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 Suddenly, we hear that the funding may be withdrawn.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.

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