Week 123

24th April, 2011

Easter Sunday. Everywhere is closed apart from our minds. From midnight the island became alive with church bells ringing, fireworks shooting and bursting illumination across the mountains to major explosions blowing up Kamares beach with a white light flash that, after the delay, shook the very ground we stood on almost a kilometre away and boomed across the valley and rolled around the mountains for seconds afterwards. Greeks drove home to their houses from shaking hands and ritually greeting each other with: Christe elaison (Christ is risen.) to eat a midnight meat feast which they were supposed to be denying themselves for the past forty days. I can assure you they haven’t been but who really cares what Christmas is about or Easter? Pauline and I went outside on to our terrace to watch and listen to Greek frenzy of celebration and then escaped the freezing night air to drink a hot cup of tea before bed.

We got up very late this morning after going to bed late last night. It was almost 9.00 am before our tea and toast for breakfast. The Sunday Telegraph had been delivered to my Kindle. I wish I’d ordered The Times now. It might be less obsessed with Royalty and Weddings. I’m going to be sowing salad and bean seeds today and then I’ve got Arsenal v Bolton to look forward to. I’m relying on Ruth to come up trumps.

Of course, like all the best sisters, Ruth has done it for me again. Bolton beat Arsenal in the last few minutes and almost produced an impossible response from me – I began to feel sorry for Arsene Wenger.

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It was lovely to be sitting in my Greek house and to receive texts from Ruth about the result. Thirty years ago, we queued up for half an hour to use one of the two telephones on the island to ring out of Greece only to find all international lines were busy. Now I can conduct a virtual conversation with a strange woman in Bolton from my lounge.

25th April, 2011

Easter Monday is going home day in Greece. All that fuss, all that preparation and all that excitement and, by Monday afternoon, the ferries are arriving to take them back to Athens and work (or striking) on Tuesday. It’s a bit like Christmas without Boxing Day.

We had a pleasant morning reading and baking bread as the sun streamed in. At 2.00 pm, we went down to Captain Andrea’s Fish Taverna for lunch. Captain Andrea is now dead. He was ‘The Man’ when we first came to Sifnos. His wife, Poppie, ran the restaurant like a military operation while he, having been out all night on the high seas, lounged around drinking coffee. Now his son, Andreas, who was only 10 when we first arrived, is Mayor of Sifnos. It is Andreas we have to cultivate to provide us with a telephone line because he also works for the telephone company.We had a lovely meal although, ironically, not of fish. Easter in Greece is a time for meat. We had Greek Salad, Tsatziki, Roast Mastello (goat) and potatoes. We washed it down with a litre of House Red and were then given Easter cake for our sweet.

Later in the evening, I watched an enjoyable match in which Man. City beat Blackburn. I would like to see City pushing United to new heights next year. I’ll be sorry to see Tevez go though.

26th April, 2011

Pleasant but chilly morning. Went up to the Supermarket for basic commodities and then came back to read the paper on the Kindle. Royal Wedding mania is beginning to dominate news media of all countries – The Daily Telegraph, The BBC, CNN and the Greek television. Even here, it will be difficult to avoid.

In addition to 100 Kg of ‘stuff’ that we posted by Parcelforce, we brought a hell of a lot as well. This included five, huge, pictures by Alma Tadema which we have no room for in our new apartment and which have a vaguely neo-Greek, neo-Classical, Mediterranean scene and would look fine in our Greek house. Each one is 3ft x 2ft -ish and will happily help to furnish our huge, stark, white Cycladic walls. Today, it was my job to put them up and, in years gone past, it would have taken me all day, agonising over spacing and heights, etc.. I’ve put so many up in the past ten years, I was amazed to find all five took me less than twenty minutes and I didn’t need a stiff drink in between.

Watched Man. Utd. totally embarrass the Germans – Schalke – and, just as the game finished, thunder & lightening began to spark round the mountains.

27th April, 2011

Torrential rain, thunder & lightening roared intermittently all night. It is not unheard of at this time of the year but it is not common. We lay in bed listening to the gallons of water fall on our flat roof and down into the massive water tank below. We will have soft water for some time to come.

Mum died exactly three years ago today. I still miss her dreadfully although, it is true to say that the pain is dulled somewhat. She is in my thoughts on a regular basis, in conversations, arguments in my head. I spent 57 years trying to shake off the yoke of her authority and the last three learning to live with my own. The sense of loss has only been exacerbated by the death of Pauline’s Mum which Pauline has borne with such stoicism set against my incontinent emotions. Neither of us feels anything exists beyond ourselves. We belong nowhere and to no one than each other. It is a strange and lonely feeling yet incredibly liberating. What to do with that freedom?

Well, tonight I’m going to watch Barcelona v Real Madrid in the next Champions League semi-final. I would like to see Real at Wembley. When the game actually came on TV, it was 10.00 pm in Greece which is really too late. It finished at nearly midnight and was a strangely tempestuous affair. It seemeed to me that Barcelona were mainly at fault but that might just be my perspective. Admittedly, Messi’s goal to bring 0-2 was very good.

I have decided to cheat in the garden a little this year. Instead of growing everything from seed, I have decided to buy some vegetable plants. I have red and green peppers, aubergines and courgettes in small plant form to give myself a head start and I’ve been potting them up this afternoon. It isn’t terribly warm and is still just under 70F but we have to get started. Unfortunately, the wet weather is holding up my clearing of the vegetable patch which still looks like this.

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I am still having trouble with my internet connection and I am having to steal connections wherever I can until Cosmote reinstate my dongle. For that reason, don’t expect a perfect service for a little while.

28th April, 2011

A quiet, cool night but we awoke to the sound of torrential rain. We had to turn the central heating up. It is very dark. Rain clouds falling over the mountain. After porridge for breakfast, we decided it was just too horrible to go out and settled down to reading – the paper for me and her novel for Pauline.

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When the rain has cleared and the sun has come out – about 1.00 pm – I turn to sowing seeds of salad, beetroot, herbs like tarragon and parsley. Pauline starts pulling up weeds in the veg. patch.

Watched a biopic of Edith Piaf this evening after dinner of pork and roast vegetables. What a hard life some people are born into and live. How lucky are we!

29th April, 2011

Amazingly, it didn’t rain last night but it was still cold this morning until the sun came up. Our underfloor heating is really repaying Pauline’s confidence in it. What do you think we did today. Absolutely opposed to religion and to Monarchy, we watched the Royal Wedding. Admittedly, there was little choice because it dominated BBC, CNN and every Greek Television channel you could find. I read my paper but kept an eye open for the TV. Even I was pleased to see the weather stayed dry on a big, British spectacular.

Went out for dinner tonight to the restaurant run by Panos & Rania and their serf (chef), Anna. In the winter (which they still consider it here), the menu is restricted.  We went to see Panos & Rania – lovely, genuine, island people who open their hearts and their homes to people in true Greek style. I, for example, am having problems re-establishing my internet provision. I am have to wait for a courier to bring a new contract from the provider, Cosmote, to me in Sifnos before I can be reconnected. There is an island, free service but it doesn’t reach our house. I have to drive down to the beach, sit in the car with my laptop to get a reasonable connection. Panos & Rania immediately said I could use theirs in the restaurant which “is never locked. It’s wireless; just walk in and use it any time.” That is how wonderfully genuine true Greeks are.

30th April, 2011

Today, we are off to the cafe to see Christos. He and his wife moved in to their new house over the winter and had their first baby. We are going to have a cup of coffee at the cafe and arrange to go up and see their new house and baby.

After that, we are off to the garden centre to buy a few more young plants – melons and field cucumbers hopefully. This afternoon I am going to do something very unusual – support Spurs. Even a draw against Chelsea would be alright.

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