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!

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