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.
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.
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.
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.