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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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