Thursday, 26 December 2013

Baa humbug and all that...

 Some good news this week to report, Geoff has made a real step forward in his health and is as near normal as he ever gets, well 85% anyway!  He has started bossing Sandra around now so instead of sympathy he's now getting told off by Sandra, well why should he get away with it!
Getting yer kit off!

 On Saturday afternoon Gary and I decided to despatch a couple of his ducks for our Christmas dinners, one for him and one for Sandra, Geoff and I.  Those of a sensitive disposition should ignore the next paragraph.

Two oven ready ducks.
It's quite straightforward to do it the main thing is not to distress the other birds so take them out of site one at a time and do it quickly.  I stoke and comfort them right up to the time the deed is done.  If anyone is planning on doing their own please remember to bleed them properly before plucking and dressing otherwise you will ruin the meat and then the ducks existence has been in vane. They are much easier to pluck if it is done immediately before they go cold.  Plucking can be hard work if you haven't done it before it makes your hands ache. Always pluck in the direction the feathers are growing, sound obvious but some people don't.  Remember when finished to take out the bits which you probably won't be using through the rear of the bird, lungs are a bit fiddly but the rest come away very easily.   Wash out well and store in the fridge until cooking time.
Is that a shepherd, no it's a Mason.

Five Grand-kids in the Christingle Nativity.
 Sunday was the Christingle service at Blacktoft Church, straight opposite Geoff's house.  Sandra had arranged for Jessica, Melissa, Libby, Finley and Mason to go dressed in their nativity costumes from school.  Although Libs was too old for nativity plays so she went in civvies.  Mason didn't do a play this year so Sandra whipped up a quick shepherds outfit on Saturday night.

All the kids get their Christingles.
Geoff opens one of his many gifts.
So all rigged up we attended the service and the children, probably about twenty of them, all held a nativity partially narrated by themselves and partially under the auspices of the vicar, Graham.  He has a really good way with children old and young and managed to cajole them into a stellar performance.  On the subject of cajoling, he also managed to cajole me into taking on the role of one of the Kings complete with solo singing performance, last time I go to church!!  But you can't expect kids to join in if you are not prepared to.  Blacktoft parish consists of three small hamlets with a total population of somewhere in the region of two hundred people.  There must have been half that many people at the Christingle service and the following "bun fight" I'l bet most parishes couldn't boost that, especially when you think that all three villages where affected by the recent storm surge and flooding.  Well done to all concerned.

Geoff and I chilling after Christmas Lunch.
 Christmas dinner went very well and Santa visited and the duck was exceedingly tasty, as Mr. Kipling might have said.  The only problem is something has now shifted in my back and my Sciatic nerve has become trapped thus I am loosing feeling in my leg and in quite a bit of pain also but hey ho I suppose these things come in threes so at least it's not affecting anyone but me.

Have a great new year everyone and hopefully I'll write again next year!  HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Slow progress...but progress none the less...

Want the bed making up ma'am.
 The house has been deep cleaned this week by a professional cleaning company to get into those nooks and crannies where mister Dyson can't reach.  They also disinfected the entire downstairs of the house which now smells quite pleasant.  I have submitted several quotes to the loss adjuster for work that he has said needs doing but when the deep cleaning company came on Tuesday the guy noticed something both I and the loss adjuster had missed.
Mud on the caravan floor.

Garage being pressure washed.
When he came to the front door to get into the house he looked down at the outside walls and noticed that the force of the flood water had removed most of the mortar from the bricks under the house damp proof course, in fact two bricks have actually dropped.  This means I now have to get quotes for remedial work to be carried out on that also.  On the bright side other than some plaster board replacement on a stud wall where the shower room was constructed we seem to have gotten away with the need to re-plaster.   This is a bit of a relief for Andrew and Lesley (our tenants) as they are continuing to live in the property whilst the work is being undertaken.  They have been sterling chaps throughout.
Fridge, Freezer etc. out for washing down.

Still a long way to go.
 Sandra and I opened up the caravan on Monday only to be confronted by yet more mud.  It's not that it was unexpected but it made Sandra cry when she saw the state of our summer palace.  Most of the contents of the van have been burnt now, the warp mud (silt) stains all the materials to such an extent that it's impossible to clean them.  Unfortunately the caravan was uninsured as we don't use it for touring any more and it's well out of sight of any n'er-do-wells who may be about.  Of course you never think it may get flooded!!  It's intrinsic value is not that high but it's personal value to us in summer is huge.  Oh well we've got a dehumidifier working away in there at the moment getting all the moisture out.  Unfortunately all the electrical systems in the van were waterlogged so that'll be another job at some point.
River debris washed into the garden.

Lawnmowers washed, flood went over tractor seat.
We have completed the pressure washing of the garage and the white goods etc. which were stored in there.  I have cleaned the white goods because the insurance has still not given me the go ahead to replace anything and in fact I am already considerably out of pocket with things which needed paying for immediately like boiler and heating system repairs to make the house warm for the tenants.  I hope they don't go and knock it back at the eleventh hour.  But if the worst comes to the worst I can probably salvage some things after a good clean down and service.  The garden has piles of reeds and detritus from the river strewn rights across the end where our shrubs and hedges created a natural filter as the water rushed through.  We have several tree stumps, telegraph poles and railway sleepers as well as just muck.  Maybe if I got a wood burner I could fuel it for some time.

On a much brighter note although Geoff is still very poorly he is responding to all the drugs he's taking and is very much improved in his health to what he has been since we arrived back home.  It's hardly surprising he's ill with all that has gone on in his world over recent months, I think he perpetually worries about things which he has no control over and this makes him very low indeed.  Still I hope I'm around when and if I get to his age.  I will be a cranky old bugger though!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

King Cnut or what...

Floating fridge and freezer anyone?
 Well when we set off from Lefkada last Thursday morning with frost being scrapped from the windscreens of the cars at six thirty in the morning, we had no idea what the weather Gods had in stores for us.  We had good trip to Athens and within six hours overall we were sat in the airport having a Big Mac until we were picked up by the driver from Peri's hotel.
All our worldly goods in the quagmire.

 We had a lovely night there eating at the local taverna in the village for not much money, this goes down very well with me, being a Yorkshire man.  Next morning, a lay in followed by breakfast and then off to the airport, but not without incident.  The driver who was delivering us to the airport backed out of the hotel and straight into a car parked across the road.  After a little altercation with the other driver our man gets into the car and states "they shouldn't be allowed to park there".  Strange from the man who went straight off private property and tee boned someone on a public road.
The muckout starts.
 Our flight was the longest we have ever had going home from Athens taking about an hour longer than normal as, according to the pilot, we had 180 mph head winds all the way home.  Fortunately we didn't book the first train back to York from Manchester just in case there were any delays and with the train also being delayed 15 minutes we managed to get about with a little time to spare.

On arrival at York station we were met by No. three son John, and his opening greetings included the line, "what do you think about your house being flooded" and then "Oh, I guess no one has told you yet!"

Pumping water into the nearby drain from...
Here, lake Yokefleet.
 Anyway to cut a huge story short we had a storm surge down the river Ouse which caused a sort of tidal wave down the river breaching the banks and leaving about five inches of water in the ground floor of the house and about thirty inches or so in the garage where all our personal possessions are stored many of which are now lost forever.  Our tenants, being forewarned by Number two son Chris, got the floor covering up very quickly and the water mainly out of the building, this prevented things being much worse than they could have been but it's still an insurance job as the water could well be contaminated be the septic tanks in the village.

 The loss adjuster has been and we are busy getting quotes for the work as we speak and things are looking up as the cleaning companies dehumidifiers do their job.  Hopefully the pictures may give you some idea of the carnage but as we Yorkshire folk say "it's ony muck and wata."
...and in the other direction, we are behind the trees

Laura gets dunked.
Laura and Geoff, her new Godfather, touch of the Mafia about him!
Jess, with in her latest vampire feature.
On Friday night the power started to flicker finally going off at around one thirty in the morning and not returning until eight o'clock on Saturday evening.  That left us with warmth or hot food and drinks.  Fortunately we went to Number one Son, Gary's, house because he has open fires and we could boil a pan and do some toast on the open coals, Toast done on the fire has no substitute.

Sunday was the Christening of Laura who at eighteen years old decided that she wanted to be baptised after the recent death of her Grandad and Sanny's uncle. We had a great time and could forget our woes for a bit as we celebrated with her.  Sandra's dad Geoff was her proud Godfather claiming that it must be a fairly unique event to become a Godfather in your ninetieth year.

Last but by no means least, I thought I would just give our Granddaughter Jessica a mention.  She has been without one front tooth for some time and the other night with a little help from her dad, John, she got the full set.  We won't hear any renditions of "Is all I want for Christmas..." well maybe.

Please excuse any typo's or grammatical errors I just can't be messed to proof read!!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Pack up yer troubles...

Spray going over the concrete pontoon.
 I know I said that I wouldn't have time to write a blog this week but with Sandra being the most efficient girl in the universe, we are here twenty four hours before we leave for Athens all packed up and ready.  Thus I thought we would send a final missive from Lefkada before we go home to the family for Christmas and the new year.
Chris' boat in among the white horses.

Doe you sway to the left, boats leaning in the wind.
The inclement weather is still on us and yesterday it was a little on the wild side.  We did our laundry, despite the fact that the boat was on a permanent list to starboard and spume was in the air.  We needed to get everything clean to be left or at least so I'm told by her who should be obeyed!  Anyway according to people who have wind instruments the constant wind was about thirty eight knots and gusts into the fifties, we were certainly rocking and rolling, so much so that I never went off the boat for our usual guitar jamming session on a Tuesday.

We managed to get all the clothes and bedding hung out and dried although we did lose one towel into the sea, fortunately speedy Sanny whipped out and down the pontoon and fished out the offending article.  It was fine after rinsing out with fresh water and then drying again.  All part of life in the boat.  Ah well tomorrow at this time we will be well on our way to Athens and then overnight in Peris Hotel before flying back to Blighty on Friday and although we will miss all the people here in Lefkas we will not be sorry to leave all this bad weather behind and get back to the UK for some calm and sunshine, had enough of the rain now!!

Anyway, hopefully we will be seeing all our UK family and friends over the coming weeks and having a great time there, in the meantime we would like to wish everyone and very happy Christmas and a splendid New Year.

Sanny & Les.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Busy times...

Moving times at Vasiliki.
We rented a car for a couple of days over the weekend so we have spent quite some time out and about this week.  First on Friday we went to the 'taste of the world' Chinese night at Vlicho yacht club.  A good night out with great friends Tony, Debs and Jez.  Some of the food I found super but there were a couple of the dishes which didn't  do it for me in fact I found them over salty and I like salt, so some people must have struggled with them.  However it was a great night despite the heavy rain.
The cyclamen in Linda's brilliant garden 

A little more colour courtesy of Ray and Linda. 
On Saturday we braved the torrential rain to go and collect our car and set off for an island tour and to see some friends who we will not get another chance to see until next year, not so long away now.  Firstly we went to have a look at Vounikas where we used to live with the weather being so inclement there were not many people about so we just had a ride up the hill to visit the house.  It's not anything like I remember it now somehow it just doesn't seem like the same place.  Onwards from there we paid a visit to Vasiliki where work seems to have commenced on the much talked about south island marina.  I think it will end up being little more than an harbour extension but at least things are moving so there must be some money being made available somewhere.  I don't suppose we shall still be here to witness the completed article but it should provide many more moorings for boats at that end of the island so we hope it's a great success.  On Saturday lunchtime there was only one coffee bar open in Vass, in all the time we have been here we have never seen it so closed hope that it isn't a sign of the times.
"A Rose between..." Sandra Alison and Pete on the old Arta Bridge

Very old Plane tree in Arta.
Onwards then to see Ray and Linda at Sivota but en-route we had a trip through the village to find it was almost entirely shut also not such a great surprise as Sivota does tend to shut down in wintertime.
The ancient bridge at Arta

First snow of the winter on the mountains.
We had a great Lunch at Ray and Linda's and managed to help them out with a couple of technical issues whilst we were there as well.  Thanks you two for a very entertaining afternoon and the great food as well.  I couldn't resist taking a couple of pictures in the garden as even at this time of year it still has plenty of colour and interest in it.

Sunday was an even bigger wash out so we had a ride to Vonitsa and a walk in the rain along the front before going into a bar for a coffee.  In marked contrast Vonitsa is fully open for business and seems to be doing a roaring trade even on a very wet Sunday.

In the evening we went for Sunday Dinner up to the Katoghi and gave a nice guy, Dave, from Washington DC a lift up there to show him the way and share an evening with him.  As always the food and service was first class, the only problem was that we had to wait until Tuesday to see Alison and Pete again!

They kindly offered to take us to Louros (to Jumbo) and Arta on Tuesday.  Pete needed to ensure that the world supply of Christmas decorations didn't all vanish before he got his hands on some more.  Unfortunately it was yet another wet day but we still had a great time and even managed to have a quick look at a few garages for cars in passing.  We finished the day with an early evening meal at 'Rusticos' and Italian restaurant near the old bridge at Arta.  It managed to desist from raining for a while to allow us to walk across the bridge and admire the effort that it must have taken the ancients to make such an edifice.  Thanks guys for thinking about us whilst you were going on your travels and for such a great day out.

Tonight it's Indian night at Palairos with Debbie and Jez, God I do need a spice fix!!

No blog next week as we shall be in Athens awaiting our trip home the next day.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

More of the wet stuff...

Our remade winter cover and sprayhood.

Reading room?
 Last Saturday we had the pleasure of entertaining Pete, from the Katoghi, for lunch while Alison was still in the UK.  Well a Dalton's special gyros actually, we'd just been served our meal when we got a call from Orkide Todd to say that they were en-route to the marina to finally give us back our altered winter cover.  We told her to go ahead and fit it whilst we finished lunch and then we hot footed it back across the town quay to the marina.  At last we have protection from the elements and also a cover that we can access and egress from the sides as well as being able to have the sprayhood up independently from the tent at the back.  All this is just as it should have been last year as we originally specified.  Never mind all is well that ends well.

Music room?
The cover couldn't have arrived a moment too soon as we are having pretty naff weather at the moment lots of rain and some strong winds to boot but this doesn't matter now as we sit out in the cockpit watching the world go by oblivious to the prevailing conditions.  The only thing is we can't decide whether it's a music room, reading room, lounge area, or just a boat with two reception rooms now.  What a dilemma!

Also on Saturday afternoon was the bi-annual boat jumble (treasure for trash, jumble sale etc.) It was well attended and more stalls than is normally the case, I think the decent weather on Saturday helped a great deal but at least some people got some benefit from it.

Despite the rain we are still managing some of our social activities, although Sandra has missed her "stretch & tone" and Zumba class today because of the rain.  I am managing to get a few guitar sessions in whilst she is absent, still not Clapton mind.

Oh well two weeks today and we shall be in Athens awaiting our flight on the Friday so not long now before we get to visit all the reprobates in the UK.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Lest we forget!...

Picture pinched from internet.
 The most important and moving thing that has happened this week was the service of remembrance for all those brave men, women and even children who have forfeited there lives in conflicts over the last hundred years so that we can all live safely.  Without these people, most of whom most of us will never have known or met, we could not be enjoying our freedoms now.  I'm not a religious person but I think we should all keep and honour their memory without which the lessons of history will be forgotten.
And another but the words are magic.
 Our service was held in the Irish bar in Lefkas town and well attended on both Sunday (televised UK broadcast) and Monday with a service conducted by Jacky.  Thanks to all who made it possible.

Before this however on Saturday, Sandra and Liz had a day on the sea with Rauiri and Andy.  They were attending a mini course put on freely by Vlicho yacht club, 'an introduction to yachts'.  They both had an excellent day and came back telling Tony and I what we were doing wrong!  Joking aside it was well worth while and certainly the girls did gain quite a lot of information from it in a very relaxed way, ie no one was shouting 'not that rope the other one' at them.  Thanks to the yacht club for organising the event and for keeping my absent missus happy (I think!).
Sandra, drinking from the well.
 Sunday brought another VYC event, the quiz on wheels.  Tony and Liz provided the means of transport and together we managed to complete the quiz, although perhaps not as well as some other people because we didn't win, however we had a great day out riding around the lesser visited places on the island.  Although we didn't go anywhere we hadn't been before I'm sure it was new ground to the vast majority of the quizzers.
Liz and San winding up the bucket.

Mountain View through the murk!
Since then the weather has taken a definite turn toward winter, we have had quite heavy rain accompanied by some fairly strong and gusty winds and a drop in temperature.  Today is better though but last night for the first time since we came back in August we had to have some heat on the boat, only for about an hour or so though as is rapidly becomes very warm in Lesanda.  We had what we hope will be the final fitting of our cockpit tent with it's new alterations yesterday and hopefully we shall it back with the work completed tomorrow.  First impressions are that it is looking very good and at least now we will be able to separate the spray hood from the tent and gain access via the sides rather than have to squeeze around the back with bowls full of washing!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Wet and windy...

Deserted Village of (I think) Pratia.

Along the harbour front at Astakos

Just like that.
Pork production Greek Style.
Have you met my brother?
The weather has finally started to look more autumnal.  We had arranged to hire a car for Monday and Tuesday but at the eleventh hour we got a call from Orkide, who is doing some work on our winter cover, to say that she would like to come and do some measuring and take the cover with her back to Vlicho.  So we altered the car to hire back a day to start Tuesday.  After a rainy night, Monday morning arrives and Orkide rings to say that as it's raining she won't be coming so with perhaps a little steam coming out of my ears I convince her that it would be best if she did, bearing in mind that this has been sort of ongoing since about May time.  Anyway her and her assistant Zoltan turn up and at first she isn't talking to me but then she softens up a little and is all smiles by the time she goes away complete with our cover and spray hood.  Then the wind and rain start in earnest and we are confined below watching the telly at full volume just so hear it above the sound of the rain and wind.  Tuesday and we go for a ride to Ioannina calling in en-route to collect gas from a garage on the mainland where it costs €5.50 as again €13.00 here in town, and then to get some trout from the fish farms before doing the IKEA thing in Ioannina.  In the whole day we had approximately 5 mins when it didn't rain and serious rain at that but it didn't matter we were out and about.  As we had almost got back to Lefkas we did actually witness a sighting of the sun, but not for long.

Next day we decided to have a look at some places on the mainland where we had not been for some time so we drove down the coast road to Astakos which we have never been to, and calling in at Mitikas.  We like both places very much especially Astakos which is a very Greek resort/fishing port we will call in there again.

We then went up over the mountains to Katouna and lake Amvratika before following the Amvrati gulf from Amfilochio and back to Lefkas.  A wonderful day out and sunshine with not a drop of rain.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Easy week...

Friday of last week we had the Lefkas Singers choir perform for us in Remezzo's bar.  They were excellent the first few songs were performed by about ten female members of the choir, I think probably the most competent performers (but don't quote me on that!).  Later they were joined by the male section and the rest of the female voices, I would guess at perhaps somewhere around thirty people in total. 

The small choir and Rosa conducting.
The did a mixture of modern, traditional and African music, we particularly enjoyed the African stuff although we didn't understand a word they sang, the harmonies where lovely and we were sorry when it came to an end.  Never mind I'm sure we'll get a chance to listen to them again sometime, congratulations to all involved especially Rosa, who has proved that you can make a silk purse from a sow's ear.

While Pete Winnett is back in England there has been no regular guitar sessions on the marina but last week a couple of guys and I got together whilst the ladies were out exercising and had our own jamming session which went down remarkably well.  We are all of a similar standard technically but we bring an eclectic music taste together between us so the end result is quite pleasing really.  No disrespect to Pete's session but we are less tightly held because there are no true beginners present so we can improvise and try things without being constrained by the lowest common denominator.  I have really enjoyed being with Chris and Keith over the three sessions we have had thus far and we've started to sort out some songs we can perform pretty well together.  X factor it ain't (although I've seen some real disasters on that!) but enjoyable it is.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Party, Party...

Local kids practising sailing in the harbour.
 We have had a great week this week, on Saturday we washed dried and stowed the sails for the winter.  If we need to go anywhere now it will be motorised transports only.  While the sails were hung to dry we were entertained by the local kids learning to sail in little dingies, it's much harder than you would think as things tend to happen very quickly, certainly too fast for me!

Our sails hung out to dry.
Sunday was of course the most important person in my worlds birthday and of course just like the queen she has two of them, well at least two parties.  Firstly that night we went up to Vafkeri to have a meal with Pete and Alison at the Katoghi.  Liz and Tony joined us there with their friends David and Anne and we had a super meal and a great laugh as always up there.  One of the disadvantages of not now having a car here is that we can't go up there quite as often as we would like but that makes it all the more special when we do get the chance.  Once again thanks to you guys for a great evening.

Monday evening we went to one of our other favourite haunts, the Panorama Taj, Indian at Palairos.  This time with Deb, Nita (her big sister, or is it mum?), Jez, Linda and Kevan.  Kev was kind enough to chauffeur us there and Jez went via the sea and met us there in the evening.  Once again a great evening with loads of great spicy food and good company.  Again as always it is well worth the trip around to see Dimitry  and his family and Salim is a great Indian chef.

From Left, David, San, Anne, Liz & Tony.

The Katoghi by moonlight.
 So Tuesday comes along and San can't get used to living in isolation having had company for the last couple of days so after her exercises we end up at Daltons Giros place with Alison, Peter and David their neighbour for a spot of light lunch and a good old chat, we seem to have been talking none stop for weeks now.

We ended up this round of entertainments with afternoon tea on the boat complete with cucumber sandwiches (no crusts) and cakes, Debbie kindly brought along a bottle of bubbly to augment the tea though.
Grub on the go.
From Left, San, Linda, Deb, Nita, Jez and Kev.

Afternoon tea in chez Lesanda.
 Anyway to round off the week I have been repairing a laptop for Chris and between us we have organised a Guitar jamming session to keep us occupied while Sandra and one or two other ladies are out exercising, should be a bit of a blast and I can't get into bother for distracting Sandra with my catawauling.

Ok, well I think that is about enough for this week,  let's see what next week brings.

Ohh...  Forgot to mention I bought Sandra a dremil tool for fettling bits on the boat and assorted bits for it, she was dead chuffed!!!