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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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