36 days ago
The old cat, which I first fed as a kitten, is still around. I saw her prowling very close to the hovel on our second day. She must be almost eight by now. But a new semi-feral cat has pitched up, who is much younger and looks very different, as you can see below.
37 days ago
In Greece, this time of year is known as the “burning season”. We start fires in the olive groves, thus averting their spread over the summer. Therefore, as you drive up from Kalamata to Kambos, everywhere you see small plumes of smoke rising from the fields, as folks rush to finish their burning – before it becomes illegal.
37 days ago
I lay in bed this morning with the cocks having crowed and with the birds tweeting away, but with my family all snoring happily, thinking of how I would tell you about the warming sun of a Greek Spring. Opening the doors to head upstairs for that first pot of coffee and some writing while the family snoozes on,my feet found the tiles outside the door still wet from overnight rain. And above the mountains looming above us, dark clouds assembled. But they will go and by the time we hit a stone covered beach at Kitries later this morning, the sun will be blazing down upon us.
40 days ago
“When are we going to get to my Greek House”, whined Joshua once again. I shouldn’t blame the little fellow, as it had been a long journey through the night from North Wales via Gatwick. But we were now in the hire car, heading towards Kambos. Just one stop in Kambos, I said, and then to the Hovel. Joshua groaned. But this stop was one I would not pass up.
140 days ago
Most of the furthest of our fields is under water for about half the year. A good quarter of the second and largest of our fields is in a similar way. But we were just about able to walk along the edges of both fields between the marsh and the river itself today. The Dee is high, right at the top of the bank on this,the Welsh, side. Over among the infidels on the English side, it has already spread into the fields.
161 days ago
We all got up early. B & myself said fond farewellls to R&S as they started the trek back to Airstrip One. This was to be the last day of harvesting. But first…
209 days ago
Fellow Woodlarks walker Robert tries to shame me with a photo of an impressive woodpile at his place. Now I know that size isn’t everything but after some hard work yesterday which even Joshua got involved with, our bigger logs have been split and the pile here in Wales grows as you can see below.
224 days ago
Unlike Eleanor I do not want 50p from you to help plant a tree. Nor do I want to cover the whole of Wales and much of England with trees in the misguided belief that this will save the planet. Instead I just buy my own trees with my own money to make this place where I live a better place. Here are the latest two which will soon be joining the 22 tree new orchard I have created on the upper field above the barns.
279 days ago
It was as we were doing our final clear up, he just appeared in the upper living space as if from nowhere.
286 days ago
Like most folks in Kambos my neighbour is actually called Nicho but his lugubrious manner and habit of appearing unannounced and tapping you on the back as you wield a strimmer earned him the nickname, on this website, of Charon some years ago. When I say neighbour, his house is about 600 yards as the crow flies away, one fold upwards heading towards the mountains: the walk up a winding track is about a mile.
286 days ago
Reader Bryan says his Mrs does not believe that there are any such things as snake repellent canisters. Here is the photo to prove that there are. There are three of them “live” here at the hovel each about 10-15 yards from a corner of the house. You are told you only need two on diametrically opposing corners but I always have three up
297 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.
307 days ago
Greeks treat cats pretty badly. Anyone who has been here at a tourist hotspot will have been pestered by thin-looking moggies at more or less every restaurant in town. When the tourists go, the weak ones die or are killed by the locals. Only the strongest survive on rats and mice until the tourists arrive again. It is all rather brutal and something the natives would rather that tourists did not dig into, too much.
316 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.
318 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?
328 days ago
I still have planning permission to build another house here in Greece on the site of the old ruin halfway along our land. If I have a windfall from something I might just do it although the Mrs thinks I should prioritise works at the Welsh Hovel. She may be right. Meanwhile, the carpenter who has cursed his mother to so many appointments with St Peter has put the final touches to the Greek Hovel. It really is finished.
436 days ago
Last night, the leader of Plaid Cymru, the party of Wales, held an online rally here in Wrexham for the faithful. Sadly I was unable to attend since spending an evening, even online, with a bunch of cottage-burning obsessives is not my idea of fun. In fact I’d rather watch Nish Kumar being an unfunny woke bore. It is that much my idea of “not fun”.
480 days ago
Cagney did not actually say “you dirty rat” as is widely thought. His exact words, as you can see below, are “you dirty yellow-bellied rat.” But that does not matter. To the bonkers animal rights folks at PETA, that sort of wording oppresses rats. It is a sort of animal hate crime. Equally calling Michael Gove a snake oppresses snakes. It is also, arguably, a hugely unfair comparison. That is to the snakes. Anyhow, please mind your language, this is 2021 so try not to stick your head in the sand like an Ostrich as using such words is a step towards violating the “rights” of the animal kingdom. As the loons at PETA say, “stand up for justice by rejecting supremacist language.”
534 days ago
This has made me laugh. You may remember that I have spent far too much of the past few years battling the accursed frigana plants at the Greek Hovel. I’ve tried poison, a strimmer but nothing will ever truly rid me of these beasts which can grow to 20 foot high.
627 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!
639 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!
641 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.
646 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.
740 days ago
I start with logistics for tomorrow’s show, instructions on what to do if your ticket has not yet arrived and an alert on when the timetable goes out. If you have not yet got your ticket do so now as this will be the most entertaining an d informative show I have ever put on. Book HERE. Then I discuss Eden Research (EDEN) in light of today’s shocking expose HERE and then it is onto dividends and dividend cuts what Mark Slater thinks and what a sane persion (ie not Sharesoc) would think
857 days ago
I remember walking last summer, as a practise for my annual 33 mile Woodlarks jaunt, past the town of Keynsham in Somerset. It is named after Saint Keyne, a welsh lady, who reputedly lived by the river, an area swarming with snakes, but through prayer turned them to stone. She was in my mind as last week I was in Whitby heading up to the ruined abbey with Joshua and the Mrs.
895 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.
895 days ago
We started the day with three harvesters: myself and Shareprophets readers K and T1 and we started pretty much on time, the person normally latest to rise – myself – having been off the sauce the previous night – held no-one back. Then it was coffee and our usual healthy cereals and we were off to work. There were, however, concerns about the cat.
1075 days ago
I was unable to take photos from exactly the same spot as yesterday to show you how much the river Dee has risen as that would have left me in a couple of foot of water. But it has risen and will continue to rise as the rain from Bala makes its way down and because it is still raining. Joshua and I went to inspect it this morning and he is terribly excited and convinced that there are snakes in “his lake”. If that keeps him away so much the better. The far bank of the river, the English side, has now all but disappeared and so the “lake” streches almost without interruption, for hundreds of yards. Here in Wales…
1129 days ago
I record ahead of the arrival of the removals men. Grim North here we come! On the agenda today is Mayan Energy (MYN) where comrade Jennings of Align is getting a little ahead of himself and then the scandal of the day, Management Resource Solutions (MRS) where my work has been 100% vindicated as it admits – thanks to me – to the related party nest of snakes. But still, as shareholders try to out two leading snakes, the company and its pathetic Nomad Arden are behaving disgracefully. This insolvent piece of crap stinks and I explain why. Now as I crack on with assisting the removal men how about you join the roll call of heros HERE
1160 days ago
Don't the skies look glorious above the Greek Hovel? How I wish I was there to see the little snakes emerge after their winter sleep. The weather is improving and thus a digger has made it up the track and so work on the swimming pool for daughter Olaf is, as you can see, accelerating. George the Architect assures me that the olive trees we had to move, about seven, are being watered every day and are recovering well. All is good...
1300 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.
1312 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.
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.
1406 days ago
Fear not daughter Olaf, I have now laid down the snake repellent at the Greek Hovel. Two canisters, as you can see below, 10 yards away from opposite corners of the house now emit a smell which snakes are meant to regard as foul and so will keep the hovel, if not the snake-fields, free from serpents for three months until Autumn hibernation. Well in theory.
1406 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.
1410 days ago
Once before I arrived at the Greek Hovel to find workmen proudly admiring a construction made of brand new shiny bricks. Much to their pleasure I had it torn down, an extra days work for them. I rather assumed that the message had got through. You can imagine my horror when arriving at the hovel yesterday to find piles of shiny new bricks in the new wing and the rat room. Cripes!
1415 days ago
Bearcasts may be sporadic over the next few days as I explain. By Wednesday I shall be mountain walking in Greece for my Woodlarks training. Think of me with the snakes and in 35 degree heat and donate HERE. Today I look at Optibiotix (OPTI), Audioboom (BOOM), Andalas (ADL), Frontera (FRR), Boxhill (BOX) and KPMG and in some detail at Jim Mellon's failing gold play Condor Gold (CNR).
1433 days ago
I know sweet FA about Thor Mining (THR) other than its CEO knows a lot about snakes from his time in the field. And that is it, so I make no comment about what follows other than to say that in this private email sent to the chosen few the broker has not held back and has used very un-broker-esque language. He opines:
1437 days ago
The headline really does reflect the photos so if you are squeamish do not look any further. This trio of pictorial horrors arrived this morning in an email from George the Architect. Chief builder Gregori the snake killer has been at work.
Most snakes of this type of adder, the most poisonous of the nine Greek species that are poisonous, are 20-30 centimetres long. This one was forty centimetres in length. You may wonder what it is hanging out of its mouth…
1440 days ago
I see that Brokerman Dan, who will be walking 32 miles for Woodlarks with me on July 28, has tweeted about completing a 15 mile training walk. In the smug looking selfie that accompanied the tweet the old bastard looks fresh as a daisy, as if he had just strolled to and from the local corner store. If only it were that way for me.
1451 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.
1454 days ago
I have grossly underestimated the number of olive trees that sit on the land at the Greek Hovel. Yesterday and today I upped my quota to thirty so I have now pruned 160 which is what I thought we had. I was very wrong. But i now enter what I deem the land of the snake.
1456 days ago
A kind reader in the land of the free emails with praise about my article on the Irish murder referendum HERE and makes a couple of suggestions. The first is that i should move to Texas and run for office.
1457 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.
1458 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.
1459 days ago
Finally I hope the photos below show the scale of the rebuild, turning the small Greek Hovel into an eco palace. I was shocked at the, rapid, progress made since February and my last visit. The scale of what is being undertaken is only now dawning on me. We start with the shutters and door to the bat room which used to have open gaps and an earth and rock floor - it was where the animals ( both domesticated and wild) lived.
1459 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.
1463 days ago
Daughter Olaf has agreed to join me at the Greek Hovel in late August but only after making detailed enquiries about sanitation. As you can seem the bat room now has a ceiling, a door to keep out the snakes and a shower! What more could a young Lady want? I shall be in The Mani by next weekend so more photos soon.
1550 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.
1554 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.
1593 days ago
A kind reader in Australia has twigged that, despite rebuilding the Greek Hovel in an area teeming with snakes, I have a, perfectly rational, fear of the little critters and has thus taken to sending me photos and stories about them on a regular basis. Today's really is the stuff of nightmare and comes with photos.
1631 days ago
George the architect is a modernist. I am a traditionalist. And thus at every stage of the design and reconstruction of the Greek Hovel he has an idea, my heart sinks, we discuss it and we reach my conclusion. And so last week we took a trip to a windows, shutters and door factory in the neighbouring village. I say factory, it was a big shed with - as far as I could see - the boss and just one employee.
1639 days ago
This podcast was interrupted by the sight of my friend the feral cat. Three years ago I gave a black and white feral kitten who had wandered up to the hovel some milk. I am not sure if it is the same creature but now and again a black and white cat stalks the hovel in search of snakes and rats to eat. I hope its the same cat. Anyhow I am excited to see him again and got a picture as you can see below despite him, being feral, not being that friendly. The podcast itself covers Adam Reynolds and the Adam Reynolds stocks many of which we own. I do this in response to Cynical Bear's ill informed mud slinging of earlier.
1642 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.
1669 days ago
After I pick up my one year old son Joshua from nursery we allow ourselves a little treat - a vist to Pets at Home. Later on we look at the tanks of fishes and go visit the rabbits and guinea pigs. Joshua knows what they all are and makes appropriate noises at each point of the store.
1731 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.
1791 days ago
Gosh I am brave and show it my devotion to you dear readers. The other day I was working in the fields at the Greek Hovel in an area where the grass is long and the frigana slashing involves wading through that grass. I trod carefully and heavily as I have had wildlife diversity encounters in that area before.
1802 days ago
After quizzing George the architect, it appears that it is just one of my neighbours who is asking for 900 Euro compensation for chopping off branches on his olive trees to make way for the heavy machinery needed to renovate the Greek Hovel. In fact it is even better than that...
1804 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.
1805 days ago
The Greek Albanian building crew are making cracking progress at the Hovel. There are now so many ways to get into the room in which I used to sleep that even the stupidest snake in Christendom can find its way in.
1807 days ago
I always carry my camera with me as I wander round the Greek Hovel. This is because of the snakes. If I meet one my first instinct is to flee. My second instinct is also to flee. Just conceivably, if I am carrying a pick axe I might go on the offense. But I have nightmares about snakes and, on balance, I know that I am told that they are more afraid of me than I am of them but I think that is bollocks. Though an official snake killer these days I am still shit scared. And I also recognise that I might just tread on one by accident. Hence the camera.
1812 days ago
What a delight it was to be among the olive trees yesterday. the first treat was to go an investigate two new trees that no-one has seen for years. They were enclosed in a patch of dense frigana bushes with some large frigana trees there for good measure. Previous owner vile Athena had chucked a stack of wire into this mess meaning that I have never been able to tackle it with my strimmer. It was too dense to poison and anyhow I was convinced it was home to numerous snakes so I gave it a wide berth.
1814 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.
1816 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.
1817 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.
1817 days ago
In my absence my gang of Greek Albanian workmen have been busy at the Greek Hovel as you can see HERE. Arriving almost straight from the airport we discussed how work was going, what was next and then came to the main point of my visit, an update on the snake situation. As you may remember this gang got hired after its leader Gregori, pictured below, boasted that he killed snakes with his bare hands.
1827 days ago
It has been agreed with the Mrs that Joshua is to inherit the Greek Hovel on condition that any other family member can use it at no cost. And so the lad was taken to see his inheritance. Unlike his mother, also in the picture, he made no complaints about eco-loos, the lack of a shower, rats or snakes. I feel the place will be in good hands.
1827 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.
1833 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.
1836 days ago
The bravery I show on your behalf, dear readers, knows no bounds. I wrote an article the other day about how the last pond in the rapidly drying out, and now almost dry, river that crosses the road up to the Greek Hovel, contained certain shapes. I maintained that they were snakes. One reader suggested that they were in fact eels, that I should wade in and capture a few for lovely Eleni to cook for me for my supper at the Kourounis taverna. I can only conclude that this reader wishes me ill. Today I ventured closer to the rapidly shrinking pond and bring you two new photos.
1836 days ago
My almost sixteen year old daughter Olaf has so far declined to visit the Greek Hovel. It was something about the homemade eco-loo. Or was it the hosepipe that is my shower. Or perhaps it was the snakes, rats or scorpions. Honestly, kids today. No gumption at all. But Olaf will be delighted to see how much progress has been made on what will be her bedroom when she stays, what is currently known as the bat room.
1836 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.
1843 days ago
I left Heathrow at midnight Greek time. Having picked up a stomach bug in London the flight and the bus journey from Athens that followed were less than comfortable. Wearing a jacket and winter coat from London I was feeling pretty awful by the time I arrived in 29 degree Kalamata at 10 AM.Thank heavens my hotel had a room ready for me to wash and dump my coat in. I headed straight to the Greek Hovel feeling extremely tired.
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.
1849 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?
1849 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.
1850 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.
1851 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.
1854 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.
1861 days ago
Arriving back at the Greek Hovel I am always terrified as to what forms of wildlife diversity have camped out there while I have been away. I turn up whatever crap music I can pick up on a car radio here in the lower levels of the mountains, open the car windows and try to warn all of God's creations that I am back and they should flee. Of course they know that I am not a hard Greek or Albanian who will kill them all but a total wuss so nothing flees.
1861 days ago
After my sedentary Easter Sunday I was determined to make amends with a perfect display of type 2 diabetes virtue on Bank Holiday Monday and thus having skipped breakfast I picked up my car and headed out to the Greek Hovel. There were wildlife encounters as I explain here and that must have seen me sweat off a few pounds. Indeed my 36 inch trousers are not very obviously starting to fall down. I must, every now and again, hitch them up to spare my blushes.
1862 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.
1912 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.
1918 days ago
Just over a third of the way between the Hovel and the far end of the land lies an old ruin. I think it was a house once and in a sense it still is. For inside the ruins there lived a snake all of last summer and the summers before. I heard it many times as I rushed on by. When foolish enough to prune the olive tree at its edge last summer I saw a snake shape disappearing into the grass. This is Mr snake's house. But not for much longer.
1919 days ago
I have been reluctant to enter the rat room at the Greek Hovel. Its light is broken and it is dark. I bravely ventured in once to leave my axe and saw but did not enjoy it, as the room contains a great pile of logs I put there a year ago to burn in the fire when this place is finally habitable.
1919 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.
1923 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.
1924 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.
1990 days ago
It was in the summer of 2015, I think, that I made the acquaintance of a feral kitten at the Greek Hovel. The timid little thing was terrified of humans but I managed to persuade it to take a few saucers of milk. I did so because I love cats and who cannot love a sweet little kitten? I also thought how much it looked like Kitosh, pictured, the cat I owned before Oakley. And there was self interest at play as well.
1993 days ago
I am so tired. As soon as I press "publish" on this article i am off to bed. Today there was no break other than 20 minutes for lunch and so I did a solid six and a half hours. It is not that I am spectacularly unfit (cue jokes from health guru Paul Scott), it is just that I have to try to keep pace with hardened professionals, viz George the Albanian and his two female assistants. Boris Johnson likes riding bicycles but he would be some way off the pace in the Tour de France. It is similar here.
1999 days ago
The recent rains means that my friend George the Albanian cannot start work until Saturday on our olive harvest but I went up to the Greek Hovel to do a preliminary investigation and it looks as if we have a pretty good crop. It has been a wet years and I like to think that my aggressive pruning and work on fertilising the trees has paid off. As you can see, the trees are just dripping in olives.
2159 days ago
Today I plunged into the wildest parts of the land at the Greek Hovel. In the far corner the olive trees are immersed in frigana, long grass and bushes. If I was a snake that is where I'd live. No question. Tentatively I plunged in to prune but I looked nervously around me every step of the way. There are some areas where the plants are just so dense that I don't dare head in. I will need to call fearless George the Albanian to "assist me" with those. Or maybe I tackle them in December when the snakes are hibernating? Anyhow, as I pruned I thought of all those AIM CEOs sitting at their desks in London, earning vast salaries for shuffling paper around.
2163 days ago
My daughter calls to wish me a happy father's day. Sadly she has not been tracking my whereabouts and so this serves as a just past midnight wake up call. It is not as if I can sleep anyway. The fan is broken and the heat inside the Greek Hovel is unbearable. I dare not open a window for fear of what might come and join me, although the night air is cool.
Now and again I venture onto the small balcony outside my prison cell which looks over the valley towards the deserted monastery. I stand there in just my underpants for
2163 days ago
I start with the murder of Jo Cox MP and the disgusting way EU suporters are using it to lie and smear as you can read HERE. In Greece today it is 40 degrees plus and I am a sweating wreck after a session of olive pruning, braving the snakes which brings me to Phil "InterX" Crawford of Lombard Risk Management (LRM) and the question he has to answer NOW. Elsewhere I look at Highlands Natural Resources (HNR) following up on this piece, C-Dialogues (CDOG), XCite Energy (XEL) - all shout Timber!!!!!! - Scancell (SCLP) and the uber dog Mkango Resources (MKA).
2163 days ago
For the reasons explained in the Tomograph and bearcast I sense that my visit here will be cut short and thus there is a mad scramble to complete my olive pruning. I had reckoned that I had three days work left. I blitzed it today, doing two sessions in which I worked till I felt feint and I think I am now just a day from completion.
It is hot and after each session as I trudge slowly back to the Greek Hovel, for the last trees are in the far reaches of our land, my mouth is parched and my limbs ache. I arrive back and dive for the little tap on the side of the house which is where we get all our water from here. I splash it on sweating arms and my face. I gulp greedily. I am drinking
2166 days ago
British Airways staff were again brilliant today. On Saturday I arrived at Kalamata airport with a barely mobile father and weak step mother. Within minutes a cute airline lady had helped me get a wheelchair for my father and i was told my job was over. The lady put them at the front of the line and I had nothing more to do. Today it was the turn of the Mrs. We arrived and the small departure lounge was again heaving with lobster pink Northern Europeans forming long lines to check in for flights to London and Paris.
I found a different cute airline lady and said that my wife was heavily pregnant, as she is, and within minutes she was again at the head of the queue leaving dozens of the lobster pink Brits and froggies fuming behind her. Then she was through passport control and was off and I headed back to town to face another three to four weeks at the Greek Hovel with just the snakes and rats for company.
When the Mrs is here I am on holiday so I only work 3-4 hours a day at my PC and I do no manual labour at all. I enjoy three meals a day and more than the odd drink. "After all we are on holiday" say I as I order another ouzo. I get to sleep on clean sheet in an air conditioned hotel and enjoy swims in luxury pools. The Mrs is paying and it is a treat. I enjoy my hols with the Mrs. We talk, we plan, we discuss. Life without the Mrs is very different.
2175 days ago
I gather that back in the UK you have all had a spot of bother with thunderstorms and tornados. Has David Cameron managed to blame a surge in support for Brexit yet? Just watch out little people, if you back Boris and Priti you are all going to drown and here are a list of 100 experts who support that claim. Okay 98 of them are on the EU payroll in some way, shape or form but they are frigging experts and you are little people who cant be trusted to make your own minds up. So either start building an ark or vote the right way!
As it happens the mountains above Kardamili are also covered in dark clouds
2176 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.
2176 days ago
For some reason I awoke early this morning. It is probably the knowledge that the Mrs lands at 11.30 Greek Time and so I have a fair bit of scribbling to do to ensure that you get your daily dose of golden prose and poisonous malice. As is my wont I threw open the front door ahead of doing to an olive tree what only a man can do. With a speed my morbidly obese three legged cat Oakley could not even contemplate a small cat shot past me.
2177 days ago
He is back. In the space between the window at the far end of the room from my bed and the shutter sits a smallish rat. It is where the rats always sit. I thought that I had driven them all away with generous helpings of rat "sweeties", the little blue pills which help send them to a "better place".
2178 days ago
In today's podcast I start with a few words on Greece as I head up to the Greek Hovel and the snakes. Then I move through TrakM8 (TRAK), Avanti Communications (AVN) and onto Boxhill (BOX). Lord Razzall: we will give you the day off to compose a resignation (in disgrace) letter, there are two more bombshells for you but they can wait until the weekend. I look at Bushveld (BMN), Jupiter Energy (JPRL) - and what its crisis says about oil companies in general - and finally I spend a good time taking apart Mayair Group (MAYA)
2179 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
2186 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
2189 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
2192 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?
2194 days ago
I once read a short story but for the life of me cannot remember its title or author but it comes to mind as I toil in the fields at the Greek Hovel, slashing away with my frigana cutter below.
2198 days ago
I know I have been banging on about this all week but today I wake up having not smoked for three months and I am fecking proud of myself. It did it via cold turkey so there is no legacy nicotine in my body from vaping, gum or patches.
It was playing soccer with a range of nephews and nieces aged 7 to 16 on St Valentine's Day that made me quit. My lungs were burning after just a few minutes. I wanted to run but could not. Being outpaced by a 7 year old is just not on. Enough was enough.
And so today
2199 days ago
The way that the rat "sweeties" were disappearing made me pretty sure that relatives of the rats that I had killed off with poison last summer, were making a comeback at the hovel. And so I have laid down more and more sweeties in the gap between one of the windows and a shutter which is their favoured run. The rats can't enter the hovel but can just look in through the glass.
My pal Dave Paxton grew up in Zim and said that the best way to get rid of rats is to get more snakes on your land. No doubt if he was here, Dave
2199 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!
2201 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
2201 days ago
I am not actually living the hovel yet. I move in tomorrow for reasons I shall explain later. But I am driving out there each day to work on pruning the olive trees and cutting the frigana. After the mice yesterday today's wildlife diversity included a couple of lizards and...a snake. And how brave am I? I felt nervous as I approached but, just for you dear readers, I have a photo.
2202 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
2203 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.
2345 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
2464 days ago
I had consoled myself as I contemplated snakes, bats, rats and scorpions at the Greek Hovel that at least there were no poisonous spiders in Greece. Phew. We may have more types of snakes than any other country in Europe and the hills around the Greek Hovel may be infested with them but at least I felt sure, having – I thought – read it somewhere that there was no spider issue. Spiders eat Mosquitos. We like spiders right?
2468 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.
2549 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
2560 days ago
I was meant to pick the Mrs up at Kalamata airport in about thirty minutes but it appears that she is back at Gatwick. Her plane was struck by lightening and so had to turn back. Now her phone battery is dead so what to do? Sit in Kalamata and have an ouzo or two? Sounds like a plan.
Meanwhile it has been a two snake day.
2560 days ago
Yes, this time it was at the Greek Hovel less than 15 yards from the building. And I was just 3 or 4 foot away. Cripes. I really do not like snakes which brings me on to Philip Crawford on Lombard Risk and Nomad Charles Stanley which today signed off on an OUTRIGHT LIE of an RNS penned by Crawford. I have a 14 year old score to settle with the tosser Crawford and so accuse him of lying to investors today. Is that not against AIM rules? Elsewhere I look at Tungsten, Plus 500, Sefton, Coms and Rose Petroleum which are all sells. Events at Rose have moved fast since the bearcast vindicating me (see HERE)
2562 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.
2564 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
2567 days ago
I thought that I had driven the live rat from the Greek Hovel but as I returned tonight I heard a distinct scuttling noise. A year ago I would have panicked but these days I am just not scared of the little critters any more. And so I picked uo the mini spade I use to clear ash from the fireplace and headed towards the noise.
I saw the rat dart under a pile of rugs. I lifted them ine by one and at rug five there stood the rat - a small thing about three inches long excluding tail - blinking in the light.
Thwack. I missed.
2570 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.”
2571 days ago
My first visit to the Greek Hovel prompts a wildlife diversity report which will appear on www.TomWinnifrith.com later. Meanwhile I explain why the Tories ARE the party of social justice and look at New World Oil & Gas, Insetco, Daniel Stewart, China Chaintek, Independent Resources, Falanx and Just Eat. Postscript...
After hours on a day when we are all kanckered and so NO-ONE IS WATCHING Daniel Stewart has announced a) a profits warning b) that it now needs to raise an additional £1 million and c) that Beaumont Cornish has agreed to be its Nomad so shares can resume trading ( and will slump) but only:
2638 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.
2641 days ago
Those who visited the Greek Hovel last summer will remember the enormous pile of frigana built at the end of the garden. We all rather feared what wildlife diversity lived underneath it. It is no more.
I arrived on Friday with the rain tipping down so there was no George. Vreki = no burning. But sod it, I thought I'd have a go myself. With a small dose of petrol from my frigana cutter and a broken seat from an old chair I got the blaze going. What is that recipe from The Gruffalo? Baked snake? No apparely Nigel Somerville says that it is scrambled snake. Anyhow the great pile is no more and I burned it myself while rain stopped play for the locals. A triumph Indeed.
2644 days ago
George the olive picker is back in my life and there is no end to his talents. I tried to set frigana on fire and failed abjectly. George gathers a pile of dried frigana – the stuff I slashed last summer – or olive branches from the harvest and whoosh! We have a bonfire. In fact he must have started about 25 as we moved up and down the terraces.
2655 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.
2715 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.
2734 days ago
On top of my fireplace at the Greek Hovel in a picture I published the other day is a large bag of white powder. At once the self-styled Northern Barons my good pals Doc Holiday and Brokerman Dan were tweeting in a frenzy that I had a large stash of coke with me. Dan reckoned I was going to dose my Albanian workers tomorrow and get the olives harvested at record speed. I am sorry to disappoint the Northern gits.
For behind the bag is a box marked Tide. This is a product called “washing powder” which in the South of England we use to wash our clothes. In the North I guess they just hang their shell suits out in the rain until they are marginally less grubby and then leave them to dry next to the pigeon loft. The next time that my good friends trek down from the welfare addicted wastelands of the Grim North I will try to explain to them what this is all about.
The picture below is of the washing powder but also a larger bag of yellow powder which is Sulphur which I use on the edge of the garden to keep snakes away. For readers in the Grim North who might not understand what a snake is it is a bit like a Quindell shareholder. That is to say it has a small brain but some varieties are poisonous and no-one likes any of them. The only difference is that snakes can be worth a bit of money.
2735 days ago
In my last days at the Greek Hovel this summer I showed unusual foresight in pondering how I would keep warm on my return for the Olive harvest. Hence I gathered firewood, stored it in the rat room and surrounded it with sulphur to ensure that no snakes viewed it as a des res winter home. And thus on my first night back I lit a fire.
Fire lighting is a macho sort of thing and I am pretty proud of my ability to get a good blaze going with just a couple of pieces of paper. Firelighters are for jessies. And so within minutes I had a roaring blaze going. And about two minutes later the room was filled with smoke. Perhaps there was some trick I had missed?
I fiddled with two bricks that cover little holes in the fireplace but to no avail. The smoke was by now overpowering and so I had to open all windows and the door. I am not so worried about the wildlife entering – why on earth would they rush into a smoke filled building. It was the cold. The Greek Hovel is in the foothills of the mountains and while it is shirt-sleeves hot in the morning and until about three it then start to get very cold indeed. I reckon that we are not that far above zero every night.
As such my first night was a cold one. As the fire died
2738 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.
2744 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
2794 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.
2796 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.
2796 days ago
As promised I bring you a summer’s work, the destruction of 2,000 square metres of frigana, a bright green holly/thorn bush that scarred the land around the Greek Hovel and was a great home for snakes. It is all gone.
The first picture is some of the first frigana cut, the bushes that covered the wall that surrounds the garden. It is now a deep golden brown, ready for a dose of petrol and a match in November.
It sits in an area which is surrounded by a stone circle. One visitor suggested that it had once been a threshing circle. The stones were covered by frigana but have now emerged blinking into the sunlight.
Moving past the circle here is a 150 yard slope down to the edge of the property. It was thick with frigana but it was chopped last week, the leaves are now a light green and heading for brown. This area I feared to be snake infested as the bushes were once thick. Now old paths have emerged and you can walk down among the rocks.
2797 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
2798 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
2799 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
2800 days ago
Yesterday evening I was doing a bit of frigana chopping at the Greek Hovel and I heard a rustling in the bush I was approaching. I know enough by now to realise what was making the noise and beat a hasty retreat. But the stench of corruption on AIM tells me where the real snakes operate. It is a cesspit for crooks and crony capitalists who systematically transfer wealth from the many (mug investors) to the few (themselves). I have had enough of this for one day and am heading back to the fields to face real snakes. They are less loathsome. There is a solution but the London Stock Exchange does nothing. It is guilty of abetting financial crime by its inaction.
2802 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?
2807 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?
2807 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
2816 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
2840 days ago
Tomorrow’s excitement at the Greek Hovel is the arrival of a diesel powered machine for dealing with the frigana – the horribly prickly bushes which are dotted across the property. At the edge of the garden are a row of very large bushes which I suspect of being home to a wide selection of unpleasant wildlife diversity. Of course my new thin yellow line prevents them encroaching closer to the house but none the less I want them gone.
The much larger task is clearing the olive groves of this accursed plant. Due to Greek Forest Fire laws all that my guest I can do is hack the bushes down (they can be anything from 2 inches to ten foot tall) and them cover the stems with a vile poison to kill the roots. When I come back nearer Christmas there will be a good spot of burning to do lest the wildlife diversity things it has a new home.
Pro tem I have been busy clearing the area around the hovel of more than a decade of leaf mulch which the snakes find very pleasant to slither through.
2840 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…
2855 days ago
I am sorry for the delay in sending this over. Challenges? Dealing with Greece’s OTE. I pay the bastards for internet access, my account at the hovel shows I have credit but ….er OTE will not let me use it. Bastards. So I took the afternoon off.
The video is really about the challenges I face here at the Greek Hovel. Aged 46 I have done sod all carpentry since gaining 27% and coming 127/127 in the U4th woodwork exam. I have never ridden a bike. Never barricaded a room against rats, dealt with snakes, showered with a hosepipe, coped with living in a land where I don’t speak the language, the list goes on and on.
But I am enjoying he challenges while getting on with my working life. I also cover the fact that many of the liberal idiots who support Hamas appear to have no knowledge of the history of the region.
PS Having watched this you are now meant to email me and congratulate me on the weight loss!
2866 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.
2867 days ago
On twitter, on various bulletin boards and on the comments section here on ShareProphets and elsewhere we have come under sustained attack for 24 hours – let me set the record straight. And then I can get back to dealing with the snakes, rats and bats that infest my home for the summer in Greece.
2867 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.
2868 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.
2871 days ago
I procrastinated and procrastinated as I dreaded what I would find when I arrived at the Rat Room – aka my bedroom for the next three months. So I bought a spade to bash rats with and to dig out the “estate” at the Greek hovel. For tomorrow I start work on my eco-loo and humanure system. Then I bought a few vegetables for supper, rather forgetting that I have no knives or forks although the previous owner has left me a fine collection of quite amazingly horrible plates as well as a can of warm beer, which I have binned. On this trip I plan to stay dry.
Then I had a coffee in the local taverna where I sit once again this evening having failed miserably to get my mi-fi internet connection working.
But in the end I had no choice and started the drive along the long and winding road. As I passed through the gates I turned the car music up to 11 determined to show the wildlife that I had arrived and they better scram. With spade in hand I wandered up to the building and peered nervously over the ledge of the snake veranda. Maybe the snake repellent had worked for it was deserted.
And so I unlocked the door of the Rat Room and raised my spade.
2871 days ago
I have procrastinated for as much as I can. I have sat here in a comfortable pool catching up on nearly all of my work because my mi-fi internet system at the hove at the Greek Hovel may not work. I say that because a) I am an IT loser and b) it was bought in Greece and this is Greece so things do not always work. Okay that is one excuse.
The other is that I left sticky board rat traps out last night in my bedroom for tonight. What is worse?
a) finding no dead rats so assuming they are still there somewhere
b) finding a dead rat killed by the poison I laid and having to dispose of it.
c) finding a half dead rat on the sticky boards and having to kill it & then dispose of it.
d) finding a snake inside eating a rat which it has either caught and killed or was killed/half killed by me?
My mind is naturally pondering all these matters. A good friend emails to urge me to stay in the hotel another night. But I can procrastinate no more. I might be online later…off I go, into battle.
2871 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.
2871 days ago
I spare you photos of the Rat Room, aka my bedroom for the next three months. I would not wish to scare the Mrs so will tidy it up a bit first. But it is by far and away the smartest room at the hovel. In fact it is the only one not completely littered with junk and totally unfit for human habitation. It is on the top floor next to the snake veranda. Here are both from the outside.
2871 days ago
And so we arrive at the Greek hovel that the Mrs has snapped up. Before I can contemplate the enormity of the task at hand there is the little matter of the rats and snakes to deal with. We have visited the village hardware store where – rather worryingly – about 40% of the product lines seem to be associated with dealing with, er…rats and snakes. Susan Shimmin and I are now armed.
2872 days ago
As you know I am this summer starting the reconstruction of a Greek hovel snapped up by the Mrs. Please do not regard this as an investment. There is more chance of making money from Quindell (QPP) shares than from buying hovels in Greece. Actually that’s a lie. There is zero chance on both counts.
I shall post updates all summer of my progress but I start with the news I received two days before arrival. That is to say that our lovely estate agent Susan from The Real Mani ( who - as her name suggests comes fro an Isle of Man family) reported back on Tuesday that when visiting the hovel she had encounter a rat in the only room that is (vaguely) habitable – the room henceforth known as my bedroom for the summer.
Hmmmmm. I try to look on the bright side. If there are live rats in my bedroom at least it means that the snakes have not managed to penetrate that part of the building. Things can only get better from here.
2877 days ago
This may be my last video postcard for a while. The Mrs has bought a hovel in Greece and I am off late on Thursday night to start its renovation. It really is a hovel and right now has no internet and is a 15 minute drive from the nearest habitation. But I will work hard on getting connected ASAP.
And then I shall keep you updated on gripping matters such as the construction of an eco-loo and a humanure system and on bush clearance and digging out an earth floor or tow. Oh.. and on the snake situation.
From humanure I turn to the Westminster paedophile cover-up. It is a cover up and everyone on Fleet Street knows who is being protected and why the ripples could spread far and wide. The age of those directly involved is no defence as I explain.
My weekly financial video postcard starts with a discussion of those bears who have attacked Quindell (QPP) and blinkx (BLNX) inter alia. Tom explains why they need to be more transparent. Having said that, I also explain why bears play such a key role in protecting investors on AIM. This video can be watched HERE