Saturday 29 February 2020


A literal invasion. 5-6,000 migrants are trying to break through Greece's northern border with Turkey.
Turkey opened its borders and is allowing thousands to enter the no-mans land between the two countries and approach Greece. Greece's border is closed so a war with guards has started. The young  migrants are throwing rocks and are trying to cut their way through the barbed wire and barriers.
Scary stuff even if the battle is taking place hundreds of miles north of us.  What happens if there is a sudden invasion of these aggressive  young migrants who, it is reported, are from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and Morocco, economic refugees.
Greek police and army meanwhile are answering with tear gas.
The Turkish leader is saying they have not received enough aid for the 3 millions of Syrian refugees already in Turkey so is sending them on to Europe.
Still refugees arrive by sea from Turkey landing on greek islands which already have thousands living in terrible overcrowded camps.
Details of fighting on the border has taken over from virus reports, although there is not much news there. Unofficial carnival parties are taking place in the cities although all celebrations have been cancelled.  There are huge fines for towns who continue with the festivities.
We are preparing for a big family party to celebrate the beginning of Lent.

Preparing the chairs and tables

Discussing the shellfish menu

Thursday 27 February 2020

We've Got it Too!

The first, official, case of the coronavirus in Greece was reported yesterday way up north and today there are three more hospitalised in Athens.  

It's spreading.

Downtown today the ships' chandler shop had a big case of antiseptic handwash on sale and they are selling builders masks at a terrific rate.  You know, those masks that people sanding floors use, stiff white industrial masks.  I presume the chemists have sold out of the others.

Round at the supermarket they were doing a shelf check to stockpile essentials for when the virus hits us here.

I can see the island being cut off,  Supplies dumped on the jetty across on the mainland to be picked up by overalled workers from Poros who will spray the boxes with antiseptic before loading them on the car ferry.  All done without any contact with the contaminated mainlanders.  That's of course if supply lorries are allowed on the roads and warehouses are still sending supplies.  Who knows

This is a long weekend, the last three days of carnival with parades, concerts and frenzied revelry all over the country.  It has all been cancelled, even here.   In the city of Patras and elsewhere they have been making floats and costumes for the big parade for over 6 months.  The people say they will still come out and dance in the streets.  No virus is keeping their spirit down.

The eternal flame for this years Olympic games is due to be lit with great ceremony on March 12 at ancient Olympia.  But there are hushed whispers that the Olympic games may be cancelled as well.
The Olympic flame should be carried by teams of runners for 8 days throughout Greece before being sent on to Tokyo where it is/should be relayed through Japan before ending up at the opening ceremnoy in Tokyo on July 24.  We shall see.

There is no panic here.  No shelf emptying.  Everyone is talking about it in the cafes though.  Joking about it.  

The places where it might spread  are the refugee camps.  Greece is finally building closed refugee 'towns' with container housing, wifi, aircon, schools, hospitals,  meals provided.  They are supposed to be a more humane way of housing 20,000 refugees, with barbed wire fences, and no entry or exit without proper papers.  There has been fierce fighting with police on the islands where the refugees are centred.  Islanders want the refugees to be housed elsewhere in Greece..  The refugees don't want to be there.  Greece is only supposed to be a brief stop for them before continuing on to Germany and France and the rest of Europe.  Who doesn't want them.  

I thought I heard the PM saying that greece would not accept anymore refugees.  That's impossible.  Turkish leader Erdogan is sending them over the sea in leaking boats as fast as he can.  

K is watching football, Arsenal playing Olympiakos, the Piraeus team.  The greeks have already lost one match against Arsenal and that was played in their home stadium.  K is very quiet.  

We saw the Greek team getting off the plane in England, all wearing face masks.  The government was going to cancel all football matches from today onwards but they seem to have gone back on that.  This weekend's football is going to take place as normal.  There would be rioting and throwing of molotov cocktails if all entertainment was suddenly taken away from the greeks.

Updates to come, no doubt.

Tuesday 25 February 2020

All Souls Saturday

All Souls Saturday, a week before Lent.
We had a memorial service to attend so we went to church
K got there at 8, I arrived at 9.15.  The priest started at 7.  I knew it was too early but I thought I might get some flak if I arrived any later.  You can wander in and out of these services at any time though if it is a close family memorial then you're probably there by 8 and sitting up front.  The church in the graveyard is quite small so not many can squeeze inside.  There was a bitter wind blowing and those outside were chilled, standing around in little groups or sitting on one of the big marble graves.  I stood out there for an hour before it was over.  But there were friends and relatives around and we had a chat and a laugh

A table set up outside has the paper bags lined to to fill with funeral wheat which is handed out as you leave

Lucky her father didn't see her!!
Lucky he didnt see me either.  He doesnt like me taking photos at church but now with these smart phones I can take pictures without him knowing.
The guy in the doorway is an old friend of the girls.  He's showing how you try and look pious!
Having a 'silent' laugh and a quiet gossip passes the time.

I never know what to do in church, just stand up and sit down as others do, though some don't which makes it a bit of a puzzle.  I look down at the floor when the priest comes out and covers us in incense and just try to look pious when everyone else is crossing themselves and I'm not.

I did pop into the church to get warmed up at some point and tried to take some photos inside but there were too many bodies in the way.  The table here was full of bowls of 'koliva' (the funeral wheat), each with a lit candle in it.  Anyone who wants to remember their dear departed can make a bowl and take it to church to be blessed.  

There were 4 chanters up the front who accompanied our priest.  One of the chanters has the service on his phone and we all watch him flicking through his phone. Show off.  The others are chanting from the traditional  church tomes sitting on stands in front of them.

There were 4 memorial services
This was the decorated tray of wheat from one of them

On All Souls Saturday the names of ALL the departed who have been remembered during the year are read out.  The priest has gathered all the names, on a stack of little bits of paper, and reads them all out.  He drones on and on for about 15 minutes.  

This is the funeral wheat called koliva.
It is a mix of boiled wheat, raisins, parsley, coconut, powdered sugar, pomegranite seeds and ours had chopped figs as well.

Inside the big bag with the cross is a small white paper bag with the koliva, a plastic spoon and napkin and a sweet roll.  

After the church we go to the cafe nearby for coffee, a liqueur (or two) and some sweet cookies.  We drink and try not to be too merry after the liqueur and then file past the family, shake hands and wish that their loved one will remembered with love

This guy came home with us for the family meal after the memorial.  He made us laugh more than ever.  Who is he?
The Undertaker!
He buries the dead and entertains the living.  A real people person

Sunday 23 February 2020

Still Winter

A wintery waterfront
Yes, there are umbrellas out over the tables, but no-one sitting there

The little shop next door to our favourite cafe is being  gutted.
The truck just back right into the building.  It was a taverna, soon to be a Lotto shop.  This shop will do well in the centre of all the cafes.

The hub of the island. Souvlaki shop on one side and a line of cafes where the males have nothing to do in the morning but play backgammon, roll their worry beads, gossip and now fill out their lotto forms

In summer the lane will be covered by a brilliant bougainvillia

Steps green with slime.  They will be whitewashed before easter

The fishing harbour.  Many boats are out of the water at the moment for de-barnacling and painting

The line of water taxis and not a soul to be seen

Friday 21 February 2020

Smoky Tradition

March 2nd is the first day of Lent for us.  There will follow  7 weeks of strict fasting.  Some of my family do the fast but not as strictly as the Orthodox church demands.  They just cut out the meat but eat still eggs, meat and dairy.  We usually do the same.  Just stop eating meat during Lent.

This last Thursday was a big meat eating day, 11 days before the great fast.  It is called Tsiknopempti which loosely translated  means 'smokyThursday', the smoke and wonderful aroma coming as the fat from the bbqed meat  hits the coals.  The whole island has some sort of grill, outside of shops, on the waterfront, in the schools, at the petrol station, on the beach as everyone follows this tasty tradition.

Both the Primary School and the Lykeio had grills in the courtyard of the schools with free souvlaki, pork grilled on a skewer, for all the students.  The Lykeio had a disco as well.

In Athens the grills were fired up early in the morning especially in the main meat market.  

It's the middle of carnival still so there's dancing, and music as well.  In days of yore we used to dress up and go from house to house in the neighbourhood, have a drink and a forkful of meat and on to the next.  This custom was already dying out back then in the 80s and I doubt anyone does this now.  However, there is dancing in masquerade at tavernas and hotels and in other parts of greece there are traditions which still play a big part of this day.

My husband being a very traditional person we always dressed up in some sort of costume, homemade.  Papou's old jacket and cap, Yiayia's apron, my wedding dress was used on several occasions, the priest's long black gown.  Sometimes we just toured the neighbourhood, sometimes we celebrated at a taverna and at least once we went bar hopping.  We still have a bag of old clothes for carnival but it is the grandchildren, and their parents sometimes that dress up.  I first met one of my sons-in-law at carnival when he came into the house dressed as a female of a certain trade.  How could I not like him?  He was  another happy revelling greek.

Our grill has been lit

Chief fire maker and bbq-er

There was a big greek salad as well as the meat, and a bowl of tzatziki.  Bread and wine and all was well.  And then someone had a bright idea and I had to go out to the gas stove and fry potatoes.  They were a darn good accompaniment though

It started off as a sun-shiny day but around 2 a black cloud came over and starting raining on us.  We  moved quickly indoors.  The meat was cooked and already half  of it was eaten

Smoky Thursday in action

And on the table 
Homemade bifteki (hamburger), a greek sausage, liver and some pancetta.   Most of it got eaten and we had leftovers for lunch today.

All gone.  Hurray. 

Thursday 20 February 2020

Red Sky at Night

Red sky at night
Shephard's delight

Look at last night's brilliant sunset.  
And today was a sunny, but cold, winter's day
Ideal for grazing sheep in our now so green pastures
Everyone on Poros with a phone or camera was busy taking photos and posting them on facebook, instagram, and blogs

Last week's sunset
Looking out over the bay towards the mountains of the mainland

I might add that these sunset photos were taken by my daughters' who live down near the harbour. Up in the hills where we live, just a few kilometres away, the skies just got darker without these awesome colours.

Monday 17 February 2020

Lentils and Beans

This was accidently published a few days ago and then deleted.  Here it is again.

Preparing for a family feast of lentils and of beans
They are rarely eaten 'orfano',  on their own.
Traditionally they are accompanied by salted fish, feta cheese and olives to make the meal complete.  At a family feast there are a few more dishes on the table too

Preparing, de-salting, the salted sardines
Each sardine is rinsed well and then has its backbone removed.  The salted sardine is sold headless
Sardines are then covered in olive oil with a squirt of vinegar

And on to the smoked mackeral
This is sold head and all.  The skin, bones and head must be removed, then it is put on a plate with olive oil and lemon juice

Big slices of feta cheese
Made from a mix of sheep and goat's milk

Fresh bread
An essential on a greek dinner table

Mackeral in the photo above
Sardines in the photo below

More protein in the feta cheese pies
Not an essential at a lentil and bean feast but helps the main course go down for those not crazy about legumes

A big plate of lentil soup
Made with tomato, lots of garlic, bay leaf and onions

Black-eyed beans made into a salad
The beans are mixed with onion, parsley, lemon juice and oil

Brown lentils are the traditional lentils cooked here and we eat them about every other  week, or so.  Most families eat lentils, dried beans or chickpeas at least once a week.  We have lentils more often than beans or chickpeas but one of those is on our table every week, maybe twice a week.
To absorb all the iron and nutrients in lentils apparently we should eat them with rice.  Another popular way of cooking the brown lentils is indeed with rice.  Fakorizo is lentil-rice. 


Sometime during the summer I noticed that there was a small bookcase in the alleyway and it seemed you could take books from there and leave any you didn't want.  The bookcase became a book-shop and suddenly  Poros had a small lending library.  

The back alley way

Eventually I got around to visiting and left three books, two of them french, that a friend had given to me.  It's  a small room with children's books  and books in greek, english, french and half a dozen other languages.  What a terrific idea.  Bravo Poros Municipality.
Tourists, yachties, locals, anyone can step in and find something to read.

Books have always been hard to come by here. 
When one is left by visitors it goes from one foreigner to the other.
We used to have bazaars at Christmas and Easter,  run by the foreign residents and in aid of the stray animals on the island.   Books were a big part of the second hand items being sold. I always came away with an armful.  The stray animal society PAWS (Poros Animal Welfare) was taken over by local greeks and slowly the bazaars and book fairs came to a halt. A good english book became hard to find unless you wanted to pay 20 euros at the bookshop for a brand new book.  I started to buy secondhand books online, from mainly.  Alibris was a revelation,   I could suddenly order books that I actually wanted to read instead of making do with whatever came my way.  I can buy a book (paperback) for 1 euro and with postage of 6 euros they are at a price well within my range.

Mustn't  forget kindle either.  I was introduced to this by my brother and neice who brought me one for my birthday. Another  revelation. More cheap books, as many as I wanted on one device the size of a novella.
I didn't think I would like reading from this cold electronic device. Amazing how quickly I got used to it. Now I have kindle on my phone. A book to read whatever my mood and as long as the 'machine' is charged. 

I went through the books in the Poros library  but only came away with one this time, a slim volume which will fit in any of my handbags so I will always have a back-up when coffee time at the cafeteria becomes a male political or football debate.  Looks interesting but I haven't started it yet.  

I am currently reading 'An Adventure' by Artemis Cooper.  
A biography of Patrick Leigh Fermor.

On my kindle I'm reading
100 Days of Solitude by
Daphne Kapsali
100 days on a small greek island in winter, time to write in solitude. She's part greek so it's not the usual 'i visited Greece for 3 months and wrote a book about it' nonsense.

I chose a slim volume which fits in my bag.  A bag without a book...........

Friday 14 February 2020

Clean Out

We've been doing some pre-spring cleaning.  Old clothes that no longer fit have been bagged. Once they've been bagged the problem of disposal begins.  Most of the clothes are in excellent condition.  We have no second hand shops here, no bazaars and the church no longer collects unwanted clothing.  Mostly we leave them beside the recycling bins and they are usually discovered and taken, hopefully by someone who wants them.   

K also went through all his old naval uniforms.
He kept his ceremonial whites, the formal black uniform with all the medals plus his hat and gloves and his sword.  He also kept his Naval safari jacket, a light weight short sleeved white jacket for less formal wear in the summer.

The jacket in the photo above is a very old one which we have put aside in case anyone wants to wear it during carnival.  This jacket has only 2 stripes on the sleeve, the stripes of a sub-lieutenant.
He left the navy with 3 1/2 stripes and the title of  Commander.

Keeping his dress uniform in good condition is essential because it will be what he wears when he goes into his coffin.  We have strict instructions on who to call when the time comes, and what we hand over to Naval authorities.  His hat, gloves, sword and medals will all be on display and his coffin covered by the greek flag. We/he is lucky to have the Navy base here who will provide an official escort, honour guard.  The escort will attend the funeral coffee afterwards but must also be invited to the wake where close friends and family will eat meat or fish soup.

Tradition  continues to the grave and beyond.  We  have very strict instructions to keep the candle on his grave lit for 40 days and hold all the memorial ceremonies, at the very least the 9 days, 40 days, 3 month, 6 month, one year and 3 year memorials and not to forget to boil funeral wheat for All Souls.


Thursday 13 February 2020

Parking...any which way

It's obviously winter.  The police car came by and didn't even stop to blow his whistle at the bikes 3 deep along the waterfront.

A quick coffee this morning on a busy waterfront
Bikes were already parked 2 deep and then along came 'smart ass' and parked his bike in front of the double parked bikes.  And then he just walked off.  He didn't even look for a space to park and there were a few further down
Poros parking
Too bad if your bike was the first,  parked properly.  You're very properly stuck!!  It's happened to me dozens of times and the darn motorbikes are just too heavy for me to move.  I curse under my breath and have to search for a knight to save me.  Here be dragons!!

Note the 'smart' (a brand of very small car) further down also using a space, or two, reserved for 2 wheelers

And then along came 'smart ass' no 2
He found a parking space but didn't use it.  He parked his bike across the space, blocking the two motorbikes on either side and blocking the space that someone else could have used, if he wanted to park properly.

I can always find something to photo when sitting at a cafe.
Today I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.  We knew all 3 'offenders' but didn't bother pointing out that their parking was a bit controversal.  They wouldn't have taken any notice and would have howled blue murder if the police had stopped and given them a ticket.

Two more months and all parking along the waterfront will be banned till the end of summer.  

In the summer we leave our bikes down at the municipal parking area and take the bus into the centre of town if we have business down there.  We usually drink coffee at a different cafe at the end of town in the summer, away from the crowds.

Tuesday 11 February 2020

Sunny Tuesday

The 'Flying Catamaran' disembarked hundreds of new recruits this morning.  It's training time at the Naval Base.  2 weeks of fun in the sun, some weapons training and learning how to march for these conscripts about to begin their one year compulsory service in the Greek Navy.  Sunday they'll have a few hours out to meet their Mum's and Nan's and girlfriends and clog up the tables at our waterfront cafe.  In 2 weeks time they will swear allegiance to flag and country and go off on a few days leave before beginning their service on ships, if they have no one to put a good word in for them or even a far flung island off the coast of Turkey.  Anyone with an inside influence will be on shore duty at some base or installation close to home so they can enjoy Mama's cooking and clean clothes. 

Carnival has begun in Greece, 3 weeks of dressing up and having fun before the fasting of Lent.  

20 February is a big meat eating day and time for fund raising dances and big parties at tavernas and hotels.  Most people attending these affairs put on some sort of costume or at least a funny hat.  We stay at home and BBQ chops and sausages and so do most here on Poros.  I'm a party pooper so staying at home will be fine by me.  We are sure to have neighbours or friends here with us.  Traditional husband is a very social person and insists on following the customs.

Then  Clean Monday (Kathara Deftera), March 2nd, is the next big holiday and feast day.  A feast without meat, or fish.  We'll be dining on shellfish, octopus, kalamari and taramasalata (fish roe sauce).  

Then Lent begins.  And finally the Orthdox Easter.  Easter Sunday is April 19th this year for us.  A week earlier for the rest of you.

Friday 7 February 2020


 Noddy, spelt Nonti in Greek

When baby sitting my, now teenage, grandaughter Noddy was the surest way to keep her quiet and happy.  There were nights when she woke at 2am, fretful and asking for her mother and crying for Noddy.  The video went on darn quick and she watched Nonti until she dropped off to sleep.  Noddy was my saviour

I remember the intro song, even though the kids have migrated to video games and action movies

I have watched all these children's programmes over and over again. As most grandparents know their little ones soak up their favourites repeatedly, over and over and over again.

My favourites were Postman Pat and also the two bunnies, Ruby and her little brother Max.  The intro songs were in their original language but the episodes themselves dubbed into greek. I was so disappointed, upset even, when I heard the Smurfs, Stroumfakia here, speaking with an American twang. No, no, no!! Smurfs speak greek!!

These classic children's programmes have remained in all our family memories.  Thomas the tank engine, Felix the Cat, Teletubbies, Little Einstein's.  Fireman Sam became a later favourite because of the naughty little boy, Norman Price. Norman was a great delight , twin of my youngest grandson Jamie, always up to some mischief.

I'm sure all those with young children have their own favourites. Fun fun fun

Thursday 6 February 2020

Cabbage and Rice

The Alkyonides (halcyon) days are over.  It's snowing in the northern suburbs of Athens and those clouds over the hills in that photo are dumping snow on the peaks.  Those are the peaks of the mountains opposite Poros.  It's damn cold today.

We are eating cabbage and rice today.  I've written about this recipe before.  Cabbage and a leek, a carrot, onion and dill, tomatoes and rice.  A chilli pepper gives it a bit of heat and interest.

Called lahanorizo

And a glass and of blood orange juice to ward off the bugs