Wednesday, 17 October 2018

The Best of the day

After the nana-nap a friend who is a surveyor arrived to measure up the house.  Parts of the house were built without papers and there is an amnesty on at the moment whereby we can get the whole building legalised without paying too many thousands in fines.  As usual it is all last minute.  The deadline has been extended for one month so we'll just squeeze in.

That took an hour more than necessary because of long political discussions and cups of coffee.  I passed the time by making a 'bucket' of very strong garlic sauce to go with the skate/ray to be fried when afore-mentioned serious deliberations came to an end.

We entertained Vaso's son and some more of her family to celebrate the closing of their wine barrels.  The wine has fermented and now  needs a (short) time to mature.  We should be drinking it by Christmas.

In the meantime we drank the last of the previous year's wine

Fried skate and garlic sauce, the traditional accompaniment to this fish

And a big bowl of the salted olives Vaso had brought us a few weeks ago in anticipation of a small favour required

Whilst watching K's favourite football team Olympiakos get beaten by Milan 2-1. 

So ended this day, rather late and with some of us not in such good humour after a lousy football game.

Monday, 15 October 2018

The rest of the day ....

Move it, move it.   Lets get through some more of this day 

I got an early morning phone call from a courier office that a parcel had arrived and would we come and pick it up.  Did I listen when they gave me the message?  Of course not.  I heard something, I heard wrong.  We have four different courier services here.  I trotted confidently off to the first.  After an exhaustive search there was a shaking of the head.  No parcel of spare parts for K.  There is a saying here 'those who do not have brains have legs'.  So off I went to the second and then the third office.  Finally found it at the fourth.  I didn't tell my dear husband though.  He's already certain I'm having suspiciously too many 'senior moments'.

Next off to daughter at the Accountants office to get a paper to pay our tax installments, personal and house.   That was easily done.  What will not be so easy will be paying them.  Like most of Greece we either wait till the last minute or until the pension is deposited.  There are always long lines at the banks at the end of the tax month.

K will be doing that.  He can catch up with his friends waiting in the queue and learn all the gossip.

Time for lunch.  Fresh tuna salad made from yesterday's left-over baked tuna, fresh from the sea.  This time it was a macaroni tuna salad with tomatoes and cucumber onion, and corn and an olive oil vinagrette.

And siesta.

The rest of the day was just as busy but more sociable so of course you'll be hearing about that too in due course.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Day goes on ..... Banking

So, off  to the bank.

  Poros has three banks, and three ATMs.  The National Bank is usually busy but at least they have a number system and chairs to sit on.   Alpha Bank where I was headed had only a few people in the queue.  'Great' I thought and lined up as number 3.

But there's a catch.  

Alpha Bank is marching determinely into the 21st century.  Most  transactions here have to be tapped out on big ATMs, recently installed inside the bank.  The girls behind the glass will help you work out what the hell to do but any withdrawals, deposits or bill paying must be done at the machine.

I have never used these beasts so I'm in the line to get some help from a teller.   I have mastered the ATM outside.  Now is  my time to bumble and stumble further  into the 21st century.   I've been putting this moment off for about three weeks but the money has to go into bank or I'll end up spending it all on our daily bread and petrol for the quad.  Once you start it just disappears.

So, I wait.  Half an hour and it is almost my turn.  But there is now a queue at the machines too so even if I get my teller we'll have to wait another half hour for our turn in the machine queue.  I mutter nasty things in english and greek and give up, retreating out the damn security doors.  You press the button and wait for the green light and then pull or push the door.  I always push when I should pull or vice versa, even though instructions are written clearly in two languages.  I vowed to transfer my meagre savings to the National Bank.  

 The National Bank hasn't moved quite so quickly.  They must consider all their  older customers who come in to have a chat while checking to make sure pensions have been deposited by the government.  Always a possibility here the governement won't give us our pensions, though we seem to have passed the crisis point.  Now we check to see exactly how much more they've taken away each month.  18% less from the 1st January 2019.

Across the strait there was once a small branch of the Alpha Bank  in the village of Galatas.  The bank got robbed twice so they closed it down.   The first time they were held up by bandits with a kalashnikov.  After that all the security doors were installed.  The second time around the robbers smashed the security doors with sledge hammers.  Both robberies took place in daylight in front of dozens of witnesses but they got away with the loot.  I don't think our police here are well enough armed to confront them.

This day is much longer than I thought  ...........

next installment, the courier

I have just been watching for the umpteenth time the film 'Battle of Britain'.  What a classic.  

Christopher Plummer
Michael Caine 
Laurence Olivier
Kenneth Moore
So many more, an all star cast.  

It still had me glued to my seat, wiping a few tears, smiling at the sheer englishness of it all.  It's on again at 2pm tomorrow.  Might just watch it again.

Monday, 8 October 2018

A Day in..... the life of .....Lydia Pinkham

Unfortunately not a typical day for a retired person living on a greek island expecting  hours of coffee drinking, people watching, with nothing more important than getting to the bread shop early to snag a loaf of sourdough.

I had to make my 3 monthly trip to our cardio doc for a prescription renewal.  Nothing particularly serious.  Bit of arrhythmia going on there, nothing I ever notice or worry about.  Atrial fibrillation as well, (more erratic beating) not that I am ever aware of that either.  Crossing my fingers he is not about to send me off for anuual blood tests or some other tiresome exam.  

 There are several docs on the island now, 2 blood testing centres and our new mayor bought us a new ambulance.  And the ambulance has a driver!  (there are municipal elections next year)

Years ago there was one doctor down at the little health place, wouldn't call it a 'centre' back then.  Nothing but a doctor and maybe a nurse/receptionist.  It was free.  We could take the kids there for measles vaccination, snuffs, sniffles and a bit of stitching.  My daughter had her eyebrow nicely stitched up there when about 6 years old.  Doctors usually came and went, on contract for a couple of years as work experience.  Experience is the word.  They left here knowing a little about a lot.  From heart attacks to bee sting reactions, scraped knees and serious head injuries from a motorcycle crash, without a helmet.   They certainly left richer.  There was usually a small 'envelope' passed under the table as thanks or a tin of olive oil, a few bottles of wine, octopus or bags of fresh fish, or just 'thanks'.
If you couldn't find the doctor you rushed to the chemist or pleaded with the guard on duty at the Naval Base.  Back then the base had hundreds of conscripts and there was always a doctor on duty, though he might be a trainee dermotologist or a dentist.

In an emergency a helicopter would be summoned from the capitol for transfer to an Athens hospital or the hydrofoil which overnighted on Poros could be commandeered to take a patient at speed.  Often even on the scheduled hydrofoil (known as the Flying Dolphin) there would be a stretcher in the aisle or a front seat taken by someone with a tube or drip in their arm coming from the islands further out of Hydra or Spetses.

Now the helicopter is rarely heard.  It is faster to drive to Nafplion or Argos, big cities an hour away and the Flying Dolphin, not only does not stay overnight in Poros but has a very depleted timetable.  You'd die waiting for that or the boat.  Boats used to be five or six a day, now we're lucky if there are three a week, in the summer only.

Then a Health Centre for Poros, Galatas and surrounding villages opened across the waters and there was always a small boat on duty, even if you had to whistle him up to sail you over the strait.  In its heyday it had numerous specialists coming from the big hospitals in Athens also an x-ray machine.  You could get a prescrition for new glasses or have your leg put in plaster, all free.  Today there is at least one doctor on 24 hour duty. Any serious cases are sent on by ambulance.  They do seem to have a driver over there also on 24 hours duty.  Specialists, Orthopedic or Cardio still come every few weeks but the waiting list can be a month or so.

We've had to use the centre in the small hours in mid winter and have always been very appreciative of the doctors and their work.  During the day it  handles emergency cases from the villages. Blood testing and x-rays are still done there.  Most patients are simply  very patiently waiting for prescription renewals.  There can be hours of waiting but everyone knows someone, is related to the person sitting next to them or will turn out to be after a few hours there and times passes in learning local news and gossip.  

Heavens to Betsy, this was supposed to be 'a day in the life of' but I got sidetracked with this medical stuff.  And that is just an outline of island medicine.  

Let me just tell you that when my husband worked at the Naval Base (he was a Naval officer and posted to Poros for many years) the highest number of emergency cases they dealt with on one night was always with the mid summer August full moon.  The  casualties those nights were always record making, from drunks to broken bones and  heart attacks ( even though we all live on your typical healthy mediterranean diet), mostly in the wee hours, under the influence, of that silvery orb .

Today, the cardio doctor only had two patients waiting when I arrived.  He is very thorough and he had each of them in there for half an hour.  I read a greek magazine and then  learnt all about the back operation of the Great-grand-mother of the wife of my nephew and was priviledged to be shown the scars of her knee operation.  Could have been much worse.  I myself was in and out in five minutes, got my 3 month prescription, a prescription for the free flu shot for the elderly.  Me?  Elderly?  Ye gods and little fishes.  All for 10euro, cash, no receipt.

I went straight down to the chemist where fortunately all my medicine was available.Sometimes it has to be ordered from Athens and there is a waiting list for unavailable medicines.  I paid a subsidised 22 euros, instead of the 83 without insurance and Nektaria, our wonderful chemists assistant, got me rolling up my sleeve and jabbed me  with the flu shot.  That girl is always friendly, helpful, understands and puts up with the impatient and the dithering elderly,  Not Me!, and speaks excellent english. She gives damn good advice for people or pets and painless jabs.

That brought me up till just before 12am

This day shall continue in the next post.......

Reminded me of this pub song from the 1800s' made into a popular hit by the Scaffolds.   Anyone remember them?
Number one hit in 1968/69. 

We'll drink a drink, a drink, a drink
To Lily the pink, the pink, the pink
Saviour of the human race
She invented medicinal compound
Most efficacious in every case

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Coffee Please

Recycling coffee grounds is the 'in' thing . Even we can avail ourselves of this free fertiliser. 

La Frianderie
This is the only coffee shop I know that leaves its grounds out for passersby.  It is also the best coffee shop in the area.  The baristas has obviously taken a coffee course.  The capuccino is hot, freshly brewed with the aroma of the finest of coffee beans.

Every morning there is a stream of customers who come straight off the car ferry and across the road for their morning coffee and hot snack, cheese or spinach pies with different pastries and fillings, before continuing on to work or travel on the mainland.

Good on them for leaving out their coffee grounds!

I had no idea that coffee grounds could be used as fertiliser until I researched last winter how to turn my hydrangeas blue.  The coffee grounds work by the way.  I had a pink flower turn purple last spring and hopefully I'll have 2 next year.

I scatter our daily filter coffee grounds, grind up egg shells, compost everything vegetable and soon I'll be putting wood ash from the stove on the garden too.

I used to bury fish bones but cats kept on digging them up no matter how much I covered them

Downtown the oil used for frying in tavernas is also collected and recycled.  There is a collection service so oil is no longer just dumped in the sea or on land and hopefully it encourages tavernas to change their oil more often too.

We are also encouraged, us by our grandchildren, to recycle plastic, glass tins and paper. There are special big blue bins all over the island.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Medic-ame and went

So we experienced some bad weather.  None of our roof tiles got blown off.  The lemon trees got a long deep drink.  A drip started dropping in one room but it was contained in a bucket.  The only nuisance, the sound of that drip all night long.

Greece got battered.  Small boats got sunk. Rivers overflowed, waves blew yachts onto the beach, houses were flooded but not around here.   K's little boat got buffeted and many buckets of rain water had to be pumped out of the bilges but it survived to sail another day.  

We watched fascinated as the storm passed over the Ionian sea, across the Peloponese, through the Cyclades, up into the Sporades and finally over to Turkey.

Not so fascinating was the force of the wind thumping the olive trees outside our window.  The worst damage on the island was a fallen tree near the beach which fell on power lines and blacked us out for a few hours.  80 year old Vaso came down during the power outage to make sure it wasn't just her power that was out.  A fragile figure wearing her husband's old threadbare  dressing gown and a pair of plastic beach shoes.  Her hair was standing on end after the bout with the wind as she battled to our gate.  After a glass of raki and the present of a bottle of our homemade vinegar she struggled back through the gale, up the slope  to her house.  I watched with bated breath to make sure she wasn't blown away like Shirley Temple in the Wizard of Oz.  Not even a cyclone can stop Vaso.

A waterspout photo-ed out in the bay of Poros


Our front garden
Maybe the peppers will produce more fruit now after this plentiful watering.  They were the only plants left 
The weeds are sure to appear like magic in a few days

Our friend, David Kaikas, returned safely to Athens on the bus and then strode out in the eye of the storm.  He took another bus and wrestled through the wind and rain to see the site of the battle of Marathon.  Here the Athenians defeated the Persians and a runner brought the good news to the people of Athens.  That's how the idea of the modern marathon started.

Mad dogs and englishmen
Tramp out in the eye of a storm!

He got happily drenched and later spent a few hours in a hotel room drying his clothes with a hair dryer 
And lived to fly home the next day

Now I know what it's like when a mediterranean hurricane (medicane) blows through Poros.  I hope they don't become a regular occurence in these times of climate change

Friday, 28 September 2018

Xenophondas and Zorbas

The 'new' to us, phenomena of the mediterranean cyclone

Suddenly we went from scorching heat and beaches full of tanning bods  

To this
A drop of 10o, gale force winds and rain
Rain we need.  It's great to see the lemon trees drinking up all this nourishment

Wind.  Well, we should ask the hundreds of yachties stranded here for the last 48 hours about the wind.  Their boats will be cold, damp and sleep can't be easy when you're continually bob-bob-bobbing about.
The streets, roads, paths and alleyways are full of the sailors, on foot, on quad bikes and scooters.  There is nothing else to do but explore, eat and drink.  Tavernas, cafeterias and bike hire shops are rubbing their hands with glee at all this unexpected, last of the summer, income.

They were all given fair warning.  A storm alert came out days ago.  We knew of it at the end of last week and were already prepearing to desert our summer resort.  Why weren't the yachts skuttling for their home port before all this began?  Many of the yachts come in flotillas, groups of yachts who follow the leader from one Saronic (the gulf of Athens) island to another.  A weeks cruising and then probably back to the airport and home.  If they can return to Athens, and if their flights leave in this weather, they'll be lucky.

There are two storms, one on the tail of the other.  The first called 'Xenophondas'*  is a tropical storm, the second, named Zorbas is a medicane.  First time I've heard of this phenomena.  The word medi-cane comes from a combo of hurricane and mediterranean.   We are now in the grips of the 2nd storm, the medicane, with more torrential rain and more gale force winds.

We somehow missed out on autumn this year and dived straight into winter.

* Xenophon
ancient greek philosopher, student of Socrates

Thank goodness we did return home a day early.  There were already gale force winds along our holiday coast.  The area north of Athens where we were holidaying ended up in the eye of the storm.  By the time we arrived back on Poros the winds had started here too.  Our car ferry came across quite smoothly but as it was unloading we got hit by a sudden squall.  Hands went up in a dramatic greek fashion and the 'drawbridge' went up again just as we prepared to disembark. Half the cars got off but not us.  We did a short trip around the harbour and came back for another go,   Second time lucky, we got the car off and ran for home.

A friend of ours had arrived from NZ and didn't consider the winds at all unfriendly.  He comes from Wellington, the windy city.  I remember my mother telling me that the winds there had her doubled over and clinging to a lampost.  Next morning all boats were cancelled and he departed on the bus.  Being so close to the mainland we have an alternative to sea travel here and in a pinch we can drive someone to the airport in 2 1/2 hours, though we've never had to yet.  The car ferry hardly ever stops churning the waters between Poros and the mainland.  It is a five minute trip and a good captain can sail in almost any weather.

Schools all over the Peloponese are closed today.  No-one wants a tree falling in a playground or a flooded classroom.  

This weekend is European Heritage weekend and all the museums and archeological sites have free entrance.  Tourists with nothing to do in this bad weather will be able to spend free hours in the museums though I wouldn't like to climb the Acropolis in this weather.  The marble is slippery enough without the rain.