Monday 28 March 2016


The carnival is over.  Lent has begun.  We had  a leisurely Clean Monday, though K did not think quite the same.  He and Kyriakos sat outside in the cold bbqing, boiling and cleaning all the seafood.  Kina in the half 'shell' has to be cut in the middle with a special 'implement'.  Crabs have to be boiled lightly, octopus and kalamari grilled and a sort of shiny cockle opened ready for slurping.  Small children were entertained with squirts of lemon juice which made the cockles wriggle and squirm. Cockles and mussels alive, alive-o.

Kina (sea urchins, ahinous) were snagged by K from our local bay using a piece of fishing net on the end of a long pole.  They are an endangered species now, although you would not think so when swimming around our bay.

I made half a dozen loaves of flat sourdough bread and lots of taramousalata.   For 'pudding' we had fruit doused with honey and cinnamon and a big halvas, made of semolina, sugar and oil.

No one ate too much, no one drank too much, the kids were reasonably uninvasive.  We sat around the table with only close family and a good friend, chatted and gossiped, listened to the wind and rain outside and stoked the fire to keep out the damp.

Not a day for picnics or kite flying.

The last two days we have had southerly winds and dense clouds of red sand from the Sahara with just enough rain to make it all stick.  The red dust cannot simply be rinsed off, cars and outdoor fixtures have to be properly washed and cleaned to get rid of it all.  Our windows and doors are covered in thick red raindrops.

a small child dressed up as a kalikanzaro, a sort of naughty imp, wielding a yellow plastic cricket bat (from NZ of course)

clean Monday table

25th March - National holiday with parades, wreath laying, poems, dancing and feasting with those named Evangelina or Evangelos.

This day is a religious and a political holiday.  It is Annunciation day - announcement day in simple language.  The angel Gabriel gave Mary a lily and told her she was the chosen one and would give birth in exactly nine months to the Son of God.

Also on this day many hundreds of years later Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the Greek flag and started the revolution against the Turks.  The Greeks cried 'Freedom or Death' and began a 9 year war of independence.

There is a big military parade in Athens and in every village, on every island there is a parade of local bigwigs and school children, the laying of wreaths and patriotic music and dancing.

On the eve of the holiday our school kids have a small celebration at school where nationalistic poems are recited and there are small theatrical productions starring those historical heroes and heroines who took part in the long struggle.  Byron was also one of the heroes of the campaign and died in the swamps of Messalonghi in 1824.

The blue and white blue flag is flown outside houses and businesses and it is one of the few days of Lent when it is allowed to eat fish.  Traditionally this day the fish dish is salt cod and garlic sauce.

We went across to the inlaws on Galatas to celebrate with Kyriako's family.  His brother's name is Vangelis (Evangelos).  The salt cod has to be soaked for at least 24 hours to get rid of the salt and then it is fried in crisp batter.  The garlic sauce is made from stale bread soaked in water, lots of olive oil, many cloves of crushed garlic and a good dash of vinegar. 

Aunt Eleni, over 80, had fried 60 pieces of cod.  It is a large extended family.  The maiden aunts will feed  cod to all the cousins. uncles and aunts.With the left over batter she made a huge pile of little pancakes, great with wine and a few olives so I was told.

salt cod and garlic sauce - NOT fried fish and mash as I once thought.  What a nasty surprise
K puts up our flag
Me, left bottom corner with one of many glasses of wine

Refugees - Greece already had one million refugees before this latest crisis started - from the Balkans, India and Pakistan mainly.

Now almost 60,000 from Syria and middle east  and more arriving. 

15,000 refugees camped out in the mud in appalling conditons, and weather on the Macedonian border.
This route through the balkans is now officially closed but they refuse to leave and go to established camps......just in case.
5,000 refugees camped out along Piraeus harbor.  Also refusing to go to established camps. Fighting and protesting a daily occurrence.

Italian PM Renzi sent carabinieri to the help the Albanians secure their border with Greece.

Refugees now just a Greek problem  it seems. EU borders closed.
Is this Warfare by migrant invasion?

Je suis Bruxelles

Sunday 27 March 2016

Coffee and lessons from grandchildren

Afternoon tea at Danae's place. Cupcakes by N els, with green icing. Plus raisin bread, sweet bread (tsoureki) and a bit of birthday cake.  Something to keep the brain cells working while I learnt all about Viber and how to take photos on a tablet\ipod etc.

And more rain.  Not good for the refugees who refuse to leave the bog on the border.  Great for the Greek earth.  Greens of the field will be on the menu in a few days.

Good day for rakomelo.

Raki and honey.......
A good mug of raki (grappa, pastis, tsikoudia, tsikoudia, Arak, sambuka)
A heaped spoon of good thyme honey
A stick of cinnamon
A few cloves

Simmer for a few minutes till honey has melted. Leave half an hour...if you can wait.  Drink and you'll be merry.

Sent by Turbo-X device

Friday 18 March 2016


This is a magic ball
made from all the odds and ends of wool
from 'things' I have knitted over the last few years

This is Nels joining all those ends together

and THIS is free form knitting
Danae and I and anyone I can rope in then knits
'squares' which are joined together to make a blanket.
4 finished, another 40 squares to go, you can see how you might get bored if they were all the same.  Freeform means, any colour, stitch, pattern, wool and even shape which tickles your fancy.

One of the half dozen blankets I have knitted or crocheted.
They are all definitely freeform....I use odd balls of wool and change colours, and pattern as I get bored.  

An original greek marble table.
Also freeform!
a chunk of marble left over from the outdoor sinks covers
a rather rickety outdoor table.
The shell on the table was found in local waters.
It was given to K so he could cook the contents as a meze
for his ouzo.  The 'meat' inside cooked for about an hour but was still tough.  I guess it needed a good bashing like an octopus or a paua.

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Thursday 10 March 2016


Our lemon trees were branching out so much they covered all the front garden so we gave them  all a
severe pruning.  We have two trees, one next to the other, one has lemons with lots of juice, one has lemons with just a few hard squeezed drops.   Katherine, visiting from Perth one summer, offered to make us a lemon meringue pie.  She couldn't get enough juice out of a couple of dozen lemons and made peach pie instead.  Great thinking and a fantastic pie.
the lemon pickers, Lydia and George............
and the trees are still drooping with the rest of the crop

This year they do have a little more juice.  I made lemonade and squeezed enough to put in the freezer for some more lemonade in the summer.  But who wants to squeeze a ton of lemons.  Not even grandchildren who get paid for their effort.  You can freeze whole lemons just as they are, straight from the tree, but that means having a lot of spare room in your freezer.  Our freezer is already filled with strange cuts of meat and odd bits of fish which K keeps for bait.

Kyriako's mother, Nota, (synpethera - the mother of our son-in-law) is now a great-grandmother.  She wanted to celebrate the occasion but her brother died less than  a year ago so the family cannot observe the occasion with any sort of a party.  Guess what.  We had  the party at our place instead.  What 'party'.  When Nota and K get together the dinner becomes a feast.  But no music.
Kyriakos is a terrific cook.  In another world he would have been a chef and not captain of a water taxi.

Nota got hold of some wild pig which Kyriakos marinated and cooked.  Lots of red wine and a long time in a slow oven.  Meanwhile, K fired up our outside wood oven and prepared a 15 kilo cows head.  There's a lot of bone in that head, but there is also a hell of a lot of meat.  Tongue, brain, cheeks, eyes.   Both the pig and the beef just melted off the bone but there was so much meat.  Too much meat.  And lemon roasted potatoes and home made bread, hot from the breadmaker this time, not my sourdough.  Lettuce salad and greek salad and feta cheese and tzatziki.
enough to make you a vegetarian!

all packeted up and ready for the oven

what visitors never see
the back verandah in winter mode
K waits for the oven to fire-up

A week later we had the big meat eating day before Lent - smoky Thursday.  Your easter is a month before the Orthodox easter this year. Lent starts on 14th March, easter at the beginning of May.  Fortunately Elli and Kyriakos held the bbq at their place, downstairs in yard under the jasmine vine.  Lots of smoky mutton, pork chops and souvlaki and even more tzatziki.  An even bigger gathering.  All the Tzanos family, friends, relatives and neighbours.  'Poverty needs a little of the good life too'.  Greek proverb.  From the 14th March most members of the family will stop eating meat till easter Sunday.

Years ago the whole island would be covered in a smoky haze as little bbq's appeared out on the street and in every yard.  The petrol station used to have a huge grill and anyone turning up for a fill-up got a few glasses of wine and a lamb chop or two.  No grill this year. The taxi boat captains would have their own grill on the water front.  No grill there either this year. But the butchers shop next to the 'green chairs' (K approved cafeteria) had their grill out.  They also did a  roaring trade inside selling pork chops and chicken pieces.  I noticed that those around the grill seemed to be mostly Albanians drinking beer and scoffing free grub. 

Memorial.  And the next 'bash' was the one year memorial of one of our elderly neighbours.  His family own the Paradise taverna up on the hill.  First of all though I had an hour standing up in church, trying not look at my watch.  It was All Souls Saturday so the service was at the small church in the graveyard.  After lighting the candle on the Tzanos family tomb and wafting around some incense, K stood outside gossiping with all the other men and I went in to pretend I was one of the faithful.  We came in at the end of the service but the new priest goes on and on and gives a little talk at the end.  Not to mention that he reads out ALL the names of the dead remembered at the church ALL through the year.  He spent over five minutes just reading out the names of all those souls.  Women came in and out with bowls of funeral wheat, small children cried and were given to grand parents who had got the few chairs provided. Finally I went outside but all the graves were already sat-on so I had to stand out there too.

Next we went for funeral coffee, the koliva (wheat) and a brandy or two.  I always come away from memorials a bit wobbly.

From there we were invited to the 'wake'.  This being a 'taverna family' it was a great repast.  A good time was had by all.  Lots of wine, loads of gossip but no music.   We had a selection of cheese, two different salads, bourekakia (fried rolls of ham and cheese in pastry), tzatziki and feta cheese dip,  and roast beef with potatoes and lemon rice.  No sticky cakes at a memorial meal.

In the good old days the (now) widow (K's distant cousin) would make 20 huge loaves of sourdough bread a week for the tavern.  On her knees she kneaded and punched, what must have been, about 40 kilos of dough then lit up the wood fire and baked them over the coals.  In later years the family bought her a machine which kneaded the bread.  Now the tavern only opens for Sunday lunch and  fiestas and the old lady still makes a couple of loaves of bread on special occasions.  I have some of her sourdough starter which has been going now for 3 years.  Strong stuff.

Sunday we had the two grandsons to stay over night and do some work in the garden.  We (they) finally emptied our big compost bin which has been going since we first moved in here about 8 years ago.  K's friend Menios (after Menelaos - the husband of Helen of Troy) who owns the other K approved cafeteria (the orange chairs) has been here digging and de-weeding our garden.  Under his instructions we are going to graft the grapefruit and bitter orange tree and have some summer citrus fruit.  Also he says he'll plant a summer garden for us.  He has suddenly become a gardening enthusiast, spends hours studying it all on the net but also puts it into practice .  K really does have some great friends.....and lots of cousins.

He shamed me into weeding my front garden as well, though my lettuces have grown quite nicely in amongst the wild sorrel.

Today is 8th March.  International Women's Day.  In the good old days I used to go out on the town with most of the Poriotisses (Poros women).  Even K's sister Dina could be  made to join in the celebration.  Large groups of women, young and some very old, would fill up the tavernas and then move on to the bars downtown and take them over for the night.  Dina would go home at this point.  The old biddies were always done up in their best furs and all their gold.  They were the first to get up and dance and end up on the tables doing a tsifiteli (erotic dance).  It was THEIR night.  Now they're dead and gone and their heirs have sold off the furs and jewelry. 

Last night Elli, Danae and a couple of friends stayed in, ordered souvlaki, drank a beer and watched a movie. 

PRADA.  I have a pair of Prada shoes.   Given to me by a relative with big feet and too much money.  Love them.  Though I am not a big fan of prada.  What a fun sentence to write!  This is the second pair I have been given.  The other shoes were sports shoes and they were ugly and uncomfortable.  I gave them to the animal bazaar.  These are terrific.  Just right for funerals and memorials.

This weekend is the end of carnival and Monday the beginning of Lent.  It is a public holiday and a day of more food and drink.  Shellfish, octopus, kalamari, taramasalata.  No meat, dairy, eggs or fish.  But that is another story.