenever we wanted to, as indeed they'd done when we stayed there in 2014. Back then the bikes were almost new and, although Petros and Georgia were only too willing to lend them to us, They were a bit anxious to be sure that we knew what we were doing, since any damage caused and we'd be kind of obliged to fork out for it. (Fork, eh? I don't know how I do it, I really don't).

C'mon Sweetie. Do try and keep up.
Petros had told us how he'd decided to buy the bikes so that he and Georgia could go riding in the winter time. Something the pair of them could do together. Such an old romantic he is. He told us that he'd spent around €1,000 on each bike, so they weren't cheap. When we borrowed them back then Georgia had also told us that she still hadn't tried hers out. She evidently wasn't quite as sold on the idea as her hubby was. Between me, you and the gatepost, it's a similar situation in my household, which is why, although we had a bike each back in the UK, out here I've only bought the one, for me of course.

Here we were, back on Naxos in April 2016 and once more the offer of a lend of the bikes was forthcoming. At least there wasn't going to be a repeat of the previous slightly embarrassing moment when we returned the bikes last time. On that occasion we'd gone south and reached as far as Marakas Bay, where we stopped and partook of the usual, behind glass though, owing to the rather brisk wind...

Hands off you naughty girl!

When we'd returned to our room, both a tad saddle-sore it has to be said, we parked the bikes up and went upstairs (walking ever so slightly like John Wayne, whilst he'd have still been on his horse) for a shower and an afternoon doze. A little later, Georgia knocked the door to thank us for returning the bikes safe and sound, but also expressed some surprise that we hadn't stayed out longer on them.

"Oh, yes, well," We replied. "To be honest we'd done enough for two rather rusty cyclists, but also we were a little worried owing to the fact that Petros had spent a couple of thousand Euros on them. It kind of had us worried about leaving them anywhere, or falling off and breaking something ...on the bike that is. Not, well, ...you know."

"A couple of thousand Euros, eh?" Georgia had replied. "Petros hadn't actually got around to telling me how much they cost."


Anyway, here we were again last month with a chance to take another ride and so we decided that we'd just nip inland to the village of Mel'anes, where we'd read that there were not one, but two Kouros statues worthy of note. Couldn't be all that hard to find them, now could it? It looked to be around 10k each way. A cinch surely.

Now, in case you're a little rusty on ancient Greek statues and stuff, a Kouros is the generic name for a statue of a man, usually a young man and usually in the altogether. They really went in for the old nudism thing back then apparently. There is a huge one, which never got finished, lying in the bushes on a hill above our favourite seaside village of Apollonas, at the northern-most tip of the island. We went there in 2014 and here's the proof...

That's me modelling...

The ones near Mel'anes are more complete than this one and we fancied a look, thus the expedition on the bicycles. To see what they look like click this link. There's a nifty piece of video there too, suggesting that the two other statues are close to Mel'anes village. Well, they may well be, but not from the direction from which we approached it, that's all I'm saying.

Leaving Naxos town (Hora) and taking the road into the hinterland, you get lulled into a false sense of security when you're using pedal power. For the first four or five K it's fairly flat and not too bendy. The traffic can be a bit of a problem though, cough cough. Once you take the first turn signposted to Mel'anes, things go distinctly downhill, largely because of the fact that for 90% of the time, you're cycling (or, to be more accurate, pushing) your bike uphill (See top photo above). At least the traffic thins rapidly. 

After a few more km of the road getting ever more twisty and turny, while continuing irrevocably to ascend, occasionally very steeply, you start spotting clusters of houses that you pray must be the village, only to arrive there and find that they aren't. In fact, you can't see the village until you're finally cycling along its periphery, as the road arrives above the village, which spills down a very steep hillside beneath you, and presents you with a square where it's evident that many tourists park their hire cars. At the far end of the square the exit is very small and very good at persuading the first-timer that they can go no further. In fact, as we arrived there, legs screaming "Stop! What have we done to deserve this?" a couple of tourists (I think from Germany) drove (rather smugly in my view) straight past us in their Nissan Micra and screeched to a halt in that very square, peering about for any sign as to where to go next, which wasn't forthcoming by the way.

By this time my wife had become pretty irritable at having begun to feel pain in regions of her anatomy that she'd rather not, plus the fact that she was fretting over having fallen off her bike the last time she'd tried to dismount for yet another 1 in 3 hill, so I told her to stay put while I did a reccy.

To be fair, I did rather feel sorry for her about the falling off thing. Her bike, although a ladies' model, still had quite a high crossbar and so she'd attempted a dismount by swinging her leg behind her over the saddle, only to encounter the carry-rack that was mounted behind and below the saddle. You know the kind, it sticks out over the rear wheel and you can strap yer rolled up pac-a-mac to it with one of those bungee thingies, if you've got one. Anyway, her foot struck the rack and, before she could work out what was going on she was horizontal in the middle of the road. Just as well the traffic had reduced to the occasional pickup truck, whose driver would peer out at us (looking alarmingly like someone who ought to be playing a banjo in some southern state of the USA) with a degree of bemusement as he drove past. She did take quite a tumble and I even managed to assist her in getting up without laughing (well, not a lot anyway).

Having left her to nurse her injured pride and left knee, as well as wonder if her nether regions could take much more of that saddle, I cycled to the far end of the square and, low and behold, the road went ever on and on and on... all the time rising to add insult to injury. Where the hell was this Kouros then? Why weren't there any signs?

There were a few residences dotted along this road and I spotted a senior-looking gentleman on his balcony way above me talking into a mobile phone, so I hailed him.

"Is this the way to the kouros, kyrie?" I asked him.

"Yes, yes!" He replied, almost making me believe that this was going to be true. "Further up this lane, you will see the sign."

Sounded encouraging. I duly cycled back to where my beloved was resting against a wall and told her the good tidings.

"The only direction I'm going from here on in is downhill." Was her rather unhelpful reply.

Still, trying to keep things a little upbeat, I said: "OK. You stay here and I'll go back up there and see if I can find it." I turned around and set off again, up and along a long gradually inclining hill, that was now paved with concrete. After a couple of hundred meters I left the edge of the village and the road then rather disconcertingly turned to dust and stones. Big stones. It continued on around the side of a hill several hundred meters above me but, wait, what was that perched at a fetchingly rakish angle beside the, well, dirtpath as it was by then, at the crux of a fork? It was a sign!!

Changing ever further down  through the gears I eventually reached the sign to rejoice on reading it, for it read "KOUROS" and pointed along a path so rough-looking that I almost wondered if even a mountain bike's tyres would cut the mustard. There was nothing for it though, I had to follow it and see where it might lead. 

After another kilometre or so I reach yet another junction in the path. I was now in open countryside and the path was looking like crossing to the other side of a large and steep-sided valley. Sure enough though, there was another sign saying KOUROS and pointing ever further into the unknown. By the time this had happened three or four times and with not one of the signs giving any indication as to how far away this wretched kouros was, I had no choice but to turn back. I was already a couple of km away from my better half, waiting on the lane above the village, and the path was now comprised of dust finer than flour and boulders as big as footballs.

Hence the title of this post.

I tried, I really did, but I couldn't get the better half to agree to take the bikes down an almost vertical "street" some 500 metres into the village below, where we might at least have found a watering hole. There was nothing for it but to head back to town. I don't doubt that had we gone all the way down into the bottom of the village we may well have discovered that one can walk from there to these flamin' statues. The fact was though, my dear missus was all done in and only wanted to be back in civilisation, indeed the cradle of it. To have carried the bikes down there would have been madness anyway. The path/street was stepped!

It had taken us an hour and a half to get to this point. We arrived back at our favourite local café on the edge of town in twenty minutes flat. At least the return journey was literally downhill all the way.

Next time we take a break on Naxos, at least I've got her tentative agreement that we'd best hire a scooter. 

"Two frappés please... Oh, and where are the loos..?"

Just to round it off, entirely unconnected with the above, here are a couple more shots of old Naxos Town Market...

Monday, 16 May 2016

Quality or Quantity

Hello all. Before I post the photos, since this post is primarily a series of captioned photos and not so much a story (much to your relief eh?), I'd like to answer a query.

I have been asked why I don't post as often as some other bloggers. Quite a lot out there post daily, or almost daily, yet RFR usually gets a new post around once a week, sometimes even less. 

Now, first let me say that there's no hidden agenda and I have no wish to upset anyone else. This is purely an independent opinion and it's simply the way I see things. it's not aimed at anyone else, please do accept that on face value. One has to be sooo careful these days!

Having got that out of the way, here's my take on blogging. 

First and foremost, I never underestimate the enormous privilege of having other people read my "stuff" on a regular basis. If you're not a blogger yourself, you may not know the writers on "blogger" get a page of stats in which they can examine all sorts of data about which countries are providing the most "hits", which posts and/or pages are most popular and which "link route" readers may have followed to find the blog in the first place. To think that several thousand people out there in internet-land read this stuff is to me something for which I'm deeply grateful and it's very humbling. After all, these people have lives to lead.

Which leads me to my main thought about how often I believe it's sensible to post. When someone reads this stuff they're taking precious moments from their own lives and I like to think that this is because they derive some pleasure from it and hopefully often pick up new information that they'll find useful or enjoyable. So, I believe that I ought to hold these readers in great respect and never take their interest for granted. See, I feel that if I were to post more frequently, like every 24 hours or so, I'd be taking advantage, I'd be stealing even more of the reader's precious time. I hope this makes sense. I could post more often, but to do so could also mean that I'd often be posting substandard stuff whilst also expecting the readers to give up even more of their time simply for my vanity. To post almost daily is to assume that there are folk out there who have that much time to waste in reading my words, thus suggesting that perhaps my life is much more interesting than theirs. This is essentially why I like to post on average not more than once a week and - hopefully - this means that readers will be eager to read the new post and they'll also agree that's it's worthwhile information.

If you've been reading RFR for any length of time, you'll hopefully know that if I haven't posted for, say, 10 days or so, it's because I haven't really got anything that I think the reader would find interesting enough anyway. I'd hate to be posting substandard stuff simply to keep the frequency up. Plus I hold all of my readers in too high a regard for that.

There we are then. I've got that off my chest. Hope I explained it with sufficient clarity. Thanks for taking the time to read it and, as a reward, here are some recent photos of Naxos, Paros and Rhodes. Each photo carries its own caption. Hope you like them:

The Portara at Naxos, of course. It's half-heartedly roped off, but no one takes any notice of that. It's said that anyone who walks through it will always return to Naxos. It worked in our case.

Naxos, Old Market area. One can wander aimlessly here for ages. We've done it several times and every time found somewhere we hadn't been before.

There's that woman again...

Still in the Old Market area, Naxos.

Yea, that's me, trying to look moody.

I get the feeling they're closed for the afternoon.

Sea Lavender on the headland that separates Naxos harbour area from St. George Beach. It's dwarfed, no doubt due to the amount of wind it has to deal with. It's a beautiful plant though. We have it on Rhodes, but it's rare as hen's teeth.

Yea, guess what. the old Market area yet again.

On board the Blue Star ferry awaiting cast-off on our day trip from Naxos to Paros. Neat shot of the Portara, eh?

A Paros frappé moment.

A pleasant little corner of Paros Town.

And finally, the jacaranda tree in our orchard here on Rhodes; or more specifically, in the orchard at home that we tend for our friends and landlords. It's only taken 10 years for this to flower. Tell you what, it was worth the wait. If you click on this one to see the larger version, see if you can spot the bumble bee. (Once you have the larger version on screen, right-click and open it in a new tab. Then you should see your mouse change to a magnifying glass, meaning that one more click and you get a really large version that you need to move around in order to see it all. In that one the bumble bee is very clearly visible.)

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Cash Flow

Lardos Square, Sunday morning May 8th. The fella on the right, talking with the bloke on the moped, he's our car insurance agent

It's a fairly typical Sunday morning in Lardos village square. The old Greeks are putting the world to rights over an Elliniko, kids are flying through the place on small bikes like they have a death wish, ex-pats sit and talk about the trivia of life on a Greek island and the proprietors of the restaurant on the far corner are busy painting tables in readiness to get the place open for the season.

As is also usual at this time of the year, the few first tourists stick out like sore thumbs as they wander through hardly wearing anything displaying acres of pink flesh, while by far the majority of locals still sport jackets, sweaters, or at the very least long trousers. No locals (apart from the odd daring workman) will be seen in shorts for probably another month yet.

On the fountain across from the bar where my dearly beloved and I sit with our iced coffees, the youth of the area sit and try to look cool, the odd moped parked rakishly nearby so the boys can impress the girls with the noisy and ill-named bespoke "silencer" shining in the morning sun while it's parked, but ready to deafen anyone within a half-mile radius when the owner shoots off to eat his mum's cooking.

To be honest, it's rare for me and the better half to sit in Lardos square nowadays. Not that it isn't a nice place to sit of course, it's just that in our normal weekly schedule we don't have occasion to pass through here at the right hour for a frappé. One Sunday each year though, we'll be here, regular as clockwork. We have a reason and it relates to our annual cashflow.

It's taken the Greeks a long time, and there are still many who haven't adapted the modern way of paying their bills like people do in the rest of Europe, but they're getting there. At least the younger ones are. Before we left the UK my eyes used to water every time I looked at my bank statement, seeing the amount of cash that would exit the account by Direct Debit every month before we could even begin to see just how much disposable we had remaining to live on, or, let's be rash here - to spend on a coffee out or some other luxury, like a new CD. All our bills were paid automatically from the bank and we never had to worry, except about having enough in the account to cover them. 

Here, it's still quite normal to see folk (ex-pats included) queueing in banks, post offices, supermarkets and some mobile phone stores to pay even the basic bills like electricity (yup, I still say electricity, whereas most Brits these days seems to think it's simply "the electric". Standards these days. I dunno), telephone, Nova (Satellite TV) and water bills. I actually think that some ex-pats like it this way because it gives them something to do to relieve the boredom. Helps 'em remember what day it is, or perhaps what month. We, on the other hand, do have a busy life and I'm glad about that to be truthful. So the idea of regularly losing half a day to pay a simple bill seems to me to be a huge waste of time and so when, a couple of years ago, both DEH (the electricity company) and OTE (the telephone company and ISP) offered consumers the opportunity to pay their bills on-line I jumped at the chance. 

Not that we use a Direct Debit yet of course, no. But the next best thing works pretty well. Every two months (none of your monthly or quarterly bills here) I get an email from both DEH and OTE containing a link to the website where I can log in and download the bill as a PDF file. I can also pay it directly from that web page, although I prefer to log in to my Greek bank account and pay the bills from there. It only took a couple of visits to the bank where I signed about three thousand A4 pieces of paper and watched as they photocopied my passport for the umpteenth time, then waited at home for a confirmation letter to arrive three weeks later to begin using on-line banking, but I stuck with it and after ageing a few years in the process cracked it. Still not sure why they needed my inside leg measurement though.

The way the banks carry on here it does make you very aware of just how many resources and how much money is wasted unnecessarily. I mean, in the UK I used my debit card anywhere and everywhere. Hardly ever used cash for anything. Here, use your debit card and the bank will send you a letter a couple of weeks later, confirming the transaction, you know, in case you forgot about it perhaps. I only buy over the counter with my debit card here very rarely, but when I imagine how much paperwork comes through the mail for anyone who uses their cards daily or weekly in Greece, well I have nightmares about how many trees are being cut down just to manufacture the envelopes and the paper for the letters. Then there's the money the banks are spending on postage which is all completely unnecessary. 

Ah, but, why were we sitting in Lardos last Sunday morning, eh? Well, a lot of Brits I know seem to pay their car insurance six-monthly. Can't see the sense in that myself at all. There are, of course those who are only here for the season, or the other way around, plus hire companies who park their vehicles up for the winter months, but for your average car owner using his or her car all year round, what's the point of having to worry about your premium twice a year? I'll tell you, I guess it's for similar reasons that many still go and pay utility bills over the counter - maybe it gives them something to do.

Almost four years ago, when we changed our car, the seller was returning to the UK and the vehicle still had six months insurance left on it when she flew off for Blighty in the plane. So she graciously offered to let us use up the remainder of her insured time by simply changing the name on the policy. Nice lady she is. Here in Greece, of course, it's the car that's insured, not the driver. Don't even ask me to try and explain the difference because I'm not too sure I understand it myself, but there it is. The upshot of this was that we ended up using her insurance agent from then on. Another reason was that he was cheaper than our previous one too. Double whammy.

Looking back I'm now dead glad that it turned out this way because in Rhodes town you get a lot more choice of insurance companies and agents to compare, but it's a bit of a trek from here, so many folk end up going to someone in, say, Arhangelos, and paying more for their premium. The fella that does our car insurance hails originally from Lardos but now lives and works in Rhodes town, where he has a posh office with a coffee machine, potted plants and everything. I went there once, but just the once. What's really great is that, since he's a local born and bred, he still 'does' the vehicle insurance for a huge percentage of the residents of Lardos and surrounding area.

Hence the reason why we sit in Lardos square once a year. On a Sunday he makes the village square his office. Down from town he'll tootle on his 500cc scooter, park it up in the square then make the rounds as his clients either sit at a bar and await their turn, or whizz through, pull up and jump out, shake his hand, shove their cash into it while he hands them their freshly-prepared renewal papers with the other, then they're off before you can say Natasha Theodoridou. 

It's a sight to behold. We sit there at the pre-arranged time and enjoy a frappé while we await his arrival. Quite often we'll see him sitting at someone else's table already and he'll spot us, offer a wave of greeting and mouth "be over in a jif" and indeed that's what happens. While he's sitting with us an old codger will turn up on a moped, shout a greeting, clamber off and approach our table. Our chap will introduce us, ask if we mind while he sorts his other client out, which of course we don't at all, and they'll do the business and our new acquaintance will zip off happy.

 All the while he spends with us there is a perpetual chain of folk passing, every single one of which knows our insurance man and he's forever waving a hello hither and thither. He'll ask how we're doing, gladly accept our premium (less this year than last, a result!) and pass us a properly prepared receipt for payment together with our renewal papers. I have to say, it's brill.

Sitting there with him last Sunday I asked him if anyone at all ever passes that doesn't know him. I then went on to tell him that old joke about the bloke who knew the Pope. Remember that one? Message me if you want a reminder. 

To sum up. Our car insurance agent is a real find. He's "straight up" as we Brits would call someone who's dependable and above board. Everything's on paper. In fact we even receive our renewal notice through the mail, with the option of paying it in a bank or post office. But why would we do that when the man will meet us at a café while we enjoy a coffee and do a spot of people-watching into the bargain?

Yup, cash-flow Rhodes-style has its drawbacks, but it has one or two advantages over our previous life too. 

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Paros, Poached Brains and the Need for a Football Pitch

I must be getting old. I must be. After two weeks of sitting in coffee bars every morning watching the world go by I've decided that, even though I still feel 18 inside, I'm definitely not on the same wavelength as today's 18-year olds.

On Naxos there isn't much crime. There isn't a great deal of crime on the Greek islands generally, but after having studied the Geek yoof of today for a couple of weeks I've decided that it's just as well really. I mean, if you had some young chap rob you, then you went to the Police and reported it and they asked you for a description of the felon, assuming you got a good look at him, you'd probably describe 90% of the 18-30 year old Greeks in the country, let alone on this island.

You'd doubtless say something like: "Well, he was of average height, of dark complexion, with close-shaved hair on both sides of his head and a thick mass of wavy black hair on the top. He had a thick beard and wore Wayfarer sunglasses. He was in tight-fitting jeans and a slogan-covered t-shirt. Oh, and he had a collection of tattoos down each arm."

The Police would then need a football pitch for the identity parade because they'd have to round up just about every young bloke within a twenty mile radius, meaning, of course, that on an island like Naxos it would be every young bloke, period [full stop - whatever!].

I mentioned a couple of years ago that when we came here to Naxos for the first time I thought that they must have a seminar for budding orthodox priests here, owing to the fact that it was hard to find a young bloke in the bars and on the passing motorbikes that didn't have a ZZ Top beard. Of course, since then it's become an epidemic and I can only say I'm glad I don't have shares in Gillette or Wilkinson Sword. You'd probably only be able to sell them at a hefty loss right now.

Mind you, on a positive note, after yet another highly therapeutic people-watching session down on the harbour-front this morning, one has to say (as I've also probably done before) you'd never guess there was a financial crisis in Greece after sitting in a Greek coffee bar for long. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has a smartphone and most people have them glued to their ears, quietly microwaving their brains for hours at a time. Those that don't have them glued to their ear are vigorously deftly tapping away at them one handedly while sipping their Freddoccino with the other. It's a sad fact that at the majority of café tables, around which sit the designer-clad smartphone-toting youngsters, no one's having a normal conversation. Usually every man-jack of them (boys and girls alike) are far more interested in their phone conversation or their e-mails than they are in the friends sat right next to them.

This morning, as my beloved and I sat sipping our frappés among the beautiful people, I saw one young woman with a baby in a stroller wend her way among the crowded tables and find herself a seat, all the while carrying on a conversation with her iPhone tucked under her ear and against her shoulder. She managed to apply the brake on the stroller, wiggle herself into the cramped space behind the table and take off her cardy without so much as taking a breath from that chat. After probably ten minutes or so the child woke up, so she lifted him out of the stroller and plonked him on her lap, with his back to her chest, before starting yet another conversation which also lasted at least ten minutes.

After that, she bounced the little chap on her knee while tapping messages (or quite possibly surfing the net) and also sipping at her coffee from time to time. Not once in the whole time that she sat there was that phone not in one of her hands. Now, call me old fashioned, but didn't I see somewhere that if you placed a few mobile phones with active calls going on around an egg in a glass of water you'd see that egg poached in minutes? I did, here. See, the thing is, we haven't had digital phones around long enough yet for the addicts to get old enough to see the long-term effects, have we? Another couple of decades and we're quite possibly going to have a generation of late-middle-aged people whose brains are all fried, well, poached. What's that going to cost the health service, eh?

Anyway, I did say that I wanted to strike a positive note and that was that there is no shortage of young folk (it seems from appearances) with enough cash to wear designer clothes, get flash haircuts, have tattoos and sip coffees costing €3.50 a throw on a daily basis here on the Greek islands. See, it's not all bad news! TBH, we've been quite amazed too this year at how much less people are smoking than would have been the case in the bars and cafés, say, five years ago.

To round off this rant with some photos would be good eh? OK, so we did a day-trip to Paros last Friday. Here are the photos. I have to say, Paros is completely enchanting. Different to Naxos, so I won't make a comparison, in fact I don't think one should. The two islands are different, with some similarities. Naxos is more cosmopolitan, Paros more essentially Cycladian. Both have their merits depending on what mood you're in at the time!! I'll probably post some more shots of this year's visit to Naxos another time, but for now, here's Paros through my iPad's lens...