Thursday, September 29, 2011

A riverbank tale

Gave the dogs an amble along the valley riverbank yesterday. More of a stream really. Only about a foot deep at the moment due to lack of rain and a September heatwave (been about 30° over the last week - very hot for the time of year). While the dogs paddle about, I often look for signs of life in the water. Spotted a fish once, only a tiddler.  And a couple of scampering water rats. But that's about all.

However, yesterday I spotted something interesting lying in the grass by the riverside. Looked like a couple of crab's claws. My first thought was that someone had left them there after a picnic. Strange though, I've never seen anyone picnicking round these parts. And I can't imagine any of the locals noshing something as pricey as a crab, apart from at Christmas maybe.

Then I noticed a little head. And crabs don't have heads. So I presumed it must have been a gigantic shrimp of some kind. But what's it doing here - we're hundreds of miles from the sea? Slowly it dawned on me that I was looking at the remains of a freshwater shrimp. A big 'un. Probably caught and eaten by a water rat. Obviously a water rat that was highly experienced in the art of avoiding getting injured by lethal claws, killing, and then removing head and claws before noshing.

If there's one giant freshwater shrimp up these parts, there must be others. Shall keep my eyes peeled in future.

P.S. - It's apparently a freshwater crayfish. Was, rather.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Forgot to mention the honeysuckle in my last posting. Georgie planted it at the base of the apple tree a few years back. Seems to be doing rather well. Somewhat surprising, considering I've done nothing to encourage its growth. It's now about twenty feet up that tree and in full flower. Took a couple of snaps last night at sunset. Unfortunately, the honeysuckle was mostly in shadow. Still looks impressive though. But the best thing is the scent. Absolutely gorgeous. Especially when combined with the smell of apples. Shame it doesn't come across in photos.


Thursday, September 22, 2011


Mowed the front lawn yesterday. Sounds fairly straightforward but it wasn't that simple. Before firing the mower into life I had to rake loads of fallen apples into piles at the garden edge. Took ages. And the wasps didn't exactly help matters either.

Seems to be a bumper year for apples. The tree down the bottom and the one round the side by the woodshed are so laden with apples that their branches are nearly touching the ground. Never known such a crop in the six summers that I've been out here. And they're big and tasty too; unlike apples from previous years that have always been a bit small and acidic. But what to do with them all? (Why has the type size changed? Hate computers. Just figured it out: it's swapped from Georgia to Times. Must remember to swap it back again.) Well, if I knew how to do it, I'd make gallons of apple juice. Or even cider. But, as I don't have the know-how, the equipment and the necessary enthusiasm, I guess they'll just rot away in the grass. Or get eaten by wasps. Seems such a waste but there you go, c'est la vie. Maybe I'll stick a dozen of the best ones in a bowl on the kitchen table and have the occasional nibble. Good idea.

While mowing the lawn I noticed a few more flowery things had appeared in the flower beds. Well, I call them flower beds but they're more like weed beds with the occasional flower poking through. Georgie'd have a fit if she was out here. Maybe I'll do a spot of weeding this afternoon. Anyway, took some snaps 'cos I know Georgie likes to know if her efforts at weeding, digging and planting have been worthwhile.

Having mowed the front lawn, I then set about the 'car park' lawn. Bit tricky there due to the constant comings and goings of a billion wasps who've set up home in a hole in the ground by the side of the house. Consequently, I haven't cut the grass in the wasp nest area for months. Looks a bit scruffy but no way am I risking certain death by venturing too close to those vicious, nasty, aggressive, horrid wee chappies.

Then I set about the grassy area by the woodshed. Or nearly did. Instead, I set about pushing a few of the stacked logs back into position. The whole stack seemed to be leaning forwards. Then I went at them with a five feet long axe, tapping them back. Instead of improving things, I seemed to have made matters worse. Eventually the whole stack toppled forward and I made a mad dash for safety. Spent the next hour and a half re-stacking. Now much better. Far more stable. Job done. However, didn't manage to cut the grass or rake up the apples. Some other day maybe.


September sun

Interesting sunrise yesterday. There seemed to be a reflection of the sun in one of the wispy clouds. Had a sort of pearly luminescence with a hint of a mini rainbow. Probably just water particles refracting the sun's rays. Fascinating. Then the sun slowly rose and the pearly thing vanished.

This morning's sunrise was equally bright but without the pearly wotsit. Lit up the apples on the tree down the bottom of the garden rather impressively. I do like the morning light at this time of year, especially with clear skies and mist in the valleys.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Au revoir summer

Well, that's it. Summer's over. Ended at about 7pm yesterday when massive clouds thundered in, dumped tons of rain and hail, then moved on, leaving behind a mass of puddles, a distinctly chillier air and a whole host of extinguished, Saturday evening barbies.

Interesting that summer's end has almost exactly (give or take a week or two) co-incided with the autumn equinox when the sun rises and sets directly in the east and west, thus making day as long as night. It'll be six long months 'til we reach that point again. Six long months of watching (weather permitting - which ain't often in winter) sunrises and sunsets out the front of our south-facing maison, as opposed to out the back where they're out of sight.

With the recent sunny weather (been brilliant; a mini heatwave), I took the opportunity of 'snapping' the front view at dawn and dusk. Also 'snapped' the front of the house as the early morning sunshine hit almost directly from the side. Next time this happens will be around March. But at that time of year the trees and garden look completely different.

Hah! Roll on spring.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Georgie rang ce matin and asked if anything's sprouted up in the jardin while we were away in Paxos. Told her that the weeds seem to be doing remarkably well. Also, a few orangey thingies, which I presume aren't weeds. Tried to describe them but the best I could come up with was "orangey coloured with pointy bits" which wasn't much help. Then she asked if any blue flowers had appeared. To be honest I didn't know, so I went for a quick lap of the estate. Spotted some blue thingies down by the compost pile. Interesting down there because a few spuds I chucked out weeks ago, instead of rotting down, appear to have made themselves at home and started growing. And mighty impressive they look too. Anyway, I was unable to give Georgie a description of the blue thingies because, by the time I'd got back indoors, I'd forgotten what the damned things looked like. So she asked for some photos...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Loggos holiday 6

Sunday. Our last full day. Took things easy, mainly tidying up and packing up. Then hit the beach for a late afternoon swim, followed by a last visit to the waterside bar and a final nosh-up at the Four Seasons caff. Had an early night in readiness for Monday's early start.

Rose at about 5, dark outside. Still dark at 6.20 when the ever-smiling Lefcothea (ace travel co. rep.) parked up outside to make sure that we, and the occupants of the next-door villa, were ready and raring to go. Minibus turned up ten minutes later just as it was getting light. We all piled in and headed off to Gaios pier where we joined the crowds boarding the speedy hydrofoil (is that what it's called?) ferry back to Corfu. Impressive sunrise over the sea so rattled off a few snaps.

An hour later we were in Corfu having breakfast at the Europa Hotel(?) just across the road from the ferry port. Thanks to Lefcothea we didn't have to worry about finding our way to the airport as she arranged all the transport for us. Hassle free. Marvellous.

Couple of hours later we flew over Venice, then the Alps, then finally landed at Gatwick. Picked up Don's car and drove to Putney, stopping off at Roehampton Asda to stock up with a few provisions which, almost inevitably, included olives and taramasalata. Had curry for supper then another early night in readiness for Tuesday's early start.

Rose at about 5. Taxi at 6. Victoria to Stansted coach at 6.35. Limoges flight at 10. Arrived at 12.30 (Euro time). Picked up dogs at 2. Stocked up with basic grub at Felletin supermarché at around 4. Arrived home at 4.30, jetlagged and fattygayed. Been a long day. And an even longer week. Memorable though. And really great fun. A splendid way to celebrate becoming an official geriatric.     

Friday, September 2, 2011

Loggos holiday 5

Back at the villa after our crack of dawn saunter down to Loggos, we decided to take things easy and have a well-earned rest day. So we did nothing but laze around. Well, I lazed around either side of an afternoon siesta while Georgie did some washing, tidying, showering, tea-making and dolloping of aprés-sun cream on her sunburnt legs and arms, and Don fiddled for hours on her tweeting and messaging mobile phone thingy.

A week's holiday is really quite short so it's tempting to go here there and everywhere every day, so by the time the holiday's over you're exhausted and you need another one to recover. Far better to have a day off, as we did. Besides, the girls were practically immobilised by the previous day's sunburn so we couldn't have gone out anyway. Well, not in the daytime. We did manage a little soirée saunter down to Loggos in the cool of the evening though.

Er, the 'cool' of the evening is perhaps somewhat misleading. After sundown it was still damned hot. So hot in fact that a cold shower was called for after the late night stagger up the rocky path back to the villa. Shower done, it was sorely tempting to open the doors and windows in the hope of letting in a cooling breeze. But, as there wasn't one, the only thing to be let in would be squadrons of blood-sucking mosquitoes and carnivorous flies. So we had to kip in stifling heat with doors and windows firmly shut. Okay for Georgie and moi 'cos we had the luxury of an air conditioning unit, but must have been hell for poor wee Don kipping on the lounge divan. Still, she survived.

Early start next day (Saturday), our third day with a boat. Pottered out of the harbour at about 10ish with swimming togs, towels, snorkeling gear, various bakery goodies and newly purchased sun tan cream (factor 50 - Georgie was taking no chances). Headed south to Anti-Paxos for another raid of Voutoumi beach, hopefully before the crowds arrived. Wasn't too crowded so we slung anchor, had a few swims and a couple of time-consuming battles with unco-operative beach brollies (damned things kept falling over - my brolly man saw me struggling and cussing, so kindly assisted by positioning large rocks around its base, thereby making one newly qualified OAP extremely happy) before hitting the beach bar for a welcome beer.

Beer done and beach overcrowded, we weighed anchor and headed round to the quieter west side of the island in search of a sheltered cove. Found one, dropped anchor and enjoyed a very pleasant swim or three in crystal clear waters. Munched a ham roll as I peered over the side of the boat, transfixed by the clarity of the green sea, the rocks about twelve feet below and the wobbly patterns of sunlight flickering on the seabed. Thus occupied, one loses all sense of time. Maybe an hour passed. Or maybe two. Either way, it was suddenly time to head back.

Arrived back at Loggos harbour entrance with time to spare (hire boats have to be back by 6.30pm), so we carried straight on and stopped at another quiet cove (Glyfada beach?). Dropped anchor again (by this time we were getting the hang of the routine), had a very pleasant swim, did a bit of snorkeling and had a brief chat with Georgie about how wonderful the holiday had been. Reassuring to know she was enjoying it, despite the sunburn. Now we had just one day left. Amazing how time flies. One minute the holiday's ahead of you and the next it's almost over. Ah well, c'est la vie.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Loggos holiday 4

Woke up early on the Friday. Decided to have another early morning stroll down to Loggos and catch that wonderful peace and quiet before the village starts buzzing. Georgie came too. The place seemed almost deserted. Bakery hadn't opened. A grey dog stretched as it woke by a woodpile. Cats sat around licking paws and washing faces as a few cafe staff swept up and wiped down tables. Spotted 'my barman' as he swept his forecourt with an old dustpan and broom. Asked if he was open yet. Said he was so we had a fresh coffee on a waterside table and watched the rising sun turn from red to orange in the low mist over the sea. In the next bar along, the lady owner shifted her tables and mopped the seafront granite floor with bleach and washing powder in readiness for the day ahead. This was high season. Soon the tourists will be gone. Work hard now, laze around later.

Coffee done, we ambled up the beach road and pottered over the headland rocks as sunshine sparkled on clear green sea. Beneath us, small fish swam in little gangs, totally unconcerned about the black sea urchins that dotted the seabed. Looked for an octopus without success. Walked back to the village. Bakery open so we bought some fresh bread, croissants and pain raisins. Strolled by the harbour, our heads bent down as we looked at fish darting in the shadows of boats. An old man noticed. Told us that when he was a lad the sea and harbour were full of fish. Big ones. And spotting an octopus was an everyday occurence. But now it's changed. The fish are gone. Take a boat out now and you might end up with just a few kilos. Not like the good old days.

With the sun getting higher and hotter, the previously empty cafe tables were slowly filling with early risers. Tourists downed cappucinos on the harbour front while locals downed espressos with glasses of water up the backstreets. The first of the hire boats left the harbour, bound for a beach or cove somewhere along the coast. Bronzed youngsters and grizzled oldies buzzed dusty scooterettes up the harbour road, dodging inattentive pedestrians and dented cars. The early morning peace was over. Time to get back up that path to the villa and get stuck into tea and croissants.