Week 195

9th September, 2012

The tourists/holidaymakers are virtually gone and the island seems to be relaxing again. If you don’t rely on tourist money which we don’t, it is a nice position to be. My judgement is that the season was not half as bad as feared but still rather lighter than in a good year and the season certainly started late and finished early. No doubt NTOG or GNTO as they call themselves now will claim a bumper harvest but they are so discredited in their figures it is hard to take seriously. Still, the local economy won’t have done too badly.

The weather is also bringing the season to a close. At the moment, days are pleasant but breezy but, unlike the hardy Skiathan Man, I will reach for a sheet tonight. Inspite of this evening’s cool wind, we had a lovely family party with friends outside on the terrace, drinking beer (the children had cherry cola – can you imagine it?) – and chatting.

10th September, 2012

The Ferry Timetable is collapsing fast as evidenced by the new posting:


We remember the untimely death from a brain tumour of Pauline’s brother John (Jack) Barnes six years ago today. (picture to follow)

Each Autumn we get from the woodman who supplied our windows and doors a special maintenance kit which we apply religiously. We do this so as not to invalidate our 10 year warranty which is already 6 years old. The solution is manufactured in Ancona and consists of a cleanser and a shellac-type substance that creates a transparent, protective skin over the wood and paint finish that protects them from sea air and UV rays. It certainly works. Today, is treating the windows and doors day.

A trussed up goat lay in the back of a speeding pickup bleating loudly all the way down the hill past our house to the valley below where it will almost certainly draw its last breaths trussed up on a hoist with its throat slit. This is real life in the raw! I quite like roast goat but then I’ve always been good at disassociation.

11th September, 2012

When we first came to Sifnos in 1984/85, the post office was a dingy, dark, dirty place that was little cared for. Having said that, the post was delivered by a chap on a motor bike with a leather satchell slung across his chest. There is no well established street naming system or house numbering system but he knew everybody by name and those he didn’t would be known by someone else. I suppose because of the economic problems, the post delivery system was shelved. We had to go up to the post office to ask if there was any post for us. Collections of neighbours would create informal groupings to help each other in this but ‘getting your post’ was a time consuming business. First travel to Apollonia. Second, stand at the counter in a long queue. Third, wait until I go round the back and check if there is something for you. If not, you can personally thumb through huge piles of uncollected letters that are stacked up in a box at the side of the office. It was a system that provoked annoyance, even fury as people waited in long queues.

Along came a new post master who immediately shook things up. He couldn’t conjure up cash to revive deliveries but he could bring a system to the problem. The Greeks aren’t too keen on systems that involve a change in their lives. There was no way round it. Now we have batches of numbered post boxes and keys to those boxes. Post is delivered to these boxes if the recipient has bothered to tell people they expect correspondence from to add the box number to their address. This is the chink of weakness because it seems that so many refuse to do that simple thing. The post master comes down with huge piles of wrongly addressed mail twice a week and a committed few try to help him distribute them. We go down on Tuesday and Thursday for mail. At least now we know that we will definitely get our mail.

The Post Office is in line for early sell off.


I read Tom Winnifrith’s interesting views on Greek privitisation:

Arriving at the Post Office which serves a small suburb of not a very large town I stumbled in a sweaty wreck. The place is open from 8.30 AM until 2.30 PM five days a week meaning that its staff (in this State owned enterprise) have to put in a back breaking 30 hour week. They are probably paid for 14 months a year and get to retire at 55 but that is not the point. Did I mention how many staff were crammed into this small office? Five. That is one member of staff for every 1.25 customers that I observed during my 20 minute visit.

But, as he observes, cutting the staff and extending the working hours of the others creates many more problems. Whoever buys  ELTA will have a difficult job as the new Sifnos Post Master has found out.

By the way, you really must read The Skiathan where Skiathos Man is illustrating his penchant for swimming in the 1930s. What a man he must be and sleeping without a sheet – the stuff of legend!

12th September, 2012

A delightfully lazy day. While my Pauline was indulging herself by painting the back of the house, I was indulging my enjoyment of writing. Lots of correspondence. Lovely email from my sister, Ruth. A long email from our ex-neighbours in Huddersfield about their drive to Spain and back and then an excellent email from our current next door neighbour who reached the point of selling her property and then changed her mind and took it off the market. We’re very pleased.

The sheet was definitely not needed tonight.

13th September, 2012

The return of summer. Stepping out of our bedroom on to the patio at 7.00 am, the world felt like a lovely place. It was still, quiet, warm and beautifully scented. As the day has gone on, the temperature has risen to 28C/83F and it feels wonderful. For some reason, the island is a different place today. Maybe it is because people have left. We drove down to Platys Gialos this morning. It was almost deserted.


As we walked down the street, it was so hot we fancied an ice cream. It was impossible to buy one. Either places are now closed for winter or they have not replenished summer stocks. Well, it’s good for the waistline and, goodness knows, it needs it.

After a lovely lunch on the patio – tomato, mozzarella & basil salad with garlic sausage and thin toast. A cold beer went down well with this but even then, the muggy heat drove us inside soon after the meal.

14th September, 2012

Finished the painting of the house today. We just have the garden perimeter walls to complete. It is a quite delightful, still, warm day. The air is clear and the island magical – for most of the day. On Fridays, people return from Athens.

The brushcutter has been out of action for a while. Today, instead of taking it to be repaired, I took it apart and repaired it myself. I had a nice, feeling of achievement after that.  We were supposed to be going out to dinner but just didn’t feel like it and stayed at home to eat an all-in-one-pot dish I cooked of pork, potatoes and onions with sage and oregano. Even though I say it myself, it was delicious accompanied by a slightly chilled bottle of Rosso Piceno. It’s made from the sangiovese and montepulciano grapes and is delicious. What will I do when it runs out?


15th September, 2012

Can you believe we are half way through September already. I seriously subscribed to the view that time was rushing ahead when we were teaching because we were working so hard. We didn’t have time to stop and take stock. Let’s live on a Greek island, I told Pauline. We will be able to slow time down. How wrong I was. It seems to have speeded up.

Talk about return to Summer. It is happening with knobs on. We’ve reached 32C/90F today almost without a breeze. No sign yet of the promised rain. The BBC says we will get it Monday/Tuesday. We’ll see.

Went out shopping today in Exambla and, within half an hour, we had a request to go and visit friends next week at their house. Another family asked if they could visit us and they will come for a drink tomorrow evening. We had an offer of olive oil if we go round for coffee to another family. We still have to return a social visit to the Notary’s family. I can’t cope with all this social whirl.

Typical separation of labour this afternoon. Pauline is painting the garden walls while I am watching football. The first match, Norwich v West Ham, really wasn’t that good. I’ve got Man. Utd. v Wigan and Sunderland v Liverpool next and, if I can stay up, there is a recording of Stoke v Man. City. I’ll be shattered after all that.

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