Week 17

12thApril, 2009

We pledged to get up earlier today. We managed 8.30 am. Pauline had made new bread with a different flour and it was delicious toasted with cherry and fig jams. Freshly squeezed orange juice with Cretan oranges and Twinings Breakfast tea. Great start to the day.

BBC announces that Brown’s spin doctor has been caught sending false and malicious emails about Cameron and his Shadow Chancellor and has been sacked. Politics is ever the same. Later there is a Rugby match to watch and Aston Villa – Everton. The Arch Bishop of York is complaining that they are being played on Easter Sunday. Until then, I had completely forgotten that it was Easter Sunday. Weather doesn’t seem much different – warm & sunny. Going out for a drive to Faros – a fishing village – where Vivi, an ex-BA hostess has a house she shared with her mother. Her mother died some time ago and Vivi is not well. She is selling up for £500,000.00. We are going to see if she’s managed it. After that we are going to Platys Yialos – a more tourist area – to see how preparations are going for Greek Easter. We have a friend called Stellios who lives here. He used to own a restaurant in Yorkshire but he has come back to his native Sifnos. He and his family spend time split between England and Sifnos.

Sky a little hazy as we drive out this morning. Faros is beautiful but deserted apart from fishermen mending their nets on boats bobbing in the bay. They shout to each other as they haul their bright yellow nets about. There are two pairs of tourists – both walker couples with boots and knapsacks. We tend to look disdainfully at tourists nowadays and they look mournfully at us.

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We drive past and home. As we drive, we decide Stavros is most unlikely to want to eat out on Sunday evening. It is usually Family Day. So, we decide to have a roast dinner with Fresh Chicken and Cyprus potatoes, roasted red onions and peas. Pauline made crème caramel for sweet and we were both stuffed and in pain when we had finished. Just as we staggered outside with our cup of coffee, Stavros phoned to invite us out to Dinner at Miroppi Restaurant.

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We couldn’t say no because there were lots of things we wanted to talk about. It wouldn’t be for five hours.

Five hours later, we staggered down into Kamares and met Stavros. It was 9.00 pm and dark. We took a table under the lights outside next to the sea. We ordered:

Fava – bean dip
Fried courgette
Merithes – small silver fish deep fried whole
Chips
Green Salad – to be healthy
Fried Calamari
Litre of white wine

We ate and talked until 11.30 pm. Particularly, I was pressing Stavros to get jobs finished on our house:

The exit pipe for our log burning stove has to be completed
Then the pergola can be installed
A canvas roof over the pergola can be fitted.
Telephone line – this is the most important of all so I can install broadband internet

Parted company at 11.30 pm. We payed the bill at 62 Euros. Drove back to the house and had coffee, bath and bed by 12.30 am

13th April, 2009

We said we could sleep in today but we were up by 8.30 am just the same. Tea and toast and out. Before we left, I finished a letter to my old friend, Caroline. She sends me twenty or more postcards every year from all over the world. I have exhausted all the cards of Sifnos so I write letters. Anyway, there is a lot to say about our changing situation. We go out to visit the new Post Office which has just opened just down the road from our house. We pledge our support by buying one stamp for UK.

We then continue on to the Medical Centre in Apollonia. I have Atrial Fibrillation and have to take an anti-coagulant called Warfarin. For some reason, this has to be intensively tested for its blood thinning effects. At first, I was having to go to the hospital every three days. Eventually, that has stabilised at every month. I have to have my INR established by this test and it should be about 2.1. This looked like being a problem on Sifnos where doctors speak little English and tend to be the youngest and least experienced. We are really beginning to worry about this when, suddenly, up pops a new Medical Testing Centre run by a chemist by training. He worked in Brussels for two years but he was born and brought up on Sifnos. He cannot stay away. Who knows? One day he may save my life.

We are cockahoop and go a few metres down to the local Cafenion to celebrate. A cup of rich, sweet coffee looking out across the sea to the island of Serifos which is very clear today and then home for lunch on the patio – cheese and biscuits and white wine. The afternoon is spent reading and snoozing. I do a little writing. As the sun goes down at around 7.30 pm, we go in a start to prepare dinner – Chicken casserole and potatoes. The new, Cypriot potatoes are bursting with wonderful flavour and compliment the oregano & garlic flavour of the chicken. A bottle of claret helps it down. We watch the late evening news on Mega and then Pauline runs a bath while I catch half an hour of Bath v Leicester Tigers rugby match before following Pauline. Being retired is so stressful.

14thApril, 2009

Pauline springs out of bed at 8.30 am to make tea & toast. It is blue sky with sunshine and high, fleecy white clouds but freezing this morning. The moment we are in the shower – we each have our own – Pauline’s Mum phones. She seems to time it each morning. We potter around for an hour, me writing and Pauline doing some washing. A knock on the door reveals Margharita, Stavros’ Mum, with two bowls. One is Gigantis (a cross between giant baked beans, hence the name, and bean soup) and the other is Crème Caramel. As she is leaving, a gang of men walk past the bottom of our drive. Margharita says they are Ashphalters come to quote for working on our road. This would be excellent news. Unfortunately, they turn out to be film makers. Our house will feature but can’t find out where it will be shown.

We go out for a drive to Platys Yialos – the tourist centre of Sifnos – to find they are being typically Greek. They have all winter relaxing and then a few days before the Easter influx they start relaying all the pavements. Total disruption for everyone. Nothing will ever change. Drove back through gorgeous sunshine and had lunch followed by one of my senior moments – an afternoon nap – which I call a siesta. Later went out to check the Ferry schedules for our return to Piraeus on Thursday. They change a lot around Easter. We go to Aegean Thesaurus, the ticket agency. We will leave Sifnos on the High Speed catamaran service at 6.30 pm and arrive in Piraeus at 9.30 pm. This is a cut in the Ferry journey of two and a half hours. It costs 60 Euros.

As we are in our last couple of days in the house, Pauline tries to use everything up. She has two tomatoes, one onion, some garlic and herbs and turns them into the most magical Bruschetta using her own bread. This with a bottle of red wine makes a wonderful evening meal leading up to the Liverpool – Chelsea Champions League match. So many goals but, unfortunately, Chelsea just scraped home.

15thApril, 2009

8.30 am up, shower and breakfast. BBC announces signs of economic recovery in Britain and America. Certainly, Sterling is strengthening against the Euro which makes me feel good. I don’t want everything, just a reasonable balance – £1.00 = 1.2 Euro would be fine. Recently, it has sunk as low as 1 = 1.05 but now stands at 1 = 1.12. I have a massive Euro asset in my house so I want a balance. Yesterday, Stavros told me that two plots of land each sold for 150,000 Euros for 4000 sq m.. This is fantastic news. In 2002, we bought 19,000 sq m for 70,000 Euros. We really could be sitting on a goldmine. If and when we sell, it will be in Euros and we want its value to hold up but not cripple us while we are living here and having our pension paid here. As the day progresses, the £ / Eu moves on to 1 = 1.45. Economists do say that the Euro is over valued. We may see my target sooner than later.

We are just having coffee around 11.00 am when there is a knock at the door. It is Stavros’ Parents in Law, Professor and Mrs Toyne. Ken and Jennifer arrived on Tuesday evening. The looked fit and well. They had come for Greek Easter which starts on Saturday just as we leave and will stay for a month. We talk for an hour or so and they walk back to their house. Ours returns to its solitary quiet. We make a bacon sandwich and do a few jobs around the house. We have decided to go out for an early Dinner this evening because of THE BIG MATCH.

We drive down to the harbour and park and walk all of fifty metres to Sophia’s restaurant, Posidon.  We had an excellent meal:Revithia Keftedes – Chickpea balls with mint
Fried Potatoes
Stock Fish with Skordalia – thick white chunks of fish fried in batter & served with Garlic Sauce
Fried Liver and assorted Offal.

Sophia gives us a little, crumbly cake to leave with. As we walk to the car, we come across the insurance agent and his wife. We have wanted to see them about the quality ceiling fans they have in their house. They invite us to see them tomorrow.

We are back at the house in time to watch Mega Weather at 9.15 pm – lovely and settled and warm tomorrow for our trip. Then we switch to Sport 1 where they are previewing the Arsenal match and Net where the Man. U. match will be shown. Not long into the match, Ronnie Renaldo scores a dream goal and the game is all but finished. Porto were disappointing and United didn’t over stretch themselves.

16thApril, 2009

8.30 am up and there is a sense of leaving. It doesn’t matter that we have been travelling to this island for almost twenty five years or that we will be constantly arriving and leaving, we both still get a slightly raised pulse about the process of travelling. We are both feeling it this morning. We are not sailing until 6.30 tonight but we are feverishly formulating plans for what we must do and fit in. We have to go to the Insurance Agent’s house this morning. We want to see the ‘American’ ceiling fans they have found because ours aren’t good enough.

The day is absolutely scorching hot and we feel it as we walk from the car to the Agent’s house. It is a small, new house built in the old style. It has lovely views of the harbour. The fans are not suitable although we say they are lovely. We drive back to the house and sit out reading in the sun for an hour then go out for lunch. Pauline has Moussaka and I have chicken with oven potatoes. We share a Greek salad. The floor show is our friend, Podotas, having a new sign put up over his office. It is gaudily painted to catch attention and it takes four men up on the balcony and two men down below to do the job. Roping and dangling the sign, lining up and checking the level, drilling and screwing the board. It took an hour for lunch and an hour for six men to hang a sign. Great fun and lovely meal.

Stavros joined us for a few minutes and shared a glass of wine before shooting off. He will meet us before we go. We drive back to the house to pack up. All the outdoor furniture put away. All the windows and shutters closed and locked. The fridge-freezer defrosted. The dishwasher emptied and cleaned. All electricals disconnected. We drive down to leave the car in Stavros’ carpark and then sit in the café until High Speed arrives. Stavros is nowhere to be seen. It doesn’t matter. We will speak to him soon. We walk swiftly down to the jetty. We are just about to board when we hear Stavros shouting. We kiss and part.

Once on board, we find a window seat shaded from the sun and read our magazines until Serifos comes up. We stop and watch the hustle and bustle as people board. Then on we go for another two and a half hours, drinking coffee, snoozing, watching TV, etc.. Finally, we arrive in Piraeus. Frustratingly, we are held in a queue for ten minutes but eventually dock and spill out in to the slightly chilly, Athens evening air. A short walk to the Metro Station and twenty Minutes to Syndagma Square. Our Hotel is five minutes walk away. En route, we call at a periptero and buy our first newspaper for ten days. What a delight!

No dinner tonight just coffee and biscuits. Bath & Bed.

17thApril, 2009

Delightful day in Athens. After a gargatuan breakfast, we go to an internet cafe near the hotel and catch up on news, emails, gossip, everything. It is Greek Easter Friday and all the shops are closing early but Pauline manages to fit one or two in on Oxford (Ermou) Street. Breakfast lasts us throughout the day but in the evening we walk up towards the Acropolis to one of our favourite restaurants. It is so warm we sit outside. We share a Greek Salad and then Pauline has Veal with potatoes while I have Loin of Cod with Garlic Sauce and rosemary. It is washed down with a lovely half litre of Red Wine. (The management send us another half litre free.) We are given a plate of sliced fresh fruit gratis at the end.

Trudging back to the Hotel, we pick up a copy of The Times (£2.50) and make a cup of coffee while we discuss the news. Bath & Bed.

18thApril, 2009

Leaving days are always strange.