Friday, 30 April 2010

Visitors arrive!

It's been quite a week all in all this week but we are now on easy time as we have visitors for a couple of weeks.

Picture: Effie doing her beautician stuff on Mantha's nails.

On Monday we went to have a look at another house at Vournikas, just above Vasiliki on Lefkada Island. We are thinking of moving before winter as the house we are currently living in although entirely beautiful in spring summer and autumn, id cold in winter and having no insulation and very a basic heating system is cold and expensive to keep warm. So that said we went to have a look at this other house which is owned by Tree & Mike and they are willing to let us rent it long term. Again it's a fantastic place with views over Vasiliki town and the Ionian Islands of Ithaka and Kefalonia. The house has proper insulation and heating fitted so it would be ideal for our use but I don't know if we are going to be able to afford it, we will be going back again on Sunday to discuss further with Mike & Tree and maybe take some photo's so I can show you.

Picture: Two fat lads out for a walk!

Sandra and I went out for a meal on Wednesday evening but first went for another drink and admire the views at Lake Zero, the lake was like a looking glass and the full depth of the surrounding mountains reflected in it's surface is a stunning spectacle. From there on to Babaknackers (good name isn't it?) a local taverna for an evening meal. This is the first evening Sandra and I have had a meal out together and on our own since we have been here and it was really enjoyable not to have to make any effort just eat and relish.

Early start on Wednesday morning for the three and half hour drive to Thessalonki Airport (Macedonia airport it's called) to pick up Jean and Allen after their flight from Cyprus. They arrived safely and they had just got outside the airport as we arrived so there was no parking to pay for. We stopped off at Metsovo, the sky resort, for our Lunch en route home although the snow is now confined to the higher reaches of the mountains it's still a very pretty place and has loads of people visiting. I don't think that we've really stopped talking since Al & Jean arrived apart from during the footy matches last night and the night before!

Picture: Jeans chilling in her jimjams...

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Life on Easy Street...

Nice easy time this week which started on Saturday with the visit of good friends Tony & Liz and Mark & Maureen, they got slightly misplaced on the way here dispite Tony and Liz having been here bfore but the bonus was they enjoyed a nice ride through the mountains. Kev & Lynda should have been here also but couldn't make it due to a prior engagement with the briny and a yacht.

Photo: LtoR Liz, Mark, Me, Maureen and Tony - Sandra is playing at being David Bailey behind the lens!

We had a smashing BBQ and loads of talk lasting all day. It's really a refreshing change to be able to chat away without having to mentally translate of simplify your English so you can be understood, in life at home you take the pleasure of having a chat just so much for granted and it's really a great gift. Anyway we sent them all off home with some Goats cheese produced by one of our neighbours and hopefully a full belly to boot. Thanks to all for the flowers (Pictured left) and giftets you brought and look forward to seeing you all soon in Lefkas.

Sandra went to Ioannina with Mantha on Monday and came back with a set of patio chairs and a table for Mantha's balcony. This meant that I had to build them all on Tuesday as I think I own the only spanner in the village. Mantha's big kitchen table also required attention as it was moving a foot from side to side at the top and not an inch at the floor yet another job for Les and his magic spanner! also this week I have been mending a mobile phone which would charge for a guy up the road and several trips to sort Jorgos out with his computer all of which have been "shoot the user" type problems. I sometimes wonder how ever they managed before Sandra and I came to the village.

Today San and I have had a nice day just walking around Arta (Volta Kafe - Volta Kafe...) we called of at Lymni Zero (Lake Zero) on the way home and had a nice glass of wine overlooking the lake - Beautiful. Four Glasses of wine and two plates of meze later we came home. Great value for money there as it was only 6 Euros for the lot and the meze's where a meal in themselves. Home then for yet another BBQ and the footy tonight!

We have just spent ten minutes outside watching an amazing display from a few fireflies the first we have seen for years since we were on holiday at Nidri.

Anyway that's been about all for this week I did say it had been an easy one!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Good Grief it's half way through April!!...

It seems like only the other day we came out here and now it's already halfway through April and only about 7 weeks left before we set off back to blighty so Sandra has a month or so to get ready for Gary (our eldest son) and Claire's wedding. It's less than two weeks now to our good friends Allen and Jean coming to visit us and we're really looking forward to that as we haven't seen them since last September and there's so much to talk about what with their winter out in Cyprus and of course our time here, I think we may struggle to get it all in within the fortnight that they are here. Then a week and a half later Sandra's bestest ever cousin Dawn and her husband Graham are coming out to stay for a couple of weeks and will be travelling back overland with us to England so we have so much to look forward to. Anyway I digress.... Back to the present.

Picture: A man is always on his knees doing a womans bidding!

We have been having a bit of a spring clean this week well as you probably know I've got to clean up after Sandra all the time anyway (whack - I can feel it coming!). We've cut the grass on out little cabbage patch lawn over the weekend with a pair of shears. I could have got Christos to do it with his brush cutter but it leaves nearly as much tidying as getting down and dirty with the shears. It took me longer to do this little bit than it takes to do almost an acre of lawn at home but I suppose we are time rich. There has also been a general tidy up of the olive groves going on around us, when they picked the olives and pruned the trees late last year and early this, they left all the pruning on the floor to dry. Now they are raking them all into heaps through the groves and setting fire to them. Unlike English farmers the Greek farmers can burn all their rubbish so obviously the EU law doesn't apply here but that's nothing new.

This picture shows the lawn finished and you can see the smoke in the background from Niko's Olive Groves:

The first BBQ of the season happened this week, just a trial run with some chicken and liver but very tastu none the less. Here I am doing what a man does best!

We have also set about trying to get all the window shutters looking something like as much of the paint on them is oxidised, this involved giving them all a good clean and then car polishing them, the result is not perfect but they look much better then they used to.

At the moment there are beautiful flowering trees all over the place deeps purples and glowing whites all this on top of the abundance of wild flowers spring here is a real masterpiece worthy of Vincent van Gogh.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Now the carnival is over....

Well that's the end of the Easter festivities for another year, we found it all very hard work Sandra was helping Mantha Thursday through to Sunday preparing food that in the main got wasted because there was far too much of it and mostly things which don't keep well but as the locals say you have to be prepared for every single person you know calling in and being able to feed them, all the same it seems to me to be a bit of a shame.

The real event starts with us going down to the church armed with our candles for midnight mass on Saturday night, our village priest does both churches in the village so our midnight was at 10:30 this year but last year it was at Midnight. The candle light is passed on from the priest to all the candles in the congregation, over 200 people this year and probably more at the other church which has the more populated end of the village as it's parishioners. The flame is taken from Jerusalem every year by some Orthodox priests who apparently go down into a cave and the candle (it seems) spontaneously combusts with no human help, they say that this only happens for the Greek Orthodox priests and it has been checked by scientists and police to make sure it's not faked! The flame is then flown back to Athens and passed onto priests from all areas of the country so the all the candles are ignited from the original Jerusalem flame. The service ends with loud fire crackers being let off outside and everyone wishing everyone else Chronia Polla (many years). After this we returned back to Mantha's to have Margaritza, which is a kind of thick soup made with the kidney liver and heart of tomorrows lamb and it marks the official end to lent and the return to eating meat.
Easter Sunday and we looked down over the balcony to wish Yanni who had an house full of relatives staying, "Kalo Pasha" and found that they were lighting the old oven in the shed below our garden bridge in readiness for their lamb. We thought that this machine had not been used in years because there is no chimney coming out of the shed, but that didn't stop them and the smoke just filtered through the tiles. He had with him his son and wife, their two daughters with husbands and their two children, nine of them staying in a two bed roomed house all Easter, it is a family time! In the meantime I went down to Jorgos to see if I could help with anything in the BBQ dept. but found Christos already trying to light the machine with copious quantities of BBQ lighting fluid, enough to last you through a season actually but anyway in the end it was up and running and the lamb attached to the spit rotating away merrily. At the last minute we got a call from Jorgos' brother to say that he and his family couldn't make it as they had more family turn up at their house unexpected so that left even more food to go around us. After being stuffed and watered Jorgos suggested that we went to a taverna for the night where he knew there was a live music act playing, but knowing that we were all ready shattered and also had been drinking (we would have had to drive) we declined and came home for some peace and quite.

(Picture: Left to right, Sandra, Mantha, Les, Jorgos, Yaya (Jorgos' Mother))

Monday we were supposed to be having yet another meal with Jorgos and Mantha's family but Sandra felt unwell so we just stayed at home, in all honesty Sandra couldn't have gone far from a toilet roll!! They all came up to our house on Monday night as they were concerned that Sandra was unwell and it turned out that the meat we should have eaten had we turned out was off and had to be thrown away so they had a vegetarian Easter Monday, I'm sure it won't have done them any harm.

We went to pay our rent on Tuesday to a couple who live just down the hill from us they keep it for the landlord as he doesn't trust the banks anymore. This couple Martha and Niko, entertained us all afternoon without a single word of English being spoken, it was hard work mind and Niko kept trying German on the grounds that German is foreign so we must be able to understand that! We left with a dozen fresh eggs, a kilo of home made goats cheese, two litres of goats milk, four red boiled eggs (Easter Speciality) and four large Easter cakes. You've never seen generosity like these people have. We had just returned when Jorgos and Christos came up with a laptop which they couldn't get to connect to a website and to tell me that their desktop wasn't working. User error on the first part and when I got down there the desktop seemed to work fine. Jorgos said he thinks it's scared of me because it wasn't working earlier, I think user error again. Anyway he said that Christos would be up tomorrow to see to the tree which we have been trying to get pruned a bit.

Sandra and I went to Ioannina yesterday to get some what she calls voile but I call net curtains, she has a real phobia about mosquitoes not that we have any at the moment but she doesn't want them in the house when we are in with the windows open and lights on. We managed to get some at a reasonable price and also got rigged up with a BBQ as it's now getting to that al fresco time of year. When we arrived home the tree had gone, well all but the trunk but unfortunately all the major branches were left in a big heap all over the pathway down hill which yanni uses most days so I had to set about with a little bow say and a pruning saw to cut it down to manageable bits and shift it. But what a view we have now from our breakfast table outside the kitchen door must be one of the best in Europe. I know this picture doesn't do it justice but if anyone wants to come and see it for themselves I'm sure they will get a warm welcome.

Today I have had to manufacture some rails for the bloody curtains we got yesterday and hang them all on eight doors and windows. I will soon need a rest!!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

καλο πασχα (kalo Pasha, happy Easter)

Happy Easter every one hope you all have a good un! We have had another busy week up the the hills. Sandra was looking after the kafenion again on Tuesday while Mantha was with her daughter in Lefkas but no Mezes this time just kept the place clean and tidy and served a few drinks to the regulars. Jorgos has been asking for a while if I would have a look at his spit turning device on his BBQ prior to Easter as he didn't think it was working. I asked Sandra while she was at the cafe to bring it back with her in the car so I could have a look where I had plenty of tools and no one looking over my shoulder offering friendly advice! She asked Jorgos who said it was to big and heavy to get into the car so I would have to go down there and have a look, I thought this a little strange as they are usually just a small motor which you link onto the spit, normally no bigger than a small thermos flask. I duly went down there and found the BBQ was a real industrial job which you could probably get six lambs on with three rotating spits. It was built into a shed (as can be seen on this picture) at the rear of the petrol station and obviously this had been built around the BBQ as we had to take the door off and lever the machine through the door frame removing much paint from both. The machine stands about 8ft x 8ft x 3ft and we only want to cook a chicken!! (no I lie!) Anyway to cut a long story a little shorter after having a look at the wiring which was the usual untidy and suspect looking stuff that you find in Greece, I decided to just plug it in and find out if it worked. After plugging in I touched it gingerly to make sure that it wasn't all live and then switched on the motor, wow, it worked! So a good clean off and we are ready to get the Lambs stuck across it and the mint sauce ready!

While I was messing about with this Sandra was trying to fulfil a promise she had made last week to Liz and Tony to get them some straw to "bed" the 100+ red Easter eggs for their party on Easter Sunday. As it happened a 4x4 pickup truck pulled into the petrol station for a fill up and it was loaded with hay. She asked one of the guys there if he thought that she could have some of the hay and he said that it would be loads of money to acquire a bale, she said that she didn't want a bale and she just want to pinch a carrier bag full. So she went up to the driver with the man she had been talking to to interpret and grabbed a carrier bag full, I think he would have given her more if she had wanted.

Picture outside Jorgos and Mantha's Fuel station and Kafenion.

We have been to Lefkas again today to get the foam we ordered last week, that was a killer and for the Lefkas yachties benefit don't buy any foam from the place opposite the Lan Shop. A piece 1ft x 3.5ft x six inches cost 43 euros but it is good quality foam. I had asked them the price last week and they said that it wouldn't cost much at all, if it wasn't for the fact that we needed it almost now I would have told them to keep it. The lesson I suppose is to get a price before agreeing to buy it, lesson learnt! Anyway we had an enjoyable lunchtime with the guys down at Il Porto (sorry it's just Porto now) and delivered the straw and some baking Sandra had done for Flash before heading off to our favourite fish restaurant for a meal.

Post publishing extra:
I had forgotten to add that we now have our very own wild tortoise that pays us a visit caught him on camera here on the road but had to take him out of the undergrowth to get a decent picture as they are remarkably well camouflaged.

That's about it for now, Happy Easter again.... Hope that Tony's Party goes well and there are no more swimming pool incidents while you are all under the influence ;=)