Week 76

30th May, 2010

Terribly hot as we close up the shutters and walk down the road to the harbour to catch the ferry. 33°C feels incredible at mid day when you are carrying bags. Unusually, we had left the car in the garage and were flying to UK. Sweating profusely in the cafe, we order cold drinks and wait for the ferry’s hooter. When it comes, we walk smartly down the last 500m  to the jetty and Speedrunner IV. We hadn’t booked economy or even First Class. We had booked VIP Class which meant that we got leather reclining seats, smoked glass windows, our own waiter and complimentary drinks. We paid €150.00 instead of €100.00. The ferry was so packed it was worth it.

The ferry left at 17.45 and by 21.00 we were pulling in to the harbour. We walked across to the Metro station and caught a train for about €6.00 to takes to Syndagma via Omonia.


We had seats and the twenty minutes of the journey was spent looking for a branch of Leroy Merlin. I spotted one between Neo Faliro and Moscato stations and made a note. Unfortunately, by the time we had got checked in at the hotel, the restaurant had closed. We were so tired after the hot travelling, we drank a beer from our mini-bar with some salted nuts and then showered before falling asleep.

31st May, 2010

8.00 am – Fantastic late buffet breakfast this morning: fresh orange juice, fresh fruit salad, bacon and eggs, croissants, wonderful fresh coffee. We won’t need to eat again until tonight. After breakfast, we return to our room to read the Sunday papers and check our email. Around 10.00 am we ask the hotel to call us a taxi and we go to the Leroy Merlin shop we had spotted on our way here.


How this shop gets any business? Even the Hotel concierge or the taxi driver had never heard of it. A French shop in Greece? Unbelievable. However, when we did find it, what a find. We will never be subject to the tyrany of the little island shops again. This place was one up on a huge B&Q. The tiles we were offered by the Sifnos tiler for the kitchen (only 4 sq. mtrs.) and the outside patio (200 sq. mtrs.) were in the €40.00+ region per sq. mtr. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the tiles alone would have cost over €8000.00. They weren’t even the tiles we really wanted but just what was available. The choice at Leroy Merlin was enormous and the price was less than half. The kitchen tiles were €9.50 per sq. mtr and the patio tiles were €15.00 per sq. mtr. This fantastic saving will pay for delivery and laying.

The employees of  Leroy Merlin are expected to speak French and English as well as Greek on a shop worker’s pay. The man in charge of the tile area was clearly in deep pain as he wrestled with his English but he was determined to do it. It made us feel ashamed. He took us under his wing and called for the best English speaker to accompany us as we went out in to the garden area where it was 20% discount just for one day. We bought a wonderful patio dining table and four arm chairs for €750.00. We were taken to the check out to pay for our goods and arrange delivery. A Greek-Australian was chosen to deal with us and take us through the process in that weird mangling of the English language that Australians use.


The temperature was a painfully hot 34°C as we moved out of one airconditioned superstore into another airconditioned superstore. This time is was the electrical giant, Kotsovolos which is owned by Dixons. We were after airconditioning. We chose and paid for our airconditioning, hailed a taxi and raced back to our hotel for a cup of tea and the Sunday Times.

1st  June, 2010


8.00 am – Fantastic late buffet breakfast this morning: fresh orange juice, fresh fruit salad, bacon and eggs, croissants, wonderful fresh coffee. We won’t need  to eat again until tonight. (Notice the similarity with yesterday?) We are on Ermou Street in Athens. It is their Oxford Street and is within a hundred metres of Syndagma (Constitution) Square and the Parliament building. Pauline has been out shopping in Oxford Street while I stay in and write this. After all the walking yesterday, my legs won’t work this morning. We spent the day chilling out.

One nice discovery was a small, family run taverna in a back street. We had courgette slices  fried in batter along with garlic sauce as a starter. We followed that with roast pork and potatoes as a main course. After that, we felt stuffed but the family sent over a huge slice of watermelon as a sweet. We did our best, paid the bill of €35.00 and staggered back to the hotel for coffee.

2nd June, 2010

This morning we woke at 7.00 am, put the Greek news on to find that a transport strike has been called for tomorrow. Thank goodness we are flying today. Tomorrow there will be no buses, trams, taxis, planes, etc.. How lucky we have been. We have a shower and sing.

8.00 am – Fantastic late buffet breakfast this morning: fresh orange juice, fresh fruit salad, bacon and eggs, croissants, wonderful fresh coffee. We won’t need  to eat again until tonight. (See why I like this hotel?)

9.30 am – We set off for the airport. We will be in Manchester by 3.15 pm. We will be met by a taxi and taken home.


Good flight delayed about twenty minutes. Taxi driver picked us up in his Jag. and whisked us off to our (almost ex) home where we were met by our neighbours. The house still looked lovely which made Pauline regret selling it. She’ll get over it. We had no car so ordered a pizza and watched the news about the multiple shooting in Cumbria.

3rd June, 2010

This morning we woke at 5.00 am. It is 7.00 am in Greece and it will take us time to adjust. By 6.00 am we had had tea (no bread for toast) found the documents our solicitor wants relating to the house and still had three and a half hours to go until our car hire firm picked us up. Enterprise Car Hire arrived before 10.00 am and took us to their offices across town. After providing more examples of proof of identity than we needed to enter of leave the country and providing six signatures, we drove off in a new Vauxhall Meriva ‘Design’ MPV. It’s a bit like a wobbly box on wheels.  It has a 1.4 ltr engine which is like pushing a mule through treacle and it has manual transmission. I had cramp in my clutch leg before we’d driven the four miles home.


It is brand new but they told us for each small scratch we put in the painwork they would charge us £600.00. We immmediately switched the car on to our own policy which cost us a nominal sum and has no excess. We then drove to Sainsburys. What a joy. I bought English asparagus, a huge bag of mussels and some Jersey Royal potatoes. I can’t wait for dinner tonight!

mussels.jpg jr.jpg asparagus.jpg

4th June, 2010

Put on a suit and tie this morning for the first time in twelve months. It felt very strange but quite pleasant. Of course, I would choose the hottest day for a long time in England to do it. Went out to meet our Estate Agents and to put a face to the voice of those people we had been speaking to on the phone for weeks. The only thing we did learn was that our buyers had requested a ‘Buyers Survey’ but had only received a ‘Valuation Survey’.   They were not prepared to hold the process up for this but still wanted it doing. The surveyor is coming round on Monday. In spite of this, our buyers expect to have their mortgage offer confirmed over the weekend. Then we went on to our solicitor’s offices. He seemed confident that the whole process would take less than three weeks. That is exactly what we wanted to hear.

Although it could still all go wrong, I am beginning to look at flights back to Athens for the last week of June.

5th June, 2010

A warm and sultry day. We had torrential rain for half an hour last night and everywhere looks so verdantly beautiful, that we are walking round saying, “Why are we leaving here?” We are only saying it half seriously but that half has a point.


Week 75

24th May, 2010

Went into the village to buy the Sunday papers. It was absolutely crawling with tourists. We couldn’t understand why. They were mainly Greek tourists because they were in cars, causing mayhem. At that moment, Stavros walked by and told us that these people had come from Crete for two days. They were going back today on the new service from the Cretan-based shipping firm, Anek Lines, on Kriti 1. The picture below shows Kriti 1 in the harbour as cars queue to board. This is about as big a ship as our harbour will cope with. It isn’t a normal inter-island boat. It is the sort that we normally catch to sail down the Adriatic between Italy and Greece. Still, if it keeps coming to Sifnos, we might use it to visit Crete. We promise not to spoil Ruth’s holiday there in September though.


25th May, 2010

Warm and sunny today but not too hot. Reading the Sunday papers (still) while listening to the Today programme on Radio 4 from the internet via wireless speakers in the lounge. It still feels incredibly decadent. After tea and toast in the lounge between 7.00 – 9.00 am with the radio speakers behind us, the Television News on mute in front of us and the Sunday papers in our hands we can indulge in this rich orgy of news media. It is absolute heaven. The Sundays – Times and Telegraph cost about €10.00 (£8.60)beween them. Today the new Times & Sunday Times sites are launched which will charge £2.00 per week for access but give more news coverage than before. They are free for the first month so we can try them. You can be sure we will be doing.

At 10.00 am we move outside on to the patio with our coffee and papers for another hour and then we drive up to Apollonia to arrange for our local Elinoil garage to order a new tyre for us. They say it will only take two days. Fantastic! Home for a lunch of salad, ham and blue cheese and then something we should have done long ago. We measure up the kitchen for tiles. When we go to Athens, we will order them and have them delivered to the island while we are away. We take photographs and measurements so we are sure of our colours and dimensions.

kitchen_1.jpg  kitchen_2.jpg

kitchen_3.jpg  kitchen_4.jpg

26th May, 2010

We are just building up to the first heatwave of the season.  It has been 26°C today; predicted to be 29°C tomorrow, 33°C over the weekend and rising by Monday. We leave temporarily on Monday so it will be a hot couple of days in Athens.


27th May, 2010

Before embracing the day outside, I had to address the problem of my internet contract. I have bought a dongle through which I can get reasonably quick (2-4 Mbps) broadband feed. I pay €30.00 per month for 5Gb of use. This is perfectly adequate even for an addict like me. Unfortunately, I have to do business through Germanos run by Eleni who speaks very little English. When I go on the web, I can do my business – monitoring usage, paying bill, etc – online. However, everything is in Greek and, although I pride myself on being able to read quite a bit of Greek, contract and technical language is important and difficult. Fortunately, Google have a fantastic translate-on-the-fly for webpages. Unfortunately, as with all translation software, it often makes absolute howlers.Today, I had to concede defeat and phone OTEnet to ask how to proceed. The operator immediately sorted me out in perfect English which he apologised for the poor quality of.

Seriously hot today. We spent the morning planting out lettuce ‘plugs’ that I had grown from seed and making sure that the automatic watering systems will work well while we are away. I have four timers each on an external tap with a hosepipe attached. Two have sprinkler systems attached to completely cover the vegetable patch and two control leaky pipe systems that drip around the bushes and trees.

After octopus salad for lunch, we spent an hour or so measuring the patio which goes all around our house so that we can buy tiles from Athens when we go.


It is about 2002m so the tiles alone will cost at least €4000.00. Still, it’s got to be done.

28th May, 2010

Our Internet company sent us a bill but we didn’t receive it. We went to the Post Office to ask why. They said that they didn’t know who we were so they sent it back. I could pay on the internet but it will take them another month to sort that out. Everything takes so long here. Now I have had to drive up to Germanos shop to pay the bill manually – Can you believe it? Manually!


Co-incidence can be a wonderful thing at times. Sometimes not. I never cease to be surprised. I commented before that Pauline and I are inveterate planners, particularly when we are travelling. We have planned out trip back to England:

All sorted – well, actually, no. Suddenly, as I say to Eleni at Germanos that we are leaving on Monday, she says that all Greek sea men are going on strike on Monday. We tear down to the Booking Office of Aegean Thesaurus and manage to change our tickets for the day before – Sunday – although we have to pay €50.00 more and go VIP. I joke with the girl that we will be VIPs for the day. She looks at me blankly and takes my money.

We rush home again and phone the Electra Hotel to book a third night on the Sunday. Because of the strike, I want another night at £180.00 and because of the strike, the tourists are deserting Athens in droves so I get my room easily. However, this is another example of how Greece bites you on the bum when you think you have everything sorted.

29th May, 2010

Incredibly hot today. We spent it preparing for our departure. After that, we went out for dinner and drank too much wine – well it is the weekend.

Week 74

16th May, 2010

Received an email from our school. It’s not ours of course. We haven’t set foot in it for well over a year. In a few weeks time it will cease to exist. It is combining with a neighbouring school and reopening as an Academy on a new site. Well, that was the intention. All the remaining staff who weren’t lucky enough to be offered redundancy were officially given notice of termination of their contracts and had to apply for jobs in the Academy. Typically, of course, Oldham made a mess of it. First, the new building company hadn’t managed to acquire the site and the plan was/is to reopen in September on the split sites of the old schools for a couple of years. Next, the new Academy Head who had been appointed from Bradford resigned in disgust at the Authority’s organisation. The Authority, trying to deflect criticism, sacked the developer’s managing team. A new Head was appointed. A new managing team was appointed. A number of staff from both schools got new jobs elsewhere. A number were appointed to posts in the Academy. Suddenly, we hear that the funding may be withdrawn. It has already been frozen by the new Government.

The email we received told us of the stress and uproar amongst the staff and obvious uncertainty. Thank goodness we squeezed under the door when we did. I sent them photos illustrating our current state of stress and discomfort: me in the Greek Study and Pauline in the Greek Lounge.

john.jpg  pauline.jpg

17th May, 2010

With two weeks until we leave the island, we are trying to do as much preparation work as we can. Pauline has been researching car hire because ours will be in our Greek garage. We will need one for about a month. I have been dealing with the Estate Agent and the solicitor. The couple have been back to the house and have agreed to buy most of the furniture and all the white goods. The solicitor contacts twice a day now about something. All this office work made us so jaded that we went out for a drive to a bay nearby:

pauline_2.jpg  sifnos.jpg

18th May, 2010

We want some more air conditioning. Stavros put a couple of units in for us – one in the lounge and one in our bedroom. Stavros is not really in favour of air conditioning. He thinks it is anti-environmental and a drain on the island’s electricity generation. Of course, he is completely bonkers in the head and everyone else around him is using air conditioning. Little George, Stavros ‘nephew, came back from a twelve month stint in the navy raving about the fact that he slept right through the night because the rooms had air conditioning. Stavros still won’t accept it. He thinks it is not only anti-environmental but unhealthy. Coming out of cold into hot and back is bound to bring on colds, etc.. As I say, he is completely bonkers in the head and we have sent for the electrician, Frangiskus, to advise us. In the meantime, we go on line to the Kotsovolos (owned by Dixons) site to look at prices. Our lounge and kitchen room is about 75-80 sq metrs. Our air conditioning unit is woefully small because that is what Stavros initially ordained before we understood the implications. We can buy what we need for €600-700.00 with free delivery. We then went up to our local branch of ‘Comet’ in Apollonia. The electrical shop is managed by Flora. The picture below shows Flora outside ‘Comet’ having just arranged her display of washing machines.


You can see Pauline likes ‘Comet’ or she did until she saw the prices of air conditioning units were 40% higher than on-line.

19th May, 2010

We were in the Supermarket in Apollonia today and, suddenly, there was the most almighty explosion. I scare easily and dived for cover behind the sacks of flour. The girl on the till shrieked. Pauline pulled me up and explained that it was thunder. The weather forecast had been threatening this for days but hadn’t delivered. Our garden is watered by two sprinklers on timers four times a day and by two lots of leaky pipe. A downpour would be wonderful. As Pauline dusted the flour off my clothes, she led me reassuringly out to the car where huge drops of rain were falling. We were almost giddy with delight – me because I had survived the near-death experience and Pauline because, at last, the car would get washed and the gardens would be watered. We drove down from the metropolis to the port but suddenly realised as we did that the rain had stopped and been replaced by the normal strong sun. When we arrived home, we found our garden hadn’t received a single drop. Luckily, the sprinklers soon came on.

We feel rather overwhelmed by the amount of ground that we’ve got surrounding the house. It would take a lifetime to cultivate it. At the moment, we have just cleared a patch at the back of the house. Stavros has already planted a number of trees. The photograph below shows a pomegranate on the left and golden conifer on the right. Through the gap you may be able to see rows of:

Red and Brown skinned Onions
French Beans
Broad Beans


Further down the garden, under the Lemon Trees, we have three different types of Potato, more Salad Leaves and Courgettes. I am having great fun growing them under these more challenging circumstances. I’m also growing Sage and Basil seedlings. It remains to be seen whether they will survive with just automatic watering while we are away for a month.

20th May, 2010

We went down to the port ostensibly to have coffee in the cafe but really to chat to people to get information. We ask about cheap places in Athens to buy building materials. Christos, immediately directs us to the equivalent of B&Q. The French company, Leroy Merlin have begun to invade Greece.

21st May, 2010

Friday today. The week has gone amazingly quickly. I only finished the Sunday papers a couple of days ago. These are the pressures of retirement. It’s a white knuckle ride. You just have to go with it.

We will have been on the island for five weeks on Monday. To celebrate, we went to the petrol station to fill up. Greece has gone from having the cheapest to the most expensive petrol in the European Union. To fill our car from almost empty cost us €70.00 today. That is £60.00. In Britain it would have cost us £50.00. The compensation is that it is only the second fill up in five weeks whereas we would do it weekly in UK. The other compensation was that we met ‘Famous’ at the Elinoil filling station. It is a family run place and we always go there. They sometimes hand wash our car. Everybody gets involved – two sisters, one husband and young son. The son, Apostolos, who looks a cheeky twelve year old is actually coming up to sixteen. There is a video of him on the internet playing folk music on the balalaika and singing. He has no interest in school but is passionate about filling cars up with petrol, checking tyre pressures and tinkering with engines. He does that while the women spray and clean the paintwork, vacuum and polish the interior. Husband, has jet black tusky hair and a huge, Greek moustache, helps with the final polishing. His other task is to take the small, oil tanker down to the docks to service the posh yachts that come in to moor for a day or two.


As for ‘Famous’? We met him/her sitting under an upturned fruit crate looking colourful and beautiful. After handing over two €50.00 notes for my petrol and receiving my change, I asked naively, ‘What is it? ‘Famous’, said Apostolos’ Mother. As I looked puzzled, she added, ‘Scottish’. Pauline, who is much quicker than me, said,’ Is it a grouse?’ Apostolos gave us a witheringly pained look and just nodded. I bent down to look and Apostolos unhooked a make-shift door he had created on the end of the wooden slatted fruit crate. The beautiful bird wandered out and came straight towards me talking all the time. The bird nuzzled against my hand and Apostolos smiled.


He thought his Grouse would know an Englishman when he saw one. After all, that’s where the whisky comes from. I hadn’t the heart to put him right. The bird was popped back into its crate-home and Apostolos flashed me a smile of pride as I said, ‘Goodbye’. It is moments like this that make the price of petrol irrelevant.

22nd May, 2010

While you lot are barbecuing yourselves rigid in the unseasonally warm late May weather, we are sheltering from enormous spots of rain. They last five minutes and then the sun comes out. I spoke to Ruth last night by Skype and, when she worked out how to switch her video cam on, I found her drinking red wine in the garden. It was 7.30 at night (UK) – 9.30 pm in Greece- and already pitch black here. To cap the week, we tested our tyres this morning and found we had a nail in one. We pumped it up and drove it down to the local garage whre they yanked it out a stuck a plastic plug with adhesive in. I looked askance and pointed out that I would have to drive across Europe on that. ‘No problem’, the mechanic said and charged me €6.00.

As soon as we got home, I went on the AA website where it said:

Punctures in the tread area of the car tyre can often be repaired if the tyre’s not been driven in a flat condition for any significant distance.

Strict rules for car tyre repair – what can be repaired and how repairs should be carried out – are laid down in a British Standard (BS AU159).

One of the most important requirements of this standard is that the car tyre must be removed from the wheel to check for any internal damage which if not spotted could later result in sudden failure of the tyre.

Externally applied plugs and liquid sealants can’t be considered permanent repairs.

Before we fly to England, we will look for a supplier who can send a new tyre from Athens at great expense so that we can have it fitted when we return.

Week 73

9th May, 2010 

Glorious day in spite of the results. Got up early and we gardened for three hours or so. Lunch was salad with garlic mayonnaise and griddled pork strips all washed down with a glass or two of Italian white wine. Delicious! We ate this outside under the cover of the pergola. Sunday in Kamares is quite a busy time because weekenders from Athens go back on the ferry. We watched the activity as we had our lunch.

After lunch I had a snooze as I pretended to watch the Motor Racing just waking in time to see Hamilton crashing out on his penultimate lap. In that time, Pauline made marmalade.


Then I had to watch the football while Pauline made king prawn risotto for our evening meal. It really is a hard life. After dinner, the sultry evening led us outside under a ceiling of stars. We had our coffee under the stars listening to the owls.

10th May, 2010

Set out for the great metropolis this morning. I have to have my blood coagulation tested and the medical testing centre (The Baker and a chair) is up in the capital city – Apollonia. Below are two photographs of the busy hub of Apollonia:

lakis.jpg  fish_vans.jpg

The second shows men sitting on the wall waiting for the 9.30 am bus and the fish vans plying their morning trade. It used to be local fishermen selling last night’s catch. Nowadays, it is ex-fishermen selling fish they have brought in from Athens and which was probably primarily sourced from the fish farms of Igoumenitsa on the Peloponnese.  There is little fish to be caught around Sifnos these days.  The first picture is of Lakis coffee and sweet things shop. That is what the sign says. It has remained in this traditional style with the vine topped pergola and the metal sliding doors since the first day we arrived on Sifnos in July 1985. Could you take the pressure of surviving in this bustling city jungle?

11th May, 2010

The weather is getting hotter here. Yesterday it was 28⁰C, today 29⁰C and tomorrow is forecast 30⁰C. Cruel, I know, but someone has to live through it. Went out early to get the result of my blood test and pay my €16.00 then home to read the Sunday papers. It is Tuesday, I know but I got these yesterday and will have to make them last all week. The Sunday Times and The Sunday Telegraph cost me £10.00. You have to get your money’s worth. When I’ve finished reading them, they will be turned into fuel for the log burning stove with my latest contraption.


Will the weather ever be cold enough to allow me to burn them? April – October is not looking promising. Mind you, neither is Nick Clegg.!

The house sale is with solicitors now. We have sent a pricelist of house contents for sale – almost everything because we want a fresh start. The buyers are going round to look at it on Saturday. We will fly back to UK as soon as the solicitor advises. We have told him we will try to do a month – three weeks before the sale and a week afterwards. We will hire a car for a month and look for an unfurnished apartment for six months which will probably take us to the end of the year. We would hope to have found somewhere to buy by Christmas.

12th May, 2010

The temperature continues to climb and I’m not talking about the Lib-Con stitch up. Wasn’t it nauseating to see Cameron & Clegg kissing on the Downing Street steps? The 30⁰C prediction was achieved. It was just too warm for gardening. Anyway, we had an email from our solicitor saying we have 6-8 weeks until completion date so we booked flights home. I had 65,000 air miles points through our Private Nat. West account and it took 63,000 of them for our flights from Athens to Manchester on June 2nd. We will leave the island on May 31st and spend two nights in Athens shopping. Having our car in our garage in Greece, we will have to hire one when we get to Manchester. We will need it for about a month. Anybody got a spare car for the month of June?

What are your feelings about ‘Danish Blue’? I remember Dad used to eat it with crackers and a bottle of red diamond pale ale for his supper in the Front Room with Mum after we had been sent to bed. I thought, eating Danish Blue was a sign of manhood. I longed to try it. When I did, I was nearly sick but I didn’t give up. For years now I have been celebrating my manhood with Danish Blue. (Well, I have occasionally cheated and bought Gorgonzola or Dolcelatte.) As a sign of the times on Sifnos, we can now buy Danish Blue in our supermarket. Today we had it for lunch with a green salad and it was wonderful.

After lunch, we went out for a drive to Chrysopigi. It is a beautiful little bay with a church built out on a promontory. Tonight, this church will be the centre of celebrations for the island faithful and then tomorrow will be a general holiday on the island. In the background of this photograph is the island of Kimolos. If you ask Sifniots what they think of Kimolos, the will say they have never heard of it and, almost certainly, few will have actually set foot on it. And yet, you can see it’s so close.


13th May, 2010

An unbearable hot and humid day today. It feels like something will explode it is that close. We only went out today down to the harbour travel agency – Aegean Thesaurus (pronounced Agin Thesoorus) – to book our ferry tickets back to Athens.


We will leave the island on Monday, May 31st to go to Piraeus and Athens on the Speed Runner, a fast catamaran service that will get us there in just over three hours. We will go to the Electra Hotel and spend two nights. While there we will shop for garden furniture and outdoor floor tiles to have sent back to the island while we are away. On Tuesday afternoon, we will get the tube to Athens Airport and fly to Manchester.

Managed to watch England thrash Sri Lanka tonight. It was really enjoyable.


14th May, 2010

Hot, sticky and uncomfortable today. Rain is forecast for tomorrow. For the second morning running we have gone into the lounge and heard noises in the log burning stove. On closer inspection, a gorgeous little bird with a bright yellow breast was pecking at the glass door and asking to be let out. Yesterday we panicked and went through all sorts of preparations – rubber gloves on, black plastic sacks in hand, etc, before we dared to open the door and Pauline grabbed it and released it chirpingly to freedom. Today we nonchalantly opened the windows and allowed it to fly straight out. I don’t think it was the same bird but, if it happens tomorrow, I will be interrogating it.

It is ironic that we leave the island in a fortnight for up to a month and our garden is growing so well. Lettuces, radishes, broadbeans, dwarf beans, carrots, onions, garlic and courgettes are all doing well. I’ve been up to the hardware store to buy another hosepipe and a timer to fit to the tap so that the garden will be watered six times per day for ten minutes each time. Now the potatoes are growing and the lettuces need planting out, I’m off to buy yet another timer.

15th May, 2010

Although I don’t feel it much, it can be rather isolating and insulating living on a Greek island. In fact, the medical implications of that are too frightening to think about often. As someone in the cafe said the other day, We feel justified in not paying taxes and cheating the Government in every way because here we live on the edge. There is no hospital and only a couple of junior doctors. If you are seriously ill in the winter, you could have to wait three days for a ferry to Athens and, when it comes, it will take five or six hours. A heart attack means you die. If you can afford €1000.00 you might get there on time by helicopter if one is available but often it isn’t. Our compensation for our isolation is not ignore Athens.

Information & Communication Technology is changing things. This week I received emails from Ruth:

WAtching KP  in Twenty 20 Brill.! Election What Election.   Do not like the Sun newspaper but love the front page today …….I like our little chats on Skype.love to you both x 

and fron Jane (1):

Hi John – good to hear all well with you. The house sale sounds promising – hope it progresses well.

It’s been a fascinating weekend as you’ll have seen if you’ve been following BBC News 24. I remember 1974 as it was the 1st time I voted – I was at  university and had to go back to Repton. Easier now to manage my life as I vote by post.

Of course then we had to rely on the newspapers with limited updates from D Dimbleby – some things don’t change. Events like this emphasise the value – and downsides – of constant “news” since there is so much interest but so little to report. Somehow I find myself glued to it even though it was clear nothing was going to happen quickly. 2 of my friends are among the senior civil servants working with the party leaders to see if they can make a deal and they’re not optimistic.

Glad we went to Athens in March not May  we had several drinks in Syntagma Sq. Hopefully the volcano won’t prevent us going to New York in early June – but BA cabin crew may. We are going for a few luxurious days in the Waldorf, to go to opera at the Met, art at MOMA and shop on 5th Ave. I also plan to run in Central Park. So hopefully we’ll be able to go BA or get an alternative flight.

Have a wonderful time in your Sifnos house and hope you sell Meltham.


All other emails will be gratefully received. Poor old Portsmouth. They tried so hard.


Week 72

2nd May, 2010

Gloriously hot and sunny day today with a slight breeze. We spent it gardening in the morning and watching football in the afternoon. All across the valley in front of us we could hear cultivators chugging through Spring-warmed soil as islanders plant out their tomato, cucumber and melon plants. It gets very hot as you garden here and we take plenty of coffee and water breaks. With no real rain for two months already, the soil is bone dry. It is also covered with dying wild flowers. In order to clear them and fork over the soil, it is necessary to wet it first. I put the sprinkler system on for half an hour prior to working on the area. We are some of the very few people who can afford to do that here. Most people pay for metered water. We have our own, limitless supply. Another couple of days work and we will be sowing and planting.

We are continuing to work on our diet and it seems so much easier here. I am only drinking wine at weekends. Salads and cold, white wine are the order of the day. Today it is oktopothi salata or octopus salad. This is a piece of octopus boiled for half an hour, allowed to go cold and then chunky sliced with oil and vinegar. It tastes like fishy pork. It is wonderful. It is accompanied by olives from our own trees cured by Pauline over the winter.


Pity about the football. Bit of an anti-climax!

3rd May, 2010

A day that started warm and became hottish at 26⁰C made gardening hard. By 11.00 am, after two hours of solid work, we were shattered. We drank a litre of water and then took a phone call from our estate agent. The second viewer decided there were just too many steps up to the house for their 84 year Mother who lives with them. The first viewer will present their mortgage credentials on Friday. They are also interested in buying some or all of our furniture & white goods. This is exactly what we want. We want a clean start in a new apartment with new furniture. There is nothing worse than old people trying to cram old and treasured furniture into new and smaller surroundings. Our pictures and our bed will go with us. We started immediately to do an inventory of the house contents.

It was such a lovely day and so hot that, after lunch we went for a drive to Faros, a small fishing village on the other side of the island. Went for a drive – it only takes 20 minutes if you drive slowly. We walked on the shoreline for a while and took some photos:

faros.jpg  faros1.jpg

4th  May, 2010

We decided to be sociable today and went down into the port village to have coffee at Cafe Stavros (which is owned by Stavros but rented out) run by Kristos. Kristos is just 30 years old. He was 5 when we first went to Sifnos. He recently got married to Eleni who owns and runs the Germanos outlet that sold us our Broadband dongle. Kristos has bought land to build a house.

kamares.jpg  kamares_1.jpg

The photographs above show the busy, Kamares High Street and Moshka’s white, delivery pantechnikon parked outside the ‘supermarket’. The photographs below were taken from inside Cafe Stavros looking to the roadside and the ‘supermarket’s blue doors and high-tec display areas and Stavros Travel Agency all below Hotel Stavros. You may be beginning to understand that Stavros has some influence here.

kamares_2.jpg  kamares_3.jpg

This afternoon Pauline has slow-cooked the shoulder of lamb on a bed of Apostoli’s onions and garlic mixed with thyme and rosemary from our garden and a bottle of red wine. Served with Dauphinoise potatoes, it was magical. Some of the left over lamb will be wrapped in phyllo pastry with slivers of feta cheese and baked in the oven. I can’t wait.

5th  May, 2010

A day of total strike paralysis in Athens was marked by complete indifference on the island. Not only did they not strike but they were largely unaware of the rioting in Athens, of the attempt to storm the Parliament buildings and of the fire bombing of the Marfin Bank and the death of three bank workers. They were unaware because television journalists were on strike and there was little news on Greek television. Fortunately, we were able to watch the BBC news.


The mainstay of the Greek economy is tourism. Who knows what effect these scenes will have on the industry. Anyway, to more important things. I’m watching City v Spurs tonight.

6th  May, 2010

An uncomfortably hot and humid day – 28⁰C at early afternoon – is not a day to do gardening. What did we choose to do – gardening. We have never been here in May before and we have been amazed that an area we cleared last September/October is now completely covered in wild flowers. They are wilting badly under the hot sun and lack of rain but even the dead material has to be cleared. We have been working away at it for a few days now and had enough clear ground to sow broadbeans, French beans, carrots, lettuces and radishes.

garden1.jpg  garden2.jpg

We have onion sets and seed potatoes to put in so more ground to clear and peppers and tomatoes in a week or so.

Stayed up just late enough to here the Election Exit Poll on Radio 4’s Election Night programme. It might be ten o’clock in UK but it is Midnight in Greece. As I fall in to bed, I excitedly tell Pauline the potential result. She tells me to shut up.

7th  May, 2010

Soon after 7.00 am we are up to find that the BBC TV service has a full election results and analysis still going. With a cup of breakfast tea we sit and watch the results coming in. It is only 5.30 am in UK and everyone looks vaguely tired and jaded. We sit transfixed by the results until 3.00 pm only breaking off to griddle some chicken to have with salad for lunch. I am so glad we brought a bigger, wide screen television with us. We no longer have to strain for all the tickertape information going across the screen with the election coverage


8th  May, 2010

A very hot but humid day today. At least 28C in the afternoon. We went to the seaside resort of Platy Gialos which is thronging with holiday makers in the Summer. Now it is deserted. It still has the sign welcoming us and the sunbed is waiting.

platy_gialos.jpg  summer_tree1.jpg

It was nice to get an email from Liz:

Hope you are all ok and safe despite the riots and the happenings in Greece
Looks like a revolution looming
Will the finance collapse affect you there ?
Hope you enjoy the elections from your sunny spot
Lv and best wishes to you and Pauline x Liz

Boulis, seen below herding his sheep down past our house for milking. He will die in the field with his sheep – probably aged 108.


We are not at all worried about the value of our property in Greece. We have had it valued at more than double what it cost to build already and a new law coming in about building on beautiful islands like ours means that people will need so much land to build a simple house, few people will be able to do it. The idea is to prevent density and over building.We have already had two people express interest in our house but a year or two will put considerable premium on it.