Thursday, 25 February 2010

Weekend away from it all

Last Friday we escaped the "rat race" we call Assos for a well earned break in Sunny Lefkas to stay with friends Liz and Tony at Tony's villa. If anyone wants an excellent villa for a reasonable price Tony's villa can be booked on the owners direct website ( We arrived early in order to see if the rumour that they don't get up until 2pm was correct but Liz was up and Tony was almost up! Tony and I had a great walk looking at some other houses nearing completion and hoping to get past some fierce hounds at a farm down one of the roads but I managed to get Sandra nearer to them last year and Tony elected to return via the route we came. Anyway after a fine meal I was all set up for doing the annual pruning around the villas the next day. I was actually very pleasantly surprised by the general condition of the gardens which tony (a self confessed none gardener) had looked after since I gave them a good seeing to last spring, the boy done well! It was really a case of getting all the climbing plants back into reasonable shape and cutting back some of the surrounding shrubbery to stop all the seeds etc. ending up in the pool. Still it took two full days.

Anyway while in Lefkas town we managed to go to the town cinema to see "Did you hear about the Morgans", which for a Rom-Com I found very entertaining but that's only part of the story. The cinema is like the ones of my youth but with much more leg room and clean. They only seem to have one projector so you get a mid film intermission to enable the man in the little room to load the next spool. No Perle and Dean adverts while he's doing it either! When the film starts again you hear the rapid clicking build up and the sound slurring for a few seconds and then your back into the action.

We had a ride around the island on Monday and visited some friends of Liz & Tony's and had a gander at their houses, one was a log cabin style house which I quite liked and also a place down near Sivota with a huge plot of land and quite a character who owned it, just a shame about the long drive down 4x4 country to get there. We also went to see the little housing complex owned by Liz's sister and her husband with beautiful views over Vasiliki town and the islands of Ithaca and Kefalonia. There are Liz's and her sisters houses and two new ones they have built to rent out. We think maybe next year we may be able to have Tree's house but I ain't sure whether the offer was serious, we'll see anyway.

Tuesday was raining, and Sandra and I sat in the kitchen heard this chopping noise coming from Yannis house below us, looking over the balcony we saw Spyros and Youta (our landlords) with a couple of guys hacking a lamb up so I went down to investigate and take some pictures. 5 euros a kilo he paid for it (about £2/lb at current exchange rate) and it was still warm when I felt it. You could never get away with doing it this simply back home! The pictures shows Giorgos a local farmer (left) and Spyros & Yourta, notice the Lichen growing on the sides of the chopping block! Then Giorgos and Yourta splitting the carcass.

I have also been doing some DIY this week, firstly we picked up some plumbing fittings it Lefkas while we were there and I have now got hot running water in the kitchen prior to this the hot water only went into the bathroom so it was a case of boiling kettles for washing up but now we have luxury. Also I have converted the short Greek double bed into a standard size English double by adding 10.5 inches to it's length, if Sandra kicks me out of bed now I can get some proper sleep without having to hang over the end of the bed.

If only all things could have inches added to them so easily!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

And the rain it did rain...

The weather that seems to be affecting northern Europe is having a knock on effect in Greece and in fact in the Mediterranean as a whole and this weeks pictures on the news of landslides in Italy remind me that we are not getting the worst of it, although neither are we getting the best. Looking at the weather forecasts it looks like out dear friends Allen and Jean are having a much better time of it in Cyprus and it's reported as being 25 Deg. C. in Crete which isn't a million miles away. For us, we have had temps of 10 - 14 C. for the last week and rain, thunder hail etc. on five of the last seven days, although the air temperature over the last couple of days is definitely warmer than it has been this year to date. Yesterday Sandra was in Preveza shopping at sea level and said she had sun and was forced to take her jacket off, I was here in the house at 330 Meters. high in the cloud and drizzle and sat near an electric heater. Oh well as the song goes, "things can only get better".

Last Saturday Sandra had arranged
to go to her Greek dancing lessons and then on to a taverna with Mantha, as usual things did not go according to plan. Due to the Greek governments austerity measures the fuel tanker drivers had decided to go on strike for three days from Monday, this meant that Jorgos had to deliver as much fuel as he could to get another delivery in before the strike hence the dancing lessons start at 6pm and Jorgos didn't get home until 7:30pm and Mantha had to hold the fort until he returned and then get ready, so they missed the dancing and went straight out to the taverna. Again on Sunday which was supposed to be Jorgos' bi-weekly day off, he needed to get oil out to the old people who needed heating especially in view of the current weather. He has been rationing his deliveries to 100 litres and will make them up to full deliveries when the strike is over it just means he is having to visit many places twice and this will cost him rather than the tanker drivers. Anyway this had the result of Jorgos not being able to go out for our usual Sunday ride out (not a good thing to tell a woman on Valentines day!!). Irrespective of this we took to the roads and took Mantha and Effie with us to Parga even though it was raining quite hard Praga is still a beautiful place. Effie bought Sandra and I a rose each seen in the first picture picture. The second Picture is of Parga taken in better weather from near the castle down onto the town and island.

During the week I have been doing a few jobs at the Kafenion like repairing some wiring that was really dangerous. The feed for the cooker was three bits of cable just screwed together and taped up it had got wet were it was dangling on the floor and gone
bang, giving Mantha an electric shock. When I had a look I was horrified by it, it could well have caused a fire not even connector blocks joining the wires anyway it's safe now! Jorgos has also lost his satellite connection. When I got onto the roof to have a look the device at the end of the arm (LNB) is just hung on with tape and tie wraps, I'm going in a minute to get a new one from Louros, a small town near here. There's still no guarantee that it'll work after replacing that.

Tomorrow we are going to stay with our friends at Lefkas for a few day so I can prune all the plants in his garden and generally get de-Greeked for a while but I'm sure there'll more to say on this next week

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Bye bye Blackbird

In the picture is Yanni who lives below us wrapped up as though it was Siberia about a dozen or so Blackbirds and a bag full of Horta.

Well I've been offered more blackbirds this week and this time I did have my camera to show the proof, I refused because Sandra won't have anything to do with them, but I think I asked the woman, Youta, who is the wife of my landlord Spiros, to save me some when she cooked them. I may have got this wrong as they have not yet appeared. We have finally met our landlord and landlady, they are very nice and very accommodating. They live in Olympia or as the Greeks call it Olymbia but at first hearing it sounds like Lybia which had me thinking of Colonel Qaddafi coming down the road to evict us. Spiros and Youta want to take Yanni back to Olypia with them to live but he won't leave as nosocoma (Nurse) Sandra lives above and he doesn't want to leave her! Looks like we're here forever then!

We started off the week with some very fine weather, sat out on the terrace to eat breakfast and lunch but the last couple of days have been stormy with lots of rain thunder lightening and hailstone but overall starting at about 16-17 degrees and now about 12 so nothing to really complain about.

Sandra has been out walking with Youta and called in at a taverna located at the far end of the village were we had kept saying that we would go, she said it was beautiful and clean and everyone again made her most welcome although they all knew her before she got in (once seen never forgotten), she was also supposed to be going out with some of the women on Sunday to gather horta (weeds which they cook with like dandelion leaves) but she felt ill on Saturday evening and missed her Greek dancing and also the horta hunt on Sunday morning.

Tuesday she went with Mantha and her daughter Effie to Ioaninna to the hairdressers, this time she came back with an acceptable bill of 16 euros rather than the 140 Euros it cost me when she had it done in Arta last year, I still have nightmares about that one! They spent the entire day there shopping and doing girly things and left me in peace at home to do the men things like washing and hoovering etc, am I a new age man or what!

Yesterday (Wednesday) the rain started and despite the fact that Sandra had been in town all the day before we needed some groceries. The car started misbehaving on the way down to |Thesprotiko cutting out and generally not being a good girl. I thought it was water getting into the fuel line so while she was in the supermarket I drained the water filter and re primed the fuel. We set off back home and just got out of town when the old lass died on us. A guy in a house near where we had pulled up came and asked if I wanted a lift back into town to see a mechanic which I took him up on, the man from the garage came back with me and another guy he had picked up as a translator and said he couldn't do anything in the pouring rain and that I would have to get it back to his garage for a looking at. The two guys duly left and Sandra and I started to roll the car back down the hill in the rain when the interpreter came back in his car and offered to tow me back, which we did. After about four hours of connecting to the computer (which said I had an injector problem on cylinders 1,3 &5) and messing with the fuel filters etc the mechanics happened to touch a wiring loom and the thing started spitting again and then when he released it it ran fine. Anyway to cut a four hour story short it turned out that my car has before I bought it been fitted with an additional immobilizer which when disconnect renders the car running fine. He cleared all the faults on the computer and they have not come back since. 3 guys working for 4 hours on my car with a new water separator filter thrown in cost 100 euros. In the UK it's 60-70 quid to even get the computer attached so really I was well chuffed. He asked me to take the car back again today just so he could check that all was still well which it was. Thanks to all concerned.

I got a message via reading this blog from a young lady in Ontario, Canada who thought that we may be related which was a really nice surprise. After a few emails back and forth it seems very likely that we are and she has kindly sent me some information about some of my immediate ancestors which make fascinating reading. She has also told me a story of her Great Grand Uncle Wilson Waddingham who was part of the first generation of Waddingham's to be born across the pond, he ended up being one of the wealthiest people in the states. He owned the largest Ranch ever in the history of America (The bell ranch) and used to play cards all night with John Chisholm whom John Wayne portrayed in the film. So just thought you might like to know that we have money in the family just not this part of it!

Oh well I've gone on long enough for this week.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Four & Twenty Blackbirds...

Well the weather is now improving and the spring flowers are beginning to show their faces daffodils cyclamen and wild iris' are in flower (although the pictures don't do them justice) and in another two or three weeks I expect the hill sides to be ablaze with colour. Although the daytime temperatures are beginning to recover, it's been in the mid to high teens today, by night it plummets in fact on Wednesday morning we had a frost. Where the spring water comes out of the mountains and runs across the road it was frozen solid so you get ice patches three foot wide crossing the road and this seems to always occur on or near to bends so you have to take it steady with the car.

First thing in the mornings and from about an hour before dusk (about 6:30 pm here) you can hear the echo of shotguns, we had wondered what they were shooting as the wild boar season doesn't start for a couple of months yet. We had sort of assumed pheasants or partridges but earlier in the week I was given three blackbirds, yes the small black bird with an orange beak, I was told that they needed plucking and dressing and then cooking on a skewer over coals. I was willing to give it a go but Sandra was dead set against it. I know they were treated as a delicacy in England in Tudor times, so if it's good enough for Henry VIII then it's good enough for me! I now just have to wait for a Greek to do them for me.

You perhaps can't see very well on this picture but in the bright spot in the middle of the picture is a huge snow covered mountain which is in the skiing area north of Ioaninna.

On Sunday Jorgos took us out for coffee at a coffee house near Dervisiana which is a large village just a few kilometers away from us on the way there we had an hail storm which in no time covered the road to about a couple of inches deep the hails was about the size of broad beans never seen anything like it although I know in Spain they sometimes get it like golf balls. For the second time running we discovered that there was a memorial feast going on at the coffe house, once again we were invited to eat and drink with the mourners although mourning is perhaps the wrong word as they were all having a great time. Later Sandra and I went out for a meal together, for the first time since we've been here, at a taverna two 2 course meals and wine for about £18 and very good quality.

Oh well that's it for another week....