884 days ago
There are times when I feel just why isn’t Uncle Chris here to chat. He would have loved the Panorama show in October as he generously shared in my minor triumphs. The death of Bob Willis, the General Election farce. The ghastly Greta Thunberg show. The joke that is the Impeachment of Donald Trump. Anna Soubry losing her deposit. I should have been chatting to him. When I arrived at the Greek Hovel for the olive harvest in late November I would always report to him on how much global warming already lay on the high Taygetos behind us. Those were mountains he knew well and which we had planned to climb together.
1272 days ago
It is unbelievably wet at the Greek Hovel. The rain is still sheeting it down making the track up here ever more reminiscent of a WW1 battlefield. But although the heating is not yet working thanks to the electricity company not upgrading my meter, the thick stone walls keep it warm inside. And there is real progress to show you as you can see below.
1303 days ago
It was more than four years ago when the Mrs bought the Greek Hovel, an abandoned farmhouse with one (barely) habitable and certainly not wildlife proof room set in 16,000 square metres of olive trees in the foothills of the Taygetos Mountains. Today the hovel is almost complete as an eco palace, the video below shows you all, inside and out.
1312 days ago
I run these photo articles every autumn for you folks who only come to Greece in the summer and know it as a country of burnt brown grass and vegetation. Right now with autumn rains kicking in the area around the hovel is bursting into life. The patches of green are expanding rapidly and the brown is in full scale retreat. Meanwhile, everywhere, you see reds, blues, whites, purples as little flowers spring to life. It is almost alpine. All we need now is snow on the Taygetos mountains behind us. It will be here by Christmas.
1356 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
1359 days ago
The big jobs remaining at the eco-palace are the second floor floorboards and the first floor ceiling for the new wing. That needs the unreliable windows man to get his fat arse back up to the Greek Hovel. As such I have declined to pay his most recent bill for 14,000 Euro. In the past I have paid him in advance. He gave me his word he'd be back up here today...he was not. So the bill is on hold until he pitches up again. I am playing hard ball... Meanwhile the tilers have almost finished their work as you can see below.
1374 days ago
Just in case you think that I am suffering in 33 degree heat every day...
1376 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.
1377 days ago
George the Architect says he is proud of his work at the hovel. And so he should be. For four years we have worked on plans, tweaked, re-tweaked, waded through layers of Greek bureaucracy and now we are almost there as the photos below show. I am proud too. I know I am not an easy client and so I have had walls pulled down and rebuilt and made big changes as we went along but they have worked.
1398 days ago
Okay the tiles are not yet on but the timbers are and, though I say it myself, they look splendid. The first two photos are of the long balcony outside the room above the rat room and the new wing second floor. The roof extends over this providing summer shade and winter rain protection as you star up at the Taygetos mountains. Photo three looks through the kitchen to what will be the front door. Photo four is from the new wing up into the room above the bat room which flows without wall into the second floor of the new wing whose magnificent high ceiling appears in photo five. Most excellent.
1405 days ago
Of course there is not a door there yet or a roof, nor have the walls of the kitchen been plastered and it does not have any windows but....
1453 days ago
Okay I know I said one more day and the Greek Hovel would be ready for a roof but I was wrong. But now it really is one more day! As you can see below...
1461 days ago
As I head off to Greece later this week it will be to start training at altitude in the Taygetos Mountains. Only kidding. But i have been taking to the gym and starting some modest walks. I really do not want to be shown up too badly on 28 July when Brokerman Dan Levi and I walk from Horse Hill to Woodlarks.
1540 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.
1551 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.
1555 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.
1555 days ago
I think that I have published articles similar to this before but it is a point worth making again and again, there is a hidden Greece that so few of we Northern Europeans never see. for most of us Greece is a place we only visit in the stifling hot summers. If we bother to leave the coastal strip we see grass burned brown by a constant sun, if not scorched black by the forest fires that happen all too often. But there is another Greece, the Greece of winter and spring.
1728 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.
1738 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.
1746 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.
1773 days ago
In Greece the summer rains are violent. Dark clouds gather above the Taygetos Mountains above the Greek hovel or sometimes out to see in the bay of Kalamata. The wind starts to pick up and you can hear it unsettling the trees, after a while the rustling of the leaves is so loud it sends a clear warning of what is to come. Thunder booms loudly, you start to see lightning and before you know it the rain is pouring down. You can be drenched, a dripping rat, within a minute or so as the skies empty.
1805 days ago
To be struck by lightning at the Greek Hovel once is, perhaps, understandable but twice would look like carelessness. You may remember how, six minutes into THIS PODCAST the hovel was indeed struck but I soldiered on anyway. However, I'd rather not repeat the experience.
1842 days ago
As you may remember, work was delayed on the rebuilding of the Greek Hovel after the authorities insisted we needed a permit to demolish bricks put up without a permit by the previous owners. This is Greece after all. that permit has arrived and so the demolition starts, and phase one is the snake veranda.
1848 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.
2158 days ago
I was woken today by the sound of heavy thunder in the tall hills to my far right and in front of me. There was no lightening and it has now abated but in those hills dark clouds still loom, indeed a fog of rain clouds are now covering those slopes directly in front of me obscuring my view. Behind me, and to my left, in the Taygetos mountains there are also dark rain clouds evident. After day after day of 40 degree heat or worse this is such a break.