Wednesday 28 February 2024

It's Over

Surgery all done and dusted.

The Greek health system works well.  I had excellent treatment in our  rural small- city hospital. My stay and surgery was free. I had a sympathetic doctor, nurses who were always cheery and on the ball.

We gave 'thank you' money to the doctor and anaesthetist but neither had their hands out.

Some demand and some don't. 

A year ago I had my cataract operation at this hospital.  The eye doctor wouldn't even set a date for my cataracts until he saw that fat little white envelope with a 'deposit'.  His manner changed in an instant and my 2 year wait was suddenly over.

It's a corrupt system, illegal, not helped by us. But it's hard to know what to do.  

We had a wee upset when getting the once-over from the cardiologist.  He told me I was a high risk patient, something to do with 2 valves. He insisted I must have had trouble walking and wouldn't have been able to climb stairs without being very short of breath and dizzy. Whereas  I've  never felt fitter. My own cardiologist gave me a scan 3 months ago and pronounced me in great condition, and stands by that now . 

The problem would have been with the anaesthesia. The anaesthetist asked me a whole load of questions, said the hospital doc was known to over exaggerate but decided on an epidural drip. 

That's a weird feeling, not being aware of my body below the waist. Listening to doctors and nurses chatting as they take my insides out, snip off bits and pieces and replace it all, correctly.

 The day before my surgery K was sent off to another rural hospital to pick up 2 litres of blood. My daughters are blood donors and the procedure, on paper, is handled by the local council.  It wasn't needed but they like to have it on standby.  That's the 2nd time he has transported blood in our car.  It's usually done by ambulance but they were all tied up.

The gyno ward is in the old part of the building and there were only 2 of us there. An Albanian girl who had a cesarian in one room and me in another. We both departed  the same day, leaving an empty ward.

The rooms on this ward are old.  No TV because there are no connections.  It would have helped to pass the days after surgery, especially for K who sat by my bedside all day. I had a book  and both had our phones, and a plug to recharge. The central heating was a bit noisy but kept me warm as toast day and night.

The bathroom was clean but ancient.  Toilet bowl without a lid, small basin and a shower head attached to the wall without either a shower tray or a curtain.  It would have been a very wet room if I had wanted to use it. 

I had a room mate for a few hours on the first day. May the woman live long and healthily, but nowhere near me, please.  Ye gods and little fishes. She spoke in a ringing voice to everyone all day long. She phoned all her friends and told them all in detail, and very loudly, why she was there, a minor procedure. She introduced herself, and me, to everyone from the cleaner to the trolley bearer. She wouldn't shut up. 

The only photo I took
Old hands

Like most rural hospitals many of the patients are Roma (gypsies).  They never come alone.  The whole family tags along, from babe in arms to ancient matriarch.  They're noisy and the kids run along the corridors, opening and closing doors.  At nights when the hospital was on standby duty I could hear them down in the yard yelling at each other.  A few months ago there was a gunfight at this hospital when 2 families got into an argument.
All part of the colour.

Food.  I can't complain because I was there for surgery.  However, after 2 days of nothing and 3 days of boiled chicken and soupy rice it was getting boring to say the least.  The sound of the dinner trolley is the day's excitement.  It got to be a joke between us and the trolley lady.  Boiled chicken again.  On the last day I got roast chicken.  What a delight.
I lost 2 kilos.

So I'm home and recovering.

Tuesday 20 February 2024


From a blog post written 

Friday 31 March 2017

Have you suffered from the evil eye?  I have. Sometimes it is a feeling of illness, other times it maybe some sort of accident. 

 Once, all dressed up for a wedding, I was told I looked radiant.  I stepped out onto the road and fell flat on my face.  All was well with the wedding outfit but not my face.  No-one noticed how 'radiant' I was looking because all they saw was a big red scab on the end of my nose. 

The evil eye can also be sent by thoughts of envy or just plain nastiness or even unconsciously by someone with blue or green eyes.  If looks could kill.  The laser-like rays of some glances can cause disaster.

Soon after we bought our house we came one evening to clean up after the builders and as usual it turned into a semi-party with the arrival of children and grandchildren.  As we left we had to pull over  to allow our next door neighbour to pass in her car.   We still hadn't formally met her though of course she knew who we were and we knew her by name.

As our cars passed, in convoy, on the narrow lane she gave  us a penetrating stare.  Lo, but the first car knocked off its wing mirror turning the first corner onto the main road.  Our own car developed an oil leak and we only just managed to make it home.  As we walked into our old house the hot water pipe burst flooding the kitchen.

She was also the one who walked into the house just as I took a cake out of the oven. It had risen nicely ...... until a few minutes after she left. The middle of the cake collapsed. It looked like a darn volcanic crater.

She is such a nice lady but we are always careful now and furtively spit three times when in her presence and 'turn us all about'.

So have a good day and I spit on you!

Evil Eyes

 Eyes have deadly rays that can bring harm to others said ancient Greek writer Plutarch. 

The evil eye is a big part of Greek culture. Even the Greek church acknowledges it and has a special prayer to cure those suffering

You are afflicted by the evil eye when someone gives you a false compliment, thinks envious thoughts or sends ill wishes.  

In our house, the car,  we have blue eye symbols to avert the curse. You can also wear an item of clothing inside out. 

Spitting 3 times after giving a compliment will confuse the devil and keep the evil eye away. It also tells the person you're admiring that you're genuine in your feelings.

What happens when you're stricken? K will start non-stop yawning and he might get a headache and feel nauseous. You just feel unwell and weak.

When I first arrived in Greece many moons ago all the taxis had blue eye amulets and beads hanging over the dashboard and every donkey had blue beads hanging over it's head or around it's ears.

If you do receive  negative energy and start excessive yawning then the answer is to phone an aged aunt who knows how to remove the curse. They may know a special prayer or use appropriate words over a glass of water with a drop of oil. Another way is to cross your arms, hands under your armpits, and say the Lord's Prayer 3 times.

Either way, spit on yourself 3 times when you're finished and shake yourself to send the evil eye away. 

Here are some of the blue eyes and beads we have around us

From the baptism of a friend's baby. Sugared almonds in a blue bag with the eye to keep the baby safe

Blue beads and a small eye on my quad bike keys. Along with a kiwi 

A crocheted eye given to us by a friend

Garlic and fish net hanging over our gate. To stop visitors with ill intent they say. 

An evil eye charm for the car key ring. Not quite sure what the elephant has to do with it

A new wine brand with the eye on it's label 
Not cheap! Guarantee of a good vintage? Perhaps

Monday 12 February 2024

Medical Journeys

In the last 2 months I've had medical appointments in the small city of Nafplio. Nafplio used to be only an hour away but because of a rock fall, months ago, which blocked the main 'highway' we now have to climb up through mountain villages and come down a steep mountain road with endless hairpin bends.  It takes about 45 minutes longer and is a tedious journey.

There have been more rock falls, apparently, and the opening of the 'highway' which skirts the sea, avoiding the villages and cutting a journey to civilisation in half, doesn't seem to be on the horizon. 

To reach the city and make it in time for a morning appointment we have to be on one of the early car ferries and take our time climbing up through narrow roads.

One of the appointments was early January and one of the worst days of winter.  We were up early, unable to sleep before the journey, and decided to leave on the earlier car ferry to the mainland. 

It was pouring with rain and poured all darn day. We dashed out, only to find a door and a window had been left open. 

Our ghost, Baba Lazaros, or a human hand? 

The driver's seat was soaking wet. And of course we had a flat battery.

There was weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. And a bit of cursing. 

K, being a man who can fix anything,  has a battery charger. He wired up the battery and we waited twenty minutes.

Great sighs of relief when the car started. We made the next car ferry, making sure to let the engine run, which is a usually forbidden when the ferry is at sea. It was wet and miserable and no-one cared. 

What a day . Besides the constant rain, there was fog once we got up into the mountains and negotiating  those hairpin bends was nerve wracking (or racking, or even wrecking) . 

That mountain road has half a dozen road-side shrines marking fatal accidents. Not something you want to see appearing out of the fog. A graphic reminder of the danger. 

But, we made the appointment. And, made an appointment for more tests another day. 

On the way home the fog had lifted but the car kept missing a beat.

The problems of having an old car.  We drove home, an uneasy silence in the car till we got down to the plains before Poros. It was fixed a few days later. 

On our next trip to Nafplio for some gynecological tests it was a beautiful day. We even made it to the German giant Lidls for some shopping therapy, a few bottles of French sauv blanc and some decent sausages.

However we had more problems with the car. The revs wouldn't go down when K took his foot off the accelerator. Another slow and uneasy return journey. Back to the mechanic it went the next day. Got that sorted out. Cross fingers, spit spit spit, it just passed the warranty test and is purring like a cat full of cream. 

I've finally got a date for an operation. After 18 months, 2 years? So long I can't remember.

The sooner the better. Moving around is getting to be very uncomfortable and at times painful. 

They can remove all the non working bits of me they want. I'm having a hysterectomy. Hoorah. 

The little white envelopes full of 'grease' are ready and waiting. 


One of the joys of the journey. Flamingoes on a local estuary. 

Another joy is the city of Nafplio. It's a smaller city surrounded by many ancient ruins, citadels and castles, a picturesque old town and a big twice weekly market. The coffee we have in the centre of the shopping district is almost half the price of a Poros coffee even though it's very touristy. 

 K loves the traditional cafenion where the old men congregate. It's got good wine, an excellent selection of traditional snacks and it is right next to the hospital and cheap. I sit and people watch and look for photo opportunities. 

Most of all we have to keep the boy happy. 

One sunny day when it's all over we shall have a pleasant outing in Nafplio, drinking capuccino in the old town, wandering through the market, taking a trip on the little tourist train and stopping at one of those mountain villages on the way home to eat grilled lamb chops. Says me. I don't think I'll ever get K on a little white  train and he will definitely groan if I mention ancient ruins or a picturesque lane. Unless there's a good place to eat at the end of it. 

Maybe I'll get to eat a platter of grilled lamb chops at a village taverna and appreciate small blessings and my good health. 

Sunday 4 February 2024

All For Poros Strays

Last weekend, before the storm hit, we had a book and bric a brac sale with proceeds going to feed stray cats and dogs and buy medicine for them .

These 3 heroines, my daughters, brought 30 odd boxes full of heavy books down a steep flight of steps, loaded up the car and took them down to an office on the harbour. 

The books were from the private library of English friends of ours who are selling their house on Poros. 
Their book shelves were full of books in very good condition, and a lot were complete sets. 
Thanks Judy and Steve. 
There are still some beautiful hard backs up there. They were too heavy to haul around. Tomes of
 cookery and sailing books, amongst others, full of lovely glossy photos. 

This is Isis, our most efficient librarian. She spent one night sorting all those paperbacks into categories and authors and setting them out in the offices of Greek Sails. 
A bit different from her other job of skippering yachts!

And Jan who organises fund raisers for local animals and does hands-on feeding and medicating. 
Years ago she used to organise bazaars, real bazaars as only the English know how. We used to have such fun rummaging through racks of clothes, books and bric a brac. Then the Greeks took over. They have no idea how a bazaar works and probably can't imagine why anyone would want other's cast-offs. Their bazaars had little of interest and just died out. 

This is Rudi, one of the strays. He needs daily medication and has been adopted by Isis. 
He was the star of the day. Most people coming in knew his story and he lapped up a lot of attention

Cecile, another local alien, from Belgian, modelling this fine coat. She supplied the office space, and made coffee and a pot of spiced mulled wine which went down very well with the book browsers. 

One of the white elephant stalls 
I bought 3 salad bowls. Do we really need anymore?? I keep complaining of the 12 we already have! 
These ones are smaller and fit better on a table already groaning with platters and plates. 

Cecile chatting in the sun. 
She's an excellent saleswoman, drawing in passers-by and showing off the wares. 
I didn't leave with only books and salad bowls. But I would have if she hadn't presented all the other possibilities. I filled up the car with a small table, curtains, magazines, and a few other items. 

Jan and Rudi
Note that fabulous hat!

We all had a lot of fun besides raising funds. The sale went on for both Saturday and Sunday. They were the best 2 days I've had in a long time. 
Isis and Cecile, mother and daughter, are an extremely capable duo and lots of fun too. Many of the English expats came by for a browse, a drink and a bit of chatter. Many were old friends and others just faces I see in the supermarket or on the road. Now I know their names as well.