Monday, 16 April 2018

Counting Our Blessings

The other evening we took a half-hour walk through one of our favourite routes in the forest and olive groves behind the house. The photos below were taken very late in the day, which explains why the totally clear sky looks somewhat milky in places. But don't they show off just how fortunate we are to be living where we do?

I have to say that, as we did this walk, which included a hike up to the top of a crag that's got a 360º view from the top, we found ourselves expressing true gratitude for the wonderful natural environment that's just outside our front gate. We also got a superb view of a couple of deer just a couple of hundred metres from home on the way back. Sorry, I didn't get a shot of the deer this time, because the very limited zoom on my camera wouldn't have shown you much.

Nevertheless, Hope you like these, I love them!

In places the wild flowers are a carpet at the moment.

This is just a square foot of ground at my feet. If you study it, you'll see it's a riot of different flowering plants, so small you could easily miss them.

These thistles may look unfriendly, but they can grow to head-height and produce stunningly beautiful flowers.

Ooh, look. I believe I found a wood-nymph!

That's the crag that my 'wood-nymph' of a wife is sitting on top of in the photo above this one. This is taken from across the valley, but it's hard to get the perspective with a camera.

Green at this time of the year, or what? 

Almost at the top of the crag.

View from the crag out to sea.

As above, only from a standing position on the top-most rock. The terracotta tiled-roof you can see on the house on the ridge, that's our next-door neighbours' place. Ours is tucked into the hillside below and to the left of it.

Some aspects of the views on this walk shield one from seeing anything man-made. At such moments it's hard to imagine that not three km away there are tourist hotels.

I think the ruined "crofter's cottage" in the foreground adds immeasurably to this aspect. The winding lane is part of our circular route.

Who's THAT? How did HE get in shot?

Beginning the descent from the crag. The ruined cottage is again visible, centre right.

A zoomed shot giving a better view of the old 'croft' cottage.

And finally, as the sun's last rays show off our bottle brush as it approaches its very best showtime, This is, of course, my better half in the garden.
My sister-in-law's first husband's father was a nature-lover. He had a lovely bungalow in the Quantock Hills with a superb view of the Bristol Channel and he kept bees and made his own honey. His name was Don, and I found him a lovely man. He used to come to an Aegean island (often Samos) every April for a walking holiday. This was back in the days when I'd only ever been to Greece in the summer months. I could never quite grasp why he was so enthusiastic about these walking holidays.

Now, with Don having passed away, and hence my opportunity is lost, I'd love to tell him that I completely get it.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Policed to Meet You?

OK, so the title of this post is a rather feeble play on words, but it's anything but a feeble excuse for a post. Have I got a 'coup' for you folks, because, through a mutual friend, author Effrosyni Mouschoudi, I've procured an interview with best-selling Greek Author and actor Kostas Krommydas, who, in case you weren't aware, is currently starring in series three of the brilliant UK TV series set in Corfu and based on the books of Gerald Durrell, 'The Durrells'.

Kostas plays the Police Superindendent and, in case you haven't seen the series, which is currently going out on Sunday evenings in the UK on ITV, here are a few stills showing Kostas himself with some of the leading cast members:

Apart from being a much-in-demand actor here in Greece (Kostas speaks excellent English by the way), he is an established author in Greece and two of his books are now available in English as well, these being:

Athora, a Mystery Romance Set on the Greek Islands


Cave of Silence

Both of these books have so far received only 4 and 5 star reviews on their respective Amazon pages, so I'd suggest that they're well worth checking out.

If you want to see what Kostas looks like when not 'in character' for the TV series, here he is:

So, to the interview itself. Off we go, let's get to know this very creative actor and writer a little better...

Where do you live?
I was born in Trikala, a city in central Greece, but I have been living in Athens for the past thirty years.

What do you write about?
Nearly all of my books are based on a true story. I like stories that are inspired by real life events! Love and the power of destiny are recurring themes at the heart of my narratives, regardless of genre. I am intrigued by the twists and turns of fate and how they shape the paths that people follow.

Why Greece? 
I feel lucky to have been born here, to be living in a country that is a constant source of inspiration. Most of my stories take place on the Greek islands because I love the sea. This country is blessed to be surrounded by water, water so blue that you can’t tell where the sea ends and where the sky begins. You are constantly coming across these amazing landscapes, which have always inspired me and will continue to do so, as the source is endless!

Kostas' written works so far in Greek.

How long does it take you to write a book?
The actual writing takes about a year, but most of the stories have been with me for much longer. I spend more time thinking of a story, processing and developing it, and letting it mature inside me before I put it down on paper.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
I am very excited by the whole writing process. Each stage has its own challenges and rewards. I love the days I spend secluded at a beach house, writing all day long, lost in my story. Once a book is published, it is contact with my readers that bring me most joy. I think it is important for a writer to share in the joy of reading with his readership; it is a way of rediscovering the story and conversations with readers are useful as well as rewarding. 
What, in your view, is/has been the greatest gift from Greece to the world?
Other than its ancient civilization as a whole? Well, as an actor I would have to say the theatre, drama, in all of its genres. As a writer, I would extend that to story telling in general. If you look at Greek mythology, at Homer, all the main narratives are already there, all the conflicts that we return to time and again: man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. self or society and so on.

How do you come up with an idea for a book?
It might start with a phrase, an article, or just coming across something that strikes a chord. Once it takes root in my mind, I mull it over for long time until it takes shape and almost becomes an entity of its own. The final decision on what my next book will be is nearly always taken on one of my travels, most often when I’m driving!

How do you go about writing, that is to say, are you organised, do your research, disciplined, are you a messy sort who gets it done one way or another?
I would say a mix of both. The first stage, inspiration, the fleshing out of the plot, the characters, is usually an esoteric process. I tend to work it out internally; it’s almost a form of meditation. Then I will research, especially locations. I visit and spend time in every place that will feature as a location, whether in its real form or as an inspiration for an imaginary setting. 
By the end, I will have mapped out the spaces where the characters move, be it an apartment or an island. The same applies to the main characters. Once I have a mental image of what my characters look like, I will look at old photos as a source, especially for events that take place in the past. I usually have the plot all worked out before I start writing, but the story often takes its own direction during the writing process. Once the characters come to life, they take you where they want to go!

Which other authors do you read?
I wish I had more time to read! I tend to read anything that strikes a chord, follow world literature and will often choose a book based on reviews. Generally speaking, though, I will always return to and re-read the Ancient Greek tragedians, they are my favourite authors.

What's your preferred kind of music? 
I don’t have a preferred kind, I pick depending on my mood or the place I’m at. I like local music; I like to explore the music of a place. To me it’s more than the sound, it’s a reflection of that particular community or society. 
Do you like Greek music and if so, which kind?

Very much, both traditional and ‘entechno’.  Greece is a country with a rich and varied musical tradition. I also like discovering new, young artists. I hosted a radio show for many years and I love music.

Favourite Greek dish?
Traditional hortopita, a wild greens pie, with hand-made pastry.

The front cover of Kostas' latest book in English, "Cave of Silence"

The Superintent of the Corfu Constabulary.

There you go folks, I do hope you enjoyed that. Some of Kostas' answers I felt give a real insight into why his native Greece holds such a fascination for those of us who've fallen in love with the place. I particularly approve of his choice of favourite Greek food, horto'pita, which is very similar to spanako'pita, only made with wild horta. My wife and I are lucky enough to have a friend here on Rhodes who often cooks us horto'pita, and it's delicious, as well as extremely good for the health.

Just in case you missed any of the links in the story above, here are a few again:

And, finally, I am giving you the chance to win a copy of Kostas' latest book, "Cave of Silence" either in Greek or English. All I want to know is, in which episode of "The Durrells", series three does Kostas make his first appearance as the Police Superintendent?

The only answers considered for entry will be private messages sent to my "John Manuel, the Published Works" Facebook page and, sorry, but the book can only be sent to an address in Greece. If you live outside of Greece, but you're planning a visit here imminently, then why not arrange for the address where you'll be staying to receive the book for you?
Don't forget to identify yourself clearly when you post your message. Once we select the winner we'll get back to them asking for address details.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

On a Lighter Note

Whilst like the next person, well, the next Grecophile, I'm a sucker for a whitewashed Greek village or pretty little harbour with bobbing boats, but when it comes to where we live, well, I must say give me the countryside any time.

Today is a glorious spring day, with the temperature anywhere between 22º and 26ºC, depending on where you stand, and the sky is totally cloudless. I've been out for an hour or two with a few friends and, as I made the ten-minute walk back up our lane just now, I found myself revelling in the natural environment that surrounds us here.

Ok, so there are a couple of rather large hotels under construction not too far down the road, but when I look around at what we live amongst up this one-kilometre of dirt road, I give thanks. So, I snapped these few shots just to try and illustrate what I mean. The natural environment here in the South of Rhodes this spring is displaying its wares very persuasively...

OK, so this fella was in Kalathos, as I was on my way to meet the friends.

And this is a novel way of dealing with a tree that's died in my friends' garden.

This one, and the rest below, I took whilst walking back up the lane. After a decent amount of rain this winter (even so, not really enough, but better than for some years), the lushness is apparent. It'll only last a few weeks though.

It's not often the hillsides look good enough to roll in, but today...

Yeah, that's our place up top.

Beside the lane it's a riot of flowers.

Hope you like those. They certainly gave me that 'good to be alive' feeling!

Sunday, 8 April 2018


I frequently watch the TV news in the UK on-line, and am always interested to see that there is never even a mention of the Greco-Turkish relationship and its current 'condition'.

Every night there's something about 'Brexit', about Mr. Trump's latest pronouncement or faux pas (not to mention Boris Johnson's too!), about the 'Salisbury Poisoning' and then, quite often, the problems with funding for either the Police or the NHS.

OK, so I do note that the UK TV channels are considerably richer than the Greek ones and thus can afford to have reports on their bulletins from correspondents in all the world's top hot-spots, like Syria, China, Moscow and Washington DC. Here in Greece every channel insists on running hour-long News shows, the major part of which are often taken up with reporters looking most earnest while interviewing shoppers in an Athens market about the price of food or the scandalous electricity bills. The best overseas news you can expect from the very repetitive Greek news bulletins is a report from Italy. It seems that most channels can afford to have a reporter based in that country and so every night they look for an excuse to have a report from there about something which is often quite tacky. When it comes to Washington or Beijing, though, invariably they'll 'rent' a report from the BBC or CNN and show it with subtitles, if they show it at all.

One story that's perpetually in the headlines here in Greece, and understandably so, is the fast deteriorating situation between Greece and Turkey. I do occasionally expect one of the 'incidents' that occur on a daily basis between the Greek coast guard and the Turkish navy, or between the two countries' air forces, to reach the UK media, but no, it seems they don't deem it of sufficient importance or interest to the British public, and thus the majority of these remain in ignorance of what's 'going down' in the Aegean.

Yet for those of us living here it is becoming more 'hairy' by the day it seems.

Now, let me start by making it clear that I am first and foremost a 'humanist'. I am not an atheistic humanist. What I mean is that I am someone who does not subscribe to blind nationalism, preferring to consider every human an individual and thus in essence my brother or sister. Most of the squabbles, be it between the USA and China, the UK and Russia, or indeed Greece and Turkey, are caused by a handful of politicians behaving suspiciously like kids in a school playground.

I aim to come at this purely as an outside observer, like an alien who's just landed and is trying to make some sense of what he's witnessing.

Firstly, let's get one thing out of the way. On my excursions every season without fail I end up talking to a guest or three about why these islands are part of Greece when they're so close to Turkey. Why we have to split the planet up into 'sovereign' territories at all is a crying shame, but to answer the question logically, it's simple. These islands have been Greek in language and culture for over two thousand years. Turkey, as a nation, is a relative newcomer and thus the international community agreed in the late 1940's to re-unite the eastern Aegean islands with Greece because the inhabitants all speak Greek and follow (largely) the Orthodox religion. I'm not going down that route because I have deep issues with all the ritualistic churches, but that's another story. 

It's odd that some 'rulers' should feel that proximity alone should be the governing criteria in deciding to which country an island or island chain should belong. That's plainly absurd. I mean, why should the fact that there's an expanse of water separating parts of a country one from another, and perhaps that expanse is larger than the one between the island(s) in question and a neighbouring country, have any bearing on the matter? Ought not history, tradition, language and culture also play important parts? I mean, one doesn't see (well, apart from when someone like Hitler comes along) Luxembourg declaring that parts of Belgium ought to belong to them merely because these areas are touching Luxembourg's border. "Ooh, that town Arlon is much closer to our capital than it is to Brussels, so we ought to have it!" I don't think it works like that. Yet, to some governments it seems that if an expanse of water comes into the mix then they can indeed play that card.

For the past few years now, Turkey's President, the rather irritable Mr. Ertogan, has been cranking up the rhetoric about a lot of Greek islands which are situated close to the Turkish coast. He's been sending gunboats into Greek waters (one recently rammed a Greek coastguard vessel) and, as far back as when I first moved to Rhodes in the summer of 2005, Turkish military jets have regularly been invading Greek air space in an attempt to goad the Greeks into reacting. We read once that the Greek pilots and their Turkish counterparts even quite enjoy their cat-and-mouse games, as it hones up their skills at the joystick. Odd really isn't it? I mean, one Russian jet crosses a tiny piece of Turkish air-space in November of 2015 and the Turks shoot it down. If Greece had taken similar action every time a Turkish fighter had entered Greek air-space in the last ten years, Turkey wouldn't have any aircraft left.

See, whenever a politician changes the rules so that they can avoid being elected out of office, then the problems seem to escalate, don't they? That and the fact that they happily 'allegedly' fix the elections anyway, just to make sure. 

Who was it that said: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" ? Lord Acton I believe, and not Winston Churchill. Thanks Google, I might have got that wrong had I not checked! Witness North Korea's course since Kim Jong-un got into office, Russia's increasing isolation from normal relations with the rest of the world (which improved markedly under the Nobel Prize-winning Mikhail Gorbachev) under ex-KGB man Putin, and, of course Turkey under Ertogan.

It seems to the unbiased observer that the Turkish President is trying his damnedest to get Greece to fire first, so that he can lay the blame at Athens' door. Yet Greece appears to be exhibiting an extraordinary ability to keep calm and avoid confrontation, to the extent that this is possible. Am I the only person who wonders how the Turkish authorities could have stood by and watched thousands of unfortunate migrants, fleeing war-zones further east, go down to their western beaches and board rusty old hulks and overloaded inflatables with nothing but a lifejacket and the clothes they stood up in and set out across choppy seas in oft-fatal attempts to reach the Greek islands?

It's all very complicated and I'm no expert, but I'm certainly deeply cynical about humans and their ways of running things and as an alien recently landed, I can't help but note how a few men who are allowing their grip on power to go to their heads are destabilising the planet at quite a pace at present.

Tourism is one of the greatest industries on earth. Well, when you set aside the arms industry, human trafficking and drugs. Tourism, although it has its downside in the areas of erosions and pollution, brings people at grass-roots level together in wonderful ways. Mr. Ertogan's current shenanigans are seriously threatening to hit tourism in his own country right where it hurts if he carries on like this. Seems, though, that he's of the school of thought that it scores him points heavily in his own country when he rattles the sabre at all and sundry, especially his next-door neighbour, Greece.

The fact is, though, that as people begin to cotton on to the increasing tension that's being ratcheted up along the Western coast of Turkey and the Greek islands that stand so close to it, they are going to be making other holiday choices. They're going to go elsewhere and the economies of both Greece and Turkey will suffer as a result.

Like I said above, I'm a conditional 'humanist'. Whilst I'm by no means an atheist, I do have an aversion to ritualistic religion, but people, young Russian families, my Turkish friend who runs a heel-bar in Rhodes town for his Greek father-in-law, Germans, French and Italians, all of which come here at present for their vacations, these I meet and talk to and - I may be mistaken, but - I believe that most of them just want to get on with their fellow humans (and humans are what we are, first and foremost)...

..And to be able to go visit another country to enrich their experience of life on this amazing planet of ours.

Anyway, know anywhere where they take Gold-pressed Latinum as currency? I need to re-fuel my rocket and get out of here.

Monday, 2 April 2018

A Rhodes April Sunday

Had occasion to go to town this morning to spend a few hours with a lovely young friend from Kalymnos, who was over for a flying 24 hours. So, while we were promenading around the town I took these shots with the iPad. 

The usual applies, click on each one for a larger view, then you can right-click to 'open image in new tab'. Once you do that, click on that tab to see the image, and you'll find you get the little magnifying glass for your mouse pointer. One click anywhere on the image then gives you a much larger view.

Hope you like them. Just a couple of hours on April 1st in Rhodes...

The margarita-filled moat as tourists seldom see it.

See the poppies there?

The lovely Aktaion Café/pastry shop. Vibrant at around midday.

The tourists are beginning to emerge from hibernation. This one was dressed sensibly. We saw quite a few others in shorts and strappy tops - and it was only 20ºC!!

My better half and our dear friend Claudia. When you're a fella strolling with two women, you get a lot of time to take snaps!!!

The old Town is slowly waking up for the season.
Incidentally, we're now booked for an 18-day break on Patmos from around the middle of this month into early May. This will be our first visit to the island, so expect a few posts giving our impressions. It comes highly recommended.

Saturday, 31 March 2018


The garden, this morning March 30th

A couple of weeks ago now we had one of the most violent thunder storms we've ever experienced in twelve and a half years of living here. You wouldn't think it, when you look at the conditions outside today, as the photo above shows. Whenever, though, we get fork lightning, it's time to disconnect the coaxial antenna cable from behind the TV. This is because our TV antenna is positioned high on the cliff behind the house and is a sort of open invitation to lightning to come and give it a strike...

There's the TV aerial/antenna, top of shot.

Having said that, amazingly this time was the first time in all those years that the antenna took a direct hit. Fortunately, we had disconnected the TV, for if we hadn't it would have gone up in smoke. Behind the TV there's a booster box, to strengthen the signal from the antenna before it goes into the TV. During the course of the storm, which would have been late morning, there was a loud 'crack' which was the sort of noise that tells you that 'something's not going to be right after this.' It sounded like someone had fired a gun in our lounge and, pretty soon thereafter we were greeted by that awful smell of electrical equipment burning.

At first I couldn't work out what it was, until I took a peek behind the TV and saw that the TV antenna signal booster was emitting smoke and had changed shape somewhat, owing to its plastic casing having melted. Oh, and the white casing now had a rather unnerving patch of brown on it, just where it had gone concave.

Oh, dear. 'No TV for us tonight, then,' we thought. Once the storm had passed and the lightning had become nothing more than huge pink flashes across the dark sky to the south of us, I decided to plug the cable back into the telly to see if by any chance the booster was still in business, even though, from the smell and the look of it, there was very little chance.

Of course it wasn't, was it. One big 'boom' had put paid to that booster and so we decided to nip up to Arhangelos and see if we could buy a new booster box. That part of it went OK. There are a couple of stores in Arhangelos where one can buy such equipment, so we were full of hope that we'd be able to fix the problem in fairly short order, but the first one we went to was closed at just after 2.00pm. Drat.

Fortunately, the store opposite the Police Station stays open until 4.00pm and the very nice and helpful chap behind the counter was quick to fetch me a new booster. It was a different model from the one that had been melted, but he assured me that it would do the same job. Certainly, from what it said on the box, I was in agreement. 

Rushing back home full of optimism, we were soon back in the lounge and I was ripping the packaging off the new booster and I soon had it installed. Eager with anticipation, we hit the TV button and waited to see what would happen.

Zilch. Now, it's not visible in that photo above, but half-way down the pole on which the antenna is mounted is another, similar box. What if that one was also burnt out? There was nothing else for it but to call Mihali, the TV antenna man who'd fitted the box on the antenna pole together with a new cable a year or so ago. He's based in Arhangelos, and I was calling him at 3.00pm on a Thursday afternoon, all the while watching the skies growing ever darker in preparation for the next band of rain which was heading our way up the coast from Gennadi. The wind was picking up apace too.

Now, in view of the weather conditions, what were the chances that Mihalis would be able to come on the same day, especially as it was getting late in the afternoon? Slim eh? Guess what, just occasionally the synchronicity of the universe works in my favour. Not often, but on this particular day, YAY! A result. Mihalis told me that he was in Gennadi and was just finishing up. He'd be able to drop by on his way back toward Arhangelos and see what he could do. He's a stalwart that guy. He really is. He knew from of old that to get to our antenna involves a touch of mountaineering, since one has to climb a bank beside our perimeter fence, being careful not to be snagged on your way up by all the gorse that, despite my best efforts to keep it cut back, insists on growing quicker than I can cut it, to choke off our narrow pathway to the heights every time.

Then, when you get toward the top you have to scramble up a bank of small pebbles, detritus left over from the house build almost 13 years ago, before jumping over some pretty prickly shrubs and bushes to reach the concrete slab where the antenna pole is tethered by four cables, some ten metres away.

Mihalis grabbed his electronic tester thingameejig and set off with me for the climb. We reached the antenna pole just as the rain arrived for another session. So, with me trying to hold an umbrella over him (not merely to show him a little consideration for all his efforts, but to keep the electronics dry as he opened up the box on the pole to inspect it), he soon declared that, yes, this box too was destined for the gadget graveyard. Just when I was about to lapse into a slough of despondency, he said:

"Hold on, I've got one in the van." 

So, while I stood there trying to keep a collapsible umbrella from turning inside out, he negotiated the path back down the hillside to the drive, rummaged in the back of the van and made the climb back up again. By the time he was finishing off, the rain was running down the inside of my collar and right down my back, making it feel decidedly chilly and damp. But did I care? Nope. This plucky chap had saved the day and within minutes we were back inside and he was flicking channels in triumph.

The whole job, from lightning strike to resolution, took just three hours. And he only charged us €30 all in, including the cost of the new box on the pole. Don't let anyone tell you that Greek workers never turn up on time. That evening we enjoyed 'troxos tis tyhis' and 'Μin Αrhezeis ti Μourmoura' more than we ever had before, an experience made even sweeter by the thought that the call-out fee alone back in the UK would probably have been much higher.


I'm very happy to report that "Help For Health Gennadi", our annual charity event to raise funds for the local medical centre, netted a 'profit' of €670 this year. There were some expenses, but nevertheless that sum is all going to be used to purchase much-needed supplies for Doctor Niko and his team, indeed a chunk of it is going to help decorate a small apartment that the good young doctor himself is going to be able to keep rent-free right in in Gennadi village, to help him avoid making the trip from Rhodes town every working day of his life. Him having a young family and all, this was a result.

Bargain hunters at the event.

The excellent banner was provided at no cost at all by the praiseworthy sign company Hedera, based in Rhodes town.

Despite the rather unsettled weather that we'd experienced during the run-up to the event, on the day the sun shone for us and the redoubtable Dimitri Koronios did his usual stint at the souvlaki stand, aided by ex-pat Tony...

Don't forget to check out Dimitri's really lovely family-run Summer Breeze Hotel in Gennadi village, for a really Greek experience on your hols.
So, the TV booster went boom, and our "Help For Health Gennadi" event went with a bang.

Explosions all round really, which leads me to the current state of Greco-Turkish relations. Next time though, eh?

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Eavesdropping and Clanger-dropping

I was in the local store the other day, queuing patiently at the 'checkout', behind a couple of locals, when the person in front of me reached the till and began a conversation with Vasili, the store owner. It was the kind of chat that reveals a relationship that goes back many years.

At times like these it pays to remember that no one here is in much of a hurry and they don't expect you to be either. It doesn't do to display impatience, after all, does anyone around here have a train to catch?

Ilias, was probably only about five six in height, and I'd say almost as wide as he was tall. I doubt he's seen his toes in many a long year. He didn't have much in his basket, but he did have plenty of time to natter about the government and what a bunch of thieves they are, about how Mr. Ertogan, the Turkish President, was intent on provoking Greece into some kind of aggressive military response to his constant goading so that he could lay the blame on Greece's shoulders when hostilities broke out, about the rainfall situation and the state of the roads. A few other topics were covered too, like who's recently died, who recently got married and who recently had some grave illness that they only just managed to pull through.

All this time I was busy eavesdropping and was rather amused when the conversation turned to the subject of Ilias' state of health. Like I said, he's of no small girth. I mean, try to imagine a medicine ball with a flat cap on, and you're about there. Vasilis asked him:

"You still walking a few kilometres a day?" 

He asked this in response to a statement that Ilias had made about his evidently futile efforts at losing a few Kg. He also asked this, I believe, feeling safe in the knowledge that the answer would be in the negative, since it didn't look like his shape had changed at all.

By now it was reckoning-up time and Ilias took his time about responding while he counted out some readies from his bulging back pocket. It never ceases to fascinate me how all these 'poor' horiates regularly whip out a fat wad of notes whenever necessary, yet at the same time profess that they're about to starve to death due to having to pay their exorbitant electricity bills.

Ilias stuffed his purchases into his ageing, yet still just about serviceable, frayed and faded cotton shopping bag, and began walking out the door. As he exited the store and I cautiously moved to the till, he called back his response over his shoulder, without looking back...

"Walking? Gave it up. It wasn't working."

As Vasili nodded to me and opened his mouth to utter a greeting, before he could actually utter anything, the final words of Ilias wafted in through the door, just before his creaky pick-up door slammed...

"No. These days I'm running!"

Although I'm - in all humility - proud to say that I can hold my own pretty well during a conversation with the locals these days, even though some of them have accents so thick that you could slice them and put them on your toast, I still quite often cause loud outbursts of laughter. It's never with malice (it isn't, is it?), but I'll give you one or two recent examples.

So, there I was, standing at the till while Vasilis rang up my purchases and we heard the rather rotund Ilias' creaky, suffering old pick-up truck pulling away outside in a haze of blue smoke.

"Maria and I used to do a lot of knitting to keep fit." I confidently declared.

Vasili's face revealed a complete mystification about how knitting could be classed as a fitness exercise. 

"You must have used pretty large, heavy needles, then." He replied, a nervous grin gracing his face.

"What?" I said, "Why would I need needles to do some knitting?"

Cutting to the quick here folks, I had good reason to be glad that there weren't more people waiting behind me, because it would have resulted in major embarrassment on my part and general jollity on everyone else's, because the penny dropped for Vasili, who said:

"I think you might mean treximo, yes?" 

See, 'treximo' is the word used for 'jogging' or 'running'. The Greek word for knitting is 'pleximo'

I was getting my words tangled wasn't I. I can't help it if my mind gets all woolly now and then.

One more example: I told someone the other day...

"I'm just desiring you,"

...when I meant to say...

"I'm just reminding you."

Desiring is 'epithimi'es', whereas reminding is 'ipenthimi'es'

Ah, well, many a slip as they say. Anyway, must knit, I need to desire someone about something...