Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Puddytats, Poachers and Pouring Rain

It's been a funny old June, it really has. In all the years we've lived here, plus all the holidays we took here during June, we've never seen weather like it. The first half of June has been on occasion rather like the middle of winter. I don't mean temperature-wise, but rain-wise? Definitely.

A week or so ago, my Greek friend Dimitris, who has two hire boats and some sun beds on a beach (son of Kostas, who I've written about many times in the past) was out in the sea trying to secure his boats when the lightning bolts were cracking down into the sea all around him, plus it began to hail, which can hurt! He told my wife that he'd never seen anything like it and that he was really frightened. He's forty years old, so he's seen a few summers here on Rhodes. 

As I type this it appears that the weather has begun to settle for the summer - finally. Yet we've thought that already several times and the storms have kept on coming. Of course, there is no such thing as completely stable weather conditions. Averages are made from highs and lows, right? So there must be below average sunshine, cloud, wind, rain etc., as well as above average in the same areas, in order to establish the averages. That said, we still haven't seen an early summer so unsettled in more time than most can remember. 

You know what I think is responsible? The volcanoes. Unless you've been living on another planet you can't fail to have seen what's been happening in Hawaii this year, plus a couple of other places that escape my memory right now. I'm no expert, but to me it does make sense that all that dust and debris that they're spewing out is reaching the upper atmosphere, where it picks up the jet stream and can very quickly travel all around the planet in a matter of hours. Now, I was at school a long time ago, but I seem to remember learning that raindrops form around dust particles. No dust, no raindrops - or at least a lot fewer. The rest is easy to work out, it's not rocket science.

Anyway, I could be entirely off the scent, but it makes some sense to me.

So, that's the 'Pouring Rain' section of this post's title dealt with. As usual, I seem to be coming at it from the wrong direction, with the last bit first. There you go. It's all I can do to remember what day it is half the time these days. The other parts, the 'Puddytats and poachers' bits are connected anyway, so here goes...

He's a cocky little devil isn't he? He started hanging around a couple of weeks ago and, although we swore we'd never keep a pet out here, it looks like we've finally succumbed. To be honest, we believe that he's already earning his keep, owing to the poachers.  

I'll explain.

Firstly, where did he come from? Well, you may remember, if you've read my ramblings for a while, that our close neighbours up the hill about 50 metres from us used to have a beautiful ginger tom called Simba. of course, Simba came to the hillside where we live with our neighbour who lives a few metres even above them. But, as she added to her tally of dogs, so Simba migrated next door for a more peaceful life, where he found a very comfy home and a warm welcome. Here he is, the tiger...

Sadly, last October Simba went out, never to return. Our neighbours weren't the only ones to be distraught, since he was loved by everyone living up here and, as you'll know from my previous posts, he would spend several weeks living with us while the neighbours were visiting the UK each year during spring time. Our garden was as much a part of his territory as was theirs, and he would occasionally get into scraps with the small number of feral cats living in the undergrowth nearby.

For that reason, whenever we caught sight of the feral cats we'd chase them out of the garden, because they would (and did) fight with him and often cause him injury. Once, however, he'd gone and we all gave up hope of him ever returning, the cat situation up here on our remote hillside changed.

"You're never more than a few metres away from a rat". Have you heard that one? Of course, it's not really true (well, it may depend on who you're married to, eh girls?), but what is true is that on a rural Greek hillside, regardless of how clean you keep the environment around your home, there are going to be rats lurking in the undergrowth. It's inevitable. I mean, we, for instance, keep a compost ditch in the vegetable patch, into which we throw all the organic kitchen scraps. Rat radar will pick something like that up in very short order. We also throw bread crumbs out for the birds, sometimes among them some chunk-sized pieces of stale bread. Often the birds don't get to see them because something with legs gets there first. We even had a bar of soap eaten from our 'shower area" under our car port once.  And THAT was six feet off the ground. Rats will eat anything, including electrical cables. As we've found out to our cost in the past.

We've been growing vines on the 'cliff' beside the raised bed on our patio for several years and each year the grape harvest has grown, although none of it ever reached our mouths. The grapes reach a certain size and then disappear, all of them. It's the rats. they scamper down the cliff during the nights and scoff away. One or two Greek locals have said: "Put net bags over each bunch and they'll be protected."

Like, yeah, we've got time to do that!

Simba, although treating our garden as his territory, wasn't usually around here during the night time hours. Now, Mavkos (he that is pictured above) is. We've begun calling him 'Mavkos' because he's black (Gr: mavro) and white (Gr: levkos). Yeah, I know, clever eh? All right, no need to be facetious.

So, since Simba is not around any more, our neighbours have decided to cultivate the friendship of one or two of the local feral cats, which, fortunately, up here aren't around in huge numbers. Mavkos seems to be a little unpopular with the others (we've seen them chase him right past us) and thus has decided that he might get a slightly more peaceful life by basing himself down at our place. It wasn't long before he was waiting on the patio for us to feed him (I've succumbed to buying dry cat-food for him, I admit), and so the routine has been established.

I mentioned above that he's already started earning his keep. Now, we can't be sure, but look...

Encouraging signs eh? There are probably twenty such bunches all over our cliff and the grapes are already larger than they've ever been before disappearing in previous years. The only difference in the situation from previous years is the presence of 'Mavkos.' I can't point to any solid evidence, but for the price of an occasional bag of cat-food, I reckon he's worth his keep. If he can be 'gamekeeper' to the rat 'poachers' - he's OK by us!

Not to mention the fact that he's already getting more confident about hanging around while we put his food out. Dammit, he's getting under our skin!

And, to round it all off, I took these photos on the coast near Lahania a few evenings ago. Rhode is soooo ruined by tourism, eh?


  1. Hi John
    Great blog as ever, we are basking in a heatwave here in the UK for a change 😁 trust you and your better half are in fine fettle.
    Best Regards

  2. As you write it's settling in for the summer eh? I see a bank of cloud and a distinct thundery feel to the weather!!

  3. Hi John. I'm in the UK basking in our hot summer - of at least one week, and agree the weather is very strange. Your Mavkos looks a handsome chap. x