Week 176

29th April, 2012

Pleasant but lazy day. Warm and windless, the temperature reached 23C. We read the papers. Pauline cooked the most wonderful piece of Sifnos lamb garnished with mint sauce made fresh and onion sauce that Mum would have been pleased with.

30th April, 2012

Probably the hottest day this year. The sun is intense and the temperature has reached 27 – 28C. We went in to Kamares for a walk and then returned for fresh coffee and the The Times.

We listened to the Today programme and then One o’Clock News on BBC Radio 4 with interest and surprise as they described the night of horrendous weather with trees down, floods and roads closed. We heard confirmation that April 2012 was the wettest one for 100 years. Amazing.

The constant sun here is starting to turn the Spring flowers over but flowering bushes like this Calistemon (Remember that I taught you last year this is a Greek name for Beautiful stamon or flower part. In English we called it bottle brush bush.) at the back of our house are in full bloom early. We are going to start testing the temperature of the sea soon.


1st May, 2012


Happy May!

Mine didn’t start particularly well. It was after midnight here when the Manchester Derby finished in a 1-0 win for City. Still, I suppose life could be worse. This is a fact that Pauline reminded me of when I said that I didn’t feel like doing what we had planned which was clean the car. She said, Well, we won’t bother. We can do what we like. We’re retired. And she’s right, of course. We drank fresh coffee on the patio where the temperature will be 25C today, read the paper on our iPad and discussed what we would have for lunch. After lunch, Pauline will cut my hair outside and then we may do a little gardening.

This weird plant appeared in our field today. Nobody seems to know what it is:


Tonight we are going out to Dinner at Panos & Rania’s. We had a nice evening eating a beautiful chicken souvlaki.

2nd May, 2012

Another beautiful day which could reach 26-27C although it is a little breezy. We are going up to Apollonia to have my blood tested, to see the Accountant, to go to the phone shop, maybe drop in at the cafe and then go on to the Post Office. A busy morning!

Bought delicious, fresh vegetables from Nikos’ farm. The broadbeans are wonderful. I made broadbean and King Prawn risotto. It was lovely.

Watched two wonderful goals by Newcastle’s Cisè as they beat Chelsea 2-0


3rd May, 2012

Another wonderful day in what has become a long run of good weather with slowly rising temperatures as we come towards the end of our first month on Sifnos. Yesterday we reached 26C and today we are predicted to get 1C higher. Big job on today. We are going to clean the car.

Actually, we’ve had a very lazy day. The temperature has reached 28C and we left it too late for car cleaning. We have spent the day reading and catching up with correspondence. Quite nice really. My blood test yesterday was perfect and I phoned it through to Woking hospital this afternoon. As usual, they were incredibly busy and only just had time to speak to me. It is so unlike Huddersfield hospital which was so much more relaxed and friendly.

4th May, 2012

A day that is forecast to reach 28-29C. We are up early to listen to the Today programme on Radio 4 for the local election results. I was pleased to see the Coalition getting a pasting and the Liberal Democrats particularly. We were also keen to check our bank account to see our pension. We were pleased to see a sizeable increase of just over 5%. No teacher in work will be seeing that. It will all go into an investment account in readiness for our next car.

Today we are going to our local phone shop, Germanos, which is an off-shoot of the Greek BT called OTE. We have to pay our first month’s internet bill which will be about £40.00 for 10Gb per month. Then we have to go to the Accountant to collect the final paperwork on our house. We’ll probably drop in to the cafe as well and then on to the supermarket for weekend shopping. They will be very busy tomorrow as voters return to the island for Sunday’s election.

Had a bit of a shock this afternoon. You may think this is an exaggeration but it hit me like a thunderbolt. I have spent the last forty years dropping my past behind me like sweet wrappers by an irresponsible child. I pay for street cleaning and my past has largely been swept up and been moved for me. Of course, I am haunted by highly significant people and events that have shaped my life and, today, one came back to pinch me. Pauline has always cautioned me about laying our life out in public, as I do, but it is the way I have lived my life. I trust people and expect it to be returned. I don’t dissemble and I don’t expect others to either. Most of the time this pays off.

Today I received an email from Kevin Dagg. We were close friends for quite a time at College and afterwards. He and his wife, Christine, helped me through lonely times in the 1970s. Kevin was my Best Man when Pauline & I married in 1978.


Something Kevin did hurt me badly and I stopped my contact with him. It hasn’t stopped him inhabiting my thoughts on many occasions. Particularly, as we get older. The effect of his email was in proportion to his significance – large. I was not prepared for it. I will open a bottle of wine.

5th May, 2012

I wrote last week of going to visit two lovely new friends who live at the far end of the port. We stayed four hours in their house and, tomorrow, they are coming to visit us. Action stations cleaning and tidying! After breakfast I got the pressure washer out and cleaned down the drive. Pauline and I cleaned the car together. After coffee, I began to spray clean the whole patio surrounding the house. We did choose grey/white tiles outside and the wind does blow down red, volcanic mountain dust. Pauline is cleaning and tidying inside although my Study will be left for me to straighten up. Why did I tile so much patio and in white?

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Week 175

22nd April, 2012

The most wonderful day – a typical high summer day in England. The sky cloudless; the air still; the temperature in the mid to upper 70Fs, the birds everywhere singing and cavorting. It is a day when one has to be glad to be alive.

We spent our time cleaning outside. Pauline cleaning the windows and I was pressure washing the patio tiles, urging the red, mountain dust of the past six months out of the grey-white tile tops. It is a delightful job in the sun and I only suspended it for Lunch and the United match. Pauline had made a pear, lettuce and blue cheese salad with mortadella and olives. Delicious – not how you could describe United. What were they thinking of?

I went back to my cleaning for another hour or so before a welcome shower and a glass of wine. Pauline baked cod and roasted potato slices outside in our new patio oven and we ate outside as the sun went down and the stars came out. A most wonderful day.

23rd April, 2012

The day has started exactly like yesterday – glorious weather. Our cleaning regime outside will continue.

Well so we thought. What actually happened was that, after downloading and browsing The Times for a while, Pauline decided we needed shopping. We drove up to the supermarkets in Exambla and bought fresh vegetables including celery for Waldorf Salad which we are hooked on at the moment. We returned home to find a load of steel netting dumped outside our gate. We had asked the Albanian, Nikos, who built our wall to top it with goat-proof, steel netting. It is standard fair on Sifnos. I texted Nikos (in English) that it had arrived and, by 2.30 pm he arrived to fit it. Because of that, Pauline and I suspended our cleaning for bush pruning so Nikos could have a clear path to work. After a couple of hours working in incredibly hot sun, I was ready for collapse and we decided to have lunch on the terrace. Ham & salad with a glass of beer was enough and then Nikos turned up. It took him just over an hour to build the fence and he was off till tomorrow when he will come and build steps up to our new electricty box. We are not using it yet but ‘soon’ (and we’ve only been waiting six years) we will have a new electricity meter installed in it and we will have to pay the full price for electricity. Below is a picture of where our new electricity box-mount stands and the fence on the top of the wall.


You can just make Pauline out in blue in the gateway at the far right of the picture. Just having coffee after lunch when our slumbers are broken by a noise clattering down the log burning stove’s chimney pipe. I immediately send Pauline up on to the roof where she discovers two, energetic birds are trying to build a nest on top of the mesh cover we had put there to discourage them. Two years ago we had young birds sliding down the pipe like it was a fairground attraction. We kept having to open the glass and release soot covered chicks to an open window.

Luciana, Nikos’ wife walked all the way up to our house with a presentation box of biscuits. She had a glass of wine and we chatted for an hour before driving her back to her house.

24th April, 2012

A delightfully warm 23 F today. We really didn’t do a lot. It is so easy, in retirement, to just indulge one’s whims. Today, we spent an hour or so on a bit of gardening and another hour at the shops. The rest of the time was enjoying the weather, reading, chatting and just enjoying ourselves. In the evening, the Albanian, Nikos, came up to trip the tops of the steel fence finishing off our new wall. He stayed for a drink but, by the time he left, it was time for THE MATCH.

Who would have believed the drama that was to unfold: two down, two one,  missed penalty, wonderful goal scored by ………..Torres!

I need to wake up and go to work – John! John!

25th April, 2012

Even warmer today – 24F. Some of our day was spent at the hardware shop buying flexible water pipe – 100 mtrs – to attach to our drill pump to water the olive and fruit trees.

There are not many ferries on service yet which is a little worrying but there are not many tourists to support them. The photo below is the Adamas Korais from Zante Ferries coming in on Wednesday. It is nice to see the supermarkets replenished.


The rest of the day was spent trying to fit our new water pipe. I spent quite a bit of time watching Murdoch at the Leveson Inquiry and watching Prime minister’s Question Time.

26th April, 2012

Quite a day today. We went out for lunch at the Fish Restaurant in Kamares. It has been a hot one with the temperature reaching 28C at one point. Even so, we sat outside by the sea’s edge and ate the most wonderful Greek Salad with soft Mizithra cheese and followed that with grilled sea bream and potatoes. A carafe of white wine finished us off.


Home for coffee and a snooze.

27th April, 2012

Unbelievably, Mum died four years ago today. I can picture the days surrounding this event with such clarity and yet four years have intervened. I hope she found what she expected. On Ruth’s instruction, Pauline & I have raised a glass of Montepulciano D’Abruzzo to her. I doubt she would have appreciated it.

The temperature continues to rise here. People were splashing about in the sea yesterday and today, by noon, we have already reached 25C.

Mother cat started making loud, whaling noises this evening and, when we investigated, we saw her with another cat.

28th April, 2012

Mother cat was not here for Breakfast at 7.15 as usual this morning. We had our showers and breakfasts and were just about to start our day when who should turn up but Mother cat. I was given the job of telling her off. I decided to give her extra dried food – not to reward her but to slow her down. I’m working on the belief that you can’t behave badly on a full stomach.

Week 174

15th April, 2012

Big Sunday – Greek Easter – dawned with blustery blue skies. Today, the temperature is forecast to reach 22C and tomorrow 23-24C. It is a lovely day. Our house looks pristine white in the sunshine. The garden is a beautiful, contrasting green with lots of yellow, mauve and red wild flowers amassed across it. Goats and sheep that escaped the Easter cull are munching on wild thyme and oregano on the hillsides and all is well with the world. I read the paper on my iPad while Pauline prepared the lamb for slow cooking and to be eaten tonight.

Later, we went out for a drive up and over the mountain behind our house, past the Monastery – Aghios Simeon – through the isolated village of Troulaki, on to Artemonas and the capital, Apollonia, before descending to the sea and Kamares Port and on to our house. Below is picture of the side of our house as it nestles into the mountainside. After that is a view of the valley from up above our house.

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16th April, 2012

I think we can drop the adjective ‘Big’ now. It’s Easter Monday and some shops and offices are open. There are three ferries to Piraeus today which signals that festivities are over.

Having been here for a week, our new work and food regime kick in. We went down to Moshca to buy porridge. It was a bit of a long shot but, when Pauline asked if she had it, her face lit up in recognition and she said, ‘Ah, quacker.’ Pauline was delighted to find she meant Quaker Oats but Moshca insisted she was right.


I’ve had my oats and the day has trundled on. Just received a message on Facebook to say that our island – Sifnos in the Cyclades – has been named as one of the Top Ten List of ‘Islands Under the Sun’ in National Geographic Magazine and in Forbes Magazine. Sifnos is characterized as one of the quietest and least discovered islands but simultaneously one of the most chic ones for 2012. Let’s hope they boost the property prices.

The most wonderful thing has happened tonight. I went outside on to the terrace to see a ferry docking and I couldn’t believe my eyes. A cat walked in front of me.  Not strange, you might think, but we recognised each other instantly. It was ‘Mother’ cat who adopted us last summer and who we abandoned to her fate last October. She looked alright. Maybe not as sleek as when we left her but she was obviously a survivor. She had come back. I called Pauline who had saved a tin of tuna just in case. She got out the cats’ bowls, opened the tuna and poured some water. By the time it was ready, Mother cat was in the place we used to feed her. After she gobbled a full tin of tuna in minutes and drank almost all of the water, she sat on the wall and eyed us up as if accusing us of desertion. She had every right of course although we had no choice.


I finished the day by watching Wigan win at Arsenal. It was great and the fitting end of a wonderful day.

17th April, 2012

A delightfully warm day which just got better as it went on.

We went to the sub-Post Office that has recently been established in the port where we live. Because the island can’t afford a Postman, permanent residents are being given their own post box at the back of a sub-Post Office in the village. We are not permanent residents and don’t get a lot of post so don’t merit our own box. We are going to have to share a box with a permanent resident. Our mail address must have the post box number as a prefix or it will be returned to Athens.  A nice lady called Esmereldaa has offered to let us share her box qT 725. So that’s sorted out.

We went to the Clinic to have my blood test. Next we went to our Accountant to enquire where our house status/electricity supply formalisation was up to. The news was fantastic. After six years in the house, after six years of asking, it was now down to one piece of missing paper which we had to go to the Notary’s office to have prepared. We went there immediately and the Notary took ten minutes typing up the form which he photocopied, stamped in fifteen places after we had signed it three times each and then charged us €60.00 for. Nice work if you can get it. We took the paper straight to the accountant’s office. An assistant will take the paper to Milos on Monday next week. We could be fully legal soon. We went to the cafe to celebrate with coffee.

Next we went to the supermarket to buy cat food – dry and meat/fish. We drove home feeling very happy. The sun was shining, the temperature was a lovely 22C and all was well with the world. We broke our diet immediately with a celebratory lunch outside – country pate from France, fish pate made by Pauline, rocket salad, thin toast and a bottle of Italian red. All around us was warm and beautiful countryside. It was good to be alive.

18th April, 2012

Woke up to wild winds and warm (21C) rain.  There are supposed to be three boats in and out to day. There will be none. They are all tied up. We decided to settle for a tucked-up day but, after reading the paper for a while, found the views of the crashing sea too enticing. A tourist sailing yacht has been tied up in Kamares for two or three days. It was clearly going nowhere today. Below is one of my first scenic shots from my iPad followed by shots from my Canon EOS.

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Pauline is cooking chicken breasts in cream of tarragon sauce with fresh asparagus and then I’m going to enjoy watching Chelsea being taken apart tonight.

19th April, 2012

None stop sun from start to finish today. We got up with plans to do so many things and ended up completing none of them. We read The Times together, tried to complete the crossword which is even more enjoyable to do digitally on the iPad than it ever was on the newspaper, sat out in the sun with peanuts and red wine and talked about the jobs we would have done if we could be bothered. Pauline phoned her sister who has been round to our flat and picked up lots of mail already. We’ve been away for 16 days so I can imagine that there’s quite a bit.

We are heading for lovely warm, sunny days but rather chilly nights according to our latest forecast. The next five days are sunny and 22C/70F. The UK papers seem to be touting visions of a very wet April followed by an unusually cold May – maybe the coldest ever recorded with plenty of snow in the UK. Oh, what a pity to miss it. This evening, it is so clear that I tried to go outside and photograph the stars which were so filling the night sky. I failed miserably but, while I had my tripod outside, I took this shot of the harbour. You can just see the lights and smoke of ferryboat Adamas Korais coming into dock on the extreme right.


20th April, 2012

The reasons that made us decide to return to Sifnos after our first visit in 2004 – beautiful scenery, wonderful food and restaurants, lovely people – have all been recognised in a recent report. The ‘National Geographic’ listed Sifnos in its ‘Top Ten of ‘Islands Under the Sun’. According to the magazine, Sifnos is one of the ten most charming and exotic islands and is included in the list with destinations such as Bahamas, Seychelles, French Polynesia, the Netherlands Antilles, etc..They say, Sifnos has a balance of beautiful beaches, nightlife, white Cycladic villages, low-impact tourism and maybe the best food in the Cyclades. They go on to say, ..it’s just a spot on the ocean that someone could hardly notice on a map. Yet if you find yourselves there, you’ll know there’s no other place of equal beauty in the whole world. In addition, Forbes magazine recently published an article titled “The best of Greece – But should you go?” in which Sifnos is characterized as one of the quietest and least discovered islands but simultaneously one of the most chic ones for 2012. The Forbes journalist can’t help remarking that Sifnos is one of his favourite islands in Greece, while he points out that riots often occurring in big Greek cities are extremely unlikely to take place in Sifnos and other similar peaceful Greek islands.

21st April, 2012

Glorious day with a stiff breeze that has brought the temperature down to 19C. Breakfast of porridge or ‘Quackers’ (Quaker) as it’s known here. Downloaded The Times to my iPad and then got on with the day. I have three matches today:

  • Arsenal v Chelsea – 14.45
  • Newcastle v Stoke – 17.00
  • QPR v Spurs – 19.30

I’m going to be so fit after all that. Also, this weekend, I have to get the presssure washer out of hibernation and clean all the patio tiles of six months of winter dust blown down from the mountains or just dropped by birds. I have to help Pauline clean the windows for the same reason. After that, we will alternate between painting and gardening. It’s going to be fun.

Week 173

8th April, 2012

Got up at 6.00 am (No Breakfast!) to leave Patras Palace Hotel and drive down to Piraeus. The motorway is still in redevelopment chaos with cones, temporary concrete walls, narrowed or switched lanes for kilometres. Fortunately, on Sunday morning, it was quiet and we managed to do the three hour trip in two hours twenty. Our ferry was in and the wind was only moderate so we were confident of it sailing. We went to a local kafenion for a coffee before boarding SpeedRunner IV.


The boat wasn’t full but it is quite expensive now. £150.00 for two of us plus car might not sound a lot but when you consider some people have to do this at least once a week for their work or for hospital visits, it feels expensive to them. The time to get from Piraeus to Sifnos on the old, ex-British cross Channel ferries which still ply their trade here is five and a half hours. The new, catamarans do it in half that time. The only downside is that, as soon as the wind blows, they stop sailing. Today, the wind reached Bf 6 as we rounded Serifos. This is nearly the limit of comfortable. Bf 7 – 8 makes one want to jump ship and swim for it.

Returning to our house after six months absence, we approach it with some trepidation. We know that the winds have been exceptionally strong this winter – has the new pergola been blown down? We know Greece has been unusually cold this winter – have our newly installed patio tiles cracked in the snow? We know that there has been a great deal of rain in Greece this winter – has the torrent down the mountain sluiced debris through our garden and left damage? We paid an Albanian to build 50 metres of walling at the front of our property this winter. Will he have done it and to our liking? We turned the water off to avoid leaks and floods inside but will the pumps start up when we use them?

As we drove up to the house,  we could see the satellite dish was still on the roof and the new pergola was still standing. The wall – the wall looks magnificent and edges the land just as we wanted.

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The patio tiles were perfect because the rain had washed them cleaner than usual and, as we opened the front door, it was as if we had never been away. Everything was perfect. We got in about 2.30 pm Greek Time. As I was opening all the shutters and letting in the sunlight, I knew Man. Utd. would be kicking off any minute. I hadn’t unpacked the car but it had to be done. I phoned Nova, the satellite company, and had my TV service switched back on. (Have credit card, get anything instantly.) Within ten minutes, I was watching the game as we all but certainly clinched the title again. What a wonderful start.

Of course, I had managed to unpack a bottle of red wine and a large packet of salt & peppered peanuts to comfort me in case United lost. By the time they had won and little Scholesy had gone off, I noticed I had consumed it all anyway. I must remember not to do that again. A little the worse for wear, I unloaded the car and things were put away by my trusty servant who had already aired the bed with an electric blanket and put the sheets and pillow cases in the tumble drier to air them fully.

We had showers and then went out to eat at Posideon (Pronounced Possi-Don) Restaurant near the quayside. The wind had really whipped up and the waves were crashing over the road outside as we ate the perfect Sunday warmer – Revithia. It is thick, chickpea soup served with a wedge of lemon. Wonderful. We followed that with fried baby squid (Kalamarakia) and chips. You can’t beat fish & chips on a Sunday. (Have I spent too much time in the North?)

Home to a beautifully warm bed and darkness and silence only broken by the jingle of a few goat bells as day is breaking.

9th April, 2012

After tea but no toast because we haven’t been shopping yet, we drove straight to the Post Office to find our four, huge boxes sitting waiting for us. What a fantastic service. Parcelforce is brilliant and cheap. Off to the supermarket (greetings all round) and a huge buy-in. Back with our bounty to unpack the boxes and putting everything in its place – after it has been recorded on Pauline’s inventory. I have a fire in the garden to burn all the boxes and wrapping. We were so busy that we had no lunch. – There has to be a moral somewhere.

We went out to dinner for the second night not because we had no food but because we wanted to see our friends, Panos & Rania, who run a small but very popular restaurant. We talk for hours and then have Caesar Salad as a shared starter followed by Moussaka which is pronounced Moos-aka.

10th April, 2012

In the night, it began to rain heavily. We could hear it landing on the flat roof and gurgling down in to our huge water chamber that runs virtually the full length of the house. When we got up, the sun was out but rain has never been far away today. Our main mission was to go up to the telephone shop to organise our internet connection for the next six months. It is a 3G dongle which turns out to be remarkably robust and reliable. 10GB of usage will cost about €40.00 per month and it will allow me to do everything I want to do. I am delighted.


Back home and grateful because it is pouring down, I am able to download my emails, to update my Blog and to download our Bank Account and Mastercard Account details so Pauline can bring her own records up to date. It is full of petrol sales and Toll charges telling the story of our journey.

I cooked tonight – bacon, mushroom and pea risotto – and wonderful it was. I am finishing the night watching a bizarre match between Blackburn and Liverpool. Liverpool lost their first goalkeeper to suspension last game. Tonight they have lost their second goalkeeper to the same fate and the third choice has also given away a penalty goal. It looks a bit farcical.

11th April, 2012

Got up to cold and rain but the day has developed warm and sunny. We went out after breakfast to see friends in the port village – Kamares. Moshka, who runs the local store which we affectionately call ‘Tescos’ and her two lovely sons George and Nikos. We still think of them as boys because we remember them pre-school and George is still known as Little George (Georgaikis) even though he is 25 years old and six feet two with a huge beard and a loud laugh. They bemoan the fact that there are no (few) eligible girls on the island. I told George I would ship some over from England for him. When I asked him what age he fancied, he said 18 – 56. We ordered half a lamb for Greek Easter. We  delivered our Easter presents – Little bags which contain the jars of pickle and of jam that we bought in the Surrey Farm Shop along with some small, chocolate eggs.

We came home for lunch. Pauline made Waldorf Salad and a Tuna Pate which we ate with thin toast. It was wonderful. I only mention this to demonstrate to my big sister that I am eating healthily. We won’t mention the bottle of white with it. After lunch, I took some photos of the valley in front of our house which is as green as I’ve seen it after all the rain they’ve had.

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12th April, 2012

Today is what is known on the island as ‘Big Thursday’. The Thursday before Easter. Hot and sunny today. Got up at 7.30 am and, after breakfast, went out to see if there was any post for us. The new, subsidiary post office in our village was supposed to be open at 9.00 am today but wasn’t. Fortunately, we met a delightful couple who spoke perfect English and live further down the village.  She was collecting and delivering post for friends. She immediately offered to do the same for us.

We drove up to Apollonia to buy a new pressure washer from the hardware shop. I asked last year and he still hasn’t got one. We went on to the electrical shop to replace our defunct microwave and to buy a new, outdoor oven with hob. We were eagerly welcomed at the shop and came away with a white, basic microwave to replace the same in which the turntable had failed. (€70.00 / £58.00) and a white, outdoor fan oven with a three ring hot plate to replace the one that rusted after being left out in the rain. (€110.00 / £91.00) We thought £150.000 for the two with a free roasting dish thrown in was a reasonable deal in these austere times.

We drove back down to see Moshka at the supermarket in the hope of taking delivery of half a sheep which we had ordered for Easter. Nikos would be back in an hour. Could we wait in the cafe. We sat and had coffee and read the paper on our iPad. After an hour, a frantic phone call to her son in the farm up the mountain established that the pressure of Easter orders were proving too great and the lamb wouldn’t be ready until this afternoon. No problem. We drove home and made lunch – just ham sandwiches – which we ate outside in the sunshine. No wine today – well at lunchtime – because we have stuff to do this afternoon.

After lunch, I put the old microwave in the car and drive down to the dustbin collection point where I leave it. Going down for lamb later in the afternoon and taking the old oven with us, I notice immediately that only the microwave has gone. Somebody will be busily repairing it in their kitchen somewhere on the island. The old oven still works perfectly, it just looks a bit worse for wear and the bakelite handle is cracked and repaired with superglue. I’m sure they’ll get over that. We will collect our lamb at 10.30 am on ‘Big Friday’.

13th April, 2012

Big Friday has arrived. We went down to collect our half a lamb.  The side of lamb is roughly cut into a shoulder, a leg, and rib joints and then wrapped up in that thick, butcher’s paper we used to see in Britain. It costs €7.40 per kilo which is marginally under British prices. As an Easter present, George gives us a huge, circular, soft white cheese made on his farm. He puts it in my hands with the word – ‘Souvenir’. As we walk back to our car, we see Margarita who has been up to the church to clean and decorate it.

The rest of the day is quiet – reading the downloaded ‘Times’ with Pauline reading her Kindle.

14th April, 2012

Big Saturday is a little disappointing, weather-wise. Strong winds with huge white horses out to sea. Brilliant sunshine tempered by cool winds gives way to heavy rain and then goes back to sun and clouds. The Easter Fever mounts on the island and in the Country with everything on television encouraging excitement about the big day – Big Sunday. The price of lamb is reviewed with a trip to the central Athens Meat Market. It is traditional for Greek families to congregate like we do at Christmas and, instead of a turkey, they spit roast a whole lamb having done without meat for lent. This year it is €7.50 per kilo which makes the average lamb about €120.00 per carcase. This is proving too expensive for some who are turning to chicken instead. Pauline and I have ordered half a lamb to show willing but we can’t eat more lamb than that in a couple of months.


All the films on TV are Biblical Blockbusters and all the cookery programmes are centred around Easter food. Two TV channels are almost exclusively given over to televising the continual religious ceremonies that start on Big Thursday and finish at midnight on Big Sunday.

At midnight, those who were in church spill out on to the harbour street next to the beach and mingle with those who have not gone to church but want to be part of the traditional festival. Greek Easter Bread – a sweet bread is broken and shared and red dyed hard boiled eggs are smashed between friends.

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They say to each other:  Χριστός Ανέστη! or Christos Anesti – Christ is Risen – whether they mean it or not. Fire crackers are thrown, rockets launched, dynamite is detonated on the beach until the mountains ring round and round with the booms and the windows of shops shake precariously. Finally, they all go off to their family homes for a huge meat meal to make up for the past 40 days of abstinence (or not).

As I think I have written before, Pauline and I always feel more like outsiders now than at any other time in Greece. We are both Agnostic/Atheist and would be uncomfortable in this ceremony anyway as we do at Christmas in our own country but being in a foreign tradition brings outsidedom even more sharply into focus. We watched the most ridiculous biopic on TV about Kate & Wills courtship and engagement, watched the fireworks at midnight and went to bed.

Week 172

1st April, 2012


Happy April.

What a beautiful day! I thought it was supposed to be cold and dull. The weather knows best. It is warm and sunny.

We have two nights left in our English bed. Today, we liaised with next door neighbour – Vicky Wellington. Although we have been here for about four months, we have rarely seen her because she is constantly jetting off to sunny countries to meet friends and/or play golf. She is in her early to mid fifties and, we understood, a retired army medic. Today was our first serious chat and it turns out that she retired as a Colonel. Anyway, we think we should be able to rely on her to look after our property.

2nd April, 2012

Busy day to day. Far from cold and gloomy. It is warm and sunny. Packing bags. Off for lunch with Phyllis & Colin then the Post Office with 85Kg of parcels which will arrive on the island on Thursday. The cost for all that transportation – £180.00. It is such a good service.

Back at the flat, I phoned my great friend, Brian to find that he had moved house in the past month. He is really happy and I can’t wait to see him in October. Next job was to take a power reading from the Heat Exchanger. The results are quite unbelievable. I know we’ve had a warm winter but the total cost of all hot water for showers, baths, sinks, etc plus all central heating since we bought the flat a year ago – the total cost is £91.29. Since we moved in full time – months ago – it has cost us just £32.00 or less than £2.00 per week. You can’t say fairer than that.

Great goals for United tonight beating Blackburn 0 – 2.


3rd April, 2012

News this morning that Scotland has heavy snow and that it is moving down to the Pennines. I opened the blinds at 7.00 this morning to be blinded by strong sun from a clear, blue sky.

Packing the car this morning. Pauline is packing up the house. Light lunch and a rest before setting off for Ashford in Kent about an hour away. We will stay there tonight and get up early tomorrow. We will leave the hotel without breakfast around 6.00 am and drive on to the 6.50 am train arriving in Calais at 8.20 am. (30 mins + 1 hr.) We will be in Mulhouse, Alsace by 3.30 pm.I don’t know when I will be able to write my next entry. Goodbye cruel world!

Hello again. I haven’t quite gone. The car is completely packed. It is 11.30 am and I read on my iPad a minute ago that the Greek Seaman’s Union have called a two day strike for Tuesday and Wednesday next week. We will just miss it – travelling on Sunday to the island – but those travelling for Greek Easter will be furious.


4th April, 2012


Actually, it was 4.00 pm before we arrived and checked in to our hotel. We had had a lovely and uneventful journey of 535 miles. The weather was dry and sunny and the traffic light. The only thing of note was when we got to Colmar and went in to buy petrol. Our MasterCard was refused. Before we set off, as I always do, I phoned Mastercard before we left UK as I always do to tell them of our plans. What they didn’t tell us was that they had a Back Office security trigger set on their software. If you try to use the card 10 times in one day, they feeze it. I knew it wasn’t lack of credit. Our card is good for £10,000.00. We used our card to pay our hotel, for petrol 4 times, for coffee once and for tolls 4 times. I phoned and complained and they reset the counter. It is no good having the facility if it doesn’t do the job.

Now at our hotel, we are looking forward to a shower, bottle of wine and dinner. I hope to watch football on my laptop tonight.

5th April, 2012


Set off in rain with horrendous spray on the motorway through Switzerland. I was helped by the Gottard Tunnel (17 km), the Seelisberg Tunnel (9km)  and four or five shorter tunnels where it was dry. Low lying snow was still very obvious – much more so than last year – but as we descended rapidly into Italy and approached Milan, the sun came out and the temperature soared. We arrived at our hotel in Parma by 4.00 pm and celebrated with a bottle of wine and a Parma Ham salad.

6th April, 2012


Up at 6.00 am and a quick breakfast of ham and toast with strong coffee before setting off for Ancona. We got to the supermarket by 10.00 am in boiling, hot sun, filled our car with wine, olive oil and kilos of Parmesan cheese and then drove off to the check-in station. We boarded Superfast VI at 12.30 pm and checked in to our luxury cabin. Off to the restaurant for our first Greek Salad of the season accompanying grilled salmon steaks and chips all washed down with white wine. It’s a lovely way to celebrate your 61st birthday. Happy Birthday to me! Below are images snatched from my iPad of the beauties of Ancona port, the Superfast ferry, our cabin on board, Pauline on deck, the scene around Igoumenitsa:

ancport.jpg  sf6.jpg  cab1.jpg  cab2.jpg  cab3.jpg  pob1.jpg  pob2.jpg  ig.jpg

7th April, 2012

After a lovely night’s sailing and in which the ferry called at Igoumenitsa where it dropped most of its passengers, we woke up late – 8.00 am – to sunny skies and a complimentary breakfast of fresh orange juice, bacon & egg with toast followed by chocolate croissants and beautiful, fresh coffee. I downloaded the day’s copy of The Times on my iPad and spent the morning reading and doing the crossword. By 3.30 pm, were were going down to the almost empty garages and prepared to drive off.

We are now esconced in our room in The Patras Palace Hotel, watching BBC News and bringing my Blog and Website up to date. Tomorrow we leave at 7.30 am for Piraeus – a three hour drive – and our final ferry journey to Sifnos.