83 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.
93 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.
164 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.
205 days ago
After a meal at what was Miranda’s (19.5 Euro for a salad and two meat dishes plus half a litre of rosé), we headed to Eleni’s Kourounis taverna for Joshua’s treat of some ice cream. It has become a daily treat and is one of the reasons he loves being in Greece. But he also loves watermelon and so to try and wean him off the ice cream we bought the smallest one on sale at Eleni’s which is, as you can see below, enormous.
206 days ago
Feeling rather sleep deprived after our early Saturday morning flight to Greece, Sunday saw a collective lie-in at the Greek Hovel. Even the pest himself, my son Joshua, was snoring until well after ten. Then a morning swim. The pool is full and wonderful. Whatever time you get in the temperature seems just perfect. I am not sure how George the architect managed to fill it as there seems to be a bit of a water shortage. Now before you say global warming as some readers have already been quick to suggest, here are the facts.
207 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.
431 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.
446 days ago
Bright and early, notwithstanding another alcohol fuelled supper the night before at Miranda’s, the team of four assembled for Sunday’s harvest. Heroic K was resplendent in his red overalls and new boy T2 wore blue overalls which, he insisted, were on their last outing. T1 wore the sort of short long trousers of a length I’d associate with the Hitler Youth, which prompted me to observe that the snakes were probably all asleep so he was not that vulnerable to a bite. It turns out that T1 was terrified of snakes.
450 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.
458 days ago
I still have not worked out what it is called these days but other than the name nothing changes.
859 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.
863 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.
926 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.
1008 days ago
I am horrified by how much pruning is needed on some of our olive trees. It is as if they have not been "cleaned, as they say here, for years. But this is just one season's growth. Maybe I have Alzheimer's but I really do not remember it being this hard other than in year one when Foti the Albanian and I tackled trees that had not been pruned in eons.
1181 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.
1189 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?"
1346 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.
1356 days ago
As I have noted many times, killing frigana is very therapeutic. To date this year, the weapon of choice has been poison and as you can see below, that has worked in places to very good effect. This is a patch I sprayed about a week ago and it is already on its way out. Leaves that were a shiny green are now visibly browning and pretty soon this whole patch will be a golden brown. But sadly that is not the whole story.
1367 days ago
It may sound silly but I find that killing frigana - the horrid thorn bush in which snakes hide - is really the most relaxing thing that I can do. Whether it be with poison or with my strimmer I become the grim reaper and could not be happier.
1379 days ago
I have been pruning olive trees at the Greek Hovel for four years now. But there is one tree that has almost entirely escaped my attention until now, the one that lies within the outer ring of stones of the abandoned ruin on our property, a.k.a. the snake house.
1384 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.
1393 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.
1396 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.
1398 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...
1399 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.
1400 days ago
You may remember that George the Architect is a little nervous about chopping down non olive trees which the forestry survey may have identified at the Greek Hovel. On the other hand Nicho the Communist regards these snake shelters as an obstruction to the basic human right of every Greek to plant as many olive trees as possible on his land. I am with Nicho.
1400 days ago
As he had promised my friend Nicho the Communist returned to the Kourounis taverna after half an hour and so shortly before eleven, two hours after we planned, we were ready to start poisoning the frigana, the ghastly snake hiding thorn bushes, that blight the Greek Hovel. Shall we go in my car I asked?
1400 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.
1400 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.
1401 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.
1404 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.
1406 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.
1407 days ago
Having explained to the nice lady who runs my favourite restaurant here in Kalamata why I had to turn down a free ouzo she expressed great sympathy about the plight of a man with type 2 diabetes. And thus, having finished my grilled octopus and black eyed peas and mountain greens, I was presented with a bowl of soup.
1412 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.
1462 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.
1470 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.
1540 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.
1736 days ago
As you may remember, Nicho the Communist delighted in telling me upon my arrival in Kambos that the snake harvest had been excellent this year and that the fields around my house, the Greek Hovel, would be full of them. During the past few weeks he has several times asked after the snakes, managing to speak and laugh at the same time. And so having encountered one, I felt I should relay the news to him.
We were sitting, as you might expect, in the Kourounis taverna. I told him what had happened and he looked straight into my eyes and asked earnestly "Did you kill it?"
You and I know
1751 days ago
And so I tracked down a shop in Kalamata which sells canisters of Herpotex, cans that emit a smell snakes find noxious and which will keep them away for three months. In theory at least. The guide says I only need two to be placed 10 yards from two diagonally opposed corners of the hovel. Fecking hell, we are talking snakes here. I asked for four, one for each corner. The lady said "they are 30 euros each."
I thought that the price had gone up quite a bit since last year. Perhaps the fantastic "snake harvest" referred to by Nicho the communist means that demand is outstripping supply and that Herpotex snake repellent is the one item in Greece seeing real inflation? But this is snakes so I found 120
1753 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
2111 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.
2247 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.