Week 180

28th May, 2012

Got up ten minutes late after watching Shakespeare until late last night. The morning is delightful but getting hot as it develops. After breakfast and newspaper, we go up to the garden shop to buy another bag of potting compost, some tomato plants and a huge and glorious sage plant to add to our herb garden. It’s such a delight.

Back home for fresh coffee, phone Phyllis in West Byfleet to discuss her slow internet problem  and then we go out for a walk up our mountain. Walking really helps one appreciate the island so much more than driving. Back home for lunch salad, sweetcorn, garlic sausage, cheese biscuits and a small glass of beer. Europe is beginning to sense a swing in Greek voters’ mood towards New Democracy and away from the dangers of Tsipras. The BBC is reporting it and so is Ekathimerini.

29th May, 2012

Our island is dominated by two plants or species – the olive tree and the oleander. In our garden, we have lots of the former and none of the latter. Now we have the lovely, stone wall across the front of the land, I need a cheap and quick way to plant it up. Oleanders seem to be the answer. The most ubiquitous here is the pink and untrained type:


It grows everywhere but can be trained as a tree. We will attempt to grow ours as a hedge but, because we need to cover 100 metres of garden front, we are going to try and propogate our own. The website suggest the plant is harder to kill than to propogate so we are enthusiastic. We will try to grow a mixture of rich magenta a white oleanders because we are sophisticated!

oleanders2.jpg  oleanders3.jpg

I’ve just read that, in the bible, the oleander is referred to as The Desert Rose which has slightly put me off but it is said to be cheap and easy which suits me well.

30th May, 2012

Our new friend, Esmerelda, brought us a large bowl of apricots fresh from her tree. They are unbelievably delicious. This is the first time that I’ve really appreciated them.


Lovely day gardening today. The weather was good but not too hot. We are preparing ground for tomato plants to go out and to sow some salad vegetables.

31st May, 2012

Can’t believe we are already on the last day of May. Where is our life rushing to? Certainly, the weather is getting hotter.

The tomato plants went out today. This is my first time for planting them in Greece. I shall treat the whole thing as an experiment. We also put in a wonderful sage plant that Pauline picked from the garden shop. We have virtually all our herbs growing no with the exception of  Tarragon or Estragon, as they call it here. I failed to grow it from seed last year.


We have been clearing the ground at the front of the house because it looks as if we will get our electricity meter moved to the permanent roadside pillar thus becoming normal users. It will sound ridiculous to most readers but Greeks will know that it is vitally important. It will have cost us a lot in blood, sweat, tears and money by the time it happens.

1st June, 2012


Happy June everyone.

Went up to the Electricity Company for the hundredth time over the past four years (that might be an exaggeration) to arrange for our final meter to be fitted and our house to use legitimate power. The man said, we would receive a phone call in one week. What do you think? And do I care? I don’t!

Carried on up to the supermarket Mario’s and Mario’s wife gave me a lollipop for being a good customer. I wonder what I’ll get when I go back tomorrow.

Since we left Greece last October and leaving our three cats, we have wondered what happened to them. Mother has come back but we knew she had to send her children – Little Tabs and Little Ginge – away to get on with their adult life. As we go around the vicinity, we look for signs of them. Today, we were greeted by a cat who we think might be Little Tabs (allowing for a year’s development). What do you think? The photos below feature Little Tabs on the left and the cat we’ve met on the right:

tabs1.jpg  tabs2.jpg

Of course, June 1st marks the start of swimming for Locals so, today, we gingerly ventured out at 2.00 pm for the Port Beach.

beach.jpg beach_1.jpg beach_2.jpg beach_3.jpg

2nd June, 2012

Getting hotter – touching 29C today. Went up to the garage and filled the car for the third time in 8 weeks. €80.00 for a tank. The most expensive fuel in Europe.

Second day’s swim was even better than the first. The water is still a little chilly but we are acclimatising. Came home for lunch and a snooze. Should have been gardening but tiredness took over.

Most of our plants and bushes are watered automatically on a ‘leaky pipe’ system but the vegetables and pots need individual attention. We did that, cooked tea and then watched the England v Belgium match before finishing the evening with coffee and chat out on the terrace under the pergola. We had no lights on. The moon did the whole job for us.

Week 179

20th May, 2012

It was a warm and sunny day. We pottered around in the morning and then decided to go to a remote fishing village – Vathi – for lunch. It is about a 12 km drive which we did slowly, drinking in the landscape as we went. Arriving at the restaurant which is owned by a local fisherman and fronts on to the beach fringe and the sea, we were interested to see a family of French/Greeks holidaying there and obviously swimming. They showed no signs of distress as to the sea temperature so we resolved that we must start our swimming very sooon. This is the view we faced as we sat in the restaurant:


We ate Revithia Keftedes (fried chickpea balls) with Tsatziki (yoghurt with cucumber & garlic) followed by calamari tiganites (fried squid) which was beautifully presented in whole tubes with separate wrinkly tendrils. It was all washed down with wonderfully fragrant white wine (kilo krassi Aspro). After that, we weren’t able to do much apart from hobble to the car and drive home.

21st May, 2012

Today has broken warm – humid even – but overcast. We go up to our bank to pay the €500.00 ‘fine’ to make our garage ‘legal’ and then go on to the accountants to tell them that it will all be sorted out soon. I did some research on the internet today and found quite an exciting document. It was the record of when Sanders & Son was first founded. Until then, it had been Dolman & Sanders (Joiners). When Dad died, it was bought by David Cox and his widow dissolved it recently.

report.gif  report2.gif

22nd May, 2012

Warm 26C today. Did a little bit more research today and the weirdest thing turned up. I was doing a bit of idle research on Grandad Sanders when up popped


They held two records:

  dad.jpg  wina.jpg

I found it strange and wrote to the Society’s secretary who wrote straight back, promising to do some research for me. Quite intriguing though.

Actually did some gardening this afternoon. Quite enjoyable.

23rd May, 2012

Hot and sunny this morning. We went off to get my blood test. We were in the office for 10.00 am. We stayed talking until 12.00 pm.The blood tester’s wife and daughter were with him and we discussed the Greek economy for two hours after my test the result of which was perfect. The man who runs the testing clinic – a trained chemist who worked in Brussels for some years – earns €900.00 (£720.00) per month after taxes.  He has a wife and two teenage kids. His wife tries to find work teaching people to speak English. Their rent is €350.00 per month. They get no social security if they are out of work. They retire at 68 on a pension of €350.00 per month. They are desperate. We feel terrible but unable to help them.

We drive home for coffee and to read the paper. At 3.00 pm, we eat our lunch to the 1.00 pm News from the BBC. Whilst we ate our lunch out on the terrace looking over the valley, a pair of Kestrels – from looking them up I now know them to be Lesser Kestrels – hovered and swooped over the newly mowed fields, clearly looking for food to supply their newly hatched young chicks.


A siesta for about an hour and then we did an hour or so of gardening. We put in three pepper plants today and pinched out our Basils. Esmerelda, who has gone to Athens for a few days, presented us with a plastic bag containing a herb pot sown with already germinating herbs. We have Oregano, Chives, Basil, Marjoram and Parsley. She is a lovely lady.


Tonight, I spoke to Ruth who was celebrating her birthday. Of course, she was drinking again but I couldn’t blame her when I realised that she was older than I had thought. My records said she was born in 1949, making her 63. Actually, she tells me, she was born in 1947, making her 65. To compound matters, they told me that Kevan is 70 in February 2013.  It seems to be happening to all of us.

24th May, 2012

Today is an island holiday. It is Panagia Chrisopigi – The celebration of Christ being risen which, differently on this island compared with all other parts of the world, is celebrated 40 days after Greek Easter. There is a fishing village called Chrisopigi with a church built on a promontory out in the sea. Many girls take the name Chrisopigi. In Greece Birthdays are of no significancce. So Ruth would be alright. It is the Saint’s Day after who you are named – your Name Day which is celebrated. But Chrisopigi Day is more than that here because Sifnos adopted it as its own day.

Every year on this day, all work stops and the islanders process a religious icon out of the big church in Apollonia acompanied by music and dignitaries. It is taken to the port where it is taken round the island by ferry, finally arriving at the Church of Chrisopigi where it is transferred by fishing boat plus priests and dignitaries to the rocks. Everyone gets dressed up in their finery and traipses (drives) over to Chrisopigi where they stand on windy rocks for hours watching the proceedings and then go home to feast. The religious will chant Christ is Risen and stuff like that but, to be honest, it is the last chance to dress up and have a Beano before the Tourist Season – if it comes.

The two videos below are from 2010 and 2011 celebrations:

25th May, 2012

We are off to the Post Office this morning with high hopes that we will have a parcel. Phyllis has kindly been round to our flat and picked up all the ese coffee pods and posted them to us. They should get us through a few weeks. It is a beautiful day expected to be 26C with temperatures moving towards the 30Cs by the weekend.

Yesterday, I found out why Dad’s and Wina’s records were held in a Bristol Genealogy Club’s files. Grandad Sanders married Mabel Lilian Flook from Chipping Sodbury in 1914. I managed to trace her family back to 1811 with little difficulty yesterday. I’m sure it’s all in David’s research but I haven’t got it in Greece. If anyone could email me a copy of his work I would be grateful.

I am skipping. The coffee pods had arrived and I am already drinking one. Thank you Phyllis & Colin. We owe you £12.50 for p&p.


26th May, 2012

Hot and sunny morning. Up to the supermarket in Exambla for food brought in by ferries on Friday night.

  • Beef, Chicken, Chicken livers,
  • Milk
  • Potatoes
  • Onions & Garlic
  • Pears & Apples
  • Small beers
  • Mayonnaise
  • Local Eggs
  • Cat food

As we came out of the shop, we saw an obviously English car. Looking at the number plate for its town of origin, the only marking was a phone number prefixed with 01483 – our phone prefix in Woking. I waited for the owner to come out – he turned out to be a half Greek half Englishman called Robert who lives half the year in Mainland Greece at Marathon, has a house in France and a house down the road from ours in Surrey – in Chobham. His Mother was from Paros. He was staying for the Summer with his Sifniot girlfriend and opening a bar in Faros, a fishing village on the island.

Back home to phone Phyllis. She managed to get my prescription. She said she needed a wheelbarrow to carry my 56 days worth. I will submit another in July and another in early September. In this way, I will build up a six months in advance supply to get me through next Summer.

It has been one of those idyllic days when I couldn’t imagine life being more perfect. Nothing dramatic happened but, then, I didn’t want it to. This is exactly how I imagined emjoying my retirement with Pauline. I am signing up for another thirty year contract.

27th May, 2012

A day at home today – newspaper reading, listening to the radio, lunching outside on the terrace, Finished the day watching a wonderful, film version of The Merchant of Venice with Jeremy Irons and Al Pacino. The only problem, as with all good films on Greek television, it didn’t finish until well after midnight.


Week 178

13th May, 2012

A quiet and peaceful day in the sunshine with the newspaper only marred by the football. I wasn’t expecting City to fail so it was all the harder when the came back from defeat in the final seconds. Still it is good to have another name on the Championship. I was more sorry for Ruth in Bolton.

city.jpg    bolton.jpg

14th May, 2012

We think Mother cat must be giving birth in some bushes down the road. She only comes once a day, scoffs her food hurriedly and scarpers in that direction. Islanders say it is a common sign of a pregnant mother. We hope to see some little ones soon.

Pauline made marmalade with tinned Seville pulp that we brought with us and some whisky that we already had.


We were expecting a possible thunder storm but it never materialised and nor did a Greek Government Coalition either.

15th May, 2012

Today, Olga came to visit. It was quite a shock but very nice. A few days ago we were in the Supermarket (corner shop) and I happened to pat a little girl’s head and pull faces at a baby as I’m accustomed to do wherever I am when a lady standing in a group with these children and other adults smiled quite pointedly in my direction. I’m usually mistaken for a paedophile but this lady was obviously quite warm to my habits which is always a good start. When we left the shop, she came out and made a point of speaking to us. Her name, she said, in excellent English, was Olga and she owned the restaurant over the road. We told her where we lived on the island and she said she had lived for a long time with her husband in Knightsbridge, London. We made our customary polite invitation to come and see us if she was passing our house which nobody would be unless they were going up the mountain to the Monastery. Well, four or five days later, who should draw up outside our gate but Olga.

She came in and spent an hour over coffee telling us that her husband is a fantastic chef and he had been employed by a very rich Greek shipping family who lived in Knightsbridge as their head chef. She was employed as a Nanny for two lovely children of the family. As such, they had travelled the world living in Australia, Japan, etc, but mainly in London. There she had met the Queen when she came to Dinner with the family. After about fifteen years in service, they had enough money to build a property and restaurant on their home island and that is where they now stayed. Her daughter, she said was 16 and at a difficult age. She would like her to go to University in England where your politics and the party you voted for didn’t condition your offer of a place.

It was a lovely, surprise visit and we will go to her restaurant soon – probably on Friday evening.

16th May, 2012

As so often happens, when the suggestion is we may get rain, the sun comes out at its hottest. Greece is generally saying goodbye to any rain from mid-May to mid-September and so it is proving. After breakfast, we drove up to Apollonia to do some shopping. En route, Esmerelda phoned Pauline to thank her for the jar of marmalade. It had been their best breakfast ‘ever’. Poor old girl.

Back home for coffee. I think I’ve said, I’m running out of ese (easy serve espresso) pods and I have a batch back in Surrey which Phyllis and Mandy are kindly arranging to post out to us. I’ve had two or three coffee makers here but we haven’t liked the results. We blamed the water, the coffee and the machines. I bought an ese pod machine for home – a Cusinart I bought through Amazon for about £140.00. I thought that was cheap after replacing our £100.00 Tassimo again. I found lots of companies selling individually wrapped Italian coffee espresso pods in ese form much cheaper as well. They turned out to be a revolution. I brought them to Greece and found they worked well in my DeLonghi machine as well. Coffee does make life good.

coffee1.jpg  coffee2.jpg

I may have spoken too soon about the rain. The most reliable forecast on Greek television – ET3 – has just forecast rain for Thursday and Friday. Could be wonderful.

17th May, 2012

What a day and it’s only 3.3o pm. When we were working, we would be spending all day every day with hundreds of people all around us, demanding things constantly. Our minds and bodies were accustomed to it and prepared for over forty years of exeriences. Now, most of our time is spent quietly together or with our own thoughts. When we are in association, I tire easily and quickly.

Today we went down to check our post. We walked on to the cafe which was empty apart from being bathed in lovely sunshine. No sign of the rain that was forecast. The pictures below show the cafe empty and with Pauline in the foreground and the owner, Vangelis in the background.

cafe1.jpg  cafe2.jpg

We had coffee at around 9.30 am. Along came Esmerelda and Kristos and, soon the time was 11.30 am. We walked on to collect our ferry tickets for our trip to Athens in July which we had booked on the internet. We had to negotiate ‘window’ seats but that was sorted out. We walked on a little and, about 1.15 pm, we went to Simos restaurant for lunch. It was very cheap and we couldn’t eat it all. A huge Greek Salad like a mountain followed by chicken and potatoes / pork and potatoes. We just had a carafe of white wine with that. €21.00 / £17.00 total bill was a bit like the old days. We drove up to Apollonia and then home for coffee.

At 6.00 pm, we had to be at Luciana’s home. She had paid a visit to us and it was only courteous to return the visit. She lives with her husband, Nikos and their two children in a small, rented home on the other side of the port.It seemed a very happy home. Pauline made a plate of raspberry buns as a present. They are Albanian. Luciana works in hotels during the tourist season but has less work in the winter. Nikos, who used to be a primary school teacher, does anything here. He built our wall in the winter. He is currently whitewashing people’s houses. Later, if the tourist season develops, he may wash and maintain cars for a rental business.

As we were preparing for bed, the sound of rain drumming incessantly on the roof could be heard and the patio was getting a good cleaning. It lasted about an hour. Afterwards, everywhere smelled wonderful.

18th May, 2012

The morning felt fresher but with blue skies and sun. After breakfast, the clouds came over the mountain; there was a flash of lightening, a crash of thunder and a fifteen minute downpour. Soon the sun was out again but we are expecting some more of this today followed by gradually increasing temperatures over the next few days, reaching 28 – 30C.

Today, in contrast to yesterday is an ‘In Day’. I am writing my Blog and web pages. Pauline is sewing and making biscuits. I have just received an email from our architect to say that our illegal garage has been made legal at a cost of €900.00. His fee for the work and for creating a new document to get ‘full’ electricity which will be done in ten days is €1000.00. So, for €1900.00 or £1500.00, all problems can be solved. We may get drunk on fresh coffee to celebrate.

19th May, 2012


We have to wish Caroline Happy Birthday today. It is quite incredible but she is 50. It means that every one of Dad’s children have outlived his ridiculously short life of 49 years. It seems from her message that quite a few of us held our breath as we chested the tape. Well done, Caroline. Let’s hope that we will celebrate a few more decades yet.

It is a day of heavy rain interspersed with stong sun here. The architect is bringing round the all important paper which will legalise our garage and with an even more important stamp which will legalise our electricity supply.

Week 177

6th May, 2012

Although it is Election Day here, the island seems very quiet. We were curious to find out why no children were at school last Friday. Had they called another Public Holiday without telling us? ‘Elections‘, we were told. ‘They take place in the school and they need time to get it ready.’ ‘Couldn’t they do that on Saturday?’ we asked. The smirk told it all. The schools are closed on Monday, as well, to get over Sunday. Happy Days for Teachers.

When we moved recently from a huge, 5-bedroomed house to a small, duplex apartment, we had the problem of what to do with about 40 large, framed prints from the walls. We thought one or two might go up in the apartment but immediately realised that they only emphasised its cramped dimensions. We had been collecting and displaying Pre-Raphaelite – Rossetti, Millais, Hunt, Burne-Jones and then moved on to later followers like Hughes and, particularly, Waterhouse. Latterly, we collected Alma-Tadema for his Mediterranean classical influences and we have found that these have worked particularly in our Greek House. The problem is how many 3 – 4 ft picture frames we can get in the car without compromising the wine purchase.

at1.jpg  at2.jpg

7th May, 2012

A very hot and hard day. We were up early because we had a meeting with our Accountant and the Electricity Company. Yesterday, I had to speak to the architect of our house 6 or 7 years ago. The problems are these:

  1. The garage attached to our house was not on the plan and is, therefore, illegal.
  2. In order to authorise the electricity supply for a new house, the building has to be checked for its faithfulness to the approved plan.

Unfortunately, the Building Certificate has been lost between various Government Offices. To get a new one, we should have our house inspected again but we have an illegal garage. Fortunately, for a small payment, we can have the garage officially recognised and then the plans can be renewed and the electricity supply officially authorised.

This was the substance of the day. We took our new friend, the ex-European Union negotiator, Esmerelda, with us to help smooth the path. We will have to oil a few palms but the problem will, ultimately, be solved. I had to email the following photographs to the architect in his Athens office:

h1.jpg h2.jpg .g1.jpg g2.jpg g3.jpg

By the time we got home, the temperature had reached 28C and we were exhausted. As the sun went down last evening, we griddled garlic chicken outside under the pergola and ate it with jacket potatoes and a bottle of red wine in sultry heat. The island was silent and magically lit by the last rays of the day and the first moonlight of the night. No one could have connected that with the political turmoil in Athens.

8th May, 2012

A little cooler 26C and hazier today. We may get a little gardening done today. First we had to go up to the garden shop for some plants and then on to the butchers, the Post Office, the supermarket and, finally, back home for coffee. I am already running out of espresso ESE pods for my coffee maker. I ordered 1000 pods from an Italian supplier for our machine in Surrey but then obviously didn’t bring anywhere near enough. We are going to ask Phyllis to get them from our apartment, box them up and post them to us.

After lunch, we are going to pot up our Geraniums – brilliant red flowers look fantastic against out white walls – and basil plants. I will sow some lettuce and rocket seeds for planting out in June. The pomegranates in our garden are already beginning to turn from flower to fruit as the fly on the top will tell you.


The temperature reached an oppressive 29C. The gardening was abandoned. I did some writing and read The Times. Pauline baked bread. At 6.00 pm, we fed Mother Cat who was sleeping on the roof and went down to Panos & Rania’s restaurant. All preparations had been done and Greeks don’t eat Dinner until 10.oo pm so it was a quiet time. We talked over the Election result and what the permutations were. Suddenly it was 8.00 pm and we decided to share a pizza with a half litre of red wine. The pizza was wonderful – freshly made with parma ham and parmesan cheese amd fresh rocket from their garden sprinkled over the baked pizza.

9th May, 2012

Another glorious day reaching 26C. It is a really hard one today. We are potting up plants. The geraniums and basil from yesterday. First we will drive down to the beach to look around. I ought to walk really but the car needs the exercise. Everywhere is so quiet. The island is still going through the motions of getting ready but there are so few tourists. One of the reasons put forward by locals is the poor ferry timetable this year. Already we are in are almost in mid-May and we are bathed in tourist weather but those who turn up on spec at Piraeus find there are very few boats at very strange times and they are all very expensive. As you will see below, the beach is beautiful but deserted. Even so, Pauline tested the water temperature and pronounced it………….. cool.

beach1.jpg  beach2.jpg

10th May, 2012

The air was cooler today with a little breeze.

We have been concerned for a while about our Greek codicil to our Will which we wrote almost ten years ago but haven’t reviewed until now. We met our new, best friend, Esmerelda,  the ex-eurocrat who knows every single person on the island and she made an immediate appointment for us to meet a Notary Public. She turned out to be a lovely lady who gave us about an hour of advice but refused to charge us.

As we left the Notary’s Office, with Esmerelda, we bumped into someone who we have referred to as The Windsurfer, a statuesque, grey haired lady we always saw down at the beach in the summer. It turned out that she is a retired lady who used to be the English voice of Greek Radio. Suddenly, our circle of acquaintances is expanding interestingly and rapidly. Unfortunately, this increase in acquaintances comes with a social cost. They insist that we go with them to the school Open Day on Saturday.

11th May, 2012

A cool 21C today and islanders are delighted to hear that there is still a possibility of a rain storm before Summer fully hits us. It will certainly save us watering plants. We have been changing our Greek Wills so that, in the event of our joint deaths (might happen – thunderbolt, car crash, rock fall, earthquake, ferry sinking, etc.), the proceeds of the sale of our Greek house will go to our next of kin in UK. We are choosing a new Notary who we met yesterday to organise this but first we had to go to the old one to tear up the codicil to our will. He charged an extravagant €100.00 to retrieve the papers from his file and cancel them. He will not be surprised when we leave him.

We had lunch out on the terrace and then frittered away the afternoon as only retired old codgers can afford to do.

12th May, 2012

Today was supposed to be cool, windy with a chance of rain. It turned out to be hot and settled, reaching 24-25C in the afternoon. We were supposed to be going in to a school for the first time since we retired. It is the island’s Junior Gymnasium which was having an Open Day and putting on a musical performance. We have sat through so many of these dire occasions in our professional lives that we really were not looking forward to it. While we were working, of course, we had little choice. Now, we can do what the hell we like, we’ve decided to go out for a pizza instead.

Before we left last October, we put all our potted pelargoniums in to the garden and dug them in. Six months later, they were flowering profusely. We’ve dug them up again, trimmed them back and repotted them. I grew a lot of them from cuttings. We also tidied up our Rocket plants and planted out some Sweet Basil plants which will flavour our meals over the next few months.

rocket.jpg  basil.jpg