Week 241

28th July, 2013

This week will usher in August as we toboggan down the year. After a fantastic run of weather from April through June, July has been a little less inviting. Windy but not consistently so. Sunny and warm but not hot. The sea has been colder than we can remember it at this time of the year.

I have been wondering about visitor numbers because the beach is quieter than normal and our Sunday trip down to the café confirmed this. Christos told us what our friends from other islands were confirming, tourism is significantly down. He also agreed that it was unlikely to be rescued by Greek holidaymakers, as Kathimerini has been suggesting.

Although our Pensioner Gardeners did a fantastic job clearing our land. The slightest drop of water seems to encourage growth of weeds. As I take the huge hosepipe round the grounds watering shrubs and trees, there is inevitable spillage. We’ve noticed recently a patchy resurgence of greenery. Never one to encourage Nature, we brought with us gallons of Glyphosphate for this very occurrence. It works like a dream.


You can cover a large area in a short time with this equipment – well, my wife can. I just do the pressure pumping up.

29th July, 2013

Happy Birthday to Jane Georghiou. My favourite skinny person. Here she is leading the race as usual:


Spent most of the day writing a legal submission. I am so out of practice that I have found it exhausting. Four hours concentration is just too much for an old soul like me. Still it is done and ready for despatch!

I left my Training College more than forty years ago. I haven’t seen most of my ex-student friends since then. One or two came to my wedding and one popped up on my Facebook screen this morning.


I think this photo looks circa 1969/70. ‘Tash’ – Can you work out which one he is? – bought us an egg coddler for our wedding present. Love the necktie – so typical of Pudsey. The other one who thought he was cool, smoking is Pete Holgate. Neither has much left their old haunts. Apparently, Tash is in Leeds and Pete in Harrogate.

30th July, 2013

Out to collect the post and then to Germanos to collect the new OTE TV decoder box and viewing card. Dinos has been summoned to come and install the new service for a set fee of €25.00. Giannis had said it would be ready early this week and, true to his word, it was. It is quite amazing what competition can do to business. This service from OTE is at least half the price of Nova. Even the installation price is set and very low. Everything arrived with extraordinary speed. There is hope for Greece yet!


Quick chat with Notary and Amanuensis, trip to the butcher and then home. An earlier swim today because it feels warmer – actually, only 32C/90F – and the wind is down. The sea was still cold but we swam solidly for 30 mins. before driving home.

Fresh salad leaves and tomatoes from the garden for lunch with brie cheese and homemade beetroot chutney and tomato compote.

31st July, 2013

Apostolos called last night with a huge bag of enormous tomatoes and peppers from his garden so no need to go shopping today. It’s going to be a hot day so swimming is on the activity list. Hopefully, Dinos will phone to say he is coming over to fit our new OTE service.

Dinos phoned at 10.00 am, displaying the new Greek/German efficiency. He said he would be with us at 5.00 pm. At 5.00 pm, there was a knock on the door and there was Dinos with smiling face. I shot out of my chair and promptly passed out. Everything went black like some rehearsal for an end of life experience. It is a consequence of my blood pressure tablets. As life came back to my eyes, Pauline and Dinos were holding me upright against the wall, both looking aghast. It was more worrying for them than for me.

Ultimately, Dinos took it in his stride as part of the tv installation job. He last came to our house eight years ago to fit the satellite dish. Fifteen minutes later everything was up and running and I was handing over the set fee of €25.00. I immediately set to trying to cancel my Nova subscription. The last day of the month would be perfect to cancel. There was no chance. I got blaring, revolting guitar ‘music’ interrupted by a loud, Greek voice telling me there was a fifteen minute delay. This went on for thirty minutes. I could take it no more and gave up.

We went out to eat with Olga & Manolis at Στροφι in Katavati. We had a lovely meal – Beef Steak and Green Beans and a long chat. They are interesting people who also know lots of interesting people. We were there for more than two hours. We ate and drank too much as usual and drove home through the humid, sticky darkness in our cold, air-conditioned car. We were too full to sleep. We talked and planned the next few weeks. It was a good way to see July out.

1st August, 2013


Happy August every one. I just wish the UK would send some of their rain over here. Typical of the British to keep such weather to themselves. The Third Ashes Test starts today in ….Manchester. I suspect that it won’t reach a conclusion. The weather is predicted to be wet, wet, wet!

For a long time now I’ve been following a Blog called Democracy Street. You will know. I have featured it here many times. It is written by an interesting man, who is much older than me, called Simon Baddeley. He went to Cambridge, I think, and taught in many parts of the world but has been associated with Birmingham University for forty years. He seems to specialise in Political Management and, particularly in Local Government. He is very much into Localism. He lives in Handsworth, Birmingham where he has an Allotment and encourages others in environmental maintenance. He has a house on Corfu which is where the Democracy Street comes in. He and his wife travel constantly between Birmingham, Corfu and, until his Mother died, the Highlands of Scotland and they do this travelling in such a hand to mouth manner as to exhaust mere mortals. None of this luxury travel that Pauline & I do.

One of Simon Baddeley’s other great passions is related to his Step-Father – a man anyone of my age will remember from the old ATV channel in the long running series, Out of Town. The current Blog entry describes Simon’s latest tireless need for travel and communication. He was going to meet his friend who lives in Rawtenstall, Lancashire. This is no mean journey in itself and means him using trains and buses. Be that as it may, Simon takes a photo of his friend, Paul Peacock, who has written a ‘Biography‘ of his step father. This is the photo:


Pauline & I take one look at it and suddenly realised it is not just a Paul Peacock but THE Paul Peacock who we taught with for some years and who was Pauline’s assistant. The coincidences of life never cease to amaze me.

2nd August, 2013

More people have called in to say, Hello and to wish us well this year than ever this year. They have all expressed regret that we are selling up but understand completely when we explain why. Last night, Manolis and his family, who we have known for years before we moved here, called to see us and brought presents of figs that they had been ‘scrumping’.


Manolis is 78 and, although he is beginning to show it a little, he is still fantastically fit and healthy, walking and swimming like a much younger man. His son is a retired ex-policeman. It was lovely to see them. While we were outside talking, Apostolos, Moshka’s husband stopped to say, Hello as did Apostolos the taxi driver who keeps us supplied with fresh vegetables.

Went over to speak to Georgos at Hotel Delfini. I always forget what a beautiful view it is over there. It looks as if one is on a totally different island.


I’ve been steeling myself to tell you for a week or two. I am suffering badly from B.E.R.. It is not fatal but it is seriously disfiguring and incapacitating. Bottom or Blossom End Rot affects tomatoes and mine have got it.


It mainly comes from too much or too little water but is also due to mineral deficiency. The answer is a dose of Epsom Salts. Unfortunately, although I live only a few miles from Epsom in one life, in this other one I am thousands of miles away from a solution. Thank goodness that Apostolos calls most nights with tomatoes the size of footballs from his garden.

3rd August, 2013

The start of the Greek holidays – if they can afford it. We have been in our Sifnos house for fifteen weeks and have just nine left before we leave for Surrey. Another blustery day means we won’t be swimming today. We’re not in to torture.

Our neighbour, Apostelos, who works for the electricity company, dropped in for coffee on his way back from servicing generators near Xeronisos. He stayed for half an hour and it was a very useful conversation. He thinks his English is poor but he tries so hard to use it. He does really well no matter what his daughter says. Apostelos also made me feel very much better about my bottom problem. Bottom End Rot has been particularly prevalent on Sifnos this summer. They are blaming the plants. Thank goodness for that!

I’m finding the Third Test Match rather hard to listen to. I’m looking for Manchester rain to intervene for a couple of days. Premier League football restarts in a fortnight. I shall be enjoying it on OTE TV..

Week 240

21st July, 2013

We won the UK Lottery last week. We had an email from The National Lottery to tell us. Because we are abroad, we are not allowed to buy tickets. We just had a forward-bought one for six months. We asked for our winnings to be sent to our UK bank account. I don’t which new car I will choose but the extra £10.00 will help.


Of course, the real win was England over Australia.


22nd July, 2013

Painting the gate. I hate it. Why didn’t I hire someone to do this for me? Pauline loves painting. It is her hobby. I don’t know why I don’t just hire her out now Flavio has left the island. Anyway, my wife says we are painting the gate so we are. Actually, the weather is almost perfect for painting – overcast and cool but it is a bit blustery. Apostolis comes down from the farm on his bike and declares our painting ‘Spezziaale’ with his characteristic laugh. Papa Boulis toots his appreciation so loudly I almost drop my paint and two American tourist girls who must be identical twins and, taking advantage of the weather, on a walk up to Agios Simeon politely declined to help with the painting until they returned from their walk.

After two hours, I had had enough and, fortunately, the paint had run out. It means a trip up to the hardware shop. I need a new pressure washer as well. We may fit in coffee at Café Prego.

Got my pressure washer. They had three models to choose from. I only use it to clean the car and the patio so I didn’t go mad. €135.00 for a Michelin pressure washer. It will do exactly what I want.


Apropos of absolutely nothing, I meant to tell you, in The Daily Telegraph I saw this excellent feature on the resurgence of saucy postcards – like the seminal ones that originated from Bamforth of Holmfirth. This was my favourite:


We were eating lunch – which was a cheese salad – when we suddenly realised that everything we had on our table was locally sourced. Salad leaves and tomatoes from our garden, cucumbers from Apostelos’ garden, tomato relish made from Spiros’ tomatoes and onions, beetroot chutney made from beetroot and onion from a farmer near Exambela. Everything was delicious.

23rd July, 2013

A lovely, lovely day. We were supposed to be painting the gate but it was too windy. Hallelujah! (What am I saying?) We went out to collect the post. I was expecting a bill from Cosmote and a parcel from Nova. Surprise, surprise, the bill arrived but the parcel didn’t. We then went back with our amanuensis to spend the day at her house with her and her husband. It was absolutely delightful. We had ouzo and mezedes in the shade of the pine trees and talked and planned late into the afternoon. It was really useful.  We are invited to Lunch soon and we will respond by taking them out to Dinner. We are so lucky to have such wonderful friends.

We stayed so long that we didn’t get in to the sea for our swim until after 5.00 pm and then it was cold. We did 20 mins swimming and got straight out. Back at the house, I did my watering and then got ready for an early Dinner out. I hadn’t eaten all day apart from a little piece of Mezedes. We went down to talk to Panos & Rania and to eat salad with chicken souvlakia. As usual, it was wonderful.

My Nova box stopped working completely today. I can only get BBC World and nothing else. I have made up my mind to go up to Germanos and organise OTE TV tomorrow. It will mean I get the new season Premier League matches.

24th July, 2013

A busy day. Up at 6.00 am to get the cool of the morning. By 8.30 the front of the gate was painted – black gloss. By 9.30 am, we had driven up to Apollonia and visited the PostOffice to see if our new Nova satellite TV decoder box had arrived. It hadn’t. We went to Prego Café for coffee and contributed to the Samaras Collection. We have been hearing amazing stories about Golden Dawn (Χρυσή Αυγή) membership on Sifnos. It is a Right Wing, Extremist (Fascistic) Mob which, when the economic crisis is over, will slip back into the slime.

After coffee and gentle banter with the locals, we drive to Germanos to pay our Cosmote bill. Actually, we find that the cost of our service is being cut so rapidly that they owe us €70.00 so there is nothing to pay. I love this shop. I ask about OTE TV – the new alternative satellite TV service to Nova. It is incredibly cheap – half that of Nova – and has Premier League football for the next three years and free HD service. I bought it on the spot. Dinos has been booked to come and install it. Dinos set our satellite dish up more years ago than I care to remember now.

We drove home and had been there only an hour when a courier came to the door. He was wiping black paint from his hands as he opened the gate. He had our new, ‘free’ Nova box. Pauline gave him a tissue soaked in turps to clean his hands. I fitted up the new box. At least we will have a full service until Dinos turns up. The Premier League starts on August 17th so everything will be up and running long before then. We’ve bought the ‘full’ package which is so cheap compared to our Sky package at home.

Wonderful swim today. Clean again!

25th July, 2013

As was forecast, the Jetstream has moved south across Europe, bringing cooler weather to UK and hotter to Greece. Actually, we have been rather enjoying the cooler than normal weather here although swimming hasn’t been so pleasant for sensitive souls like me. This morning feels hot and the car in the garage reports 32C/90F. When we return from swimming at 4.30 pm, it reports 34C/93C.

At 6.00 am, I sent my wife out to finish painting the gate while it was cool. I watered all the vegetables at the back of the house and then all the trees and shrubs at the front of the house. Coffee and the newspaper followed and we listened to the 1.00 pm News on the BBC before setting off to swim. The water was still quite cold for the end of July but the wind was finally down.

Never ceases to amaze me who reads my Blog. I started it to keep in touch with my immediate family who are stretched far and wide but today I heard from Nikos in Porto Rafti. He is interested and amused to read the blunderings of an Englishman through his Greek culture in general and the island of Sifnos in particular. It is somewhere he knows well. He has been desperate to correct me about the name of my favourite café – Πραγκό (Prago) which I have been driving him mad by calling it Prego. He has taught me, I am ashamed to admit, that it is not named after the Italian for ‘please’ as so many are in UK but after a Cycladic, three-pronged fish hook. Of course, I knew that all the time but was just trying to provoke someone like Nikos to write in and correct me.

26th July, 2013

Another early start for my wife as she struggled to finish a huge, cast-iron gate which was resisting one coat of Hammerite ‘Direct to Rust’ black gloss. Rust seems to absorb two or three coats – poor, old girl.


I was forced to drink my coffee and read The Times alone. A shocking report I had to read too. What do you think of this?

A majority of GPs now back charging patients for appointments to reduce the  burden on the NHS, a poll suggests. Asking patients to pay to see a doctor would overturn one of the founding  principles of the health service, but 51 per cent of family doctors now say  it is necessary.

I predict that it won’t happen in my lifetime but to think that a majority of doctors think it would be acceptable to charge for our ‘free-at-the-point Health Service. Scandalous!

The temperature is up but only a little – 32-33C/90-91F- and the sea was still quite cold in the afternoon. I must be going soft. The sea didn’t used to be like this when I was young.

27th July, 2013

Fifth consecutive day of early starts. Pauline put the finishing touches to the gate. I had wanted gold tips like Buckingham Palace but, after Pauline had done the first three, it was obvious that it didn’t work and she repainted them black. The ‘For Sale’ sign at last came out of the garage and was attached to the gate at 7.15 am. We stood and waited for queues to form but, at 7.20 am, gave up and made coffee.


Well,  you couldn’t make it up. By 10.00 pm we were driving up to the supermarkets in Exambela (Ok, Nikos?) and the phone went.

A Greek family want to buy your house. I will get back to you for a meeting. No, they hadn’t seen the advert. They were talking yesterday.

Of course, it may mean very little but one never knows. Discussions with our Notary friend will take place this evening and arrangements will be made. Now, back to ordinary life.

Week 239

14th July, 2013

Don’t say nothing ever happens on a sleepy, Greek island. Routines are important in island living. We visit Christos to wish him, Happy Sunday. He makes me a wonderful cup of fresh coffee and Pauline has a pot of tea with a huge cake to build her weight up. It is falling again. This morning, she has already had three huge slices of toast and marmalade and then, down at the café, managed a large, sticky Kadaifi cake. Poor girl! It is an effort for her.


While we were there, Christos put a glass down on our table with a knife & fork in it for Pauline to eat the cake. Seconds later, the glass spontaneously imploded rebounding shards of glass everywhere. Our initial response was amusement but, as we were driving away some time later, I reflected on the potentially fatal consequences that could have resulted from such an incident. Pauline was not wearing glasses and could have lost an eye. Shards of glass went everywhere. People sitting near could easily have had an artery pierced. Fortunately, everything was fine.

Not so fine up in Exambelar, however, where we drove up to the supermarket. One of these increasing numbers of weddings was being celebrated and cars lined the road going down towards Faros. The road was completely blocked when we got there by police cars and smashed cars. One car had been dealt a glancing blow but another had turned over. Let’s hope they got out alive.

Well it was closer than I expected and harder to listen to than I imagined but we won. England won the First Ashes Test and that is all that matters.


 15th July, 2013

Half way through July already. A strange day of strong, blustery winds and hot sun. We got up early and cleaned the car for the first time for weeks. We made an early decision not to go swimming today because of the wind. Pauline made some tomato & onion preserve and then we set off to visit Kostas & Maria at the wood shop. We need to do the annual treatment of our windows. We use an interesting bottle of fluid that was supplied by the company who manufactured the windows. It has been hard to come by for a year or two but Kostas has always managed to find bottles for us and always refuses to accept payment.


It is manufactured in Italy by a company called Industria Chimica Adriatica which is based near Ancona. If we can, we will build an extra night in Italy on the way back next year and buy supplies from the factory to replenish Kostas’ stocks.

We have both felt strangely flat today – lacklustre. We had jobs to do but couldn’t be bothered. We watched a film last night which reminded us both of the deaths of our Mothers. We talked quite late and went to sleep on sadness. Although, after five years it is happening to me less now, I reflect on what I have lost quite a lot still. It has recently been reinforced by the experiences of Greek Bloggers that I follow. The author of Democracy Street lost his Mother recently and is currently clearing her house for sale. His sadness is sharply defined in his writing. The author of Ramblings from Rhodes has just lost his 85 year old Mother and is returning to UK for the funeral. He will almost certainly be suffering self-recrimination about not being there as we did for Pauline’s Mum who died three years ago in October at the age of 96.

Must get some work done tomorrow as well as fit a meeting in with our amanuensis and, possibly, a conversation with the Notary. General Strike tomorrow so, probably, no Postal Service. We had our own delivery this evening. Once again, out of the darkness, came the cry, Κυριε John, Κυριε John. We dashed down to the gate and there again was the taxi driver Apostolos, who lives at the bottom of our road with a huge pile of cucumbers. I know what my meal will be tomorrow.

16th July, 2013

A different day entirely today. The wind has largely gone. We are finding it very difficult to rely on a weather forecast since ET3 was abolished. We watch ANTenna and Mega and the BBC website but they differ so wildly that it is rather pot luck.

My wife is outside wire-brushing the gate prior to repainting. She loves it but I do get the occasional pang of embarrassment as I sit reading my paper in the shade and she slogs away in full sun. I do offer her water and coffee at various intervals.

I did Man’s work – watering the trees & shrubs while sitting on the wall contemplating the wonders of the world. I also picked our first crop of figs this season. I filled my hat with them. Warm from the sun, soft and sweet, we gorged on them instantly. This is what was left when we were podged.


17th July, 2013

Well, the figs are working!

Overcast and humid day. Off to Apollonia early for a mixture of business and pleasure. Coffee at Prego and a chat with the regulars. A visit to the Post Office to check for an urgent letter. A trip to the butchers for six, wonderful and huge beef steaks or 3Kg of prime beef for €29.00 – wonderful value. (Tesco take note. Currently selling 1Kg of sirloin steak for €22.00.) Apologies to vegetarians and to Jane Bennett.


A quick meeting and then back home. Dropped off a return present for Apostelos en route and then home to do some office work. We have some urgent letters and emails to write.

It is 2.00 pm.. The office work has taken for ever but I think it will ‘bear fruit’. A little bit of Moshka’s cheese with Pauline’s tomato relish for lunch and then we will do some work in the garden. It is not a swimming day today nor, I suspect, will it be tomorrow.

Why do the BBC have such a down on Greece. A couple of days ago they were expressing mock amazement at the prospect of a General Strike. Another General Strike when their Economy’s in such a mess! When the General Strike turned out to be something of a damp squib, the BBC reported that not as many people supported the protest but this is only a lull before the storm. There will be far worse to come.

If you’re interested, the steak was chargrilled with onions and garlic mushrooms and it was sensational. Good job we bought six.

18th July, 2013

It was nice to wave goodbye to our favourite, English tourists this morning.

Well, I’m really beginning to feel eclipsed by the girls. No sooner has sister Jane retired as Chief Exec. of the Independent Police Complaints Commision with a CBE for her pains than little sister Liz is headhunted from her post as Strategic Director of Families, Health & Wellbeing at Manchester City Council and appointed to the UK’s top job in Social Services to three Boroughs across London.


I’m very pleased for her. She has done brilliantly. Soon it will be Lady Liz. and the whole family will have drifted South.

19th July, 2013

Received an email from Bart Simpson of the Parianos Blog asking about connections to Paros in August. When I looked, I was amazed to find that there isn’t one. There are two connections currently although one is in the middle of the night. By August, they are dropped completely. Whatever happened to Everyday to Paros? The best solution I could find for him was as follows:

paros1 paros2

It would mean an overnight on Folegandros but it is a wonderful island. We stayed at Folegandros Apartments for three weeks in the late 90s and had a wonderful time.


Lovely swim this afternoon. Come back in for shower and the news that Australia are 96 for 7 at Tea at Lords. More than 250 behind, they are in serious trouble. It would be lovely to watch this rather than listen on the radio. Nova don’t buy it unfortunately.

20th July, 2013

Talking about my satellite service from Nova; yesterday I lost three channels – Mega, Sports2 & Sports3. I did all the normal things of switching the decoder box off, wiping the card for static, etc. but to no avail. I dread phoning the company because I not only get all the annoying telecoms, pre-recorded messages but the are also in fast Greek. You can switch to English on one stem of the message tree but they soon lapse back into Greek. I used Skype to call them and it was just as well because I was holding for about 25 minutes. Eventually, they tell me without any surprise that channel repositioning by them means I need a new decoder box. They tell me it is free and I can get it from my local Nova service engineer. There used to be one in Apollonia but no longer. In fact, there isn’t one on the island. Nova will mail me one immediately.

This experience has made me reappraise my decision to stick with Nova. Lots of friends told me to move to OTE TV but I wouldn’t have been able to watch MU win the Premier League in May. Now, OTE TV take on the Premier League contract which may well destroy Nova – well for me anyway.

Week 238

7th July, 2013

A little overcast, which is welcome, and a little blustery. Drove down to the café for a Sunday chat with Christos. On the way, we saw the most extraordinary thing. In the dusty soil across the road from Hotel Aphrodite a young cat was going beserk, leaping, writhing, twisting, turning, throwing up dust. We watched it in amazement for 20 or 30 seconds and then it, just as suddenly, died. We thought it must have been having a fit but Christos said he thought it had been bitten by a snake of a scorpion. Whatever, it wasn’t a good introduction to the morning.

After coffee and a chat, we drove home to read The Sunday Times. Each Sunday, we read and record our electricity meters. I have an on-going spreadsheet of readings, units used and bills paid. It is just one of those ‘geeky’ things I do. This year – from January to July – we have been charged €180.00 / £155.00 which is incredibly cheap for our sole source of power. Sunday is also the day we address our Investment and Savings Accounts like all good atheists. It is wonderful to be able to do it all on-line and instantly.


We drove down to the beach for a swim. Spiros was just coming away after a lone swim. I shook his hand and it was freezing. Actually, the sea was delightful after we had been in for a few minutes. We din 40 minutes strong swimming and then home. By the time we’d showered, it was time for the Murray Final. We watched enthralled and grateful he managed to do it in three, straight sets. To say we ‘enjoyed’ it would not be completely honest but the result certainly gave us a lift.


8th July, 2013

A lovely day reaching 28C/82F (almost as hot as UK) with blustery winds. We had a lovely, 40 minute swim but the water was quite cool at first and took some getting used to.

We’ve had a busy day of correspondence related to the Steering Committee and Management Company of our apartment development in Surrey today. Thank goodness for modern technology – internet, email, Skype and mobile phone – because we couldn’t do any of this without it. I have written before but I will bore you again. When we first came to Sifnos in 1984, there were two, fixed lines available at the telephone company and, after queuing for a long time, the message would say, All lines out of Greece are busy. Please try later. Of course, if we did get through, everyone would be able to hear the whole conversation so nothing private could really be discussed. Now, everything is done from the Study in our house in real time and privacy. I notice that Cosmote are even marketing 4G(LTE) whatever that is.

9th July, 2013

A blustery night has given way to a beautiful and warm morning. I suspect that the wind last night will mean swimming will remain chilly. A busy day today. First off to collect the Post. Later we are meeting our amanuensis who phoned last night to check on our progress.

Something has happened to the kitten. We haven’t seen it for two days and, after Mother Cat has eaten half her food, she begins to call for the kitten to eat or share the rest. The kitten has failed to arrive and she goes off searching and calling all over the garden. Exactly the same thing happened last year. We are struggling to understand how you can lose two kittens in as many years.

Off to Athens this morning so that Pauline can have her hair cut.  Our Taxi arrived at our gate exactly on time and took us down to the port. SpeedRunner was a few minutes late but we were soon sitting in the cool of the VIP Lounge with a drink and our iPad Newspapers. A pleasant and fairly swift journey – the last half hour of any journey seems to drag – brought us to the Piraeus dock and the taxi rank. Why do we always get the down-at-heal taxi with the driver who doesn’t know one of the most well-known hotels in his capital city? The Electra Palace, Nikodimou Street. Pauline guided him round Syndagma and through the Plaka to the front door. Anyway, the fare was only €15.00 and it took about 35 minutes. The doorman took our bags across the vast, marble floor to the check-in desk and then someone led us up to our delightful room on the 4th floor. We were there by 4.30 pm.

ep1 ep2 ep3 ep4

The hotel has an outdoor pool on the roof and an indoor pool along with fitness centre and beauty treatment clinic in the basement. We went up to the roof but it was too hot and the pool was so busy. The basement pool was perfectly cool and deserted. We swam for a solid 40 minutes exercise. It was exactly what we needed.

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After a cup of tea in our room and updating on news from tv, we went out to eat. It was a delicious contrast stepping out from the 5* Hotel lobby to our favourite pavement taverna just minutes away. It is usually busy and, today, absolutely packed. We were lucky to get a table. A salad starter to share followed by stockfish (salt-cod) and garlic sauce with a wonderful side dish of artichokes & peas left us absolutely stuffed. The bill was €35.00. We needed the short walk back to our hotel where we had coffee and watched the Greek news before an early night.

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10th July, 2013

This morning, we rose at 7.00 am as normal, made a cup of tea in our room and then, for the first time in 24 hrs., thought about Mother Cat. She will be at the back door, wondering where we are. We did leave extra dried food and water in the garage but we have her in a different routine and she will find it a little difficult to adjust. We take the lift down to the colonial style breakfast room where one can sit inside or out in the green and shady gardens to eat anything or everything from the breakfast buffet. It is a short suspension of the diet and we have fresh orange juice, bacon and scrambled eggs, croissants and jam with a large pot of wonderful coffee.


Feeling uncomfortable from unusual fullness, we waddle off into the sunshine of the Plaka. Pauline needs a new hand bag. No really, she does. Her current bag is really looking worse for wear. The Plaka used to be full of leather shops with bag displays piled high at every turn. Today, we had to walk quite a long way to find one such shop. We spent quite a while being shown lots of different bags in lots of different styles, sizes and colours by a young woman who was clearly Albanian. Her large, Greek, male employer sat languidly outside. Pauline found a bag she really liked and was told it was €58.00. Just to stop myself getting bored, I teased the girl that it was summer sale time in Athens and, perhaps, €50.00 would be more appropriate. The girl looked uncomfortable and said she was only a worker. She went outside to ask her employer and came back with a price of €52.00.

We bought the bag and returned to our Hotel for coffee and because Pauline was desperate to listen to the start of first Ashes Test match. Well one of us was. Later, we had another wonderful swim and lazed around in the garden.


In the evening, we had booked what the hotel referred to as ‘Fine Dining’ in the rooftop restaurant overlooking the Acropolis and the sunset. The contrast between the two evening’s meals was complete – street view to rooftop.


Crusty bread & Tapanades followed by Nouvelle Cuisine Greek Salad. The main course was grilled salmon with steamed vegetables. It was a joy to get asparagus which we can’t on the island. Homemade (proper) ice cream in three natural flavours – real chocolate, real strawberry, real vanilla – to close the meal as the orange globe fell behind the mountains. Fresh coffee was served as the lights came up on the Acropolis and tourist all around got out their cameras and mobile phones. We signed for the bill of exactly double the night before – €70.00. Neither was expensive but was one worth double the other? Not really. Both were delightful in their own right.

11th July, 2013

This morning provides the ostensible reason for our trip. Pauline is having her hair cut at the hairdressers opposite the hotel – Michalis Anousakis Hair Design. She left for her appointment at 10.00 am and was back just after 11.00 am looking beautiful. We leave our home on the island in 12 weeks and get home in 13. Pauline will just about survive  until she gets another cut in Surrey in October or at Sassoons in Leeds or Manchester when we return to Yorkshire in late October.

We drank frappes in the hotel and listened to the Test match commentary while reading the newspapers. The concierge called us a taxi for 3.00 pm and we were in Piraeus in no time. SpeedRunner came in right on time and we went up to the VIP Lounge and had a sandwich. I used the dreadfully slow wireless connection to follow the Test match and then snoozed. I awoke to find us docking at Serifos with little time left before we arrived home. When we did dock, our taxi driver was waiting for us and within a couple of minutes we were home. Unlocking the gate, we found a huge bag of tomatoes and onions left by Spiros Gerontopoulos. His name was on a post-it on the bag.

Mother Cat was no where to be seen but she’d eaten every drop of food we left. Pauline called for a few moments and up she popped like a bad penny. Pauline fed her while I watered the plants. No sooner had we settled down to watch the weather forecast than a car pulled up outside and a voice was calling out of the darkness, Κυριε John, Κυριε John. We dashed down to the gate and there was our friend, the taxi driver Apostolos, who lives at the bottom of our road and who always has a friendly word for us. He had a big bag of cucumbers and green peppers for us from his land. I don’t know if we look needy but we are desperately grateful for such kindness.

We finished the day with chicken and green peppers with a bottle of champagne. Life could be so much worse.

12th July, 2013

Well, it feels hotter and stickier this morning on Sifnos than it ever did in central Athens this year. Strange but true. The taxi driver said they had experienced strong winds on Wednesday. We had none of that either.

As every day, we set ourselves targets of jobs to get through this morning but, when it came to it, we couldn’t quite be bothered. Travelling had taken it out of us. So the car will remain uncleaned for another day and the gate painting and weed killing will be done over the weekend. Instead, we drank coffee; after speaking to our amanuensis for half an hour, Pauline talked to her sister for about 40 mins and I researched some trips we intend to make during the winter to Italian cities. We will going swimming soon because the temperature has reached 30F/86C outside and then Pauline will listen to the Test Match while I cook – or vice versa.

13th July, 2013

Feels a hot day although the thermometer has not really got any higher than previous days. 26C/79F at 10.00 am and 30C/86F at 2.00 pm. I think it is a little increase in humidity which is changing the feel.

We went up to do our shopping and fill up with petrol for only the fourth time in as many months. I told you we can’t stop people giving us things. Our friends at Ellinoil insisted on us taking a bag of cheese, tomatoes and eggs. I’m sure we look desperate. They are lovely people. Pauline bought beetroot for more chutney, tomatoes for a new relish she is making and Flora brought us special oranges from her father’s garden because they are so much sweeter.

Our amanuensis and her husband came over this morning to collect some photographs her relative in Athens delivered to our hotel. She also was able to advise us on what steps to take next about the boundaries of our land. We have a lot to do. Swimming first though.

Swimming was decidedly chilly. We only stayed in 20 minutes. Spent the afternoon listening to Test Match Special on BBC 5 Live and quite a close finish it was looking until England took three more wickets in 18 balls at the end of Day 4.