A week without miles. Crete.

    Minty convinced me to post a blog today and send some sunshine, and a semblance of normality, out to the world.


    On Friday 13th as the grip of the virus tightened around Greece we arrived at Camping-Koutsounari a few kms outside of the fruit growing town of Ierapetra.

    Ierapetra looks rough, dirty, functional. 

    Unusually for Crete there’s a high Muslim population. It was strange driving through on Friday and seeing so many men in their kurta, although we didn’t see any minarets.

    Despite the ugliness of the town, the beach is long and straight, the developments along it are very smart, and our campsite opens to it.

    Arriving on a campsite. The clean.

    There are only two other vans. English Pete is his modern VW Combi who we met in Paleochora, and a German couple in a very smart Hymer penthouse on wheels.

    ArchieVan and the Penthouse.

    Once the van was parked it was a race for the shower.

    Day one was planned as a head shave (KC) and body clean (both).

    Day two I gave Minty her shortest haircut yet. Next out came the exfoliating gloves for a serious scrub.

    The van had all doors and windows open for a couple of days of complete airing as we put every possible item through the washing machine. The first load dried in the warm breeze before the second load was finished.

    Shorter? Possible, but improbable.

    Who’d have a dog?

    Polly is our pretty, intelligent, cashmere soft, delicate, and slightly broken Poodle.

    Unusually for a dog Polly has little perceptible odour.

    Most of the time.

    Polly guaranteed her own scrub by finding a goat’s carcass to roll in. 

    Long dead animal always has a distinctive stench that is sure to set off your gag reflex, but dead goat is worse (or better, if you’re a dog). Even in death the pungent goat funk dominates every note, like their milk or cheese, only stronger. By the time I caught the dog she was delighted with her perfume and about to start snacking on the remains. 

    We held her down, shampooed, rubbed, and rinsed her. 

    She was disgusted.

    She now smells sweet again.

    Day three was scheduled as ArchieVan’s first wash since St Just, but then came the winds.

    Butter wouldn’t melt… Princess Polly.

    The Meltemi.

    Kostas at Zorba’s warned us last week that many houses on the south coast of Crete are not well located to shelter from the Meltemi winds.

    We thought we knew a thing or two about crazy gales. We lived on the edge at Tregiffian, above Sennen, for many years. It’s a breezy place. The strongest wind to hit England was recorded at nearby Gwennap Head blowing over 100 knots, nearly 120 mph. 

    We scoffed at his Meltemi.

    We were wrong.

    Nothing could prepare us for the onslaught.

    Our weather app told of strong winds, yet still they didn’t predict anything like the whipping that we’ve had for two days, with another three days to come. Walking the dog is out of the question. Staying inside we’re safe, but on the verge of motion sickness. 

    Although I’m often critical of Greece’s unimaginative buildings, at least there’s nothing loose. In England the streets would be a killing field of flying slates and loosened plate glass windows. 

    Here they were prepared. During the previous few days there was a fury of tree trimming, and now we know why.

    I have a little film of the wind blowing me off my feet, but to load it here would blow my data allowance.

    Bounty bag.

    The wind doesn’t blow constantly. There are occasional lulls that give you a false sense of safety, but then you hear a distant rumble and you know the next blast is perhaps a minute away.

    During one such lull an old boy drove up to the van in his pickup.

    He introduced himself as part of the campsite family. He told me we were in the grip of a crazy situation but that his family keeps smiling. He presented me with a bag of bounty from his garden and wished us well. We were touched. I even went on Instagram after a three month detox to celebrate his kindness.

    Campsite bounty (and drying shorts).

    Splendid isolation.

    I could describe our situation in grim terms…

    We can’t leave the campsite as none are accepting new arrivals and we’ve read that the police are moving people on from their wild camping spots.

    If we did leave the site we still can’t leave the island as the high winds have grounded the ferries. All flights have stopped too.

    But in actual fact we feel incredibly fortunate to be here.

    We arrived for no reason other than to do our washing, and stayed long enough to realise that leaving would be a bad move.

    The mile long beach is about 50 metres from the van, and 20 minutes walk away there’s a well stocked mini market. There’s a pharmacy too, but hopefully we won’t need that.

    Other than the three vans here (Team Geriatrix arrived the day after us, the third time we’ve stayed near them) we see no one.

    Team Geriatrix. Last van in. The doors are now closed.

    Cat rescue.

    Over the course of a week Minty has transformed the figures of the scrawny cats that were hanging out waiting for Easter arrivals. Her pride has grown from 5 to 8 and I have to admit that they’re rather nice, although I’m amazed to find that they do even less through a day than even a dog. 

    There’s Ginger, ‘arf n ‘arf, The Puma, Mother, Sick Girl, Tabby and two who have yet to distinguish themselves sufficiently to warrant a name.

    Polly is appalled and tries to ignore them. 

    Their presence does mean that Polly’s confined to the van more than usual, but until today it has been too windy for her to venture out much.

    ‘arf n ‘arf and Tabby take refuge.

    Home news.

    It’s heartening to read tales of St Just where the community has stepped up to care for its vulnerable. It feels special when you’re there, and proves itself whenever times are tough.

    On a bigger scale, we were surprised that it took crowded Britain so long to bring in its seclusion measures, and still hasn’t gone as far as the more naturally isolated Greece. 

    There’s only one Greek per square km for every five English. Perhaps it’s that which makes them so sociable.

    We wish everyone well. Let’s learn something from this, and let’s try not to squander the quietest time that any of us has probably experienced since our last school summer holiday. Some of us might not even remember that far back!

    Stay sane. Stay safe.

    Has a JCB ever looked so sweet?
    When weeds bring deep joy.
    Without a chair it’s not there.
    Smiles are so important right now.
    Anyone with South African friends will understand.
    Closing shot. With love.

    26 Replies to “A week without miles. Crete.”

    1. Gillian Cooper says: Reply

      Hi guys
      Good to hear from you and all is as well as can be expected
      Nice to see Polly again and Amanda’s new hair cut
      As you know things are pretty bleak here but we are soldering onwards and upwards
      Rebecca phone to ask if we were OK which was appreciated
      The weather has been good sun shining this has helped to keep our spirits up
      It would be nice to have some positively from the government but then stupid people would take advantage and precautions would then lax
      We are doing our bit only going out when necessary
      Keep safe and stay in touch
      Don’t stop the blogging!!!
      Luv D&G💕💕
      Collecting our new car on Monday this will keep John occupied for a while xx

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Good morning Gill.
        Thanks for your note.
        I never thought I’d catch myself saying this, but I do think Boris is doing a good job.
        There can’t be a positive yet, just a carrot of the potential to get through this quickly (months, not weeks).
        You suddenly realise that the basics and a bit of sunshine is all most of us need.
        Keep smiling and don’t watch the news too often.
        Love from the far south.

    2. Rachael Smart says: Reply

      Thank you for this, first intolerably dark day I’ve had. Stay safe. It’s beautiful how community is showing its colours across the globe.

      1. Hi
        As a complete stranger I just wanted to say how much I’ve appreciated your blogs. As I sit here in self isolation in the U.K. it’s lovely to read of your travels and to see your cheery photos, which lift the spirits. During these challenging times I wish you both well, and Polly of course!

        1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

          What a lovely note. Thank you. You’ve made my day.
          I was unsure whether to post anything today but I’m glad I did.
          I’ve just checked in with my mum in Cornwall. I was due to see her next week and I’m disappointed to not be going but it was good to hear her being chipper.
          Thanks again. Stay safe. Stay sane.
          Best wishes. Kelvin.

      2. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        I looked up xenophobia and saw that it comes from the Greek xenos meaning foreign.
        I suspect communities will turn inwards, looking after each other but more wary of the unknown.
        We’re making sure we go to the local shop every day so that we become familiar faces, even if we only buy milk.
        Dark days are harder with responsibilities, but those responsibilities often help pull us through.

    3. Good to know you are in a safe place (I realise everything is relative)
      I get the feeling we might be in this for the long haul.
      Take care, best wishes,


      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Thanks Andi.
        The country finally repaid its WWI borrowing in 2006.
        I can’t imagine we’ll see the return of what was considered normal last month.
        Necessities, and enough sunshine, less news, and more kindness. That’ll be enough.
        Look after yourselves.
        Best wishes. Kelvin.

    4. Great post and it is nice to see that you have been able to settle into a friendly campsite with good neighbours. I liked the cats that Minty has adopted and fattened up, not too sure about that haircut though!
      Now that I am “confined to barracks” and the hostelries closed, for the moment anyway, perhaps I too can take the time to clear out some of the “I might need that” items and take them to the environmental too which is still open.
      Stay safe in your new pitch and you can at least save some diesel!


      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Thanks Rick.
        A clear out is a marvellous thing.
        I’ve started on my phone and laptop now. If I don’t use it, or don’t know what it is, it’s binned.
        It’s a shame it’s not warmer there for you, but it’s certainly a good place to be.

    5. Thanks for your cheerful posting and as always great to hear what you have been up to. I fear that a different type of storm is coming, so stay safe and take care of each other. Looking over the sea is a great place to be as it always lifts ones spirits in my experience.
      David and Debbie

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Thanks for your note.
        I’m glad I did the post, I didn’t intend to but I’ve had so many notes thanking me.
        I don’t imagine what we considered normal last month will come again. We only finished paying our WWI debt in 2006!
        We are in a good place, you too.

    6. Graham Flower says: Reply

      Good to see you have found a safe haven. We are creating a static cruise experience as we are blessed with a good sea view. No shortage of red wine and our favourite restaurants are delivering or collect take away. Sorting out the multiple octogenarian relatives the biggest challenge. May have to put tracking ankle straps on them. Cheers and Stay safe.
      Graham & Justine
      HMS Coppercliffs

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Good morning Coppercliffs.
        Being near the sea is a wonderful thing, even in our little box.
        Research distilling. It could be the way forward!

    7. Hi Both. Thank you for another good read and the lovely photos. Certainly cheered me up. Situation not at all good here as you will know so won’t go into any more detail. We don’t have a problem here with social distancing – sheep, rabbits and pheasants are not in danger or a danger to us! ( well, pheasants perhaps if there is a food shortage!)
      Keep the story coming as it unfolds and most of all be safe and healthy.
      Love J 8 J

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Make sure you hang that pheasant! Maybe throw in rabbit too.
        Imagine being one of the key figures in government.
        La la la la …. BANG!
        I admire them sailing through unchartered waters.
        Last month’s version of normal may never be seen again, but we’ll laugh and joke and learn a new happy.
        I think you’re well placed where you are, and we’re very lucky too.
        Keep sane (well, not to sane).
        And thank you for writing.
        Best wishes. Kelvin and Amanda.

    8. Keith Giddens says: Reply

      Love the Tintin haircut and the tale of the goat’s carcass. I can smell it from here!
      Str Just is an amazing place in these challenging times….all the population pulling together with the most innovative solutions to quite major problems. Really heartwarming-especially for oldies like us!
      Idiots from up-country continue to arrive.Don’t they realize that the County only has 15 Intensive Care beds for our population of c.600K? We are a welcoming people but, I’m afraid, not so at the moment.
      Stay safe, enjoy your time in a different fashion and just love each other.

      1. It’s been great to hear your cheery voice from your ultra clean bunker this weekend and to show you that the sunshine has worked wonders on us today beside the sea. Not to be outdone by what you normally come across I have to report 2 stunning avocets in flight, 2 white egrets and a seal on my walk from the east of Coverack towards Kennack Sands. It was uplifting. Seeing people picnicking in their cars was a welcome change too.
        Make sure you have your printed permit and passports with you when out on the beach exercising your PPP to stay legal after today’s tightening of the Greek screws
        (those Athenians have a lot to answer for).
        Stay safe, sane and well – what a tall order.

        1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

          Thanks Jay.
          The pictures were good.
          I can’t imagine you’ll be able to do that trip next week.

      2. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Here they clamped down harder again yesterday and now we have to text a central number every time we go out to say where we’re going and why. It can only be to visit doctors, pharmacy, supermarket or exercise. Thank God for the exercise, that’s my escape.
        It’s an interesting time. Lots of good. Lots of stupidity. Everything turned up to 11. You miss home more when you know you can’t there.
        Take care. There are too many stories to tell to loose anyone.

    9. Annie Wolohan says: Reply

      Stay safe you guys. I’m in Ireland where we think we will be on total lockdown soon. We are certainly living in very strange and trying times. Annie xxxxxxx

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        I wondered where you’d be.
        Most people think their heads will burst with all they have to think about – you’ve even more.
        Here it’s easy enough for us as there’s no one around anyway.
        It’s good to hear from you.
        KC and AC.

    10. Harry Glasson says: Reply

      Stay safe you two.

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        It’s always good to hear from you.
        We’re lucky. Although we’re under tighter restrictions we’re in a good place. 
        I’m not we’ll be able to eat all the cucumbers the site owner has given us.
        Look after yourself and I hope we’ll see you when we get home, whenever that may be.

    11. The Marmites says: Reply

      A wonderful read, Mr KC. Love Minty’s new haircut. Mind you, she suits any style 💕 I hope the wind has died down for some respite. You’re right, that is the most adorable JCB I’ve ever seen 🥰. As I write this, the UK is now in lockdown. Only allowed out to go for essential shopping once a week. One stint of exercise per day and only for essential medical supplies or to help the vulnerable. Many of the British population either couldn’t bring themselves to socially distance or self isolate enough, or just simply didn’t understand the importance of it to help our NHS, so Boris had to bring out the whip. But as you say we need to be grateful for what we have. Stay safe and healthy! Sending oodles of hugs 🤗 Love from The Marmites 😘

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Yay! I love getting people’s comments and that’s a beauty.
        The thought of being stuck in a flat with bonkers children just went through my mind.
        Thankfully we don’t have to worry about that.
        I trust your folks are OK.
        Best wishes. Kelvin.

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