27 April 2009


I mentioned swallows, in passing, in an earlier post about the coming of spring. This year we have two families busily making nests, one under the eaves of our upstairs covered balcony and one downstairs, similarly protected from the elements.

What a mess they are making, and how lovely it is, at the same time, to listen to their busy twitterings. More than any other bird, I think, they seem to be having conversations as they work. I can understand why (nice) shop-keepers and taverna owners build elaborate constructions under the nests to catch the mess and why (nasty) ones destroy the nests to "encourage" the birds to go elsewhere. This year's lot are particularly casual in their housekeeping methods - not only do we have the little piles of discarded nesting material and poops, but they leave evidence of their flight-paths as well, and the walls are splattered under every resting place - lintels, light-fittings, picture frames (yes, they come inside through any open windows).

One of my oldest Corfu friends, an English lady who married into a local family, used to move her bed every spring in order for the swallows to nest undisturbed in their usual place inside her bedroom.

Another swallow story - when I was a villa rep, I visited some perfectly pleasant clients in a rather smart villa on the north-east coast. They asked me, one day, to arrange for the removal of a wasps nest. When I went to have a look at the offending construction it was a particularly elaborate swallows nest - one of the ones with a little tunnel entrance leading to the main dwelling. In vain did I explain that it was swallows not wasps or bees, but to no avail. It is rather disconcerting to be "told" that you are wrong when you absolutely positively know that you are right! Especially when in a "customer is always right" context. What a quandary! I'm afraid I refused to destroy the hard-work of the swallows, and promised the clients that I would be back immediately if they saw as much as one single wasp entering or leaving "their" nest.

Is this a first?

After a busy property viewing day yesterday, I sat down today (Sunday!) to put some of the properties I had seen on the website, whilst they were still fresh in my mind. Imagine my surprise when I went to the Corfuhomefinders home page to review them, to find that ALL the most recent additions are either in the south or centre of Corfu. Usually mine are in a definite minority (about 75% are north Corfu), but this time I am definitely taking over! Which probably actually means that Susan and Sarah have been too busy showing clients around to add anything new, but still, this is a definite first for me.

Two weeks ago I went to see a house on the main central island road going towards the south. I drove straight past it the first time - and then I found a lovely, wonderfully renovated house, with galleried living space, great views, gardens, land, and gated parking.

Then on Saturday I was asked to go and view a house which turned out to be close to the previous one and again was a pretty, comfortable home, 'ticking all the boxes' with terraces, rock garden, lovely views, etc. now on our site as Nectarine House. After this I went off to a meeting to look at a villa, but on the way got diverted by a phone call asking me to go and look at land in Halikouna NOW, as the seller was just leaving Corfu for Athens and had only just made the decision to sell. Definitely worth diverting for - a nice flat, easy to build, large piece of land with sea views and only five minutes walk from the beach.

Back on track, off I went to look at the villa. Absolutely wonderful! Have a look at it and I need say no more. I decided to be creative and drove some distance around the side of the hill to try and get a good long distance shot of the villa. On this part of the coast the local council have been busy putting down tarmac all year, so that all the dirt tracks are getting frightfully smart. I drove off down the road, nearly got to what I thought was the best vantage point for my photo - only to find that the beautiful new tarmac road has fallen into the sea! I was so shocked I forgot to take a picture of it. It reminds me on one of those earthquake shots - two sides of the road, a thin ribbon of tarmac and a gaping hole with a massive drop. So much for new roads.

23 April 2009

Greek Easter in London

I did wonder what Greek Easter would be like in London - it is the first year we have not been in Corfu for Easter - but since neither of our kids was able to come to Corfu (and it was an ideal opportunity to take a quick long weekend off work!) we decided to go there instead.

We arrived in wonderful sunny weather, had a drink at our local pub, sitting outside looking at people stretched out in the park sunbathing, which was very strange for us since we are absolutely NEVER in the UK in the summer. We also absolutely had to take advantage of an old fashioned Mr. Whippy ice cream van, conveniently parked on the edge of the children's playground. Spiros said, 'If this is Spring in England, why do people come to Corfu?'. The next day it poured with rain and was freezing. We got soaked each time we went out - now he knows!

We decided to get only the best for our Easter lamb and went down to Borough Market, the 'foodie heaven' where we bought some lamb and strawberries from organic farm stalls (and had a venison burger as a snack, which was definitely a first for me).

Spiros went to the nearby Greek Orthodox church to find out what time the Friday Evening Service would be. He asked two people in the Church but they didn't speak Greek and had no idea when the service would be. On Friday evening he went along anyway, and in a very nice service the priests did the 'Epitaphion' procession, around the nearby St. Thomas Square - with occupants of the apartments all around taking photos.

Saturday morning we were informed that we had 'friends coming to lunch on Sunday' and since we did not have time to go down to Borough again we opted for extra lamb and strawberries bought from our local Tesco and thought it would be interesting to see if there was a taste difference. By the time we had run around buying all our bits and pieces we were too shattered to go to the Anastasie, so we all just said Happy Easter and retired to bed.

On Sunday morning we went down to Columbia Road Flower Market (see photo) to buy flowers and plants to compensate for having a flat with no garden and then we duly cooked both pieces of lamb - and what do you know, we couldn't see any difference. It was a beautiful day, and if we had had the courage we could certainly have BBQ'd in the park (except Hannah my daughter tells me it is one of the by-laws and definitely forbidden). I came to the conclusion that actually, Greek Easter in London, is not all bad.

20 April 2009

Best of both Easters

My dining table is a classic example of Greek and British Easter traditions, holding both the dyed red eggs symbolizing the blood of Christ, and a Simnel Cake with the balls of marzipan on the top representing the twelve disciples.

On Sunday we enjoyed a New Zealand roast leg of lamb with mint sauce, and today will eat barbeque with salads. Hopefully we haven't got the cooking the wrong way round as Easter Sunday was hot and sunny and Monday threatens rain!

A smashing Saturday

Corfu Town was as popular as ever on Easter Saturday for the traditional pot smashing. I was lucky enough to be invited to enjoy the event at an apartment just off the Liston, next door to the Town Hall from where my family and I joined in with throwing the pots from the windows.

For a change, Corfiots were very quick off the mark, as a kind of pot smashing wave surged through the streets, so that in fact we threw ours at about two minutes to eleven, to be closely followed by the roar from the crowds at the Liston on the stroke of eleven.

I wish this blog had sound so that I could play you the music from the bands - in particular the drummers of the Palaia Band perfoming the most extraordinary piece right outside our window. They lined up in two rows opposite each other with the big bass drums in the middle, and played a drum solo for a few minutes.

16 April 2009


I simply cannot believe that Sarah hasn't heard a cuckoo in Corfu before this week. Their call is a yearly familiar reminder that Spring is upon us and, to me, as regular as the house martins, swallows and swifts that are now swooping everywhere, driving the cats to distraction and pooping all over my freshly scrubbed patio!

Another reminder that Corfu really can be very different from one area to another. Diana, for instance, says she has never seen a scorpion, whereas we have them, not only in the garden, but quite regularly in the house as well. Some of the garden variety are really quite large and light brown in colour, whereas (thankfully) the ones that I have found in the house have been quite small and dark brown coloured - except for the black one that stung husband late on Christmas Eve a few years ago - but that's another story!

13 April 2009

Happy Easter

Spring sunshine welcomed worshippers to Holy Trinity Church this morning, with visiting chaplain the Revd. Bruce Lyons offering two morning services, thus reducing the usual crush and enabling everyone to have a seat and enjoy a topical sermon for Easter Day.

Holy Trinity provides more than just a chance to attend an Anglican church service in Corfu. Regular activities include a Craft Group which meets twice monthly, Library and coffee every Tuesday, Mums and Tots every Wednesday, Lunchbox on Wednesdays, Scrabble and Quiz evenings and a Nearly New sale every month. All this as well as the Bible study and Prayer meetings you normally associate with a church.

The Anglican Church in Corfu has always been a sort of second home to ex-pat Brits. Particularly for young Mums, away from their own parents and needing somewhere to turn for advice and companionship, but also for the many permanent foreign residents in Corfu who love the Greek way of life but want to keep their own religion and enjoy a chance to sing some rousing hymns.

Palm Sunday (Orthodox Church)

We've lost it a bit in Britain, haven't we? That huge involvement of
(practically) everyone in religious ceremonies that so characterizes Greece on days such as today. Not just the crowds lining the streets watching the marching bands and the schools parading, not just those spending a small fortune on coffees and cakes in the pavement cafes and buying balloons for their little-ones, both groups being an integral part of the glory of the day. The crammed-to-the-doorways churches don't seem unusual - yes, there are more people on Palm Sunday than on normal Sundays, but religion manages to be an important part of daily life and whilst there are obviously Corfiots who don't attend church every week, I would be surprised if most of them, of all ages, don't call in to their local church and light a candle on a regular basis.

More of our feathered friends

Still no further news of the pheasants, but I heard another "new bird" today - a cuckoo! New to me anyway, because I have never heard one here in Corfu, apart from the one on the clock which I have had since I was small.

It was definitely a cuckoo, I stood and listened to it for a few minutes to make sure it wasn't one of those collared doves which live near my house.

My son tells me the Corfiot name for the doves is "theka-oktoures" (eighteeen) because that is exactly what their call sounds like. This led to a debate about why it's not "theka-pende" (15) or "theka-tria" (13) but he's right, it really does sound like "theka-okto".

8 April 2009

More about Easter and Greaster (Greek Easter)

Diana's blog about the coming of Easter has reminded me of our own experiences in years past where we have tried to combine two cultural traditions and experience the best of both worlds.

However glamorous they may look, with coloured paper, ribbons and bows, a Greek chocolate egg does simply not compare with one from Cadbury's! It took me a few years to realize that I could use the uneaten chocolate from the Greek eggs for cooking purposes. Until then we actually threw away all but the first bites of the eggs given to my four children!

This year will be another opportunity to attend the Easter Day Anglican ceremony in Holy Trinity Church and then pop round the corner and watch the brass bands parading through town for Orthodox Palm Sunday!

My two London-based sons will be celebrating what has become known throughout south London as "Greaster" on the Orthodox Easter Sunday. Diana should beware if she and Spiros do decide to roast a whole lamb on a spit outside their apartment. Despite being in their own back garden, when my boys roasted their very first Greaster lamb they were honoured by a visit from the local police in answer to a neighbour's report of a "dog being cooked by some students"!

It is also considerably harder to find a whole lamb in the UK, whereas in Greece they are difficult to ignore, hanging as they do from racks in all the butchers and supermarkets throughout the country.

Pheasant mystery

The plot thickens! Ever since spotting my pheasant, and hearing his screechy call, I have been told that there ARE pheasants in Corfu.

Apparently there are pheasants somewhere in the Ropa valley where a shoot takes place every year. Also, there is supposed to be a butcher in Acharavi which sells pheasants - I am going to investigate so watch this space.

7 April 2009

Spring colours

I've had writers block recently (or anyway that is my excuse for not having contributed much to the blog for the last couple of weeks). Add to this the fact that our telephone line finally gave up the unequal struggle during a particularly violent thunderstorm leaving us without telephone for a week and then - horror of horrors - without internet for a further ten days, and I reckon this is enough of an reason for my being a bit "quiet"!

The difference between a reason and an excuse reminds me of an interview I once had for a job with one of the top-end villa companies. The interviewer insisted that the clients were never to be given the EXCUSE "This is Greece" in response to any complaint they might make. At the time I nodded wisely and agreed. Later on, at home, I realized that "This is Greece" is actually the REASON for so many of the slightly inefficient/annoying things that do occur in Greece, and also the REASON why so many people enjoy their holidays here in laid-back Corfu when it doesn't really matter if things don't happen exactly as planned!

Yesterday's trip out, with camera and note book, netted a selection of really interesting new properties and the attached photograph of spring colours at their best, taken just next to the rubbish bins on the edge of the village of Ano Korakiana.

Happy Easters

Easter is upon us, or in fact, Easters are upon us, which is very nice. I do remember my kids when they were younger, insisting on celebrating English Easter with English Easter eggs and being perfectly happy to accept gifts from all the relatives of Greek Easter eggs for the second Easter.

This year they are in London and cannot come for Easter, so they will treat English Easter as a rest, and I have been told that the following weekend of Greek Easter, when we will also be in England, we will cook our Easter lamb as if we were here. My husband wonders if the people in the apartment downstairs will mind if put a lamb on a spit on their patio (we are second floor), or alternatively if we should spit roast across the road, in London Fields park.

I think not. I think a cross cultural British/Greek roast lamb cooked in the oven should suffice. As it happens, we have a Greek church at the end of the road, so we can actually still go to the 'Anastasie' service on Greek Easter Saturday night.

Whichever Easter (or both) you celebrate - we have got a good supply of Cadbury's Easter Eggs in our shop, English Imports (or English Import if you believe the man who just did our new sign, but this will be rectified). Also, if you are visiting Greek friends over the Easter celebrations, we have a selection of small gifts, highly suitable for you to take with you.

Happy Easters from all of us at Corfuhomefinders and English Imports.
Susan, Sarah, Helga, Diana, Lorraine and Wendy.

Summer begins!

Corfu airport on Wednesday 1st April - Corfu's first direct flight from the UK, a whole month ahead of any other airline, Easyjet landed smoothly on the runway. As always on such occasions it was partly a social gathering, with many familiar faces all gathered together in the excitement of meeting/greeting/travelling to visit friends and family.

6 April 2009

A pleasant pheasant

I thought my eyes were decieving me this morning when returning from my dog-walk, as there in front of me was the most beautiful cock pheasant. As far as I know, we don't have pheasants here on Corfu, nor do we have wild rabbits, presumably because they have all been shot.

There are lots of pheasants and rabbits on Vidos Island, but as pheasants can't fly very well, that seems a bit of a long stretch for them to make across the water. I hope there is a mate out there somewhere for him, otherwise he will be calling in vain.

I'm certainly not going to disclose where I saw him, just in case those hunters find out about it - much as I love roast pheasant (and roast goose!).

It must be spring, we are all covered in red dust!

Now we truly know that spring is with us. Temperatures all this week have risen to 20 and over, so you have no idea what to wear in the morning when it is still chilly BUT every now and again, just to keep us on our toes, down comes the rain - and it leaves all that lovely red dust behind.

There are other clues of course, such as the wonderful flower scenes around every corner - this one was taken just behind my house. Every ordinary olive grove develops a postcard appearance as the flowers appear at the most amazing rate. I swear that if you pass somewhere in the morning, when you go past again in the afternoon there are more flowers!

Also, it is getting much easier to find somewhere to have a cup of coffee and a cake (and a loo!) whilst traversing the island showing properties (and yes, quite a few people arrived on the first Easyjet flight, seriously looking for property). The businesses in resorts which were securely shuttered during the winter, and tended to give Corfu the appearance of Caribbean island after a hurricane, are suddenly opening up. Colourful canopies are coming out, the furniture is getting a coat of paint and everything looks much more optimistic. This does not stop most shopkeepers being glum regarding the prospects for this coming tourist season, but their enthuiastic preparations contradict their outlook - somehow it always seems to come out OK in the end.

Anyway as many people are saying, Greece is not really in a recession now, the economy has been dire for years, so this doesn't really make any difference and we should all just carry on as normal. So we will!