Week 145

25th September, 2011

As a wounded soldier, I had to take it easy. My ear – big in the first place – has swollen considerably and is miserably uncomfortable. Pauline has cleaned the splits and dressed them with antiseptic cream. I have been holding an ice pack on my ear until I couldn’t feel my face in an attempt to get the swelling down. It was stopping my hearing.  We were supposed to be going swimming but I have been banned in case I get an infection.

To add to my woes, there was just one, poor quality, Premier League match today – QPR v Aston Villa and it ended in a boring draw.

26th September, 2011

My ear is still swollen, throbbing and weeping a bit but we have to get on. We go up to the tile shop to pay for the waterproof treatment of our pergola roof. Six man hours plus the solutions comes to €500.00 which seems a bit steep but we are assured of a ten year warranty so we pay up.

We have coffee with Panos & Rania

27th September, 2011

Pauline & I are very similar in our reactions to things. As soon as we reach our final week, we are desperate to get on with it. We leave on Monday night, strikes permitting. We have done all the planning, bookings, etc.

  • Monday: Sifnos – Piraeus on F/B Adamas Korais leaving at 23.59 and arriving next day at 6.00  am.
  • Tuesday: Patras – Ancona on Anek Lines leaving at 17.00 and arriving next day at 12.30 pm. (Wine buying)
  • Wednesday: Ancona to Lake Como – a four and a half hour drive.
  • Thursday: Lake Como to Metz in France – a six hour drive.
  • Friday: Metz to Calais – a four and a half hour drive. (Wine buying) 6.00 pm crossing through Tunnel to UK.

We have made lists of all the jobs we must do before we leave and we are ticking them off as we get through them. Teachers to the last.

28th September, 2011

This morning it was blood test, shopping, frappe and sweet pie at the cafe and relaxing in the sunshine. Our friends and restaurant owners, Panos & Rania along with their daughter, Nefelli and Anna, their chef, came round for coffee this afternoon.

My INR is all over the place again. I had to phone Huddersfield R.I. and they advised a new warfarin dosage. Tonight I am switching between Arsenal and Chelsea. The Chelsea match looks the best. Goodness knows what Man. U. were up to last night.

29th September, 2011

Can you believe that tomorrrow is the last day of September and we leave our Greek home in four days. Actually, the weather across northern Europe is lovely at the moment, dry and sunny, and would be ideal for our drive. It seems to have come a week early for us. It can’t possibly last. We really don’t want to be driving through heavy rain in Italy and France or snow in Switzerland.

We have food for three meals in the fridge/freezer and four days to eat. We decided to go out to eat. We went to Meropi restaurant. It is one of the traditional tavernas in the harbour which we first ate in when we came here in 1984/5. Meropi is an ancient Greek name – a girl’s name. In our naivety, we thought it was owned by Mr & Mrs Meropi when we first frequented it. We were served by a girl – daughter of the owner – who wasn’t even born when we first went to the restaurant. She is Katerina and she is 25 years old. She told us that she is getting married in November and she invited us to the wedding. Unfortunately, we won’t be there. We sat by the sea and ate chick pea balls with garlic sauce and then beef in red sauce (tomato) with potatoes. Red wine made us even more relaxed.


As we walked back to our car, we met Christos, the cafe owner, who told us he had just come back from Santorini where he and his wife and new baby had spent a week’s holiday. He didn’t like it. The island was ‘full’ of Japanese tourists with cameras. He wants Greece to leave the euro and return to the drachma. We disagreed on that. We went on past the ‘supermarket’ where we saw Giorgaikis (Little George) who is 27 years old and 6′ 4″ tall. His brother, Nikos, is on crutches. He was hunting on the mountain and fell and broke his ankle quite badly. We drove home for coffee and to sleep off the food and wine.

This evening. our feral cats who have been fairly scared of most human contact throughout the period we have been feeding them became incredibly affectionate. We are already feeling terrible that we are going to leave them to fend for themselves in the next few days. We don’t know if it is the cooler nights sleeping outside or the increased confidence that they have in us or the animal sixth sense that something is changing and we are going but today, Little Ginge & Little Tabs, followed Pauline around everywhere she went outside – opening the shutters, collecting the washing, etc. They even started rubbing her legs and kissing her foot when she fed them and she managed to stroke Tabs’ back as he ate although Ginge still shied away.

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Little Tabs really does take after his adopted father. He is as fat as a house while Little Ginge is still more delicate. Even after they had been fed this evening, Little Ginge sat on the windowsill and continued to cry. We went out and told her she was a cat and that it was her tradition to go off catting at night time but she took a lot of persuading.

30th September, 2011

This morning Pauline is picking olives for bottling and taking back to England. Then we are going to the accountant to ask about the lost legal papers on our house. First we will call in at the Post Office to ask them to save all our mail until April when we return.

When we get to the Accountant’s office, we are told that the papers have been found in the Tax Office in Athens and are on their way back to Sifnos. Suddenly, all worries are waved away. It is a typically Greek resolution to a problem that has concerned us for two or three weeks but which Greeks around counselled us not to worry about because everything sorts itself out in time. And it has!

My ear is a lot better today but my arm has come out in an angry bruise from the fall.


We leave the island at midnight on Monday and just manage to get our ferry before the Seamen’s union goes on strike. The air traffic controllers have already arranged theirs and the buses, trains and taxi drivers are in the midddle of theirs. To add to our luck, the five day weather forecast says our journey across Europe will be warm and dry.


1st October, 2011

I can’t believe the days are flying by so fast. I thought retirement would slow them down. Anyway, Happy October to you all.


It feels like the end of term. All we have to do is tidy our offices, make a few speeches of gratitude for all the support colleagues have given us over the past few months and then head off on our merry way only to return after a short while to start all over again. In those days, of course, all our personal organisation was crammed in to spare, non-professional minutes. Now, we have lots of time and almost everything is done well in advance. Today I will have my hair cut outside on the terrace. The falling hair will drift away in the breeze and remain on my land while we are away. Pauline is ironing and packing the last clothes while I will be watching the football. We are planning how to eat the remaining food over the final three days and drink the last bottles of wine. We have just enough food for the cats and we’ll leave their Tuesday breakfast for when we’re gone. After that, they’ll have to hunt out their food.

Week 144

18th September, 2011

The swimming just gets better. Nobody else in the sea. Warm, clear water. Air temperature almost permanently hovering around 28C/83F.

Had the pleasure of watching United destroy a rather ageing and shabby Chelsea.

19th September, 2011

The woodman didn’t turn up to finish the job today which worried us a bit but we were told to go to the tiler’s shop to arrange for him to send someone down to put the final coatings on the roof. It gets a red, rubberised coating followed by a white coating to reflect the sun away followed by a varnish to keep the whole thing perfect. The tiler’s wife said it would be a week before they could get to us so we are keen to follow up on that before we leave.

The sea seemed even warmer today and the swimming was delightful.

20th September, 2011

The  woodman, Konstantinos, his brother in law, Adonis, and his wife’s Uncle, Giannis, arrived at 9.30 am to complete the work on the roof. It has been a really professional, high quality job.

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Amazingly this afternoon the sky has turned cloudy and we are told that we have a 30% chance of rain tomorrow. Everyone here will love that – apart from a few tourists who are left. We haven’t seen any ‘weather’ since May. Every day is hot, dry, blue sky and sunny. Nice to have a change at last.


21st September, 2011

Last night we thought there would be a huge thunderstorm. At 11.30 last night, we were sitting outside watching almost continuous sheet lightning flashing just behind the mountainous bowl in which Kamares Bay sits. The lightning was not followed by thunder but it was fairly hot and humid. We went to bed expecting to hear the beat of torrential rain on our flat roof in the middle of the night. It didn’t happen and this morning brought blue skies with fleecy clouds. It feels a little fresher than normal so, maybe, the prospect of rain is going away.

We are continuing jobs in preparation for closing up the house. We leave in twelve days and there is lots to do. I have written before of our hardwood windows & doors which were supplied by Sylor. The paintwork is electromagnetically applied which means that rather than having to repaint every year as most islanders do, we have a ten year warranty which is already in to its sixth year and standing up well. In order to keep up the standard, we are supplied, free of charge, with a ‘Care Pack’ which contains a bottle of liquid detergent and a ‘water-based impregnating agent’ both of which we apply each Autumn. We are also given a WD40 can for the hinges and other metal work. However sceptical we may have been at the outset, Pauline has religiously done the job each Autumn and the warranty will easily be fulfilled and, probably, another ten years.


We went up to the woodman’s to speak to Maria, his wife, and to pay the bill. It was €1100 but worth every cent. As we drove home, I suggested we call in at the tiler’s shop to speak to his wife, Katerina, to see when they were coming to put waterproofing on our new roof. It just so happened that three men had returned from a tiling job early so they were immediately despatched to our house. It is so un-Greek-like but it was magical. With thunderstorms predicted for tonight, we now have a waterproofed roof which will do the next ten years. The workers will come back tomorrow to put the white coat of paint on and then again on Friday to varnish the whole thing.

22nd September, 2011

Well, it’s happened. We’ve had our first rain since early May. There was no thunder & lightning,  just a heavy drumming on the roof as a ten minute monsoon style rain hit us. It was 3.00 in the morning and we got up to watch in excitement. Little Ginge & Little Tabs were cowering under the outdoor furniture. This was their first ever experience of rain. We opened the door and smelled the freshness before leaving the cats to their fate and going back to bed.

The morning has broken with warm sun and clear, blue skies. Isn’t this how life should be organised? Heavy rain at night and warm, bright skies during the day. Pauline is painting the underside of the pergola roof. I’m cleaning the bathroom. It may be a reversal of traditional roles but we each do what we can. We are a good team.

It is two and a half years since Pauline & I did a day’s paid work. Our pay arrives every month at a rate that means we notice no difference from when we were in work. Every day I feel something of a fraud. In April, while Teachers’ pay is frozen until the end of 2012, our pay will increase by 4.5%. In a year, Pauline will receive her old age pension in addition. We won’t need it but we will invest it if we can find something worth putting it in to.

23rd September, 2011

Pauline is painting the edges of the pergola in a freezing, early morning temperature of 22C/70F. No wonder the cats wolfed down their food and went off to snuggle in the garage. I don’t think we will be swimming today.

The temperature eventually did reach 26C/79F but we didn’t go swimming. Two young men appeared for the third day running with huge cans of varnish to put on the pergola roof. It now has a thick, red, rubber layer covered by a white layer covered by a clear varnish. That is it now. Pauline painted the edges white today and she will do the same to the underneath tomorrow. I will not write about it again – unless it blows down.

Greece has no money. Local government is cutting back everywhere. Amusingly, all local, Greek Authorities will be expected to balance their books by 2013. What one would be able to correctly infer from this is that they don’t balance their books currently and haven’t done for years. They just go cap-in-hand to central government for hand outs to make up the shortfall. Often the shortfall is scandalously large. We went for a drive round the island and were surprised to find that large portions of the road system were being freshly re-tarmaced. Some of them, in our view, didn’t really need it. Something fishy is going on!

24th September, 2011

Woke up early this morning …………… on the bedroom floor with blood pouring out of the side of my head. It was just after 6.00 am. The room was pitch black because the shutters were closed. I wasn’t drunk.

As I woke, I felt myself falling – not surprisingly because that is exactly what was happening to me. I had rolled off the side of the bed and caught my ear on the pointed corner of the bedside cabinet tearing my earlobe. I take a long time to come round in the morning. I didn’t this morning. I knew immediately that I was on the floor and something hot and wet was dripping from my ear. Pauline was instantly at my side with a huge towel to mop up the blood. I take Warfarin and my blood doesn’t clot. The fall had torn my ear lobe and the blood flow was insistant. The photograph below was taken four hours later and the blood had just begun to clot.

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Week 143

11th September, 2011

After a football free weekend last week, I was looking forward to some good entertainment this weekend. Apart from United’s slaughter of Bolton, 5 – 0 (Sorry, Ruth but Bolton were lucky to score 0.), the other five or six games I saw were poor quality and boring.

The day was saved by the most wonderful weather. The sea temperature is 25C/77F according to our forecaster and the air temperature was 28C/83F. It’s not boiling but it feels very pleasant. We had a beautiful swim in crystal, clear water.

12th September, 2011

With the possibility that the woodman might appear with his team ‘after 9.00 am’, we were up and outside by then. We have got an ongoing job of land clearing and leaky pipe checking (for leaks). That’s what we got on with. By 12.00 am, it was clear the woodman wasn’t coming today. We were tired and sweaty. Showers and out shopping. Back for coffee and then it was time for swimming. Once again, we did our mile in wonderful water. There were about three ‘wrinklies’ couples on the beach. Since June 1st, we have swum about 100 miles.

Back at the house by 3.00 pm and, after a shower, we have a little snack of a few crisps & nuts and some little bits of garlic sausage with a glass of wine. We are going out to dinner tonight so we just want to get ourselves through the next four or five hours of hunger. By 4.00 pm, Pauline is reading her Kindle and I am snoozing in front of the News. The Greek government are talking about a new property tax. The next thing I know, it is 6.00 pm. The cats are clamouring at the windows to be fed. The small snack at lunchtime is still filling our newly shrunken bellies and we cancel the dinner out. We’ll do that tomorrow.

13th September, 2011

The wonderful weather continues. After a bit of gardening, Pauline phones the electrical shop about our broken brush cutter. It’s repaired. We go up to collect it and it illustrates one of the delights of Greece. When we get to the shop, the machine is repaired and working. The shop hasn’t done it and they make no charge. Why? we ask. Because Georgios was passing on the bus and he knows about these machines. He repaired it. He doesn’t want paying. What can you say but Thank you.

A few days ago the Garden Centre man said he was waiting for insecticide for the blight on the lemon trees. Today, he said it had come in. We bought it and a sprayer. He told us how to dilute it and apply it. We will do it tomorrow. We really are going out to eat tonight.

First we have had a lovely swim. Although there are only a few wrinklies this year, this is the sort of transport that they seem to like to arrive on:


We did another mile of swimming in wonderful water although today the tide was going out strongly and we had to fight it. The photograph below illustrates our swim:


14th September, 2011

Still, blue skies and 33C/92F today. After breakfast, we did three gruelling hours of garden clearing, testing and repairing the leaky pipe network. After a short recovery period, we went off for our swim. The water was warm and still.

When we came back, Pauline phoned the woodman who confirmed that he is delivering materials tomorrow evening and his team will start work on Friday morning. Tonight we have to spray our lemon trees with an insecticide. Apparently, all the citrus trees of Sifnos are suffering from thrips which can be erradicated with this spray. We have six citrus trees and I have to cover my skin, my mouth and nose before I start the job. At least the evening is still.

We are a bit worried about our cat family. They are incredibly close and supportive of each other. They are constantly kissing and cuddling each other; they don’t fight over food; they are together all the time. In the past few days, Mother has started to change. She has gone off on her own, been a bit moody and struck out at the kids. We are not sure but we think she might be pregnant. The kids are finding it very hard and Little Ginge, particularly, spends all her time near to us, crying. I can’t take it. I’ve told Pauline, she’ll have to come home with us.

15th September, 2011

A hot (33C/92F) but difficult day today. We went up to the electricity shop to change the clarify our billing address because we had not received our last two paper bills even though the charge had been deducted from our bank account. The man at the electricity shop did that on his computer but told us to contact the accountant, because there was a problem. In order to get ‘full’ electricity, one has to submit the paper which the planning/building authority issues after the building is completed. This paper says that the final building has been checked and it adheres to the original plans. Only then can people have full electricity switched on. Our papers were submitted four years ago but we still haven’t been granted full electricity. Apparently, our papers were submitted to the Authorities in Milos as normal. Milos sat on them and when finally questioned, said only Greeks could submit their papers to Milos. Non-Greeks had to submit them to Athens. The papers were submitted to Athens and passed. In this process, the original paper has gone missing and only a photocopy remains at the accountant’s office. The electricity shop says it cannot switch on full power without the original paper. This is not good news and could delay matters even more.

16th September, 2011

After six months of asking, the woodman says he is coming today. We will see. Today has reached 33C/92F with a slight breeze. We worked hard in the garden for two hours or so and then had a wonderful swim. Pauline made pizza for our meal. We eat so little now, one, homemade pizza absolutely fills us.

The woodman arrived at 6.00 pm bringing wood and saying the job would be done tomorrow. We cannot believe it. I got so emotional I kissed him. He seemed quite pleased.

17th September, 2011

At 9.00 am, we were outside drinking coffee when the woodman and team arrived. They set to work and we sat and watched. The woodman’s wife’s uncle began in the laundry. Because non of us speaks a common language, I had produced diagrams on my computer of what we wanted and where. He seemed delighted with those. The woodman and his brother-in-law began to dismantle the pergola. Half way through the morning we offered coffee which they laughingly declined because it was Nescafe not Greek coffee. But the homemade tyropita or cheese pies that Pauline baked were wolfed down with a bottle of water. They will work until 3.00 pm so we will miss our swim today. The first football match is at 14.45 pm (Blackburn v Arsenal) so we won’t have time. We will have to do double tomorrow.

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Week 142

4th September, 2011

Do you remember Sundays as a child? Church, breakfast and then ‘quiet activities’ for the rest of the day. Maybe a family walk in the afternoon. Nothing like a normal day. We  had one of those today – not out of any religious convention but because we couldn’t be bothered. We didn’t even go swimming today and hardly ate anything. In the afternoon, we went for a slow drive across the island to assess the tourist position. There was little position to assess. Few tourists remain.

We sail from Patras to Ancona on October 4th in the afternoon and arriving mid day on October 5th. Leaving a Greek island with a deadline to meet like that is always a little problematic. Ferries can be cancelled at the drop of a hat and without notice. Usually, this is because of the weather. To add to that risk at the moment, Greek Seamen’s Unions are prone to strikes. For that reason, we have always played safe and left the island at least one and sometimes two days early. This time we had planned to leave the island on Sunday, 2nd and stay at a lovely hotel – Patras Palace – for a couple of days before sailing. We booked the hotel ages ago. However, it would cost us £300.00 – £400.00 and we would be kicking our heels for two days. The other problem with Greek ferries is that their timetables change regularly according to demand. Suddenly, a ferry service has been announced for the night of Monday, 3rd and arriving in Piraeus on Tuesday morning. We can then just drive straight up to Patras some three or so hours away and get on our boat for the Adriatic. We have decided to take the risk and do that. We leave four weeks tonight.

5th September, 2011

Glorious morning forecast to reach 31C/89F with just a little breeze. We have got gardening in the morning followed by swimming in the afternoon and the dinner out with Panos & Rania in the evening.

The temperature was actually 34C/93F as we plunged in to the crystal, clear Aegean. The temperature rose considerably later in the afternoon when we learnt that the new Principal appointed to take over our old school which has combined with an Asian intake school and to be the sixth Head in as many years is to be the notorious Creationist, Nigel McQuoid. He believes that biblical text should inform every area of the curriculum which should enthuse the 50% Muslim intake.


6th September, 2011

Lovely warm day. We pushed ourselves to do a couple hours of of very tiring gardening followed by an hour of swimming which was delicious. By the time we got home, we were exhausted. Our meal was a simple Spaghetti Bolognese where only the meat sauce was homemade. The pasta was bought in but it was bought in Italy.

The cats – Mother, Little Tabs and Little Ginge – are becoming bolder and more amusing when they are desperate for food. Suddenly, when they think it is time (and their body clocks are quite good.), they become very visible. The kittens are now as big as their Mother and they stand on their hind legs to look through the glass panels of the back door or the sit on a window sill and stare in. They scratch on the insect nets until we chase them or they roll about on the patio furniture and dive into the cushions because they know it annoys us.

Little Ginge is the most appealing and she is pushed forward to beg for food first:

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Little Tabs is not far behind and absolutely beautiful:

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As you may have noticed, Mother is much more wary and always watchful in the background:

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7th September, 2011

We are seeing real signs of Greece’s lack of money. The woodman’s wife, Maria, was telling us that they had been asked to donate their children’s books from last year for the new school year’s intake. The school has no money to buy new books. They can’t even afford enough teachers. Just like their centralised, command economy, they have a centralised, common curriculum and it is controlled via combined text-exercise books which deliver the curriculum almost without specialised, subject teacher intervention. The teachers are there as crowd control really. The children read the text and write answers to questions alongside. By the end of the year, the book is useless to new pupils because they are filled with other children’s writing. However, this year, there is no choice. The education minister has been on television explaining the position and suggesting money will come through in October but that is unlikely. The idea was put forward last year for an on-line curriculum and the reasoning for that is becoming clearer but they couldn’t afford the computers. Each classroom only has one. I would offer to sort it out but my language skills aren’t up to it.

Another sign of the Greek economy’s weakness is in its mainstay – shipping. As I have already written, out of the blue our ferry company, Anek, with which we had bought tickets from Italy to Greece and back joined forces with one of its main rivals, Superfast, because the passenger traffic was so low. They didn’t even tell us. I found it by accident on the internet. Now, we learn, that the trusty old faithful Sifnos-Piraeus ferry, Agios Giorgos from Ventouris Ferries has stopped running. We don’t know why but we suspect economic conditions. We hope they aren’t terminal because it would limit island communications badly.


8th September, 2011

Woke up and opened the shutters this morning and saw a cloud! What is happening?

Well, now the tourist season is over, Unions are resuming strikes. Today it is taxi drivers. Tomorrow it is doctors. The schools go back on Monday and teachers start a strike a week later. It will make Winter in England seem attractive – as long as the seamens’ union allow us to get there.

Went up to the Garden Centre with a specimen of new leaves from our Lemon/Orange trees. They have some sort of blight which is making them curl. As soon as I spoke to the owner of the Garden Centre, I was reassured that I wasn’t doing something wrong. Everyone across Sifnos has this problem. It is caused by Citrus Thrips attacking the leaves. The trees have to be sprayed with an insecticide which he had ordered from Athens and which would arrive in the next few days. I also took a photograph of a flowering plant which I had photographed on the island and thought would look good in our garden. He knew it immediately and gave me the latin name: Bigonia Meganthis. He has one in his garden centre and I will plant it in April.


On to the Post Office to look for letters. Nothing today although we should have had two electricity bills. Then to the coffee shop for frappè and sweet pies. On to the Accountant to see if they have heard about our electricity supply. We are told that a letter has been sent to Athens and a reply is expected ‘imminently’. Don’t hold your breath. Up to the hardware shop for a padlock to secure our water drill while we are away. On to the supermarket and then to the woodman. He will be with us ‘soon’. Don’t hold your breath.

I’m not good at shopping. I always find it exhausting and today was no exception. Even so, we are still going swimming although it is an absolutely freezing 26C/79F.

9th September, 2011

A wonderful day. Still, peaceful, 28C/83F. We went up to see the Woodman.

In April, we asked Kostas to replace the traditional, bamboo matting cover for our pergola with a solid, waterproof roof. Bamboo has a short life span, lets hot sun and wet rain through the cracks and encourages huge, black hornets to lay eggs in the tube ends. We also asked Kostas to put shelves up all round the laundry room.

We celebrated with a wonderful swim. The water was warm and crystal clear. We shared it with a couple of other people and lots of little fish. Quite magical. We drove home to feed the cats.

You may have read my entry for 7th September about Ventouris Ferries and the f/b Agios Georgios. The mystery is now solved. This ferry has served Sifnos for years – 10 or 15 at least. Because of new European regulations, the Greek government has been doing investigations and found that Ventouris have been running the ferry ship illegally all this time. They have never done the required paperwork or paid the required taxes. What’s new? This is standard for Greece. If they stump up the money, they will be granted a licence to get back on the sea. If they have the money!