Saturday, 27 October 2018

Short Break Heaven

I know, it's not like me to post selfies. But here is me with the beloved walking the Old Town Walls on October 25th.
We've just enjoyed our now annual short break at a hotel in town, staying in a small hotel called the Elite. we've been enjoying simply wandering around, sitting in café-bars and people-watching. Well, I say 'people-watching,' but that's more what my better half does. I suppose I'm more of a 'people-listener,' which to be honest, she also does pretty well too.

It's not like we're being nosey or anything, it's just that you tend to get a really good feeling of the pulse of a place when your brain logs conversation snippets. Having been here for as long as I have now, and having one way or another acquired a good deal of the language, I find the whole world of the Greek 'old boy' culture has opened up to me in ways that I couldn't have imagined years ago.

I find it hard to think of any other expression other than 'old boys' to describe that generation of men with gnarled hands and walking sticks, thinning hair and weather-worn faces, that sit in groups putting the world to rights over their coffees and often backgammon or dominoes. At the risk of over-simplifying things, in the UK, very often the conversation revolves around the weather, football, or maybe what the members of the group did at work recently. Maybe there'll be anecdotes about workmates and stuff. Plus, it'll invariably be over a beer rather than a coffee. Here it's invariably about one of two subjects, politics or money. I've said it before, but when the weather's pretty much the same every day for months, there's not much point in talking about it. So Greek 'old boys' tend to leave that subject alone. There isn't much to be said on the matter anyway. But if I had a penny for every time I'd overheard a reference to money each time I've caught snippets of conversations around me this past few days, I'd probably be able to eat out for free at least one evening.

This morning we sat in the Aktaion café/pastry shop in Mandraki and tuned in to one or two small groups of seniors having their usual animated chats. 

Coffee and bougatsa - when you're 'on holiday' you've gotta do it!

Almost every minute you'll hear someone say, "Three hundred Euros," or some other sum, but always there are references to amounts of money. Plus, listen for anything more than a minute and you'll probably hear a few names of prominent politicians thrown into the mix as well. Often the two subjects entwine, as the participants express bitterness over how much their pensions have been cut in recent times. 

What I like (and I've doubtless said this before too) is carefully observing these groups and discerning, even more so in smaller villages, the fact that these men have known each other all of their lives. You just know that from the time they were toddlers they were playing together, they did their military service together, they married around the same time and brought up a clutch of kids, all the while living within a stone's throw of each other.

Sadly, this isn't the case so often in many other countries any more. Take the UK, for example. Something that could almost be described as the 'culture' there these days is this habit that people have of viewing a property as an asset in their progress through life, as each couple, or family, strives to climb the social ladder. No longer is a house a home, it's a material asset to be viewed as a way of increasing one's wealth. Thus you often hear the expression 'starter homes', yeah?

Here, what more often happens is that as someone adds a child to the family they'll simply build another room on their house. In the UK, school friends (and I include myself in this) very soon lose touch as everyone sets out on this endless 'property [and indeed employment] ladder' where people move, often great distances, away from each other, and thus those relationships that you see in the Greek Kafeneion become impossible to sustain.

I'm not trying to be judgmental, simply observational. The world changes, but in some countries it perhaps changes more so than in others. I have read though, that the most stressful experiences that one can have in life include a death in the family or social group, divorce or separation, loss of a job or moving house. Thus, with moving house becoming such a 'habit' for some, it seems to me that a lot of people are putting themselves under much more stress than is good for them, often voluntarily.

Anyway, to return to our four-night stay in Rhodes Town. We had a wonderful time, simply walking everywhere. We parked up the car and didn't return to it until Friday morning, when we'd checked out of the hotel and had to stow the luggage until it was time to leave town and come home.

We ate out in a few places. The first was one we'd only discovered last year, the excellent Megiston Taverna in the Old Town. These next few shots aren't all that good I'm afraid. My phone isn't too hot at night shots...

Retsina? "Well, go on then, just the one..."

"In that case I'll join you..."

Portokalopita, one of three freebies at the Megiston.

I love the atmosphere here at night. Sorry it's a little blurred. Nothing to do with the Retsina, honest.
The Megiston was every bit as good as last year, and it has to be the freebie champion of Rhodes. These days it's much less often you get given anything on the house. I understand that, it's getting harder for such places to make ends meet. But nevertheless, at the Megiston they brought us a dish of home-made smoked fish pieces, with garnish, with our main meal. They gave us each a delicious slice of orange pie ("Portokalopita" - see photo further up) as a dessert, and also they gave us a second bottle of retsina, all on the house. Hmm, maybe that does have something to do with the blurriness of that last photo above.

Moving swiftly on. The second night we tried a restaurant that we'd never eaten at before. Since our hotel was at the sharp end of town, only metres from the Casino and just off that beautiful plateia with all the date palms (called Square Gavriil Charitou), we decided to stay 'local' and wandered into the Napoleon, on the corner of Nikiforou Mandilara...

Photo courtesy of Google Maps
We ordered yemista pseftika (stuffed tomatoes and peppers, the veggie option) and a green salad. The green salad was listed on the menu as a lettuce salad, but to our delight contained cucumber, red onions and a few black olives. I found the yemista excellent, my other half was slightly less enthusiastic. I couldn't understand why!

One night we went for haloumi pittas at Angustino's fast food joint. It is what it says on the tin, but we enjoyed it. It was a wild and windy night, with the possibility of rain, but we got away with it. As it happened, for the first couple of days the weather was a bit iffy, but chose only to rain when it didn't matter to us. Phew!

On the last night we had intended to go to the wonderful Odyssey, with my good friend Babis, in the Old Town. Although it was clear (just a tad past full moon too), it was as cold as February after dark. So we just trotted around the corner to the slightly more pricey Louis restaurant, not five minutes from the hotel and right across the road from the Casino.

Although the house wine was a little more expensive than we usually like to pay, we ordered a Mediterranean salad, to be followed up by a haloumi pizza. The salad was one of the best we've ever eaten, containing croutons, sundried tomatoes, rocket and a whole bunch of other stuff, topped with flaked Parmesan cheese - yummy or what? It was almost a meal in itself.

The pizza was mammoth and we ended up taking two slices home with us. The staff were only too happy to oblige with a polystyrene box in a plastic bag. We ate those slices when we got home last night, along with my wife's delicious homemade dakos, with broccoli on top. All in all, for a restaurant where one could easily spend forty Euros a head, we ate our fill of truly excellent food, with a wonderfully smooth house wine (needed to be, at that price) and the bill came to €32.50.

Well, we're back home now and glad to be so, because we have a family of close friends from the UK staying next door and we want to spend a little time with them before they go home next week. They've kept the cat Mavkos fed for us while we've been away, plus even watered the lettuces when needed. What more could one ask?

So, in conclusion, the Elite hotel is just perfect for a brief stay in town. It's all brand spanking new, modern, compact and homely. We're very, very likely to go back there again next year. Most of the days we just walked, so here are a few shots taken during our short break in heaven...

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

No Junk, or 'There and Back Again'

Chatting to couple of friends the other day, fellow ex-pats from the UK as it happens, we got around to the subject of the ups and downs of the mail system here in Rhodes. They have been here almost as long as we have and are in the habit of regularly ordering stuff from Amazon to be delivered here to Rhodes.

If you know anything about living out here, you'll know that no one really has a proper address on a Greek island. You can make one up if you like, but in general, you put your postcode and the nearest village down as your mailing address and then you go and collect your mail either from the nearest post office or, as in our case, from a taverna in a nearby village. This is made possible by the fact that one of the ELTA (Greek Post Office, or equivalent of the US Mail) employees visits the taverna in question on alternate days to do a kind of mobile post sending and receiving service. 

Mr. Kyriakos turns up at the Agapitos Taverna in Asklipio village, heavy leather satchel at his side, sits at a table where he is of course served his Elliniko, and extracts all his accessories, which he arranges carefully on the table in front of him. He'll have a rubber stamp and ink-pad (of course), various forms, a wad of postage stamps, some elastic bands and a clutch of packages and letters for the locals who use the taverna as their unofficial post office. The system works well, most of the time.

There is usually a motley group of locals awaiting his arrival and the 'opening' of his tabletop 'shop' as it were. Some simply want to see what he's brought. I posted a photo of him back in January 2014, see this post. Others are able to use his service to pay their electricity bill, for example. Older Greeks still wouldn't even think of having a direct debit with the bank, or even of paying manually on-line, since they're still deeply suspicious of anything that doesn't involve hard cash changing hands. Plus, there is still a whole generation who haven't the faintest idea what the internet is. Even some who do are deeply suspicious of the whole thing. It can't be healthy, when you haven't got a wad of cash in your back pocket.

Returning to our conversation with our neighbours. They told us of a problem they had recently with a package from Amazon. Now, like I said above, they've bought from Amazon for delivery to their home here in Southern Rhodes for probably ten years or so. On occasion they've bought some pretty big stuff. I know because I've been up to the Agapitos to collect some mail and seen some packages almost as big as a washing machine awaiting collection by them. Yet this most recent package never arrived. After a respectable period of waiting, just in case it was going to turn up late (as does happen now and then), they contacted Amazon to find out what happened. They were told that the package had been returned to Athens and were given a contact number to call there.

Celia (name changed to protect the guilty) rang the number and enquired about the missing package and was told: "It couldn't be delivered because it didn't carry a proper address."

"But," replied Celia, "It's the same address we've been using for ten years and nothing's ever failed to be delivered up until now."

"I don't know about that." Replied the jobsworth in Athens, "All I know is that 'Celia Pritchard, 85109 Gennadi' isn't a proper address. The package will have to go back to Amazon."

"But, but, that IS our address!" Replied Celia, exasperation already assuming control in her brain. "There isn't anything else! Plus, every other package we've ever ordered from Amazon has arrived!"

Well, I could go on reporting this rather absurd conversation, but suffice it to say that Celia did finally get it resolved, but not without a fair degree of consternation on her part. But it well illustrates what I said at the top of this post, the fact that just about everyone in areas like ours collects their mail from somewhere, and thus as long as the letter or package carries the correct postal code, it ought to be sufficient for the thing to arrive at the correct point of collection. There are no home deliveries here. I have ordered a couple of things in the past, including a CD of an app for my MacBook from California. The usual form is, if they're using a courier (like UPS for example) rather than the regular mail, they take your mobile phone number when you place the order and the courier arrives in your vicinity, calls you and you arrange to go and meet him on the road. 

In fact, even when I renewed our passports a year or two back, the UK government passport office sent them by private courier and that's exactly how they were delivered. No problem. Mind you, I was rather bemused by the vehicle that the courier was driving. I got the call on my mobile phone and told the driver to wait at the entrance to a hotel that's just down the road from us. Of course, I was expecting to see a smart van with a logo on the side, which was why I sailed straight past the hotel, imagining that the driver had got the location wrong, because outside the correct hotel there was only an ageing pickup truck with a drivers's door sporting a completely different colour from the rest of the slightly dented vehicle. When I failed to find the van, I was able to call the driver back using the list of received calls on my mobile. 

"I'm there!" He declared. "You said the Rodos Princess and I'm right outside. Where are you?"

"Weird," I replied. "But I'll be coming past again in 30 seconds, give me a wave."

Thus it was that, as I drove back to the Rodos Princess, an arm extended out from this old pickup and summoned me. When I parked up, ran over to his driver's window, out shot another arm with an electronic machine awaiting my signature and, having complied, I was handed the package containing my passport. I couldn't resist, I had to ask him, "What's with the beaten up old pickup then?"

It turned out that the courier company's office here on Rhodes employed a whole team of freelance 'deliverers' to keep up with demand. Their only criteria for someone working for them in this capacity was that they have a vehicle. Well, he did have a vehicle, I couldn't argue with that. And, we got our passports safe and sound, so I had no complaints.

Thus we were lulled into a false sense of security. I recently applied for my UK pension. Now, I could go on about that for a while, owing to the fact that there must be some mixup. I mean, the paperwork says I turn 65 next month, but my mind doesn't see it that way at all. It is odd though, isn't it? I mean for decades you spend your life thinking that growing old, or being a pensioner, is for others, but not for oneself, right? Occasionally, though, the stark reality is driven home by someone in a t-shirt. I'll tell you what I mean.

I've been a lifelong Pink Floyd fan (with the exception of the truly awful "Final Cut" album of course). Due to the way the mind deceives one, I kind of feel that Pink Floyd fans are young new-age types, like me, eh? But last week I was sitting in the Top Three when an emaciated, wizened old bloke walked in, wheezing from decades of smoking too much (Yes, I know, strange saying that. To smoke at all is to smoke too much after all), propped himself on the bar, rolled a Rizla and ordered a beer. He looked like he wasn't long for this world, I have to say. The thing was though, he was wearing a Pink Floyd t-shirt. Aaaargh! Was I looking at the truth of the matter, right there before my eyes? Probably. Doesn't mean I have to accept it though. Go down fighting, that's my motto.

Anyway, to return to my pension application. I went on-line, found the appropriate multi-page form, downloaded it and set about reading the reams of instructions for filling it out. It looked like it would take me about, ooh, say, three weeks, to fill it in. I finally got through it all and bought an A4 envelope in which to stuff the thing in preparation for sending it off. Along with the form, they required the originals of both my birth and marriage certificates. That kind of thing always makes me nervous. Nervous that is, until I remembered how they'd sent our new passports to us. Surely something similar would happen when the Pensions Office was ready to return my certificates.

Oh dear. 

Of course I sent the thing off from here by registered post. I then waited a few weeks and then rang the Pensions Office in the UK to check that they'd received the form, along with those certificates. I have to say that the response I get when I call them is pretty good. Apart from the number of times you have to listen to a recorded message and make a multiple-choice decision and tap yet another number on the keyboard. Once you do get through, however, each time I've spoken to someone, they've been helpfulness itself. A tick in the credit column. The conversation I had with them on this occasion was pretty satisfying. Yes the form had been received and yes it had been processed and yes my pension was approved and I was going to receive it directly into my UK bank account for the rest of my... well, let's move on.

A couple of weeks later (I know, you're losing the will to live, but I am getting there...) I decided to call them again to ask about the return of my Birth and Marriage Certificates. Now it gets fraught.

"Ah, yes," said the person at the other end of the phone, "we did send them back, but owing to the fact that they couldn't be delivered, they came back here."

This was the point at which I had to fight to remain civil and respectful. After all, this person wasn't to blame individually. I sooo wanted to...

My Certificates had travelled 4,000 miles. 2,000 from the UK to Rhodes, then 2,000 miles back again because someone over here claimed that they couldn't be delivered. Actually, counting the first journey they made when I sent them with the form, they'd now travelled 6,000 miles.

Good eh? There was no point in arguing with this poor UK civil servant. The fault obviously lay with some berk over here. But after 13 years of living somewhere with an address that amounts to a five figure number and not much else, this was the first time that something didn't reach us, and it had to be two rather essential legal documents. I called the UK Department of Work and Pensions again and arranged, finally, for them to send them to our landlords John and Wendy and they'll bring them out next time they come.

Tell you what though. When your mail arrives at a taverna, despite the fact that you have to go and collect it, the plus side is - no JUNK mail!

And, finally, to cheer you up a bit after all that, here are some photos I took yesterday whilst wandering around town, yet again!

It always pays to look up above street level. You often wouldn't otherwise see some of the more unusual and attractive buildings that pepper the town centre.

An example of the moorish influence in much of the architecture about the place. This building is right behind the Court House in the Mandraki area.

You'd never guess that this old and stylish, yet sadly derelict house is smack dab in the urban area of Rhodes Town, would you?

The clock tower is clearly visible in this one. See this post.

There are so many sites like this around Rhodes Town. You can walk straight past them if you're not careful. I love examining the inscriptions that one sees and to think about the fact that someone's hands carved them a couple of millennia ago.

Streets like this are immensely enjoyable and interesting. All winter long one can come into town and enjoy a spot of people-watching. To me, streets like this are what make towns worthwhile. It's the life-affirming vibrancy of these places I suppose.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Just killing Time

With a few hours to spare a couple of days ago, I snapped these while walking out on the harbour 'mole' at Mandraki...

And this last one's from the other side, at the top end of the harbour...

It's such a beautiful time of the year now. The temperatures are in the mid 20's, so it's much easier to wander around in the middle of the day without dissolving into a mass of sweat. The sun's lower and so there is more shade around too. I know I keep going on about this, but we could actually do with a little more rain really.

Nevertheless, from now until the end of December is probably my favourite time of the year.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

More Misunderstandings

Here are a couple more examples of the way you can get yourself into a spot of bother if you happen to mispronounce a word when trying out your Greek.

The Greek word for 'offer' is 'prosforah,' whereas the word for 'accent,' as in how someone speaks their own language, is 'proforah.' The only difference is the 's.' In both cases the syllable you stress is the last one. Now, think about this a moment. I was talking to a Greek friend the other day and I wanted to say that I know when I speak Greek I have an accent. So I said, "Eho mia prosforah." Effectively I said I have an offer [for her]. Fortunately, she didn't take that the wrong way!

It would be equally as embarrassing the other way around too. If you're talking to someone and you want to say, in a nice way of course, that they have an accent when they speak your language, you don't really want to be saying, "You have an offer?" Especially if you give the impression that it's a question or an invitation. Be prepared to make a run for it.

Slightly less serious a misunderstanding comes if you want to refer to a hammock. Now, you may be thinking, "it's not that often one wants to say 'hammock' when speaking Greek." But here you might just be wrong, because you'd be amazed how many hammocks can be seen hanging from trees in gardens and beach-side bars over here.

A hammock is 'mia ai-ora' whereas an [or one] hour is 'mia ora.' So, if you want to say "you arrived on time," you actually say in Greek 'you arrived on your hour', since you'd say "irthes stin ora sou." I told someone the other day that they'd arrived in their hammock. I had no idea why they looked at me in that strange way.

Ah, well, onward and upward, eh?

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Beggars in BMWs

Another hot potato I've been meaning to talk about is the subject of street 'musicians' and beggars, which do appear to be proliferating in Greece these days.

If you walk around either Rhodes new town or go into the medieval town, you can't fail to notice them, they're everywhere. There are tiny kids, sitting cross-legged on the kerb pumping junior accordions, often repeating the same musical phrase over and over again, usually a short, badly played 'clip' from the song "Never on a Sunday". They may be emitting a screech that vaguely resembles an attempt to sing a few words from the song as accompaniment... 

There are teenage (and barely teenage) girls with their faces whited up and a long white silk curtain draped all over their bodies, pretending very poorly to be statues. 

A local "Human Statue" gets her attire sorted before commencing a session...

Now, I've seen some pretty amazing 'human' statues, notably at Honfleur once, in Northern France, where the detail was so amazing as to be well worth a coin or two in the hat on the floor in front of them. This is the kind of thing...

This photo courtesy of - in the UAE.
...but it has to be said these kids here are taking the Michael, their getup is that simple. They don't even seem to understand that a statue is supposed to be rigid, so they keep waving at people walking by!

There are some pretty amazing musicians too, busking in the timeworn manner, and these generally are very good, entertaining and worth a listen while one passes. Like this combo I saw in the Street of the Knights a few weeks ago...

There are also the kids that patrol the restaurants in the Old Town, one perhaps playing a tune on a mini bouzouki or accordion, while his younger (often no more than six or seven year-old) assistant passes among the tables with a plastic cup or a baseball cap, trying to make eye contact with the diners for maximum effect.

There are the very pathetic (in the true sense of the word) women sitting on the pavement in the shopping area of the new town, usually with a baby clutched to their breast while they simply groan and extend a hand as people scurry past. These are often right under your feet as you attempt to enter or exit a clothes boutique, for example.

I'm also well familiar with a lady flautist, always dressed in purple and white, who busks in the Old Town...

...a couple of troupes of acrobats, several mature men who play either acoustic or electric guitars, some of whom also move among the restaurant tables with a small plastic cup dangling from the guitar's headstock on a piece of string, and a new age-type girl who sits on a step in the Street of the Knights and taps a beaten metal drum (a bit like an upside-down West Indian steel drum) with a couple of timpani mallets, making a kind of ambient sound that's not unpleasant, but doesn't seem to have much of a melody or tune.

So, to take stock, if you were to drop a coin to every beggar, musician, acrobat or statue that you pass, you'd need probably twice as much spending cash as you probably have with you in order to get through the day.

Before I move on to another aspect of all this, I need to mention the 'African" women who hang around St. Paul's Gate, near the fishing harbour, and 'mug' the people passing by stealth. Before I was told a couple of months back in no uncertain terms by the Proedros of the professional guides association, together with an officer of the tourist police, to stop telling my excursion guests anything at all, apart from the arrangements for our return from town (I alluded to this occasion fleetingly in this post), I used to be able to warn my guests about these women. They are a pest and hang around beneath an arch where passers-by need to walk in very close proximity to them. As you approach them they'll extend a hand and put on a broad smile. Once they make eye contact with you they've almost won the battle already. They'll give you the impression that they're simply being friendly, but in very short order will grab your hand and won't let go until they've put a rather pitiable piece of string around your wrist with a few beads on it, tell you it'll bring you health and prosperity for the rest of your life, and extract an exorbitant sum from you for the privilege. It's an upsetting experience and I'm often asked why the Police don't go and sort them out. I don't have the answer to that.

Of course, moving a little further out from the town centre there are the traffic light junction windscreen cleaners and people selling tissue packs at your car window while you wait for the 'green.' There are the trolley beggars in supermarket car parks too. These will approach you while you're loading the shopping into your car and ask if they can return your trolley/cart to the trolley-park for you, and thus pocket the Euro coin that's released once the thing is re-parked.

Reading back over this, I'm conscious of the possibility of giving a false impression that you're under siege should you visit Rhodes. I don't mean to do that, but it is a fact that these folk are about. I've travelled the Athens subway and they're all over the trains there too. This is born of the fact that the system runs on trust. There are no turnstiles, thus enabling the unfortunates to board the trains and 'work' the passengers between stations.

Now, the whole question of how genuine all these people are is a tough one. Of course, the quality musicians don't pretend to be down and outs, they merely ply a busking trade that has a long tradition and I always like to see and hear such people. They add vibrancy to a leisurely walk around a town centre. Well, they do for me anyway.

These guys were playing slide guitar blues in the centre of Bath when I was there in July. They were awesome.

The ones that trade on your pity are a more difficult case. I myself have witnessed something that certainly aroused doubts in my mind. I was waiting for my wife in the car once during a flying visit to a supermarket on the outskirts of town, when I saw a woman who'd been prowling the parked cars with a rather scruffy-looking, stain-faced urchin on her hip, extending a hand to everyone she could draw a reaction from. She also had a rather battered stroller with her, which had a bunch of well-used shopping bags hanging from it.

As I watched her, a BMW pulled up just across the road from the car park. OK, it wasn't the latest model, but it was certainly a decent car in what looked like fairly good condition. As I watched, a man got out and opened the boot (trunk, guys). The woman I'd been watching stopped her patrol and plonked the child into the stroller, whereupon she marched pretty briskly out of the car park and across the road to the BMW. The driver folded the stroller and placed it in the boot, while the woman and child climbed into the front seat and closed the door. Once the driver had got back inside they were off with a squeal of tyres.

What was I to conclude from this? It's a hard one. I'll tell you why. I've been told that some of these beggars are 'kept' by their 'owners' in much the same manner as prostitutes are 'kept' by pimps. I saw a carbon copy of this scene once when we were on holiday in Naxos. The story is that such people don't have papers and are thus powerless to escape the clutches of their 'benefactors' without falling foul of the authorities.

 The only thing I will say is that the body language of the ones I've seen gave the distinct impression that the women were not in any way distressed or fearful of the car or its driver. If I hadn't actually seen them begging, I'd have simply concluded that they were a nice little family getting into their car and driving away.

I'll be interested to get some feedback from this one. Meanwhile, I'd better see what loose change I've got...

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Thrift versus Consumerism

Maybe I ought to have called this post "Thrift versus Needless Consumerism." It seems that 'consumerism' per se isn't quite as negative an expression as I thought. But you'll get the point. Having just finished typing it and having re-read it through, I have to say it's a bit of a treatise rather than simply a blog post this time.

My beloved and I were talking about furniture yesterday and the whole 'cultural differences' thing entered the conversation again. It's broadly true to say that, certainly in the UK these days, people generally change their dining suite at whim, don't they? A lot more people than ever before seem to have as their hobby the continual re-decorating of their home, room-by-room, which often involves, not simply a can of interior emulsion or couple of rolls of wallpaper, but the complete replacing of all the hard furniture in the room that's under transformation. Witness the spate of interior design programmes on UK TV in recent years.

Thus the increase in huge 'sheds', as one tends to call those gigantic furniture stores that pepper all the edge-of-town shopping malls these days. If people in the UK had the same habits as most of the Greeks we know, then lots of those huge chain stores would be out of business. Greeks, in general, own a dining suite for life. Not just for life, but they often use the same suite today that their grandparents handed down to them through their parents along the way.

And it's usually heavy mahogany stuff like this (although often even darker wood)...

That's pretty much par for the course in a lot of Greek households. Plus, quite a few families we know also have custom-made see-thru PVC covers on the chairs. Just what you need on an August day in Rhodes, eh?

Our friend Voula, who I was talking about in the post "Staying Awhile," is a fairly modern woman, yet she too has a lounge/dining room crammed with heavy, darkwood furniture, including a huge glass dresser/sideboard. One wonders whether the standard chipboard floor in a modern UK home would stand the weight for long. No wonder Greek houses have solid floors. My wife's relatives in Athens also have a house crammed with the stuff. Frankly, when one considers the size of the rooms in a lot of 'starter-homes' in the UK nowadays, they'd never even get it in there in the first place.

One of my favourite comedians, "Basile," who I've mentioned before, in the post "Nice Piece of Furniture" for example, did a wickedly funny piece about his ya ya's sideboard and old cabinet-style TV set. I mention it in more detail in that post, which also majors on the whole lace 'doily' thing.

In some ways the Greek way is much better for the environment, if not for the economy. Let's face it, it's a sorry world where 'planned obsolescence' is required to keep a country's, nay the world's, economy going. Nowhere is 'planned obsolescence' more evident than in the computer industry. My iPad, for example, is five years old and already there are loads of apps that I can't download or update because it won't let me update the OS to the latest version because they've made subtle changes to the processor so that it won't cope with the newer system. When you actually stop and think about how this whole planet's financial system depends on industry (and thus mass-employment) rather than small-holding agriculture (as was the case for millennia before our era), you realise that the 'system' is designed to destroy the environment really.

Cultural mores that we abandoned decades ago in more 'developed' countries are still only just making inroads into some aspects of life in rural Greece. Even the house one lives in, when I was a kid, was just about still the family 'base' for generations. Nowadays in the UK even the expression 'starter home' betrays the culture of perpetually moving on to something bigger and better. A house is no longer a home, it's a material asset to be disposed of at a profit as one continually 'moves up the ladder' as it were. Experts in human behaviour and emotional wellbeing, though, ring alarm bells, saying that perpetually moving house tends to sever a human's sense of roots, of belonging, resulting in less balanced people, more emotionally prone to mental distress and other problems as they get older.

Here in Greece, especially in rural Greece, families never sell a house. They'd almost prefer to leave it empty, should a 'set' of forbears die without having anyone to leave it to who'd want to live in it, than sell it on. At most they'll perhaps let it, but it's a home. It was the place to which all the kids and grandkids, even great grandkids could come back to, thus grounding them, giving them a sense of belonging, of having roots.

And I like that. Thus it is with furniture too. Most Greeks I know in the south of Rhodes (OK, so it is changing among apartment-dwelling townies these days) have well-made furniture in every room of the house which is designed to outlive not one, not two, but several generations.

Of course, I'm a hypocrite in some ways because, had I been born into a Greek family and inherited a great big heavy dark wood dining suite that I absolutely hated, I'd probably have to get shot of it and buy something I could live with aesthetically.

But I'm not saying that would necessarily make me any happier for it.