Sunday, 19 November 2017

Newsy or What?

There's been lots to talk about in the last few days and most of it good. Wow, there's a first!

One has been the weather. Now, I know that many reading this will be wondering how we've coped with the terrible weather that much of Greece has been subjected to in the past week or so. Well, as is so often the case, it largely passed Rhodes by. Yes, last Monday we had some heavy rain, but even the local paper said it was just what the island needed and it was certainly nothing like the deluge that hit the mainland and even the island of Symi, just a few nautical miles north from us. Incidentally, regarding what happened there, please take a look at the piece entitled "Support For Symi" on my "News and Stuff" page. Thank you.

Here in Rhodes though, the weather during this past week has been simply a joy. It's been around 23-25ºC during the days with just the occasional bout of cloudiness. In fact, we're rather hoping for some rain in this next couple of days. Once or twice a week during winter would be just what the weather-doctor ordered. The café-bars have been a delight to sit in...

The Galaxy Internet Café in Arhangelos, where knots of young folk sit around and revel in the seemingly endless amount of free time they now have after six or seven months of waiting tables or working in hotels etc. Time now to pose with a vengeance.

Zucchero Café, next door to the Flevaris supermarket just outside of Kalathos. It's the middle of November, I keep reminding myself.

When we first moved here in 2005, the bloke who built the house had a favourite expression. Well, he had several and most of them not too popular with the locals. One he'd often come out with if for any reason he decided that he'd been let down or disappointed in any way was, "How do you know when a Greek is lying? His lips are moving."

Now, I'm a Grecophile (or, if you prefer, a Hellenophile, whatever), but that doesn't mean I'm blind to some of the cultural mores that sometimes we foreigners find odd, or hard to come to terms with. For example Greeks will often tell porkies with no malicious intent, it's just the expedient way to progress with a situation, in their view. Ask the electrician when he's coming and he'll say for example, "Tomorrow." Now, he probably knows full well that tomorrow he's got something planned, but for the time being it gets you off his back and for the present everyone's happy. When he turns up four days later he'll not quite understand your chagrin, after all, he came didn't he? That's not being deliberately awkward or deceptive, it's just ...well, something you have to get used to.

To show how great they can be, instead of griping (as so many ex-pats seem to, even though they wouldn't dream of moving back to the UK) I'll proceed to give two shining examples of kindness and helpfulness that I've experienced in just this last week. 

Firstly, in the new year there will probably be another "Help For Health Gennadi" event (see this post from February 2016 and this page on Facebook) to raise money for supplies for the local doctor's surgery in nearby Gennadi. Last year, as I stood and talked with Dimitri, one of the local businessmen who's really taken up the baton of this event and thrown his enthusiasm into it, while he cooked souvlaki...

The man himself (Dimitri, who runs the very cosy Summer Breeze Hotel in the village)
...he suggested we have a banner made to show passers-by what the event was all about, since even with the grapevine in the village, many residents still weren't sure what they were seeing as they walked past. Since my career has been as a graphic designer, I said I'd prepare some artwork and see if I could get a local sign/print company to produce a banner for us for free, in return for which we'd of course agree to them placing their logo on it. I duly approached three major companies on the island with a request as to whether they'd be prepared to help us out, either by producing the banner F.O.C. or at a discount perhaps.

The first company (which advertises all the time on local radio), whose office I visited in person, could only offer us a discount, but wouldn't produce a two metre-wide vinyl banner for free. The second company I approached by email and they didn't even bother to reply. The third, who I'd also approached initially by email, came back to me within a day with an offer to produce it for nothing, as long as we'd agree to them putting their logo on it, which I'd already suggested would be fine with us. They're called Hedera and had produced a few signs for me many years ago. In fact, if you take a peek at my "Play, Eat, Visit" page and scroll down to the Dino's Boats sign, that was the one they did for me. Of course, that was a commercial venture for a friend and they were paid for the job, but even then I was impressed by their professionalism.

Within another 24 hours they'd submitted their amended version of the artwork to me for our approval and commissioned the production of the banner. Now I call that a result. This is what they're going to fabricate for us in vinyl banner form...

In fact, I really like their splash of colour and I think it'll go a long way to adding to the sign's optical appeal. Anyway, Maria, the girl with whom I've been communicating at the company has been helpfulness personified and I have nothing but praise for both her and the company.

Secondly, Our router stopped working last Monday lunchtime. It just packed in and the first thing I did was to call the neighbours up the hill to see if they'd lost internet too, because there have been occasions where it's been a problem with the line somewhere further down the valley. Both of our only two neighbours replied that theirs was working fine, so there was nothing for it but to call OTE, the Greek equivalent of BT in the UK. I wasn't waiting long before I was talking to a techno-bod who ran a few tests on the line and said it checked out OK. He told me that he'd put in a request for local engineers to check the situation out and that they'd be on it and have it fixed within 24 hours. Fortunately, I'd kept my old router when we'd ordered the new one earlier this summer. I'd done this for exactly such a situation. I really didn't want to have a router blow up on us and be without internet until a new one could arrive in the post. I wanted a back-up because I not only write a lot but still do business with a couple of my graphic design clients back in the UK, who get instant reaction from me to their requirement and are used to it being that way.

So, the next morning, bright and early I received a phone call from the OTE engineer, who assured me that, yes, it was the router that had gone down, because the line checked out as OK. "Do you want me to order one to be sent to you in the mail, or would you like to be able to visit the local Germanos store and collect a new one from there?" he asked me.

I elected to visit the store, because there is one in Arhangelos, about twenty minutes up the road from us, and I knew that if I had one sent out, there would be the issue of having to send the broken one back and all the rigmarole that would have entailed. 

"No problem," said the engineer, "I'll do the paperwork now and you'll be able to drop into Germanos in the next couple of days and collect a new one, plus deposit the failed one for return."

I thanked him, put the phone down and patted myself on the back (did I tell you I'm double-jointed?) for having had the insight to order a new router so I could keep a spare, ie. the old one. With the old one back on the system and the internet working, we were able to leave it until we had the time, which proved to be yesterday (Saturday), before dropping into the Germanos store for the exchange of routers.

So, with the better half installed in a café and ordering a couple of frappés, in I strolled to the Germanos store, with the new-but-failed router all boxed up and ready for the exchange. There were two girls in there and no other customers. Yippee. One of the girls instantly asked me what I wanted and I explained, full of confidence (idiot alert!) that they should have the job on their system which involved them giving me a replacement router. She asked me for our home phone number, tapped it into her keyboard while staring at her screen and then there began a kind of silence. You know, the kind that says, "This ain't goin' so good."

"Hmm," she said, "nothing showing here. Maybe you are too soon."
"Uh? Oh, no." I replied, "The engineer and I talked last Tuesday morning and he told me that within 48 hours I'd be able to come in for it." 

"Well, I can't give you a router if we have no job ticket on the system." She replied. 

Resisting the urge both to scream and to start a rant, I told her, "The thing is, I live in Kiotari, it's not like you're that close to home. What am I supposed to do? It'll mean another trip up here when I get it sorted with the engineers." What's really galling at this point is, that if you stand in a Germanos store, you'll see a dozen or so of these routers all boxed up and waiting to be found good homes.

"Hold on," She said, "I'll call 13888 (The OTE customer help line) myself and see if I can find anything out." That girl tried for ten minutes to get through and failed. Putting the phone down she said. "Look, tell you what. I'll do the exchange, and you take a new router home, but you'll need to call 13888 in the next few days and be sure that they send the job ticket through the system. If you don't you may get charged €50. How's that?"

Now I'd call that another result. That girl went above and beyond in order to help me out. No worries too, that tomorrow morning (Monday) I'll be on the phone to OTE and they'll be in no doubt that this local engineer needs a kick up the backside as there's no way I'll be paying €50 because he forgot to process my job ticket.

Either way, two things happened just this past week that to me puts the locals in a very good light. OK, so the engineer is a plonker, but I'll soon sort that out. But the Hedera and Germanos girls saved the day.

You know it's November when...

Straight from the tree, well, the mandarins anyway.

Plus, everywhere you go at this time of the year you see sights like these...

You know what I like? I like, or probably I should say 'love' ,the smell of freshly harvested olives. Lucky as we are to live in close proximity to lots of olive groves, when we walk the lanes, which we've done this afternoon to start collecting wood in anticipation of soon lighting up the logburning stove, that damp, pungent smell that always fills the air in rural areas at this time of the year leaves one in no doubt as to the fact the the olive harvest is under way.

Everywhere you go you see pickups and cars parked in all kinds of unlikely places, anywhere where it's only a few metres to the nearest olive trees. Look among the trees and you'll see folk spreading nets, carrying heavy crates or sacks to be piled on to the backs of the pickups, you'll see those portable generators and those long hairbrush-looking agitators on poles that they use to shake the upper branches in order to get those delicious, precious, miraculous elliptical balls to tumble to the ground. You smell the freshly cut boughs of the quite beautiful olive wood that can be fed into your fire during its very first winter owing to the fact that it doesn't contain sap like the pine and burns longer too. You spot herds of inquisitive and expectant goats, hanging around the periphery, awaiting their chance to get in there and sample some of the leftovers and leaves on the culled branches and boughs. It's normally a family affair and, if you go to the mill, you see men who've known each other for decades chewing the fat over how good, bad or average this year's crop is. It is the rhythm of the seasons taking place before one's eyes and it is good.

Oh, yes, I can wax lyrical when I want to.

The beaches are now empty too. We've been intent on going for a 'desert island' swim for the last week or two, but have simply been too busy to make it as of now. But we still have time. The sea is easily swimmable until late December, we just need a calm morning when we haven't got a list of stuff to get done. We usually manage it at least once or twice between the end of the season and the end of the year and it's simply luxurious to have a gorgeous stretch of sandy Greek beach to yourselves. 

Well, there we are peeps, the highlights of the past week. As the seasons roll past ever more quickly, I can't help but become reflective. We're now in our thirteenth winter here. I can scarcely believe it myself. Tell you what though, all in all, it's good and it's fulfilling to be so close to nature. We've been watching the deer and the hares, the buzzards and blackbirds, the robins and the black redstarts all going about their business. Nature seems to exult in the cooler days with the occasional bout of rain. The valley below is turning greener by the day it seems and we've begun our almost daily walks in earnest.

As we traipsed back up the lane this afternoon, each of us with a log on our shoulders, we looked at each other and said, almost in unison - 'We really are in winter mode now, aren't we?"

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