Tuesday 5 February 2013

2013 - JANUARY


13 is the Creasy's lucky number I  believe. 

  We had the driest summer for 80 years and everything shrivelled   - even the grass over the leaking septic tank .  The priests had a special all night service to bring some rain and there was  a light shower a week later. 

Because of the drought, grapefruit and lemons fell off the trees and we have no mandarins or oranges this winter.
When the rains finally came we got a good soaking, the olives finally swelled a little and  wild sorrel took over the garden.  The trees have had a good drenching right down to their roots, the lemons have some juice  and the sorrel has smothered everything and made for a  rich green landscape.  We have potato plants which look healthy, but are there any potatoes underneath?

Snow fell briefly.  The icy Siberian blasts brought below zero temperatures at night.

Heating oil is so expensive and money so short that everyone who can is using a wood fire or wood burner for heat.  The smoke cloud over Athens is apparently causing a smog problem.  Heating oil went up from 1 euro to 1.30-1.40 a litre.  A ton of wood went up from 120 euros last year to 180 in some places but it is still much more economical than the central heating.

The house is much colder because heating oil is so expensive we don’t use the central heating.  We did manage pay for 100 litres but turn the heating on only  the very worst days.  We also got half a ton of wood for our fire place.  That meant many hours of cutting and stacking but we do have a fire which keeps two rooms warm in the evening and K can bbq.  The house stinks of smoke and fish after these sessions but he is happy and he can invite a friend for company...etc.
He made a special long handled frying pan so he can cook over the fire and has various other grilling devices.

A hot water bottle stops that first shock of icy sheets when you dash for bed after changing into chilly pyjamas.

17th January was the feast of St Anthony.  We have a small church near us which is dedicated to him.  K goes to the early morning service and is sometimes detained for roast pig and hours of wining and discussion.  This year he came back with his pockets full of sweet bread and wrapped chocolate treats.  Anyone with an Anthony or Antonia will bring trays of cakes and sweets to hand out after the service.

In some town in Italy the tradition is to make boozy apple pie.  Their wine barrels had accidently been emptied (major catastrophe) and St Anthony miraculously filled the barrels again.  I presume it was an area that produced apples and so the apple pies with wine....and wine to help it down the gullet as well I am sure.  St Anthony is also a finder of lost things and a healer of various body parts.  These body parts are depicted in bread dough, baked and taken to the church....in Italy, not in Greece.

Every month means less pension, more taxes, higher prices, larger bills.  People-watching on the waterfront is now a special occasion and we no longer eat out at a taverna.  In the good old days we spent Sunday morning sitting in the shade of our favourite waterfront cafĂ© with a newspaper and an iced coffee (Nescafe frappe).  Haven’t bought a newspaper in a year or so.  Kosta’s social life has been battered and he is feeling the worst of us all.  Greek life took place  outside in public at the cafes and tavernas where you greeted your friends passing by and spent (your free) hours in conversation and social-intercourse (a Harry-expression no longer in favour!). 
  Slowly slowly our money is getting chipped away and will continue to do so for a while yet.  We are getting used to living on very little.  K’s pension was 2,700 a month , it is down to 1,460 now and will be chiseled down to about 1200 by summer – we hope it will stop there.  ¾ of that is paid out in bills and taxes every month .  We are lucky not to have to pay rent and K does electrical repairs where he can for money under the table.  The poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer.  As usual. 

A little poem by Walter James (Australia's well known wine writer) on the then (1949) tax regime
"And the rain it raineth every day
Upon the just and unjust fellows
But more upon the just because
The unjust steal the just's umbrellas"

Over 300 people on Poros have returned the number plates of their cars because they can’t afford the tax or insurance needed to run them.  That is a lot for this small island.  Our next door neighbour has two cars but only one with number plates.  When he wanted to take his olives to the press he put them in the old car, changed the number plates over and went off to press his olives.  The greeks are ever resourceful!

Today we were all going for a picnic on the beach but there are gale force winds so the kids had a picnic on the living room floor.  K bbqed some (rubbery) octopus and we had some ouzo and a buffet and then went down to the beach for the kids to fish.  Didn’t catch any fish but the rubbish on the beach yielded eight old shoes, ten cigarette lighters (rusty) and a load of plastic.  The south wind blows straight into the bay and it is always interesting to poke about in the debris - with a long stick.