Sunday, 15 January 2017

Normal Service is Resumed

I'm glad to say that weather-wise, things are much more normal now than they have been of late. After a cold spell the like of which Greece hasn't seen in several decades, by and large the temperatures at least are now once again much more in keeping with the averages expected for this time of year. I'm not sure this holds true for some of Northern and Western Greece yet, but here on Rhodes, well, this was taken on Friday morning as we drove up to town on a shopping trip...

As I often remark, the camera doesn't do the view justice, since it's only my iPad's and I don't have a super-duper lens on any of my photographic devices anyway. I took this on the "Tsambika" bend because as we turned the corner my wife uttered a gasp of amazement at the beauty of the snowcapped Turkish mountains. If you peer at the above shot long enough you'll just be able to make them out to the right of the rocky hillside and almost mid-photo. This shot in no way does the grandeur of the view justice. On occasion as you drive North when the atmosphere is clear at this time of year the entire horizon is full of these impressive peaks. I am always put in mind, when I see them, of the time when we visited the USA in June 1999. We were driving out across the Utah desert and the view behind us was an entire horizon of the High Rockies. The view one gets from some vantage points here on Rhodes of the Turkish mountains is indeed comparable.

The last few days have seen temperatures in the daytime of around 18ºC, with overnights finally climbing above zero to a more normal 8, 9 or even 11ºC. Par for the course. Sakis the TV weatherman (may his name be blessed) has even posted on his Facebook page that we ought not to be seeing any more nasty surprises for a while. Why, as we ate a light lunch of Gorgonzola cheese with crackers, sliced tomato and a glass of chilled Retsina on our terrace yesterday, we watched a couple of speedboats out on Kiotari Bay. It was almost like summer.

Some things, though, still remind us of the fact that we have a lot of catching up to do rain-wise. We visited our old friend Gilma this morning and, as we sipped at the Ellinikos that he'd prepared for us, we talked about the rain situation. Just outside his modest single-storey farm cottage way down toward the South of the island, he has a mature lemon tree and it's covered in fruit.

Looks normal enough doesn't it? Yet on close inspection you find that the lemons are much smaller than they ought to be. This is because, although the rainfall has recently been recovering to somewhere near normal levels for a Rhodean winter, it still didn't rain when it counted. Gilma, a pretty fit man for his 78 years, told us that he views November as the "heart of the winter", even though it falls only just after the summer has ended and a full four months and then some before the next summer gets under way with a vengeance. He says this is because the average rainfall for our winters here is usually higher in October and November than any other of the winter months. Couple that with the fact that we had no appreciable rainfall from September 2016 until about three weeks ago, and you see why many fruit trees, orange and mandarins included, are now wielding small fruit.

In fact, since he never wants to see us leave without a parting gift, he rummaged around in his rudimentary kitchen for a plastic bag and told us to pick as many as we wanted to take with us. So we obeyed and brought a bulging bagful home with us. My wife set about trying to juice some with our lemon-squeezer and she said that they were almost dry inside. They might just about do if sliced and dropped into a G&T, but for extracting juice, they are non-starters.

While sitting with our old friend, the conversation turned as usual to the 'crisis'. He told us an amusing, although rather too true anecdote. Two older Greeks were talking in the Kafeneion. They didn't know each other all that well. One said, "I have three sons, they are all farmers. Aaach, not one of them ever made much of himself, but at least they've never brought me any trouble. What about you?"

"Oh, I have two. I wanted them to turn out well, to bring a measure of pride to my wife and I, but one of them is a thief and the other a murderer."

"What?" Exclaimed the other old man, "That's terrible. Didn't you see any signs of undesirable traits as you were bringing them up?"

"Oh, not really."

"Didn't they pursue a career of any sort?"

"Oh, yes. Of course they did. That's exactly what I mean. One is a thief, the other a murderer. One's a lawyer, the other a surgeon."

Gilma fired off that punchline with a wry smile. We'd just been talking about experiences we'd heard only this past week, both him and us, from people who'd needed surgery who'd been told for example by a doctor that it would cost €1000 and then been charged twice that amount as they checkout out of hospital. Plus, they were given no receipt to prove that they'd even been treated by the surgeon in question, who'd insisted that he be paid in cash. It's really rather galling that after seven years of 'austerity' and financial disaster in this country, there are still wealthy people, who no doubt would be the first to bemoan the sorry state of the country's finances, yet do their level best to avoid paying their taxes. 

As we'd arrived at Gilma's place, he'd just finished packing up his pickup in readiness to take his olives to the mill. 

His wife and son had just returned to Rhodes town, in fact they'd left only minutes before we arrived, having just spent the past few days harvesting olives from 8.00am until 4.00pm. The mills will close in about a week's time, so he only has a few days left to get his olives processed or miss the opportunity this season. He'd left them on the trees for as long as he could in the hope that the late rains would perhaps help the fruit to fatten up. Gilma's olives are very small, although that's because they are of that particular variety. We've been told by not a few locals that the small olives are better for oil yield than the bigger ones. No idea if that's the case, but we're no experts.

This is the first year since we came here (and we're now going through our 12th Rhodean winter) that we haven't been able to procure a barrel-ful of oil from somewhere, whether it be through working the harvest or buying some oil from someone we know. Oil is the hot topic of conversation (after politics) out here from November through at least January. You meet with friends and you find the conversation invariably goes something like this:

"You have oil this year?"
"Yea, but not as much as we need. May still have to buy some."
"So you haven't got any I can buy from you then?"
"No, afraid not. Our stocks of old oil are almost gone now too. You could ask Nikola at the kafeneion. He sometimes has oil for sale."
"Asked him last week. Told me he was having to cadge some from Stergo, his brother."

And so forth. What often happens too is that when we meet up with friends, maybe we've given someone a lift somewhere a few times or done some other kindness, they'll produce a 1.5 litre plastic mineral water bottle which they've filled with their own oil and give it to us as an expression of gratitude. Definitely an incentive to find things one can do for others. Especially others who have lots of olive trees. Olive oil is almost a currency here the way it is exchanged for various favours.

Going logging tomorrow, as the wood store is just beginning to look less than full. Shan't need to wear several layers this time though, as we have done a few times this past couple of weeks. With temperatures as they are now, a t-shirt, maybe with a vest, ought to suffice. Can't say we're sorry that, at least with regard to the weather, normal service has been resumed.

View from our French Windows, 7th January.

Kiotari Bay, Saturday January 14th.


  1. Keep the pictures coming John. We're moving to gennadi in April for six months and I will be tapping you up for contacts for wood, olive oil and wine!

    1. I'm sure we can agree on reasonable rates Martin! 😆

  2. not the weather now to go logging, John

    1. You forget Trevor, we have a different climate down here. Just spent two hours doing exactly that, weather dry. Cloudy, but totally dry. I presume it's raining in Afandou then?

  3. This may be of interest, John. From my permaculturalist son.

    1. Fascinating stuff, although I can think of a few areas in Greece, nay here on Rhodes, who would beg to differ (not to mention Italy, Spain etc). TBH I don't believe it's even possible to say who produces the best olive oil, it's far too subjective. A good oil though, one of the best, of course!

  4. It was more the method of cultivation that I thought was interesting!