Friday, 18 December 2015

Chronia Polla


This will be our first Christmas spent in our home here in Skala Polichnitos.  Last Christmas we spent three weeks in the U.K. visiting family, which involved flying to Heathrow, travelling to Stafford,  Wolverhampton, Manchester, Glasgow, North Wales and Bristol.  Never again, we said!  So this year we are staying at home, at least until 27th December when we fly back to the U.K. again.

It’s been an incredible year.  First came our decision to move from Thermi where we enjoyed last winter in Maire’s house (with central heating, needed when the temperatures plummeted below freezing for several days during January).  We chose instead to buy a bungalow with land, a few hundred yards from the sea.  Skala Polichnitos is a small fishing village on the Gulf of Kalloni, a very beautiful unspoilt area, popular with migrating birds – and the twitchers who follow them in springtime.

So we did the same and saw some magical sights – flamingoes, stilts and avocets on the salt flats,  eagles, shrikes, buntings, bee eaters, flycatchers, all in our garden.  Ah, the “garden”.  An ambitious word for the plot of land we spent our energy clearing in the early part of the year.   However, we’ve planted fruit trees and had a good harvest of fruit from the existing plum and nectarine trees.  We had to take down the large almond tree by the house, to avoid damage to our neighbour’s property.  But we still have a fig, some palms and conifers and a small bottle brush tree that seems to flower indiscriminately.   I’ve planted magenta and red bougainvillea to train up the walls and there is one enormous vine over the pergola at the back of the house. 

As spring gave way to summer the heat increased.  So did the population of Skala Polichnitos.  It’s a summer holiday place for people who live in Athens and other cities on the mainland of Greece and the influx is remarkable.  In the heat of July and August most of the local houses were occupied and traffic along our narrow concrete roads got quite hectic at times.  We retreated indoors during the day when it was over 30 degrees from early morning until dark.

We made several trips to the UK during the year so that we can keep close to family particularly my father who had his 93rd birthday this year.   And our visitors included Emma with Archie,  Kundalini yoga teacher friend Jayne, long-time friends Janet & Phillip.  All very welcome here to share our relaxing environment, and permit us to show them the highlights of Lesvos island.

And we have found it wonderfully relaxing for the majority of our time.  Yes, there have been some challenges.  The Greek financial situation meant we had to change a few plans during June/July but it was not a major problem for us.  The economy here is struggling but we feel that we are able to make a contribution however small, by buying locally and supporting local businesses in any way we can.

This led us to having a gorgeous fireplace built by the local stonemason, using Polichnitos stone and local marble.  It enhances our living room and means we can burn olive wood, of which there is a plentiful supply on the island each year as olive groves are pruned to improve the crop.  We have needed the fire at night for some weeks now because temperatures really drop at night.  Daytime may be warm and sunny, mainly blue skies, but often with a cold wind from the north-east. 

The family has increased too, in the form of a little dog who arrived one day, starving hungry, apparently having recently had puppies, and simply stayed.  We are calling her Lady (the Lady is a tramp?) and she adores Bryn.  She follows happily when we walk on the beach or around the lanes and curls up on any available chair when she can get away with it.

Stray dogs are common in Greece; many are abandoned after the summer here and the Greek way of dealing with their animals seems harsh to us Brits.  On the other hand, the Greeks have welcomed the thousands and thousands of Syrians fleeing their own country in fear of their lives.  Around 1500 refugees daily have been arriving in small harbours and on beaches around the north and east of this island, all through this year.   That is a phenomenal number of displaced people for one island to have to handle.  But none have been turned away.  We have seen the masses of small tents covering a huge area around the ferry port (an area which was used for car parking, so mainly rough ground and tarmac and no shade from the heat) And we have seen some of the hundreds of individuals, families and groups, walking from the coast to Mytilene – a distance of up to 100 kilometres.  Piles of debris can be seen along these roads too, as refugees jettison the lifejackets and spare clothing in an attempt to lighten their load.  What strikes us about these people is, that they are on their journey to freedom and Lesvos is one of the staging posts in that journey, so they are passing through with gratitude for any help provided en route.

Settling into a new place takes time and when that new place is a new country with a new language and cultural differences, settling down is a multi-stage process.  Here, now, I feel blessed with the fresh air, sunshine, natural healthy food, the unrushed pace of life and the gentle, kind, courteous, easy-going Greek folks who have made us welcome here.  Who appreciate our efforts to communicate in stumbling Greek and smile as they answer us in perfect English!!

So we look forward to next year and another chapter in our voyage of discovering how to live life on a Greek island.  Meanwhile we hope that you will keep in touch and perhaps visit us one day here in Lesvos.

Merry Christmas and Happy New year.

Barbara & Bryn

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Daisy days

For a month we have had Daisy living with us; she is both an adorable puppy dog and a lethal missile when she launches herself at you with puppy-fangs bared to strike!  What a learning curve we've skidded through, almost becoming derailed at times.  Or should that read 'deranged'?   It was a serious error of judgement on our part to believe we could take on a young dog when we have scarcely begun to settle in our new life.

I have hugely mixed feelings now and it's a struggle to let her go to her new owners.  But I must for the sake of my own sanity during the next year or so.  She will be a puppy for that length of time and needs  the firm but caring environment that I know she will get with her new family.  I am not robust enough to handle so boisterous a little creature yet already I love her to bits.

  Chewing a pinecone at 8 weeks …..   
  5 weeks older she found her way on to the top of the storage box but couldn't get back and it's a long way to jump down!
 a beautiful portrait of Daisy dog.

They wriggle their way into your heart and tear you apart emotionally (having torn apart certain bits of my clothing and shoes too).  I'm paying a high price for a hasty decision.  I will miss you Daisy  xxxx

Friday, 29 May 2015

Time flies when you are having fun

April and May are such incredibly busy months here in Lesvos;  our agitation to obtain help to cultivate the land came very soon after our efforts at clearing it by Strimmer.  I raked the entire field into one large composting heap held in place with lengths of old fence wire for ventilation.
Then came the search for a man with a Tractoraki;  that's a small version of a tractor with an attachment that turns over the earth as a plough would do.
  We asked that he leave an area of wildflowers for the bees and insects, off which the birds feed.  And were rewarded with a pair of beautiful Masked Shrikes doing most of their hunting for insects from perches on our fence or pomegranate tree.  There are so many lovely birds in and around our garden it's fun spotting them. Earlier in the season we had Collared Flycatchers but most exciting a few days back were the Bee Eaters on their migration path.      
    Giving ourselves a day off last weekend we went to visit Sigri, in the west of Lesvos.  During the drive back through the area of the Petrified Forest we also spotted this little Bunting; and got a fantastic shot of a Short-toed Eagle. I am reliably informed that it is one, although you really can't see the length of it's toes from the car!!
  Well, it seems I have created a birding blog this time and it's fair comment that we are becoming Twitchers. It distracts me from the rigours of working too hard.  Lesvos is famous for migrating species and many of the best birdwatching sites are within striking distance of our new home. So to all our friends who appreciate birds of the feathered kind, this is the place to come for your next holiday.


Monday, 20 April 2015

Strimming the jungle begins

30th March and we invested in an electric Strimmer machine so that Bryn could begin to clear the jungle of our garden.
We did our calculations and realised we have more land here than we had previously in Colwich; about half as much again I reckon.  That came as a bit of a shock considering it took us almost 4 years to create our garden there.
Now 3 weeks later, it is all cleared, much of the rubbish has been consumed by bonfires - which are only permitted here on Lesvos until the end of April, after then everything becomes so dry that a bonfire is considered a fire hazard.  
Meanwhile in the countryside, purple anemones give way to red, in the olive groves and along the roadsides, scattered with white daisies, announcing April is here in abundance.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Home thoughts from abroad

I am sitting in my home town of Wolverhampton in the West Midlands.  Here in the UK for a visit to see family and friends.  When we planned this visit we imagined we would be very settled in our Greek home.  As it turned out, we had only been in our Greek home for a few days before flying back here.
It feels quite strange now, realising that for the first time in over 60 years, my home is no longer here in the UK.  My home is Lesbos.
Having sent our belongings on a truck, we then spent a couple more weeks in our lovely rented house in Thermi, with central heating, before making the final move to Skala Polichnitos.  And I am so glad we did and so very grateful to our landlady, Maire, who so kindly let us stay in her house despite our decision not to buy it after all.  Few people would be so kind as to do that, and we truly appreciated it.
Driving between the two houses, from Thermi over to Skala Polichnitos and back again, we chose to take the slightly longer but easier drive.  The views are sensational and the pine forests energise us in the sunshine.
  As we drive through the olive groves, the ground is carpeted with the first wildflowers of the season;  dog daisies and beautiful purple anemones. 
This is such a gorgeous place.  I feel quite certain I shall be very happy settling here in the olive groves and amongst the stunning natural beauty of Lesbos.

Monday, 16 February 2015

My Old Man says follow the Van….

I don't know whether you are old enough to remember that song of my parent's era?  It was an old Music Hall number…..
Well, the truck turned up on time, down at the Paralia, where we had agreed to meet so that we could guide the driver to where we are living.  There are no road names and no house numbers here in Thermi so we could not give an address.  The way of things is simply to arrange to meet and/or telephone with vague directions.  We met at the corner of the road, literally on the bend.  It is a recipe for disaster and would be controlled in the UK by a roundabout or 4 sets of traffic lights.  Here, everyone knows the road, looks out for themselves and the stray dogs who wander across in front of cars, and manages to avoid traffic mayhem by remaining in control, patient, amenable….
The loading took about an hour.  The driver standing on the back of the truck, his mate picking up our furniture single handed and lifting it aboard.  Once loaded, all it needed was polythene covering.
In the lines of the old song,  we Dilly'd and Dallied on the way - stopping off for a coffee, driving the long way round, whilst the van - with my home in it - wound it's way through the mountain road to Skala Polichnitos.  And still we arrived before them.  Unloading was fast; perhaps it was the black rain clouds piling up behind the house.  Once all was inside we paid their wages and waved them off.  Simple. Job done.
That was a week ago.  We still have not unpacked……but that's another story!!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Water and waterbirds

Saturday at Skala Polichnitos to see whether we have power and/or water; we have one but not both.  Our journey over there from Thermi was made in glorious sunshine and warmth. The route takes us past an area of wetlands close to the town of Kalloni and we stopped the car to enjoy the views and take some photographs.  This area is full of Flamingoes feeding in the salty marshes around the salt pans of Kalloni and today some of these wonderful birds were close enough to us for photographing.
We spotted large white Egrets, a grey Heron, and smaller white Egrets all foraging and fishing for food in the sandy water.
As the day was still and warm the reflections were stunning.
I am continually marvelling at the scenery of this beautiful island and seeing it in the winter months when the light is crystal clear makes it more stunning.
Arriving at our new house we tested the water supply only to discover several leaks in the supply pipe outside and down the garden;  no wonder those palms have grown to such an impressive size!