Week 135

17th July, 2011

The Greek media is obsessed by the Heatwave hitting us. In Athens unprecedented innovations are being introduced. Around the capital, state-sponsored Cool Refuges are being set up so that poor people who can’t afford to have or run air conditioning can go to get respite from the 40C – 44C. It is truly debilitating and the heat can lead to many deaths amongst the elderly. Help!

Really enjoyed watching the British Open today and I was genuinely delighted to see Darren Clarke come out on top. I’ve no idea why. I don’t particularly like golf and I’ve never met Darren Clarke.


18th July, 2011

We have had a strangely, unsatisfactory day. Yesterday I fell headlong while clearing some rough land. I scraped my elbow, nothing worse but, this morning, my sciatica was back with a vengeance and I couldn’t walk never mind work. At times like this, one understands the true vulnerability of living in a foreign country. Pauline was all for selling up and returning ‘home’ although neither of us knows where ‘home’ is. We held anguished conversations for an hour or two but, by the middle of the afternoon, my pain was diminishing, we ate lunch with a nice bottle of wine and all was back on an even keel.

19th July, 2011

The Greeks are really beginning to shoot themselves in the foot. In previous years, they have been careful not to allow strikes to affect tourism – much. Now, they are just letting go completely. One of the tasks the Greek Government is trying to achieve is to open up ‘closed’ shop professions to free up the market and increase competition. Taxi services is one of those ‘professions’. Taxi drivers are furious. Not only now are they being forced to declare their earnings and to pay tax on it but, having paid tens of thousands of euros for a licence to run a taxi and passed it on through their family, they now see outsiders potentially coming in and taking business away from them.

The taxi drivers are on strike in tourist season. They have blockaded Piraeus, the airport and areas of Athens, seriously inconveniencing tourists.

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We watched about six or seven hours of live coverage of the Parliamentary Committee grilling the Murdochs this afternoon/evening. Rupert did a brilliant job of pretending to be gaga. James did a less impressive job of looking as if he is on top of the situation. Plucky little Rebekah had to wait all afternoon but then put in an excellent performance in the evening. Star of the show, of course, was Murdoch’s wife, Wendy Deng, giving some joker a real slap while a British Bobby tiptoed across the screen to apprehend him. What sort of security was that? It makes us a laughing stock across the world.


20th July, 2011

This heatwave is really sapping our energy. We really have come to a standstill. Essential jobs are done grudgingly. Inessential jobs are left undone. Yesterday, we went down for our swim and a French lady who we have seen on the beach with her young son for a couple of weeks walked in to the sea obviously quite intent on speaking to us. We struck up a conversation and it turned out that she spoke perfect English having done a Business Degree in Sheffield. She lives and works as Marketing Director of a software company in Bordeaux. I immediately asked for a job but it wasn’t forthcoming. It turned out, she wants to be us. She and her husband have come to Sifnos for two weeks every year for ten or so years and long to build a house here. I was tempted to offer a house swap but it didn’t seem appropriate as we’d only just met and were standing in the sea.

21st July, 2011

We have really got to enjoy our adopted cat family and have been amazed by their intense togetherness. They have started to chide us by 7.00 pm (just after the sun has gone down around our house), if we haven’t begun to move on the evening meal. Usually, Mother comes and shouts through the back door or Dad, the boldest, might sit on the window sill looking in. Occasionally, they send Little Ginge because they know she is the most appealing. Little Tabs is rarely around in time for the start of evening meal. Pauline fills two bowls with a mixture of tinned and dried cat food and a third bowl with a mixture of milk and water. She puts the bowls out and does her customary call ‘Pu-uss’ to alert them. This is wholly unnecessary for all but Little Tabs. The other three faces have already appeared eagerly from under the rosemary bush although they don’t venture out until Pauline has gone.

As you will see from the photographs, the kittens have grown quickly. I’m not surprised with all the food they’re getting. We think Little Tabs is a boy and Little Ginge is a girl. In the last few days, we have caught both still feeding from Mum but we think they are largely going through the motions. The kittens are spending most of the day away from Mum now. She sleeps in the garage or behind the house most of the day. Little Ginge is back with Mum long before we feed them and Father, who spends most of his time away (out at work probably) is usually on time for food but Little Tabs has really started to assert his independence and comes back very late – often missing the evening meal.

The cats all eat together and there is no fighting or hogging the food. They are incredibly careful that all get enough. Children happily eat from the same bowl as Father. Mother is happy to sit back and let the kids eat before eating her own meal. When Little Tabs came home half an hour after the food had all been eaten, the other three members of the family set up a demand for food, which we eventually gave in to, and then they didn’t touch it until Tabs had eaten his fill. On another occasion when he was late back, Mother marched him round to the bowls which had a few morcels left and made him eat them and, then when Pauline put out more, she sat and ensured that he ate it before helping herself.

There are a few sparks between Dad & Mum. Dad has tried to mate with Mum but she soon fended him off. After supper, they all go on the field. Mother and Father doze while the kids do toy fighting or stalk moths and beetles. Occasionally, Little Ginge attacks Mum’s tail and she indulges it. Occasionally Little Ginge gets carried away and attacks Dad’s tail. He gets annoyed and takes a swipe at Little Ginge at which point Mother really gives Father what for and he slinks off in to the night not to be seen again for a while. Sometimes he will be at breakfast but, more often than not, he doesn’t reappear until the next evening.

When we get up in the morning, Mum, Little Tabs & Little Ginge can be found asleep on the outdoor dining chairs. They would sleep on the cushions so Pauline has sewn ties on the cushion tops to tie them up at night. When they hear us get up, they start to stretch and wonder about breakfast. It is not an elaborate affair – cat biscuits and watery milk but it seems enough and the kids are soon off learning to be cats while Mum dreams of times when she didn’t have such responsibilities.

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22nd July, 2011

Incredibly hot and windless today. The road surface is melting outside. Pauline is reading a book under the pergola. I’m writing up the Blog, listening to England v India on Test Match Special while thinking about upgrading my website. I am aware that it doesn’t appear as well in some Browsers as it does in mine and I want to establish a little more control. During the winter, I want take a course in CSS design to improve everything I do. I will be looking around the Woking area for something like that.

Meanwhile the Greeks are saying to each other, I told you so. It was all a game. They were bound to give us the money in the end. The taxi drivers haven’t blinked. They’ve carried on blocking airports and ports in support of retaining their closed shop practice. I wonder why there are so few tourists?

I have just stood and applauded Pieterson’s Century against India. It’s 4.50 pm and we are just about to eat Lunch-Dinner. Ian Bell has just been caught behind taking us to 270 for 4 wickets.


23rd July, 2011

It is so hot we have got in to a strange ritual. Tea and toast for Breakfast at 7.30 am. We listen to the BBC Today programme for an hour or so while reading The Telegraph on-line with a cup of coffee. We then try to get a bit of physical work done. Today, we are cleaning the patio tiles which get filthy easily with mountain dust, insects, flying birds and general traffic. It is a huge job. The tiling surrounds the house completely and it takes us about four hours to do together. We do it about once a month and spend a couple of hours on Saturday and the same on Sunday. I use a pressure washer and Pauline follows up with a mop. By mid day, we have a huge bowl of fruit salad – peaches, nectarines, plums, grapes, strawberries (now available on the island) and pears.

Today, I have been allowed time to do my web pages and complete my Blog with a cup of coffee and Test Match Special. Just before 3.00 pm, we think about swimming but, before we go out, we ask each other, What shall we eat today? Usually, we agree on that quite easily but the heatwave has made it an impossible question. Neither of us can even think about food. Maybe later.

Great swim. An hour in crystal clear water. We swim solidly from side to side of the bay for 45 mins and then tiredly back to the car just off the beach and back up to the house. The temperature has come in this afternoon at 38C – just under 100F but the air conditioned atmosphere of the car has persuaded us to choose pork chops with potatoes, onions and green beans from the garden. Greek white wine moderated with Club Soda will oil the wheels.

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