Week 71

25th April, 2010

Yesterday I was able to watch Manchester United beat Spurs quite comfortably in the end and then watch Arsenal get a poor draw. Today, after doing a bit of gardening to keep my body completely toned, I have watched  Liverpool win and Chelsea smash Stoke in to the floor.

Before we can do any gardening, we have to clear the carpet of wild flowers covering everything. It is so profuse it is quite daunting. I was hacking away at weeds and roots today when Pauline told me to stop because she could smell Rocket. As we moved the mound of wild flowers, there was my Wild Rocket bed from last year still growing on happily. All I have to do is water it.

26th April, 2010

Up early this morning and off out to the shops. First we went to the Post Office to buy one stamp for a letter to England. It was packed. Our friend, Manolis, was in there. We had to stand in line for twenty minutes, watch the Postman record the sale of one 75 Cent stamp with pencil on paper before we could set off to the Farmakia. Our friend, Flora, is now working in the Farmakia dispensing drugs so we wanted to say Hello. Stavros has some apartments/bungalows/gites in Apollonia and we parked in his car park. When we went back to the car, he was there and suggested we went for coffee. Outside the Cafenion we sat in brilliant sunshine and drank coffees and chatted. A man who runs a hotel in Kamares came up to say Hello and I greeted him as my new neighbour. Stavros had told us he had bought land near us to build a home for him and his wife. He told us that they will start to build soon. This man is known on Sifnos as ‘His Mother’ because when you go to the restaurant attached to his Hotel and ask what he has that day, he always prefaces his answer with, “Well, today my Mother has made…..”


After coffee, we went down to see if English newspapers had started to arrive since the air flights embargo has been lifted. The answer was typically Greek – “Maybe tomorrow.” We proceeded on to a shop called Germanos. It sells mobile phones and mobile internet dongles. When we got there, we were immediately confronted one of those really frustratingly Greek red tape requirements. In order to buy a broadband dongle a citizen needs to provide four things: Name, Address, Identity Card Number or Passport Number, Tax Number.  We had the first three items with us but hadn’t anticipated needing our tax number. We received one when we were building the house but don’t know where it is. We drive home to search our computers and paper files. Eventually, I give up and phone Stavros. He rings me back in five minutes with the number and we drive straight back up to the shop with an hour to spare before it closes for lunch. The shop has closed early and won’t be open until 6.30 pm. And so Greek life proceeds – frustratingly slowly!

27th April, 2010

The weather has turned windy and there is a chill in the wind. We have turned the under-floor heating up a notch in the evenings. We have not heard from Germanos about the internet dongle and there are no newspapers because of the transport strike in Athens. In fact, there are no new anything – no fresh vegetables, milk, etc. – because there are no ferries and no transport lorries. We are hunkered down in our house watching satellite television of demonstrations in Athens shouting We demand jobs for life. and Let Greece default on their debt. Let the Banks fail. They got us in to this mess. Don’t take it out on the poor, working people. The whole thing looks hopeless. We get a phone call from our Estate Agents with our buyers’ final bid. They leave us to decide. The decision is easy but emotionally difficult.


28th April, 2010

We believe that there is still potential and appetite in Greece to default on their debt and trigger a run on the banks. We have £10,000.00 in the National Bank of Greece earning next to nothing in interest and decide it is safer to have it out and with us than in the Bank. When we go to withdraw it, we are met with lots of smiles and then we are asked to go to another till where we are asked for:

Our passport number
Our tax number
Our address in England
Our address in Greece
Out telephone number in Greece
My Father’s first name
Pauline’s Father’s first name

We have been banking with the National Bank of Greece for more than ten years and have put around £200,000.00 through our account. We have provided all the above information before and I am annoyed at being asked for it again. I get the impression that it is conditional upon our obtaining our money. I complain vociferously at every question. When they ask for my Father’s name, I say that he has been dead for fifty years. I offer my shoes size and the colour of my underpants. They don’t seem impressed. We fill out all the forms in triplicate but haven’t got our tax number with us. We have to go home for it – a fifteen minute drive – to collect the papers. We get up to go and, as we reach the door, the bank clerk says, Don’t you want your £10,000.00? We have misunderstood completely. We could have the money anyway. They were just updating their records. When the bank looks as beautiful as it does below, you can’t stay mad at it for long.


We move on to Germanos who have forgotten to call us to say that the dongle contract was ready. They help me set it up even though everything is in English and I could do it quicker than they could. We do it with my laptop on the wall outside the shop. The irony is that she runs a mobile phone shop but can’t get reception inside the shop. She has to go outside. This is Greece in a nutshell.

We take it home. I immediately try it in our laptop in the lounge, on the dining room table, in the study. In all of these places, the speed is so poor. I can’t even download all my emails. I am totally despondent. Pauline suggests taking it outside. Immediately, I get a good connection with excellent speed. We listen to Radio 4’s World at One (at three o’clock). Unfortunately, the weather has decided to blow a gale. I take it inside again and walk round the house trying it in every room. Joy of joys – the back bedroom provides perfect reception and internet speed. I am going to see a lot of this room. Using Skype, Pauline phones her Mum and talks for twenty minutes for 25p. The reception is perfect. We are using 3G Cosmote. We then phone our estate agent to accept our buyers offer. We are instantly homeless. We will bank the money and rent until we find somewhere to buy. We spend an hour looking through rental apartments and their costs. There are so many, it is impossible to choose. The first ferry for three days brings in The Sunday Times and the Monday Times. My cup is running over.

29th April, 2010

The Estate Agents email us to say that they have informed potential buyers that we are willing to accept their offer but that the house will remain on the market subject to their proof of financial probity. The weather is still rather cool and very windy. We did a little gardening but our heart wasn’t in it. We sit and plan what we need:

  • Contact our solicitor
  • Look for an empty apartment to rent while we find somewhere we want to live.
  • Possibly look for storage firm for our furniture.
  • Do an inventory of what is to be packed and what we don’t want to take with us.
  • Look for flights home – maybe end of May/early June – to stay for a month or so.
  • Look for cheap car rental for a month. Look for investment accounts for the money.

The apartments we were interested in in Surrey have all gone now but we will have to renew our search when we drive home (what home?) from Greece in October. We spend hours on the internet looking for apartments in Surrey & Kent. There are so many but most of them are poor quality developments. We are downsizing but we want quality. Particularly, we want quality of environment – a gated community, preferably, and near restaurants and a Health Club with a pool. We don’t want much: a good sized kitchen, a large lounge, two bedrooms, two bathrooms (one with power shower), secure parking. There may well come a time when we don’t want to drive to Greece and we will need to leave our car securely for long periods.

30th April, 2010

Would you believe it? We go a year without a single viewing. We knock a small amount off the price and we get an offer from our first customer. After haggling them substantially up, we accept and, two days later, someone else wants to view it. Our neighbour, Jean, emails us today to tell us that she is showing a couple round tomorrow morning. We hope this might spark a bidding competition. The property is still on the market (just) and anything could happen. Labour could retain power!

1st May, 2010


Everything is closed today but, as this merges so quietly in to strikes and other closures, who will notice the difference. It is getting a bit politically insensitive here to be a man who has retired at the age of 59 when new austerity measures are changing Greek retirement age from 53 to 67. Oh to be young again!

Lovely lunch outside today. Chicken salad with white wine. This bottle of delightful Pinot Grigio with a delicate, lemon tang was bought in an Italian supermarket and cost £1.27. If you bought it in Sainsburys they would scream ‘Half Price – only £4.99!’.


%d bloggers like this: