Thursday, 24 February 2011

A few days in Blighty...

 Last Wednesday was an hectic day getting ready at short notice to fly back to the UK and try and rectify Sandra's dad missing oil problems.  We left Lefkas on the bus for Athens at 17:15 for the 5 and a half hour journey to central Athens bus station.  The buses are very comfortable but really need to be for the some of the roads that you go on prior to getting going on the motorway system.  On this occasion the driver was a youngish man who was the best bus driver we have ever had, no sitting 2 inches from the bumper of the vehicle in front at 90 KPH and he anticipated the bends, junctions and traffic admirably. He can't have been Greek!!  Just a twenty minute stop short of the Patras Bridge for a half way coffee/toilet break and it was back on our way, much easier than driving when the driver is good, if he's not so good try and go to sleep and then you can die in you sleep without knowing anything about it!  Arrived at the Bus station about eleven o'clock and there was a shuttle bus to the Airport waiting for us.  The driver was quite confused at the airport when we wanted dropping off at arrivals rather than departures but we explained that there was a taxi picking us up there to take us to our hotel for the night as our flight was not until the next morning.  The Hotel, Peri's near the airport was good and clean with a lovely breakfast brought to our room at nine o'clock as ordered and they transported us both ways to the airport for free so no complaints there although we may have been able to do it cheaper I don't think we would have got better value.
A plane full of Greeks and Man City supporters

So onto the airport with flights on time all hunky dory.  As we were queueing at the flight gate there were staff looking around hand luggage to see if anyone was oversized with their bags picking them out to have them measured and if oversized they had to go into the hold at a cost of about £40 a bag one guy I saw had bags about the same size as me and failed the test but fortunately they didn't spot mine secreted as much out of sight as possible.  One Greek woman had a blazing row with staff when they made her put her stuff into the hold.  You really don't have any excuse as the sizes are published in the booking documents so if you get caught it's best to pay up and shut up.  We have bought two new hand luggage bags of the correct size to return with for cheaper than half of one bag going into the hold.

Sandra giving it big ZZZZs easyjet style.
The flight home was uneventful and we arrived back at Manchester airport at three PM walked to the Train station and a cup of coffee later was on the train for York at four PM.  Six PM picked ap at York station by number two son, Chris and of course Sandra's Dad Geoff.  So in total we had KTEL bus 5.5 hours, Shuttle Bus 1 Hour, plane 3.5 Hours, Train 2 Hours and Chris' car 1 Hour to get home 13 hours mobile to get home by 7 Thursday night which isn't bad when you think we didn't decide to come home until Tuesday Lunch time.

The good tank is all that's left now

Geoff's little chocolate box cottage 

Bear, naked trees in our village, Yokefleet
Snow drops in Yokefleet woods
Could not get around to looking at Geoffs oil problems until Monday because the weather was very wet.  I can't get used to how bleak England is looking at the moment the only bit of brightness in the countryside is the snowdrops which are a picture through Yokefleet where our house is but there is not a bit of greenery starting anywhere after the hard winter they have had even all the leaves on the privet hedges which usually stay evergreen have all dropped.  Anyway, on Monday I took out one of Geoff's tanks which had been damaged and drained the remaining fuel out of it before checking that the remaining tank was sound enough to take the fuel which the lads had salvaged a week earlier, as luck would have it things were OK.  We were fortunate shortly afterwards as a local farmer, Rob Sweeting, came by on his Manatou, a type of farm forklift/teleporter and he agreed to lift for me the tank in which Gary and Chris had put the salvaged oil, up above the tank were I was putting it and I could drain it all off using gravity rather than into five gallon drums and up and down ladders to shift it.  It saved me loads of work so thanks very much Rob.  Rob also took our second knackerd tank to scrap and the borrowed tank back to it's owner for us well worth a drink on us Rob!  Anyway it's all cleaned up now and if there is anything environmentally awry the responsibility has been accepted by the local estate management so thanks to them for that also although we don't think that anything is seriously wrong now anyway.   The insurance company is covering the missing oil so things are resolving themselves quite well.

Just finally I thought the people who read this in other parts of the world might like to see how austere Yorkshire looks at this time of year but also the beautiful snowdrops in the woodland in our home village of Yokefleet Yorkshire.  Not a hint of greenery down our main street if you discount the grass.  I apologise for the picture quality but they were taken on my phone and the lens is always exposed and as such gets rather grubby.  Anyway, with luck and good management next weeks blog should be coming from sunny Lefkas again as we arrive "Home" next Tuesday in time for Tony's Birthday (Saint David's day for the Taffs out there).

There ends a full on week of visits, babysitting working etc.  Just like to wish my best mate luck with his op which may be next week but looks like it's been postponed yet again but that's the NHS for you.  But by the time we go home we'll have had a couple of great evening with them both which we really have appreciated as a break from things.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

We're on our way home...

I've seen the light!

Sandra can now see what she's cooking.

It's been a quiet week here in Vournikas with not much going on.  I have fitted the new light fitting over the kitchen island, we needed this as the house is very dark with regards to natural light especially in winter, of course this works well in terms of keeping the house warm in winter and cool in summer but isn't conducive to Sandra culinary exploits.  Sandra bought the fitting from IKEA a few weeks ago and I have only just got around to fitting it.  Was it worth the pirouetting in the vaulted ceiling to hide the wiring, or course it was, it does the job perfectly and we are very pleased with it.

Small saw - Big log

Also got all of this winters logs finally reduced to size and ready for burning it's amazing how big the chunks of wood are that you can cut with a small electric chainsaw if you go steady and let it feed itself.  Now just have a pile to saw up ready for next winter and store for drying.  They burn much better if they are dry and seem to give out more heat so with luck we are sorted on that front for the foreseeable future.

Some for this year - start of some for next
Monday was valentines day so we had arranged to go up to the village of Vafkeri to the marvellous Katoghi restaurant ( with the only other two lovers on the island, Liz and Tony.  Tony being the full monty when it comes to romance bought Liz a single red rose (not doing any favours to us other men who now have to live up to these precedents once set!)  This is an award winning eatery and is well worth the visit for anyone who comes to Lefkas for an holiday Peter and Alison will alway offer you a really fine welcome and the food is spot on!  I would have put some picture on here of the food and restaurant as Sandra took the camera but we had such a great evening we didn't find the time to take any photo's.  Doohhh

Unfortunately there have been problems with Sandra's dad's oil tanks in the last week, the upshot of this being that we have decided to go home for a couple of weeks.  Managed to get two return flights flights from Athens to Manchester for just over £400 this added to a bus to and overnight stop in Athens and the train from Manchester to York it'll be about £650 all in all for the round trip.  We are now just about packed and ready for setting off for the bus to take us to Athens just waiting for the clock to go around a bit!  Anyway with luck we should be blogging from the UK next week!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Sad day... R.I.P. Papa Yannis

We had a call from Spiros our landlord whilst we lived up in the mountains at Assos on Monday asking us to come for a meal on Tuesday which we declined.  A couple of hours later Jorgos rang from Assos to say that Yannis, who lived on the ground floor of our old house had died.  I guessed that that is what Spiros had been trying to tell me earlier as the funerals here are always followed by a meal.  Spiros didn't have sufficient English to explain this to me and I didn't have sufficient Greek to get it out of him!  So we rang his son back who speaks quite good English and found out that he had in fact died peacefully that morning on his ventilator (he suffered from emphysema).
Papa Yannis in his kitchen in better times last year
The funeral, as is typical in these parts was to be the following morning at 10 o'clock and the family would like us to come as he had really liked having us as neighbours even despite the obvious language barriers.  Yannis was a big part of our lives in the time we spent up there and we could hardly refuse so our planned day was put on the back burner and we set off for the mountains at 7 AM the next morning allowing us plenty of time to go and see Jorgos to find out what the form was for the funeral as we didn't want to do something disrespectful and show ourselves up.
Yannis with his blackbirds waiting to become an evening meal.
We started off viewing the body in an open casket laid in his front room along with perhaps sixty or seventy of his close family and friends.  His children had come from all corners of Greece and his daughter made the journey from Germany overnight, it must be quite a challenge when you only have 24hrs to get flights and make the arrangements necessary to get there on time.  The undertaker then came and took the still open casket to the church in the upper end of the village (North Vietnam as Jorgos calls it (the village used to be two villages which historically were very divided and warlike)).  After the service which had two priests and two men doing the chanting, Yannis was taken up to the cemetery still in his open casket where he was interred in his family plot for a few years until his bones are ready to be taken out and placed within the charnel house.  It was all done in typical Greek stretched out fashion but very dignified, in fact I think I would rather go to another funeral than another christening which I found quite traumatic.  After this was over close family and friends, which included us went to the local taverna in the village for a meal and wine to celebrate his passing.  Yannis was 88 years old and had a very eventful life.  R.I.P. Yannis.

On a brighter side, we spent the weekend with our very special friends Tony and Liz going out to the cinema on Friday night and then on for a super meal later.  Saturday Tony and I set about bringing the garden back into shape ready for the influx of tourists to his villas in the summer months.  Saturday evening was off to Nidri for a birthday party Janet at the Mama Mia Taverna and excellent time was had by all but unfortunately my ulcers meant food was definitely off for the night as far as I was concerned.  Sunday and time for Tony to start being the chainsaw expert and getting some very overgrown  holly oaks chopped down around his property, in spring they fill his swimming pool with blossom and other bits of debris making it impossible to keep clean.  We've got a couple of good solid bougainvillea's now to cover the wall which has been exposed with the demise of the trees.  The only trouble is they are vicious I came out of pruning his existing ones looking like the result of the Texas chainsaw massacre.  I have renamed it's Latin name to maximus man-eatii.   By the time Tony and I had got finished Liz had prepared a lovely roast chicken dinner and lemon meringue pie for afters.  Thanks Liz!

Monday evening and we went to the quiz night in Lefkas town at Chicken Bills place.  We picked up David and Janet as we were passing Nidri anyway and it saved them some petrol so we are doing our bit for the environment.  Dave, Janet, Sandra and I won the quiz and the also two bottles of wine so it was a good night at least from our point of view the only downside being that as winners we have to organise the next quiz night, Hmmm time to get out some of the old music and think of testing questions I think!

This morning we have booked our return ferries and accommodations for the trip back to the UK for summer.  For anyone who may be interested here is the breakdown and coast, there is a 30% saving with ANEK if you book before the end of this month.

Igoumenitsa to Venice two people with inside cabin and car return 289.50 Euros
Over night in Germany One room two people within 1/2 a mile of the motorway at Kepple-Grafenhausen 62 Euros it's just half way between Venice and Zeebrugge if you go the Belgium, Germany, Switzerland way.

Zeebrugge to Hull return two people with inside cabin and car £322  in our case it save us another overnight stay and also the travel from the channel up to Yorkshire so it's competitively priced.

We've Also booked Sandra's Dads one way ferries to go back with us in June, all in all it's been a busy week.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

It's a (Ch)ill wind that blows.

We are just (I hope) coming out of a cold spell spell here on the island there has been talk of frost but I've not seen it, however, Sandra went up to Assos on Tuesday and several roads were white over with frost.  She took Mantha and Effie up to IKEA and said there was snow higher up in the mountains but not on the roads at all although the country road from Assos to Ioaninna had collapsed in several places maybe due to the weather but Jorgos had said that there had been several small earthquakes in that are over the last few weeks.  While Sandra was up in Assos she saw our old landlord and his wife (Spiros and Yorta) they are currently living in our old house but have realised how cold it was and installed a wood burning boiler and several more mod cons to make their stay there more pleasant.  They were delighted to see her and reinforced their offer of accommodation when, not if, we go down to Olympia and Kalamata.

A drive full of tree
Over the last weekend we didn't seem to spend much time at home, on Friday night we had a meal out in Lefkas town at Festino's restaurant.  We both had steak as they always seem to do a really good one there and you can depend on getting a rare steak when you ask for one not medium as most places seem to do.  Saturday we went to a 70th birthday party for Janet in the De Vine bar in Nidri.  Janet being a fantastic cook provided the bulk of the food but Sandra and several others added salads etc. to the buffet.  Janet provides many home comforts to the ex-pat community here like sausage rolls and pork pies etc which cannot be bought for love nor money at the shops.  Sunday we went for lunch at special friends Debbie and Jez's.  They live in a very unusual hexagonal house in the village of Ponti near Vasiliki.  It's a lovely house without being OTT as many are here on the island an ideal house for a couple to live in with a couple of extra small bedrooms for guests, and a view over Vasiliki bay second to none, I fell in love with it.  Jeremy cooked a very good meal for the four of us and we spent the rest of the day just talking endlessly.  Thanks you two we had a great time!
Last branch waiting to be dissected! 

While Sandra was at Assos on Tuesday I took the opportunity to finally cut down the huge branch which grow half way across our drive.  I'm sure this will be to the delight of Tony who always asks if I've got rid of it when he sees me.   The branch started at almost ground level like a tree with two trunks and finished higher than the house so it was a tricky little operation.  With car being miles away I thought that at least I wouldn't damage that if nothing else.  About ten feet above the main trunk the tree divided again into four large branches fortunately the canopy of other tree held the whole thing up while I detached the trunk and then each branch one at a time.  It'll all add to the overall stockpile of next winters fuel supply.
Not a bit of sawdust left (nag avoidance scheme)

Last night we went to Porto bar on Lefkas marina to see the regular film viewing which Maureen and Mark put on.  Last night it was "The King's Speech", this is the best film we have seen for some time and is thoroughly deserving of all the plaudits and awards which are being levelled at it.  Excellent acting and performance by all the cast including the bit parts, in particular I really liked Timothy Spall's Churchill, very much like I remember him.