Saturday, 27 August 2016

A Greek Island Mystery

Well it may well be that I only do Halki one more time this summer, since I only expected to be doing it for the high season of late July into August. Each week we have guests from countries like France (very popular with the French is Halki), Scandinavia, Germany, Slovenia and Poland for starters.

No need to worry though, because a maximum of maybe three or four hundred day-trippers are on the island on any one day and within minutes of having disembarked from the boats they've been assimilated (sounds like a threat from "The Borg" on Star Trek) into the environs and Halki's glorious sleepiness isn't ruffled. BTW, that white house in the photo above is the same one I talked about in the last-but-one post "A Huge Helping of Halki" and if you've read that you'll know that it's available for rent through Olympic Holidays (UK).

Once again I went for a swim off the rocks there and it was sublime. The sea was a calm and as flat as a sheet of glass and the fishes were zipping around as I peered out at them through my swimming goggles.

What mystifies me is that every week οn this excursion (we go on Thursdays) I only seem to have a handful, if any at all, of UK guests and, frankly, I don't get it. To me - and all modesty is thrust aside here folks - I've been around the tetragono (Greek for block. I know, you probably did get it anyway, but just in case) a few times - to me this island is one of the most superb essentially-Greek islands that is to be found anywhere in the Aegean, or indeed the Ionian Seas. The people are especially welcoming and friendly and the prices in the bars and tavernas usually have my guests smiling in surprise.

"You'd have thought that a select little island like this would be expensive" I so often hear someone say, "and yet we'd say you can eat out here for less than you'd pay on Rhodes." It's true folks, because a lot of our guests on the day excursion take advantage of the impossibly evocative harbour-side environment and enjoy a Greek lunch just a few feet from the bobbing boats and fishermen fixing their nets. 

My good friend Zois, who runs the Babis Taverna (photo below) asked me this week, he said, "Gianni, where are the British?"

I didn't have an answer. Whenever I talk with anyone who's on holiday on Rhodes I make it very clear that the'd be missing out on something very special not to visit Halki, and yet that still translates into very few Olympic guests actually booking the trip. I know that TUI and Thomas Cook do it on different days. I used to be the rep for TUI from the south of Rhodes, as you'll know if you've been reading my ramblings for a few years, yet if I remember correctly, my guests were still more numerous from Scandinavia, Germany and France than from the UK.

If you are in any doubts about whether this wonderful little hidden Greek gem is worth a visit, check this video out, now!

And if you're staying on Rhodes now or in the next few weeks, don't miss out on seeing the place you'll truly fall in love with if you're searching for what we so often call the "real Greece". Tell you what too, apart from Olympic Holidays, there's also an excellent little outfit called "Nissia" who offer Halki as a holiday destination.

If I didn't live here in Greece, I know where most of my Greek holidays would be spent. Of course my better half disagrees, she'd prefer Naxos. To me, though, it's not a good idea to make that comparison, they're very different (especially in size) and I love both Naxos and Paros for very different reasons. I love Symi too, but maybe for me it gets just a little too busy with day-trippers around the harbour area during the high season.

There you are. It's a mystery to me, but those UK holidaymakers who don't come, they're the ones missing out. TBH, I wouldn't want to live on Halki, which only has around three to four hundred winter residents. It would be a little too quiet for me during the winter months. But to visit and stay a while. Can't beat it.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

H2-Oh Dear.

It's that "all-hot-weathered-out" time of the year when you've lost count of how many days you've been feeling sweaty and you have no idea when it last rained. You just know that it was far too long ago.

I read on the Facebook page of one of the local newspapers several weeks ago about the possible crisis we could be facing with regard to our water supply here on Rhodes, owing to the fact that we had an exceptionally dry winter. The new reservoir is apparently much too low and it's touch and go as to whether we'll make it to the the first rains before there's a serious shortage.

I've spoken many times about how the Greeks, especially women washing down their courtyards and terraces, do have to habit of using a hose pipe without a gun/nozzle on the business end and leaving it running for half an hour while they casually brush the whole area over, often stopping for a chat in the process too. The result is that quite often you see huge amounts of precious, glistening, potable water flowing along the ground when it ought really to be still in a reservoir/tank somewhere.

Each week when I do my excursions there are places we pass on the coach where the entire road is flowing with water where someone's washed down a café/bar or taverna terrace at the crack of dawn. I do find it difficult understanding why the water company don't send people around to inspect such places and inflict penalties, or at the very least give people warnings, or even tips on how to conserve water in these circumstances. But then, if one adopts a slightly cynical view, maybe the water company thinks that if they turn a blind eye then they'll be able to send out bigger bills and reap more income. Surely not.

You can't really blame the locals because, although in the UK for decades now they've been learning how to be thrifty with water (and look how much it rains there), here the problem is that before the national water company took over the water bills a couple of years ago, when the water supply and billing was all done by the local councils, water was so cheap that it never really hit anyone's pocket to waste water wantonly. Local people haven't really taken on board the fact too that in recent decades the proliferation in construction of new hotels and apartment blocks for tourists has meant that there's been an ever increasing drain on a finite water supply. 

Yes, Rhodes is blessed with some wonderful fresh water springs up in the mountains, but these aren't going to step up production to cope with the ever more literally mammoth sized swimming pools that the new hotels are now constructing. Time was when a hotel had a swimming pool, end of story. Nowadays they have to build individual plunge pools for every room, long snaking pools along the fronts of other apartment blocks where each front terrace allows the guests to jump straight in, plus ever larger central pools (often these days two or three) for the general use of guests. One hotel near us has so many pools, and so huge are they that they would probably empty about ten of our local reservoirs just to fill them. When I say "local reservoir" I refer to the concrete water reservoirs that you usually see positioned on hillsides or hilltops near villages, which supply water at an acceptable pressure (owing to their height above the village) in the taps. Quite a number of these concrete tanks have in recent years been supplemented by circular metal ones, often installed alongside, to cope with increasing demand.

But, like I said, whilst demand may be increasing, supply is still finite. The day of reckoning approaches, it's a certainty.

Rhodes still sends water by tanker to both Kastellorizo and Symi, water that it can ill afford to send. The small but forward-thinking population of Halki have for two years now had the luxury of their own desalination plant and the water in their taps is not only potable but also has a much better and regular pressure nowadays. I once read a book called "Bus Stop Symi" in which the author, a British man called William Travis explained how the Symiots did once install a desalination plant there, using money sent home from Symiots living abroad. The only problem was, they built the thing slap, bang in the middle of the square behind the harbour, the very same square where today they hold dancing during their festivals. You can imagine what it did for the fledgling tourism industry on the island. So, after a few years they took it apart and never bothered to reconstruct it anywhere else. Once again, the availability of cheap water virtually on demand from Rhodes was doubtless a contributing factor in the decision not to bother to keep the plant. Today though? I bet the Halkiots are laughing all the way to the bank (the river bank?).

What will happen here on Rhodes as we move swelteringly on into September, who knows? The fact cannot be evaded though that the days of a cheap, endless supply of potable drinking water are numbered unless something drastic can be done and done imminently.

It's too flamin' hot. I'm off for a shower...

Friday, 19 August 2016

A Huge Helping of Halki...

Yesterday I was on Halki again (no surprises there then!) and, since it's impossible to walk around the place without taking photos, I thought that in this post I'd share my shots from that visit with you. Not much text, just glorious photos that once again show why Halki is so special.

Are you sitting comfortably? then I'll begin (captions on some of them, not all)...

The trouble with walking to one of the beaches for a swim is that, by the time you've walked back to the harbour, you're so hot and sticky that you need a ...swim. Solution? Just amble along to the end of the harbour and swim from there. The white building to the right, with the steps, is bookable through Olympic Holidays by the way. I can't think of anywhere I've ever stayed that could top it. It's Villa Tsandou. I swam from that quayside.

Villa Tsandou again.

These small balconies, not too good for entertaining (even if the building has been renovated!) were actually fitted so that the women could watch for their sponge-fishing husbands returning after months at sea. Of course, they were always anxious because it wasn't unusual for a husband or father not to return at all having succumbed to the bends. They'd have been buried at sea because it wasn't practical to keep a body on the boat for the length of time that would have been necessary to bring the poor soul home.

Same spot. Those two snorkelers were French. I had a chat with them because they were wearing these and I want one!!

Villa Tsandou terrace. Go on, tell me you wouldn't like to stay here!!

Oh, I can be arty too y'know.

The tables below belong to Taverna Babis.

Everyone can have a garden. Just takes a little inventiveness. It doesn't show it very well, but there's a ripe aubergine hanging in this photo!

This chap was just trotting home after a spot of rod-fishing. Looks like he caught something. 

And finally, my lunch at Lefkosia's. Her delicious briam and "pseftikes [meatless]" dolmades. She's promised me a vegetarian moussaka to take home with me next week. Hell of a job getting it back, but worth the effort!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016


The nightjars are back. Well, I say nightjars plural, when it may be just the one. Or maybe a pair. I don't know. Last year we saw them for the first time and then they disappeared as mysteriously as they'd appeared and we wondered if we'd see them again. 

Throughout all of my almost fifty-two years living in the UK before we moved out here I'd never seen or heard a nightjar in the wild. It even took us the best part of ten years to see our first one here on Rhodes and when we did we had no idea at first what it was. If you've ever seen a nightjar on the ground you'll know how difficult they are to spot. They nestle on to the dusty ground, which in our vicinity means on the one kilometre of dirt track that leads from the road up the hillside to our home, and they do this after dark. 

So, the first time we saw one we were driving up the lane, taking it very slowly as we always do (we often come across hares, deer and even the occasional fox or badger has been known), when what looked like a gnarled piece of wood seemed to be laying in the lane in centre of one of the tyre tracks left by the sparse number of vehicles that pass up and down it. It was late in the evening and the headlamps picked up this object, which was big enough at least to make one wonder why we hadn't spotted it on our way down earlier that evening when it had still been light. I suppose I'd say it was about the size of a man's fist. It drew our attention sufficiently to make me slow the car almost to a stop, wth the intention of getting out of the car and throwing it into the tinder dry vegetation lining the edges of the lane.

No sooner had I stopped a couple of yards from this unexpected "object" than it moved. Huh? A piece of wood that could move? Only at that point did we realise that it was a bird. Indeed it was a nightjar. It took its time, with no hurry at all, but after a few seconds seemed to decide that a short flight low along the ground and eventually off to one side was the best course of action. Of course the moment we got into the house I was into my bird books and firing up Google and we knew that we'd definitely seen a nightjar. Quite why they seem to like to - as the Americans might say - "hunker down" on a dry and dusty lane was at first a mystery, but having read the blurb it seems that it's a nice leisurely way for them to catch bugs that move around on the surface of the dust during the dark hours.

Now we know that we have frogs in the area, toads too. Not that I can tell the difference. I do know how to ID specifically a Mediterranean Toad, because they have a habit of living in our hose reel. See this post for the proof. But there are also European tree frogs around these parts and we've seen them at very close quarters. They're truly beautiful, as this set of images shows. We often sit on the terrace at some friends' house and see these little beauts passing the daylight hours by sitting on top of their wall lamps ten feet above the ground. But at present we have a frog/toad inhabiting out plant pot holder, the one we set out with water in it for the local bird population to survive these long arid, baking hot summer weeks. I'm not sure what he is and, annoyingly, every time I try and get the iPod or the camera out to snap a shot, he quickly hops away under an air-con unit or behind the planter with our tomato plants in it. Seems he hasn't developed a good enough trust in us yet.

Anyway, I refer to the frogs because frequently when I'm not sleeping I'll go and stand out on the drive at 2.00am and listen to the noises of the night in the be-darkened valley below. Whilst standing out there I've been able to ID Scops Owls for starters (they sound a bit like a submarine's sonar, take a listen). But, here my ignorance has recently been brought to light because what I had concluded were tree frogs chirping away were nothing of the sort. Have a listen to this. That's a nightjar!! Seems I'd been listening to nightjars for a few years without ever realising what it was I was hearing. Why it took us so long to actually see one on the lane I've no idea, but during July and August this year we've had to stop on the lane in the dark on several occasions to allow one to take off and escape being run over. This, by the way, is what European tree frogs sound like.

For a little more info on these very odd birds, check out these links:
RSPB Nightjar page.
Wikipedea European Nightjar Page.

Changing the subject somewhat, you very often sit somewhere out here supping your drink and watching the world go by, when a piece of music playing totally incongruously will spring a surprise reminisce on you. I'm sure you know what I mean. If you've read chapter 15 of Feta Compli! you'll know how I heard about J.J. Cale. OK, so in that case I'd never heard of Cale before I heard him on that beach on Poros, but the incongruity principle still applies. I always say one should apply the incongruity principle don't I, yes. Where would we be without it, eh?

Anyway, sitting in a small bar on a tiny island you tend to expect that if there's going to be any music playing then it ought to be some jangly bouzouki or lyre plucking away enthusiastically, in keeping with your surroundings, right? Yet on quite a few occasions recently I've heard music that's not only totally unexpected in such an environment, but so eclectic that it's made me sit up and take notice. Eclectic eh? Boy am I outdoing myself with the fancy words today.

Example: One time when sitting in a small giros establishment in Makrigialos, a really small, I mean seriously small coastal "resort" on the south east coast of Crete, my ears registered that I was hearing Rory Gallagher. And not just any Rory Gallagher, but "Slumming Angel" from his album "Fresh Evidence," which is only one of my favourite blues rock albums ever. Synchronicity or what? 

Now just yesterday, sitting in the Odyssey Restaurant in Rhodes Old Town enjoying Halloumi salad and oven potatoes (again!)...

...I suddenly registered a sax line that I knew. Way back in the 1980's when we'd been living in Cardiff, Wales, we had a good friend called Harvey. I was totally into guitar blues rock, plus a bit of the old prog too of course, whereas Harvey was much more soul/jazz/R&B oriented with his tastes. Me and the better half, who used to be terminally bored on such occasions, used to spend a soirée round at Harvey's pad, while he regaled us with the kind of music he liked over the cheap white wine and a rather tasty Indian curry. It was Harvey who assisted me in widening out my taste quite considerably to take in the likes of Sade, Level 42 (in their earlier incarnations before they resorted to pop ditties) and the sax player Grover Washington Jr. Harvey had a particular album called "Winelight". Now, if you've never heard of that album I'll wager a penny to a pound that you do know its most famous track, albeit in its abridged-for-radio version.

That track is "Just the Two of Us" with vocals by the ever smooth Bill Withers. On the album the track stretches to a glorious 7 minutes and more. Sublime. Well, there I was yesterday, watching simultaneously a couple of buskers with bouzoukis trying to wring a few pence out of the diners at both the Odyssey and Romeo's across the way, when some snippets of sax from the restaurant's speakers fought their way through the buskers' flawed playing to reach my ears. It wasn't that track, "Just the Two of Us," but rather the title track, "Winelight"

Isn't the brain incredible? At that precise moment not only was I bemused to hear something that I hadn't heard in a couple of decades, but within milliseconds I could have described Harvey's old lounge in Fairwater, Cardiff to you in great detail. I could almost taste one of his curries.

If this kind of thing has happened once it's probably happened a dozen times. What's incredible is that the pieces of music I refer to aren't mainstream pop stuff, but rather more obscure tracks that I have liked through the years of my past. On one of the boats where I've worked doing the Bay-to-Bay excursion this year, the beautiful Triton...

...Captain Makis plays a collection of oldies that he likes. Among all the old UB40, Eric Clapton and Eagles tracks is something that I'm amazed that anyone's ever heard of in Greece, it's "Le Telefon" by a French singer from the 60's, Nino Ferrer. A classic (!!??***) that I heard while doing a school exchange to learn French back in the sixties.

Conclusion? Greek establishment owners must have exquisite musical taste. I got up in the night last night and opened iTunes. Then I found that Grover Washington Album "Winelight" and I downloaded it. Guess what, because it's a couple of decades old now it's only £4.99. A result. Thank you lads at the Odyssey. 

While it was downloading I went outside. No nightjars about last night. A few tree frogs maybe. But then, I might be wrong.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Massaging the Figures

A few weeks ago there was an amusing story in the local paper. I don't suppose it was particularly amusing for one person, but they did kind of ask for it. It concerns an incident on Tsambika Beach.

Anyone who's been watching the Greek financial situation for any length of time at all will know that the subject of apodei'xeis is a hot potato these days. An apo'deixi is a receipt for a purchase. The word literally means evidence, or proof. Recently introduced government regulations on the changing hands of cash for goods or services now stipulate that if the customer is not given and apo'deixi, then they are not obliged to pay for the goods or services in question. In fact, retail establishments are obliged by law to display a sign telling the public precisely this. Of course, having already parted with your cash and then had your host wish you a good day while turning to serve the next customer, you may have found it not so easy to demand your money back when he or she has failed to place the receipt in your hand, or indeed in the bag or box containing your purchase.

When you sit in a café sipping your frappé, you ought by rights to see your receipt sitting there on the table already, telling you how much cash to leave behind when you get up to leave. Reputable establishments do of course set the receipt down along with the drinks, usually in a little perspex holder, or perhaps a small stainless steel cup or glass into which you can drop your coins if that's how you like to do it. Here are three examples of café/bars on Naxos and Paros where they do it right...

Receipt under the glass ashtray

Receipt in one of those little perspex holders (left of one of the frappés)

Receipt (just behind my Metaxa balloon) in a small glass tumbler
Now, it's not only when you go and sit in a restaurant or a café/bar that this regulation applies, of course. The giving of a receipt not only ensures that the business pays the necessary Value Added Tax on the purchase, but it also ensures that the business is legal.

And so to the point of this piece. If you spend any length of time on a Greek beach it's quite likely that at some point a young person (more often than not a fairly attractive female) will tap you on the toes, to encourage you to slip off the headphones, and ask you if you'd like a massage.

"Ooh yes, that would be nice," you think and so you negotiate the price. Having done that you stretch out and prepare to be seriously chilled out while those hands go to work. I bet that at this stage it's probably not even important to you whether this person is working legally or not. Whether they are running a legitimate business or just pocketing wads of tax-free cash, eh? Thought so. The problem is, the law also states that if you do not insist on being given a receipt then you too are acting illegally. It's for this reason that my wife and I now never leave a filling station having topped up the car without insisting that the pump attendant (remember those, you folk living in the UK?) give us our receipt. 

Well, actually, in the interests of accuracy there are two reasons for this. Reason 1: Police have been known to actually stop motorists seen leaving the forecourt and ask to see their receipt for the petrol (gas, guys. But surely, gas is a ...well, gas, not a liquid. Oh, I get it, it's short for 'gasolene'. But that's petrol over on this side of the pond, isn't it chaps?) that they've just bought. If the driver cannot show the nice polite officer his receipt, his apo'deixi, then he's fined on the spot. or even worse. Ouch. Reason 2: Everything you buy, from your newspaper to your general weekly shop, your shoe repair or your mobile phone top-up - every receipt you get you must keep according to the law in Greece. In fact, you're meant to keep all your receipts for a minimum of five years. This is so that if the tax authorities decide to investigate you because they don't like the look of your tax return for some reason or other, they can ask to see them and you have to provide the evidence that you've spent the right amount on living expenses that the government decides that you should have.

This is why all over Greece there are couples and families with cupboards or the space under their beds crammed with shoe boxes and old supermarket bags stuffed with these wretched slips of paper, most of which have had to be sorted according to date order and stapled together so that they can be totted up. You're required to show that a certain amount has been spent, as I mentioned above. That amount varies depending on your particular circumstances. Don't even get me started on the absurdities of the way the tax system works here. Well I did sound off about it in this post, but you'll have to read a long way into it to get to the relevant bit).

So, here you are enjoying having your back muscles kneaded and pounded when without warning the hands mysteriously disappear and the fun stops. You open one eye, then the other and your masseuse is nowhere in sight. What on earth is going on? Why, her flip-flops are still on the sand at your feet. Her bottle of oil that she uses to facilitate the kneading process lays covered in sand grains beside your sun bed.

Then, all of a sudden a young attractive Greek girl runs past, all the while peeling off her clothes to reveal a skimpy bikini underneath. She's giving chase. Who is she chasing? Apparently your masseuse.

This is what actually happened to someone a few weeks ago on Tsambika Beach. A young Oriental girl was doing a massage, apparently without a license, when three off-duty tax officials came sauntering along the beach in her direction. Two fellas and one girl as it happens. Apparently, the girl tax official thought, "Here, this girl's breaking the law. I must apprehend her forthwith!" The two fellas weren't quite so keen to get involved, allegedly. The masseuse, seeing the tax official, or rather hearing her shout, "STOP RIGHT THERE! I'M MAKING AN ARREST! YOU'RE OPERATING ILLEGALLY!" dropped everything and ran into the sea, where she began swimming fully-clothed vigorously away from the shore.

The story in the local paper said, and this was what floored me, that the masseuse had the idea that if she were away from dry land then she couldn't be arrested. The two less than enthusiastic (allegedly) male tax officials cried out to their girl colleague to leave it alone, since as the offender was actually in the sea then it was now a matter for the coastguard! Topping it all and making it a really unlucky day for the illegal masseuse, the female tax official had her bikini on under her clothes and so stripped off to plunge into the sea after her quarry.

An arrest was duly made and the hapless masseuse was towed by the neck back to the shore and the Police were duly summoned, whereupon the felon was carted off to the cells.

The moral of the story? Always get a receipt. I don't know whether the person receiving the massage was apprehended, but I wouldn't bet against it.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Naturewatch Two

Following the recent post about the wildlife we get around here. I dug up these older photos (some of which are on the Facebook pages for two of the novels, "The View From Kleoboulos" and "A Brief Moment of Sunshine"). Plus there are a couple of new ones down below as well...

From April 30th 2011. A beautiful jay on the palm tree just outside our French windows. He (or she!) had come to nick some of the breadcrumbs we put out for the house sparrows. Plus he goes after the loquats on our nearby μουσμουλιά tree.

Dragon or damsel? I dunno, but very attractive all the same. Here it sucks moisture from the tips of the Agave, where we've clipped off those lethal spikes that can have your eye out!

A mother dolphin and her calf put in an appearance in Kalathos Bay during our Bay-to-Bay excursion in June 2014.

February 2009. This little chap, a Sardinian Warbler, flew into the glass of our French windows and knocked himself senseless, thus allowing us this rare photo opportunity before his wits returned and off he sped. We get a lot of these because they gorge on the berries that form after the lantana has flowered. They also polished off our grape harvest again this year, after we'd first thought it was rats! Then we spotted these little devils actually in the act, but hadn't the heart to deny them the tasty treat, even though it meant we'd have not one single grape left come harvest time.

Mediterranean Toads. Nothing if not resourceful when it comes to finding somewhere to hide out during the daylight hours. I'd just turned this hose reel around in July 2010.

Another snap of a Sardinian Warbler from October 2011. Here he's actually chomping on the lantana berries. When we prune we try and leave some uncut berries especially for these little chaps and their wives.

In November 2006 this robin did a kamikaze smash into our kitchen window glass. Once again (as with the Sardinian Warbler further up the page) I was afforded the opportunity to snap him before he recovered and flitted away.

A Swallowtail butterfly from July 2014. Note the blue bits at the tail end of the seemingly back-to-front wings.

And finally, on the Bay-to-Bay excursion just yesterday, Sunday August 7th 2016. Coincidentally, I was just being asked by two UK guests about whether we may see any dolphins when the cry went out that we had one keeping us company at the ship's bow. With the iPad Mini in such bright light, I had no idea if I got anything, but was quite pleased with these two.


Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Six Coaches and a Smiling Priest

Out of the blue I was asked, quite unexpectedly (but I was very grateful), to do the Halki excursion again last Thursday. I'd only done it once this year, back in June, when I'd renewed old acquaintances and told everyone that I hoped to see them on a weekly basis this season. Rather touchingly, everyone seemed genuinely pleased to see me, but then, you'd expect no less from the people of this smashing little island, the smallest inhabited island in the Dodecanese chain. But then I hadn't been back again until this past Thursday, and that was as much of a surprise to me as to my friends on the island.

I began the day feeling apprehensive, because there were six of our coaches converging on Kamiros Skala, which meant there'd be a lot, that's a lot of guests. Fortunately there were other reps meeting me at the quayside and between us we managed to get around 250 people aboard two ferries and off we set at around 9.30am for the voyage to Halki. Well, TBH my colleague Mihalis had done most of the work before I got there. Our guests were from at least six different countries, so that added to the potential for difficulties, but I needn't have worried.

Well, maybe I should have worried just a little. But I'll get to that later. My bus party was split between the two vessels and I, along with a few guests from the UK, Germany and Austria, were on the Fedon, which meant that we'd be arriving about 15 to 20 minutes before the other vessel.

No sooner had we headed out into open water than I had, of course to make a bee line from outside on the rear deck to the modest bar within the Fedon's air-conditioned lounge. The place was packed and the ship began almost immediately to lurch around owing to the substantial swell on the water. It wasn't rough in the sense of having huge waves, but something I've learned (and I'm by no means the great expert on all things maritime) is that there's a difference between waves and the swell. The swell can be present in the best of weather conditions and it'll do a good job of bringing your breakfast up if you're a bit susceptible.

So, owing to the fact that the boat itself was dancing about, I pirouetted my way along the centre aisle from the rear door to the front where the small bar is situated, and received a raucous round of applause from a group of 15 Greek pensioners, who were seated along both sides of the padded bench seats on the aisle. So, as is my general reaction in such circumstances (mainly out of acute embarrassment!), I decided to play to the crowd and so took a bow and declared that this had been my version of a Zembehiko.

A few of the Adelaide crowd...

Turns out that these hearty and enthusiastic folk were friends and relatives from Adelaide in "Stray'ia", all of whom have Rhodean roots and were having a holiday on Rhodes, during which they'd decided that a trip to Halki would be a good idea, which, of course it was. A trip to Halki is always a good idea, after all. I really enjoyed a natter with them and was well amused at the way in which they all switched with effortless ease from Aussie English to Greek in the course of a sentence. Of course, they all knew the area where I live because their roots were not just from Rhodes, but from the south of the island, from the villages which surround me, like Asklipio, Gennadi, Lahania, Vati, Mesanagros (various spellings allowed, right?!) Kattavia and so forth.

Accompanying them, though, was this bloke who I immediately noticed and not just because he was probably not yet 40 if he was a day. He'd been beside me at the bar ordering a frappé and in fact I'd invited him to be served first (I'm just that kinda guy, all right?). At that moment I hadn't really noticed his robes, but it turns out that he was a priest. Now, those who know me well will know that me and priests generally don't sit well together, but this guy, well, talk about "Mr. Cool". I mean, take a look (photos taken with his permission of course)...

At least I didn't actually SEE a violin case anywhere...
I said to him, "If all Greek Orthodox priests were like you, it would make a hell of a difference to your image!" I never got around to asking if he had come all the way from Australia with the group, but he was certainly a very affable and personable guy, even though I confided to him that I'd be a bit nervous encountering him in a dark city street at night, which I'm glad to say he saw the funny side of and laughed (yet again). All in all the presence of this group along with their hip spiritual member added quite a lot to the day's enjoyment, since I encountered them again in Lefkosia's taverna a little later and of course on the return journey.

On the subject of the need to worry. It turned out that on the other boat, the Nissos Halki, there was a small group of four women from the Czech Republic who were assigned to me for their information once they reached the island. Of course, since they were on the other boat and I had no idea what they looked like, we had a bit of a mini-crisis while they telephoned our office back on Rhodes to ask where their helper was. Fortunately for me, Mihalis, my colleague looking after a rather substantially sized French speaking group, was able to spot them and called me while I blithely sat at the café on the quayside wondering how to solve this dilemma, and told me that they were waiting for me in the churchyard, along with his French group.

I high-tailed it along there and, fortunately, they were very gracious and we were soon friends while I gave them the info they needed to know.

Before we set out on the return journey, I ate a delicious lunch of grilled sardines, salad, tuna salad (that's the paste, not the pieces of tuna on a green salad base. Soula makes it herself and it's delicious) and chips with Mihali at Babis taverna with our host Zois, who plonked a big bag of fish in my hand as we left the island. He'd caught them himself and wanted me to see how tasty this type were. In Greek they're called Germanos (which literally translates as "German". How..? where..? don't ask me!) but in English it's apparently called Dusky Spinefoot. Sounds more like a bandit in the old wild west to me...

"Dusky Spinefoot strode into the middle of the street, hand hovering over his holster. He knew them bandits would be down there somewhere, drinkin' in the saloon and a hollerin' again. They called him 'spinefoot' after that nasty accident over at ole Mac's spittoon..."

Anyway, you may find this useful if you can read a bit of Greek. It's a list of all the fish and their names in a few other languages. Click here. Apparently, if you Google it, you'll find it's a species of Rabbitfish. I never had the faintest idea that there even were rabbitfish. Do they eat carrots and lettuce then?

I already had a carton of Lefkosia's fab vegetarian dolmades rammed into my rucksack, so I was going home well laden, not an unusual experience for a trip to Halki. Guess why I like the place then. No, that's not the only reason, but it adds to it.

Quayside view from the rear deck of the Fedon, about to depart.

Germanos (Dusky Spinefoot) left, frozen to help it travel. Dolmades right.
Once we got back to Kamiros Skala, I and the few of my guests that were on the Fedon had to wait about 20 minutes for the rest of our coach-load to arrive on the Nissos Halki, so I had Kostas, my driver, shove the fish into the coach's fridge. Bet you didn't know that did you? Most modern coaches have a drinks fridge secreted under the dashboard somewhere where the drivers can keep a supply of cooled bottled water. When you consider how many hours they spend with the sun beating down on them through that huge front window you appreciate the wisdom of this. Dehydration can be a dangerous problem for coach drivers in the summer season in Greece.

A couple of hours later, as I stepped off the coach and bade Kostas "Kali ksekour'asi" (good rest) I was delighted to see that my better half had made the ten-minute walk down our lane to meet me. It was after 7.00pm and I was dying for a shower. As we walked up the lane I explained all about the generosity of both Lefkosia and Zois, which prompted her to ask, 

"So, where are these fish then?"

Yup, you got it first time.