173 days ago
I rather regretted that third jug of local rose the night before, when my alarm started ringing at 5.20 AM. For Thrasher Bell had to get back to London and that meant getting him to the bust station in Kalamata before 6.30. Feeling a bit groggy I drove him into town and dropped him off. Stopping off at an ATM on the way back to load up with cash to pay my Albanian troops I arrived back in Kambos in time for an early morning coffee at the Kourounis taverna owned by lovely Eleni. The news was bad...
George the Albanian's brother had been hospitalised late last week so he was running half a day behind schedule. I headed back to the hovel with a hot cheese pie for Bernard and as I walked to my car who should I meet but George being driven by his son, an English speaker. I was assured that five Albanians would arrive by one. My next encounter was with the local golden eagle sitting on a fence as I drove down the back track towards the valley floor.
ShareProphets reader Bernard and I laboured manfully all morning. And at two o'clock the Albanians pitched up. As you can see below, they know what they are doing. But we only enjoyed two and a half hours of their work before the dark descended.
My worry is that George reckons he will be done in a day arguing some trees are empty. He has another job to go to. I know that and having walked my land with Bernard I know that there are an awful lot of good trees. That will be a battle for day four. Can we get an extra half day out of the Albanians? So far we have c470kg of olives either down at the press weighed and waiting for pressing or up here bagged at the hovel.
I discussed this with Eleni after supper. This is Greekenomics for you. There is mass youth unemployment in Greece. But as this country;s economy has tanked some Albanians have gone home or to go work in a car wash in Britain. So there is a shortage of Albanians. Thus Eleni has no-one to crop her olives. Everyone is fighting for Albanians meanwhile hundreds of thousands of Greeks sit there not working paid welfare by a country that is bankrupt. Go figure.
294 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
You wonder why the Greek economy is such a trainwreck? Of course there are all sorts of reasons: the scorched earth policies imposed on Greece by Germany, the EU and IMF banksters; the debt Greece should never have been allowed to take on, the bloated public sector, corruption, they all play a part. But, as I discover again today as I try to rebuild the Greek Hovel, it is the smothering bureaucracy that kills enterprise. Take my marble, stuck at Kalamata.
The shipment to go on windowsills etc passed through customs on the Greek Kosovo border with no problems at all yesterday morning. Last night it arrived at Kalamata where it needs a second customs check at the port. Why?
Simple: two customs checks means two employees, probably more, have something to do. More rules mean the bloated State can hire more folks which it thinks is creating jobs. But they are jobs paid for by a State drowning in debt. And the regulations created to keep the state employees busy just kill enterprise.
I am not in Greece to sign for my marble. And so although George the Architect has produced my tax number and documents at Kalamata customs that is not enough. He needs a piece of paper saying he is authorised to act for me. He has one from my Mrs and he has a Greek version of our wedding certificate but that is not enough, he needs a paper from me.
But not just any paper, not a normal lawyers letter. I need an official paper stamped by the Greek consulate in Birmingham or the embassy in London – more work is thus created for State employees to help them fill their day. And until I produce the paperwork, the Marble will be impounded which means that workers who were planning to install windows and doors next week will be stood down.
This is one little episode. I can resolve it by wasting a day trekking to London on Tuesday. But this sort of thing happens countless times every day in every part of Greece. In giving all those state employees something to do it helps to strangle the private sector. Here end eth the lesson in Greekenomics
766 days ago
Not withstanding my snake killing heroics of yesterday, I still live in dread of the vipers that slither around the Greek Hovel and across its fields. Irrationally, for I have never seen a snake there, there is one spot that holds particular dread. And it is all the fault of Julia Donaldson, the author of the children's classic, The Gruffalo.
Many moons ago folks were installing telephone poles across the hills around the hovel. God knows why as no-one lives up here but it probably seemed like a good idea in the general scheme of Greekenomics. Let's tarmac roads no-one uses and fix up telephone polls where there are no phones - more jobs for all paid for by a state with no money. What is not to like?.
But as you can see four of the poles were left on our land. As one drives up to the Hovel they sit there on your right by the first terrace of olive trees. It is now about fifteen years since I first read the Gruffalo to my daughter Olaf but the pictures, the images of the logs under which the snake lives are clear in my mind. He lives under the goddamn telephone poles taken from the hovel!
Then, the mouse continued his journey through the deep dark wood. A snake saw the mouse and the mouse looked good.
The hungry snake asked, “Where are you going to, little brown mouse? Come for a feast in my logpile house,”
“It’s kind of you, Snake, but no - I’m having a feast with a Gruffalo,” the clever mouse rejected. “A gruffalo? What’s a gruffalo?” asked the curious snake. The mouse played his trick again, “A gruffalo! Why, didn’t you know? His eyes are orange, his tongue is black, he has purple prickles all over his back”.
The snake started to get scared, he asked, “Where are you meeting him?”
"Here, by this lake and his favourite food is … scrambled snake,” replied the mouse. “Scrambled snake!! It’s time I hid!! Goodbye, little mouse,” and away the snake slid.
The mouse couldn’t’ help but laugh hysterically, “Silly old Snake! Doesn’t he know there’s no such thing as a gruffalo …hahaha!!!!!!!!!!"
I am not sure that Greek snakes know about the Gruffalo but the image from the book will not leave my mind. I am sure I hear rustlings whenever I pass the logs. I hurry on as fast as my legs can carry me for even a brave snake killer like myself does not seek out serpents.
766 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
As one heads down the Mani towards Kardamili, the village one on from Kambos is Stavropigio. It has just a few more Brits than Kambos as it is, objectively, a bit prettier. I am thus happy to stay in plain old Kambos. As one leaves our neighbouring village a small turning off the main road to the right is the old road to Kardamili. There is now no practical reason at all to use this road and more or less no-one does.
There will be a few souls like me who drive along to go fishing. It is a steep and winding descent as we start our journey at c350 metres above sea level. The road, in its early stages, is littered with shotgun cases so I guess that in the season the locals head here to blast away little birds, a pointless activity I find hard to understand. There are almost no houses on the road after the first half a mile and those that are there lie abandoned. There is evidence that the olive trees here were harvested, last year's branch cuttings and the leaves abandoned after twigs were threshed, lie by the side of the road. But it is hard to see how anyone uses it more than once a week.
It is the sort of place that can be left to the snakes and to nature. But this is Greece which is, as you know, bankrupt. So the photos below offer a lesson in Greekenomics. For most the the five or so miles I travelled my car rode along the old concrete from the days when this was the road to Kardamili, the 1960s. In some places that concrete had disappeared or was never laid down in the first place and I was on the sort of mud and stone track I wind my way up to on the way to the Greek hovel.
But for various stretches I travelled on pristine tarmac. This is not old tarmac but a road that has enjoyed recent investment. For what? For whom? Greece is bankrupt. Our pensioners now live on 9 Euro a day. The hospitals are short of medicines. Yet to "create jobs" or rather maintain the bloated public sector, the Government is spending money it does not have upgrading a road that almost no-one uses. Welcome once again to the world of Greekenomics.
766 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
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.
A spot of olive tree pruning followed and then after a no bread Greek salad care of lovely Eleni at the Kourounis Taverna I headed off for a spot of fishing at a spot recommended by one of my fellow part time residents here. He assured me that it is where all the locals who are in the know head to.
After a 30 minute drive on the old Kardamili road which is now a case study in Greekenomics, as I explain here, I arrived at a rocky cove and started fishing. That is to say I clambered over rocks as the waves crashed in. Being completely isolated and miles from the nearest human being I sweated off a few more pounds of nervous energy. What if I fell in? What if I met a snake and was bitten? In the middle of nowhere snakes were bound to be everywhere surely?
I need not have feared. Within 40 minutes the sea had seized two spinners and a line of hooks and I was heading back along the old Kardamili road towards civilization. My 40 year record of not harming a single fish was, unlike my kit box, completely intact.
By the time I reached Kalamata I was feeling really rather feint. I tested my blood sugar at my hotel and they were just 6.8. That is at one level far too high - 5 is my target. At another level it was alarmingly low - they had fallen by more than 4 points since the morning. I read all the warnings about bloods heading too low and the threat of diabetic coma.
I am advised to keep a chocolate bar handy just in case but ignore that as I know I'd at it in a non emergency.
Thinking on my feet, I delayed taking my evening sugar busting medication and other delightful pills and headed to my favourite restaurant which I had noted was finally open once again. As is nearly always the case it was empty. I really do fear for its future and urge all folks who ever visit this place to head straight to 23 Navarino Street to save the Katelanos. After a delightful portion of grilled octopus and a small black eyed pea salad with a small amount of rough bread, lightly toasted and drizzled with olive oil and herbs I felt so much better and wandered back to my hotel.
My bloods this morning are 9.5. That is of course far too high for the long term but it is where I should be right now. This afternoon there will be more manual labour at the hovel and the trend is heading the right way once more.
769 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
I always travel as cheaply as possible searching out the best bargains online although for Greece I try hard to fly Aegean as its service is fantastic even for we peasants in cattle class. For this flight from Copenhagen I briefly considered a real bargain from Air Serbia but an eight hour stop over at Belgrade did not appeal. Likewise even a mere 90 minutes in Istanbul as part of a dirt cheap Air Turkey offer was not something that grabbed me for a host of reasons. And so I went back to Aegean.
Oddly I found that its business class seat was 50 Euro cheaper than cattle class. Who was I to refuse. I had forgotten all about this but when printing out my boarding pass at the airport - having resisted the nickel and diming of Wake Up Hotels - the words business class jumped out at me. Wow!.
I strolled to the front of a non queue to check in my rucksack. The lady looked at a scruffy man in walking boots with a rucksack and backpack and I appreciate that I don't look like most business class passengers but she reminded me about the Aviator lounge where I now sit in comfort enjoying free coffees and rye bread for breakfast, away from the great unwashed on the concourse below.
Priority boarding awaits, Free whatever i want on the plane and my rucksack will be unloaded first. This is the life and I am saving money. Thanks be to the Lord for Greekenomics.