27 days ago
So Joshua and I were driving back to the Greek Hovel this afternoon and had turned off what is known as Slater slope at the top of snake hill and were driving through the 800 yards of olive groves that lead to the Hovel. At the start of that patch in a section owned by lovely Eleni of the Kourounis taverna is an old well which I have always viewed as the sort of place a snake would hang out. And thus guess what I spotted?
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.
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.
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
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.
1908 days ago
Snake hill is a stretch of, very rough and multi-potholed, concrete that tracks down from the quiet olive groves on my side of the valley to the valley floor. It ends at the dry river where the track once again turns to mud for a couple of hundred yards before one takes a sharp left to head up the concreted track next to the deserted monastery where, when driving at night, I still imagine the presence of ghostly phantom monks.
Snake hill got its name two years ago when my guest that summer made the grave mistake of going for a run in the midday heat and encountered a serpent sitting on the hill. She sidestepped the viper but the hill got its name.
Ever since then I have been waiting to see another snake there. I have seen plenty of lizards and heard lots of rustling in the bushes on either side of the road but not seen a snake. But today: two!
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.
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
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?
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
2564 days ago
Hitherto I have showered at the Greek Hovel – that is to say stood under a hosepipe perched on my vine trellis – wearing my increasingly loose red swimming trunks. It was I suppose an effort to preserve modesty.
But as I stripped off today following my run and about an hour of manual labour it struck me that my shower is more or less obscured by trees at the edge of the garden and by the olive groves. The nearest house (the monastery) is at least a mile and a half away and so unless the one monk there is sitting with binoculars that can see through trees I can do or wear what I want.
I do not think that I will be going in for public displays of nudity on the sort of beaches where that happens. Apart from anything else, having sat naked on the snake veranda trying to get a bit of a tan, I am still conscious that my tummy is rather too large for me to want to show it to anyone else and that by bum is also a bit too big.
But given the drawbacks of living in the middle of nowhere, one advantage is not having to worry about what you wear or indeed if you are wearing anything at all.
2577 days ago
Oh dear, I thought that I was making progress on eradicating wildlife diversity at The Greek Hovel but it just got worse. I am sure that it is just a temporary blip.
My new best friend, and business partner in the olive business, Foti and a friend of his were clearing out the two first floor rooms again this evening. Another truck load of rubbish has now gone and still we are not finished.
However in the room under the snake veranda we discovered not one but two rats. This time I did not run, my fear of these creatures is diminishing. But Foti was more proactive, grabbing a broom and thrashing wildly.
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.