Monday, 31 December 2012

Wood, Water and a Worried Greek

Takis stood ruminating, a look of grave concern on his face. I was showing him the wood-store around the back of the house and he was worried about the distance we'd have to carry the logs which we'd just arrived home with, after our expedition into the hinterland together to cut them (see the post "Self Sufficiency").

"Is there no way we can reverse the trailer round the back here?" he asked, scratching his five-o'clock shadow with his right hand. He was wearing one of those multi-pocketed quilted jackets without any sleeves. Under that he had on a thick woollen jumper, over a wool check shirt and a vest under that too I'd wager. His combat trousers had seen better days and the leg-pockets bulged with all sorts of mystery items. That's the thing with these Greeks, as I've mentioned before. The temperature was about 18ºC and it was mid afternoon under a sky of blue and broken cloud. A little physical labour and I was soon down to a thick short-sleeved t-shirt and jeans, even contemplating the merits of changing into some shorts. A Greek, on the other hand, like my neighbour Taki here, would be dressed for the tundra. Once the season ends it's winter. And if it's winter they're flippin' well going to dress for winter, regardless of weather conditions, which often (as I've also mentioned before, probably) may rival those of any day during a typical British summer. I've been sat in rooms in very warm houses on summer evenings out here too and seen that a male Greek was wearing a vest under his shirt!! There I would be in my short-sleeved shirt and still feeling far too hot, when I could make out the tell-tale shape of the tank-top white cotton vest showing through many a Greek's shirt. You can never be too careful it seems.

It is funny actually, that so often in the winter months our Greek friends are slapping their upper arms with their opposite hands and going "brrrr", when we Brits are going round in long-shorts and t-shirts. Quite often too the Greek will be blowing his or her nose as they deal with a cold, when we're thinking how warm it's been of late. Anyway, to return to Taki's question:

"Why?" I replied. After all, we'd been bringing home logs ourselves for several years and carrying albeit smaller loads round here from the drive out the front using the wheelbarrow. It was no big deal. But apparently Takis, ever the true Greek, was worried we'd find the exertion too much. You know, unloading a trailer-full out the front and then wheelbarrowing the wood a good thirty metres or so to the wood-store. Could do us in, or ay least do us an injury. As Kyria Dimitra in the Lardos bakery once told me, if a Greek could take his car to the toilet - he would.

"Taki," I said, "the trailer's fine out front, we'd have to dismantle a fairly substantial wooden fence to get the trailer around here from John and Wendy's side of the house, or demolish our brick-built barbecue if we come from our side. It's OK, we can move the logs by hand."

The Greek still stood, hands now on his hips, and "tch-ed" a few times. "Yianni," he continued, "why did you build the shed and wood-store all the way round here, eh? Not good, not good." This point of view of course reflects the penchant that the Greeks have for all things labour-saving and practical. Not for the Greek's house a nice flower border or decorative Yucca or three to make the approach to the house look pleasing to the eye. Taki's house has a huge corrugated iron wood-store just feet from the front door, so that he has the minimum distance to cover when fetching logs for the stove. When you arrive at Taki's and Naomi's front gate, you are immediately struck by the fact that the wood-store is half-way between the garden gate and the front door of the house. No time here for prettiness, - practicality, boy, practicality!! You'll always recognise a Brit's home, it'll look well manicured, but won't impress yer typical local Greek, who'll also be wondering why so much good soil is wasted in growing stuff that you can't actually eat too.

After I'd finally convinced my friend that we'd not flake out in the process of moving the logs, he turned to another, related subject.

"You have an axe? I mean a proper one, for splitting the logs?"

"Sure," I replied, and went into the shed to retrieve my heavy-headed iron 'log-splitter', which had been a gift from my dad some years ago when we'd still lived in South Wales. It had made the trip out here with us in "Mitsos", the white van in which we'd transported all our worldly goods when we'd driven over in August 2005. It's a rather traditional-looking long wood-handled heavy axe, with one side of the head a blade, while the other resembles a lump-hammer and is very useful for driving "re-bars" into the soil in the orchard when constructing a wind-shield for the young slips of fruit trees which in the beginning were struggling against the elements during the winter months. The problem of late, though, has been that the head has been working loose. I've been driving nails and manly-looking woodscrews into the wood at the top of the head to try and firm it up a bit, but only with limited success. The axe worked, but the head would move against the handle and I confidently expected it to fly off and in through our bedroom window some time soon, probably landing on the bed while my wife was in there taking a nap or something. That's how my luck usually goes.

Takis took it from me in a manner which suggested that he'd brook no argument. He ran his hand along the rather dull blade and vigorously wiggled the head against the wood of the handle. He didn't notice me wincing.

"You want this to last a bit longer, Yianni?"

"Of course," I replied, whilst also thinking that it would definitely last a bit longer if the head wasn't purposely being wiggled like that. "I'd been thinking about popping down to Pandeli's DIY store in Gennadi for a new handle though."

"No need, no need," he said, "fill a bucket with water and drop the head end in. Leave it overnight and it'll be fine. Probably last you another season. It's the dryness here. Wood shrinks. Not like in England, where it's so damp that wood keeps its moisture for ever. Here it dries out and you need to re-hydrate it. Shove it in a bucket of water overnight, it'll do you OK then."

After he'd gone I did as he'd suggested. I half-filled a bucket with water and dropped the axe-head into it, then left it overnight in the shed. I ran out early next morning like an excited schoolboy to see the result. I whipped the iron axe-head out of the water to see that it was covered in a  micro-thin layer of rust, which I soon cured by wiping it dry with a rag, then smearing some trusty three-in-one oil all over it (brought back in my suitcase last year from the ever-reliable branch of Halfords in Midsomer Norton). It came up good as new. Then I tried to wiggle the head against the handle. It wouldn't budge. It was fixed fast.

By mid morning we'd transferred all the logs to the wood-store and I was able to call Taki to tell him to collect the trailer. I couldn't contain my delight over the re-invigorated axe. Once I'd told him how delighted I was, he replied in his usual dismissive way. "Aach, you British need us Greeks. After all, what do you have that we didn't invent, eh? That applies to ideas too!"

I knew that he was being a little tongue-in-cheek, but I agreed and deferred, of course.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Flowers, Fowl and Far Away From it All

A few pics of the flowers in our garden taken on Dec 25th...

The foreground flowers are Gazania, which are wonderfully blousy and come in loads of colours

Gazania close-up

These are Lantana, which you see everywhere these days. They flower almost all year round

Love this rose, it's a "Penindafila", meaning fifty petals, whereas the usual rose is called "triandafila" or thirty petals. We'd call it a "double" (I think!).



And a house near the beach between Kiotari and Gennadi...
No reason, just liked the ducks and chickens running free!

And on Glystra Beach, same day...
Yes, while the rest of the world observed Saturnalia, the feast of the re-born, unconquered sun, we walked to Glystra, sunbathed in 21ºc and even went in the sea!! (Trevor and Gloria would have approved, that's an "in" joke.)

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Getting the Bird...

Our house is doing its bit to help the waning numbers of house sparrows. Well, I know it's particularly in the UK that their numbers are declining, but I wouldn't be surprised if it weren't also true here in Greece. Around the house and under the carports (our side and John and Wendy's) we estimate that there are probably a dozen nests and we're OK with that because, under the pitched terracotta tiled roof of the house itself there's a concrete slab for a roof, so the nests don't really do any harm, plus the occupants provide us with endless hours of pleasure, especially when the young are nearing their time to fledge.

Now and again we have to warn away Simba the cat, when he decides that a nice place to squat down on his haunches, ears all perked up and eyes concentrated on one particular direction, is behind the Agave Americana just a couple of metres from the flower bed where we throw the crumbs, but as a rule our sparrow population is quite safe and secure.

Well, I ought to say, was quite safe and secure. Why? because of late we've been conscious a lot more often of a silent "swoosh" as a bird of prey (evidently) "whooshed" past us while we've been taking coffee, or perhaps pottering around in the garden. There have been a few moments when we've almost felt the rush of air from its wings, it's come that close. 

Now, when we lived in our last house in the UK we used to have bird-feeder especially designed to take "Nyjer" seeds. We'd ordered it (and our first supply of the seeds) from the RSPB website (excellent, by the way, if you're in the UK that is!) especially designed to attract goldfinches [that link ought to take you to the excellent Keith Christmas' "Burdz" photo album on Facebook, in particular to a shot of a goldfinch on the same kind of feeder as we used to have]. We had to get used to the fact that our feeder was so successful, often being covered with goldfinches all squabbling to get at the seeds, that it soon became the local fast-food joint for sparrowhawks as well.

Photo courtesy of http://andysworld.org.uk/tag/goldfinch/
We would frequently look out and see a Sparrowhawk sitting on the fence at the end of the garden, waiting for his (or her) lunch to arrive at the feeder, whereupon it would silently make its deadly swoop, grab a hapless goldfinch and be off away into the trees nearby to alight and enjoy its meal. My wife was pretty upset the first couple of times that this happened, but we all have to accept that it's how nature works. It's still a wonder to behold, despite our sentimentality about the poor victim. The rest of the goldfinches would very soon resume their attack on the Nyjer seeds, as though nothing had happened.

So, here we are now in Rhodes and this time we have a similar situation, although now with the actual prey after which the sparrowhawk is named. We do get goldfinches here too, but they don't live with us at the house. The sparrows, though, are in plentiful supply. Just yesterday we were enjoying a rotten weather day, as outside it was all grey and raining most of the time (very British), the logburner was flickering away and the afternoon was nearly over and we were both flopped out on the sofa watching a movie (very decadent, eh?), when my wife said, 

"Don't move. Look!!"

Now this was a bit silly, because in order to look where she wanted me to look, it entailed the need to move. So I moved, but everso slowly, since she was staring open-mouthed out of the French windows at the small marble table which we keep out there for coffee time. 

"It's sitting on the table. Is it a Sparrowhawk?"

It was. So I crept to my office, reeeeally slowly in case he saw me and took off. Then I crept back and snapped this...


Now, I know the quality isn't very good, not anything like as good as Keith's shots, or those of Nigel Sparks, but at least you can see him clearly. He just sat there for probably four or five minutes, before giving it up for a bad job, the sparrows no doubt all being tucked up under the eaves waiting out the weather, as indeed were we.

We were, notwithstanding the fact that some of the feathered residents around us may disappear from time to time, well pleased to see that we now have such a magnificent example of nature's flying machines living nearby.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Leaving Thessalonika

Mount Olympus shimmered in the distance, it snowcapped peaks majestic in the midday sunshine of a chilly December day. At 9570 feet, it's the highest mountain in Greece and, in case you've just stepped out of a beam of light after the manner of Mr. Bean, you'll know that it was the fabled home of the Greek Gods of old.

The mountain sits on the skyline many kilometres to the west of the second largest city in Greece, not always visible due to either high humidity or smog from the city, but on December 7th, as I was sitting in the back seat of our friend's car as he whisked my friend Mihali and I back to the airport from the city, the mountain graced us with a superb show of snow-capped stateliness. The sky was very blue and created the impression that the snowy pinnacles of the mount were suspended in the air above the ground. I found it hard to tear my eyes away. Of course, the frequent obscuring of this noble rockmass by such things as the many huge out-of-town shopping complexes and stores that pepper the area around so many modern cities kept bringing my eyes back to the immediate vicinity around the car, but each time there was a gap of sufficient time or space my eyes sought Olympus out again of their own volition.

It can't fail to strike a chord with me the behaviour of the ancient Gods of this country and how closely it parallels that of the "gods' of this modern world, the movie and TV celebrities who are worshiped with much the same fervour as were the Gods on Olympus. Religion 'per se' may have waned to a large degree in the last century or so, but in reality, in the western world at any rate,  it's simply been a switch from the mysterious gods of the churches to the gods on the small and large screen. The "cult" of celebrity is quite real. Take Aphrodite for example, a stunningly beautiful woman, she was famed for having many lovers. Then there was Ares, God of - among other things - war, bloodshed and violence. He's still got millions of worshippers among cinema goers or even computer game-players nowadays. Dionysus was god of wine, parties and festivals, madness, chaos, drunkenness, drugs, and ecstasy. He was also frequently portrayed as quite effeminate. Strikes me a lot of worship goes his way during the "festive" season.

I can't watch a red-carpet event without being reminded of the ancient Greeks and their worship of the Olympian gods. You only have to look at the faces of some of those poor plebs behind the barriers, all desperate to catch a glimpse or even share a word or two with their favourite deities. You may think all this is a bit extreme, but the parallels are all there.

Thessalonika is a city with a proud heritage here in Greece. It's home to numerous cultural events, plus it's the birthplace of many of modern Greece's top singers and musicians. Stratos Dionysiou was born is Serres, but moved to Thessalonika when very young. There he rose to become the biggest star of his generation. He died in 1990 but is still played often on the traditional radio stations, of which there are many all across the country. Pascalis Terzis, Vasilis Karras and Natassa Theodoridou are all huge in Greece today and all come from Thessalonika, where the bouzouki clubs rival those of Athens and, if you were to ask a local, they'd say they surpass them.

The problem is, in wintertime it gets ruddy cold there!!! I can't quite get my head around it. It's a long way south of most of western Europe and yet, during winter it often gets snow and, during the five days I spent there in early December the temperature was around freezing overnight and not much higher during daylight hours. I reckon it must have something to do with the fact that it's at the bottom of the Balkans (and you don't want to be at the bottom of the Balkans when the north wind blows!). Immediately north of here are some pretty high mountains, plus the countries you'd travel through going north wouldn't be many before you arrived in Ukraine or Poland, perhaps Belarus and then Russia, where it gets very nippy round the old turntables, as Tony Blackburn used to say.

Still, we'd stayed with a family who are friends of Mihalis, who'd made the trip with me and they'd treated us like kings, feeding us up with a wonderful selection of home cooked dishes for the whole time we were there. They resolutely refused to accept any money to cover their expenses, even though times are tough for them. The husband, also a Mihalis, is retired and his wife also lives on a modest pension, which, of course has been reduced by something like 40% in the past year or so.

Greeks eat some pretty odd things for breakfast. They often lay the table with that huge round brown sponge with a hole in the middle, or they'll spread butter on a slice of bread and add some cheese, some ham or a few olives. Often, as was the case with our host, they'll make do with a cup of Elleniko coffee. It may be short on nutrition, but doesn't half kick start them for the day, eh? Our hosts were well amused at their British guest, as I asked on the first evening for a breakfast bowl into which I could pour some of the muesli that I'd brought along in my case, so that I could add a little water to soak it overnight. Apart from the fact that they were bemused over quite what the muesli was, they were even more perplexed when I refused milk and simply wanted water to pour onto it. I tried to explain that the oats in the mix would produce their own "milk" as they absorbed the water during the night, but they just shook their heads, smiled and remarked on how weird I was.

The first morning at breakfast, when I asked if there was perhaps a piece of fruit that I could chop on to my muesli, Dimitra (the wife) produced some beautiful green apples and proudly announced that they were their own. In other words, they'd grown them on their own trees. Now it was my turn to be perplexed. Here they were living in an apartment on the third floor in the great urban sprawl of the northern suburbs of this huge city, and they're telling me that they have apple trees. In fact, all through the week we ate their produce, from white radishes on the salad to root vegetables and all kinds of other delicious stuff. Turns out that they have a house, an actual house, not just a "kaliva", many km out of town, but they can't afford to live out there because there's no work. Their son Petros was going for interviews and exams to see if he could get work as a bus driver even while we were there, so they had no choice but to live in the city. But Mihalis treks out there every so often to tend his crops and trees.

Tell you what was really good though. They have gas central heating!!! You can't get that on the islands. Not that it's a huge necessity down here on Rhodes, but further north it's a huge advantage, as it's still the cheapest way to heat a home during the winter months.

Anyway, we arrived back at Macedonia Airport, just south of the city, at around 12.45pm, checked in with Aegean, got rid of the cases and began that rather irritating process of shuffling up and down in a bustling queue, between those pull-out tapes that are attached to the metal posts that we're all so familiar with as we queued to get through that x-ray machine for your hand baggage and that electronic arch you have to walk through after first removing your belt, and throwing your wallet, your phone and your fillings into a little plastic tray. Internal flights are a little easier than international ones in that you don't have to arrive two hours before departure and there's no passport control or customs to slow you down. But you still have all that security stuff which is such a necessary although depressing aspect of flying nowadays.

Mind you, although I have little time for religion in general, there's something to be said for being a priest in the Orthodox Church. Whilst all of us poor lay-people queued for the best part of twenty-five minutes just to get into the departure lounge, a couple of portly priests, their bellies under those flowing black robes displaying the evidence of a pretty good lifestyle and their bearded chins held high, were immediately ushered through a glass door at the side by some uniformed official or other, where they found themselves right at the front of the queue before you could say Vatopedi scandal!! Miracles do still happen, but only for the select few it seems.

I wondered if they'd been up to Olympus lately, you know, to ensure the favour of a few deities for their journey. Seems to have worked!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Let loose on the world!!


Here's the full cover, front and back, of the new book.

The View From Kleoboulos is now available to order directly from the publisher's website, HERE. If the price shows up in dollars and you want a different currency, you can convert it by scrolling to the bottom and on the left changing the lulu.com store which you wish to use. I think that the above link will take you in the first instance to the UK store. I'm afraid the only problem with purchasing directly from lulu is their carriage charge, although it is a very reliable service.

Once the book appears on Amazon, of course, their normal conditions will apply concerning mailing costs, which often are FOC.

The book will pop up in Kindle format shortly and I'll place a piece on the News & Stuff page once it does.

If you would simply like a PDF file of the entire book, check out the page "About the Books" for the ordering procedure, thanks.

Thanks for your interest. Oh, by the way, there's also a Facebook page for The View From Kleoboulos. There you'll find a few photographs taken near to and immediately around the tomb itself. Plus odd bits of trivia about the book and the characters in it will appear there from time to time.

Incidentally, although the book may appear to be a little slimmer than the first four, it actually contains around 10,000 more words. But I've enlarged the finished page size, thus enabling the publisher to keep the production costs lower than they would have been if it had been published at the usual pocket-size like the others.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Self Sufficiency?

Richard Briers and Felicity Kendall we may not be (apologies to non-UK readers, for whom those names probably don't mean very much), but of late it's seemed that we are indeed living something resembling "The Good Life" of the 1970s TV series.

For the past few days, as we've watched the early evening news on Alpha, I've been seated on the sofa with two large bowls on my lap. No, I haven't had a dose of the jippy tummy. I've been cracking walnuts. I returned from my trip to Thessaloniki with thousands of the things. My wife suggested that, rather than just sit there with an ouzo and orange juice in my hand, I could make myself useful by cracking the shells to release the brain-resembling kernels inside, so that, after a few sessions in similar vein, we'd have jarred up a considerably ample supply of these nuts that so resemble the brain from a pickled head.

It's funny isn't it, how life's so full of coincidences. I mean, there I was just contemplating the nutritional value of plant-based omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid, when Mihalis and Dimitra, my genial and very generous hosts in Thessalonika, decide to give me a huge supply of the stuff in convenient dried nut form, all wrapped up in a plastic shopping bag. Yes, apparently, walnuts are a key source of ALA (the abbreviation for plant-based omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid!) and it has huge health benefits. According to one report by the BBC I read recently, one of the chief benefits of the fatty acid found in walnuts is something that I kind of miss out on these days. It relates to the younger man and his chances of producing progeny with his partner of similar vintage, apparently. Go on, read it for yourself if you like. There, see? I did tell you.

So, yes, we're well endowed - with walnuts I mean - and, as my wife points out owing to her eye for all things thrifty, we've got ourselves a few Euros worth here and we should be grateful. From here on in I can look forward to a more regular supply of walnut cake, of walnuts replacing or at least augmenting the whole hazels that we sprinkle on our muesli of a morning, and who knows - maybe a nut roast or two in the weeks to come. Tell you what, I can touch a thumb to my nose and twiddle my fingers at Type 2 diabetes as well, if this report is to be believed.

It's not just the walnut situation that's prompted the "Good Life" analogy. We've been strolling the orchard and can now take immense pride in the fact that both the grapefruit and lemon trees out there are laden with delicious yellow globe-shaped and - well, lemon-shaped - offerings. The grapefruit tree has more fruit on it than ever and the lemons on the lemon tree are larger than they've been since it first fruited three or four years ago. Only yesterday we were having a coffee in the tiny traditional kafenion, which is perched precariously on a corner at the bottom of Gennadi square, when I found myself studying the lemon tree in the front yard of the house opposite. The lemon tree is a minor miracle. A major one, even. It produces impossibly-useful fruit which can be left on the branches all year round and just picked as and when needed. Got some limescale to remove from your kettle? Couple of lemon chunks left in there in some freshly boiled water should do the trick. Need to remove stains from the shower basin? Bit of neat lemon juice rubbed in soon shifts those. There is a whole host of handy uses to which to put a lemon, the most important being, of course, a slice in your G and T or your VAT.

Too, our little Bulgarian friend Dhopi has been plying us with oranges this winter, as per usual. Several shopping bagfuls a week to be honest. All yesterday morning Y-Maria was "juicing" and this has led to the freezer now being chock-full of freshly squeezed juice. Plus we enjoyed a huge glass of the stuff with our lunch as we sat outside in the sunshine to eat it yesterday as well. A better glass of orange juice I have never tasted.

Finally, to complete the "Good Life" theme, last week we finally, after several years of talking about it, made a trip into "them thar hills" with our neighbours from down the valley, Taki and Naomi (his French wife) to do some serious logging to top up the woodstore for the winter. Mind you, this winter so far has been a stark contrast to the last one, which was the coldest in thirty years. We started using the logburner a full three weeks earlier in late 2011. This year we only lit it for the first time two nights ago, it's been that mild overnight. Tonight, as I type this at 1.00am, it's reading 6ºC outside, so we had it flickering away during the evening. The place is warm as toast, lovely.

It's a good way to illustrate the better side of the Greek nature, this. Yes, everyone thinks that your average Greek would sell his own granny if it meant a few more notes in his hip pocket. But Greek kindness on a neighbourly level is second to none. Takis told us several years ago that we ought to go with them when we go logging. Apart from anything else, he has a license. Now, as far as we understand it, you don't need a license to cut lumber for your own use, only if you intend to sell it. nevertheless, if the Greek "boys in blue" were to happen by whilst you're droning away with your chainsaw, the fact that a license is nearby and can be whipped out in a trice is quite reassuring.

I say that and yet, there was precious little likelihood of any vehicle getting near to us in the spot where Takis took us on this occasion, leave alone a Police car. Some years ago, when we did the olive harvest with "Dimitri the Horse", he'd taken us over the hills and so far away that we'd decided with absolute certainty that, had he abandoned us and fled with the pickup, we'd have been discovered years later as a couple of skeletons under a tree. We were that lost and that far from civilisation. Well, the morning of our planned logging trip having arrived, we were summoned to the front gate at around 11.00am (early start then) by the sound of Taki's 4x4 horn. Off we went and loaded our chainsaw into the back, taking note of the empty trailer which was hooked on behind, then we piled in and off he drove. We passed the village of Asklipio on the back road, which is just dirt, then plied on, through a maze of dirt lanes, past numerous families engaged in their olive harvests, all with their huge nets spread wide to catch the little marvels as they fell, some harvesters sitting on plastic crates taking their sustenance of cheese chunks, village bread and bottled water. Everyone waved at us without exception. Either Takis and Naomi know everyone in this region, or people are just that courteous. Somewhere between the two I guess. Rhodes ruined by tourism? Give me a break.

After probably three quarters of an hour driving around, occasionally stopping to point at or peruse a fallen burnt tree trunk for the ease of access and possible quantity of fuel which it may yield, we finally drove into a clearing among some tall pines, most of which were still alive and sporting lots of green needles. Takis instructed the ladies and I to hop out, while he gamely drove the 4x4 even further into the trees, where the undergrowth was well over bumper-height, until he'd come to within a few feet of the horizontal trunk which he'd selected as our goal. The smell of oregano filled our senses as the jeep bruised the leaves as it progressed further from the track.

Executing a few skilful manoeuvres, Takis brought the truck and trailer around so that, once we'd begun cutting the logs, they could be thrown into the back with ease. Soon the drone of two chainsaws could be heard echoing through the forest and clearings as he and I set about "logging" in earnest. Naomi set out on a flat stone a picnic comprising a couple of flasks of hot coffee with four ceramic mugs, some chocolate, some choccy-chip cookies and some delicious home-made bread for the hungry workers to attack as and when we got hungry, which in my case was immediately. Me and my better half were instantly aware that we'd omitted to consider the need for sustenance. It didn't matter, Naomi had packed enough for the four of us. My wife, bless her, set about lugging the cut logs from where they fell from the hot saw-blade to right beside the trailer, where Takis told her to just sling them in and he'd start organising them when there were enough in there to warrant it.

After a couple of hours the trailer was full to head-height with an impressive haul of lumber, which we fully expected to share 50-50 once we got home. We set off again and once more Y-Maria and I were bewildered by the criss-crossing of various dirt tracks and were soon lost as we crested hills and crossed small valleys, trailer bumping and clanging behind our heads, before finally emptying out on to the tarmac road just north of Asklipio village. Birds of prey swooped and hovered above and things rustled in the undergrowth as we passed. We drove into the village along lanes so narrow that you had to breath in, then stopped in the wider ones and the village square as Takis rolled his window down to exchange politely shouted pleasantries with everyone we passed, without exception, whether they were in a vehicle or on foot.

We got home to our place, which is a kilometre further up the valley from theirs, and Takis drove the trailer up on to our drive. By now it was mid afternoon and we probably only had about 90 minutes of daylight remaining. To unload the trailer and wheelbarrow the wood around to the woodstore behind the house was liable to take longer. No matter, the pair of them assured us, they'd leave the trailer on our drive and we could call them, once we'd emptied it, to come and collect it. It was all we could do to dissuade them from helping us get all the logs shifted before they left, but we insisted, we could handle it ourselves. What humbled us was hearing, on suggesting as we did that we just drop our half of the haul on the drive where it was, that it was all for us, every last lovely round log of it. They'd planned this expedition purely for our benefit. They'd spent the greater part of the day using their vehicle, their trailer, their chainsaw (inc. fuel and chain oil of course) and their food and drink - all for us, just so that we could have a decent supply of wood for our stove this winter. All the way through the day we'd assumed that we'd split the results of our labour, but they wouldn't hear of it.

As they drove out through the gate, minus the trailer, we were profuse in our thanks, but they smiled, waved and told us that was what neighbours were for. In fact, Takis took a look at our shiny new car under its carport and suggested that, if we did need any more lumber before the winter was out, we were to go into the hills, select a trunk, cut what we needed and then call him on the mobile, whereupon he'd be happy to drive up there with the trailer and bring the stuff back for us.

Have trailer - will go logging!

"You'll not be wanting to chuck filthy logs into the back of that car, least not for a year or two yet." he said.

Actually, we've now got that much wood out the back, we reckon it'll get us half way through the next winter too! The next day we shifted all the wood around to the back, where my ever industrious better half set about sorting and stacking it (See the pic in the previous post, "Climate Change") and then she swept out the trailer in readiness for Takis to come and collect it. When he turned up I thanked him and Naomi again and told them we couldn't be more grateful and how could they do all this without reward. Takis replied, "Johnny," [a lot of Greeks call me Johnny, since they can't handle single syllable names, for some odd reason], "That's how we are. We don't go to church, don't believe in a lot of the sanctimonious stuff, but that's our belief. That's our religion. Be to your neighbours what you'd like them to be to you. Payback always arrives some time."

We're planning to prove him right on that one soon. Here I suppose the "Good Life" analogy ends, since no way could you see Takis and Naomi as Margot and Jerry, now could you.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Climate Change

Following the last set of shots taken on a beautifully bright day, below are included, among a few others, some shots of the way the weather's been changing of late. It's remained mild, but we've actually had some half-decent rain, which is good news. I've been up in Thessalonika for the best part of a week (Sunday 2nd  - Fri 7th). More about that later. While I was away, my better half, not one to be got the better of (is that actually English?), took a couple of shots when the clouds were piled high.

Plus, with my old mobile phone I took a couple more at our friends' house of their cute little invaders, the tree frogs. Plus there are a couple of odd photos of this and that...

This was the sky from our place on November 21st. We may not get it all that often, but when we do get stormy weather, it has me running for the camera. The kind of skies we get I wouldn't miss for the world, although we do tend to run inside once they get close enough to throw their contents down at us.

Same day as above. The system had become much closer and once again the sky was totally amazing.

Monday November 26th, at Asklipio. Just arrived to collect our mail. Loved this angle, showing the gourds in the terraced garden below the Agapitos Taverna, right up to the tower of Asklipio Kastro.

Thursday November 29th. We'd been up in the hills with our neighbours on a wood-run. Here the better half does what she does best, she gets stuck in!!

Friday morning December 7th. The day I was flying home from Thessalonika. Y-Maria was delighted to see a complete rainbow just above the hill beside the house, but she couldn't get it all in shot!

Come on, you do agree don't you. The 'aaaaah' factor kicks in here. One of those beautiful little tree frogs standing sentinel on a jardinière at our friends' house. Every now and again he'd (or maybe she'd) pipe up a bit. Can't describe their little warble very accurately, but "cute" does the job pretty well.

Same guest, different angle. Bernard, householder in background. We all agreed, "How the Dickens do they get up there?"
Next post will be a bit about the Thessalonika trip.
TTFN.