Thursday, 30 December 2010

When the show was Over

What a great Christmas we've had, if only all the kids and Grand kids could have been here it would have been sensational.  It started with a seventieth birthday party on Christmas Eve for Denise given by her partner Andrew at the Oasis taverna in Lefkas town.  We all had a superb evening with plenty of good food and wine and of course the great company of friends old and new.  Denise was delighted with all her gfits and revelled in being the centre of so much attention.

Part of the party.
Deb and I
Christmas day arrived and Santa hasn't brought me a chain saw :-( but he had brought me some other lovely gifts and the chain saw is being fetched from Athens by Jeremy and Deb as they drop Deb's mother off at the airport so hopefully the firewood supply can keep rolling in.  Sandra is paying for it as a slightly early birthday present.  Sandra's Christmas was a lazy one for her as she is normally doing everything for big family meals at home and this year we were were going to Vlicho Yacht Club.  After a chilled morning we Skyped all the kids in the UK to see and hear what was going on with their Christmas mornings.  Skype is fantastic for keeping in touch with the kids as being able to see them in real time as well as hear them makes it the next best thing to actually being with them.  Sandra's Dad is well impressed with it and has said that he'll have to have a computer so he can share in it without having to go around to the boys houses!  I think when he masters the VHS video player we may consider it!!

Tony, Sandra and Liz
Lunch at Vlicho was great, again plenty of good food and copious quantities of wines and great company.  I must really thank Ruairi, Vicky and all their staff involved  for their tireless efforts throughout the day which has helped to make this one Christmas which neither Sandra nor I will forget.  After Christmas lunch we were very professionally entertained by Bob on the guitar and  his glamorous assistant on a home made sound box which produced a very impressive percussion noise.  We left at around 9:30 as we had promised to call in at Tree & Mike's next door to have a Christmas drink with them.  They were still entertaining when we arrived so I had to help him clear some of the whisky.

Boxing day we had at Tree and Mike's house with about another dozen or so people again all food, drink and talk.  Unfortunately I had to excuse myself from the food as I had still had enough from the day before and just joined in the Christmas pudding (because I just can't resist it!).

Bob and his Glamorous assistant! 

The boat in Paleros plaza

Monday dawned and it was off to Nidri for the start of the Paleros race.  Not much wind to be had but we managed to get started and to be fair once we had cleared Nidri bay we did get a little spurt on but then it deserted us.  Tony, Liz and I were on "Izola" and spent most of the afternoon seeking what bits of wind we could find but Liz had brought along some food supplies so it didn't really matter.  Slowly during the mid afternoon most people gave up and switched on their engines and motored into Paleros we gave it until 4:30 but in the end had to bow down to reality and start the motor if we were going to get into port before night.  The distance is about 8 or 9 miles and we probably didn't do much more than half in four and a half hours.  As "Izola" is really only big enough for two to sleep in any comfort Sandra and I had been across to Paleros a couple of weeks ago and booked into an Hotel so Sandra went around in Mike's camper earlier in the day and had got herself all comfy.  The Hotel was the Thalassa just outside Paleros and was excellent they actually gave us wine sweets and coffee which we had ordered and wouldn't take payment for them and at 55 Euros for the room wasn't too expensive for a good quality hotel.  Our evening was supposed to have been at the only Indian restaurant within a million miles of here and I was so looking forward to it but unfortunatley it hadn't been booked and was closed so we all ended up at a Greek tavernas which was good but not Indian and I'm getting withdrawal symptoms!
Paleros evening - Mike and Tree nearest.
Don't cry Liz the food will soon be here!!!

Next day sailed back to Nidri in a bit of a blow, you wouldn't believe the contrast to 24 hours earlier.  We should have sailed back to Lefkas marina with "Izola" but the channel down the side of Lefkas was so rough with the northerly wind coming straight down it that Tony, the master marina aboard, said that we would be all day tacking through it and the engine wouldn't be powerful enough to make any headway so we decided to leave it overnight at Nidri again.  Two hours later and the wind had moderated somewhat so perhaps it could have been done, if only we all had hind sight.  Anyway we had a great sail across with a little genoa and no main up we still got almost 8 knots out of her in winds we learnt later were blowing at 28 knots about force 7ish - Great stuff.

Wednesday Tony, Liz and I took the yacht back to Lefkas marina and had another amazing sail although the wind wasn't as strong and certainly not as gusty, we seemed to have caught the best of it and again with it being out of the north we had to tack all the way down.  Tony even let me be skipper for over half the journey so I was as happy as a pig in the wet smelly stuff.  Thanks Tony and Liz you made my Christmas!!

Today we've just been chilling for the day and getting some stamina stored up for the new year festivities on Friday night.  I have managed to wash the car and get it looking smart again so not a completely wasted day.  See ya soon...

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Twas the day (and a half) before Christmas...

Half a tree on the fire in Mantha's Kafenion
Well Christmas is nearly here and I'm sure everyone back in the UK will be getting either very excited or very depressed about it, I hope you are all of the former group rather than the latter.  Christmas here in Greece is not the major festival it tends to be in the rest of the western world although here on the island they are more into it than on the mainland where we used to live.  We were up there yesterday visiting our Greek "family" and friends and despite a few small things like an odd decorated Christmas tree you wouldn't think that there is anything much going on.  In fact on the telephone the other day talking to Christos (the son of our good friends Mantha and Jorgos) he was wanting us to go there on Saturday to celebrate his name day with no mention of Christmas, this seems really strange as the Greeks are a real overtly religious people.  Jorgos is not even having time off for Christmas day and Boxing day both his petrol station and the cafe will be open as usual.  On Lefkas things are a little different there are many street decorations and the shops are decorated for the festive season although neither to the extent which people at home would expect and it's only really happened in the last couple of weeks not since the middle of October like it does in the UK.

Snow at the side of the roads where we turned arround
The IKEA store in Ioannina has finally opened and last Saturday Sandra and I decided we would go and have a look to see if we could get some opening bargains on a Settee and dining table and chairs.  From here it's about a two hour drive to get there but we were to incorporate it with some general shopping at the large supermarkets in the city and also fill up with diesel at Carrefour  which is the cheapest we know of 1.31Euro per litre (about £1.11 / lt at today's exchange rate) it can be as high as 1.48Euro (£1.26) and you can see two garages next to each other with over 10 cents difference in price.  Any way about 5 miles from the IKEA store the traffic stopped and we noticed that nothing was coming from the opposite direction so we thought there may have been an accident as there was quite a bit of snow on the road sides and Greek tyres are very often tread-less.  We spoke to a guy who was stood at the side of the road on a telephone who explained that there had been a snow slide off the side of the mountain which had blocked the road and it would be a couple of hours before it was cleared.  After a brief wait we decided that we would about turn and head for Arta to do our bit of shopping which we did.  A couple of hours later we thought shall we try again while we were relatively near and so tried again this time we made it.  The store is huge, bigger and better laid out than the one in Thessaloniki (or the one in Leeds for that matter) and has a huge great Jumbo store next to it as well.  We made a note of the things we might buy as they didn't seem to have the opening bargains I had been hoping for, and decided to return again in the middle of January when they might have a sale on.

Sandra loading wood into the car for the fire at home.
We were supposed to be going to Assos on Monday but when we rang it seemed that Mantha would be going to hospital that day so we resolved to go Tuesday.  Sandra, taking no risks thought she would ring and make sure Tuesday was OK but no!  Mantha was going to hospital on Tuesday instead so we arranged Wednesday.  This was lucky for me because Tony and Liz were bring "Izola" their small yacht from Lefkas marina down to Nidre in preparation for the race on the 27th which leaves from Nidre.  Seeing as I now had the day free I could have a sail down with them.  Unfortunately the trip was almost entirely directly into the wind so we had to beat up all the way into a quite choppy sea.  we did however stay surprisingly dry given that it's such a small boat.  3 Hours later we were safely moored up in Nidre and back with Sandra who had been enjoying a coffee whilst we got there.

The ultimate four by four transport
Sandra and I have been out this morning scavenging for more firewood to see us through the festive period, and on the way back passed a couple of ageing Greeks in the olive grove harvesting their olives and parked at the side of the road were their donkeys so we thought that being that time of year were donkeys and stables are at the forefront of everybody's minds we would take a couple of pictures although I don't think that Mary and Joseph would have had ther stepladder strapped to the donkeys side!
Have Ladder will travel!

Anyway that's about it for now just to wish every body a fine, happy and healthy holiday season and a great new year to come Kala Christouyena as the Greeks say.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Christmas is coming the Waddy's are getting fat(ter)

Well only just over a week to go before the Christmas excesses begin, what tree did I fall out of?  We seem to have been having an excess for several weeks now, we have been eating out a little too regularly really and I'm hoping that it's just the time of year rather than the extraordinary sociability of the Lefkas ex-pat community.

We've just got filled up with oil for the heating, hot water and Stanley (Arga type) cooker at a cost of 77.3 cents per litre (about 65.5p in Brit money) which I think is considerably more expensive than it is at home, I think the last time we filled up at home it was about 50p but then again that would be for 1500 litres rather than the 300 my tank only holds 400) I have got today, but it's still another £200 gone ah well that's the penalty of being out here I suppose.

The Cake!
Sandra managed to get the Christmas cake decorated the other day not with Marzipan and icing as most Christmas cakes are but covered in fruit and nuts and then glazed I think it looks rather appetizing but we've yet to sample it and you should never judge a book by it's cover, however, I'm totally confident it'll be much better than it would have been if I had cooked it!

Sandra took some of her pals around to the recently opened Jumbo store at Louros on Monday for a girlie day out with retail therapy (I think that means spending money!) while Tony and I fitted a sea toilet and cooker into "Izola" in preparation for the race to Paleros the day after boxing day.  Liz and Tony will be spending the night on board her after the Indian meal in Paleros which is the ultimate antidote to Christmas excess.  Sandra and I have been around to Paleros today in the car and booked into the Thalassa Hotel so we can at least get a good nights sleep before the sail back home the next day.

The Christmas tree in the small square Vournikas
Mike and Tree, our long suffering landlords have been fitting radiators into their villa this week so I have been assisting them in their endeavours.  I think it must be getting a little cool on and evening now as they seem to be wearing fleeces most of the time, mind you this morning there was a good covering of snow on the mountains to the north of us albeit a couple of thousand feet higher than we are.  The cold air the Britain got over the last couple of weeks is now fairly well settled over us although not nearly as cold down here.  Currently today is about 8c falling to about 4c overnight.  Next Thursday is forecast as 18c falling to 12c overnight.  Don't think we are in for a white Christmas.
Nativity scene outside a house in the village.
 The Greeks now seem to be getting into the seasonal spirit there are more lights going up in the village although nothing like happens in the UK.  There is however, a couple of really unusual ones which if I remember after dark I will go down and take some pictures of and add them in here.

Oh well I did and here they are, got a few more but no room here for them.
Close up of the nativity

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Busy week on the island ....

Ready for the briefing - Maureen,  Mark and I in the centre
Arriving at Lygia for the race start
We have had what seems a really hectic week this week, starting with the boat race on Sunday.  Once again Tony agreed to increase his handicap by having me as a crew member.  We had Mike, Keith, Tony and I from last times and also with the addition of Tree (my long suffering landlady) who's also a part owner of the good ship "Jungle".  Before the race Tony stated that he was turning over a new leaf and going to be Mr. Chilled and not get wound up by the frailties of his long suffering crew.  His resolve was sorely tested right at the start of the race when due to his expert sailing skills we were late to the start line and ended up being about 8th or 9th across it!  Thing went from bad to worse when we got around the first buoy and tried to put up the spinnaka.  Unfortunately Keith had tied the ropes on incorrectly and when we pulled it up it was all tangled and upside down, good old Keith, but Tony still didn't blow!  This corrected we soon started gaining a few places as we headed towards the island, we then dropped the spinnaker and rounded the island in pretty good shape in about 4th place.  Up with the spinnaker again and again we cocked it up, whew!  Anyway suffice to say that we crossed the finish line in third place on the water making us second on handicap in the race, we only lost it by two and a half minutes so had it not been for the cock ups we would have won.  And Tony completed the whole course without exploding, Mr Cool incarnate methinks!
Heading for the start line

Tuesday was a curry night organised by Maureen and Mark at Il Porto cafe on the marina in Lefkas.  They have been debating whether to shut up for the winter season due to lack of trade so M&M decided to try and drum up some trade for them and try to keep them open for a while longer.  Everyone brought a curry dish and bargies, rice, noodles and the rest and then we all shared the results, everyone had more than enough to eat and as is usual with these things there was stacks left over at end.  It was a super evening with some great food and also I guess about sixty or more customers for the bar so I think everyone won.
Up Spinnakers - well for most anyway!

Arriving back at Lefkas Marina
I've spent the last few days wielding a chainsaw and cutting up some reserves of firewood for the winter because the bottom edge of the cold weather that Britain has been suffering is going to come across us sarting overnight tonight according to the weather forecast.  It seems that night time temperatures are going to get down to around 4 degree (FOUR!) and only getting up to about 8 or 9 during the day.  This looks like it will stay with us for about a week so I'm sure that up in the mountains at Assos it will be bloody cold maybe even a frost, good job we moved down here.

Not bad for being well into December is it?
We still managed to find time to go down for a coffee to Vasilliki and a lounge about in the harbour though despite all these things to do.  Our social life seems to be really busy at the moment it's almost like we have moved to a new country and not just an hour down the road, however, this may just be down to it being the festive season.

Well that's about it for this week, hopefully there will be other things to write about next week.

Friday, 3 December 2010

And the snow it did snow...

Over a Foot and Counting
Still Snowing?
The weather has been very rough in the UK for over a week now and I hope that everyone who read this blog over there has managed to keep themselves safe warm and well fed in the bad weather.  I hope that there isn't a quick thaw which will cause flooding problems for some.  It's great to look at and smashing for the kids (old & young) to play in but not much fun for people to have to travel in and commute to and from their place of work.  Fortunately we don't have to think about such things as it's still around 18 degrees here and although we have has some rain in the last few days and also some stiff breezes it is still very mild for the time of year.  No doubt we shall pay for it when we are all sat outside (well semi outside) having our Christmas lunches at the Yacht Club in Vliho.  I have "stolen" some pictures of our home village from my son Chris just to show what it's been like in beautiful Yorkshire.

Snowy Yokefleet, Yorkshire
Onto things in this neck of the woods.  Last Friday we dined out in real style on a 63ft Motor yacht, the property of Dave, Sharon and their daughter Sara.  They invited us to have an evening meal with them and it was excellent by any standards, truly fantastic fare.  What a luxurious setting, I came away feeling quite envious but I don't think the bank manager will agree with me or lend me the necessary wonga to achieve it but hey ho a mans got to have a dream!  Once again thanks very much to Dave and Sharon for a fantastic evening.

Our spirally tinsely Staircase
Mini Tree all in Red and Gold
The biggest Poinsettia in the world!
Wednesday we went to the newly opened Jumbo store just outside Louros near where we used to live on the mainland in order to get some Christmas decorations and a little tree.  Although we had planned to bring ours out from the UK when we came last September, unfortunately the car was ram jam full of other things including Sandra's dad so they got left in the storage facility (Garage!).  We did consider strapping Geoff to the roof but thought he may object, so we left the decorations and tree in the UK.  The prices of Christmas decorations in Jumbo are cheaper than the UK but things like fibre optic trees don't seem to be available here yet, although you can get sets of 120 LED lights for about 4 euros so it's not too expensive to light the place up.  After this we went up into the mountains to spend the rest of the day with our Greek friends in Assos and as usual they were delighted to see us.
Outside Lights

Thursday, newly equipped with the makings of Christmas we had to decorate the house inside and out, although to be fair Sandra has not gone OTT like she would have done in years gone by and things are quite subtle by her standards.  This done it was decided that we ought to not risk none delivery given the UK weather and order all the kids Christmas presents on line.  Amazon is great for this as they will gift wrap and put personal messages on the parcels.  I'm sure the kids get more fun from the paper than the presents at times!  Anyway that done we thought we may as well continue and send the Adults stuff also so that means that Christmas is now all boxed up and sorted.  However, it did mean that I couldn't find time to write the blog yesterday as we were out for a meal with friends in Lefkas town in the evening.  It's hard work this retirement!

Well that's about it for now, hope everyone keeps safe and warm over the few weeks and hopefully I'll manage to write something more next Thursday.