Week 132

26th June, 2011

Strong winds dominated the night and continue this morning. One of our bougainvilleas has blown down from its mooring on the pergola. No other damage. Swimming was out today and gardening wasn’t easy so it was a day of reading the Sunday paper and catching up on correspondence.

27th June, 2011

The wind is down but it is only about 74F/23C. We actually have one or two clouds at the back of the house. We went up to see the woodman about our new pergola but he is waiting for some new fastenings from Athens. This could last all Summer. We went on to the supermarket to buy cat food for our new friends because it is cheaper than prime ham & chicken. On to the Post Office to find a miracle had taken place. A new manager had been drafted in and he had totally reorganised the place. It was neat and tidy. There were no long queues. We were told that they had started deliveries to Kamares again. They are obviously preparing for privatisation.


The Greek unions have announced their next General Strike will be Tuesday & Wednesday of this week. It will involve all Public Service workers so there will be no public health, education (although it is already school holidays), no Post Offices, no refuse collection, no museums or other tourist sites open. There will be electricity strikes, etc.. It will involve all transport workers so there will be no ferries or air travel, no trains or buses. Basically, Greece is closed for business. It really will continue like this until these services are sold off.

28th June, 2011

A quiet day – no ferries because of the strike – in which we tidied the garden, swam in a surprisingly cold sea, watched Wimbledon followed by acres of Greek television coverage of rioting in Athens. Actually, there were quite a few Trades Unions members protesting peacefully and a couple of hundred young anarchists tearing up the streets. As someone pointed out, unemployment amongst young people in Greece has reached 40%.

protests1.jpg  protests2.jpg

We went to the pottery shop to buy cheap bowls for the cats. The cats responded by turning up late for tea. Typically Greek!

29th June, 2011

The penultimate day of June. A lovely morning although the raspberry jam is running out on the island and Pauline is preparing to make marmalde to substitute. This morning, we are going back to the electrical shop to see if the new fridge-freezers have come in. We will probably be told that the strike has held them up but we go in hope.

We return in triumph – well, having bought a new fridge-freezer. It will be delivered ……… today between 2.00 – 3.00 pm! Can you believe that? We didn’t but, at 3.15 pm, a lorry driver opened the gate and drove up to the steps. One man on his own tied rope around the middle of the fridge-freezer, looped the rope like a harness around his shoulders and waist and proceeded to lift this extremely heavy item off the lorry and then he climbed the eight stone steps – which I find bad enough with a bag of shopping – to the house. A few minutes later, he had loaded our old machine on to his back and taken it back down the steps to the lorry. We had to keep reminding ourselves that we were in Greece. Admittedly, this fairly modest appliance had just cost us €850.00 or just over £750.00 and the maker was someone called Pitsos but the speed of the process was amazing.


The other irony of the day, of course, was sitting in our Greek home, watching Wimbledon, watching Federer lose to Tsonga and Murray-mint beat Lopez and then turning over to the Greek news and watching hooded thugs tearing up the streets of Athens and throwing the contents back at the police in Syndagma Square.

protests3.jpg protests4.jpg wim.jpg

30th June, 2011

A story in the Greek Press this morning illustrates the rituals being played out in Athens:

A stun grenade exploded in the hand of a Greek riot policeman, severing a finger. Police and demonstrators ceased combat and scoured the debris-strewn street, uniting in a frantic search for the missing digit. They found it. The finger was rushed off in a wet towel to a hospital, where doctors reattached it to the injured man.

After Greek News and breakfast, Radio 4’s Today Programme for an hour with a cup of coffee, we got outside by 10.30 am (8.30 am UK). We worked for four straight hours cleaning the tiled patio and, even then, only finished the front. Tomorrow will be the back. After a brief rest, we went swimming for an hour and returned at 4.00 pm.. We showered and made lunch/dinner. We only eat one, main meal each day and it is around this time. Usually, we would eat it outside but, with Wimbledon on, we have been eating inside for over a week with all the windows open and the fans on. We had new potatoes from the garden; courgettes from the garden deep fried in beer batter; Greek salad with rocket and olives from our garden. It was lovely. A bottle of chilled Rosso Conero made us fall asleep during the second semi-final.


This lovely, ruby wine is made in Jesi just outside Ancona. It sells in America for $12.5; in UK for £8.50 and I bought 24 bottles in an Ancona supermarket for €2.50 each.

1st July, 2011


Happy July.

A glorious morning. A light breeze and, at 8.00 am, just 27C (81F). We found the cats asleep on the patio furniture and had to shift them off. We will have to teach them some boundaries. We left England twelve weeks ago and will land back in thirteen more. This is the pivotal week of our time here. We had a much more relaxing day with a wonderful, long swim and then a bottle of wine and some nibbles while we watched Wimbledon.

Our cat family which plays and hunts and sleeps in the garden during the day, really comes to life in the evening. The sun goes down behind the mountain at 7.00 pm precisely although it is not dark until 9.00 pm. The hour and a half between these two events is played out against the theatrically back-lit light of sky and sea which gradually darkens from yellow to red, from crimson to violet to indigo and then black. The cats call for their food – We’ve given in and started buying cat food and extra milk already. – at about 8.00 pm. Mother cat is first. Three bowls are put out. Tinned cat food mixed with dry cat food in two bowls. The middle bowl is milk & water. Mother eats for a while and then disappears. The two little kittens appear – one at each bowl. When they have had enough, they turn to the milk and father appears for his share. Mother comes back and the whole family clean the bowls. There is no fighting or pushing. It is completely shared. The parents go off and snooze under a huge rosemary bush while the youngsters lark about. They have chosen our garage roof patio as their play ground and we are fighting a losing battle to keep them off the furniture.

I can show you a picture of the patio and the furniture but not the cats. They won’t stand still long enough.

furniture1.jpg  furniture2.jpg

2nd July, 2011

Wonderful day. Hot and still. Swimming, gardening, lunch in the sun, Wimbledon. How lucky I am. I have been receiving emails and messages on Facebook all week from or about people from my old school who are being sacked, made redundant with years to go until an ever-diminishing retirement. As the government has pulled the funding from a project they insisted on in the first place, savage cuts are being made to staffing. Pauline & I are so grateful to have gone on our own terms.

The Euro Lottery was a roll over with a first prize of £135, 000,000.00. Pauline bought a ticket and we’ve just been emailed to tell us that we’ve won………………£4.75.

Week 131

19th June, 2011

A warm and sticky day with little breeze. We worked hard in the vegetable garden all morning. Yesterday, we ate a delicious bowl of home grown new potatoes tossed in melted butter and flavoured with home grown mint leaves. That accompanied char grilled chicken and char grilled, home grown courgettes. Today we are eating our own radishes although the salad leaves are not quite ready. The pepper plants are proving a real success. They are becoming heavy with fruit and may need support soon.

peppers.jpg  peppers1.jpg

Swimming was wonderful. The air was hot; the sea was warm and the beach was quiet especially for a Sunday. After a morning gardening in full sun and then a big swim at about 2.00 pm, I was almost too tired to eat although I managed to force a bit down. We had Briam with home made sausages and salad.

20th June, 2011

A hot and sultry day reaching 29C/85F with absolutely no breeze. Gardening was hard. We only managed a couple of hours before collapsing in the shade and watching highlights of Rory McIlroy winning the US Open. The sea was positively hot today and we spent about an hour swimming and relaxing before going home for a very late lunch at 4.00 pm. After that, we watched a bit of Wimbledon which we get live. Dozy Murray dominated the evening match. I actually thought we might get Murray Mania over in the first round defeat but no such luck.

21st June, 2011

We worked hard outside this morning as the temperature rose to 31C/89F. I dug beautiful, new potatoes and cut green peppers and courgettes to eat with chicken for our meal this afternoon. As the temperature rises, the number of insects increases as well. Phyllis gave Pauline a great hat that she bought in Australia and it is perfect for sweaty work without being plagued by flies. I must get one.

hf2.jpg  phat.jpg

22nd June, 2011

A very breezy day. The first this year. When we say ‘breezy’ on Sifnos we mean 8 Beaufort or, as they say in Greece, Octo Befor. Some gusts can be so strong, we have to be careful of our patio furniture or we might find it over the road and down the next field. When we first moved to Sifnos, we bought some ‘teak’, reclining sun beds. They were balsa wood light and, in the first strong wind, we found both smashed to bits against the front gate twenty metres from the house. We have learnt our lesson. We buy heavy furniture and secure it in extremis. We are not quite in Meltemi season but these are the first signs.

Something quite interesting has happened. There are three, main Ferry companies plying their trade between Ancona-Patras-Ancona. Two of the three are totally Greek the third is Greek but Italian supported. Superfast Ferries has been the most go ahead in our times of travelling. We first travelled on it over ten years ago. Anek is the ferry company we have used for the past couple of years mainly because it has offered excellent value for money. Since we started travelling in ‘low season’, the prices have been wonderful. A Luxury cabin has become so cheap. Anek was started in Crete 45 years ago and still based there. The third company is Minoan which is essentially Greek but backed by the Italian, Grimaldi Group. The economic conditions are probably near their lowest for many years. Up-take for tourist travel and business traffic is at a depressing low.

In Piraeus, a couple of weeks ago, we were shocked to see the boat – Anek’s Olympic Champion – that we were supposed to be travelling back to Italy on. On the web, I was amazed to find that Superfast & Anek had amalgamated one month before without telling their booked passengers. Our ferry will now leave three hours earlier than originally booked and they can’t tell us which boat it will be yet. This is a clear sign of the chaos Greek industry is in and just a start of worse if they fall out of the Euro.

23rd June, 2011

A windy day today. The things we bought in Athens were delivered. The delivery cost is worked out, crudely, to be 10% of the cost of the goods. The cost of the goods was €600.00. The delivery charge was €60.00. In this way, everything one buys on an island is inflated in price immediately. We spent a great deal of money on goods for Greece in UK and posted or transported them because of this. For example, Pauline found her ordinary sun tan lotion which she uses for swimming. Ambre Solaire Factor 30 which she bought in UK for £5.00 (€5.60) is being sold in the island shops for €17.50. In six months, Pauline will get through a lot of bottles and potentially save a lot of money.


The items delivered today were relatively cheap because we went to Athens ourselves and bought them. We paid delivery charge but the basic price wasn’t hiked a couple of hundred percent before that. We had bought a teak patio set of two arm chairs, a two-seater bench and a coffee table plus a heavy duty strimmer (brush cutter) plus cushions for our outdoor dining chairs and some plant food.

24th June, 2011

Nice day. A bit breezy but quite warm at 27C/81F. We went up to the Electrical shop to look at Fridge-Freezers. Ours was bought when we were doing six weeks a year. Now we want something more substantial. Flora, the serving girl, told us that three new models would be in on Wednesday so we will go back. The maker’s name isn’t very reassuring. It is Pitsos but it is also badged Bosch and our experience has been good.


Just read the Oldham Chronicle to find that an old friend, Dave Leach, who started teaching at my school as a woodwork teacher and whose wife was my secretary has died aged 70. It seems so young nowadays. Dave left education and trained to become an accountant but missed children and came back in to education, becoming Headteacher of our Special Needs school. He was a lovely bloke who told the dirtiest jokes I have ever heard.

25th June, 2011

Another beautiful day, cloudless with a little breeze. It is the strangest feeling. Two or so years ago Saturday morning would be filled with a current of relaxed and indulgent pleasure. I could choose to do anything. I always chose to shop at Sainsburys and the read the newspaper before settling in to an afternoon of football, rugby or cricket. I wouldn’t think about school until Sunday. Thoughts of it would occasionally bleed in to the back of my mind but I would quite deliberately push it back in its compartment until I was ready to face it. Sunday would be Sunday papers for a couple of hours and then in to the Study to face that school work nagging away, spoiling the relaxation and sense of choice.

Now, every day is Saturday. I get up shortly after 7.000 am and open the shutters looking down to the sea. The sky is always cloudless; the sun is always shining; the sea is always blue; the landscape of the day is always clear and waiting for me to define it. I choose what to do and if I get fed up of it, I stop and do something else. Today, I choose to do landscaping of my property followed watering of my vegetable garden, swimming for an hour and then a late lunch while watching Wimbledon. This evening, we will sit out under the stars with our coffee looking at the lights of Kamares twinkling on the water in the bay and discussing the past, and planning the future. What ever we plan, it will be our choice and we may change tomorrow.

Today, as we went down to swim, we saw a plant that would grace the front of our property. We don’t know what it is called but we will take a photo up to the garden centre to ask. This is the plant:


Because we had the camera with us, Pauline couldn’t resist taking a photo of her hero. This is the best portrait of me for some years.


Week 130

12th June, 2011

A quiet day I won’t bore you with. Newspaper delivered on time. Breakfast, gardening, a wonderful swim for nearly an hour. Salad for lunch outside with apple cake for ‘afters’ made by Pauline in no time at all. This wasn’t made for me. It was made for Stavros’ mother, Margarita, who appeared outside our house, pipping away in her car at about 11.30 am. When Pauline went down to see her, she had two dishes covered with foil. One contained Fasolia (bean soup) and the other contained Banzari y skordalia (beetroot with garlic sauce). To repay her kindness, Pauline quickly knocked up an apple upsidedown cake and took her some on the way to swimming.

The wine we had with salad sent me to sleep in the afternoon. To be honest, I would have fallen asleep without it. The pills I take for my blood pressure make me feel tired. I woke up to find Pauline had cleaned the windows and got her sewing machine out to turn up her trousers. Like her Mum, she must be shrinking. We had to have chicken for dinner in the evening to make sure there were scraps for the cats. I must say, they seem to love tarragon.

We have sixteen weeks left on the island.

13th June, 2011

A little cooler today – 25C/77F – and it felt quite chilly. It didn’t stop us going swimming though. We haven’t missed a day since June 1st. Another incentive came when I, unexpectedly, weighed myself in the middle of the morning and found I had lost one stone in weight over the past two months.

To those of you who have followed my nonsense over the past 129 weeks, you will be aware that I love to be forward-planned. Yesterday, I thought I would count how many weeks we had been on the island – 8 – and how many we had left this year – 16. I woke in the night thinking, I’ve only got sixteen weeks to book hotels for our return journey. This afternoon, I started to look for a couple of hotels for the return journey. I found one just outside Lake Como:


The next hotel will be in the Champagne region of France so I’m going to spend time and do that one at the weekend. We are off to Athens for a shopping trip tomorrow. We will return on Thursday evening after Pauline’s hair appointment.

14th June, 2011

A very hot day. We are up early and, after breakfast, I spend two hours watering all the plants so that they can get through nearly three days without me. At 1.30 pm, we drive down to the port, park our car and walk to the already docking Speedrunner.


By 5.30 pm, we were off the boat and spilling in to the turmoil of Piraeus. We took a taxi to Athens. We had a brilliant, Romanian, woman driver who got us there quickly and cheaply. We bought a carton of milk from the periptero near by and Pauline made a cup of tea.


Peripteros are open all day long and sell most everyday needs from cigarettes & postcards to bottled water and chewing gum.

Later we went out to eat at a roadside taverna in the backstreets. Five or six tables scattered across the pavement next to an open air car park, a building renovation and a cross roads is not somewhere most visitors to Athens would choose but after twenty five years, we know it is a top restaurant. As we are sitting there eating Kolokithokeftethes (courgette balls with mint and oregano), tstasiki (yoghurt, garlic & mint), bakalaros y skordalia (salt cod with garlic sauce), cars and bikes screech past, tourist arrive with guide books in hand – Yes, this is the restaurant – and Greeks walk home from work. I wish I had carried my camera to show you. We walked home via our favourite chocolatiers and bought a selection for the evening.

15th June, 2011

We got up at 7.00 am and, after a shower and cup of tea, went down to the most huge buffet breakfast of fresh orange juice and a pot of coffee, bacon, sausage and scambled eggs, fresh fruit and yoghurt and croissants & jam. This was the last normal act of the day.

We went down to the Hotel Lobby and asked them get us a taxi to Piraeus Street – the Leroy Merlin store (a French/Greek B&Q). The taxi driver said he could get us there but he wasn’t sure we could get back to our hotel because the protesters would be encircling Syndagma where our hotel is because they were trying to prevent MPs getting to Parliament to pass the austerity budget. In the event, he was nearly right.

At Leroy Merlin, we bought a garden strimmer, a garden furniture set of coffee table, two chairs, a two seat bench, some plant food and other small items which will be delivered in the next few days.

We tried to buy a new fridge freezer from Kotsovolos (owned by Dixons) but the model we really wanted with an iced drinks dispenser was out of stock so we decided to wait. We went outside and hailed a cab. The driver told us he couldn’t take us to our hotel because the rioters/police had closed the roads. He took us to the nearest Metro where we spent an hour or two fighting with hundreds of others trying to get on the tube to Monastiraki station from where we walked up Ermou Street to our Hotel. As we got closer to Syndagma we could smell and then see the smoke from the Finance Ministry which had been set alight. Fighting was openly going on between protestors and police. Protestors (probably professional anarchists) had come equipped with crow bars to lever up the centuries old paving stones to smash into pieces big enough to hurl at the police. As we drank cool white wine and watched from our balcony, hot and harassed police ducked bricks and fists hour upon hour in the name of democracy.

riots.jpg  riots2.jpg

riots3.jpg riots4.jpg

16th June, 2011

All is unravelling here. Papandreou is attempting to form a new cabinet and to carry on in Government. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the support of the people and this will prove fatal.

Meanwhile to the important things of life. We have had another huge breakfast and Pauline has gone off to have her hair cut. I am relaxing with the Greek news and my Blog. At 12,00 pm we will check out and get a taxi down to Piraeus where we will get on Zante Ferries Korais bound fo home (sorry, Sifnos).


Unfortunately, being a ferry, The Korais will take five and a half hours and we will arrive on Sifnos just after 8.00 pm but that doesn’t matter.

17th June, 2011

Actually, the journey was delightful. I read the newspaper and kept an eye on the televisions scattered around the walls of the ship’s lounge. The Greek government was unravelling in front of our very eyes and Papandreou, having offered to resign, decided he was essential but he would sacrifice his cabinet – particularly, Papacontantinou, the Finance Minister – and would build a new one immediately. Unfortunately, the preferred candidate, the former Deputy of the European Bank, declined to take part so Papandreou appointed his rival, Evangelos Venizelos, who has no financial experience. This looks disastrous but France and Germany are so desperate for the Euro region not to unravel that they can make anything work.


We have felt tired all day today. We put it down to the travelling over the previous three days. The temperature is 27C/81F. The sea was pleasant and we had a good swim. I picked a handful of courgettes and of radishes which we had with our salad. I watered everything and then collapsed like an old man to rest.

Week 129

5th June, 2011

The cat family which has adopted us left us a present in the Garage today. As we drove back from swimming and into the garage, the male cat ran out. As Pauline got out of the car, she found an irridescent length of rope with blood dripping from either end. It was a headless and tailess snake. Not just a snake but one of the most dangerous types found in the Greek countryside. I had to move it before it became too smelly.


6th June, 2011

The temperature is a humid, mid-80s. I’m doing lots of watering of the veg. garden but it is beginning to pay dividends. The First Early potatoes are already flowering. The courgettes are fruiting energetically. I even picked some small, sweet ones with deliciously big flowers this morning.

j1.jpg  j2.jpg  j3.jpg

Went up to the Germanos shop to increase my Cosmote internet contract from 5Gb to 10Gb. The increase only costs about €10.00 per month but allows me to leave the internet on non-stop without worrying about additional charges. We then went on to the supermarket and, while we were there, we asked about transportation of goods from Athens/Piraeus to the island in readiness for our shopping trip to Athens next week. We have been given the contacts for a company called METAFORIKI SIFNOU AGGELAS .

We went on to have a wonderful swim from an almost deserted beach and then I cooked Lamb Kleftiko for lunch/dinner at about 4.00 pm. We have got into the routine, now, of tea & toast at 7.30 am, swimming at 1.30 pm – 2.30 pm, eating our main meal at around 4.00 pm and then just fruit salad and coffee in the evening.

7th June, 2011

People often ask us if we get bored on our Greek island. Why would we not prefer to spend our money visiting different places? That is usually because they have a totally different view of what we are doing compared with us. We never consider that we are ‘on holiday’ and haven’t done so for quite a long time. We live in Greece. We are part of a community with whom we share a life. We are as much ‘on holiday’ when we visit England as when we are in Greece. When you own a property, land in another country, your view of it is totally different to the here today, gone tomorrow, tourist.

8th June, 2011

Yesterday we went shopping. We went to the Hardware shop. It is a posh, new outfit with most things one could want. We bought teak oil for the patio furniture. It needs to be done twice a year in this sun. We bought varnish for the garden benches. We went on to the garden centre. This is a bit more home spun but very useful just the same. We bought an expensive huge pot and another geranium to put in it. I bought some more grow bags of potting compost and, although I have grown my own sage, tarragon, rosemary and thyme, I hadn’t got any mint. We eat a lot of lamb and wanted to make mint sauce. The garden centre had three different types of mint including the standard one we see most commonly in England. The owner was very keen to point out his knowledge of mint so I had to indulge him before I bought our plant.

pots1.jpg  pots2.jpg

As we went down to swim today, the car showed 31C/88F.

9th June, 2011

This morning we went for a drive over the island. For the first time ever, Pauline did some driving. She has NEVER, in all our time in Greece, driven in Greece. I have been suffering with my sciatic nerve and the pain is particularly prevalent when I am driving. We have been talking about Pauline getting her confidence up driving on the right just in case she is required to take charge at some time. Pauline is a better driver than me and certainly more careful. That’s why I don’t let her drive normally.

Fantastic swim today. The air temperature was 28C/83F. We had lovely waves and warm, crystal clear water. We came back and cooked pork chop, peppers, onions and potatoes. It was delicious. It was so delicious that our adopted cats appeared on the scene and, eventually, were given the scraps along with a carton of milk and water.

10th June, 2011

This morning has dawned beautifully again. We now have a routine which serves me well. We get up between 7.00 – 7.30 am. Pauline makes the tea while I open up all the bedroom shutters, nets and windows to air the bedroom and let the sun lick its way round the walls. Tea and toast from homemade bread and raspberry jam while we watch the BBC News. At 8.00 am, I put on the Radio 4 Today programme which is just starting at 6.00 am in UK. By 8.30 am Greece / 6.30 am UK, The Daily Telegraph has arrived on the Kindle and I read and listen for about an hour. Long before I’ve finished, Pauline is itching to get on with the day. Today, for example, she was outside varnishing the garden benches while I was reading. By 10.30 am I try to have the vegetables watered and we are ready to go out. Today, we went to visit the Transport company – Aggelas & Sons – which we had been advised of earlier.


The old man with the grey beard had the same beard but jet black when we first came to Sifnos more than 25 years ago. He is retired now and his sons run the company. They don’t speak a word of English but I had anticipated that and done directions to our house in English, in Greek and in pictures. It was the pictures that swung it I think. The family have five or six huge lorries and a depot in Piraeus. We will shop in Leroy Merlin for furniture and garden equipment, at Kotsovolos for electrical goods and they will be delivered by the stores to the depot in Piraeus. Aggelas & Sons will pick it all up from the depot and deliver it to our house on the island. This is why everything is so much more expensive on an island. The transportation cost are quite high.

11th June, 2011

Wonderful swimming in warm water. A few more people on the beach because it’s the weekend. Phoned Ruth tonight and had a nice conversation. Ruth sounds really happy with her new apartment although she hasn’t managed to sell her house yet. They will just have to sit tight and not give in to the Estate Agents’ demands to lower their price. It will happen in the end.