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: EasyAss.com

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.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Day 22 - Fear of The Dark


For some reason, Michael seems to believe that Kalymnos is best shown off in the dark.

Not for the first time, we wait until visibility is at a minimum before risking our necks for a sightseeing Sunday drive along the murderous Kalymnian roads.


If anyone tells you the Greeks drive on the right, they lie. The norm here is to drive smack in the centre of the road, straddling the white line until oncoming vehicles force you to move over. Even then – the right hand side is only customary, never compulsory.


We are almost used to overtaking on corners (usually on a hill), I guess doing it in the pitch black just adds spice. It certainly focuses the mind when it’s too dark for the scenery to take your mind off things.


The West coast of Kalymnos has a lot to offer. Telendos is a beautiful island and Kantouni has a nice beach. But you know what? In the dark, we might as well as be looking at the Clyde at Greenock. During this and three previous visits to the island, Paul has “seen” these wonders perhaps fifty times, but only once in daylight.


Why?


Well, here’s a clue. Today there was a great big parade to celebrate the anniversary of the start of World War 2 (which, for Greeks, began in 1940). Of course, we missed it all because it took place in the morning and no one who lives on this property ever rises before he or she really needs to…

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Day 21 - Frightening Explosions on Mountainside



Back in Glasgow, with Guy Fawkes approaching, the odd bored ned is no doubt lobbing a few bangers up your alley. Here, the kids are really bored and do it with proper, actual, real dynamite.

Blowing this stuff is so dangerous that the kids who do it have to go out of town; up the hill above Profitis Church, otherwise someone will die.

Despite such rigorous health and safety, six people did actually die about 20 years ago when a kid tried to light a stick of dynamite, decided it was a dud, and then returned it to the sack of other dynamite sticks whereupon the whole lot went off and blew a hole in the side of the mountain. Six died up there on the hillside. A small church was raised on the mountain top in honour of their memory.

Short memories! The kids are doing it this afternoon, right next to this erected church. The flashes are bright and the booms immense. Paul nearly falls off his chair at the first one. The windows shake, cats scatter and Michael curses. It goes on all afternoon but you don’t get used to it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Day 20 - Have you heard the latest?


Today, we go for our weekly drive to collect drinking water from the island’s community water-well. We can no longer quench out thirst by pouring a glass of water from the kitchen tap - you can almost walk on the island’s tap water due to its high salt content. Instead, we lug enough empty bottles to collect 45 litres of drinking water for the week.

These visits are a great way to catch up on the gossip, as the locals huddle around the well’s four taps framed in white marble. The power of the local grapevine outranks the power of the BBC in its ability to spread news. If you hung a new item of clothing on your washing line that morning, it would be known across the island by 6pm. If you received a parcel at the post office, it would be known across the island by 3pm. And if you agreed to go on a date with a new admirer, it would be known across the island before you even hung the phone up.

This is not the place to live if you value any form of personal privacy. Nicole’s sister once proclaimed that she had to stop living here because she was sick of her neighbours knowing the precise time of day she burped or farted.

Welcome to Kalymnos, where There’s No Business Like Your Business!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Day 19 - Parallel Universes

Okay – while we’re here in Kalymnos, we are trying to continue what we were doing in Glasgow which is trying to come up with fantastic business ideas – so we’re still working.

With the decoration of the flat still unfinished, we decide to move the office up to the top of the small mountain overlooking the flat. This means that, just as in Glasgow, we have a twenty minute walk to work. Let’s compare and contrast:

THE ROUTE
Glasgow: Our flat in the Garnethill area of the city centre is a 20 minute walk through busy streets to our office off George Square, which is also in the city centre.
Kalymnos: Our flat in the Christoy area of the city centre is a 20 minute walk: 10 minutes through the streets of Pothia until the tar-sealed road turns into a dirt track, the city abruptly ends, and a further ten minutes up a zigzag path takes us to a flat bit of mountainside above Profitis Church.


STREET LIFE
Glasgow: After dodging schoolies and art students in Garnethill, we are entertained by rock buskers and dodge the clipboard-toting trustafarians working for charity. We also need to negotiate our fair share of junkies, cops, and women with umbrellas and Primark bags.
Kalymnos: Sporadic elderly men in cardigans bask on chairs outside their front doors, motionless except for puffing on a fag. Older women wear black smocks to hang washing while younger housewives in pink velour leisure suits scrub the section of street outside their front doors. Further up the hill, there is a goat.

SHOPPING OPPORTUNITIES
Glasgow: Sainsbury, Costa Coffee, Primark, Marks & Spencer, HMV, McDonalds, Orange, Poundland, Sainsbury again…
Kalymnos: Yianni’s Souvlaki place, a sponge workshop with no name, a bakers, some clothes with price tags hanging over the railings of someone’s house (I guess you have to knock), a hairdresser which we know belongs to the sister of the husband of Nicole’s sister. A food shop measuring approx 12’ x 12’ with a sign saying “supermarket” and a guy in a pick-up truck chanting his wares through a megaphone: lettuce, spinach, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers…

TRAFFIC
Glasgow: We hold our noses to cross Hope St and Renfield St, two of Europe’s most polluted streets.
Kalymnos: On the busier streets the regular danger comes from testosterone-saturated youths tearing up three-foot wide lanes on 500cc motorbikes. But once you reach the house with the rusted old chicken coop full of broken old hens and a shabby rooster, there is no more traffic. The road stops. We are in the countryside.

KEYS
Glasgow: Flat front door (2 each) Stair doors (2 each), car, bike, outer office doors (1 each) inner office doors (1 each) actual office room (1 each), mailbox, cupboard, and filing cabinets (4) – TOTAL 20 keys between us.
Kalymnos: We have one key for the flat between us and we generally leave it in the unlocked front door.

THE OFFICE
Glasgow: Our office was 300 square feet and overlooked a Japanese-style Zen Garden. Nice enough but you could only see this from one of the workstations - which Nicole naturally nabbed - and the intended tranquillity of the garden was rather ruined by the faulty extractor fan which made a high-pitched squealing noise for the last four months we were there. Free tea and coffee.
Kalymnos: Some stony acres on a hill top with an old wall which looks like it may be used by goatherds. Views in all directions – you can see over to the sea on the West side of the island and as far South as Nisiros. No free tea and coffee.

At the end of the day, however, work is work and once we get over ourselves, we settle down to some hard brainstorming slog.

But will the 360-views and clement weather prove to be any more inspirational than the noisy Zen Garden and the dodgy Scottish climate? Stay tuned to find out.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Day 18 - Warning - Hurricane Approaches

Several well-wishers from the UK have grudgingly enquired about the superb weather we must now be enjoying having moved to Greece. But let us tell you: it’s not all tanning.

For the last few days, the locals have pulled out their fleeces and fled for cover as winter strikes. Yes: It’s down to 18 degrees! Maria scolds Nicole for recklessly wearing SANDALS instead of shoes.

A storm warning means the harbour is suddenly clear of boats as frightened owners rush their craft to more sheltered moorings. Of course, when the weather breaks, it amounts to two light showers and a bit of a breeze, as you can see.


As the tempest reaches its peak, we are reminded of a typical seaside day out in the middle of the Scottish summer: overcast and warm enough to be outside without a jacket. Quite nice actually.

The whole thing lasts 3 hours and the sun re-appears, although perhaps not as strongly as before. Indeed, the TV weather girl with the heavy make-up informs us that the official temperature is no longer “scorchio” – merely “scorch”.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Day 17 - More is More

The Greek Psyche is strongly concerned with status and shame.


Status is gained by producing large broods of children who become doctors, lawyers and mothers. Shame comes from producing small numbers of children who only become bloggers and quizmasters.


Status comes from owning bulky and expensive objects, preferably made out of mahogany and/or gold. Shame comes from being seen with ANYTHING second-hand.


In fact, there are no second-hand shops on the island and all the time a fiery rubbish dump on the mountain to the East of the town burns day and night, forever fuelled by a procession of perfectly serviceable objects that no one would ever be seen dead with for they bear the unholy taint of being pre-owned.


Status also comes, if you’re in business, from having a big desk. When it comes to desks, the Greek mentality of more is more applies.


A Greek businessman can handle having few customers, receding hair and a tiny little microscopic moped between his legs but without a desk the size of Saturn, he will die.


The minimum size for a Greek businessman’s desk is 2 metres by 1 metre depth. It must support filing trays and an ashtray. There must be a name plate in brass, preferably gold. It must be made from rare hardwoods from unsustainable forests.


It’s not even as if you need to be in a profession that uses a desk. There is a fishmonger’s shop over in Vathi (pictured) with a desk big enough to plan D-Day. All it is used for is to add up his eight daily sales of fish. In seventeen years, when he has sold enough fish to buy a new desk, this one will be burnt at the dump. The circle of life.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Day 16 - Death Bells & Laughter


We are awoken by the bells of the local church. Usually they ring on the hour, every hour, the exact number of rings matching the time of day. But this is different. The bells don’t stop and after an hour we realise they are announcing a death. After two hours of ringing, we presume that the long bearded, dark robed leader of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishiop Christodoulos, has died. His illness has filled the T.V news hour ever since we arrived.

However, the bells are for a local man who has passed away, and we are somewhat surprised at the length of time the bells have been ringing. Is this usual for someone local, not in a position of status and importance in either politics or religion? We learn that sometimes a few Euros slipped under the altar can have a marked effect on the efforts of the bell ringer.

In Greece, a burial cannot legally be performed without the presence of the priest. This makes it very difficult for the few small island communities who do not have a local priest. One such community is on the tiny Greek island of Antikythera, with a current population of 44 people. We hear that a tape recording of a priest performing the burial ceremony is used as a legal substitute for the real thing. Understandably, the general concern for the islanders is who will turn the tape recorder on for the last man standing?

We end the day with a surprise visit from Katerina, a cousin in her late 60’s who lives in Darwin, Australia. At five foot two with a booming voice, wide toothy grin, and a cackling laugh, she is a hoot. “Quiet everyone” she yells in her broad Greek/Aussie accent. “I’ve got a beauty of joke to tell ya, you’ll love it!” She commands her elderly mother in her late 80’s to sit down, along with our 93 year old neighbour, and starts:

“What’s a French kiss in Australia?”

“…A kiss down under!”

And we watch her roll about in her seat, gripped with uncontrollable laughter, “Get it? Get it?” she roars.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Day 15 - Football Crazy

Nicole whacks her head on the shelves in the kitchen but half an hour under a bag of frozen mussels is enough to get her fit for the big match: Vathi v Leros.


Given that, in terms of population, Kalymnos is less than half the size of Falkirk, the quality of the Kalymnos Municipal Sports Complex in unbelievably impressive. A lush astroturf pitch is encircled by a full athletics running track next to basketball courts and an Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool with proper starting blocks and everything. It reeks of EU money flooding in from donor countries (i.e. The UK).


A crowd of 25 gathers in time to see the Leros centre-forward go for a quick pee against the far wall before the match kicks off precisely nine and a half minutes early.

The football is awful. Both sides are unfit and spectacularly unskilled. Punts are sclaffed, openings are squandered and mazy runs go nowhere. No one attempts to actually score.



Gratifyingly, the half-expected fight breaks out after an hour’s play. A tiny foul escalates and soon all the players and all the officials from both teams swarm around the hapless referee. Everyone calls everyone else a “malaka” except for one guy in the crowd who calls the ref a “souvlaki”.


We are disappointed by the final 0-0 scoreline but delighted by the discovery that it’s a cup game and there is to be extra time. Of course, Paul makes a visit to the toilet just in time to miss the only goal and Nicole looks the other way just as Vathi score it.


Ah, well – at least our from the terraces across the water to Kos is excellent.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Day 14 - The Unfussy Tortoise and The Gay Bishop

Down in the yard, Michael feeds tins of dog-food to his cats and informs us that these seemingly disinterested moggies are in fact very fussy about their brands. Apparently, the kittens Nectarios and Avramopolous eat Fleshy while Sally, their mother, only eats Rockus, possibly because Rockus is for grown up dogs.



The wild tortoise who has no name and who is a frequent visitor to the garden is not fussy and tucks into some spare Fleshy before peeing and crawling off to hide under one of Michael’s tables of junk. The number of different types of animals we have witnessed pee in our lives increases by one.



We learn that Nectarios kitten is named after Bishop Nectarios who was apparently “demoted” by the Greek Orthodox Church when they discovered he was a homosexual. People round here, we are told, refer to him as The Sultana of the Aegean.


Interesting Greek language fact #2: There are only 24 letters in the Greek alphabet and three of them make exactly the same sound: “ee”.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Day 13 - Dangerous Liaisons


In an attempt to use our oven and boil an egg, we nearly gas ourselves. After turning the hob on full, the knob comes away in our hand – but the gas keeps on a comin’. Bugger. Don’t panic; just turn the gas off at the bottle? It’s stuck and won’t turn. Bugger. As the gas swirls around us we start to panic.

Nicole runs around shouting and opening all doors and windows; Paul continues to fight with the gas bottle, and eventually wins. Somewhat shaken we ask Michael when the stove was last used, “God knows” he replies and tells us to calm down, relax; it’s just a little gas. Hmm… what side of the war were the Greeks fighting on again?

Michael also informs us not to worry about the fiery sparks when plugging electrical goods into the sockets dangling from the walls by the earth wire alone. He does, however, get very upset when he discovers that most of the octopus has been eaten.

A covert call will be made to a local electrician tomorrow.

We realise today that we are going to have to up the ante on our language lessons when Paul, trying to comment on the size of the birds in Michael’s trees, inadvertently tells him he has a large penis, and Nicole, concerned about Maria’s health, asks her when she is getting divorced.

Meanwhile, an ambulance has broken down at the wharf and is being pushed by one smoking paramedic while the other smoking paramedic at the wheel attempts to start the battered, white transit van with a red cross hastily painted on the side.

The sight reminds Nicole of a previous experience at the island’s hospital that involved an intravenous line being dropped on the floor, quickly picked up, and then rammed into a patient’s arm. This is probably the only NHS in Europe where the ten-second rule is officially part of the hospital legislation.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Day 12 - The "World's Most Notorious and Brutal Asylum for The Insane"

Paul borrows the Mongoose. This is Michael’s beloved mountain bike which in actual fact is rusted and is stuck in first gear. The gear situation and the too-low-for-Paul saddle position contrive to create an inelegant ride.

The reason for the journey is because, after fruitless internet searching, Paul is going to go to the Kalymnos Municipal Stadium to find out, in person, when there is local football. The facts are that this coming Sunday we can go and watch Vathi v Leros.

The match promises much. Vathi is the virtually uninhabited valley on the East side of the island where they grow lemons and Leros is the next door island to Kalymnos, mainly known for its lunatic asylum which was only closed in the late 1990s and has been described as “the world's most notorious and brutal asylum for the insane.”

The story of the asylum is pretty heavy going: you can see a picture at the right and read one man’s account of what he saw here: The Asylum of Leros

Speaking of asylum, we finally finish re-decorating the living room/office. Kelly’s mad red/pink scheme has been eliminated by nearly 20 litres of white emulsion. Being in the room is no longer like drowning inside a huge tub of strawberry ice cream that has gone off.

Now it’s white and now it is possible to spend more than ten minutes in the room without thinking of murder.

Interesting Greek language fact #1: The Greek word for “rat” is “big mouse”

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Day 11 - West End Reggae Beach Party


More painting avoidance. We try the other beach just past the west end of the harbour. It’s better. There are no dogs trying to kill each other and there is a snack bar run by a guy in a motorised wheelchair who plays reggae on his sound system.

It’s very relaxed and there is a small crowd of fat people swimming. If it weren’t for the really good cakes, they’d be in the national team.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Day 10 - Cash is King


Another huge lie-in as we continue to avoid the fact that there are still many unpainted walls. We’ve borrowed the Blackadder box set from Michael and so watch a couple of them to kill an hour. We’ve been toggling between series 3 and series 4 all week and decide that series 3 is the best, mainly due to Hugh Laurie as the Prince of Wales.

Later we get the internet. In Britain, everything is controlled by call centres and touch-tone menus. Here, when you can’t work out how to connect your wireless router you just phone the local OTE boss on his mobile and he sends Adonis round to your house.

Adonis is an agitated, chain-smoking, five-foot three Greek in a bomber jacket who sorts it out in ten minutes, lights a Marlboro, and takes 20 Euros off you, cash. And that’s it. Thank-you.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Day 9 - Dog fights and fat swimmers



One thing you can say about this place is that the sea is quite literally at the end of the street. Past the fish market and still within the harbour walls is a beach with actual sand instead of rocks. We sit there for a few hours as two local dogs fight off an outsider dog.

The mutts really go for it; it looks like they’re going to kill each other. An old guy walks right past the life and death struggle, ignoring it and smoking a fag. These battles are obviously pretty routine.

As we sit looking at the boats, a middle-aged Greek woman appears out of nowhere, hangs her towel on a tree, strips to her daring swimsuit of a knee-length dress and a headscarf and walks into the sea. She begins to swim round the Eastern part of the harbour. Minutes later another one appears and does the same.

If they do this great exercise every day then why are they still fat? It must be the cakes which, it must be said, are superb.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Day 8 - We live a nightmare in colour



There is no tin opener so Paul goes out looking for one. Nothing is open except the crap supermarket at Stathmos. Paul buys a bottle opener with a tin opener attachment which doesn’t work. Try again tomorrow.

There is a lot of painting still to do. We run out of food-related delay tactics around 4pm and begin painting the second and third coats of white in the lounge/office in the lengthy process of killing the pink.

Kelly calls from America later and confirms that she was probably mentally unhinged when she painted the flat to look like the Circus of The Damned.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Day 7 - Death to The Sideboard

For days we have been waiting to get rid of the monster sideboard. It’s too big to get down the stairs. We can’t chop it into bits or throw it over the balcony because Michael insists on it’s sentimental value and has laid down the condition that the beast must remain in one piece, for storage, for some unimaginable future in which the poorly constructed, ugly, gigantic sideboard suddenly becomes more useful to him that the fairly tasteful modern furniture he has in his house.

Two days ago we asked him how, back in the 1970s, they managed to get the eyesore into the flat in the first place. He said it was raised by ropes, on to the balcony and carried through the window. So we have already decided that this is pretty much the only way to get it out again.

Problem is that we have a small collection of inadequate ropes and a total manpower of the two of us. Michael doesn’t like things happening quickly and keeps stalling, insisting that we need “strong men” and proper pulley gear to do the job. Left to him, there will be a string of excuses and it will never happen.

If we were to start the job under our own steam, Michael would rush from his front door, wave his arms, tell us we are doing it wrong and insist that we stop.
But a window of opportunity opens after lunch when Michael decides to go to Vothini, on the other side of the island to water his plantation of olive trees.
Within minutes of his departure we are both bent double over the railing, the awesome beast straining the cords from our grasp and then… we run out of rope. There’s still a foot to the ground and there’s no choice but to drop it.

The sideboard falls, we race down the stairs to inspect the damage and by a combination of amazing luck and the way that it falls into a pile of sticks, it’s OK. One of the legs has been knocked, so now it’s got two wonky legs. No big deal. We store the sideboard at the back of the yard and return to the flat to cackle insanely over how much room there is now.
Less is more!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Day 6 - Stinking Dead Goat



On our morning walk we see a man riding a motorbike (slowly) while simultaneously leading a small horse on a rope. Coming the other way are two ancient nuns in a pick up truck. The one driving is talking on her cell phone. On the back of the truck is a stinking dead goat. We also see a fat girl smoking and texting at the same time as riding her moped. It’s just another day on Kalymnian roads.


Meanwhile, we try to sort out the flat. Years ago, Nicole’s sister Kelly lived in this flat after spending a lonely winter in a house in Skalia at the North end of the island. The isolation had obviously driven her mad, as she has painted the living room pink, the kitchen blue and the bedroom yellow. In the kitchen, all the cupboards and even the fridge have peen painted in dark blue gloss. The most heinous crime scene is in the bathroom where she somehow thought it was a good idea to fit a padded vinyl toilet seat.



It’s horrible and every time we’ve visited here we’ve put up with it because it’s only been for a few weeks. This time we’re finally doing something about it. We outlay 55 Euros on paint, brushes, turps, normal toilet seat, etc.



Our language skills are improving. We can now say “Good afternoon – I would like some very cheap water-based white paint, please”

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Day 5 - Our Box Turns Up

Miraculously, our shipped belongings turn up only one week and two days after we sent them from Glasgow. It's miraculous because in the absence of street names or house numbers, the only address is Michael’s name, followed by the name of the nearest church. There is a postcode, but it is shared by all 15,000 residents on the island.


Dinner is octopus and onions, made by Michael. He is very proud of his cookery.


Later, we go for a walk and sit by the wharf in the middle of town. We reflect how nice it is to be able to sit outside at midnight in just a t-shirt and shorts (23 degrees C) and with absolutely NO chance of being harassed by aggressive drunks.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Day 4 - Filth

The flat is filthy. The inch-thick grime on the top of the kitchen cupboards has a vaguely green hue to its overall brown-ness. I scrape dark things from the oven.

We negotiate with Michael over the removal of furniture including a gigantic sideboard which could hold enough beer to get Chas and Dave pissed nineteen times.

It is the ugliest furniture in the world but Michael says it has sentimental value. If so then why is it stuffed away in the flat rather than down in his house? Eventually we agree to lower it out of the window tomorrow by ropes and have it stored at Kelly’s (empty) house in Brosta.

Paul removes branches from a large fig tree by sawing them off from our kitchen window so we can open our shutters and have some light. As Paul hangs out of the window with Nicole holding him by the legs, Health and Safety is but nostalgia.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Day 3 - Out of Date

We visit OTE, to get the internet for the flat. The shop/bureau is five minutes walk up the road and looks like a 1960s British tax office. As befits the national Greek telecommunications agency, the calendar on the public office wall is attached to an icon of the Virgin Mary and proudly displays August 2006. To organise the internet we have to go to the office of the Proistamenos – the man in charge. He is more on the ball - his calendar says it’s Tuesday 3rd July 2007.


Ordering the internet requires two employees, eight signatures, two faxes, three queues in two separate offices and a total of one and a half hours. And we wonder why it’s more expensive to phone Greece from the UK than it is to call New Zealand.


In the afternoon we clean out the flat which is crammed full of bona fide dusty old shite: books, diving equipment, Christening presents. All total gack. Tomorrow we clean.


Later I learn that if you see a priest you must hold your balls or it is bad luck – especially if you’re going fishing.


We are invited for dinner to the house of Michael’s cousin, Irini. She is 74 and delightfully mad. After finding out that Paul likes seafood, she gets up and pours 20 fried fish onto his plate, slaps his back, and insists that he eats them. She then tells a story about the time two dwarves stayed at her house. They were so small that she thought two of them asleep in bed were just one person, and then searched the house high and low for the 'missing' dwarf. She cackles so much she nearly chokes on a fish bone.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Day 2 - Very Important Rubbish Decision



We are woken by a fight.



Last night, the Russian woman who lives in the upstairs flat at the corner of the lane and who looks like a gold medal shot-putter dumped all of her rubbish bags onto the porch of Poppy’s house next door. Now Poppy, Maria and Katerina are all screaming at the Russian who is roaring back at them.



After listening from bed for fifteen minutes, we decide to get up and film some of the fight from our kitchen window. We capture six minutes of footage, the camera runs out of battery, we recharge it for fifteen more minutes, eat breakfast, have a coffee, and then film some more fight. It goes on all morning.


The complex issue of which scabby street corner to put the rubbish out on has sparked an argument lasting over an hour and is only resolved when the the Russian's landlord is summoned from the other side of the island.



Officially, the rubbish will now go on the left-hand corner at the end of the lane instead of the right hand side where it used to go. Parliament has been notified.


Our flat is dirtier than Gary Glitter’s mind. We spend 40 Euros on cleaning products.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Day 1 - Glasgow to Kalymnos


Sunday 7th October 2007

We emigrate, departing Glasgow at 8pm, landing in Kos at 2am. To greet holidaymakers, a toilet at the airport displays an image of a local Roman mosaic entitled The Rape of Europe. Outside, taxi drivers are waving their arms at each other and smoking fags.

We kill four and a half hours before catching a cab for the wharf. The cabbie drives fast and has holy icons on his dash. The broken English/Greek conversation with the taxi driver reveals to us that New Zealand is “very far away”.

Disappointingly, the boat for Kalymnos leaves more or less on time but the balance is restored by a debacle at the other end: a fishing boat has parked where the ferry is supposed to go. The captains lecture each other through megaphones while bystanders on the wharf wave their arms and shout. Eventually, everyone seems satisfied with a fifteen minute delay and we dock.

Nicole's father Michael is there and drives us the 5 minutes to the house. We eat fish soup with him and his wife Maria and sleep till afternoon.

Nicole wakes up and looks down from our window to see her father standing at his front door wearing only shorts and carrying a large tin of dog food and a handgun.

The dog food is for Michael’s kittens. They are Avramopolous and Nektarios because they apparently look “exactly” like a politician and a bishop with the same names. Dog food for cats? “They cannot read!” says Michael.

Michael loves his kittens and cuddles them close to his chest, unless they are in the wrong place in which case he thumps them, fairly hard, with the back of his hand. “Carrot and stick!” he laughingly explains.

The gun is for other cats. He fires pellets at any who enter the territory. We eat outside and to pass the pepper you have to reach across the gun.

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