Friday, 31 December 2021

Happy New Year

 Kronia Polla, Kali Kronia 


All the best for 2022

Stay healthy, enjoy life 


I've been wishing everyone a happy 2020. Elderly moment!

Hell, we don't want to do that one again 



The pomegranate smashed with great success. It's going to be a terrific year, one way or another.
Cleaning up is another story!!


Opening the prosecco





And the lucky coin went to....son in law Kyriakos


Cheers big-ears




Wednesday, 29 December 2021

New year Customs

 As usual there are a bunch of traditions, most of which we still observe.  They're all to bring good luck in the coming year.  This are what we do in our family and  local area.  They differ all over the country.


1. Breaking a pomegranite at the front door.  If we can find a pomegranite at this time of the year.  We break ours at our front gate so the seeds and mess are outside on the road.  Our daughter breaks hers at the front door.  Nice mess to clean up on New Years morning.


2.  Vasilopita.  A St Basil's cake or a loaf of bread with a lucky coin.  We have a cake on New Years Eve, bread at New Years lunch and then another family cake later on.    These cakes or sweet breads are cut at every school, club and work place and the actual ceremony of cutting the cake and handing it around might not take place till February. 

 The lucky coin used to be put under the icons on the wall and used to buy incense.  Probably still is in small villages.  That died out in our family when m-in-law passed away.


The first slice of cake is for the Virgin Mary, the second for the house and land or the crops, the next for the oldest in the family and so on down the line.  Everyone digs through their slice  looking for the lucky coin and if we haven't found it by the time we've got through all the family members then we'll cut a piece for distant relatives too, or the dog.


3.  Playing cards, making bets and buying a lottery ticket.  Lucky games are fine, as long as you win! We all played cards around Yiayias big kitchen table with the kids.  She had a bulging purse with low value coins with which we all placed bets  .  Usually it was the card game '21'.  


Meanwhile down the road on an empty plot serious bet-ters would gather to throw coins, heads or tails, and huge amounts of money were won or lost.  Men would gather from all over the island.  I think that tradition has died out too, in that place anyway.  We usually buy a national lottery ticket just before New Year.  We're still waiting for a win.


One year down in Crete we played Gin Rummy with Navy friends till dawn.  It was the only time I ever won.  The money wasn't much but the thrill was .


4.  Fireworks?  With a big question mark.  They have been banned this year so crowds don't gather but I can't see why our Mayor doesn't give us a show.  They are set off from one of the car ferries in the bay and we all 'oooh and ahhh' from our balconies.  He hasn't put on a show for several years.


Church bells used to peal joyously at midnight, and boats blasted their hooters but we haven't heard either in the last two years.  Last year it was quiet and dark in our old neighbourhood where we go to our daughter's to see in the New Year.  The only celebrations were on TV and from young Jamie who entered the house with an old key and banged us all on the head.


5. First Footing.  Just before midnight the luckiest in the family goes outside and is the first person to enter the house bringing luck for the New Year, right foot first.   It's usually the youngest.  And he/she is armed with that big key though why he has to bang us all on the head I'm not sure.


6. New Years carolling.  Once again on New Years eve the kids go from house to house singing the one traditional carol.  As at Xmas they bring good luck to the house and expect a small coin in return or a much larger amount if they are kin or close neighbours or friends.


Kali Kronia


Happy New Year

Saturday, 25 December 2021

Merry Christmas

 Merry Christmas everyone 

A medley of photos 

They speak for themselves










Wednesday, 22 December 2021

Traditions

Some of the traditions our Greek family have have carried on over the years at Christmas 


1.  Caroling.  On Christmas Eve in the morning bands of children will bang on your door and ask 'can we sing to you'.  To which you always answer yes unless you're a nasty grinch.  The children enter and sing the carol, the one carol, that is sung on Xmas Eve.  To which you answer with a 'and here's to next year' and a coin or two.  If they're godchildren, next door neighbours or your own cherub then it will be far more than just a few coins.


My traditional person always looks eagerly for these kids because he says it brings good luck to the house in the coming year.  In our present house up in the hills there are no neighbourhood children and we have to bribe a now teenage grandchild to come and bring us good luck.


2. Decorating a ship instead of a tree.  Most households now put up the western tree but it is far more greek to decorate a small boat or kaik├» (fishing boat).  Downtown the Mayor usually does both but I haven't noticed either this year.  Maybe there is something covered in lights which only show up at night.  The harbour wasn't at all festive when I went down to the chemist this morning.



Our boat lit up on the wall


3. Christopsomo.  The Christ bread which is cut on Christmas day.  This is a large loaf of, often, homemade bread with a braid of dough  on top forming a cross and a walnut in the middle.  Ours is cut before the family Christmas day lunch. The traditional head of our household draws the sign of the cross over the bread with the big knife and then cuts big slices and hands them round the table.  At New Years the bread will have a lucky coin in it.


4.  Presents should be opened on New Years Day and not on Christmas day.  Here it is Saint Basil, whose feast is on January 1st, who brings the gifts and not Saint Nick.  My kids, being cross cultural thought they should have presents from both.  Mother (ie me) decided that St Nick was the bringer of toys and that was that.


6. You must bake piles and piles of Christmas cookies, so says my traditional person who has taken over the baking.  After 40 years of a foreigner baking his biscuits he has decided that only he can make them the way his mother did.  Go for it says me.

The cookies (biscuits) are melomakarouna, made with honey and oil, orange juice and walnuts and kourabiethes made with lots of preferably (but not preferably for me) sheeps butter and almonds.



We make piles of them every year so anyone entering the house can be offered one or two on a plate with a glass of raki or whisky.  Then we give packets of them away to friends and neighbours and also to anyone who has had a loss in the family.  During the first year of mourning you are not supposed to make, or offer, sweet biscuits and you are not allowed to dye red eggs at easter.


So, folks that's some of the traditions which we carry on here.  Of course in the cities things have changed and traditions are not followed to the letter.  The younger generation looks on it all a bit differently too and they are more likely to follow the western traditions.  But, in our house we follow the greek rules.

Saturday, 18 December 2021

Christmasses Past

My first Christmas in Greece in 1976 was a non-event.  I remember walking down main street Piraeus, the big port city near Athens, on a cold Christmas eve along a dark undecorated street, the only sign of Xmas a decorated tree high up in the window of an apartment building.  I didn't really mind back then.  My mind was not on what Santa would bring but whose hand I was holding.

It made an impression on me for sure because I  remember the occasion vividly.  No carols, no christmas cake, no twinkling lights.  It was years before Piraeus decorated its streets and broadcast piped music for the shoppers.  When my children were very small I wanted them to delight in the magic of Christmas, the anticipation of opening those presents under the tree, leaving whisky and cakes for Santa, reading them 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' the evening before, hanging up the stockings and playing with new toys the next day.

Everything had to be done from scratch.  I made xmas crackers out of those cardboard loo roll tubes, very disappointing.  There was no bang but they did get to wear a homemade paper hat.  I  made ornaments for the tree and house from coloured paper I bought from school supply shops.  I don't remember where the tree came from.  

When the two girls were very young I used to take them into the public parks and visit the ancient ruins in Athens and I would visit the British Council Library.  It was the only way I could get english books to read.  The selection was of old dusty books by even older British travellers and writers.  It didn't matter.  It was in English.

The British Council organised every year a xmas bazaar which back then took place in the British Embassy itself.  I know I found xmas stockings there and I probably found a few xmas sweets and cards.  They had a Father Christmas too though I don't remember my kids sitting on his knee.   The two girls were a bit stand-offish after an early life of isolation with a foreign mother and a father who was in the Navy.  They had been known to swear, in greek, at nice old women who spoke to them in the street so I probably didn't dare suggest that they be sociable with Santa.

It wasn't till the mid 80s that xmas became a commercial event in the city.  Then big shops would open in the main market selling everything we now associate with the season, here and at home.  Piraeus streets were lit up by the lights that London had the previous year.  Maybe they still are.  

Every holiday we went to Poros for a few days.  Not my favourite way to spend a holiday.  Too many greek relatives very close by. We often compromised by staying home for the actual day so I could have traditional dinner with an elderly South African couple I had met. We went to the island for New Year.
Margo and Jimmy lived on a boat in the marina and were excellent with the girls. They helped keep me sane.

  Poros did not start decorating for another 10 years and Xmas was  traditionally Greek.  Small children came around singing the time honoured carol on Xmas Eve and were given a coin and a cake.

The housewives were busy baking melomakarouna (honey biscuits) and kourabiethes (walnut biscuits), dipless (sweet pastry) and we were offered these everytime we took a step into a local house.  There was no thought of saying 'no'.  They wished you the appropriate seasonal greetings and you answered back with the classic reply.  And you scoffed a sticky cake or two.  The men were also offered a glass of whisky and Metaxa brandy was also popular back then. 3* real rough stuff.
Women were offered a sweet liqueur, homemade. Now and again I was offered whisky. Foreign women were known to be a bit outrageous. A Greek woman wouldn't dream of drinking hard liqueur and often didn't even drink wine.

The children did get Christmas presents  but these were supposed to be opened on New Years Day.  They weren't.  They were ripped open there and then.  Horrors.  You couldn't make a child wait that long.  However, the presents were rarely toys.  They were always clothes and shoes, given by the godparents.  Grandparents usually gave the children money which was quickly taken away by the Mama to buy more clothes and shoes.

On Christmas day itself the family gathered to eat together, usually roast pork and potatoes or pork and greens in a lemon sauce. I don't remember turkey being on the menu at all though it was in later years often in the form of an egg and lemon soup. The main event of the day came later.  Christmas day is the fiesta of all those named Christos and Christina.  We had a few in the family and we trapsed from house to house to eat more pork, or lamb, drink  wine, dance a step or two, laugh at slapstick Greek jokes, me trying to be merry. Thank goodness I had small children and an excuse to leave early. The men drank on as was the tradition.

Our family Xmas dinner nowadays is half Greek and half English. And the men drink on . 

I miss carols by candlelight and the magic of warm decorated shops, piped music and a jolly old St Nick.

One year, about ten years ago, we went to Athens just before Christmas and visited a big shopping Mall. I almost cry at the memory. Christmas music wafting through the halls, hustle and bustle of Xmas shopping, decorations, baubles and an atmosphere so very, very different from that of a cold Greek island.

A few times we also went into Athens to the Xmas bazaar now organised by the Athens Church of England. Mince pies, real plum puddings, so many English voices, piles of cheap books, the white elephant stall,  chutneys, jams and cakes, Irish coffee, scones.  Tombola, raffles , a choir singing carols and the Vicar in a kilt.  There was a bazaar held this year but we couldn't go. Maybe next year.






Thursday, 16 December 2021

Eats for Xmas

 Some goodies I've made for the festive season.  Not traditional and some won't be made again


Beetroot chutney
I made a small batch of this 2 years ago with leftover beetroot.  It was delicious.  However I don't remember what recipe I used and although the next batches were fine they weren't fantastic.  This one has apple and beetroot, vinegar and red wine.  I might try just one more recipe, next year.


Xmas mincemeat buns
Yes.  I've just taken the second lot out of the oven.  The recipe is from Mary Berry via the 'English Kitchen' blog.  They are very, very easy.  Just one bowl, a spoon and a muffin tin.


Dried figs in balsamic vinegar
I'm not so sure about these.  They will be nice with cheese but I also have pickled onions and quince paste.  Probably won't bother to make them again.  



Quince paste
Membrillo

After a few tries I got this to the right consistency, hard jelly, and it is enjoyable.  I don't think I'll bother again.  Only one of my daughters and I will eat it now and again, when we remember, with a glass of wine and some cheese.  I have a small container in the fridge and another in the freezer.  It's going to last a long time.

I've made two batches of xmas mince pies which have been eaten.  Next on the list is the xmas cake.  

K finally found some smallish onions so those will be pickled, with vinegar and honey. I still have a jar from last year. 
We forget to eat them. They're not traditional like salted sardines, spiced water buffalo or goats cheese.


Sunday, 12 December 2021

Porosea

 The family that runs together stays together .


Porosea is an annual, mostly, multi sporting event.  My grandchildren have all run, swum and biked in years gone by.


This October one part of our extended family took part, mother, father and daughters.  Son was studying in Athens.  



Here they are, all t-shirted and numbered up for the 10 kilometre run 



All psyched up and ready to go


The finish line.  The photo is not clear but they all came across the finish line together,  hands up in a victory flourish.  Well done Bitounis.

Father and one daughter were well ahead of the others so they waited a half-k before the finish for the other two to catch up so they could start and finish together.  

Not only did they take part but they were also part of the volunteer team, along with other family members, handing out water, guiding the competitors and helping to feed them.

Bravo kiddos







Sunday, 5 December 2021

The Geese are getting Fat

 Xmas cards are written. The tree and boxes of decorations have come down from the store room. 


I found, ordered and received boxes of Xmas crackers from here in Greece. Last year they came from England. Too expensive now that Britain is no longer in the EU.

Presents have been ordered online and some have arrived 

Pickled onions, beetroot chutney, chicken liver pate and something new, balsamic figs are on the list . I should get most  made this week.

Here's hoping those figs are worth the effort . Quince paste, membrillo is in the freezer, made with this season's quince.



The first Xmas mince pies are out of the oven. They're delicious, made with mincemeat I had in the freezer.

I've made another bowl of mincemeat and extra pastry for a few more trays of spiced Xmas pies. 
I might make a Xmas cake or just a last minute boozy fruit cake.



6 bottles of sauv blanc received from Northern Greece.
For those who enjoy fine wine and not that stuff from the plastic barrels.
Tis the festive season.


I think I've got it. By jove, I think I've got it. 



Wednesday, 1 December 2021

In With the Old

 Where is that 'stuff' that was removed from K's shed to make way for the wine?


Here it is.  All of it.
He has a chappy here to help him clear the mess and throw out crates of rubbish, old cables, bits of wood, old rusty machines, bits of metal, old rusty what-nots that 'might have come in handy'.  But it is still far from finished.  At least the shed is clear and clean.  He has put up new shelving and everything that goes back inside has its place .

My father's motto was -
'A place for everything and everything in it's place'



Meanwhile.  Three tatty old director chairs.

A friend of his is renovating his cafeteria this winter and oh what wonderful treasures we have acquired from there




A big old rusty, oil clogged toast machine
'Oh but I can clean it up and it works perfectly'.  So what
(lucky he never reads my blog)


Three light fittings on metal tubes
?


Two little old plastic tables.  ?


A ceramic light shade.
Very nice.  Was popular with tourists in the 80's
'Where will we put this'
Answer, 'nowhere'


A large, low, heavy wooden coffee table
A daughter took this away.  She has painters at their house who will rub this down, repaint and revamp.  And it shall not return.


And this 'thing' for pulling draft beer. Now there's a real treasure , he says.


Now he's clearing another, basement shed. Old doors, that bread machine that someone gave him because it didn't work, old bags of hardened cement, dried up whitewash.

I could, but 
I won't, go on and on.

My female readers I'm sure will relate. Even I'm stunned by the sheer amount that has built up. And that's only outside the actual house.

Maybe the men will just roll their eyes and wish they too had sheds to fill with treasures.

In our front yard there remains only one washing machine and that has found an owner so can't complain can I. 











Saturday, 27 November 2021

Harvest Time

Greek priorities in November.  First comes the fresh olive oil but then it's playtime 


Bringing home the wine 

Bringing home the wine 

We shall come rejoicing 

Bringing home the wine.



One of my sons-in-law has a family vineyard up in the hills above Korinth, 3 hours away.  His cousin tends the vines, gathers the grapes and turns the juice into wine.  He gets a certain percentage of the end result and the rest comes down to Poros.

This year s-in-law was busy  so we went in his place to collect 200 litres of white wine and 100 litres of red wine.  

What a trip.  The first part of the journey was ok, a well worn route for us and then onto and past Korinth on the new national road.  The only hassle was getting off the damn motorway.  Our exit was unmanned and we had to throw the coins into a basket.  Well, what a palava when you're not expecting it.  There were no other cars in sight thank god.  First we thought we were in the wrong lane so K backed out with just a few bad words.  No, the other lane was only for those with a motorway pass. Back we go in again.  Still no other cars.  He tried using a card, but no it wouldn't take our card.  So I scrabbled around and found some change, thank you that mighty power on high.

At that moment the cousin with the wine phoned to see where we were.  At the same time a voice came out of the toll machine asking us if we needed any help.  Did we ever.   I took the change, got out of the car and walked around to throw it in the basket while he got directions from the cousin.

The first car appeared so with considerably more bad words he took off with the car door open and me in the middle of the road.  I had to make a run for it waving my hands and got told off for taking too long.  Then he couldn't remember the cousin's directions so we had to stop and phone him.  Oh boy.  It really was hilarious but he didn't think so then and still doesn't.  

Next we had to go through a roundabout in a tiny settlement with farm trucks behind us and elderly men drinking raki on the corner and watching the show.  I managed to get him onto the right exit and  fortunately for me we made the correct turnoff onto a narrow country lane.  And up we went and up we went.  There were miles and miles of olive trees and now and again a vineyard.  The cousin phoned again and said he was waiting for us a few kilometres ahead.  Thank goodness.  Not only was the country lane narrow, almost one car in places, but once we got to the village he started making sharp turns up incredibly steep inclines, turning corners so tight I was sure we wouldn't make it and praying we didn't meet anything coming down.

The car made it and so did we.  My nerves were tingling rather but K manoeuvred like a pro and kept face like a male must.
I'm not going back there again.  He can take a friend if there's a next time.





The cousin decants the wine from his huge 200 litre barrels into our 50 and 60 litre containers.


The boot of the car was half filled with containers and they were tied together very securely.  I expected it to glug glug glug the whole way home but the wine hardly moved.  K's excellent, cough, cough, driving.  There was no wine smell to intoxicate the driver either.


His own wine he keeps in a wooden oak barrel.  We were given a 5 litre container of this as a present.  Thank goodness we weren't ask to taste any.  I would have got out and walked down rather than negotiate that road with a few glasses under the belt.






When we got home the family turned out to help carry the wine inside and decant it into our two bigger barrels





The boys pour the wine into the clean plastic 200 litre barrels in K's unusually clean shed.  Amazing what a few litres of free wine will drive a man to do.  All the rubbish that was in that shed though is now outside on the back terrace.  That still has yet to be cleared and cleaned.


Playtime begins.
We broached that 5 litres of the cousins own wine, matured in the oak barrel.  It was darn good.  A dark red with a taste of the local grape, different from those around here.  The boys preferred their local-own-brand wine so this 5 litres is all mine.  Was all mine.  The level has gone down considerably.

We will have our first tasting of this year's vintage on 3rd December. A most important day. My birthday. I've bought a few bottles of sauv blanc in case it's still a bit young.

Kala Krasia
As they say here
Good Wine-s






Thursday, 25 November 2021

Growing Up in NZ in the 50s and 60s

 Small NZ town living in the 50s and 60s. An essay on my childhood

The family house was built on a 2 acre property in the small township of Te Puke, New Zealand, and our Nana lived in a house right next door.  We had a market garden where my father grew aubergines and strawberries and  loads of other stuff and later this became an orchard.    We also had a large chook house, a lawn tennis court and various other areas where we had a few turkeys, geese, ducks or even lambs at one time.  The back of the property was a gulley with a small stream running through the bottom.  We would fish for eels there, drag them excitingly up to the top lawn and then not know what to do with them.  I doubt my poor mother knew what to do with an eel either, especially one still wriggling and writhing.  

We had a large chook house at the top of the gulley. My father bought day old chicks and kept them in the window of the agricultural machinery shop he ran, under a special lamp to keep them warm and alive.  When they were a week or so old he transferred them to the chook house.  I kept away from this as much as possible.  Chooks frightened me and still creep me out.  There were times when I had to feed them and collect eggs.  What a nightmare.  I opened the door and threw the feed at them and crashed it shut again.  Collecting eggs was done at a fast forward motion and with a long stick to poke the girls off their nest.  There were various yards where the chooks lived outside and sometimes they had to be moved, at night when they had perched and gone to sleep.  We all pitched in, even me.  I can still remember holding on to their warm scaly legs as we took them from one holding to another.  Stuff made for nightmares, for me.
 We always had chooks wherever we lived and I can vaguely remember at around age 5 walking into a chook house with a piece of bread in my hand.  A rooster suddenly lunged for the bread and took off leaving me screaming.  Is that where my fear of chooks came from?  

Chooks, eggs and produce from my father's market garden provided the money for our annual camping trips.  We camped all over the north island and the top of the south island, Nelson and surrounds which was where he grew up.  

My mother grew up in Wellington, the capitol, and we visited there as well.  She had loads of relatives in and around the city, as did my father.  We did the rounds and I met nearly all of my first cousins, most for the first and last time, till my father's funeral almost 60 years later.  I grew up in the Bay of Plenty.  Paradise, just as it sounds to be.  The Bay has a mild climate, long sandy beaches, lakes, mountains, endless pine forests, boiling mud pools and geysers, all not far away.
It has now become the retirement capitol of NZ. Back then it was surfers paradise. Tanned blonde bods rode the waves on long heavy boards. Two of my brothers were surfing fanatics. All three were trout fishermen as well. They trekked the lakes and rivers around us and still do when they can catching and smoking rainbow and brown trout.


My father was an avid gardener and besides his roses and cyclamens,  the large vegetable garden, the market garden, he always had a few exotic trees or shrubs as well.  We had a banana passionfruit vine which twined around the back door, a persimmon tree, a mulberry tree, boysenberries.  Feijoa trees lined the drive.  I remember those aubergines, egg plant we called them, just as much as the chooks. They were an exotic 'fruit' back then. I wonder they sold. I can't remember my mother cooking them. She would have been greeted by howls of horror from her children. What I do remember is walking barefoot through the field and squishing through a rotten eggplant. Yick. And their hard hairy stems. It wasn't till I arrived in Greece that I met them again and learnt to eat them.

Recently we thought the house was up for sale again but it turns out to be a neighbour's house.  Ours is named by Real Estate agents as the original homestead. The family built it in the 50's. Since then it has been remodelled inside but, from photos on the web, looks  basically the same.

The house was down the end of a long driveway lined with the feijoa trees, and oleanders. When we grew up and moved out, my father was transferred to another town.  The house had to be sold.  The best way to do this was to make a subdivision.  So our old driveway was widened into a road and the tennis court, orchards were sold as separate plots. There are now  houses where the orchards, chooks and tennis court were.

The road we lived on was called Beatty Avenue.  Named after Earl Beatty, Admiral of the Fleet, First Sea Lord of the Royal British Navy .  The main street of our small town is named Jellicoe Street, after Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, also an Admiral of the Fleet, so my parents thought it fitting that their new road should be named Mountbatten Place, and so it is.  Earl Mountbatten was also Admiral of the Fleet .  

My father  had a cousin who was Lord of the Fleet, Sir George Creasy.  While googling 'Admirals of the Fleet' an ad popped up from amazon mentioning him.  I clicked on it of course and discovered that an autograph of his is on sale there for 144 pounds plus 38 pounds shipping.  Strange.




Google will provide you with information and photos of just about whatever your heart desires.  I found photos of our old house as it is now.

The above photo is our outside seating area.  It is just as it was when we were kids, except there were  beds of colourful begonias around it too. The living room and the main bedroom both lead straight onto this outdoor terrace.  



Inside of the lounge looking out.  There used to be a fireplace in the middle of this room dividing the lounge from the dining room.  Right beside the fireplace was an oubliette, as my father called it.  
Oubliette means dungeon but this was a cupboard, open underneath and with a trapdoor on top.  It could be filled with wood from underneath in the basement and upstairs we simply lifted the trapdoor and took out the wood as we needed it for the fire.  A nifty idea of my father's.


The garden round the old house looks much the same as it was when we were kids.  On the right was a mulberry tree under which we could eat breakfast in the summer time.  

The only drawback about this land was the vast amount of lawn that had to be mowed and the lawn tennis court that had to be rolled by a tremendously, it seemed to me, heavy concrete roller to keep the court flat.  Otherwise the ball bounced up in all directions.  I mowed the sides down the drive and my Nana's lawn, although I'm sure I always had  excuses to avoid this.  

Our schools were 5 minutes away, the primary school just a walk over the rugby field and the High School was even closer.  My mother was a teacher at the High School.  She taught Shorthand and Typing but always reckoned that the girls should first have been schooled in grammar and spelling.  For instance my mother noted, it is wrong to say something is 'very' unique.    Unique means that it is a one and only, it's unique.  It's either unique or it's not unique it can't be 'very' or 'less' or any other adjective or adverb.  Never mind license and licence, capitol and capital and all the other traps that a good shorthand typist must not fall into if she wanted to keep her job.  In those days there was only a horrible hard grey rubber which made the mistake even more noticeable.  I shouldn't complain about google's spell checker. Now it's delete, delete , delete and no-one but me any the wiser.

Enough. 







Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Autumn Crocus

 Autumn flowers are rather few and far between


This one I've never seen before. There are several clumps along the side of the road where I walk.  It looks like a combo of a  freesia and a crocus. Whatever it is I love it's bright yellow colour.


And the crocus. I should peer inside one and if it has any saffron threads. 




Our front garden. No rubbish here . This is my territory .
A summer photo. Dry and brown.


The same view today. Lush and green. In the far corner are nasturtiums. The rest is clover





Sunday, 21 November 2021

The End of the War

 It was now obvious that the war would soon be over, so we had no desire to do many more raids, but it was equally obvious that our superiors were going to force the Germans into submission as soon as they could.  We learned that the people on Rhodes were close to starvation and that the Red Cross had landed a large number of relief parcels of food for them.  These, we were told, had been taken by the Germans, which prompted our Army Commander to send General Wagner a signal that his actions had been noted and if he did not feed the poulation he would be classified as a war criminal and tried for his crimes.  


We landed patrols on Rhodes which caused a lot of damage if the black smoke was any indication.  That night we picked up 33 Greeks and 24 Germans and rendezvoused with the destroyer Catterick.   Everywhere else the Armistice had been signed so we were careful not to be the last casualities in the war in Europe.  


The destroyer Kimberley came into Symi harbour with German  General Wagner and his staff aboard.  They were being brought to Symi to sign an armistice for the cessation of hostilities in the Aegean.  We embarked the Germans and I thought they wouldn't appreciate having their photos taken so lining up my camera I clicked the shutter as they looked sullenly seawards.  It was a beauty, even showing the duelling scars down the cheeks of one of the staff officers.  When the signing was complete we returned them to the Kimberley.


The next day we left for Rhodes.  Archbishop Damaskinos who was acting Regent of Greece arrived to look the place over.  With the Greek National Guard in uniform and our guard of honour it was a splendid occasion.


Next day my relief arrived and with very mixed feelings I handed the ML over to Lieutenant Dyer.  I embarked on Kimberley to have the smoothest trip ever to Alexandria.


It was always the same everytime I came back to Egypt and tasted of the good life ashore.  I would get gyppo tummy which would last for three or four days before I adjusted.  Then it was no holds barred.  One of our amusements was to stand on the side of the road and when a self-important Pasha was driven past in his latest American car, to jump into the roadway shouting 'taxi, taxi'.  We never got a lift except for our ego. 


Several of us waiting for transport home took a few days leave and booked in a pension in Cairo.  It was too hot for comfort so we didn't move too far afield.  Staying at the same place was a very red faced Pukka Sahib.  We were having dinner at night when the waiter brought him rice for sweet.  His face turned purple and he turned on the poor fellow. 'Coolie food.  Take the damn stuff away'.


Relaxing in the bar of the Union club one evening a soft-footed steward gently told me I was wanted on the phone.  Fearing that I was being recalled for service I reluctantly picked up the receiver to find it was cousin Hester returning from the wilds of Naxos to stir up official help for her cause.  That was the finish of any peace and quiet for me.  In no time I was calling on all the people she thought would pull strings on her behalf and she was soon getting her own way as she had already softened them up on her first visit.  I never learned if the worthy Bishop of Jerusalem had had second thoughts but almost overnight the whole situation changed.  She must have decided that the Greek islanders would receive sufficient assistance and her services would be better utilised elsewhere.  She completely abandoned them to take the Arabs of the Hadramut to her bosom.  In a few days she was gone and life returned to normal" 


And that was the end of the Greek adventure.  My father came back to Greece several times when we were living in Piraeus and then in Crete.  He enjoyed the experience, living like a greek, trying out his greek words, eating, drinking and having siestas with his half-greek family.  But he would have been happy to travel elsewhere and see the rest of the world.  It was my mother, enthralled by the history and ancient ruins that dragged him back.  One of her well known sayings was 'see Delphi and die'.

She managed to visit Delphi* twice so she died happy.


*Delphi - is known here as the navel of the world. The ruins  on the side of Mount Parnassus are from around 2,000 BC.  It is the site of  the Oracle Pythia, famous throughout the classical world for her enigmatic predicitons.  The ruins include a Treasury, temples, theatre and stadium.  The site has a magnificent view of a sea of shimmering silver olive trees.  


*Harry Creasy.  My father was only in his early twenties when he became Captain of the Motor Launch which saw action all over the Mediterranean.  The Greek Islands were only part of the story.  


*Cousin Hester Viney.  My cousin Jenny googled Hester and found a little about her and even a photo.  Isn't that amazing.  You can even google cousin Hester, circa 1925, and come upon pages of  information.  She wrote 'The Book of Breastfeeding'  and seems to have given lectures far and wide on Motherhood and Public Health, besides taking her message  to far away places and diverse peoples.



Here she is in the middles of the photo working with Arab women in Jerusalem Old City




Friday, 19 November 2021

Hester on Naxos

 Greek tales no. 2


"When we were not doing patrols or landing raiding parties we visited the various islands to 'show the flag' and create goodwill.  The Second Officer and I would leave the Coxswain in charge, hire some donkeys and visited the villages up in the hills.  In Mykonos we had a most heart warming reception.  We went to three villages, visited a dozen or so houses with the Mayor and the inevitable Greek who had spent some of his life in the US and could remember enough english to be understood.  We gave speeches, ate, drank and were merry, got kissed by countless children and a very beared priest who reeked of garlic.  Unfortunately in the excitement the donkeys had been taken away, so we had to walk miles back to the harbour.  Hours later we limped painfully aboard the ML , mouths as dry as a chip but feeling as though our duty had been nobly done.


The Aegean islands are steeped in history and mythology.  The island of Delos still had an air of mystery which seemed to set it apart.  Milos was renowned for its Venus, Rhodes once had its Colossus and we used to pass a headland which was marked on the chart 'Homer reputed buried here'.  Lemnos further north had been well known to the Gallipoli campaigners and is revered as the burial place of poet Rupert Brooke.


When we moved to Naxos I heard that an english woman had recently arrived, gathered up an escort of donkeys and guides to transport all her equipment and taken to the villages in the hills.  Without showing too much enthusiasm and with careful questioning, my suspicions were confirmed.  Cousin Hester had apparently been turned down by the Bishop of Jerusalem but had suggested to UNRRA that her ministrations were required for the poor and needy in Greece.  They had welcomed her warmly and given her passage to Alexandria where she soon had everyone dancing attendance on her.  She had organised all her medical requirements and sailed in a caique from place to place until she and her band slipped, unnoticed by the Greek authorities, into the Greek islands.  I didn't feel like an expedition by donkey up into the hills to renew acquaintance, so we headed back to base.


By mid-March the weather was getting warmer and the seas less stormy.  We were based on Symi doing patrols, checking caiques and landing raiding parties on Kos, Leros, Rhodes and other occupied territories.  On 13th April we were told Turkey had entered the war against Germany so it was now in order for us to hug the Turkish coast to avoid the Germans.  Better still we could make use of the Turkish ports.  It was always frustrating travelling up the coast at night to see all the lights blazing from the towns and villages on the way while we had to maintain a black-out both at sea and ashore.  We were ordered to go to Marmaris to make contact with the Turks and report how they reacted to us.    


As we neared the entrance we were a little apprehensive, as maybe the locals hadn't been told they were our allies and might not welcome us.  We knew there was a Naval Signals station on one of the headlands so we hoisted a few international  signals to let them know we were friendly and having located their base did some flashing with a lamp.  It must have been their morning siesta because we got no response for about half an hour.  Then someone must have spotted us as signals went flying up the flagstaff.  A Turkish soldier appeared at the entrance to the fort waving his arms with semaphore flags as if he had a hive of bees around him.  Nothing made any sense to us so we rang engines for slow ahead and with all lookouts watching for trouble from the fort we made for the  entrance to the bay.  All was quiet as we moved out of range and increased speed to close the jetty off the beach.  We tied up alongside a caique but for all the notice that was taken of us we might have been there every day of the week.  As expected there were some English speaking Turks but no-one seemed interested in us so we bought some boxes of Turkish delight and eggs and tied up for the night alongside the destroyer Active which had arrived after us.  Next morning , in an atmosphere of anti-climax, we left for Symi, keeping a watchful eye on the fort as we went out.  


After some leave in the classical atmosphere of Athens we returned to Syros where we learnt that cousin Hester was still in Naxos.  A caique going to the island next day took a parcel and a note offering my regrets at once again having missed seeing her.


Our next duty was to go to the island of Patmos where some 160 Italians had shown the white flag and had to be moved.  We took a caique with us as there were too many prisoners for us to handle on the ML.  She could only do 5 knots so we passed her a towline and got her speed up to eight.  Unfortunately, being slowed down in this way upset our timing and we had to go past the German guns on Leros and Kos in daylight which was rather a hazard.  But we passed without incident.   We found that the Italians were not on Patmos but on Lipsos which meant a return journey of about five miles close under the guns of Leros.  We loaded all the prisoners into the caique 'Pepina', waited till dark and towed them back to Patmos.  Next day we were taken up to the top of the hill to see the Monastery built to commemorate St Paul's sojourn in a nearby cave.  On the way back to Symi we noticed 'Pepina' with her cargo of Italians.  The caique was very low in the water and as the weather was worsening we took her in tow again, crawling back to Symi with a very miserable band of seasick Italians."

NB

Unfortunately I know little about cousin Hester.  She was famous in our household for being another eccentric in the family tree, the one who trekked into the dark depths of a greek island on a donkey in the middle of a world war to help the poor.  I wonder what the greek villagers thought of her.