85 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.
106 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?
430 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.
684 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.
809 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…
974 days ago
George the architect has made it up to the Greek Hovel for the start of the spring campaign to completion. He will take a few days out in March to come to England/Wales to help draw up plans for the Welsh hovel. But for now it is full steam ahead in Greece. Or rather not.
1060 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.
1060 days ago
As you may remember, there is a dry river bed at the bottom of the valley beneath the abandoned convent and before the climb up snake hill and on to the Greek Hovel. It has been raining here for several days and is still raining heavily. So the dry river is filling up rapidly and will soon start to cross the track. The photo below is of the growing pool and after that the view up to the convent.
1101 days ago
I am in a short sleeved short. Tomorrow it will be a T-shirt. I am not trying to make you jealous but though it is mid October it is jolly hot. As I drove along the Kalamata sea front earlier the beaches were well populated. Folks were swimming. It is lovely.
1117 days ago
I am beginning to think that God is not pleased with my restoration work at the Greek Hovel and is punishing me with an annual plague of my poor olives. Last year it was the hail storm ten days before harvest that destroyed the crop almost entirely, leaving my field carpeted with rotting berries and my neighbours crying into their ouzo and facing economic misery.
1190 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.
1191 days ago
As I discussed here, on Monday, a sweaty and inbred Bulgar refused to drive his ford transit van from the valley floor up snake hill and onto the Greek Hovel. The road, the lying xxxx, was not good enough. On Tuesday a lorry twice the size of his van and many time heavier brought, as you can see below, the wood for my roof right to the front door.
1339 days ago
I was woken this morning by the most almighty explosion of noise. For a moment I wondered if a ship had crashed into the quayside for my hotel in Kalamata is right on the harbourside. It had not. It was thunder. Yet again it was sheeting it down, making three days of torrential rain on the trot. Now the sun is shining but the effects of the downpour were evident as I made my way up to the Greek Hovel.
1343 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.
1426 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.
1431 days ago
Shortly after the Mrs agreed to buy the Greek Hovel we got an email from the most excellent estate agent Susan Shimmin of the Real Mani suggesting that there was a small lake at the bottom of the valley which one must cross before climbing snake hill. At once I had visions of stocking it with trout like the one from Metsovo I enjoyed with the amazing baker of Zitsa. Then reality kicked in.
1431 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.
1592 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.
1780 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?
1939 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.
1942 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
1942 days ago
Who would believe that the fine cat below is the same species as my morbidly obese three legged moggie Oakley. The latter, for some reason, has a deep aversion to the working classes and so when middle class folk arrive he is uber-friendly. When tradesman arrive it is rather different. Right now plumbers are installing a new bathroom for the Mrs and Oakley is spending his entire working day cowering under the duvet in the top bedroom.
Back here in the Greek mountains
1945 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.
1946 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
1948 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.
1988 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!
2484 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.
2510 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…
2510 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.
2513 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?
2515 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.
2515 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
2604 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