Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Elf and Safety part 2. Don't trip over the ruins.

To say walking around Kos you’re likely to stumble across ruins is absolutely true. The remains of ancient monuments poke up out of the undergrowth on rough ground; Columns lay on their sides toppled through age, battle and earthquakes. Mosaics hide under sandy soil and hessian mats and figurines of ancient beauties and warriors lie as dismembered bodies over the ground. Fragments of vases and pots mingle with the soil and deeper in the earth no doubt coins and other everyday bits and bobs remain hidden.

Just take a stroll along the Beach at Kamari Bay and you’ll see ruins still holding back time as they have been exposed during excavation for a hotel. Agios Stefanos boasts the Roman temple clinging to the promontory near Club Med and on the road to Agios Theologos you’ll come across an amphitheatre hugging the mountain side.

The Castle still stands on a high outlook overlooking the Bay. These are the sites you can’t miss if you are observant but will not be sign posted or covered in railings with keep out signs and warnings against danger.

On your way to Kos high above Kardamena stands the Castle to the order of St John and dotted here and there across the landscape who knows what hidden gems lay waiting to be exposed or have been used as a vessel for watering the goats. No good for flip flops and you'll need a head for heights and big strides as the stone steps are high and rough.

Kos town and the medieval castle of Neratzia dominates the Port.Not a hand rail in sight, Dead ends, excuse the pun, with steep drops off in front and a go where you like attitude without a Job's Worth spouting Forbidden.


And walk round the town and you’ll come across a vast area of archeological ruins of buildings of the Hellenistic and Roman eras - the gymnasium, Odeon, Temple of Aphrodite Temple of Hercules, Roman baths and the Roman villas with mosaic fragments. Aqueduct connects the fortress with a small area, on which stands an ancient plane tree, planted according to legend, Hippocrates. Still no signs of health and safety. Dozens of cats and kittens hog the limelight, sunbathing on the flat stones and preening on the pillars. 

I love the laid back attitude, the informality, the recognition of their Cultural Heritage in an understated way and shall enjoy discovering Greek History wherever it pops out at me.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Elf and Safety!! part one.

If you ever get the chance to watch builders here in Kefalos, do so, it is very entertaining!!  No such thing as steel toecaps, hard hats, hi-viz jackets, eye protectors etc.!! I’ve been watching my house build through the eye of a lens and so far the only misdemeanor I’ve observed is the odd Toilet break and a pee over the side of the hedge.The new build regulations appear to have turned the setting out for the foundations into some kind of dot to dot experience meets French skipping with lines and strings everywhere and that’s only for the foundations so no way would you want to walk the site in the dark even if they had lights and tape round the site.

There was the time a couple of years ago when a house was being built where a friend lives.  A very large hole was dug, along came the cement lorry and the base was laid, the concrete dried and so the house took shape.  The first floor grew and then the steel rods for the top floor columns were shrouded in wooden shuttering, lined with blue polystyrene and filled with concrete.  Once the concrete had dried, a simple job of unbolting the shuttering, knocking off the wooden planks with a hammer and, hey presto, lots of blue clad concrete pillars, ‘simples’ as a certain meerkat would say.  The problem was getting to the bolts on the outside, scaffolding I hear you say, err, no!!  One guy with a wrench in his hand stood on the very edge, another stood behind him and held onto his belt and with one hand, the first guy then leant out as far as possible to reach the bolt and unscrewed it and  then hauled back in by his friend!! 
On the subject of scaffolding, as previously mentioned, what scaffolding?  If it has to be used it is usually made up of assorted poles, planks, crates, pallet boards, anything that can be used is.  If a job can be done without scaffolding even by sitting on another guy’s shoulders so much the better!!
The houses are built mainly of concrete, gaps between columns are filled with bricks and the whole lot is then sprayed with cement.  To create a block effect design on the cement is a simple job of scoring the cement with a very sharp blade across a sprit level.  Forget the scaffolding, all you need is one guy with the blade and one guy with the spirit level and something convenient to stand on.  The guy down the bottom stands on a crate or something similar, puts on a baseball cap, holds the spirit level up against the wall in the correct place, bends his head down, squeezes his eyes tight shut and, I should imagine, prays.  The guy up the top lays down on the roof, balcony whatever flat surface is above where he needs to be, wriggles as far over the edge as he needs to, leans down and scores the concrete with his sharp blade.  Hey presto, job done!!!
How true it is, but I have been told that to paint a high wall all you need is a long plank, a roller on the end of a long pole, two friends and two whatever to balance the plank on.  One friend either end of the plank jump up in unison while you stand in the middle, when they land on the ends of the plank you bounce upwards and therefore can reach higher up the wall.  To paint the top of the wall, no problem, just go up on the roof, lie down, lean over the edge and paint downwards!!
I shall continue to watch my house build closely as the new regulations seem to be making a mountain out of a mole hill and new EU rules mean a close inspection of proceedings from the man who knows and as GPS is now the eye of Big Brother there should be no chance of building in the wrong place. I still can’t imagine the focus will be on personal safety so it remains to be seen if scaffolding arrives on site..


Monday, 7 November 2016

Ah! peace and back to nature.

On the last afternoon on the beach near Agios Stefanos before the flight home there was nobody around except Boo, Bev and me. The sea was as calm as a millpond and the soft contours of the Islands opposite rose up out of the sea. The little boat swayed gently in the swell and there was no sound other than the lapping of the water against its side. As the sun started to set the warmth dropped and we decided to go for a stroll.
A flock of seabirds flew in from across Kamari Bay and on mass dipped into the sea. Again and again they dove down and vanished into the water after a shoal of fish. I’d never seen anything like it before.

As we strolled along past the ruins towards Club Med a black sea urchin seemed to have lost its way lying on the shoreline while others clung to the rocks around the ruins.

A red damselfly basked on a piece of driftwood on the beach a strange place to see such a delicate creature.

We stepped out towards the rock pools and a small crab disappeared hurriedly into the sand, we almost missed it as its camouflage matched the sand so well. Hugging the rocky shoreline a long green and black striped fish swam in a small shoal. They had trumpet like faces, unlike eels. Earlier in the day the fishermen were benefitting from an abundance of sea bream as they swam close to the walls along the front in the bay.

We’d driven down to Paradise in the morning as the last of the sunbeds were removed until next summer and the Goats spread out across the road taking full advantage of an empty beach and no cars other than mine.

Back up to the apartment to pack and the Black and Grey Rooks helped themselves to Lucy’s dog food and water bowl. As the season was ending it was clear that the wildlife was ready to take back their home.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

My Big Fat Birthday Experience

When you’ve been invited to a kids Birthday party images of jelly and ice cream, cocktail sausages immediately spring to mind, with kids running around screaming and playing organised party games. And when I was a child in the 60’s the added bonus of sharing germs and catching Chicken Pox. Mumps or Measles. I’m sure parties are so much more sophisticated nowadays  but I didn’t know what to expect from a Greek one.

My Big Fat Birthday Experience for little Dimitris’ I’m 2 Birthday party was fantastic. Food, food, glorious food. Not a crisp or cheesy Wotsit in sight. Papou George barbecuing Souvlaki and sausage and other meats, Papou Dimitri playing mine host and ferrying freshly prepared salads, pittas, pies and all sorts of finger food to the table as it sagged under the weight of delicious Greek food. The Grandmothers mingling with the guests ensuring everyone one was happy and eating. The wine wasn’t flowing at 6 in the afternoon as everyone seemed to be enjoying Frappe but Boo my sister and I did get a carafe of wine.

The desserts were to die for and as Gianni’s is a Patissier what else would you expect and the Birthday cake was a work of art. I know I’m focusing heavily on the food but it was just so good and of course so……much. Families beautifully dressed arrived with their children and everyone sat around chatting. The kids ran around playing with each other and a few sat quietly playing on their Tablets. The atmosphere of happiness and contentment pervaded.

The Birthday song was sung in Greek and English. I don’t know why, but everyone knew the words and the blowing out of the candles met with almost as much excitement as the bashing of the Pinata. The Kids actually took their turns and went off happily clutching sweets .We left early as more people arrived, more food was served and more happy chatting could be heard. I only wish I liked Candyfloss as looking back into the room it was so sweet to see the kids queuing up for the freshly made pink confection.I’m looking forward to the next party.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

It's not the same........thank goodness

‘It’s not the same’

Having been a regular visitor to Kos for the past twenty two years you forget how different it is to life in the UK and it was brought into sharp focus last week when my sister came to Greece for the first time.

The close proximity of the airplane to the terminal begs the question….” Do we really need a coach to arrivals?” when all it does is circumnavigate the plane and travel about 100 yards to passport control when once through to baggage reclaim it’s anyone’s guess which of the three carousels your luggage is placed on.

Then out through to the car park to hunt the car in the dark with key strategically placed but no need for a ticket. The return Journey to an airport no bigger than ASDA is just as confusing with no real idea as to which queue to get into until you look around for anyone who might be on the same flight as you and once through passport control if you fancy a cigarette then you can pop back out.

Who’d imagine you can leave your car unlocked and not worry where you park it as long as it’s not on the seafront in Kos town. Ok my car looks a bit beaten up and neglected but it goes as long as you don’t mind the alarm pinging every time you go over a bump as the door has dropped and the close door warning bell keeps reminding you to slam it. A bit disconcerting to someone used to the AA being available for a breakdown and how would someone find you anyway as most of the roads don’t seem to have names.

The relaxed atmosphere in the Cafes and restaurants when your order takes so long to come you forget what you’ve ordered can be a bit unsettling and my dad would have left many a café disappointed. You just get used to the pace of life but if you’re used to rushing here and there and juggling job, family, and dog walking then it can take a while to get in the zone. And what of cigarette smoking don’t the Greeks know the EU banned it? The menu choice is a whole new topic but I love Greek food so not a problem for me.

What about the loos? State of the art, sensor operated taps stylish décor or basic with stiff doors and let’s hunt the light switch they still all have a bin for the paper.

Super beaches, dog walking allowed and no pooper scoopers and not a life guard in sight. So what do you do if you’re in trouble? Hope for someone walking along to rescue you.

Shops like Magic emporiums in the village with everything in there and in no particular order. I think the only time Kos was ‘the same’ was the coin for the trolley at Carrefour. And where else in the world does the Assistant Bank Manager stop mid flow to pay for her Meat delivery from the butcher before resuming your meeting to arrange internet banking as long as you have a mobile phone.

But the cake shops are to die for. No pun intended what about Health and Safety? That’s another Blog post entirely.

There are so many things we faced during the week where my mantra was ‘it’s not the same’ that I’d bore you if I kept writing. But feel free to add all the things you can think of that aren’t the same.

At least the next visit won’t be such a culture shock and I know reassuringly Kos and the Greeks won’t be any different. But one thing for sure by 28th October you could easily mistake my lovely sister for a Greek woman all wrapped up in warm clothes and not shorts and a T shirt.