Aquilegias and Off-Road Driving

Wednesday May 4th
Ah, I see in my last post I got the date wrong on the last entry. Losing track of time here is a common thing. In fact the only thing that keeps me on track is knowing whose turn it is to make the tea in the morning…

Day two with the shorts on, some warmth is being injected into the garden, and wandering round out there I see that everything is doing well. The chilli plants, which usually die each winter in England, are sprouting well and there are numerous other sprouts of chillies from seeds that dropped into the pots. I’ll probably separate these out in other pots to either plant here are pass on to others. The radishes, spring onions and salad leaves are all just a few days away from being ready, whilst other newly planted bits and pieces are close to being ready to put in. No sign yet, however, of my coffee, tea, Venus fly traps or pitcher plants sprouting, which is annoying.

I’ve also learnt, from a couple down in Makrigialos, that a shortage of magnesium can be a problem here and that the addition of Epsom salts to the ground and as a folia-feed can make a big difference. They had bought a 20 kilo sack of the stuff and provided me with a container full, some of which I’ve duly sprinkled around. I can’t use it as a folia-feed yet since my sprayer is still trapped in the apotheche.

Righto, I must now concentrate on getting back into a routine, working on Jupiter War each morning then the other jobs to be done around here in the afternoon.

Friday 6th May
Yesterday we took a short trip to the village of Pefki to visit Bob and Sue, it being the latter’s birthday. We stayed for about four hours, mostly chatting, but then took off when after the sun briefly showed its face before dropping behind a mountain dragging the temperature down with it. I drove back down from Pefki on the kind of road where James Bond discovers someone has cut the brake lines of his Aston Martin. No problem, however, and the views were astounding apparently (I don’t know – I was watching the road). Reaching the bottom I then drove a short distance along the coast road then headed back up the mountain road leading to our village. At the bottom of this there is a series of tight bends I took at a nice easy pace. Unfortunately, though I was on the right side of the road heading up, the tourists’ rental car driving down wasn’t.

I slammed on the brakes, veered to avoid the approaching car and skidded. In England the result of this would have been wheel marks on a grass verge or maybe a light contact with a hedge. Here my right-hand front wheel went off the edge of the road and dropped about two feet (I wasn’t going fast enough for the other wheel to leave the road), the front of the car dropped lifting the rear left-hand wheel about two or three feet off the road, and the car stalled.

So, there we were stuck on the edge of the road. Surprisingly the tourists stopped and walked over – a young man and woman who by their plastic wrist bands were from the Mikripoli hotel. They looked quite shocked and didn’t seem to know what to say and, from what little they did say, they certainly weren’t English. Now here’s where the story takes an interesting turn and tells you something about the Cretan people.

Whilst I was scratching my head trying to figure out what to do I stepped out into the road to ensure I could see both ways and thus make sure anyone approaching the bend slowed down. The first vehicle to turn up was a Cretan in a white pick-up truck. Instead of just slowing and going on past he pulled over and stopped. Hang on, I thought, I know this guy. As he stepped out of his truck my mind finally joined the dots: unbelievably, within a minute of us going off the road, the mechanic who had done various jobs on our car, had turned up. Manos wandered over for a look, a 4×4 turned up the driver and Manos had a brief chat and the other guy headed off again. Shortly after that a big white van turned up and a husband and wife stepped out. Jolly Cretan conversation ensued and I thought for a moment they were going to put out chairs and crack open a bottle of raki.

I found the towing ring in the boot of our car which Manos screwed it in place. He then made a phone call and now we were waiting for a tow rope. At this point I took pity on the two tourists and told them to bugger off back to their hotel. The wife apologised and they then headed off. Ten minutes later a boy arrived on a scooter with a tow rope. The rope was hitched to the van, Manos climbed in our car and controlled it as it was heaved back onto the road. There was no visible damage but best I take it to his garage ASAP to have it checked over. Who did I have to pay for this rescue and how much? Nothing. Just waves and smiles and the van and scooter headed off. Manos, who was going in our direction, drove slowly ahead of us until we arrived at the turn-off to Papagianades. A flash of the lights and he was gone.

Henceforth I’m going to heed Caroline’s assertion that I should drive slower. The speeds I drive at are perfectly fine if you make the assumption that everyone else on the road is driving sensibly, however, there’s always that old Cretan deciding to overtake on a bend because he’s still driving in a memory-land occupied by only two cars and the village donkey. There’s the young Greek travelling at the speed of a bullet whilst juggling both mobile phone and cigarette. And there are the tourists driving unfamiliar vehicles on an unfamiliar side of the road whilst looking at the wonderful views rather than the road ahead.

Saturday 7th May
It’s very very windy today but bright and the temperature is up to 13C this morning. With things carrying on like this I’m glad that a few days ago a Cretan called Sachis turned up to deliver two truckloads of wood, because we’re certainly going through the stuff. On talking to him I’ve decided to put any tobacco growing on hold until I know the facts. He seemed to think that growing tobacco would result in trouble – demonstrated as such by what they always do here in such cases: bringing the wrists together to indicate handcuffs.

Today we’re heading down to Makrigialos to pay our car insurance, which is getting rather expensive being paid in three-month blocks, have the car checked out at Manolis’ garage, and have a breakfast at the harbour. Our haunt for the last of these was a bar called Lithos but now the owners of that have moved on and the bar has been taken over by some Austrians who seem to have no interest in the previous main source of revenue there. We’re going to try the Olympio next door, though I wonder about the tendency here to luke-warm food and the attitude of the owner, Dimitrios, to having seen us walk straight past his bar for the last four years. I think it’s okay, since I’m told he always looks that grumpy.

In other news, we’re now watching season 5 of Dexter and enjoying it immensely. I also brought some DVDs out here of Farscape which I picked up in a charity shop back in England, but discovered only about four episodes in a pack one would expect to contain many more (old DVDs). Having enjoyed those episodes I then, for the first time, tried out and ordered the complete first season. That has turned up and we’ll be watching it soon. We’ve also been provided with something called ‘Weeds’ which I’m told is quite good. Of course all of these are needed what with little opportunity to sit outside enjoying balmy evenings.

Monday 9th May
Yesterday was lovely and warm, but we didn’t see much of it since we spent most of the day inside cleaning off mould, treating and varnishing beams and repainting the walls and ceilings. Now there’s no need to swiftly turn out the light in the bedroom so as to avoid looking at the black mildew up above

During the aforementioned conversation with Sachis I acquired a new word to add to my Greek vocabulary. He asked me what work I do and after a few attempts I managed to say ‘sigrapheas’ (author) in a way he understood and that ‘grapho vivlia’ (I write books). Things became slightly more difficult when he wanted to know what they were about and, whilst groping for the correct words and checking my Greek dictionary, I found the word for star, which is (and it seems obvious now) ‘astro’. I then had an idea. Star Wars and Star Trek were worldwide phenomena so I just had to work out the translation for them. Here they say ‘kalo taxithi’ which means ‘good journey’ or ‘have a good journey’ so I tried out ‘astro taxithi’ on him and he seemed to recognize it at once. Then I tried out ‘astro polemos’ which is ‘star war’ and also recognized by him – I’m still having trouble working out the plurals in Greek, though I think the correct translation is ‘astro polema’. Using these I attempted to explain the genre science fiction, and that my books were similar to these two screen versions, though I did not go on to detail how my stuff is different – I’d need a Greek vocabulary much larger than the one I possess.

Cold but bright with the temperature rising this morning. Time for me to turn my attention to Jupiter Polemos … and for some reason my Greek dictionary doesn’t contain the translation of Jupiter, damnit!

Tuesday 10th May
I’ve just checked through a new ‘Owner’ short story written a few weeks ago for some sort of publicity ebook release from Macmillan. It’s called Memories of Earth and I think it’s cool, but await Julie Crisp’s response to it. It’s set some time after The Departure, Zero Point and Jupiter War and is similar in tone to other Owner stories that appear in The Engineer ReConditioned, though from the POV of Alan Saul, who you will be meeting in September.

Chilly this morning, only now at 9.30 climbing from 12 to 16C and still we have to keep the stove on. Yesterday I wrote my 2,000 words then headed outside, actually able to wear shorts. First I checked out the apotheche door, which is still jammed shut and if it doesn’t sort itself out soon will be getting some router attention.

Next I sorted out a niggling bit of plumbing in the ruin. A pipe which connected to an outside tap had sunk out of sight back into its plastic covering, which was concreted in the wall behind the kitchen unit. I had to cut a larger hole in the back of the unit, chisel out some concrete and cut away the covering to expose the pipe. Then connecting it to the cold water required an extension, a T-piece, two elbows with olive connectors and two pieces of plastic pipe. Today I’ll turn the water back on and see if this all works…

After that I installed a French chimney pot for the main house – one of those ball-shaped whirly things – but I’ve seen no noticeable difference in how the fire burns. Perhaps, with the vortex such a pot creates, I will see a difference in the quantity of soot accumulating in the stove pipes.

With these two niggling jobs out of the way I was then able to get back to work in the garden, which is looking good.

Check out these aquilegias:

That’s all for now…

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