190 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.
206 days ago
The bread oven underneath the stairs to the main door and next to the entrance to the Rat Room has been cleared out and is providing a home for a lizard which is about six or seven inches long (although much of that is tail). There are not as many lizards here as when I first arrived. In that first year, the place was crawling with them. I guess the workmen scared many away. But there are a good few and this one is a magnificent specimen.
257 days ago
After a picnic lunch with the family: the 30th lap, only 15 to go…this is from the far edge of the second river field, a marshy area where the shocking wildlife diversity will be revealed tomorrow.
514 days ago
One of the joys of life at the Welsh Hovel is that, compared to our old home in Bristol, we are surrounded by wildlife diversity.
811 days ago
Of course I have no neighbours up at the Greek Hovel but across the hills you can see folks burning off branches of olive trees hacked away during the harvest. My own harvest may not have been a spectacular success but just to show them that I too can play the game...
821 days ago
Okay so i am a big girl's blouse. But you too would have been shocked by what happened.
821 days ago
It is unbelievably wet at the Greek Hovel. The rain is still sheeting it down making the track up here ever more reminiscent of a WW1 battlefield. But although the heating is not yet working thanks to the electricity company not upgrading my meter, the thick stone walls keep it warm inside. And there is real progress to show you as you can see below.
849 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.
910 days ago
Right now I am in a luxury hotel organised by the Mrs for daughter Olaf's last night in Greece and for me to recover in after a ten hour road trip to drop Miss W off at Athens airport."Baywatch" has a great view, a lovely pool, ouzo is on tap, the internet works allowing Joshua to sit like a moron watching Thomas the Tank Engine without interruption and the Mrs is lolling happily. And there is no wildlife diversity to report. Not so back at the Greek Hovel. Let us start with the scorpion.
1191 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.
1354 days ago
To be struck by lightning at the Greek Hovel once is, perhaps, understandable but twice would look like carelessness. You may remember how, six minutes into THIS PODCAST the hovel was indeed struck but I soldiered on anyway. However, I'd rather not repeat the experience.
1358 days ago
We are almost there in removing the ghastly modern additions made to the 100 year old Greek Hovel by its former owner vile Athena. I was up there today pruning my olive trees at an incredible pace and almost the last legacy has gone.
1403 days ago
This is all great news if a tad embarrassing. Very healthy eating, lots of exercise and no booze is definitely helping me shed the pounds. As i wandered back into the hotel elevator yesterday evening I looked and with my trousers slipping down my boxers were clearly visible. However much I hitch up my 36 inch trousers they keep on falling down. What good news.
1409 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.
1467 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.
1547 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.
1700 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.
1703 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
1725 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.
1725 days ago
At night in summertime the one habitable room at the Greek Hovel is unbearably hot at night, after a long day of 33 degree heat. But opening the large windows would allow all sorts of wildlife diversity to gain entrance to a room where I have sealed every crack and hole to make it secure. As such one just sweats it out. Or at least that used to be the case until I bought an electric fan. However...
1740 days ago
You guys think that I am wandering around in a T-shirt and shorts. Boy you could not be more wrong. For starters, when I am up at the hovel I always wear sturdy black jeans and long boots. You never know what is going to slither out of the bushes and bite you. I want some protection.
1747 days ago
After three days of manual labour at the Greek hovel I was conscious that I did not exactly smell like a male model doused in perfume and thus it was time to rig up the shower as you can see below.
1749 days ago
With the snake repellent canisters laid down yesterday I had no excuse and have returned to the Greek Hovel. It is now 11 PM my time, outside is just miles and miles of darkness. I don't mind that too much, my torch guided me to the front door from the car. I could see in the car headlights that there were bats flying around the rat room. But bats here are not rabid and they wont bother me.
I left the light on before I left and so I did not walk into a dark room. But its not the dark that spooks me it is the noises. Out in the fields, on the windowsill and outside my door the wildlife diversity is in full cry. I just dread to think.
But, in a stroke of genius, I have
1750 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.
2013 days ago
There, as you may remember, is just one habitable room at the Greek Hovel and its windows are sealed with masking tape, holes in the wall are now filled in, I fact it is almost impenetrable for the local wildlife diversity. But in summer that also makes it unbelievably hot at night. Without a fan I would be sitting here drenched in sweat as I type and unable to sleep afterwards in what becomes a sauna.
And so last year I bought a fan.
2017 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.
2104 days ago
A morning at the Greek Hovel working on frigana poisoning, lunch by the sea at Kitries and then a leisurely drive over the mountain roads back to Kardamili. That was the order of the day for the Mrs and myself. I write from the bar of the wonderful Meletsina Village hotel - my top tip for staying in Karadmili - with a Gin & Tonic looking out over the sea in the late afternoon sun. But I am frustrated.
As we drove over the mountains, the Mrs cried "there's a snake". Sure enough there was indeed a snake slithering towards safety on the other side of the road. These days I think Greek so without hesitating I swerved sharply, not thinking of what might be heading the other way around the next bend, and drove over the middle of the snake. Kill! Thought I.
But much to my dismay
2110 days ago
I am sitting happily tapping away at my computer loading a bit of blockbusting copy for ShareProphets in the morning. The Kourounis taverna in Kambos is pretty full with little groups here and there chatting away happily. The doors are flung wide open as it is a warm night. Outside at one of the tables my friend Nicho the Communist is holding Court. Behind me I can hear lovely Eleni chatting and laughing loudly. How do I know it is her? Well there are only four women in the taverna and the other three are sitting in front of me.
As I tapped away an old man reminding me of the Asterix character Geriatrix hobbled over propped up by a stick and stared at my screen. He looked hard for a couple of minutes.
2111 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.
2111 days ago
I was standing on the horrible concrete balcony which I look forward to demolishing. But it has wonderful views out over the valley and something caught my eye - movement in the long grass by the prickly pear plants. I looked more closely and it was moving really quite fast seeking sanctuary in the big bowl where we collect water. Yes it was a tortoise. They roam wild here in Greece but are rather shy so by the time I had got down there with my camera it had scuttled into a hole. I am beginning to feel a bit like Gerald Durrell.
2119 days ago
Slightly gingerly I got on my new bike and rode back to the Greek Hovel tonight. I encountered no wildlife diversity on the way home and, even better, none inside the hovel. Things are actually working quite well here. For starters the electricity has not been cut off despite there being an outstanding bill of 900 Euro. We think this is a bit of a misunderstanding and George the architect has played a blinder in keeping us in power. I sense we are not the only household in Greece not paying the bills. But we will do once the little misunderstanding is cleared up.
The water is also flowing. My guest last summer described the hosepipe shower as better than sex. That of course depends on who you are having sex with
2244 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.
2274 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?
2275 days ago
The river bed, at the bottom of the valley between the deserted monastery/convent and the start of the climb up snake hill to the Greek Hovel, sits dry all summer. It is parched and it is hard to think that it ever sees water. Even as I arrived in Kambos two weeks ago it was dry as a bone. Puddles formed on the track but the river bed was like dust. That all changed with the storm.
The ford is a ford for a good reason. The ground had been raised with concrete and across it the water was perhaps only an inch deep. Pas de problem for my magnificent motorbike.
But looking upstream the water was rather deeper,
2284 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
2345 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.
2364 days ago
For the past few nights I have heard this very strange animal noise outside The Greek Hovel at night. At first I thought it was some sort of bird but it would have been a very strange bird. Tonight the noise sounder closer than ever and so I bravely opened the door and shone my torch…it is a gorgeous little black and white cat. It cannot be much out of kittendhood.
I tried to tempt it in but the creature is obviously feral. It has no interest in getting close to humans. And so it just sat there on the entrance to the snake veranda blinking in my torchlight. I rather hope it hangs around inside the snake exclusion zone happily attacking any other members of the wildlife diversity community that dare to approach. It could start with the bats, two of whom have returned to the bat room below where I sleep.
2388 days ago
And so it has arrived, my new toy for boys as my guest so kindly puts it. It is wicked. You just stick it into the frigana bush and with a pole long enough to keep you out of harm’s way should any wildlife leap out, off it goes. You swing it too and fro and the stalks are cut back to the base with violence and speed.
The next job is for my guest to rake them away and apply poison to the stems to kill the roots. As an added bonus I gather that the poison also works on reducing all sorts of local wildlife diversity.
2389 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…