Week 189

29th July, 2012

It is lovely to find I have so many readers. For years, I thought my Blog was only read by my wife and our families. Suddenly, I realise I have readers on Rhodes, Symi, Skiathos, Skopelos, Paros, in Australia and England but, particularly, in Sifnos. Sifniots are proud people and they value their reputations. When they read of one of their own deliberately trying to do down a foreigner, it is amazing how quick they are to condemn and to offer support. Pauline & I have certainly experienced that in the past three or four months.

In the past few weeks, I have written about not believing in God and I am always writing about food, being on the ‘cuddly’ side and married to a ‘cordon-bleu’ chef. So how pleasing was it to find that our local readership was keen for interaction. I think we’re getting to the Poison Dwarf! Tucked in the gate were Greek ‘Jehova’s Witness’ offerings yesterday. One was a magazine based on biblical texts and the other one pupported to know about ‘healthy eating’. I’m really enjoying them. I remember, once, when my friend, Kevin, invited Jehova’s Witnesses in when they knocked. He talked them to the point where they were almost begging to leave.

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True to his word, ‘The Iron Man’ appeared at 7.15 pm with a beautifully constructed casing and door in steel  to permanently secure our water pump switch. It took him half an hour or so to fit. It is perfect and the whole thing was done in three days from ordering, construction to fitting. This sort of attitude would put Greece back on its feet.

30th July, 2012

Two diggers and three men arrived at 7.45 am. It is forecast to be a hot day so they need an early start. They are filling in trenches, removing old, electricity columns, scrapping away debris and, generally, removing the detritus of previous ‘helpers’. They worked until 3.00 pm in a temperature of 34C/93F with little breeze. We supplied umpteen glasses of ice-cold water and slices of watermelon. They will be back tomorrow to finish off the intial landscaping.

31st July, 2012

Wonderful Day. Five men and two JCBs worked on our land from 7.30 am – 4.00 pm almost without stopping. In those nine or so hours, they transformed our garden by moving soil, finding, picking up and placing massive rocks, levelling, scraping clean and just generally improving the overall appearance.  The overall result of just three days of work has been massive. Every single workman who came could not believe the situation in which we’d been left other than one or two had already heard on the grapevine before they arrived. There wasn’t one man who came to us who didn’t work like a trojan.

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It has been a very hot and windy day today. The scraped bare soil is blown into clouds of dust by the strong winds. Workers have constantly been damping the soil down with hosepipes of water and this has proved quite effective. We will continue doing that for a day or two. We are now working out a planting scheme for next year. Maybe some could be started this Autumn. Notice how I am beginning to sound quite positive about the project again. It just takes the support of a few good friends.

We were so full of dust by the end of the day that we went straight down to the sea for a swim and later shared a single, vegetarian pizza as a take away at home. We fell in to bed and snored.

1st August, 2012


Happy August. After three full days of work going on around the house, we are both exhausted. We both found it quite stressful although the results are exhilarating. Today was more restful. After breakfast of toast and marmalade with a big pot of Yorkshire Tea. Of course, it’s not grown in sunny Yorkshire but blended and boxed there by Taylors of Harrogate. We went down to Panos & Rania’s to download the newspaper and gave the chef a box of 240 teabags. We have found that it produces the best cup of tea with our water.

2nd August, 2012

Still fairly hot and sticky today but with a little breeze which is making it more bearable. I didn’t do a stroke of the work around our grounds over the past few days. It was done by four electricians, two wallers, four groundworkers and digger operators but it has left me exhausted. The most we will do over the next few days is clean the car, go swimming and go and have coffee with Olga in Exambla.

I am an avid listener to BBC Radio 4. In Greece, I have to listen to it over the internet but I pipe it round the house by use of wireless speakers. It has transformed life. Recently, it has been blocked to people abroad by being transmitted from the Olympic Broadcasting Unit. I wrote to the BBC expressing my disgust and got a reply saying they were trying to resolve ‘legal issues’. In the past couple of days, normal broadcasts have been resumed in the Sanders household. As a news junkie, I can only say, THANK GOODNESS!

It is fig time. My earliest memories were of Mum giving us ‘syrup of figs’ as a laxative. It was horrible. Later I read about Stephen Daedelus, James Joyce alter ego eating figs as a student in Dublin and spitting out the seeds. It sounded rather exotic. Over the years in Greece we have ‘scrumped’ figs from roadside trees and had them given to us by people. For a few years, Pauline made fig jam for people on the island. At last, our own fig trees are beginning to fruit in a significant way. We have two trees planted about five or six years ago. Today I picked a large colander of pale yellow skinned figs from the first of our trees. Pauline insisted on washing the dust from them but as we gourged on them after our meal, they were still warm from the sun with a wonderful, delicate sweetness.Fortunately, we have lots more to come.


3rd August, 2012

Yesterday we filled the car up. I know go on about this but it helps me to understand where my life is at the moment. As you will all remember in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, TS Eliot said, “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;”.  Well, I do mine with petrol tanks. Our car can hold about 300 miles in its tank. I only get 27 miles to the gallon with permanent 4-wheel drive, automatic gearing and ‘climate control’ on all the time. Plus it is driven by an ageing maniac who is finding it hard to learn to slow down. When we drove to work over the Pennines every day, we did 240 miles per week at least and had to fill up, ritually, with the weekend shopping at Sainsburys. In the latter stages, our bill was at least £50.00 per week. Now, in retirement and even allowing for us driving to Greece and back each year, our mileage is much reduced. People greet the news that we drive to Greece with astonishment as if we are off to Mars and yet think nothing of driving to Scotland for their holidays in Britain. From Surrey in England to the Scottish Highlands is a journey of some 700 miles.

From our apartment in Surrey to the tunnel is 90 miles. From Calais in France to Ancona in Italy is a journey of 915 miles.  Later the journey from Patras to Pireas in Greece is about 130 miles. That makes a total of 1135 miles to get here. In the four months we have been here so far, we have driven 900 miles. Where can you go on a small island? We go shopping, drive out to restaurants and that is about it. Actually, I’m surprised to have done as many as 900. In that time, we have visited Elinoil, our favourite petrol station, five times instead of 20. The Elinoil station is run by a lovely family who have been very kind to us. Next year, the head of the family is going to help me learn some more about growing tomatoes and melons outside. Actually, my tomatoes are doing quite well this year for a first attempt.

4th August, 2012

Went up to see Olga this morning and took her a jar of home made orange marmalade to remind her of her years working in central London.

Week 188

22nd July, 2012

Winds down – Temperature up. Hard to know which is best/worst by now. Recovering from a long week and preparing for the next round. We are expecting a registered mail from Syros on Monday/Tuesday. It goes to Podotas and we collect it from him.

Read The Sunday Times and had a lovely swim today. We dropped off a large bag of basil leaves for Panos to use for making pesto. Plus, Pauline had made a Beetroot, Apple & Onion Chutney so we took down a jar of it and a print of a picture from Martin. These are just ‘thank-yous’ for their help, advice and friendship.

Now the wind is down, it is cooler to dispense with the air conditioning and open windows with mosquito nets down. It gave us one of our best night’s sleep for a couple of weeks.

23rd July, 2012

A very strange day. We went to the Electricity Company who said we had to pay €930.00 which wasn’t a problem but it had to be done electronically. We have internet banking but for a Savings Account which doesn’t allow us to pay bills just monitor our account. We could, of course, go to a branch of The ATE Agricultural Bank of Greece. There isn’t one on the island. In the end, we had to ask a friend to pay it for us and we transferred the funds into their account. What a nonsense that just sums Greek infrastructure up. After this, we had to drive with our amanuensis up to Artemonas to look at interesting things.

Today the sea was warm on the surface and icy cold underneath. The tide had turned and I think replenished the sun-warmed water with fresh. Still, it was 34C/93F at 5.00 pm as we headed home. Have to be up early tomorrow. The next contingent of workmen are coming. We are expecting stone wallers to arrive about 7.00 am.

24th July, 2012

We were up at 6.00 am to find the stone wallers were on the job already. It was only just light but wonderfully cool which is why they were so early. They were blocking up a gateway to stop trespassers coming on to our land. Two very nice lads were doing the work. We are expecting about six or eight tomorrow.

It has been so enlightening. Since our so-called-friend severed ties, we have been forced to go out and fend for ourselves, getting to know so many new people, making so many new friends. So many of them cannot believe how badly we had been left in the lurch. Of course, most of them are looking for employment and payment but why shouldn’t they. They have skills that we require. But they are basically decent people and are ashamed of fellow Greeks who haven’t lived up to that standard. It is nice to set the record straight.

Had to go up to the Medical Testing Centre again. It was packed. Full of pregnant women on serial diabetes tests. We went off to the coffee shop, Prego for an hour to drink Frappes and read the newspaper. Going back an hour later, it was still packed. My INR is up again to 4.3 which is as high as it has ever been in the past three years. It should be circa 2.5. Eating less because of the hot weather and drinking more wine are the principal reasons.

25th July, 2012

Up at 5.30 am in readiness for a big day. Showers, breakfast, check emails, listen to news and then progressively start to turn off and unplug all electrics. By 7.00 am the electrician and son, assistant, had arrived and started to lay the new conduits for the new mains cable. By 8.00 am, two men from the Electricity Company arrive and the power went off. One fitted the new meters while the other shinned up the pole like a monkey to connect the new cable. By 9.00 am, the wallers had arrived to do the concreting of the ducts, The whole thing was brilliantly integrated, slick and professional – in fact, so un-Greek. By 11.00 am, the electricians had gone, the wallers were finishing off and the Iron Man was summoned. He arrived and measured up the stone casing which houses the electrical switches for the pump. He promises to return on Sunday to fit the door so we can lock the thieves out. Somehow, I really do believe that he will be back on Sunday.

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What is interesting is how many of these workmen – skilled craftsmen – had already heard on the grapevine about how we had been so badly treated by our ‘friendly Greek’. They think it is scandalous and are only too keen to help us out. It is really lovely and life-affirming.

Went down to Podotas office to collect the legal papers that were delivered on Aqua Jewel from Syros by Courier. I will spend this afternoon translating them. First a wonderful swim. The air temperature is only 32C/90F but the wind is low and the humidity is high which makes it feel uncomfortable. After a swim of about an hour, we feel fresh and cool. After the day’s events, it is extremely relaxing.

26th July, 2012

Up early again because we are back to painting again today. By tomorrow we will have completed the whole of the front of the house. We’ve got work going on next week so that will hold us up for a while but the back of the house gets so hot in the morning that we either have to be up at 5.00 am when I’m not at my best or we need to snatch twilight hours when the sun goes down which it does by 7.00 pm.  We use an expensive, plastic paint for the outside of the house and it really works well. We are pleased with the way our house is now looking. Today some people came round and were extremely complimentary about it and the way it is furnished. They said it was ‘footballers’ which quite surprised us.

Another hot day with the temperature reaching 33C/91F with little breeze but less humidity. Around the patio pergola we have two bougainvillea which are not of the common, stark magenta which ones sees everywhere in Greece. One is white crossed with red and produces beautifully blush coloured racmes of petals. The other, featured below, seems to be a cross between orange and pink and creates a lovely, peachy effect.

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Went out to eat at Panos & Rania’s restaurant. It was very hot and humid-sweaty. The restaurant was busy but our meal was wonderful. They don’t compromise on quality.

27th July, 2012

Almost the end of July already. Pauline did some more painting today but I couldn’t face it. It is extremely hot again and rather humid. We went down to the cafe for a frappe and a chat. Then we walked back to see Panos & Rania. They are such lovely people. Particularly, they are intelligent and when one is on a Greek island for some length of time, one craves intelligent conversation not small minded tittle tattle that seems to dominate island life. Rania is a philosopher. She has a degree in philosophy and reads advidly. Panos is incredibly fast thinking, well read, has a huge love of History but is able to ally that to immense practical skills for furniture making and house design.

Their greatest strength is that they are people people. If you sit in the restaurant for one evening, you will see the numbers of returning customers being greeted like long lost brothers. They come back for the food, of course, which is excellent but just as much for the humanity of the hosts. They have been extremely kind to us – inviting us for meals at their home, accompanying us to meetings as translators, advising us in the ways of Greek and island life. They are just good people.

I use Cosmote for my internet connection. I have done for the past few years. We don’t have a fixed telephone line because the OTE say we are too far away from the exchange. It is nonsense but we have easily learned to live with it. At least we don’t have to pay charges for the months we are in England. When we first started, four years ago, the dongle signal strength was weak and connection was hit and miss. Now the whole thing is fantastic and I never have a problem even uploading huge graphics. I have a 10Gb per month contract which allows me to have BBC radio 4 on all day without a problem. I relay it from my Study to the rest of the house and outside with wireless speakers. I love it. The one downside is, of course, I can’t create a wireless network which I need for my iPad. Each morning, I need this to download my newspaper. Panos & Rania very generously allow me to go down to their restaurant to use their wireless connection. It is perfect and so are they. Below is an old photo of them outside their restaurant that I was sent by a friend.


28th July, 2012

Hard getting up this morning after staying up until 3.00 am watching the Olympics Opening Ceremony. It was a performance I had a mixed reaction to. Danny Boyle’s Left Wing credentials came through and Working Class culture certainly figured highly. I appreciated the History but I found it hard to identify with all the Rock/Pop, with Mr Bean and with James Bond and the Queen leaping from an aircraft.  It was good to see Sir Tim Berners-Lee featured and Shami Chakrabarti but I could have done without the Arctic Monkeys.

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Weekly shop at two supermarkets after downloading the Saturday Times and then a trip to the butchers in Apollonia for lots of meat.

Hot and sticky again although there is a bit more breeze today. We are having a relaxing day – reading, swimming, cooking, writing – because we have another week of workers invading our peace coming up. The Iron Man is coming tomorrow. You thought it was a work of fiction by Ted Hughes. Actually, it is a Greek who has made and will come to fit a lockable security door on to our water pump and well to keep the burglars at bay. The wallers are coming back to do some paving and other things. The earth mover will come and do some landscaping  and one or two tidying up jobs. If you can believe it, a ‘previous friend’  – although you can judge for yourself how friendly he was – dumped all the rubbish from his hotel on our garden during the winter and burned it but failed to remove the debris. We found the springs from burned down mattresses and all sorts of stuff. He didn’t care but we’ve saved the evidence and he may pay for it soon.

Week 187

15th July, 2012

A reader contacted me the other day, touchingly concerned about my state of mind. One of the things about my sort of Blog is its stream of consciousness character. In a limited sense, I am living my life in full view. I try to be honest. If I am angry, happy, sad, I write about it. If I cry, I report it. I hope I am big enough to expose myself in that way. In the quietude of Greek island life, reports of these passing emotions can appear dramatic in cold print. In some respects, the backdrop and calm disposition of island life sets human emotions into sharp relief, exaggerating them and their importance.

We started this project in Greece in 2000 as part of our ten year plan towards retirement. I was quite determined not to fall into the lean and slippered pantaloon, with spectacles on nose and pouch on side syndrome. Actually, there is no danger of me falling into the lean anything but you get the point. I wanted us to have something to stretch us, to fully challenge us, to occupy us as we entered retirement. We have not been disappointed. Having said that, there are highs and lows to every project. Sometimes we sail along on the wind of success and more to come. Sometimes we bemoan the difficulties that life throws at us. Last week some people came past and told us they were interested in buying our house and we will consider their offer fully but, if no sale takes place in the next ten years, we will enjoy our Greek home hugely.

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Anyway, if we are offered €500,000.00, we will seriously consider it.

16th July, 2012

Incredible temperature today as we had men from the electricity company, an independent electrician, two stonemasons and our amanuensis. We were discussing walling, re-laying electrical cable, re-connecting our mains supply to new meters with the water pump control locked away behind a metal door so that our neighbour can’t steal water while we are away.

By 2.30 pm, everyone had gone and we were able to have a bit of lunch. Some bruschetta soaked in garlic olive oil with Parma ham, Greek tomato and Parmigiano shavings all washed down with ice-cold white wine & soda spritzer. After a pensioner’s snooze, we got ready for swimming. As we stepped outside at 5.00 pm, the temperature showed as 37C/99F. It certainly felt warm and made the sea even more inviting. We spent an hour bobbing and swimming in crystal clear water at a sea temperature of 26C/79F which made it feel deliciously cooling.

The latest Ferry Timetable looks positively busy.


17th July, 2012

Downloded The Times on my iPad to accompany toasted homemade bread and liberally spread with homemade marmalade. What a lucky man I am! Pauline spoke to her sister in Surrey. The weather isn’t good. We did learn that our neighbour in a similar Duplex Apartment has put her’s up for sale at something like 13% above her purchase price only a year ago. We won’t be at all surprised if she gets it. We are constantly being bombarded with requests to purchase our property and sales go through at lightening speed. Everyone, it seems, wants to live within a few minutes of the centre of London which is why we saw the purchase as very safe at the outset.

We had a good, long chat about legal matters with our new and wonderful Notary. The advice is absolutely clear and invaluable. Went on to the DIY shop to buy more paint. The owner had sold out and was saying he wouldn’t get any more until next year. As soon as we said we wanted 3, 10 ltr.tubs at about €80.00 each, he thought he’d be able to order some. Off to the supermarket and home.


The day is a little cooler because there is some breeze. Only 33C/91F today at 4.00 pm as we walked on to the beach for a swim. The breeze had brought in cooler water and the large fish had disappeared. Got in to conversation with a Greek Grandfather obviously enjoying throwing his grandchildren – two young boys – over his shoulders in to the sea. He had been a marine sea captain and had visited most ports around Britain’s coastline at sometime. He was now retired because he had done twenty years at sea. Must be hard.

My turn to cook today because Pauline has to make bread. I have prepared a beef casserole for tomorrow with celery tops to flavour it. Large chunks of beef are slow cooking in beer, onion, tomato, pepper and mushroom. As it develops, I stir in a large dessertspoonful of Dijon mustard. It will be left to go cold, develop flavour overnight and then be eaten tomorrow. Tonight, I am cooking a risotto of Arborio rice with prosciutto ham, garden peas and fresh mint leaves. It is making me hungry just thinking about it.

18th July, 2012

Just as we consider selling the house, the pound strengthens considerably against the euro. For months it has been hovering around £1.00 = €1.21 and suddenly it has leapt to €1.27.  For every €100,000.00 we get, we currently will lose €4000.00. What am I going to do? Spare a cup of soup, Gov’. When we started our Greek project, my abiding principal was that it should not in any way compromise our finances back in England. To a large extent that has beeen true. For the first five or so years when we just used it as a holiday home, we completely forgot about it as we threw ourselves back in to the hurly burly of work. That is how I wanted it to be. Now, in retirement, our view is rather different and, as we think of selling, thought of maximising profit begins to surface. We are not needy or greedy but we intend to enjoy our last thirty or so years in comfort.

19th July, 2012

The meltemi winds battered the house and gave us a fitful sleep. I awoke tired. It reminded me of the Ted Hughes line: This house has been out at sea all night… The amazing thing is that everything survives – the olive trees, the satellite dish, the patio furniture.

Because of the wind, it is a little cooler. Top temperature today – 29C/85F. It feels delightful after the heatwave. Tomorrow, a group of men will arrive at our house at 7.00 am and disconnect our electricity. They will build a new meter box out of stone on the boundary wall of our land and redirect the supply to it. In order to do that, they will dig and create new ducts in the land.


They will then remove all the concrete pillars that you can see in the picture and which have been used for electricity in the past and they will, they promise, reconnect us to the power before they leave. Everything we do in the house from pumping water, refrigeration, cooking, air-conditioning, computing and watching the golf all depend on electricity. We are keeping our fingers crossed.

20th July, 2012

When I told my friend, Panos, about the electricity work going on today, he laughed at my optimistic view of its completion in one day. Of course, he was right. The electrician arrived at 7.00 am with his son. The stonemason arrived at 7.05 am with his two mates. Our amanuensis was brought over by a man from the Electricity Shop. The only person who didn’t get here on time was the digger owner/driver. He arrived in mid-morning minus digger. The work went on relentlessly from 7.00 am till 3.00 pm. It finished with the digger owner promising to bring it by 9.00 am on Saturday. The people working for us, good, down to earth, honest Greeks, were so enjoyable to be with that we couldn’t feel disappointed.

We were filthy from the dust of the day and went off for an afternoon swim which left us feeling wonderful. We came home and watched the Open Championship from a rather dull and damp Lytham St. Anne’s and Pauline roasted chicken breasts wrapped in prosciutto ham with oven cooked potatoes and onions. This was accompanied by a lovely, chilled bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. (Oh, my store of French and Italian wines is rapidly running down. If we stay on after September, I will be forced to drink Greek.)

21st July, 2012

I was brought up as a Roman Catholic but, from the age of 11/12 knew that I couldn’t believe in any God. I am a staunch atheist even in moments of crisis. As a school teacher, I was absolutely clear with kids that I could not pretend about something as important as that. It was a source of tension, debate, even conflict with my Mother right up to her death but I have always subscribed to James Joyce’s alter ego, Stephen Daedelus’ quotation of Lucifer: Non Serviam!

I have to say that after six years of asking and trying, after countless attempts to get the person I had thought was my friend to facilitate this process, after the past twelve months of pushing various parties, the pictures below depict as near as one can get to a ‘God’ experience.

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Can you see the celestial light? Is it not heaven on earth?

Today, by the appointed time, the electrician had arrived and so had the digger along with three additional workers. By the time they had finished, everything had been done prior to the Electricity Shop disconnecting and reconnecting our mains power. It has already been agreed that we won’t be without power for more than a couple of hours. We are almost there. Our nice neighbour who owns the land across the road in from of us called round to celebrate with us the end of our sojourn.

We went out for a lovely lunch at Captain’s restaurant. We had fish and garlic sauce. It was delicious. We met the Sifnos Mayor there and he was telling us he had been on a trip to Syros on island business. Last time we met him – a month or so ago on a ferry back from Athens – he was returning from island business in the capital. He is obviously really enjoying his job and it is lovely to see. We first met him when he was 12 or 13 years old more than 25 years ago, still in stretch pants, serving at table.

Today we solved a riddle that has been puzzling us for a year or two. We may be slow and thick but we have got there in the end. Click on the picture below to enlarge it and then say what are all the little black dots?


The photo is of small leaved basil plants growing in a clay basket at out front door. By now, Sarah, one of our more recent readers will have guessed exactly what it is. She is adept at stirring this stuff. We have recently removed all these marks, thinking they were bird droppings. We even repainted in brilliant white. Back they have come just as they have for the past three years. Suddenly, two days ago Pauline saw a huge, bright green grasshopper living inside the basil bush. We had seen it before and laughed about it. This time, we realised the basil was being eaten from underneath. I took the grasshopper out and threw it towards the field. It landed on a small, white wall and proceeded to pass out of its rear end a measured dollop of dark, green excrement which dried black just like the others. Hands up if you got it.

Week 186

8th July, 2012

It was the heat, the sun, the blistering temperatures that first hooked us in Greece. We both loved it. Pauline was a slim, lithe, 29 year old when we spent our first three weeks in Greece in 1980. We were in Zakynthos island and Pauline’s skin turned olive golden brown. Against everything that had gone before when I had appeared a beetroot in the sun, three weeks under the Greek sky turned my skin into a wonderful, deep, dark brown that has never really left me. Since that first occasion, a few minutes in the sun is all it takes to top me up. However, as we’ve got older, we have found our tolerance to sun and to heat decrease quite markedly. We sit in the shade more and avoid the direct sun as much as possible. In those Zakynthos days, we carefree young things lay out in the sun for hours on end with real determination to ‘get a good tan’. Of course, we could be just becoming more Greek. They avoid the sun like the plague.

The only reason I mention this is that we are into heatwave season. One is hitting us just now. Temperatures of 38C – 41C (100F – 106F) are forecast for Athens over the next few days. Of course, sea breezes mitigate these highs for us but it is still uncomfortable and energy sapping.

9th July, 2012

The new and much improved ferry timetable was issued today.


Today, we drove up to the Accountants to show them our new electricity permit which they were very pleased about. We then went to the Electricity Company to arrange for our new meters to be installed. Our friend, Esmerelda, helped us through the arcane, Greek rule book. Two hours she negotiated for us this morning. We have to get an electrician to re-authorise our electrical circuit diagram which has lapsed by six months or so. Officially, they should reinspect but they won’t. We then have to co-ordinate an electrician, a stone mason to build the electricity meter housing and an official of the Electricity Company to come to our property on Monday morning next week to survey and agree the job in hand. When this has been done, the stone mason will come first. Then the Company will fit the new meters and, finally, the electrician re-connects everything. Of course, it all costs money – about €2000.00. All of this really grinds you down. It is not the money, although that is infuriating, but the sheer pettiness of it. We have been waiting six years for this to happen.

10th July, 2012

The heat just continues. It is very tiring. It saps one’s energy and ambition. We had intended to do a lot of painting today but, instead, we went up to see the Notary with Esmerelda. The Notary is the Government agent who deals with property purchases and sales. Just walking was an effort today. We hear that Britain is cool and experiencing some rain. We live in GU22 in Surrey and I checked this week’s forecast on the BBC contrasted with our island:


A wonderful swim this afternoon in sea temperature of 25C was delicious. The atmosphere was so hot that we didn’t even go down to swim until 4.30 pm.

11th July, 2012

The temperature is back as soon as I get up. The sheets are soaking wet with sweat and our skins are clammy. As you can see from the weather chart, the temperature never falls below 22C/70F and the bedroom often reaches an uncomfortable 29C/85F.

Yesterday, we made the momentous decision to sell the house. We had talked about it on and off last year as the European crises worsened. Last Winter in Woking we agonised over it without coming to any conclusion. Yesterday, in conversation with the Notary, we decided the time was right. Our decision was pushed on quite by accident. Two English women looking for land to build on came past our house. I invited them in and learned that they had been coming to our island for a number of years and had always said that our house was the ideal one. Pauline and I hadn’t actually formally agreed but I heard myself saying that our house was available.

They may buy it or they may not but we have definitely decided that we are going to sell if someone offers us the right price. We are about to put the word around to people who previously said they were interested.

12th July, 2012

Another reason we have decided to sell is that a neighbour and previous ‘friend’ is causing us increasing problems. He is failing to control his livestock adequately and they are coming on to our property inspite of our frequent complaints. Recently, when we were away, he came on to our land or paid someone to do it and stole some of our water pipe attached to the pump we use to water our trees. I had already written to him a formal letter refusing him rights to enter our land and he has clearly ignored that and trespassed. It means we have to take action. This will be a discussion at the police station where we will submit a written report and then we will ask our new lawyer to build a harrassment case against this man who clearly thinks he can do what he wants. We have photographic evidence, written communication records over a number of months and we think we can build a strong case for persistent harrassment as well as criminal trespass and theft. It will cost us money but we refuse to be bullied. Fortunately, we have some wonderful, intelligent, resourceful and well-connected friends who are very keen to help us. I’m rather looking forward to it.

Today feels incredibly hot and oppressive. The temperature didn’t drop below 30C/86F last night and was 34C/93F by 9.00 am. The temperature seems to be hotting up in all sorts of ways. At this moment of writing, the temperature outside is 37C/99F.

Another lovely swim today. The beach is looking a bit more like a holiday one although still not as busy as one might hope if one was in the tourism business. Decided we must go up to have coffee with Olga in Exambla soon. We met again yesterday and asked us.

On Monday we have a meeting at our house of all the professionals involved in our current case. It will be very interesting. We are trying to freshen up the outside paintwork. We did a full re-paint two years ago. Unfortunately, it is so hot at the moment all activity is difficult.

13th July, 2012

I have contacted Superfast and changed our return ticket to an ‘Open’ one. They seemed only too happy to do it. At least now it allows us to stay in the house through October and, maybe, even in to November if a sale is going through and/or we are involved in legal proceedings. It gives us the flexibility. On Monday, everyone is coming to our house for 12.00 mid-day. We are hoping to hear more about two wealthy Athenians who are interested in buying well built property here.

In the mean time, we are busily sprucing up the property with a coat of ‘Brilliant White’. We were up at 6.00 this morning to take advantage of the cool early morning before the sun destroys us. I must admit I personally hate painting but Pauline loves it so I have to support her.

Week 185

1st July, 2012


Happy July, everybody.

Still hot but windy here. Plenty of tourists starting to arrive. The boat this morning disgourged lots of them. There was also a huge wedding party staying at the hotel down the road. We heard rifles being fired late in to the night as they celebrated the nuptials.

I’m ashamed to say that Pauline is still outside painting the pergola while I am preparing stuffed peppers for our meal.  A total role reversal, I know, but she won’t let me anywhere near the paint. Very sensible, really but I do feel embarrassed.

Found this picture this morning which fairly summed up Pauline & I. Inseparable.


Apart from when there’s painting to do:

pp1.jpg  pp2.jpg  pp3.jpg

2nd & 3rd July, 2012

Wind, wind, wind. When will it abate. The painting has continued in the teeth of a howling meltemi. Swimming, on the other hand has been cast aside for fear of losing too many layers of skin in the sand storms. The afternoons have been watching Wimbledon.

Off to Athens for a few days tomorrow. Looking forward to hearing the roar of traffic and the smell of diesel, bright lights and crowds of people.

Went out for dinner tonight and sat next to a couple from Leeds and Wakefield.

4th July, 2012

Supplied our local restaurant friends with a big bag of basil from our garden so they can make pesto. Their’s has been eaten by chickens – their basil not pesto.

Leaving on Speed Runner at 13.50. Arrive Piraeus around 17.00. Fortunately, after about three weeks, the wind has gone down considerably.

Arrived early. Taxi to Syndagma = 20 euros. Shower and out for dinner. We were on our way to a restaurant we know and use when we stumbled upon a new, Mediterranean one. We went Athenian and sat out on the pavement to eat rather than go upstairs to their air conditioned room. It was a lovely meal and delightful staff. The food was prepared by Vera who was a Greek who had lived in Portsmouth for ten years. We were served by Eleni who was a young Athenian with perfect English. Her mother is Smeragda and her father works in Piraeus. You can see. I make these people work for their money!

We ate a shredded lettuce with pine nuts and currants and mustard and honey with olive oil dressing as a starter. It was served with hard baked rye bread. The main course was griddled salmon with citrus sauce and chunky chips. We don’t usually have a sweet but this evening we had chocolate souffle and vanilla ice cream. A half litre of white and a half litre of red wine helped it all down. The price was 60 euros which is double what we’d pay on the island but it was a lovely meal.

When we got back, we watched the BBC News and saw Bob Diamond lying through his very false teeth. The Murray match wasn’t finished when we went to bed, exhausted.

5th July, 2012

Up at 7.00 am. Pauline makes tea and we have a leisurely shower. Down to buffet breakfast – fresh orange juice, bacon,sausage, scrambled egg. Toast and coffee. Croissants and more coffee. While we are eating breakfast, my iPad is downloading The Times.


By 9.30 am, it is time for Pauline to set off for the hairdressers while I have time to write up my Blog and to read some of the paper. I don’t want to go out anyway. The temperature is expected to near 40C. Pauline returns hot but looking lovely. We decide to go for a shade-side-of-the-street saunter to a nearby cafe and have a cooling drink – a beer and a soda. Later, we do a little shopping buying some perfume for Esmerelda because she has helped us so much.

Back to the hotel for a wash and brush up. We watch the television news about a Greek throwing himself off a balcony in Athens and landing on another Greek below, killing him also. Esmerelda phoned from Sifnos worrying that we had been fallen on and crushed. We then had a couple of phone calls from the architect to say that the electricity certificate, after six years of chasing it, should be on the island that afternoon. It was in a registered post sent to a local agent. Fortunately, Esmerelda offered to collect it for us.  We can hardly believe it has finally come. We are still in our hotel room when our new Notary phones to make an appointment for Monday morning. It always seems to happen when you’re away.

About 8.00 pm we went out to eat at an old favourite of ours – Karyatis Restaurant in the Plaka. It opened twenty years ago and we have been going there on and off since then.

karyatis.jpg  karyatis2.jpg
The hardest part was walking back to the hotel, full and through thick heat. We had left the airconditioning on in our room and it was an oasis of cool when we got back.

6th July, 2012

Our ferry leaves at 5.00 pm. Normally, we would window shop or even actually shop. The heat was so oppressive that such activities could have been fatal so we chilled in the hotel – watching television and reading the newspaper. We had eaten another, huge, buffet restaurant breakfast – bacon, eggs, sausage, bread, fruit, croissants, orange juice and coffee so we only needed a sandwich for lunch.

At 3.00 pm, we asked for a taxi to take us down to Piraeus where we boarded Speedrunner 4 an hour early just to get out of the heat. Unfortunately, Friday night is travelling night and the ferry was packed with noisy, excited holidaymakers. We were surrounded by a huge party of French people. It is certainly noticeable that the weather in Northern Europe is affecting bookings and the islands are definitely benefiting.

We were back on Sifnos by 8.00 am, just in time to see highlights of the two Men’s semi-finals.


7th July, 2012

Very hot and we are very tired. The island seems very busy. We decide to stay at home and relax after doing a bit of shopping for food. A bit sick to find Serena Williams winning again.


8th July, 2012

So hot I can’t persuade myself to do anything. We are told this heatwave will last all week. Read the Sunday papers and relaxed. Quite a few meetings tomorrow so scanned in a number of documents in preparation.