We often have a fantasy food conversation, dreaming, perhaps drooling, over what we’d most like to eat.
It’s not just because our options have reduced to what we can cook.
If there’s a top three Minty’s choice always involves pizza, currently she longs for chicken souvlaki.
My 15 years living in Birmingham were a culinary delight and I’ll always have a balti in my list. Ideally a garlic chilli chicken from Al Frash on Ladypool Road.
But right now my list is topped by a Peggy Collins pasty. Mum used to make pastys every Friday night, and she still turns out a beauty when either my sister or I visit.
Terrazzo and marble scrap.
Terrazzo flooring was invented by the Venetians way back in the C15th as a way of using up marble waste from other processes. Chunks of marble were secured in cement, then ground flat to be comfortable to walk on. That grinding also served to polish the stone.
In Greece it’s the most common flooring in houses, shops and cafés. It’s cheap, colourful, and extremely hard wearing.
So how come it’s so crazily expensive at home? I’d love to have terrazzo flooring through our house, but I’ve seen prices of several hundred pounds per square metre.
Here the supposedly expensive material is discarded all over the place. Marble worktops, broken flooring, stacks of spare marble tiles dumped around the back of a construction site.
If it wasn’t so darned heavy we could gather all we’d need for free and work out how to do the rest.
The Greeks are getting bored. There are more cars on the road, more people about. On a good evening the youth come down to the beach at sundown like they always did.
The authorities are worried, especially as Easter is coming.
Orthodox Easter is a week later than we celebrate at home. What sort of religion would put its figurehead through two crucifixions?
So yes, Easter is coming, and the authorities are worried. It’s a time when Greeks the world over head back to their true home, the village, town, island, where they grew up, or perhaps where their parents grew up.
This week the sea has been made out of bounds. No fishing off rocks, no swimming, no surfing. A lady was fined €150 for swimming off Chania.
One of our neighbours received a similar fine for being too far from the site. His protestations that he was visiting the pharmacy 20kms away cut no ice as there’s one a short walk from home. Wherever you are in Greece there’ll be a beautiful pharmacy within reach.
There’s talk this weekend of the motorway tolls booths being closed, effectively closing the motorways. You can only get a ferry if you can prove it’s taking you to your primary residence.
When it’s over.
When this is all over, or at least under control and we’re allowed out again.
Please, please go to the shops. The independent shops.
Ditch the habit of ordering everything online, from food to books, clothes or even you next car.
If we don’t help the independents as soon as we are able they will fail. We’ll be left with a bland mediocrity and it’ll probably be made in China.
And China? How did it manage its PR coup that suddenly sees it as an angel nation supply thousands of masks to the ailing countries of the world. Grrrrrr. Are we all so blind?
At the other end of the scale…. it makes my heart sing to read that little Stones Greengrocer in St Just is doing more business than it ever has, supplying great locally grown, often organic produce, and a good line of esoteric items not normally seen in the sticks. The shop is closed to visitors, but continues to serve through phoned in orders.
After a year of carrying the bikes in the back of the van, without assembling them, we have been back in the saddle for a week.
Plenty of time to get mountain fit.
Our German neighbours described a punishing ride they’d undertaken on their electric bikes to the pretty mountain village of Agia Ioannis. When I suggested I’d give it a try they told me that it’d be impossible on a bike without assistance.
Oh those fateful words!
Yesterday there was a fair wind blowing from the west and I figured that it’d help me up much of the climb. It was also damp meaning that I’d not have to contend with heat. It was an ideal day for my first attempt.
In England there are few hills that take more than ten minutes to climb. Not so in Greece.
Half an hour into the climb the village came into sight. It was still a bloody long way away. But at that point a couple of runners came into sight too and immediately my ego lifted my cadence and I passed them looking strong, despite my lungs being fit to burst.
The fourth stage of learning.
The fourth stage of learning a skill is often referred to as unconscious competence. Like speaking our own language, or driving a car, it refers to the skills we perform without thinking.
Yesterday I realised that driving/riding on the left is an unconscious competence.
Much of the climb was stupidly hard and every part of me screamed for rest, but occasionally I’d come to bits of respite where it was merely uphill rather than steep. Each time I reached such respite I realised I’d defaulted to riding on the left.
Into the cloud.
Ten minutes from the village I wanted to give up. Badly. After all, I had nothing to prove. I was only doing this for myself.
Come on KC. Just ease off, turn around, enjoy the descent.
I’d ridden into cloud by then and I was getting wet and cold.
But of course I didn’t turn.
I made it to Agia Ioannis after a little over an hour of solid climbing. It’s only 12 kms. But my God it hurt.
It was properly wet by then, the potentially stunning view had been replaced by the inside of a cloud, and I didn’t feel inclined to stroll around getting wetter.
The descent I’d so looked forward to had to be cautious in the rain.
I’ll have to try again next week.
The memory trick.
By the time I got back to the van the endorphins were rushing through my body and I recounted the tale as if it was the greatest adventure, something I couldn’t wait to repeat.
Today my muscles are sluggish, but I’m looking forward to next Sunday’s climb.
In times like these. Or. Tomatoes for trespass.
In times like these the foreigner is more suspicious.
Xenophobia comes from the Greek Xenos meaning foreign.
Late on Tuesday afternoon a long day’s rain finally eased and cabin fever forced me out to stank.
I followed unfamiliar lanes, I came to a farm yard that I’d have to pass. I hid behind a tree as the farmer came out to his pickup and drove off at the end of his working day. I felt like a fugitive.
Apart from the bad feeling of that 150m trespass the walk was a delight of flowers, high vistas and a superb house in the making that I explored.
I took Min on the same walk a couple of days later.
This time the farmer was working in his yard. There was no way to avoid meeting him.
In trepidation we strode across with a ready smile and a kalimera, but the Greek held up his hand “Wait here”.
He walked to a shed. To get his gun? To call the police?
He came back with a bag full of tomatoes. Several kilogrammes of tomatoes. The biggest weighing over a pound on its own. He handed them over with a “Yasas, kalimera” and waved us on our way.
I initially worried about xenophobia setting in here, but I believe we’d raise more fear and suspicion in Penzance.
Carrying the big bag of fruit for the rest of our long walk was my handicap. Not that I needed it. My Minty is far stronger than me, on the bike, and on walks. Anyone who follows her sister’s antics will understand. It runs in the family.
A visit to the Hymer Penthouse.
Our lovely neighbours from Keld near Strassbourg travel with a degree more style than us.
Their Hymer Starliner isn’t the biggest motorhome we’ve seen, but it’s very smart and we were keen to see how the other half live. When we were invited over this week we jumped at the chance.
When people step into ArchieVan they’re usually surprised at how much space we have, it’s not big, but it feels good inside.
Instead the neighbour’s penthouse swallows its space with a fixed bedroom and more storage than we could fill in a house.
The seating is very comfortable, the fixed table extends to sit four, the drop down cab bed is great for their grandchildren, the fridge freezer is substantial, everything can be put away into its little cache, including a huge garage at the back, and multiple cubby holes built into the floor.
We were hugely impressed, but neither of us would swop. ArchieVan is too small for them, the penthouse is too big for us.
The Hymer is two feet wider than ArchieVan which makes for a great interior space, but we only have to remember the times when we’ve been scraping the hedge on both sides to understand how often we’d have got stuck in it. It’s a couple of metres longer than us too. Not built for Cornwall, or for a lot of Greece.
More important than all of our vans is the relationship on the campsite. Wherever any of us goes to the supermarket we’ll offer to shop for the others. We’re a strange community, but it works.
At home in Redruth mum has a true exotic flower than comes up year after year despite her attempts to remove it.
It’s an incredible Dragon Arum.
Foul smelling and alien looking, its zebra stalks have been shooting up through the Cretan scrub for weeks, and today I saw one in flower for the first time. It’s worth looking at this image on a big screen. I’ll take and share better pictures if I get the opportunity.
The grey gravel of our beach can’t hold a candle to the beautiful pink and white sands of Elefonisi, or the golden Gwenver at home.
Until you sit and look at its parts.
There are so many reds, greens and marbled greys. These stones were dry, imagine how they look when polished and shining at the edge of the sea.
Home is where you park it?
Well. That’s true. But today I was due to be at my sister’s in Castle Cary, then visiting mum in Redruth on Monday.
We’re very fortunate to be where we are, but I will miss home this week.
Niall Williams. This Is Happiness.
Magical. Every page has a sentence I’d be proud to have written once in my life.
It’s not an easy read. I had to have the husky Irish voice of our friend Annie in my head to help me make music of his words. Now I know the story I will dive in at random to relish the wisdom of this tale of life, love and youth seen from the perspective of age.
If you’d like to try this incredible writer I recommend starting with his first novel, Four Letters of Love. Written in 1997, it is incredibly romantic, powerful, deeply insightful yet utterly unsentimental.
Did I mention his sentences? When teaching teams to write for business I used to recommend that they keep their sentences down to around a dozen words. They’re easier to write, and easier to read. The last sentence of Niall Williams’s 2014 History of the Rain is well over 1,000 words long, and yet it is perfect.
The world has changed rather over the last few weeks. As has the blog. I’m delighted that so many of you are with us on this virtual journey. It’s always better to click through from the email, ideally on a big screen.
Thank you for all your comments and emails. Keep them coming and the words will keep flowing.