Saturday, 28 January 2017

Drenched in Greek Sunshine

This is number four in my occasional series of interviews with writers who specialise in producing work on a Greek theme. I'm rather excited, nay ever so slightly chuffed, to have had prolific best-selling author Effrosyni Moschoudi answer my fifteen questions. I'm sure you'll find her comments intriguing, enlightening and fascinating.

Effrosyni was born in Athens, as was my late mother-in-law. to date I've read one of her works, her first novel entitled "The Necklace of the Goddess Athena", which would appeal not only to lovers of all things Greek, but probably to the enthusiastic Doctor Who fan as well! I was especially enthralled because my wife's grandparents used to have a taverna in Plaka, on the slopes of the Acropolis in Athens, which is where much of the action takes place in this book. 

So, let's get down to business, here's Effrosyni's interview, along with some interesting photos plus at the end lots of links so you can check out her work.

1. Where do you live?
I live in a peaceful, small town that’s situated about half-way between Athens and Corinth. It’s on the beach and near the foothills of the picturesque Geraneia mountains with its pine tree forests. Across the water, the opposite shore of the island of Salamina is visible and offers a wonderful view from our seafront, even at night with its streetlights and passing cars. The summer is paradise here and I get to swim daily. The local marina is a delight to frequent all year round with its beautiful yachts, fishing boats and quaint tavernas. I feel blessed and privileged to have made a home here, away from the crowded city where I was raised.

Seafront near Effrosyni's home. The island in the distance is Salamina.

2. What do you write about?
I am a romance/fantasy/paranormal author and write for readers who are passionate about Greece and its people. I love to introduce a little magic into every novel. In my published stories so far, readers will find living and breathing Greek Gods, a haunting spirit seeking deliverance, and a bunch of quirky guardian angels, one of them deeply in love and not having the faintest idea how to handle it. My books are set in stunning Greek locations and I often tantalize my readers with references to Greek food in them as well. I know what they love about Greece (which are all the things I love to!) so I make sure to add all the ingredients necessary for a classic ‘Greek holiday experience’ in every novel.

3. Why Greece?
Simply put, because it runs in my veins and makes me tick more than anything else. It makes sense to me to write about what I know and love the most. This is why all my heroines so far have been Greek as well. I do plan to write British heroines in future though. I expect it will be a refreshing experience for me and hope my readers will enjoy the novelty as well.

4. How long does it take you to write a book?
It used to take me months on end, sometimes more than a year. I started as a pantser* but over time learned new skills on how to plot my novels instead. By doing this, for example, it took me only three months to write the first draft of my last novel, The Amulet
[*For the unitiated, a 'pantser' is someone who 'flies by the seat of their pants']

5. What do you enjoy most about writing?
Positive feedback from readers. For me a book is nothing until it has become alive in the hearts and minds of others. Of course, the joy and the sense of accomplishment when holding a new paperback in your hands for the first time are immense. I don’t think even a writer can express these adequately in words!

6. What, in your view, is/has been the greatest gift from Greece to the world?
The Parthenon as a whole and what it symbolizes because of the golden era of the 5th century B.C. that it came from. Therefore it embodies the gifts of democracy, philosophy, drama, geometry, architecture and many more that Greece has given to the world. This is why we Greeks have become quite annoying about claiming the Parthenon Marbles from Britain. Because they are part of The Parthenon. Therefore, they are not mere stones. Many novelists, actors and movie stars have fought the Greek corner to defend the cause across the centuries but the great Melina Merkouri once explained to the world what they really are better than anyone else ever could:
“They are our pride. They are our sacrifices. They are our noblest symbol of excellence. They are a tribute to the democratic philosophy. They are our aspirations and our name. They are the essence of Greekness.”

7. How do you come up with an idea for a book?
I sincerely believe I don’t come up with the ideas but that they are given to me. To say I come up with an idea would suggest I’d be actively looking for it. And yet, most of them come out of the blue during the odd phase of consciousness that exists somewhere between sleep and wakefulness and lasts very briefly early in the morning. Sometimes, it comes as a single vivid picture. Other times, it’s an obscure story that, like a distant dream, has many inconsistencies and hardly makes sense, yet it insists to be recorded. Many times I’ve jumped out of bed and hurried to jot it all down before I forget!

8. How do you go about writing, that is to say, are you organised, disciplined, do you do your research, or are you a messy sort who gets it done one way or another?
As I stated earlier, I used to be a pantser but, in time, transformed into a plotter 100%. At first, it would take me ages to find the discipline to sit and write and even when I did I had no idea what to expect. Nowadays, I don’t set out to write a book unless I have a chapter-to-chapter summary down on paper first. Of course, I always allow for many delightful last-minute surprises from my characters, but I do have a very good idea of where the story is going and what the ending will be. This makes a huge difference during the writing process. It has delivered me from the clutches of the infamous “writer’s block” which is nothing else but the writer’s own fear, anxiety, and tendency to procrastinate (procrastination itself stems from fear too). Plotting ahead rids you of all that. Now I know beforehand what every scene I am writing is going to be about and how it’s going to end. It may sound restricting to the imagination for some, but I find it liberating and also conducive to good time management. It’s the only way I intend to write books from now on.

9. Which other authors do you read?
I enjoy the books of many indie authors and they are far too many to mention them all. To name just a few of my favourite indies: MM Jaye, Nicholas Rossis, Amy Vansant, David Wind, Angel Sefer and Christian Kallias. As for traditionally published authors, I love Dan Brown, Stephen King, Katherine Webb, Rachel Hore and Rosamunde Pilcher.

10. What's your preferred kind of music?
Pop music from the 80s, British mostly, because it takes me back in time. Anything that transports me back to this era is a good thing for me! 

11. Do you like Greek music and if so, which kind?
I don’t follow pop Greek music at all. I sometimes listen to orchestral Greek music (like Spanoudakis) or old songs from the 70s and 80s. Again, for the ‘time-travel’ effect! I love Mitropanos, Poulopoulos, Chomata, but most of all, I love syrtaki music because it takes me back to Corfu summers in the 80s – a time very special in my heart. The opening chords of ‘Zorba the Greek’ brings shivers to my spine.

12. Favourite Greek dish?
I have two: Souvlaki with pitta and lahanodolmades. The latter is cabbage leaves stuffed with mince and rice in avgolemono (egg and lemon sauce). My Corfiot grandmother used to make it better than anyone else I know in her tiny kitchen in Corfu. Oh, how I miss her cooking! I’ve recorded some of her best recipes on my food blog, by the way – if any of your readers are interested to cook Greek tonight - click here! 

Effrosyni with her grandmother in her kitchen on Corfu. Check out the blog for some very tasty recipes.

13. Favourite place in Greece and the reason(s)?
The village of Moraitika in Corfu. It’s my favourite place on earth and I miss it 24/7. This is where I spent the best summers of my life with my grandparents in the 80s. I wrote The Ebb to honour their memory and to share with the world the joy I experienced back then on this earthly paradise. I don’t have a better way to describe my love for this place than to invite your readers to read the book (it’s permanently 99p on Amazon) or to check out my guide to Corfu on my website – the pictures will speak for themselves I think!


Check out Effrosyni's exhaustive guide to her favourite place, the village of Moriatika on Corfu.

14. What links would you like the readers to explore in connection with your work, including, of course, sites where your work may be purchased?
Your readers are welcome to watch book trailers on my website and to download FREE excerpts for all my novels. They can also download a FREE short story and a delightful, exclusive excerpt from The Ebb that’s available for a preview nowhere else. Both of them are included in the FREE book, Poetry from The Lady of the Pier. I also urge your readers to check out Team Effrosyni on my website. Members get to read all my new books for FREE plus to enter exclusive giveaways!
Effrosyni’s Books on the website:

15. And finally, reading device or real book?

Oh… a bit of both! I do prefer paperbacks, though. I love the feel of paper in my hands and the tantalizing silent call a half-read book emits my way when I pass it by on the coffee (or bedside) table during the day. My black tablet screen doesn’t do the same, somehow. Yet, I get eye strain a lot these days and the reading device is easier at the end of the day in this respect. 

A final note from me...
Well, if you check out some of those links you'll be occupied for hours. So if you're into a good Greek read, this post ought to go a long way to making sure you have one!
Watch out for two more author interviews already in the pipeline and coming up soon. All my interviews are permanently linked in the left hand column of this blog, under the imaginatively titled section "The Interviews".

Friday, 27 January 2017

No Sign of Siouxsie

The night before last was a little wild to say the least. As per usual I was up mooching around between 12 midnight and about 1.30am and, having been primed by the weather forecast from Saki (may his name be blessed) on the ERT1 TV channel, we were expecting something a little out of the ordinary. Actually, since I discovered Saki's Facebook page it's been brill, since we no longer have to miss a big chunk of the quiz show we're usually watching on another channel to catch his essential forecast.

Sakis is nothing if not loyal to his worshippers, sorry, followers, and regularly posts his entire TV forecast on his Facebook page at the same time as it's being aired on national TV. This can be a boon for another reason. The government channels are ERT1, 2 AND 3. Sakis is meant to air at 8.45pm each weekday night on ERT1. Years ago in the UK we used to bemoan the fact that the BBC was always changing its programmes at the last minute for no really good reason. This was true more so on BBC2 than BBC1, but you never knew, could be either or both. They still do it when a sporting event overruns, which is great if you want to watch the sport, truly grating if you don't.

At least on the BBC they'd post regular scrolling titles to tell the delighted (!?) viewers that may have just tuned in for their favourite show the reason why it would now be airing at a later and unspecified hour, or maybe that it had been shifted from BBC1 over to BBC2 or the other way around. I didn't say visa versa because I'm never quite sure how to spell it. Here it's never quite as straightforward. They're always messing around with the schedule and often here it will be due to some interminable dull debate in the Greek parliament that often as not will be airing on five channels at once. Sakis' essential weather forecast may be shifted from ERT1 to (usually) ERT3 with no prior warning and no scrolling titles to tell you that this is what they've done. The dead giveaway is discovered only if you know to go to his Facebook page to see his forecast, since the TV channel logo is a permanent fixture in the top left hand corner of the screen.

Last night is a classic example. Here's a screenshot of Saki (may his name be blessed) starting his forecast, direct from his Facebook page...

Notice anything? Yup, there it is, the ERT3 logo is showing. We'd monitored ERT1 carefully, flicking channels several times to see if he was on, only to be disappointed. If you'd checked the ERT1 teletext page or the schedules page on their website you'd have seen that according to these he ought to have been on at the correct time, but there was no sign of him. Instead there was some entirely dull political debate being aired and no info being given at all about where Sakis could be found, or indeed at what time. Often as not he just doesn't get aired at all, but in this instance they'd shifted him to ERT3, as they frequently do, without so much as a 'by your leave' and at a different time as well.

Now we have his Facebook page though, it's brill. We just go there later in the evening and almost without exception, there he is, although, as was the case this past evening, on the wrong channel. Hmmph. At least we know what happened.

Anyway, I mentioned that he's nothing if not loyal to his worshippers, sorry - followers. When we had the really bad snow last week (not here, but virtually all over the rest of Greece) he was actually running a live post from the streets of Thessaloniki for a while. You could watch him as he used his mobile phone to show you what was happening under the blizzard that was taking place around him and you could inter-act with him too. if you posted a question he'd answer it right there and then, assuming you were lucky enough to be one of the ones he was able to answer directly. He'll often post a detailed analysis in addition to his bulletin. The man's in his element when the elements are erupting. It's so obvious that he relishes the winter because, as I've said before, during the long summer months he gets fed up with just showing a chart with unbroken sunshine "ap'akri s'akri" (from end to end, as in from one end of the country to the other) and having nothing much to say apart from the Greek version of "scorchio." [Remember the old Fast Show sketch in the UK?]

Last Tuesday he could hardly contain his excitement as he issued a dire warning of possible damage to buildings and perhaps falling trees as a particularly violent storm was forecast to hit the Dodecanese islands during the small hours of the night. When the wind is forecast to be unusually strong it's never a good idea to be driving up to town or back from Kiotari. If you know about the rubbish collection system here in Greece then you'll know that the dustmen (trash collectors, guys?) don't collect from bins kept at each domestic property. The system here involves householders taking their rubbish with them when they go out and depositing it at the local cat hangouts, the four-wheeled dumpsters that can be found dotted along the streets and roads everywhere. You know the ones, here are some photos where I've inadvertently got one in shot...

Dumpster lurks left of picture

Here in the quieter part of Rhodes town, a dumpster is evident almost centre shot.

Right dead centre of this shot taken in the village of Apollona is one of the objects under discussion.

Now, having refreshed your memory about these dumpster bins, imagine charging along a normally safe section of the Rhodes-Lindos road at a fair old clip, only to be confronted by one of these trundling across the road right in front of you, being driven by the wind. Or, in another scenario, you could round a bend in the road to find one lying on its side slap bang in the middle of the carriageway. Call it Murphy's Law if you like, but the local dimos always manages to have emptied these bins just in time for another windstorm to arrive and set about rearranging them in fetching positions along the roads, making driving on the island instantly into an obstacle course.

As it happens, this latest storm was due to arrive in the middle of the night and thus we knew we'd be tucked up in bed or, in my case (nothing unusual there), pottering about the house in the small hours. As I lay on the sofa listening to the noises outside gradually becoming more and more alarming, it reached its crescendo at about 1.00am on Wednesday January 25th. By the time the lightning flashes had reached their peak and the thunder was shaking the house to the foundations, the rain was coming down in king-sized sheets at an angle that threw it against the shutters in a veritable blitz and the winds made it sound as though every banshee in the earth's vicinity was getting into a frenzy, I have to admit to having been slightly uncomfortable. It's that feeling you get when it's pitch dark out there and you know that you'd accomplish absolutely nothing by attempting to go out and have a look, apart from getting your slippers drenched that is, but you just know that terracotta roof tiles are liable to be clinging on for dear life and there'd be nothing you could do if they decided to go for an aerial excursion under the sheer force of the wind. Call it terror, I think I probably would.

A few years ago we did lose some roof tiles, as I reported in this post from December 2014. The other night I was expecting a similar outcome. The whole thing lasted for probably no more than half an hour before the banshees moved on and the rain subsided. There was still no point in going outside though, as it was still raining steadily and there would have been no moonlight to speak of with the thickness of the cloud, so I trotted off back to bed to see if I could get some sleep.

Next day by midmorning there was a report on the Rodiaki's Facebook page informing us that there had been a water-spout that had come ashore in Kiotari and done some damage to some tavernas near the beach. After lunch we decided to have a walk down to the beach to see if we could see what they meant, since they only published one photograph and it didn't make it very evident as to quite where in Kiotari they meant. When we reached our local beach, it was immediately evident where the water-spout had landed. The La Strada taverna had only sustained minor damage to a few roof tiles, the Pelican's Nest, our friend George's souvenir shop, had been damaged, but the real shock was the fact that the canopy over the terrace on Stefano's taverna was 60% demolished and the entire canopy of Anastasia and hubby Tasso's Il porto restaurant was gone...

You see the steps in the foreground going up to the terrace...

Well this was taken from those steps. Ouch.

Il Porto. This is really shocking because the canopy was very substantial. Must have been a direct hit. Check out the photo below...
This was Il Porto on October 16th 2016. My wife chats with Anastasia, the owner. That's a not-insubstantial canopy, right?

Il Porto again. You can see the "Pelican" from the Pelican's Nest next-door, now sitting on the roof. It belongs on the front of the now damaged gable end above the road.

One of several kalives that were completely destroyed. See how localised these things are. The one behind is intact.

As you can see from these photos, the weather next day was bright, mainly sunny and calm, as if 'butter wouldn't melt' so to speak.

Fortunately for us, we sustained no damage this time. Even the garden survived intact. The banshees came and the banshees went, fortunately leaving us none the worse for wear. No sign of Siouxsie though. 

Now go on, tell me you don't understand my feeble attempt at humour there.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Snaps in the sunshine (well, mainly)

Time I did a picture-heavy post, so here we go...

Quiet corner of Pefkos. Ever stayed here? It's the Anthi Maria Apartments. Taken Sunday January 22nd 2017.

The villa next door to the Anthi Maria Apartments. Same day.

Glorious Lindos with the imposing acropolis looking amazing in 18ºC and sunshine, Also Sunday 22nd Jan.

Pefkos main beach. Same day again.

Ditto. If you click to go to the larger view you might just make out the chap fishing off the rocks at the far end of the beach.

...and again.

Single storey property in Gennadi, quiet area of the village. Needs some renovation. Lots of original features.

Last night when I went outside there was this lovely mediterranean toad loitering behind an air-con unit.
Still to many of our Greek friends it's an unfathomable mystery what one must eat when one's a vegetarian. The other day someone said, conjuring up mental picture of a piece of raw broccoli and a carrot, "So you only eat vegetables, that's it?" C'mon folks, when you have a wife who makes her own gigantes like these, you mean to tell me you wouldn't feel like you were well looked-after?

You'd be hard put to sit down to a better lunch than this peeps! Mini spanakopites and a Glass of chilled Retsina alongside too, of course.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Normal Service is Resumed

I'm glad to say that weather-wise, things are much more normal now than they have been of late. After a cold spell the like of which Greece hasn't seen in several decades, by and large the temperatures at least are now once again much more in keeping with the averages expected for this time of year. I'm not sure this holds true for some of Northern and Western Greece yet, but here on Rhodes, well, this was taken on Friday morning as we drove up to town on a shopping trip...

As I often remark, the camera doesn't do the view justice, since it's only my iPad's and I don't have a super-duper lens on any of my photographic devices anyway. I took this on the "Tsambika" bend because as we turned the corner my wife uttered a gasp of amazement at the beauty of the snowcapped Turkish mountains. If you peer at the above shot long enough you'll just be able to make them out to the right of the rocky hillside and almost mid-photo. This shot in no way does the grandeur of the view justice. On occasion as you drive North when the atmosphere is clear at this time of year the entire horizon is full of these impressive peaks. I am always put in mind, when I see them, of the time when we visited the USA in June 1999. We were driving out across the Utah desert and the view behind us was an entire horizon of the High Rockies. The view one gets from some vantage points here on Rhodes of the Turkish mountains is indeed comparable.

The last few days have seen temperatures in the daytime of around 18ºC, with overnights finally climbing above zero to a more normal 8, 9 or even 11ºC. Par for the course. Sakis the TV weatherman (may his name be blessed) has even posted on his Facebook page that we ought not to be seeing any more nasty surprises for a while. Why, as we ate a light lunch of Gorgonzola cheese with crackers, sliced tomato and a glass of chilled Retsina on our terrace yesterday, we watched a couple of speedboats out on Kiotari Bay. It was almost like summer.

Some things, though, still remind us of the fact that we have a lot of catching up to do rain-wise. We visited our old friend Gilma this morning and, as we sipped at the Ellinikos that he'd prepared for us, we talked about the rain situation. Just outside his modest single-storey farm cottage way down toward the South of the island, he has a mature lemon tree and it's covered in fruit.

Looks normal enough doesn't it? Yet on close inspection you find that the lemons are much smaller than they ought to be. This is because, although the rainfall has recently been recovering to somewhere near normal levels for a Rhodean winter, it still didn't rain when it counted. Gilma, a pretty fit man for his 78 years, told us that he views November as the "heart of the winter", even though it falls only just after the summer has ended and a full four months and then some before the next summer gets under way with a vengeance. He says this is because the average rainfall for our winters here is usually higher in October and November than any other of the winter months. Couple that with the fact that we had no appreciable rainfall from September 2016 until about three weeks ago, and you see why many fruit trees, orange and mandarins included, are now wielding small fruit.

In fact, since he never wants to see us leave without a parting gift, he rummaged around in his rudimentary kitchen for a plastic bag and told us to pick as many as we wanted to take with us. So we obeyed and brought a bulging bagful home with us. My wife set about trying to juice some with our lemon-squeezer and she said that they were almost dry inside. They might just about do if sliced and dropped into a G&T, but for extracting juice, they are non-starters.

While sitting with our old friend, the conversation turned as usual to the 'crisis'. He told us an amusing, although rather too true anecdote. Two older Greeks were talking in the Kafeneion. They didn't know each other all that well. One said, "I have three sons, they are all farmers. Aaach, not one of them ever made much of himself, but at least they've never brought me any trouble. What about you?"

"Oh, I have two. I wanted them to turn out well, to bring a measure of pride to my wife and I, but one of them is a thief and the other a murderer."

"What?" Exclaimed the other old man, "That's terrible. Didn't you see any signs of undesirable traits as you were bringing them up?"

"Oh, not really."

"Didn't they pursue a career of any sort?"

"Oh, yes. Of course they did. That's exactly what I mean. One is a thief, the other a murderer. One's a lawyer, the other a surgeon."

Gilma fired off that punchline with a wry smile. We'd just been talking about experiences we'd heard only this past week, both him and us, from people who'd needed surgery who'd been told for example by a doctor that it would cost €1000 and then been charged twice that amount as they checkout out of hospital. Plus, they were given no receipt to prove that they'd even been treated by the surgeon in question, who'd insisted that he be paid in cash. It's really rather galling that after seven years of 'austerity' and financial disaster in this country, there are still wealthy people, who no doubt would be the first to bemoan the sorry state of the country's finances, yet do their level best to avoid paying their taxes. 

As we'd arrived at Gilma's place, he'd just finished packing up his pickup in readiness to take his olives to the mill. 

His wife and son had just returned to Rhodes town, in fact they'd left only minutes before we arrived, having just spent the past few days harvesting olives from 8.00am until 4.00pm. The mills will close in about a week's time, so he only has a few days left to get his olives processed or miss the opportunity this season. He'd left them on the trees for as long as he could in the hope that the late rains would perhaps help the fruit to fatten up. Gilma's olives are very small, although that's because they are of that particular variety. We've been told by not a few locals that the small olives are better for oil yield than the bigger ones. No idea if that's the case, but we're no experts.

This is the first year since we came here (and we're now going through our 12th Rhodean winter) that we haven't been able to procure a barrel-ful of oil from somewhere, whether it be through working the harvest or buying some oil from someone we know. Oil is the hot topic of conversation (after politics) out here from November through at least January. You meet with friends and you find the conversation invariably goes something like this:

"You have oil this year?"
"Yea, but not as much as we need. May still have to buy some."
"So you haven't got any I can buy from you then?"
"No, afraid not. Our stocks of old oil are almost gone now too. You could ask Nikola at the kafeneion. He sometimes has oil for sale."
"Asked him last week. Told me he was having to cadge some from Stergo, his brother."

And so forth. What often happens too is that when we meet up with friends, maybe we've given someone a lift somewhere a few times or done some other kindness, they'll produce a 1.5 litre plastic mineral water bottle which they've filled with their own oil and give it to us as an expression of gratitude. Definitely an incentive to find things one can do for others. Especially others who have lots of olive trees. Olive oil is almost a currency here the way it is exchanged for various favours.

Going logging tomorrow, as the wood store is just beginning to look less than full. Shan't need to wear several layers this time though, as we have done a few times this past couple of weeks. With temperatures as they are now, a t-shirt, maybe with a vest, ought to suffice. Can't say we're sorry that, at least with regard to the weather, normal service has been resumed.

View from our French Windows, 7th January.

Kiotari Bay, Saturday January 14th.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Core Plugs Still in Place

It's so difficult writing for an international audience. I know, I'm assuming that I do actually have an audience, but, well, one can dream. I mean, the title of this post contains the term 'core plugs" and then I go off Googling and find that somewhere across the pond they might be calling them 'freeze plugs' or even 'frost plugs'.

Whatever, it's my blog so I'll call them core plugs because when all is said and done I'm a British lad and that's what we call them in Blighty.

So, why am I talking about core plugs? Well, oddly enough an experience I had many years ago back in my home town in the UK came flooding back to my mind as I examined the max/min thermometer we have mounted in our car port at 8.30am this morning. I know I keep banging on about how many years we've lived out here, but my theory is that there's always the remote chance that I may have attracted a new reader or two and they won't be familiar with our story. So, as I already said: 

So, in our eleven years plus of living here we've never had temperatures as low overnight as we're getting at the moment. We watch the weather forecasts by our illustrious leader in all things meteorological, Sakis Arnaoutoglou (let his name be blessed) and he shows the entire European chart (which still shows Britain, so we haven't left yet, eh?) and this past week or so there has been a decidedly chilly-looking dark blue smudge all across the Eastern med, especially the Turkish mainland (maybe the Turks are trying to freeze these islands into submission) that translates into Siberian temperatures for the region, at least overnight.

All across the Aegean there are islands under a foot of snow, many of which are ill-prepared and have lost the electricity supply for many or all of their residents, their pipes have frozen and burst, their solar panels have been damaged beyond repair. Here on Rhodes? Well, in the more elevated regions there has been snowfall, not perhaps to the extent of islands further North or West, but enough to have residents (especially the ones with kids) charging up the mountains in their cars so that their children can have a snowball fight, something which it's quite possible they'll not have the opportunity to do again for many years. Maybe build a snowman or two as well.

Here in the South East of the island, well, I took these pictures in Pefkos yesterday. Judge for yourself...

These first three were taken at the shells of some new builds way up in the heavens a very long way out from the centre of the village. These shells have been like this since we arrived in 2005. So, if you fancy putting in a ridiculous offer for somewhere that you absolutely can't live or stay in without a vehicle...

A bit tricky to describe exactly, but you can see where we live from here, way across the bay.

It may be a long way from anywhere, but at least the view is amazing.

As you can see, we're still snow-less and liable to remain so, but that doesn't stop the temperature plunging to record lows at night. last night we had -1ºC, and there have been reports from villages not all that far from us of frozen pipes. Fortunately for us here, it looks like that may have prevailed probably only for a short period, maybe an hour or two before dawn, because all our waterworks are still functioning today, thankfully.

I filled up the car at Lardos Beach yesterday and, since I'd decided that, to comply with the new laws about card use, I'd pay by plastic, I actually got out of the car, which normally (and mercifully!) one doesn't have to do here in Rhodes, yet. I still suffer from forecourt shock if I drive when back in the UK these days. I drive on to the forecourt and open my window, start to get really irritated at how long the pump attendant is taking to get to me, before my sweet better half says something like, "Waiting for Armageddon are we dear?" Only then do I remember that over there you have to do it all yourself, which is something I've now come to resent greatly.

Anyway, since I didn't want to hand my card over to anyone else, despite the very low risk of fraud at the local village filling station, I got out and, before trotting into the office, found myself having a natter with the bloke who was filling the car up. He told me that the last time they'd seen snow in Lardos village was back in the 1980s. Doesn't look like they're going to see it this time around either.

So, core plugs, why core plugs? Well, just for a panicky moment, when I considered how low the temperature had fallen overnight, I got to thinking about my car's engine. When we first came to Rhodes and had a much older vehicle, I used to top up the radiator with water. 'Something one would never need in this climate, I theorised, 'would be antifreeze.' I was soon disillusioned of that idea by Gary, the bloke who built our house and was a dab had at all things mechanical. He said: 

"Always put antifreeze in, even out here, because it's not only for stopping your engine from freezing up, it also inhibits corrosion and clogging in the vehicle's water cooling system." Thus, you should not only use it, you need to use it, especially with the kind of water you get here, so full, as it is, of mineral salts.

I have vivid memories of two specific occasions during winters back in the UK. One was when we lived in a place called Beddau, in South Wales (pronounced by the locals "bather") back in the 1990s. We had a lot of snow, which had then thawed, but during the thaw we'd seen the overnight temperatures plummet to way below zero and at the time my car was kept on a driveway, but with no shelter over it. Not only me, but several of my neighbours discovered early one morning that our engines had frozen solid. Antifreeze only works down so far. I had to get one of those low paraffin heaters and place it under the engine bay of the car for a few hours before I could risk trying to start it up without damage.

Longer ago than that, back in the 70s when we still lived in our home town of Bath, I'd stood in the drive of my friend's house during a wickedly cold spell and we'd opened his bonnet (hood, guys) together to see if we could get his car going. It was a Morris Marina, if I remember right, and when we peered down at the engine the core plugs were sticking out on either side of the block like alien eyes attached to stalks, which were composed of solid ice. It was so cold that the engine coolant had frozen and the expanding ice had forced the core plugs out, which was the first time I even realised that they existed. Seems it's what they're designed for. No core plugs and you get a split engine block instead.

Of course, my transatlantic friends, especially those living in the Rocky Mountains or in Canada, will right now (assuming anyone over there is actually reading this stuff) be thinking "what a bunch of woosses." See, I know, 'cos I have friends in Canada, that the cars over there have block heaters that keep the engine just above freezing overnight, thus avoiding damage and enabling the owner to start it up in the morning. In the UK they're just not prepared when such arctic conditions arrive, since it's not that often that they do.

So, here in Rhodes, although many folk in the UK are once again saying "it's warmer here than there", I'm afraid it's not actually the case. When they say in the UK that "it's mild" during winter, they mean it's maybe 10ºC. Here we still consider 10ºC in the day to be darned cold. Not that I like getting into this constant competition about what it's doing here compared to what it's doing there anyway.

The fact is, Greece is indeed in the grips of the coldest winter spell for many years and, although it's making for some spectacular photos on Facebook, it is causing some real serious problems for some islands and mainland areas.

Fortunately for us here in Kiotari, it's only causing us to bank the log burner up slightly more than usual.

My core plugs are still in place.

Postscript from Monday evening, Jan. 9th...

The TV news is talking about the worst snow in Greece for over 40 years and it is very bad in places. These photos were taken of last night's bulletin and the captions explain them:

This is Kymi, near the North coast of the island of Evia, where the report says they are "entombed for the 4th day, submerged in darkness with no electricity or running water."

Same report as above, just a different picture. I've never seen anything like it in Greece, apart from the mountainous regions to the North where there are ski resorts. 

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Socks Still On, But Only Just

It's the middle of the night and outside it sounds like the world is coming to an end. We don't get this kind of weather all that often, but usually at least once during a Rhodean winter it blows like the roof is about to fly away. I feel somewhat like Dorothy must have felt when she was swept away by the tornado, along with her trusty dog Toto of course.

It's a little past 12.30am and the rain is beating against the windows and it sounds like every ghoul is on the prowl. You feel so helpless when it's after midnight and there's no moon, at least, if there were it wouldn't do any good because the clouds are thick and dark and dropping their load by the ton at a forty five degree angle. You can only speculate about what you're going to find when it gets light in the morning. Hopefully all the patio furniture is secure on the sheltered terrace under the portico outside. We've pulled the umbrellas out of their bases, rolled them up and stashed them under cover. No doubt there will be a lot of leaves who've given up trying to hang on to the trees around us and many of which will be swirling in menacing circles around the courtyard as I type.

It's the noise that unsettles you. It's so dark when you attempt to peer out of the window that you know there's nothing you can do except hope that the electricity holds out until dawn. Anything left undone or not battened down outside before it got dark and the storm got under way, well, it's too late now. What's to be outside will be. We'll pick up the pieces tomorrow. Well, later today.

Back at around 1.00pm yesterday afternoon we went for a walk down to the beach. It's a must when the sea's up like it is at the moment. You know, the distance from our front door to the water's edge is around a kilometre and a half, say a 20 minute walk. We can do that walk without having to traipse along a tarmac road, it's dirt track from the front gate to the beach, with just one spot where momentarily we cross a road and continue on the track. The sky was blue with rolling clouds and the temperature very mild. Not at all like it's forecast to be by tonight (Saturday) and into Sunday. Sakis, our trusted TV meteorologist, who posts his video forecasts for his devotees on his Facebook page on the days when he's not doing it on the telly, has forecast that we shall probably be experiencing the coldest daytime temperatures since years before we moved out here, back in August 2005. This now is our twelfth winter on Rhodes. It's predicted to be single figures in ºC all day on Sunday, something extremely rare for this part of the Aegean.

Much of Greece is already under thick snow. It's a huge contrast to last winter, which was abnormally mild and nowhere near as wet as it ought to be. Just as well for the thousands of poor wretched refugees who spent much of it walking from Greece to Germany, trying to break through hastily erected fences along some of the borders that they encountered. Had they been making that trek this week, thousands more would be dying of exposure without a doubt.

Yet yesterday at the beach, it was bracing, brisk, invigorating, exhilarating. The sea roared in a way that always puts us in mind of past weekends spent with friends in Cornwall. Here, take a look at the photos I took...

When I stand on our drive and look down the valley to the sea, most of the time the only sounds I can hear (apart from the neighbour's dogs now and again from further up the hill) are birds of prey, a few song birds, crows, sheep and goats. I hear the breeze rustling the huge leathery leaves on our rubber tree in the garden. I don't usually hear the sound of the sea. When the winds are strong and southerly though, as they are at the moment, it's quite astounding how the sea's roar travels up the valley and fills your ears, blocking out of your consciousness all other sounds. The waters crashing on the shore a kilometre and a half below can be heard up here like a persistent roar and it's impressive, humbling, awesome.

My father always loved the sound of water in any of its forms, whether that be trickling in a brook, tumbling over a waterfall or crashing in great waves on to the shore line. I know I'm my father's son.

As I've been typing and the time has been ticking onward, the wind has abated. Sakis said it would swing around by dawn to a more northerly direction. When it's in the north we're laughing, since this house is tucked snuggly into the hillside. The rise behind us is easily as high as the roof. When the winds are in the north we can walk a few metres around the bend in the lane outside and risk being blown off of our feet, whereas right here in the garden you could set up a table and umbrella and take your lunch under a warming winter sun.

Maybe not this weekend though, I don't have any thermal underwear any more, not since moving out here. Plus, the wind's still mainly southwesterly and threatening to, were I to step outside, blow my socks off.