Week 88

22nd August, 2010 

Two fat ladies. Only 16 weeks until I’ve completed two years of this Blog. I can’t decide whether to stop then or not. I’ve got time to decide. Just 6 weeks until we leave the island and 7 until we arrive in UK. We’ve just been reviewing our diaries and that first week is manic. We have appointments for:

  • The Dentist
  • The Eye Specialist
  • The Dermatologist
  • Breast Screening
  • Anti-Coagulation Clinic
  • Hospital check up for Pauline’s Mum
  • Car Service

We then drive south to stay with Pauline’s sister and start looking at properties in reality rather than on the internet.

23rd August, 2010 

Thankfully, today is cloudy and windy and only 30C/89F. It really is refreshing to have a cool day! Sunday papers today. We read them under the pergola and really enjoyed the change intemperature. It was not a day for swimming today – for the first time in months. Maybe, there is a hint of Autumn in the weather. We went out for a drive to a locally popular bay and were surprised how quiet it was. It had an end of season feel.


24th August, 2010 

More painting today. The wind has dropped but the temperature is forecast to reach no more than 34C/93F. We painted until I was tired and then had a fantastic hour’s swim in warm and wonderful waters.

25th August, 2010 

Today is traditionally the end of the Greek’s holidays. By the 25th of August, they are back in Athens and ready for work.  We already have some idea because the two car/bike rental businesses have lots of bikes back in front of their shops. The beach is much quieter and it is easy to park our car.


26th August, 2010 

Frangiskus, the electrician, came to finish of the last of the outside lights. The photograph below is an attemp to show how they look at night. When he was leaving, Frangiskus tried to go without being paid. I had to insist we paid him for his three evening’s work and even then it was only €70.00 or £57.00. Had to drive Pauline up to the Post Office to check if we had any mail. I park the car next to the Old Trafford of Sifnos. Of course, although the islanders know more about West Brom FC and Manchester City than I do and follow all their matches closely each weekend, there first sport is Basketball and that is the inter-village competion. Nowadays, with relative afffluence on Sifnos because of tourism, they have a purpose-built arena. It is pictured below:


27th August, 2010 

Received the final bills for all the tiling today. It was very pleasing. Dimitris, Janis & Lurch came round to say goodbye and collect their tools. The bill for 210 sq.mtrs of outside tiling, for concrete leveling, for building small edging walls and for plastering an outside wall plus some finishing off inside the house of skirting tiles and 5 sq.mtrs of tiling the kitchen came to €5800.00. The tiles cost €3000.00 and the materials cost €750.00. The total cost for all the building work was €9550.00. If you add in the electrician’s bill of €350.00, this year’s building total comes to €9900.00 or £8250.00. It has made a massive difference to the house. It is now completely ‘finished’. Only landscaping remains.

The air temperature today was 36C but last night had a little chill in the air and the sea today had a slightly fresher quality. The first signs of Autumn are coming. Greek TV is full of adverts for ‘Back to School’ products – bags, pads and pens, etc.. The long range forecast for Greece is frightening. After our heatwave summer, they are expecting torrential rain and freezing temperatures  across the islands throughout the whole of September. Late evening skies can be attractive now. This one is at 9.10 pm.


28th August, 2010 

Now we have all our outside lights fitted and working, we can’t resist using them all to show off. Stavros says that from his house – about two kilometres across the valley – it looks like Blackpool Illuminations. Well, he didn’t actually say that but words to that effect. Everyone around the bay puts their lights on at 9.00 pm just as the sun goes down.


Week 87

15th August, 2010

A little breeze today and 38C. We only went out to swim. I enjoyed the City v Arsenal match until the last couple of minutes. I thought the Cole sending off was a bit harsh.


16th August, 2010

We started the day with a whole string of jobs but it was so warm and the Sunday papers arrived. We did virtually none of them.

17th August, 2010

The entire country is collapsing with heatstroke. It is reported that August is turning out to be the hottest in Athens since records began although how they can know that by the middle of the month I don’t understand.

The vegetable garden has to be watered about five or six times a day for fifteen minutes at a time because of the intense sun but it is still producing. This little collection on the patio today shows French beans which we pick every couple of days and cook and serve cold as a salad dressed with olive oil and lemon juice and a dip – skordalia – garlic sauce, onions which we are starting to pull now and carrots which we have been pulling for a day or two. Not pictured is a huge bag of rocket leaves for salad and another huge bag of basil leaves for pesto.


18th August, 2010

Since we got mobile broadband, Pauline has phoned her Mum about three times a day using Skype over the internet. It is a 3G connection which can be a bit iffy on the island at times – particularly peak tourist days when the 3G bandwidth is under high demand. Still, it has revolutionised her phone calls. Last year’s mobile bill of about £500.00 has been reduced to about £30.00. Today, her Mum who is 96 in two weeks’ time, was upset.  Mabel, a lady who has been a cleaner in the warden-assisted building and who Pauline’s Mum got very friendly with, retired about a month ago because she was 61. For the last few years she has been doing Mum’s washing. She would visit one morning, staying for toast and a chat and then return a few mornings later with the clean washing and stay for toast and a chat. It has been a lovely friendship and a life saver for Mum.

When she retired from her cleaning job Mabel had a leaving do at the flats. She assured Mum that she would still come and do her washing as usual. A month later, she was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 61. She will lose her whole bowel. She had to go back today to the hospital to ascertain whether the cancer has spread to her chest. The poor woman’s husband is also ill and unable to accompany her to hospital. How cruel is life and how fortunate I feel.

19th August, 2010

Frangiskus came today and started the work of putting lights up on our outside steps, under our pergola/dining area and putting a new ceiling fan in one of the bedrooms. I thought I would show you our outside steps. They are largely decorative but Pauline was keen to have the Cycladic tradition maintained in our house. In the Cyclades, people will go up on to their flat roofs and whitewash them each spring because the stong white colour reflects the heat of the sun back upwards. The diurnal range in the islands is much narrower than in Athens. I’m not sure why. In summer, the night time temperature rarely falls below 24C/75F after averaging 32C/90F during the day. The concrete structures absorb the heat during the day and radiate it during the night. For that reason, we paid a great deal more money for our house to have a double ceiling/roof with thich insulation in between. All the cavity walls are packed with insulation. This is to keep the heat out in summer and in during the winter. Also, of course, we paid a fortune for triple glazing. Many people building here baulk at the cost but repent at leisure. It was Stavros who cautioned us to bite the bullet and pay what amounted to an extra 25% on the building costs. He was absolutely right.

tc.jpg  steps.jpg

20th August, 2010

Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me but we went on an expedition to the rubbish tip. See what you’ve missed. Pauline & I have become refuse tip aficianados over the past few years. Bi-weekly collections in Huddersfield have meant alternate weekly trips to the local tip. In Sifnos, refuse wagons (and there are three) just constantly drive round the island, from about six in the morning until darkness, collecting rubbish and ferrying it up the mountain at the centre of the island and throwing it in the huge crevasse which they have been using for centuries. The crevasse has been smouldering permanently since we came to the island in the early ’80s and the smoke can be seen rising from the mountain like a volcanoe.

Why did we go to the tip – well, not only did we have to order all our own materials for the tilers and feed and water them constantly during the day and pay them when they had finished the job but we had to tidy up after them when they left. Obviously, there were dozens of tile boxes, cement sacks, tile off cuts, etc left behind. We had to gather them all up in sacks, put the seats down in our car and make two trips up the mountain to feed the every hungry crevasse. Greek workers have such a hard life.

21st August, 2010

It is a cooler day – maybe only 32C/90F – and I have taken the opportunity to finish tidying up after the builders, putting surplus materials like bags of cement, bricks and breeze blocks in the garage for future use. My wonderful wife, on the other hand has been cooking. Twice a week or so she cooks bread. She buys a kilo and half of loose flour from a sack in the supermarket. Now we are sated of raspberry buns, she is making a production line of Greek Apple Cake (really apple upsidedown cake) with lovely apple syrup poured over. Today she made both.

Yesterday, Pauline made pesto using our own basil and then made Salmon en Croute with pesto sauce. We went to Apostolli, Stavros’ brother-in-law and bought a shoulder of beef from a cow raised and slaughtered on his farm a couple of kilometers away from our house and then butchered in his shop down in the port. The meat is a delight and Pauline is making Stifado – a traditional Greek dish of chuck beef and small onions slowly cooked with herbs and red wine and cinnamon. In this case, she was able to use our home grown shallots. Will I ever loose weight? Below you can see all three things cooked today proudly displayed in our newly tiled kitchen, the bowl of shallots pulled yesterday from the garden and the half cooked stifado.

baking.jpg  shallot.jpg  stifado.jpg

Now I have an evening of football to look forward to:

5.00 pm: Arsenal v Blackpool or Stoke v Spurs

7.15 pm: Wigan v Chelsea.

Week 86

8th August, 2010

We have exactly eight weeks left on the island this year. The heatwave continues. A day without tilers, which is a relief, and we can go out shopping. Swimming was fantastic. Sorry to go on about this but the sea is so remarkable this year. It is as warm as a bath, calm because there is no meltemi and crystal clear. We spend just over an hour swimming each day at around 2.00 pm. Lunch in Greece is 3.00 pm. Until Friday, the beach has been fairly quiet but Friday night was Exodus Night when thousands of Greeks leave Athens, cram on to ferries at Piraeus bound for the islands.


They stay for ten days and then return to Athens. Suddenly the island is flooded with cars and most sane islanders don’t drive far because the Athenians are maniacal. They are now on the beaches. Pauline and I don’t stay on the beach. We drive down from our house, which takes less than two minutes, park and swim. We walk out of the sea after an hour swimming each way across the bay – about a kilometre in total – get in the car and drive home. We shower outside on the patio to get the sand off and then again in the house before making lunch.

From the moment the tourists arrive the islanders can’t wait for them to leave but they know that a few weeks of torment will fund their lives until the same time next year so they hold their breaths and hold out their hands for the money.

9th August, 2010

The tilers arrived at 6.30 this morning. We think it will take about another four days for the outside to be completed before they begin the kitchen walls. After two hours we go ot to buy cheese pies or tyropitas  (τυρóπιτα) for their elevenses which are had at 9.30 am because of the early start. They have it with iced coffee which we also supply. I sometimes think it would be easier to do the tiling ourselves but I don’t really have all the skills. The τυρóπιτα is layers of filo parcel that contains either feta or yellow cheese baked in the oven. It is staple breakfast for many islanders.


While the tilers had their elevenses at 9.30 am,  we were able to indulge our Monday morning pleasure of reading the Sunday papers and later listening to Test Match Special as England murder the Pakistanis.


Decided to go to Athens on Wednesday and stay over night. We will buy some patio furniture for lounging about on. We leave on Wednesday by SpeedRunner at 12.30 pm and arrive in Piraeus at 3.30 pm. Taxi to Leroy Merlin – the French B&Q – and then on to our favourite Electra Hotel which has reduced its prices from €160.00 to €100.00 because of the recession. The ferry each way is €95.00 so the total travel is €190.00 or £160.00 plus £85.00 for the hotel. The furniture will have cost us £300.00 before we pay for it and then we will have to pay for delivery to the island.

10th August, 2010

So hot and humid this morning I’m sweating just reading The Times on-line. I don’t know how Pauline’s coping spring cleaning the settees and vacuuming all the floors. Looks like we’ve got a feast of football on television this weekend. On our Nova satellite channel we’ve got all these games live:

  • Spurs v Man City
  • Aston Villa v West Ham
  • Blackburn v Everton
  • Chelsea v W. Brom.
  • Liverpool v Arsenal

The Villa & Blackburn matches are on at the same time so I will be faced with a dilemma then but, otherwise, it is wall to wall football.

The Times front page article is suggesting that the housing market is faltering with supply far outstripping ability to buy. This is exactly what I was expecting as more bad economic news about job losses in the Public Sector with subsequent knock on effects in the Private Sector undermining confidence in the domestic housing market. We are hoping that a cash buyer in late autumn and over the winter will be able to drive a hard bargain when looking to purchase a new property.

11th August, 2010

Off to Athens this morning just as the heatwave intensifies and a heatwave on the island is an inferno with knobs on in Athens. We will flit from airconditioned boat to air conditioned shops to airconditioned hotel. I’ve decided not to take my laptop with me for one night so the Blog will continue tomorrow evening when we get home.

Lovely time in Athens but much too hot. We bought a few things fot the house including a new iron for Pauline. She gets all the best presents. We checked in at our favourite hotel, went for dinner in our favourite restaurant and returned to our airconditioned room to read the papers and watch tv.

12th August, 2010

This morning, after the best breakfast in Greece, we tried to go shopping. We walked for less than ten minutes before giving up and diving in to Marks & Spencers. This was not to shop, although Pauline was happy to check a few rails out, but to give me a chance to sit under the freezing airconditioning to dry my shirt out before continuing the last 200 metres to the hotel. The temperature at 10.00 am was 38C. By the time we got down to Piraeus on the train at 4.00 pm, it was a shattering 45C or 113F. This is the highest temperature we have knowingly experienced and it was hard to walk ten paces in it without diving for shade. In the old days – 30 years ago – we would be waiting on the quayside in the full sun for the ferry to arrive. A couple of years ago, the port authorities installed air conditioned waiting rooms. That’s where we sat until our air conditioned catamaran – High Speed 6 – arrived. When we first travelled to Sifnos in 1984, it took six hours by hot and noisy ferry. The new, chilled,  High Speed 6 took two and a half hours.


13th August, 2010

This morning the temperature is forecast to stay at record levels for the whole weekend. Of course, it is always quite a bit cooler on an island because the water encourages breezes. It will be 35C throughout the weekend. The tilers were finishing off outside and putting on the kitchen tiles inside. Tomorrow they will finish by grouting. They are lovely lads with real skill and pride in their work. We have enjoyed having them here and the house looks a lot better for it.

Was on line tonight when up popped a request to speak to Ruth over the Skype phone. We had a lovely 10 minute chat by video phone. Unfortunately, I realised half way through that I was naked because it was so hot. Fortunately, Ruth didn’t complain.

14th August, 2010

The tilers came for a couple of hours this morning to finish off and tidy up. It is still just as hot but we had to shop. As well as food, we went up to see the gorgeous Flora in the electrical shop. We had ordered nine outside lights and a fan for one of the spare rooms. Outside lights are very important in Greece as people live most of their lives there. We have about twenty around our patios and now the tiles are finished, we want to highlight them at night. It’s called being pretentious with knobs on. Frangiskus, the electrician, will be round to fit them all for us.

Week 85

1st August, 2010


No workmen here today so we could relax a bit. It is very hot and there is no breeze. We have to do the shopping today because the lorry strike is over for the moment and the supermarket will have fresh supplies. The petrol tanker strike has been the most dangerous so far for the government but they have to break the monopoly, closed-shops and making the tanker drivers back down – however temporarily – is a major success. Unfortunately, many tourists have been inconvenienced – many who drive from the Balkans have cancelled all together. For a country which relies on tourist income, this is disastrous. Apparently, tourist traffic is down by 20%.

2nd August, 2010

A day of banging cement mixers Greek tradesmen shouting at Albanian skivvies, bricks and barrow loads of cement being moved. And all in incredible heat. We felt quite tired at the end of it. We were up at 6.30 am and the workers arrived at 7.00 am. They worked through until 3.00 pm. Breaks were at 10.00 am when we served iced coffee and Pauline’s magical substitute for the traditional cheese pies. She made twenty huge raspberry buns and they disappeared in minutes. I am thinking of shipping these raspberry buns to Athens because I’m sure they would make a winning contribution to breaking the strikes.

t1.jpg  t2.jpg

3rd August, 2010

A temperature of 36°C is forecast for today and 38°C tomorrow. It is only 7.20 am now and the workers have been here an hour already. You readers in England are still snoring (particularly you, Ruth) because it is only 5.20 am.

After leaving iced coffees for the workers and the latest batch of raspberry buns, we drove up to Apollonia to the Medical Testing Centre. I was going for my INR test and had to wait for ten minutes while a young mother had her test done. Fortunately, she left her little baby in the waiting room in its push chair. The baby was probably about 6 months old so I set about teaching it English. Unfortunately we didn’t get very far before mother took it away (I didn’t like to ask if it was a boy or a girl).

My blood was tested and we left at about 10.30 am. We were told to phone after 1.00 pm for the result. I went swimming and forgot. This evening, we drove up to the supermarket and there was the baker/bloood tester. He upbraided me for not phoning and said he was concerned because my reading was still too high. (This is all at the cheese counter.) I must contact Huddersfield Hospital tomorrow.

4th August, 2010

The temperature did not fall below 28°C last night. The air conditioning was on all last night. We were woken this morning at 6.30 am by the sound of tiles being cut and laid. The tilers found the full sun of 2.00 pm just too much and will start and finish early. By 8.00 this morning we were supplying them with iced water and a bowl of fresh figs. By 9.00 am, we were giving them iced coffee and biscuits. This is tradition. They walk off the job if you don’t observe it. You can see how these things – on a national scale – have brought Greek commercial life to its knees. The workers’ expectations are enormous. They are costing me a fortune in biscuits.

figs2.jpg  figs1.jpg

Our favourite local restaurant, – known to us by the names of its owners – Panos & Rania’s, usually make their own pesto from Basil grown in their own garden. This year they have had a disaster and their plants have failed. I, on the other hand, have had a major success and today we are going to supply them with a bag of Basil leaves to make their pesto.


5th August, 2010

Screamingly hot and humid today. The tiling across the front of the house is virtually finished although it still has to be grouted. It is looking great and we are excited that the surrounds of the house will soon be completed. We have had virtually no wind this year – something which can be quite a feature of Greek island August. Last year the meltemi blew for two long months. Because there is no wind, the sea is so hot. If it was a bath, you would put cold water in to it.

6th August, 2010

Almost pinned in the house for the morning because the doorsteps were being tiled. Spent quite a bit of time on the internet as a result. We planned our journey ‘home’ and confirmed hotel bookings:

  • 3/10 – Patras Palace Hotel
  • 4/10 – Patras Palace Hotel
  • 5/10 – Anek Lines (Olympic Spirit) up the Adriatic to Ancona
  • 6/10 – Holiday Inn Lugano Centre
  • 7/10 – Metz Technopole Hotel

Photos in order from left to right:

pph.jpg  os.jpg  lch.jpg

7th August, 2010

The Tilers have done a half day today because it is so hot it is barely possible to stay outside for longer than half an hour with drinking litres of water. We are going to have an early swim and then come home and make bread. The patio is really starting to look good:

p1.jpg  p2.jpg