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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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