Thursday, 24 November 2016

The Best of Times or the Worst of Times

Well, the continuing lack of rain perplexes us even more as the days pass. We read just today that the village of Soroni on the north west coast of the island has now run out of water completely. I was told not long after we moved out here that much of the water supply to the villages and areas of Rhodes is local, coming from wells sunk into river beds and natural mountain springs. Most of the villages on the island are positioned where they are as a result of there having been a spring in the vicinity when the village was first established back in the mists of history.

The new reservoir created by the recently constructed Gadouras Dam was built primarily to feed Rhodes Town and not the outlying villages like Massari, Malona, Pilona, Laerma, Lardos etc., so the reason why villages such as Pilona have been cut off quite often recently for a few days at a time, or had their pressure reduced probably has to do with their spring-flow being reduced too. Difficult days.

It's hard to reconcile how one feels about the ongoing water crisis with how one feels about the glorious weather we're enjoying currently. Here is a shot of Pefkos beach just two or three days ago:

The weather of late generally has been worthy of the best of British summers. We took a swim on Glystra Beach last week and we were the only ones on the entire beach, once a Greek fella in his 4x4 had finished exercising his dog...

In the UK we always considered November to be the worst of times, the worst of months weather-wise. It's usually grey, cold and often wet, or at the very least foggy. You don't associate November in the UK with sunshine. Yet here it's our favourite month of the year, the best of times. The season has only just ended and the novelty of having the island back for a few months is still exciting. The daytime temperatures are usually comfortably in the 20's C and the sea too is still easily warm enough to swim in.

By the time March comes around we're getting so we're quite eagerly anticipating the return of the holidaymakers and the vibrancy that they bring to the place, but right now, it's bliss. 

Except, that is, for the fact that despite us enjoying the glorious sunny days, we'd really rather experience a few storms and some decent rainfall. If this winter doesn't start delivering soon then next season there's going to be a gargantuan problem. 

One dubious advantage of the drought, though, is the fact that our plant pot holder is a regular lido for the local bird population. We've left it out under the car port now for a number of years, always hoping that it serves as a water lifeline for the birds during the long, parched summers. Of course, now and again our part-time cat uses it as a handy port of call to re-hydrate too, so there is a delicate balancing act going on. By and large, though, from the crack of dawn onwards we're currently getting a steady stream of feathered visitors who quite literally have nowhere else within miles to drink or take a bath, both of which they're doing in our plant pot holder on a daily basis this month.

What's excited us is that we're seeing quite a number of species that we've either never seen in the valley before, or have only seen rarely or at some distance from the house. Here are few (Few? !?, well, OK, so maybe I went a bit mad with the shutter finger) photos that I've snapped through the house window in the past few mornings...

Male Blackcap ready to swoop, after checking that the coast is clear.

Now he's ready for a drink. Maybe a bath too. The damp patch on the concrete bears witness to others that have already had a splash-about.

One of several Robins that usually dance around one another.

A Sparrow contents herself with some water from the "spill" while the Blackcap male considers whether to imbibe further.

This appearance of the Blackcap really excited us. We've never had them in the garden before. A Robin too approaches cautiously.

This little flurry (the blurred area above the plant pot holder) is the Blackcap, gently reminding the Robin (who's fled) that it's his turn.

Mrs Blackcap arrives, so we have a pair. Wow.


Mr. Blackbird arrives for his supping session. The female Blackcap retires to the rim of the hibiscus pot above to wait it out.

Ah, what the hell, she says, I'll move in again anyway.

It pays off. The Blackbird's not bothered.

Mrs Blackbird arrives while another Robin does likewise.

A family affair. Mr. and Mrs. Blackbird both nearby while a Robin takes a beak-ful.

There's often a sort of queue. There'll be a bird or two on the drive, one or two in the hibiscus too, while they await their turn.

Nice one of Mr. and Mrs. Blackbird.

And the female Blackcap just goes for it.

Two girls having a natter.

And, finally a male Sardinian Warbler tries his luck at one of the irrigation nozzles.
We also have a couple of thrushes that are here every morning, but can I get them to hang around long enough to get a shot? Nah, they're just too clever and I only have to appear inside the window with the camera and they're off. Likewise with the Jays, who frequently turn up with their raucous squawking. Other birds that we usually see too during the winter, but often not until the new year, are Blue Tits, Great Tits, Greenfinches and Chaffinches. There are also Black Redstarts here every day right now but they too are notoriously camera-shy.

So, whilst we really do want to see some serious rain, in the meantime at least we get a feathery treat every morning over breakfast.

And Where's Robert Redford When You Need Him..?

Our friend of many years now Dimitri "the horse" is currently keeping further down the valley a few of the horses that he uses at his riding centre for tourists. Usually they're either in a compound beside the lane or tethered with long ropes to a metal post driven into the ground. Yesterday however, while the beloved and I were walking down the lane on our way to visit a friend who lives along the coast road, one of the horses was standing slap, bang in the middle of the lane, facing our way. What I know about horses could be written on the side of a matchbox (with room to spare) but, for the sake of the better half, who was already shaking with fear, I strode on asserting that "he won't do us any harm. After all, since Dimitris uses him for tourists to ride along the beach during the summer season, he must be well used to humans and thus friendly. Come on sweetie, no need to worry."

Ahem. When you're half a kilometre from anywhere on a dusty lane and a horse that's taller than you decides to take an interest it's slightly, just ever so slightly, disconcerting. While my wife whimpered and I carried on with my reassurances, we attempted to walk past the beast. He (well, I thought it was a he, but what do I know? Maybe she fancied me...) followed us with his head, then with his entire body, which he turned on a sixpence and then was behind us.

Right behind us. So right behind us that he was able to nudge, nay shove us in the back with his head, each of us in turn. 

"I know," I said, "he's being friendly. Wants us to pet him." So I made a feeble attempt to pat him on the head between the eyes, you know, that place where all horses like to be patted or smoothed, right? It wasn't easy because each time I brought my hand toward him his head raised, bringing his jaws too close to my hand for comfort.

Giving that up as a bad job, I began to turn back in the direction in which we were walking and, only just managing to prevent my other half from running (you never run from an animal, right? Didn't I read that somewhere?), took her arm and suggested we just keep going, we were bound to get to the point where he lost interest soon.

And that's when the fiend bit me on the forearm. Fortunately for me I was wearing a thick fine cord shirt, with the sleeves rolled up just a couple of turns, with the thick folded part just on the forearm below the elbow. That's where he bit and were it not for the rolled up shirt-arm he'd have drawn blood. The shirt prevented it being much worse. 

At that point I was faced with no alternative but to square up to him. Not knowing whether he may have become really nasty I raised both arms and stamped a foot, which I'm glad to say caused him to back off with a start. No sooner had I done that though, than he was coming at me again. Once more I did the same and, I'm extremely relieved to say, he turned and galloped off like a stallion of the Cimmaron across the field and out of sight, neighing loudly all the while.

Once we reached the road a few minutes later I rolled up my sleeve to see what damage he'd done and was confronted by a sizeable, raised purple bruise with the skin grazed, though not actually pierced. Had he pierced the skin I'd have had to go to the health centre because of possible infection. On our way back a couple of hours later we had to make a major detour to approach the house from the other lane to avoid a potential repeat performance ...carrying some shopping!

Needless to say I called Dimitri to tell him what had happened. He assured me that the horse in question was gentleness itself and wouldn't hurt a fly. I suggested that he may wish to revise that opinion in view of the mark on my forearm. To his credit, within ten minutes he was up the lane in his 4x4 and he rounded up his equestrian charges and herded them into the nearby compound, where he normally keeps them anyway. I know, because we watched the show from the top of the valley, within the safety of our garden wall, through binoculars.

The reason why he was grazing the horses out on the "grass" land beside the lane was simply because of the drought. He's currently hard-put to find suitable grazing for them with the landscape still being a pale shade of yellow owing to the drought.

Right now, as I nurse the bruise on my right arm, I reckon I've another good reason to long for some significant rainfall.

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