October Late or Late October

October

The blogs seem to have become fewer and further between. Maybe the experience of Crete is losing its novelty. I see you are all nodding in agreement with a silent ‘I told you so! In a way, of course, it is, as life settles into a ‘new normal’ , but the place is no less enchanting for all that.

Just now we are in an ‘Indian Summer’ – whatever that means. The temperature this afternoon is around 28°C • Clouds this morning have given way to aclear blue sky and we will go swimming later this afternoon. The evenings are very noticeably long now, with sunset at 1847 and counting.

October 24th – clocks go back tonight, well technically tomorrow at 0300. Since I started this episode of bloggery, we have had storms and rain, today back to a clear blue sky so we made a day of it and drove to the South coast – Paleochora. Stunning mountains, deep valleys, caves, goats and very twisty roads.

Lunch outdoors followed by a doze in the sun and a long swim in shallow sea over sand. Something about the bay made me not want to swim out to the rocks. Southern Crete can have rips and I get nervous, so we just hung about in water only just out of our depth. As usual we had the masks and snorkels. Only s few small fish and they hung around us as we played around in the water. One small unfamiliar fish with an elegant forked tail. Just sort of fish coloured with a black body spot and I think small spots on that pretty tail. Even now the water is warm enough to stay in for almost an hour.

WORK

For the last week or so we have been launching our earthMusic library aimed to coincide with Bristol’s virtual Wildlife Festival. I produced a launch newsletter and Al has been on networking duty. Here it is FYI

http://mailchi.mp/dd486e336c37/earthmusic-aunch

But please don’t feel you have to read it. I won’t be testing you!

COVID-19 news

The Chania district is on level 1 (lowest) of the Greek 4 tier system. There is a comprehensive description of what this means on the Greek.gov website. It is in Greek, and seems to mean we are ‘Ready’. Mask wearing is encouraged if not actually compulsory except in shops. Not much enforced, so far as we can see. We made a rare foray into Chania city for part 2 of a root canal (I won’t speak about the first part), and I thought I would get an eye test for reading glasses, since I often have trouble distinguishing α from σ in Greek texts. Of course, less help from context than in English. Sounds simple? Not at all. After about 45 minutes of ‘which is better, one or two?’ The hipster optician thought that I may have a very early cataract. Am I reaching a high medical maintenance stage of life? Al was so traumatised, he had to buy a cheese pie at what I interpret as the Greek version of Gregs!

News?

At suppertime we tend to watch rolling news from France 24, sometimes Al Jazeera and occasionally BBC. France 24 has a nightly debate on a current topic – usually shades of opinion but not the ‘in the red corner, in the blue corner’ style that the BBC tends to adopt.

Netflix?

We watched DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: A LIFE ON OUR PLANET. What to say? A good try David? Some emotional moments and a suggestion that the planet can’ t support so many carnivores. Maybe more than a suggestion that people should just stop eating meat. (And adopt an even less enthusiastic attitude to reproduction.) His conclusion? Re-wild the planet. OK. But it is a fight that has to be taken directly into politics and I don’t think he makes that leap. The politics of food, farming, fishing… Usual dodging around the world style, with all the super pix we havbeen used to, but this time an admission that what we see on the screen is a very small slice of the actual environment, whether it is Borneo, Madagasca or the Arctic. A hardly moving shot of an orangutang clinging improbably to what looks like a single tree, the remnant of what was once a rain forest. A polar bear swimming in an ocean devoid of ice floes. Heartbreaking.

THE BUILDING PLOT UP DATE

We heard that the Government has temporarily backed off sake of the plot restrictions, but without enough certainty to allow us to buy. Unless we choose a village plot. This throws up the question- how do we want to live? Splendid architectural isolation or an interestingly designed house actually the village? I think I favour a bit of both. We are broadening the search, if only to remind ourselves that we are probably in the right place.

Of course there is the slight worry that the UK economy will hit the wall, resulting in the GBP turning into a pile of newly minted 50 pence pieces bearing the legend ’Sucks to Europe’. In which case, we will be building a beach hut.

READING? Too many ‘one a year’ thrillers, despite some better suggestions. Sally Rooney’s NORMAL PEOPLE. I am also reading HENRY MILLER’s COLOSSUS OF MAROUSSI. Some highly opinionated (and colourful )characterisations of the Greeks, and some damning descriptions of the English abroad. I think it was Lawrence Durrell who dubbed Britain ‘PUDDING ISLAND’.

I am also dipping into my friend Stuart Harris’s unpublished Memoirs. A reminder that however well we know people, there’s always such interesting stuff that we didn’t know. Stuart’s remind me a bit of reading ‘Lucky Jim’. Oh, just finished HOUSE OF CORRECTION by Nicci French, Recommended.

We get actual paper copies of THE ECONOMIST and the NEW SCIENTIST, although they are a couple of weeks late, and often arrive in pairs like London Buses.

PODCASTS Etc.

Did I already say that I love ‘THE DAILY’ from the N Y Times, ‘THIS JUNGIAN LIFE,’ THE NEW STATESMAN? There is so much great stuff out there. The Statesman podcast I particularly like because the contributors all sound so young and clearly inhabit a totally different world. And I think it is Stephen Bush who says ‘like’ so much that you really feel his mother should have a word with him.

YOGA

As you probably know, I am sustained by ZO0M yoga. I am currently following a short series from STEPHANIE QUIRK in Sydney. I have to use recordings because of the time difference, but Stephanie is a model of clarity and has distilled her knowledge over 2 decades with the Iyengar family in Pune.

And then there’s my teachers, Lynda and Gerry. I feel as though I have never left when I do a class with them. There is often the added benefit of seeing friends and classmates in their bedrooms, living rooms or yoga studios. Even hearing the teacher naming them brings a sense of connection.

Olives

It’s olive harvest and here’s my very own crop from the trees around our house. Next I have to bash them with a rock to split them, then a daily change of water for a week, followed by packing them into a jar with salt and waiting for an unspecified length of time. I’ll get back to you on the success of the project.

And finally – here’s a moody sunset at the end of a stormy day.

Food and Drink

MUSIC – Captain Stavros

In the 6 months or so that we have been here in Crete, we have eaten out a handful of times – always outside or on a terrace and only a few times with friends here in Marediana, outdoors since the Pandemic got serious.

While were still in our mountain hideaway, our friends Mick and Sue were at their house on the Akrotiri peninsula; it’s the other side of Chania, where we stopped to buy a ukulele. As difficult to park as ever. I drove into the same parking structure twice (different entrances) and each time was told I had to have an employee park my car, even though the second time I had put it in a free space. Eventually found a space in a small street, next to a deserted house which of course, set off a whole train of thought. Most people on the street wearing masks. First time in CHANIA since we arrived at the airport at the beginning of March. Strange to be in an actual city.

Arrived at their house after some Google map street exploring, then straight off to the Beach Shack.

https://goo.gl/maps/1Awz3EPNZ3hBRoju5

The shack is run by a French woman and the food is Greek with flair. Smoked aubergine to make anyone swoon. Lovely afternoon with friends, such a valuable and rare experience in these times. Beautiful evening drive back to our temporary home in the mountains.

This morning I am sitting on the terrace drinking ginger tea.

So what is new? I have been struggling with enjoyment of tea ever since my second pack of Provamel ran out. The local supermarket used to have unsweetened ALPRO soya milk, but now that has disappeared. I have tried the slightly sweet but I couldn’t really get on with that either!

And of course we have completely run out of English style Τ bags. Eschewing LIPTON’s yellow bags, we have tried just about anything else that’s available in Kissamos and Kolimbari. Dalfour produce an organic variety with an elaborate string device and some sort of plasticisied individual wrap. AL manages with Twinings red tea bags, also individually wrapped and tagged. My salvation has been loose Earl Grey in a tin, also Twinings. And I have resorted to cow milk which the Early Grey hides quite well. Which brings me to this morning’s ginger tea.

I realised that I was missing not only my friend and teacher LYNDA, but also her excellent ginger tea. After a couple of weeks of internal whining, I finally realised that I could make my own. And I don’t mind it with cow milk. It still lacks the right hook to the jaw punch of ‘English’ tea but it works .”

I really thought that this blog would be very easy to write because them is so much to say, but at turns out to be the problem.

MISSING INGREDIENTS

Apart from the tea, coriander, tofu, Quorn (sorry about that), maple syrup, taramasalata (I know, the only good one here from our friend Despoina’s kitchen) – so not much really. Ice cream, kind of, although it’s a weakness. Like many women, I can demolish half a litre in some moods. Worst we do here is a double Magnum (Magic) between two.

My weekly shop usually starts at the greengrocer (μανάβης) but I am a bit anxious because he doesn’t wear a mask. Last week his son was working. He had no problem with wearing a mask and was careful to make sure that it covered his nose. Anyway, there is good supply of fresh veg. and fruit, mostly sourced from Crete, or at least Greece, mainly seasonal, of course, but given the area of plastic tunnels here, tomatoes peppers and aubergines will probably be available through the winter. Watch this space.

There’s one recipe that I found a really unusual combination of chick peas and rice with a secret ingredient:

Greek Chickpeas and Rice with Lemon & Tahini

“This one-pot traditional Greek chickpeas and rice is a delicious comforting meal and the lemon-tahini takes it to another level.”

By Elena Paravantes

1 1⁄2 cup canned or 3⁄4 cup dry chickpeas

1 tablespoon tahini

Juice from 1 1⁄2 lemons plus more for serving 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion chopped

1 garlic clove minced

3⁄4 cup uncooked medium grain rice 1⁄2 teaspoon salt (I used brown rice)

Pepper

1 bay leaf

Parsley

Instructions

If using dry chickpeas: soak overnight, next day simmer for 20-40 minutes until cooked but not mushy, drain set aside and save 2 cups of the cooking water. (I cook dried chick peas in my pressure cooker but your choice!)

In a medium pot heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté onion until soft. Meanwhile in small bowl mix the tahini with the lemon juice and 3-4 tablespoons of water.

Once onion is soft, add garlic and sauté for a minute, then add rice and beans and stir until they are coated in oil.

Add the tahini-lemon mixture, salt, pepper, bay leaf and about 1 1/2 cup of the water leftover from the chickpeas (if cooked from dry, otherwise just regular water) and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until rice is done, and water has been absorbed. You may add more hot water if needed.

Serve with extra lemon and chopped parsley.

🍸🍸🍸

Oh and what about the drink?

Hmm. Not doing so well on that front. Cretan white wine is good, especially 2018. Some retsina is kind of drinkable and I have become fond of a very cold Mythos beer now and again or maybe a little more often. So reading between the lines, you will be wondering why it figures in my yogic diet at all. Not at all satvic. I wonder that myself. I have had a couple of ‘white weeks’ but I fear that the evening alcohol is becoming too regular. I plan to stop. It’s a risk factor.

I am sure I could find much more to write on the delights of Mousaka (I have developed a faster method of cooking it), Boureki, several kinds of pies, giant baked beans…..

🌸🌸🌸

Reading: Normal People by Sally Rooney

(Thanks to Sally Randle for suggesting library app Libby and cheating Apple and Amazon out of their loot).

COMING SOON…. Taste of Winter

Autumn

Blog music theme

A little Mozart in Autumnal Mood!

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GREEK ελλενικα

What's that all about?  I am starting my Greek classes again.  χαίρω - see that little mark over the iota?  Not a dotted 'i' or an accent but a guide to pronouncing the whole word by telling you what syllable to stress.  It can completely change the meaning: πόλη means 'city' but πολή means 'very'.

I love writing Greek script.  I even bought a new iPad and iPencil to do this.  It's a great addition to Google translate, but the handwriting apps are disappointing.

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AUTUMN φθινόπωρο

Almost as soon as we arrived back in Marediana, on the stroke of September 1st, the first suggestion of Autumn whispered in. Today it is more of a roar as the wind kicks up the surface of the swimming pool, bangs the doors and rattles the shutters.  Even the wild plants have perked up, ready and willing for the first taste of rain in many months.  Here are today's clouds.  Summer seems to have flashed by, and now dusk closes in at supper time, although it is still hot in the sun, and the sea positively warm.

Gripe Alert!!

I understand that you are not reading this to hear me whinging about WordPress.  But I do feel as though this tail of an App is definitely wagging the dog of my Blog.  What is giving me particular pain, since you ask, is including photos.  I take them on iPhone and iPad then go through a version of hell to get them onto the laptop and thence into the blogosphere.  Some of you will say, get a bloody PC.  It may be that the 10 yer old laptop is groaning under the weight of digital imagery therein.  I just had to get that off my bra-less chest.

After a heroic struggle, here's a shot of a pomegranite, almost the size of my head.  Looking forward to overdosing on these in just a few days' time.

 

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The soundscape of Autumn is also changing.  The deafening cicada chorus is running down.  The wall of sound is being replaced by individual soundtracks, each one now sounding a bit like a rusty wind-up toy running down, or sometimes like an electric toothbrush that needs a recharge.

 

COMING SOON:  Food and drink...

AUGUST in the Mountains

I have started again with my Greek studies, after taking some time off. Here's a song that my teacher set us:

Everyone in Greece seems to know all the words to every song and are not frightened to sing along. So maybe you would like to try " rel="noopener" target="_blank">this link for atmosphere.

Why is it, I wonder, that it was easier to blog away during lock down, when we could do next to nothing, than now, when we have the run of the world, at least in theory? In practice we have given ourselves the freedom of Western Crete.

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For those of you who don't already know, we have temporarily left 'our' house in Marediana for a short sojourn (lovely word) in Pappadiana.

I am not sure how to display a Google Earth pic, so if you want to fly over us, just download the App and enter Pappadiana, Crete, and that should get you there.

We are staying a village house on 2 levels, each self- contained and that means
AL can have a separate space for his temporary studio. He can literally go out to work, up the outside staircase. Theres still almost no auditory separation so here I am an my divan island with my technology, and here is AL with his!

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This morning we went swimming at the nearest
beach ΣΤΟΜΙΟ. It is a stony beach not far from Elafonisi but a world away with the pink sand and Caribbean appearance where hundreds of people go in the summer. True, there is no real developement at Elafonisi, just a few beach shacks and myriad sun beds that appear out of nowhere. But there is a frightening stream of cars headed out there as we come back home at around 10am this morning. Elafonisi
was our last visit before Lockdown started back in March. Of course, we could be heading back there again,
perhaps with a bit less energy and optimism. Lockdown, not Elafonisi.

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For the brave, you can try following this Google earth link to see where the bay is exactly.
https://earth.google.com/web/@35.27146323,23.51090717,7296.48851458a,0d,35y,-0.0218h,30.5200t,-0.0128r?utm_source=earth7&utm_campaign=vine&hl=en

Coronavirus News
Greece is experiencing a spike. Worth noting that 17 % of cases attributable to travellers, 83% to resident population: The owner of our rented property came by this morning with 2 other chaps who he was showing around_ Only one mask between them- They didn't stay long, and we were
outdoors.

You might be interested in this link:
https://time.com/5883081/covid-19-transmitted-aerosols/
You may not be able to read this without a subscription, but the gist of it is that C-19 is spread very easily by breathing.

Yes, just breathing In a confined space. Of course talking loudly increases the volume of breath and therefore virus. So my conclusion , unpalatable as it is, other people are the greatest threat to my health. The article also suggests that surfaces are possibly less dangerous, unless you are unlucky enough to transfer a chunk of the nasty directly to a mucous membrane. I won't be touching light switches or door handles anytime soon.
Another more cheerful suggestion is that maybe the bug doesn't do so well on human skin. So I will resume elbow bumping, as a young-ish doctor did at a Health Centre last week. (Nothing wrong, just an MOT).
The psychology of all this interests me. I am sure that it easier to wipe a few tables than it is to change human
behaviour. And social animals that we are, we're unwilling to see people as threats.

I am sure you are bored with my Covid report by now so I will probably buy it at The bottom of the blog, after cats.

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MOVING TO GREECE

Hah. The cats were just a ruse.

Leaving the UK seems more attractive with every cock up and deliberate manoevre by the so-called UK Government. The country appears to be in the clutches of a Government so for right that if it bends over it will be licking the back of its own left jack boot. I will leave you with that image and give you another one.
It's not just the Politics, the nature of UK society etc.
I think that I am less rooted than some people. As one of our Greek friends said, people are not trees! So my image at the moment is seeing a boat about to leave the quay. Better to jump on it than put one foot on the vessel and leave the other one on dry land.
All this has been brought about by considering the sheer
administrative task of setting up life in another country. I am mindful of the notion that if I settle in another EU country, I have meaningful access to the other 26, as we have become used to in what feels like all my adult life.

COMING SOON

Return to Marediana...

Sunday Afternoon on Friday

Sunday

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Above - our pomegranites are getting big and showing aslight pink blush.  Not long now!

It's been a slightly confused couple of weeks since the last blog.  As we've said, we are looking for a building plot, preferably close to where we are living now.  We have found one that we like.  We have visited it often, at different times of day, in different moods and I would like to say in different weather, but there really hasn't been any different weather except the last couple of days when we have had some cloud and cooler nights - quite welcome really.  So we were just getting around to making an offer.  We had solicited several opinions on the price we would put on the table, and had come to a decision when up popped an issue.  It seems that there had been a recent court decision that might - or might not - jeopardise building plots of less than 4000 square metres in the 'perimetric' zone of a village.  Might that affect us?  Yes it might.  We talked to the estate agent. We talked to the surveyor (engineer), we talked to the lawyer.  Conclusion: yes it might.  So after a few days mulling this over, we tabled an offer, and at the time of writing, have not yet heard from the seller, rumoured to be here, in the village, this week.  Watch this space!

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Al went to the dentist.  This dentist has a sea view.  Downtown Kissamosi (aka Kastelli) looking North.

Oregano crop

We have a very big oregano bush in 'our' garden.  Eleni made me pick a LOT.  Here's the dried result occupying 3 1 litre jars!  Like many other people, we have found satidfaction in small things.

This blog has been quite hard to write since many of the changes that I am experiencing are quite subtle internal ones, harder to photograph and charactersise.  As you read maybe you will pick up the changing vibe.  Or not.

 

Friday

 

This, my friends, is the plot that we have been visiting, got excited about, made an offer on and, eventually discovered that it was impossible to buy and build on for 3 counts! (1) Not 'buildable' because on a ridge.  (2) The Greek Governemnt seems inclined to stop buildings happening outside village zones on plots of less thn 4000 m2, and lastly the owner was unwilling to negotiate his price.  Actually, he didn't know about the first 2 obstacles when he offered the plot for sale and neither did we when we made an offer.  We have had an amicable exchange of emails with a good flow of information, so a disappointing but not unpleasant experience all round. The search goes on...

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Well, I had a video lined up for you!  I can't actually get it on the blog, so please follow the link:

https://www.facebook.com/al.lethbridge/posts/10158808955949529

So in the best Disney tradition:THAT'S ALL FOLKS! Except for the music track...  I have chosen this because a) I have just paid our VAT and b) it just seems that it captures the langourous feel of these August days.  And we do have a pool, and we can't sail our yacht!  No big ass Mommas though.

 

COMING SOON!  Holiday in the mountains!

Comet in Moominland

Comet Neowise

After many unsuccessful attempts, blame town lights (especially floodlit kick-about football ground for the youth of Kissamos), our illuminated swimming pool (a safety issue), streetlights, and for several days we blamed the neighbouring house for being in the way. Eventually we spoke to our neighbours, Phil and Shehina, who told us we were looking in entirely the wrong place. We also blamed the Gramvousa Peninsulae. So we proposed an expedition to Falasana to get a dark and unobstructed view. It turned out to be the perfect spot and we got a naked eye view of comet and tail. Also through
binoculars. Quite special, just below the Plough and over the mystery dark of the Western Mediterranean. Of course we are not in Moomin land but Western Crete. But it's such a nice title and it might inspire some of you to re-visit the Tove Jansson shelf. Ever since we bought SNORK MAIDEN I
have been a fan-So get another thank you to her previous owner who had the good sense to choose a great name and to clear its use with the author herself!

DOWN WITH THE FISHES

(YES it is a music link)

This morning (Sunday) we took an early drive to Falassana beach. It is one of the major attractions of Western Crete but fortunately not many tourists are about at 0900. We found a spot between the rocks and made our little camp. There was a hint of a swell and breaking waves but our tiny beach allowed us to get into the water. We are becoming used to snorkelling in wavy environments and its clear that the fish really enjoy the waves. We explored a whole under-waterscape with caves, canyons, arches.

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Just July

We didn't intend to be here in July, thinking that it would be too hot, too crowded with a burnt out landcape.  Now I am so glad we are here to experience this full on summer season.  The evening sun through the seed heads of the spring and early summer flowers look incerdible in the evening light, and I especially like this view with Gramvousa shadowy in the background.  This view from the roadside, close to a building plot we are weighing up with almost daily visits.

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This is a herb growing in our garden here - apparently good for tea.  I am not sure what it is or what the tea does!  Shehina, Tina, Eleni, Rebecca HELP!  it looks great and is a really good ground cover.

'Our' pomegranates also doing really well.  I will put up another photo when they ripen.

Adventures in fish world continue.  I think all that time in the pool has eventually paid off.  I am much happier snorkelling than I used to be, so long as we are not too far out in the big blue.  Generally the best fish life is near the rocky shelves, so that's not too much of a problem.  I can crawl for speed and scull when we are strolling about in the underwater garden.  Plenty of fish life to play with, incluidng miniature groupers.  I also saw a crab today - fairly unusual down here, and this one was fairly deep - very different from the rock pool crabs of the Atlantic coast.

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Al has been running lots of video since we have been here.  We could use an enthusiastic editor now.  But if you want to see another hair raising road trip, have a look at Al's Facebook.  and look for the road to Νωπήγια (Nopigia).  Be warned, there is a soundtrack!!

Coming soon:  AUSTERITY AUGUST

LETTERS HOME

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I suppose we have all been writing much more since March. Oddly I feel more connected in
some ways than when I have been in Bristol. I have really appreciated that. And I suppose we have all been touching base not just with close friends bat with the outer hinges of people we used to be close with. Sorry, I am rambling.

Missing... Just started to think about what it is that I miss about Bristol, apart from fiends in the flesh. The library? But that is not the same and probably won't be for some time. I do like the idea of being able to phone a librarian and actually get advice from a human being about what to read next.
Eating out? Well, we didn't do that much anyway unless we are travelling. The other early evening we saw a trip boat coming in from Bates- the beach at the end of the Western Peninsular-Gram vous a. We got into the car and drove fast down to the harbour to ogle at tourists. Rare animals.
Many wore masks and the coach couriers and drivers were wearing face shields.
The coaches probably come in from Chania and some of the other resorts with a few local tourists. It is a big boat, nowhere near full. The danger for the hospitality industry here is that there are now never enough holidaymakers to actually turn a profit.

Anyway back to missing. I was fairly appalled that what I miss most is online shopping. What do I buy? Clothes, Crocs, notebooks from Muji, ink (yes, I know!), electronic toys from IJT, books from Amazon and its re-sellers…. The odd peculiar purchase from eBay. Now do you see why I am not really keen to get back. Apart from the fiends, of course. (You need to understand that I sometimes handwrite the blog into Nebo, then transfer it into Word or some other WP app. Nebo tries its best but often garbles things. Fiends in the flesh made me smile.)

More Underwater

Now it is getting a bit warmer, we often go snorkelling in the morning. We were in the water at around 0800 and to start with, not a lot of activity as we explored a new underwater landscape near the port. A lot of it quite shallow. A few pretty wrass with electric blue markings around their heads, then Al found another Moray eel. Eventually I saw its head poking out of its hole. Unfortunately we saw a dead one on the beach, just on the beach outside The Cellar bar and restaurant. All the fabulous colours drained away. About 1 m long and quite thick. I’m not sure I want to meet one swimming.

Hospitality
Last week we went for an outdoor supper with our landlord’s family, now our friends, and neighbours from across the road. Despoina, the matriarch, cooks a dream and Eleni (honorary daughter) is no slouch when it comes to food. Ignoring the meat kebabs, there were sardines, caught by Despoina’s sister Stella, hot peppers from the garden, spicy roast potatoes to die for…. Enough, we have not had supper yet! But here comes the digression. Φιλοχενια (Filoxenia) is the Greek word for ‘hospitality'. They really mean it. I am sure you have all had the experience of rolling up at a Greek household, maybe just asking the way, and been offered something to drink, something to eat, even if only water and biscuits. Also, in the country, you will be given something to take away - a bag of oranges, lemons, figs - whatever is in season. Even in these Covid times, you really can’t refuse.
I started to think about how we, in the UK are so poor at generosity to strangers, I’m not talking about charity donations or even giving money to street people or cooking for bereaved friends, I think it is more about the inhibitions that surround both giving and taking. The worst part is that the word ‘hospitality’ has been hijacked by the food, drink and accommodation trades, leaving us with nothing to characterise genuine giving to strangers. The word in Greek is literally ‘friend strangers’. Apparently it was the custom to prepare an extra portion of food, just in case a stranger came to the door. Our neighbours often bring gifts of food, and that’s just what it is, an extra portion of what they are eating themselves. The other side of this coin is that effusive thanks are not expected or given. Apologies are also rare in this culture, a relief from the British habit of constantly apologising. Enough. I want to tell you about our Rodopou trip.

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The Road to Rodopou

By now you are probably familiar with the shape of Western Crete, with its double peninsulars. Rodopou is the larger eastern Peninsular and we have wanted to explore this ever since we first came here. In 2018 we were told that it was only suitable for 4-wheel drive cars or the farmers’ pick up trucks. We made the proposition to Phil and Shehina (who own a 4WD) that we could go in convoy along the 20km track to Menies Beach. They agreed and last Thursday we set out, packing beach kit and picnics. Wow, what a trip! Amazing rocky landscapes, gorges, reveals of the sea, goats, ruined sanctuaries and finally the beach. Al took a short video that he put on his FB page, so some of you will have already seen it. It’s worth a look!
https://www.facebook.com/al.lethbridge/posts/10158722075489529

 

The cricket sings

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So the above photo is how I would like to look! In this beautifully framed photo by Al. Actually it is how I would like to be.

We are still in Crete in a kind of suspension of time when there are no decisions to be made, except which Zoom classes to do, which beach to go to for snorkelling, what to cook for supper.  Of course it's not quite like that, is it.  We are aware that for now, we might have our heads under the figurative duvet.  We have our temporary residence permits, we have our lovely house, and we have some friendships that are maturing nicely.  Then the cicadas came.  OK, it's their environment and we are the invaders.  Actually it doesn't really bother me, but then, I'm not a musician trying to record!  The good thing is that even a small amount of amelioration really helps.  My friend Rebecca who lives in Italy says that the smell of the pines and the sound of cicadas are the essence of summer for her.

Now you want to hear them, don't you?  so Al has made some recordings.

Night Snorkel:

So sorry that I have no beautiful photos - you will just have to use your imagination as you find yourself on a gritty sand beach with some small rocky ourcrops on your left.  Turn to your right, the East and and behind a dark profile of rather jagged hills, the full moon rises.  Of course, we should have waited until it was high in the sky, to get maximum light through the water, but we have underwater torches so we set out, following the reef. (We went with Phil & Shehina from across the road - they are more experienced divers than we are, but it's a calm sea, and a familiar reef).  Whilst getting changed I suddenly remember that I have made many reckless night swims from boat to boat, often not entirely sober.  So thus encouraged I get my wetsuit on (15 Euros from Decathlon) and we set off.  And we see... well, not very much, actually. At first I follow the beam of Al’s torch, stronger than mine, and we see only rocks with no fish in sight. I had never really thought about what they do at night, but I suppose I had expected to see them swimming slowly around kind of dreamily. Of course not. They would be easy prey. So they do what we do, find a nice rocky niche and go to bed, safe from predators.

But on the way back to the shore, I went outside the beams of the torches and by that time I could see the rocky underwater landscape in the moonlight. Gorgeous. Then as we neared the beach, almost touching the sand, I saw a small bream hanging in the water column absolutely still, just a slight movement with the water, This fish was definitely asleep. It was a tiny fish but a really breathtaking sight for me. Oh, and the water was surprisingly warm.

It was worth it just to see the moonrise and be in the dark water.  Next time maybe we will go early in the morning when it is still dark and see the fish waking up for breakfast.  Only one life!

Below is a sunset, not quite the same beach, but you get the idea, I'm sure.  I don't know how to describle the profile of the landscape.

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Coronavirus: yes, it's that old thing again.  Here's a very convincing piece by a researcher into aerosols.  You really don't want to be in a confined space of any sort with anyone you don't already live with.  If you must meet people indoors, wear a close fitting mask - that's one that moves in and out as you breath.  Check in the mirror,  Incidentally, I have been washing our single use masks. I don't see why not.  They get a good dose of UV.

https://youtu.be/PU8Hf_5-oLc

Yoga and Oregano

Those whom the gods will kill, they first make crazy with browsers? I had a difficult time yesterday with new editor. Maybe a browser issue. Anyway, you don't need to know all that. Let's get on with reconstructing the blog I hoped to release yesterday.

First, a little something from Al. Thousands of people have been listening to his tracks on Spotify so here are some of the favourites. I asked for 3, but I guess you know what musicians are like. So there's 5. Not too scary.

AL's Spotify Faves

Yoga with Prasant

I suppose the really relaxing aspect of the lockin was that we always knew what we were doing because it was always basically the same.  Tuesday is shopping day, Friday is house cleaning and everybody's happy! Oh and there are the yoga Zooms - my favourite set up is at the kitchen end of the ground floor room.  The laptop is on the table opposite.  Today was the first class with Prasant Iyengar, teaching from the Institute in Pune.  A few technical problems but very special to be taught by him without having to go to India.  Also lovely to see Abhijata as she experimented with the acoustics for tomorrow.  Also to see the studio where I have spent so many hours.  The sense of connection with the Iyengar yoga community has been incredible.  A really unexpected Lockdown gift.

Oregano grows like a weed here in Crete.  We had 3 huge bunches waiting for processing and this was definitely the evening to do it.  Just the sound of the crickets and the gentle gurgle of the pool filters!  Al volunteered to prepare the dry bunches and make them 'jar ready'.

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What's Al watching?   Try the click.  Might work!  Haven't tried this before

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJqR6g8ibxM&feature=youtu.be!

 

Coming Soon: Night Snorkel, unless the wind comes up - up me, that is.

καλοκαιρι

          I July 2020  Now it really does feel like a Mediterranean summer.

The temperature here is around 30 in the day, going down to the 20s at night. We eat outside on the terrace in the evening, sometimes quite late and listen to the sound of the day crickets giving way to the night crickets.  Al says they have a completely different and less raspy sound. More soothing, he says.
We see many more birds and animals than we do in Bristol, although some of them are roadkill- so far a tortoise, 2 martens of some sort, badgers (last year) Iand a hedgehog. Roadkill has a positive side though - at least there is a population. Birds do better of course. I am no twitcher but we have seen many birds of prey, including an eagle. I watched one yesterday while lying on my back on the Lilo in the pool.  It was stationary for many seconds, then with an invisible twitch of the wing feathers, it went into a deep dive.  There are young swallows gathering on the a windowsill of the house next door. They sweep down over the pool, at times just touching the water. Are they drinking?  Or catching insects? The pool is also a bit of watering hole for house sparrows and even a green lizard. Oh, and geckos climbing the walls. So at the moment it is the Mediterranean of the travel writers. And it's also the mental picture that I
have been carrying since my- adventures with KIWI STAR. Some of you will remember those ...

Feeling a little nostalgic, try this and watch for the link to the next bit: Click the button below for the song, then use the browser back button to get back to the blog.  Sorry about this, but I am getting acquainted with the new editor.

We came here partly with the intention of finding out whether this is a place we could live. Of course, the Coronavirus situation has both  prolonged our
stay and focussed our minds. Andof course, it seems like a big decision. (CANDY SAYS) We have seen a couple of plots that we like. Well, one really, since we are still waiting to see the 'topographic' for the second to know where the actual boundaries lie.

It is interesting how the 'felt state' has changed since we first got here. Something I didn't expect is the feeling of change with the seasons - when we arrived in March, we had a taste of winter. Then, of ourse, there was the Lockdown with walks and spring flowers. Then the
transition into summer with trips to the beach and dips in the pool.

The beach is mainly about snorkelling and swimming. The local beach at Viglia, just to the West of the Port, has reefs running out from the shore. It's like swimming in a giant aquarium with lots of fish. We've seen some big shoals and there are nurseries where we see hundreds of baby fish.  Sorry no underwater cameras with us this time.  (It's risky, have flooded at least two.)

 

This evening we went swimming at a different beach – well stony shore really,  (ouch!!).  Saw baby groupers and rocked about a bit in small waves.  We dressed and went back to the car and this is what we saw.  Men had rounded up sheep from the hillside and penned them for shearing under a makeshift canopy.  They arrived in a fleet of black pick up trucks, probably spanning a few decades.  They were ankle deep in fleeces by the time we left.  One of the best things was the clacking of the shears (huge scissors) – sounded like castanets.

Coming soon:Will they, won’t they? 

Elementor #55

We find ourselves in Crete in June.  Of course we meant to be with the actual Snork Maiden, sailing off the French Atlantic coast by now.  Instead we are experiencing the Cretan Summer, although an odd one.  The weather is cooler than is usual for the season – temperature in the mid 20s with a West wind, sometimes quite strong, mainly in the afternoons.  The colour palette of the olive groves and meadows has changed from yellow and pink to white and blue and the whole landscape has a paler quality.  Even the insects are different. The cicadas are there, apparently in ones and twos with no night noises yet, and even the mosquitoes are holding back.


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Belated Birthday Blog with Zorba

12 June 2020

Here’s your atmospheric track: Zorba

It’s been a while.  It was my birthday Sunday 31st, and Al’s June 4th .  So first, a big warm thanks to everybody who remembered and got in touch in whatever way.  Of course we don’t remember everyone’s birthdays all the time.  I think that during this weird time we probably all think about our friends, people we used to know, people who we knew who have died or we have lost touch with. So I suppose I am trying to say that as humans even we introverts have a mental social life! 

Last week we made a trip out to Balos (Βαλος).  This involves an 8km drive on a dirt road then a 40 minute walk down paths and steps to the beach and lagoons below.  The lagoon is warm and has a few fish. It’s little more than knee deep so we snorkelled over to the other side before the 40 minute treck back up.  Worth it though.  By the time we left, we had the whole place to ourselves. From our house we can see the dirt road that runs along the Gramvousa peninsular and on Saturday nights particularly, we see many headlights as cars come back from viewing the sunset. 

Polyrinia

This is one of my favorite places in Western Crete. Not only can we see it from our bedroom window, it is a great walk. Originally a Minoan settlement, it became a Roman fortress and still exists today as asmall village at the bottom of the hill. There is a church still in use and a small chapel nearer the summit. It’s a magical place for me, and has a real draw. Wild flowers and insects abound, and there are a few sheep. There’s also a woodworker in the village who plays loud rembetika music (more of that soon) and plies you with raki if you stop to look at his work. Gratefully accepted and spent lots (2018).

The track goes past the church and snakes around the hill to the other side.  Actually it feels like more than a hill and less than a mountain.

Polyrinia from the West



What else? We are still looking at possible plots for building (more about this coming soon). This is a panorama of the latest one we have seen, only around 500m from where we are staying now. Yes, it looks like an olive grove but from an imaginary first floor it looks out to the sea and the (proper) mountains.

I need to stop here. Al has cooked the supper and I need to launch this already belated blog. Please feel free to comment – no sign-in necessary.