29 June 2008

There's No Place Like Home

And for me that's most definitely Corfu!

I've just returned from a couple of days in Athens with my daughter who was taking some University entrance exams. We left Corfu on Wednesday evening, feeling very hot because of our June heatwave, only to arrive in Athens and find it even hotter! That, together with the non stop noise of a dual-carriageway at the end of our road and a flyover on top of the dual-carriageway round the corner made our city break less than relaxing. What else was there to do after the exams finished apart from heading for the air conditioned shopping mall and factory outlet?

What joy to return to Corfu on Friday, find the roads uncongested, the air sweet and peace and quiet! I was woken in the morning by the sound of birdsong instead of traffic noise. When it got too hot, instead of heading for the shops we swam in the lovely clear sea and cooled off then sat in the shade of the beach taverna.

27 June 2008

Buying For 'Investment'

It would be possible to write reams and reams about 'investment' property, and many people want their overseas purchase to offer them investment potential as well as a new home or a holiday home in the sun.

There are several ways of looking at this. One is if you are looking for a 'lifestyle change' and have always dreamed of moving to live in the sun and perhaps having a block of apartments, small hotel, restaurant or bar. Generally the first rule of thumb is if it looks to be too good to be true it probably is! Corfu is awash with elderly 1970s and 80s blocks of apartments, built for the boom years of tourism in Corfu. They are usually small studios, basically equipped and furnished, and often on the edge of a village or resort. The temptation is to think that you can buy them and let them as they are. Unless they are right on the beach - WRONG! Usually the reason for sale is that the owners, who probably have many years experience, cannot make them work. This means that unless you have funds for considerable refurbishment as well as the purchase price, you are probably not going to make them work either.

If you budget for a 'refurb' then you are on the right track. With imagination, studio blocks can be transformed into a smaller number of comfortable and well-equipped apartments, offering a home for you plus a letting investment. These days, unless you are virtually on the beach, you need to have space and funds for a swimming pool. Once you have made your transformation, you are ready to begin. An economic choice could be St George Studios where the studios are unfinished but only a very short distance to the beach. An alternative would be Afionas Studios or on a higher budget Kyknos Pension in Doukades.

Another option is to buy just two or three units of accommodation and live in one whilst you let and manage the others during the summer season. Examples are Katsaros Apartments in Pirgi which have stunning views or Kaminaki View Apartments located in one of most sought-after areas of the north-east coast.

For a similar investment to a small block of studios you could buy several apartments with scope for upgrading and then let for a good rental return. Another choice could be a new build - either two or three of the same size or a combination of one and two bedroom homes. Properties like Daffodil, Mimosa and Daisy Cottages in St. George South which would bring in good summer revenues.

Buying a villa to let when you are not using it has always been popular and there are several excellent properties, some of which have ongoing tour operator contracts plus periods blocked off for your own use and represent a steady investment. Typical examples are Verde Blu Villas in Barbati, Rastoni in Vigla, Villa Cicada in Kalami or Villa Serena in Avlaki. Any one of these fit the bill perfectly - offering a tried and tested property, with a good letting history.

Overall, Corfu offers excellent investment opportunities. Nowhere will you find that you have thousands of other properties in direct competition, as in Spain or Bulgaria. You probably won't find an instant 'get rich quick' solution but you will find a great selection of possibilities to offer you either that all important 'lifestyle change' or even just a perfect holiday home which not only pays for itself but also represents a steady investment and provides all your family holidays into the bargain. What more could anyone ask?

22 June 2008

Of Course It's Not Dfficult To Get Anything Done In Corfu...

We are building a small new development of villas and we have been through almost exactly six months of bank holidays, strikes etc. waiting to get the necessary paperwork for the build. Finally we did get most of them but one of the most important steps is to pay the deposit for IKA (this is the builder's social security committment which you have to partly prepay in order for the building licence ot be valid). This should be relatively simple - you go the IKA office with your paperwork and pay.

Well not quite! Our civil engineer went to the IKA office in Corfu Town, where we have previously always paid, to be told that it now had to be paid in Lefkimmi. This was on a Friday at 11.30 when we are fully committed in our apartments for departures and arrivals. Never mind it had to be done so one of our guys sets off from Moraitika to Town to collect the paperwork from the civil engineer. Three sets of roadwork traffic lights and one hour later he arrived, 'quadruple' parked outside the engineer's office, grabbed the paperwork and set off back towards Moraitika. Another hour later he arrived and my husband Spiros set off for the IKA office in Lefkimmi, where he arrived at 13.50 with ten minutes to spare before the official 14.00 hours closing time.

However, it being Friday, he was told the computers had been turned off. The assistant was hapy to turn them back on for, what was after all just a few minutes work - but the manageress said "No, come back Monday. Oh no, don't come back Monday it is a holiday, come Tuesday". Spiros has other obligations on Tuesday so he asked if he could send someone in his place to pay. "Absolutely not," was the reply, "you have to come in person." (As if some other fraudulent person might rush in a pay our IKA bill. I wish!) So he went in person - but they were all at aseminar. "Come Thursday." So he went on Thursday and they were not back from the seminar BUT the manageress (not quite sure why she could not do the small amount of work and take the money) said that she would make sure that the girl who can do the work would come in to work on Friday (why wouldn't she, it's a working day?) and all would be sorted.

Friday morning Spiros went back to Lefkimmi and the paperwork was duly dealt with, money paid and he set off to Corfu Town to hand it over to the civil engineer, who in turn would register the payment with the planning department. Just as Spiros, arrived in Town he received a call from IKA in Lefkimmi - very sorry, they had made a mistake and would he please come back to Lefkimmi so it could be corrected. By this time he was past being surprised by anything so he turned around and went back to Lefkimmi where they apologised, corrected the mistake and he was free to go back yet again to Corfu Town to the civil engineer who could then go to the planning department. Only it was already virtually closing time in Corfu Town so yet AGAIN it wasn't done and who goes to do it early on Monday morning - me, of course. I suppose we will get there in the end.

It's not surprising the government is short of money when they make it so difficult to pay them.

18 June 2008

... And Here's One I sold Earlier

Often when I am out and about showing the older village properties needing renovation, I hear myself suggesting how the property could be re-organised to make a suitable home for the prospective buyers. I often tell them to turn their imagination up to full power before we go into an old ruin, as it is often very difficult to believe that the apparent wreck they are viewing could ever become habitable again, let alone beautiful.

One such house belongs to Kath and Geoff who live in Spartilas. They bought their house about four years ago and moved here permanently when the work was underway. I have to admit that it was one of the most unattractive houses I had for sale at the time and required a huge leap of faith on their part to buy it.

The outside space (you couldn't even call it a yard) had a chicken run, a dog pen, two outside toilets and a falling-down bread oven, and all of that was in an area totalling about 25 square metres! You couldn't actually see the view or the space that was there.

Nowadays their neighbours regularly drop by the house, using the excuse of a gift of some wine or seasonal fruit, but in fact to have a look at one of the most beautiful gardens in the village. All the old constructions were demolished and a courtyard has been created with a seating area and several raised flower beds. A pergola covered in flowering climbers provides a cool shady spot to sit, a fountain plays gently in one corner and every available space is filled with colour.

Their one-bedroomed home, named "Kato Rouga" (down-town gossip spot) after the area it is located in, has come to life again and is a great example of what an old village house can become.

17 June 2008

Hitching A Ride

Way up in the hills on our way to Rou to show Stone Chimney Cottage we picked up an extra passenger who seemed quite glad of our company until we stopped to take his photo, at which point he decided that it was quicker to walk, and hopped off into the undergrowth. I know they say the camera doesn't lie, but he didn't actually look this big at the time, otherwise I think Sarah and I would have been the ones abandoning the car and walking!

16 June 2008

Why Would You Want To Come 'All Inclusive' To Corfu?

Last night I saw first hand the damage to our local economy caused by 'all inclusive' hotels. (Everyone knows what I mean - unlimited food, drink, snacks etc.) Up until now there have only been a few totally 'all.inc' and most of the villages and resorts have still had sufficient 'free' guests to support them. With a few exceptions, most of the hotels just 'dipped a toe in the water' and have had both all inc. and free clients.

This year in Agios Giorgos South, the largest hotel in the village has gone completely all inclusive. Since the collapse of Golden Sun a few years ago, where many of the smaller complexes of apartments lost their entire season's income, many of them open only for a few weeks to cater for Greek and Italian visitors - therefore the restaurants, bars and shops in the village have been dependent on hotel guests for much of the year.

The restaurant we visited last night, San Carlos (see picture), has always had a reputation for really good Greek food - the best wine and cheeses sourced from all over Greece, fish so fresh it practically jumps onto the grill, all served in a gorgeous setting on the beach. In the past this has guaranteed Dimitris, the owner, constantly busy tables and a great atmosphere from May to October with guests of all nationalities.

Not so this year. All the people on the street are walking past with little bands on their wrists to identify them as 'all inc.' guests They go in the restaurant, tell Dimitris how pretty it is, take a photograph - and leave! The same applies all along the beach - the road is busy but the shops are empty. Dimitris food is still just as good but the menu has been shaved to less than a third of its original size and he only plans to expand it for the season when he has Greek and Italian visitors!

I am baffled. Why would anyone want or need to come to Corfu on an 'all inc.'? We have been to places in the Caribbean where all inc. is the usual form of hotel holiday - and in many cases it needs to be since there are few, if any, outside restaurants and shops - but no one could say that Corfu does not offer a wealth of choice to suit every budget. Indeed a large part of the pleasure of a visit to Corfu is to go to one of the local tavernas, meet people, sample different dishes and generally join in the life and atmosphere of the island.

Tour operators will argue that guests like to know that they will not have to spend more money than the cost of their holiday once they are in their hotel. Actually, you do not have to be a genius to keep to a budget in Greece - we are a Eurozone European country, so no one should expect everything to be at giveaway prices, but undeniably you can budget for everything from a pitta at under 2€ to a stunning meal at 50€ per head! Anything you want is here.

The people who understand this are the guests of the villa companies - they choose their holiday homes knowing that just a few minutes drive away they can find good shopping and great food - these companies such as Meon Villas, CV Travel and Villaplus seem to be flourishing, proving that there is indeed a market for the independent spirit. Why should guests on lower budgets be herded towards all inclusives when there is a massive selection of accommodation at all levels to choose from.

Hoteliers say that the pressure comes from the tour operators, who in turn say that the holidays most requested are all inclusives, so who is to know who is right. The tour operators push hoteliers to provide 'all. inc.' rates at such low prices that they are forced to cut corners on every level. How can they provide good quality food, drink and service when they are receiving less than a basic bare room rate? The result is that guests feel they are being short-changed on what is being offered to them. End result, hoteliers unhappy, guests unhappy, people wanting to come on more individual holidays unhappy as they are offered nothing except large all inclusive units, and who suffers most - Corfu. The happy people are the tour operators who have all their guests centred in large units of accommodation where they are easy to manage, and most of the guests get so 'stir crazy' that the companies do a great trade in excursions and car hire. Another loss for the surrounding villages.

The tour companies are all starting to tell us that they support 'ecological' tourism. That is all very well but what about the economies of the host countries? How long will it be before the only local people you meet when you are on holiday are your room cleaner or waiter and you leave your hotel to find only a collection of closed shops and tavernas. It seems to me that it is time they began to consider the effect of their policies in the destruction to the economy of the local areas. In the final event, when all they are left with is large hotels in a virtual wasteland, how attractive will their holidays be?

Having said all that, I remember a conversation with the owner of a restaurant just outside a large 'all inc.' hotel who, when asked if his business had suffered since the advent of the 'all inc.', replied ' No, the food is so awful in the hotel, they come here for a good meal!'

Art Exhibition

Corfu artist Warren Curry will be holding an exhibition of his work at the Municipal Art Gallery (in the Palace of St. Michael and St. George, close to Liston) from 20 June until 10 July.

Warren was born in Yarram in country Victoria, Australia. He studied painting and sculpture at the City and Guilds School of Art London, and drawing at the Byam Shaw Art School, London.

In 1971 while on vacation from art school Warren, accompanied by two fellow students, went on a painting trip to Greece. His love of Greece was further enhanced when in 1981 he won a Travel Study Grant and was to spend three months painting in the village of Liapades on Corfu. Returning to Corfu in 1998 he spent two months painting in the village of Pelekas.

During his stay in Pelekas, Warren finalised arrangements to bring other Australian artists to Corfu. Now in its forth year of operation the Art Tours provide artists with the opportunity to enjoy the dramatic scenery, wonderful villages and colourful traditions of this island paradise. Warren has now bought a house in Pelekas and spends part of every year painting there.

Warren Curry has held seventeen Solo Exhibitions in Australia and won over thirty major art awards. His work is represented in Australian Government (Art Bank) Regional Collections, Corporate and overseas collections. In Australia, he works from his studio located in the small fishing village of Port Albert in South Gippsland, east of Melbourne.

15 June 2008

Corfuhomefinders to the rescue!

Susan and I were dressed in our best wellies and trainers in order to show the stunning Porfiris Mansion and the Katavolos Stone House to some clients interested in buying a beautiful old house.

At the moment the track leading to the Stone House is somewhat overgrown and with all these stories going around of snakes, we dressed appropriately. We trudged through the long grass around the Stone House, and then headed on up the driveway to the mansion above.

Exploring the grounds of the mansion with Susan (in wellies) in the lead, she suddenly let out a shriek and leapt backwards. Infront of her was what appeared to be a ball of white fur, looking like a dead kitten or other small animal. Further alarm ensued when the ball started to move a bit, and then we all realised that it was in fact a baby bird, which on closer inspection proved to be an owl. One of our clients, a budding Gerald Durrell, took hold of the owlet while we all discussed the best course of action.

The owners of the mansion who had come to open it up for us told us that they had found it earlier inside the house and moved it into the garden thinking it had more chance of survival outside. We found an old box and made a nest for it of dried grass and leaves, and then placed it in the back of the car in the dark. I phoned the vet, Adonis, who does a lot of work for The Ark, and he gave me the phone number of Sylvia from Kanoni who has the Skyrian horses and rescues injured birds of prey. Later that day our baby owl was delivered into her care.

We are hoping that the owl is a good omen and the rescuer will buy the mansion!

Update: Latest news of the Porfiris owlet is that he/she is a barn owl of about a month old. Sylvia has been feeding him, and she says that he is eating very well and is very wild and aggressive! When he is able to fly she will release him back where we found him. I will pay him a visit in a couple of weeks time to see how he is growing up.

13 June 2008

Corfu - Not Very Wild Life

It seems we are obsessed with wild life - several articles about rats and now we move on to another subject - snakes!

We all know they are around, but as someone said to me last night "How many tourists in Corfu have you heard of who have been attacked by a snake?" Well, actually none - the minute they sense the thundering of human feet they tend to disappear rapidly.

Consequently, on Monday, having had new guests arrive at one of our villas ( and with just one query from them regarding the operation of the satellite box), I was astounded to have a call from the 'rep' to say that they were moving out "Because they saw a snake".

Further questions established that there was a snake in the back bedroom and they had left the villa.

My husband rushed over to the villa to deal with the offender but having somewhat of a snake phobia myself I stayed safely at home. After an hour he came home with something wrapped in a tissue. I backed away since I definitely do not 'do' snakes - alive or dead - but when he assured me there was absolutely nothing to fear, I looked in the tissue and saw a clothes peg ... and a small centipede (pictured above). We were both speechless - when a rep spoke to the guests later on they did say "It was quite small but we were worried that there might be more". I guess that if a small centipede is all we need to worry about in Corfu, we are quite lucky!

12 June 2008

Undiscovered Corfu

A lady called into our office in Dassia this morning to ask us to come and have a look at a plot of land she would like to sell. Both of us having a free hour or two this evening, and feeling that we should fill it (why?) we set off to meet her outside the Park Hotel at Tzavros. Neither of us had a great deal of enthuisiasm - after all, Tzavros doesn't sound that exciting does it? (For those who don't know Corfu, Tzavros is mostly known as a main road junction with ugly buildings and a petrol station.)

We were in for a surprise. A very unprepossessing dirt track wound away from the main dual-carriageway, and within a short distance we were in the middle of uncharted territory! We passed a few largish houses, some very imposing looking gates and driveways, plots of land with goats and chickens, and ended up in what felt like the middle of nowhere near to a very pretty privately owned church and old manor house, just in sight. Her piece of land has lovely sea views towards the north east coast, and an atmosphere of seclusion and privacy. On our website, called "Gondilaki Land," the local name for this area. Sounds much more interesting than Tzavros, and it is!

11 June 2008

Losing The Plot

One of the hardest jobs we encounter on a weekly, if not daily basis, is the identification and description of plots of land. Quite apart from the essential equipment that lives permanently in the boot of my car (wellington boots, secateurs to cut back wayward brambles, and a long stick to clear our pathway through long grass because we occasionally do meet snakes) there is the problem of locating the beginning and the end of each piece of land.

Our first visit to a plot is almost always with the owner, or occasionally if the owner is in Australia, America or Athens, with a friend or neighbour of his. If we are lucky, there is a topographical study of the land for sale, which at least gives an idea in metres of the road frontage, depth and width of the plot in question. Usually, though, we are led to an area, quite often in the middle of nowhere, off the side of a bumpy unmade track to be told "the border is over there next to the horse". This is, I promise, not artistic licence, it actually happened a few weeks ago, and whilst it might be an extreme example of vagueness, it is not so far removed from everyday reality. Probably slightly more common is "over there next to the olive tree" and we struggle to work out which one of the many trees the proud owner has in mind. After all, it's not as if he has visited earlier and hung balloons or ribbons on the tree in question, let alone made any attempt to clear the thick undergrowth around the borders of the piece of land.

In fact, that is what an owner sometimes does a few weeks AFTER showing us the plot of land, so that when we first take clients to view it, it is totally unrecognizable and we drive (or walk) straight past it!

This is always supposing that we actually find the right country lane in the first place. It's hard to believe how many tiny tracks lead off every road into undiscovered wilderness, each one looking exactly like the one before and the one after. Then we have to take into account the changes that naturally occur during the course of a year. A plot of land that we first see in spring, covered with shortish green grass and flowers, looks utterly different in high summer, with dry, yellowed, waist high grass.

I once overheard an Estate Agent (NOT one of us) discussing his website say "It doesn't really matter which photos you put on, all plots of land look exactly the same anyway"!

Now he really had lost the plot.

9 June 2008

There's Nothing Like A Fruitless Sunday Morning

Usually we do try to keep Sundays free -mainly on the basis that we are likely to be divorced if we don't. However, for many of the sellers this is also the only day they are able to leave their jobs in Corfu Town and come down to show us their land or houses. So last Sunday I reluctantly agreed to go and look at a variety of property, all owned by the same family.

I arranged to meet the first lady at 10 am, which I duly did. Then we picked up her nephew "because he knows where the properties are and he is a better driver!". Off we trundled to a pleasant piece of land in St. George where I asked, "How big is it?" The answer was 2,000 sq.m. - first disappointment to the family as I told them it was not in the village planning zone - and I knew this as some of my own properties were close by and they were the very edge of the zone. Therefore they need to have 4,000sq.m. in order to sell as a building plot.

Next plot, wonderful, right by the sea (see picture). Size? Just under 4,000 sq.m. - but you can add on the small piece on the beach side of the road they said. Unfortunately you can't, so yet again, not large enough for a building plot. Next plot, away from the beach but pleasantly rural and nice views (I think, but the grass was so high it was hard to see through it to the view). Only problem is, it is a large plot of 8,000 sq.m. on which you can only build 240 sq.m. so it is going to be quite expensive for a potential buyer. Anyway, at least it was a possibility.

Off to a small block of 8 studios owned by 3 members of the family. Begun in 1985 they are about one third finished, look fairly grim but are about 50 metres from the beach, so could turn into a good investment for someone looking for home and income. Then we got to price ...ummmm, umm, and after about 10 minutes of this we agreed they would discuss with the other owners and call me. I am still waiting but I have hopes.

Then off to Argyrades to an old, virtually ruined village house in the centre of the village. Car access only for Smart cars I think! I did get quite excited as the front of the building was an attractive rounded design and the whole building looked as if it could be renovated to something quite special. Bad news - it is only the back part of the building - no outside space, no view, so basically not worth much at all, and they were hoping for a reasonably high figure.

After that, around the village to a small development of what look like new village houses. One small, pretty, single house and another property with two apartments, one on each floor. Car access, private parking, little gardens and the front house has great views down to the sea. At last, something really interesting as economically priced, ready houses in villages are still reasonably scarce.

I should have known better - they wanted to let them, not sell them! I was very disappointed until the lady said, "We could sell one of them, we don't need them all".

So finally, something for me to enthuse over. A pretty one bedroom village house, ready to occupy, car access, parking, nice patio, border gardens, in a village with shops, coffee shops and restaurants, only 5 minutes from the sea.

Footnote to this – Two days later the owner called me to say she has changed her mind and does not want to sell the little house, she just wants to let them all, so there I was, back to square one, with just one ‘quite nice’ piece of land to show for 4 hours of running around on a Sunday morning. That should teach me to say no to working on a Sunday, but I don’t suppose it will!

7 June 2008

Summer in Corfu

On Thursday we were all gathered together in our Dassia office for an early season meeting. About half way through the morning it turned very dark and then began to pour with rain. Then we heard stories of hailstones and floods outside supermarkets. So when I was on the phone to my husband down in the south, I said, "No watering the garden today then!" and he said, "What are you talking about?" It had not rained at all and when I arrived home it was hot, sunny and my washing was dry.

Today the north had its revenge. Mid-afternoon the thunder started rumbling, the rain came slowly then quickly, the lightning came faster - then someone started throwing tons of rocks on the roof of our house! We rushed out onto the balcony to the scene shown in the photo above - hailstones the size of golf balls falling in what seemed like tons. The dog came rushing indoors, and hid under the bed, there was nowhere to escape the noise.

I sent a message to Susan to see if they were suffering the same in Skripero - no, of course not. She was standing under blue skies watching the black cloud above the south of the island. However, fortunately this did alert her to take her umbrella when she went to show a house shortly afterwards and yes, she did need it when the rain finally caught up with her.

What happened to summer - we were happily planning our first swim tomorrow? Think it might have to wait a few more days.

Greeks Raise A Glass To Their Love Of Wine

Wine is still the favorite tipple of one in two Greeks, despite the apparent popularity of imported drinks, such as whisky and vodka, according to the results of a recent survey. The GPO poll showed that almost 55 percent of Greeks say wine is their first choice, some 20 percent opt for beer, and almost 10 percent go for ouzo or similar drinks. Just 7 percent choose other spirits.The heaviest drinkers are men over 45 and people who live in farming areas. More than one in 10 Greeks drinks wine on a daily basis. Only 16 percent of those surveyed said they never drink wine. Two-thirds of those who enjoy raising a glass or two do so with a meal. People from the Peloponnese drink the most wine, according to the survey, which was conducted on behalf of the Agricultural Development Ministry.

5 June 2008

Organic Comes to Corfu

Today I received my first box of organic, locally grown vegetables and free-range eggs, delivered to the door by Calliope and Fergal a young couple who have set up a business on the island dedicated to providing top-quality fresh seasonal produce.

The box pictured cost just over 9 euros, and the vegetables were picked just a few hours before they arrived on my doorstep.

Their usual delivery days are Mondays and Fridays and they can be contacted at any time via mobile: 697 655 2345 or e-mail: kellykerkyra@hotmail.com and everyone is always welcome to pop-by and see the garden growing.

4 June 2008

A VIEW -Stunning, But Just One Among Many

Corfu is full of amazing vistas, and our daily lives are enriched by them. Luckily, we never fail to appreciate the sudden surprises that await us around the twists and turns in the mountain roads. The last few days have been a taste of summer to come and we have been treated to some wonderful turquoise seas at Paleokastritsa, distant islands, bright bougainvilleas climbing up walls of crumbling stone, and endless starry skies at night.

This is the view from one of the villas we have for sale (Rastoni in the mountain hamlet of Vigla). This really is a VIEW in capital letters. Not bad to wake up to this every day!

3 June 2008

Yet More Rats!

A peaceful early evening in the garden recently was shattered by a shriek from Mrs. P (Senior). The cause of her terror - one of our furry friends. In all probability the beast was more terrified by Mrs P's scream than she was of him as he promptly disappeared over the wall into the next door garden. Another sighting shortly thereafter confirmed that there was a ratty superhighway passing through our garden without planning permission. This time, however, this one was wearing a little red jacket and a blue hat. It was was just a fleeting glimpse - shortly after my 4th Ouzo - but it got me to wondering why we get so upset about seeing a rat.

Rats (Order Rodentia, Family Muridae) are around us in their millions. I believe there are several hundred different species of "Old World Rats". With a 21 day incubation period, its no wonder there are so many. I presume the rats which entered my garden uninvited were the "Farm Rat" variety which live off whatever they can find to eat. We have therefore started them off on a course of little blue pills which they seem to be clearing away nightly. Despite success being smelt when the wind blows the wrong way, I expect to have to keep up this diet for at least a month, to ensure the 21 day cycle is well covered.

Sorry Ratty, but you have to go.

2 June 2008

More Rats!

The rat in the office on Friday reminded me of an encounter I had many years ago when still working as a Villa Rep.

Returning to my car in the airport car park after a busy Monday's arrivals and departures, I saw, through the window, a large rat sitting - bold as brass - on the dashboard, looking out through the windscreen. After years of living in the country I'm not overly nervous of insects and mice, but a rat in the car was more than I could bear! I gingerly opened all four doors, and the boot and stood well back awaiting departure of my uninvited passenger. Nothing happened.

I'm a bit embarrassed about what I did next, but at the time it seemed quite normal - I called a passing policeman over to the car and explained my predicament! By this time there was no sign of the rat, so he must have thought I was an idiot - he certainly didn't do anything, or even try to do anything. "What do you want me to do, lady?" he asked before strolling off to deal with more important troubles.

Well, I was tired and wanted to go home, so I gritted my teeth, checked under the front seat and finding nothing there, got into the car and drove slowly home. Slowly, so that I could open the door and dive into the verge in case Mr. Rat appeared on the seat beside me!

I left all doors and boot open that night, and the following day, presuming that I was now rat-free, set off on my visiting rounds of the north of the island. To cut a long story short, after two more days I returned to the car, which was parked outside the town office, to see what looked like a short length of wire hanging from the bottom of the closed driver's side door. A Rat's Tail!

The local agent - forever a hero in my eyes - managed to remove the half-stunned animal from the car and despatch him with the help of the cleaner's mop.

I had taken the tourist rat on a complete circuit of Corfu - to and from the airport on Monday, visiting all the villas on Tuesday and Wednesday, and into Corfu town on Thursday!

1 June 2008


Summer is well and truly with us, with all its beauty (and beastliness!) The scents of jasmine, roses and mock orange fill the air, the sea is warm enough to swim in, sleeveless dresses are having their first outings, but... the first mosquitos are disturbing our sleeping hours, the pollen count is the highest ever, and there are rats in the garden!

On Friday we were all out showing houses and viewing plots of land for sale, leaving the office in the capable hands of our assistant, when we received a phone call to say that she was not alone. A large rodent had strolled in - obviously having watched what clients do - and come right up to the desk where she was sitting answering the phone! Maybe if she hadn't panicked he would have read a few property details and left, but panic she did, and ratty shot off to hide. What to do? Clinging to the hope that he might have headed in the direction of the open door, she started systematically moving furniture and searching behind stacks of files - wielding a broom for protection. No rat to be seen.

The rest of us - safely out of town on our various assignments could do nothing more than sympathize. Then I remembered that husband was somewhere in Corfu Town and I telephoned to ask if he could call in to the office to provide moral support and maybe take some rat poison with him. Then I had to remind him that we have four tortoises living in the garden outside the office, so any poison must be carefully chosen and even more carefully placed so as to avoid killing the wrong creatures.

Just another day at work in Corfu!

"Kalo Mina!"

1st June today, and Greeks all over the world will be wishing each other "Kalo Mina" (Have a good month).

Such nationwide rituals - when it is practically rude NOT to make the wish - are a daily part of Greek life. There are many "wishes" in Greek, at least one for each important occasion and the regular exchange of them brings a feeling of comfort and normality. When you start using them yourself - and bemoaning the lack of them in English - then you have really arrived in Greece!

The subject came up over our breakfast table today, particularly because husband Periklis has just finished writing an article for the next issue of Island Magazine (due out in August) on the subject of Wishing in Greece. We had just finished wishing each other "Kalo Mina", followed by "Kali Kyriaki" (Happy Sunday) and then "Kali Orexi" (Good appetite) - all essential rites before beginning our own family Sunday ritual of coffee and croissants. The whole procedure has a feel-good effect and Browning's words sprang to mind "God's in his Heaven, all's Right with the World". (Here I must confess that, whilst I knew the poem, I had to Google it to find out it was Browning!)

I Really Don't Think This Happens in Tescos

I was waiting peacefully in the queue to buy juice and coffee in Artissimo, one of the busiest take-out places in San Rocco Square, when an elderly lady with a walking stick came in and fought her way through the crush to the far end of the shop where fresh bread is sold.

"Is my bread in yet?" she said, and when the answer was "unfortunately not yet", she said "I will be back in 15 minutes and I want it soft in the middle, crisp on the outside and not too well baked." The shop assistant duly replied "Of course, I will keep it for you, just as you like".

I really don't think it happens in Tesco.