27 October 2011

Nothing logical about it - but do it anyway!

I have just read Victoria Hislop's account of buying a house in Crete in the Sunday Times. She articulates so clearly the reasoning (or lack of it) behind the desire to buy a house in Greece - the reason that we all love to live here even though we complain and mutter and protest and strike from time to time!

This is what she says:

"There was nothing remotely logical or rational about buying in Greece. We could easily have continued to go each summer and rent, or stay in a hotel. Even at the time the whole exercise was irrational and not an entirely 'sensible' thing to do. The property market in Crete has slumped; there are many houses that have been waiting for buyers for years". She goes on to list the new taxes to be paid and the ones that haven't even been thought about yet. She knows that her house is probably worth less than what she paid for it four years ago and then....""All that aside, at this minute........ I have few regrets. When I opened my laptop .... my screensaver reminds me why we took this huge decision. There in front of me is a picture divided into two: half of it is deep blue and the other half bright blue, the lower half is the sea and the upper half the sky. Even when I am not there the existence of this and all the summers we have enjoyed there is in the back of my mind, and the image of the view is ever present."

Well done Mrs. Hislop! This is how Greece can claim you as its life long admirer, how it gets under your skin, and how you will forgive (almost) anything when you look at your favourite view, listen to your favourite music and eat at your favourite taverna. It is also the reason why prices remain reasonably stable - in Corfu at any rate - though there are always bargains to be found!

9 October 2011

Breakfast in Corfu Town

One of the many cultural differences between Great Britain and Greece is breakfast.Everyone knows the meaning of a "Full English" and most people who have connections with Greece will be able to tell you what the Greek equivalent is - Greek coffee (or espresso at a pinch) with a piece of dry toast (frigania - which actually more resembles what we would call a rusk) and a cigarette.

Now that our office is located solely in Dassia, we have to plan our excursions to Corfu town very carefully - making sure that we don't forget any of the tasks we have to do. Before, in the days when we also had a town base, we could nip to the solicitors' office, pop to the bank, visit the accountant at the drop of a hat. Now we have to plan everything a bit like a military operation and, of course, breakfast (or a second one) is part of the picture.

Strangely, it is almost impossible to find a café serving coffee that also provides anything resembling a continental breakfast as we would like it to be, that is a choice of croissants and rolls with jam and butter, maybe some plain cake and a good hot cappuccino. Coffee you can find - a huge variety of it, what's more - but usually the cafes that serve it will only provide a small biscuit on the saucer if you are lucky. In the past few years we have managed to locate a few cafes that do have a small selection of something sweet, but these are few and far between. This is particularly strange since Corfu is full of take-away patisseries where you can buy a vast variety of croissant-type goodies.

Problem solved! Choose your favourite location, order your chosen coffee and request permission to carry in from the nearest pie shop. We have tried this in a number of town establishments with great success - the photo shows our latest "time-out" moment between jobs.

2 October 2011

My daugher very generously offered to accommodate five of her University friends this August, and while they were staying at my house, one of them wrote this article which has appeared in the Stirling University newspaper. Yet another different view of life in Greece!

The European Dream: Relaxed and Groovy

David Devereux
Opinion Editor

As I write this article, I’m sitting on a balcony in Corfu, an island that for some reason hasn’t thought to set a legal maximum temperature, which you’d think would be common sense when you’re living half a mile away from the surface of the sun. Apart from the non-sensical heat, my experiences here so far have left a wonderful impression of a fairly laid-back place that’s literally hundreds of miles away from stressed-out Britain. This relaxed and groovy attitude has made me realise that in Britain we are far too serious. I worked this out within 10 minutes of arriving here: rather than crossexamining my passport, they just made sure I had one. While on the road, people were riding scooters and motorbikes at questionably quick speeds with no helmets. We managed to cram six people into a fairly small car, which was uncomfortable, but a fun experience nonetheless. If a health and safety inspector came here, he would explode within seconds. Admittedly, I am talking about Greece, a country where you can retire early if you work in a dangerous profession, one of which is hairdressing. As well as this, train drivers allegedly earn an extra 420 euros a month for washing their hands (how they enforce this is beyond me). Then there’s the economy, which I’ve decided not to dwell on as it turns out they’re rather sensitive about it, even if you do make a joke about reducing the public sector down to 300 Spartans. However, it’s not just the Greeks. There were many Italians on the Corfu beaches (some of them even had clothes on) and it’s the same kind of easy-going, chilled-out kind of vibe. They just enjoy life more than the British. I visited Milan earlier this year (it sounds like I travel a lot, doesn’t it?) and everything seemed quite relaxed there as well. Again, we had the scooters with no helmets, relaxed airport security, and on top of that they even had vending machines with beer cans in them, which I only realised after using all my change to buy a stupid can of orange juice which wasn’t even that nice! And while we’re on the topic of alcohol, the Greeks have wonderful alcohol laws, or indeed a lack of alcohol laws. I ordered a drink at a bar while we were there and not only was I not ID’d (I’ll freely admit I look like a 12- year old) but the drink the barman slid across the bar to me was pretty much three quarters-full of alcohol with a pitiful amount of mixer. When I mentioned the fairly lax airport security, the more safetyconscious of you (and, by definition, more stressed-out) probably hollered, “But we need to protect ourselves from terrorism!” Well I’ve sort of got that covered too. I know all the many thousands of billions of security measures in British airports are there for a very good reason, but whenever there’s an attack and a new one is put in place, it makes me feel that perhaps the terrorists are winning in a way. Sooner or later it’s going to be protocol to walk through airport security on your hands, completely naked, stopping for random arse checks (as you could quite easily hide a bomb up there). Then the terrorists will be laughing, as they’ll have caused paranoia, unrest and ageneral lack of dignity for all involved. The overall impression of life here in Corfu is that it’s optimistic, relatively worry-free, take one day at a time for the local people as well as the tourists. My point is that in some respects Britain should be more relaxed and groovy like other European countries, and not just so that airport security is less of a trial. British people go to places like Corfu to get away from their stress-filled lives for a bit, but it doesn’t happen the other way round.