Tuesday 18 September 2012

school, preparations and triathlons

11 October

Actually got a few drops of rain last night.  Cool. 

All the grandkids are back at school. They all love school.  Elli takes Jamie ten minutes earlier so he has time to play with his friends before the bell rings.  George and Nels like school better than the holidays.

TOTALLY DIFFERENT from the YEAR 1960...or thereabouts... when poor little me (P.L.M)  had to drag TONY to school screaming every day of his first year !!!   Edith was too busy cutting the crusts off the sandwiches she made for school lunches ...and making sure the butter was spread right out to the edges.  Ahh P.O.U.T.  Childhood trauma - for me or for you?

There was a POROS TRIATHLON a couple of weeks ago.  A 2km swim in the open sea.  They dump you off a water taxi somewhere near Monastery beach.     10km cross country run and  25km bike ride up over the hills, past the temple  and down to the water front.  Now that is one TRIATHLON Robert and Warwick have never attempted.
 Plus there is a mini marathon on Spetses (just down the gulf) this weekend and a catamaran regatta from Aegina the following weekend.

NOTICE -  with slightly odd translation
on July 4, 2012 in Game Announcements, Games
Press Release . The legendary X-Poros race will be held again this year after a one year’s pause.
The island of Poros is expecting you  on Saturday September 22nd for the classic rugged trail of the Saronic Gulf.
There are no significant changes in the formulation and the main event constituted of
2K swim, 10K mountain run and 50K mountain bike will probably cover the envy for sweat and pain under the sun..
Of course there are milder versions and a pure cycling one
This year the organization is hoping to avoid the rainfalls that had mysteriously marked the last 2 versions. This time an alternative running route will exist if the weather does not make us a favor again.
Our website has posted the maps (the same as before!).................................................................

PS ONE REPORT says a 25km bike and the other a 50km.  I  imagine it is only 25ks.  To do 50ks you would have to spend all day going up and down and around the island.  There are not 50ks of  roads and tracks on Poros.....say I.  

At the end of this month there is also a Round Poros Island yacht race which Yiannis takes part in every year. 

Then we go off daylight saving and it gets dark at 6pm.    The olives are shrivelling like prunes from lack of rain but picking time is almost upon (some of) us.    We got about a ton of wood dumped over the septic tank .  K's cousin Mike let him pick up all the logs and bits of pine trees that were lying around his property.  NOTE we did NOT cut down the pine tree.....highly illegal.  Please rain just  hold off until we have cut it all up and stacked it. Groan.  At least we'll have something to keep us warm.

The potatoes have been planted by the albie.  All the bamboo chairs have been painted - green - by me.  We are  getting ready for the winter.  Carpets will have to go down soon too.

I have just read an excellent book by Steven King called 'Writing".  It is a sort of autobiography with advice on writing and tells  how HE started writing and how he churns out all those best sellers.  Don't like his books (Danae loves that sort of horrific thriller and so does Kyriakos) but this one was easy to read, informative and entertaining.  Taught me

1.  I could never write a novel.....too much like rocket science. 
2.  you should go back and edit out ALL adverbs
3.  cut your manuscript by at least one tenth for the final proof....though you might consider 30%.

 Good advice for blogs  - one day I will edit before I post.  Yeh, right.  He's on to a good thing with the adverbs.  99.9% are  useless and just add boring over-word-age. 

Latest GASP from the greek people.  There is a rumour  the IMF has told the govt  all small greek islands should be abandoned.  Most have populations of less than a hundred.  Can't understand the logic  but no doubt I will have learnt it all by the end of the week.  Govt has denied the rumour so it is probably true but they would never dare to try and inforce it.  First the Turks would walk straight in and secondly all those islanders would never abandon their small holdings, their little piece of greek soil, possesions which have no doubt been owned by the same family for generations.  Weird or what.

Fish on a tile with beetroot and garlic sauce

THE greek fisherman - the smaller one is a tuna type fish

Saturday 15 September 2012


Health -
We now pay full price for doctors visits and medecines.  Both are subsidised but payments from government to the health service are months behind.  K has medecine for the next month so we watch and wait for doctors and chemists to lift the ban.  They  get paid in dribs and drabs. Meanwhile people are dying because they can't afford to pay the full costs of their doctors bills.  Old age pensioners are the ones most hit.  They are the ones with most medical costs and their pensions have been cut so much they were already finding it tough to survive.  In many cases their small pensions are supporting  extended families as their children lose their jobs.

 ' Coffee' is just coffee.  This is one of the biggest adjustments we have to make.  I just enjoy a coffee and time to people watch and read a book (no more magazines - an extravagence now). 'COFFEE' for a greek is a big part of his social life, especially here on Poros.  All your friends and relatives will likely pass by while you sit  at your favourite cafe.  Conversation begins, people are invited to sit down.  If you do the inviting, you pay for their coffee .  Long, serious, furious  but friendly discussions take place on everything from the lack of fish in the Saronic Gulf to the treachery of politicans and the state of your grandchildrens health.  Talking is thirsty work, a cold beer or a small glass of ouzo help keep the throat oiled.  It all costs.  You count your money before you sit down and hurriedly make excuses of  broken washing machines waiting to be mended when the going gets tough.  The Greek would wither and pine without this 'social intercourse'.  'Coffee' is now a special occasion and is at the top of the budget list. K still has a weekend ouzo, but at home with 'lakertha' (greek sousi) he has caught and made himself.

First catch your fish.  'Lakerda' is one of the tuna family.
The fish has to be hung for a few hours to drain off all the blood.
K fillets this and soaks it in brine for a couple of weeks.  Then it is kept in vegetable oil, in the fridge.  Small chunks  are put in a saucer with olive oil and lemon juice and enjoyed with a glass of ouzo and a few slices of homemade sourdough bread.

Holidays.  No more.

We're finally using everything in the freezer.  Good news.  The two year old kalamari was surprisingly tasty. 

14 September - The day of the Holy Cross.  A big celebration in the Greek Orthodox calendar.  It is a day of strict fasting.  We had split peas and onions (a sort of pease pudding hot, pease pudding cold) and fried kalamari - not the two year old frozen sort.  It is the name day of the Stavros-es and the Stavroula-s and salted cod can be served at these celebrations.  The cod is de-salted, fried and served with a strong garlic-bread sauce.

- RECIPE for BASIL SOURDOUGH SPONGE  The greek housewife takes a bunch of basil to  church to be blessed.  The priest  dips the basil in holy water. This basil is  taken home by the housewife to make the sourdough sponge for the following year.  The basil is soaked in water. Flour is added to the water and this is the beginning of the sponge which will ferment and bubble in a few days - hopefully.  Doesn't work apparently if you have your period.

-  RECIPE for  new SOURDOUGH from GRAPEJUICE after the grape harvest.  K brought a plastic bottle of juice back and we made 'moustolevria' which is a sweet made from the juice and semolina and then I forgot the rest of the juice and put the bottle in the fridge.  When I eventually got it out and opened the top it popped and fizzed, already fermenting like the wine in K's barrels.  I added the flour and in a few hours the sourdough was bubbling and rising and I am making my first loaf with this right now.

We also make 'moustoukouloura' (grape juice cookies) from the juice and any surplus juice is boiled for hours until it becomes a thick syrup.  This is  'petimezi'.  It is very sweet and besides being used to make sweets is supposed to be good for winter coughs.

The grape skins and pips can now be made into raki but you need a still for that.  K and his friends tried to get hold of a still a few years ago but it was too expensive to buy.  One day.

You can get high on the smell in K's shed at the moment.  The fermentation lets off a strong heady tang.  The wine has been bubbling away for a week now and he will send a sample down to the local wine-tryer to see how the fermentation  is going.  The first sample told him the alcohol level was 12.8.  That is a bit low and he was told to put sugar in it to raise the alcohol level.  But K doesn't like putting sugar in the wine and has left it to see how it progresses.  PS He did add a kilo of sugar to the juice yesterday because the fermentation was slowing down.

Today we have a north wind which will affect the wine . The north wind is kind to the wine.  It helps the fermentation.

When all through the shed the north wind doth blow
when roasted crabs hiss in the bowl (we wish)
when K's wine doth still and slow
and greasy Joan doth keel the pot ( apologies to our Joan)
Tu-whit, tu-who
To dream of drousy hours b'side the fire
with mugs of vintage thus to lift
to drink the wine and toast the vine
tu-whit, tu-who

apologies to Shakespeare too

All this talk of wine reminded me of the Poros tavernas when I first came here in 1976.  Every taverna made its own wine.  The locals (males ) used to choose which taverna they would drink at according to the wine.  It was the tradition  for the man of the house to repair to a taverna in the evening and have a few glasses  with his friends and 'try to solve the Cyprus problem' before going back to dinner with the wife and kids.  A great deal of discussion went on I remember about which taverna had the best wine and the better the wine the greater the clientele.  Wine back then was resinated. A lump of pine resin was put in each barrel to help preserve the wine and it became the aroma of greece.  The only un-resinated wine available was bottled and bottled wine was not liked by greeks and still isn't. They prefer the local wine from the barrel.  Kostas says that as the grape harvest drew near all the tavernas got out their barrels to clean and there were lines of barrels all along the waterfront.  The first wash must have been with sea water - must ask K about that.  And the sewage went straight into the bay!  Yes indeedy they did use sea water .. and a bit of sweage to clean the barrels. 

The only taverna we can think of now that has its own wine is Dimitri's family taverna up where Elli lives.  He runs Dimitris Family Butchers Shop Taverna - has 7 or 8 or 9 kids to help him - I have lost count. 

Our friend and neighbour, the grape-man, is 'quarter-master' at the navy base.

There were rats, rats
big as bleeding cats
in the quarter masters store

Bet that stands here at the  Poros base too.  He was a good friend and neighbour and has just been transferred to Athens.  We have his 76yr old mother still here.  She gets up at the crack of dawn and weeds the 2 acre vineyard by hand and can slither like a snake under the iron gate of our english neighbours......hmmmmmmm 

He will be missed.  Being the supplier for the base he got the best prices and bought in bulk for himself and often for us too.  50 kilos of flour.  We're still using it and I gave away a lot to the kids.  In the fiery summer heat all the bugs in it come to life.  Freezing the flour before they develop is one answer.  I put 20 kilos in the freezer for 48 hours.  That lot was ok but by July the rest of it was writhing.  I spent many hours sieving.  Fortunately greek housewives are familiar with this problem and the sieve is a big wooden affair making it slightly easier.

We got 10 kilos of salt from friend Vangelis as well.  10 kilos goes a long way.  If we're not freezing, preserving or pickling then no doubt we'll be salting.

Snails.  We haven't collected snails since Crete.  They'll be coming out once the rains start.  We collect them on damp evenings - hunting them down by torch light.  We feed for a week, macaroni and flour (they don't mind a few weevils) so they excrete any nasties.  Then yum, yum.  But they are not french snails.  They are stewed in a garlic, tomato sauce and sucked out with loud noises. 

- RECIPE FOR STEWED SNAILS . First gather the snails.  Put them in a wooden box with a heavy top - and give them air to breathe.  Feed them flour or chopped raw macaoni.

Wash them, discarding any that haven't emerged from their shells, or are starting to smell.  Boil a big pot of water.  Throw them quickly in and ignore their screams as they hit the hot water.  Wash again to get rid of scum and slime.  Slice a wee piece off the top of each one with a sharp knife. 

Prepare the sauce.  Fry lots of onions in lots of (local) olive oil.  Add fresh grated tomatoes, garlic, a bay leaf, salt and pepper.  Add the snails and simmer until the snail is tender.

Suck out one by one, use lots of thick, heavy bread to soak up the sauce. 

I froze 100 young leaves from the grapevine to make stuffed vine leaves.  Still a lot of those left. 

first pick your vine leaf.  About the size of your palm and not too pointy.  You'll have to examine a vine leaf to understand this.  It needs a large flat area in the middle to hold the filling.

Par boil them.  About 2 minutes.  They'll turn dark green and you'll know they're ready.  Then you can freeze them or pickle them to use them later or go on to make 'dolmathes'.

The filling is just a mix of raw rice, lots of chopped onions, garlic of course, a few pine nuts, parsley, mint and dill and lots of salt and pepper.  Put a teaspoon of filling in the middle of each leaf and roll up, folding in the sides so you have a nice little vine-roll.  Lay them in a saucepan.  Do only one layer.  Cover with water and add a good dose of oil.  Put a plate on top of them to stop them dancing around and unfolding.  Simmer about half an hour.  Eat either with more oil and lemon juice - vinegrette perhaps or make a lemon and egg sauce.

A Pig.  Would be a good idea.  Would eat all the scraps and then we could eat the pig.  Much handier than a dog.  Although apparently the ancients did eat dogs up at the temple to Poseidon.  Archeologists have found the remains of fires and celebratory feasts.  Lots of dog bones.

the girls - Lydia (best friends with K), K, Nels and Natali

Thursday 13 September 2012

Summer 2012

Summer is a time for less stress.  We don't watch the news!  Yes, we do have a television set out on my (civilised) balcony (as opposed to K's workshop and 'washing machine graveyard' out the back).  But we watch less.  More  time in the evening for talking and eating and arguing and 'socialising'.  And this was an Olympic year.  What a terrible opening ceremony!  We  'booked ' a table to watch it  down in our favourite cafe.  Our friend Menios who owns the cafe put a bottle of whisky and two glasses on the table.  A sign of reservation.  Forunately we didn't have to actually buy (or drink) the whisky.  The greeks were bewildered by the ceremony and frankly so was I. National Health Service?  How strange, not to mention downright boring.  Enjoyed watching all the teams march in though.

We watched a lot of the events .  It being on our time zone helped a lot.  We watched while NZ won gold over and over again!  And we did notice the Austrlian team did quite well too.

The economic situation here is still getting worse.  Taxes have multiplied and K's pension goes down every month.  We learn to do without and hope for no emergencies.  At the moment we are all doing well 'thank you'.  Elli has had her hours cut by half and wages cut as well.  But she is still employed and many are not.  Kyriako's summer season was reasonable.  People still use the little taxi boats to go to and fro from Poros to Galatas.  The best time to work seeems to be around 11pm and again around 2 or 3 in the morning - ferrying the young to the bars on Poros.  Yiannis' yachts were well booked .  Foreigners still like to sail the greek islands.  K is still getting his pension, though it is cut every month by 1 or 5 % or 20 or he suddenly has to pay extra tax on money he got 6 years ago. There are hidden taxes on all our  bills.   We never know from one month to the next what extra we will have to pay.  Last year we got a tax refund of 300 euros, this year we got a bill for 3,000 euros.  It used to be we got taxed on everything over 12,000 euros - this has been lowered to 5,000 euros. And we are still getting the threat of bancrupcy thrown at at us.  Who wants to watch the news?

The last two weekends K has been helping our neighbour pick his grapes.  These are pressed by feet and machine - apparently (clean) gumbots make the job a lot easier.  They have more tread and are heavier.  They used to get a tonne of juice to make wine which they sold during the year.  Last year the grapes got some sort of grapish disease and the yield was only half a tonne.  They expected more this year but the amount of juice was about the same.  K got a hundred kilos of juice as his reward so (thank the Lord) can make his own wine again this year.  It is too expensive to buy it any more.  Juice is sold at about 1 euro a litre.  No more will he have 500 kilos of different wines in his barrels in the shed.  We used to have an outing to the winery at Nemea at this time of the year to pick up the juice - and a sample of the finished product with bbq-ed pork chops at a small taverna on the way back.  Nemea is named after the Neamean Lion which Hercules slaughtered nearby as one of his Herculean tasks. 

Nemea is about 2 hours from Poros and is nice days outing - with the wine and pork chops.  Last year we went to see the ruins there as well.  They are well kept and more impressive than other more touristy sites.  There is a stadium which is used for the 'Nemean Games' every four years and part of a temple with two columns standing.

ps don't think 'winery' as impressive estate such as they are in the anitpodes.  This is a small family affair with a few tons of wine in a small shed.  Which you can still taste - as long as you are buying.  There are big estates in this region and there are wine tours but the only ones I have seen available are expensive and run from athens for wealthy americans...etc

Our neighbour held a  bbq after the first weekend of grapepicking and K was the buyer and bbq-er.  Lots of pork to keep him happy.  A real greek celebration.  Too much food, free flowing wine and loud music till the wee hours.  We staggered home, downhill, at 2.30am with a huge pot of left-over meat.  As I mentioned before 'K did the buying' and the neighbor was paying.  As K reminded me when I commented on the left-overs  'you never know who might be passing by'!

K still has a few bottles of his good 'red'.  We are keeping it for the next visitors from down-under or a perhaps there will be a few bottles wrapped tightly in our suitcases if we ever visit again.

Last years 100 kilos of red did not get drunk.  There were 50 litres still left in the barrel.  We stopped drinking it as the weather got hotter.  Too heavy for summer.  And we were away most of last winter.  K was going to chuck it because it was past its best but I have 'bottled' about 10 litres.  My friend Jan I will drink it I'm sure during these cold winter months to come. After the first glass the rest is 'finest vintage'.   No it is not at its best but it isn't yet vinegar.  Another 20 kilos will be made into vinegar. 

At the august full moon most of the archealogical sites are open at night so you can sit in amongst ancient ruins and gaze in wonder under the  moon beams.  This year at full moon there was a piano recital at Poseidon's temple just above us here on Poros.  This is its third year.  We went the first year and discovered that you can definitely have too much of piano music.  The first half hour was quite enjoyable.  We spent the next half hour wondering how we could get out - from the middle of a row - without it being too obvious!  By then a lot more people were thinking the same thing and there was a general exodus.  This year  we sat on our balcony and now and again heard a high pitched tinkle tinkle as the wind changed in our direction.  It was more than enough.

George and Nels making scrambled eggs after a sleep-over

cleaning the (small) barrels - K , Jamie and Natali

On Sunday an albanian is coming to dig the garden for the winter vegetables.  K fixed his washing machine so this is the payment.  The ground is hard as concrete after the hottest summer in 80 years.  One heat wave after another.  I notice Kuwait seems to have about the highest temps around here - still at 45o most days.  Well, we almost reached 45 too - 42 or 43 was not unusual for areas around us.

We had planted tomatoes, zucchinis, aubergines, corn and cucumbers.  Instead of 20 kilos of tomatoes we got about 2 kilos of tiny tomatoes.  Maybe they were cherry tomatoes.  Also a few stunted green peppers, 3 mangy aubergines and a couple of cucumbers.  I gave up watering my part of the garden in July.  K persevered and put up camaflage netting to keep off some of the sun.  It looks as though we may get a few aubergines now that the weather is slightly cooler.  The albanian is going to turn over half of the area and K has been given seed potatoes to plant.  In the meantime all the water from the washing machine is going out over the garden to maybe soften the soil a little and alter the Ph - thank you Paul.

We could empty the sewage tank over the garden as well.  It is only the liquid and the chinese use 'night soil' so why not us?  

Sunday 29 April 2012


see my favourite rugby team


                                          ELLI AND KYRIAKOS    

                                           KOSTAS, ELLI AND KRIAKOS

                                         THE GRANDCHILDREN
                                        JAMIE,  GEORGE
                                         NELS, NATALI AND LYDIA

                                          ON OUR OLD ROOFTOP

                                           JAMIE AND GEORGE
                                           GREEK DANCE