Quaratine Day 9

Quarantine Day 9

Books and Midsummer

Perfect summer morning here. The 52º N Latitude really makes a difference after the 35º of Marediana. The nights really noticeably shorter, we are waking well before 5am and it is already light. Curtains? I really don’t like shutting the light out. It feels more natural to let the body cope with seasonality and geography. Of course in Crete we are also 23º East, not so much an astronomical difference as a cultural one. So there is something unique about every Lat and Long on earth. This morning is undeniably sweet for not being cloudy or rainy, given that we are where we are. I am grateful for the summer weather and being able to treat our tiny garden as an outside space while wrestling with the sifting of belongings etc. Segue to:

Yes, back to books. Not just books, it’s DVDs and VHSs too (only our own films, I swear). I belong to the FT Books Cafe on FB and I asked that group for help in developing an algorithm for keep / lose. I suppose predictably they leapt into the keep camp, almost to a person. But here’s my dilemma, the books played a big part in making me who I am, but now I am who I am, do I need to be reminded of the process? I have changed; my interests have shifted, and as we can’t dip into the same river twice, I cannot re-visit the pool in which I was baptised. Sorry about the complex image, but I am really struggling with this. In my current yoga study and practice, the stress is definitely on the NOW. Difficult enough to perceive the moment, let alone the thread of moments that lead to this place. So if I followed this thought to its logical conclusion, I would divest myself of all my psychology and feminist books.

Of course they carry a lot of nostalgia, taking me back through the past in a surprisingly visceral way. Is that a good reason to keep them?

Song Link

Now the counterargument: I can open almost any of those influential books – an example, Winnicott’s THE PIGGLE – and read a couple of pages.

Out jump associations, place, time, ideas, threads….

Realistically, my thin trickle of a lifetime is nowhere near enough to float this ship of desire to immerse, to know, to envisage, let alone to work with this flood of material.

Fiction is proving a bit easier, you will be glad to know. I will keep a few personal classics that I might read on the beach or in my future shady garden hammock.

Maybe I am working toward a solution. I will confer with Al, as he says that books are an excellent way of improving a room’s acoustics.

Covid-19 test done on the morning of Day 9 and posted. Complete failure to log in to Eurofins website so who knows where in the ether those results will go.

Quarantine Day 8

Monday Monday

Second test today, and still no result from the first one. This is worse than we expected. We are called every day by the NHS team of mostly bored young people who mainly garble a script that requires 3 or 4 ‘yes’ responses. I can’t blame them, they must be reading that same script over 100 times a day. There’s no effort to make sure that the respondents really are at home, keeping the quarantine rule. The first day Al answered my call. He knew I was doing Yoga practice, so he just said ‘She’s not available.’ OK, said the person at the other end, I’ll call tomorrow. Three times now we have asked for guidance over what we should do if our test results are not returned. We have had 3 different answers, only one of which is correct according to the Gov. Website. (Call 119 – they may supply another test, but that is not clear. Otherwise complete 14 days quarantine.). Actually, I wouldn’t mind that too much, but I need to start shifting quantities of ‘stuff’ out to the dump. And there are another 42 boxes of ‘stuff’ in our storage unit. Why? How? This is a lesson I am going to take into my future life. Two swimsuits are enough, or perhaps one too many.

I asked FB group FT Books Cafe for advice on how to deal with my hundreds of books and received over 40 mostly very helpful and supportive replies. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Final thought about testing.

I think there’s a saying – ‘a camel is a horse designed by a committee’. Well, in the case of track and trace, the committee was deaf and wearing a blindfold. And maybe had its feet tied together. Oh and if you really want a hollow laugh, try this:

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/row-as-test-and-trace-chief-dido-harding-eyes-becoming-head-of-the-nhs-zkgln0972

Quarantine Day 7

Yesterday was Stuff…. And now the Nonsense

Today’s Track

It is a real experience sorting through the 20 year build up of, well, stuff. We are lucky that in Bristol we have a willing Gumtree and Freecycle audience. The odd thing is that whereas the deluge of ‘stuff’ ( I am still working my way through the smaller of our 2 basement rooms) makes me feel sort of claustrophobic and nauseous, it has also made me realise that one of the things I may miss most in Crete is shopping. Ridiculous, I know, especially in the light of the above. I suppose it was so easy, say, before driving down to Snork Maiden in France, to do the rounds of Screwfix and Force 4 etc. to pick up the items on the list, to say nothing of Amazon etc. delivering g to our door. Of course, there was also the clothes shopping – Uniqlo, Rapanui, Lucy & Yak all favourites. But here’s the thing. Actually I haven’t missed it at all in the last 15 months. I think it’s the exposure to goods that is awakening the cravings, a bit like an alcoholic or chocoholic encountering temptation after being in rehab. Of course, Crete has shops, it even has mail order, but lockdowns put paid to the first, and a lack of facility with internet Greek, the second.

Prior to Brexit, there was a solution. A removal / delivery company, Nomad, would take delivery at their Northampton warehouse and transport small mixed loads to Crete at fairly regular intervals. Very handy for those who can’t do without tea, Marmite and Bath Oliver biscuits. Or another music instrument or yoga chair from home ! Brexit has put paid to that route, at least for the food items (including tea).

Tomorrow, Day 8 test. Still no results from Day 2. World beating Test and Trace. Really?

Stuff and Nonsense

Quarantine Day 5

Stuff alternative version

So now beginning to come to grips with the serious business of sorting out what we take with us, and what really doesn’t belong in our lives any more.

Choosing a track, I realised that the ‘favourite things’ are almost all experiences and not ‘things’ at all. Whiskers on a kitten are a ‘thing’ in the sense that they have a physical existence but the lyrics refer, I think, the sheer pleasure that the cute whiskery face gives us (well, maybe quite a lot of us, anyway). So that will guide my choices. There are stones that bring back the memory of a particular beach, or day, so they can come. Same with clothes – I might not have worn them for a long time but something about the context seems precious. Things like electric carving knives and spare freezers don’t present quite the same challenge. eBay, Gumtree and Freecycle are all going to be working hard. I would sell on Amazon but I seem to have dropped off their seller list. Anyone want a 1986 edition of Understanding Rigs and Rigging?

Sean Leslie? It is part of my original sailing library. Very technical and I have to admit that it has never been of much practical use. Of course I don’t want to part with it. Who knows I might be a boat builder in another life…. Oh, now you see the problem! Also, I can weep in a library, frustrated by the pressure of all the ‘things’ I will never know. So I fear that a lot of books will be coming.

Why would anyone take broken crockery several thousand miles?

W-e-l-l, because every fragment belongs to a something that had an identity, a place, a feeling attached. The original idea was to make a mosaic that would reflect our time here, and I might give that a go in Crete when we finally get settled.

Covid test news – we are actually in Day 6, since I have fallen a day behind with the blog. Our tests were posted on Day 2. Royal Mail’s website assured us that there would be a Sunday collection on Bank Holiday Monday, so even if they weren’t collected until Tuesday, the lab results should have been out by today. Glad we didn’t go for the early release option. At least we received the tests we paid for apparently many people didn’t. Another own goal for the private health care sector in the UK. How much are Tory pals trousering this time?

Quarantine Day 4

Quarantine Day 4

It’s Wednesday

So here we are at mid-week. Feeling more positive today – there’s still a mountain to climb in terms of de-clutter, but at least I have started to do it in my head. Or do I mean ‘do in my head’?

This morning the weather was nice enough to do my Greek revision class in the garden. Not just pleasant to be outdoors, but also gave Al the acoustic freedom to record some new parts for LIFE IN THE SUN. Went through some sale/removal related emails. Discovered that we had complicated matters when Al bought the house by putting in place an arrangement that meant he couldn’t sell it effectively without my consent. Removing this restraint turns out to be not the simple matter that you might think. If you have a similar arrangement, you might think about sorting it out before you sell. I can remember the time when people did their own conveyancing. Feverish trips to the photocopier, the post box, clutching a copy of the Which! Guide to DIY conveyancing. Does any of that sound familiar?

Al’s birthday on Friday so spent a long time scrabbling around the internet trying to find an organic rose wine that would arrive in time. (It’s OK, it’s not a secret!).

We are still under ‘house arrest’. Actually I don’t mind much. Since living in Marediana and going through 2 ‘lockdowns’ there, I think I have become used to being inside the house and its immediate environment. Although, I always looked a little longingly at the ferry leaving and made a wish that one day we will be on that ferry heading for new islands.

Of course our house here is very different from Marediana where we had 2 terraces, a swimming pool and a sea view. Here we have the views you have already seen (previous quarantine Blog), a small garden front and back. Actually it is a small joy to walk down the front path to the gate – a distance of less than 3 metres, check out the rocket growing wild in pots, pull out a few weedlings, look up and down the street and then go back inside.

We are having broadband Issues just now, so I will launch this Blog later today.

Quarantine Day 3

Ruby Tuesday

Oh, a bit melancholy today! Maybe a come down from upbeat birthday mood. Quit a lot of time spent in in front of computers, upstairs, downstairs…. Lots of exercise in a 3 floor house, 4, counting the basement.

On the plus side, the gulls that nest on the roof of the industrial units at the back of the house have again managed to hatch chicks! So far we have only seen these two. In previous years they have had three, which must have meant a lot of heavy lifting for the parents. So below is the view from my eyrie at the top of the house.

Also Clifton Wood.

Looking the other way – here is my de-cluttered notice board. Those of you who have seen my room will know just what a departure this is. Usually several layers deep.

Yesterday also held a couple of Zooms. A fairly predictable conversation with our very lovely financial advisor. She’s sort of down to earth, very English, in a way I can’t really describe, except to say she looks as though she would be happy in green wellies, walking a Labrador or a red setter. We discover she has a robust attitude to over-cooked holiday lets with inflated prices, preferring trailer parks in quietly beautiful coastal areas. We find this re-assuring. For the rest, it’s the usual lecture on risk, terms and the appallingly low interest rates on savings accounts. I suppose the last time I did this ‘sell up and go’ thing, I happily stuffed the proceeds of the sale in the bank, eschewed pension funds and financial instruments and enjoyed the double figure interest rates, and the feeling of freedom that came with it. (The story of Kiwistar and Barcelona, but that’s not for here.)

Of course this blog is not really about quarantine, it’s about the tectonic plates of our lives shifting as we make the transition from Bristol to Crete. Quarantine tends to focus the mind, without the option of being able to run away to the library or a coffee shop.

Quarantine Birthday Blog Day 2

Not So Manic Monday

So here we are in Bristol instead of Crete in our house that feels a bit like an AirBNB! Not a really manic Monday, I expect them to get more manic over the next 4 weeks as we try to triage 20 years worth of assorted belongings, never mind the books and tapes!

Another Waitrose delivery, so we got out the exercise bike from the basement. 10 minutes at setting number 4 felt like enough for Day 2. Let’s see where I get to on Day 10.

Day 2 test. Nerve wracking instruction sheet. Take the stopper off the tube and balance it on its tiny tail. I’ll go first…. Oh was that my kit or was that yours? Can they tell? Yes, they will look at our chromosomes. It’s a Bank Holiday. What about the post? Like Sunday? But what’s Sunday like? Is that an antibacterial wipe…. Oh no, it’s the padding in the pack. Never mind, I’ll just put it back – they won’t know will they?

Then we find that Day 8 is on a Sunday, but we can’t post at the weekend, according to test pack, even though there’s supposed to be a collection. So what do we do?

The Day 5 quick release test looks expensive and too complicated to bother about. Plus which how come trips to the postbox are allowed?

Pass the remote. Have we seen that Werner Herzog film? Ok, then Star Trek Series 2 it is then.

Also on the plus side, birthday visit from all 4 Randle Landers who actually sang Happy Birthday in the street! Sorry, no video.

And the garden looks nice.

Tomorrow – Day Three, no Waitrose delivery, no birthday…..

Quarantine Blog

Quarantine Blog Day 0 / 1

Homeward Bound

So day zero was travel from Crete to Heathrow with BA – the only airline that seems to be reliably serving the UK from Chania. The trip was pretty smooth, with a near empty airport.

Just as well, since we had a struggle at the check in desk to produce e versions of our ticket, Test Results, Passenger Locator form. My phone is no more, Al’s refused to download the documents so we resorted to my laptop. The check in person was patient, and there was no queue . We checked in the baggage, and went to picnic outside on home made cheese pies (thank you Despoina), a bakery spanakopita (not quite so good) and some of Despoina’s sweet cakes. Also Al ate an apple, in case you are worried about our 5 fruit and veg! BA kept up the good work with a small bottle of water and a bag of crisps. Virus-wise things pretty OK. Around the airpot Departures most wore their masks properly. Outside Arrivals a few all-male groups clustered, drinking coffee and chatting with no masks.

Uneventful flight at 3 hours 40 minutes.

First encounter with UK BORDER. We both failed the e passport machines. Told by a security gorilla that we had probably failed to complete our Passenger Locator Forms correctly. Actually if that was the case, we wouldn’t have been on the flight at all. A nice Asian immigration bloke checked our passports and let us into a now non-European UK. Well, maybe only-just-U K.

National Express to Bristol with overweight Simon, cheerful chap from South Wales. Asked him why he wasn’t wearing a mask. He said he had post-Covid breathing difficulties. Mostly mask-wearing on coach except for an old chap who looked like he wasn’t quite with the programme. Good spacing and A/C.

Walking through Bristol with suitcase wheels rumbling away was quite a trip. Hardly and masks around and young Bristol was out on the streets, in the pubs, drinking on the dockside. First warm dry evening for a while, and there’s a bit of a VE Day feeling about things. It really feels like a lull before the next storm, since there’s nothing that reassures us that the B617-2 variant isn’t going to ramp up into another lockdown situation.

For a clear view of the science and the Government’s actions – or lack of them, try Independent SAGE.

Which brings us to Day One after a very short night. Amazing how much jet lag a 2 hour time difference can make! The house, de-cluttered looking like an AirBNB sort of familiar, but sort of not! Of course our task now is to start sorting out in preparation for the move out. 8am Waitrose delivery. Aaaargh I forgot to order tea, the most important thing. Al started the day with a large cafe au lait, toast and marmalade. I did a yoga class with Stephanie Quirk, from Australia, courtesy of Vimeo. About Stillness, important in these days of uncertainty and change. Supper courtesy of Riverford, Crispy marinated tofu, with Pak Choi and Broccoli. Delicious. Tomorrow I managed to wangle another delivery so the tea situation will be remedied, together with more ice cream and strawberries. Well, I don’t need to remind you that it’s my birthday. And before you ask, we are having a dry quarantine, to make up for a moist 15 months in Greece, so no bubbly this year.

Today sunny and warm in Bristol, so door to garden open all day – a flavour of our temporary home in Marediana.

May 2021

In the Morning

I really should have a dawn pic, since we see plenty of them! Al tends to early waking, especially when he has work going on, or he feels worried. At the moment, it’s both. Dawn here can be wild with wind, soft light to the North, deep orange glow over the Eastern Sparti Peninsular. Add in the twittering of the swallows this month, and you might have a taste of it. There is something about this song, that reminds me of the fragile, slightly nauseous feeling that comes with not having had quite enough sleep.

Song Link: https://open.spotify.com/track/7mTtcGsy8nasBYDjAWBI5t?si=a43d804212d84428

Why I like to be here

I took some random photos around the house, probably to remind me of the feelings I have here.

A bit of garden hedge and blue sky
A bit of garden hedge and blue sky
Chairs waiting
Chairs waiting
Olive tree in the garden
Olive tree in the garden
Scents
Scents
Lemon light
Lemon light
Yep, it's the view, so grateful to have lived with this for a year.
Yep, it’s the view, so grateful to have lived with this for a year.

What Happened to my iPhone?

For any of you who haven’t already read this sad tale. (Skip this bit if you have…)

16 May 2021

It was a windy afternoon, so a small outdoor social event was cancelled, leaving me a bit stir crazy. So I said ‘Shall we go out – just for a change of scene.’ We drove to the harbour. Maybe restrictions have eased a bit here, so we went to a place we hadn’t been for a while. Quiet, just the taverna open for a few men sitting around a table. We parked and walked to the end of the ferry quay, where we often see fish. Al hopped up on a handy concrete block and onto the harbour wall. I paused for thought, then followed him. I might have put the car key in my back pocket. More of a scramble for me, being smaller, so I summited the wall on hands and knees. There was a long pause, so it seemed, followed by the sound of something heavy and solid hitting the water. There it lay, in perfect peace, framed by rocks, gently reflective water above its shiny face. My iPhone. Side pocket of my backpack, not as tight a fit as I would have liked it to be, since you ask.

And generally:

It’s a bit of a stressful time here, like approaching the points on a speeding train and not knowing whether it will successfully negotiate either route on just come tumbling off the rails! Probably like many other countries (Sweden apparently excepted), nothing is straightforward about buying land and building. So selling the Bristol house seems like a bit of a jump onto that train, possibly without having really read the destination board in enough detail. A Magical Mystery Tour, then.

Corona Virus where we are

I put this at the end, because not everyone wants to think about the pandemic. The fact remains that although Greece seems to be on the downward slope of infections, and the vaccine programme has done OK, there is still a significant proportion of the younger population still unprotected, and the ‘it’s all over’ feeling engendered by the effort to open up to tourists probably isn’t helpful. Supermarkets still enforcing strict mask rules but gas stations, taxi drivers, even pharmacists have abandoned mask wearing, at least, where we are. If you like graphs etc, more here.

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/greece/

Greek Coffee

Soundtrack: KROUAZIERA

s://open.spotify.com/track/4wcT8wyGLkdBPh8dsoxCMT?si=cw6dxOgjRAm3QcRR4qWwCw

Santorini

Greek Coffee

When I first came to Greece, my memories, probably like yours, are of thick dark coffee in very small white china cups. There was a mouthful, maybe two or three of slightly granular and strong coffee. You might have drunk it sweet, like the Greeks, or ‘metrios’ (is that even a word?) which seemed to be understood as ‘just a little sugar to take the bitter edge of the coffee’. This coffee was made in small long handled saucepan, we have a modern version.

The coffee was made over a flame. Then there was the frappe version. Here’s a recipe I found, with a pic (not mine).Basically a cold, frothy Nescafe that, like ouzo, just doesn’t work more than 10K from a Greek beach.

Unfortunately, both types of coffee have lost out to the ubiquitous cappucino or latte in the one-time throwaway cup. Everytime I drive in to Kissamos, there is a cluster of traffic hazards at the bottom of the hill, around the small coffe shop (Κατι Αλλο = Anything Else?). There are flatbed trucks at peculiart angles, vehicles squeezing past or waiting to join the National Road, delivery mopeds with unfeasable loads… Even during lockdown the takeaway coffee stops have been thriving. Deliveries go to homes, shops, offices, and of course, olive groves.

Liking and Loving the Greeks

I know that some of you will think that to attribute national characteristics to the very wide palette of human nature is futile. But I think that they can be useful in the same way that horoscopes are useful, to help us talk, think and probably make judgements about each other. In modern Greek there doesn’t really seem to be a word for ‘like’ – as in I like ice cream, or I like most of my friends. The way to express this is effectively ‘ice cream pleases me’. But there is also αγαπώ. Literally – I love. And it can be used in contexts that I am still exploring. Μου αρέσι is probably safest. (Put these into Google translate to hear them and see the anglicised versions). When it comes to shopping, you don’t tell the person behind the counter that you would like some feta, you tell them that you would politely want some cheese. So I don’t think you can like the Greeks, I think you have to love them!

What Happened to March?

What has been keeping me away from the blog for a while? Well, we are in the process of buying a plot with plans to build. As you might imagine, it is not a frictionless process, like popping into the corner shop for bottle of Diet Coke and a pack of orange Rizlas.

We are at the same time have been getting our Bristol house ready for sale, aware that every thousand will bring our future plans a bit nearer. So I made a website, to boost the estate agent’s efforts, and spent a lot of time phoning, WhatsApping, bargaining, pleading, cajoling a variety of friends, friends of friends, tradespeople until at last the house was de-cluttered, excess stuff in storage, windows cleaned, garden smartened up, photographs taken (I haven’t seen these yet, but they will be on the estate agent’s website next week.). At the same time Al has been uploading the next slice of earthMusic albums. Most of them up there now, with more great artwork from Bristol printmaker Anna Marrow. Here’s a taste:

The image links to the whole library so far, if you’d like to listen.

Lockdown

We have had a lockdown since December, I think, feels like forever since our routine doesn’t change much in any case. Some easing up at the moment – we can go a little further afield at weekends, supposedly for exercise, and ‘non-essential’ shops opening up. Makes you wonder why we did all that shopping, bought all that stuff, that we apparently didn’t need. I think I haver a lifetimes supply of fountain pens, ink, drawing and painting materials, waiting for the day…. Also possible T shirts.

Vaccination

I have had first Pfizer with 48 hours of feeling tired, not sleeping very well and my guts feeling as though I have eaten too much vindaloo and drunk too much Guiness. Better now. Al has first one on Wednesday. Greek website efficient and local heath centre running on time, friendly and coping well. Days later – Al now vaxed with forst dose Really pleasant young staff, no queue to speak of. Situated between Roman ruins, suburban style housing and a few empty spaces with wildflowers and the odd shippoing container.

Spring – has been in evidence since about October! Some warm days, often cool and windy but rarely really cold. Heating with an enclosed fireplace and not much else. Light duvet and a cotton blanket have been enough in a mostly unheated bedroom. You get the idea. Many flowers – well, this is Crete.

First swim since February, a mix of strictly observed lockdown and quite a lot of cool and windy days. A real sense of time accelerating. It’s as though 2020 passed in a kind of pleasant dream, now passing through the metaphorical Airport into the land of ‘real life’. More about that soon.

Our House

Today’s Blog is a bit different because I am trying to keep to just one subject.

This is actually the house next door, but the two houses are like peas in a pod – not identical but recognisably siblings, actually sisters, Aretousa and Pasiphae.

This is Pasiphae, and it is where we have been living since March 2020. Today is actually a kind of anniversary. We came out for 2 months on this day (26 February) 2018. We first found it through AirBnb and it was really a shot in the dark. When I looked at the location on the !:140,000 Michelin map of Crete, I thought it would be in a kind of suburban area of Kissamos. So it was a real surprise that it was up a winding road, with a view over the bay, even the ferry port in the distance. I can still remember the drive, maybe in the dusk, the small hire car steadily climbing, following the directions and wondering where on earth we were going and if it could possibly be right. But it was. Tina was there to welcome us and I an almost certain that there was a bottle of wine, bread and a warm dish of stuffed peppers on the table. One of the best meals we ever have.

At the time we were looking for a house to rent for Spring 2019, and after viewing several others we decided to go for Pasiphae. At the time, we had no idea what a good decision this was.

The house is built of stone, so most of the interior walls are unfinished stone. We have come to really appreciate the soft sound that this gives in the rooms. Acoustically, the house feels rather like a single space, and that has made us exercise a lot of consideration for each other in terms of the noise we make – whether it’s Zoom yoga, washing up or Al beating out time in his makeshift bedroom studio. Having said that, the house has proved itself capable of handling guests – we have had people to stay overnight, easy with a comfortable sofa bed downstairs and bathrooms on both floors.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I am hoping that this year or next, some of you will come over to see us here in Western Crete, and until we have our own place where you can stay, these houses are a perfect solution. At the moment we don’t know exactly where we will be when, or when where, but we know that you will love staying here as much as we do, so you might want to make plans to come anyway!

The website tells you everything you need to know – the houses are comfortable, have pools, 2 bathrooms each, one with a bath and one with a shower and a washing machine. Solar water heating means there is almost always plenty of hot water,(bearing in mind that economical use of water is good in such a water hungry region). There’s an outdoor shower, fabulous in the summer. Swimming pool is small by Oympic standards but good for a splash about when it’s hot. Just floating about on an airbed takes a lot of beating. Still working out how to read whilst doing this.

The houses are around 15 minutes from our favourite local beach at Viglia.

And there are many more to choose from. Many of you will have read the blog, on and off, and will know that we have many walks from the house in nearby olive groves. Further afield there are the Cretan gorges, famous and not-so-famous. There’s a Minoan / Roman settlement (Polyrinia) on a hill that we can see from the bedroom window. Fantastic spring flowers.

I haven’t talked about the food – there are plenty of restaurants in the area, mainly simple beach tavernas, but some ‘hidden gems’ as well. There is a plan afoot to provide a new, exciting dining experience almost right next-door. But I am not going to give that game away.

We have made friends here, with our hosts, with our neighbours. In spite of the lock-down we have managed some minimal outdoor socialising, a birthday party, and a home delivered Christmas dinner. Here are our hosts and friends, Tine and Eleni.

Smells: so important! When we walked into the house it smelled right. No heavily scented cleaners or ‘air fresheners’ just a comfortable clean smell, with maybe a little polish. Outside there is a scented hedge, jasmine, and a lemon tree, all of which contribute to a heady summer mix. And just yesterday, the anniversary of our arrival in 2018, the air smelled like spring in some way I can’t define. A mix of daisies and new foliage maybe. That and the sun angle seem to raise a felt memory of our first taste of Cretan Spring.

What else to say? We will be here at least until the end of May, after which we probaby need to attend to a few things back in Bristol! This has been a strange year for everyone, but it’s hard to think of a better place to be ‘locked in’. If you are interested in coming out to visit, get in touch with me , and I can pass you on to our friend Tina, or there’s a booking form on the website.

So – we hope to see you in Crete, sooner or later!

Γεαι σας!

Spring, Summer, Autumn… and Spring again.

Τι καιρό; What’s the weather like?

According to my Greek textbook, there is a Greek saying:

Από Αύγουστο χειμώνα

Κι από Μάρτη καλοκαίρι

Loosely translated as :

Winter begins in August; Summer begins in March.

Maybe because of climate change, or maybe because of our attachment to the notion of 4 seasons, it hasn’t quite been like that. When we arrived in march last year, Spring was definitely springing up everywhere, with many flowers already out, and just after we got here a day that caused our neighbour to ask us why we were wearing winter clothes! As it turned out, we needed those clothes on many days right through into May, and we were certainly lighting the fire in the evening until the wood ran out, maybe early May. But in between there were days when we went to the beach and swam.

I think in July we began to make regular use of the pool for cool-down dips, and I sometimes used the AC for yoga practice.

Of course it was an odd summer, with a background of mask wearing in the supermarket, and a voluntary limit on trips, neither of us wishing to stay in a hotel. Some of you will remember our ‘holiday’ in Papadiana in August when our house hosted other guests. The Airbnb business was clearly a difficult season to manage between restriction, prudence and cancellation.

Autumn was defined by some crisp mornings, beginning maybe at the end of October, when we returned to the log fire. There have been a few days when we have lit the fire before 5pm, and on a few mornings I have used the air heat exchanger to warm the living room-kitchen for yoga practice.

In November, I think, the bare earth of the olive groves turned bright green, and by November, they were carpeted with small yellow flowers with lush foliage, high enough to make my ankles and almost knees wet after rain. In January the anemones began, sometimes just one or two and sometimes a whole bank, often mixed in with daisies. This year, after a heavy crop, the olive trees have been mercilessly pruned, with whole branches lopped off, sometimes revealing views that we didn’t know were there. It is a viscous process, with the sound of chain saws and pale open wounds mark the absence of amputated limbs. The product of this carnage is next year’s firewood, but the smaller leafy branches are quickly dried Ian drifts next to tracks, before being burnt in very neat bonfires that leave near-perfect circles of ash. Sometimes there are left over charred bits, good for kindling as the heat of the fire has dried them out.

So you see, our year has only had 3 seasons, the bite of winter has passed us by. Of course we have had stormy days when wind and rain have kept us indoors, but not so many of them, and generally, people say it has been a dry year. The snow on the White Mountains being Chania is less than it was when we arrived last year. The weather has 3 weeks to make up the difference and at the moment it looks unlikely.

The last few weeks have also brought more bird activity. There are many small birds, blackbirds, doves around, as well as the usual hooded crows and hawks of various sorts.

And maybe Winter

After all that, we are due a cold snap of 5C but feeling like -5C!! A new load of logs this morning, so maybe a few days of earlier fires.

Monday: we have got the cooler, rainy weather and now I have just lit the fire. The logs are neatly piled up – or as neat as I can make it, given that they are pretty weird shapes and sizes. My neat-freak side wants them to be tidier but so long as they can stay dry, that’s the main thing. We were promised high winds and Tina and Eleni collected up our chairs and tied down the tables. I guess that’s what’s meant by a high wind in Western Crete.

MUSIC

Today you have a choice: massive Led Zeppelin live version of Whole Lotta Love

or a much quieter soundtrack from Studio Ghibli’s When Marnie was There which I haven’t seen yet. We have been having a rock music mini-binge. Must be the weather!

FOOD

Chick peas and cabbage – a combination I haven’t used before. There are any number of recipes out there, so I invite you to Google that combination of ingredients.

Here’s one I made:

https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/turmeric-and-coconut-braised-cabbage-with-chickpeas

Fritters have also come onto the menu – courgette quite classic, be sure to salt and wring out the grated courgettes. Another great recipe for chick pea and sweet potato fritters from The Happy Pear.

READING

I think I have had a literary relapse. I couldn’t quite manage LANNY – maybe another time. So have resorted to the classiest crime novels I could find. Oh and The Midnight Library – sort of interesting and sort of irritating. The Life we Bury was an interesting page-turner. No spoilers. I also like the Scandi-Icelandic genres. About to start Ragnar Jónasson’s Winter Kill, and I have The Song of Achilles lined up. It has been lined up for a while; I may have to buy it.

Watching

Did I mention that I have become a ’Trekkie’? We have started with season one of Start Trek. I never watched it the first time around, and I am loving it. There’s something relaxing about the pace of the episodes, and even the old 4×3 TV ratio makes for comfortable viewing. Temporarily giving up with Adam Curtis on the BBC iPlayer. Westerns: News of the World – Netflix film. Good guy finds abandoned white child, abducted during Indian raid. Atmospheric. Watchable. The White Tiger – for a dose of India. Close to the book and very visual. Has the smell of India. We are casting around for a new series, in spite of another 10.6 series of Star Trek.

BTW

This is the year of the Ox. My sign. I feel as though I really am going to have to put on the yoke and do some heavy ploughing if our lovely ideas for a life in Crete are to materialise. Of course my partner in harness is a Horse, so watch out for some interesting team work as the horns and hooves fly. It will not be a straight furrow, but the harvest should be bountiful.

Feeling a little … what’s the word – maybe wistful.

Not sure I have ever written that word before. Let Fairport Convention describe the feeling.

PS I make no apology for repeating myself in the blogs – I don’t check back on what I have written previously, and I don’t expect everyone to read everything in any case!

Coming soon:

Winter Light and Mr Toad

Here’s the inspirational link – since we can’t actually travel much, get aboard Al’s NIGHT TRAIN.

I do have a photo of the winter light, but missed the toad that I found in our woodpile! Now we are well into the second lockdown and I think we are both feeling a little stir crazy and fractious today. Just when I felt I was sort of turning a corner with Greek, I now feel myself to be , if not back at the ground floor, maybe wandering around in the lingerie department looking for the way out. Apologies, that’s a terrible metaphor. Think Father Ted. I was doing ‘small talk’ with my Greek teacher this morning and she chose the topics Christmas, weekend, summer, hobbies and something else I can’t remember. I found myself not just stuck for vocabulary, but stuck for content. Christmas I have tried to avoid for most of my adult life, preferring to spend the holiday on a beach, in a city, even hiding out a t home…. What a Grinch! Hobbies? No knitting, crochet, painting, musical instruments, organised sport…. Help! Reading, watching TV, Facebook & Instagram, yoga, cooking…. None of these feel like hobbies in the traditional sense. Quick somebody, buy me an AirFix kit. Or should I try making the Sagrada Familiar out of matchsticks.

22 December

Well , it’s been a while! I have a ‘new’ Mac – a refurb. Or maybe just overstock. Anyway, not the very latest since it always seems to take a few months for the new operating systems to bed in. I spent quite a lot of the last couple of days on the phone with a very helpful and competent chap called Bruno who helped me through the migration process. Not quite straightforward since 2010 was very miffed and wouldn’t cooperate at all with the new arrival. A bit like trying to introduce a kitten to the old cat. Anyway eventually the old cat settled down, and now here I am playing with the kitten.

British in Greece

Well, we are well on our way. We applied some while ago to be part of the Greek health system – the only way apart from extortionate private insurance. As the UK Gov has been kindly reminding us in the gaps between podcasts, we have left the EU and the transition period runs out in a matter of days. I will draw a veil over the Greek bureaucratic process. Maybe that is for another time! Enough to say that we have our precious ‘health books’ entitling us to treatment in the 9th best health system in the world. And I should shortly be in possession of a Greek driving licence. Al had completely confused the system with dual nationality but no actual civil existence in France. Happy Days!

What I am Listening To

NET ZERO , NOT A SLOGAN, A NECESSITY

Mark Carney’s excellent Reith Lectures

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/43GjCh72bxWVSqSB84ZDJw0/reith-lectures-2020-how-we-get-what-we-value

And I have probably said this before, but the New York Times’ puts out a podcast called THE DAILY. Somehow the Americans seem to be just better at podcasting. I find myself going back there when I need a new one. I do listen to Newscast from time to time, a habit formed when they were Brexitcast and I still cared what was happening in their world. Now I find them a bit too uncritical of the UK Government, and maybe just a little smug. Queen Laura Kuenssberg, it always feels to me as if she has one eye firmly on her dame hood, perhaps followed by DG of the BBC. But maybe that’s just me, as they irritatingly say so often on Brexitcast. New Statesman daily Podcast, mainly because they all sound so YOUNG. Stephen Bush says ‘like’ more times in a minute than I draw breath.

What I Watch

Really this should be What We Watch, since mostly we watch together win the evening, holding one of our laptops whist sitting on the sofa. I am very taken with His Dark Materials and can’t quite make the link between this series and the second Book of Dust. But I will hang in there. I may have to read / listen to the original again. There’s a great BBC audio production of the His Dark Materials, completely faithful to the books. I got a bootlegged copy from Jamie Hunter which I listened to whilst working on Snork Maiden in a distant winter.

We have also started to watch a French series on Netflix CALL MY AGENT. A small French agency in Paris (where else). A new star each week makes a different problem for the agency to solve as well as an insight into Parisian life and loves. And a dog called Jean Gabin. Some gentle and very well done slapstick. Very French.

One series only of GODLESS – a kind of feminist western. I love westerns for the landscape and the horses. This one has an unusual storyline, and plenty gunfire and, of course, horses.

SNORK MAIDEN

No reason why any of you would know this, but I send this Blog out to Friends of Snork Maiden. As some of you know, she has been visited at least once a year, but we haven’t sailed her for an astounding 6 years. I used to wonder how it was that boats didn’t move from the spot, well, now I know. Initially we wanted to just do something different for the summer, so off we went to Sardinia in the all terrain C5. Spectacular trip, mainly camping, with a drive down through France and a lot of ferries. Then Al’s mother died, his Dad was hard put to cope – you can see how that went. All the time we hoped we could sail ‘next year’ and progressively, it didn’t happen. I had such high hopes of this year (2020) that I bought an entire set of running rigging (ropes, to you) and a few other bits and pieces at last year’s Southampton Boat Show. We would usually be in France by the end of May in a ‘normal’ sailing year, but as we all know, this year was not at all normal. We had only just come out of lockdown, were hitting the beach and snorkelling as often as we could, and the Cretan summer seemed like a safer and all round better proposition than travelling back to the UK. Hard to recall now the restrictions that were in place. I think June and July saw restaurants opening for outdoor service, but we pretty much kept ourselves ‘shielded’ apart from a few outdoor meetings with friends. So Snork Maiden was left in her land berth, unvisited and with her hull dry. Somewhere in those 2000 Brexit pages, the status of a UK boat kept in France, may be explained. One last try next year, and if we don’t manage it then, we must sell her and let someone else have a go. There are many charter fleets in the Greek Islands, and bargains come up at either end of the season, so not hanging up my sailing trousers just yet.

25 December 2020

Christmas Day – we have often spent 25 December out of the UK. I don’t like the schlocky aspects, although I do like the ‘feel’ of December. We got married on December 18th and I get a kind of anticipatory sense in the early part of December that I can trace back to 2006. So that Christmas was our Honeymoon in Venice, by train, of course. Then I think I went to India straight after for a month’s yoga in Pune. I can also remember Christmases in Mexico, California (with Stuart and Gayle), the Canaries, Spain, Naples and last year, Athens. This is just a reminder of how much the world has changed in 2020. This year not just exceptional because we were swimming a couple of days before Christmas but also because our friends and neighbours offered to cook us Christmas lunch, bringing it over to us, since we can’t yet all enjoy a meal around the same table. Fish, perfectly cooked in a bed of Mediterranean veg accompanied by a special salad, laced with figs and home sun dried cherry tomatoes. Enjoyed with a bottle of white wine from another of our friends here, and chased with a glass of port (also a gift) and followed by a serious afternoon snooze. Oh yes, then a game of Scrabble with a Greek twist. Είναι Ελλενικα, οχι Αγγλικα. Get the idea? We modified the game to allow copious dictionary consultation and no scoring (although Al claimed that he won). Oh and in the morning we walked on Falasana beach, a short drive away. A good day!

Brexit, Corona Virus

Maybe keep these for another time….

And for you plant lovers, there is a sort of early spring thing going on here in Crete, which has its very own take on the seasons:

Our House

Today’s Blog is a bit different because I am trying to keep to just one subject.

This is actually the house next door, but the two houses are like peas in a pod – not identical but recognisably siblings, actually sisters, Aretousa and Pasiphae.

Here is Pasiphae, and it is where we have been living since March 2020. Today is actually a kind of anniversary. We came out for 2 months on this day (26 February) 2018. We first found it through AirBnb in November 2017, and it was really a shot in the dark. When I looked at the location on the !:140,000 Michelin map of Crete, I thought it would be in a kind of suburban area of Kissamos. So it was a real surprise that it was up a winding road, with a view over the bay, even the ferry port in the distance. I can still remember the drive, maybe in the dusk, the small hire car steadily climbing, following the directions and wondering where on earth we were going and if it could possibly be right. But it was. Tina was there to welcome us and I an almost certain that there was a bottle of wine, bread and a warm dish of stuffed peppers on the table. One of the best meals we ever have.

At the time we were looking for a house to rent for Spring 2018, and after viewing several others we decided to go for Pasiphae. At the time, we had no idea what a good decision this was.

The house is built of stone, so most of the interior walls are unfinished stone. We have come to really appreciate the soft sound that this gives in the rooms. Acoustically, the house feels rather like a single space, and that has made us exercise a lot of consideration for each other in terms of the noise we make – whether it’s Zoom yoga, washing up or Al beating out time in his makeshift bedroom studio.   The bed is comfortable, has great views over the sea, and hills to the West.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I am hoping that this year or next, some of you will come over to see us here in Western Crete, and until we have our own place where you can stay, these houses are a perfect solution. At the moment we don’t know exactly where we will be when, or when where, but we know that you will love staying here as much as we do, so you might want to make plans to come anyway!

The website  (click  on the rainbow) tells you everything you need to know – the houses are comfortable, have pools, 2 bathrooms each, one with a bath and one with a shower and a washing machine. Solar water heating means there is almost always plenty of hot water,(bearing in mind that economical use of water is good in such a water hungry region). There’s an outdoor shower, fabulous in the summer. Swimming pool is small by Oympic standards but good for a splash about when it’s hot. Just floating about on an airbed takes a lot of beating. Still working out how to read whilst doing this.

The houses are around 15 minutes from our favourite local beach at Viglia.  Bigger beaches are also available! 

And there are plenty  to choose from. Many of you will have read the blog, on and off, and will know that we have many walks from the house in nearby olive groves. Further afield there are the Cretan gorges, famous and not-so-famous. There’s a Minoan / Roman settlement (Polyrinia) on a hill that we can see from the bedroom window. Fantastic spring flowers.

I haven’t talked about the food yet – there are plenty of restaurants in the area, mainly simple beach tavernas, but some ‘hidden gems’ as well. There is a plan afoot to provide a new, exciting dining experience almost right next-door. But I am not going to give that game away.

We have made friends here, with our hosts, with our neighbours. In spite of the lock-down we have managed some minimal outdoor socialising, a birthday party, and a home delivered Christmas dinner. Here are our hosts and friends, Tine and Eleni.

Smells: so important! When we walked into the house it smelled right. No heavily scented cleaners or ‘air fresheners’ just a comfortable clean smell, with maybe a little polish. Outside there is a scented hedge, jasmine, and a lemon tree, all of which contribute to a heady summer mix. And just yesterday, the air smelled like spring in some way I can’t define. A mix of daisies and new foliage maybe. That and the sun angle seem to raise a felt memory of our first taste of Cretan Spring.

What else to say? We will be here at least until the end of May, after which we probaby need to attend to a few things back in Bristol! This has been a strange year for everyone, but it’s hard to think of a better place to be ‘locked in’. If you are interested in coming out to visit, get in touch with me , and I can pass you on to our friend Tina, or there’s a booking form on the website.

So – we hope to see you in Crete, sooner or later!

Γεαι σας!

 

Spring, Summer, Autumn and Spring again

Spring, Summer, Autumn… and Spring again.

Τι καιρό; What’s the weather like?
According to my Greek textbook, there is a Greek saying:
Από Αύγουστο χειμώνα
Κι από Μάρτη καλοκαίρι
Loosely translated as :
Winter begins in August; Summer begins in March.

Maybe because of climate change, or maybe because of our attachment to the notion of 4 seasons, it hasn’t quite been like that. When we arrived in march last year, Spring was definitely springing up everywhere, with many flowers already out, and just after we got here a day that caused our neighbour to ask us why we were wearing winter clothes! As it turned out, we needed those clothes on many days right through into May, and we were certainly lighting the fire in the evening until the wood ran out, maybe early May. But in between there were days when we went to the beach and swam.

Autumn was defined by some crisp mornings, beginning maybe at the end of October, when we returned to the log fire. There have been a few days when we have lit the fire before 5pm, and on a few mornings I have used the air heat exchanger to warm the living room-kitchen for yoga practice.
In November, I think, the bare earth of the olive groves turned bright green, and by November, they were carpeted with small yellow flowers with lush foliage, high enough to make my ankles and almost knees wet after rain. In January the anemones began, sometimes just one or two and sometimes a whole bank, often mixed in with daisies.

This year, after a heavy crop, the olive trees have been mercilessly pruned, with whole branches lopped off, sometimes revealing views that we didn’t know were there. It is a vicious process, with the sound of chain saws and pale open wounds.

 The product of this carnage is next year’s firewood, but the smaller leafy branches are quickly dried Ian drifts next to tracks, before being burnt in very neat bonfires that leave near-perfect circles of ash. Sometimes there are left over charred bits, good for kindling as the heat of the fire has dried them out.

 The snow on the White Mountains behind Chania is less than it was when we arrived last year in early March. The weather has 3 weeks to make up the difference and at the moment it looks unlikely.

The last few weeks have also brought more bird activity. There are many small birds, blackbirds, doves around, as well as the usual hooded crows and hawks of various sorts.

Below is a Video link to a pan from Al’s ‘listening spot’ just below the house.  Spring birds, distant chainsaws and a hawk!

https://vimeo.com/user4835619/review/514961103/df8e406866

Winter Update
After all that, we are due a cold snap of 5C but feeling like -5C!! A new load of logs this morning, so maybe a few days of earlier fires.
Monday: we have got the cooler, rainy weather and now I have just lit the fire. The logs are neatly piled up – or as neat as I can make it, given that they are pretty weird shapes and sizes. My neat-freak side wants them to be tidier but so long as they can stay dry, that’s the main thing. We were promised high winds and Tina and Eleni collected up our chairs and tied down the tables. I guess that’s what’s meant by a high wind in Western Crete.

MUSIC
Today you have a choice: massive Led Zeppelin live version of [Whole Lotta Love]
or a much quieter soundtrack from Studio Ghibli’s [When Marnie was There] which I haven’t seen yet. We have been having a rock music mini-binge. Must be the weather!

 FOOD
Chick peas and cabbage – a combination I haven’t used before. There are any number of recipes out there, so I invite you to Google that combination of ingredients.
Here’s one I made:
https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/turmeric-and-coconut-braised-cabbage-with-chickpeas (Sorry not a link – cut and paste )

Fritters have also come onto the menu – courgette quite classic, be sure to salt and wring out the grated courgettes. Another great recipe for chick pea and sweet potato fritters from The Happy Pear.

 READING
I think I have had a literary relapse. I couldn’t quite manage LANNY – maybe another time. So have resorted to the classiest crime novels I could find. Oh and The Midnight Library – sort of interesting and sort of irritating. The Life we Bury was an interesting page-turner. No spoilers. I also like the Scandi-Icelandic genres. About to start Ragnar Jónasson’s Winter Kill, and I have The Song of Achilles lined up. It has been lined up for a while; I may have to buy it.

Watching
Did I mention that I have become a ’Trekkie’? We have started with season one of Star Trek. I never watched it the first time around, and I am loving it. There’s something relaxing about the pace of the episodes, and even the old 4×3 TV ratio makes for comfortable viewing. Temporarily giving up with Adam Curtis on the BBC iPlayer. Westerns: News of the World – Netflix film. Good guy finds abandoned white child, abducted during Indian raid. Atmospheric. Watchable. The White Tiger – for a dose of India. Close to the book and very visual. Has the smell of India. We are casting around for a new series, in spite of another 10.6 series of Star Trek.

BTW
This is the year of the Ox. My sign. I feel as though I really am going to have to put on the yoke and do some heavy ploughing if our lovely ideas for a life in Crete are to materialise. Of course my partner in harness is a Horse, so watch out for some interesting team work as the horns and hooves fly. It will not be a straight furrow, but the harvest should be bountiful.

 

Feeling a little … what’s the word – maybe wistful.
Not sure I have ever written that word before. Let Fairport Convention describe the feeling.

 

 

PS I make no apology for repeating myself in the blogs – I don’t check back on what I have written previously, and I don’t expect everyone to read everything in any case!

Coming soon:  Castles in the Air.

NEW YEAR 2021

New Year 2021

Inspirational Music. Well I think it has to be Lady Gaga and the American National Anthem. I know it still ain’t a perfect world but at least we can have an optimistic warm glow for a bit.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCEEafXcFiQ

Rain from the West on the kitchen window

This blog has gone a bit interior. I think that’s the effect of wintery weather with a slight dose of hibernation. Our main source of heating is the fireplace – glassed in so we can see the flames, but the whole brick surround heats up and keeps the warmth in until the morning. We have A/C that also works as air source heating. Not hugely effective but they can take the chill off a room. We have ample stocks of logs. Al has made himself fire supremo.

More Winter Pix

A quick collection at random – we often walk Max’s dog’s (Maxine Maas, Storm & Bramble). Christmas Day on the beach drawing in the sand, the olive harvest still goes on.

Reading

Fascinating story from WIRED., about a man who walked without a phone and died in a tent in an American National Park. Why would he do this? In what circumstance might any of us choose this?

https://www.wired.com/story/nameless-hiker-mostly-harmless-internet-mystery/?bxid=5c2173b4a777397c683a88d8&cndid=55482701&esrc=bounceX&hasha=1048794800065c822fad4e6114c36d05&hashb=cdd66c874f6a5fb7926e2fe37ad83f21d2da7b1f&hashc=d914614d02bcf58ba91e652e9c4245db862bb856f943be6b9af88858485f59b5&source=EDT_WIR_NEWSLETTER_0_DAILY_ZZ&utm_brand=wired&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_mailing=WIR_Daily_122720&utm_medium=email&utm_source=nl&utm_term=list1_p2

Virus in the Body with an interesting and unexpected history of vaccination

https://www.wired.com/story/nameless-hiker-mostly-harmless-internet-mystery/?bxid=5c2173b4a777397c683a88d8&cndid=55482701&esrc=bounceX&hasha=1048794800065c822fad4e6114c36d05&hashb=cdd66c874f6a5fb7926e2fe37ad83f21d2da7b1f&hashc=d914614d02bcf58ba91e652e9c4245db862bb856f943be6b9af88858485f59b5&source=EDT_WIR_NEWSLETTER_0_DAILY_ZZ&utm_brand=wired&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_mailing=WIR_Daily_122720&utm_medium=email&utm_source=nl&utm_term=list1_p2

Book-wise, have finished OVERSTOREY, after a delay through having to return it to Libby (free e-library App) and re-borrow it for the final section. Also “The New Wilderness”- a dystopian future where wandering in nature is forbidden, apart from an experimental tribe. Also about mothers and daughters. Are futures ever not dystopian? Now reading BURNT SUGAR, set in Pune, so interesting in that way. A different kind of mother-daughter story that I am finding a bit claustrophobic. Maybe all mother daughter stories turn out the same way…. I think I am due an escapist thriller anytime now.

Oh and we are reading Brian Eno’s 1995 diary aloud in the evening, just the entry for that day. Interesting for anyone who was living through those heady days of the nascent web, Windows 95 and the possibilities that the Internet offered. Eno has many of the same interests and contemporaries as we do, so all kinds of resonances.

A YEAR WITH SWOLLEN APPENDICES – BRIAN ENO’S DIARY

Cooking and Eating

Thinking about what I miss. Mostly a few spices. Patak’s aubergine pickle, maple syrup, tamari, tofu, leafy coriander. I have just been browsing the HAPPY PEAR’s recipes. For anyone who hasn’t met them and their Vegan recipes, take a look. They have recipes on the web, also videos if you like that kind of thing. I am tempted to try their sweet potato fritters for a projected picnic. A couple of weeks ago we spent a few hours on the beach. The water was a little cool at 18º. Nothing to real cold water swimmers, but bear in mind, ours is a snorkelled stroll.

Back to food. We have been the lucky recipients of olive oil from friends and neighbours. This year’s crop was plentiful, and tasted good to me, although we heard that maybe it wasn’t generally high quality. I use nothing else for cooking here, although some of the older recipes call for clarified butter. I think I haver seen that in the supermarket but need to properly translate the label to make sure I’m not buying goose fat.

I think I promised a fast moussaka recipe sometime back. The secret, which some find absolutely sacriligious, (TJB, you know who you are) is to chop the veg into small dice. So, I say, forget the idea of multiple layers. Find a large frying pan. Put in enough olive oil to cover the bottom, then fry chopped onion, turn the heat down a bit after initial blast, then add your prepared aubergines. (Slice, salt, press in colander for an hour or more if you can. Wring them out in tea towel. If you have to miss this bit out, don’t worry it will work anyway.) Dice the aubergine slices small – almost like diced carrots. Smaller they are, the faster they cook. Same with the potatoes. Add these to the mix in the frying pan and turn down the heat some more. Leave them alone while you make the sauce (basic béchamel – you know what to do). Assemble the whole lot – potato mix first, can of chopped tomatoes next, sauce on top. Hot oven for around 30 minutes. If you have a deep dish (I don’t) you can layer it up, but for speed, keep it shallow. I have wasted too much of my life waiting for there potato component of moussaka to cook. Oh and you can put parmesan on top about 20 mines in. More cheese optional. Can add it to sauce but IMHO it’s unnecessary.

Another good vegan recipe last night – Pasta e Fagioli

Watching:

No apologies if I have mentioned this before, CALL MY AGENT – unmissable. Season 4 and final just releasing on Netflix. Famous French actors play themselves , and other actors play the staff of an Agency. Excellent and very French!

https://www.netflix.com/title/80133335

Slightly weird film ENORME from MY FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL. A man tricks his partner into getting pregnant then hijacks the pregnancy. Surprisingly good epidural birth sequence. Avoids slapstick, sentimentally, was kind of educational in an odd way. Free to S. America, the rest of the world has to rent the major movies, shorts are free.

TODAY 22 January

I have to be careful that this blog doesn’t turn into an endless piece of blog knitting that in the end strangles me as I try to get it out the virtual door…. And don’t let it hit you in your virtual ass on the way out. See? Time to let go.

Friday is our cleaning morning, curiously enjoyable since the house is SO easy. Tiled floors downstairs, wooden floors upstairs. We shift all chairs etc outside so we get a clear run. Terrace downstairs, balconies upstairs. Everything outside, doors and windows open to air. AL vacuums all floors, I wash them with my favourite ‘Blue Planet’ eco all-purpose cleaner, a mop and bucket. Lovely. We change the bed, wash the sheets and towels if the weather is good. I clean the bathrooms, bag up the rubbish – one bag per week for eco reasons. Ιn a short time, we’re done and the house looks great. I wish I had discovered this method years ago. I think it means I am on my way to a major life declutter.

Bristol seems very far away, and although I can probably envisage every corner of our house, every thing in it, practically, I can’t say I miss any of it very much. The dishwasher is good. I realise that I spent too much time shopping on the internet for things I didn’t really need. That’s possible here, but somehow less attractive. And less possible now, post Brexit. Radio 4 has also departed my life – even The Archers. I could listen here, but instead I choose podcasts. I read much more here, free of charge thanks to the LIBBY library App (thank you Sally Randle). I buy a few books from Apple / Amazon. We have long ago exhausted our paper versions except for Brian Eno (see above). We have also been much more selective about what we watch. Currently the first series of StarTrek which I have never seen. And now we can get back to CALL MY AGENT.

The Future

I don’t really want to say it, but in many ways Corona virus has been kind to us. Hesitant because it could still disable or kill us, as well as those we know, and the countless souls that I think about every day. Not so much the dead, but the disabled and those left behind in the pain of loss. For us it has given us our year in Crete, and with it enough of a taste of life here that we know that we will make every effort to stay. Part of this intention is that we can offer a taste of this amazing place to you, gentle reader. (I like to think that my friends are uncritical and well-disposed).

It’s worth mentioning that because of these virus times, we have ahead of us a world of exploration. We know our immediate neighbours and count several of them as friends; but we have yet to get to know the Greek people who live around us. In normal times, there would be invitations to come in, to have coffee, biscuits, cakes and stumble around in fragmentary Greek / English. But in Covid times this can’t happen. Our Greek neighbours clearly know us. Practically every car and truck that passes us when we are out walking gives us the short toot, that is mostly all you ever here from Greek vehicles. It means ‘hi’, and it’s an acknowledgement of our existence as humans and neighbours. It’s probably true to say that they know us far better than we know them. The local postman has figured out where we live and now leaves our post at the house, rather than with our neighbours whose house we stay in.

Enough. Time for my floor washing. Oh joy!

COMING SOON: end of Veganuary and dry January. I may be cheesed out and drunk!!

Winter Light and Mr Toad

Here’s the inspirational link – since we can’t actually travel much, get aboard Al’s NIGHT TRAIN.

I do have a photo of the winter light, but missed the toad that I found in our woodpile! Now we are well into the second lockdown and I think we are both feeling a little stir crazy and fractious today. Just when I felt I was sort of turning a corner with Greek, I now feel myself to be , if not back at the ground floor, maybe wandering around in the lingerie department looking for the way out. Apologies, that’s a terrible metaphor. Think Father Ted. I was doing ‘small talk’ with my Greek teacher this morning and she chose the topics Christmas, weekend, summer, hobbies and something else I can’t remember. I found myself not just stuck for vocabulary, but stuck for content. Christmas I have tried to avoid for most of my adult life, preferring to spend the holiday on a beach, in a city, even hiding out a t home…. What a Grinch! Hobbies? No knitting, crochet, painting, musical instruments, organised sport…. Help! Reading, watching TV, Facebook & Instagram, yoga, cooking…. None of these feel like hobbies in the traditional sense. Quick somebody, buy me an AirFix kit. Or should I try making the Sagrada Familiar out of matchsticks.

22 December

Well , it’s been a while! I have a ‘new’ Mac – a refurb. Or maybe just overstock. Anyway, not the very latest since it always seems to take a few months for the new operating systems to bed in. I spent quite a lot of the last couple of days on the phone with a very helpful and competent chap called Bruno who helped me through the migration process. Not quite straightforward since 2010 was very miffed and wouldn’t cooperate at all with the new arrival. A bit like trying to introduce a kitten to the old cat. Anyway eventually the old cat settled down, and now here I am playing with the kitten.

British in Greece

Well, we are well on our way. We applied some while ago to be part of the Greek health system – the only way apart from extortionate private insurance. As the UK Gov has been kindly reminding us in the gaps between podcasts, we have left the EU and the transition period runs out in a matter of days. I will draw a veil over the Greek bureaucratic process. Maybe that is for another time! Enough to say that we have our precious ‘health books’ entitling us to treatment in the 9th best health system in the world. And I should shortly be in possession of a Greek driving licence. Al had completely confused the system with dual nationality but no actual civil existence in France. Happy Days!

What I am Listening To

NET ZERO , NOT A SLOGAN, A NECESSITY

Mark Carney’s excellent Reith Lectures

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/43GjCh72bxWVSqSB84ZDJw0/reith-lectures-2020-how-we-get-what-we-value

And I have probably said this before, but the New York Times’ puts out a podcast called THE DAILY. Somehow the Americans seem to be just better at podcasting. I find myself going back there when I need a new one. I do listen to Newscast from time to time, a habit formed when they were Brexitcast and I still cared what was happening in their world. Now I find them a bit too uncritical of the UK Government, and maybe just a little smug. Queen Laura Kuenssberg, it always feels to me as if she has one eye firmly on her dame hood, perhaps followed by DG of the BBC. But maybe that’s just me, as they irritatingly say so often on Brexitcast. New Statesman daily Podcast, mainly because they all sound so YOUNG. Stephen Bush says ‘like’ more times in a minute than I draw breath.

What I Watch

Really this should be What We Watch, since mostly we watch together win the evening, holding one of our laptops whist sitting on the sofa. I am very taken with His Dark Materials and can’t quite make the link between this series and the second Book of Dust. But I will hang in there. I may have to read / listen to the original again. There’s a great BBC audio production of the His Dark Materials, completely faithful to the books. I got a bootlegged copy from Jamie Hunter which I listened to whilst working on Snork Maiden in a distant winter.

We have also started to watch a French series on Netflix CALL MY AGENT. A small French agency in Paris (where else). A new star each week makes a different problem for the agency to solve as well as an insight into Parisian life and loves. And a dog called Jean Gabin. Some gentle and very well done slapstick. Very French.

One series only of GODLESS – a kind of feminist western. I love westerns for the landscape and the horses. This one has an unusual storyline, and plenty gunfire and, of course, horses.

SNORK MAIDEN

No reason why any of you would know this, but I send this Blog out to Friends of Snork Maiden. As some of you know, she has been visited at least once a year, but we haven’t sailed her for an astounding 6 years. I used to wonder how it was that boats didn’t move from the spot, well, now I know. Initially we wanted to just do something different for the summer, so off we went to Sardinia in the all terrain C5. Spectacular trip, mainly camping, with a drive down through France and a lot of ferries. Then Al’s mother died, his Dad was hard put to cope – you can see how that went. All the time we hoped we could sail ‘next year’ and progressively, it didn’t happen. I had such high hopes of this year (2020) that I bought an entire set of running rigging (ropes, to you) and a few other bits and pieces at last year’s Southampton Boat Show. We would usually be in France by the end of May in a ‘normal’ sailing year, but as we all know, this year was not at all normal. We had only just come out of lockdown, were hitting the beach and snorkelling as often as we could, and the Cretan summer seemed like a safer and all round better proposition than travelling back to the UK. Hard to recall now the restrictions that were in place. I think June and July saw restaurants opening for outdoor service, but we pretty much kept ourselves ‘shielded’ apart from a few outdoor meetings with friends. So Snork Maiden was left in her land berth, unvisited and with her hull dry. Somewhere in those 2000 Brexit pages, the status of a UK boat kept in France, may be explained. One last try next year, and if we don’t manage it then, we must sell her and let someone else have a go. There are many charter fleets in the Greek Islands, and bargains come up at either end of the season, so not hanging up my sailing trousers just yet.

25 December 2020

Christmas Day – we have often spent 25 December out of the UK. I don’t like the schlocky aspects, although I do like the ‘feel’ of December. We got married on December 18th and I get a kind of anticipatory sense in the early part of December that I can trace back to 2006. So that Christmas was our Honeymoon in Venice, by train, of course. Then I think I went to India straight after for a month’s yoga in Pune. I can also remember Christmases in Mexico, California (with Stuart and Gayle), the Canaries, Spain, Naples and last year, Athens. This is just a reminder of how much the world has changed in 2020. This year not just exceptional because we were swimming a couple of days before Christmas but also because our friends and neighbours offered to cook us Christmas lunch, bringing it over to us, since we can’t yet all enjoy a meal around the same table. Fish, perfectly cooked in a bed of Mediterranean veg accompanied by a special salad, laced with figs and home sun dried cherry tomatoes. Enjoyed with a bottle of white wine from another of our friends here, and chased with a glass of port (also a gift) and followed by a serious afternoon snooze. Oh yes, then a game of Scrabble with a Greek twist. Είναι Ελλενικα, οχι Αγγλικα. Get the idea? We modified the game to allow copious dictionary consultation and no scoring (although Al claimed that he won). Oh and in the morning we walked on Falasana beach, a short drive away. A good day!

Brexit, Corona Virus

Maybe keep these for another time….

And for you plant lovers, there is a sort of early spring thing going on here in Crete, which has its very own take on the seasons:

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.