Thursday, 23 June 2016

Another Sigh of Relief

Tuesday night broke a three year musical fast for me. I had worked at the last "Rhodes Rock" festival that was held here in Lindos in June 2013, after which it upped sticks and went to Spain. There was a "Lindos Music Week" the following year but, perhaps rather unfairly, I didn't investigate it, thinking it a probable disappointment after the dizzy heights that the Rhodes Rock extravaganza had reached before it left us all bereft.

In 2014 the first Lindos Music week was scheduled, but I'd been given the impression by my former employers at RR that the carnival may well once again be putting in an appearance and so was left a bit confused. Probably I wasn't alone there.

In 2015, Lindos Music Week showed no signs of going away and "Rhodes Rock" scant signs of returning so I began sitting up and taking notice of what LMW had planned. OK, so there wasn't going to be a venue on quite the size of the stage at the far end of St. Paul's Bay that RR used to use, plus there would be no Floyd band playing in front of the ancient amphitheatre in Lindos village, but a respectable number of bands seemed to be lined up and there was a Floyd band among them. The only problem I had last year was the fact that I was working on a Greek Night on the same date as the Floyd band and thus had to miss it (sulked for weeks).

This year, having seen the advertising and hard evidence that this new event was building year-on-year, I decided that I would give it a go and attend at least one of the gigs. The band "Floyd in the Flesh" were playing the Amphitheatre Club, Lindos, supported by Dizzy Lizzy and Bigfoot

For starters, I'd never set foot (not even a big foot) inside the Amphitheatre before and so was curious. Let's face it, the place is usually packed to the gills in the small hours with the young and the beautiful (and, no doubt nowadays, the tattooed), dancing I'm sure to the latest tunes that grace the young folks' pop charts. I'd be rather out of place, not to mention driven mental by the sounds anyway. I'm an old hippy and the idea of DJ thingabmybob and snazzy chazzy wrapping (for wrapping read: shouting aggressively) away over a persistent thumping beat and synthesised backing isn't really my glass of ouzo.

This time though, the stage was set for some decent rock music, culminating in the music that I grew up to, that of the awesome Pink Floyd. Let's face it, there have been so many great bands and artists, yet what band still captures the hearts and ears of every upcoming generation of serious music fans more than the Floyd? Anyway, I was going and, just for a change the better half consented to come along too. That, my friends, was a real result.

We hadn't been inside the venue for more than a few minutes before I decided that it was the best venue on Rhodes for a rock concert. Open, of course, to the night air and twinkling stars, the brightly illuminated Lindos Acropolis gracing the view from the bar terrace and a full moon rising as the 2016 summer solstice night wrapped itself around us, this place truly is perfect for an intimate evening of musical nostalgia. It may not hold quite as many people as the square in front of the old Amphitheatre down in the village, but it's a close-run thing. The wall (get it? I amaze myself sometimes) one sees from the outside is deceptive. The place is much bigger inside than I'd expected. Plus, there's a hard floor everywhere, no dust, no ants' nests (I stood on one once at Rhodes Rock, didn't realise until half my lower leg was crawling with the little wotsits).

We arrived as Dizzy Lizzy were just getting into their stride. The fella who plays Philip Lynott is perfect. If you didn't know he'd left us, you'd swear this was him...

Incidentally, to see all the photos I took at the gig, including those of Floyd in the Flesh, click here.
Thin Lizzy were one of those bands about which one so often thinks, "Well, they didn't do all that many songs I'd recognise, did they?" Turns out they sure did. I can't claim to have ever been a dedicated fan, but I might just invest in an album or two after this. Dizzy Lizzy's score in my humble book of tribute band excellence? Ten out of ten, no hesitation.

After the stage was re-set it was time for Floyd in the Flesh. These guys will forgive me if I'm wrong, but they're still quite new at being a Pink Floyd tribute band. First and foremost, they are all excellent musicians. I, speaking as a humble bassplayer of old, plus having played flute in my school orchestra and also plucked a mandolin now and again, can lay claim to being able to discern such things (just establishing my credentials here folks, ta) and you may take my word for that.

They started off just slightly shakily, the vocalist and bassplayer Daniel Heenan on more than one occasion actually apologising for his slightly (in his view) off-tone vocals, putting it down to the climate change he'd experienced on being out here not only in June, but in June during a heatwave for us! TBH I'd have not mentioned it Dan, I thought it was just a case of settling in, which I reckon it probably was because you got better with every number.

Apart from some niggles with guitarist Andy Pennington's amp now and again, which meant we didn't get the benefit of some of his excellent solo work, they nailed it. They darn well nailed it. According to my understanding the female vocalist (who'll forgive me for not remembering her name) didn't have as much rehearsal time as she may have liked, but boy did she send shivers through the audience when she did the extremely intimidating (for her perhaps) Great Gig in the Sky. My hair was on end, as I suspect was that of most of those in the audience who still had any. That piece takes on an even greater poignancy since its composer Richard Wright has sadly been taken from us by the big C.

Highlights for me? Undoubtedly the fact that they tackled the 25 minute long Echoes, which is my favourite Floyd piece ever. The twin soloists worked a dream and on several tracks took turns at being David Gilmour, but during the massive solo, which just builds and builds into the crescendo at the end of Comfortably Numb, my eyes were growing moist. Each guitarist took a section of the solo while the other reverted to the chord sequence which we all know and love, the result being for me one of the best end sections of that song I've ever heard. And I have to say, I've heard a few, including the actual Pink Floyd themselves.

A few photos of FITF...

Lindos and the Acropolis, across the bay from the venue.

The Great Gig in the Sky. Definite tingle factor moment.

Bassplayer and vocalist Dan Heenan. He'll forgive me for saying that he looks like he belongs in Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention! Damn fine player though and made a pretty good fist of both Waters' and Gilmour's voices.

One of the guitarists, Andy Pennington, whose appearance put me in mind of the great Johnny Winter now and then. I'm a sucker for comparing people. It's an affliction I have to live with.

As mentioned above too, all the photos are here.
In conclusion, what can I say. I am able to heave a massive sigh of relief that rock music is once again not only alive, but in strapping health here in Lindos. If you are in any way tempted, are perhaps slightly miffed that you missed this, then fret not. The Lindos Rock 2017 event is already well along in its planning and you may like to check out the links below:

Rockers Reunited Facebook page
Rockers Reunited website (Lindos Rock 2017 page)
Lindos Rock 2016 Facebook page
Lindos Rock 2017 Facebook page

Ageing hippies everywhere, who love Greece and even more so Lindos on Rhodes, you may now officially rejoice that every June you can once again combine a holiday in one of the most beautiful and evocative places in the Med with a good dose of great music.

It's a pretty safe bet I'll see some of you here next June, right?

PS - I neglected to mention that if you reside in the UK, you'll be able to see Floyd in the Flesh next year, as they're setting up a string of UK dates. Go see them.

Friday, 17 June 2016

A Little Slice of Cyprus

The largest village on Rhodes, outside of the urban sprawl of Rhodes Town and Ixia/Trianda Bay, is Arhangelos. It has a population of around 5,000, but if you factor in the villages of Massari, Haraki and Malona, which come under its jurisdictional oversight, you can increase that to 7,000.

If you've lived on Rhodes for long and speak Greek (even if you don't, probably) you soon come to identify the Arhangelos accent. They have a very distinctive way of extending the last syllable of a word that quickly reveals that the person speaking is an Arhangelitis.

Regional accents are of course common in every language group on the planet. I may not be an American, but I can recognise the Texas 'drawl' or the NY 'Yankee' accent instantly. In the UK the eagle-eared listener can very quickly discern if the person they are hearing speak is from the West Country, the far South West (Cornwall, Devon), Norfolk, the North West (Lancashire, Cumbria) or the North East (Yorkshire, Northumberland). Very often those wishing to put on a Scottish, a Welsh or Irish accent may not realise that they are actually only mimicking a small region of that country. Having lived in South Wales for a quarter of a century, we soon came to discern that there were individual accents for every valley south of the "Heads of the Valleys Road", the A465. People from Sennybridge or Brecon have a much more musical lilt to their accent than do those from Cardiff. During our first few months living in Cardiff we found ourselves wondering why so many 'scousers' were living there. Then we realised that the Cardiff accent sounds more like 'Liverpool' than anything Welsh.

Here on Rhodes you'd be forgiven for thinking that perhaps the 'Rhoditis' accent is island-wide, but you'd be wrong. What I never realised until this very week was that the Arhangelos accent is not merely due to it being a region of the island of Rhodes, but that it actually derives from Cypriot roots.

A recent article in the island's own newspaper, the 'Rodiaki' revealed that the Arhangelites are actually descended from a group of Cypriots who moved to this island a long time ago. The village is distinctive in quite a few ways. They adhere to many old traditions that pay no mind to the modern world, they have their own FM Radio Station, playing modern Greek pop, Laika and Nisiotika music at various times of the day. Nisiotika [islands] music is characterised by the use of the violin, the lyre, the Greek versions of those of course, plus a clarinet-like woodwind instrument and something that resembles a zither. They don't use the bouzouki in island music, that's primarily from the Rebetiko dens of Athens and Thessalonika.

Thus, the accent from Arhangelos is descended from the Cypriot way of speaking, which still pervades the way the villagers talk today. Those who have studied such things think that the similarities between the Arhangelian accent and that of Paphos in western Cyprus indicate that a few centuries ago it was a group of Paphians who settled in this part of Rhodes in an attempt to escape the Ottomans. There are even local words that are common only to the two locations, thus lending weight to the theory. If you can read the link to the Rodiaki Newspaper's web site that I placed further up, you'll see there toward the bottom an extensive list of words that are peculiar to the two places.

Arhangelos isn't the only place on Rhodes that has a community descended from a community that came here from another island. In the 15th century a group of people from Crete (Kriti) came to Rhodes in an attempt to escape the Turks on their own island and set up the community now known as Kritinia (literally, 'New Crete'). 

So, there you are folks, a little history lesson that will perhaps encourage you to check out the places mentioned above some time. I'll tell you one thing, since Arhangelos isn't on the main tourist trail (although it is being discovered gradually with each passing season), the prices for drinks and food there go easier on your pocket than in other parts of the island where tourism is evidently the main source of income.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

A Great Sigh of Relief

Nice design work...

I used to love Rhodes Rock, a festival of classic rock played by dedicated tribute bands (and one or two originals) to ecstatic enthusiasts under a starlight Lindian June night every year. The last time the event took place here in Rhodes, though, was in 2013 and since then it's moved on to pastures new in Spain.

When I first learned that there would be no Rhodes Rock in Lindos in 2014 I was pretty disappointed. After all, living down here at the furthest reaches of the European continent our opportunities to go and see live music are very limited, excluding of course the occasional Greek music event.

In 2014 the rather more modest, yet enthusiastic "Lindos Music Week" started up, to some extent in response to requests from locals that someone organise an event for those still wanting their live music to be played against a backdrop of a Lindian sky in an impossibly beautiful Aegean environment. Many wondered if it would take off. Fortunately, it seems that it has.

Last year it was bigger than ever and there was once again a good selection of rock and blues bands to suit all tastes, playing in a variety of venues from bars to hotel gardens to open air clubs. I couldn't go. The best nights for me to go out during a busy summer didn't quite coincide with the events that I'd like to have gone to. Boo hoo. That's always assuming we could have mustered up the enthusiasm to get up, shower, dress and set off down our lane after a fairly hot, sweaty day's excursioning in my case, and villa cleaning in the case of my much more hardworking better half.

This year, I'm pleased to report for all those ageing hippies and rock fans out there, it's a full programme of events stretching over 10 days from June 15th until June 25th under the collective title of Lindos Rock 2016. Plus, and this is why I call this post "A Great Sigh of Relief", I can go see the Pink Floyd band (Floyd in the Flesh - the website is in its infancy, but well designed. Bookmark it, it's sure to grow) because I'm not doing the Greek night on a Tuesday this year and they're playing the Amphitheatre Club, Lindos on the night of the summer solstice, Tuesday June 21st. Tell you what too, the support bands include Dizzy Lizzy, who I'm also pretty excited about seeing. Incidentally, for those reading this in the UK, you may be interested to know that the organisers also plan a fairly busy schedule of events at home during the rest of the year, check it out here.

Take a shufty at the event list. Lots going on.
Now, I now that there will be some reading this that have already made their plans for this season, but perhaps that includes being on Rhodes during the dates referred to, in which case, you may just want to come and sample some of the action. You can get in at the door too, by the way.

Plus, talk about being organised, but the event is already scheduled for 2017 before even this year's has happened. This is a bit of sensible forethought because it means that anyone who thinks that they don't want to miss it again can make their plans well in advance for this ever-growing summer rock extravaganza. Check out the website by all means, but the dates for 2017 will be 14th-21st June. As old Sir Fred Pontin used to say on his excruciating TV ads all those years ago, "book early!"

Needless to say, as I did with Rhodes Rock, I shall be reporting on my experience after the event, so if it's something that may be of interest to you, it may just encourage you to make plans for next year, if you can't come along this coming week or two. If, by the way, you are at the Floyd in the Flesh gig, do say hello if you see me, won't you.

Your ever-dedicated, hardworking reporter on the ground here in Rhodes. (ahem!)

Monday, 6 June 2016

Tree Talk and Living With Livestock

We spot apricots on not one but TWO trees in the orchard! Only took nearly 10 years...

We live on a high hillside, exposed on one side to the winds, sheltered against the hillside on the other. Come August it will be eleven years since we drove up that lane for the first time in our fifteen-year-old van, all we possessed in the world stacked to the roof behind our heads.

There's the van, pictured outside the front of the house only a couple of months after we got here in August 2005. It was the first rains in October. Tidy garden, eh? We kept the van for a further three months.

It took 18 months for the fence to be completed, during which time there wasn't a lot of point in planting much because the local livestock would have it for lunch as soon as look at you. We did attempt a few things, onions and lettuce being the first, and surrounded them with a makeshift fortification of steel re-bars and rope, bamboo canes and bits of wire. It didn't work. Not only the local goat population, but also the pigs from the local butcher's pen further down the valley below would make regular sorties through their immensely inadequate fence of wooden pallets and make a bee-line up the hill for our place. Once here they made short shrift of our defences. 

Fortress Manuel ready for planting up, January 2006. The yellow van belonged to the builders and was a fetching feature in the "garden/orchard" for about a year or so. It served as a toolshed.

Some lettuce and a few geraniums gingerly attempting to survive the onslaught of the local livestock. The apricot tree photo at the top of this post is now at the far end of that area to the right of the van, which eventually (miraculously!) became the orchard. 
The apricot tree is probably right about where that bucket is that I'm standing in. (this shot Sept. 2005)

Every time we went out we spent the entire duration of our absence worrying about whether the livestock would get in while we were away. They often did and with devastating consequences. So many times we'd sit outside trying to envision what the place might one day look like, when the local "neighbours" [4-legged variety of course. See shot below] would drop by to see what was on the menu. Occasionally it included our washing.

What do you reckon? Shabby chic?

Looking at those photos above it's almost impossible to recognise the place as it is now. When the fence finally got completed around spring of 2007, our landlords John and Wendy had a local landscaper plant the trees in the orchard, which is where you see the rather attractive (!?!) earth-mover parked above. Some of them died, but most survived and year after year we've been watching them grow painstakingly slowly and annually devoid of any fruit. Quite a lot of the story is recounted in the first two "Ramblings" books. If you haven't had the dubious privilege of reading them, here's the page on my website where they're described in more detail.

Today, the area shown above looks like this:

This series of shots were all taken at sunrise on Sunday June 5th 2016

It's amazing to think that the photo a little further back up, the one showing three goats, was taken at about this very spot.

So, having finally, after the best part of a decade of patience, begun to harvest some fruit from the trees in the orchard, it's led us to reflect on just how we've become accustomed to the rhythm of the seasons apropos our diet. I've mentioned this before, but it's really quite wonderful to have a different fruit or vegetable to look forward to with each passing month of the year. You know what month it is by which fruits or vegetables you're eating. Even if we don't grow it ourselves, what we purchase down the local store, (or even better what we get given!) is all grown on the island or, failing that, in the country. There are a couple of exceptions, like bananas for example, but certainly not more than I could count on the fingers of one hand.

Right now, as the top photo shows, the apricots are just approaching their peak. In April it was strawberries and last month cherries. The grapes on our vines, after several years of making fun of our expectations, are finally looking like they're going to give us a yield - and this time more than the pests that come out at night can nick from us.

The grapes wont be ready for a couple more months yet, but the figs are shaping up to be a bumper crop again, and they'll be turning a wonderful deep aubergine purple colour in time for us to start picking them at the end of July...

See, I reckon that it's the right way to eat. Think about it. Oranges and mandarins for example are all harvested here during the winter months, at a time when the weather is cooler and the dampness can be high, making the air feel damp and your body needs a boost of vitamin C. I haven't any idea of what all the other fruits (and veg of course) may contain, but I'm sure a botanist or nutritionist could shed light on it.

In the UK you can eat strawberries in December and oranges in May. The sense of what time of year it is can only be measured by the number of daylight hours and, hopefully, the temperature. I'm sure that the pace and rhythm of life here, is better for us. Maybe I'm just being fanciful.

Today's fallers! I wonder if there's a recipe for apricot brandy on the internet...

On a slightly "glass-half-empty" rather than "half-full" note, the thing that really irritates me about living here is the livestock. Not the sheep, goat and cattle variety, no. Rather the six or eight-legged ones, including those with wings. We always know when summer has truly arrived because, once the sun's gone down, if we keep the windows open when indoors, even with the mozzie nets closed, I start getting eaten again. In one of the books I mention the "flying full stops," those really irksome little buggers that fly straight through the mozzie screen because they're that small.

You can't even see the little gits, but they're there all right. I always know because, when the evenings are warming up, as they are at the moment, we'll sit around watching TV after about 9.00pm in our undies, or even the altogether [don't let your imagination run riot too much here], and then it'll start. First I'll be scratching an itch on my leg, then another one halfway up my back, one or two on my arms, ...on it goes. Each and every one is a little nip from one of these "flying full stops" and each will come up in a weal that resembles a mini Ayers Rock, or to give it its aboriginal name, Uluru. You know, this place down-under in 'Stra'i'ya. The only relief I get is when I apply copious quantities of Lanes' Tea Tree and Witch Hazel Cream (ideal for nappy rash) as anyone who's read the books will already know.

It does seem to us that if you live here you're constantly having to deal with the mini-livestock that's indigenous to this country. Back in the UK we had the occasional spider, maybe a moth or a wasp in the house. Houseflies were a bit of a nuisance, yea. Here, there is a veritable plethora of small beasts all wanting to share your home with you. So often I've been picking something up off the tiles on the floor and noticed a slight movement. Sure enough, there's a little beast not much bigger than a speck of dust merrily trotting across the floor. There are praying mantises, crickets and grasshoppers of an astonishing variety of shapes, colours and sizes everywhere. How often I've been deadheading in the garden when I've almost dropped my secateurs when coming face-to-mandibles with one of these that's maybe as long as my hand. Its camouflaged to match the exact green of the stem or leaf that it's sitting on and I'll swear I hear a chuckle as I start backwards and fall on a geranium, only to get up covered in a cobweb that's as strong as a fishing line. The arachnids that weave such webs are OK when you know where they are, but there's nothing worse than seeing one of these wonder-webs and not being sure whether the resident has hitched a ride in your hair or something.

We do a lot of walks along the dust lanes among the hills here and frequently come across one of those "ant-highways". You know what I mean, sometimes they go on for tens of metres and you see ants going one way carrying seed husks and stuff and others on their way back for more. Eventually you see a hole in the ground, surrounded by a huge pile of dust and other detritus that the colony has decided it doesn't want downstairs. Some of these are populated by ants of such a size that look like they could give you a seriously big bite. Usually, of course they're far too busy to be bothered by the likes of a couple of humans and no doubt a South American would say anyway, "Call those ants? You wanna see ours, ours are as big as a brick," or something. The fact is, though, that occasionally when we come across one of these 'highways" I get the urge to stop and look both ways before crossing.

Every time we're reading in bed before turning the light off for the night there'll be something flicking itself around inside the bedside lampshade. I go outside after dark to change the taps on our irrigation system around and always feel 'things' flying into me or alighting on my skin somewhere. There are those really annoying "bendy beetles" that hover around at a certain time of the year when you're just trying to have half an hour outside with your gin and tonic of an evening, catching the last rays of the sun before it sets. Maybe you want to eat breakfast outdoors and they'll wait until you're all settled and appear out of nowhere, hovering in that non-directional way of theirs and settling on you with regularity. When they're in the air they look a bit like their body is curved in the middle, but when they land you can see that they're a slim beetle with a rusty colour on their wing-covers and they're about a centimetre long. It's like they don't have a rudder (or should that be ailerons?) since they just go where the breeze takes them. It doesn't seem as though they bite, but they can be out in such numbers that you're soon grabbing your glass of fruit juice or your bowl of muesli and running for the door to get back inside away from them.

Then, as suddenly as they appeared, one day in May you'll venture gingerly outside and they're gone. 

I'm probably making it sound like anyone who's not too keen on creepy crawlies would be unwise to come here. It's not that bad really. I'm a very environmentally conscious, wholefood-eating vegetarian and we're also both avid recyclers, even though that's a huge challenge here on Rhodes as the Greeks by and large still think that re-cycling means chucking stuff out of the car window. But I do make a concession when it comes to insect repellent. I do try and use the citronella variety wherever I can, plus if I'm gardening I'll pluck a few leaves off of the lemon geranium which we grew for largely that very purpose...

Go on, tell me it has another name. Locals even make a lemon-flavoured iced drink from the leaves, which has the added benefit that once you've drunk it, the mozzies and other insect pests give you a wide berth.
If you pluck a few leaves from this plant and bruise them, you then rub them against your skin to keep biting insects at bay. It really works. I've done it whilst gardening loads of times and within minutes I'm left alone, brill!

So, each evening as the sun sets for the next few months you'll find me nipping outside with my trusty can of repellent to give myself a quick all-over spray, thus enabling me to loll about for a while and later go to bed safe in the knowledge that I probably won't get eaten before I awake in the morning.

One species of livestock that I really rate is the lizards and the geckos. Wait, is that two species? Last year we had a little gecko (they're the kind that look like they're made of a translucent play doh) living behind the sofa and we were well pleased. Every evening as it got dark he'd start his wanderings. Often I'd get up in the night and have to be careful not to step on him as he went about his nightly patrols. You'd think to look at him (or maybe he was a her?) that he'd never be able to survive living inside someone's home, but he not only survived but appeared to thrive, I assume on a diet of just about anything that crept or crawled across our floors or up our walls in the darkness.

So, there we are. We're approaching our eleventh anniversary living up a hillside on Rhodes and what would we say to people who ask us "How is the situation affecting you?" or maybe "Would you consider moving back to the UK?"

Answer no. 1 - "By and large, apart from a few prices having gone up, it doesn't."

Answer no. 2 - "Not voluntarily."

And, in conclusion, what if the UK votes to leave the EU? Thousands of ex-pats happily lived here before Greece was ever in the EU anyway. Plus, even if the vote is to leave, it'll take many (and I mean many) years for any real changes to occur. 

You know what they say about crossing bridges. I can't even see the next one yet.