Saturday, 29 June 2019

Care in the Community?

I'm not sure how many people who don't actually live here in Greece are aware of this, but a practice that is quite commonplace here, at least on Rhodes, is for some families with an aged parent/grandparent who needs caring for to employ a live-in woman to do the job. For some reason that I'm not able to explain, it seems that the majority of these paid carers are Bulgarians.

We've had occasion to meet and befriend a few of these 'carers' over the past fourteen years, one of whom was the diminutive 'Dhopi', whom we quite often used to give lifts to, and who never failed to demonstrate her appreciation, even if the very least she did was to leave the equivalent of the bus fare in small change on our rear parcel shelf after she'd got out of the car when we were dropping her off somewhere. We gave up telling her it wasn't necessary. I wrote quite a bit about this plucky little woman and her very hard life in "A Plethora of Posts," in particular chapter 12, "A Little Bulgarian and Her Appreciativeness," and chapter 41, "Get Your Ya Yas Out." Dhopi would have us clutching our sides with laughter quite often, even though she was telling us things that demonstrated just how tough her existence was, while she was looking after an old lady (who was actually younger in years than she was!) who suffered from dementia.

Dhopi came back to mind just recently as we were talking with some Greek friends, from a village near here, about their difficult situation, which revolves around their oldest family member, now a widow in her mid nineties. There are several siblings, all middle aged or older, and a few grandchildren, ranging from their teens to their late thirties, who are tasked with looking after their mother's/grandmother's wellbeing.

The major burden falls to just one of the woman's children (and she has five) who lives right next door to her in the village. This daughter has herself two grown-up sons, and two brothers, both with families, still living in the same village. One or two other siblings have flown the 'nest' quite literally and live in other countries these days.

One of the old lady's sons is himself now in his mid seventies and has pretty major physical problems that make it difficult for him to walk. He and his wife have five children, all of whom, save for the oldest son, now live in other countries. The son, now just entering his forties, is still single and is tasked with helping his dad run their little business of renting sun-beds and a couple of modest little boats during the summer season. 

In the UK there are all kinds of provisions from the state to help people with housebound relatives. My own mother' sister, in fact, back in the West Country of England, lived out her final years in what we in the UK call 'sheltered accommodation,' consisting of a comfy little flat, with a warden living on-site. Each resident has a panic button or specially adapted phone so that they can call for help in event of an emergency. My aunt's daughter would also look in on her mum several times a week, doing the best she could, while also managing her own family of herself, hubby and three children. My aunt even had her meals delivered to the house regularly by the UK "Meals on Wheels" service, manned by volunteers I believe, but I may be wrong.

Here in Greece there are no such provisions. It's expected that each family will care for their own, come what may. Unless the invalid is hospitalised, that is. But even then a member of the family will always be at the bedside, family members often running shifts to ensure that their love one always has someone next to the bed to help them to wash, or shuffle to the WC, for example.

Our local Greek friends, whose parent is in her nineties, well they all have to work. One or two of them are approaching 'pensionable' age, but, as is the case in the UK, the age at which they'd long anticipated retiring has in recent years been pushed back owing to austerity measures placing grave restraints on government spending. So, even though one of the siblings spends her entire life cooking, cleaning and caring for her mother, they've recently decided to take on a live-in paid carer, because the dear daughter who looks after her mother hasn't had a break for decades and the stage has now been reached where her mother needs constant vigilant care, including constant agonisingly slow trips to the bathroom all through the night.

At the time of writing, the family are on their third or fourth carer, all of whom have been Bulgarian. It's not that the carers haven't tried to do a good job, it's rather that the 'patient' simply refuses to have a stranger 'doing' for her, including helping her to the toilet. Thus, each time the sixty-something daughter has decided that she can maybe take a breather while the carer does the basics for her mother, the carer walks out owing to the recalcitrance of the patient making her job an impossibility.

We are aware of so many families, those who either don't want to or can't afford to employ someone, where one sibling is basically 'sacrificed' to the needs of the sole remaining widowed parent. It seems that it's expected that one of the siblings will forego any life of their own, often (though not always) entailing that they reman single too, in order to be sure that the parent is adequately cared for until they finally die.

There are nice aspects of this, in that it demonstrates a closeness in the family unit that's sadly long gone in much of the UK and other 'civilised' countries nowadays. On the other hand, though, it means that someone who may have wanted to marry, settle down, have a few kids, foregoes this life and becomes a full-time carer. Often the other siblings don't do much to help, since it's kind of, well, whoever draws the short straw is charged with all of the responsibility.

It's a cultural thing, harping back to patriarchal days, I suppose. Of course, respect for the elderly is still alive and well in Greek rural communities, which is one reason why this situation prevails, I suppose. Any one of us, considering how we shall possibly spend our dotage, would like to think that we were going to be well cared for, wouldn't we? Hopefully ungrudgingly too.

Just recently we heard news from our friend Dhopi, by the way. Some years ago now, she packed it all in and moved back to her home village in her native Bulgaria, where she was finally due to receive a modest state pension. She's now well into her seventies, but is still very agile and gets around a lot.

Oh, and she's caring for her mother, who's not far short of a hundred years of age.

Monday, 24 June 2019

On the Up and Up

We've lived 4km from the village of Gennadi for 14 years come August, and for much of that time it's remained a sleepy village, with perhaps an appeal to those who'd like things really, really quiet, but not much atmosphere during the long warm summer evenings. The main 'street' which leads several hundred metres along from the square to the part-time police station, (which, incidentally, is where the main character Adrian Dando lives in my novel "Two in the Bush" - the street, not the police station), is quintessentially "Greek village" in appearance. It's barely wide enough for a vehicle to pass along for most of its length, and is closed to traffic anyway for much of the time during the summer season.

Part-way along from the 'square' end of the street is Mama's Kitchen, which has been there a very long time. In past years, when we've had the chance to go out for an evening and have chosen to eat in Gennadi, this would have been the only restaurant along the entire street with a few tables out in the street for diners to sit. They also have a nice courtyard across the way from the restaurant itself. Now, though, things are much different.

Last night we went out for a light meal, looking for our favourite, which is vegetarian pitta, stuffed with salad, fries, tzatziki and a generous chunk of grilled Haloumi. Most souvlaki houses now offer this as an option for those who don't eat meat. We'd seen a photo on a friends' Facebook page very recently, showing the souvlaki joint just adjacent to the nice and trad-looking Antika bar, run by the bloke who also services our car, Stergo (where have you heard that kind of scenario before, eh?). So we made a bee-line for that place first, because the location looked so appealing. Sadly, they didn't do what we wanted, but instead offered us Saganaki. Never mind, we simply trotted off to our favourite souvlaki house in Gennadi anyway, the excellent Lime Grill, but it was a bit of a shame in one respect, because I'd particularly wanted to sit in the main street, where the atmosphere has most definitely taken a turn for the better this season. 

Although the Lime Grill is truly excellent, it's location isn't as nice as some. Not complaining though, since we sat out on their agreeable terrace and devoured two wonderful, well-stuffed Haloumi pittas, a serving of Hummus, which also comes with a pitta to dip into it, two bottles of water and a bottle of retsina and the bill was €17.

But, we've made a mental note to go out again soon and this time try perhaps Zorba's, one of the establishments that are now packing the 'main' street with tables and chairs and thus giving it a truly enjoyable and essentially Greek evening atmosphere. I took these two quick shots before we headed off to the Lime Grill...

Bear in mind that these were taken quite early in the evening. We'd been down to Gennadi beach (where the water was as flat as a mirror) for a swim, because they have good walkways there to stop your feet burning, a couple of changing huts still in serviceable condition, and showers that work well too. Following this we just shot up to the village to eat something before going home to watch the closing stages of the Queens Club doubles tennis final between Andy Murray/Feliciano Lopez and Rajeev Ram/Joe Salisbury.

I think you can tell from the photos though, that the atmosphere in Gennadi on a summer's evening is well and truly on the up and up. If you click for a larger view on those shots you'll see that there was already a sizeable crowd of diners enjoying the balmy June evening.

I can't remember Gennadi ever looking so attractive and I'd suggest that if you're staying in the south of the island any time soon, it would be well worth checking Gennadi out for an evening meal or a drink.

I'd say that a good and satisfying meal out along that street may go quite a long way towards curing some of any dependency that may have had to book all-inclusive too!

A day or two earlier, we had lunch at the Il Porto, situated on Kiotari Beach right down the lane from where we live, too. Our friends Anastasia and Tassos, the couple who run the place, always extend us a warm welcome, even if we don't patronise the place nearly as often as we'd like. Here are a couple of photos I took before the food arrived...

We were going to sit at one of those tables under the parasols, but TBH it was too flippin' hot.

This year they've commissioned a new logo, making the place feel a little more up-market, although it's still very good value. The menu is excellently laid out and offers all the trad Greek food that you'd expect.

I know, it's only a swallow, but I've such a soft spot for the little perishers.
We ordered a beer, a tonic water, a green salad, some hummus and fries (chips!), which are hand-cut and done in olive oil. Not exactly going to make Anastasia her fortune, are we eh? Nevertheless she brought us a plate of dolmades on the house. Nice touch. The bill? around €14. Cheapskates? We wrote the book.

Frankly, I can't think of a nicer place to enjoy a meal or a drink within shouting distance of our home than the Il Porto.

See, finally the fact that we're not having to rush off to work any more is beginning to make a difference. Apart from having been out several times this week, we've also watched a whole load of excellent tennis from Queens Club in London, something we'd never have had the time to do over the past ten years.

I will be writing about stuff other than food and drink soon, honest!

Friday, 21 June 2019

It's Oh, So Quiet...

Considering we're both not working any more, it's been a bit hectic of late. There we were, back during the winter, planning how we'd be at the beach and having lunch in a beachside taverna at least once a week when the summer was under way and here we are getting to the tail end of June and, apart from a few walks down to the local beach in the early evening for a swim, then the walk back, it's not really gone according to plan.

There have been a few extra-curricular things to do, which have largely fallen into the category of helping out friends and doing a spot of destructive DIY for a neighbour, plus other stuff like having to visit the accountant, having to post a letter to a UK government office, and...

"Wait." I hear you cry, "Having to post a letter to the UK? Is that really something that could be counted as an 'extra-curricular' thing to do?"

Oh yes. See, the nearest post office to us is in Gennadi, but, unless you want to spend a couple of hours waiting your turn and, in the process, lose the will to live, we tend to avoid that one. I've written about the experience of using the Gennadi post office before. If you have long enough (I'm serious) check out these posts:

"It Helps to Pass the Time"
"Up and Down"

So, as and when we have a need to post something, we tend to do it at the post office in Arhangelos. There is a post office in Lindos, of course, but to park the car about a mile outside the village (it's tourist season now, remember) and then walk all the way into the village and then through the warren of tiny streets you need to negotiate in order to get there, well, you may as well be sitting on your rear in the Gennadi office for an hour or two. It's less sweaty and you don't have to continually collide with the barely dressed and tattooed hordes all the way there and back.

Thus we bite the bullet and, once we've written our epistle and inserted it in a neatly-printed envelope, or package-taped up our package, or whatever it is we need to send, we find it less stressful to drive the twenty-five minutes up the road to Arhangelos, where one can almost always pull up in the car right outside the post office, and dash inside, often discovering that the place is empty, save for the decidedly "Grizzly Adams" type bloke who's sitting behind the toughened glass screen waiting to be of service.

Despite his appearance, which gives one the very definite impression that he's liable to be out in the hills howling up at every full moon, he's actually quite erudite and always efficient at processing your request, often sticking the stamps on for you himself. And before you say, "How do you know he actually sticks them on and doesn't simply chuck the letter in the old 'circular file?'" We know because nothing we've ever had occasion to post from there has ever failed to reach its destination.

The plus point about going to Arhangelos too is that we can then do a spot of serious people-watching over a very reasonably priced Freddo espresso and perhaps a slice of bougatsa, plus we can buy some mountain tea and fresh fruit and veg from the very 'ethnic' local fruit and veg shop in the main street. A result, whichever way you choose to look at it.

Anyway, as I type this we are actually planning a stroll down the hill to the Il Porto café-restaurant at lunchtime tomorrow for a drink and a spot of lunch. Maybe then we'll finally reach the realisation that we are now supposed to be people of leisure.

I was talking with Petros the other day, he who's very 'careful' with his money whom I wrote about in chapter 10 of Tzatziki For You to Say. A few years ago he planted up a huge number of aloe vera plants in order to try and start a business selling them for the gel that's found in their 'leaves' that appears to carry so many benefits for one's health. At the time he told me that the plants need three years before they're mature enough to be harvested for the gel. Well, the three years have now passed and not much has happened vis a vis his getting the business off the ground. Plus, the crop looks decidedly under par if I'm going to be honest. I asked him about the whole project and why it appeared to be stalling. 

It all has to do with the water. Now, I've talked on many occasions on this blog about how the last few winters (leading up to, but not including the winter we've just been through)  have been much too devoid of rain. Before last winter began, the water shortages on Rhodes had reached critical levels. Friends of ours in Rhodes town have endured a couple of summers when their mains water was cut off for 20 hours at a time several times a week, owing to the severe shortage of water, due partly to the drought conditions of winters that were much too dry, and partly to the over-development that's going on all over this island.

Now, I have it on good authority that new hotels that are constructed near the beach must also install a desalination plant for the water that's to be used in the hotel, so as not to place further strain on the already-overstretched water supply on Rhodes. But the fact still remains that the natural aquifer beneath the island has been dropping for some years now, and the upshot of this is that the sea makes incursions further and further inland metres beneath the surface of the ground. As the aquifers retreat, the seawater advances. It's happening in places like Majorca in Spain too, I hear. Now, this past winter we finally had something like the amount of rainfall that was once normal for Rhodes, thus filling the reservoirs and likely to some extent helping replenish the aquifer to some degree.

From what I'm told by friends who live in town, the water coming out of their taps is now once again sweet and drinkable. Even we here on a hillside in Kiotari did have a few weeks of 'brackish' water coming out of our taps a couple of years ago, which did kill one or two plants in our garden. Some parts of the island had non-potable water coming through the pipes for months, even years. That problem seems to have been alleviated, though, after this past winter. 

So, back to Petros. He'd told me ages ago that the aloe vera plants had suffered, and some died, owing to his having to water them with this - what amounts to - sea water. It was that or nothing. Now, though, we were discussing the fact that his house in Kalathos once again has sweet, potable water coming out of the taps and, like us, they can simply filter it and use it for drinking. They'd had the problem of brackish water for much longer periods of time that us.

Looking at his 'crop' I asked him if it was taking time to recover, now that the water was sweet again. He said, "it's not sweet, Gianni, it's still virtually sea water." Reading the puzzlement on my face, he went on to explain that the water he uses to water the 'farm' comes from a well on his land. If he'd had to use mains water, it would have greatly increased the cost of the project and severely cut his anticipated profit margins. So, there was the rub: the aquifer, since his house is so close to the sea, is still not recovered sufficiently to displace the invading salt water deep underground with fresh water, and thus he still has the same problem, despite the improvement in the quality of the tapwater.

I have to admit to feeling deeply sorry for him, since it looks like the whole project is dead in the water. And that's not intended to be a pun.

He'd invested in the new plants and irrigation system right at the time when the natural aquifer that feeds his well had begun to lose the fight owing to a) tourist development outstripping the available water supply and b) a succession of winters that didn't bring the needed amount of rainfall.

Seems that everywhere you look, man's idiocy when it comes to managing our planet's resources is becoming more and more evident. Even a beautiful Greek island isn't immune. And I must stress that, despite the problems, despite the apparent lack of careful thought going into infrastructure-planning, Rhodes is still largely a wonderful place to be.

So, apart from the delay in our summer of leisure actually getting going, and apart from the ecological changes going on, it's generally really rather quiet around here at the moment.

Back soon.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

A Little Bit of This, and a Little Bit of That...

If you haven't ever heard of Lee Ritenour, then it's time you did. He's a guitar virtuoso from the West Coast of the States who's been at his craft for many decades now and has produced some of the best music I've ever listened to. My favourite album of his was called Rio, and it was packed with all South American rhythms and percussion and stuff, with Ritenour playing acoustic throughout. Why am I droning on about Lee Ritenour? Only because I nicked the title of this post from a track on that album. Plus it gives me the excuse to plug his music.

All kinds of stuff has been trekking through my brain of late. But first, I thought that just for a change I'd start with some photos and then start rambling on, and on and on...





Someone's got it sussed.


Right, in the first two photos (imaginatively labelled 1 and 2) you see why we were rather delighted to have had the opportunity to take a meal at Tsambikos Restaurant in Kolymbia the other evening. The location is nothing to write home about; situated, as it is, on a fairly unattractive section of road leading from the traffic lights at Kolymbia up towards Epta Piges, or Seven Springs (mentioned with photos in this post, and this one. Oh, silly me, this one as well. Hope you have an hour or two). In fact, as soon as you take that turn, it's only when you're about fifty metres from the junction that you see the taverna on your right hand side, and it's right next door to Anthoulas, which we once had difficulty leaving. Now, go on, admit it, you were thinking, 'He's going to refer to yet another older post,' weren't you? Damn right I was. Check this one out and you'll see my report on our one and only visit to Anthoula's back in February 2012. 

The fact that we haven't been back to Anthoula's since then is no reflection on the quality of the food or service. It's merely that it's a location that we seldom have cause to be near to at a time when we need some sustenance.

Having been up to town a few days ago with a friend who needed some assistance with a medical matter, we were driving home in the early evening and all three of us were in no mood to get all the way home and then have to think about what we were going to eat. Solution? Eat out. I don't need much encouragement in that area anyway.

Our friend suggested Tsambikos, after she'd been there once by accident. She and another friend had intended on patronising Anthoula's, but it was closed for renovation, and so they went next door. There are just the two tavernas there, adjacent to each other, and literally nothing else apart from pine trees and the road. Having eaten an excellent meal at Tsambikos, her loyalties were severely tested and she ended up going back there a few more times. Poor Anthoula's. Still, that's life.

Now I have been known to bemoan the fact that when we're on Patmos, we never eat a meal without receiving some kind of freebie at the end. Whereas on Rhodes, it's become a bit of a rarity in recent times. Tsambikos is the exception. Not only did our friend rave about the freebies she's received at Tsambikos in the past, but she convinced us that they were probably as generous any anywhere else in the country. No contest. You've got to give it a go then, haven't you?

The photo labelled '1.' above shows just how generous the lovely people at Tsambikos are. When I called for the bill after a lovely meal, during which the three of us had ordered a meze and all tucked into the various dishes until we were stuffed, they first brought us that delightful box with the logo of the best Mastiha from Chios you can buy (Skinos) on it. It contained a half-bottle of that fab digestif and three themed glasses for us to imbibe. We didn't even finish it, there was so much there for us. Now I know there are some folk who'll make sure they drain every last drop if it's a freebie, irrespective of how much alcohol they've already drunk, but we weren't those kind of people. It's an unexpected kindness that they bring you this gift, so it's good to show a little respect and appreciation. But then, I'm old fashioned. I like to leave a good impression when we get up to leave. I may well be coming again, after all.

Apart, though, from the Mastiha, they also gave us six (two each) little pots of panna cotta and ice cream (just visible beyond the box in the photo) to eat, which went down very well after a good savoury meal. Oh, and when we finally did receive the bill, it came with this...

Nice touch. Now we have something nice and ethnic-looking to put some savoury nibbles in when enjoying that early-evening aperitif.

All in all, the bill came to €41.20 for three of us, so we theorised that, factoring in the freebies, they didn't make much out of us. Yet the staff were very helpful, friendly and attentive, without being obsequious. I'd say there's a real possibility that we'll go there again. Photo no. 2 above was how the place looked from across the road when we left. Anthoula's is next door to the right.

Photos 3 and 4 you need to look at more closely, perhaps click for the larger view. OK, so the Mediterranean Toad is common in these parts, but when you're walking in the backstreets of a large village, as we were doing last Saturday in Arhangelos, and some movement catches your eye as you admire the plants in the pots placed along the edge of the street (which is barely wide enough for two people to pass, leave alone a motor vehicle), you'd probably be as delighted as we were to discover lots of baby toads lurking behind the pots. The street has no water anywhere, there's no drain or stream for miles around, yet somehow these little cuties seem to survive on the water from someone's watering can (or old olive oil tin more likely) which they regularly dowse their potted plants with. No doubt the toads aid in keeping the general level of biting insects in check as well.

The fifth photo I haven't numbered. The caption says it all really.

The next two, captioned 5 and 6, are of one of the apricot trees in our orchard. Boy is it laden with fruit this year. Must have really appreciated the rains we had last winter. We've already sampled a few, and they're truly delicious. The flavour is something you'll never be able to appreciate if you buy 'fresh' apricots in a supermarket in the UK. Last year our landlords were here in June and every apricot they picked was mushy on the inside and had little worms crawling around in there too. This year we've yet to pick one (even fallers) with anything alien on the inside. Hooray. The muesli's looking good in the mornings right now.

Finally, the other day we dropped in to see our good friend Mihali, he of the smallholding in Kalathos who regularly dispenses horticultural advice when we talk about planting vegetables. He's laid up after surgery right now, poor thing. He's had a new knee. At first the surgeons said they couldn't operate because he was too young. We couldn't get our heads around that one at all. Only when we went and sat by his bed did he explain their reasoning. A new knee of the type that he needed is expected to last maybe 15, or twenty years. Had he been sixty or more, they'd have said OK, it'll see you 'out' so to speak. Since he's only in his mid fifties, their logic was that he'd outlive the implant and hence need more surgery when he's an old codger (I know, I know). He was in a good deal of pain, but found it endlessly amusing to think that he's now a small percentage German, since that's where his current knee-joint originated.

The fact that he couldn't get up didn't stop him enthusing when we put it to him that we needed to know what veg to plant at this time of the year. Seems the best thing to go for in the next few weeks will be the black-eyed 'French' beans we'd planted at his suggestion over a decade ago.

Once again he repeated the planting method in case we'd forgotten. You make a small saucer in the soil. You plant one bean each side of the 'dish' and wait until they germinate. Once they're about six inches high you decide which is the more robust of the two and pluck out the other without mercy. 

"Right," we said in unison. "We'll stop by the garden centre and get some to put in."

"June 20th." he replied.

"What?" we responded? 

"June 20th. That's when you must plant them."

I think I've mentioned before that it never ceases to astound us how precise the locals here are regarding dates for planting their vegetables. You simply must comply if you want the best results. Now since Mihalis, like all the other agrotes around here, was born and raised on this land, who are we to argue? June 20th it is. Assuming we can get ourselves to the nursery and buy the beans in time, of course.

And so I round out this post, which has truly been a little bit of this and a little bit of that. 

The other? I'll leave that to your imagination.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Down the Tubes?

The season's well and truly up and running now, as the roads around here well testify. This island is still a wonderful place to visit, at least, parts of it are, yet I can't help feeling that the authorities here are hell-bent on killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

I don't, as a rule, like to dwell on the negatives, but the occasional post of 'realism' is probably the right thing to do. So, this post may seem somewhat less cheery than most, but I shall endeavour to inject a modicum of humour next time. Stick with it until then. I'll say please!!

The Rhodes 'powers that be' are perpetually telling us in the local press about how the numbers of tourists are up by 5% here and 10% there, year-on-year. It must be good, surely? Hmm, well, I'm not so sure. I'll illustrate.

My very good friend is the head chef at a restaurant on the edge of Pefkos. She is an excellent chef and the restaurant where she works has a very good reputation. As far back as the last week of April, she told us that the place was already almost full. I guess we assumed that meant she'd be pretty busy by the time we got to the end of May. Yet, when we spoke last week, we asked her if she was rushed off her feet now and she replied that the restaurant was barely half-full the previous evening.

See, the thing is, in the past most people staying in this area would have been in self-catering accommodation, or at most a modest hotel where they would perhaps get breakfast included. Even today true Grecophiles know that eating out is the heart and soul of a good Greek holiday. Yet the increase in visitor numbers is largely down to the proliferation of the dreaded 'all-inclusive' holiday, which is being ever more aggressively sold to the UK's prospective holidaymakers by the tour operators.

Some adverts on UK TV try to make a virtue out of the advertiser being a company that is exclusively 'all inclusive.' The result? Yes, more people are getting off aeroplanes at the airport, but there is less revenue for all the small businesses across the island, across the country (the world, in fact). Our friend says that she can't remember a time when the restaurant was so empty at the end of May-beginning of June. All the while the local government announces that tourism on Rhodes is booming.

I'm only a very tiny voice, but I beg anyone who reads this, or considers taking a holiday abroad, to remember...

1. All Inclusive hotels bleed very little income into the local economy. Most of the profits go to the owners, many of whom are not even Greeks. Yes, they provide some labour, but it's usually very poorly paid and involves people working ridiculously long hours, seven days a week for six months. They have no life to speak of whatsoever during the summer.

2. I worked on excursions for eleven out of the 14 years that I've lived here. I would be a rich man if I had a Euro for every time a guest on my coach asked me to recommend a restaurant at which to eat out. I'd reply, "but surely you're 'all-inclusive,' you get your meals at the hotel, right?" "Yes," they'd reply, "but the food's awful." Either that or they were so fed up with the same food and the same faces (all of their own nationality, or maybe from other countries, but none of their fellow diners was a Greek), that they were desperate to try something else. One might argue that, well, there you are then, money going into the local economy! OK, so one meal out of a few hundred, when fifteen years ago all those people would have been enriching their lives by eating out in local restaurants and enjoying the hospitality of the local folk.

There can be no doubt, and I stress - it's not the fault of the tourists, they're simply swallowing the propaganda put out by the tour operators - but 'all-inclusive' is relentlessly homogenising the planet and killing off local businesses at a rate of knots.

Do yourself and the local people who live in tourism areas the planet over a favour, holiday 'small' and feel your life being enhanced by the whole travel experience. I've been doing some sums of late, and it's a truth to say that if you find a good quality, modest apartment to stay at, arrange your own flights and transfer, then eat out sensibly, perhaps doing it like the locals, you'll probably pay the same or even less than you would by going 'all inclusive'.

But your abiding memories of that vacation will be infinitely more satisfying. Plus, a few less locals will have closed their businesses due to lack of custom.

Also, since we've lived here in Kiotari, at least five (or more) huge new hotels have been built in our part of the island, all on 'green field' sites. These edifices cater for hundreds, even thousands of guests, virtually all of whom are 'all inclusive' holidaymakers. I was trying to work it out, but even by modest calculations, the extra vehicles on the road in the south of Rhodes from the thousands of hotel guests now staying here hiring cars during the season must have added around 25 to 30% to the traffic on the modest roads around here.

The road system anywhere south of Kolymbia is two-lane only. Plus the roads are often twisty-turny and thus don't allow for overtaking in very many places. It seems to me that the authorities here have given very little thought to how the infrastructure of the island is meant to cope with all the extra cars that all these new guests are hiring. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to discourage you from coming to Rhodes. There are still wonderfully remote places up in the hinterland, with quiet villages and little old men playing backgammon in the kafeneions. All that it still here to be discovered. But facts are facts and the coast roads are being put under much greater strain than they were ten years ago. There are probably five or six thousand more people staying in the area between Lindos and Lahania than there were a decade ago. Probably 90+% of those are all inclusive too.

The power to change all of this is in the hands of those who take summer holidays in foreign countries. It would be so great if more and more people would think a while before booking what the tour operators thrust at them.

Right, rant out of the way, the next post - I promise - will be a riot.