Week 228

28th April, 2013

We have another gorgeous morning. The temperature is reaching 25/26C (77/79F) which is absolutely lovely but Skiathos must be a lot warmer than Sifnos at the moment. Skiathan Man talks of the children swimming for hours today. I suspect we would be fishing them out comatose if they’d tried it in Kamares Bay. We were talking to a hardy, all-year-round swimmer yesterday and she said it is absolutely freezing so, believe me, it is.

The plumber who kept our pumps ticking over during our winter break, walked past in his Sunday best early this morning, probably on his way to a Palm Sunday service, and we thanked him for all his good work he had done for us. He is a huge, kind, gentleman.

I’m growing tomatoes, peppers and salad things this year to supply my diet. We are also sowing parsley, dill, chives and sweet basil because we use so little salt these days we use herbs to do the job instead. I am, once again, going to try French Tarragon. I tried last year and failed hopelessly.

Can Man. U. maintain their intensity having already won the League title or will a little loss of edge allow Arsenal to beat them and move closer to European football. The match kicks off at 6.00 pm (Greek time) and I’ll be watching.

29th April, 2013

What a wonderful day for the penultimate one of April. Scarcely a breeze, a beautiful blue sky and strong sun taking the temperature to 27C/81F. After a lazy start to the morning over my usual fresh orange juice ( two, freshly squeezed, Cretan oranges) and bucket of Yorkshire Tea followed by a nice cup of Colombian coffee, we went out to the supermarket and had a chat with Flora & Mario. What delightful people they are!

After unloading our shopping, we spent the morning chatting and reading under the pergola on the patio. If feels like we are on holiday. Well, it always feels like we are on holiday these days. We ate a crab salad for lunch while we listened to Miliband bungling an interview on the One O’Clock News (at 3.00 pm). He really is going to have to get a grip of Labour’s policies without giving too much away too early.


After lunch and a snooze, we potted up our Sweet Basil plants and some Pelargonium cuttings. We dug up the Pelargoniums we had over-wintered in the garden. One of the three had died but the other two are enormous.

basil  potger

30th April, 2013

What is happening? Mid-Summer and the end of April converge. By 10.30 am, the temperature had reached 29C/85F. We went down in to the village, calling in to talk to Panos & Rania who were busily turning their restaurant from its winter to summer version by removing the windows and doors.

We went on to the café for coffee and spent half an hour talking to Christos and his father, Vangelis. Christos, who speaks excellent English,  was  telling us about all the work he had done at his house over the winter including walling and tree planting. It seems no time since he got married but his child is walking and talking now. Vangelis, like me, is trying to lose weight and finding it hard. Of course, he has to lose a lot less than me but is still worrying about it. While we were having coffee, Luciana, our Albanian friend, came over to say hello. We exchanged winter stories which was nice.

We went in to the supermarket to collect our half a lamb. Nikos cut the carcass down the centre with a cleaver as we stood there. It looked a fine beast. He continued to joint it for us until we had about 6 or seven elements separately wrapped. He weighed it and the price was just €50.00 which was excellent for the amount of quality meat. We asked for a white (fresh) Manouri cheese and were given it as a gift.


The temperature was still 25C as we sat on the patio at 8.30 pm. We had just finished listening to the Six o’clock News. The sun had gone down and all that was left was the after-glow. I saw a shape move in the road. I knew in an instant what it was. Mother Cat. Regular readers will know that Mother Cat adopted us in April 2011 and foisted upon us Grand-parenting duties for her two kittens, Ginge & Tabs, born in our garage. We spent the most wonderful summer with them as they grew up to be as big as their Mother and then we spent an angst-filled winter as we deserted them for six months.

Last April, after we had been in the house for eight days, Mother suddenly appeared at the back door and we enjoyed her company for a second six months. We were so pleased that she had survived the winter and our desertion. This evening, as I saw her shape appear in the road below our house, I said to Pauline, Mother. I’m sure that’s Mother. Call her! Pauline had a special intonation for calling her (nothing remarkable) and she called again, Pu-uss, Pu-uss. Like all the best Hollywood animal reunion films, Mother looked up and shot over the wall, ran across the garden shouting, up a flight of ten steps to the patio where she greeted Pauline with loud cries.


After a brief conversation, Pauline went in to the house while Mother shot round to the back where she has always been fed. Bang went my chicken salad. Mother ate all the chicken. I didn’t begrudge her a mouthful.

1st May, 2013


Happy May to you all.

Fighting our way through another gorgeous day, we made our way up to the supermarket for emergency tins of cat food. I’m not giving up my chicken again. That will be Mother Cat sorted out for a day or two. I have to admit that we didn’t go for the gourmet choice. She is, after all, a semi-ferrel cat.


Well, we got a mixture of flavours – chicken, beef, fish, rabbit. The only problem is that they’re all in the same tin. We know she loves them from previous experience.

We, on the other hand, also chose best value but at the other end of the scale. Pauline has been using a particular Athens hairdresser for a number of years and has made an appointment to visit them. We like to make a trip of it so we will have a couple of nights in our favourite central Athens hotel – the 5* Electra Palace Hotel in the Plaka area. It has wonderful rooms and gardens, a ‘Wellness Health Centre’ with indoor and outdoor pools plus gym and spa plus a Fine Dining Rooftop Restaurant. Maybe because of the downturn, they even have a special offer on this summer which gives a 10% room discount and a €35.00 per person Fine Dining experience. We couldn’t resist.

ep1 ep2

ep3 ep4

2nd May, 2013

Just as hot and sunny but slightly more breezy today. It is one of our busier days. Down to Panos & Rania’s at just after 8.30 am to find Rania has been up half the night painting the restaurant floor in preparation for Orthodox Easter celebrations on Sunday. We have a brief chat with a very tired but lovely lady. I download my newspaper and then we go off to collect the post – just one from Cosmote. Back home for coffee and to collect the Easter presents that Pauline has prepared. We brought dozens of chocolate easter eggs from UK. Pauline made pots and pots of orange marmalade with a hint of whisky last weekend and then spent all afternoon yesterday making dozens of specialist biscuits – shortbread, Strasbourg, Madeleines & Shrewsbury.

biscuit1 biscuit2 biscuit3 biscuit4

We had bought special bags in UK for this purpose. We made up cellophane wrappers of collections of assorted biscuits and put them in a bag with a jar of marmalade and some easter eggs. They are intended as Easter gifts for friends &/or helpers.

We have had some amazing help over the past twelve months, sometimes from the most unlikely quarters. Orthodox Easter is the time that we feel least in touch with Greece. We are not Christians and, even if we were, we do not feel that culturally inclusive frisson of excitement that Greeks appear to collectively feel at this time. Having said that, we completely respect our host nations celebrations and thought that we could contribute by giving gifts. We started with  Giannis, the plumber and his wife and children followed by a bag for Moshka and one for Margerita. A gift bag went to Kiki who has been friends for twenty years and who toots every time she passes the house as she drives up to her husband’s farm. Of course, there was one for Panos & Rania and a separate one for the lovely Anna.

After that, we drive up to Apollonia to visit Flora & Mario at their supermarket to deliver a bag and on to Olga’s restaurant nearby to take their present. On to Costas & Maria, the woodman and his wife. Usually, they insist we stay for hours over bottles of wine and cheese and we leave laden down with bags of vegetables from Costa’s garden but, today, we are giving. We have a chat but don’t stay too long because we have other people to visit. Pauline popped in to the National Bank and saw Chrysopiggi, Nikos’ wife, and then we were off to Kastro where we spent lunchtime with the Notary and her family. As we drove back, we called in on Nikos & Luciana who we have known and befriended since the first day they arrived on Sifnos as keen, young things almost twenty years ago.

What a day! We are exhausted but happy. It is lovely to have a network of delightful people in our lives. There are more, of course, but you can only make so many biscuits.

Mother Cat called again for another couple of dollops of chicken-fish-beef-rabbit mousse. She stayed chatting for an hour after Dinner and then took off down the road to goodness knows where.

3rd May, 2013

Watching the really comprehensive weather forecast on ET3 last night, we were told that the sea temperature around the Cyclades is 19C/66F. That’s still a little cool for us but not far off. We’ll have to try it soon. Certainly, the weather is putting us in holiday mood. By 10.00 am, it was 24C/75F outside and we were cleaning our car for the first time since our long journey. Pauline & I spent an hour doing that with our pressure washer, bug remover/dissolvent and chamois leathers. So rarely do we do that in the UK. We nip in to the carwash while shopping in Tescos. £11.00 later, it is reasonably clean for another week. We both found it a pleasure  to do ourselves. While the Orthodox Christians attended church this morning to cleanse themselves, we cleaned Mammon. The word, Mammon, derives from the Greek, μαμμωνάς. It was used in the Sermon on the Mount to mean riches.

Our special friend and amanuensis phoned to thank us for her Easter gift. She is very partial to butter fudge and we gave her a big box of it along with biscuits, marmalade and eggs. She certainly deserves it. What would we have done without her? Got through, probably, but with much more trouble.

Those of you who are regular readers will know that we pretend to be financially savvy. We do everything concerning our income and expenditure, including tax, on-line. I check the Bank account and Credit Card accounts on-line two or three times a week. Pauline maintains tight financial records using an accountancy program on her laptop. I monitor and pay our outgoings – utilities, council tax, even window cleaner – on line. We follow our State and teachers’ pensions on-line and the tax we pay on it as well. Our road fund licence and insurances, our Health Club subscription, our Sky subscription and telephone bill are all paid over the internet. And it can all be done from a small and relatively remote Greek island. I also check my Greek bank account on-line to make sure the electricity bill is being deducted.

On Tuesday, the window cleaner emailed to say that they would clean our apartment windows in Surrey. On Wednesday, sitting in my Study in Sifnos, I paid him over the net. This morning, I checked the British bank account to find how much pension we had both been paid. This month, it had gone up by 2.8% and our tax-free status had increased to £9440.00 each allowing us to earn £18880.00 tax-free . Because Pauline also got her State Pension, her tax was more complicated. The HMRC don’t tax the State Pension; they count it as additional income and deduct tax from main earnings – ie. Teacher’s Pension. We spent half an hour on the Teachers’ Pension site, the State Pension site, the HMRC site and our UK bank site to make sure everything was in order. Previously, we have been stung with a large repayment sum of ‘underpaid tax’. When we complained that it was all done through PAYE, they said the onus is on us to make sure that our tax rate is correct. As a result, I always double check.

4th May, 2013

If ever there was a day when one is glad to be alive, it is today. Absolutely still outside with clear blue sky and strong sun. At 1.00 pm, it is 27C/81F and, under the pergola for shade, it feels idyllic. Looking over the valley and to the harbour everything is quiet. Sheep graze and kestrels hover.  We were out early this morning to do some grocery shopping and to download the newspaper. Now, the day with a cup of coffee and The Saturday Times looking out over the view below before Lamb supper and a couple of football matches. What more could one desire?


Our missing box is on its way at last. It contains, amongst other things, six month’s supply of Ese fresh coffee pods and will be very welcome and make life in Greece even more palatable. What it no longer has is two, small bottles of aftershave which were found on the parcel scan and deemed prohibitive. We won’t make that mistake again. Posted on Wednesday, it probably won’t arrive on the island until the end of the week because of the Easter break here in Greece. We certainly have to be extremely thankful to Phyllis & Colin for making sure we get it.

Week 227

21st April, 2013

Woke a little late this morning – 7.30 am. Our first morning in our Greek house and everywhere is wonderful. The birds are singing, the wild plants are flowering in profusion, the sun is out and the sky is blue. We had the underfloor heating on yesterday in order to air the house which has been closed up for six months. This morning we really don’t need it. It is too warm. The plumber has been keeping the pumping systems ticking over in our absence and he cleared the debris which was washed down from our garden path and was blocking our gate.

Our neighbour, Apostolis, called to welcome us back. He brought his daughter, Maria, to translate but proceeded to dominate the conversation by trying so hard to speak English and largely succeeding. He was very warm and welcoming.

22nd April, 2013

Woke at 7.00 am today. Fresh orange juice and tea and then out to collect the boxes of provisions that we had posted. All sorts of things that we couldn’t fit in the car – coffee, tea, shoes, shirts, Dishwasher/washing machine tablets (¼ of the Greek price) – things which we can’t get on the island or are much more expensive. We know they have arrived because the man at the phone shop has already seen them at the Post Office. A consignment of 4 boxes. In all, it weighed just over 80 kg and cost £190.00/€225.00 to post.When we arrive to pick them up, one is missing. It has never happened before in fourteen years.

We went on to Germanos to pick up our Cosmote internet USB stick and have it installed. Really nice and very helpful people. It is a delight to go and buy from them. They installed an extra €30.00 of credit on our Greek mobile because the messaging system is in Greek and too fast to understand. We left completely satisfied.

Our pot geraniums were planted out before we left at the end of October and now are flowering strongly. I will pot them up again. I took cuttings today as well so that I can build up the stock. They are a sort of electric magenta colour and provide a stark contrast with the white walls of the house and the white tiles that the pots stand on.


In fact, the white tiles are covered in red, clay streaks from the last rains. This afternoon, Pauline and I will use the pressure washer and a mop to clean them up.

Cleaning took nearly three hours and left us exhausted but it was worthwhile. Pauline cooked griddled chicken breasts with Greek salad. I don’t know how she found the energy. Later, I was able to watch a repeat of the Spurs v Man. City match which Spurs won and which clinched the title for United who also won with a hat trick from van Persie.

We are going up to the village to see the Notary tomorrow. We’ve been advised to speak to the Community about the path that runs alongside our land.

23rd April, 2013

Woke up to a bright St George’s Day.


After breakfast, we went down to collect our post and hoping there was news of our missing fourth box. There wasn’t.  Later, the UK Post Office says the box was refused when scanned because it contained perfume. Nobody told us we couldn’t post it. We will have it re-sent. It contains £100.00 worth of fresh coffee pods. A man has to live!

We met one of our friends at the post and took her back to our house. We need to employ a little man to cut down all the weeds and smarten up the place. She will bring someone over tomorrow to quote for the job.

Pauline cooked French beans with garlic as an entree for Dinner and followed it with pork steak cooked in sage and lemon sauce with griddled vegetables. It was absolutely lovely. We ate outside under the pergola and enjoyed the late evening sun.

24th April, 2013

A wonderfully warm and sunny day today. By 11.00 am, the temperature had reached 26C/79F. A conversation with the Notary confirmed the interest in our house. Our sales site has been viewed over 400 times (partly because of the kindness of Skiathan Man who features out site.) , a number of people have expressed interest and four couples have been shown round the property two of them in the week before we returned. Two of the couples are not from Sifnos. We heard of one more interested party today. One of our friends brought a man down to see us to quote for clearing the land. He will bring a partner and work for a week. We’ve agreed a price and they will start soon. It will please us and potential buyers.

We phoned Parcelforce today. They were very nice about the returned parcel. The rules have changed recently and we weren’t aware of it. They will refund our money and we will get Pauline’s sister to remove the offending items – two small bottles of aftershave -, reseal the box and repost it. It should be here in under a week as the ferry service improves in the run up to Orthodox Easter.

Skiathan Man thinks he has a bottle brush. He hasn’t seen ours. Our Callistemon is on fire and reaching to the mountains.


We have two and I am going to propogate more from cuttings this year if I have the chance.

We went down for coffee with some restaurant friends. Their internet router is playing up at the moment and I tried to help them sort it out. Although I have broadband here, it is by usb. It is incredibly reliable and quick and pretty cheap but I would still rather get a phone line so I can create a wirelesss network. This is what I need for my iPad to download my newspapers and why I rely on kind others for that facility. It is amazing how many kind people there are on this island when you look.

We went on to the local supermarket to buy freshly made Manouri cheese and to order half a lamb (minus head) for orthodox Easter celebrations at the end of next week. You don’t have to be a Christian to eat good food.


25th April, 2013

A day which opened a little hazy developed into full sun and a 9.30am temperature of 22C/70F. We went to collect the post for ourselves and friends who have lost the PO Box key and have forgotten their box number. We needed a large carrier bag when the box was opened. We spoke to the builders who constructed our house and then drove up to Apollonia to visit the garden shop for potting soil and sweet basil plants. On to the butchers for pork chops and to the supermarket for green garlic, Cretan cherry tomatoes, peppers and onions.

ggarlic ctoms

When we got home, we were just sorting out collection and redelivery of our errant box when a phone call came through to inform us that potential buyers of our house from Athens wanted to come for a second viewing this evening. It’s all come a bit quickly after we’ve only just arrived. We would quite happily wait a year or two but, if it comes now, it comes and we will take it.

26th April, 2013

Amazing weather after England. We have been in Greece just over a week and it is still feeling like Summer. We had a 9.00 am appointment with the Notary so we had to be up and out early. Later, we drove down to Kamares and went for coffee at a cafe. En route, we delivered a bagful of post to our friends who had lost their key and forgotten what their post office box number is. They hadn’t collected post for weeks. I produced a poster with their key number on it but, before we had been there five minutes, they had lost that as well. There is little hope.

Had some nice coffee at the cafe and drove back to the house. We spent a couple of hours cleaning and tidying in side and then I did a bit of tidying up outside. All everyday, mundane stuff. We are going out to Dinner this evening although I am finding meaningful eating difficult.

27th April, 2013

My Mum died five years ago today. I think of her regularly but, I’m ashamed to write, that I forgot her anniversary this morning. I cannot believe five years have gone by so quickly and how our lives have changed so much in that time, changes that I would have loved to discuss with her.


If you follow a very interesting Blog about Birming(UK)/Corfu life, cutely entitled Democracy Street, you will know the grieving for a lost mother that has been registered here.

Another beautiful day. I have been delegated to sweep the drive and tidy my Study. Perhaps, when I’ve done my jobs, I’ll get my Saturday Sixpence! It will be a delight to be outside and doing something physical. I ate a huge Caeser Salad last night so I have to work it off this morning.


There were three ferries in last night and quite a few people in the streets. The build up to Greek Easter is starting here. In England, I’ve just heard, that it snowed at Leeds Airport this morning.

Week 226

14th April, 2013

The car was packed. We got up without haste. Orange juice and tea. Downloaded the paper. Defrosted the freezer. Put out the rubbish. Set the burglar alarm and closed the front door. We walked down to the underground car park, where even the sat.nav. had been pre-programmed, and set off in warm 16C but light drizzle. As we drove around the M25 and on to the M20, the temperature registered 18C and the sky brightened. A short stop in Eurotunnel car park for a cup of coffee and a glance at The Sunday Times and we were off at 1.30 pm (UK Time) precisely. After half an hour’s travelling under the sea and putting our watches forward an hour to French time, we drove off the train at 3.00 pm. The temperature had risen again to 21C and the sky was blue with strong sunshine. We had to close the shades on our sunroof. They probably won’t open again until October.

We drove ten minutes to the Holiday Inn, Coquelles. We have stayed there many times before when it was part of the Copthorne-Millenium Hotels Group. New owners have not spoilt it. Our large room was newly refurbished. We had free wi-fi for our laptops and iPads. It has a fantastic quality restaurant with a huge and expensive wine list but we had intended to control our intake on our first night. Pauline had brought a picnic of cold chicken, cold sausages, little tomatoes and radishes. It was wonderful. I watched City beat Chelsea (without Lampard & Terry). We have a long journey ahead tomorrow. Need a good night.

1_hic 2_hic 3_hic

15th April, 2013

The journey starts with the alarm on my iPad honking at 6.00 am. Pauline showers and makes a cup of tea. I just drink the tea, download my newspaper and get dressed – after cleaning my teeth. Dressed and packed we are handing the room key back at 6.45 am and out at the car by 7.00 am.. We have 457 miles to do today. The sat.nav. says 6.5 hours but we will have a couple of petrol stops and coffee so I say 7 hours. We should get to Alsace around 2.00 pm. French motorways are unbelievably good at the worst of times. Today, the weather was wonderful. The temperature around 22C and the sun gently muted – just right for driving. Where was the traffic? We couldn’t find any try as we might. The motorways are empty. This is our 14th return journey to Greece. I am driving the 27th leg of the route – the return being 28. Every spot is familiar for some stop off at some time.

Reims, Metz, Strasbourg, Selestat, Colmar, Mulhouse (the start of the Alsace wine trail). We were there by 2.30 pm and driving in to the underground car park of the Holiday Inn. From our second floor room, we could see the arc of snow covered Alps in the distance. We unpacked and went down to the pool for a swim. We were the only ones and we spent a wonderful hour swimming and basking in the Jacuzzi. Back to our room for a cup of tea and to watch the BBC news and then an early Dinner in the restaurant. We both had Duck with vegetables and a bottle of sparkling water. I threw caution to the wind and had a bottle of Alsatian beer.

 16th April, 2013

Up a little later this morning – 6.30 am. Tea and showers and then off around 8.00 am. I have deliberately structured it as a slightly shorter journey today – 310 miles / 5 hours. This is partly because I expect to feel a bit more tired but also because we have to go through Switzerland which, from experience, is a nightmare of a place to negotiate. As we approach the Swiss Border, we meet the familiar lines of cars and lorries.  Every one has to squeeze through a concrete canopied rat run policed by gun toting border guards and highly efficient ‘ladies’ checking the windscreen of every vehicle for signs of this year’s motorway vignette. Of course, we have to buy one – about €40.00 – and she leans into our car and sticks it inside our windscreen. If only Swiss roads were worth £35.00. They’re not. The main road through Basel has been under construction since we first drove it in 2000. Today, they are working on it. The lanes are reduced and the available ones are narrowed by flimsy barriers. Huge lorries fill a lane and dare one to pass them. £35.00 per year for 14 years. I could have tarmacked over Switzerland at that price.

4_sb 5_sb

Past Sursee, Lake Lucerne, Seedorf and Altdorf and Schattdorf. Eventually, after a stop for petrol at our favourite watering hole – Gotthard Rastatte – surrounded by unseasonally low lying snow, we drove through the 17 Km Gotthard tunnel.  I just set the cruise control to 50 mph and wait for daylight to reappear.

6_LL 9_gt

Past Chiasso and Lake Como, round the Milano ring road and on to the Holiday Inn Parma. It is a beautiful place set on the outskirts in farming land. Out of our second floor room we watch pheasants wandering the field – the male in its gaudy colours and the female the colour of straw blending into the straw-strewn ground. From the river, two otters venture into the long, lush grass for a few minutes and bask in the sun. It is quite delightful.


Tired of Thatcher’s funeral on BBC News Channel, I switched to RAI 1 to find the same pictures talked over in Italian. CNN, thankfully, had the Boston Bombing to lighten the mood. When we can take no more, we wander down to the restaurant for dinner. We ate the most wonderful, mixed salad of radicchio, rocket, beef steak tomato, green and black olives and parmesan shavings all dressed with olive oil and Balsamic vinegar. This was accompanied by strips of char grilled fillet steak and washed it down with a bottle of local red wine. Absolute bliss.

17th April, 2013

Today, we get up early and leave the hotel by 7.30 am. We have just 200 miles / 3 hours driving to Ancona. We drive past Modena, Bologna, Imola, Forli, Cesena and Rimini to Ancona.  First, we call at our favourite supermarket. Pauline buys about 5 kilos of Parmigiano Regiano and I buy some lovely bottles of red wine – about 40. I already have about 150 French bottles in the car. We drive on to the newish ticket office on the outskirts. It looks like a 1950s bus depot. Gypsies have set up a market stall in the centre. One chap is sitting on a white plastic chair under a large sunshade trying on a pair of new trainers. We walk up to the Superfast offices with our booking sheet.

We booked and paid for our return journey luxury cabin on January 1st as we have done for years. The only difference is that, now we are retired, we travel at low season both ways. By booking early, we get a 20% reduction. Even so, the cost for two people in a Luxury Cabin plus car is €879.00/£714.00. In spite of our booking so early, I was shocked to check the ferry site the day before we left Surrey only to read that Greek seamen had called a 24hr strike the day before we sailed. We were so lucky that it didn’t affect us. The people from the strike day were just put on our ferry but it was still nearly empty. We board Superfast XI and park our car in the bottom garage. We take the lift to the Purser’s Office and present our tickets. A porter picks up our luggage and takes us to our cabin at the very front of the ship. It really is luxuriously spacious. We have large sweeping windows that give complete visibility of our voyage ahead. A large sofa and armchair to one side, a dining table and chairs to another. The double bed is very comfortable and there is a large dressing table with mirror on one end, flat screen television on the other and a well-stocked fridge underneath. There is a separate bathroom with toilet, sink and shower.

9c_sfxi 9d_sfxi

When we first started sailing down the Adriatic from Italy to Greece and back in July 2000, Superfast was advertising the journey will be done in 19hrs. Today, there is no such boast. Fuel prices have resulted in slower speeds and our ship sails at 13.30 (Italian time) and arriving in Patras on the Peloponnese at 14.30 (Greek time). This is a journey of 24 hrs. It doesn’t matter to us. We are retired. Nothing matters. We walk the ship although we’ve been on it before. It is spotless and well staffed with nice people. There are just few passengers. It is early in the season and too early for Orthodox Easter but the quiet ship is surprising. Just as the ship is pulling out of the dock, we sit down to a meal of a shared Greek salad, a large bowl of Marithes – or whitebait. With this we had the most wonderful, chilled bottle of dry white wine. We are on our way to Greece.

9e_sfxi 9f_sfxi 9g_sfxi

18th April, 2013

Our Luxury Cabin price entitles us to breakfast in the a la carte restaurant. The waiter brings fresh orange juice, fresh coffee, crusty rolls, bacon and scambled egg, croissants with butter and jam. We couldn’t manage the fruit. The diet had gone for the day. We arrive at Patras an hour late but with so few cars in the garage, we are soon off and on our drive along the coast road to Kaminia, a small townlet on the edge of Ancona where we get to the Poseidon Palace Hotel. We stayed there last September and have one night booked now.

We were delighted as soon as we drove off the Superfast Ferry to find that our sat.nav. picked up the Greek road system. We have been driving to Greece for fourteen years and our satellite navigation system, which has always been DVD-based, never had Greece on its database. We complained to Honda but to no avail. One of the weaknesses of a disc system is that it is only as good as the data input at the time. Roads can alter over the years of the car’s life. Our new system takes all its mapping straight from the satellite. If a new road is built or a roundabout introduced, our system changes accordingly. Our satellite took us straight to our hotel.

9h_ppp 9h_ppp2

As soon as we get up to our room which turns out to be exactly the same one we had six months ago, I access the free wifi to check our ferry to Sifnos and it is not showing up. We phone the ticket agent on Sifnos to be told that the old ferry is going on Friday night and will arrive in darkness but that the better one from Zante Ferries will go on Saturday morning and arrive in daylight. We go downstairs and book another night in the hotel although we will have to leave at 3.00 am to get down to Piraeus in time. That is confirmed and then we get another phone call from Sifnos. Our friend, the Notary, has been showing prospective buyers around our house in the last few days. That gives cause for sad optimism.

19th April, 2013

After breakfast, we walk into Kaminia. It is a fascinating place with expensive holiday homes and small holdings side by side. Everyone who has a few square metres of land has lemon and orange trees and they are all absolutely weighed down with huge, ripe fruits and blossom in equal manner. It has garden shops and a few food shops but little else. It is surrounded by greenery, by tall, thin conifers and healthy olive trees. The roofs of the houses are pantile because, as the vegetation testifies, it rains quite a bit here. That is a good sign in Greece.


We paid our bill this evening because we are leaving in the early hours and want to make a quick getaway. After we had paid and gone up to our room, Pauline noticed that we hadn’t been charged for Dinner. She went back down and the woman on the desk – the hotel owner – was astonished that Pauline had voluntarily highlighted the error. No Greek would have done this, she said. She was amazed that we wanted to pay the outstanding €47.00. We certainly felt better having paid it. We went to bed early feeling quite self righteous.

20th April, 2013

Up at 2.00 am and out of the hotel at 3.00 am. We drive to around the northern coast line of the Peloponnese, across the Korinth Canal, past Megara and the centre of Athens to the grubby backstreets of Piraeus. It is a trip of 142 miles. The road we have driven in darkness is the National Road. It has been a death trap for years. It is a motorway with one lane each way and an imaginary one in the middle which traffic from both directions use to overtake. As you can imagine, there are many head-on collisions. Since the Athens Olympics, work has been going on to bring the road up to modern motorway standards. A number of stretches are now wonderful to drive. Unfortunately, as soon as one relaxes, the road reverts to its old style and one is staring death in the face again. Of course, the Greek government has no money so work has been delayed for the past six months. This means that, as we drive, we are negotiating many long stretches of single lane driving with cones and temporary concrete barriers on either side. This is almost more dangerous than the on coming traffic.

Well, we survived the motorway lottery and pulled up outside the only ticket office open in Piraeus harbour. Times must be bad. Usually, there are a number of competing offices open and sellers almost try to drag one in off the street even if one doesn’t want a ticket. Also, there wasn’t a single café open. That is unheard of even at 6.00 am.We bought First Class tickets which were €36.00 per person – only €4.00 more than Tourist/Economy Class. The car cost €56.00. By 6.30 am we are driving on to the F/b Adamas Korais. It is very quiet. Even though there are very few cars, they insist on packing them tightly together. Old habits die hard. There are very few passengers. We buy a couple of filter coffees and sit at the front in empty luxury with our feet up reading the news on our iPads.It leaves at 7.30 am and is a journey of 5½ hours calling at Serifos island before ours.


It leaves a little late and, although the sea is reasonably calm, it doesn’t dock until 2.00 pm. As we go down to the garage at the bottom of the ferry, we find that a huge, silver Mercedes hearse has been parked next to us and it contains a body returning to Sifnos for burial. Such is life. All I know is that the ship’s garage was very warm for a body on a six hour journey. The driver did twitch his nose a little as he got behind the wheel. We followed the hearse on to the harbour.

As we drove up to the house, two of our real Greek friends were there to greet us with the gate open so we could drive straight in. It was lovely and wonderful to be back. We opened the shutters and the windows, pulling down the insect nets. We turned on the hot water and the underfloor heating fully. Pauline put the sheets into the tumble dryer to air them and turned the electric blanket on over the mattress to do the same. I immediately phoned Nova Satellite television to re-activate our account so that I could watch the evening football match. At 5.30 pm, we drove up to the supermarkets to buy in basic provisions and then on to Germanos to reactivate my internet account. Our friend there said, I knew you were coming. There are huge boxes at the Post Office with your name on. We had posted them in Surrey a week ago. 8o kgs of supplies to oil the wheels of life on a Greek island. Skiathan Man needs tea and so do I. We will have to wait until Monday to collect the boxes.

We drove down to have Dinner with our friends, Panos & Rania. They are always interesting, provocative and amusing. We had salad and grilled chicken with a left wing sermon on Greek Economics. It was wonderful to see them again.

Week 225

7th April, 2013

62 year + 1 day. Already. And so life gallops on. Even so, a beautiful day. Bright sun and blue sky. I’m afraid we didn’t make the most of it. I read The Sunday Times on my iPad and did some Office work. Pauline cooked a wonderful meal of roast lamb and mixed vegetables with garlic mint sauce. I was still full from my Birthday Dinner which was carbohydrate: Linguini, white crab meat and brown shrimps with garlic. It was like heaven but it sat in my stomach like a guilty secret for hours.

The media is dominated by the Welfare State but it is still a crude, Tory led story. If you get too much Child Benefit, it turns you into a mass murderer. It really is taking the Left too long to develop a narrative that will speak to Middle England. It really shouldn’t be that difficult.

8th April, 2013

Another beautiful day with sun and blue sky but a bit of a chill first thing. Out early to take Pauline to the Doctor. Nothing serious. Mandy phoned to ask if we wanted to go and watch Daniel, her son, play tennis in Guildford but we have a busy day today. In fact, we have a fairly busy week.

I still haven’t received my documents from Derbyshire Records Office so I must phone them today. This afternoon, I have to take my wife back to………..you’ve guessed it……… Marks & Spencers. What a world of sophistication and dazzle we lead.

Thatcher’s gone. I won’t mourn her. Neither should any person who pays an inflated energy bill from a privatised company which is making huge profits nor someone crammed on to a privatised train after paying an exorbitant fare to a company banking all their cash. Why are there so few council houses for the Homeless? Thatcher! Why does Britain have so little manufacturing industry? Thatcher! Why does Britain have such an arrogant, unregulated Financial Sector? Thatcher! She quite deliberately set out to destroy whole communities as she increasingly saw herself as ‘royal’. I will never forget her rushing out to the cameras and announcing, One has become Grandmother. Well, one has now become a corpse. Bye.

On a deeper and more philosophical level, I bought myself some new socks. I’m really going for broke now.


Now I know that my Great, Great, Great, Great, Grandmother, Jane Sanders (1799 – 1856) made woollen hosiery in the cottage industry of the Midlands, I am much more interested in and adventurous about my socks. These were made in The United Arab Emirates and we can probably thank Thatcher for that as well.

9th April, 2013

A grey day today unbefitting the mood of National Celebration and Rejoicing.

News from Greece is becoming predictable. As waves of anti-Germanisation spread across austerity-torn southern European countries, as Portugal’s courts brand many German-led austerity measures illegal, Greece cranks up the rhetoric with a (published) top-secret report compiled at the behest of the Finance Ministry in Athens that has come to the conclusion that Germany owes Greece billions in World War II reparations. The total could be enough to solve the country’s debt problems. It is said, however, that the Greek government is wary of picking a fight with its paymaster.


10th April, 2013

Although still chilly, warmer weather is on the way. The bushes and trees in the garden around us are bursting their buds energetically. The flowering cherry right outside our apartment is just starting to flower – pink blush moving to crimson.


We have a very busy day out tomorrow so we are trying to get home jobs done today. I phoned Derbyshire Records Office for the third time in a month to enquire about my research request. They assured me it was sent to the LA’s postal service for second class post on March 27th. It is rather slow, they said. It still hasn’t arrived after almost two weeks and I am starting to get a little irritated. Calm Down Dear!

11th April, 2013

A very busy day. We were at the Walk-in Hospital for my INR at 7.00 am this morning. First test for six weeks. Home for coffee. We have an appointment at Santander to purchase 2013/14 ISAs. They phoned yesterday to confirm our meeting and to ask if we would like to switch to their  Current Account. I thought it was just a courtesy call but, this morning, I checked the Santander site to find that they had pulled their 2.8% ISA offer (fixed for 2 yrs.) unless one switches Current Accounts to them. Now I realise why they phoned.

After coffee, we drive into town. Pauline goes to have her haircut at Headmasters while I visit Santander to cancel our meeting. They weren’t surprised although the still tried to sell me their Current Account deal. I went on to Halifax and we bought their 3 yr fix at 3%. The maximum this year is £5760.00 per person which is what we did. We feel quite pleased with our self discipline. We each now have five full cash ISAs although the rate is gradually coming down. Two each with a year to run at 4%. Two each with a year to run at 3.7% and now one each with three years to run at 3%. Given that it looks like interest rates are going to remain low for the rest of this parliament, that seems quite a pleasing result.

Pauline checks everything. Every time we leave a house, she is scanning for slipped tiles, broken down pipes, flaking paint. As we approach or leave the car, she is scanning it, checking for damamage and defects. She can be a nightmare. It can get me down. I am intrinsically an optimistic person who looks for the best. I suppose that is why she balances me out perfectly. She is a Libran and I am an Aries. Astrologists say we complement each other perfectly. (What am I talking about?) Today, as we walked back to the car in the multi-storey car park, Pauline, scanning as she approaches the car, spots a nail in the tyre. When we bend down to look closer, it becomes obvious that some kind person had taken it upon themselves to attempt to push a large, thick screw in to the tread of our virtually new tyre at an angle that meant it would totally destroy our tyre in the first revolution of the wheel as we reversed out of our space. I pulled the screw out. The tyre didn’t deflate but we drove the half mile to KwikFit to have it checked. Fortunately, there was no serious damage.

12th April, 2013

Heard from Derbyshire Records Office this morning but, after all this time waiting, the information was disappointing. The girl doing the research reports consulting the Hospital Indexes for our Grandmother, Mabel, and finding the relevant references only to look them up and discover the pages missing. The research cost me £21.00 – not a lot, I know, but all I got was confirmation that she was there and the dates. I also got a couple of tentatively interesting snippets. It looks as if she was referred to with a Reception Order in March 25th, 1930 and then again with a Reception Order in October 15th, 1932. It is not clear but it looks like she had an intial admission and then a Final Admission. What happened in between, is not clear. It confirms she died there on January 2nd, 1962.

13th April, 2013

Lovely warm morning. One can smell the Summer coming. Going out for a walk in the local area today and, this evening, going over to see Mandy and the boys.

I am having terrible trouble with my Hub. Its operation is so intermittent, particularly with wireless, that it is going to have to be repaired or replaced. I’m told it might take a week so please bear with me. I will record my Blog off-line and upload it as soon as I can. See you on the other side.