Week 184

24th June, 2012

Busy week this week. We have to check with the Notary, Accountant, Architect, Woodman plus visit the Blood Testing Clinic.

Today is Sunday and we can do none of these things. It is hot but still very windy. It looks like it will be for another week. Even if the wind hasn’t gone down tomorrow, we will go swimming. We have been missing it.

Let’s hope the technology stands up to the strain. Well, better than England did this evening. They were rubbish. I wonder why they bothered to turn up. It was as if they didn’t want to win. I don’t think Rooney, Terry and Gerrard actually turned up. I just didn’t see them. The Greek team tried harder than this.


We’ve been on the island for eleven weeks and have thirteen left before be start our journey back through Europe’s Autumn.

25th June, 2012

Went up to the Clinic for my blood test. Saw the architect en route. Coffee and sweet pie in the cafe. It is so hot. It feels rather humid. We are going swimming in spite of the wind. Pauline will probably be blown out to sea if she wears her hat which will act like a sail.

My blood result turned out to be poor again. The nurse in Woking who I phoned said that I must be drinking too much wine. How she could know from that distance, I have no idea but she was right.

Dropped in on the woodman who, it turns out, fears he has kidney stones and is off to Athens for investigations. His wife thinks it is the hard water on the island that encourages it. Going off to Athens will be an expensive business in itself. The blood testing man’s daughter was going to the orthodontist in Athens on Monday because there isn’t one on the island and she has a brace. She is just going for a regular check up. This will take two days and will cost €100.00 for the ferry cost alone. It is expensive living on an island.

The new ferry timetable was released today:


26th June, 2012

Today it is blisteringly hot because the wind has gone down for the first time for at least a week. We were outside early, cleaning the car before the sun got up. It was lucky we did because the architect came by and gave us the second tranche of the fine we have to pay to legalise our garage and pergola. He told us our electricity paper was in Milos and would be with us in a week to ten days. We will believe it when we see it after six years of waiting. John Humphreys, writing in The Sunday Times last week talked about his son’s Greek wife inheriting a small piece of land on which to build a house. They applied for permission but haven’t heard anything yet. It has been nine years! This is the fine for our illegal pergola:


27th June, 2012

Went up to the Bank to pay our pergola fine this morning. On to the supermarket where I found an oregano plant for sale. Somebody in the queue questioned whether it was oregano and pieces were handed round the shop for customers to smell. It was decided on a 3-1 vote, excluding me, that it was oregano so I brought it home.


28th June, 2012

Got up extra early and went out for the post. Came back for breakfast and then Pauline finished sanding down the pergola while I watered all the olive trees. After days of extremely hot sun and very drying winds, the trees must have been loving it.

Wonderful swim this afternoon and then meal on our knee while we watched Wimbledon. Later on – much too late on – watched Italy destroy the Germans. Why can’t we do that? We could.


29th June, 2012

Cleaned the stripped pergola this morning and pressure washed all around. It will all be repainted tomorrow. Everything will be gleaming white. Going out tonight for a bite to eat.

Got a phone call this afternoon from our Dentist changing our appointment for October. Seemed rather strange. Forgotten our connection with Surrey.

Finding the early, Wimbledon rounds a bit boring. Missed the Nadal upset unfortunately.

30th June, 2012

It doesn’t matter where one spends one’s time, heaven or hell or somewhere in between, sometimes one longs for a change. Small, idyllic island, small number of small minded neighbours. Give us a rest! After three months on the island and with three months to go, we look forward to a change of scene, a change of people and a change of style. From quiet, slow paced rural we would like a few days of loud, brash city life. As they say, “You can have too much of a good thing.”. It will be nice to get away for a few days and to appreciate what we have even more when we return.

Watched Murray until 9.00 pm (11.00 pm here) and they closed the roof. Couldn’t take any more. Pleased to find he’d won on Sunday morning.


Week 183

17th June, 2012

The temperature is around 31/32C but the winds are blustery strong. I always find this condition tiring and rather stressful. We have stopped swimming because of the unpleasant sand storm attacks and we have postponed painting the pergola.

Of course, it is the storm before the storm. Election day. I was sitting outside the house on a bench when a van drew up on the road at the front gate. It turned out to be the woodman and his teenage son along with another man I didn’t know. He was introduced as a Doctor. I invited them up to the house and offered them a beer. I took an instant like to the doctor. He wants radical change. He doesn’t care about Europe. He just wants to sweep away all the old, corrupt political families.

The Doctor certainly gave me a genuine understanding of why so many younger Greeks are desperate to reject the bailout terms. As the evening wore on, the Pro Europeans just nudged themselves ahead and will probably form a coalition government but the seething opposition will continue.

18th June, 2012

The new ferry timetable has been published and the service has been cranked up again. It is almost looking helpful.


The hot winds continue. We have rather put life on hold. I am reading The Times and Pauline is turning up a pair of trousers. In our spare time, we are flitting between Athens & Brussels to negotiate new bailout terms. I have signed up to a new deal for my news paper. If I bought it as a hard copy on the island, it would be at least a day late and would cost about  €100.00 per month. Electronically, direct from The Times, I can buy it for about €20.00 per month and on the right day and first thing in the morning. It is fantastic.


23rd June, 2012

Well, the whatsit really hit the whirly thing this week. What a nightmare, my laptop has been in intensive care. I have a desktop but not connected to the internet and my iPad needs a wireless connection.

I apologise to all those (well that person) who were worried about me. I am in better health than my technical equipment suggests.

Week 182

10th June, 2012

I have learned over the years things about myself, as most of us do, some of which I like and some I don’t. Whatever, I have learned it is sensible to be honest with myself and with others about them. I have known, for many years, that I have an addictive personality. I remember, in my early 20s, becoming addicted to Coca Cola & Pepsi. Goodness knows how because I couldn’t drink it at all now. In a similar way, I can be hideously hidebound by routines and traditions.  I have to constantly fight against this to avoid being narrow in my thoughts and actions. Of course, it can also be a force for good. I am seriously becoming addicted to fresh fruit. Few would consider that a bad thing. I am also absolutely hooked on Blogging and quite determined to never miss a week. Occasionally, I go a few days without posting but I always ensure it is put up by the end of the week. Good or Bad? Who knows. Maybe Kevin will tell me. We started swimming on June 1st and it is now almost a badge of honour not to miss a day. Today is hot – 27/28C – and a swim is essential.

11th June, 2012

Our house looks down upon the port. One of the reasons we chose to build in Kamares rather than further in to the island was the movement. Everyone who comes to Sifnos arrives by ferry in Kamares. All commodities that are brought to Sifnos from the mainland enter by ferry through Kamares. There is no airport here nor will there likely be because of the mountainous terrain. There is a heliport which is used almost exclusively used for emergencies. There are other, smaller, fishing ports but all that happens on Sifnos starts in Kamares. Comings and goings of the port fuel the cafes, restaurants, hoteliers, taxis, buses and observers.

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For years we’ve had to go on to the internet each day to know what boats to expect. There is a particularly good site which is the digital equivalent of the Greek travel agent’s gazette – Greek Travel Pages – but it is not terribly user-friendly. The weekly timetable is also published in the display cabinet of the most prominent travel agency – Aegean Thesaurus. We must walk past this notice most days and try to memorise the ins and outs of traffic but, by the time we get back to the house, it is gone. Now, with the iPad, I go down on a Monday morning and take a photo and it is there with me throughout the week.

Thirty years ago, when we first started coming here, there were days in mid-June when there was no ferry at all. Worse still, of course, that meant no newspaper either. The economic crisis here has seen a return to poor service but not that poor. Certainly, in the past couple of weeks, the traffic has increased but if you look at today, there is only one boat and that is to Piraeus.


We considered Paros to be a hub of the Cyclades and we used to have a small vessel which we called ‘Every day to Paros’ because that was the sign on the side of the boat but that has gone now so we feel even more isolated (or exclusive).

12th June, 2012

Because we knew in advance that we would have quite a lot of administrative things to get through this year, we decided not to take vegetable gardening too seriously. One thing we have done, however, is to persist with our herbs. We are growing three different types of Basil this year in the ground we are growing the large leaf Sweet Basil. In pots we are growing two different sorts of small leaf Basil. We also have Sage, Mint, Rosemary and, of course, Thyme.

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13th June, 2012

I don’t know if you’ve been watching the football but I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed it so far. The first match – which the Greeks really should have won – was absorbing. The Polish comeback against Russia was great and gives Greece a sniff of a chance to stay in. I enjoyed Denmark’s fight against Portugal but the performance of Holland against Germany was abject.

14th June, 2012

The temperature is rather warm today – 33/34C. We have abandoned jobs. I’ve chosen to update my Blog having got badly behind. Pauline is cleaning and making fresh pasta. We are having Lasagne for our evening meal. It doesn’t take long and we have our pasta machine with us to roll it out.


Tonight, I will open a bottle of Italian red and watch their national team beaten by Croatia, hopefully. Unless they’ve fixed the result already.

If you have ever been involved in Education Management, you will know that professional duties are accompanied by professional rights. For example, Management can’t just decide, at the drop of a hat, to change the working hours, the holiday dates, the after school requirements, etc.. In other words, all teachers – just as all pupils – are entitled to a personal life which is not compromised by the demands of their job. Usually in UK schools, the calendar of activities is published twelve months ahead so that staff can make arrangements, book holidays, etc.. Parents’ Evenings , etc,. are calendared so teachers can reasonably order their own lives in advance.

This morning we met the plumber, Giannis and his wife, Poppi and their three little children all going off to school for the last day Assembly. Greek schools were supposed to finish on Friday but, because of the second election, the smaller children finish today and the older ones go on until Wednesday. This is because, the school is used for voting on Sunday and, traditionally, it is closed on the Friday before for setting up and the Monday after for tidying up. So staff who booked their holidays for Saturday have to cancel their arrangements and turn up for work on Tuesday and Wednesday. To make matters worse, some young teachers desperate for a job have been sent to teach in Sifnos, away from their own area. In order to vote, they have to return to their own area. Then they have to come back to Sifnos for two days. The final twist is that travel for the purposes of voting used to be subsidised by the Government. Now it is not. Teachers who have had their pay cut now have to pay hundreds of Euros and lots of their spare time travelling home to vote and then the same again in three days time. May be the election turn out will be lower this time.

At 5.00 pm tonight, we ventured out for a swim. The temperature outside was 35C. The water was gorgeous.

15th June, 2012

The temperatures have been moderated a little by freshening breezes which have been forecast to strengthen over the next few days. Force 8 Beaufort, which can threaten ferry travel, has been forecast for Saturday – Tuesday. This, in itself, could affect election travel services. Already Kathimerini is warning of transport disruption because of essential workers having to go back to their home areas to vote.

It feels as if the election is on a knife edge. I believe that it could be one of the defining moments in Greek History. There again, it could all have been decided already and the election could just be the rubber stamp on Greece leaving Europe. What I don’t think many people here understand is that the effect of the loss of the Euro will be absolutely catastrophic. Just one example would suffice to illustrate this. Petrol.

We take it for granted but the moment it is threatened, we realise its essential nature. A few months ago in Surrey, Tanker drivers were threatening strike. The whole country went on panic buy and petrol stations ran out. Suddenly we were faced with not being able to get to shops for food; shops running out of food because of no deliveries; essential services like fire and ambulance not having fuel; power generating services not having fuel. Modern life as we know it was likely to grind to a halt. Petrol on our island is selling at a ridiculous €1.92 per litre. It is shipped in and tankered up to the three petrol stations on the island. As I understand it, Greece currently has one month’s supply of petrol. Leaving the Euro will have two effects: firstly, the petrol which Greece buys in will more than double in price over night. Secondly, the country will have no credit standing and no country will supply without up front payment which Greece cannot afford. The immediate knock on of no petrol will be fighting, looting, rioting, starvation, complete societal break down. Greeks vote to leave the Euro at their peril!

16th June, 2012

I joked last week about my sister, Jane, being inducted into the CBeebies. It was a version of the truth because it wasn’t for official publication until today. Jane has been awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for her role as Chief Executive of  the Independent Police Complaints Commission and services to Justice & Policing. Below are two photos of Jane. The first is taken from the IPCC website and the second is taken from a video clip on the BBC website of her giving evidence to the Leveson Enquiry.

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Week 181

3rd June, 2012

It as if the button had been pushed on June 1st. Islanders finished painting and tidying and opened their doors for tourists. And tourists came. Not as many as usual but some came and the island began to feel like a tourist destination again. The ferry timetable has suddenly improved and the weather is getting increasingly warm. Last week, the beach was totally deserted. Now there are a few swimmers and a few more sun bathers. This is where the Greeks get their optimism. They know the sun will always shine and believe that the tourists will continue to arrive.

It is Orthodox Whit Weekend and many here will be Greeks returning to their homes for the celebration. Beacons are burned on the tops of the mountains and a flotilla of boats sail round the island carrying flares and torches. I have to admit, we didn’t go out to watch. It’s all a bit messianic for us. We did have a lovely swim, though. Temperature hovering around 27C.

4th June, 2012

Hotter again – 28C and swimming was delicious particularly because I spent an hour or so out in the heat with my brushcutter, cutting back the tall grass and dying weeds.

Watched a bit of the soggy flotilla down (up) the Thames. I am no monarchist but I admire anyone of that age who can stand for so long in such cold. In Huddersfield, I read, Jubilee parties were dampened by heavy rain, strong winds and ‘the coldest June day for twenty years’. Shame. They should be Republicans and then the sun would shine.

5th June, 2012

A good day that went bad today. It turned out to be incredibly hot and windless and we were brush cutting. We were just finishing when our cutter, which has been troublesome since we bought it, stopped. It had picked up some electrical cable lying in long grass since the house-build and that was wrapped tightly around the blade. Not only that, one of the blade sections was badly chewed and probably won’t last a lot longer. We bought the machine in Piraeus a couple of years ago. It is a Nakayama XH1000 – no, I’ve never heard of it either – but it was cheap at about €85.00.


I have found three retailers in Athens who sell this model and emailed them about supplying spare parts but I’m not holding my breath.

A bit fed up with the way things had gone, I put the cast iron griddle on the new, outside cooker on the patio. One of the rings on top shorted and tripped the power. I will have to take that back as well. That will not be easy. The shop owner speaks no English. We will almost certainly end up buying new of both items.

6th June, 2012

The thermometer is rising and 35C is forecast by Monday. Today is hot but pleasant, with a little breeze. Decided to ignore the brushcutter for a while. We went to the cafe for coffee and chat. Christos is really depressed about the state of the country and the effect it is having on his business and may have on his future life. We met a couple of Danes who came in for a bag of ice. They said that they lived in Piraeus because they were involved in the Zea Harbour Project which, as their website says, combines land and underwater archaeology to obtain a full picture of the ancient Zea and Mounichia Harbours in the Piraeus. The man we met seems to central to the project. His name is Bjorn Loven and he has written: The Ancient Harbours of the Piraeus, Volume I.1 – The Zea Shipsheds and Slipways: Architecture and Topography which most of you will have read, of course.

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7th June, 2012

For quite a long time, we have wondered about the value of our Greek property. It is about six years old now. Everyone who visits says it is wonderful but are they just being polite. The last couple who visited did say this is how they imagined a Greek footballer’s house to be and someone did say to us recently that he wanted to know if we ever thought of selling. There are no formal outlets for property valuation or sale particularly not on the island. We know that one main way of house valuation is by square meterage but didn’t know what multiple to apply. Then there is the land around the house. Ours is extensive. Today I found a company selling a house of 95 sq. m. at €3000.00 per sq. m. for €285,000.00. It has little or no extra land, only two bedrooms and no garage. It also has a lot of neighbours whereas we have none. Our house was originally 153 sq. m. but we subsequently added a garage of 35 sq. m.. We have three bedrooms, a study and a laundry plus a lot of surrounding land. Our house would have to be valued around the €500,000.00 mark but I really don’t want to leave it. If Greece leaves the E.U., I may find I have to.

8th June, 2012

The saga of our legal electricity really illustrates the clash between old and modern Greece. Today, we took a another step forward. We went up to the Electricity Comany – DEDDHE – to find out about developments. The news was excellent although it took us a little while to realise. The man in the office, Mr Giamakis, gave us a piece of paper. I recognised my name but nothing else. Effectively, Mr Giamakis was confirming that we had never been granted legal electricity before and should be done so immediately for our house in Kamares. This letter will be taken by our architect to the island of Milos to get the final stamp which will lead to Mr Giamakis arranging for some workers to come and give us a new electricity meter. This is the paper on which I have pasted a translation which took me a little time to do:


After this, we went on to the Accountants because we had been told everyone had to complete their tax form. Last year, unexpectedly, we had to pay a €700.00 house tax. We expected the same again this year. We were surprised, therefore, to find we didn’t have to pay anything at all this year. In fact, the Greek Government are giving it back to us. Apparently, so many ex-pats complained about the tax that we are being given half of it back. Could be worse.

9th June, 2012

Today, the temperature is reaching 30C and we are looking forward to swimming. First, we have quite a lot of shopping. We have decided to cut our losses and buy a new oven for outside on the patio. We went up to see Flora and she had the perfect thing for €120.00 in white.


We do quite a lot of open-air griddling of meat by laying a cast iron griddle over the rings. It means the house isn’t full of fumes. The oven has a grill and large, two tier oven capacity as well.

We also went up to the DIY shop which is nearby and bought paint for re-painting the pergola, a rake for the garden, some new secateurs and some water connectors for the hosepipes. Back to the supermarkets. All the fresh supplies come in on Friday night boats from Athens so Saturday morning sees plenty of stock. Pauline bought a huge piece of Salt Cod or Stock Fish or Bakaliaros as the Greeks call it. Home for coffee by 11.30 am. The day has almost gone.

Fresh coffee, newspaper, water the vegetables, write up my Blog and then it’s time for swimming. It’s certainly hot out there. Well the water was freezing refreshing. Apart from toast for breakfast, we only eat one other meal now that it is getting so hot. That meal comes about 5.30 pm after swimming. Today, I am cooking a one pan meal of potatoes, onions, peppers and chicken pieces marinated in oil and oregano. It’s making me hungry writing about it!

Football tonight. I enjoyed the games last night – particularly the Poland v Greece game which Greece should definitely have won.


Netherlands v Denmark and then Germay v Portugal tonight. The Dutch will just win but the Germans will bully the little Portugese off the park.

Just heard the good news about my sister, Jane, who has just been accepted in to the latest club. Congratulations.