2 days ago
My business deal on my olive trees with Nicho the Communist is over two years so that he gets half the profits fromm a bad year and half from a good year, these things run in cycles. 2020, when I could not muck in as the Mrs was giving birth back in Britain, was a bad year. The oil produced was enough to cover the fees of the Albanians who do the actual work, after leaving 15 litres for my own use. My fear is that this year will not be very good either and I have invited Nicho up to the hovel for a swim, a drink and an inpsection.
4 days ago
The 15th century castle of Zarnata sits on the hill overlooking Kambos and as you loll in our pool its ruins can be seen clearly on the skyline. But look closely at the view from the hovel down our land and in the far distance you can see another structure on the skyline, Kapetanakis, and yesterday Joshua and Jayarani accompanied me on a visit while Mrs did some of her very important work in lovely Eleni’s Kourounis taverna.
5 days ago
The Greek Hovel sits on top of a hill. On the hill opposite, the one heading towards Kambos and which is a bit lower, stands the abandoned convent. As you head up into the mountains behind us the dips between hills get shallower and the climbs steeper. The mission Joshua and I undertook was to discover an 1850s bridge and a route behind our hill and the next one “up” to the village or Orova. What follows is a record of our failure.
8 days ago
The gorge into which those chaps murdered by a lad from Kambos a few years ago, had their bodies thrown stretches from the sea right up to the higher taygetos. On the way to Kambos the main road passes over the gorge just above a stunning 1850s bridge I visited a few years ago. Last night we headed for supper with Guardian reading loons L&G in their home village of Vorio, much higher up in the mountains. Their view over the gorge is quite amazing as you can see below.
15 days ago
The Mrs arrives tonight. So last night was the last one of the boys’ holiday with Joshua, the longest time he has ever been parted from his mum, three and a half weeks. There have, surprisingly, been no tears although it is clear that he cannot wait to see her again. And we have had a good time on our road trip and here at the hovel. To celebrate the end of part one of our break, I took him to Kitries for supper.
16 days ago
The Guardian-reading lefties L&G had invited Joshua and me for Sunday Lunch at the new restaurant in the Kambos town square, the one with starched white tablecloths run by the grandson of Old Miranda. But the night before, Joshua and I wandered down for supper and I suggested that we try the new place for ourselves. Don’t get me wrong.
21 days ago
I have yet to update you all on the dynamics of the, now four, eateries that surround thde small square in the centre of Kambos, the village closest to the Greek Hovel. As Greece implements new laws to make life for all four of them that much harder, it is topical.
23 days ago
We can talk of awful fouls and the penalty curse but should not deny that Italy played better football and deserved to win the European Championship. No doubt many of us are still in denial on that matter today but the statistics do not lie. I say this as someone who came into the tournament not supporting England for a range of reasons but who was won over by the charm of the young squad and of the manager and by the way it seemed to unite and give joy to the whole country. All of those involved in England did their country proud. I shall now go back to supporting Northern Ireland, but in this tournament the match against the Hun was the key turning point for me.
25 days ago
You may remember that, aged three, Olaf gained admission to a wonderful school in North London after a rigorous interview by headmistress Mrs P. The first question was to me “how is your father?” for Mrs P was the ex of my father’s oldest friend, “vicious”, who was also my godfather. I sense that Mrs P would detect Olaf’s innate brilliance and she would gain a place despite an appalling comment from Big Nose on the virtues of the National Curriculum. That was a schoolgirl error for Mrs P is delightfully old fashioned. Mrs P is a relatively new reader of this website, approving of my views on a range of subjects, and has asked for a few photos of the Greek Hovel to which she knows she has an open invitation. Here goes.
25 days ago
Joshua and I had a day or so’s notice so yesterday tidied frantically. Even the bat room, of wildlife diversity invasion infamy, now looks pretty spotless. Compounding our triumph of being able to assemble a vacuum cleaner with twenty parts, we also managed to get the washing machine with Greek only options and instructions to work. And thus everything damaged in the bat room, Olaf’s bedroom should she pass covid tests and pitch up next week, is now clean and, if you can rid your mind of the thoughts of its former inhabitants, ready for use.
26 days ago
I have noted before that despite its beauty, I am not a great fan of Islington on Sea, Kardamili, the small Greek Town where Paddy Leigh Fermor built his home here in Greece. It is not the town nor the locals that offend me so much as the hordes of rich North European tossers who go there each year, especially those from Islington and similar places back in Blighty. Rich, remoaning, patronising superior sorts.
41 days ago
You might just remember that my first night in Kambos, the village nearest to the Greek Hovel, saw Germany take on the Argies at football and, for reasons I am sure you can guess, I supported the Hun. The entire village was rooting for the Argies and I got dirtier and dirtier looks as the game went on, especially from the man who is now my best friend in town and my business partner, Nicho the Communist.
42 days ago
The photo is from the weekend. The backpack used to hold Joshua - here he is in it as we climbed up to Zarnata castle overlooking Kambos in Greece. In the heat, that is some climb. Anyhow, now I have eight-month-old Jayarani on my back and as you can see she is gorgeous. Before you say it, she must take after her mum.
84 days ago
I got an email this morning from our friends the mad lefty Guardian reading champagne socialists L&G who live in a village up in the mountains behind Kambos, when not battling for the People’s Party back in England. We last saw them back in August as they settled in for another six weeks of Greek sun as we headed back to England. Thanks to travel restrictions it seems that they are still there having enjoyed 10 solid months in the Hellenic Republic.
85 days ago
Though most folks were not masked and though Kambos is not a tourist village and there had not been any covid cases for miles bar one German about ten miles away, and we all know what my neighbours think about the Hun, the Covid crises had somewhat dulled the spirits of all. And thus what could be better than a party in the village square organised by my good friends Vangelis and Nicho the Communist to raise funds for their new youth club and to cheer everyone up. Being British we arrived early on that Friday evening. well, we thought eight o’clock was quite late but almost nobody was there so it was early.
86 days ago
The last hours of day 14, the feast of Nicho the Communist get wrapped into day 15. That was one reason why I love Greece. The rest of the day is what can infuriate me.
114 days ago
“I am here from the Council” said the young lady wearing fishnet stockings and a short skirt. “Hello…Oh yes” said I in my best Leslie Phillips accent, wondering why she wanted to see me. The awful truth is that someone here in the last village in Wales, has snitched to the planning department about lorry loads of rubble and earth coming down the lane to the Welsh Hovel, suggesting I may be threatening the flood plain. And so, I was honoured with a site visit.
242 days ago
The big event of the day was the return visit of Guardian reading L&G to the Greek Hovel. Joshua is a big fan of L in particular and his excitement at the prospect of splashing him in the pool mounted all morning. Aware that our friends like a drink or two, I headed into Kambos for supplies.
247 days ago
You may remember that at Manchester Airport we met up with our friends from the Mani, the Guardian-reading, lunatic, mask jihadists L&G. They assured us that when arriving in Greece, they would be isolating in order not to spread any British germs to the Mani and so it was a while before we saw them, in a socially distanced manner, in the Kambos restaurant formerly known as Mirandas. They are a thirsty couple and, even from a distance, conversation flows freely.
252 days ago
I have yet to complete my diaries from the Greek Hovel 2020 so you may not be aware that I am now in business with Nicho the Communist and his son but I am am and on that matter I spoke to both the son and also to lovely Eleni at the Kourounis Taverna today. How I wish I was back in warm Kambos rather than wet Wales. Or do I? A lot has changed.
322 days ago
And so Uncle Johnny was set to fly back to Covid Britain. His departure was uneventful; we waved goodbye to him as he donned his face nappy outside Kalamata’s small airport and our thoughts turned to our own return a week later.
335 days ago
It was Uncle Johnny’s last full day with us and after the trek to and from Mistras the previous day it was agreed we would do nothing all day. Nothing all day at the Greek Hovel used to mean wandering around snake spotting. These days it means dipping into the library of books out at the hovel or just dipping into the swimming pool which, notwithstanding the water shortage affecting us and the whole village of Kambos, was full at all times. Yes, I do know what you are thinking!
348 days ago
Those who have read my musings from the Greek Hovel, since it was purchased six long years ago, will remember that a constant feature is my battle with frigana (the bush which is a cross between an oak and holly and which can grow from an inch to 20 foot high). In my first year, I cut down more than 2,000 square metres of the stuff which had covered an eighth of our land. There were snake encounters, blood, sweat, and eventually tears of joy when the task was completed. It was great for the figure!
350 days ago
As we neared the end of our first week, we thought we’d take our guest, Uncle Johnny who is in fact nobody’s Uncle, to Kitries as a treat. This tiny harbour is the closest to Kambos, about half an hour’s drive down a winding road, and has two restaurants at either end of the cove. A week later would have been the busiest weekend of a Greek August but this Friday would, in a normal year, have seen the seafront packed with well-oiled and, usually, overweight bodies. It was shocking.
353 days ago
You might just remember that at the time of the last olive harvest, the great Greek smoking ban, driven by the EU, came into play. Reactions were mixed. In Miranda’s, there was a robust defiance and the air was full of nicotine, even when the Old Bill arrived to “nobble” my friend Vangelis. In the Kourounis taverna, Eleni was strict and ashtrays were allowed only outside.
355 days ago
You may remember that last year, lovely Eleni’s Kourounis taverna and the place once called Miranda’s briefly had competition from the accursed creperie. It was seen off and as the days started to draw in, it closed, never to return to Kambos. But this year it is worse. Far worse.
357 days ago
He is not in fact anyone’s Uncle. In India, an older man is always termed an uncle so Joshua has lots of uncles including both his godfathers, Johnny and Lucian Miers, Uncle Brokerman Dan and the list of unsuitable and disreputable “uncles” goes on and on. However, this uncle is in fact a relation. He is something like the third cousin of the Mrs but for historic reasons, these distant families were quite close.
363 days ago
I will start writing up my Greek diary tomorrow when I feel a bit more rested after the travel. But in this podcast, I give you a taster of a few of my thoughts and of life here in Kambos where I shook a man’s hand for the first time in months yesterday. I also look at the latest Covid madness from bonkers Boris and at BP (BP.) and the question of its dividend. Of course it should be slashed and if it is, I’d expect the shares to bounce.
365 days ago
No this is not, as a former Indian girlfriend would have said, the Mrs announcing that she bats for Pakistan. This is about generating a photo for her Facebook page which shows that she is pregnant. Well there you go… 25 weeks now. Apparently some folks did not know! I digress. Rather than head up to the hovel, our first stop in Greece – after the snake repellant store in Kalamata – was at the Kourounis taverna run by lovely Eleni. There is bad news in that there is another new restaurant in town to tempt away trade already impacted by Coronavirus but that story can wait for another day.
366 days ago
No not a reference to the former vocation of my Mancunian pal Dan. Instead the start of our trip to the Greek Hovel. The Mrs had booked a 7.45 AM flight which meant a 4.30 AM departure from the Welsh Hovel. The Mrs had an early night, I decided to stay up accompanied by Bradley Walsh, Suzanne Jones, John Thaw and David Suchet and to try and do a bit of work. I reckoned I’d catch up on my sleep on the flight. No-one had told me I was sitting next to Joshua.
527 days ago
Having said goodbye to one harvester on the Monday, T1, we were down to three, we merry band of harvesters. And volunteer T2 ( to whom I still owe a litre of oil which i will send on a quiet day) was set to leave at midday. So the diminished group started work on the top terrace on the mountain side early on. We worked well, so well that mid morning I fet in need of a rest and sat on a rock. SNAKE!!!! I screamed noticing what was sitting besides me, as I leapt into the air.
550 days ago
The 12 EU flags I had bought to burn on Brexit day seem to have disappeared. I have my suspicions. The Mrs may have voted the right way but has still not dared to admit as much to her lefty pals who, being public sector workers, have nothing better to do than post comments on facebook about how 17.4 million of us are stupid, ill educated racists and how they are considering a permanent move to Tuscany. She does not wear her beliefs, on this one, on her sleeve. That is probably wise as it cannot be long before University lecturers who are found to have voted for Brexit are no platformed and accused of being members of the alt right. But I am not a man to give up easily as you can see below.
589 days ago
Day 6, of the harvest was to be our last day as a full team, volunteer T1 was heading off at midday Tuesday. So we tried to make the most of it, finishing off the trees on the top plateau and starting to head back along the terraces on the side of the hovel facing the Mountains rather than the abandoned convent.
595 days ago
Well that made my day. Lovely Eleni from the Kourounis taverna in Kambos called to wish my family a Merry Christmas and to say thank you for the books for her two kids which arrived today. I am not sure what her son will make of Tin Tin but if it helps his English a bit all is good. Eleni asks how I am? Cold say I.
608 days ago
In today’s bearcast I reflect on the start of Advent which I miss in Wales and on its start here in Kambos Greece. I look at pay at the big accountants and what it says about the sanctions against such folk when they screw up. Then it is onto Neil Woodford’s biggest cheerleader in the press until recently, Jeff Prestridge of the Mail on Sunday and his demands for action against the guilty parties in this scandal. Jeff misses out two of the guilty parties and misses the point on the rest.
608 days ago
The drama is all over now. The final harvester to depart, heroic K, is on his bus to Athens and I am sitting in the Kourounis taverna back in Kambos waiting for an omlette and preparing to catch up on a work backlog in my last full day here in Greece. But an hour and a half ago it all felt so very different.
613 days ago
An early start for myself and volunteer 1 K, who I really should hire out at commercial rates to my neighbours as he is a most excellent harvester, clambering up trees to saw off branches and using the twerker as if he was a veteran. After a good morning’s work, starting on the button at 7.30, we retired to Eleni’s Kourounis taverna for lunch. And then the skies darkened.
615 days ago
Popping into the hardware store in Kambos I could not help but notice this prominent advert for an electronic olive twerker. Of course I already have one and apparently the one advertised does not come with the worker attached. I think that in the unlikely event of this company trying to sell olive twerkers in the UK, it would not be allowed to run a promotion like the one below. I somehow doubt this young lady is as good an olive harvester as Shareprophets reader K who is a master twerker. But with no offence to K she has other qualities.
616 days ago
I still have not worked out what it is called these days but other than the name nothing changes.
729 days ago
Poor Olaf, for whom the swimming pool at the Greek Hovel was built. Tonight we start to add water on the advice of the head of construction. This morning Olaf flew back to Britain. And there is another disappointment of timing. For the whole week she was hear there were frequent conversations “do we want to see a snake?” The conclusion was that we did but from the safety of the car. No snake was seen…
731 days ago
Rob Terry, Jamie Nimmo, Jeff Prestridge, Neil Woodford, another pointless day of shame for the, increasingly limpdick, Financial Mail on Sunday. I discuss this plus why I do not want to come back to the UK after a chat with lovely Eleni and others here in Kambos in today’s bearcast
873 days ago
I say start. Bad weather has hampered the workmen with the rains causing walls on the track above Slater slope on the way to the hovel to collapse so making them impassable for lorries and the excavator. But now the work is, as you can see, underway.
969 days ago
I cannot say that 290 Euro is going to make that much of a difference to my net wealth but a few days after the dire news came in about my 2018 Greek Hovel olive harvest I was at a loose end and in Central Kambos.I was not quite ready for an ouzo and supper so wandered into the press to ask about my money.
969 days ago
You may remember, that at the height of the Greek Financial crisis I went to deposit 10 Euro in an account with the National Bank. As I entered the branch the queues at the withdrawal counters were endless. I went to the special assistance desk where there was just me and three completely senile peasants.
971 days ago
I have been sitting on this account of the final day of the 2018 olive harvest for some days as I am rather cross. I know the sums involved are trivial but none the less….
972 days ago
Yes I am a rabid Brexiteer. I want the country where, regrettably, I spend most of the year to be free to make its own laws, set its own taxes, control its own waters and chart its own destiny. I have faith that Britain can do that. Yet for sneering metropolitan elitists like the twit who tweeted me last night, as you can see below, that is incompatible with liking your fellow Europeans. Au contraire..
976 days ago
I rather regretted that third jug of local rose the night before, when my alarm started ringing at 5.20 AM. For Thrasher Bell had to get back to London and that meant getting him to the bust station in Kalamata before 6.30. Feeling a bit groggy I drove him into town and dropped him off. Stopping off at an ATM on the way back to load up with cash to pay my Albanian troops I arrived back in Kambos in time for an early morning coffee at the Kourounis taverna owned by lovely Eleni. The news was bad...
976 days ago
And so to day two of the olive harvest. We merry band of three all have our jobs. As you can see below, Shareprophets reader Bernard really is wearing shorts and a T shirt as, during the day it is hot enough to do so. He trained as an engineer and so, naturally, he is the twerker specialist.
978 days ago
10 AM Greek Time: We merry band of three are now sitting in the Kourounis taverna in Kambos having a late breakfast but the harvest, is as you can see below, underway. So far two trees have been harvested but we will pick up the pace shortly.
980 days ago
As I write the sun has just emerged. That is handy as the workers have also emerged and appear to have cut off the power. But for 24 hours the weather has been awful. Thunder kept me awake most of the night and continued well into the morning. And as for the rain.. put it this way, the drive down the mud track towards snake hill and onto Kambos will be a hoot. This is the view from outside of the Bat Room a couple of hours ago.
1002 days ago
I have just booked my next flight back to Greece. It was cheaper than a super off peak train ticket to London. By late on 26th November I should be in Kalamata and the next day I shall pick up a car and head up to the Greek Hovel where I sincerely hope all will be ready. For I have a guest, a volunteer to assist myself and George the Albanian with this year’s olive harvest. Step forward a Woodlarks walker, Mr Andrew Bell, chairman of AIM listed Red Rock Resources. I am not sure how skilled Mr Bell is at olive harvesting but we will soon find out.
1009 days ago
And so on the final afternoon at the Greek Hovel we invited over the elderly lefties from the village up in the mountains. They were rather scared of the track so I had to go fetch them from Kambos and drive them up.
1009 days ago
On our last day in Greece, The Mrs, Joshua and I showed the Greek Hovel to an elderly British couple, diehard lefties from a village up in the mountains above Kambos. The highlight of their visit was ornithological of which more later but what I really picked up on was a throw-away comment that the area around the hovel might be one of the “seven Cities.” My father and I discussed this in Shipston on Sunday and have been chatting by phone ever since.
1013 days ago
You may remember my joy this summer when my old friend the black and white cat, to whom I had given milk as a kitten, wandered by with her two kittens. Brace yourself this is not a happy tale.
1015 days ago
A quiet day in Kambos and at the Greek Hovel for both the Mrs and I have deadlines and important work to do. Right now Joshua is watching some moronic rubbish on his mother's smart phone up at the hovel while the Mrs and I tap away like dervishes. This morning the Mrs, whose deadline is more pressing than mine, got to work in lovely Eleni's Kourounis taverna, while Joshua and i went on a tough walk which he deemed to be "exciting" largely as I kept falling down.
1018 days ago
My best friend in Kambos, bar lovely Eleni, that is to say Nicho the communist said that he would, this weekend, give his verdict on my olives – will the harvest be good, bad or indifferent? He is by nature a pessimistic fellow and so, though I was filled with modest optimism, I was braced for a more downbeat assessment.
1021 days ago
In this podcast recorded in my car in a side street of Kambos I discuss my journey to the Greek Hovel and being recognised by a man at Gatwick. Fame! Not! Then I look at Versarien (VRS), Asiamet (ARS), First Derivatives (FDP), UK Oil & Gas (UKOG) and the most terrifying stat of all from the Chinese bubble - a warning for you all.
1021 days ago
Nicho the Communist is sitting with me in the Kourounis taverna in Kambos and says that his harvest this year will be so so. Pride comes before a fall but I think mine is, all things considered, looking good. Nicho says he will come and inspect this weekend which may be a reality check.
1052 days ago
George the Architect has been in touch and has sent more photos of the progress being made in turning the Greek Hovel into an eco palace. Boy I wish I was there rather than in Bristol. I bet Joshua does too. All we need is for Priti Patel to sweep to power, shut down the "university" where the Mrs teaches and another 50 odd joke left wing madrassas for future Tesco shelf stackers, and we could all move right away. Pro tem I can just dream.
1059 days ago
Lovely Eleni was the first person the Mrs and I met in Kambos, the village closest, bit not close, to the Greek Hovel. We had landed at Athens at 4 AM and were driving to the Mani before we had even seen the Greek Hovel or thought of the idea. We stopped off at this taverna in a village whose name we did not know and asked if there was anything they could create for breakfast.
1063 days ago
George Cawkwell is the greatest living scholar on the subject of ancient Greece. His son, my friend, the philistine Simon, aka Evil Knievil. refuses to come to the Hellenic Republic on the grounds that the wine is all awful. He is wrong and I intend to prove it to him and lure him out here to open up his mind. My father attended George's lectures I must educate Simon.
1063 days ago
So on Sunday as the Mrs sought a few hours to catch up on her important work, Joshua and I set off exploring with my young son on my back. Part two, the climb to Zarnata castle, I have already recorded HERE. part one was to head off around the back streets of Kambos and the pictures pain a mixed picture as you can see below.
1064 days ago
The easy way to go to Zarnata castle which overlooks Kambos is to head to the next village, Stavropiglio, drive up past the church and clamber the last 400 yards up a very rough track, almost a non track. I did that the other day with the Mrs, daughter Olaf and Joshua on my back as you can see here - the views from the top are amazing, you can almost see the Greek Hovel. But there is a tougher way.
1064 days ago
The back road to Kambos starts with a sharp right turn ( if you are heading towards the hovel) at the bottom of monastery hill and is truly terrible. It is narrow and in places the potholes are as large as the road. I have only ever driven up it on a motorbike, including on the occasion when my bike killed a snake. But now and again I drive down it in a car. It starts just past the big modern church at the top of Kambos village and after passing a couple of houses and a small church heads down steeply to the bottom of the valley., snake
1068 days ago
The Mrs and I got married five years ago today. I salute her patience, tolerance and good humour in lasting half a decade. I am a lucky man. And, in fact, very lucky for we are today back up at the Greek Hovel and she took me and Joshua for an anniversary lunch at Miranda's in Kambos as you can see below.
1070 days ago
Right now I am in a luxury hotel organised by the Mrs for daughter Olaf's last night in Greece and for me to recover in after a ten hour road trip to drop Miss W off at Athens airport."Baywatch" has a great view, a lovely pool, ouzo is on tap, the internet works allowing Joshua to sit like a moron watching Thomas the Tank Engine without interruption and the Mrs is lolling happily. And there is no wildlife diversity to report. Not so back at the Greek Hovel. Let us start with the scorpion.
1073 days ago
The ruined Frankish castle of Zarnata sits on top of the hill overlooking Kambos and on its nearer side the village of Stavropiglio. I often sit staring up at it, in awe at the largely still standing outer wall which threads its way around the hill, when enjoying an ouzo in Miranda's or from the tables outside the Kourounis taverna run by lovely Eleni. In an attempt to inject a bit of culture to the holiday of Godless daughter Olaf, I led the family on a trek up that hill yesterday, with young Joshua on my back.
1074 days ago
This church is in the middle of nowhere on the long climb up from the sea at Kitries towards Stavropigio, the next village to my home one of Kambos. We drove up that road today after a day by the shore. I remember driving past this church with my father and late step mother on her last holiday before she passed away. She was clearly very ill at that point. We stopped the car and myself and Helen went inside. There was barely enough room for the two of us and the small lizard we found there.
1077 days ago
At 4 AM I picked up daughter Olaf at Athens airport and by 5.30 AM we were peering down from a bridge over the Corinth canal, at the isthmus. It was light enough to see that the drop was a mile and while Olaf peered, I, suffering from vertigo, gripped the back rail and pretended to peer.
1082 days ago
Just in case you think that I am suffering in 33 degree heat every day...
1084 days ago
If you head to a seaside settlement in the Mani right now whether it be Islington-sur-Mer (kardamili) or the Costa-del-Stoupa they will be packed with people. Head there in the winter and they are semi-deserted. Up here in the lower reaches of the Taygetos mountains, in unfashionable old Kambos, the population barely changes throughout the year. The faces I see when harvesting olives in November are, essentially, those I see now in the burning heat of August.
1085 days ago
My memories of sleeping at the Greek Hovel are of bedding down in the room above the Bat Room, terrified about what form of wildlife diversity would creep in, twitching at every noise outside and sweating in insufferable heat. as such I approached my first night in the bat Room with some trepidation leaving the light on before I headed into Kambos to guide me back in in case my torch failed.
1086 days ago
Like a true imbecile I left the cable i use to connect my camera to my PC back in England so I head back from Kambos into Kalamata in a few minutes to buy a replacement. For I have spent a wonderful hour up at the hovel with George the Architect and it looks magnificent. That is not to say that it actually has any doors and windows bar those in the Bat Room where I shall sleep tonight but...
1110 days ago
It was my penultimate day in Greece and my last time at the Greek Hovel until I return next month. Driving down my side of the mountain towards the valley floor, I stopped briefly on snake hill to take in the view.
1112 days ago
As is my wont, when in Kambos, I walked into the restaurant formerly known as Miranda’s and headed for the small cooking area at the back. The new supremo, the new Miranda, explained what was on offer and after due consideration I went for small pieces of pork in a wine sauce with a side helping of zucchinis and okra. That will end up costing me six euro.
1114 days ago
In Asterix the Gaul there are bouts of frenzied activity, hostilities and then, after the Romans are sent packing, the little Gallic village gets back to normal with everyone eating, drinking and doing nothing much in the way of work. I am reminded of this as I stare out of the restaurant formerly known as Miranda's where I will soon pay six Euro for a superb home cooked lunch. In case you wonder: park in a wine sauce with Okra.
1115 days ago
Today was the day that my books, a few pieces of furniture and wall hangings as well as four Belfast sinks were meant to arrive at the Greek Hovel after a van journey from Bristol, via Bulgaria. Much to my surprise the Bulgarian chap in London called yesterday and said to expect delivery this afternoon.
1117 days ago
My 32 mile walk for Woodlarks with my fellow rogue blogger, Brokerman Dan, is now just two weeks away and I am conscious that most of my training has been on the flat. What better way to prepare for the Surrey hills than to walk up a Greek mountain in the burning summer heat? And so at 8.30 AM off I set....
1122 days ago
The Mrs is delighted. Boxes and boxes of my books, my artwork, my Morse and Sweeney DVDs, and furniture is off. Lifting four Belfast sinks was a two man job and the Bulgarian driver sweated heavily. But the van is loaded and starts its journey today. I shall meet it in Kambos a week today, by when the Greek Hovel might have at least part of a roof under which to store the cargo from England.
1143 days ago
I am still recovering from yesterday's 14 mile training walk for the Woodlarks 32 mile charity walk. Yesterday's trip did not go quite to plan and ended up being a tad longer than expected. I explain all HERE. If you enjoy my suffering I shall do a 20 mile walk next weekend so how about you spare a tenner and sponsor me HERE. In the podcast I ask very hard questions about the sacking of the CEO and FD at Cabot Energy (CAB), formerly Northern Petroleum. I think I know why the P45s and black bags were handed out but Cabot must come clean NOW. Same Nomad, different dog, more questions - MySquar (FRAUD). Then I look at Audioboom (BOOM) and Wishbone Gold (WSBN) where I am a long suffering shareholder. And I smile to myself as I remember watching Germany vs Argentina four years ago in Kambos HERE
1158 days ago
I have just enjoyed a cracking lunch of beef in tomato sauce and peas at Miranda's in Kambos. Actually it is not called Miranda's any more as it has a new owner but I stick with the old name. The prices have not changed. That will be 5 Euro.
1159 days ago
I am under instructions from David Bick not to complain about the weather here in Kambos. And I should say that it is 30 degrees right now and I am dripping with sweat having pruned another thirty olive trees up at the Greek Hovel. I am on my second litre of water as I enjoy a late lunch at Miranda's in Kambos and recover from my labours. Yesterday I was in the same place at the same time having completed my manual labour for the day and the heavens opened. This was the view....
1160 days ago
I write from the Kouronis taverna in Kambos where, in the middle of a violent thunderstorm, worthy of Byron at Zitsa, it is sheeting it down. I recorded 90 minutes ago in what seemed like a sauna. All is explained in the podcast which covers Air Partner (AIR), Premaitha (NIPT), a fraud on the Mrs, Akers Biosciences (AKR) and Transense Technologies (TRT). Myself and Brokerman Dan have now raised more than £5,000, including gift aid, for our charity walk on July 28. But 96% of Bearcast listeners are yet to chip in, I am sure you can all spare a tenner so please donate NOW HERE. To those who have donated already, thank you.
1166 days ago
It may have escaped your attention in the photo below but the external and internal walls are almost complete. Assuming the weather holds - and that is a safe enough bet - snake killer Gregori and his team will have the job done by the end of next week. And thus George the Architect tells me that it is time to install a roof. Cripes, we are ahead of schedule.
1167 days ago
Damn. It was a near miss but I failed to kill it. The serpent was not in the olive groves where I trod carefully today as, armed with my new axe pruned 20 trees. I start with the highest yielders, the ones nearest the house which have always enjoyed my tender care. Those in the long grass on the further reaches of our land I save to the end as I know what will be lurking in that grass.
1168 days ago
With the one room at the Greek Hovel that was used to store goods out of action for re-flooring my possessions - such as they are - are scattered around the plot. After a bit of a search my saw was located. It had been used to stir concrete and so, rather sheepishly, on of the builders did his best to clean it. It is usable. My small axe (about a foot long) which one uses for taking away sprouts of new growth at the base of an olive tree could not be found. I have just bought a new one from Vangelis in Kambos.
1168 days ago
When I am in England I do not think much about snakes. Okay, three times a week I pick Joshua up from his nursery and he says "snakes" so, on the way home, we pop into Pets At Home and go to see the snakes. They are tiny little creatures, corn snakes, which nearly always hide in their houses and only rarely peek out. When they do, Joshua gets very excited. Most of the time we see no snakes so Joshua just says "bye bye snakes" and we head on past the fish where Joshua says "fish," past the hamsters and gerbils where he says "mice", and to the rabbits where he says "By Bye Babbits" and we head home. And I think nothing of it.
1233 days ago
George the Architect has been in touch with an update on progress at the Greek Hovel and, as you can below, see there really has been progress. The rat room extension walls are underway and the new wing of the house which will double the floor space is now also starting to take shape. George says the door to the bat room is on its way and it will be habitable within two weeks. The rest of the hovel is still on track to be finished by September, after just 51 months!
1248 days ago
It was my penultimate day in Kambos, the nearest village to the Greek Hovel. I had parked in the small side street that leads off the main road up and past the newest and biggest of the, at least, five churches in out settlement with a population of 537 (when I am there). I enjoyed a lunch at Miranda's - pork in a wine sauce, oven cooked potatoes and an ouzo for seven Euro. I left eight, headed back to my car and drove up to the turning square opposite the Church.
1259 days ago
You know that I am a feminist. Child care, nappy changing, shopping, washing, cooking, I dxo more than my fair share. But there are some things that only women can do. Breast feeding for example. And there are some things we men do: snake killing, ouzo drinking and.. lighting fires. My repeated failure to burn off the olive branches and frigana I cut down last year at the Greek Hovel has thus been somewhat emasculating. And it got far worse yesterday before it got better.
1259 days ago
There are at least five churches in the village of Kambos, the closest settlement to the Greek Hovel and a place with a population of 537. There might be more small churches hidden away somewhere that I have yet to find or have found but forgotten about. But the largest of the lot is the most modern and without a shadow of doubt the least pleasing to the eye.
1261 days ago
I turned up as agreed with George the Architect at 11 AM to discuss progress at the Greek Hovel. Twenty four hours of solid rain with more coming down today has left the site a bit of a mudbath and I was not greatly surprised that there were no workers present. But I was rather expecting George. He was not answering his phone so I kicked my heels and tried to start the process of burning off the branches cut down from last year's olive harvest.
1262 days ago
I am still a bit confused as to why it was Carnival day all on Sunday but all over Greece folks were celebrating. I watched on TV as in Naxos they paraded through the streets dressed, I think, as ghouls. Somewhere else, a name containing absolutely all those Greek letters I can't pronounce and just give up on - they were dressed as sheep or was it goats, but they had bells on. With the carnival over Lent has now begun which means that the devout will eat no meat although it will still be served everwhere for Godless souls such as me and the Albanians.
1263 days ago
This being a family website, and since I am such a fecking feminist, I decline to bring you photos of the ladies in bikinis. but as I drove along the Kalamata seafront today they were there, on the beach and heading in to the water for a swim. Not many brave the sea at this time of year and, I grant you, those that do may be out on day release, but it is just about do-able. Down by the shore it is again in the high teens and I wander around in a T-shirt.
1263 days ago
Driving down snake hill as I headed back from the Greek Hovel towards the village of Kambos all was quiet. I could hear nothing at all. Bliss! Can God please have words with the Mrs about retiring and us living here all year round.
1337 days ago
Of course poor Tara, the lifelong companion of my three legged cat Oakley is now at peace underneath the rhubarb plant. But this friendly soul sitting near Miranda's in Kambos is her doppleganger.
1339 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.
1340 days ago
I have not reported back on the Greek Hovel olive harvest as after each day's labours I have been just too dog tired to do anything. What can I say other than on many of the trees it was hunt the olives so bad had been the storm and it was very hard, boring work. But by Saturday noon I had three sacks filled to a greater or lesser extent with tens of thousands of tiny olives all harvested by myself. Enough is enough thought I, surely this is 80 kg and the 15 litres of oil I'd like to take back to the Mrs.
1341 days ago
This may all be Greek to you but my neighbours in the village closest to the Greek Hovel will understand.
1346 days ago
If I was Byron, seperated from Hobhouse at Zitsa, i would be dashing off some verse after last night. But I'm not. i sit alone in my Kalamta hotel looking out at roads that look like the infamous Japanese Grand Prix where Lauda retired gifting James Hunt the world championship. It all started last night with loud bangs which I worried might be a bomb or a ship crashing into the harbour next to the hotel.
1348 days ago
My best friend in Kambos said it in the nicest possible way and I should admit that i am beginning to doubt my own sanity. After day three of my harvest i now have just over half a 50kg sack of olives. As i wandered into the Kourounis taverna in Kambos, Nicho had asked how I was and i replied that i was a bit tired after harvesting. He said "you are working with the Albanians?"
1348 days ago
I carry some photos of Joshua with me and, having met him in the summer, folks here in Kambos always ask after him. I show the photos from the christening and they agree that he is incredibly handsome and has a lovely smile. Natch he takes after his mother. Anyhow, I miss him terribly and, to console me, the Mrs has sent over three photos. As you can see in the third he is already very keen on books although happy, for now , to read like an Australian, that is to say upside down.
1350 days ago
Having been told by George the Albanian that it was uneconomic to do a commercial harvest this year after the storms he loaned me four sacks as I said I wanted to go it alone. I had meant to start "avrio" but something made me haed up to the hovel. I think it was frustration with certain aspects of work back in the UK. It has been one of those days when I really just wanted to pack it all in and spend my life writing about life here in Kambos.
1351 days ago
As I wandered into the little square in Kambos which has Miranda's at the top, looking up at Zarnata castle, and the Kourounis taverna on one side, something looked very wrong.
1352 days ago
It is, perhaps, my favourite "office." Sitting in the Kourounis taverna in Kambos I tap away happily. Lovely Eleni keeps the coffee coming and every now and again I look up to watch the world go by, oh so slowly, on the main street in Kambos,, the village closest to the Greek Hovel.
1352 days ago
I wandered up to the Greek Hovel this morning and saw, at once, that something was not quite right. Yes there were olives on the trees as you can see below but not vast numbers.
1377 days ago
It seems that Easyjet has started direct flights from Bristol to Athens and I am booked in. It is now just over three weeks to D-Day and a trip to the mighty Hellenic Republic. I can't wait.
1429 days ago
With a day to kill before flying back from Greece to what the Mrs calls home but I call Britain, there was time for one last lunch in my "home village" of Kambos. First a brief stop off at Joshua's inheritance, the Greek hovel, where a bulldozer had arrived and great progress has been made. I have photos of that, of my olives and also of my prickley pears but they can wait. For the main event, in a village whose great attraction is that nothing ever happens, was lunch in the main square.
1431 days ago
I am no particular admirer of my Oxford contemporary, the pompous MP for somewhere in Somerset, Jacob Rees Mogg. But my fellow residents of the Hellenic Republic should at once establish a committee to erect statues of the pin stripe suited buffoon in every town square in our great land. The heroes of 1821 should stand shoulder to shoulder with the man who has arrived at a solution to our economic misery and enslavement by the fucking Germans, sorry I meant the EU, and banksters. Jacob Rees Mogg is the new Byron.
1432 days ago
Enjoy this scene while you can. I have described elsewhere how the ghastly new creperie has parked rows of plastic chairs and tables in front of the handful of wooden chairs and tables under a wooden shade at the Kambos institution that is Miranda's. This is shown in the photo below. The Chairs on the left of the photo are those of the Kourounis taverna run by lovely Eleni's. The cameraman (me) is standing on the edge of the square by the main road. The creperie chairs are, as you can seem all empty. A few more weeks of that and it will be toast.
1433 days ago
A meeting with George the Architect at the Greek Hovel went well. Joshua inspected his inheritance. The Mrs fretted about where to put the washing machine. For a house that is half built with no doors windows, roof and, in the case of two and a half rooms, walls, I reckon she may be getting ahead of herself.
1437 days ago
One day the Mrs will learn that me and the seaside really don't mix. She has booked us into a pleasant hotel, the Baywatch, which to her annoyance, is nowhere near the sea. It does, however, have a wonderful view of the bay of Kalamata, a pool which Joshua, the Mrs and I like and is relatively quiet. The guests are nearly all young couples so I am the oldest there and find the music at the bar mildly irritating. That is to say it is all post 1995 and thus, by definition, utterly crap. But the internet works so I can relax by tapping away while Joshua crawls around the floor, licks windows, pulls books apart and does all the other things that make him happy. The Mrs is reading a book on the philosophy of marriage and occasionally draws my attention to a passage which highlights one of my rare failings as a husband.
1439 days ago
I am afraid that I have lost a lead and so cannot upload photos just yet so you will have to bear with me as I describe the scene in the main square of Kambos, my home village here in Greece. I have returned after three months to discover that the creperie run by a French Greek woman has opened. Quelle horreur!
1440 days ago
It is the 50th birthday party of the sister of the Mrs today. The sister in law is married to a bubble and we are staying in their house in his family village about 90 minutes the other side of Kalamata from the Mani. The party is on a boat so Joshua is not invited and I am showing solidarity with my 11 month old son and we are going on a road trip together.
1446 days ago
Work continues on remodelling the existing structures at the Greek Hovel as we await final planning permission for adding new structures, including a roof. And so I bring you the new main doorway which is now almost complete as the photos below show.
1454 days ago
There is a snag. We have all the demolition permits but the building permit iss er. delayed. Yes that is the one we were promised by June 30. Now it is August so after eleven months of toil and endeavour the Greek State bureaucracy grinds to a halt. So the builders can do nothing until September. I head to Greece shortly and will be popping into the Kalamata planning department for words... However there is good news as you can see below.
1485 days ago
In England life is so clinical and clean and removed from nature. Our food is covered in plastic. Seeing your cat wander through the cat flap counts as a wildlife encounter. How different life is for me in Kambos, Greece.
1488 days ago
For a couple of weeks, the Mrs and I were wondering why the widely advertised event in this part of Bristol was called SPRINGfest. After all it is July. Perhaps it is that unfashionable old Brislington is just a bit behind the times? It turns out that this is the festival of the For a couple of weeks, the Mrs and I were wondering why the widely advertised event in this part of Bristol was called SPRINGfest. After all it is July. Perhaps it is that unfashionable old Brislington is just a bit behind the times? It turns out that this is the festival of the Sandy Park Road Improvement Neighbourhood Group. It is a bit out a mouthful but the main thoroughfare in this part of the world sure does need improving.. It is a bit out a mouthful but the main thoroughfare in this part of the world sure does need improving.
1504 days ago
I was driving on the road that heads up into the mountains heading from Kalamata to Kambos. Of course it does not end in Kambos, the nearest village the Greek Hovel. Kambos is just a settlement, of no particular historical significance, beauty or importance, sitting on the road as one heads to Kardamili, the ghastly tourist fleshpot of Stoupa or the regional capital Areopolis. But Kambos is as far as I usually go.
1505 days ago
The shock is for any google pervs out there who have alighted on this page and though the photos are wonderful will be rather disappointed by their nature, The Miranda's I refer to is, of course, the restaurant next to the Kourounis taverna on the square where the road through Kambos makes a sharp right angle as it heads off to Kardamili.
1506 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!
1509 days ago
I am meant to test my blood sugars twice daily and be in a range of 5-7 whatever that means.Almost two months ago I was 15.3 but these days an almost zero carb, almost zero alcohol, low stress and modest daily exercise lifestyle plus five pills a day has seen me happily in "normal" territory for someone tackling type 2 diabetes, for some days. But I just tested myself and it was 9.6. WTF!
1513 days ago
You will remember that back in early April my blood sugars measured 15.3 and I was told that my type 2 diabetes was raging out of control. It has been a long slog since then as I have aimed to get into a target range of 5 to 7. Whatever that means.
1513 days ago
I wonder how long the road up from the bottom of the valley to the Greek Hovel has remained unchanged? The house is 100 years old so there will have been a mud track up to it for a century. In the 1970s, I think, the stretch known as snake hill, was concreted over. The biggest pot hole in that part is so large that you need to partially go off road to avoid your car wheel getting jammed inside. Smaller pot holes litter the road but these days I know how to navigate around them. But from the top of snake hill as one winds through the olive groves it is almost entirely just baked mud.
1523 days ago
As you may remember when I was joined in Greece my by wife and her family my type 2 diabetes control went badly off the rails. In the ten days i spent in England there were days when I almost gave up. I was not dreadful, I ate no chocolate and I did take some exercise but not a lot. But I had a few drinks and some days I skipped my medication. I was angry with myself and depressed. But my flight back to Greece on Tuesday marked a new beginning. So we start the clock again.
1526 days ago
I headed pretty much straight from Kalamata airport up to Kambos for a Greek salad at the Korounis taverna. As i wandered in a couple of old men whose names I do not know raised their hands and said "Yas." Everyone in the village knows about the snake-phobic Englishman who lives surrounded by snakes up in the hills at Toumbia. After that it was up to the snakefields and the Greek Hovel where Gregori and his gang of Greek Albanians have really started to transform the place as you can see below.
1529 days ago
The plants the Mrs and I have planted in our back garden have almost all suffered death by cat defecation. That is to say my fat, though no longer morbidly obese, three legged cat Oakley hads shat them into oblivion. And so during my brief UK visit I have led a drive to re-plant. To complete that task the Mrs, Joshua and I headed to a garden centre here in Bristol today. Before stopping to pick up a few herbs (me0 and some flowers (the Mrs) we sat enjoying an expensive coffee and watched the masses head by.
1536 days ago
If you have not spent time in Greece you may not be familiar with the restaurant cats. Every place, bar the smartest establishments in Athens and Salonika has them. In the winter, at the tourist resorts, although not at places such as Miranda's in Kambos, the poor creatures starve as custom disappears.
1537 days ago
Okay you come to Greece to star at the sea. There is no sea up in Kambos, the village closest to the Greek Hovel where I live. As you sit in Miranda's you stare up at the castle, you see cars, lorries or flocks of sheep wind their way along the road, and you see like in Kambos progress at its slow place.
1541 days ago
I am now, once again, doing regular resting of my blood sugar levels. And after a break of a few days I am again taking my medication. Being by myself since Sunday lunchtime has assisted in a no alcohol diet and a meal schedule which is regular and healthy. I wonder could I spin out a diet based on two Greek Salads a day plus raw oats into a 30,000 word diet best-seller? Probably not.
1542 days ago
There are two hardware stores in the village of Kambos (pop 537 including me) providing everything that we peasant farmers need: poisons, fertilisers, tools, plants. You name it we can buy it here. There is one store on the Square where Miranda's and lovely Eleni's Kourounis taverna provide two of the other borders. It has suffered a grave misfortune.
1543 days ago
I could not sleep for reasons that I shall discuss later so was up at the crack of dawn leaving the Mrs and Joshua snoring loudly in our hotel room. We are in Koroni, a pretty little sea port around the coast from Kalamata, going away from the Mani. The stated reason is to visit the parents of the husband of the sister of the Mrs, Stavros & Stavroula. It is the latter who taught me everything I know about the art of goat milking.
1545 days ago
An hours olive pruning each day is good for the olives and good for me. For starters it is some exercise to keep the type 2 diabetes at bay. Reach up, saw, reach down, axe, reach up axe, look around to check for snakes, hear a noise, panic, discover its not a snake, stop panicking, walk over the rocks and bushes to the next tree, check there are no snakes. Repeat. Repeat again. If I could do this every day the pounds would roll off.
1545 days ago
As we walked out of the restuarant last night here in Kardamili, my eight month old son Joshua made eye contact with two ladies who, I guess, were about a decade younger than I am. He started smiling, they started smiling and soon conversation broke out. Joshua is a great ice-breaker whether you want him to be or not.
1547 days ago
Before any deranged share rampers start recycling fake stories of non crimes I did not commit seven years ago start to get too excited, my problems were once again with the Old Bill here in Greece. As regular readers know, I am all too familiar with the inside of Kardamili nick.
1548 days ago
There was I sitting in the Kourounis Taverna in Kambos having taken the Mrs and Joshua up to see his inheritance, that is to say the Greek Hovel. The Mrs and I were enjoying a Greek salad prepared by Nicho the Magician, that is to say Eleni's other half and Joshua was enjoying a few bits of bread and smiling at all passers by. A lady came up and introduced herself.
1549 days ago
As I tap out a few words on my laptop next to the bright blue sea it is about 27 degrees. It is T-shirt weather and the Mrs is forcing myself and Joshua to go for a swim in an unheated pool a bit later. It is hot here in Kardamili. But as you can see in the two photos below, in the higher points of the taygetos mountains behind us, the last remnants of the winter snow still cling on. These are not the highest points of the range but Al Gore would be mortified to see global warming still on the ground in the sourthnmost part of Europe in May. The computer models, global warming nutjobs like George Monbiot and the entire population of Canada, plus 99% of peer group approved scientists all predicted desertification not this.
1549 days ago
The Mrs, myself, Joshua and my parents in law are staying about 15 miles South of the Greek Hovel in a nice hotel by the sea. As I mention here, I have very mixed feelings about Kardamili and would really rather be back in Kambos. But this break is not about me. Today, we escaped the in-laws and took Joshua to see his inheritance, that is to say the Greek Hovel. The Mrs has not visited for almost a year and was keen to see how the building was going. I was just delighted to be out of Kardamili and able to do some manual labour.
1551 days ago
I am back in Kambos and at the Greek Hovel. It is 29 degrees, the world is at peace and I wonder why anyone would choose to be anywhere else on God's planet. Before any more spiritual reflections it was time to inspect the handiwork of Nicho the Communist who has had two sessions poisoning the frigana and anything else which might get in the way of olive oil production.
1554 days ago
There was i just dozing off gently as the "Cathedrals Express," which I had caught at Moreton in the Marsh, pulled slowly past Didcot. Then my phone rang. It was a Greek number but not one that I recognised. It was Nicho the Communist on a land line.
1556 days ago
I arrived at the Greek Hovel at 9 AM sharp for the delayed day two of the frigana poisoning. I parked outside the gates. I could not be bothered to open them, close them and almost certainly have to open and close them again when my comrade in Labour, Nicho the Communist turned up. For I had a feeling that once again he would not. Yesterday it was God's fault...
1557 days ago
I arrived at the Greek Hovel bang on time at 9 AM for day two of the frigana poisoning. Not to my great surprise, Nicho the Communist and The Albanian were nowhere to be seen. I sat there watching lizards for three quarters of an hour.
I am not sure whether the large number of lizards around the hovel is a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, I am pretty sure that my old saying "where there are lizards there are snakes" is valid. The conditions are perfect for all sorts of wildlife diversity. But on the other hand, lizards are not daft.
1558 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?
1558 days ago
A reader asks how do I ensure that, when the land around the Greek Hovel has been poisoned, the various herds of goats and flocks of sheep that wander the foothills of the Taygetos do not roll on by for a fatal meal. The land will be pretty bad for their health for at least a week. Its a fair question with a three part answer.
1558 days ago
I had agreed to meet Nicho the Communist at 9 AM sharp to poison the frigana at the Greek Hovel. Lovely Eleni had promised to keep him sober on the Friday and although I tarried a bit over my breakfast coffee I arrived at the track leading to the Greek Hovel by 9 AM and was at the house by seven minutes past. No Nicho. Perhaps he was celebrating International Labour Day early with some breakfast tsipero? I contented myself with some gentle olive tree pruning.
1559 days ago
My strips for my English meter should have arrived by Fedex yesterday. They have not. And so i am still on the Greek meter where my readings are all over the shop. Overall the trend seems down and yesterday post run I scored a reading of 106 which I gather is 5.9 in proper money. Okay vigorous exercise really spoofs the meter but three weeks ago I could have run a marathon and still not got anywhere near that level. Okay that is a lie.
1562 days ago
Fourth time lucky. At the agreed time, Nicho the Communist wandered into the Kourounis taverna in Kambos for our trip to inspect the olives at the Greek Hovel. I had left him the previous day five hours into his binge with George, George and anyone else he could find as he celebrated St George's Day. He confessed that he had continued celebrating until late at night on a taverna crawl round Kambos - there are four places to drink in our village of 536 souls.He had that look, that I remember from my own days of heavy drinking, that says "I am never going to touch alcohol again." But of course you always do. Having not touched the demon drink for almost ten days I am feeling a little smug. Excuse my smugness.
1564 days ago
On the first day that Nicho the Communist and I were due to inspect the wild olives at the Greek Hovel to see about turning them into yielding trees he forgot our appointment. Yesterday it was raining so we postponed until 3 PM today. After a morning scribbling away and a good session at the hotel gym, I arrived on time to find my friend, rather worse for wear, at Miranda's the establishment next to the Kourounis taverna of lovely Eleni.
1565 days ago
Back in early December when I arrived at the Greek Hovel for the olive harvest, the Taygettos mountains behind me were already covered with thick snow which you might think a bit odd. After all we are at the Southernmost edge of Europe and Al Gore and the global warming loons were telling us twenty years ago that this area would be almost a desert by now. Well guess what?
1569 days ago
This day goes down in history. I am terrified of snakes. Everyone in the village of Kambos knows it and laughs at the idea of the weird Englishman from Toumbia living in a hovel in the snake fields at the top of snake hill. But I need to do manual labour and so this afternoon headed to the hovel. Retrieving my pick axe from the rat room, or spare bat room as it is now known, I went onto the illegally constructed level above it, the snake veranda.
1569 days ago
As one heads down the Mani towards Kardamili, the village one on from Kambos is Stavropigio. It has just a few more Brits than Kambos as it is, objectively, a bit prettier. I am thus happy to stay in plain old Kambos. As one leaves our neighbouring village a small turning off the main road to the right is the old road to Kardamili. There is now no practical reason at all to use this road and more or less no-one does.
1570 days ago
In fact I have only been away for about ten weeks since the February burning & olive fertilising season so it is not exactly long time no see. But even had it been ten years not ten weeks I doubt that much would have changed in Kambos, the village nearest to the Greek hovel.
1571 days ago
When my Uncle Chris went on his first of his many honeymoons it was to the Mani where the Greek Hovel stands. Back in the early swinging sixties it took him more than a day to get here from Athens. That has all changed. There is a super fast Motorway linking the capital to this part of the world. But for as long as I can remember it has stopped just short of Kalamata adding another 20% to your travel time as you are forced to wind your way through suburbs and back streets. Yesterday I discovered that this has all changed.
1621 days ago
George the Albanian said to be there at 8 AM and I, more or less, was. No one in Greece is ever on time and so I operate on the "when in Rome" principle. Having showed that I was a hopeless pryomaniac a few days earlier I was preparing for humiliation. I got it.
1628 days ago
Charlatan Darren Winters coughing up nearly all the cash he owed us after his latest court thrashing was a good reason to celebrate. And thus, I headed to my favourite restaurant here in Kalamata and started with an ouzo. Sadly the fresh octopus was not available. Hmmmmmmm. how to tease my friend the bear raider Evil Knievil with pictures of what treats lay in store? Could I top the honey soaked puddings at the Kourounis Taverna in Kambos (prop. lovely Eleni) or the fresh octopus at this place?
1628 days ago
I am reluctant to draw a map of the route to the Greek Hovel pointing out all the landmarks that I refer to in my writings. Maybe you want to see exactly how Monastery Hill links to snake hill? Well tough, I enjoy the safety that comes with folks finding it bloody hard to find me.
1630 days ago
I do not normally pay much attention to what folks on neighbouring tables say when watching the world go by in the Kourounis taverna in Kambos, the village closest to the Greek Hovel where I hope to spend most of the rest of my life. I just tap away at my keyboard or think about olives. But today I exploded as a fat and smug German explained to a couple of timorous Brits why hard Brexit would screw England and thus why we should "obey orders" and fall into line with what Germany, sorry the EU, wanted. I exploded.
1630 days ago
As you know, one of the joys of being in Greece is in sending back photos of the amazing food on offer to my friend Evil Knievil (pictured) and then calling the Great Bear to describe in detail what I have just enjoyed. The photos of puddings dripping in honey from the Kourounis taverna in Kambos, owned by lovely Eleni, really got him going. But today's lunch will have him slobbering all over his keyboard.
1631 days ago
Having visited murder gorge yesterday I showed my photos of the old bridge to the folks in the Kourounis taverna in Kambos and with lovely Eleni translating I asked just how old the stone structure below actually is?
1632 days ago
I published a piece earlier about how I had spotted a very old bridge underneath the old bridge where the bodies from the Kambos double murder of 2014 were dumped. Feeling a bit nervous I trekked down to the very old bridge today clutching a camera and a phone in case of emergency. God knows if it would have worked at the bottom of the gorge.
1632 days ago
I hope the picture below conveys the sheer beauty of the taygetos mountains which tower above the Greek Hovel. I caught this shot of the snow capped peaks as I headed up for a spot of olive tree pruning earlier this afternoon.
1632 days ago
You may remember that, some three years ago, one of my fellow residents of the Greek village of Kambos hooked up with a pal in Kalamata to murder two drug dealing body builders. I have viewed it as rather indelicate to enquire as to what has happened since but it was a clear cut case. The bodies were dumped from an old bridge that crosses the deep gorge on the road back towards Kalamata.
1633 days ago
Yes I did. It was on the way back from the mountain village of Kambos to Kalamata. Some podcasters might have salivated and regarded this as an opportunity. But I am not Justin the Clown, still smarting from rugby defeat for his beloved Wales at the weekend. But I thought it was my duty to help anyway. I digress from the main features of this podcast: Kefi (KEFI), Mila Resources (MILA) and the China fraud Jiasen (JSI). I also look at a share price of a stock where I am an insider - oh no not insider dealing on the AIM casino I hear you say. And then I update on the Dirty Dozen AIM Resource portfolio which I shall launch later today.
1633 days ago
Whenever I head to Greece I take delight in calling the larger than life bear raider Evil Knievil to tell him what I am eating and how good it is. You can hear the old bear salivating down the line and he says he is jealous. But then he adds that although his father, George Cawkwell, is the greatest living scholar on the subject of Ancient Greece, Cawky jnr will not come here because the wine is just not up to scratch. Arguing with him on this matter is pointless.
1633 days ago
As I drove up the mountain road to Kambos and the Greek Hovel I could see smoke rising all around me. It is the season when you burn the branches you chopped down in the olive harvest, start pruning your trees and give them a bit of fertilizer. I bought a lighter in Kalamata and, having been trained by George the Albanian on how to start a fire with a few bits of dried grass I was determined to match my neighbours.
1633 days ago
Yesterday I served up a picture of the snow capped mountains of the Northern Peloponnese to show that it is not just in the far North of Greece that global warming falls each year. I am now in the Southern Peloponnese, in fact the Mani, where the Greek Hovel is located, is the most southerly part of mainland Greece. And guess what?
1646 days ago
The Mrs asked me to put the bins out today. According to the complex glossy grid posted to us by cash strapped Bristol City Council, it is a 4 bin day. I am still not sure what the difference is between the green box and the black box but they together with the big black bin and the brown food bin must all go outside by 7 AM and if you are caught putting the wrong stuff in the wrong box you are publicly stoned to death in a multi cultural ceremony to demonstrate Bristol's commitment to diversity as well as saving the planet.
1680 days ago
This may all be Greek to you but this is the Christmas message from myself and my father and my son Joshua to the folks in Kambos in the Mani near which our little house is located. Happy Christmas to everyone in Kambos especially those in the Kourounis taverna
1682 days ago
On Christmas Day I chatted to Uncle Chris Booker. A wide ranging chat but we cannot help but conclude that at a geo-political level the world is going ever more badly wrong. Price Charles this populism is a real danger and must be fought. Quite right you unelected hereditary multi millionaire, lets pursue policies that favour the 1% and screw the masses. Let's stick with policies that, for a reason that a patrician fool might not grasp, are not popular in any way. As a life long republican I really do hope that the Queen lives forever.
1695 days ago
What follows shows how the olives from the Greek Hovel (2.681 tonnes) became 450 kg of olive oil. Having revisited ny 2014 results that is a tiny fall in olives but a steep fall in oil. But I got a better price so have walked away with roughly the same cash - 1650 Euro, against labour costs of 770 Euro now that I do my pruning myself.
1696 days ago
Each year I take 16 kg of the olive oil from the Greek Hovel back to the UK with me in a big can and sell the rest. But the can is just too big for my rucksack so means I have to pay both to put it in a special box (30 Euro) and also for an extra piece of hold luggage ( 25 Euro). It is still cheap oil but that rankles. But I have a cunning plan.
1697 days ago
Lunch on Thursday at the Greek Hovel was provided by the wife of George the Albanian. At least I think it was his wife, it was one of his two female assistants. I pondered how much an Islington bistro would have stung me for, offering similar fare.
1698 days ago
After day six of the olive harvest I am shattered but it looks as if tomorrow may be the final day which means a late night at the press in Kambos, ouzo and no bearcast. You have been warned, the Sheriff may have the whole day off so tomorrow is a good day for shysters on the AIM casino to issue dodgy press releases. I take two reader requests. One is on Sirius Petroleum (SRSP) the other on my specialist subject - what is ISDX. In terms of companies I cover Cloudtag (CTAG), African Potash (FRAUD), RedT Energy (RED), Bilby (BILB). In the ISDX piece I mention Chapel Down and Mechan, we own shares in the latter.
1698 days ago
And so we entered what George the Albanian said would be the final day of the 2016 olive harvest at the Greek Hovel. The final trees were those around the house which had received special care from me in the summer and so I hoped for a good day. But it started badly with George, his women and me trooping off to the far corners of the hovel to collect sacks full of olives.
1699 days ago
Myself and the two women who work with George the Albanian finished work at 5 PM today, having started at 8 AM. It was dark at the end. I could not see what was an olive and what was a leaf as I worked the separating machine. I just bashed the twigs and leaves hard with a plastic paddle and pushed anything that felt like a olive through the grill. My hands are stained with olives and feel raw from pushing those twigs and olives across that grill all day.
1700 days ago
Adam Reynolds and the Mrs are in my good books for returning phone calls and thus giving me phone breaks today. Peter Greensmith of Peterhouse did not and so ensured more toil and torture for me. Bad man Peter. Anyhow the sun shone all day and we toiled away as ever.
1701 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?
1702 days ago
Greek is one of those languages where folks sound animated even if they discussing the weather or when the next bus arrives. But the conversations that break out between George the Albanian and his two female assistants, as we harvest the olives up at the Greek hovel, seem very animated indeed. I have no idea what they are on about.
1704 days ago
You find me sitting in the Kourounis taverna of lovely Eleni in my Greek "home village" of Kambos. Idle bastard, I hear you say, it is only 9.30 AM Greek time why isn't the slacker off harvesting olives. Au contraire mes amis, I have completed my second day of harvesting without injuries and honour intact. The truth is that rain (vreki) has stopped play for all of us hardworking labourers.
Almost from the moment I arrived I could hear the thunder claps.
1705 days ago
In 2014 we harvested 1.65 metric tonnes (1650 kg) at the Greek hovel which yielded 566 litres of olive oil. Last year was a disaster - 550 kg and I fell and ended up in hospital. So far 2016 has been a triumph. I did not fall. Albeit with a few breaks I lasted the full working day and we have already harvested 550 kg with only a fraction of the trees finished. It is a triumph but I am shattered.
The first thing of note is that we have new technology
1707 days ago
I noted yesterday that the rain clouds were so thick that from the Kalamata sea front I could not see the start of the taygetus mountain range which winds its way down the Mani peninsula. Later in the day as I drove east towards the mountains the cloud had lifted and I could see clearly that there was already a good covering of global warming directly ahead of me in the higher reaches. It got better.
1720 days ago
I know the area at the bottom end of Fleet Street, where it turns into Ludgate Hill and you wander up to St Pauls, like the back of my hand. Twenty years ago I worked around there at the Chronic Investor and used to walk home Eastwards. For two decades, at Christmas I would go to midnight mass at the journalists' church, St Brides. The area has changed a lot over the twenty five years that we have been acquainted. Unlike me, it has smartened itself up. But it is still familiar territory.
1721 days ago
Last year the olive harvest at the Greek Hovel was dire and I fell and ended up in hospital. I am hoping that things got far better on both counts in 2016. And thus yesterday I found myself calling the Kourounis Taverna, owned by lovely Eleni one of the two English speakers in Kambos, the nearest village to our place. Sadly it was her husband Nicko who answered and thus I struggled in Greek. Is it calinichta or calispera? God only knows. I tried both and then said "Its Tom". Aha cala? he said. Cala said I. And he called Eleni for our conversation had just about reached its limits.
1844 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.
1844 days ago
It was my last evening in Greece. I felt sad both to be returning to Britain and because of the reason that I was returning early. having been blown out on my hot date with the amazing woman, I drove from the abandoned monastery not back to the hovel but to the village one last time for supper. Having problems parking in the Centre of kambos I continued on the main road out of the village seeking a place to turn.
1844 days ago
It is one of the charms of Greece that if one makes an appointment for 7.30 PM on Friday in really means any time between Wednesday and Sunday afternoon. It was in that spirit that I prepared for my date with the most amazing woman to be shown around the deserted monastery, actually a convent, which sits on the other side of the valley from the Greek Hovel. As the crow flies it is actually my nearest neighbour and, as you can see, it is a pretty impressive building.
1857 days ago
Sorry it is a poor quality video and yes that is Abba in the background. I shot it on the penepenultimate evening at the Greek Hovel. I was travelling down from Kambos to the sea at Kitries for a last meal of octopus. About two miles from where, just outside my home village, one leaves the main Kambos to Kalamata road, there is a small hamlet.
I stood above this hamlet looking down on its church in the sunset. Then I panned the camera around. I hope you can make out the 180 degree view starting at the Frankish castle above Kambos, moving down to the bay at Kitries and onwards to the church. And so why would one live anywhere else?
1860 days ago
I am not sure if my date will turn up but I am counting down the hours anyway to my trip with the most amazing woman to the abandoned monastery, which was actually a convent. I try to imagine what is inside the buildings which I pass every day on my travels from the Greek Hovel into Kambos, but only time will tell. Or won't.
Meanwhile I have solved another mystery.
1860 days ago
Lovely Eleni's Kourounis taverna has still not reopened. But the hardcore clientele led by Nicho the communist and Vangelis in his pink shirt still sit resolutely on its outside tables, using its internet link and chatting with the wider Eleni family. Rather naughtily I have discovered that I can use the Kourounis wi-fi while sitting in Miranda's next door and did that as i tucked into a last meal of Mani sausage and courgettes.
And then I said farewell to Miranda explaining, in Greek, that I was going to England tomorrow. Yes you heard that correctly I spoke a few words of fucking Greek. And then back to Elenis where I explained why I was leaving. I showed them all the picture of the Mrs at Mistras and they understood...
Vangelis talked of drinking.
1860 days ago
It is my last full day at the Greek Hovel and I shall miss my life here badly. It is just after three in the afternoon and I sit in the shade in the centre of Kambos typping away with a glass of ouzo to hand (celebrating vengeance after eleven years) watching the world go by. As ever the A Board on the main street of Kambos advertises all sorts of delight at Miranda's little taverna. Fish, grilled meats, toasted kangaroo, the list goes on. Actually I made up that bit about the kangaroo but it might as well have been on the public menu becaase the actual menu is...what is on top the oven today which is chicken and spaghetti.
Miranda gets me
1862 days ago
Some people are just good at languages. The Mrs speaks perfect English (for a Northerner), very good Swedish and very acceptable Greek. Some of us are bad at languages. Other than English I speak poor French and a smattering of Greek, Latin and German - all poorly. And some of us are bad at languages but think we are rather better than bad. I think of my father.
1863 days ago
The meeting with the most amazing woman from last week is still something I am thinking about almost daily. Prompted by a couple of let-downs, I almost sent an email firing nearly all of those working with me today. That was a direct result of that meeting.
I have known for a while
1863 days ago
With some sadness I contacted British Airways today to move my flight forward and by Saturday evening I shall be back in the UK. I don't say back home because I feel more and more that my home will be out here at the Greek Hovel. I leave a lot of thoughts and ideas behind here in the mountains above Kambos. But I also leave something more tangible. It is with great regret that I shall not be here in mid August when the grapes below which trail from vines either side of the hovel, are large, ripe and tasting fantastic. Drat!
1866 days ago
I mentioned earlier that the weather was turning for the worse at the Greek Hovel. I should cocoa. As I drove back from a very late lunch in Kambos, Mark Slater called. I parked almost at the top of Snake Hill and we talked but then it started raining. After a good chat I had to hang up as the rain was hitting the car roof so hard that I could barely hear a word. I made it home and saw a small man holding an umbrella walking towards me from the side of my house and waving.
Who on earth could be up here in this weather - what a lunatic.
1866 days ago
It was the night of referendum day and, having enjoyed a relatively late meal at Miranda's I drove slowly home to the Greek Hovel at well after ten, a time when it is pitch dark. Three hundred yards along the main road that winds through Kambos and I turned right into the small road that leads out of the village towards the abandoned monastery, then onto snake hill and the track through the olive groves to the hovel
1867 days ago
last night I met an amazing woman here in Kambos. More on that later but I am in awe. Then it was watching the Brexit results on the BBC on the internet as the smug biased lefties had to come to terms with how the great unwashed had given them and the rest of the elite a total kicking. I tried to get two hours sleep but a drunk comrade from the Eurosceptic trenches, Lucian Miers, woke me up. So I worked a bit and then slept. By 2.30 PM it was ouzo o'clock. So I headed to Miranda's as you can see below and raised a class to Boris, Priti, Nigel, Michael et al but also to my late grandfather Sir John Winnifrith and my Uncle, Chris Booker, who was in a fine mood today. Cheers to you all.
1869 days ago
After a long hard day at my desk and labouring in the olive groves I left the Greek Hovel as it was already getting dark and headed through the olive groves, down snake hill to the valley floor and then up past the deserted monastery and into the bright lights of Kambos. I could not wait for another excellent healthy Greek salad from Miranda, whose offerings I had sampled for the first time just eight hours previously.
1869 days ago
I was feeling a little weak. It is just so bloody hot and this one meal a day regime is not helping. My pruning is done and my frigana chopper needed a tweak down in Kambos and so I left the Greek Hovel and, being brave, made my first visit to Miranda's, the taverna in between the Kourounis taverna and the snake repellent/frigana chopper ,mending store.
I think that this is Miranda's. I have translated the sign from Greek lettering so I would not bet the ranch on that but henceforth I shall refer to it as Miranda's. The taverna itself
1874 days ago
It was eight days ago that my father and I popped over to Kambos to visit the Greek Hovel and to meet a friend of mine from the neighbouring village. We will come to him and his village, the Feta village, in due course. He did not show up. Perhaps, as we had both had vast amounts of ouzo when we made this plan, he had forghotten. Worse was to come, we arrived to see that the Kourounis taverna was shut. Eleni's husband Nicho said "ten days, no coffee, no Greek Salad, no ouzo" And with that Dad & I sloped off to the ouzerie opposite, a place frequented only by very old men.
It was my first visit there and we had a couple of ouzos. The owner - with whom I crossed swords regarding parking a couple of years ago - brought
1882 days ago
Winnifrith males have loud voices and we like to tease each other and also anyone unfortunate enough to join us, in the case of supper last night that meant my dear wife. And thus as the wine flowed we found ourselves discussing the output of our various universities.
My father is, of course, a full on elitist but knowing that his deluded lefty wife who forces him to read the Guardian may disapprove sometimes finds himself having to pretend otherwise. And thus as we discuss the Brexit vote, I note that John Stuart Mill raised in "On Democracy" the idea that more intelligent folks should get more votes. Why not, I suggest give 10 votes to those of us who went to Oxbridge (my father and I), 5 to Russell Group graduates, 2 to those who attended other old universities, 1 to those with no degree and minus 1 to those who attended the former Polytechnics. Thus my wife would get 2 votes and her students would all get minus 1 votes. On reflection having lectured ti them, make that minus five votes.
I am joking but with this wheeze get a double tease. My wife is naturally appalled
1885 days ago
I am sure that many of you reading this believe that olives like all other food come from Tesco wrapped in clean plastic packets and therefore may scream "yuk" as you read what follows. Yes, my dear sweet wife I am thinking about you and all the other latte drinking townies out there. Those of us who grew up in the boonies know that producing food is a hell of a lot easier if you have loads of shit ( i.e manure) to boost the process. I have no manure yet although my first batch of humanure from the eco-loo should be ready next year. But I have something even better...wee wee.
1885 days ago
When the Mrs bought the Greek Hovel we were told that there were around 120-150 olive trees here. A few are wild so bear no fruit but still we had a lot of trees. I am now convinced that the number is far greater as I navigate the far reaches of the land. I do so more conscious than ever, after yesterday, that I am not alone as I work.
1885 days ago
It is now 30 degrees or more day in and day out at the Greek Hovel. And I am up in the mountains, down by the sea it is warmer still. But that constant sunshine now leaves the fields and hills looking ever browner as you can see below.
1886 days ago
I've been nicotine clean now for three months and three weeks exactly and the urge to have "just one" cigarette is now really pretty rare. But I must admit to having such an urge just now.
1887 days ago
I have somehow lost the only torch that actually works. And that means that the eight yard walk from where I park my car to the front door of the Greek Hovel must be made in complete darkness. Well almost. I always leave the light on at the hovel to guide me. Except that last night I also forgot to do that.
And so, after a long phone call from a fellow member of the Banstead Athletic supporters club, taken in Kambos last night I made it back to the hovel just after midnight and the skies were black. I shone my car headlights at the bat room and had the music blaring from the car radio. I hoped that the wildlife diversity was listening and fleeing.
In theory the path to the house should be safe from you know whats as
1888 days ago
Ten days ago I was, via lovely Eleni, telling the shepherd about the lush green grass up at the hovel and urging him to bring his flock up to graze lest they miss out. When I see him next I shall be begging him to bring his sheep up out of pity. The green grass has almost gone. Almost everything is brown.
Driving up the grass track to the house I was horrified. It was as if the whole area had been affected by a great heat. But as it happens that is exactly what has happened. Down by the sea at Kalamata today it is 33 degrees. Up at the hovel it is over thirty. It is wonderful weather to work in but the grass is burning away.
The purple flowers,
1894 days ago
A final farewell to Kambos...well for a week only. Having escorted my father back to Kalamata next Thursday I shall be back at the Greek Hovel in a week's time. A final farewell means popping into the Kourounis taverna for an ouzo with the owner Nicho, the husband of lovely Eleni. Farewell say I to Eleni, who wishes me "good travels." I remind you that she is the best English speaker in the village. In her arms, as you can see below, the only person in Kambos whose Greek is worse than mine.
1895 days ago
I had seen them earlier as I had driven in. They were dressed in walking clothes so I knew they were westerners and were, for some reason, trekking along the road from Kambos to the Greek hovel, a road to pretty much nowhere. Whatever.
Two hours later and I am tapping away at my PC in the Kourounis taverna in Kambos. There is a half eaten Greek salad on my table and an ouzo.I know that it is only lunchtime but after today's latest major vindication of my work as a fraud buster I felt I was entitled to a small celebration.
I guess I have picked up a bit of a tan since I arrived but the Brits wandered up to me and speaking very slowly in English tried to order a fanta from me. Nicho the owner
1898 days ago
There is a reason that the Greeks, or rather the Albanians the Greeks hire to do manual labour, start at 8 AM and finish at 3 PM. The reason, I think, is snakes. That is to say the snakes are at their least active in the morning. During the day they sunbathe and so by dusk they are really quite frisky. I have hitherto been working to a different schedule. Silly me.
You see when I awake I start writing articles for you my dear readers. By the time you open up your PC at seven I have already been generating golden prose for at least ninety minutes. As such by the time I had finished generating golden prose and had my lunch (Greek salad) in Kambos today and got back for olive pruning it was 4.40 PM.
And so I headed straight for that part of the property which, when I first arrived, was a thick frigana jungle. I was convinced then that it was the sort of place that snakes really would want to hang out in but
1898 days ago
I was on the phone to the Mrs who had some good news to relay when I heard the unmistakable voice of my neighbour Charon outside. Then he banged on the door saying "Tom, Tom." I had no choice. He knew I was there. I could not hide. I opened the door.
When I say neighbour it is not as if he is just round the corner. As the crow flies his place is about another mile up the mountain. By road it is a two mile trek and Charon had walked over and was there on my doorstep topless and sweating.
It is not that I dont like him, it is just that he insists on speaking English to me. His English is better than my Greek but not a lot better. And so we have long exchanges of words which really cant be described as conversations. Sometimes I get out my Greek English dictionary and try speaking Greek words. However we go about it it is painful.
The one bond we used to have was the common language of cigarettes.
1900 days ago
I have two sets of keys with me and both lie on the table here at the Greek Hovel. One is my English keys, my house and the restaurant. The other a set of Greek keys, one of which opens the hovel's door the rest of which are there for decoration - God only knows what they open.
For once I left my laptop in the hovel last night having worked solidly all day. I took just a bit of cash, my phone, my passport and credit card down to the village for supper. Really that is all I need to get anywhere in the world so I always carry those things with me. I grabbed a set of keys, locked up and headed off for a Greek salad.
There was an almost full moon but on my return it was still very dark. I hope that the snake repellent canisters make the area around the hovel a safe zone but I always flash my torch nervously as I walk, slowly and with a deliberately heavy step, up the path. I reached in my pocket and all I could find were my English keys. Feck. I must have dropped the Greek keys somewhere.
I headed back to Kambos to the Kourounis taverna and checked where I had been sitting. Nothing. It was by now almost eleven and I was panicking. I established that I had not - as I thought I had - given lovely Eleni a spare key. Where the feck was that spare key?
1901 days ago
Everyone here in Kambos, the little Mani village in which I am resident, is agreed. Our trees are drowning in flowers and come late November we are going to have a great olive harvest. As is our way in this part of Greece will turn our olives into oil and we will have simply vast amounts to sell and so all the talk is of who we can get to promote our olive oil to help rescue the village from austerity. I know what we need.
Can anyone think of a celebrity who is well known for using vast amounts of olive oil? Preferably we would want a good family man or woman, known for their single minded commitment and integrity and who might perhaps help promote alternative uses for our oil? Can anyone think of a suitable person?
1908 days ago
Yup I am still clean and 99.9% of the time very glad to be. But I know that if I have just one fag it will be all over. So I will not. I digress. Today's podcast covers my little internet difficulties here in Kambos then goes onto Aureus Mining (AUE), Circle Oil (COP), IGAS (IGAS), LGO Energy (LGO) and Gulf Keystone (GKP). Finally I urge regular listener Marcus Stuttard, head of the oxymorons at AIM Regulation, to read the utterly shocking Phil Edmonds and Andrew Groves tale HERE as it shows what a shite job the bogus Sheriff is doing.
1911 days ago
I was hoping that the canisters which are meant to keep the snakes away would have arrived in Kambos today. I was told they would. Naturally they have not. This is Greece. "They will be here on Wednesday" means "There is no chance at all that they will be here on Wednesday". I am bloody well not moving up to the hovel without them.
My friend Nicho the communist asked why I was not yet resident in the the village and I explained. "You really are frightened of them aren't you" he said while laughing loudly. Fecking hell isn't everybody? Nicho then explained to a gaggle of Greek old men sipping ouzos what was happening and they all laughed too. Ha bloody ha. They all live in the village where there are no snakes, I dare them
1912 days ago
Since most of us visit Greece only at the height of summer, the pictures we have in our mind are of a country with grass burned brown by days of seemingly endless sunshine. But as we move into mid may the land around the Greek Hovel here in the Mani is almost Alpine, a lush green dotted with the pinks, whites, yellows and purples of a sea of flowers.
1912 days ago
Having checked out the hovel on Sunday I drove back into the village of Kambos. There have been a few more potholes mended on the two or three mile track from the house into the village. But for every one mended another has appeared including a quite giant crater at the base of snake hill. Somehow I manage to wiggle past it and am soon sitting in on a quiet lunchtime in the Kourounis taverna owned by lovely Eleni.
I wander in with my laptop and sit in my normal seat. At the bar are
2054 days ago
For most of my early December stay in Greece I was wearing a T-shirt all day although at night I needed a sweat shirt and coat as the temperatures plunged towards zero. But on the penultimate day it started to rain heavily both in Kalamata, where I was staying, and up in the village of Kambos in the foothills of the Taegessus Mountains. The photos below show what happened next.
Photo one is of an orange tree just off the main street in Kambos. As we worked in the fields picking olives in quite warm weather oranges were handed out by my friend George. They are just ripening for picking now.
The next two photos are from the Greek Hovel another 50 metres or so higher up into the Teagessus and three miles away from Kambos. Those who have seen the hovel in the summer will associate it with grass burned brown by hot sun. But, as you can see, it is now a lush green - this is the view looking back along the drive. The rains of October and November have left the place looking very much alive. The second photo
2055 days ago
Today I was posting bottles of olive oil brought back from the Greek hovel to a few lucky folks like PR bird foxy Bex.It was a poor harves - 179 litres of oil this year - last year it was 574 litres. You always have a bad year followed by a good year and so on. You can mitigate that greatly if you are around in the summer to water the trees.
Indeed I "water" the four trees closest to the house personally several times a day
2055 days ago
If you do not speak Greek you might just struggle with this. It would be all Greek to you. But this card is for the folks in the small village of Kambos in the Mani, Greece, the nearest settlement to where the Mrs has a property needing, er, one or two repairs. And so from both Tom Winnifrith's here is a few words for Christmas.
2062 days ago
I seem to be struggling to do business with my olives here in Kambos, Greece. I appear to have sold the oil - all bar 16 litres which I am taking back to the UK. But so far I have paid the press 16 Euro for the transaction which now sees it owning 200 litres of MY oil. Surely this is not right? Perhaps InternetQ (INTQ) runs the olive press? In this podcast I also cover LGO Energy (LGO) just to keep Wildes happy - Jabba the Hutt fave Rare Earth Minerals (REM) and European Metals (EMH), Concha (CHA), Tern (TERN), Imaginatik (IMTK), Peer TV (PTV) and the looming debacle at Chris Oil fave Mkango Resources.
2065 days ago
Even without my, pretty pathetic, assistance, George and his team completed the olive harvest today as I sat in the hospital. Last year it took us 5-6 days, this year it was just three. The sacks now lie at the village press whose boss greeted me like an old friend, forgetting that my Greek is somewhat weak but gabbling away happily. Tomorrow afternoon we press.
I shall take 16 litres in a can back to England for Christmas presents (Foxy Bex I have not forgotten) and personal use for the next 12 months. The rest I shall sell and that will cover George's wages, a bus fare back to Athens and maybe my flights. That is not really the point. Unless
2070 days ago
After a whole day spent at the Kourounis taverna in Kambos I have finally met up with George, the sprightly 60+ Albanian who leads our olive harvest. I called lovely Eleni at the hospital to see if she had any idea how to track him down. She gave birth to a baby girl yesterday and admitted to being a bit tired but knows she will be back in the kitchen by Sunday and so is gearing herself up. She offered up an idea of where to find George's number.
Lovely Eleni's younger sister, who is really very, very lovely too, called and at about seven tonight in wandered George. In great relief I hugged the man for I was starting to panic. As ever, I bought him a Tsipero and myself an ouzo. And we sat in silence as he speaks not a word of English and my Greek is er...rather weak. But lovely Eleni's very, very lovely younger sister
2074 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
2173 days ago
The owner of one of the two hardware stores in Kambos sold me another bag of rat sweeties, the blue pills which he promises will kill Roland within a day. These supplemented my existing stocks and they were duly placed between the windows and the shutters around the house with a particular concentration on the one window where rats have been spotted every day.
The initial six in that window disappeared within a day and instead when I returned to the house I was greeted by a large rat grinning at me from behind that window. Thus I carefully remove two or three sweeties from other locations to ensure that the rat window is fully stocked each time I leave the Greek Hovel.
And coming back today, as has been the case every day
2177 days ago
And so yesterday lunchtime I drove back into Kambos and first stop was the hardware store number 1 where I buy canisters of snake repellent. “I am sorry we are out of stock” said my friend the owner who then assured me that the snakes season is well over and that they are all starting to hibernate. He always does that, promising me that whenever I turn up there are no snakes around as he explians his lack of stock.
I was not born yesterday and with the temperature now in the mid-thirties I was fully aware that the land around the hovel is crawling with serpents. I bought a can of chippings which my friend swore would form a protective ring around my house and headed off to see lovely Eleni at the Kourounis taverna who reassured me that the area around the hovel – where she owns some olive trees – is indeed crawling with snakes. How they must laugh in Kambos, the man who is terrified of snakes is heading back to the serpents paradise.
Rather gingerly I headed up to the hovel and was delighted to see no snakes and no signs of rats. There were however bats in both the rat room and the bat room which I have now chased away. Having happily surrounded the place with the snake magic dust I headed back to a hotel in Kalamata with a swimming pool for one last night of decadence.
2255 days ago
As I write there are six customers in the Kourounis taverna in Kambos. Including me four are English. This is a little unusual. Normally Kambos is a haven of Greeks but as summer approaches a few Brits arrive. It is all very middle class. We are all using the wifi and naturally not saying a word to each other. The only noise comes from a couple of noisy children who have wandered in.
Anyhow after a hard day in the fields poisoning frigana I am too tired to talk anyway.
2256 days ago
So how is the sabbatical going? Hmmmm. Not quite so restful. when at the Greek hovel I live on English time so I work late and get up not quite at the crack of dawn. Other than today when my nearest neighbour - he lives a mile and a half away - Charon knocked on my door at 6 am GMT. I answered in my underpants in a rather sleepy fashion but that did not phase him.
2258 days ago
I sit with my back to the door at the Kourounis taverna typing away, writing almost anything to avoid the torture of completing the subbing of Zak Mir's book. Is it too early for an ouzo to stiffen my resolve to face the torture that awaits?
The cop at the Kardamili police station, who lives in my home village of Kambos, has just wandered in and pats me on the back "yas Tom" says he and wanders to the bar. This reminds me that I visited the police station at Kardamili once again last week. You may remember that last summer I spent a couple of hours detained at the Kadamili nick thanks to a bent cop and bent hotelier and so my memories of the place were, shall we say, mixed.
But I am trying to get Greek residency so that I can buy a car, a motorbike and a gun for the Greek Hovel. And that means that I had to go to Kardamili police station to present my papers. I took my Greek speaking wife with me for protection. Would I meet the bent cop who incarcerated me last year? Would I meet his goon of an assistant who looks like the nasty gay character in Coronation Street? I was rather nervous.
2258 days ago
I invested in another big can of frigana poison this morning but also in a new boy toy, a 12 Euro olive axe. It is about 18 inches long and used for pruning becuase I must prune all 150 trees before I leave. Cripes it is hard work.
On days like today, when dark clouds hover on the Taegessus mountains above the Greek hovel it is an olive pruning day. The last thing you want is the rain washing the poison off the frigana plants and so your choice is made. In one hand I carry my hand saw in the other my sharp new axe (the blunt old one I found on the property broke yesterday).
Like most of you reading, I am not used to manual labour, still less work that involves you cutting and hacking with your arms above head height. I managed about twenty trees this afternoon and my arms ache. Vangelis - the man in the pink shirt - thinks I should get a power saw and that it is ather funny that I do it the old way.
Though I was taught how to prune by Foti the Albanian last summer, I sense that my work is not quite up to scratch. The axe does not always hit its target. The villagers in Kambos regard their trees as like beautiful women, to be cherished and treasured. They prune with a skill that I shall only learn with time. I rather hope that my handiwork is not inspected as it may be viewed as the olive tree equivalent of wife beating. Anyhow
2260 days ago
Kardamili has no sandy beaches and so is not a family resort. It has no bars and cafes serving fish and chips, burgers and cheap lager. Folks seeking sun, sea, sand and burgers and a pint of Fosters head to Stoupa down the road. Kardamili is an oasis of gentility which the Mrs rather prefers - for reasons I cannot understand - to The Greek Hovel and life in Kambos. And so last week I swapped the hovel for six days in a luxury hotel. It's a hard life.
A fortnight ago Kardamili hosted a Norwegian jazz festival.
2260 days ago
After a hard day at the PC and in the field, braving the snakes to poison frigana, I plan to spend a relaxing evening at the Kourounis taverna in my home village of Kambos. Lovely Eleni has made me a Greek salad covered with herbs and drizzled with home produced olive oil and so far it is just coke zeros but I may allow myself an ouzo later. In the village where we have no tourists it is just me and the regulars. They chat. I tap away on my PC and say Yassas and Kale-nichta as required.
But an English couple has just walked in.
2270 days ago
I am sitting happily tapping away at my computer loading a bit of blockbusting copy for ShareProphets in the morning. The Kourounis taverna in Kambos is pretty full with little groups here and there chatting away happily. The doors are flung wide open as it is a warm night. Outside at one of the tables my friend Nicho the Communist is holding Court. Behind me I can hear lovely Eleni chatting and laughing loudly. How do I know it is her? Well there are only four women in the taverna and the other three are sitting in front of me.
As I tapped away an old man reminding me of the Asterix character Geriatrix hobbled over propped up by a stick and stared at my screen. He looked hard for a couple of minutes.
2271 days ago
On the way back through the olive groves at the top of snake hill tonight I found myself tracking a fox. It did not seem too scared and eventually trotted off into the bushes. But that was not the real wildlife diversity news today - I met a snake.
I was travelling into the village in the early evening for a salad. Roadworks yesterday on abandoned monastery hill meant that I have been forced to discover a new way to get from the bottom of the valley into the village. It is a side track, not in that bad a condition, which winds its way all the way up to the top of the village past a little abandoned church coming out above our new big church. So from the top of that track you actually go downhill again to the Kourounis taverna. One day I shall draw a map for you all.
I was biking along thinking about nothing in particular when I heard a crunch under the wheels. I pulled up and looked back and about five yards behind me was a small snake. It is the small snakes that are the dangerous ones, the nine poisonous types of adder here in Greece.
There were three scenarios.
2272 days ago
I was just riding into Kambos from the Greek Hovel and as I turned to go up deserted monastery hill I encountered a shocking member of the wildlife diversity community. More on that later. Meanwhile in today's bearcast I look at MoPowered,Tungster, Brammer, Tribal Group, Coms, Atlantic Coal and have an apology for Falanx.
2273 days ago
There was I motor biking from the Greek Hovel into Kambos when suddenly I saw it. I had just turned left after the dry river and started the climb up the hill next to the abandoned monastery (or was it a convent, one day I shall find out) when it appeared just sitting in the middle of the road.. a crab, potamon potiamos to give it its full name.
You and I might think
2278 days ago
Folks asked why my Bearcast of 9th May sounded so poor. The truth is that my headphones had completely fallen aopart and the microphone was swinging wildly. But inspired by the way the folks of Kambos patched up my bike with sellotape, I applied the same magic to my headphones. Hey presto. It may not look pretty but it works.
2279 days ago
In the end I could not get my head around a 200 cc bike with gears and so chickened out and hired another 150 cc automatic. But it felt great being on two wheels again as I whizzed up the mountain road from Kalamata to my home village of Kambos. It was warm but the wind was in my hair and as I swept down towards Kambos with the ruined castle looming in the background I just felt content and happy.
After dealing with the rat at the Greek hovel I headed into Kambos to do some work at my office, aka the Kourounis tavern. But for some reason they key in the bike was jammed and then broke. I could start the machine but not turn it off so I knew it had to be fixed or I’d have a dead battery by morning. Feeling really pissed off I headed back to Kalamata. I was so pissed off that I drove on the left hand side of the road.
2279 days ago
When I left in February I tried to buy two cans of snake repellent to keep the 27 varieties of Greek serpent away from the Greek hovel. The man at the hardware store said “there is no point as they are asleep, when are you back?” I said May. He said, do not worry they do not wake up till June. What he meant was “I have none in stock.”
2336 days ago
Gone are the days when I could start my working day at 3.30 AM on Monday, down two bottles of wine during the day, work through the night and a full day Tuesday, stay up all night fretting about a Court case, suffer a High Court ordeal, down a pint of champagne and feel totally on top form on the Wednesday evening. I guess I am getting old. And so by the time I arrived at Paddington for the 7 PM to Bristol Temple Meads I felt like death warmed up and just wanted to get home to the cats and my bed. The Mrs is still with her mother.
I sat in my seat, wrapped up warm and tried to sleep. But life is not always easy and the first part of my journey just made me feel like even more of a grumpy old man who wants to leave this rotten country and sit on my Greek mountain away from everything that is ghastly abut Britain today.
Being the first off peak train it was crammed and the vague smell of cheap fast food wafted through the corridors since many of my fellow passengers had grabbed some junk to gorge upon as they rushed to get home.
In the seats behind me a kid was doing maths with his mum. 19 + 19 is 28 he insisted. The generation that will look after mine in retirement is not only thick as two short planks but also shows no deference or respect to its parents. The mother was simply wrong, the kid insisted as his voice rose. But I guess like all the other morons he will grow up to be a wannebee celeb so his stupidity won’t be an issue.
A drunk gave me a long gaze as our eyes met. I’m a nice drunk. He was not a nice drunk. I shifted my eyes rather glad that there was an older gentleman sitting between me and the drunk who promptly collapsed and spent most of the time between London and Swindon lying prostrate in the aisle or trying to do the sort of pointless exercises that only the totally inebriated consider demonstrate that they are half sober. I and the other passengers exchanged embarrassed smiles at his antics.
First Great Western apologised in a blundering, we really do not give a fuck, but pretend we care way as the fast train turned out to be a very slow train indeed, all the way to Reading. As we crawled into the City where Wilde was jailed I thought lovingly of life at the Greek Hovel and my friends in Kambos and contemplated booking a flight next week and just not coming back.
Pulling into Didcot I saw that the older gentleman next to me was interested in shares. His mobile thingy device had messages from Hargreaves Lansdowne and so I piped up “I see you are interested in shares”. We started talking. We will gloss over his ownership of Afren which I warned him was not perhaps the wisest investment, something 100% vindicated today. He has a very prudent and sensible approach to creating a balanced portfolio weighted towards collectives. He knew his onions.
The chap is a social worker but not, I think, the sort that steals your kids if you vote UKIP, but what was truly fascinating is that he was and is a real punk rocker.
2347 days ago
The man at the hardware store in Kambos said there was no need to buy snake repellent canisters as they will not wake up till June and I’m back in May. I am not so sure about that as I distinctly remember meeting a snake on what is known as the snake veranda on my first visit to the hovel in April. But I did not argue, I said efharisto and shook his hand warmly.
2349 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
2351 days ago
I shall try to drive up to the snow covered peaks of the high Taygetus at the weekend. For now I just gaze up at them from the Greek Hovel. While we enjoy bouts of heavy rain and intermittent sunshine in the foothills of the Taygetus the high peaks are covered in snow.
The first photo is from the Greek Hovel itself and the far peaks are a bit covered in cloud but you can just make out the snow.
2353 days ago
As predicted, by Monday mornng as the heavy rains on Sunday washed down from the Taygetus mountains, the dry river at the bottom of the valley that lies between the Greek Hovel and the village of Kambos was, er, not so dry.
Two photos, one upstream and one showing where the river flows over the road and downstream show what I mean. It is not exactly life threatening but having driven over a parched and dry river bed all summer it makes an interesting change.
2354 days ago
Recorded outside the Kourounis Taverna in Kambos for reasons I explain this podcast starts with Mariana Resources as I try - and fail - to be charitable. I move into Quindell, Tower Resources, Mar City, Gulf Keystone, APR Energy and Afren.
2355 days ago
I am greatly confused. I record from the Greek Hovel and the noise outside is a storm blowing. There is a large statue in the centre of Kambos. Tonight we celebrate the start of lent. Is it no more meat or the start of cheese week? Why dont we have paper phalluses in the Mani? I try to explain all.
2364 days ago
In five days time I shall be landing in mighty Hellas. Within six days I should be back among my friends in the little village of Kambos. The weather forecast says that it will be minus 7 tonight at the Greek Hovel. I imagine that the Taygetus mountains that stetch out behind the Hovel are capped with snow.
On the bright side, I spoke to lovely Eleni from the Kourounis taverna yesterday. I called and said in my best Greek "kale-nichta" at which point she laughed and said "oh, hello Tom." I guess there are not many folks who call who speak Greek as badly as I do. Anyhow plans are underway for frigana burning with George the olive picker.
Also on the bright side, at minus seven the snakes are still going to be very much asleep.
On the minus side I sense that the hovel might be a little on the nippy side. We shall brush over the matter of my Greek lessons, I have promised the Mrs I will do some revision before she returns from the Grim North tomorrow. So don't call me in the morning even if you are Quindell whistleblower. Meanwhile I am doing a spot of revision with Despina.
2377 days ago
I have no pictures of Charon. That is because he always pops up by surprise. If you arrange to meet he is never there. He just turns up and then disappears.
His house is the nearest one to the Greek Hovel. The long and winding road from Kambos does not end at the hovel but turns back on itself and up the next hill. I really had no idea where it headed but one day curiosity got the better of me and I turned my bike around and headed on up. After about a mile and a half you arrive at a ramshackle but clearly inhabited set of buildings, the house of Charon. He is one hill higher up than me. The next range of hills behind him leads straight into the mountains.
Charon is not his real name. It is Nikko but since half the village is called Nikko I stick with the name I gave him when we first met. The poor man was returning from a walk into the village to buy cigarettes. It was a blazing hot day and not being the fittest fellow on this planet he was dripping with sweat. His greying hair is longer than mine and with the sweat pouring off him my mind sprang to Virgil’s description of the ferryman to the underworld. Nikko’s rather long face always looks a little sad even when he is smiling.
There is only one thing worse that trying to chat to someone who speaks only Greek when you speak only English. And that is trying to chat to someone who speaks just enough English to think that he can communicate but in fact cannot. And thus
2391 days ago
After spending a total of four months at the Greek Hovel and holidaying in mighty Hellas perhaps twenty times in my life I still speak almost no Greek. It is shameful. But that ends tomorrow.
For my birthday the Mrs, who speaks good Greek and fluent Swedish as well as Northern English, has bought me five lessons. The teacher is recommended by none other than the ex wife of Red Trousers, the buffoonish money treee worshipping Mayor of Bristol. Lesson one is on skype and starts at 10.30 AM.
To the folks in Kambos...I am going to shock you all on my return on 18 Febuary.
2404 days ago
The normal routine at the Greek Hovel this summer was that I would go for a short run first. Not being the fittest of fellows the run would indeed be short. At best I would make it to the bottom of snake hill, have a brief rest staring at the pond at the bottom of the valley and then walk back up snake hill – bitterly regretting having gone down the steep slope in the first place as I looked our carefully for wildlife diversity. I would then jog back along the olive groves and arrive back at the hovel a sweaty and topless wreck.
My guest would make no comment on the brevity of my run in distance terms. For I had been away a good while and so she naturally assumed that I had managed a reasonable distance. She would then trot off spending about the same time away but managing to make it to the village of Kambos and back. That means climbing two steep hills and covering twice the distance. By the time she returned I would have had time for a restorative cigarette or three and for a naked shower. I would then hide inside the hovel while she showered.
You will remember that my shower at the Greek Hovel is a hosepipe draped over the vine. The water has come up the hill in metal pipes and so is just the right temperature. It is the best shower in the world in summer. My guest said that the shower is “better than sex”. Well it is good but not that good. I suppose that it depends with whom you are having sex with.
But one day my guest went running first.
2405 days ago
In the summer I used to drive past this old shed on the main street of Kambos every day. I was told that it was the olive oil factory but it looked deserted as if, like so much of Greece, it was a relic of times gone by when folks actually had jobs. But how wrong I was. By mid-November this place is a hive of activity. It is positively humming.
From late morning until well into the evening there is a constant queue outside of pick up tracks, of trailers pulled by tractors or just of ordinary vans and cars each bringing in bag after back of olives for pressing. Some folks deposit just a couple of bags, a trailer behind a tractor might disgorge fifty or sixty.
My seventy five bags arrived in three trips made by George the chief olive picker at the Greek Hovel in his battered blue pickup.
2406 days ago
On my first night at the Greek Hovel I wandered into town to watch the World Cup Final. As you may remember I was the only person present supporting the Krauts against the Argies and this drew particular disapproval from one man wearing the heavy moustache one would associate with a Maniot warrior of old. That man was Nicho.
By the end of the summer we were firm friends. He speaks English and is the life and soul of the Kourounis tavern run by the lovely Eleni. The young men call him Papou (grandfather) but respect him as a chap who can drink them under the table, happily do a Greek dance – after half a bottle of whisky – but also be deadly serious.
As the only English speaker bar Eleni he is a conduit for me to wider world. His main job is with an organic food form headquartered in Athens. But he can work remotely and one imagines that business is not exactly booming and so he has plenty of time for more important things such as growing olives.
You will remember that an olive tree is viewed as a being like a beautiful woman who must be treasured and cared for. And Nicho owns a 500 year old specimen which in Kambos terms is like saying that you have Cheryl Cole waiting for you at home lying in a state of undress on your bed.
2415 days ago
Yesterday I posted my Christmas message in Greek to readers in Kambos. Today in English a message from myself, The Mrs and our two cats Tara and the three legged Oakley pictured below.
We all celebrate Christmas in different ways. For the Mrs and I it is a traditional day. Midnight Mass here in Bristol, perhaps with a swift sherry at the Conservative Club beforehand. It is on the way to Church after all!
And then stockings in the morning. Well I know she is getting one as she has been well behaved all year. I cook the duck and trimmings, presents, calls around the world to family and friends and then a collapse as we await Downton Abbey. It is on Boxing Day that the travel nightmare of family days starts with a Greek Christmas with the wife’s sister and Greek Husband in Hertfordshire. Goat followed by Christmas pudding.
For Oakley & Tara it is just even more food than usual and, yes, they have both been fairly well behaved and so get a stocking too.
Whatever you do, we all send you are best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
2416 days ago
You may well say that this is largely all Greek to you..,a video message from my dad and I to the folk in Kambos the village in the Mani where the Greek Hovel is located.
2424 days ago
I do not speak Greek. And I cannot understand it. But given that virtually no-one in my home village of Kambos speaks English, I am exposed to it whenever I wander into town and I am now starting to “hear it.”
I was sitting opposite the olive factory with George the chief olive picker at the Greek Hovel as we waited out turn to drop off some olives. A little old lady, her back arched and curved and dressed in widows black opened the front door of her tiny house opposite, pulled out a chair and just watched the bags go in and out. She asked a question of George while looking at me and George replied. She nodded knowingly.
Whilst I did not understand the question I can guess what it was since the answer was “He is the Englishman who lives in Toumbia.” The lady’s response indicates that folks in Kambos know that there is an Englishman in Toumbia, that is to say me.
Toumbia is not actually a place.
2431 days ago
I posted videos earlier showing the dreadful weather here in Kambos. That delayed the completion of the olive harvest as did the very Greek way we settle up accounts and so my return from the Greek hovel to England has been postponed. I should now be flying first thing Wednesday which means leaving Kambos tomorrow. Taking a bus from Kalamata to Athens and sleeping at a hotel by the airport for a crack of dawn flight.
I will leave Kambos with a cheque for 1779 Euro in my pocket thanks to the olive harvest. Obtaining the cheque was a bit of a kerfuffle. I fished out my Greek tax number – I am a loyal supporter of the Greek state in its hour of need – and wandered into the olive factory. Easy…
2431 days ago
Last night the mud track from the top of snake hill to the Greek Hovel was almost entirely flooded. The dry river is flowing strongly. Somehow my bike made it through all the water and I did not fall off at any point. I then sat in the hovel with a fire blazing listening to the rain hammering down all night, to the thunder and to a stiff gale blowing through the trees. And the vreki continues today. Looking up at the mountains behind me and listening to the loud thunder claps and seeing the sheet lightening flash across the sky, I suspect there will be little olive harvesting going on today in Kambos.
To give you an idea of what it looks like I have shot you three videos, one yesterday and two today.
2432 days ago
I look back on three weeks at the Greek Hovel, on life in Kambos and on the conclusion of the olive harvest. Rain stopped me recording since I need light to film and the vreki is heavy - so my thoughts are by audio
My weekly financial video postcard is by audio as well and looks at Quindell and can be listened to HERE
2433 days ago
There was a certain confusion about what to do with it. Do I put it in the oven said lovely Eleni? But with help from a truly bilingual member of the community we are underway. One of the Christmas puddings brought from Real Man Pizza in Clerkenwell is now steaming away in the private kitchen of the lovely Eleni at Kourounis taverna. In about an hour it will be ready. I hope. My friend Nikko finished his harvest and pressed his oil today. I now have 2.1 tonnes of olives at the factory. The last bags will come down tomorrow morning and then we press.
I shall take home a couple of cans to rebottle and use as Christmas presents for the chosen few as The Greek Hovel olive oil. The rest we sell and Eleni will pick up the cheque and repay me in the summer. So we celebrate the (almost) end of the harvest with something no-one else here in Kambos has ever tasted before. Fingers crossed.
2433 days ago
As you may remember my experiences of the Police Station at Kardamili have not been universally enjoyable. But there is one friendly face, the Sergeant who lives here in Kambos the village closest to the Greek hovel. He sits in the Kourounis taverna with the rest of us. He enjoys a drink like the rest of us and he does not bat an eyelid as I drive off sans helmet or as folks reach for their car keys having had one, two or twelve too many. Rules are for tourists. Otherwise this is a libertarian paradise.
He is our policeman. He bought me a drink the other day and it is now a regular Yassas Tom.
Apart from the odd double murder there is not much going on to concern the law here in Kambos. It is the foreigners who get burgled (as they have possessions worth stealing and don’t have guns). Up here – other than the murders - life is crime free.
2434 days ago
As I ride towards the deserted monastery/convent on my way back from Kambos to the Greek Hovel I can normally see lights twinkling on the far side of the valley where I live. On my hill there is the hovel. On the hill behind it and one fold higher as you get into the mountains is my neighbour Charon. And there are a few other houses on the next ridge along. But as I rode tonight there were no lights. I rather feared that for once lovely Eleni was wrong and that the electricity had not been fixed.
But at least it was a clear night. There is a full moon and so riding up snake hill and through the olive groves it was far lighter than in recent days when this part of the journey has been managed in pitch darkness with only the light on my bike to guide me.
As I arrived at the hovel I imagined a night stumbling around with only a torch to guide me. Inevitably the battery would have died. But the moonlight lit the path making my torch almost academic and I strode up the steps in a way that I would have not considered this summer when the wildlife diversity was not in hibernation. Flinging open the door, I flicked the switch and…
How could I have ever doubted Eleni?
2434 days ago
I am rather dreading heading back to the Greek Hovel tonight. I left at 3 PM as the electricity had gone again. I fled naturally to the Kourounis taverna where lovely Eleni assured me at 4 that it was back on. I sha;l find out shortly but have my torch ready just in case. But I postpone the trip back with another ouzo.
I hung around in Kambos because at 5 PM George the head olive picker arrived with the first 25 sacks from the Greek Hovel. We deposited them at the Olive Oil factory in the centre of the village and I now have a yellow slip saying that I have deposited 1033 kg ( just over a tonne) of olives. There is at least another half a tonne to arrive tomorrow as we finish up the harvest. Bags are stacked at the hovel and the only trees left to harvest are on the flat area next to the house. We are almost done.
So tomorrow we finish. It is Christmas pudding with Nikko, Vangelis and the others, steamed by Eleni. And we are done. And I had a Quindell whistleblower on the phone as a bonus. That job is almost done too. More on that tomorrow.
2435 days ago
The river bed, at the bottom of the valley between the deserted monastery/convent and the start of the climb up snake hill to the Greek Hovel, sits dry all summer. It is parched and it is hard to think that it ever sees water. Even as I arrived in Kambos two weeks ago it was dry as a bone. Puddles formed on the track but the river bed was like dust. That all changed with the storm.
The ford is a ford for a good reason. The ground had been raised with concrete and across it the water was perhaps only an inch deep. Pas de problem for my magnificent motorbike.
But looking upstream the water was rather deeper,
2435 days ago
As I biked home last night the puddles on the mud track were alarmingly deep. Somehow I ploughed through. At least it was not that dark thanks to a constant backdrop of sheet lightening. As I reached the hovel I was greeted by a thunderclap which made me think that a massive bomb had just gone off in the olive groves. I gathered some firewood and was jolly glad to light a fire lock the door and go to sleep. Now it is the morning after….
The sky is a clear blue and it is almost hot. My olive pickers are making good progress but …I have no power. No light. No coffee. My phone is dead and cannot recharge. And so naturally I have to abandon the harvest and head off to Kambos to seek the assistance of the lovely Eleni.
The ground is so wet that my bike has slipped over but it works. Thank heavens for small mercies and I head off down the track. Now the puddles are ginormous but the heroic machine ploughs through them. By the time I reach snake hill which is gravel and concrete the sun is doing its best to dry the slope and I speed off towards the bottom of the valley. Cripes!
The dry river is not dry anymore.
2436 days ago
Occasionally I have fallen off the motorbikes I use when in Kambos as a result of Nikko and Vangelis leading me astray at the Kourounis taverna owned by lovely Eleni. It is hard enough getting back up the track from the village to the hovel in the dark when sober but after a refreshing evening it is very hard. But today I had a bit of a tumble at a bit of speed (15 kmh) and when stone cold sober.
This time around I have moved up from a 50 cc machine to a 150 cc bike. It is not a lust for speed or a desire to impress the birds, simply the knowledge that in winter getting up the track to the Greek hovel was always going to be tough. This machine has power and normally I feel pretty much in control.
But it rained heavily overnight
2437 days ago
An email today from Jamie the architect, business partner of the daughter of lovely Susan Shimmin of The Real Mani. - still to collect her Christmas pudding I brought out for her.jamie has seen the weather forecast (vreki – rain) for tomorrow and thinks it may be “safer” to visit the Greek Hovel on Thursday rather than tomorrow. Jeepers – this bloke is from Scotland so a bit of rain?
It goes without saying that I shall be on my motorbike up and down the two mile track from the Greek Hovel, down snake hill, over the dry (or not so dry) river and past the abandoned ghost filled monastery/convent and into Kambos tomorrow. I live in the hovel. I have assured him that it is all perfectly safe. What a Jessie.
2439 days ago
You think Greeks are lazy. That is because all you see is folks in Athens sipping coffees all day. Out here in the Mani life is hard and folks do both a main job but also work the land. So my pal Vangelis is a delivery driver for Dixons but has – I think – 600 olive trees. Nikko and Eleni at the Kourounis taverna also own trees up near the Greek Hovel – they start their harvest tomorrow. And so do I!
The lovely Eleni has put me in touch with a new group of workers. Another chap called Foti, George and his son. I met up again with George today and we start on the olive harvest at 8 AM. So no ouzo for me tonight. To give you an idea of what lies in store for me here are some photos I took last week of a man harvesting trees on the road/track up to the Greek Hovel, just above snake hill. It seems to me that it looks like rather hard work.
2439 days ago
You may remember that my shower arrangements at the Greek Hovel are somewhat rudimentary. I attach a picture of the shower, aka a hose pipe dropping down from the vine on the "snake terrace."
2441 days ago
First up or rather not up, Foti. Despite all the promises my Albanian olive harvesters did not show up yet again. The lovely Eleni has a replacement team and we start work Monday, possibly Sunday. I am assured that they are reliable. Fingers crossed.
Second up my Internet is down. And third up my motorbike has a flat battery as well as a punctured tyre. And so at 9 AM I strolled from the Greek hovel into Kambos to spend the day working at the Kourounis taverna run by the lovely Eleni. So far not so bad.
Mid-morning I called John the bike man to see if he could pop over to assist. “I am in Athens my friend – I will come over on Saturday morning.” Yikes. In case this happened I brought a torch but now face a 30 minute down dale up dale walk back to the hovel in pitch darkness. It is not a prospect that I relish greatly and am putting off the grim moment as long as I can. But that only makes it worse.
2442 days ago
My main Albanian Foti is playing cards in the taverna across the street from that of the lovely Eleni. It is a bit of an old man’s dive unlike the Kourounis taverna where women and young folks are welcome and which has wi-fi. Anyhow I wandered across and was told that today’s no show was down to the vreki (rain) and that he’d come on a rain free day, perhaps Saturday. Hmmmm.
I went back to Eleni’s and together we checked the 10 day weather forecast. Yikes tomorrow is rain free. So I pick up the laptop and stormed across the road. I think that it is the first time that the Old man’s taverna of Kambos has seen a laptop. I might as well have wandered in wearing a space suit. But I showed Foti and his friends the weather forecast and we agreed “Ohki vreki avrio – elias octo ore! (excuse the phonetic Greek). He nodded. Maybe the great harvest will finally get underway at the Greek hovel!
Watch this space.
PS. My Greek is improving. I now must know at least 25 words although avrio (tomorrow) seems to be the one I find myself using and hearing most often
2444 days ago
It was Nikko who was celebrating his Birthday in lovely Eleni's Kourounis taverna in Kambos on Saturday. That led to an interesting ride back to the Greek Hovel. My harvest may not have started but my friend is already well progressed and what you see if some of the first oil off the press. It will be heading back to Bristol for the Mrs along with rather larger volumes of my own oil after we start harvesting later this week.
2444 days ago
The Albanians led by Foti did not show up at 8 AM as promised. Bad news for me and bad news for Quindell, Fitbug, etc as I had more time to write and record a sizzling Bearcast (sense the anger). Actually it is jolly cold up on the mountain at the Greek Hovel so a bit of me is relieved to have postponed the outdoor manual labour – I plan to work alongside my team as part of my learning curve.
And so I find myself sitting in lovely Eleni’s Kourounis taverna which is a bit warmer than the hovel, catching up on work. We have racked down Foti and the harvest now starts on Thursday. By when it is bound to be even colder. But for now, warmth, writing and Eleni’s home cooking beckon here in Kambos.
2447 days ago
As I was wandering in a semi sober manner out of the Kourouni's taverna owned by the lovely Eleni in Kambos tonight this song came on to play. I sort of view this as the song of The Greek Hovel. Even though it is French.
Indila hit No 2 in Frogland with this amazing track. In the UK it was off the radar but in Greece 2013 it went straight to No 1. Greeks have taste. I spent happy times in Paris a few years ago and so the video brings back memories but for me this song is Greece 2013. Enjoy
2447 days ago
I arrived at Athens airport at midnight Greek time on Tuesday. 24 hours after the Real Man Christmas party I was still feeling a little fragile and so walked zombie like to the hotel airport and wet to my room to crash. The bed swallowed me up and I was asleep. So far so good.
I made it to Athens bus station the next day and caught my bus to Kalamata where I went to the best hotel overlooking the sea front. In summer all the hotels in town are booked out months in advance. But it is November, and the town is dead. 50 Euros including breakfast and I was ready to get back to work and immediately called John the bike man, a venerable source of information on local brothels and much else.
A deal was struck. I have a new bike of which more later but it has real power! The next morning as agreed I met up with John and I drive the bike to Kambos. He was to follow in a car to meet me at The Greek Hovel with my bags and coats. Easy, 1.30 at the hovel.
Driving up into the mountains my head was simply flooded with happiness.
2447 days ago
It is a Saturday night and the Mrs is out on the lash in Bristol and I am here in lovely Eleni’s Kourounis taverna in Kambos. My neighbour Charon popped up at the Greek Hovel earlier and so with him sitting behind me we drove slowly into the village on my new bike. Charon is not his real name but we will come to that another time.
The place is buzzing. My friend Nikko – who has promised to kill anyone who comes to the village asking for me – is 59. And so the drinking has started. Vangelis, the Police Sergeant from Kardamili who lives in Kambos and all the others are here. We have already exchanged a “round of drinks”. I think you all know what happens next and it will not be the Sergeant warning us all about the dangers of drink driving.
A lot has happened since I came back to what I increasingly view as my home. More on that tomorrow..perhaps not right at the crack of dawn
2453 days ago
On Monday I head off to London for the 3rd Real Man Christmas party. I reflect upon those who attended two years ago and how the list has grown. And then I am off to Greece to return to the Greek Hovel and I think about my hopes, my concerns, my worries and my excitement about that trip: snakes, motorbikes, the lovely Eleni and all that lies in Kambos.
In my weekly financial video postcard I forgive the Quindell shareholders who have threatened and abused me during the past six months. They have my sympathies as they face wipeout and I have a few words of advice, even for the folks who sent me death threats. That video can be watched HERE
2497 days ago
The Bristol vine harvest was completed last weekend. About enough liquid for ten to fifteen bottles now sits fermenting in a bucket. We have added sugar and yeast and must just wait for a week before straining and decanting into a demi-john. I may try to make grappa with what’s left as an experiment.
Our Bristol grapes were red but small and of varying degrees of sweetness. They were not the lush bunches of grapes you’d expect at a Roman orgy. Nor the lush bunches of sweet grapes that hang around the Greek Hovel.
My guest this summer gave me firm instructions as to how I must assist the vine for next year by pissing against it. As a woman she was not able to assist but urine is a great source of nitrogen and so I followed her instructions every day. I am not sure that I saw any immediate response from the gnarled trunk. But I guess we will find out next summer.
It is the end of my first working week back in the UK. Right now my friends in Kambos are gathering at lovely Eleni’s Kourounis taverna. It is starting to get dark. I would at this point be tapping away for another couple of hours before Vangelis – the man in the pink polo shirt – said in Greek, it is not if you are drinking but what are you drinking. And we’d be off. Back in Bristol I prepare to cook supper for the Mrs instead and to learn more about life in the Grim North by catching up on this week’s episodes of Coronation Street. It is a life of contrasts.
2502 days ago
I preface this all with some comments of Paddy Leigh Fermor in his book the Mani. Paddy has just been ripped off by a mule owner who had acted like a total bastard. Paddy reflects that this happens just now and again in Greece but is made all the more memorable because 99% of the time the hospitality of the people of Greece, their honesty and generosity is unmatched. Paddy puts it rather more eloquently but is correct. And with that preface…
The Mrs decided that during her stay with me this summer we should take some time out from the Greek hovel and enjoy a bit of luxury in Kardamili. We could not leave my guest alone at the hovel with the snakes and so she was booked into one hotel in the centre of town while the Mrs and I stayed at a wonderful place the Meletsina Village at the far end of the beach road which leads away north from the town
I cannot speak too highly of the Canadian Greek family who ran our place. It was there that Julie Despy and Ethan Hawke had stayed while filming “Before Midnight” in the town and it gets a thumbs up on all counts.
My guest was not so lucky. On the first night in town she took her laptop out to work in a restaurant and was promptly followed back to where she was staying, the Papanestoras Apartments run by the loathsome Valia Papanestoros.
After waiting for her to start snoring (which she does), those who had followed her entered her room – she had unwisely not locked her door – and stole her computer and wallet (later retrieved minus 70 euro in cash).
By 5 AM my guest was reporting this to Kardamili police who at once pointed the finger at their usual suspects…Albanians. Whilst this might seem a bit unfair I am afraid that 99% of burglaries in the Mani happen in the tourist towns and are indeed perpetrated by Albanian criminal gangs. In the non-tourist villages, burglaries are less common as the Maniots have less to steal and will have guns with which they will shoot you.
In the days that followed my guest, understandably felt angry – having lost much of the book she was writing – and violated. I wish I could say that the Old Bill bust a gut for her but I cannot.
At first the owner of the hotel was sympathetic and said that my guest could leave early and pay only for the days she had stayed. My guest took her up on that and flew back to London but because the hotel had no working credit card machine had to assure her that I would pay her in cash.
And so just a few hours after my guest left, I heard a loud knock and opened the door of my hotel room. The Mrs was sunning herself on the beach. Standing in front of me was the hotelier and an enormous and menacing looking man.
2502 days ago
I write this on the train from Reading to Bristol. A journey of bike, car, plane, train, train is almost over. I am back in the UK. I am back in a land of folks with horrible tattoos, of fat people swilling beer in concreted pub gardens, of nasty, smelly and expensive takeaway food. I am back in a land of surveillance cameras where there are far too many people jostling each other to get ahead. I am back in a Country that is just emerging on another illegal war, where jingoism and English or Scottish patriotism combine for a poisonous mix.
On the other hand I cannot wait to see the Mrs who will pick me up at Temple Meads, to give the cats an enormous hug and to catch up on last week’s Downton Abbey. I am really looking forward to a mug of tea, to sitting in my back garden looking at the grapes which we will harvest tomorrow to turn into wine. The Mrs has videod the start of the new season of Dallas and the episode of Corrie when Ken returned to the Street. I am sure the Mrs will cook me a wonderful supper. But I can’t but help think about my friends in Kambos who will be gathering right now at the Korounis taverna, run by lovely Eleni, to chat, watch the football and look out on the stars in a clear sky.
As I rode into Kambos on Friday night it was one of those splendid Greek evenings. The sun was going down but it was warm and as I headed down snake hill the valley opened up before me. The – I think – deserted monastery or convent stood solid in front of me, up the hill above the spring. Further along the valley is a small house where the village baker lives. Why would anyone leave?
To Eleni’s to load videos and upload articles and to enjoy one last portion of her meatballs. Knowing that it was my last night Vangelis (the man in the pink short, not the man from the frigana chopper/snake repellent shop or the Vangelis who will win an Olympic gold in frigana chopping) bought me an ouzo. Naturally I reciprocated and I was soon sitting there with both George’s, Nikos (the football man) and a new pal Dimitris.
2504 days ago
Why do I trek down from the Greek Hovel to the Kourounis taverna in Kambos? Cheap and well prepared food? Cheap booze or diet coke of café frappes? The folks here? It’s a combination of all three. The clientele is overwhelmingly male as Greek women know that their place is in the home - please note The Mrs, none of your strident feminism here. So maybe it is the charm of lovely Eleni that draws us here. This place is known as “Eleni’s.”
But this is the evening, during the day there is a different clientele and for some of them it is not Eleni but the magician of Kambos they come to visit.
2504 days ago
Dominating Kambos on the other side of the Village from the Greek Hovel, is a once great fortress. As you head towards Stavropoula (home to the lovely Susan Shimmin of Real Mani) it is at the top of a steep climb to your right. Naturally I am too lazy to climb up that hill so I take the easy road to Zarnata Castle, by heading through the village of Stavropoula.
As with Kambos, the tourist passing through will see modern buildings on a main road and probably speed on towards Kardamili. But as with Kambos the back streets contain some gorgeous old stone Mani houses. There are also a couple of old churches of note. At this point I got totally lost and found myself way down a dusty track but an old man gave me directions in Greek in response to the question “pu eni castro?”
Having asked the question in Greek I then tried to explain that I did not speak any Greek at all. And so
2504 days ago
It was my last afternoon and so, having done my washing and tidied up the Greek Hovel (I do hope the Mrs is reading) it was time for a bit of sightseeing in the cultural quarter of Kambos. Quarter…I exaggerate a bit. However.
As one drives out of Kambos on the looping toad up the hill towards Stavropoula ( home to the lovely Susan Shimmin of Real Mani) on your right there are two monuments of note, one visible, the other hidden in olive groves.
From the road you can see a ruined Tower House. In the Mani of old the local gentry would build these constructions as they prepared for blood feuds, war, with other families of a similar status. Those in the lower orders were roped in to serve their local gentry. In some villages there are numerous Tower Houses as they were blessed with several families vying for power in that village.
There was always a race to build higher and higher towers so that you could dominate and shoot down on your enemies. Blood feuding was only halted when the Maniots joined together to fight the common enemy, i.e. the evil Turks.
In Kambos there is just one tower house and it is ruined. I am not sure when or why it was destroyed. The statue at the front is clearly of a Maniot with the traditional village people style bushy moustache. His dates are given as 1813-1877
2504 days ago
The Mrs no doubt expects me to arrive back in Bristol with a rucksack full of dirty washing. Au contraire…here at the Greek Hovel I maintain high standards and my full range of shorts, T-shirts and socks enjoyed a though hand wash today. So there! And here is the evidence. NB I have also swept the floor and will dump the rubbish down in Kambos at the tip shortly. Brownie points for the Sheriff!
2505 days ago
I am conscious that when I return to the Greek Hovel for the Olive harvest and frigana burning in late November it will be a tad nippy at night. Luckily the main room has an open fire with its own little tripod should I wish to cook my own baked beans rather than trek down to see the lovely Eleni at the Kourounis taverna in Kambos. For when the rains start the track to the hovel will be a tough ride even though I shall be hiring a more powerful motorbike.
As such I spent a happy afternoon collecting firewood and storing it in the rat room. The old owners had left all sorts of trash and the planks, broken tables etc. will burn nicely, There are plenty of old olive branches pruned and discarded years ago that were collected and – as a real treat – some of the thicker frigana branches will give me enormous pleasure to send up in smoke.
Mindful that snakes will be looking for a winter home, you will note the thick yellow ring around the woodpile. That is sulphur which snakes are not meant to cross. Before I go I shall be sprinkling it liberally around the place. It is not my job to provide a winter residence for the wildlife diversity.
2505 days ago
It is now a couple of weeks since I visited the magnificent Town Hall in Kambos to ask if the road to the Greek Hovel could be repaired. Unfamiliar with Greekonomics I feared that the three full time staff there serving our village (population c500) might be a little over-stretched.
I should not have worried. I turned up to day to find that the three ladies had a male colleague who had been on holiday last time. Now that they are fully staffed they have looked into the matter and said that the steamroller needed to flatten out the road is broken.
But fear not. It should be mended in a few weeks and I am right at the top of the list. We shall see.
2506 days ago
Back in the 1960s my uncle visited the Mani on his first honeymoon. Oddly he and his wife were joined by another couple and within months his wife had run off with the other man. That is an aside. It took my uncle more than two days to get from Athens to the Mani so remote and cut off was the region.
Here in Kambos the dirt track to Kardamili became a road back in 1965 (two years after that fateful honeymoon), roads south from there were built later. The man who brought this peninsular to the attention of the wider world was Paddy Leigh Fermor, a truly amazing man once described as a mixture of Indiana Jones, James Bond and Gerald Durrell.
Though incredibly clever, Paddy was no academic and so after being expelled from school (issues with a young lady) in 1933 he walked through Europe to Greece. Along the way he noticed that something was not quite right in Germany. When war broken out he signed up immediately and was sent into Greece since he spoke the language fluently. His most heroic exploit was in Crete where – with the partisans – he captured a German general on the North of the island and transported him across Crete to the South where he was lifted off by British Destroyer. The film, based on the episode, has Leigh Fermor played by Dirk Bogarde
In the war Paddy’s code name was Michalis. After the war he stayed on in Greece fighting with the Royalists in the Civil war. He refers to this in his two classic books on Greece
2506 days ago
I saved the last of the frigana for after lunch. Two sessions in the morning left me with one last patch to clear. But first a major problem: My bike was leaking oil. The man at the garage said “go to Kalamata tomorrow” as I bought my second bottle of the day. But I am a changed man.
Three months ago I would have phoned John the bike man in a panic. Today once back at the hovel I got underneath the bike and diagnosed the problem. Tubing had come loose. And I fixed it. Triumph one.
Triumph two came just before dusk as I finally removed the last frigana bush on the property. 2000
2507 days ago
I have slightly cheated and brought in a local to assist me with the frigana cutting. He has a few advantages over me. He is fit and young. He is fearless, wading into bushes not worrying about what wildlife diversity might be hiding there. His big advantage is that he has an ultra-powerful frigana cutter. In motorbike terms he has a 500 cc cutter, I have a 125 cc cutter. But he is also an artist. Watching him weld his frigana cutter is a pleasure, he twists and turns, stabs and swipes and the evil bushes just disappear.
My guess is that by Thursday at noon, 2000 square metres of frigana will be no more. His last patch is in the far corner of the property and is dense and old. Some of the frigana bushes have become trees and for them a saw is needed.
My last patches are one half terrace on the Kambos facing side, a small patch next to the entrance the sheep use to get on the land and then the outside fences on the two tracks either side of the land. I managed five forty-five minute sessions today, after each one I was drenched in sweat and breathless. Even my 125 cc type frigana cutter is heavy and to tackle the plant at floor level and then on walls above head height uses every muscle in your arms. Five more sessions tomorrow and my bit is done.
The whole property is now covered in cut frigana branches. The oldest
2508 days ago
I had planned to stay sober until my return but I fear that I have been led astray. I blame OTE Telecom. I still cannot get on the interwebby at The Greek Hovel so spent all Sunday working from the Kouronis taverna in Kambos, run by lovely Eleni. At about 10 O’clock Greek Time I was done writing and asked for my bill. But instead I was summoned to the bar and asked to sit with four men.
Either side of me were two Gentlemen who spoke English. The younger (George) was a relative newcomer to the area, the elder (Nikos) is a greying stocky man with a walrus moustache. It was he who had cross words with me on my second day here when I supported the Krauts rather than the Argies in the football. Since then we have exchanged nothing but pleasantries. Behind Nikos was the man in the pink polo shirt (Vangelis) and behind George was another George, a Greek only speaking builder.
I was told “it is not will you have a drink but what are you drinking”. They were on the hard stuff and so I opted for ouzo. Nikos told me that they had decided they needed to know me better as I was now their neighbour.
They refused to let me pay and four hours later I was rather the worse for wear. Nikos was concerned about me biking home. He offered to drive me several times but since he was also a tad unsteady on his feet I declined
2508 days ago
Every evening and most days a rather large man sits at the bar of the Kourounis taverna in Kambos run by lovely Eleni. He always wears a pink polo shirt. I am not sure if he has a large collection of such shirts or if he has been wearing the same one all summer. He laughs, he smiles, he drinks and smokes and taps away at his laptop. What on earth is he doing?
2510 days ago
It was just after the turning by the petrol station/post office in Kambos where one leaves the main road and starts up the road/track to the Greek Hovel where I met the nun. This has been bugging, if not haunting, me for two days.
The first fifty yards of the track to the hovel is well lit as you head towards a tiny little church which, as far as I can see, is never used. Thereafter the street lights disappear and all around you it is black. You can see the stars and eventually as you hit the brow of the hill you can see twinkling lights of a few isolated houses (mine included) on the other site of the valley. But otherwise it is just dark. You can hear the wildlife diversity in the bushes and trees around you but can see nothing.
And so as I rode back in the dark just before the church a small figure stepped out of the dark.
2511 days ago
My shorts are packed away, the (just 33 inch!) jeans and a fleece are now the daily norm. There is a chill in the air. The skies over the mountains behind the Greek Hovel are now dark with cloud pregnant with rain. There have been spits and spots periodically for two days but no downpour. It is only a matter of time.
The daily shower at the hovel is less of a laugh these days. You may remember that it is simply a hosepipe draped from the frame on which our vine trails. Just a few weeks ago the water arrived heated by the sun burning down on the metal pipes which connect my house to the village. The water is rather less hot these days and though I am drenched in sweat from labouring in the fields the temptation to skip the odd shower is very real. The Mrs is no longer here, no one is going to mind if I am a bit smelly are they?
In the village the preparations for winter are being made. Biking in to Kambos through the olive groves above snake hill the other day I was thinking about nothing in particular and so was rather startled when a woman’s voice shouted out “Hello Tom”. Which nymph of the woods, was calling?
2513 days ago
I was sitting in lovely Eleni’s Kourounis tavern in Kambos when on the screen I suddenly see pictures of a bunch of loons waving Saltire’s and some other loons waving Union flags. Eleni looks a bit puzzled as the commentator tries to explain to a Greek audience what is going on.
Eleni asks me about Scotland. I tell her that it is a bit like Greece. Very high unemployment, the Government spends more than it takes and the politicians are all corrupt. But it is a lot colder. She says she understands why Scotland is the Greece of the North and we return to serious matters of discussing Greekeconomics – the Kambos Town Hall.
I am one of perhaps 500 people in our village of Kambos where The Greek Hovel is located. But we have a Town Hall and a Mayor. We also have three full time employees who work in one of the largest buildings in Kambos. Doing what? I have no idea.
The village of Kambos is obliged to mend my road by law. But it has no money to do so. I have another meeting there tomorrow to discuss. That’s Greekeconomics for you.
2516 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?
2516 days ago
This is my penultimate video postcard from Greece until I return November for the olive harvest. Forgive my lack of writing, I have been busy preparing for UK Investor Show on April 18 2015 and also obsessing about snakes and frigana.
I discuss both snakes and frigana in great detail.
I then go on to say why I disagree with Paddy Leigh Fermor and have fallen in love with Kambos, the village nearest to the Greek Hovel.
Details of the show are at www.UKInvestorShow.com – book your seat now!
My financial video postcard this week covers the issues of shares that appear to be uber cheap (PE of less than 3 etc). It is the “It’s too good to be true” edition and can be viewed HERE
2523 days ago
The summer is drawing to a close at the Greek Hovel. My summer lasts for just another three weeks and then I must return to Britain. I shall miss this place badly. But the physical summer is also drawing to its close. Nature is changing.
The grapes that used to sit in great bunches hanging from the vines that surround this house are all gone. I had my fair share but so too did some incredibly large wasps who after a day’s gorging would buzz around inebriated and stuffed. The wasps have gone and are now preparing, unknowingly, for death.
Meanwhile I start to gather firewood whenever I find it. Not in an organised fashion but on an ad hoc basis. There is plenty kicking around and it is now being stored in the rat room. I will need it for the fire when I come back in November and December for the olive harvest and frigana burning. By then it will be only 22 degrees during the day and at night it will be a tad chilly.
In the evenings as I head down to Eleni’s most excellent Kourounis taverna in Kambos for a Greek salad I now wear jeans and a shirt. By the time I head back there is a chill in the air. The weather is slowly turning. Do not get me wrong, it is 3 PM now and I sit in shorts only - the afternoon heat is still intense, just not quite what it was.
And so with no grapes to snack on I am now onto prickly pears which grow on two giant cactus like plants just behind the hovel.
2524 days ago
It is a twenty five minute walk from the Greek Hovel down snake hill to the spring and up past the deserted monastery and a stretch of olive groves to the village of Kambos. But it is where my nearest neighbours live and I now know enough folks to say yassas to many of them as I bike in, although no-one other than wonderful Eleni, the taverna owner speaks any English. One of the joys of Kambos is that absolutely nothing ever happens there. Me falling off my motorbike at 3 MPH in front of Eleni’s taverna was the big news of the summer. That was until we had the murders.
2525 days ago
Some weeks back I reported to you that I had seen a snake in the garden of The Greek Hovel. I have thought about this long and hard and have concluded that I did not. Let me explain.
Firstly the garden is within the outer redoubt, the area protected by two snake repellent cans which emit a smell that snakes are meant to dislike. The locals swear by them and I hope that their faith is well placed.
Secondly I saw a foot long lizard in the garden the other day. It darted off to catch some poor bug and raised its head to digest. Its colour and head were on reflection identical to that of the “snake”. Perhaps most conclusively what I saw in my garden shot off in a straight line as would a lizard. Snakes can move rapidly but do so in S-shapes. I think I was so startled by my encounter with the wildlife diversity that I overlooked that little point.
And so I conclude that I have yet to see a snake but as I wade deeper and deeper into the frigana bushes with my strimmer, slashing madly, I sense that it is only a matter of time. For there are clearly snakes around. How do I now? Well for starters my guest saw one.
She was out running (silly girl) and
2526 days ago
The Mrs is back in Bristol already sending me photos of our cats Oakley (three legs) and Tara (four) who she is no doubt hugging to death and spoiling quite outrageously. I am sure that I shall do the same when I head back in a few weeks’ time.
I was delighted when the Mrs was here but it had two drawbacks. Without her I have slipped once again into my no alcohol and one or two Greek salads a day diet. With her I was drinking and eating rather more. And so my weight loss was arrested, in fact reversed a bit. Now I am in overdrive as I have just over three weeks to finish the frigana cutting and so am upping my manual labour rate accordingly.
The other drawback is that whilst my commercial writings (shares) continued almost every day, with the Mrs here I have no time for my personal writings. I enjoy my musings on life at The Greek Hovel far more than financial writing but know that those articles don’t pay the bills. And so I have an awful lot to catch up including two murders in our village of Kambos and my own detention at Kardimili police station. And
2549 days ago
My weekend encounter with a snake has sparked me into action at the Greek Hovel. I scuttled off yesterday to buy more snake repellent canisters although the weekend evidence suggested that they were not that effective. Sadly my friend at the plant store had none in stock but pushed a bag of yellow powder my way and swore by it stating happily that there were lots of snakes up where I live. That seems to be a constant and cheering message for me in the village of Kambos.
It is sulphur and snakes will apparently not cross it. How much is that I said? 1 Euro. In that case I shall have two please.
There now exists a yellow line round the edge of the garden and encircling the house. It is, an outer redoubt, against the wildlife diversity (of the snake variety). Fingers crossed it holds. However tomorrow the bush cutting machine arrives and my guest and I sally forth outside the redoubt to start bush clearance. We move into enemy territory…
2550 days ago
After almost one month I had yet to see a snake at the Greek Hovel…until yesterday. I arrived back at the Hovel at 9 AM feeling rather tired after a night at Athens Airport and as we got out of the car my guest says “so where are the snakes then?”
As I entered the garden I was about to reply “not seen one yet” when I heard a whoosh and something shot through the grass, starting about three yards from where I stood rooted to the spot. I peered closely at where it was now resting, five yards away. Er….”over there” I said.
In defence of the snake
2557 days ago
I think that with hindsight it was a mistake to try to ride back from Kambos carrying two pots of lavender on the motorbike. But I did, I tried to turn in the main road and I fell of my bike. At 5 miles an hour it was not too painful. Folks rushed from Eleni’s taverna to help pick me and the lavender pots up. I got back on an increasingly battered bike and moved off gingerly.
Biking back along the dirt track to the Greek Hovel is never easy but carrying two lavender pots (in plastic bags), with my confidence dented and with blood trickling from my knee and elbow it was harder than usual.
On the plus side I have given them something to talk about in Eleni’s Kouronis taverna – not a lot happens in Kambos. My reputation as a bit of an odd and clumsy stranger will be enhanced and I suppose seeping blood has to be good for weight loss? Please tell me that is true.
2567 days ago
When I record my videos each week you are meant to email me to say “Tom you have lost weight – well done!” I should not have to prompt anyone (especially the Mrs). But I have lost weight. Well I can’t measure it since, as I noted two years ago, there are virtually no scales in the whole of Greece but I can do the trouser test!
At my shameful 19 stone 6 pounds peak my waist was a disgraceful 44 inches. At my fighting weight (hooker for London Irish Wild Geese) I was a 32 inch waist. Two years ago in Greece I almost got down to 32 inches. I was within spitting distance.
Back in the UK – and blaming the Mrs for leading me astray - my waist expanded again. On leaving I was in 36 inch jeans and they felt tight. Within a few days my Ireland rugby shorts (from a post London Irish age) were so obviously falling down that they had to be retired. But they do not really count – they come from a plump (Clontarf veterans) era.
However, as their replacement – red swimming shorts - went from tight to comfortably loose I tried the trouser test.
2567 days ago
I had planned to be the owner of a 24 year old jeep today. I thought I had my paperwork in order as I trotted along to Kardimili police station to get my residents permit. Sadly not. I did not have that blue card which means that I am entitled to go into the execution rooms – that is to say Greek hospitals – should I fall sick.
If I do fall sick I am heading back to London. I may be ill but I do not want a minor sickness o turn into automatic death – I will take my chances with the NHS thank you. And as such I saw no reason to have this EI imposed commie state health care civil liberties infringing ID card. But now I do. One has been ordered in the UK and will be fedexed out.
And that left me sans transport. Being stuck in the hovel three miles from the nearest human being without transport struck me as imprudent but horror of all horrors there was not one car to rent in the whole of Kalamata. Hmmmm. Aged 46 ½ I have never ridden a motorbike in my life. But what better place to learn than here.
Hairpin bends, mountain roads, every driver either insane (Greek) or drunk (Northern European). What could be better?
2573 days ago
I popped into Kambos to meet a nice couple from Somerset who first bought here seven years ago and who had a few handy hints on dealing with our Greek friends. We chatted about the locals about olive grove tending – to water or not to water and about other matters. As I was in the village I thought I’d use the Kourouni taverna wi-fi to send videos back to London. But it seems as if a storm is brewing.
The sky is dark and it is just five O’Clock. The air feels fresher having been stifling all day and the thunder is rolling in. I can see flashes of lightening. How long before it breaks and we are deluged with rain? How will that affect the track back to the hovel? But will the roof leak if I am inside the Greek hovel? I guess the conversation about watering the olives is now a little redundant. On balance I shall sit it out in the taverna as I have a stonking new Quindell piece to complete before tomorrow.
2574 days ago
Darren you would be proud of me. I have tonight managed to get the Mi-Fi system working. That means that at any one time I can now run four computers at The Greek Hovel. Not only that but I have signed up to Skype and am now waiting for the Mrs to awake from her early evening slumber after a hard way watching her students graduate so that we can chat.
As I wait I hear a noise at the door and per through the glass and grill to see that it is a small lizard seeking entry to the wildlife diversity free redoubt. Piss off critter in here wildlife gets killed. As two (no make that three) bugs have found out to their cost in the past twenty minutes.
The arrival of the World Wide Web at The Hovel will be a body blow to Eleni's lovely Kouronis Taverna in Kambos
2575 days ago
As I was leaving the Greek Hovel this morning at around 9.30 the gardeners arrived. Before Dan Levi tweets out abuse from the Manchester slums about how I am outsourcing hard work, let me explain.
2575 days ago
I am pondering what to name the Greek Hovel. It really does not matter as all post in Kambos is left at the garage for us to collect, but I was pondering putting up a name board in Greek “Write Minds” – it’s a pun geddit?
Lovely Susan Shimmin from The Real Mani is not perfect. She is, I fear, a bit of a deluded lefty like The Mrs and has already twigged that I see the world in a rather different way to her. And so she was delighted to reveal to me that The Hovel, although more than a century old, was – according to our sales contract largely burned down in the 1940s during the Greek Civil war.
It seems that the inhabitants of The Hovel at the time were Royalists
2575 days ago
What in nature scared me a few days ago? Snakes? Yes big time. But also rats, bats. scorpions and the dark. I also have a great fear of heights but that has not been an issue to date as I settle into the Greek hovel. But the rest of my phobias have come in spades.
2577 days ago
I have yet to fix up my hosepipe based shower – that is a job for this evening. And as such after three days in the hovel I arrived at the conclusion that I must be rather dirty, not to say smelly. As such, noting that a sign just outside Kambos says beach 5.5 kilometres I ventured off for an early morning swim.
A Greek kilometre is rather different to a standard kilometre, that is to say 1000 metres. When the sign says 5.5 kilometres that means anything between 3 kilometres and nine kilometres. Just treat what the sign says as a very rough guide. And thus after about nine kilometres I hit the sea and removed my West Ham 2005-2006 “We are Premiership” T-shirt, celebrating Bobby Zamora’s magnificent 57th minute winner against Preston in the play-off final. I then dipped my toes in.
2578 days ago
I snuck out last night to watch the World Cup. The longer it lasted the more I could put off driving back along the long and windy road in the dark to the Greek Hovel. And even worse, to getting out of the car, walking ten yards through the grass to the Greek Hovel wondering what wildlife was lurking in the grass or inside the hovel. As it happens it was a wildlife free experience. Even Mr Rat seems to have “taken his medicine” and disappeared.
The taverna was packed and it soon became clear that I was the only person not supporting the Argies. As the Argies “scored” the taverna rose as one. As the linesman raised his flag for offside one fist punched the air. It was then that the dirty looks started.
How I wished I spoke Greek and could have explained that I too loathe the krauts but that the Argies are for Falkland’s related reasons even worse. But I spoke no Greek and so the loud cheers and increasingly timid punches from me continued. And then the Belgrano moment…The Argies sunk by a sub. The Taverna was not happy. I was rather hoping that it would go to penalties so postponing my encounter with wildlife diversity back at the hovel but on balance was delighted.
Watching Germans celebrate and Angela Merkel smile and clap with joy caused me no great pleasure but
2580 days ago
By now you might have wondered quite what possessed the Mrs to snap up falling down our Greek hovel in the middle of nowhere and which is teaming with rats and snakes. Hmmm. Good question. And I have not even started on the works I need to do on the grounds or of the sanitation, er…..issue. But let me show you the view.
2580 days ago
I had forgotten just how remote our new Greek hovel was. Leaving the small village of Kambos (three tavernas, three food stores and a place that sells snake repellent) myself and Susan Shimmin from the Real Mani drive our respective cars past a small church. The road as we head downhill is, at first, pretty good. That is because the first building on it – and my nearest neighbour – is a monastery. At this point there are only a few potholes to deal with.
I shall return to the subject of my neighbour, the monk, later. And also to the relationship between State and Church here in Greece. Suffice to say that in an enormous building there is now just one resident. I plan to pop in and say hello at some stage next week.
As we pass the monastery the road deteriorates rapidly. While the Greek Sate must ensure that the Church is not put out in any way, caring for the needs of its ordinary citizens is no longer affordable. At this point the pot holes become cavernous and the tarmac disappears as we head to the bottom of the valley. I am in first gear and driving at five miles an hour.
At the bottom of the valley there is a river in winter which flows over the road. It is now totally dry but a pond still exists hidden behind the trees. I guess there must be a spring there. That is something else for me to investigate at some point. But now we start the steep climb up the other side of the valley.
Susan pushes on in her battered van