Tightening restrictions. Finding our way.

    Fantasy food.

    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.

    Big stank, big view, looking down to Kakos.

    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.

    Terrazzo, Invest in the future.

    Restrictions tighten.

    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.

    Same sea. New rules.

    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.

    Clare Stone. Ready to serve.

    The climb.

    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 village. Still half an hour away.

    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.

    Agios Ioannis. Cloud village.

    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.

    House on the hill. A tough walk. Worth it.

    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. 

    New bounty, New sauce.

    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 big bag of toms, but where’s her hair?

    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.

    Outdoor carpet for the penthouse.

    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 gothic temptress. Dragon Arum.

    Grey sands.

    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. 

    Black sands at dawn. Long Beach. Ierapetra.

    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.

    Grey pebble beach, until you get close.

    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. 

    Loose yourself in the joy of words.

    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.

    Thank you.

    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.

    The tiny flowers of the olive tree.
    A new day, a new weed.
    We’re parked on the beach. You can walk a long way in an hour. Try it.

    18 Replies to “Tightening restrictions. Finding our way.”

    1. Annette Armitage says: Reply

      Well it sounds like you’re doing okay in this crazy world. There are certainly worse places to be. Lovely to have the time to catch up on your blogs. All good here, strangely enjoying the slower pace of life. I love Amanda’s hair, I’m cutting Martins this afternoon; it might look similar!
      Take care of one another. Love to you both xxx

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        We need evidence of the home scalping.
        I hadn’t realised what a big thing the home haircut has become. Did the world really go to the barber’s that often?
        It’s at least ten years since I have darkened the door of a barber, and even back then it was more about beard control than what was on top.

    2. Ah what a lovely blog and I admire how you can come up with so much information even when in lockdown! I echo your remarks concerning the convenience shops, being one of the 1.5 million who is forbidden to step outside their door because of underlying health issues, I cannot get supplies and getting into Fort Knox would be simpler than booking an online slot, in spite of being told that we would be given priority. Two small convenience shops have come to my rescue and will be patronised when, and if, I am released from solitary! I can vouch for your mum Peggy’s pasties, I have had the pleasure a few times, they are good.; I will go back to Redruth when it’s all over to try one again! The story of Terrazzo is interesting because as you know I had a flooring company and was often asked to quote for it, but I can tell you, it is I’m sure, an Italian mafia job, no supply unless you were in “The Family”, we always had to sub it out to them, hence the cost! Could have changed now but….. I could never have imagined that you would give up on the objective to get to Agia Ioannis, you are so determined and just love a challenge, I cite as one example the time when I was staying with you in Lefkada, you going into ArchieVan for an hour each morning to study your Greek. How is it coming anyway? Let us hope that we see the end of the Chinese Virus soon and we can start to get back to some form of normality. Enjoy your tomatoes and keep safe.

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Great note Rick, thank you.
        I’m sure you’ll get a warm welcome and a big pasty in Redruth, mum’ll be 90 later this year but that won’t stop her.
        Greek. Bloody hell Greek is a difficult language. I have a reasonable vocabulary, but stringing a coherent sentence together is still a challenge.
        The isolation helps and I’m spending a fair time each day muttering to the phone. It’s more for the mental challenge than any practical use, but if they keep us here long enough we might just put down roots…

    3. Gillian Cooper says: Reply

      Hi guys
      Again don’t know where you get all the info from but always very interesting
      New job for you when you finally settled down have all the blogs printed they would sell like hot cakes and you would be a millionaire overnight
      All good here
      John is enjoy his new car but not been pit in it much
      We never buy on line always from our local independent business when we can cannot do with all the bother on line
      Stay safe
      Hugs to PP
      Luv D&G💕

      1. Bless you for keeping up the blog – Saturday lunch wouldn’t be quite the same without it (no pressure) Wall to wall sunshine at our end of Cornwall today so I’m busying myself with cosmetic maintainance on our bus and hoping we might get away before Autumn turns to Winter – wondering if I should have stretched to a heating system.
        Chuffed that Archievan trumps the coach built gin palace. “It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got”
        Take care out there, and stay safe.

        1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

          Great line Andy.
          If we had more space we’d carry stuff we don’t need.
          Actually that’s not entirely true. I’d carry more books, Minty’d carry more pasta.
          Although I’d love a space to go listen to music in. A trailer ideally.
          Yes, reports from home suggest better weather than here this weekend. The Greeks are amazed to see the Med in an uncharacteristic turmoil. although it’s not much more than Sennen puts on just to keep the surfers happy.
          Heating is necessary if you’re travelling together in winter. On your own you can simply cook, eat, go to bed.
          Keep well and thanks for writing.
          Best wishes. Kelvin.

      2. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Thanks Gill
        That’s very sweet of you. Writing the blog massively increases my respect for all the real writers out there.
        Journalism is one thing, but starting each day with a blank sheet must take huge determination and skill.
        In the meantime it’s a nice challenge each week, and a whole lot easier than trying to learn Greek.
        Best wishes. Kelvin.

    4. Good to hear your cheerful tones truly echoing through the write up this week! It’s strange to have the world on lockdown yet the ability to still communicate to us like-minded souls far and wide. We hope you have a peaceful week ahead and that spring in Greece brings a welcome spell of brightness to the air. Take care both. 🧡

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        I wonder how you’re getting on there.Many years ago I cycled the north island staying in little batches and beach cabins.It was incredibly beautiful, but t didn’t touch me in the way that it does some people.I hope you’re less restricted, but then the restrictions will probably turn out to be a good thing.Whatever’s happening I trust you’re safe and happy.
        Best wishes. Kelvin. 

    5. Enjoyed reading as always 😀. Thanks for the book tip- I have downloaded a sample of ‘Four letter of love’ to try. All the best! Louise

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Hi Lou
        Thanks for your note. I hope you like Niall’s work. I’m in awe of his skill, but he’s not for everyone.
        How’s Nelly? Did you get away last year?
        I hope life’s good despite what’s happening around us. 
        Let me know how you get on with Four Letters. Now that I’ve mentioned it I want to read it again.
        Best wishes. Kelvin.  

    6. Keith Giddens says: Reply

      Despite the incarceration of us all your blog was another cracker. As you say, these times change our perspectives and attitudes. Although I have only left the house and garden twice in 2 weeks to collect provisions from Stones/ Premier Stores I note a new feeling of togetherness and kindness in our lovely town. Everyone shares and pulls together. Rather heart-warming actually. Probably the same sentiment as your kind farmer friend. I know what you mean about the Hymer Just too big and too many unnecessary things. Mind you , with our enforced captivity Ethel has had 3 polishes and is now primed and on the starting blocks.
      Take care and stay very safe. Sorry that the Tintin cut has gone!

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Tin Tin couldn’t find her Snowy (dog)!
        It’s what she wanted from the start but every time the scissors came out one or the other of us got cold feet.
        So many tomatoes. So many cucumber. Bloody marvellous.
        We’ve booth lost weight. Less booze, no souvlaki. Hang on though, souvlaki is what we came for. Hey ho, it’ll come again.
        Head south when we’re free again and we’ll meet in Austria or somewhere.
        Best to Liz. KC

    7. Anna Marmite says: Reply

      Mr KC, Minty & Polly Pop,
      A fantastic read, as ever! My reply to last week’s was lost, so apologies for the lack of response. Wonderful to hear that you’re both fit and well and staying fit, through your walks and bike rides. And the sense of hospitality from your neighbours and locals is so heart-warming! Us Marmites are doing ok. The cabin is a gym for all of us to do a strength and conditioning workout to keep us moving.

      We’re at the stage of feeling that venturing out of the front door is too much of a risk. Whilst supermarkets are trying to follow the 2m social distancing rule by marking out the queue line, we’ve heard from friends that once people are inside they just scramble to get the last few things on the shelves and almost body slam you out of the way to get the last packet of biscuits or tin of beans.

      We’ve been fortunate enough to have two online deliveries, not just for us, but for J’s Mum and sis and my folks too, as they can’t go out at all – being in the vulnerable category. But now that luck is at an end, so we’ll have to venture out soon. We won’t be going to the supermarkets, we’ll be going to butchers and independent grocers, to support them and in the hope that the clientele are more respectful of personal space.

      Unfortunately, I have now been furloughed for three months, which is a massive blow to us financially, but we have to stay positive. I’ll be focusing on the home schooling for the kids as they are finding it very challenging when learning new things without a teacher explaining everything to them. This will keep me busy! Not sure how much I’ll be able to help with Louis’ A-level Physics work though!!

      Keep writing! It’s wonderful! And keep in touch, but most importantly stay safe!!!
      Much love from us Marmites xxxx

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Yay for the lovely Marmite clan!
        A level physics. Interesting. Actually I bet it is. I was barely present at school, but now I’d love the chance to learn the stuff they tried to teach me. I’m working hard on my Greek, but it’s a struggle.
        It makes me hugely pissed off that the little guys will suffer most from all this, and the irony that China will almost certainly be the overall winner. We go to the supermarket, but more for the ride than the shopping, we’ve a lovely small shop up the road where Minty goes most days, just to buy something small and thank the poor worried lady for opening again.
        I’m so pleased to get your notes. You’ve commented enough times to get immediate acceptance now too. Yee ha. I’m not sure how it happens, but after a while comments just drop straight in rather than me having to approve them.
        Big love to all four of you. Stay in. Stay sane.

    8. Angela and Martin says: Reply

      Good to read your blog each week, keep on writing ! The photo of the bench above Kakos reminds us of the view from the bench above Gwenver beach. We miss it so much, since we cannot come over as planned – just like so many others. And just like you we miss meeting our family, although they are not far away. Stay safe and sane and all the best !
      Angela & Martin

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        We’re a little community of Germans and English here in Crete.
        I think we all have to take comfort from knowing that our special places will be all the more precious when we finally get to them.I was supposed to be in St Just this week, and more important, seeing my mum.We’re very lucky to be here in Crete, even though Greece is having its coldest April in many years.Look after yourselves. It’s always good to hear from you.
        Best wishes. Kelvin.  

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