Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Day 67 - Glamour Gone But Not Forgotten

Packing up our lives in Scotland to come up with the million pound idea that will keep Paul in juice-coloured leisure suits and medallions, doesn’t come without its sacrifices; namely, hanging out at the cafes most evenings, drinking coffee, and solving the world’s problems.

A cup at one of the many cafés along the waterfront costs two Euros and, like our bathroom scales, it slowly adds up.

But today we’ve discovered a great way to simulate a cosmopolitan lifestyle without spending a penny: pack a flask of hot coffee and head to the public café area at the end of the wharf. Perfect. Why didn't we think of this before?

The wharf is a hub of activity with boats, people, trucks, and donkeys coming and going; raw street theatre with its fair share of comedy and tragedy. And like some great relic of a long forgotten communist regime, the sheltered seaside balcony with its collection of steel tables and chairs, is for the people.

After a day locked inside working, we excitedly boil the kettle and dust off the Thermos in preparation for reviving our social life and solving the issue of third world debt.

Just as we’re heading out the door, the sky turns wild. Strobe lightning, violent thunder, and hail stones the size of tumours thwart our plans. Determined to spend the evening out, we huddle under our dripping porch and crack the flask open.

The seeming poverty stirs Paul and he basks in the nostalgia of his student days: midnight rallies, living on half a tin of beans, and feeling like a rebel against the system. Meanwhile, Nicole dreams of frocks, glamour, and cocktails. She is a long way from Paris tonight!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Day 66 - We're Gonna Live Forever

Thanks to the dead, we're going to live longer.

The local cemetary is located on the side of the hill at the top of a very steep staircase, which is perfect for improving our fitness. We have started running in an attempt to get fit and live until we're 150 years old - each that is, not collectively.

The priest thought our Gymnastiki was a great idea when we bumped into him at the top of the stairs one day.

We give the passport fiasco a miss today and instead head out to do our current exercise routine: walk to the end of the waterfront, climb quickly up through the maze of houses to the foot of the staircase, run up the stairs and along the looped road back to the bottom of the stairs, repeat this three times, then run down to the waterfront, stopping at the vegetable stall at the end of the wharf. About 30 mins in total.

Paul bounds down the road with the ease of someone travelling to their letterbox to check the mail. Nicole lags way behind, leaving a trail of lung-lining on the tarmac as she chokes and gasps her way to the finishing line. In an act of blind faith, she desperately holds on to the belief that the pain will pass.

This is supposed to be good for us. Isn't it? It will extend our life. Won't it? Nicole wonders if she has read in the past that statistically runners drop dead from heart attacks more often than non-runners. She is not sure though and pushes the vague memory to the back of her mind. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.

After all, this is supposed to move us farther away from those permantly resting at the top of the cemetary stairs, not closer.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Day 65 - Soft Porn and Bureaucracy

Today we battle it out again with Greek bureaucracy as we attempt to get Nicole a new-style Greek passport. With a change in legislation, the Greek government now require DNA samples to be embedded within the document along with a microchip recording of all the stored memories within Nicole’s brain. Something like that anyway.

Our first stop is to get passport photos adhering to Greek requirements: a grim, miserable expression. Next, another near-death experience on the roads at the hands of a hot-headed taxi driver overly confident in the protection offered by the icons on his dashboard. By shear luck we arrive at the tax office still sporting a pulse.

The tax office is the next leg in this bureaucratic relay. Here we must purchase some vouchers before heading to the police station to pass the baton on.

The office is dark and colourless with the staff tucked behind a thick curtain of fag smoke and a heavy wooden U-shaped barrier; memories of a back-street East-End pub surface. We stand at the barrier waiting to be served. There is no one in front of us, but looking into the pit we see the, mostly male, staff engrossed in the soft porn being played on the small T.V attached to the wall. We wonder if there is a long list of men on the island waiting for a job to become available here.

Finally a heavily moustached staff member drags is eyes away from the thonged backside on the screen long enough to ask what we want and to direct us to another desk to get served. We move to the cell-like window as instructed and wait again. There is a woman in front of us with a large pile of papers that each require to be looked at, signed and stamped by the smoking official behind the bars whose eyes regularly dance between the T.V and the documents.

After half an hour, all papers are stamped, a large wedge of cash is handed over, and the woman in front of us leaves. We fumble around with the smattering of Greek in our heads and manage to splutter out what we want. Nicole is asked her age as this apparently has a bearing on the cost. She is not sure how she feels when she discovers that her age is “good”, it will bring the cost of the vouchers down to 76 Euros. More cash is handed over, three vouchers are handed back, and we head off to the police station for more hoop jumping.

Arriving at the police station we are again greeted with a smoking official behind a large desk who informs us that we are too late (it is 1pm), the department is closed, and we must return between 8 – 12 midday tomorrow.

'Tomorrow' is when all business gets done in Greece.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Day 64 - The Great Race

Today we head to the local stadium to break some athletic world records.

Paul has trawled Wikipedia for the fastest times ever achieved for the men’s 100, 200, & 400 metres. He has recently revived his cross-country running career from his glory days at West Linton Primary School, and is keen to see how he measures up against the industry's greats. Nicole has been recruited for the day to cheer and hoot from the sidelines as Paul gloriously tears over the finishing line.

Unusually, Nicole barely gets a word in on the way to the stadium. At the end of the 30 minute walk, she has learned all about Paul’s running techniques, strategies, & great triumphs in the small Scottish village of West Linton during the late 70’s & early 80’s.

After checking out the track and satisfied with its lane markings, Paul begins to stretch and limber up; a look of serious concentration on his face as he bends from side to side. Finally, he is ready. He is going to start with the 100 metres, and his time to beat is Jamacia’s Asafa Powell’s 2005 record of 9.77 seconds.

Nicole readies the stop watch as Paul lowers himself into the starting blocks. “Ready, Set, Go!”. The watch has started running but Paul has not. At the crucial moment he needs to go to the toilet. A quick check round the stadium confirms that there are no facilities open and then the race is really on. Back to the house and to the bathroom.

Paul doesn’t make it in 9.77 seconds but he does make it in time. Nicole does what she was recruited to do and hoots. With laughter.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Day 63 - Love and Money

It’s been a cold grey day spent inside working, so we head out tonight to have a romantic date down at a waterfront. Café Ciao is chosen for the large mugs of roasting coffee served, and the outdoor burners that keep the blood flowing so you can enjoy the seaside scenery.

Thoughts are ping-ponged back and forth about love, life, and Freddy Mercury, and all seems to be going well until we stumble into mentioning the outstanding Value Added Tax that is owed to us. This leads us on to debating the benefits and cons of remaining a Ltd Company, and what on earth are we going to do about our accountants who charge an arm and a leg and a kidney and a liver whenever they spare us a thought. The date is over and we are once again business partners clashing at front line.

Not people to give up easily we schedule another date for next week.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Day 62 - Curses and Scandals

We are on our way to the ancient castle on the hillside when we bump into Themis. She is a cousin of a cousin of a cousin’s wife’s son, and, according to Nicole’s Father, Michael, they are related.

The sun has reared its head again today but in Themis’ world it is still dark and miserable. With a long solemn face she informs us that all the women on the island are bitches and every second one is cheating on their husband with their husband’s best friend. We also learn that it’s alright for the men to have affairs - that’s natural - but it is very unnatural for women to do it – apocalyptic even.

She pauses in the story to greet another long-faced comrade and together they commiserate on how crap life is on this Greek island in the deep Med. Satisfied that the other is just as miserable, they say goodbye.

The gossip continues and we go on to learn that the biggest bitch on the island is Themis’ sister-in-law who believes that Themis poisoned her husband with mushrooms. She is also having an affair with her husband’s best friend. But not to worry, Themis has put a curse on her. Something bad is going to happen but we can’t seem to get a straight answer as to what.

The sister-in-law has also put a curse on Themis but she is convinced that the curse has not taken effect, rattling her Protective Eye on her key-chain at us in triumph. We stop short of asking her if the curse is an affliction of delusion and pathological misery.

An hour later we say goodbye to Themis, never guessing that this seemingly quiet, remote island is a hot-bed of sex and scandal!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Day 61 - Nicole's Name Day

The great day arrives - December 6th - the feast of Saint Nicholas and therefore it's Nicole's Name Day, or Yiorti.

As we described on Michael's special day (Nov 8th), your name day is a very special occasion that celebrates only you... and everyone else with the same name.

Dec 6th is also a special day for the whole of Kalymnos because Saint Nicholas is the official protector of the island. Saint Nick hasn't been doing a lot of protecting recently - he died nearly 1700 years ago - and this may explain why the island has changed hands so often through the years. Kalymnians are keeping faith with the Saint though and, indeed, it's a local public holiday.

So the town is packed with Nicoles and Nicks plus their family and friends. Hundreds of islanders have put on their Sunday Best leather jackets and shades, and piled into the town square: first to watch the navy and the priests grimly parade the icon of Saint Nicholas up and down on a big chair, and then to sit in the cafes for a few hours and drink coffee and talk.

Nicole's personal celebrations are crowned with Michael's cheesecake confection. Not to be confused with the sweet of the same name, this cheesecake is a solid block of homemade cheese, decorated with chocolate lettering. On top of this, Nicole is lavished with gifts (750 grams of Nescafe and a litre of milk) and a card. Chronia Polla, as they say!

According to Wikipedia, Saint Nick is also the patron saint of thieves, pawnbrokers, and the falsely accused - good company - and we hope they had as much fun as we did today.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Day 60 - An Ouzo is Not Just An Ouzo

Confusion reigns at Cafe Nes. You see, what they call an "Ouzo" is not just a glass of ouzo but also a plate of small snacks, (mezedes or tapas if you will), plus a glass of water.

The trouble comes when you want the snacks but not the booze, perhaps a coffee instead?

This boat-rocking nonsense causes holy uproar amongst all patrons of Cafe Nes (who all look exactly like the chap pictrued on the establishment's official napkin). Debates about our decision rage at side tables. Men shake their worry beads faster and faster. The puzzled waiter has to confirm three times that we want coffee rather than ouzo and then, just to be on the safe side, brings us ouzo anyway.

It's a bit like the time we tried to ask in the kebab shop at the bottom of the road if they might have any baklava. Horrified groups of men jumped from their chairs, waved their arms around, crossed themselves rapidly and shouted "Galatabouriko! Galatabouriko!" which basically meant "No, dummy - go to the cake shop!"

All right, all right, all right... SORRY!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Day 59 - Let Them Eat Squid

An Economic Riddle: Why does the squid which comes out of the Aegean Sea which is located approximately ten metres from the fish shop cost 6 or 8 Euros per kilo while the squid in the supermarket next door that has to be frozen, packed in polythene bags and transported from India only cost 4 Euros per kilo?

We imagine the answer has something to do with apocalyptic global-economics of the end-times in which our mindless consumer behaviour ends up causing everyone to die under rising seas (for which we are utterly responsible). Boo.

However - the low price kind of makes you forget about all of that and in our quest to stretch the budget, we now find ourselves eating calamari as a staple. Back in Glasgow this animal was a luxury. Thanks to the internet we now know even how to gut and cook them.

The free olive-oil supply and the lemon-tree-in-the-garden scenario adds to the overall cheapness. Another riddle: why does inexpensive food taste so much better than stuff you pay through the nose for?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Day 58 - And We Watch Them Roll Away Again

As regular readers may have gathered, Kalymnos is a crazy whirlwind of a place with loads of social activity and things to do.

However, even non-stop 24-hour metropolitan mega-cities like New York, Tokyo and Kalymnos have their quiet days when the only sensible thing to do is to go down to the wharf and watch the ships roll in (and watch them roll away again).

This meaningless hobby is reflected in our brand new movie, called Sittin' which is available to watch on YouTube right now by clicking on this link.

Amazing Otis Redding Fact
Otis Redding recorded Sittin' On The Dock of The Bay only three days before dying in a plane crash. Spooky!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Day 57 - Manspace II - Shed Wars

Kalymnos is home to a number of fantastic sheds. As we discussed previously, a man from Therma even has a shed made out of a cave.

We need to go back there and get a photo of said shed, but in the meantime, here are two strong new challengers for the title of Best Shed on The Island.

Best Shed Contender Number One

The first pretender to the throne defines the word "ramshackle" and is located in the Agios Savvas neighbourhood on a steep hillside otherwise notable for it's beautiful pine trees, stinking goats and excessive litter.

This architectural triumph has been fashioned from a random collection of planks and sticks, one sheet of galvanised metal, and a rusting tank of some sort. It is held together with bits of string, goats' dung and some old lino.

Obviously built by anarchists, this shed makes you feel like quitting your job, taking up soft drugs and destroying capitalism every time you walk past.

Best Shed Contender Number Two

Shed number two is nicked off a boat. It sits on a windy hillside at the top of a little section on the road to Vothini where a bloke, apparently on his own, is building a house. He uses the cabin/shed to keep his tools in while he does the job.

This ex-floating shed is a great example of the ingenuity of man, a great example of recycling and a great example of what happens when there is no such thing as Homebase.

Which is your favourite? Let us know in the comments section below...

In the meantime, we're going to be hunting for more fantastic sheds to show you and then, at the end of the year, we'll have a big vote and decide a winner. Yeah!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Day 56 - Easy Meat

Good news: the mosquitoes are getting easier to kill.

The colder weather has made their movement sluggish and they are not the devils they were in the summer. Before they would zip, fly and tear around like fighter planes - now they struggle from perch to perch like a drunk man walking home.

Only a few weeks ago our night's sleep would be constantly interrupted by buzzing and biting. We would wake up in the middle of the night, exhausted from being eaten, and have to chase the elusive bastardos around the room with books, cursing if they jumped in time and whooping like American sports fans whenever one got splatted.

Now the whole affair is more nonchalant. If one buzzles past your face you can bang your hands together in mid-air and kill it that way - easy.

During working hours, Nicole has perfected the one-handed kill, where a passing mozzy is merely plucked from the air and crushed without the other hand ever leaving the computer keyboard.

You don't need a book any more. You can just walk up to them as they lie sleeping on the wall and finish them with a little one-inch punch from the heel of your fist.

In the background of our minds is the horror of summer but, for now, we are the dominant life-form in this house. Fear us, insects!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Day 55 - High Hopes

The spectacle at the top of the mountain where the tip has literally been shaved off, leaving a short-strip of flat land bound by death-defying drops, is called Kalymnos Airport.

The airport took longer to build than planned. The delay was caused by a realisation during construction that the runway was going to be too short. Negotiations between the contractors and the airlines ensued and, finally, a solution was found. Rather than squeeze a Boeing 747 onto the runway, as initially planned, why not try a 20-seater plane which could probably screech to a halt before the runway disappears over the edge of a 90 degree vertical cliff into the sea. And the construction was completed. Excellent solution; and it only took 15 years to reach.

We have made many attempts since arriving on the island to climb up high to a point where we will be eye-level with the plane and watch it as it swoops in to land. However, a combination of sleeping in, getting lost, and sporadic landing times have so far resulted in no successful attempts to do so. Today we give it another shot.

We are out of the house by midday – great, just over an hour until landing – and start climbing up to the church of St. Savvas, nearly at the top of the South West mountain. The sun is in full swing and we’re pretty convinced that we should have a clear view of the runway in the sky, a few mountain tops to the North.

Fifty minutes later and we are at out destination. Bugger. We have miscalculated and cannot see the runway. We wander to the back of the church and cast a calculating eye over the rocky mountainside leading up to the summit where the island’s T.V and telephone masts stand guard. Can we do it? Yes, we think we can. And so we start weaving our way up, racing against the clock as we jump from rock to rock.

Paul bounds up the cliff face without a care in the world but Nicole lags behind caught up in a whirl of paranoia that a snake is lurking behind every rock. She insists on hitting everything in sight with a stick just to make sure the python in her head doesn’t materialise. A small domestic breaks out but eventually logic and reason is restored and we get to the top.

It’s an electrical minefield up here. Scattered cables, wires, and rusty aerials outnumber the rocks and shrubs, but we manage to negotiate a path to an outlying piece of rock with an excellent view of the landing side of the runway, and set up the video camera. From where we are, the footage is going to be spectacular. We could probably read the date on a newspaper through the plane windows from here.

Once set up, it dawns on us that if the plane crashed, we would capture the entire tragedy on camera. How terrible! Yes. Horrific! Yes. What would the footage be worth? And we spend the next 5 minutes debating our minimum selling price.

We hear something. Yes, the sound of plane engines in the distance. The tension builds. Any minute now we are going to be touching the wings. And then Nicole spots a plane taxiing to a stop at the end of the runway. Unbelievable, it has landed from the North side of the island and we have missed it again. Of course, it has landed into the wind and if we had bothered to look at the sea, we would have seen that it was blowing from the South.

The take off is unremarkable and we head back down the mountain with no footage in the camera that we could either pimp to the highest bidder or turn into another You Tube masterpiece.

However, we find that a Greek pilot has left his co-pilot to deal with the technicalities of landing whilst he captures the great descent on film. Check it out on You Tube.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Day 54 - What a Load of Rubbish

One of the truly brilliant things about Kalymnos is the rubbish. Not just a few drifting sweetie wrappers and fag butts, a la Glasgow, but big proper dumping - everywhere.

Go for any walk, especially round the edges of town, and you will find dead motorbikes, ex-cars, piles of former mattresses and old ironing boards. Abandoned boats, miles from the sea, is a local speciality.

And is it really such a bad thing? When you happen across a scarlet red washing machine like this which sits so artfully amid the biblical landscape of the road to Vothini, you can see the positive.

Back home, the Scottish Arts Council would fund this kind of thing. The chap who dumped/installed it would rattle out some trite manifesto about the juxtaposition of nature and technology, become briefly micro-famous and get a write-up in The Sunday Herald. Another triumph for art!
There's none of that nonsense here. Just the rubbish or, if you prefer, the art.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Day 53 - Millionaires Row

OK - the whole point of moving here to Greece was to buy time to plan how we're going to generate an income online so that we can become "financially independent".

We've been wearing out our thinking socks and have brewed up LOADS of different website ideas which are all genius. If you are interested in finding out more details, you can buy them off us for $1000 each. Send us an email.

But now we have settled on one idea to go ahead with for our first project and we are preparing our site: planning...

Of course, being THE PERFECT COUPLE means that all of this is being achieved with NO arguments and NO strops and NO marital strife and NO swearing.

You've guessed it... this is a dirtier lie than the Iraq War pretext - but there's a price to pay for being two such gigantic creative talents who are also always right.

So can a good romantic relationship be a good working relationship? What do you think?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Day 52 - Greekonomics

Hey! Do you know how amazing the situation is here? Do you have any idea?

Look at the picture - every single house has a solar panel on their roof. You know what that means? Yeah, that's right, free hot water and electricity forever!

Every house has a garden and every garden is full of natural food which just grows. For example, our place has dates, figs, oranges, garlic, eggplants and lemons and we have olive trees at the plantation. The sea is at the end of the street and it is absolutely chock full of fish. That's right: free food!

All houses here are kept within the family and never sold - merely passed down through the generations. That's right - no one in Greece has a mortgage or any rent to pay!

In fact, everyone's basic needs are taken care of to such an extent that any money a Greek person earns or finds can be spent on luxuries. Which is why they all smoke 40 fags a day - and even the fags are about a pound a pack. Wow!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Day 51 - Sick Pussy

Everyone downstairs has caught the flu. First Maria was sniffly on Thursday and Friday, then Michael picked it up on Saturday and now, mysteriously, Avramopolous the cat seems to have caught it from somewhere.

Although, perhaps it's more than just a cold. As well as sneezing and sniffling, Avramopolous (pictured right, lying down) isn't eating and is thinning visibly by the hour. His condition causes such concern that an emergency trip to the vet's is announced.

The vet's place is a brand new building, all nice wood and smooth plasterwork. We actually noticed it for it's shiny quality on a walk last week but misread the sign and took it to be a gynaecologist. Yes, our Greek is not improving.

Anyway, the vet does her vet thing, admits that she doesn't know what the problem is and promptly charges Michael 40 Euros.

We make a joke about the cost of pussy spiralling out of control and laugh like drains.

Unimpressed, Michael decides to wait a few days for the return visit because if Avramopolous "pops off" anyway, then the money will have been wasted.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Day 50 - What Christmas?

Oh, is it really just one month to Christmas? You know, we never even noticed. We are only reminded of the God-Birthday when an email from the UK mentions the cursed festival.

Here in Greece, no one seems too bothered yet. We haven't seen any big stupid Santas or snowmen gatecrashing the shop windows, just the usual clutter. And we've heard no terrible carols over the speakers in the supermarket - only the standard "life is pain" Greek music .

We haven't noticed any Xmas ads on Michael's TV and no do-gooders have asked us to think about "others less fortunate than ourselves (at this time of year)".

Call us humbug, but it's a nice change and evidence that Christmas doesn't have to be like the consumer-fest we have gotten used to during our lives.

There was never going to be any big spending for us this year anyway - but we have decided that our Christmas treat will be a spinach pie from the Aladdin Cafe. How we miss them from our time at the olives. Ho ho ho!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Day 49 - Animal Cruelty and Sex

There's a sad dog who lives by the wharf. It's a chocolate brown coloured beast that looks like some kind of Weimerarner.

It lives, chained to a rock, on an open concrete platform at the bottom of a set of stairs that lead up to someone's house. The people who live there must feed it occasionally because although thin, it's still alive.

But every time we pass, the dog is alone and seems to say with it's big sad eyes... "Please love me." It's as if the dog is chained not only to a rock, but to lonliness itself.

Boo Hoo.

On a lighter note, we have managed to capture video of two flies having sex with each other. You can watch it on YouTube

Friday, November 23, 2007

Day 48 - You Can't Stop This Guy

There are loads of wrecked vehicles on the island but only some of them have been written off. Busted headlamps are not a problem. Doors that have rusted shut are kosher. Even having a smashed-in windscreen won't keep cars off the road.

Everyone's tyres are as bald as Telly Savalas and its only when a wheel actually falls off that you can stop these guys.

Our favourite rusty old ride is the little blue van called "AO 7430". That's the vehicle which appears in the banner at the top of the page and we're pretty sure that's not a personalised number plate.

Since taking that photo, we have noticed the van in different places and concluded that someone must actually drive it around.

Indeed, we catch a glimpse of the owner himself today, round at the wharf. The man is in his sixties, wears big glasses and looks cool in a beat-up, guy-who-hangs-aorund-the-wharf kind of a way. He looks like someone who knows his way round a game of cards and a packet of fags and he looks like he doesn't give a damn.

He certainly isn't giving a damn to what his fishing buddies think when we see him pull a dwarf sardine out from the sea and upon deciding that it is too small, proceeds to massacre it with a few heavy stomps to the head before throwing the corpse back into the deep blue. Mm... Perhaps it's some ancient Greek fishing ritual that keeps favour with Neptune that we're not aware of? Or perhaps, he just don't give a damn!

And who can blame him? He's got the best silly vehicle on the island and no matter how much of it rusts, crumbles and falls off - the van still runs.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Day 47 - Happy Shoppers

Before moving here we thought that our weekly shop in Greece would be uniformly cheaper but its just not the case.

A wee tin of tuna that costs 25p in Lidl in Glasgow costs about £1 here. A 20p tin of sweetcorn is more like £1 here in Vitales supermarket on the waterfront.

The proper bargains are the fresh fruit and veg but anything that comes in a tin will kill you. Coffee and tea are pretty steep too.

Other shockers have been home and kitchen products. Stuff like a set of plastic shelves for the bathroom costs €20 here but you would get something of the same quality at home for half the price. And if you want a decent tin opener, you won't get one this side of €7.

Of course - there's always a flip side. Whisky is €4.99 a bottle. Tranlated into pounds that's an incredible £3.59 which is cheaper than a pint of beer in some Glasgow pubs. Incidentally, the three-pound whisky is pictured below and, we're proud to say, it comes from the Macnish company in Glasgow.

Another difference here is that you can buy big mad knives in the supermarket, no problem at all; not something you would ever do so easily in Glasgow. Not just veg and bread knives, but big, dirty cleavers and everything.

But despite this ready availability of super-cheap hard booze and easy access to killer blades, there are no drunks here, and none of Glasgow's culture of knife crime and murders. No one here has one of those stitched-up "smiles" splitting their face. So why would that be?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Day 46 - Movie World

For the Greek release of Steve Almighty they've changed the title to the none-too-catchy Noah For One Week. Who knows - perhaps that's absolutely hilarious to Greeks?

What definitely is funny is an old kung-fu movie on Michael's TV. Between the Chinese dialogue and the Greek subtitles - we work out the plot.

Basically there's a good guy and his mate who work for a good emperor and who are brilliant at fighting. They're chasing the bad emperor and his hundreds of dumb guards who are rubbish at fighting. There is a gigantic fight and the good guy's pal gets his arm cut off but keeps fighting. The other good guy kills every single one of the baddies, captures the bad emperor and hands him over before dying from his wounds. Then the guy with one arm dies as well.

At the end the good emperor turns up, surveys the scene and turns his face to the sky to speak: "War is hell. We have lost so many of our brothers." Then there is loud Chinese music followed by Chinese credits. The End.

And, when the entertainment is that solid - you don't need to understand every word.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Day 45 - Show Me The Money

Lightning and thunderstorms put on another dazzling show today, and we once again pine for the jumpers and fleeces we laughingly got rid of before coming to Greece. Who’s ever seen a glossy brochure of Greece with anything but a flawless blue sky?

Not to worry though. The olives have been picked and there is relative quiet outside in the courtyard. This means we can settle down, in peace, and do some work.

We bunker down at our laptops for a long research session on making a quick buck. Apparently, the way to get rich quick is to offer to help others get rich quick. Mm…so far the only advice we can give on raising some quick cash is to sell all your possessions, find a free place to live, and buy a big bag of lentils. Probably not the sort of advice we can whore on the internet for a pound or two. Oh well, we keep persevering in finding the secret to big money for little work.

Time goes by, day turns to night, and the electric sky finally quietens down. Despite lots of tea, coffee, and lentil breaks, our retinas are burning after many hours of surfing and the computers need to be turned off.

We start settling down for the night and hear a bit of commotion out in the yard. It turns out that it is Michael returning from his nightly cycle along the waterfront, which he departed for many hours ago. Apparently he has spent the last few hours sheltering from the storm in the café down the road. Of course it was the storm that drove him in there, not some comrades, a pack of cards, and a bottle of ouzo.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Day 44 - Big Plans

We came to Greece armed with two Swiss exercise balls, a yoga workout, a pilates workout, a weights resistance workout, and a plan for 2-hours exercise a day; we have planned and discussed our get-fit strategy in depth. We are still planning and discussing it. The trip to the sports shop to get a valve to pump up the Swiss balls is still on the to-do list.

Today we take the next step and visit a local gym to discuss joining up. The gym is only a 5 minute walk from our flat (tick) and, whilst a fairly small room, it has all the resistance weights and cardio machines we need to get fit - so good so far. It is also very reasonable at 36 Euros a month membership fee with no long term contract - very good.

Naturally, we spend time looking at the pros and cons of each machine, and discuss the workouts we would do when we join. We ask the staff lots of important questions about opening times, ventilation systems, changing facilities, cleaners’ schedules, and wall-photograph locations.

Satisfied that we have all the knowledge needed in order to join, we decide to head down to a café by the waterfront and discuss it further.

After all, a failure to plan is to plan to fail! Isn't it?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Day 43 - Grave Thoughts

Paul has not seen where Nicole’s grandparents are buried, so we decide to spend the afternoon at the cemetery. Expecting a quiet grim afternoon, Paul is somewhat surprised by the colourful, busy atmosphere of the graveyard. Not at all like the UK.

Men, women, and children constantly come and go, and there is much talking amongst them. Not the kind of hushed, nervous whispers one usually makes, afraid that they might wake the dead, but natural tones of conversation you would expect at a café. It’s rather lovely.

Each grave is a raised marble enclosure covered in plastic flower wreaths, icons, and photos of the deceased. Collectively, the place feels like a sacred portrait gallery; a unique life story hidden behind each pair of eyes.

A team of women, wearing black, light the oil lanterns in each headstone. Most Greek families pay for their loved one’s lantern to be lit every evening as a memorial to the deceased. When the sun goes down, the effect of the yellow flames flickering in the dark is beautifully festive. We walk away reflecting on all this beauty.

We also reflect on the general lower than expected age of departure and wonder if the kamikaze driving, many cakes, and 3 ½ packets of fags smoked each day has something to do with it. Humorously, we note that these elements never make it into the lectures of the NHS when preaching the virtues of the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle to a UK public experiencing an obesity crisis.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Day 42 - The Most Frustrating Thing in The World

Paul is going nuts. In the belief that he can watch the vital, massive, crucial Scotland v Italy game online for free at the SFA website, Paul recklessly waits until ten minutes before kick-off to log-on try and sort this out.

Of course, it doesn’t work and neither does BBC Radio commentary which is “only available to listeners inside the UK”. Paul only discovers this absurdity after spending fifteen minutes downloading Real Player. Aaargh!

By now, we know from the BBC website that Scotland are losing 0-1 but there’s no commentary, no pictures and Paul is in curse/swear overdrive. Trying to keep calm, he scours the internet for options. Eventually, he finds After a further forty minutes of false starts and fannying about, he finally brings up a jumpy, low-resolution feed from a German TV channel. Yes!

The game, live from Glasgow, is already in the second half. Paul settles back on the sofa, the screen fills with football and all is well. Scotland attack, the move looks good and… the feed breaks down and stops just as Scotland look like they are about to score!

Paul scrambles to another option which requires downloading Chinese software and tuning into an Arabic TV station who are showing the game.

The pictures come back and… Yes! Scotland have scored while we’ve been out of the loop! It’s 1-1 with 15 minutes to go. A draw gives Scotland a chance to qualify for the European Championships but the Scotland players are going for the win to make certain: they’re attacking. World Champions Italy look rattled!

For the next eight or nine minutes, everything is incredibly exciting as the two teams fight for a winner. Then, with three minutes left to play, the feed stops again. Aaargh!

This time Paul fails to retrieve the pictures and it is in complete silence a few minutes later that he reads the final score on the BBC website (in glorious TEXT): Scotland 1-2 Italy.


Yes, it turns out that the Italians scored in the very last minute of the game and that’s it: Scotland are knocked out with no chance of big tournament for another two years.

So that’s the story: no matter how frustrating computers and the internet can be, they’ll never be as frustrating as being Scottish and following football.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Day 41 – Reflections on The Olives

It's like running the marathon, only to fall 10 metres before the finishing line.

After seven days of hard labour, and after loading up the car with 15 sacks of olives the night before, we sleep in and miss the boat to Kos to watch them being pressed into olive oil. Doh!

Oh well, there's always next year. No wait. There won't be a next year because we'll have a very important meeting to attend next November somewhere in the world.

The news arrives from Kos that we have 50 litres of fresh, organic olive oil to survive on for the coming year. We reflect. Well done us. The pain and complaining temporarily forgotton.

Let’s try really hard and take some positive learning outcomes from our week-long olive-picking experience. Let's look for deeper meaning.

The harvest has taught us:

  1. Never underestimate a tree. Although a tree may look quite small, the likelihood is that it in fact GIGANTIC, with LOADS of branches and MILLIONS of fruits.

  2. There is no such thing as “olive green”. There are loads of different shades of green to be found on an olive tree.
  3. Plumbling and indoor toilets are a good thing.
Have you ever experienced a week of agricultural and learned something?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Day 40 - We Hate Agriculture

The final day of olive picking - at last.

There was a thunderstorm last night and some of the olives have been struck from the trees by hailstones. We can still get the olives but it means picking them out of the mud rather than off a branch. Michael says, "Now I know how the poor farmers feel when their crop is ruined by the weather."

We point out that it's a matter of a couple of kilos of olives and seeing as how this is his hobby rather than anything remotely resembling a livelihood, he probably still has a way to go to understand the pain of being wiped out by the elements.

Meanwhile, we now have the tiniest understanding of the pain of the farm labourer. That's seven days in the field, taking a sniff at the world of agriculture and neither of us likes it. We are tired and we are bored. Where is the art? Where is the glamour? The moment the last olive is picked, we pack up and leave immediately - there are no happy songs to celebrate the end of harvest, we just want to get the hell out of there.

So, while Michael hoses off the dirt from the last olives that had to plucked from the mud, we turn our backs on the plantation and troop off back to town, trying to forget fields and trying to remember cafes and conversations, heavy traffic and shopping, and other city-style comforts.

The countryside: it's nice for a day trip...


7 days

3 labourers

300 kilos picked

60 litres of oil (expected)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Day 39 - Couldn't Eat Olive Them

We’re up at 8.00 and leave at 8.30, as planned. We go to Vothini and pick olives again for the sixth day in a row. What began last week as an amusing diversion has become actual agriculture, the kind that peasants do.

For God’s sake, both of us went to good schools – this is not how things were supposed to turn out.

Put it this way: if we’re still living in Kalymnos next year then we will take our holidays at this time. There will be an unavoidable meeting somewhere far away. We will be booked up. We’ll be getting our hair done. There will be an excuse.

STATISTICS: Today we picked a total of 87 kg in about 8 hours. We have now completed 37 trees out of 44. We should finish tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Day 38 - Sacrifice

As detailed yesterday, we have no warm clothes. When we moved from Scotland, these were all left behind in the belief that Greece would be warmer than it actually is. Now it turns out that we can’t sleep because we’re so cold.
In fact, falling asleep would be easy if it wasn’t for the fear that our dormant bodies’ temperatures might drop to cryogenic levels and we might never wake up again.

The only solution: break some funds and buy warm pyjamas. Things are not cheap here and, owing to our budget, we need maximum warmth for minimum dollar. This means compromising on style.

Nicole ends up with ill-matched fleecy pyjamas, dressing gown and slippers, of various patterns and colours. The catwalks of Paris can wait.

Paul, as you can see, winds up in the kind of costume preferred by alcoholic wife-beaters from British housing estates, circa 1984. The only things missing are the accessories: sovereign rings, can of Kestrel lager and the Kensitas Club cigarettes. Terrifying.

By the way – today was day 5 of picking olives. We started at noon and picked 38 kilos in 5 hours. We have now completed 27 trees out of 44 and the novelty is wearing thin. We decide on an earlier start tomorrow – let’s get started at 8.30am and get this finished in two days.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Day 37 - Freezing

We wake up beside each other, Nicole shivering to keep warm, Paul already horrifyingly frozen inside a solid block of ice, a silent scream forever etched on his face.

The temperature drops and we are re-learning the meaning of winter. Our first floor flat is made from concrete and has no ground floor – it’s effectively on stilts - so when the North wind blows, it gets right under our floor and turns the flat into a fridge.

All of the fleeces, jumpers and thermal underwear that we accumulated in Scotland failed to make the final cut when we packed to come here. They were too bulky and, hey, Greece is hot! Now we suffer.

The key factor we failed to consider was that nearly our entire winters in Scotland were lived indoors under the spell of central-heating. The only time those bulky, woolly items came into play were for the odd walk in the country or once-a-year snowball fight in Kelvingrove Park. How jolly.

The shops, cafes, cars, pubs and houses where we really spent our time were all heated to a comfortable, uniform twenty-one degrees. It is entirely possible that living in the city made us forget what seasons are.

Now we have moved to Greece, where there is plenty of air-con but no central heating. Its understandable: it was so hot here this summer that the country literally went on fire. But that was August and this is November so, for the next few months, we’d better put a jumper on.

What’s it like living in a hot country? We don’t know – ask someone from Scotland.
Number of olives picked: millions
Number of olives still to pick: billions

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Day 36 - The End of All News

Ever since we arrived in the country last month, Greece has been enraptured by the leadership election for the opposition party, the Socialists, PASOK.

Coming from Britain where no one could give a monkey’s about any political party, let alone the opposition, the level of interest is fascinating.

Every night the TV news is awash with comment and rage as the merits of the two contenders (the bald man versus the fat man) are played out. Apart from occasional updates on Archbishop Christodolou’s (failing) health, there are no other stories.

Today is the vote. An interesting aspect, to British eyes, is the PASOK system whereby anyone on the Greek electoral register can (for 2 Euros) cast a vote, not just members of the party.

This means supporters of other parties can turn up and vote for whoever they think is the most useless; a strange thing to leave yourself open to.

In fact, by the time the polls shut, more than 700,000 votes are cast which, given the population of Greece, is like 4 million people turning out in the UK to decide on the Tory leadership.
Not only is the level of interest here unthinkable to a British voter, but so is the fact that the bald man (Papandreou, the incumbent) is in the race at all, seeing as he has lost the last two general elections on the trot.

In Britain, if you lose an election you are sacked. In Britain, if you are the leader of the opposition and you fail to rise 10 points in the opinion polls you are sacked. In Britain, if people become bored with your face, you are sacked.

But here, they stick with their man. In fact, by nine o‘clock its clear that this bald man who’s lost two elections has seen off the challenge of the fat man and retained his leadership.

God knows what they’re going to talk about on the news now.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Day 35 - Fatal Snake Attack

We walk to Vothini to pick (more) olives.

The monotony of harvest is broken in the afternoon when one of the guys selling vegetables from the back of a pickup suddenly pulls up outside the plantation and starts shouting "Fithi, fithi!" which translates as "Snake, snake!"

Turns out that he has partially driven over a snake which is now suffering in the road. We go to the gate to see the reptile dazed, but getting ready to slither off.

The vegetable salesman has different ideas and backs up his truck to roll over the snake a second time. Then, with the help of Maria giving him directions, he rolls his fat back wheels backwards and forwards over the creature's body three times more, just to make sure. Finally, he rests the full weight of his vehicle right on top of the snake's head just to make absolutely, definitely certain of a kill.

This is all done without much excitement, and when the vegetable salesman rolls his wheel away and he and Maria are satisfied that the snake's twitching is only reflex action, they nod their approval of a job well done and no more is said. He drives off to sell vegetables and we go back to work.

The scaley corpse of the snake is left in the road and opinion is split. Nicole thinks the serpent could have been dangerous and it's a good job the veg guy came when he did. Paul and Michael think that the snake was harmless and should have been left alone.

The truth is, we don't know whether it was dangerous or not. Can any experts out there tell us from the picture exactly what animal died today?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Day 34 - A Pickin Good Time

It’s harvesting time again. Today we head to Michael’s olive plantation to pick olives and have them pressed into tasty organic olive oil. The trees are heavily pregnant and about to drop.

The true realities of farming dawn on Nicole when she realises there will be no bathroom facilities. This produces a mild shock, exacerbated by the working track-suits and trainers required for the job. Not one to enjoy dressing down, Nicole attempts to maintain some sense of glamour and insists, as a bare minimum, on a splash of lipstick and perfume, at the somewhat bemusement of Paul and Michael.

We take the coastal, nerve shattering cliff-top drive to the orchard on the West side of the island, and get to work. The sunshine beats down and the car radio serenades us with Greek melodies. At the first tree, we each start in a different position and work in a clock-wise direction. Michael instructs us in the technique for collecting: slowly picking one olive at a time and being careful not to put any leaves or stems in the collection buckets, as it will make the olive oil bitter.

Fine we think, not knowing any better, after all it is only going to take three days according to Michael.

Time marches on and 11.30am rolls into 1.30pm - lunch time. The good news is we have collected twenty-five kilos of olives between us. The not so good news is that it is all off one tree.

Michael is very relaxed about the situation. However, we are slightly concerned at the size of the task at hand and cut our lunch break short to get started on the next tree. We work non-top picking olive after olive until the sun goes down at 5.30pm, by which time we have cleared less than three trees.

There are fifty two trees to be picked!

At this rate, we calculate, it will take twenty-six days to finish the job. However, despite the naked, raw facts of the situation, Michael still insists that it is a three-day job. We can’t quite follow the algorithms used in his calculations.

No bother though: whilst our old office-based lives seem light years away today; Nicole has surprisingly discovered that she enjoyed the day’s labour; Paul always thought he would, and we can always adjust our business research plans.

So, exhausted, we head home to get an early night’s sleep, ready for another day in the field tomorrow.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Day 33 - The Death of the Individual

Today is Saint Michael's day and therefore Michael's Yiorti, or "Name Day". According to what we know, this is a bigger deal for Greeks than their actual birthday.

The premise is that everyone called Michael is celebrated on this day. That's right: on this day all Michaels are special!

This system has obvious benefits for wider society. There is no need for all that tiresome diary-keeping that comes from loved ones having completely random special days (birthdays). All you need do is remember what they're called and as long as it's a common enough name, there will be plenty of reminders.

So it's easy, that's for sure.

Although, is the price of this convenience no less than the death of the importance of each individual human soul? A birthday celebrates the unique life of your friend or family member and give thanks for the day on which they entered the world. Does a Name-Day crushes the significance of the individual and instead celebrate the long-dead "saint"?

However, as with all things, nothing lasts forever and Michael does admit that the younger generation are moving more towards birthdays.

Anyway, the real point is that lots of people drop in all day long and there are CAKES. Lots of them. So who's complaining?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Day 32- Fishy Business

We watch the two Chinese street peddlers trying to sell plastic Taiwanese tat to the Greek fishermen down at the fish market. We have stumbled across the negotiations as we walk along the waterfront.

The peddlers are laden down with brightly-coloured stuffed parrots, plastic animals, wall clocks, scissors, knives, and a collection of lightweight tools. The scene reminds us of a mobile version of Glasgow’s Pound Shop, minus the Neds.

A couple of heavyset, grisly-looking bearded fishermen in stained dungarees are interested enough to break from their group conversation and look at the goods. Excitedly, the traders try to punt the tools, but the fishermen are not interested. They then try the knives and scissors but again to no avail.

As a last minute effort to make a few euros, the sellers pull out a rainbow-coloured plastic fish, flick a switch, and the fish comes to life flapping about in time to a jolly carnival tune. The fishermen smile and make deep rumbling sounds of appreciation. Encouraged by this, the peddlers continue.

Next on display: a small plastic bird that tweets and flaps when turned on; a tiny green truck with a remote control, and finally a hot-pink plastic cylindrical object with spikes at one end and flashing lights. We can’t make out exactly what it is but we are certain that Ann Summers would want it included in their winter catalogue.

Clearly impressed, the fishermen settle on two plastic musical fish and the unidentified pink wonder. They haggle the price down from sixteen to ten euros and walk back to their comrades clearly pleased with their purchases.

Now that’s the art of sales: selling fake fish to real fishmongers.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Day 31 - Manspace

We spend the afternoon at Therma; a dramatic, gravely, cliff-framed beach. But Paul doesn’t care for scenery. The two things he’s always wanted in life have been a shed and a cave, and now he’s spotted a bloke who has both.

Halfway down the steep staircase which leads from the houses to the beach, the cliff face is interrupted by an unlikely-looking front door, right in the middle of the rock. It’s not a rusty number either, but a nicely varnished proper posh wooden front door; the type you might see on a maisonette in Milngavie. There are no windows – just the door.

Soon enough, the owner appears: a lean and tanned middle-aged guy with a tidy moustache and a hat. He unlocks the door and disappears inside. His movements are too swift and practised to let us see what he’s got in there.

Nicole stares out to sea, oblivious, but Paul obsesses. What’s he got in there? A train-set? Some home-brew? A radio and a stash of weed? Twenty minutes later, the man emerges, grinning a big Greek grin and greets us with a hearty “Yia-sas”!

On the walk home, Paul opines on the awesome nature of this waterfront shed which is also a cave! “What shed?” says Nicole. The gender divide kicks in again.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Day 30 - Local Shop-Window Display Bye-Laws

If you have studied window-dressing to any remotely-professional level, you should get yourself down to Kalymnos and make some money.

The evidence suggests that the shop-keepers here could benefit from your expertise.

Under current local bye-laws that stretch back to re-unification in 1947, here are the stautory window-dressing regulations of the island:

  1. The shop window must contain as many ITEMS as possible.
  2. In the event of running out of space - ITEMS must be overlapped, stacked, piled and racked.
  3. Correctly executed, rules 1 and 2 shall result in an individual being unable to tell where one ITEM stops and another ITEM begins.
  4. Under no circumstances shall the proprietor allow the ITEMS to constitute a unified look and feel.
  5. Once ITEMS are arranged, it is illegal to disturb the display for a minimum period of six years. Shops running displays which are not sufficiently sun-bleached or dusty risk a fine.

Here, from our neighbourhood in Pothia, are some examples:

Shop number 1 - Despite being a fashion outlet, it delivers absolutely no unified style or look - good work. Overlapped ITEMS - check. But definitely could have squeezed more ITEMS in there. Must try harder. 5/10
Shop number 2 - Improvement. A hardware shop with enough STUFF to sink the Titanic. Quality. 7/10

Shop number 3 - Piles of childrens clothes under randomly-strewn packets of tights which haven't been touched since the millennium. Winner. 9/10

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Day 29 - Fame, Greed, and Adventure

There are only 4 books on our shelf to choose from, as we sold our entire book collection for pennies at Glasgow’s car-boot sale before moving to Greece. We have decided to spend the day lazily drinking coffee and reading books. Surprisingly, making a decision on what to read is much less of an ordeal with much less choice.

We discovered these 4 books at the back of a cupboard when cleaning out our flat. Paul quickly chooses an Arctic adventure story while Nicole chooses a rags-to-riches epic. In this moment of hasty choice, we wonder if we have, in fact, acted out our subconscious desires or provided evidence of an innate gender divide.

Paul spends the day braving inhospitable icy climates and landscapes, and defying death, on his expedition from London, through Canada, and onto the Klondike River in search of the gold that the 1897 Gold Rush promised.

Nicole starts the day as a poor half-caste in the streets of Calcutta during the last days of the Raj. Determined to escape her humble beginnings, she stows away on a ship to London where she reinvents herself to become the darling of English society before being catapulted into the Golden era of Hollywood and becoming a legendary movie star of a million headlines.

We sit close together on the couch yet we are worlds and years apart as we each triumph over adversity with each turn of the page; both of us a hero and heroine amongst men and women. It is exhilarating.

A voice in the distance slowly becomes closer and louder. It is Michael calling out from next door for us to clear our washing from the clothes-line.

Back to reality.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Day 28 -What, No Sandwiches?

Today is a funeral for one of Maria’s in-laws who died earlier in the week.

We hear that on a previous occasion, this old man’s health had taken a turn for the worse and raised such alarm that the family had been called to Kalymnos from the four corners of the world. Of course, the minute they all reached his bedside, he suddenly felt quite a lot better, cancelled dying, and got up and went back to work.

It is suggested that this miraculous recovery was, in some ways, a disappointment; particularly to those offspring who had paid beyond their means to make the long journey from America.
This time, however, the deceased popped off without warning so his far-flung children missed the whole thing and have only arrived in time for today’s burial.

When Michael and Maria return from the funeral we are informed that “all went well”, that “no one dropped the coffin,” and that “they planted him nicely.”

“Did you get any food?” we enquire, cutting straight to the nitty-gritty. “Only a small baklava,” says Michael, displaying his own brand of disappointment.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Day 27 - Checkmate For White

We’re both up early enough to launch the final assault on the painting. Feelings of purity flow though our souls as white paint eliminates all traces of colour.

Today’s stains to die: pink on metal banister, blue on a mirror frame, brown rust on the front door and bathroom shelf brackets.

It’s like winning at RISK – our favourite colour builds and conquers. Today we reached the point in the game where we know there can be no other winner but white. Sickly pink, suicide blue and dumper brown are memories of the old order. White is the queen now and her reign is sublime.

We agree that in the future, following this nightmarish experience, we will outsource all painting contracts.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Day 26 - War & Peace

We had just sat out on our balcony for a coffee break when the fight broke out. Like a match to gas, it ignites in an instant.

Maria, Poppy, Katerina, and the Russian woman next door were calmly cooking, hanging washing, and scrubbing steps one minute, and then possessed with rage and fury the next. Arms are waving like an angry game of charades, voices are raised in high pitched squeals, and the word Malaka (wanker) is ping-ponged back and forth.

We have prime seats due to our raised balcony, and the natural amphitheatre-shaped courtyard created by the circular positioning of all our houses. It is highly entertaining; the most dramatic fight yet. We salivate with joy, like blood-thirsty spectators at the Coliseum.

The fight goes on and on, and on. By now the screaming has spiralled to a feverish pitch, and the charades has become more aggressive as the women close in on each others’ personal space. The only male on the scene is Stamatis, Maria’s son, who is busy pumping weights and admiring his own physique; it doesn’t look like he is going to step in and break up the brawl.

It is difficult to gauge who is winning. It looks even after a number of rounds. Out of family loyalty, we give a thumbs-up to Maria, but secretly our money is on the Olympic-sized Russian.

Due to the duration of the fight, we eventually work out, with our limited Greek, that this battle has erupted over a number of issues: the Russian has poured water over Maria’s steps; Maria’s daughter is making too much noise with her moped, and the smell from Katerina’s outdoor cooking is tainting the hanging washing. There is also something about bread loaves but we can’t quite decipher that thread of the argument.

And as quickly as it started, it stops in a flash; almost in mid-sentence. There seems to be no clear winner. The women go back to their cooking, washing, and cleaning, and peace descends once again.

A few minutes later, Michael turns up on his bicycle after his daily excursion around the waterfront. He sees us on our balcony, quietly sipping our coffee.

“Look guys…” he calls loudly, “…see how quiet and peaceful the life is here.”

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Day 25 - The Void

Once we decided to come here from our old life in Glasgow we faced a decision regarding the possessions which filled our flat: whether to sell or whether to store.

We chose to sell and thus spent three weeks on eBay and Gumtree trying to get rid of our stuff. We whooped when the piano went for more than expected and we grumbled when the misers of the Milngavie car-boot sale sloped off with our best books for just fifty pence each.

As yet, we do not miss our objects, articles and things. The flat here in Kalymnos is not massive but it’s spacious enough, as it’s not full of stuff. After all, a human can only read one book at a time so perhaps the game is to read and dump rather than amassing. Chuck it in the gutter to avoid utter clutter!

So now the walls are white and there are precious few objects on the scene, the flat feels like a gallery. Nice – but complete minimalism does have its drawbacks. One item we could do with is an extension cord.

For now, our micro-short kettle lead and the gap between socket and worktop mean that the only way to get a cuppa is via the pictured arrangement of chair and paint pot. In fact, let’s keep up the chic mystique and call it an installation!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Day 24 - We Kill Them One by One

Not content with nearly killing us on our Sunday drive, Michael goes further and actually shoots Paul. A plastic pellet aimed from his pistol at an intruder cat ricochets and hits Paul on the middle finger. Ouch, it stings.

“Dad! That hit Paul” says Nicole. “Yes…” replies Michael, “…it bounced up!” in a matter-of-fact explanation rather than an apology. We behave more like parents ourselves as we mutter darkly about the possibility that someone could have lost an eye.

Lunch today is snails. It’s Michael’s project: all last night the still-alive snails slimed around in a huge pot on the stove. “They must be boiled alive to taste best” says Michael with a grin, “we kill them: one by one”.

Together we draw the line and talk ourselves out of sharing the snails. We reason that they crawl on the ground, and are slimy, and must have intestinal tracts full of bad things, and are slimy and our main objection is that they are slimy. We stick to fish and bread.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Day 23 - Donkey Newsflash!

There is a donkey crisis in Greece. It’s all over the pages of the Athens News. Never mind the carbon emissions, the mass ownership of cars is putting donkeys across Greece out of work, numbers are declining, and within 20 years they may vanish completely from Greek Soil.

While Geneva is busy dealing with the crisis in the Middle East, the Greek island, Hydra, is hosting a Donkey Convention in an attempt to try and deal with this imminent threat of extinction.

Not since the Italian invasion in 1940, has there been such concern about the threat to Greek "cultural heritage". Apparently, the vanishing of this population threatens the Hellenic identity and legacy to be passed to the next generation.

Judging from the trend-following adolescents around here, it would appear that this next generation would rather speed away from the reading of their father’s will in the old man’s Peugeot, rather than straddling the family donkey.

Although, in the entrepreneurial hands of Stelios, this unwanted legacy would probably result in the instant Europe-wide hit:

We turn the page to read that Greece has been convicted by the European Court for breaking environmental law. Twenty-three towns have been cited as having sub-standard sewage networks and treatment plants. Kalymnos is on the list of offending areas.

Great, our dream holiday destination: sun, sea, shite, and the odd ass.

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