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!


(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.


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.


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.


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!!




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.

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.


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!


The cricket sings


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.


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.

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'.



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


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


          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?