28 April 2008

One Potato, Two Potato...

Easter Sunday. Preparing the compulsory huge Easter feast yesterday morning I started pondering on the cultural differences between our two countries.

Take the paschal lamb for instance. Sarah had telephoned to say they were having "English lamb" this year, and I knew exactly what she meant without any further explanations. (A nice leg, or loin of New Zealand lamb roasted in the oven and served with mint sauce, potatoes and two veg). "Greek lamb", on the other hand, is a whole animal cooked on the spit in the garden (or back yard, or side of the road for city dwellers).

Spit-roasting is an art in itself over which the Greek male can pontificate for hours, always believing that his way is best! My Greek husband, for instance, learnt the art of Easter lamb cooking from the butcher who sold us the lamb for our first Easter as a young family in Athens. (The heat source, be it charcoal, wood embers or whatever, should always be to the side and not directly under the spit as it turns).

The joy of a mixed marriage is being able to pick and choose the best of both worlds. However "English" Sarah's Easter was, I wouldn't mind betting that she had red-dyed eggs on her table, and probably a bowl of tzatsiki as well.

We were only five and a baby around our Easter table, three of our children being in England where they had ordered a whole lamb to cook in the back garden for their friends. Despite the relatively small number of participants we prepared, and ate, far far too much food. This is, I am sure, a Greek phenomenon. Perhaps because Greeks of my generation remember the hardships of post-war food shortages, or maybe just because every celebration in Greece is centred around a groaning board full of things to eat. Example - every Greek house has a dining room with lots of chairs, but not every house has a three-piece suite.

Anyhow, as I was peeling potatoes, I remembered one of the first obvious cultural differences of my early married years. Whilst on a visit to my parents we were all in the kitchen giving a helping hand when my mother - whose appointed task was potato peeling - started counting the newly cut potato chunks, making an estimate of how many pieces of potato would be needed for the present company. Let me tell you I have NEVER got over this incident which Greek husband wheels out practically every time we sit down to a mountain of roast potatoes, enough to feed an army even if there are only five of us!

Easter Saturday

I've just read Sarah's post about her experiences yesterday in town and must just add that we DID find things the way she was expecting them. We set off at 9 a.m. from Skripero and apart from one queue at traffic lights which was enlivened by a guy doing push ups between the two lanes of traffic (yes, really!) arrived in town in plenty of time.

Instead of heading for the port as Sarah did, we went the "back way" past the supermarkets, down to the airport and back towards town along the sea front at Garitsa. There were police around, but they didn't seem interested in directing traffic. We actually found a parking space in the area where I park on a working day, but as we walked towards the centre we saw some prime examples of Greek parking.

It is a fact of life that the average Greek would rather triple park and risk a ticket than walk a few extra metres and today was no exception. Cars were completely covering the traffic island in San Rocco Square - others were parked at right-angles with their boots sticking out into the road and their bonnets completely blocking the pavement. Not a traffic cop in sight - after all, it is Easter. At times like this we do love Greece!

In the evening we decided to go to the resurrection celebrations in the village rather than drive again into Corfu Town. One big advantage of the village is that you can actually get into the church. In Corfu Town the service is held only in the church of Aghia Paraskevi and is reserved for clergy and politicians and other big wigs, so you miss the glorious moment when all the lights are turned off and the darkness is broken by the priest with one candle from which all those held by the congregation are lit. Afterwards the celebrations move outside the church and the band starts playing and fireworks light up the sky. "Christ is risen" we are greeted. "He is risen indeed" we reply.

26 April 2008

Easter Pot Smashing

It was with great excitement that we decided to go into Corfu town this morning for the "pot-smashing". We had an invitation from some friends to join them in their apartment, just off the Liston, and share their window to throw our very own pot! This is a lot more thrilling than being below watching the pots being thrown and also means that you don't have to be squashed and mobbed by the crowd.

It's years since I have gone into town on Saturday morning, so I assumed things would be the same as before - a mad scramble for parking but the policemen turning a blind eye to pavement parking and so on, so that everyone finds a space. Little did I know...

Leaving Kato Korakiana at 9.45 am, (plenty of time I thought, in town for 10.15) I loaded up the car with daughter and parents and set off in fine spirits. No traffic jams until just before the port, so far so good, things were looking encouraging and we were discussing which car park to choose so as not to walk too far. Then the fun started.

At the port the police had blocked off the road into town, and were directing everyone into the area where the ferry boats come in. Solid with cars and coaches, I have never seen such organised parking, or so many police and parking attendants leaving no chance to get out of the stream of traffic and sneak onto the end of a row. We were directed further and further, and ended up at the far quay where the largest of the cruise liners normally berth. By this time it was 10.40 and we had a long walk ahead of us.

At the stroke of 11 we were down near the old port, dodging the pots from the nearby shops, and listening to the roar (which we should have been part of) in the distance. Next year I suggest we go in for the Friday evening processions and stay overnight.

Thursday 24th April or Just Another Working Day

With a string of appointments in and out of the office, it started off like any day of the working week in Corfu. A very dirty car was deposited at the car wash, thereby ensuring free parking for the morning and a clean car at the end of the day. The first appointment of the day was to view a two floor apartment for sale in the old town, and we had arranged to meet (as you do) at the nearest coffee bar which just happened to be at the end of Liston in a lovely sunny spot where Sarah and I watched people go by as we waited for the vendor to turn up. He was late, but who cares in such a setting! One thing led to another, and we ended up viewing another property for sale belonging to someone who happened to be with the original vendor at the time of our meeting. I'm attaching a photo because we really fell for this one - you don't come across a whole building for sale in the old town very often. I think this one will have to go on Corfu Premier Property as well as Corfuhomefinders because, whilst not luxurious in its present state the potential is enormous.

Our next appointment was with a client looking for an investment opportunity in the old town. Things don't often slot together so neatly, I hasten to say, but we ended up showing our newly acquired old building within an hour of having first seen it! In the meantime we had to kill half an hour waiting for the client. It wasn't worth going back to the office - honestly - so we had a little stroll around the tourist part of town, bought a few Easter gifts and generally had a great time. It was a brilliantly sunny day, and with the weather forecast looking a bit dubious for the rest of Easter we think we were exceptionally lucky to be appreciating Corfu town at its very best.

23 April 2008

Holy Week in Corfu

Holy Week in Corfu and the atmosphere is laden with anticipation. Easter is the most important religious festival of the year and for adults and children alike, the build up is equivalent to the week before Christmas in Britain.

Traditionally children are given gifts of decorated candles and chocolate eggs - dramatically packaged in swathes of coloured cellophane paper with ribbons and bows attached (but the chocolate is really disappointing - no competition here for Mr. Cadbury!)

In reality, following weeks of TV advertising, toys are often given and, especially from godparents, quite large amounts of money and entire outfits of smart clothing, right down to shoes and socks. Easter is the main calendar event for a conscientious godparent, and if nothing else, the candle for the resurrection ceremony is an absolutely essential gift.

From Palm Sunday onwards there is something happening in every church every day of the week leading up to the drama of Good Friday and Easter Saturday. Here in Corfu we are lucky to be able to experience one of the most colourful and spectacular Easter celebrations in the whole of Greece. Hoards of visitors arrive, usually including one, if not two, top politicians. Hotels are geared up for an enormous influx from all over Greece as well as foreigners wanting to join in the festivities. It is important to remember though, that the celebrations are for many Greeks more about religion than about marching bands and lamb on the spit.

Lots of us are at work as usual of course, squeezing the preparations - dyeing eggs red, wrapping gifts, stocking the food cupboard - in between bouts of activity at the computer screen and checking out new properties for sale. Today we showed a plot of land to a client who was enthusiastic enough to have filled his truck with metal stakes to mark out the boundaries, went to visit a million-plus villa in the final stages of completion; to check out a beautiful plot of building land above Kentroma; and finally to value a tiny stone ruin in an olive grove with a distant sea view (see photo above). All this in pleasant sunny weather with the hedgerows blooming with so many varieties of wildflowers that we lost count. Not a bad life, really!

Money, Money, Money

This is the time of year when you might start making arrangements to visit Corfu in the hope of finding your dream property. Finding the property is almost the easy part - making the financial side run smoothly is something which needs some planning even before you arrive.

Life used to be simple. You came here, and if you found something you liked you visited a lawyer, signed a power of attorney and your lawyer opened a bank account for you, obtained a tax number for you and did all the work involved in checking the paperwork for your property - so if you really did not have time to return to Corfu he could arrange the whole procedure, right down to buying the house on your behalf. Next time you come, it is yours and you just pick up the key!

Unfortunately,not any more. In common with most other EU countries, governments and banks want to trace the source of your funding and also to confirm the identity of the clients with whom they do business.

Therefore, if you are seriously considering a purchase, bring with you a proof of residence (such as council tax bill), a current utility bill and proof that you pay tax in your country of residence (P60 or similar).

Then make sure you set aside time to go to the bank of your choice and meet with one of the managers and provide them with the ORIGINAL copies of your papers - they will keep a copy and return the originals to you - in order to open an account. At that time they will issue you with an account book and you can also arrange cash cards etc. (Banking hours are 08.00-14.30 Monday to Thursday and 08.00-14.00 on Friday.)

If you are considering obtaining a mortgage from a local Greek bank you should open your account in the bank who will be providing your loan.

Corfu Homefinders and Corfu Premier Property have extensive information on mortgages - just contact them for information.

Once your account is actually open your appointed lawyer, under a power of attorney, can administer the account for you and also deal with your mortgage application - but that's another subject!

22 April 2008

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday cross from Greek Orthodox church of The Virgin Mary, Skripero.

Of all the various sounds in the world, the one which never fails to fill me with pleasure is that of a Corfiot brass band on parade.

It was such a great "homecoming" after our return here at the end of March to go into Corfu Town on Palm Sunday to see St Spiridon in procession through the streets.

Traffic was solid, policemen blowing whistles and waving their arms, and crowds of well dressed Corfiot families filling all the streets around the Esplanada. Visitors from the two cruise liners in the harbour stood out in their multi coloured tops, shorts and funny hats! Speaking to a couple who came to stand beside us they said they had no idea what was happening. (Do the cruise companies not give out any local information when they come for just a day?)

The sound of drum beats was heard and at the far end of the street we could see the first of the religious banners held aloft. Two of Corfu's tallest policemen, wearing high silver helmets led the way, followed by the banner carrier. Then came the band. led by its conductor. It was a magnificent sight, about 50 musicians, (drums, clarinets, trumpets, trombones, bassoons etc) all dressed in ornate uniforms with plumed brass helmets. They slow marched to a sombre melody and were followed, also slow marching, by a group of school children in their school uniforms.

There were several bands, each from a different community in Corfu, each with its accompanying group of children all very smartly turned out. It took hours for the procession to complete its circular route from and back to St Spiridon church.
It was wonderful to be there.

16 April 2008

A Hoopoe in the Garden

We spotted a Hoopoe in our garden at Kato Korakiana yesterday. It was on the ground, pecking away in the gravel underneath the carport, presumably looking for grubs.

It's the first time I have seen one so close. When I first came to Corfu I used to glimpse flashes of this amazing bird darting around in the olive groves, but I haven't seen any at all in the last few years.

Lots of birds are described as unmistakeable, but this one really is unlike any other. It has a striking black and white striped back and wings, but the stripes go in opposite directions. Its head and neck are a pinky colour, and there on its head is a crest of black-tipped feathers. It flies in a strange jerky motion, sometimes abrubtly changing direction for no apparent reason.

I have never heard its call of "oop... oop" which gives it its name, but will be listening more carefully now I know we have one nearby.

15 April 2008

Wind Change Blows Away African Dust

The dust clouds that have covered Corfu over the last few days began dispersing yesterday and should leave a much cleaner and less muggy atmosphere behind them.

The thick clouds of dust from North Africa are a normal phenomenon for this time of year, brought on by strong southerly winds caused by Saharan depressions.

A change in the wind, which turned northerly yesterday, is expected to help blow the dust away, according to the National Meteorological Service.

14 April 2008

Short Haul Flying. Socially Unacceptable?

Concerns about the environment will make short haul flying "socially unacceptable" for many people in the near future, a poll for Eurostar shows.

More than a third (37%) "agree or strongly agree" that in a few years’ time, environmental concerns will rule out short flights where there is an alternative of going by train.

The independent YouGov survey of 2,246 people shows that more than half the UK public (57%) is concerned about environmental impact when planning a journey of 300–400 miles.

I was particularly interested to read the above as my three UK-based sons (ages ranging from 19 to 29) have long been telling me that they do not approve of flying within Britain when there is an alternative (train or car - they do draw the line at buses!) Recently they even turned down the suggestion, for ecological reasons, that they might like to Easyjet over from London to Corfu for Greek Easter. Personally I'm sure that families separated by more than 500 miles should be exempt from such concerns, but maybe that is the mother in me!

I was able to point out that their father and I quite often use the bus service between Corfu and Athens rather than Olympic or Aegean. I didn't tell them that it was usually for financial reasons, though.

Sunday Lunch Corfu Style

In the winter we often go out for lunch on Sundays. When the weather is bad we head for one of the little mountain restaurants with fireplaces and wonderfully warming 'in a pot' meals (lamb in a pot, wild boar in a pot, etc.).

Now summer is upon us and we are combining work with a quick break for lunch, so we began by going down to St. George to check that the bulldozer man had finished clearing the land for our next building project (yesterday he had to stop as his bulldozer got tangled up in some old wire from bedsprings). He had finished so that was one success.

Next we popped round to the previous development where yesterday I dropped off some kitchen tiles, but hadn't got a key so just left them on the balcony, and no of course they weren't stolen.

Great, time for lunch - decided to go to a friend's restaurant near Boukari who had assured us he was open every day - every day except Sundays apparently! Drove back to the main Boukari restaurant (briefly famous for Rick Stein cooking lobster there although they had been cooking for approximately 40 years before that) which looked extremely busy which tends to equate to a slightly delayed meal and we were too hungry to wait.

So off we went along the coast to Petriti, home to at least three fish restaurants. We noticed the road is being improved and thought how much better it will be. Until we came round a corner and found work was definitely still in progress and a bulldozer was abandoned in the middle of the road. Since the sand was piled high on both sides we reversed back to Boukari where the restaurant was, if anything, busier.

Decided to take the long route to Petriti and finally got there about an hour and a half after starting to 'go out for lunch'. We went to Stamatis- but all three restaurants are just as good - and had a wonderful meal of fresh squid, horta (the stuff like dandelion leaves which is terribly good for you) and whitebait. We also ordered barbounia (red mullet) but were given so much food that we couldn't manage them, so they were packed in foil and came home with us for dinner tomorrow. And all for 42 euros, including a rather strong, murky but tasty, local wine. And of course the view - priceless!

11 April 2008

We Just Bought The Odd One Or Two Plants

Every year, at about this time, we take a good look at the garden and pots outside our offices and see what has survived the winter. After all, we want to look fresh and bright for Easter. Unfortunately, usually the answer is not much looks particularly attractive. This year most of the pots were reasonably OK, but as usual, the garden was fairly bare (partly because the tortoise population has risen from 2 to 4 when we adoped two 'stray' tortoises, and they seem to find flowers extremely tasty).

So yesterday off we went to the garden centre near Halikouna, down in the south west. Ten years ago there were a couple of small 'nissen hut' type buildings with a limited selection. Now it has developed into three massive greenhouses with acres of plants, flowers, shrubs and vegetable plants. Small vans bearing the logo of flower shops from all over the island come and go all day.

Helga and I picked a rather large selection in the first greenhouse (pink and white for the Town Office and yellow and orange for the Dassia office) and then moved over to the second greenhouse - oh dear......loads and loads more wonderful flowers, so of course we bought the same amount again because 'its quite a long drive and we want to make sure we have enough'.

The owner of the greenhouse speaks perfect English, and was always on hand with advice to make sure we bought plants that would survive our rather haphazard care.

End result, one black corfuhomefinders car full to the brim with pink and white geraniums and one blue corfuhomefinders car, literally overflowing with orange and yellow blooms of all shapes and sizes plus a couple of cactuses or cacti? for the Dassia office window display. Total bill in the region of 200 euros - not bad we thought. However having emptied the cars today and filled pots and planted borders it seems that we just need a few more to finish the job - so it looks like another trip to the garden centre is on the cards!

One Stop Medical Care For Your Pets

Living in Corfu we have rather got used to having to go to a surgery on one side of Town for a blood test, another one for an x-ray, one for diagnosis and yet somewhere else for treatment - however, now our pets can be more comprehensively cared for than we are!

Well-known Corfu vets, Dr. Maestoras and Dr. Pangratis have opened the islands first fully serviced small animal clinic, covering a full range of tests and examinations for our pets and an extensive range of treatments. And they have parking!

The clinic is open normal Greek business hours, and is located close to the Corfu Town Lidl, on the bypass running from Lidl to the traffic lights at the Pelekas/Lefkimmi road junction.

9 April 2008

Welcome to Corfu - Almost

Not such a warm welcome for the passengers on last night's Easyjet flight.

Waiting in the arrivals hall for the latest group of relatives on the new direct flight, as the plane approached, a very smartly dressed customs official took up his post in his booth, ordering all of us away from the windows.

The plane landed, the buses taxied over to it, and brought the first group to the ramp. So far so good. The passengers all got off the bus, and started walking up the ramp, waving to us relatives waiting inside as they did so. The customs man puffed out his chest to prepare for the passport inspection, but nobody came through. The doors were firmly shut and not letting anyone in.

Our customs man calmly phoned for assistance, and a workman walked in clutching a bunch of keys. No good. Further phone calls and walkie-talkie conversations ensued, followed by a suited gentleman clutching yet more keys. Still no good.

At this point the decision was taken to open the other ramp, and bring the passengers in through the domestic arrivals end. Customs man trotted off to another booth at the opposite end and the buses came back to carry the passengers to the other ramp. Meanwhile, somebody, somehow, managed to open the doors and the passengers herded through en masse, while our customs man looked on horrified and tried to remain looking dignified while he rushed back to his post, too late to inspect any passports and stop any suspicious looking folk from entering our island.

It's the first time I've seen the luggage arrive before the passengers.

8 April 2008

Easter Shopping

Shops in Corfu will open at the following times in the run up to Easter.

Monday 21 April to Thursday 24 April 8.30-14.00 then 17.00-21.00. Friday 25 April 10.00-19.00. Saturday 26 April 8.30-14.30.

(English Imports will be closed on Monday evening before Easter but will be open for the rest of the week.)

Ban on Smoking by 2010

Greeks, among the heaviest smokers in the world, will be running out of places to light up in a few years as the government moves to adopt European Union guidelines protecting people from passive smoke. The Health Ministry announced yesterday it will gradually ban smoking in public places, such as cafes and restaurants, by 2010. The stricter measures, aimed at protecting smokers and non-smokers, have the backing of most Greeks. According to a recent survey, eight in 10 Greeks believe that banning the habit from all public places is not an infringement on personal rights. Additionally, 73 percent agreed that the reduction of smoking should be a target in national government policy. Authorities will also launch a marketing campaign aimed at preventing youths from taking up the habit. Some 46 percent of males are regular smokers with the respective percentage among women reaching 31 percent.

5 April 2008

Lemons in the Rain

It's been wet this week - Corfu style rain so that you wonder if the drops will damage the paintwork of the car, huge jagged slashes of lightning forking through the skies sending us all scuttling to unplug vital equipment and then, just as suddenly, bright blue skies and warm sunshine. At our house we unplug everything when there is even the hint of thunder and lightning. Out comes the phone, the TV, the computer, the aerial - just to be on the safe side. During one storm last year I unplugged my mobile phone but left the charger plugged into the mains - only to learn the hard way that I should have unplugged that as well.

The photograph was taken from the kitchen window of a house that is for sale in the village of Magoulades. It was pouring down at the time, but with such a view who cares?

What a Little Pond We Are - Thank Heavens!

As estate agents we quite frequently have comments from clients that 'property is cheaper in Bulgaria, Spain and Portugal'. Maybe it is, but when I was half-heartedly watching one of the English Property TV shows the other day about Bulgaria I heard the presenter asking a local 'Sunny Beach' resort estate agent how many properties were currently on the market and the reply seemed to be '20,000'. Totally dumbstruck, I dropped everything and settled down to watch, to see if I really had heard correctly. It seems I had - in one resort, in one country there are 20,000 properties available, mainly off plan. (The photo above is an example of what is on offer.)

The accompanying film showed people squashed on the beach lying on very neat rows of sunbeds, with vast tower blocks as a back-drop to the beach. The voice-over warned people to 'be careful about what they bought' as some of the cheap apartments are not well constructed, and since the non-stop building is positioned to continue, and older apartments will be superseded by 'new spec' blocks, the cheap investment is not an investment at all - no wonder it is cheap. As the programme developed it transpired that if you wanted a good invesment you should buy an 'individual' property or one on a small development - whose prices turn out to be much the same as those in Corfu!

Previously I heard a development in Cyprus being described as 'small and exclusive' and there were eighteen villas - we would call that a 'substantial development' since, with a few exceptions, most so called developments in Corfu are far less properties than that. So, happily, that our views that Corfu is for individuals, not looking for their property to be one of hundreds, is indeed the case - and thank heavens for that!

Take care!
Still on the subject of other buying areas, the same programme on property 'hotspots' proposed Albania - for the adventurous, and recommended that a potential buyer should 'check ownership carefully' as the person selling the property is sometimes not the owner. They tell you to 'do your homework'. How can you when the property history of Albania probably dates back only a few years? Of course it is very easy to check property legality and ownership - we all speak the language fluently, are familiar with the requirements for estate agency licensing in Albania, if any, can totally trust the lawyer to whom we are recommended, are totally au fait with planning rules, land registry procedures etc. in Albania. How can you be careful if you do not know what you are supposed to be careful of?

In praise of Corfu!
Ok, so we are biased, we live here and sell property here - why wouldn't we sing its praises? Sometimes we feel we don't sing the islands praises often enough, particularly when we get frustrated over rubbish strikes, charming staff at IKA when you need help, road works, too much rain in winter etc. but when I see these assorted 'relocation' shows I realise how much we have to be thankful for.

Greece always seems to come quite low in their recommendations, but apart from the usual wonderful beaches, fantastic scenery, etc etc. they overlook what to me, is one of the greatest benefits of life in Corfu. IT IS SAFE! None of us worry about dog walking in deserted olive groves, or on empty beaches, we do not have to have a nervous breakdown if we realise we forgot to lock the back door, we do not have to close every window and shutter, and lock the gate when we are just going to buy a loaf of bread, and if the kids are late home from school we are inclined to wonder whose house they have gone to to enjoy lunch, not instantly panic.

A couple of months ago some clients had been trying to decide between buying property in Italy, or in Corfu, and one of their early questions was regarding which alarm and security systems we recommended for our properties here? The estate agent in Italy had assured them that this was one of the points they should consider when viewing property - what systems were installed? I was slightly struck dumb - on the one hand you can't say that crime NEVER happens - but on the other, it is fairly rare, and the burning question is - if you have an alarm system in your villa in the mountains, connected to the local police station, and the alarm is tripped, will the police station be open for anyone to respond?

Actually I do not even know if you can connect your alarm to the police station, which shows how rare it must be, and if it is not connected and is just going to ring up the mountain - how much use is it, apart from frightening the goats? Aren't we lucky?

Welcome to EasyJet - At last!

After a quick pre-season trip to London last week, how nice it was to be able to fly straight back to Corfu on the first Easyjet flight from Gatwick. The Corfu flight uses the North Terminal which is slightly calmer than South, and the only small wrinkle came when the lady on the check-in asked my (Greek) husband if he needed a visa to go to Corfu!

Security is as much fun as usual, but even with the extra 'shoe x-ray' machine, only took about 10 minutes. Seating, as usual, on Easyjet, was a total scrum BUT the end result was a pleasant flight, on a fairly comfortable (we think ex GB Airways plane) offering a film, hot meal and fairly constant snack service, from friendly crew. Arrival at Corfu was filmed by a camera crew from a local TV station - shame the plane was pure white and no Easyjet logo, but the thought was there!

The flight was full outbound from Gatwick, but did not seem to have many inbound passengers, but we have heard from friends in travel agencies that it is hard to find Easyjet seats over the forthcoming Easter period, and since we then move into the summer period, when presumably business will be brisk, we must hope for a successful first season, which might convince the company to continue a winter programme.

Please note - residents of the Acharavi area should be prepared for an influx of visitors, since the Corfu guide section of the flight magazine, written by the proprietor of a local periodical, with a business in the Acharavi area, refers pretty much only to Acharavi in the description of the delights offered by Corfu in terms of bars, restaurants, shops etc.

I have to say that it is a nice feeling, that it is possible to plan a UK trip and not be dependent upon whether an empty charter seat crops up at the last minute, or whether you might have to go to Stansted when you really want to to go to Glasgow. There is also of course, a greater choice of travelling days - the the only minus points being that it is just Gatwick, and there is a problem in the late arrival time in the UK, especially for passengers with onward journeys (which is presumably a large majority). Still, the phrase 'grateful for small mercies' comes to mind, and it must be said that the first flight on Monday was a very good start.

1 April 2008

Lovely Land For Sale

Sarah and I set out in the early evening a couple of days ago to view some land for sale. Little did we know that we were about to fall in love!

It doesn't often happen, even in beautiful Corfu, that we see a little piece of heaven, but we did that day. On the sea side of the road, near Barbati, reaching to within just a few metres of the sea itself, we were shown 26,000 sq.m. of land, with plans for five villas (or one huge one!). The land itself was carpeted with wild lupins and the view just amazing. More details here.

Yet another successful concert from the Corfu Music School!

On Saturday 29 March at the Municipal Theatre the school orchestra performed a selection of classical music and "Mona Lisa's Smile", by the well known Greek composer Manos Hatzidakis. The orchestra was made up of students and teachers from the school, together with students who have previously graduated.

The first half of the concert was a string concerto by T Albinoni followed by the Brandenburg Concerto No 5 by J S Bach.

The second half consisted of ten selected pieces from "Mona Lisa's Smile", an enjoyable combination of classical music with a Greek twist, thanks to the traditional instruments such as the mandolin being included in the orchestra.

This was the last concert for the school this year until the Christmas concert.

Hidden Treasures

We persevered to discover the opening times of the National Gallery of Art. How pleased we were, as early one evening we entered the restored mansion nestling among trees on the slopes of Kato Korokiana. The staff seemed surprised to see us. Having enjoyed the traditional style portraits, we were about to leave when we were ushered into the lift and then spent over an hour relishing gentle landscapes and a further variety of stunning paintings. We were feeling more than satisfied when a third member of staff invited us to the lift and up again to meet the challenge of works of late 20th century and of some still living artists. Whatever your taste, so much of Greece's talent is here; an almost exhausting choice - so hidden but open all the year and empty of visitors. "People come in the tourist season", (not Tuesdays!) we were informed. If a prominent formal sign were to replace the faded photocopy perhaps more people would be encouraged beyond the nondescript car park into the elegant building beyond and this national treasure would attract those seeking the pleasures of Corfu outside the traditional tourist season.

Signs of Spring or Where My Torpedo Has Landed!

The first orchid, swallow, tortoise, torpedo. Torpedo? Yes it must be Spring. Driving through Aspiotades in early March there it was: the first torpedo of the year. Now Aspiotades is not that close to the sea but this could not have been an over-run from a passing sub. So, what other options might there have been? Fell off a passing plane/lorry. Could Kostas' cousin have made him an offer he couldn't refuse? Spring-cleaning? Surely it couldn't have been for recycling - there are no bins nearby. Was it simply one of those votive offerings that the Greeks regularly leave by the wayside - broken chairs, mattresses, refrigerators; why not torpedos?

I couldn't help thinking of a story a friend told me once, how, as a young boy in England during World War II, he found a bomb and brought it home on his cart/trolley/soapbox (depending on which part of the UK one lives). This would definitely be a case of "my bomb's bigger than your bomb!". In any event on the next visit to Aspiotades, the torpedo had gone. So perhaps it had been recycled - with Easter coming on maybe it will make a spit-roast: cut into halves, the spit motor already in place, it could service a whole village. But I can't help thinking that it must have needed a thumping great trolley to get it home.