Week 128

29th May, 2011

Although I am in deep mourning after last night, it cannot last for long. The long, hot days of Summer have begun. The weather here looks settled for some time to come. We will not now see rain until October. Every morning, for the next four months I will open the bedroom shutters at 7.30 am to clear blue skies, hot sun and the smell of thyme and oregano drifting on the air. Noticeably, the tourists began to arrive this weekend. Today, people are in the sea and sunbathing on the beach. We have set Wednesday – June 1st – for our start to swimming.

Those of you still working and, particularly, in white collar jobs will recognise very clearly the next observations. It is over two years since Pauline & I felt stress. Before that, we were permanently stressed. At the end of a school day, our heads were exhausted with stress. At the end of a school week, we would go to Pauline’s Mum’s flat and sit immobilised with the tiredness of stress. Particularly in the last few years as the school got harder and more uncomfortable to work in, we would go to her flat on a Friday evening and just slum, not talking. The tiredness of this type of stress is so different from physical tiredness. Working hard in the garden and feeling shattered at the end, muscles aching on a Saturday night was a delight compared with mental stress fatigue.

Today, stress-free for two years, we ate a delighful lunch of fish and salad washed down with chilled Italian white wine outside in the sunshine and, after coffee, took a drive up from our house over the mountain and right across the island, leaving the port of Kamares far behind.

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30th May, 2011

It is a hot day and we spent the rest of it reading the Sunday paper, cleaning outside the house and chilling out. We were going to have a barbecue but couldn’t be bothered. The stress of these decisions!

31st May, 2011

Although I said I wouldn’t talk about it any more, the temperatures are ratcheting up each day. Today we are around 27C/80F. Pauline was making bread and then we had a barbecue both of which raised the temperature.

Talking about raised temperatures, the Greeks are still occupying the public squares in Athens (Syndagma), Thessaloniki and Patras after the examples of the ‘Arab Spring’ and the Spanish protests. They are infuriated that ‘their property’ is being sold off. It all sounds very 80s England.


1st June, 2011

Can you believe it? June already!


A glorious day. We went for our first swim. At first we thought the water was too cold but, within minutes, we didn’t want to get out. Fortunately, the temperature had decided it was swimming day and raised the temperature to 31C/90F. Swimming was absolutely delightful. We drove home the 650 metres from the beach to our house, showered and then shared crab & tuna salad with Italian white wine. We ate this under the pergola in wonderful warmth with a light, cooling breeze playing on our faces.

I don’t know if it was the swimming, the wine or the fresh air but I fell asleep in my chair after and woke up at 5.00 pm. We had a cup of tea and then walked up our land to inspect the peach trees which are doing remarkably well thanks to the recent rains. In the past couple of days, a cat which has just had babies seems to have adopted us. We can’t eat enough chicken to satisfy it. Pauline has been reduced to cutting down large yoghurt pots to fill with milk and water. We haven’t had a cat for years.

I’m not thinking of having a heart attack but I’ve given to worrying about what to do if I was. We have a Medical Centre staffed by very young doctors and it is about 6 kilometres away. In the event of a heart attack, I would have to be flown to Athens by helicopter which takes 20 minutes each way and then have to be driven to the hospital through Athens traffic. We have created an ‘In the Event of an Emergency’ sheet and it will be displayed in the study along with copies in our bags and the car.

2nd June, 2011

Gorgeously enjoyable day. Pauline is painting the balcony railings because that is what she enjoys doing. I’m watering plants, pricking out seedlings and sowing new ones because that is what I enjoy doing. We have now been officially adopted by an island cat which has just given birth to two little ones somewhere in our garden.


Only left our property to swim at 1.30 pm today. Water was wonderful today and we really enjoyed a good swim – only half way across the bay and back today. We’ll try the full thing tomorrow.

3rd June, 2011

Temperature reaches 33C/91F today. When we went to swim, the tide had turned and refreshed the water in the bay which meant it was rather colder to get in but, when we got going, the swimming was great and we managed right across the bay and back which is what we were doing throughout last year.

The Greek ‘Settlement’ has been announced which suggests the money will be there for the next 2-3 years. The problem is that the population are becoming increasingly strident in their opposition. Every day, 100 – 15,000 Greeks protest in Syndagma Square shouting “OKI” – NO – to the austerity measures and definitely “OKI” to the sell off of State Services – trains, ports, electricity, telephones, banks, etc.


4th June, 2011

We’ve woken up to a hot and sultry day. We have had almost no breeze all week. It was as if someone flicked the SUMMER switch last weekend. The weather changed to settled, hot and cloudless. The tourists started to arrive. Each day there are one or two on the beach when we go down to swim. Pauline has gone out early at the front of the house before the sun gets high enough to make painting impossible. I’m at the back of the house in the sun watering my courgettes. I know I have a raw deal but I suffer in silence.

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Week 127

22nd May, 2011

We are experiencing some lovely weather at the moment. It is warm = 23-4C / 72-3F – but not oppressive. Today we actually got round to cleaning the car for the first time since we arrived. I used to rely on Stavros’ car cleaner or pay to go to the petrol station and have the owner’s family clean it but last year I bought a pressure washer and now can do it at home.

After that, it was Sunday papers, lunch on the patio and then the Premiership relegation battle. Nova Satellite TV showed six matches all at the same time. I watched Man. Utd. for a little while but it was soon clear that Blackpool were out of their depth. I wanted Wolves to stay up after waiting so long to get up. I watched them for a while and was shocked as they went 3-0 down. I had a quick look at West Ham but I wanted them to go down anyway. I switched to Birmingham who I never thought deserved to go down this season and I am sorry that they have. I looked at Wigan who I thought probably deserved to go down. The other match shown was the Liverpool one but that didn’t have any importance.

23rd May, 2011

Overcast but warm today. We had to go to the Bank and Georgis, one of the clerks who I have known since we first went to Sifnos, 26 years ago, took photocopies of our new passports. Nothing can be done in Greece without your Identity Number if you are Greek or passport if you are not. That means everything from taking out a broadband contract, paying for satellite TV or buying tiles for your patio. The other thing you must do is call yourself something you are not. I am John Richard Eric Sanders and Pauline is Pauline Philip Sanders. Then Georgis reached under the counter and produced a copied of a book which, essentially, is a Greek language History of Sifnos. He hadn’t written it but he and his brother had paid for it to be published.

book1.jpg  book2.gif

The National Bank of Greece illustrates all that is wrong with Greece at the moment. We went in to withdraw some cash – for that you go to Mikailis. He noted that our passport had changed since last October – for that we had to go to Georgis to update on their records. We also wanted to update our automatic payment threshold for the Electricity Company to draw on our Bank Account. For that we had to go to a young girl we hadn’t met before to update that record. Her name was Chrissopigi and when we gave her our papers, she said, “I remember now, SANDERS JOHN.” My husband, Nikos, was your electrician when your house was built.”

24th May, 2011

A gorgeous, sunny morning but rain is forecast over the next two or three days. The garden is really coming on well. It is at the maintenance stage. We are now up to cleaning the walls and tiled exterior, windows and shutters from the ravages of the winter, the red, mountain dust and the rain. The pressure washer has come in handy again for cleaning the tiled patio. Pauline is cleaning windows and shutters. There is a real pleasure in maintaining our property and having the time to keep it looking good.

25th May, 2011

Woke up before 7.00 am to the sounds of thunder. Opened the shutters to flashes of lightning.The time between the two got increasingly short until the inevitable happened. Joyous rain began to fall. No garden watering today. The rain became increasingly heavy on the flat roof and we could hear it gurgling down into our massive water storage chamber under the house. Everywhere was dark and grey as you can see from the photograph below.


The storm continued to rumble round the mountains for most of the morning. One minute the sun was out and the next, heavy clouds fell over the peaks announced by thunder and lightning and followed by strong bursts of rain.The garden screamed, ‘Thank you’. The water tank screamed, ‘Thank you’. I screamed, ‘Thank you’. Pauline screamed, ‘Get off my clean windows’.

We resolved to do indoor things this morning. Pauline is making bread. I am replying to emails and writing a couple of letters. This afternoon, we hope to go out to tour the island’s potteries – of which there are about ten – to buy a big pot to complete our patio set. We are looking for one like this:


By lunchtime, the skies are pure blue and the sun is giving us 25C/77F. We decided to drive down to the Blackpool of Sifnos – Platis Gialos (pronounced Plattiss Yalos). We call it Blackpool because it shamelessly caters for tourists with lots of Rooms to Rent, Restaurants and nothing else. We parked our car under the palm trees and walked on to the beach. We were surprised to see some people in the sea. They were mainly children but a white haired Granny like Ruth ventured in and seemed to cope so there might be hope for me. Pauline tested the water with her hands and declared it ready so swimming officially starts on Monday – depending on the weather.

car_yialos.jpg  p_yialos2.jpg  p_yialos.jpg

26th May, 2011

Lovely morning. After breakfast, we do a few jobs outside, continuing to clean the red, mountain dust from the white, patio tiles and from the window frames and shutters. You have to pace yourselves when you’re retired, as Ruth will attest. As we were working, the island ambulance rushed to the port and then back up to the capital, Apollonia. This is not an everyday event and we were left wondering what had happened.

Found some old friends from College days by accident while on the internet. Julie and Nigel Folds were Art students while I was doing English but I found myself in Digs with Nigel who introduced me to the delights of red wine and Leonard Cohen. I borrowed Nigel’s bike to cycle to Harrogate Station from Ripon, some 14 miles wearing my suit at 5.00 am in July 1972 to get to Ruth’s wedding. I hadn’t ridden a bike for ten years before and I never rode one again. Nigel and Julie went to teach in Rochester and then Bingley. They split up shortly after that and Nigel became a Budhist monk somewhere in North Yorkshire. That is the last I heard of them until someone told me Julie had a facebook page. I found it and her living in Bridlington. She was exhibiting photographs. Then I found Nigel, also living in Bridlington, exhibiting paintings. Obviously, back together. Nigel & Julie are pictured below:

nigelf.jpg  julief.jpg

27th May, 2011

I took Pauline up to the Post Office this morning. As she got out of the car, I shouted, “Have you got your umbrella?” She looked at me as If I was bonkers. Two minutes later, she was running back to the car in pouring rain. Later, the woodman, Kostas, and his wife called. We had asked him to measure up for a solid roof for our pergola over the dining room patio. He brought his wife because she speaks perfect English and Kostas doesn’t speak any. We shared a glass of wine. They brought their 15 year old son, Giannis, who looked about 10 year’s old. We are told that we should go and look at the wood choices tomorrow at his wood store.

28th May, 2011

Today, we have been up to the woodman’s shop to finalise the arrangements. It will be done in about two weeks. We don’t know how much it will cost. As usual in Greece, you don’t get an estimate, which is why you choose honest tradespeople. As soon we arrived in the workshop, Kostas reached into a little fridge and brought out a bottle of raki and some goats cheese. He sent his son out for a fresh loaf of bread at the local shop. Soon he has cutting up bread, cheese and pouring raki. He found some taramasalata and we were standing around the wood shavings eating an early lunch. This is how they get away without providing an estimate!

Pauline spoke to her sister, Phyllis, who has been wonderful in supervising the ‘snagging list’ for our new flat. Phyllis and Colin went round the other day to check and said most things had been done. She also said the gardens and general environs were looking lovely and being well managed. This made us feel good because we really haven’t had time to properly assess our position. This afternoon, we will finish cleaning the patio and the windows before settling down for the Big Match.

Week 126

15 May, 2011

Glorious Summer’s day. Not a cloud in the sky. Almost too hot to garden. We both had to wear hats. There is no breeze and the temperature is reaching 26C/78F. The house has been open to the world today to keep cool. The big news of the day, of course, is the Head of the IMF, Strauss-Kahn being arrested in US on rape charges. The Greeks feel  totally vindicated. They hate him with a passion and all he stands for. He is on Greek TV News bulletins all day every day and has been since the financial crisis broke. He is (was) the Leader of the Troika – International Monetary Fund, EEC and European Bank – who have tormented Greece for the past couple of years and, in their eyes, caused so much unjustified suffering to people who don’t deserve it. The fact that their main antagonist is actually a rapist just about confirms their view that they are unjustly oppressed like the Hotel maid. This will run and run.

The football, to bring us back down to earth had all the hallmarks of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s Show’. Chelsea were poor and Spurs managed to maintain their dignity. West Ham could have produced a magic trick but, instead, decided to hand one to Wigan.

For those who are anxiously following the gardening reports in this Blog, I continue to prick out salad seedlings and succession sow new ones. Tomorrow will be annual and perennial herbs – Flat Leaved Parsley, Tarragon, Sage and Mint. The Sweet Basil plants will be ready to plant out as will the Aubergines. The first potatoes are already showing through and the Peppers and Courgettes doing well.

The lemons are holding up. Another photo of them:


As predicted, Straus-Kahn dominates morning news on Greek television. If he can break the rules, why can’t we?, the Greeks say.

16th May, 2011

Another wonderful day. Glorious sunshine, blue skies. The countryside around is still green and beautiful. We are coming to the point when I will have to stop recording the weather unless we get particular highs or lows because “Another wonderful day. Glorious sunshine, blue skies.” Will become the norm for the next four months.

The day has been really enjoyable. We haven’t been out of our grounds but really enjoyed our gardening. We put in six large leaved Basil (Vasili) plants today and four strong Aubergines. More garden has been cleared. Lovely, home-made lunch of chicken and salad for lunch. This afternoon, joy of joys, our 3G internet service was reactivated. At last we can work from our Study at home. Life is just wonderful! AND ……I’ve just picked up Ruth’s email from LIVE.

On Saturday May 10th we will be moving to our new address.

We wish Ruth & Kevan 50 years of happiness at their new address.

17th May, 2011

Got up this morning to find a scuffle going on in the log burning stove. As I went to the glass door, two gorgeous, little, silver grey birds the size of wrens tweeted at me, Let us out! Who could argue with that. We had been meaning to cover the chimney with mesh for weeks but at least we had cleaned the fire out. Having just got out of bed, I was stark naked. I opened all the windows and doors, held a large towel up to the stove door and Pauline opened it. Good as gold the two little birds flew straight out of the window, free to play another day.

Quite a start to the morning but, now we have the internet, we can listen to Radio 4. At 8.00 am we put on the 6.00 am Today programme. What joy! When we first moved into this house, we were bought a pot – a Grecian Urn – as a present. Today, I got round to using it. After that, we went up the outside steps, which are really just decorative nowadays, with Pauline to stop all future birds playing in our chimney.

flowers1.jpg  steps.jpg  urn.jpg

18th May, 2011

As you know, Dear Reader, I am as strange as the day is long. Late last evening, after going out to dinner, Pauline & I watched an enjoyable but emotional film about families, loves and relationships. I cried buckets as is usual now. Suddenly, as we went to bed, it came to me. If one of us died, we don’t have good photographs of the other. We photograph everything but ourselves. I told Pauline we were going to do something about that immediately. I opened a new folder called Posterity Photographs and took the first pictures. Here are Beauty & the Beast.

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19th May, 2011

Woke up in the early hours of the morning to the sound of thunder & lightning and pouring rain. Got up with Pauline to watch the sound & light show across the bay. The noise over the roof meant it took some time to get back to sleep and we finally got up feeling tired after 8.00am this morning.

We went up to see the woodman, Kostas. He is the best on the island and his wife speaks perfect English which is really helpful. We want a more permanent cover to our pergola which, traditionally, in Greece is covered with bamboo matting but it is starting to fall out of favour. Bamboo attracts bees and over a few years of hot sun dries out and falls apart. We want thick, wooden slats painted white at and fixed closely together with only small gaps in between. It is important to have some gaps because the strength of the wind could pull a solid roof completely off and lift the pergola legs out of the concrete at the same time. The new roof will look a bit like this:


20th May, 2011

The weather is set fair to be mid-70Fs and lovely and sunny for the next week. Before we go out gardening, Pauline is making sausages this morning. They are one of the things you can’t buy here. A few years ago, Pauline received her Long Service Award from Oldham LA. She bought a couple of kilos of fatty pork yesterday. One of the things she bought with her Award was a meat mincer and sausage stuffer (As you do!) and we haven’t really had a lot of time to use it. We’ve brought extra big, Hog Skins with us and today is the day to stuff them. I am chief stuffer and taster.


Pauline made 5lbs of sausages. We had sausages for tea and they were absolutely wonderful. We are going to try Pork, Apple, Sage & Onion next time.

21st May, 2011

We have been here on the island for exactly five weeks. We filled the car up with petrol in Athens just before we got on the ferry and we have filled it up once on the island. Mind you, one filling did cost it €80.00. We will not need to fill up again for at least another week. A tank of petrol every three weeks is just amazing and illustrates how small the island is. Nowhere is very far away.

Received an email from Jonathan Kelly today. He is in Boston, Masachusetts and has been for 35 years. I have revived our friendship and have been communicating with him since Mum died. Unfortunately, I will miss his visit to England.

A scorching, hot day today. We have virtually completed the first round of garden clearing and vegetable sowing/planting. We have:

5 x rows of potatoes
2 x rows of shallots
3 x rows of onions
4 x courgette plants
6 x Sweet Basil plants
2 x rows of Rocket
2 x rows of Cut & Come Again Salad plants
4 x Aubergine plants
4 x rows of Salad/Spring Onions
2 x rows of Flat Leaved Parsley
2 x rows of French Beans

We have so many lemons on our trees, Pauline has decided to make Lemon Marmalade.

Week 125

8th May, 2011

We’ve now been on the island for three weeks and away from UK for a month. You have to do it to understand that news from England, for me, becomes more not less important the longer we have been away. That is why I go to such lengths to get hold of newspapers. In the early days, it was queuing for hours outside some little shack, they laughingly called a newsagency, to get the only copy of ‘The Times’ which had been flown to Athens from London, transported down to Piraeus, put on a boat for five or so hours, picked up by van from the harbourside and dumped outside the shack where it sat until the owner deigned to turn up to open the ‘shop’. Even then, there would be an interminably long wait while this man, who couldn’t read anything but Greek, tried to decide if it was German or English and what price it should be sold at even though it was the same price every day. Each individual ‘foreign paper’ which would only be unpacked after the Greek papers had already been set out, had to be ticked off on the manifest as Greeks constantly interrupted to pay for their papers. I might have been waiting outside for two hours for the one copy of the day old Times but activity outside the shack will have alerted like-minded tourists like sharks to blood and Greek shopkeepers know no concept of queuing. They serve the first hand with money. Pauline & I got very skilled in ‘working’ the newspaper scene but still lost out on occasions. Then I would mooch around abjectly for hours wondering what the chattering classes in England were talking about, what had happened politically, where was that huge fire or that enormous motorway crash, that murder, etc.. Of course, over time, it has improved and now that we are on the island for longer periods than tourists, the shack man who has genuinely been upgraded to the newsagent, is prepared to save the newspaper for me in some nod of preferential treatment to an ‘almost resident’ but the papers are still at least one day out of date and in the Spring and Autumn months there may be a couple of days a week with no boat at all so the papers are even more out of date by the time I could get them.

Imagine, therefore, my delight when I drink my first cup of tea at 7.30 am to open the Kindle and find today’s paper has been delivered. It is revolutionary and wonderful. Nowadays, I have migrated to The Telegraph because of its better Business coverage. I take the political slant with a huge pinch of salt which makes me much more sceptical of the reporting and encourages me to read everything with a critical eye. The Telegraph is incredibly slanted in favour of Tory politics, conservative mores and monarchy. This slant is much easier to ‘read out’ than that of The Times so I am comfortable with my switch. Pauline tells me that the newsagent would charge €3.70 (Mon – Fri), €4.40 (Sat) & €5.00 (Sun). This works out at almost exactly £100.00 per month. The Telegraph delivered to the Kindle costs me £9.90 per month and its delivery is free. You will find it hard to understand my delight and incredulity at having this access on the morning of publication. Of course, nowadays, we have BBC News on Television and CNN plus Greek News channels but there is no substitute for a newspaper.

The other amazing thing about the change the Kindle has brought to our lives is on the internet. So far, we have been unable to get a telephone line in our house. Because of that, we have had to buy a 3G dongle from Cosmote. Reception is ok but not good and there are times when it is slow. Also, I am limited to 5Gb per month which I go close to all the time. It costs me about €35.00 per month which is not great but neither is the service. The Kindle is delivered over something called ‘Whispernet’ – an internet delivery service which works perfectly on this island. It always has strong signals unlike Cosmote. It is possible to web browse on the Kindle although it is a little cramped and in monochrome but it is an absolutely free service – all for the initial layout of about £120.00. An Apple i-pad would be useless to me here. I have no wi-fi and 3G charges would be exorbitant if I could get a connection. Kindle are currently developing and i-pad alternative which, if it uses Whispernet, would be ideal. In the meantime, I am grateful for huge mercies. I’m off to read the Sunday paper on Sunday.

Wonderful match between Wolves and West Brom this afternoon which I was pleased to see Wolves win. The second match was a little bit more prosaic but Stoke beat Arsenal well. The third game of the day was a total humiliation of Chelsea by Man Utd. What a delight to watch. Even so, I thought United’s goalkeeper was unbelievable. They couldn’t win at Wembley, could they???


9th May, 2011

Today we have planned our first trip to Athens since arriving.  In five weeks, it will be ten weeks since Pauline had her hair cut and, being a top model, she needs to keep her standards up. We have established a hairdresser for her opposite The Electra Palace Hotel. She used them once before. Today we used Skype to contact the Hotel and book two nights – June 14th and 15th – negotiating a preferential rate for ‘regular customers’ and then booked a hair appointment for Pauline with a ‘Top Stylist’ (for a top model) on Thursday 16th in the morning.  We will leave Sifnos on a ferry at around 11.50 am and get to Piraeus at 5.20 pm. On Wednesday, we will take a taxi to the French B&Q –  Leroy Merlin – to look at one or two things including sun lounger chairs then go over the road to an electrical store, Kotsovolos (owned by Dixons) to look at a new fridge/freezer.  After Pauline’s hair appointment at 10.00 am on Thursday, we will check out of the hotel and take the train back down to Piraeus for a 2.30 pm hydrofoil which will get us back to Sifnos for 5.30 pm. That will be an enjoyable little jaunt.

In the middle of the morning, we went off to see our friends at their home which they have almost built with their bare hands from the raw materials on their land. The walls of the house are built using stone dug out of the land it stands on. The furniture is designed and built out of wood from the trees on their land. They are strongly tied to the philosophy of sympathy with the natural materials and the place in which they are living. It is a common philosophy on this island and I think across Greece that building should be in sympathy with nature and not intrusive upon it or in stark contrast to it. Although I do not subscribe to this philosophy myself, I found their house delightful. They have invited us back on Thursday afternoon for a barbecue. Pauline will make a lemon meringue pie using our lemons to take with us.

10th May, 2011

Today we are going to see an accountant. His profession as Accountant is pronounced Loyeestees but is just the word we use in English – Logistics. We have virtually no payments apart from electricity and food, Satellite TV and internet connection to make in Greece. There is no income tax for us, no Council tax (That is payed by shopkeepers for everyone.) All police, street lighting, refuse clearance, road maintenance, etc is free to us. We don’t have to pay for water because we have our own source. In the past three or four years, Greece has introduced a property tax which costs us about €150.00 per year but the form is so complicated, everyone has to have a loyeestees to fill it out and submit it to the Government.

What an interesting experience that was. We were told to go to the second house on the right on the road down to Kastro. That’s what we did but it turned out to be an architect. We were a bit embarrassed about disturbing him but he was very pleasant, spoke a little English and was on his way to the accountant’s office so he took us there himself. It turns out that we have no more tax to pay which is wonderful. Also, after six years of asking, our electricity supply may become ‘official’ within the next twelve months or so. If they move any faster, we’ll never keep up!

After Lamb Filo Parcels & Greek Salad with a beer outside in the sunshine, we felt very tired and had a snooze while watching a Greek Cookery programme. Soon it was 4.00 pm and we thought we had better do some gardening. Our pepper plants are ready for planting out – about 10” high. In fact one has already started fruiting. The planting method is to dig large holes, put well rotted manure that Apostolis delivered from his farm two years ago at the bottom followed by some commercial compost and garden soil. The plant must be sunk in a ‘bowl’ shape of soil so that watering doesn’t run off but goes straight down to the roots before the sun can evaporate it. We hope that younger readers will not become too impatient with our techniques. Gardening is a specialism for those who have entered the retirement home of life. We have time but the pace is slower. All things come to fruition if not rushed.

The world around is still smothered in wild flowers because of the rain. This time last year we were going through a heat wave and all vegetation had been burned off. The first photo shows the scene from our bedroom window. The other two are at the end of the garage.

bedroom.jpg  flowers.jpg  flowers2.jpg

11th May, 2011

Cool quiet day today. 20F and General Strike – No ferries, schools, Post Office, Banks, Hospitals, Trains, Buses, etc. The supermarket was open so we went shopping, read the newspaper and had lunch. After that, Pauline made bread and biscuits while I did some writing and some gardening. Heavy rain is forecast for tomorrow. We have been invited to a barbecue. We’ll see!

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12th May, 2011

We woke to blue skies, fleecy, white clouds, a bit of a sharp breeze and a chilly temperature of 18C. I don’t think we will have heavy rain or any rain today. I go into the garden to water the plants as we will be out for most of the afternoon. Yesterday, the General Strike saw thousands of workers in the streets of Athens protesting with rocks to throw at the police who retaliated with tear gas. On the surface, it doesn’t appear to get any better. However, last year I spoke to a young man about the economic situation. He was full of left wing, communist bravado. The troubles were all of the making of the rich elite but those who had to pay were the poor, little people like him.They would not. They would get rid of this Government and refuse to pay these debts. I came away thinking, ‘There is no hope.’. A few days ago – nearly a year on – I spoke to the same young man again and was surprised how his view had moderated. ‘This is still a big problem but we must get out of it. I don’t know how – perhaps we will all have to pay. We must do it together.’ Maybe there will be enough Greeks like him to make the difference. Unfortunately, Samaras, the Leader of the Opposition New Democracy Party appears to be cultivating cheap popularity by chiming with the protesters.

Before we went to our friends’ house for the barbecue, I picked three, fat and juicy lemons and Pauline made a Lemon Meringue Pie. It looked fantastic. We had to carry it rather gingerly in the car along with a couple of bottles of wine. When we got there, the barbecue was a beautiful, brick built bread/pizza oven with open motorised, spit driven barbecue area attached. Four chickens had been turning on the spit for hours before we arrived. Salad was hurriedly made, rusk bread chopped up and a long table covered in white cloth. We had three, lovely, homely hours eating, drinking and discussing the politics of Greece.

One of the things that we came away from our barbecue discussions with was a much better understanding of why the Greeks are so intransigent. You may have read that many Greek Government employees receive more payments than there are months in the year. The thirteenth monthly salary has been expected and paid for years. This doesn’t play well in Europe but, as they pointed out, this was started by the Government as a way of not officially increasing wage rates. They paid an extra month’s salary for holiday pay. As he also pointed out, thirteen months pay in Greece was equal to eight or nine month’s pay in UK. In just the same way, the Greeks cheat on tax because of the frenzied and uncontrolled way the Government attempts to levy it. Tax inspectors will swoop on their restaurant three or four times a year and just arbitrarily demand a certain payment. If you ask, ‘Why?’, they say that they will stay for days and go through their books so they just pay. They don’t know where the money, paid in cash, is going. On one occasion, the radio was playing in the restaurant so the tax inspector demanded money for Royalties. When it was pointed out that all the people singing were now dead, the tax inspector threatened to investigate them further. In other words, they were arguing that a corrupt system was inevitably sucking them in. The trouble is, it doesn’t seem to be a way out of this.

13th May, 2011

We’ve had a really lazy day today and we both feel guilty. It is symptomatic of early retirement. We told ourselves that we must continue to have aims, ambitions, plans to achieve and, largely, we have. We wake at 7.00 am and are up by 7.30 am every day. We set ourselves tasks to get through just as we would at work. Over the past two years, so much has happened that it hasn’t been difficult to motivate ourselves. Today we had a apathetic day and we both feel that we have let ourselves down. Tomorrow we will try harder and do more before the football: the Man. Utd. game and then the Cup Final.Oh, Life is so tough!

14th May, 2011

Yesterday was a cool 21C/70F. Today is set to be a couple of degrees warmer.It is a lovely, sunny day with not a breath of wind. Readers will be pleased to hear that Peppers and Courgettes are growing well. Salad seedlings are developing as are Onions and Potatoes. About this time of year we start to panic about the enormity of work required to maintain two homes – clearing the garden, cleaning the windows, painting the gate, refreshing the walls, etc, etc, etc. We look at each other and say, ‘Shall we sell it?’ and then we analyse what actually has to be done, get our heads down and get on with it. After all, what else would we do? You know of the politician who accused his election opponent of going round stirring up apathy. I think he’s been here.

Week 124

1st May, 2011


Happy May. Grey morning that got better as the day developed. Not warm – maximum 70F/21C. After breakfast of hot porridge, we did garden clearing until lunchtime. Not that lunch was anything more than a Greek Salad but I knew that the afternoon would be dominated by football. The seed potatoes and onions will have to go in over the next couple of days so that is the first task to clear for. The plants I bought – peppers, courgetttes and aubergines – and potted up are developing strongly. They will have to go out very soon to get the full growing season.

Although the day developed into a pleasantly warm and sunny one, I watched three or four football matches from Birmingham, from Liverpool, from Manchester City and from Arsenal and the weather looked wonderful with lovely, striped pitches bathed in strong sunlight surrounded by shirt sleeved crowds. I was reading in the paper that April has been the warmest in UK since 1765 and very nearly the driest. Here, it has been an exceptionally cold, wet Easter compared with at least the last ten.

2nd May, 2011

Up early to a lovely sunny day. Now we know why the Royal Honeymoon has been cancelled. A mission to get Bin Laden was announced this morning as having been successful. Amazing to see crowds screaming with delight about a wedding one day and about a death two days later. Neither will impact my life much. Got Mum on my mind quite a bit at the moment.I’ve got to get on with life. More garden clearing this morning and then off to the Post Office to see if we have any letters.

The Post Office in Sifnos – Taxidromeo – is the most pathetic in the known world. Nothing is sorted, nothing is delivered. Everything is piled up for people to queue up and go through themselves. You could take anyone’s post and they wouldn’t know. We asked a week ago if they had our back mail for the last six months. They went to the back of a dirty, untidy, old office and, within five minutes, came back to say Ochi/No. Today we tried again. This time we wrote cue cards with our address on. After twenty minutes, the girl came back with a pile of post, including a Christmas card from my friend, Caroline, in Saddleworth. We had confirmation of electricity bills which we have paid automatically by our Greek Bank. They are remarkably low considering everything we do uses electricity except for our log burning stove. The heating is electrical, underfloor. We have electricity for cooling through fans and air conditioning, cooking is electric and we dry clothes with a tumble dryer. €500.00 for six months seems quite good. The only piece of post we didn’t have was our house tax. This is newly introduced and costs us about €125.00 per year. Unfortunately, the form you have to submit is so complicated that we need an accountant to do it. We are going to get a visit from Stavros’ accountant who will submit the form for us.

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3rd May

Summer has really arrived here. This is the second day that we don’t need the central heating. The daytime peak is 75F/24C but what is different about Greece, the night time temperature doesn’t now fall below 70F/21C. We have a small diurnal range, as they say. Our water pump has been sounding iffy so we sent for the plumber. We have a blocked tap and another that has come loose so we thought he could do everything in one go. The plumber is a massive man who is known as the strongest man on Sifnos but he seems to be able to curl his massive frame under toilets and into kitchen cabinets without trouble. He doesn’t speak a word of English so, when he arrived at lunchtime (2.00 pm), he looked at the job and mimed he would be back at 5.00 pm or around there, as he fluttered his hand from side to side. We did a couple of hours garden clearing and waited for the plumber. At 6.00 pm he appeared and within an hour had done all of the jobs. He didn’t want to be paid but we gave him €20.00 he went off happily.

Will Mourinho end up in jail again tonight like in the first leg? We’ll see.

Well, it was quite a good game but the result was predictable. I think United will be hard pushed to beat them.


Got a wonderful text from Ruth tonight. She called me a ‘Chump’ which is a lovely word that I haven’t heard for about 50 years but she’s probably right.

4th May, 2011

Off to the hardware shop this morning to buy a small piece of fine mesh wire netting. It is bird nesting time and last year  a little bird fell down our log burning stove chimney while investigating holes. We need to cover it temporarily because we can’t face the trauma of releasing little birds into our living room.The rest of the day will be spent gardening and sowing seeds. United’s match tonight should be a formality. Sunday is the big one. The hardware shop was busy but we managed to get a snippet of mesh to put over our stove pipe. We did some supermarket shopping = enough white fish for six meals, enough fresh chicken for about six meals and some fresh vegetables – broccoli, cauiflower, Cyprus potatoes. You learn when the ferries are in and when the new produce will be put out and to buy stuff in bulk and freeze it. We are expecting a General Strike soon that could affect everything. Talking about everything, we are expecting rolling petrol supply strikes soon which should be fun but could save us money because we are paying £1.57 per litre.

Man. Utd completely out played Shalke and now have to plot a way to beat Barcelona at Wembley. I don’t really fancy their chances.

5th May, 2011

Today has been a nice, warm, quiet day. We put in seed potatoes, seed onions and shallots.

We check our bank account regularly on the internet and today was pension day. While Teachers’ pay has been frozen since we left, our Teachers’ Pension has been rising with inflation. The increase is not great but it is better than working. Today our pension had risen by just over 3% which may only keep pace with inflation but is better then any working teacher is getting.

Thought you might like to see a picture of Sifnos in the Spring taken by my friend, Martin.


6th May, 2011

Woken up this morning and the weather has gone back to winter. It feels really cold and there are grey clouds above. The weather forecaster says it is a “phenomenon” and the bad weather is rolling round and round the Greek Islands not being able to escape. I know the feeling.

We’ve just heard that the threatened petrol strike is off. The Government ruled that it was ‘illegal’ and so everyone has continued to work. Simples.

7th May, 2011

The BBC is reporting today a rumour that Greece has floated the idea of leaving the Euro. It is the one thing that could really hurt us financially when we sell this property. It is hard to believe that the rest of Europe really want that because of the threats it would increase on Ireland, Portugal and Spain going the same way leading to the collapse of the great, European project.