Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Not For Those of a Nervous Disposition

The system that actually gets water to the taps in our house is quite an intricate mixture of holding tanks, power cables, float-switches and relays, splayed out across a hundred and fifty metres or so of steep, partly-forested hillside. All this is necessitated by the fact that we are situated higher up the mountain than the "reservoir" [a concrete silo] that feeds us.

So, when we turn on a tap, or step into the shower, the chances of water coming out an an acceptable pressure depends on a lot of components, many of which are exposed to the elements. To be honest, in recent years the system has proved quite reliable, but we do get the occasional hiccup, one of which occurred a week or two ago. 

Just as it was getting dark on the Saturday evening, the water dried up, exactly at the 'right' moment for us not to be able to go out and take a look for the problem. So we had to wait until first light on the Sunday morning before I and my neighbour David, from a hundred metres up the hill from us, went peering into tanks and touching my 'tester' screwdriver to electrical terminals. We found to our dismay that our main holding tank, which is sunk into the ground a little way above the houses, was completely dry, but the power seemed to check out OK wherever we tried it.

Thus we had to call the electrician who'd initially installed the current system. To his credit he arrived an hour and a half after I'd called him (on a Sunday too folks) and soon got to the bottom of the problem. A relay in the switch box down the valley had blown and - what a star - he had a spare one in his van. Fortunately, they're quite a common component, so he always has some with him. Phew.

It didn't take long for water to once again begin flowing from our taps, but, as I stood there thanking the almighty for something as simple as the ability to fill a kettle, my right wrist began to itch. 

Now, you'll have noted that I called this post "Not For Those of a Nervous Disposition" and for good reason. Anyone familiar with my "Ramblings From Rhodes" series of books will have read the chapter "The Elephant Man" in volume two, "Moussaka to My Ears", where I related the story about when we had a plague of caterpillars all over the drive, the patio, the walls - everywhere. We'd just arrived home from a visit with friends in Northern Greece and it was exactly the same week of the year. If you get anywhere near a pine tree about now, you can't fail to spot the silk nests hanging from the extremes of the branches. These are built by the larvae of the Processionary Moth, which, at caterpillar stage, is a serious health hazard both to the host tree and to humans. 

Photo courtesy of: https://www.forestry.gov.uk/pineprocessionarymoth

If you click on that link and read up about them (they are rare in the UK BTW), you get an idea of why my skin, starting with my right wrist, soon began to look like this (sorry folks, as I said, those with a nervous disposition look away now!) ...

As I related in the book, this is no joke folks, and the last time I had it, as a result of blithely sweeping up vast numbers of the caterpillars from our terrace at the house without wearing a top owing to the hot weather, I suffered with this rash all over my face and body for several weeks. Antihistamines help a little, but not much. The only relief I could get from the pain and the itching was the incredibly wonderful Lane's Tea Tree and Witch Hazel Cream (which seems to also be marketed under the name "Teangi" as well these days). I used up several tubes of it the last time I was afflicted.

Without noticing, and due to the fact that I hadn't had the allergic reaction now for ten years or so (you get complacent), I'd brushed past a tree laden with these nests while running up and down the hillside with my tool box, trying to get to the bottom of the water problem.

I tell you, getting that water problem fixed cost me a lot more than the fifty Euros (which was a bargain for a Sunday call-out, don't you agree?), as only now is the rash finally beginning to disappear after over a week, during which our country walks have had to be severely curtailed as well. Hmmph.

On a very much lighter note. Anyone familiar with Greece will know the tendency that locals have to whizz around everywhere on mopeds, scooters and motorbikes without wearing their helmets. Of course, one of the many reasons they do this is so that they can carry on using their mobile phones while riding, making no attempt to pull over to the side of the road. They'll frequently be seen tootling along at quite a brisk clip, with one hand on the handlebar and the other vigorously tapping away on their phone, or perhaps with the phone pressed to one ear, as they have a nice relaxed natter while buses, juggernauts and 4x4s almost wipe their sleeves, they get that close.

Proving just how widely acceptable this is, we were enjoying watching "Deal" the other night on Greek TV [Do watch the trailer on that link, and you'll see just how different it is here from the rather dull "Deal or No Deal" in the UK], when the host, Christos Ferentinos, told the contestant a joke. Well, not so much a joke as an amusing rhetorical question.

This is how it goes...

"At a crossroads or roundabout, who has the priority when one motorcycle comes from one direction and another approaches from his/her right? The one speaking on his mobile or the one sending an SMS?"

I rest my case! Pass me that tube of Lane's cream will you...


  1. About the scooter--you've missed out having a 3 year old standing on the "footplate" while Dad is using the mobile and shouting to his mates as they whiz past! We've also completed a full"bingo card"of scooter behaviour by having the driver smoking a fag as well!

    1. Well, of course, that was all a given!!!

    2. Oh, and cross themselves when passing a roadside church or shrine even if the other hand is holding the frappé...