24 June 2009

Midsummer's Day

June 24 is Midsummer's Day here in Greece - although you would hardly know it by the very unseasonal cold stormy weather we have been having!

In the village of Kendroma on the north-east coast, every year on the night of the Summer Solstice they host a Fire Festival; an ancient pagan festival to celebrate the solstice, and a great excuse for the village to party!

The pretty square at Kendroma was full of people, a mix of locals, curious tourists, and residents like me who have never been to a fire festival and wondered what all the fuss was about. As darkness fell, the three bonfires were lit, and the fun started. The tradition is to wear a garland made of wild flowers and grasses and then jump over each fire, turn around and do it again, and then place the garland on the fire. Although lots of people had their garlands on their heads, there were plenty who just ran and jumped the fires, and lots of small children too, lifted over the fires by their parents. It all looked highly dangerous to me, and I couldn't help thinking that this ceremony wouldn't be allowed in the health and safety conscious UK.

Once the bonfires died down, the dancing began, with a band perched on the terrace of a house on the square. Young and old got up to dance, led by an older gentleman who apparently always starts the dancing off. We danced around the fountain, and then returned to our seats to eat the souvlaki which were being sold to raise funds for the local community. It was a very well organised event, and I shall definitely be going again next year - I may even jump the bonfires.

23 June 2009

All change

There's not been a lot of spare time for blogging this last week. Susan and Diana have been busy running around getting everything ready for "the big move" which will (hopefully) be happening in a day or two. English Imports, together with our Corfuhomefinders office, will move from its present premises, to a new, more centrally located and easy to find location.

Organising new phone connections, changing the name on the electricity bills, getting the tax man to come and inspect the premises is no easy task, and sometimes it feels as if you are getting nowhere! Loraine and Wendy have spent the last week boxing up all the stock of the shop, and they are ready for off.

Meanwhile, I have been keeping out of the way as much as possible as I reckon we will be falling over each other until everything is set up and ready.

The new shop/office is in G Markora, the road which runs between the market and San Rocco Square, near to the Traffic Police Station. It's a couple of doors along from the bookshop "Xenoglosso" and opposite the "World of Slippers" shop.

19 June 2009

Do You Want Granny? Take her, I am going to throw her out!

In the very back streets of Ano Korakiana which must be one of the prettiest villages in north central Corfu, spread along the south-facing mountain slope basking in the sunshine, Sarah and I were being shown an old house for sale. Upstairs, living in a kind of third-world squalor, is an old lady whose daughter is keen to sell the house so that she can afford to move her somewhere more, well, habitable.

Downstairs, in a treasure-chest of a cellar, amongst discarded window-frames, wine bottles, ceramic plant pots and the like, all decorated with swathes of thick spider-webs, the daughter of the house pulled out an old wooden frame to show us. Much battered, with cracked glass and covered in thick dust, the touched-up, photographed face of an old lady stared out at us. "Look, look" enthused our vendor. "Do you want Granny? Take her, I am going to throw her out. I need to tidy everything in here and I am only keeping the pots and a few bits and pieces for our new house." Noticing our slight embarrassment, she continued, "Don't worry, she's not MY Granny, we found her when we bought the house."

"Granny" was bundled into a large black bin bag conveniently lying close by and is now awaiting some t.l.c. and a new elevated position somewhere in my house!

16 June 2009

I saw it

On Friday evening, as our sons' visit to Corfu was nearing its close, we went en-famille to one of those favourite neighbourhood tavernas that Corfu so excels at providing. The sort of taverna where four people can eat their fill of grilled meat, salad, chips and retsina and still have change from 40 euros. In this particular case we chose "Strapunto" at the upper end of Kato Korakiana and we had just settled into our chairs when across the sky, slightly to my left, sailed - heading landwards - a large .......... well, here started my problem. What exactly HAD I seen?

It looked like a comet or a shooting star but it was far too large and far too low in the sky. It was also slightly greeny/blue with a bright yellow "tail". Since the whole sighting was over in a few seconds there was no time for me to say more than "Ooh, what was that?" and only one of our party had a slight glimpse of something out of the corner of his eye. Thank goodness he did, because I can't describe the disbelief of the others, and I won't attempt to explain the "crazy woman" gestures aimed in my direction!

I drew it on the paper tablecloth and tried to estimate its size, but as it appeared just over a hillside and disappeared behind some trees it really was difficult to quantify. In the end the conversation moved on and I dismissed the incident from my mind thinking only that maybe someone had been having a party nearby and that it was some sort of flare or impressive firework.

BUT ...the following day, answering a "Susanna, come quickly", I joined the others around the TV where there was a whole panel discussion about the "Sighting"! Nobody, as yet, seems certain what it was, but it seems to have been some sort of space debris, either natural or man-made, and it was seen in various parts of Greece, though the Mayor of the Kato Korakiana area was on the programme describing his own experience, so our particular location was obviously a good view point.

Vindication! Son with the rudest reaction at the time is now remorseful (a bit) and saying "I wish I'd seen it. Why did I pick the only chair that was facing the wrong way?"

I'm off to check the latest News programme to see if there is any more information!

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15 June 2009

First cicada!

Always a milestone in my calendar, yesterday we heard our first cicada (14th June) as opposed to last year when it was on 18th June. In 2007 it was earlier (10th), 2006 on 17th and in 2005 not until 28th June.

14 June 2009

Dog disasters

We always used to have Labradors, usually two, to keep each other company. Then we didn't have a dog at all. Then we got the current monster (previously renowned for demolishing a 500 euro note).

I have always thought that he needed company and that this might stop him being so destructive, but husband always said one monster was enough thank you. However someone said the other day that they knew of a labrador needing a home, due to illness in the family of his current owners. To my surprise, husband told me to go and look at him. So I did, and fell in love. A 90% black labrador, with a white bib, in need of lots of love and attention.

A few days later I went and picked him up. Note, him. And of course that was the recipe for disaster. Two 'hims' vying for sovereignty added up to non-stop major fighting, with the poor little (by comparison) lab, mainly being the victim.

Since he also made the cardinal error of mistaking my husband for an intruder, he of course added to his sins, so husband, not being what you might call tolerant, insisted he be returned - a failed experiment.

I am still so upset. He is lovely - he sat in the car quietly, he came when I called him and he was thrilled to bits everyone time someone spoke to him or stroked him. He still needs a loving home, so if anyone has room in their house, garden and heart for a real sweetie - just get in touch with us!

10 June 2009

Water conservation

I am always trying to find a quicker, easier, less time-consuming way to water the garden, without using gallons of water in the process. Not an easy task you may think....

My washing machine is outside in the boiler room, so I decided to have a go at getting it to pump out onto the vegetable patch which is just a couple of metres away. This worked, so then I got a bit more ambitious and joined some hose pipe to the washing machine pipe using a very ingenious method involving bits of old copper piping. Loved-one is going to fall about laughing when he gets back to Corfu and sees my attempt at plumbing, but it works! Now I can water all the rose bushes, and I might even attempt another join and go a bit further. The best bit is, I don't even have to be here.

9 June 2009

Life is full of coincidences

At the moment I drive to Town via a short cut down the mountain to Agios Yiannis (Marbella) to avoid one of the many sets of roadwork traffic lights. For the last few days I have seen a 'For Sale' sign on a lovely piece of land, and kept thinking that I should stop and take down the phone number.

Eventually on Thursday I did just that, and planned to call the seller later in the day. Before I could even think about doing so, Sarah called me to say that someone was on the phone with a piece of land for sale in Agios Yiannis. As soon as he began to describe where the land was located, light dawned and I asked him if his phone number was the same as the one of the sign. And it was! Coincidence no. 1.

Then he asked me if I 'was Spiros' wife' - a fairly usual question in Corfu, but anyway, yes I am Spiros' wife. Next question, do we have a cousin Vasilis who lives in Vienna. Yes. Turns out that this gentleman is the koumbaros (best man) of one of our cousins and he had been meaning to call me for some time about the land but had only decided to do so today. Coincidence or telepathy?

7 June 2009

Just what Corfu needs

I read an interesting article in Saturday's Daily Mail about a new machine called a "Jetpatcher". The newspaper suggests it may be the answer to Britain's pothole crisis and could save councils millions of pounds in compensation claims.

The hi-tech machine has a long tube which pumps out tar which is then compressed into layers. Apparently it takes only five or ten minutes before it starts to dry and can be used on potholes up to 15 yards long and a foot deep.

This seems to me to be a wonderful business opportunity for someone here - the Jetpatcher only costs 140,000 pounds sterling, and would surely be in great demand on our island.

3 June 2009

How nice to be small

Last month, the Daily Mail ran a very nice piece on Corfu property, headed 'A Greek Treasure - there's little sign of the market slowing in Corfu' and a piece saying that interest in our nice little island does not seem to have diminished at all, in fact people keep on buying, and prices are steady!

Contrast that with a Telegraph article on Dubai 'disaster' a few days later, where the property market is apparently in freefall, with developers welching on agreement to build properties, yet buyers are committed to pay the balance of deposits - even though it is unlikely they will ever have a property to show for their money.

Today I was in conversation with an English finance professional who said he had just returned from Spain 'where everything seems fairly dire', so it seems we have to thank our lucky stars that we are 'small and beautiful'!

2 June 2009

Parking at Corfu Airport

Long time residents of Corfu will know that we have only recently seen the introduction of parking charges at the airport.Whilst recognising that it was extremely unusual to be able to leave your car, completely without charge, for extended periods within walking distance of the check-in desks (some people have been known to leave their car in October and return to collect it in May), we locals still resent the new charges.

In the winter months the parking restrictions are still reasonably "elastic" (or "Greek") in that you can leave your car opposite the arrivals hall and nobody seems to object. Now that summer has arrived things are very different. Friends recently went to England for a week, and having left their car on the roadside just before the airport, returned to find a parking ticket on their windscreen. The fine was for 80 euros, but a reduction is usually allowed for prompt payment, so although it hurt a little to pay out 40 euros, the pain was lessened when they realized that the parking fine was less than the car park charge would have been for the relevant number of days. Guess where they will park next time they go on a trip!