Wednesday 31 October 2018

Family Feasting

Happy family

The immediate family indulging in some feasting

Smile, you're on candid camera

Remembering the rest of our extended family missing from this feast
Cheers big ears
Same goes big nose

A cup of 'tea' anyone

Nana, enough with the photos

Perched around the table

O Tzatzikios...the boy who loves tzatziki

And the men party on

Eat, play, work
Sorting out the store cupboard, putting away the summer paraphernalia . 

Treadmill games
How far can you run further in 5 minutes.  Whose gonna win?  Well, that's obvious, that one at the back with the longest legs.  The game kept them out of mischief for half an hour.

Sunday 28 October 2018

No, No, No

No, no, no, Mussolini, you will not invade and occupy Greece.  

On the 28th October 1940 the Italians issued an ultimatum to Greece, demanding free passage into the country and occupation of strategic areas.

The Greek Prime Minister replied 'Alors, c'est la guerre'.

The next morning Italy invaded over the Greek-Albanian border.  Greek forces fought them back over the mountain border in the harshest of winter conditions, women hauling food and ammunition.  The Italians were chased back into Albania and the battle became the first land defeat for Germany in WW11. Eventually in 1941  Hilter sent in the German occupation army who took over the country until the end of the war.  It was 1945 when the last garrisons of Germans were cleared from Aegean islands and Crete.

My father took part in the clean-up of the islands.  He was in the British Fleet Air Arm,  Captain of a  motor launch (ML1252) working with Greek commandos to ensure German troops had evacutated, island by island.

ML 1252 December 1944

Churchill recognised the bravery and determination of the Greeks saying
'Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes but that heroes fight like Greeks'.

Today we celebrate this victory,  known as 'OHI DAY' (No, Day), with a military parade and fly past in the northern city of Thessaloniki, capital of  Greek Macedonia.  Every household should have the Greek flag flying. Every city, island, village will be having its own parade, wreath laying and official speeches.

Poros school children 
In local costume

28th of October is a national holiday in Greece and Cyprus and there will be parades in cities in the United States and Australia where there are large communities of people with greek heritage

Happy Birthday Paul
Wishing you many more years with good health and happiness

Friday 26 October 2018

Family Feasting ... preparation

It has been some time since I wrote about a family feast.  
We had a gathering of our immediate clan last weekend
Lots of preparations and lots of leftovers
We'll be eating well this week

Cheese pie in a roll
Instead of making one big pie or lots of little triangles I made long rolls and curved them round the baking dish like a snake.  Delicious any way.  Homemade filling was very simple,  Just crumbled feta cheese, an egg, a few spoons of bechamel sauce and chopped mint.  Sometimes I use nutmeg instead of mint.  The pastry was ready made very thin filo.

Snails alive alive o
Getting their last rites

Snails in the pot
Stewed with tomatoes, onion and garlic

Snails fried
with garlic, oil, salt, vinegar and rosemary
The men loved these and ate most of them as an appetiser with a glass of raki.
These ones were not from our garden. 

Made with vine leaves I had blanched and frozen last spring

Ready to go in the oven
The smaller loaf has lots of grated gouda to melt inside

Plain and with cheese

Pavlova before decoration.
I made aioli again, the garlic mayonaise
Leftover egg whites were used to make a pavlova
I haven't made a pavlova in many, many years.  Usually I just eat them. It is really a very easy sweet to make and this one was devoured quickly

Pavlova going going gone

This is only some of the food that went out on the table.  We had to have pork of course.  K made a dish of baked meats.  Chunks of chicken, lamb and pork roasted in the oven with potatoes.  The coleslaw was one of our best.  It had apple, walnut, grated carrot, celery and cabbage in the salad then some whiskey in the sauce

The End

Wednesday 24 October 2018

New Season Out of the Sun

Winter's a Coming

Wild cyclamens
Clumps of pink cyclamens decorate the sides of the roads

25 Snails

A friend told me recently that ash from the fireplace keeps away snails.  What a load of codswallop.  Our garden gets liberal dosings of wood ash every winter.  This winter we have an infestation of snails, along with the usual oxalis/clover/sorrel.  I uprooted the basil in this pot and there were 25 snails hidng inside.  Everywhere, EVERYWHERE, there are hordes of snails. We won't go hungry this winter, if I could be bothered collecting them.  I don't kill them, just throw them over the fence.  Never into Vaso's land I might add

The back garden has been cleared, dug deep and planted so far with lettuces, onions and rocket

More lettuces in the front garden
These are in a planter made out of half an old plastic wine barrel.  I planted them this way thinking maybe I could halt the tide of weeds.  We shall see.  More lettuces are in the garden next to it and already the oxlalis is popping up all over the place although I weed almost every day.

The old wheelbarrow is still useable but rarely necessary in such a small area. I stuck a pot of oregano in there. It really needs a pot of flowers which tumble over the sides. Flowers are a bit of a rarity at this time of the year. 

My new compost bin
These old tyres were another idea to separate the plants from the clover. The clover took over.
I'll fill it with compost waste till spring and then turn it into a big pot for a couple of tomatoes or peppers

Saturday 20 October 2018

Lemon Trees oh so Pretty

Time to prune the lemon trees.  We had an abundant crop this year and the freezer is full of frozen lemon cubes, bottles of lemonade concentrate and others with plain fresh squeezed lemon juice.  The trees now have a good crop of green lemons.  Our pruner says that many must be sacrificed for the good of future crops.

Friend, cafeteria owner, fisherman, oil producer, gardener and lemon-tree-pruner giving our trees a haircut.
The lemons that are on the branches being removed are hard and green but I'm collecting those as well.  Hopefully they will provide a little fresh juice till the others ripen properly

After all that hard work it was time for an ouzo
Vaso had been working over the road and popped in for a chat
She 'put them all to bed' three hours later

The branches were left for me to haul out of the garden.  I'm piling them up across the road .  They will be burnt in a few weeks when hopefully they've dried out a bit and don't need too much petrol to keep the fire raging.  The summer fire restriction has been lifted now but we are not setting light to these until it has rained again and surrounding grasses are no longer dry as tinder

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.