Week 245

25th August, 2013

It feels strange to get August weather in…August. Warm today 29-30C/85-86F but not ‘cracking the flags’ as they say in Lancashire. Little or no breeze made it feel warmer than it was. We went down to the café for a ‘Happy Sunday’ coffee and then returned to read the papers. Around midday, we spent an hour or so cleaning the patio tiles together. In that time, twelve cars stopped outside our gate to take down details of the House Sale.

Went for a swim. The sea was a little warmer but we both remarked that on no occasion this year has the sand been too hot to stand on in bare feet. Most unusual!

Spent some time listening to the final, Ashes Test match which I assumed would be a draw. It was but only after England were denied a fourth win by bad light with 21 runs needed. Ian Bell was justifiably named Man of the Series.

bell

You can see how fit I am getting. I went on to watch Cardiff City beat Manchester City 3-2 after a disgraceful six minutes of extra time. Pleasing result for the underdogs.

26th August, 2013

Calm and warm today. Pauline’s outside finishing window and shutter treatment. I’m inside worrying about tonight’s match: Man. Utd. v Chelsea.

Thought I’d share this with you. A little bird with a lot to say for itself and featured in The Times.

bird

Weighed myself today and found that I have lost 6 stones or 38 kilos in weight since 1/1/13. To celebrate, we went out to Dinner. I had salad with grilled chicken and grilled vegetables.

Watched an excellent football match – Man. Utd. v Chelsea which ended 0-0 because Chelsea came to basically defend and United could quite break them down.

27th August, 2013

It would have been Pauline’s Mum’s 99th Birthday today. We were willing her on to the Century but she retired three years ago at 96. We miss her very much and we would have loved to have bought her a 99.

mumb  99

After a trip to the post this morning, we got back and were revisited by the paediatric surgeon from Leeds who came to view the house. Today, he brought his wife and children. Lovely people. Let’s hope they’ve got lots of lovely money!

Our burglar alarm in Surrey has developed a fault and, we have been told, has been out of action for a week. When the service company, we pay £250.00 per year to for rapid response, were called, they said they couldn’t come out because it was Bank Holiday. Burglars take note! This morning we have had to phone them. In addition, Frangiskus, the electrician, is coming to see us today to repair a noisy ceiling fan. It’s all happening here.

28th August, 2013

We predicted that there would be an equal and opposite reaction of the weather and it seems to be happening. Windless – almost airless – hot days tinged with a sticky, misty feel to them. The sea is like a sheet of glass, reflecting all the surrounding colour. Bring back July. That’s what I say.

BEACH

Frangiskus, the electrician who lives at the bottom of our road, came back around 10.30 am today to realign the ceiling fan in our Study. It had been making a noise on anything other than slow speed for the best part of a year. We finally got round to asking for help. It took him about half an hour to fix and it works brilliantly now. What we suddenly realised as he was leaving was that his car was packed to the gunnels for his holidays. An hour or so after leaving us, he was due on a ferry to Milos for his vacation but he wasn’t prepared to let us down. While he was working, he remarked how many olives our trees were carrying this year.  I told him that he has my permission to come and collect them in November when they are ready and we are away.

29th August, 2013

Another humid day which reached 33F/92F. There is almost no movement of air. It feels sticky. My wife is wood treating the pine dining table and chairs. It is the last thing she has been allowed to work on and she has made a fantastic job of it. I have been planning our Yorkshire/Lancashire trip towards the end of October. We have just over five weeks left on the island and six until we get back to Surrey. Within a week of our return, we are off to the North of England.

noe

It is an annual pilgrimage now to coincide with Pauline’s Mum’s funeral but to maintain old friendships.

30th August, 2013

Don’t shout about this but I’m struggling to keep my clothes on. If that is too much information, I’m sorry, but it is becoming a bit of an issue. Every time I go swimming, I struggle to keep my shorts on. I said a few days ago that I have lost 6 stones or 38 kilos in weight since 1/1/13. Well, the corollary of that is my dropping waist size. Since 1/1/13, I have lost 10″ from my waist. I refused to let Pauline buy new clothes for me in anticipation of the loss because I thought it was tempting fate. Well, now, I have to face the inevitable and I hate buying clothes.

Today is delicious – quite hot but with a light breeze. It is a relaxing day with swimming and reading involved. Could be a lot worse.

We have a desktop computer here from 2006, two laptops bought over the last three years and an iPad. I suddenly remembered, I had an old laptop from school that we used to use over in Villa Margerita and, when I dug it out, found it went back to 2013. My ‘medical’ spreadsheet for 2013 shows that I am currently two stones lighter now than ten years ago. If I follow the same regime for the next six months, I will be back to 1980 weights. It will be done.

31st August, 2013

Officially, this is the last day of Summer. Of course, for we retirees, the summer lasts for ever. I’ve just realised, in fifteen weeks, I will have maintained this Blog/Diary for five years. I’m rather pleased with that! Even if you’re not!

Wonderful day again. Makes one glad to be alive. Warm (maybe 30C/86F), still and sharply clear. It is the light that artists from earlier centuries flocked to the Mediterranean for. Shopping done by 9.30 am. Cup of fresh coffee on the balcony with the Saturday Times. Swim at 1.00 pm and then Premier league football. Today & tomorrow the timetable is:

Saturday 14.45 Man. City

V

Hull
17.00 Newcastle

V

Fulham
19.30 Crystal Palace

V

Sunderland
21.30 Cardiff

V

Everton
Sunday 15.15 Liverpool

V

Man. Utd.
17.45 Arsenal

V

Spurs

After all these games, I will have lost so much weight that no one will recognise me.

Week 244

18th August, 2013

One week of the Greek tourism bulge left here. It will be nice to get back to normal. Since we put the ‘For Sale’ sign on the gate, we have become a tourist attraction. All the world and his wife cruise very slowly past with a smartphone sticking out of the car window. Late last night we received a phone call from Poros. It was the Notary to tell us a Greek-American family wanted to view the house. We phoned them and agreed 11.30 this morning. After a trip to the café for coffee, we are heading back for the viewing when the phone goes from Poros. The family have had to cancel because of problems with their ferry – the F/b Agios Georgios which has lost its anchor and is confined to port in Milos. The family have had to leave on an earlier boat. Rather disappointing but unavoidable.

We mooched around for the rest of the day – unable to settle – reading the papers and watching the football. Pauline spoke to our amanuensis who was up a mountain.

19th August, 2013

Woke up cold. Mid-August? The wind was blowing. Where am I?

Just settling down to my morning orange juice when the phone went. The Greek-American family hadn’t gone after all and would like, if it was possible, to come in the next hour to see the house before they leave on Speedrunner at 12.30 p.m.. Why not. Quick tidy up and I am opening the gate to a Greek who is married to an American and lives in Boston where my old friend, Jonathan, has lived for forty years and an Athenian member of the family which, apparently, extends to thirteen members all of whom  want to share the house at different times. They say they love the house, take pictures and the web address to share with the family and leave, agreeing to negotiate with the Notary.

Pauline speaks to the Notary who is on a ferry somewhere off Athens. She then speaks to our amanuensis who is up another mountain. Then we take a pause and life gets back to normal. Going to clean the car and tidy the garage today. What fun!

20th August, 2013

Wonderfully cool night again gave us another excellent sleep although I’m not sure I will tonight. I am worrying about a distinct lack of teak oil.

toil

In her constant and restless quest to maintain anything that stays still and many others that don’t, my wife’s eyes have turned to the outdoor furniture and restoring it with teak oil. This morning we spent a fruitless hour or so searching all known sources without success. We’ve been promised some on Friday but which Friday, I don’t know.

My internet supply through Cosmote continues to be free. Last year, because I drop my contract in mid-year and restart the next, Cosmote asked me to pay a deposit of €100.00 – I suppose in case I scarpered to foreigner-land without settling my bill. This year, they’ve not only substantially reduced my monthly cost but deducted it from last year’s €100.00 deposit. As a result, my service has been free so far. You just can’t give it away nowadays.

With the wind substantially down, swimming is inescapable. I bet the sea will be cold after all that wind. ………….It was although the sand was hot under foot. Sat around and read The Times. It featured the joke that won funniest of the  Edinburgh Fringe:

I heard a  rumour that Cadbury is bringing out an oriental chocolate bar.
Could be a  Chinese Wispa.

And then I read Tim Vine’s joke which is substantially funnier:

My friend told me he was going to a  fancy dress party as an Italian island. I said to him ‘Don’t be Sicily’.

That only came fourth. The number two gag was:

I used to work in a shoe-recycling shop. It was  sole-destroying.

 21st August, 2013

The Times newspaper have been featuring a running article about names (in)appropriate to the job or profession. Yesterday there was a surgeon called Mr Gelder who performed a vasectomy and a barber called Herr Kutz. I’m pretty sure that many are fabricated but I’ve sent in the former Repton butcher who had over his shop: I.C. Blood. You see how busy I am.

Another strange weather day. The gauge said we reached 29C/85F but it felt cooler in a gentle breeze. We went down for a swim today although the water wasn’t particularly comfortable. The beach was noticeably quieter as are the car parks. When we got back, we made our meal of chicken and peppers and listened to the Test Match Special broadcast. We also had to have a very serious discussion that we’ve both been putting off for days. I think we’ve both been reluctant to raise the issue: Is Mother Cat pregnant again? We think she might be. She isn’t coming to us in the middle of the night for sausage sandwiches or demanding lumps of coal for breakfast but she is looking decidedly fatter and eating more. We don’t know if we can cope with it all again this year.

22nd August, 2013

I’m ashamed to admit that I had forgotten until Jane reminded me that it would have been Mum’s 90th birthday today. She died 5 years ago. All the same – Happy Birthday, Mum.

mum2

I bet she wouldn’t thank me for the photo which I believe was taken in 1966 when she was 39 and I was sweet 15.

The island is noticeably quieter today and this weekend should see the bulk of Greek tourists gone. A simple drive up to the shops in Apollonia attests to that. A cool night and, this morning at 10.000 am the temperature was only 24C/75F. Took two, huge bags of Basil leaves down to the local Pizzeria this morning. They urgently need to make pesto and have run out in their own garden. We threw in a bag of Rosemary and a bag of Sage for good measure.

basilsagerosemary

After coffee, my wife has resumed her hobby of house maintenance. She is giving the windows and shutters their annual wood treatment. I am much busier with the Test Match on.

23rd August, 2013

It doesn’t get much more September than this. Weather cool, beach quiet, sea cold. What will happen when it’s really September?

In the last week, we’ve been concerned that Mother Cat is feeding too well and putting on weight. In the last few days, we’ve have come to the awful conclusion that she is pregnant again and, today, she has disappeared to, presumably, shell another brood. No doubt she will bring them round when she’s ready.

24th August, 2013

The newspapers and radio reports were full of declining exam results being declared this week, on the one hand, contrasted with schools and LEAs boasting that they have bucked the trend and increased their successes on the other. We are so familiar with this process and we are also so far away from it now. Now, for five summers, we have had no reason to even think about exam results and the further away it recedes, the better it feels and more pointless it seems.

p2

The Test match was rained off in England just as Greece finally begins to embrace August with some warm, calm weather. I’m deep in my newspaper this morning when we receive an unannounced visit from a paediatric surgeon from Leeds of all places. He has seen the house advert and would like to look around. What a nice man he turned out to be. Intelligent people so often do seem pleasant. He loved the house and wants to bring his wife back to view it.

Week 243

11th August, 2013

The September weather continues. Nice temperature – 29C/84F – and pleasant breeze. Quite a few tourists but not enough according to our island friends. After an hour in the café this morning, we were made clear that tourist numbers are disappointing by Vangelis & Christos. We sat next to Giannis, the plumber, and his friend this morning. When we went to pay, we were told that Giannis had already paid for us. We left with warm glow.

Back home, I put the Test Match on and that dominated the afternoon although our swim was really pleasant. Bell got a good century and England are beginning to look well placed.

bell

12th August, 2013

More people have stopped at our gate to write down the sales details than I could have imagined. It may not turn in to anything but 750 have now viewed the web details and 50 in the last week. At least it will cut out time-wasters.

sign

Lovely swim today. The water was actually warm-ish.

Wonderful afternoon/evening with a huge, griddled beef steak and a green salad from our garden. This was accompanied by a fantastic Test Match commentary. England beat Australia a day early in the 4th Ashes Test as Stuart Broad took six wickets. Wonderful! As we drank coffee, the sun went down and, in the darkening sky, a dying star fell slowly into the sea. There was a beautifully cool breeze – so un-August like. It means that we will sleep comfortably again.

13th August, 2013

We have adopted a feral cat of distinction. She prefers meat to dried food. She prefers chicken to beef. She is especially pleased when there is a lot of gravy to lap. She prefers a particular, Italian brand and she will not touch ‘Best Price’ tinned food no matter how hungry she is. We think she takes after us.

cat

It is still a little breezy today but quite delightful after a lovely, cool night. Eventually, the day has reached 31C / 89F. After picking up our post, we have spent the morning going through an analysis of the accounts of our Development in Surrey. Another couple who spend half the year in Austria have been doing the same thing. It felt a very strange activity as we drank coffee out on our patio. The disconnect was slightly uncomfortable.

Tonight, out of the darkness and the sound of our gate being opened, Apostelos, our neighbour who works for the Electricity Company, called with a huge jar of honey from his father’s bees. Such kindness from people who hardly know us!

honey

14th August, 2013

I love communication. I love the instant contact electronic communication has given us. Web Design gives me real pleasure. Email makes life a joy. What I can’t get on with is Faceache, sorry, Facebook. I only ever use it to reach one or two friends who use nothing else but email is the most empowering medium I know. Often, cards or letters I’ve sent from Greece have taken weeks or failed to reach UK (although it is getting much better) but, with email, speed and certainty win out every time. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve emailed people on Sifnos, Syros, Patras, Saudi Arabia, Austria, UK and, within seconds, been sure of its arrival.

Of course, I am not a media God like Skiathan Man but I do my best. I only ever intended this Blog for my own amusement and to keep interested members of my family in contact with our earth shattering activities.

Today has been spent zipping emails across the ether to members of the Steering Group of our Surrey Development who are currently exercised about new-build, ‘snagging’ problems. We are spread around the Globe, with many on holiday, and email is the only affordable and practical way we could possibly liaise.

15th August, 2013

Well, talking about Media Gods, Skiathan Man writes today about this mid-August day, a Bank Holiday in Greece, marking the end of Greek Summer. His thoughts are already turning towards Autumn preparations and Winter activities. I must admit, I tend to work that way myself but it is not good. I always anticipate my next birthday. I am 62 but I talk about being in my 63rd year. I plan all the activities of next April while we are still in August. It is a bad habit but I just cannot live for the day. Skiathan Man is preparing for the big Exodus of Greeks on Sunday with film of huge traffic jams on Monday’s TV News. He also says that the predicted tourist boom did not happen and, I suspect, Sifnians would agree with that. It is amazing, though, to think we only have just over seven weeks left and then we are off for another year.

16th August, 2013

Ever since I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and prescribed warfarin in perpetuity, I have had to have my INR tested regularly. Rarely have I gone longer than two or three weeks in between tests. Fortunately, Sifnos has a testing centre and a lovely man who does the stabbing with a needle. I actually look forward to going to be stabbed because we have such enjoyable conversations. This year, unfortunately, my INR has been so stable that I will only have visited him twice throughout the year. I went in early June and again this week. Yesterday, Woking Hospital advised me that I won’t need another test until November by which time I will be in Woking.

Watering trees and bushes this morning. Our olives are having a bumper year. I don’t know why – maybe it is the watering routines.

1 23

Each year, Pauline takes a couple of huge jars of our olives back to Surrey and cures them in salt, vinegar and oil. We eat some with salads and make tapenade from others. This year, we could open a factory.

17th August, 2013

Well, this has certainly been a strange stretch of weather. This morning opened cloudy, overcast and cool and then the heavens opened. We were out shopping. The car, we thought, was getting a much deserved wash but was, actually, being doused in Saharan sand. The temperature built up during the day and the sun broke through a strange haze but it felt, heady and rather oppressive.

I am exhausted after all my vigorous efforts watching wall to wall premier League football. Liverpool beat Stoke but only just; Arsenal lost to Aston Villa and then Man. Utd. thrashed Swansea with great goals from van Persie. I could have gone on but I was too exhausted.

Week 242

4th August, 2013

Went down to the Café for coffee this morning. Christos was kind, friendly and welcoming. The filter coffee was delicious. The view,on one side at least, was delightful. Unfortunately, wireless internet was off-line today. I can’t live without my Sunday Times so, half an hour later, we returned to Restaurant Kamaron where the internet feed was strong and every section of the paper was downloaded in under ten minutes. While we were there, the newspaper van went down to the dock to await the ferry with Saturday’s hard copy of  The Times. So last century! We settled down to read the paper, listen to the test match and drink coffee at home when a car drew up at the gate. We’re getting used to that now because so many have stopped, got out and written the details down. We already know another Sifnos family is looking to come and view the property but I didn’t recognise these people. Far from reading the ‘For Sale’ sign, they shouted up and I invited them in to look round the house. Although, we didn’t know them, they made it clear they knew us. The viewing went well and they will liaise (negotiate) with the Notary now. I am absolutely amazed how many people on the island know us and our situation. This struck me yesterday when our neighbour, Apostolos, was with us. I was talking about the difficulty in getting a fixed-line telephone service where we are. He immediately phoned his friend at the OTE and referred to me as ‘Κυριε John’ and didn’t need to add anything extra. While we were chatting, his mobile went and it was his wife asking where he was. He just said, ‘I’m with Κυριε John‘ and she didn’t need further qualification. It was quite a shock.

I hope Ruth is reading this. It looks as if we’ve retained The Ashes in Test 3. Yeeeessss!!! kp

5th August, 2013

Only warm – 26C/79F – cool for August in the Cyclades and very windy as it has been for more than two weeks now.  It is not ideal weather to welcome tourists. My barometer is the car park. Often in August it is hard to find a parking space. Over the weekend and this morning I could have parked almost anywhere it was so empty.

Far too windy to swim comfortably today so I had to do jobs. Watering trees, cleaning the patio, re-varnishing garden furniture, all the fun jobs of life. Didn’t even have the Test Match to listen to. Rain stopped play which was finally abandoned and England were declared Ashes winners.

ashes

6th August, 2013

There is no discussion about which mobile phone company to choose our service from. EE (TMobile + Orange) is the only network with reasonable reception on our development. Often one sees visitors with other Network phones speaking urgently outside in the rain and cold, running out on to the street waving their mobiles in the air to see if they can get better reception. We are coming to the end of our contracts and, as always, they will entice us to stay with better, upgraded handsets not knowing that we would have stayed anyway. We get shiny, new mobiles and another two year contract. I wouldn’t mind but I don’t even like using phones. I like to look people in the eye when I’m talking to them. Nowadays, Pauline and I are rarely apart long enough to phone each other  and then it’s from the room next door. Still, a modern man cannot be without his mobile to go with his Desktop computer, laptop and iPad.

Pauline and I have minimal contracts for our phones. We have free landline through Sky and each pay the huge, monthly price of £15.00 for 100 minutes talk + 100 texts which I never use + unlimited internet which I can hardly see on our, now, outdated smart phones. This afternoon, encouraged by gale-force winds outside, I have been checking out the next models that TMobile can offer us ‘for free’. I’m not going to pay for it even though I will sell our current phones on for £50.00 each. Looks like it’s going to be an ugrade of our current Samsung Galaxy Ace.

ssga

7th August, 2013

The winds persist and look like continuing for some time to come. Pauline did a little work outside varnishing one of the many benches we have around the outside of the house – we have so many, it looks like a minor Public School. I had a much more pressing problem to deal with. I was an early adopter for the internet (1994: 1440 baud dial-up & text-only presentation) and Broadband (1999/2000: 2Mbs download). I have been an early adopter for any technology I could get my hands on. I was in the pilot group for Internet Banking. I pioneered intranets and on-line Learning Platforms in my Local Authority. I’ve designed and built websites from the earliest days. Today, British Telecom, who were one of our earliest ISDN/Broadband providers, wrote to me to say Pauline & I were about to lose our email addresses because we hadn’t been their customers for the past three years.

While this would seem eminently reasonable, it would be a nightmare for us. The only way of avoiding it would be to migrate back to BT Broadband by September 16th. Impossible because we will still be in Greece. Actually, my current Broadband speed is only 8Mb download. I am going back to BT at the end of October when we get back. Their fibre optic service will give me 76 Mb download – almost 10 times as fast. Until then, I have to phone their customer service desk and pay a small fee to retain our email addresses. And that’s where the trouble starts – Call Centre/ many operators’ voices mixing with horrible music / Asian operative who is unfamiliar with UK address system and a lack of workers on duty. Half an hour on hold and half an hour to go through multiple security & fact gathering exercises. An hour on the phone to keep two email addresses. Thank goodness for Skype.

8th August, 2013

From out of the darkness of the road came the call again last night: Kyrios John, Kyrios John. It was the Apostelos who I always address as Apostoli (Nikos!) with another huge bag of massive tomatoes from his garden. I certainly know what’s for lunch. Our amanuensis and her husband, who phoned this morning, eat cheese salad for breakfast when they are not eating toast with our marmalade. That is one Mediterranean tradition I couldn’t embrace – cheese salad for breakfast would be sacrilege!

The wind is down a bit today and, after a bit of actual work outside, we intend to go swimming. I’m keen to see the tourist state of the beach after the car park test again today suggests visitor numbers down. Kathimerini reports Government statistics of a 9% rise in arrivals at regional/island airports but a 0.5% fall in arrivals at Athens airport this year. Maybe the bigger islands with airports are doing better. They are also forecasting a 60% fall in olive oil production this year, blaming it on dry Spring weather. Pauline usually buys lots of bottles of specialist olive oil in Italy on our way home but, this year, she’s bought 15 ltrs of Greek oil because we really like it and it is so cheap at €19.50 for 5 Ltrs.

oil

They sell this exact product in China at €58.00 and €33.00 on Amazon.  I’m persuading Pauline to buy it all and corner the market!

9th August, 2013

It almost feels like September weather. Mornings and evenings are cool – almost very cool – and the day time temperature has not really risen above 29C/84F. This is comparatively Arctic. This same week over the past three years has brought heatwaves of 36C/97F – 40C/104F. I’m really enjoying this weather.

My appetite is disappearing again. Orange juice for breakfast, a banana mid-morning, a sliced tomato with basil leaves and half a can of tuna and I am stuffed. I can’t eat for the rest of the day. It must be nerves on the first day of the Durham Test that are killing my hunger.

Today, after a bit of shopping, Pauline painted the verandah railings while I did some gardening. It was hot enough to make us sweat but not too hot to work in. We went swimming at 2.00 pm and the water was freezing. Blackpool couldn’t have been colder although, I must admit, I have never swum there.

Sat outside this evening in beautiful, cool breeze as the natural light faded and the electric lights of Kamares came up:

EVE

10th August, 2013

August weather is thinking of arriving but not whole heartedly. The wind is down and we are left with a pleasant, light cooling breeze. The temperature only reached 29C/84F which is lovely but somewhat less than we normally expect at this time. We love it. We have air conditioning all around the house but haven’t felt the need for it once this year. When we were having our power supply normalised with two, new meters installed outside last year, the man at the electricity shop laughed and said we were heavy power users. We don’t think we are and our bills are very low compared to those in Surrey but we do use a tumble dryer which few Greeks would even consider. We bought it in England for £90.00. The same machine was in Kotsovolos (owned by Dixons) in Athens for €500.00.

Every Sunday, instead of going to church, Pauline reads and I record on my spreadsheet our meter readings. I’m not sure why but I love having my life tabulated and recorded. It seems to give me a little more control over it and understanding of it. We’ve been in the house about five months now and paid out €182.84 (£157.62). It is peanuts. Our next bill, probably while we are away, will be even smaller. It is paid automatically through the Greek Bank. I have internet banking so I can see and record the payment.

Pauline & I are inveterate planners. We hate leaving things to chance or until the last minute. We booked everything for our return journey weeks ago. This evening, We sat out in the cool air planning out a four day trip to Yorkshire in November when we get back. We pencilled in another four day break to Bologna in November. We will have at least two and, possibly, three shopping trips to France and then we worked on the dates for returning to Greece next year. We more or less know where we will be and when over the next fourteen months. Exciting or what?