Sunday, 20 January 2019

Arrested Development

I'm packing it in. I'm not working on excursions any more. There are several reasons, but one is the fact that, following developments last summer, I've lost my appetite for the work. I'm not going into all the details here, and I have already referred fleetingly to the situation in older posts, but getting "arrested" by the Tourist police along with the "proedros" (lit: President) of the professional guides union, didn't help.

The excursions I've always worked on have never been the type for which the guests on them wanted to be 'guided' by a professional guide. I've always understood, too, that those holidaymakers wishing to be 'guided', would, of course take an excursion, the description for which clearly explains that the guests will be accompanied by, indeed led by a professional guide.

Thus, whatever I (or any of my fellow escorts in similar situations) said to my guests, it wouldn't have made any difference to the professional guides. In other words, were the excursion to run without an escort, it still wouldn't mean that a professional guide would be employed to do it, and thus, whatever we did, we were most certainly not taking jobs from the professionals. That's apparently though, not how the the professional guides view it. It's tiresome, but I'd heard for years of escorts, like myself, being verbally abused by guides, but it hadn't happened to me. This past summer though, I got a first hand taste of just how intimidating it can be and, to be frank, it was enough. I don't need it. I shall miss it to a degree, but I shall instead be concentrating on more writing.

I must confess to having been quite overwhelmed, though, by the support I received from some Greeks I know here on the island. Several have told me that, if I get called to attend a court case where they will in all probability issue a fine (yes, I know, absurd isn't it), then they, my Greek friends, would turn up at the court to shout in my defence. Quite whether they'll be able to make any difference is debatable, but one good coach driver friend said, and I quote: "They ought to be getting on with putting a stop to those African women who hang around the harbour area grabbing people by the wrist and virtually bullying them into parting with a lot of cash for a pathetic piece of string with a few beads on it. Or simply getting on with hunting down real criminals instead of harassing Grecophiles (like me) who do their utmost to not only promote visits to Greece, and Rhodes in particular, but also to make people's visits here enjoyable and thus incite them to come back again." 

Anyway, forget it, I'm done. I shall simply carry on trying to highlight the delights of this beautiful island from this blog and in my other writings. 

The mention of writings brings me to a proud announcement. My new novel, my sixth work of fiction and my eleventh book overall, when you count my non-fiction memoir books too, has just become 'live' on Amazon in Kindle format. The paperback will follow in spring. Here's the cover artwork...

The Amazon UK page where the book can be purchased is HERE.

If you'd like to read more about it, there's a page on my web site dedicated to the book, here. The action switches between modern-day England and the Athens of the Second World War. I have to confess to having been quite emotionally affected by the writing of this book, owing to the fact that much of the action is inspired by the true-life experience of my mother-in-law, who was the same age as the heroine in the book, Panayiota. It's a work of fiction, but is set against a series of harrowing true events. I hope you'll give it a try.

Just coming around to life here in the south of the island this past couple of weeks. The rains have broken all records for the thirteen-plus years that we've lived here. Everyone agrees that it's been what the island needs, but even me and the better half have been wishing for a couple of dry days strung together of late. The rains have come on nine out of ten days at a time recently, and have significantly curtailed what we can get done in the garden. The plus from all of this, though, is how the landscape has responded.

The anemones are abundant everywhere this year. I haven't photographed any yet, but then I have done so on numerous other occasions in past winters. The landscape this winter is verdant to the extent that some views could almost convince one that they were in the UK.

This is a grove of ancient olive trees in the hills that we regularly walk through behind the house. Never have we seen such lakes of standing water among the trees like this though. Should contribute to a good harvest this coming autumn. This past harvest has been very poor here on Rhodes, after four of five years of drought.

Not since the flash flood of quite a few years back, when our friends Gareth and Vicki (whose house stood along the banks of this river in Lardos) was flooded, have we seen such a beautiful flowing river running through Lardos village. 

If you were to walk the river bank in Pontyclun, South Wales, you could take a photo very similar to this one. yet this (and the one below) was taken from the car park on the edge of Lardos village.

Gorgeous, eh?

Yesterday, when we were out and about and stopped for a coffee in the very swish new coffee shop in Lardos Square, the Aroma I believe it's called, it was a truly gorgeous day. It reached a warm 18ºC at around 1.00pm. It was a much-appreciated respite from the rains, which are due to return again today, and last for a few days more yet. 

Ah, well, must get on with updating the web site now that the new novel's in circulation. 


Wednesday, 9 January 2019

A Record-Breaker?

As I've probably mentioned before, we have a rather nerdy habit of marking on the calendar every time it rains. Now, there's no doubt that this winter's proving to be the wettest for four or five years, and that's good. But right now it's threatening to break a few records, too.

Everybody knows that we have a few months every summer here when it doesn't rain at all. Usually, the first rains as the summer draws to a close come some time during late September, when we may get a storm. In most cases, this means a day or two of rain or showers, followed by business as usual, as in wall-to-wall sunshine again for a few weeks. Occasionally there can be quite a few storms during the last month of the tourist season, October, but of late it's been extraordinarily hot and dry during that month for several years on the trot.

Last year, the first end-of-summer rains came Sept. 27th. Then we had a shower on the 28th and 30th. The only rain we saw during the whole of October was on the 24th and 25th. It began to look like another drought year and even more serious problems with water shortages, which have plagued the island for a number of years now. November seemed to confirm this, staying very warm, with way above average temperatures up until the 17th, when the heavens finally opened. Between then and now, January 9th, we have had 30 days on which it's either rained or showered. That's about 80% up on the previous year for the same period. Folks, it's been wet.

I remember a friend telling us many years ago about how she was driven half-mad one winter before we moved here (in 2005), because it rained once for five days straight. She'd never seen the like of it, she told us. This past 16 days we've had either rain or a shower every single day. Oh, the sun's been out a few times and we've got a walk in, yes, but some time during every 24 hour period there's been precipitation. 

I remember once seeing some fascinating details about quite what the ark would have looked like, from the Biblical description. You know, the one Noah and his family built. For starters, it was not shaped like a boat. Rather, it was, in effect, a football stadium-sized chest. A giant shoe-box, if you like. After all, it didn't need to go anywhere, only simply to stay afloat. Anyway, I was wondering if you'd maybe help with getting the livestock organised, and I'll saw some timber...

To top all that, we've been getting a taste of Northern Europe's medicine temperature-wise this past few days too. The post before last mentioned about how cold it was up on the summit of Mount Attaviros on December 27th. You'd usually need to go up to that kind of altitude to really feel the cold on Rhodes during the winter months. Only occasionally do we get a cold snap that plunges the temperatures way down into single figures here at sea level, or not far above it. But this past couple of days it's been flippin' parky, I can tell you.

Yesterday we had to go into town to do some shopping, and the car temperature reading for outside was around 8 to 9ºC all day. At least it was sunny and bright, but temperatures like that are extremely rare for us during the daylight hours, thank goodness. Why, we even sat indoors for our filter coffee and bougatsa, in the café across the road from the Practiker Centre (where we spent some serious dosh afterwards).

On a positive note, I've also been banging on about a little seasonal stream that we used to cross, when walking in the olive groves and pine forests up in the hills behind the house, during the winter months. In the past it would begin flowing every winter some time in February, and continue into late April, even May. Sadly, though, it hasn't flowed at all for four winters straight, but we did that circuit the day before yesterday and, guess what, even earlier than usual...

A result!
The sun may have shone for an hour or two, but man was it chilly...

Last time I assumed an expression like that while out walking was walking in the spring in the West Country, near where I was brought up in the UK.
Oh, and if you remember the antler that the shepherd gave us, it's now proudly displayed on the front of the wood-store (which is taking a hammering at the moment). Mavkos the cat's not all that impressed with my artistic flair, though...

The cat is distinctly unimpressed with the fact that he keeps getting damp paws too.
Finally, whilst driving home from town yesterday, at around 3.00pm, I pulled over a couple of times to snap these distant shots of the impressive snowcapped Mount Attaviros. Incidentally, the authorities just today issued a travel warning about going up there, owing to the extreme cold and the likelihood of clouds coming up very quickly. A white-out is a possibility, meaning that one could quite easily plunge to one's death while trying to negotiate the three-mile climb/descent in such conditions.

OK, so an iPad isn't quite the best equipment for taking such shots, but if you click for a larger view of this and the two below, you still get some idea of the magnificence of that mountain when it's got its white cap on.

Just as a reminder: If you click for a larger view on the photos, you can then right-click that larger view to open the image in a new tab. If you then go to that image, you should get the magnifying glass curser, and then you can see it in a much more magnified view.

Ah well, I'd better go get some logs in. Don't want to leave it much longer. After all, it looks like rain.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Staying in to Watch the Rain

A bunch of photos and some comments about them this time...

While John and Wendy were over here, we took a walk along Glystra Beach. They spend a lot of time there during the summer, but hadn't ever been during the winter. Although this winter is indeed proving to be the wettest we can remember, we still get days like this (two photos above) to enjoy the outdoors.

Walking back up the lane from a stroll down to the beach yesterday (Sat 5th), we encountered the shepherd on the lane. He was just getting the sheep into the pen for the night and was having trouble with a group of five recalcitrant lambs that were more intent on having a good time than they were on going in through the gate from the lane into the pen. He finally got them to cooperate and, as we approached, reached into the back of his pickup and drew out the antler you can see above. He knows a lot about the deer, it seems, including the fact that the adult males shed their antlers and grow new ones. He handed it to us and said, "Here, have this from me. Hang it on your wall or fence, it'll bring you luck."

Whilst we don't subscribe to such superstitions, we weren't going to be ungrateful, or indeed ungracious, so we accepted with pleasure. He then explained to us how the antlers become detached when it's time for the stag to shed them, showing us that white patch at the base, where the antler was originally attached to the animal's head.

We took the opportunity to ask him about his flock because, at the moment, they're passing our gate almost daily and the tiny lambs are a delight, especially when they 'gambol', which gives the impression that they're simply over the moon to be alive. He told us that he has about 250 ewes and, when my wife suggested that he must have at least forty baby lambs by now, he replied that no, he has about a hundred, with still more being born daily. 

The antler, by the way, will take pride of place on that slatted wooden panel on the front left of our wood-store, below.

You think we have enough logs? They're now two deep and we have still more piled on the terrace outside the front door (The 'cubbyhole' to the left in the photo is where the cat's bed and food dish reside). This is because while John was here we took off, the two of us, to chainsaw a dead tree that I've been eyeing fora couple of years now. It's a long way from anywhere and only a vehicle like John's Jeep Commander could hope to get near to it. That and the fact that some neighbours along the road wanted to get shot of a load of weathered wood that they'd had stacked in their garden for several years. The thing is, they don't have a log-burner! It took us four trips in the Commander.

This morning I took the photo above, at around 9.00am. That was coming our way! That's also why I called this post "Staying in to watch the rain." If you know the classic rock album/song where that phrase comes from, answers on a postcard please...

..Or rather, in a comment on this post!

One of the good things about the rain is the fact that our lettuce are the best they've ever been. Plus we have a (hopefully) good crop of beetroot and red onions developing too, plus there is spinach in the nearer of the two beds shown as well.