Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Against The Grain?

Stergos and I were talking while the coach's wheels covered ground on the way back from Rhodes Town the other day. The subject came up of a mutual friend who's only around 30 years of age, yet has some rather alarmingly old-fashioned ideas about women.

The person in question looks modern, with that hairstyle that so many young men seem to think is cool these days, where both sides of the head are shaved to a No.1 (G.I. Joe) shortness on both sides and around the back, but the top still has flowing locks that need keeping in place with copious quantities of gel or the like. At least he doesn't sport one of those ridiculous mega-short pony tails, held in place with an elastic band, on top of his head that always have me longing for a pair of sharp scissors whenever I see them. He wears cool shades and goes to the gym a lot. Yet when you have a conversation with him, he'll often betray a woefully archaic attitude, not to say 'understanding' (misunderstanding?) of women.

For instance, if he sees any driver making an error of judgment on the road, his first words will always be "Woman. It's a woman." 

If he's wrong he'll move swiftly on. If, however, he's right, he'll continue with expressions like: "See, women aren't genetically suited to driving, Yianni. It's not conducive to their emotional makeup. They're better suited to keeping home. They're dangerous, what with all their emotions and stuff. Plus they think mirrors are only fitted so they can touch-up their lipstick."

I could go on, but I sense some real anger issues with some readers already coming to the surface, right?

Stergos, who was with me and sitting behind the wheel during this particular conversation, is probably around sixty, still in fairly good shape, with a good head of mainly white hair swept back from his forehead. He has one of those archetypal Greek male voices. You know, the type that sounds like he's smoked for decades and gargles with loose gravel. I should point out that, while he may well have been a smoker in the past, Stergos doesn't smoke today. Taking into consideration his age, though, you may have expected that he would hold slightly outdated views on women's place in society, but none of it. His first wife died after a long illness and he is proud to point out that he is a 'new man' in the sense that he wasn't embarrassed to have done everything around the house while his wife was ill. 

It is a basic truth that most Greek men are rather stereotypical in their views of what constitutes a woman's work and what is a man's. I know very few Greek men who'll get anywhere near the kitchen sink, or indeed the washing machine. An ironing board I suspect they'd not even recognise. My friend Stergos, however, tells me that, first and foremost, even though he says that once a man gets in through his front door, he ought to recognise that he's now in his wife's domain, what she says goes, as it were, he says this out of respect and awe for a woman's capabilities and not because he feels that a woman's place is in the home.

No, Stergos proudly confesses to believing that what's done in the home should always be a matter of sharing the load by both partners in the relationship. He knows how to load up and programme the washing machine, he knows how to iron a shirt or press some trousers, he knows what a duster is. And thus he, although of an older generation, introduced me to a thought from his old Papou (grandfather).

"Yianni," he said, "My old papou always used to say that all men are like wood. I'll explain. Some woods are very hard, they take skill to work and yet can be transformed into beautiful pieces, perhaps of furniture, for example. A well-carved, inlaid and polished oak table is a piece that you keep for life. It elicits expressions of awe from those who examine it. It has great value. Other woods, like pine, for example, are not so high in quality. These are more suited to rough cabinets or shelving you might put up in your outhouse. Then there are woods of such poor quality that the best you can do with them is to burn them, for heat perhaps. Firewood.

"My papou said that men are like that. Some are intelligent, caring people. These men become loved, highly valued, by those who know them. You want to be around them. They are like high quality oak. Sadly, though, some are so 'rough' in ways and thought that you don't hold them in such high esteem. The firewood, as it were. The type of wood someone becomes has much to do with how educated they are."

I began to see where he was coming from. Returning to the subject of our mutual friend, who is due to get married to his very beautiful fiancée later this year, Stergos said: "Yianni, our friend may look young and modern, but at heart he is a 'horiatis.' Still holds the values he learned from his country village upbringing. He's going to have trouble with his new wife if he doesn't change his tune. He doesn't seem to want to educate himself in this field."

I've met our friend's fiancée. I replied that I thought that perhaps she was aware of her future husband's views and yet nurtured the idea that she'd whip him into shape once they were married. Not that I think that this would necessarily work, mind you. It's often the recipe for a failed marriage in my experience (not my personal experience, of course). Maybe, though, she is strong of character and knows that she won't stand any messing. I do know that she drives, since I asked our friend if she did one time when he was sounding off about how women shouldn't be driving owing to their inherent emotional nature. When he replied that she did, I asked him, "So what are you going to do about that when you're married? Do you think she'll knuckle under and stay at home?"

The awkward smile he gave me by way of a reply indicated that he was finding that one a bit of a quandary. 

The two of us, Stergos and myself, like our young friend as a person, it's not that. But we're both realistic about him too and we shall be watching he and his new wife with interest and concern for quite a while after they tie the knot.

I'd be interested to hear from other ex-pats like myself who've lived here in Greece for any length of time about their experience in this area. What abiding impressions do they have of the stereotypes? Do they feel as I do that your average Greek man, at least in rural areas, is still stuck some time in the past when it comes to male-female equality? 

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Staying Awhile?

The Greek culture has a lot to recommend it. Families are still very close, communities are predominantly safe for children to go out and play in with confidence, at least in rural and island areas. Yeah, well, knowing everyone and being known by everyone in a village environment has both its upside and its downside, but it's miles better than not knowing one's next-door neighbour at all and living in a 'community' where one could be dead on one's kitchen floor for a week or two, or even worse, lying injured and helpless there, before anyone even knows.

Where I come from in the South West of England and, more latterly, South Wales, in the UK, things have changed immeasurably since I was a child growing up in the 1950's. Back then we had simple latches on our kitchen doors and I could walk to school across several fields and down a country lane or two alone at the age of 6 or maybe 7. Now it seems, people in villages all work in the city and hardly see their neighbours, leave alone have any meaningful interaction with them. I know, it doesn't do to generalise, but you know where I'm coming from, I'm sure. These days in the UK everyone takes their kids by car to the school gate and waits outside for them to emerge at the end of the day. Yes, OK, I'm generalising again.

I would walk home from the tiny village school in Priston, a distance of some three miles, all on my lonesome, and I'd love it. I well remember the time when I was skirting an electric fence, keeping some cattle to a particular section of a meadow, and I wondered what would happen if I touched the fence. I must have been seven. I picked a bunch of wild flowers (many of which you'd be hard pressed to find in a British meadow nowadays) and gingerly laid them upon the electrified wire. 

Zap! I still remember the electrical 'fizz' that ran up my arm. Needless to say, I treated electric fences with respect from then on. When I finally got to our back door half an hour or so later, I was none the worse for the experience and my mum was there preparing the evening meal. Sounds idyllic. Frankly, it was.

Here in southern Rhodes there are villages where daily life remains just about something akin to that era in the UK. Things are, of course, changing here too. But, the way I look at it, this area is a few decades behind the UK - in a good way. The family culture here is still strong, which regularly produces situations that we both appreciate and - in order to be balanced - occasionally express gratitude for not having to endure.

What am I on about? I'm on about the propensity that the Greeks have to visit their relatives willy nilly, with no invitation, no reference to whether their hosts may have already received other visitors for a week or three, and often not much advance warning. Most of the Greeks we know don't have any concept of the package holiday. Instead, they simply choose which relatives they're going to visit and go and stay there.

I'll cite as an example our friend Voula. She has a husband and four children, ranging in ages from 6 to 20, and they all still live at home in a village not far from us. Voula's hubby had been married before (one evidence of how things are changing here) and has grown-up children from his previous marriage. They live in Thessalonika with their mother. Voula herself has aunts and uncles on the Greek mainland (on her mother's side) and a brother who lives with his wife on the island of Crete.

A few weeks ago, Voula's mum's sister and her hubby, together with two grown-up daughters, came to stay for two weeks. That's in a house with six permanent residents and three bedrooms. As is quite normal for Greeks, they ended up with bodies all over the lounge when it was time to bed down for the night. Privacy is a notion that doesn't compute in such circumstances. Even though Voula is quite a modern woman of around 40 years old, she cooks almost every single day and always from fresh ingredients. I don't know many Greek households where they stock up their freezers with ready meals or pre-packed and processed foods. Here in the south of Rhodes women start with fresh fruit and vegetables and prepare their meals from there, much as my mother used to do when I was a lad. The whole thing is, I believe, a throw-back to patriarchal days of bygone eras.

So, Voula was run ragged cooking for 10 for two weeks. OK, so the visitors helped out here and there, but they also bunged their dirty washing in her machine and she washed and ironed it, not to mention the sheets and bedding. Not two days after the visitors left, we were talking with Voula at her kitchen table when she told us she had to cut short our chat in order to set out for the airport. She had to go and meet her half-sister and hubby who were flying in from Thessalonika that very afternoon.

"How long are they staying for?" My wife asked Voula.

"Oh, I don't know. Maybe a week. maybe two." replied Voula, resignation written all over her face.

So the half sibling and partner turned up and stayed about ten days, after which, apart from running them back to the airport, Voula had to again wash a load of extra bedding. 

'Where is her husband in all of this?' You may ask. Well, as you may have guessed anyway, he has a business that's tourist-related and is thus out at work every waking hour, seven days a week for another few weeks yet. Her oldest daughter works in a nearby hotel and her younger three are still at school and thus were on summer break. They've just returned to school this past week.

Back at Voula's the other night, we were enjoying some 'parea' with a small group of friends when she once again got up and declared, "Anyway, everyone, must ask you to clear off now. I'm going out." I must add that Voula, who is usually immaculately turned out, had her hair tied up behind her head and was wearing not one scrap of makeup. She looked somewhat fraught. In fact we remarked that perhaps she needed a holiday.

Of course, we were curious as to where she had to go, since it was around 9.30pm. Guess what, she was off to the airport again to meet and greet yet more relatives, the other half-sibling, plus wife and two kids were arriving to stay a while. 

Now, Voula isn't the type to complain, yet when my better half suggested that she must be just a tad weary of visitors after something like six weeks without much break, her response was a simple half smile, as if to say, "it's par for the course. Not much I can do, so what's the point in griping?"

Thus, my friends, whilst we can envy the Greeks their family and community closeness, there is perhaps a smidgin of relief that in other parts of the world we're not quite so close any more.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

An Unexpected Upshot

I don't think either I or my wife have ever been bitten by a dog. Until now that is. Last week we both got bitten at the same time by a neighbour's dog. Now, it's not the purpose of this post to go on about our neighbour and what should and shouldn't have happened. I was prompted to write this one owing to some positive feedback that developed at the local Health Centre in Gennadi as an upshot.

We were bitten in the early evening of Friday 31st August, as we were walking home from an early evening swim. When we got home I broke out the trusty bottle of Dettol and bathed both wounds, then the equally wonderful and comforting smell of Germoline graced our nostrils as I applied a Band Aid dressing with the cream to the legs where we'd sustained the bites. 

Both Dettol and Germolene are always in our first aid kit. They both take me back to my childhood and seem to be two essentials for the home that haven't changed in decades.

It soon became apparent that my 'bite' was barely a bite at all and that it would heal cleanly and quickly. It more resembled a graze than a bite really. I was the lucky one. My wife's, however, when we peeled off the band aid the following morning, was evidently much more serious and a substantial chunk of leg about the size of your average watch-face had been damaged. The toothmarks were clearly visible and the wound quite deep. 

Thus it was that, when she got to work that day, her trusty team of fellow women insisted that she go to the pharmacy for a tetanus jab right away. Notwithstanding her general aversion to all things medical and her fear of needles, she complied, paid out €13 and within minutes of entering the pharmacy was back in the car on her way back to work.

When she got home I was right proud of her, because she'd faced down her fears. I still felt, though, that she ought to go to the doctor and see what he/she thought about the wound. She wasn't too keen and resisted for a few days until it became evident that there was redness and swelling around the wound, even though she'd been dressing it with Betadine every night. Toward the end of the week we finally had the time to visit the surgery at Gennadi and that's when what occurred prompted me to write this up as a post.

The both of us aren't too keen on antibiotics, and it's well documented that, having killed off zillions of strains of bacteria over the past few decades, the ones that are left are the ones that are resistant and thus the antibiotics are beginning to lose their effectiveness. You don't need me to tell you that anyway. The fact still remains though that, since Yvonne-Maria hadn't been prescribed antibiotics for probably nigh on 40 years, they were liable to do the trick in her case.

So we waltzed into the Gennadi Health Centre on Thursday morning last and were delighted to find no one waiting before us to see the doctor. The nurse who works there is a woman of probably about five foot five, maybe in her late forties and with her dark hair always tied back in a severe pony tail, no doubt for hygiene reasons. She was pottering in her consultation room, saw us and bade us go right in to the doctor's office.

Doctor Nikos, who had run this centre for several years, has since moved on to a private practice just along the road. He is though, still supportive of the centre and cites the fact that he has a young family as one of the reasons why he had to make some tough decisions in his life about workload and salary. The new doctor seemed to me to be of similar age, quite a nice looking chap, although somewhat more swarthy than Niko, his predecessor. We soon got down to business and the long and the short of it is that he chided my dearest (mildly I should add) about not having been to see him sooner.

Whilst I stared at the half-consumed frappé, sitting, as expected, on his desk, my wife said that she didn't like the idea of antibiotics because they may have side-effects.

The doctor's reply was, I thought, rather succinct.

"Dog bites have side effects." He replied, adding: "and they may be a good deal more serious than those from antibiotics."

He won the argument and Yvonne-Maria relented. He wrote her a prescription with a flourish and told her to pop into the nurse's room for her to inspect the wound again and spray some anti-bacterial stuff on it. While this was going on, my wife chose the moment to sing my praises, much to my embarrassment, at least at the outset.

As the nurse sprayed this stuff that looked like frost on the wound, my better half said, "Of course, you know that my hubby here is the one that organises 'Help For Health Gennadi' every spring, to raise money for the centre here."

"Of course," replied the nurse, whose name we really ought to know by now. "I recognised you both as soon as you came in."

Now, before I continue with the tale of this conversation, I would like to clarify one or two facts. Rarely is any idea truly original. The idea for staging an event annually to raise cash for the local health centre sprang from the fact that our friend Melanie, who runs the Kalimera Café, also known as Lindos Reception, had already held such an event there to support the Lindos Health Centre. It was while discussing this with another pair of ex-pats who live down the road from here, Peter and Maggie Yates, that Peter remarked, "Be nice if someone did the same for Gennadi." So right there and then I decided that I'd do just that.

Since it began, a few years back now, the team has melded into a few regulars, all of whom are worthy of credit for the event. Stalwart workers include Julia Easy, Viv Colbeck, David and Barbara Lewis, Tony and Sue and a few local Greek ladies too. These days the whole event couldn't happen without Dimitri Koronios, who runs the really lovely and intimate Summer Breeze Hotel in the village. We stage it every Spring, usually to coincide with a local village parade, and my job these days is mainly to maintain the Facebook page.

Over the years we've been running "Help For Health Gennadi" we've raised a couple of thousand Euros. So, here we were in the nurse's consulting room, and my wife was on the subject of the charitable event, so the nurse, bless her, replied:

"You know we are so grateful to you for what you do. This year we bought all these instruments with the money you raised." At this point she opened a stainless steel cabinet, inside of which were several stainless steel drawers. She extracted one and showed us a selection of sterilised instruments that Hannibal Lecter would have been proud of (for all the wrong reasons, of course), before also adding that our money was also going to be financing some re-wiring, plumbing and decorating that needed to be done some time soon.

I chipped in here, to cut off her stream of praise, by saying, "Well, look, we all of us need this place to be here and functioning well. Look at us, who'd have thought we'd be in here today, benefitting from your service to the community? We may not see the inside of this place for years at a time, but we're pretty glad it's here when we need it. So I'd say we're only benefitting ourselves by holding the event."

When we walked out of there and into the pharmacy next-door but one to collect my beloved's prescription for a 6-day course of antibiotics, I have to admit to feeling very happy.

No one wants to be bitten by a dog, but if we hadn't been then we 'd never have had that conversation. To see how our money was working for the good of all the locals, not to mention seeing the look on the nurse's face and hearing her words of appreciation, well it darned well made our week.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Hidden Corners and Alleys

I've been meaning to post this for a while. So many visitors to Rhodes have the impression that the only area of town that has any charm is the Medieval Town or "Old Town" as it's also often called.

But walking around to kill time on my excursions, as I so often do, I frequently wander the area inside the larger of the two yellow circles in the aerial shot shown below...

Image courtesy of Google Earth Pro (of course!)
The above shot is looking due west. So, north would be to the right. The smaller circle, just to help you get your bearings, is the location of the (hate to refer to it here, but...) MacDonalds. The Old Town would be left and down a bit. If you look carefully you can spot the two trees just above the centre of the larger yellow circle. These stand right outside the delightful Koukos bar/restaurant (It also has rooms too, by the way). I highly recommend a visit to the Koukos, it's brilliant. Check out the web site (the link is the name above) for more details, but it's really not to be missed when you visit Rhodes. It's located on Nikiforou Mandilara Street, which runs vertically in the photo above. The street is pedestrianised, by the way, too.

Anyway, if you take the time to walk along Nikiforou Mandilara, you'll soon see little side streets and alleys. This is what awaits you if you go exploring in the area..

Nope, not in the Old Town!

Same arch as above, but from further back.

Of course, as a rule, graffiti isn't a particularly attractive sight, but this caught me eye and led me to thinking. In Greek it rhymes, but it says in essence: "You told me to be careful, the world is bad. But you never told me to be on my guard, sadly against you, yourself." I hope it's not the case, but it led me to wondering, what if some poor young girl wrote this about a male relative, maybe a step father, or an uncle. What may that indicate? It prompts me to mention my fourth novel, "Sometimes You Just Can't Tell,"owing to its underlying theme.

There you go. So, if you're on Rhodes any time soon, maybe go and check out this area, north of the college square. The college is the big building with three aspects that is situated between the two yellow circles in the photo.

I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who's checked out the area in question.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Going Up the Wall

I grew up with Pink Floyd music. Loved it all, except for the simply awful "Final Cut" and about 60% of the Wall. After all, by then it had reached the point where it was all about Roger Waters being determined to make the rest of us suffer because he lost his dad in the war. Mind you, The Wall is worth having if only for Comfortably Numb, which, interestingly, was co-written with David Gilmour anyway.

But this post isn't about Pink Floyd. I simply couldn't let the opportunity pass though, since it's primarily about going up the Old Town Wall. I know, pathetic excuse to mention my favourite band...

For years people have been asking me "Can we walk the wall?" and I've, in all sincerity, told them that I didn't think they could any more. I'd even asked a couple of Greeks in the Old Town, who'd told me that they weren't sure either.

However, wonder of wonders, when I went up the 'Roloi' (see the post "A Room With a View") I was able to see people quite clearly walking along a large section of the Old Town perimeter wall from that elevated vantage point and, thus, I got to find out the truth of the matter. Go into the Grand Master's Palace, at the top of the Street of the Knights (Ippoton on all the maps, helpful eh?) and on the far left of the paved courtyard you'll see a few steps going up through an arch. This is the entrance to the wall. You have to first pay the princely sum of €2 at the ticket desk just inside and immediately to the left of the entrance to the Palace itself. Once you have the ticket, you then exit the Palace and swing right and trot over to the arch, where a nice young chap in a uniform will tear your ticket in half and off you go.

So, here are the photos I took as I walked the wall. Take my tip though, don't do it at 12 noon on an August day, when the temperature is mid-30's and there is precious little breeze. I suffered, so you don't have to!

One of the first sights you see is Orfeos St. from above

Orfeos, the other direction, leading back to the Amboise Gate

Most of the wall is wide enough for two vehicles to pass. How they managed to construct this immense fortification in a couple of hundred years still boggles me.

Much of the wall has no parapet on the Town side. There are signs warning you of this when you first enter, but it's worth being aware, especially if you take children on to the top. 

Once again note the lack of parapet on one side. You can see in this one how far I've come from the Grand Master's Palace. It's quite a long walk. You don't however, have to go back to the Palace to climb down. See a little further below.

The views over the Old Town are incomparable.

The furthest point visible from here is where you can descend. There was a lady staff member sitting just a little further along from here who was able to confirm this when I asked her. Since I wasn't sure if I'd have to walk back, an experience which, in the conditions, I didn't relish.

OK, it is a bit far away, but you can click for a larger view, and you'll notice that the Grand Master's Palace is built at the highest point for quite some distance around. Small wonder that this is the most likely site for the ancient Colossus to have stood. One or two of the photos further above also show this. See the page "Rhodes Trivia."

The further along the wall from the Palace I went, the less company I had!

Approaching the area around the Gate of St. John, where you can find the stairway to descend back into the Old Town.

Those steps on the right are the ones you can go down to exit the wall. It's just opposite the select Kokkini Porta (Red Door) Hotel.

Back on ground level. There is a staff member at the door up top checking tickets, in case you thought you could go up this end and get away without paying. One can't really begrudge €2 now, can one?

I can thoroughly recommend doing the walk for the views alone. Only it's wise to select the appropriate time of day to avoid sunstroke! 

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Putting the 'Ram' in Ramblings?

Time for another in my occasional series of interviews with writers on a Greek theme. This time it's Katerina Nikolas who's in the hot seat. Katerina's "Greek Meze" books, which now number six in the series, carry a decidedly caprine flavour, since three of the books have the word 'goat' in their title. Others, though, do share it out a little with donkeys and roosters also featuring on the rather fun front cover designs. Reflecting the way the industry is changing, Katerina's books are only available in electronic format (primarily Kindle) at present, which has now become the largest market for on-line book purchases anyway.

Katerina Nikolas lives in a small Greek village with her teenage son and cat. She is considering acquiring a goat.

By and large Katerina's book receive a very enthusiastic response, and so I decided it was time to see if she'd like to explain herself! She agreed, and so, off we go then...

An apparently still goat-less Katerina.
About Me
I live with my teenage son, a cat, and a couple of resident pensioner tortoises in the olive grove. I keep threatening to get a goat and really ought to, as I spend so much time writing about them. I have a degree in English literature and spent years working for a finance company. Before I turned my hands to novels I spent a decade writing for a living, with finance as my speciality, and three years writing for a bridal company.

Where Do You Live?
Just outside Stoupa in the Mani, close to the fishing village of Agios Nikolaos. It’s blissfully quiet here in the olive groves, but only five minutes drive to the sea and only an hour over the mountain to the bright lights of Kalamata, a great town steeped in character. Modern life is creeping in but it often feels as though this area is in a time-warp. 

What Do You Write About?
The Greek Meze Series is farcical humour set in a fictional Greek fishing village with a cast of quirky characters. I’ve lots of other ideas for books but have a natural bent for humour when pen hits paper, or rather when fingers hit the keypad. Astakos is visually inspired by Agios Nikolaos.

Why Greece?
Well, it’s inspirational and full of quirky characters I can draw on. 

How long does it take you to write a book?
Three months from beginning to publication, with my self-imposed deadlines. I don’t write terribly quickly but am methodical in always spending the first part of the morning going over everything written in the last few days, making changes and adding things. When I’m satisfied with previous chapters I send them off to the editors as I go along.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
Who said anything about enjoying it; it’s a torturous process and one has to be in the mood for comedy. Half the time I have no idea if something I’ve written is funny or not, as I’m too close to it. Seriously, I do enjoy writing when I’m in the flow. I love self-publishing as it allows the author control over all aspects of the book, from cover choices to publishing deadlines, which is important to me as I’m terribly impatient. The best part by far is when readers notify me to say they love the books and enjoyed some laugh-out-loud moments. If I’m having an uninspired moment then a bit of fan mail revives the mood. 

What, in your view, has been the greatest gift from Greece to the world? 
Greek olive oil, pure nectar, and of course our local stuff is the absolute best. 
Fresh, new, virgin olive oil, straight out of the press. One of the best things on the planet (IMO - Ed)

How do you come up with the idea for a book?
The Meze series originated as some humorous short stories set in Greece, some of which were published in an American magazine. I ran with the idea and turned it into a book. I’d actually been intending to do it for several years before I sat down and finally got on with it, but once I started I realised I had enough material for a series. I often think of new plot lines when I’m writing and file them away for the next book. My series is inspired by many real life things, though often exaggerated, whether it’s the body under the chicken coop or the fisherman being too shy to ask a woman out until he could afford to replace his teeth. One recurring feature of the books, for instance, is the hideous old lady dresses as sold in the village hardware shop. 

Caption hardly needed!

How do you go about writing? Are you organised, do your research, disciplined, are you a messy sort who gets it done on way or another?
I’m extremely disciplined, though it was much easier to stay focused on bridal fashion or finance, than conjuring up farce. I like to write very early in the morning and hope the inspiration hits. I start a book with a few plot lines in mind, but rely on my characters springing to life and taking over as I write. If, for instance, I decide in the next chapter the characters will have an evening in the taverna, I have no idea what they’ll get up to until I start writing. On really good days the books write themselves when the characters just take over.

What other authors do you read?
Among my favourite writers are Margaret Yorke, Douglas Kennedy, Tom Sharpe & Douglas Murray. Recently I’ve been reading through Paige Dearth’s books. My all time favourite books are Eleni by Nicholas Gage, Hand Me Downs by Rhea Kohan, and Replay by Ken Grimwood. I enjoy a lot of non-fiction and love biographical accounts of people fleeing repressive regimes and pretty gloomy stuff such as factual accounts of Japanese prisoner of war camps. I’ve shelves full of Holocaust literature.

What’s your preferred kind of music?
I need total silence when I write but love to have something to sing along to in the car: Motown, Nina Simone, Leonard Cohen, Bryan Ferry, or a bit of opera. My son is always threatening to throw my music stick out of the car window as it’s stuck in a time warp. (I'm firmly with you on that one Kat!! - Ed)

Do you like Greek music and if so which kind?
Yes, the older stuff such as Kokotas and Bithikotsis. I love it when the old men play the bouzouki. 
(Stamatis Kokotas was my mother-in-law's favourite singer back in the seventies. He's still performing nowadays, still with a very distinctive voice, not to mention exceedingly darkly dyed hair! - Ed)

Favourite Greek dish?
Grilled octopus, and Greek yoghurt with honey, but not together obviously. I end up gutting and cooking a lot of fish, often with hooks still attached, when I’m gifted some of the catch. 

Favourite place in Greece and your reasons?
Limeni, a tiny village further south in the Mani and my favourite place to swim. It’s my dream place to live, but would probably be a bit isolated in the winter as it doesn’t even have a shop. This area is very lush but when you head further down the coast it becomes more barren and rocky: I like the contrast between the two.


Links to books: 

At some point I ought to do a blog but I have no patience with computer stuff, so for now it’s just my Amazon UK author page, Amazon US author page.

Finally, Reading device or a real book?

These days it’s the kindle every time. The house is already stuffed full of books so the kindle is a great space saver. I love being able to adjust the font size and it’s my go-to device in the power cuts since it can be read in the dark. Since putting my books in KU I’ve been a big fan of the Amazon library. It’s great value with lots of new writers to discover.
Thanks for inviting me to do this John, it’s an honour to be part of the Ramblings from Rhodes Greek lit scene.

My pleasure Katerina. I'm sure a lot of readers will enjoy not only hearing a bit about you, but seeing the photos too.