Week 89

29th August, 2010

In any other year we would have been travelling back across Europe ready for a start back to work on Monday. As it is, Monday is a Bank Holiday in UK and, because our old school becomes an Academy this term, the school holidays have been extended until September 14th. Typical!

30th August, 2010

We were wandering out into the sea for our daily swim when we got a call, Ey Up Lad. I knew immediately that it was Stelios. It was the same greeting he used when we first met twenty years ago in Apollonia square. Then he was a young lad of 25 and I was a mere sprog of 39. Pauline and I were sitting at Lakis Kafenion, drinking coffee and watching the world go by. Stelios (No not that Stelios of Easyjet fame.) came by unfurling a roll of plastic pipe across my feet and on to the local restaurant which had lost its water supply. Stelios was the first Yorkshire Greek that I had met.

It turns out that after a spell on the ferries, Stelios, who was born and had family in Sifnos, landed in UK and met a girl and got married. Eventually, Stelios opened a Mediterranean restaurant in Leeds doing Greek/Italian food and was very successful. He and his wife had two lovely daughters and have a house in West Ardsley. You can take Greece out of the boy but not the boy out of Greece. Stelios came back to Sifnos and built a house with ‘Rooms’ attached and now spends the Summer here and the Winter in West Ardsley. It was their last swim of the Summer and were leaving today for Athens, flying back to UK tomorrow so the girls could get to school on Wednesday.

31st August, 2010

One of the great successes and leaps forward this year has been establish mobile broadband in the Greek house. It is not brilliant and one has to be patient at times but we can do our business. We bought an Cosmotedongle for our laptop. It is 3G mobile, of course, and that is not perfect on a Greek island. Particularly, we found that when all the tourists arrived with their 3G mobiles, the bandwidth was just completely consumed. Although we had plenty of connection signals, our pages loaded as if they were being filtered through concrete. Now the tourists have left, we have a reasonable service again.

One compromise I have had to make is moving out of the study because the signal is almost non-existent there. We have put a desk in the lounge. The desktop computer is still in the study but the laptop is in the lounge and attached to it is the wireless distributor which feeds the wireless speakers so we can listen to the Today programme from Radio 4. As I type, I look out over the valley to the mountain. This morning, it is really beautiful.

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1st September, 2010

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In 2002, we started to pay for our Greek house build by purchasing the land. Over the next four years we spent €320,00.00. At the time we were sending over money in wadges of £20,000.00 to Stavros. At the exchange rate at the time, the value of these euros was £220,000.00. Today, the value of those euros is £266,000.00. We recently had it valued at £350,000.00 – £400,000.00. Even in these difficult times it is possible to make money out of property – as long as Greece doesn’t leave or get thrown out of the Eurozone.

2nd September, 2010

As I think I have written before, electricity supply is the carrot with which those building houses are persuaded to pay tax on it. Until the receipts for purchase of materials and labour are submitted and successfully scrutinised and signed off by the tax authorities in Milos, the house owner is not given full electricity supply. For building power is needed and provided but not at full strength. After all tax payments have been received – proved by the tax receipts – the supply is upgraded to full power. Our house was completed six years ago. collation of all the paperwork took another two years by the accountant. The paperwork has been sitting in Milos for four years waiting for scrutiny and stamp of approval. We are still using building-strength power. It isn’t a major problem to us. We don’t have to compromise our lifestyle and it is a great deal cheaper but it is a symbol of Greek bureaucracy.

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Today we went to the DEH office in Apollonia. The man behind the desk could speak a word of English so we took our friend, Rania, with us to translate. He basically confirmed for us that we had been using electricity completely illegally for six years be he understood that the officials in Milos were rushed off their feet and it might be another six years until we had our paperwork stamped. Below is the view from the electricity office:

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3rd September, 2010

For some reason, there is no longer a postal delivery on Sifnos. For years a man has ridden round the island on a motorcycle with a huge leather bag slung across his chest filled with mail. No longer. Everyone has to go to the Post Office and look through a box of mail for their own post. If it is left there too long, it is sent back. This has resulted in many trips to the Post Office and long queues at the counter. We are waiting for a parcel from London and have gone up each of the last three days. We are going again today.

Throughout the summer, our island is like our little world – or it was until satellite tv and the internet. Even so, the islanders never talk about any other island than their own and if we refer to one, the reply as if we are talking about some remote region of the Amazon. To reinforce this, you can never see another island from Sifnos. Daily, ferries come from other islands and go to other islands but it takes hours to get there. This seems to emphasise and exaggerate the distance between them. Suddenly, in September, the heat haze goes and islands emerge into the crisp, blue sky and they are incredibly close. This is Kimolos. It looks like you could walk there in half an hour. It actually takes two and a half hours by boat and is a beautiful island. Pauline & I went there a few years ago. Almost nobody from Sifnos will ever set foot on Kimolos. They just don’t see the point.

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Usually, we drive 12,000 miles a year. We have averaged that for nearly thirty years. It is five months since we got in our car and drove to Hull docks, drove all the way across Europe, across the Pelopponese and then to the shops, etc on our island and in those five months we have clocked up exactly 2,000 miles. Next month, when we drive home, we will arrive in Huddersfield with just over 3,000 miles on the clock since we left in April – exactly half our normal total. The moral is: if you want to cut down the mileage on your car, drive to Greece and back.