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

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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.

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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.

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