Sunday, 26 August 2018

Light Corners and a Dark Horse

First, some more photos (do they ever stop coming? No...) from a wander around Mandraki and the Old Town yesterday...

Nice to see that the Kontiki is finally open for business again, because it affords unrivalled views across Mandraki. Seems to me like it's been closed for a couple of years.

The steps in the corner of the main square do make for a nice snap or two. The Old Town was very quiet yesterday though, rather unusual for the third week in August. Mind you, a strike by some of the coach drivers may have been a factor.

This little corner, by rights, should have been occupied by a few tourists and sightseers, because it's a great vantage point to sit a while. The reason, I suspect, for its emptiness, is the overwhelming smell of human pee that pervades the place. I can only put that down to ignorant people using it as a urinal late at night. Would be good for the local cleansing department to whack some disinfectant around up there from time to time.

I didn't stay here long, I'd have needed a face-mask. But what a nice vantage point for a snap or two.

And the other direction.

Just a nice vista that caught my eye whilst wandering.

"Oy!! You!! Clear off and leave a puss in peace!"

Now John, our landlord, has three boats. He has a jetRIB that seats four, a rigid inflatable with a beast of an outboard that will take up to eight and a speed-boat that does 60+ knots. When he's out here on his hols, he frequently suggests that we might like to invite some of our local friends over for a meal and a ride out on one of the boats. As it happened, earlier this season our friends Pavlos and his wife Athanasia (both thirty-somethings) were coming down from town on a Sunday and so we suggested they come to the house for a meal on the terrace with John, his family and ourselves. They accepted the invitation and we told them to bring Pavlo's parents too, who are of a similar age to my better half and I, only sadly, they're not in such a good state of health. 

Pavlo's mum, Soula, has battled on two occasions now with breast cancer and her husband Dimitris has very bad nerves and is quite frail physically. John said: 

"Tell them to bring swimming gear and we'll get a boat out."

I called Pavlo and relayed the idea, to which he replied, "OK, that would be nice, but mum and dad will more than likely prefer to go and have a lie-down after lunch, rather than do anything strenuous. Would that be possible? I mean, is there somewhere they could take a nap during the afternoon?"

I replied that I was sure we could work something out and that they must come anyway, even if only he and Athanasia went out on the boat with John.

They arrived, took a light lunch with John and Wendy next-door (we'd planned to eat a sumptuous dinner all together [about 20 of us] later, after they'd been out on the boat for the afternoon), and thus began the preparations for the expedition with the boat in tow behind John's Jeep Commander.

Once the Jeep, with the jetRIB in tow, had headed off down the lane in a cloud of dust at somewhere around 2.00pm, we were surprised to find that no one was left behind next-door at all. Soula and Dimitris had gone off to the beach as well. Ah well, no doubt they'd sit sedately on a sun bed while John stormed around the bay with Pavlo and Athanasia.

Soula has really been through it with her cancer. She went into remission a few years ago and was fine for a while, before it returned and she was back on Chemo, which resulted in the loss of all of her hair. She's what they'd call in Wales a "Dut" of a woman, not much over five feet tall and built for comfort, if you get the idea. She has a bubbly, positive personality and I'm sure that's been one of the factors in her beating the cancer yet again.

But she's still recovering from the last round of treatment and so it was only to be expected that she'd probably want to take it easy after lunch, while her son and daughter-in-law charged around the bay behind John, who likes to elicit screams from his passengers before he's happy about the ride he's given them.

Around 5.00pm the sound of the Jeep trundling back up the lane with the trailer bouncing along behind could be heard as we were busy setting two large tables together on the terrace and laying places for everyone to enjoy the feast that was to follow that evening. John's friend and mine, Nick, (also on hols with John and Wendy this time) jumped out and swung open the gates and in they drove, faces and arms hanging out of all the Jeep's windows. Once John had pulled to a halt and begun setting about washing the salt water off the jetRIB, the others were all pouring on to the terrace with tales of their exploits during the afternoon.

It soon became apparent that Soula, far from crashing out sedately on a sun bed under an umbrella to let her lunch go down gently, had instead accepted John's invitation to take a spin on the jetRIB. Not only had she thoroughly enjoyed it, but she'd taken a turn driving the thing and half-scared even John to death with her daring!! Here was this Greek woman, who, to many who know her, was only recently back from staring her mortality in the face, raving about what a great afternoon she'd had and how fantastic was that jetRIB. 

Needless to say, me and the beloved were astounded, alarmed, amazed, but predominantly enthused by our friend's account of her afternoon. To call 60+ year old Soula a dark horse would be rather an understatement.

When we'd all eaten our fill and were sitting around the table later in the evening, with the twilight creeping across the terrace and the moonlight beginning to reflect on the waters of the bay a couple of thousand metres down the valley from us, bonhomie ruled and anecdotes were flying this way and that, it was time for Pavlos, Athanasia, his mum and dad Soula and Dimitris to get on the road back to Rhodes Town.

Lots of double-cheek-kissing ensued, hugs, wishes for safe journeys and thanks for a lovely afternoon and all the usual farewell banter, all of that, as one would expect. The Greeks climbed into Pavlo's car and he started the engine whilst John opened the gate for them to drive away.

As the car drove toward the gate, the rear window opened, Soula's head popped out and she shouted:

"You be sure and let us know the next time you're over John!! I want another go on that jetRIB!!"

And they were gone, tail lights lighting up the darkening lane.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

A Room With a View

You're never too old to learn, eh? Only last week a guest on the Rhodes Town excursion gave me a leaflet advertising the "Roloi" (pronounced, 'rolloy', with the emphasis on the 2nd syllable), in the Old Town.

The word 'roloi' is quite versatile. It can mean a watch (as in the timepiece that you strap to your wrist), an electricity or water meter, or indeed a clock, whether it be the one on your grandmother's mantlepiece (remember those?) or a stone tower with a clock set high into each of its four faces. In the case of the one I'm referring to in this post, it's a Byzantine clocktower toward the top of the Old Town. It looks like this from below...

And before last week I'd never even noticed it. On August 23rd I'll have lived here on Rhodes for 13 years, too. There are probably a whole lot of other things I've yet to discover about the island I now regard as home, no doubt.

Thus it was that, a couple of days ago, again with five hours to kill while the guests on the coach went off to do their thing, I decided that I'd better go and investigate. The cost of entry to the Clock Tower is €5, but that does include a drink of your choice in the very attractive bar area that's available to all visitors. I paid my cash, received my ticket (plus the voucher for the drink at the bar, where they also have wi-fi BTW), and made my way up the stone steps to the tower's front door. Here's a photographic record of what you can expect to see (not in any particular order)...

Not a bad vista of the Grand Master's Palace from a higher vantage point. The building undergoing restoration in the foreground is a former Muslim School, which, once completed, is going to be used to host cultural events.

Quite a large section of the Old Town wall that can be walked is in shot here. I've wondered for years how to get up there. I finally found out (see below)

Another view of the 19th century Muslim School restoration project.

Looking South, across the roof of the mosque at the top of Socratous and down to the harbour area.

From here I could see people walking out on to the wall. This was how I eventually discovered, with a visit to the gate of the Grand Master's Palace, that the only way to get on to the walls is to buy a ticket inside the museum itself.

View from the Tower's doorway toward the café-bar area.

The 'new town' area above the trees is roughly the area known as Analipsi.

The bar area from the top of the tower, also with a great view of the commercial harbour.

The only way is up.

Nice scale model of the whole place under glass in a quiet corner of the courtyard.

One of the two ways you can access the entrance to the Clock Tower. This one is in Panetiou, which runs directly from outside the Grand Master's Palace entrance to the top of Socratous. The other is in Orpheus St.

Almost back down again.
Once I'd be up to the top and back down again, I retired to the bar area and ordered an orangeade with my voucher. All in all I really enjoyed the visit and the view from up-top was stunning.

A couple of days ago I was reading something on a Facebook group for Grecophiles that really riled me. It was a caustic comment from someone who'd visited Rhodes and had a bad meal at a restaurant in the Old Town, which resulted in the individual concerned vowing never to come back to Rhodes. They also cited the manners and behaviour of the staff as one of the reasons why they felt they had the right to try and influence thousands of others to steer clear of an entire island, full of excellent restaurants and bars, sites to visit and friendly local folk, on the basis of one bad experience.

Now I'm not normally one to pull rank, but I've been visiting Greece (all over the country) since 1977 and I've lived here on Rhodes for 13 years, come the 23rd of this very month, and I can say from my experience that I've had some less-than-ideal meals and not-very-exemplary treatment from here, there and just about everywhere in Greece (add to that the UK, USA, Portugal, Spain and France if you like).

I'm not, however, stupid enough to lump the entire island, village or seaside town into one huge generalisation as a result of such experiences. I say 'stupid enough', but I could equally well have written 'conceited enough', because that's about what such a comment on a popular Facebook group's page amounts to. It's like saying to anyone who'll listen: "I know better than you and, if you take my word for it, you'll also steer clear of that island from now on." 

What? I mean, WHAT? 

Rhodes, like Corfu, Crete and lots of other islands and 'resorts' the world over, is home to thousands of people, most of whom are extremely welcoming to holidaymakers. It's home to thousands of restaurants and tavernas, most of which are of superlative quality and the staff at which are very welcoming. Were all of us to demonstrate the attitude shown by the individual to whom I refer above, there would be small-minded individuals boycotting destinations countrywide (nay, worldwide) and all of them trying to influence others to do likewise because of their say-so.

Ooh I get so livid sometimes! I need something nice to end with. Oh, yes, here's another photo of the 'Roloi' in the Old Town, taken from the top of Socratous...

Sunday, 12 August 2018

The Human Bungee

I'm sure we've all had occasion to make use of the old 'spider' bungee, if only on a bicycle, right?

Image courtesy of

I well remember getting smacked in the face by just such a beast whilst trying to strap something to a bike rack in the days of yore when I was a school-kid. You know the scenario, you're trying to stretch that last piece around the package and you're just not quite getting that hook to engage and  - thwack! the flippin' thing slips out of your grip and whips back over the top and, hey presto, you have a shiner.

Well as we were coming back past Lindos last evening after an excursion to Rhodes Town, I couldn't resist photographing this from the front of the coach as we followed this plucky little pick-up laden with drinks along the road toward the Kalimera Café, or Lindos Reception as it's also known. 

This chap was clinging on for dear life as the load he was trying to secure lurched first this way, then that. I couldn't help wondering how much it might have cost him if he'd let it all drop...

Friday, 10 August 2018

Half, Why That's almost 50%!

Couldn't let this pass - this blog has just passed 500,000 page views. Thanks everyone. I so hope you'll keep coming back.

Regarding the title "Half, why that's almost 50%!" - that's a reference to half a million, just in case anyone out there doesn't see it. The "That's Almost 50%" is an oblique reference to a dim character in an old British sitcom BTW!!

Tackling the Vandals

There are a lot of advantages to living up a kilometre of dirt track. Of course, peace is pretty near the top of the list, plus the fact that one gets to see a thrilling selection of wildlife.

We continually count our blessings too, because there are just two more homes up the hill from us, which are close enough for any of those living up here to be on hand in the event of an emergency, yet not so close as to mean we sacrifice any of our privacy.

The view is, of course, a big factor in the equation. Our sea view is lovely, whilst that of the two houses higher up than us is even more spectacular. With all the new development that's going on along the coastal strip, we are hardly affected at all, which is a huge plus point. Just to illustrate this. There is a UK couple living a couple of kilometres from us, yet their house is only a hundred metres from the beach across what was formerly flat agricultural land. When they moved out here, their rear garden backed on to fields that the farmer used to use to grow aubergines and onions. He would regularly tell the couple that they were welcome to go into the field to salvage leftovers from the crop, which we also were able to do from time to time. There were neglected vines growing along the chainlink fence that bordered the country lanes there, which meant that passers-by could also pluck a nice bunch of grapes as they passed, during the right season.

Recently, however, a huge new all-inclusive hotel has gone up in the area between their back garden and the beach, resulting in them now having a water chute twice the height of their house towering not metres from their fence and emptying out into a very noisy pool, which is so close they can almost feel the spray from the splashes as kids hit the pool after a slide down the chute. Word is going around that the couple were offered the chance to sell up to the developer before it was too late, but no one ever refers to the fact that the developer wanted to give them a pittance for the property.

The issue referred to above is a very, very hot potato and doesn't merit my going into here, but it does highlight the fact that, to the layman like me, it seems that planning and development, and how the infrastructure is meant to cope with all of that, seems very much to be a profit-driven thing here, with scant regard for the consequences of each new development to the locals.

Up here though, at least for the foreseeable future, we still count our blessings. One could argue the case for living in a village. It's largely down to personal choice. For us, the village mentality, which although has its advantages, don't get me wrong, would be a little too claustrophobic.

The downside of living up here? Well, for at least six months of the year it's a virtual impossibility to keep your vehicle clean from the relentless fine, yellow dust, which has an almost flour-like consistency. You could be cleaning your car every single time you get home, since a dust cloud erupts behind you as you drive along the lane. I've recently taken a leaf out of the Rhodean taxi-drivers' book by purchasing one of these...

Having seen taxi drivers busily buffing up their vehicles with these while killing time waiting for fares, I thought, "Aha! That would save a lot of water at home." And you know what? It does. When we get home now, during these dry months when the landscape is tinder-dry and dust is everywhere, in merely two or three minutes I can run this baby over the sides and rear door of the car and it comes up like showroom! With not a single drop of precious water used. So you get the added bonus that they're environmentally responsible too. You just have to remember to bash it against your hand every few sweeps, to remove the dust that builds up on it.

Another slight pain about the lane is the fact that the undergrowth, the local vegetation, is always making incursions from either side as you drive up and down it. Some of the plants and shrubs are OK, quite innocuous, but others, and these are the ones I call the vandals, if not cut back now and then, can seriously scratch your paintwork and thus need showing who's boss.

Thus it was that yesterday,, wait, the day before - it all becomes a blur - when I spent a very sweaty time of it lopping and secateuring this stuff, which had begun to project so far into the lane that we were having to weave about with the car to avoid it. It's gorse, and it takes no prisoners...

Now, those spikes are its leaves. That's why gorse can survive, even become invasive, in dry climates with poor and rocky soil. Not much transpiration. It even scores when there's a fire. Yes it's extremely combustible and burns quickly, but it will also re-sprout from its rootstock within days of the fire having passed. The spikes can be an inch and a half long and they are so hard that they will easily puncture a car tyre if hit at the right angle. I know, because it's happened to us. So the job of cutting it back has to be undertaken now and then. You can imagine how careful one has to be when pruning this beast. We rarely manage a session without sustaining a few punctures of the forearms. You have to try and get in as low as you can with the cutters, then gingerly grab the piece you've lopped, while it does its level best to swing around in the breeze and stab you, and then sling it as far away from the lane as you can, being careful to take into account the wind direction in the process. If it comes back at you, you'd better run. It's vitally important too, to do a visual sweep of the lane afterward to pick up any of the pieces that drop, for fear of your tyres running over them.

Most swords have two edges though. Yes, during the summer months we curse the stuff, yet in winter, as spring approaches, gorse fills the hillsides with not only a glorious display of bright yellow flowers, but also a heady scent too. Taking that side of it into account, I have to say that, although gorse is a vandal intent on running a scratch right along the side of your car, it kind of redeems itself at other times. I suppose you can find some good in everyone if you look hard enough, eh?

You still have to show it who's boss though. So, without further ado and without looking for any more excuses, I'd better grab my loppers and secateurs and get off down the lane for another session. When your lane is a kilometre long, you don't tackle these vandals all in one go, it takes several sessions with factor fifty smeared all over your exposed skin!

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Where Do I Start?

I seem to have so many odds and ends in my mind this time, that I don't know where to start.

I know, travelling back south on the 'Rhodes By Day' excursion yesterday, Nikos was driving the coach and we were talking about this and that. He asked about my visit to the UK and how things had gone, and I told him that, apart from everything else, it's rather odd seeing the British countryside looking the same colour as it does here in Greece, owing to the high temperatures and lack of rainfall this summer over there. I mean, this is a rare sight in the UK...

That's Chico, my brother-in-law's adorable little dog, but look at the colour of the grass.
Nikos, quick as a flash, responded with what I thought was quite a witty quip. He said:

"You know what it is John? This government has sold everything else [the airports to a German company, the energy company to a French one, and so on] so I reckon they've sold our weather too!! They've sold it to Northern Europe."


I'm sad to admit that I've lost my joy in doing my excursions now. I'm not going to explain it all today, maybe not for a few months (owing to some outstanding matters that need to be resolved with certain 'bodies' out here), but there have been some illogical and - to me - unreasonable developments, revolving around the issue of 'demarcation' and pedantics on the part of some, that have robbed me of the pleasure that I used to take from doing them. It's hard to talk about this without explaining in full, but there are sound reasons why I can't just yet. I shall one day though, I shall.

On a lighter note, I've come unstuck again with a few word mixups again of late. I mean, honestly, it's a complete minefield in some areas. I even confuse words I know, but simply say them wrongly in my haste to speak fluently. I'll give you some more examples. I've spelt the Greek words phonetically...

"I've just been to the table to draw out some cash." Table = to trape'zi, bank = ee tra'peza.

"What a lovely string!" String - mia skoini', scene - mia skini'. String is actually spelt with a Greek 'χ' rather than a 'k', but apart from the 'o' being before the 'i' when you spell it, it's pronounced almost the same. The word for 'tent' is also 'skini', but spelt slightly differently. So, you may say tent, string or scene in any number of a whole bunch of contexts!! Let your listeners decide what you meant to say.

I told someone the other day that I'd tied my bed, when I meant to say I'd tied my tie (as in that thing you put around the collar of a shirt and do up with a Windsor knot).
bed - to creva'ti, tie - i grava'ta.

And, finally, when I wanted to say I was so sorry, fortunately not while speaking to my recently-widowed brother-in-law (not the one I was staying with), but with one of our Greek relatives, I said 'we're missing.'
I'm sorry (as in, for your/our loss) - lipa'meh, we're missing - leap'oomeh.

If you can't see me it's because the ground has opened up and swallowed me. 

I had a rather nice German lady on my trip last week, along with her five-year-old son, who was a sweetie with a jaunty Fedora, which he wore all day long, sensible chap. His mum was probably in her early thirties and spoke pretty good English. She was sitting with me and chatting in the Top Three while we were waiting for the coach to arrive for our return to the South and she remarked on Spiro's collection of football scarves. This led to our discussing the recent football world cup, which had interested me about as much as a verruca, to be honest. You know it's there, but you don't want to be bothered with it.

Anyway, she asked me, in all earnestness, "Why was it the 'England' team? Why you have different teams? In Germany we only have one team. I may be from Bavaria, but we still have only the one team, Germany. But you British have England, Wales, Scotland - why is this?"

Now, before you go into a lather of nationalistic outrage, this illustrates to me how so many other nationalities perceive us Brits, the Irish and our islands. The Greeks, for example, will always say of anyone from the UK, "Einai Anglezi." They have a poor perception of the nature of the UK and how it works. They don't understand at all that Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England are in fact, different countries under the kind of 'umbrella' of the British Isles. Thus, you may be Welsh or Scottish, but to a Greek, generally you'll be perceived as an 'Anglezos,' or an 'Anglos.' I find this with a lot of Americans too. You may be too young to remember the old Roger Miller song, "England Swings" (That would mean something else today too!), but it makes the point about how Americans perceive the UK. Americans by and large talk about going to "England', when they most likely mean Britain.

Of course we don't help matters do we? I mean there are certain athletic tournaments where there will be a "team GB" and others where the individual countries field their own teams independently. Small wonder that my German lady guest couldn't get her head around it at all, even after I'd tried to explain.

And, finally, to the subject of the frappé, or iced coffee. It seems that the self-righteous have latched on to the frappé as a golden opportunity to lecture me on how 'unhealthy' instant coffee is. It's so bad for our health, apparently. Don't I know that a Freddo Espresso is much better for me, since it's made from ground coffee, which is not processed like the instant stuff? Of course I damn well do.

Now, I'm not one to boast, but I do rather bask in the glory of my wife's expertise in all things dietary. She knows all there is to know about nutrition, the benefits of pulses and unprocessed foods, the very evident links between red meat and colon cancer and a whole host of other stuff. I could make a very extensive list here, but suffice it to say that we eat much more healthily than just about anyone else we know, apart perhaps from my wife's brother Paul, in the UK, who's a very earnest vegan. So, to order a frappé in the company of some carnivore or other who also smokes (the slower way to commit suicide folks, but it works nevertheless) and then have them say "You know that's bad for you" - galls to say the least!

We're not the types to lecture others on what they should or shouldn't take into their bodies, but if someone asks, then yes we'll explain our stance. But we're also firm believers in the principle that to indulge in the occasional 'bad' or 'naughty' thing, as long as one knows one's limits of course, isn't going to make a lot of difference.

So, next time I order a frappé, if you're in my company, I'd be grateful if you keep your opinion to yourself, eh?

Sorry folks - I just wanted to get that last one off my chest.