213 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.
there are lizards everywhere. My old saying is that where there are lizards there are snakes. But from memory, and fingers crossed, the snakes start to hibernate well before the lizards and you do sometimes see lizards even in the winter. Anyhow, here is one chirpy fellow I spotted sun bathing on a wall on the way from the Hovel down towards snake hill.
692 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.
And then I heard it. Well, I did not hear it, that is to say the reptile but I heard the grass moving, a couple of yards to my left. Those who have met me at investor shows will be aware that I am a little hard of hearing but in the silence of the snake-fields your average post can hear almost anything happen. And after a while your ears can, as they sometimes say in Greek, "smell" the different noises.
A lizard makes one noise in the grass as its little legs scuttle rapidly, crushing small stems but brushing very little aside with the swish of its tail. On the other hand as a snakes' body creates great ox-bow lake shapes as it speeds through the grass its powerful muscles push the blades violently this way and the other.
I turned to the noise but the grass had bounced back quickly and no shape was visible. But the sound was clear. It was a snake and it was fleeing from me. It must have heard what a feared snake killer I had become on the serpent grapevine.
Emboldened by this as I drove back to the village a bit later I stopped off at the dry river and glanced at the last remnants of water in the last pool of water where I had spotted "eels" a few weeks earlier. Bravely I got out of my car and approached the stagnant waters to bring you the photo below. Clearly my reputation as a snake killer proceeded me as once again the vipers had fled. Cowards!
734 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
As you may be gathering, I am really getting quite fond of the lizards at the Greek Hovel. that is good news as they are everywhere and I shall be moving up to live there full time in about ten days. And so here is another very sweet little chappie, or chappess. I still can't "sex them" but he/she was about three inches long and seemed relatively fearless, sitting less than two foot away from me for several minutes before wandering off in search of an insect for his/her lunch.
737 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.
And when not panicking about a noise in the bushes or thinking which shoots and branches to lop off it is a chance to think. I am not sure I always get the pruning 100% correctly in terms of what to lop and what to leave but locals from Kambos who have inspected my work up in the snake fields at the Greek Hovel nod with some sort of approval. I think I get it more right than wrong.
In terms of the thinking I am not sure I get that all right either. There is an awful lot to think about and you can do so in almost total silence. Sometimes you can hear the bells of the sheep or goats. Now and again it is a rustling in the bushes but mostly it is just silence. Its the best place to clear your head.
Anyhow you wanted a photo. sadly I could not find a snake for you so you will have to make do with a lizard. They are everywhere. This little specimen was scrambling up the wall at the Greek Hovel. He or she, for I am no expert at sexing lizards) is about four inches long and could not get away from me fast enough.
749 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
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.
Lizards eat moths and insects and snakes eat pretty much anything but they are very partial to a spot of lizard. So if the lizards are everywhere around the hovel perhaps that is because my snake repellent cans are working and they have identified it as a safe space? I know what I hope for but I am not sure where the truth lies. Anyhow, they are gorgeous little creatures. Some are a pure pea green, others are a mixture of green, yellow and black. The smallest are a couple of inches long but I have seen peak green monsters of a foot and a half in the past. They all scuttle along always looking around for both things to eat and for er...danger. I like watching lizards.
But there is a limit to my appetite for lizard watching and so in due course I drove out of the hovel, stopping to shut the creaking gates, and headed off to a packed Kourounis taverna in Kambos. The one notable absentee was Nicho the Communist and it soon emerged that he had, last night, been, once again, celebrating International Worker's Day ahead of time. Assisted by the usual suspects it appears that three bottles of whiskey had been downed and it was suggested that Nicho might be having a bit of a lie in. I left my number with lovely Eleni - whose wealth must be boosted materially by Nicho's celebrations - and about an hour later, shortly after I arrived back in Kalamata, I received a call.
I asked if Nicho was feeling a bit tired after last night and he agreed that he was. But that was not the reason for the postponement of the poisoning. "It's the air - the air is wrong - if the air is good we will do it tomorrow" said my Comrade. I accepted him at his word but rather suspected that the whiskey was the real cause of the postponement. I saw nothing wrong with the air, it was a lovely sunny morning.
But, as it happens, I sit here mid afternoon in my hotel looking up at the Taygetos mountains which form the spine of the Mani peninsular and they are clouded in a thick fog. In fact I cannot actually see the mountains at all. It is almost certainly raining heavily up at the Hovel and so Nicho's excuse was valid. There is no point in spraying the frigana if the rain washes it off just a few hours later. You need a clear 24 hours of hot dry weather for all the poison to be sucked down into the roots.
So it was God not the whiskey that postponed the final bit of poisoning.
1090 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
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 two years ago cleared it none the less, wading into the bushes in a fearless manner and, as it happened, encountering not a single snake.
It is not an area where the olive trees yield much. I think that is because for years they have never been pruned or fertlised as they were simply immersed in frigana, in dense jungle. That, I have determined is all to change and so I started work. On one tree a wild olive, non fruit bearing specimen, had attached itself to the trunk and I sawed away, eventually dragging the parasite trunk in three cleanly cut pieces onto what will be a huge bonfire at Christmas but is for now just a huge pile of branches, a sort of sanctuary for the wildlife diversity.
As the evening light started to fade my limbs started to tire. It is hard work olive pruning. One must bend down to remove little shoots of olive at the base of the tree with your axe and also reach up into the highest branches to axe and saw away new growth that cannot yield fruit this year. I was sweating and tired and on my penultimate tree. And then I heard a rustle and looked around to see something shoot off into a bush.
Lizards shoot off in a straight line. Their back legs propel them like a bullet straight to safety. Snakes slither so you can see the S shaped movement as the tail disappears. This was a snake. It must have been a small one which suggests it was poisonous but it headed away from me and must have been sitting in a bush two yards from my feet as I heard no more noise.
"Fuck me" I said rather loudly although the only creature that could hear me was the snake. I chopped a last few branches from the tree and decided that maybe the Greeks were right not to prune as dusk approaches. I decided to walk the "safe" way back to the hovel, that is to say along the goat path that runs between our land and that of our neighbour and onto the main track. It is rarely used but surely safer than walking back through the bushes. It goes without saying that within thirty yards I heard a very loud noise and something slithering off into the bushes.
As I wander I carry my pruning axe in one hand and my pruning hand saw in the other. So the snakes should be aware that I might be a hard Albanian who will go for them, not a Western pansy who is fecking terrified. Anyhow, I shall write late tonight so that I have a clear morning of pruning tomorrow. When in Rome do as the Romans do.
When in Greece do as the Albanians do because the Greeks are too lazy.
1092 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
I like lizards. They do no harm to me and eat little creepy crawlies. There is one which has lost its tail and is about an inch and a half long that sleeps on the wall at the far side of the one habitable room here in the Greek Hovel. I say good night to it as I switch the lights out. It seems to have accepted my presence and no longer runs if I approach its end of the room for whatever reason.
This lizard is a bit longer and has a tail and was just sitting on the balcony here as I worked, staring out at the valley.
1755 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
The light shines out through my glass and heavily gated door at the Greek Hovel. The moths just cannot resist and are drawn to it and what follows is a wholesale slaughter every night.
As I sit here there are four lizards on my door just sitting there waiting for the next moth. When it lands on the door they slowly creep towards it and …pounce. I can see them grab and eat the poor little things through the glass.
Right now there are no moths and so the lizards just wait…
1766 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
Darren you would be proud of me. I have tonight managed to get the Mi-Fi system working. That means that at any one time I can now run four computers at The Greek Hovel. Not only that but I have signed up to Skype and am now waiting for the Mrs to awake from her early evening slumber after a hard way watching her students graduate so that we can chat.
As I wait I hear a noise at the door and per through the glass and grill to see that it is a small lizard seeking entry to the wildlife diversity free redoubt. Piss off critter in here wildlife gets killed. As two (no make that three) bugs have found out to their cost in the past twenty minutes.
The arrival of the World Wide Web at The Hovel will be a body blow to Eleni's lovely Kouronis Taverna in Kambos. My eco-loo should be constructed by Sunday and thus at that point I shall then have no need at all for its services although I shall still pop in now and again for old time’s sake. And when I have heavy data like a video to send back to the UK. I sense that a profits warning for the Taverna is on the way.
To celebrate this landmark I today bought some shaving foam. I was becoming conscious that I was looking increasingly like Grizzly Adams in my lonely retreat. More to the point, nine days growth shows a lot of unflattering gray and itches like hell. Tomorrow I shave. This is real progress.
PS. As I was clearing detritus from around the hovel today I saw two lizards copulating. I cannot say that it was a great thrill but I suppose you should see everything once.
1772 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
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.
Beneath it is a former animal room.
I did not venture in in case there might have been some animals of the non-domestic type inside. But as you can see from the photo taken through its iron (non snake and rat proof) door it is full of junk and has an earth floor. The window is also broken just in case the snakes and rats could not be bothered to climb through the front door.
In order for it to be able to accommodate my father who is a fraction taller than me, let alone anyone else the first job is to lower the floor by a foot and a half. Luckily the floor is an earth floor. And so all I need to do is to clear the junk, snakes and rats and get digging. God knows what I will find.
Then there is the “master bedroom” beneath the snake veranda. It has a concrete floor and humans used to live here hence the fire in the corner. Right now it seems to be home to half the lizards of the Mani and so shall henceforth be known as the Lizard Room. I am afraid that as I clear out the junk – including a brand new washing machine which the previous owner bought but could not use as she had her water cut off for non-payment (welcome to economics Greece style) – the lizards must also go.
A challenge? Just a bit…