Easter. Locked down.

    Shelter from the storm. Koutsounari.


    At Camping Koutsounari, our accidental home, there’s a laundry with these excellent washboard sinks that make determined scrubbing so much more effective.

    It’s attached to the women’s toilets. Of course it is. I’m sure I’m the first man in here this year and I might be the only one. For Greek men housework happens by magic while they carry on the demanding tasks of politics and coffee in the kafenion. 

    The scrub, like many repetitive tasks, comes easy to me.

    Making a risotto, washing the car, hand washing clothes, my hands have leant their task, my mind can be miles away on some big plan.

    And here there’s entertainment too.

    Wash dark colours separately.

    Paul Cocksedge Studio.

    Many years ago an interesting fellow stayed at Myn Tea, our house in Tregiffian above Sennen. He introduced me to the work of his industrial designer brother Paul Cocksedge.

    Paul had just created a cool iPhone speaker from a remoulded vinyl LP that concentrates sound waves and thereby appears to increase the depth and volume of the sound with no electrical input.

    Using the same principle I have my phone in one sink while I scrub away at another. This isn’t mundane housework, this is listening to Nine Inch Nails while achieving some other purpose without thinking about it.

    When we sold Myn Tea we left everything in the house. That was cathartic, but I do wish I’d kept the LP speaker.

    More weeds. The carpet spreads.

    The climb. Try again.

    Last week Orange and I struggled through the one hour cycle climb to Agios Ioannis. It hurt like hell. I felt pretty awful for the rest of the day. But I made it.

    Yesterday I tried again. Yesterday it hurt like hell most of the time. But there were moments when it almost felt as if I had a rhythm, it felt as if with effort, and time, a lot of effort, and a lot of time, I might just be able to do the climb with style. Perhaps I could arrive at the top ready for more, rather than ready for the morgue.

    View from above. Agios Ioannis.

    The hilltop village commands the most spectacular views, and yet at least a third of its houses are abandoned. To be given away rather than bought. 

    I found a place for €37,000. It’s rough, but we’ve bought worse.

    This could be a little paradise.

    I suspect that the word has got out. There are several French, German and Dutch cars and a number of houses are under restoration.

    For a while my mind raced through the possibilities of a tiny place here. Five months of winter in Crete, a couple of months travelling each way, the rest of the year in Cornwall. Then I remembered that eventually Brexit will rear its ugly head again.

    This one Minty. Needs a little work.
    With this view. Agios Ioannis.


    How we learn. Is this an age thing?

    My van book collection is almost exhausted. I might finally achieve something I’ve wanted to start for years. Rereading.

    For years of youth the idea of rereading a book, or rewatching a film seemed like a loser’s pursuit.

    What a fool I was.

    I rush every great book I read. With fiction I’m excited to find out what happens. With non-fiction it’s about finding that nugget of satori that inspired the writer to set aside a year of her life to share her ideas.

    Last week’s wonderful read “This is happiness” will be a good place to start. Nothing really happens, it’s a tale of a life remembered, and it’s the telling that brings the joy.

    I do slightly better with film.

    The first viewing is for the tale. The second and subsequent shows reveal the director’s talent. Our most watched film this decade is Wes Anderson’s Grand Hotel Budapest. Watch it on the best screen you can. Colour plays a big role.

    I should know this. Music demonstrates the message of repeat until perfect.

    Few tunes become immediate ear worms. 

    Many of my more challenging albums get listened to until they reach a zenith that I then try to retain by listening to the piece only at the right moment.

    The beauty in grey. Pebbles. Long Beach. Koutsounari.

    For now though, I’ve just started Robert Harris’s The Second Sleep. He’s a master of the intelligent drama and I can’t imagine there’ll be much rest until it’s finished.

    The Second Sleep.

    If you’ve read Robert Harris you’ll understand this.

    I generally think that a book at around £10 is amazing value. It’s at least a year’s work for the author. It keeps you entertained for days, stretches your imagination, and hopefully teaches you something over the period that you read it.

    Harris only fails on the several days of entertainment.

    Once past the first page I didn’t stop. Next day I lay it down finished. I was delighted, thrilled, with my imagination stimulated, but damn, I read the whole thing in little more than a day. That was days ago though, and the story is with me still.

    The Bitten Apple. Eden defiled. The Second Sleep.

    Fix it.

    Men. Supposedly practical. 

    When God was handing out practical skills I must have been reading a book.

    Both John and Rick, Amanda’s dad and step-dad, can open a bonnet and know what that dirty heavy mass of metal and pipes actually does.

    On the road we meet travellers who can’t wait to get their tool kit out and have a tinker.

    We’re not in that group. We’re in the other. The others have two magic remedies for every problem.

    WD40 and Duck Tape.

    If it’s supposed to move but it doesn’t – spray it.

    If it’s hanging off, leaking, or rattling – tape it.

    This week our leaky bucket was fixed with Duck Tape. Successfully.

    More important was fixing the door.

    For a year or so the sliding van door has been gradually getting more temperamental, often refusing to open without a shoulder shattering shove at the back. When we took it to VW Athens for its service they had a poke at it but made no difference. We sprayed magic juice (WD40) in copious quantities, tried to convince ourselves we’d sorted it, but still it’d fail again.

    Then after a particularly difficult time when we both lent our shoulder to the struggle we spend ages examining the door, eventually finding a small catch we’d not seen before.

    We drenched it in WD40.

    It hasn’t stuck since.

    Oh. And who found the catch of doom? Minty.

    Rock lupin. I invented that, but it fits.

    Naming takes time.

    Polly’s name came easily. She’s a Poodle Collie cross. 

    A child’s name can’t be based on their character, parents have to register its birth, with its name, within 42 days. Few of its future traits will have become evident in that time.

    The cats though are different.

    Minty’s pride now numbers 9. Most have names. And most of those names have evolved from the obvious to whatever they’re now blessed with.

    Ginger is ginger, and so started off being called Ginger, but he’s now George. George doesn’t run from Polly and has become a novelty to her.

    Sick Girl, the walking furry skeleton, hoped to be Mildred to George, but didn’t have the strength to fend off his other feline fancies. Now she relaxes, always slightly distant, but happy to be Mabel, and finally filling out her coat.

    Sick Girl as Mabel. Remaining cautious.

    There aren’t many female Leons, but Leon, originally Lay-on, who lies across the cat biscuits, suits it just fine.

    Prinny wears her fur long and walks on soft pads without a sound.

    The Panther is just that. Long, muscular, and less scabby than when we arrived.

    Scabby came late, and definitely has The Panther’s genes. He has a long recovery ahead, but it’s likely we’ll be here long enough to see him back to health too.

    George and Cuddles. Cuddles needs a real name. Soon.

    Greek language.

    We’re tremendously fortunate to be here for our isolation experiment.

    I just wish the language was easier.

    After a fortnight in Spain, with little effort, most of us can manage a few sentences, after a month we could probably converse.

    Sunshade. Skiastro.

    Over a couple of visits we’ve now spent nine months in Greece. I have a vocabulary of about 600 words, and yet I’m still only able to string together the most basic of phrases.

    It’s said to be the world’s richest language with 5 million words and 70 million word types. It those word types that stump the beginner. Nothing sounds like the word you’ve learned when it’s spoken by a native, especially on Crete where the dialect is maintained by everyone over 40.

    Despite the difficulty there are beautiful words. There are words that bring pause to consider how they morphed into our English version. 

    And then there are many that simply leave you baffled.

    This week’s favourite is melisa.

    The Greek for honey is meli (it looks better with a Greek Lamda instead of a Roman L but I can’t work out how to get a Greek keyboard on my Mac).

    The Greek for a honey bee is melisa. 

    Sweet. With a sting.

    When it comes together. Meli and melisa.

    28 nights. 28 showers.

    We’ve been on our site for 28 nights, the longest we’ve stayed in one place since we started the journey, and probably for years before that too.

    At £15 a night the site is good value, but it’s hard not to think of better ways to spend the money when we’d prefer to be camping wild.

    In 28 nights we’ve had 28 showers. 

    Our clothes and bedding keeps going through the wash (mostly be hand). Our once sparkling halos have been tarnished by an increased use of water, yet they’ve gained a new shine from driving just 25 miles in a month. 

    This deep calm has done us good too. We’re better friends. Our good diet has become better. We’ve even shed a few pounds.

    Make it. You’ll know what it contains.


    Like everyone we’ll be glad when the restrictions are lifted. The next review will be on the 27th April, but even with its economy devastated I doubt the government will risk allowing a new spread of the virus from overseas visitors. The NHS may be in a parlous state, but at least it exists. Any sick Greek who can afford to travels to the UK or US for treatment, that says it all.

    Reason No.6. Walking the Princess Polly.


    Happy Easter.

    A few people asked last week why the Orthordox Easter falls a week after the Easter we’re used to. It’s because the Orthodox Church still follows the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian. The Gregorian was introduced in 1582 and is used across much of the world, but it was introduced by a Catholic pope, and therefore anathema to the Orthodox church. 

    It was a serious blow to the population telling them that they can’t move for Easter. It’s the major event of the religious calendar of a still religious country.

    Maria, the mother of our site owner, was in tears telling Amanda that her church would be closed this weekend. 

    Fizzy Friday and our first virtual drinks with friends.
    View from a van. Minty’s morning greeting.
    End of the beach. End of our road.
    The Dragon unfurls. Arum. Koutsounari.

    Stop Press!

    Minty just rescued this magnificent Rhinoceros Beetle from George the cat. When these guys fly into you you feel as if you’ve been hit by a stone.

    Second stop press: We’ve just had an earthquake. Small, but it certainly gave the van a severe shaking and would have brought down buildings that weren’t built to resist it.

    May we live in interesting times.

    8 Replies to “Easter. Locked down.”

    1. Rachael Smart says: Reply

      This has raised my spirits. Lovely to see you both managing so well. Photo of the sea also very therapeutic. I hope Easter is kind to you.

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Thank you Rachael.
        Our blessings take time to count, and it’s a pleasure.
        Tomorrow I intend to revise the meaning and story of Easter, especially after the camp site owners came this evening to present us with Greek Easter gifts.
        Our best wishes to you and your gang.

    2. Gillian Fawkes says: Reply

      Funny you should mention the second sleep. I read it a few months ago and with the current situation now it does keep playing on my mind! Glad you are all keeping well and safe.
      Happy Easter!

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Good to hear from you.It’s all the more powerful right now.I loved it and I’ll read it again in a couple of days. It’s still very much with me at the moment.I hope life’s good and that the garden is all the more precious.Love from the road.KC

    3. The Marmites says: Reply

      Great to read these every week. Just love hearing about your adventures big and small. Well done, Minty, for finding the problem of the door! Don’t want any broken collar bones with all that shoving!! Rhino beetle is impressive! The kids would freak if they got near to it. But they would love the cats and naming them! Poor Mabel, I think the kids would name her Knobby, as she has no mates 🙂

      As I write, I’m sitting in the garden enjoying the sunshine. We’re blessed with good weather this weekend. It lifts our spirits, but equally makes me a little worried about the folks that don’t seem to understand the dangers of heading out for a day in the sun as if nothing has happened. Fingers crossed they see sense and stay at home.

      The one thing I can say that I am enjoying about this situation is the lack of traffic noise. It has given way to the most incredible playlist of nature. The bird song we can listen to in our garden is just amazing. Thankfully we have wonderful neighbours who also enjoy the peace, so keep their mowing of lawns or chopping of wood to a minimum.

      You mention rereading, I’ve started relearning again. Quadratic equations, protons and neutrons and radioactive decay, cell specialisation and a bit of French. All slowly coming back to me as I help Olivia with her lessons sent from school.

      I’m also doing some open learning from Open Uni to keep my brain active. Being off work for a week is bad enough to lose focus from the world of work but 3 months…holy moly!!!

      Stay safe, stay fit and stay sane.
      Love to you all
      From us Marmites

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        To the Marmites.
        You’ve risen blog commenting to a new level.
        Thank you Anna and the Marments.

    4. Sarah Franklin says: Reply

      A lovely read! I can see why you’re tempted by that splendid village house. Mum and I were just talking about our next trip to Crete (her planned one in June is bound to be cancelled). It’s good to see you’re still having a fabulous time x

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Hi Sarah
        Great to hear from you.
        Yes, I can’t imagine any visitors being allowed in as early as June, so it’s probably worth looking at late September, which is our other favourite time to be here.
        We’re firmly locked down, but it’s not a hardship, and everyone around is both friendly and generous.
        Look after yourself and I hope we see you somewhere before too long.

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