Sunday, 15th September, 2019
Glorious, glorious day of blue skies and hot sunshine all day. We reached 24C/75F and very enjoyable it was too. It is so much more enjoyable when it is less expected. In the Mediterranean, it soon becomes de rigueur to keep out of the sun. It can soon become too much and so available that no one needs to sit out in it.
Of course, UK in Autumn is not renowned for hot sunshine and it is more important to enjoy every minute of it when it occurs. Being old and distinctly not body-beautiful, a sun tan is not important apart from for the essential vitamins provided by sunshine. I live in short sleeved shirt and shorts all year round down here so I already get plenty of exposure. We also swim outside for 30 mins per day which helps. We have a lovely set of patio furniture but rarely sit out because we are so busy being active and because it is so difficult to read an iPad screen in the sunshine. Today, I chose to do all the edging of the lawns which gave me an hour in the sunshine.
I wrote the other day of my need to keep reviewing the context of my life and that the Blog helps me with this. Last night I went outside in the warmth of the night in my back garden and had a weird moment when I asked myself, What are you doing here? Not in my back garden but in this small village in the County of West Sussex. What am I doing here? Why am I here? Where do I really belong? I have absolutely no answer to any of those questions. I belong nowhere or anywhere.
Of course, we’ve moved around a bit and lived in different places and countries. On this day, 4 years ago, our solicitor phoned us to say we had exchanged contracts with the buyer of our Duplex Apartment in the Maybury area of Woking, Surrey. We were, effectively, homeless. Actually, our purchaser was still living in Australia and wouldn’t want to take possession until early October so we had a little extra period of grace but our new home in Sussex wouldn’t be ready until April of the following year. That lead to us spending 2 months in Tenerife and 4 months staying with P&C. At least we’re settled …. for a while.
Monday, 16th September, 2019
We may be settled but the world moves constantly. Everything is in a state of flux. When we first landed on Sifnos island, a speck of rock in the Aegean, we were learning to like many foods we had not had much contact with before. It is amazing now but, 35 years ago, I had little experience of olives, olive oil, oregano, basil or bell peppers. Even my experience of fish was largely restricted to what I was served swamped in parsley sauce on Fridays. I was rapidly educated.
I was particularly educated at what was the classiest restaurant in Kamares. It was called Captain Andreas Taverna and was owned by an influential family who also owned and operated a fishing vessel that supplied the restaurant. Their son, Andreas, who was about 12 years old, served us in the restaurant. He went on to become Mayor of Sifnos and only retired from that post last month.
As time passed, Andreas‘ father died and, later, his mother, Poppi, retired from the restaurant. Andreas worked for the OTE and then as Mayor. The restaurant was taken on by another side of the family and seemed to be doing well. I know we have been gone for 5 years but it came as a shock this morning to find that the restaurant was being advertised for rent. This will mean little to most readers of the Blog but, to us, it is quite shocking and indicative of our distance from the island.
Another chunk of our past life will be no more. For us, it feels a little unsettling. That restaurant and its owners/workers played a significant part in our Greek lives. First and final meals were eaten there to mark arriving and leaving. Now, all is leaving.
Tuesday, 17th September, 2019
Glorious day with warm sunshine and peerless, blue skies from day break to day’s end. A lovely day for a visit from P&C who drove down from Surrey. After a light lunch, we went down to the beach for a walk and to enjoy the sunshine and sea air. The temperature reached 24C/75F but felt warmer when we returned to the sanctuary of our back garden.
The beach path was quiet but there were people sunbathing on the beach and swimming in the sea. The view with its crisp light and azure blues looked more Mediterranean than southern England.
Even on such a lovely day, I managed to sneak out mid morning to do my exercise at the gym. At this unusual time of the day for me, the gym was a lot busier with Mums who had dropped off their darlings at school and now had time to themselves. Even so, I got to do everything I wanted to do and drive home before P&C arrived.
Wednesday, 18th September, 2019
The morning is opening on another, glorious day. You have to feel sorry for those going to work. Our guests will be leaving later and we will do another trip to the gym. It looks like it will be another warm day.
Five summers ago, I was making daily trips to the local refuse tip in Kamares, depositing things which we didn’t think our purchasers would want. Four years ago this week, we were making daily trips to the Storage Company to deposit things which our purchaser in Surrey hadn’t bought and in readiness for vacating our apartment. It is amazing how quickly these things fade – in my mind anyway.
For me, this essentially communal living in relatively cramped rooms proved to be a step too far. Having left Sifnos, we quickly realised that this could never be a long-term, all year round home. We had to buy a detached house.
Pauline had the patience to research and organise trips and viewings. I would have bought almost the first one we saw. It took us 6 months to find and then another 6 months to have built our current home but it has proved well worth the wait.
Thursday, 19th September, 2019
The gorgeous days just keep coming. Cloudless skies, strong sun and 23C/73F temperature today. Shopping round of Asda, Sainsburys and Tesco was completed soon after 9.30 am. We actually sat out in the garden and sunbathed while listening to the legal case against the government’s proroguing of parliament. It is quite inspiring to see barristers, at the top of their game, performing so calmly and expertly. We also did our exercise routine. We have only missed 1 day out of the last 28 and just 3 out of the last 56.
Had a problem putting the car in to Drive as we were leaving the supermarket this morning. This is the second time in a week. It is not a problem with the car but it is a problem with me. We’ve almost completed our first 2000 miles now so you would expect us to have ironed out all the wrinkles but, after 20 or so new Honda cars over the past 40 years, this one is like no other. It is miles better. We absolutely love it. However, familiarity has bred complacency.
There is no gear stick – manual or automatic. There are only push/pull switches. It isn’t difficult but in moments of relaxation or quickly required action, it is easy to revert to the old way and forget sequences of actions. For example, having pressed the start button – which produces a silent engine start, one has to depress the footbrake, depress the handbrake and press the Drive button. Should be straightforward but, when I did that on Monday, nothing happened. I did it twice. I even turned the engine off (re-boot) and followed the routine again but nothing happened.
Eventually, I realised that my door, which is incredibly light for fuel economy, was slight ajar. I didn’t know that the car wouldn’t move in that condition. Today, it happened again for a different reason in which I was to blame. At least we are being kept on our toes as we learn the new technology. Let’s hope this is an aid to staying young.
Friday, 20th September, 2019
Beautiful morning in the sunshine of our garden and a temperature of 23C/73F. Tried to make it active by doing a bit of lawncare. Part of this included spray-watering because we’ve had so little rain in the past 3 months. I’m really pleased because exactly 12 months ago we returned from a 5 weeks in France to a completely dead lawn after the hottest and driest period on record. We had to completely reseed it – something we had never attempted before – and the result has been little short of miraculous. Now it is rich, green and vigorous.
The Pound Sterling has ticked up a little against the Euro. It is currently at £1.00 = €1.13 so I forward bought another £1,000.00 worth to build up our stock. Who knows what will happen but we will travel come what may and will need euros. At the same time, the historically significant, Thomas Cook Travel is teetering on the edge of collapse, putting thousands of people’s holidays, flights and jobs at risk.
We are flying to South Tenerife for November. true to our characters, we have booked a villa, bought our flights, pre-booked the airport lounge, booked a hotel at Gatwick for the night before and booked a taxi to get us there. Everything is organised within a inch of its life. When we were there last November, the most common plane flying in to Reina Sofía Airport was from Thomas Cook Airlines. Holiday destinations around the world will feel the demise of such an iconic carrier/holiday retailer. Fortunately, we won’t be one of them.
Saturday, 21st September, 2019
Sounds like the last of the beautiful, late summer days is occurring today. We are going to enjoy it. Up just after 6.00 am, out to buy & post a birthday card for our friend, Little Viv by 8.30 am. Coffee and newspapers followed by some garden work and then off to the gym.
While we were spending half our year in Greece, I traced and followed a number of UK ex-pat Blogs. Particularly, I listed Bart Simpson’s Paros Blog which is now gone, The Skiathan’s Blog which has continued even through personal crisis and a strangely inconsistent support for Brexit, The Skopelos Blog, Symi Dream which is still going and, one of my favourites for lots of reasons, Democracy Street maintained by Simon Baddeley who I have actual and experiential connections with. I have retained these links and follow them regularly. What they do display is the precariousness of ex-pat life.
Ex-pat life is precarious because one is never ‘one of them’ and always a ‘comer-in’ as they say in Yorkshire. On our Greek island, we always knew this. We didn’t denounce it or begrudge it; we just accepted and worked with it. However, in moments of crisis, that is the time our true status was laid bare. Of course, there are always exceptional people who are prepared to cross mental/emotional/nationalistic frontiers but they are the exception.
For many of these ex-pats, of course, life is precarious because they are escaping something – may be it is romantically escaping the rat race, maybe it is following a dream, maybe it is escaping opprobrium of their sexuality in a different setting. Often these reasons lead to the burning of boats irrespective of the means to subsist. Many, maybe most, don’t buy properties as we did and have the means to support themselves but rely on renting and the fragile ‘tourist-based’ labour market to make ends meet. A number try to combine that with the chance to be more creative as writers.
I have followed John Manuel’s Ramblings from Rhodes for a number of years. Like me, he enjoys words and I appreciate that. He is, perhaps only a couple of years younger than me. He was a Graphic designer in UK before ‘retiring’ to Rhodes with his Greek wife where he wrote books and did a bit of tourism-related work. He seemed proud of his Greek home and garden and it came as a total shock to read that he was just renting it and that, after 14 years residence, he was being forced to vacate it. What an unsettling shock that must have been. He & his wife are moving to Crete. Ramblings from Rhodes will have to become Cuttings from Crete.
Hot in Brighton today with the Labour Party Conference getting off to an uproarious start as Shadow Cabinet Front Benchers lead a demonstration chanting for a People’s Vote. There were plenty of sun worshippers on the beach as well.