Week 314

28th December, 2014

The Greeks are doing their level best to see the year out with a major disaster. We woke to the news of a ferry on fire in the Adriatic. It is a vessel chartered by ANEK Ferries who, along with Superfast Ferries run a joint Ancona-Patras-Ancona car ferry trip up and down the Adriatic.  We have done that trip thirty times in the past fifteen years and have almost always used the Superfast/ANEK consortium. I have to admit that this kind of accident does cross one’s mind but is forcefully pushed to the back. The vessel is a smaller, leased one for reduced winter traffic. It is the F/b Norman Atlantic which was built in Italy in 2009 as F/b Akeman Street  and later rebadged F/b Scintu.

norat

Passengers had left Patras at 17.30 (Greek Time) on Saturday and were called on to the top, outside deck in the early hours of Sunday morning as they were going through the Corfu-Albania passage. This was in complete darkness, extreme cold and gale force winds which meant lifeboat launch was too dangerous. Can you imagine it?

At the same time, there is still a credible and tangible danger of the Coalition losing the Presidential vote on Monday with the subsequent snap election triggered in February. This leaves the country prey to Tsipras and his anti-European stance. Samaras made an appeal to the undecided MPs on state TV NERIT on Saturday evening. Will it be enough? Fortunately, it doesn’t matter to us anymore but it will affect our friends.

29th December, 2014

What a fantastic morning. Brilliant blue skies and strong sun on sharply frosted lawns make a beautiful, Winter scene. My thoughts have been with those stranded outside in the freezing cold, wet and gale-force winds curdled with acrid smoke on the ferry in the Adriatic. Where else in the civilised world would deliverance from this emergency be so prolonged? I was living the agony they must have gone through in my head all night. How would Pauline & I have coped?

Woken from sleep in the early hours of the morning, waiting for the tannoy announcement to be translated into English. Scrambling into clothes. What to wear? Getting out on top deck would be easier for us because that’s where Luxury cabins are already. Out on deck in the pitch black, freezing, wet wind; breathing in thick, black smoke; hearing Greek voices jabbering and panicked. Where to stand. Nowhere to sit for hour after worried hour. No news apart from a few people being winched off by helicopter. That looks almost more dangerous than being on board.

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The BBC are now reporting eight dead bodies have been taken off the ferry.

Now, at 10.30 am (GMT), the Greeks have voted for elections in the next month (Jan, 25th) and the possibility of Syriza, rejection of Austerity, rejection by the European Union, exit from the Euro, downward spiral. If the sea doesn’t get you, the economy will. How lucky are we to have sold our house and be out of it? It’s getting better all the time. Happy New Year! Don’t forget to book your restful, Greek holiday.

30th December, 2014

Thank you for your Congratulations on our 36th Wedding Anniversary. This day in 1978 was thick with overnight snow. The Pennine routes were almost impassable and the Council Gritting Teams were on strike. Oh for the good old days! We had a wonderful day and we will again today. We’ve been to the Gym to celebrate and earn our bottle of champagne and roast pheasant Dinner.

Have to share with you a story that my recently lost hero told some 20 years ago. Tony Benn recounted this:

The NHS held a boat race against a Japanese crew. After Japan won by a mile, a working party found the winners had eight people rowing and one steering, while the NHS had eight steering and one rowing. So the NHS spent £5 million on consultants, forming a restructured crew of four assistant steering managers, three deputy managers and a director of steering services. The rower was then given an incentive to row harder. They held another race and lost by two miles, so the NHS fired the rower for poor performance, sold the boat and used the proceeds to pay a bonus to the director of steering services.

Not a lot has changed in Britain 20 years on. Exactly the same can be said about Greece. We could have told you that the ferry’s manifest would not marry the reality. Only 40 names under-recorded. That was quite accurate then.

31st December, 2014

Farewell to 2014! Hello to two, lovely readers of the Blog – apparently pictured in the Hilton Hotel, Manchester. Good of them to get in touch and supply a photograph.

r&l

The Orwellian 1984 and the Millennium (Bug) 2000 have both passed and here we are welcoming 2015. My long term aim is to break the 2050 barrier but I have a feeling this immediate new year is going to be a really good one. Lovely story in The Times today with more than one Poison Dwarf found in East Yorkshire.

The British chap who seems to have achieved ‘hero’ status from the Greek ferry disaster is quoted in The Times today saying:

In high seas and amid darkness and thick smoke, he and five other passengers stayed below to lead the task of connecting the stricken ferry to a tug boat sent to tow them to shore.

“There were no crew members down there — it was just us. I couldn’t work that out. From what I understood, some of the crew members bailed out at the beginning. They got off with the first lifeboats. There were so many women and children left on the boat. Why were they not the first in line to get on the lifeboat? It was just chaos. I think there should be a few people with their heads a bit low.”

f3 f4

Why are we not surprised?

1st January 2015

Happy-New-Year-15

If you like fireworks, click the graphic. This is going to be a brilliant, new year. Hope you enjoy it. The weather outside is mild but grey. Inside it is lovely. I started the morning by unstacking the dishwasher to the strains of the Berliner Philharmoniker’s New Year’s Eve concert conducted by Simon Rattle. Life doesn’t get more sublime than that. New Year’s Day will feature rabbit stew and the last bottle of wine for a while – maybe a month or, maybe, three months.

I sincerely wish Skiathan Man and his family a happy and increasingly healthy 2015. They’re going through a tough time. Happy New Year to Barty Simpson on Paros, to the Simi Boys, and the dwellers on Democracy Street. Looks like this is going to be an interesting year for those with Greek connections.

2nd January 2015

2014 is so last year. So is the Euro. Greek instability is moving the £1.00 towards €1.29. If they vote for Tsipras, it will weaken still more and make island life increasingly expensive. Our petrol today is down to £1.11 per litre/€1.43. Must ask our Sifnos friends what it is there. Our analysts are predicting the £1.00 litre soon.

Glorious sunshine and quite mild today. We are reaching 13C/55F which is not too bad for mid winter England. Just been checking the Superfast Ferries site and our tickets this year will be €985.00 / £770.00 return with car in a Luxury Cabin. (Don’t know if that includes a life jacket!) To add to that we’ve got three or four hotels costing around another £500.00/€640.00 each way plus return Speedrunner cost of about €450.00/£350.00. Add another £150.00/€200.00 each way for petrol and £500.00/€640.00 for meals. The total cost of the week taken traveling each way comes to circa £3000.00/€3845.00.

3rd January 2015

Got a bit of a shock today as I watched the BBC News in the peace of my Study. There was a news item about the convicted rapist footballer being rumoured to be about to sign for Oldham Athletic. The cameras were out seeking vox pop clips for the news bulletins with the opinions of Oldham’s finest for or against the controversial decision. Suddenly, in huge high definition, came a face that took me back years. The one person interviewed was a young man who I hadn’t seen for six years.

am

Andy was I.T. Manager and helped me introduced wireless networks across the school allowing the community to access a digital curriculum, an intranet and all management documentation and communication across the institution and from home. We revolutionised working practices in a very few years. It was lovely to see him again.

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