Friday, 26 May 2017

Dead Heads and Degrees

Fans of the band the Grateful Dead will well know that they're often called "Dead Heads". Sorry to raise false hopes then, because this post has nothing to do with the ancient American West Coast rock bank led by Gerry Garcia.  That is, unless any ageing Dead Heads out there are also keen gardeners; in which case, read on.

Further to something I referred to in this post a while back, ie: the advice that actually more than one local has given me to never water fruit trees while they're in flower, a recent visit to the local plant nursery/garden shop just down the road from us has provided me with the explanation.

We dropped in there to purchase a flowering plant to put in where something had died and decided to ask the friendly chap (never have asked him his name) about this and his answer, I must say, makes some sense.

What he said, in essence, was that if you water a fruit tree while it has flowers then you make it feel that there is no urgency to produce fruit - and thus seeds - because it's in no danger of dying of thirst. If the tree can be fooled into thinking that it'll need to get on and produce fruit because it's in possible danger of experiencing drought and thus possible death, then the survival instinct that's encoded in the plant's DNA kicks in and it decides to start the fruit growing process quicker in order to get the seeds into existence before it's too late. 

Once the flowers drop off and the tiny fruit has begun to swell behind the flower head you can once again begin to water, this time to fatten up the fruit itself. The irreversible process of producing seeds to ensure the tree's survival has begun and it can now be helped along again.

It does make sense to me. It carries a kind of logic. It reminds me of the advice we always get about deadheading roses. If you cut off the flowers as soon as they die (preferable pruning back quite hard to a nodule or leaf growth) then the plant goes into overdrive to produce more flowers because only when the flowers have gone over can the 'hips', which contain the seeds, begin to form. Thus a rose can be kept in bloom for months if deadheaded with regularity, whereas if you don't deadhead, the hips will form and the plant will stop flowering because, in essence, it thinks its work is done.

Eat your heart out Monty Don, eh? (That won't mean much to my readers outside the UK!)

The garden just after sunset a couple of days ago.

We were talking to an Albanian friend recently and she revealed something that, in the several years that we've known her, we didn't realise before. She has a husband and two growing boys and she works, as so many of her fellow countrymen and women do, as an orderly in a hotel, cleaning twenty or thirty rooms every day, seven days a week, for the entire summer season. One could be forgiven for thinking that these folk, humble as they are, are probably not very well educated. How wrong we'd be.

Our friend revealed that she's a qualified teacher and the only reason why she is reduced to cleaning hotel rooms for a virtual slave's wage is that there is no prospect of work in her actual profession back in Albania. She's been to university and has a degree, poor woman. She speaks three languages. She also told us something else that I for one hadn't appreciated. 

I may have mentioned in times past about the disgraceful habit that so many of the larger hotels here have of not paying their staff for months on end. I always assumed that it was simply a ruse using the economic climate as an excuse, when in fact they're making money hand over fist. I believed that they were simply hanging on to their money and making it work for them, while telling their lowly workers that they couldn't pay them owing to cash flow. It turns out that my Albanian friend's explanation is far more likely to be the true one.

She told us that by making their staff wait, often until way past the end of the season, for their hard-earned wages, the management can prevent their staff from resigning and changing jobs mid-season. They feel that they have no choice but to hang on because, if they were to leave, they'd surely never collect the back-pay that they're owed, or at least not all of it. You see the logic of this? In essence these hotel owners are saying that, rather than make their staff happy by providing them with good working conditions and a living wage, with the result that they'll want to stay in the job, they treat them badly and prevent them leaving by getting them over a barrel. 

I do know of one or two local hotels where the staff are paid on time and you know something? It works much better than the other 'blackmail' method. I collect guests on my excursions from these hotels where the owner is a local Greek who does take reasonably good care of his workers and I always get the same story. The guests tell me that nothing is too much for the staff and that they are all helpful, friendly and attentive. It's interesting that among the hotels that don't pay their workers are some that I know are owned by non-Greeks. So the profit's going out of the country anyway. Interesting, eh?

It's not rocket science, but happy staff means happy guests. A lesson that some hotel owners and managers may do well to take to heart.

Our friend George, who has the Pelican's Nest down on the beach road here in Kiotari, has been titivating his store ready for opening for the season. Last year he changed it from a restaurant into a souvenir shop with a difference. We were walking past the other evening when we came across him painting the words "Mini Market" on the wall outside the premises. 

Our George is always ready with a smile.
I asked him how last season had gone. 

"Not too good, Yianni." He replied. 

I wish him well for this season. If you're down here in what I call the "real" Kiotari, and you come across George's shop, sandwiched between "Stefano's" Taverna and "Il Porto", give him a go. Apart from the regular kinds of stuff we see in every souvenir store, he stocks some slightly more unusual things too.

To close on a lighter note. Our wheelbarrow is badly in need of a new tyre. If you've read my latest memoir book, A Jay in the Jacaranda Tree, you may remember my tale about having my abdominal hernia done here on Rhodes in the municipal hospital. The surgeon who did the op, on examining the offending bulge the evening before surgery, had exclaimed, "Poh poh! That is a big one!"

Umm, ouch?

Every time I look at this tyre, it takes me back...

1 comment:

  1. Many years ago I was told that if you had a fruit tree (in this case an apple) that would blossom but never set fruit then the answer was that as the blossom arrived to give the tree trunk a good thump with an axe, making just one significant cut.
    I guess that this worked in the same manner as your watering scenario in which the tree thought that its days might be numbered so it was time to try and produce apples, thence seed, and hence offspring.
    I have never tried it.
    It could work but I take no responsibily for dead apple trees littering the countryside by anyone who does!