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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.