Week 35

16th August 2009

Calamity! The newspapers were late today. High winds may have stopped the Hydrofoils docking. A trip to the Internet Cafe to post the rest of last week’s Blog. Stopped to talk to a man who was growing runner beans. It was an interesting conversation. My Greek is hopeless. He wanted to talk in Spanish. I last learnt Spanish in 1963. The conversation was fairly short. Nice beans, though.

Yesterday my satellite TV showed Chelsea – Hull, Arsenal – Everton and Man. City – Blackburn. Today it was Man. United – Birmingham and Spurs – Liverpool. For very little cash, the Sports Channel provides excellent coverage.

Today we didn’t go swimming for only the second time in exactly four weeks. It was windy and I wanted to watch the football. We have now been here exactly four weeks. We would usually be leaving a week tomorrow. As it is, we leave seven weeks tomorrow.

18th August 2009

You can tell a lot about a place by its cheese. I am a great fan of cheese. Rich and creamy Stilton; mild and crumbly Cheshire or Lancashire, strong flavoured Emmental, Gouda. I love them all. Unfortunately for Sifnos, they produce Feta which is alright in its place – garnishing a Horiatiki (Greek Salad) with plenty of olive oil and oregano over it. I don’t find it travels well though. Eating Greek Feta in Huddersfield just doesn’t do it for me. It’s like drinking Ouzo. The aniseed-flavoured aperitif just doesn’t taste quite right in the rain-swept streets of Yorkshire.

When we first came to Sifnos 25 years ago, there was no bank. There was a money changer who worked from a table in a shop front, He would exchange traveller’s cheques for cash. Do you remember traveller’s cheques? Nowadays, the island has three different Banks – Piraeus Bank, Alpha Bank and ours, The National Bank of Greece. In 1984, there were three public phones in the OTE building and two of them allowed one to dial out of Greece. We queued for ages to use one and then, when we had dialled a UK number, a recorded voice would announce: All lines to Europe are engaged. Nowadays, everyone goes around with a mobile glued to their ear.

Why cheese? Well, when we first came to Sifnos, the only cheese we could buy was produced on the island. We could have Feta or Misretha (a disgusting, soft goat’s cheese that is the consistency of scrambled egg) or Manoura (another very strong and smelly goat’s cheese) with a tough, black rind derived from soaking the cheese in red wine. We would pretend to delight in a piece of Manoura after dinner. Today, we went to the Supermarket 2 (keep up!) and bought Gorgonzola, Brie, Gouda, Camembert and Parmigiana Regiana. Can you believe it. It is quite expensive – about double the cost of UK – but the transport costs here add up. At least we can get it.

Watched Celtic lose comprehensively to Arsenal tonight.

19th August 2009

Pauline looks glorious in the morning.

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Of course, we pensioners, as Ruth will tell you, have to watch the pennies. Pauline & I don’t get our first pension payment until next month and don’t know, precisely, what it will be but, because of our settlement, we will be paying off our huge mortgage and our income will not really change much from when we were working. That in itself makes us feel bad. Maintaining our income while not working feels reprehensible. Anyway, we have never been profligate. We have always invested in property while not stinting ourselves. Pauline, as I have already written, has kept detailed, electronic accounts for thirty years. We have a £20,000.00 overdraft facility with Nat. West Private Banking but we have never been in the red.

However, we are looking at ways of economising as we deal with our retirement. Our BUPA medical insurance cost us £200.00 per month and that has now gone. I had never used it in 25 years. Our mortgage and mortgage insurances will go in October saving us £3000.00 per month. We have discovered that we are paying £100.00 per month for water whereas our next door neighbours are only paying £14.00 through a water meter. We will switch to a meter and save nearly £1000.00 per year. Every week at work we would fill up our car to the tune of £50.00. Now we are doing that once every 3 weeks. That will save us about £1500.00 per year. With one or two other small changes but without cramping our life style, we will save about £50,000.00 a year.

All of this is very helpful as we run two fully functioning homes. Thank goodness for teachers’ pensions. Mum warned me not to be a teacher. It wouldn’t pay. She wanted me to be an Estate Agent with John German’s! An estate agent?

20th August 2009

I might be a pensioner but I don’t really feel like one and certainly don’t want to sound like one. Do you remember how meat used to taste? Do you remember real meat? Do you Jane BG? On Sifnos all the meat we eat is raised in a field no further that 3Km from our house. The pork is unbelievable! It tastes of pork and cooks like a dream. It is soft, moist and succulent. Yesterday, we bought six massive pork chops (mprizoles coirino) the size of house bricks for €16.00 (£2.38 each). A beautiful 3lb slab of beef (moscari) for €18.00 (£5.35 lb). In preparation for her new Greek Life Cookery Book, Pauline has brought with her a meat mincer, Sausage maker, sausage skins, Burger shaper, pasta machine and a new food processor. If we weren’t on diets, life would be great.

Today Pauline has minced some of the beef and some of the pork. With the beef she is making meat loaf and with the pork she is making sausages. Sausages for tea. Wonderful. In her spare time, I instructed her to paint the base of the house – the water tank – white. She only managed half of it today but she really enjoyed it.

21st August 2009

Pauline was given a day off painting today because it is hot and windy. We had the meat loaf for lunch and it was wonderful with salad. Stavros came up and shared a bottle of wine with us in the evening.

I took a shot early in the morning over our gate over to Kamares. Thought it might brighten the page up.


22nd August 2009

Pauline finished one part of the painting today and then she cooked a lovely meal of Pork and Briam. Washed down with a chilled bottle of claret, it was wonderful.

If you’re interested, the courgettes are coning on well as are the basil plants. The mixed salad is virtually ready for cutting. The flat leafed parsley is planted out and so is the wild rocket. We have this tree fruiting which Stavros put in. Nobody knows what it is. If you have an idea, let us know.

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I watched Arsenal thrash poor old Portsmouth. I tried to keep up with the Test Match with Ruth’s help and then I watched Man. U. against Wigan.

It’s been a hard day!

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