Friday, 26 August 2016

Snails and rain

The wind was howling and blowing a gale the sort you could hardly stand up in. Bathed in dust and grit and then drenched by pouring rain nothing unusual there but not expected on my Hols on Kos. Unpredictable weather I’m used to but not on the Island, although now having spent all months of the year at some time or other there I’m no longer surprised.

It was the last week of the season, one minute on the beach albeit alone and no sunbeds, the next enjoying the sunshine outside a Taverna or two. We’d packed for good day weather,  anticipated cool nights but hadn’t brought a raincoat and now I understood why that shop in Kos town had so many umbrellas.

Boo was with us and we didn’t want to be stuck indoors  before Easy jet flew us back to the UK on the last flight of the season, so we went to Mastichari and I’ve never seen the beach deserted before, it’s usually crowded. We walked along the shore and I got sandblasted with nowhere to go for assistance. So we decided to go up to the castle overlooking Kardamena. Not a good idea, the wind nearly blew us over the edge and then the rain came down and drenched us. Dripping wet, half blinded we drove down into Kardamena and fortunately were able to get food and drink whilst looking out on a murky, miserable seascape.

Just as we were regretting our choice of a late getaway the sun came out and the warmth of its rays evaporated the rain and it smelt fantastic. So enthused by the change we decided to drive up to Zia and what a sight. Just that little amount of rain, had rejuvenated that otherwise dry, barren landscape and as if by magic green shoots and leaves were sprouting. The empty landscape was now littered with locals collecting snails in carrier bags no doubt a rare delicacy about to be enjoyed Greek style.

In fact it reminded me of the last time I’d seen people out with plastic bags wandering the roadside only this time they were collecting Prickly Pears with the aid of a plastic cup. Who needs gardening gloves? I don’t know how they prepare these either. Something to look into for the future. Don’t think the technique will work on Blackberries.

ps.Many thanks to Roger Jinkinson a recipe for Snails.
Keep them out in the rain in a net bag. After two days they will be clean. Make an onion and tomato sauce, add the snails in their shells, serve with rice and green salad.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Toilet tour on Kos

Fascinated by Greek Mythology, Greek Culture and History mum still wants to know what the Toilets are like. She bases her standards on whether she should wait till she gets home. If she can do that at 86 then I’m not going to worry long term. Mum’s got some very basic concerns about me living on Kos and this is one of them.
Well mum rest assured they do have toilets. We know you have to use the bin as the pipes are too small regardless of where you go, but usually the standard of hygiene is acceptable if not exemplary. With this toilet training issue ingrained from childhood I must admit I do still study loos in the same way and any outing on the Island has been refined to my preferred toilets. Having been locked in one on a Geography School trip to Harlech and abandoned for some time my main criteria is the lock and this standard may or may not have been met and some may have no lock at all. The issue of power cuts, however has left me locked in one particular Bar in Kefalos a few times but that isn’t their fault. So keep a torch in your handbag.
Clear signage is not so important, as long as at least 2 loos exist and preferably a door between the loos and the main venue. One set of loos in Kefalos recently reminded me of the school toilets with lots of doors off a central washing area. Still not a problem
Public toilets are few and far between although the one in Kos Town is supervised so I won’t have to worry about having the same problem as my mum. She has a habit of popping into the men’s by mistake and many a time I’ve seen her escorted out by red faced men.
I’ve never encountered just a hole in the floor on Kos like I did years ago on the beach in Aegina and the flushing systems are akin to home if not superior with the touch less flush in some. Paper has never been unavailable, although I always take precautions by taking my own.
So although my toilet tour of Kos goes without a hitch, I’m still influenced by my mother.
They're ok.


Wednesday, 17 August 2016 pays to be In with the Family.

Entry requirements to Kos = 1 Passport

Entry to the Resort= an open mind and zest for Life

Entry to become a Patriot= Make friends, share in the life of all things Greek, become passionate about the people and place

Entry to a Family or two= Love, loyalty, laughter, sharing and caring and remaining friends for years and years.

If you’ve past the test and been adopted by a Local Family or more, your experience will be so much richer for it. They will love you, look after you, be prepared to give advice and guidance whether you want it or not and it may conflict between one person and another but you have had your card marked and that is nothing like having a residents visa. When you’ve been spat on three times you know you’re in.

Boo’s first visit to Kefalos was met with spitting, eager to meet my niece γιαγιά, Frosini, Vangelia and Maria came forward with open arms and spat on her more of a Ftou, ftou, ftou. Don’t know what Boo needed protecting from.Such an honour even if Boo needed an explanation afterwards. She’s been going ever since and regards it as home. Hospitality has extended to all my friends and family to date and when you see people warmly embraced time after time you realise how different life is here. Even the language is no barrier.

Some years ago I set up a business Venture called Greek in a Week and roped my Greek Family into teaching Greek language and Cookery to guests. Isabelle, Amy and Dot saw my advert in the Times Educational Supplement and came out for the first holiday. They loved it, Cooked and ate, chatted and took part in the Family experience. Dot over dosed on water melon, although it wasn’t her I had to take to the Doctors. Isabelle got sore throat problems so we went up to the Village Doctor and sat waiting our turn. Not entirely sure whose turn it was as it was all Greek to us but people were keeping a mental note of who arrived when and so on. Yiayia was there chatting to her friends as we waited and waited. It’s always slow. The closer we got to our turn, the closer we got to the Doctors door. A bit like musical chairs and you had to keep your wits about you. Anyway when it came to us one of the Ladies disagreed and as we sat down not willing to offend anyone although worried because we were so close to lunchtime and that would be it for another day, Yiayia stood up and came to our rescue. After a few loud choice words and what appeared to be an argument we were ushered in and all was calm. You see it’s always who you know not what you know. I don’t know what Yiayia said but it worked and nobody is going to disagree with a Greek Matriarch.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Swimming pools


Sea or Pool used to be the question although the time of year did have some influence, but it’s the sea for me any day. Either has provided me with a great source of entertainment. My first years in Kefalos took me to the Hermes and they had very nice pool. Positioned half way up the hill, well placed for full sun or catching the breeze and a little shade. I always went in May so the sea option was a bit daring. I’d been going for quite some years before my friends decided to see what it was all about. Jen covered from head to toe in clothes sat in the shade and Brian messed around in the pool. I people watched.
This glamorous, young, self- assured woman lay close and opted for topless bathing, turning regularly for an even sun tan. Her man had gone off somewhere when a sudden gust of wind blew up and whipped her bikini top into the pool. Brian a former life guard dove into action retrieving her top and as he swam towards her side of the pool was rewarded with a smile and size 40DD bending over him. Always prone to exaggeration ,we just couldn’t get him to the Sea after that though.

A few years later at the Zeus Hotel, Annette, Eric and I were enjoying the rays with our backs to the hotel when a photographer arrived. He was taking shots for Holiday Brochures and would we mind being in them. We were asked to pose and look natural at the same time. How on earth do you do that? Anyway we tried I kept my sunglasses on so no one would know it was me, Ron and Eric carried on as usual and Annette proved to be a better poser than the rest of us. Children splashed about in the foreground and various shots were taken, again and again. Regrettably the eagerly awaited brochure shot finished with Eric and Annette had been cut off, all that effort for nothing.

So now I choose the Sea and if I happen to be in anyone’s Holiday shots they won’t know it’s me.

Monday, 8 August 2016

How to buy a car.......

Stay calm and think of Kefalos
Buying a car in Greece can be just as formal an affair as anywhere when it comes to paperwork. We’d been hiring cars for years and going back to teaching meant school holidays and high prices. Even Mates rates gave little respite and after years and years of hiring, our Greek friends were getting embarrassed about having to charge us especially as we were Family. So then Gianni’s persuaded us to buy and Stephanos knew someone who knew someone who wanted to sell his car.

So we agreed to purchase the Ford Focus and shook hands on the price and agreed to go ahead. We rendezvoused informally at a coffee shop, had the usual discussion about how old we were. Where we came from, how many children, do we work, how much money we earn, do we have our own house etc. You know the sort of chat you have in Greece during the first five minutes, followed by our Greek car owner giving us his life history and future plans and so we agreed to meet at the Car Tax Office.

Second day rendezvous at the office meant we required another office and another form. So third day rendezvous turned out to be the Police Station in Kos Town (go to Antimachea it’s far easier). We were told to wait in a queue right next to the open / grilled jail. Unhappy prisoners talking to us through the bars all hot and bothered like us. So we waited and waited, getting close to lunchtime put us in a bit of a panic as that usually meant come back tomorrow. Anyway time passed and we reached the front of the queue. “Why are you here? You don’t need to come here when you’ve already got a tax number and residents permit. Doesn’t the man in the Car tax office know what he’s doing? Too late it’s lunchtime.

Fourth Day rendezvous back at the car tax office. Everything is going ok until Mr Car Tax man says to our seller Michalis you need form blah blah blah  “It’s at home he says”. With our will to live rapidly diminishing, Mr Car Tax man says “No worries just give it to me tonight, your sisters cooking and we’ve got Mousaka”.

So formalities meet Greek family members and suddenly Michalis is Car Tax man’s brother in law and all is well. What can you do?

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Mosquitos no way.

The only thing that puts me off the warm summer nights are mosquitos. I like to sleep with the windows open and so the dilemma begins . Do I risk being bitten or do I stay cool?  Do I tuck myself under the sheets with PJ's covering all exposed areas and at the same time hug a previously frozen bottle of water or do I try something else. So over the years I've tried a number of techniques.

Plug ins seem to work as long as you're immediately in the flight path. Sprays and slow burn coil candles are designed to stop you breathing and the coil has been known to explode producing thick, smelly black smoke. Battery operated devices designed to emit the signal of either male or female mosquito don't seem to function and Citronella candles blow out .

So I've resorted to tenting with a lesser or greater degree of success. I use to affix Netting to the window openings but the tape kept falling off. I've sourced the ideal Mosquito net on the Net and found self -supporting tents or Pods.

They do the trick although they have the habit of falling down in the night and it does take two to erect them one struggling to hold one set of bendy wires up while the other tries to match the other uprights. They do inhibit reading in bed as any weight pushed against any side causes the thing to collapse so no chance of any other activities. Safe from Mosquitos as long as you don't move.

Absolutely no good after a night of drinking as the inside/outside zip takes delicate movement and drunken forgetfulness causes a major catastrophe and many a night my niece and I have seen a Tent covered figure ricocheting off the wardrobe on its way to the loo. By the morning said figure has needed to be unravelled from the netting and supports with bites to exposed parts.


Monday, 1 August 2016

Sunrise Sunset

The colour of the sky here at sunrise and sunset reveals all the colours of the rainbow gently melding into Blue or Black. The night sky is so black, illuminated only by the stars and moon, but last night the moon forgot to show, an eerie experience looking out across the black sea of Kamari Bay. The full moon of last week was such a contrast with it’s friendly face clearly visible and so large.
There are so many places to see the sunrise and sunset to best effect, be it from up in Zia, at Agios Theologos also known as sunset wave or anywhere you're prepared to stop and stand and stare. Always take your camera. Awesome.