Week 32

26th July, 2009

I will not tell you again but the day is cloudless and super hot. At the zenith of the day, the temperature reached 37⁰C. In the concrete of Athens it was 42⁰C. I got up this morning knowing that there would be no Breakfast apart from a glass of fresh orange juice and a cup of tea. Usually, at work, I would get through the day on that. In retirement, I am doing less and eating more. Breakfast has come to mean toast of Pauline’s bread liberally spread with Pauline’s homemade jam all washed down with a cup of freshly brewed coffee and a copy of The Times. It cannot go on. I will get even fatter if it is possible. The diet starts today and I will keep you informed of its progress.

After no Breakfast, I went up to Apollonia to the internet cafe to post the remainder of last week’s Blog. As we stepped out of the front door we realised that it was ‘Wasp Emergence Day’. These wasps are not your normal, waspish wasps but long, thin, rather benign beasts that would probably only give you a sting if you insisted. As soon as we got back from the internet cafe, we set about putting up our new wasp-pots that we had bought through the ‘Temps’ catalogue. They are beautiful, multi-coloured glass creations which one fills with a sugar and water solution and then hang up. If you want to avoid catching bees, you add a little vinegar as well. As you will see from the photo, we hung ours from the rafters of our new pergola.

pergola1.jpg pergola2.jpg pergola3.jpg

wasp1.jpg wasp2.jpg

It was so hot today that we didn’t feel like doing much other than swimming. I did manage to sow my seeds, finally. I had brought peat pots from England and a bag of sowing compost from the island’s plant shop. I sowed 36 peat pots with:

Italian Rocket
Wild Rocket
Mixed Salad Leaves
Sweet Basil
Italian Flat-leafed Parsley

This was a token gesture because we now have less than three months between sowing and harvesting. It will, however, give me some idea about growing conditions when I plant them out.

27th July, 2009

Day two of the diet and I am already used to orange juice and tea. At least in this heat I don’t have to go to the toilet much. Monday is my favourite day of the week in Greece. I get the Sunday papers. Mind you, they are not cheap. The Sunday Times & The Telegraph cost €10.20 or £9.10 but they are well worth it. I get almost two days full reading and thinking out of them. While I was reading, I was doing Man’s work. I was filling the water tank.

Most Greeks on islands – which have a tendency to be dry – have water tanks. We also have our own 35 metre deep well which supplies us with constant clean water even when the island sends out for water ships. A pump at the bottom of the well sends it up to the water tank above which our house is built. A pump in the water tank pulls it through the filtration unit in our garage which then pumps it on demand into the house. It sounds all very complicated and Heath Robinson but it works wonderfully and is the envy of people like Stavros who have to pay a fortune for their water. It also means that we can water all our fruit trees and plants as often as we want. We can clean our car even in the summer – something frowned on by islanders as a waste of a scarce, natural resource.

The water tank needs to be topped up once a week by opening a valve and reading the Sunday papers. Since time immemorial, this has been assigned as Men’s work.

28th July, 2009

Off to the Medical Testing Centre (manned by the island’s Baker) this morning. I have to have my blood anticoagulant quality tested because of the warfarin I take to treat my occasional atrial fibrillation. I am given an INR number (hopefully between 2 – 3) and I have to phone a technician at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary with that result so he can tell me the warfarin dosage to take over the next month or so. As my blood is almost always neat claret, I can tell you that the INR of Bordeaux Rouge is about 2.3.

The Baker has a roomful of patients this morning. Pauline makes an appointment for me on Friday. Meanwhile, at the internet cafe, I find an email from Ruth which is lovely and one from Jane B.G.. Jane’s tells me that she has added me to her friends list on Facebook. I’ve joined Facebook but never contributed. However, this week alone, I have been added to the ‘Friends’ list of four separate people so I had better take it seriously. Currently, Pauline & I are picking up our emails through live.co.uk.

On the seed sowing front, Mixed Salad Leaves and Courgettes are already through. I have to pay careful attention to watering and shading in this climate.

29th July, 2009

Pauline looked at my face today and was really annoyed. She said I had no wrinkles which, for a man of 58, was just plain wrong. She is obsessed with wrinkles which she is developing from her nose to her bottom. When she called at the Farmakia (chemist’s shop) today, she was delighted to be offered a free, anti-wrinkle cream. I pointed out that it was only free because it was useless but she will try it all the same. The seedlings up now include Mixed Salad Leaves and Courgettes, Italian Basil and Italian Rocket. The peat pots have been moved outside to stop the seedlings getting leggy.

As you probably know, I read the The Times avidly. In Greece and in Retirement I have the time to read it much more closely than before. I wouldn’t normally read *******’s column because she annoys me so much but we must be of the same ilk because I couldn’t help laughing at our similar reactions to ‘texting’ on our phones. Like me, she cannot bring herself to ‘text’ in anything other than perfect sentences. That is exactly how I feel. The punctuation and the grammar both have to be right.

30th July, 2009

As we got out of the sea today, Pauline said, It’s a bit cool today, isn’t it? I agreed. We walked back to the car and it told us that the temperature was 33⁰C / 91⁰F but it felt cool. We have been here for ten days and yet we are so acclimatised that 91⁰F feels cool. I was a bit frustrated this morning that our satellite TV service, Nova, hadn’t bought the Test Cricket from Sky until the BBC News told me it was rained off. I was just going to text Ruth for the score. I had to water all the trees instead and tomorrow we will clear and prepare a bit of ground for the courgettes, etc

31st July, 2009

Up at 7.00 am today and off to the Blood Testing Lab.. It was surprisingly modern and well equipped. I had to give an armful of blood as opposed to a finger-full in Huddersfield but the result came out alright. For aficionados, my INR was 2.6. It should be in the range of 2 – 3 so that’s ok.. The diet is hard but being stuck to. I haven’t had any alcohol for a week. By October Jane BG and I will be barely distinguishable. I weigh myself on Sunday so I will record the up to date position then although it probably won’t go on-line until Wednesday.

The germination of seeds is a little disappointing. Courgettes are powering away and should be planted out in the next few days. Some Mixed Salad Leaves and Sweet Basil seedlings are up but still tiny. Only three or four Rocket seedlings are through and the Parsley, which is notorious for slow germination, is not showing at all. Having cleared all the weeds and competing rubbish away from our young citrus trees, we do at least have some fruit ripening.

1st August, 2009

White Rabbit!

So tired this morning we slept until 9.00 am. Even when we got up, we were too tired to do much when we got up. Lots of cups of tea, BBC News and finishing two day old ‘Times’ later, we went out shopping to the windmill supermarket up in Apollonia. You wouldn’t call it a supermarket. Nowadays it does stock most of the products we need to survive but it will never be more than a good, corner shop. Pick up Friday’s ‘Times’ on the way home. It’s always available about 11.00 am because the hydrofoil service – Aegean Speedlines – arrives about 10.30 am in the summer months when it’s not too windy.

Back home for coffee. BBC tells me that the Test has been delayed because of rain. Pauline and I put big hats on to go out and water the Fruit trees. We have young peaches, apricots, pears, lemons, oranges and tangerines plus three fig trees. We also water the young olive trees. It takes about two hours to do all that. I get back to find my seedlings in their peat pots are rapidly drying out and are in need of emergency watering. That done, we collapse.

One of the lessons Ruth has been urging me to learn is that Retirement is all about pacing yourself. I think I’m learning it

Week 31

19 July, 2009

We were a couple of hours before Ancona so we snatched a few hours sleep and then drove on to the port as the sun rose. We boarded ‘Superfast V’ and went to our cabin for a much needed shower. Out for lunch and then a long sleep in our cabin.

20th July, 2009

We got up at 6.30 am (4.30 am UK time).  Tea in our cabin and then out for Breakfast of Bacon, Sausage, Egg and crusty rolls followed by coffee. Then straight to the Internet Cafe to do this Blog. Meant to say that I received a text from Mike in the middle of the night saying he was sitting under a tree in 37 C temperatures. Strange lad!

We get off this ferry in Patras – a Greek port and University town at 11.30 am although it is bound to be late.

21st July, 2009

Woke to our first morning of brilliant blue skies and searing sun. It will be a big day. We have to unpack the car and assemble, attach, store everything we brought. First things first. I phone Nova TV (Greek Sky) to get our satellite reception switched on. This is vital. We get perfect reception Greek channels + BBC News + CNN and many other Sky channels + 6 Sports channels which will give me the Test matches + all the premier league matches from England. It is my life line. Next we go out to order The Times for each morning – 1 day late.

22nd July, 2009

Can you believe it – another sunny day. Bowl of fresh fruit – peaches, apricots and apples chopped up. Had my hair cut outside – at minimal cost – by Pauline. Eventually get out to the internet cafe (a shed with four networked computers) to do this Blog.

After lunch the house is looking tidy and we go off to collect the three huge boxes we sent by Parcelforce. They have arrived intact. One contains kitchen gadgets – a food processor, a meat mincer with sausage maker attachment, a potato ricer, a mandolin, etc. Another box contains new clothes and shoes + sun tan lotion, shampoo, toothpaste, etc, – all things we can’t get or are much more expensive. The third box contains gardening items, baking items – dried yeast for bread, baking powder, + lots of films on cds. We go for a swim, cook steak and jacket potato with salad for tea and sit outside in the warm breeze, watching the stars and the boats before bed.

23rd July, 2009

Hot but windy day. Got up at 7.30 am and drove up to Apollonia an hour later to visit the hardware store. I bought a pressure washer for cleaning the car and the patio areas. In this hot, dry, dusty climate everything needs washing regularly. We then went on to the Garden shop and bought a bag of compost for growing seedlings – although we are only here for three months this year, I intend to grow rocket, salad leaves, radishes, courgettes and some herbs. We bought a ‘sweet basil’ plant in a pot in case I fail.

Coming home by 10.30 am, the temperature was already 28⁰C. We had breakfast of fresh fruit and coffee. The rest of the morning was spent by me unpacking my new desktop computer, installing the printer and the new scanner.


I had put all the software on it before I left home. School kindly bought it for me.

Office 2007 Professional
Macromedia Dreamweaver
AuthorwareAdobe Photoshop

The whole lot would have cost me £1500.00 so I feel truly grateful. They were a wonderfully charitable institution.We went out for The Times which I had ordered. Today is Thursday so I picked up the Wednesday edition. I read it over coffee. Trust Mum to miss the top story – a second report of 450 new cases of child abuse by priests in the Dublin Diocese alone. This, added to the early cases unearthed two years ago, brings the total to over 500. They kept getting away with it because the Bishops made them say a few ‘Hail Mary’s and reallocated them to another parish where they could start abusing all over again. Blood Catholics!I then moved on to the second gadget of the day. I bought a CD Player and Digital Radio from Comet in Huddersfield and some wireless speakers so I could play the machine in the house and listen to it outside under the pergola. Pavarotti invaded the Greek countryside this afternoon before a trip down to the beach and a long swim in gloriously warm water.

24th July, 2009

7.30 am seems to be the time for getting up nowadays. We have the air conditioning on freezing for an hour before we go to bed and then turn it off and just use the central ceiling fan all night. We close the bedroom shutters at night because Pauline prefers to sleep in pitch black so she can’t see me. Opening them up at 7.30 am, one is met with a blinding light which renders one groggy for some time.

After breakfast of homemade bread toasted with homemade raspberry jam, I built my new pressure washer with Pauline’s help – well she did it really – and proceeded to clean the patio. While she tried out her new food processor, I went for a walk in our grounds to check on the fig trees which are coming on well and baring fruit.

pressure_washer.jpg    food_processormeat_mincer.jpg

We went out for a swim and picked the paper up at the same time. The water was so warm I nearly complained. We had a long swim across the bay and drove home absolutely shattered. We finished the day by griddling Pork Steaks on our outdoor oven under the pergola. Pauline did baked potatoes and Greek salad to go with it and it was all washed down by a cool bottle of claret. Life cannot get much better than this.

25th July, 2009

The BBC tells me it is Saturday. It could be any day apart from the fact that a few more working Greeks find time to go down to the beach at the weekend. We awake to about 28⁰C and it will get to about 33 – 34⁰C by the middle of the day. In Athens it will be 42⁰C today. The beauty of being on a island is that the temperatures are moderated at both ends.

Jobs today include: sowings seeds in peat pots
finishing the cleaning of the patio
cleaning the car

Well I might go swimming at least.

Week 30

12th July, 2009

The Ashes Series has got off to a flying start. England manage a Draw.

13th July, 2009

All the big news. Had the car valeted today in preparation for Friday and THE OFF. It looks wonderful. The perlescent, black paint, the glass, the alloy wheels shone in the sun. The carpets looked pristine, the leather upholstery smelt like new. Only £45.00 for 4 hours work – a bargain.


Had to drive home fast before it rained!

14th July, 2009

We are in the final throes of preparation for departure. Unfortunately, one of the important ones for me is making sure I have the necessary medication with me. A trip to the doctor for a three month mountain of pills – all free – and this can be ticked off the list.


I should have told you that I had to lovely phone conversations with Ruth & Cal.  The more I learn about the relationships in our family, past and present, the more they appear dysfunctional to me. Haven’t heard from Mike. I texted him this morning.

10.00pm – Just got a text from Mike saying he’s on his way to Spain for a fortnight. He blames Angela for not telling him about my emails. The little sod!

15th July, 2009

Up early this morning. Out of the house by 8.00 am and off to Honda for our pre-holiday check. Every year Hepworth Honda of Huddersfield do a free, pre-holiday service before we go on our long journey. They check and top up the fluids, etc and always Bill it as ‘Long Standing Customer Bonus – £0.00. That’s why we always buy our cars from them.


Bought £1000.00 of Euros to get us through the journey. Arranged for neighbours, Margaret & Graham, to have a key and check the house until the middle of August when they go away and other neighbours, Perry & Jean, return from Spain and take over caretaker duties.

16th July, 2009

Cal sent me a photo of her next door neighbour.


17th July, 2009

House closed up for three months. Grey, wet day to set off to King George’s Dock, Hull. Goodbye cruel world!


18 July, 2009

Very rough crossing last night. Pauline was even feeling a bit sea sick. A strong gale and lashing rain lead to a mountainous sea and a rolling, crashing boat. Unfortunately, I slept right through it and even snored heavily which didn’t go down well with my fellow traveller!

After a hearty breakfast – for me, we set off in Zeebrugge at 9.30 am. The drive across Europe was brilliant and we were in Switzerland for 6.30 pm. This was a record. We were around Milano and past Bologna before it was midnight.

Week 29

Did you know that Kevin Butcher’s changed his name to Kevan? Is he Welsh?

6th July, 2009

Last appearance at the anti-coagulant clinic this morning. I have arranged to be tested on Sifnos and to phone the results back to Huddersfield for dosage prescription. It is the baker on Sifnos who will do the testing. He is a trained chemist who worked in Brussels for a few years before returning to his native island to take over the family bakery.

7th July, 2009

Received a lovely email from Cal and one from Ruth. Cal sent me some great photos.

building.jpg   sunflowers.jpg   toms.jpg

birds.jpg   view.jpg

Cal has also sent me a mystery photo which will be featured on the front of the web this weekend.

8th July, 2009

Lovely day today. Pauline spent most of the morning packing huge boxes to be despatched by Parcelforce to our island. 60 kg of goods spread over three boxes costs £150.00 to get there in ten working days. It is the quickest and most effective way if they won’t fit in the car and they won’t.

Cal has sent me some wonderful photos again. One is of Grandad Coghlan’s early home area in Brighton. It led me to an account by a former resident who was there in 1917 – not much after Grandad. Cal has actually been there. She has also sent me a fantastic photo taken in Ireland in 2001 when Mum, Ruth & Kev went over to visit Cal .


9th July, 2009

Great swim today. Must have lost pounds. It was too wet to go Blackcurrant picking. The forecast is fine for tomorrow so we will go then. Our next door neighbours are going to Spain for five weeks tomorrow so I will also be cutting their lawns.

Caroline sent me this photo.The couple in the photo are Peter and Janet our second cousins. Peter is Grandad’s brother, William Michael Coghlan’s  son. Grandad was very fond of Peter and started to train him up in the antiques business but Peter went off all over the world to be a professional ice skater, Janet was a professional ice skater also. Janet and Peter live in Peacehaven.


July 10th, 2009

Raining again this morning. We’ve run out of time for any more fruit picking. It will have to wait for next year. Appointment at our Doctors. We have the most fantastic doctor in the world. She is so supportive. We are away for three months. I need three months medication. It all comes free and fills two shopping bags. It includes:

Doxazosin Mesilate
Lossartan Potassium
Metformin Hydrochloride
Piogliatzone Hydrochloride

I have to have my blood cogulation index measured and phoned back to the Lab in Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.

11th July, 2009

Trip to Leeds this morning. Took us about 20 minutes. On a work day it could be nearer an hour. Pauline went to Vidal Sassoons to have her hair done before we go away. She has had it cut short in the hope it might last three months. Short or long, it still costs £70.00. To compensate she saves on mine. I haven’t been to a Barber since 1969. After leaving home, I have always had mine cut by girlfriends and, for the past 31 years, by Pauline herself. Forty years of free hair cuts every five weeks – 10 per year – 400 hair cuts at an average of £10.00 per time. I have saved about £4000.00. On the same basis, Pauline’s had about 5 hair cuts a year over the past 31 years at, say an average of £50.00 costing me £7,750.00. If Pauline had let me cut her hair – which I would have done happily – I could have saved nearly £12,000.00 which would have bought me some lovely bottles of red wine.