446 days ago
Bright and early, notwithstanding another alcohol fuelled supper the night before at Miranda’s, the team of four assembled for Sunday’s harvest. Heroic K was resplendent in his red overalls and new boy T2 wore blue overalls which, he insisted, were on their last outing. T1 wore the sort of short long trousers of a length I’d associate with the Hitler Youth, which prompted me to observe that the snakes were probably all asleep so he was not that vulnerable to a bite. It turns out that T1 was terrified of snakes.
1182 days ago
I have been so dog tired during the olive harvest that I have eaten our rarely. Normally supper has been a Greek salad in my hotel room. One Friday night, sensing the end of the harvest was nigh, I ventured out to my favourite restaurant here in Kalamata, the Katelanos which is about 400 yards from my hotel on the seafront.
1348 days ago
I guess that in England the owner of this dog and this truck would have been locked up by the Health & Safety Executive or prosecuted by the PC nazis at the RSPCA. The poor hound is not muzzled and not on a leash and travels in the back of the truck everywhere. FFS he is not wearing a seat-belt, call the old bill now!
1400 days ago
As he had promised my friend Nicho the Communist returned to the Kourounis taverna after half an hour and so shortly before eleven, two hours after we planned, we were ready to start poisoning the frigana, the ghastly snake hiding thorn bushes, that blight the Greek Hovel. Shall we go in my car I asked?
1410 days ago
I arranged to meet architects George and Sofia at the Greek Hovel at 11 AM. I arrived twenty minutes late but no-one was there. This is Greece so eleven sharp means any time before twelve and at about twenty to twelve my friends arrived. They brought with them the head builder, an ethnic Greek from Albania, so a man my father will approve of big time. I got down to the main point quickly. I showed them the snake I had killed and asked the builder how he felt about snakes. "I kill them with my bare hands" he said. I like him a lot and said that "you can have the next one."
1543 days ago
Arriving at the Greek Hovel this morning it was damp underfoot. There had been overnight rain and the puddles in the dry river are growing and threatening to link up to form a vibrant stream, but the skies looked clear enough. I wandered down to the other side of the ruin, the lair of the snake, to trees that have gone from zeros to heros in the space of a year. George the Albanian was hard at work as was one of his women. But only one. Hell's teeth: what could have gone wrong?
1544 days ago
I am so tired. As soon as I press "publish" on this article i am off to bed. Today there was no break other than 20 minutes for lunch and so I did a solid six and a half hours. It is not that I am spectacularly unfit (cue jokes from health guru Paul Scott), it is just that I have to try to keep pace with hardened professionals, viz George the Albanian and his two female assistants. Boris Johnson likes riding bicycles but he would be some way off the pace in the Tour de France. It is similar here.
1686 days ago
I sit here now in Shipston with my father, trying to persuade him to come to Greece for the olive harvest in December. It is not that he would be much good in terms of picking olives. I suppose he might lean against a tree up at the Greek Hovel and bash the branches with his walking stick. But I think his role should be more concerned with drinking ouzo with the older men of Kambos so that my liver is preserved and I can play a full part in the harvest working with George the Albanian and his family.
1704 days ago
I decided that it was time to tackle the frigana bushes that sit just outside the fence on the mountain side of the land at the Greek Hovel. Access is easy as the fence runs alongside a paved road used by the shepherd and, as far as I can see, nobody else at all.
I approached the first bush which sat on a rock and slashed away the grass in front of it so that nothing mide jump out at me. So far so good. I then started hacking away at what was a ha5rdy old bush with every sprout intertwined with grass and other green things. Fuck!
1756 days ago
The lack of progress on getting permits to rebuild the Greek Hovel is starting to concern me and I am keen to make contact with George the architect ahead of my next trip on Saturday. And so I pick up my battered 1990s Nokia phone and scroll the directory and finding a George with a Greek number I call. For once I get an answer...
But the fellow does not seem to understand a word I say and is babbling away in Greek. It dawns on me quickly
1916 days ago
I fly tomorrow morning and will arrive in Kalamata so late that I shall enjoy one night of luxury in a hotel before heading off to the Greek Hovel for the olive harvest. George the sprightly 60 year old Albanian and his Mrs are ready to lead the harvest from Wednesday or Thursday and we are off. But there is a bit of a problem. I still speak no Greek and have hitherto relied on the lovely Eleni from the Kourounis taverana to assist. It is either her or Nikko the commie, no-one else speaks more English than I speak Greek in the village of Kambos.
In May I wondered if Eleni had put on a couple of pounds but did not like to say anything. By the time I arrived in August I
2192 days ago
From morning through to night you can hear gunfire everywhere in the Mani right now. Yes it is the Albanian hunting season. Only kidding. What the folks shoot are little birds – anything with wings. In the old days Thrush was considered a delicacy and at least some of the carnage was eaten. These days the dead birds are just left to rot. This is all done in the name of “fun”
The area around the Greek Hovel is deemed a good killing field and so
2246 days ago
This is the closest I am going to get to tipping a mining stock in a hurry – Fox Marble (FOX) might own mines but it is essentially a building materials stock. This should be a boring and dull business. To date it as not been.
Fox owns quarries which are largely in Kosovo, an area once in Serbia where with the complicity of the West the ethnic Serbs were ethnically cleansed by the Albanians. The latter have no historic claim on the area (it was never part of greater Albania) but when it came to the vilification of the Serbs we in the West did not really care about our oldest allies in the region. Rant over. The new regime does appear relatively honest so when a bent local official tried to seize a Fox asset soon after the IPO he was sent to prison and the asset quickly restored. None the less being in Kosovo has not been seen as a massive plus point by AIM casino investors.
2358 days ago
In my weekly video postcard HERE I revealed how I obsess about snakes while at the Greek Hovel but had not actually seen one. Bloody hell that was a bit of a jinx. Snakes were very much on my mind today as the section of frigana I am attacking right now is the densest on the property on a rocky hill near the gate on our drive. For drive read mud track. Put it this way, if I was a snake I’d hang out there.
I had mentally preserved this section for my brave Albanian pal Foti who is coming up to assist me next week. Foti is fearless and if he saw a snake would grab whatever was nearest to hand and smash it on the head. But I decided to man up and head into the bushes anyway.
Luckily I encountered no snakes and so, dripping in sweat after an hour’s solid cutting in the midday heat, I ambled back to the house and started to wander up the front steps and – fuck me – there was a snake, slithering over the snake veranda towards my front door. Naturally I retreated rapidly shouting to no-one in particular “it’s a fucking snake”.
Maybe it is my Irish genes?
2420 days ago
Sunday may be a day of rest for some but not for myself or my new best friend, Foti the Albanian. Foti is also my new business partner. We have agreed that the net proceeds from the olive trees will be split 50/50 on the basis that he does the work. I have insisted that I be allowed to do my part as you will see.
Foti speaks not a word of English. And I speak almost no Greek. So he speaks to me in Greek which I do not understand. I reply in English which he does not understand. On that basis we muddle along fine.
And so Sunday evening saw Foti and his pal arrive in a pickup truck to remove years and tears of rubbish. Broken chairs, rusted bed frames, empty drums and tins and piping: I have got the lot in the two first floor rooms: Grandpa’s bedroom (earth floor, broken window, rat friendly door) and the one below the snake veranda.
I am not asking too many questions about where the rubbish is going but am assured that it will remain in a safe place until October when we can once again light fires here legally. We piled the truck high as you can see. I reckon there are now only about five more loads to go. One day at a time…
2477 days ago
I gather that on twitter there are a few folks who thing that I am writing a bit too much and should take up gardening or tai-chi and “chill” Hmmmm. Have I got news for you…
As it happens the Mrs is away for the weekend so I am catching up on a few things. One of which is the paperwork on a new house the Mrs is purchasing in Greece. The deposit is paid tomorrow. It is not a lot as it is a total train wreck.
When we visited it last the only sign of life there was a snake we met sitting on a terrace. The house is not really fit for human habitation but comes with vast amounts of olive groves so can be expanded and renovated over time. The nearest neighbour is a ten minute walk away and is the one old monk left in a vast monastery. Ten minutes drive along a very rough track gets you to a village.
And so I shall be working like a dervish in the UK until June 30th when, all being well I head off to Greece to start work renovating the place. I do not mind that the shower (pro tem) is a hosepipe or that the outside lavatory does not work. I shall install an eco-loo (more on that later) in my first week. I will work alongside the Greek builders as their Albanian (i.e. unskilled labourer) for three months so that by the time the Mrs arrives in August to inspect her new property it is just about habitable and by the end of September, phase one will be complete.
I am ensuring that the fridge contains antidote in case I meet any other snakes and that I can somehow connect to the Internet so that I can write when not building. If three months on a building site in 39 degree heat does not knock me into shape nothing will.
So twitter friends, how’s that for relaxing?