251 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
Lovely Eleni was the first person the Mrs and I met in Kambos, the village closest, bit not close, to the Greek Hovel. We had landed at Athens at 4 AM and were driving to the Mani before we had even seen the Greek Hovel or thought of the idea. We stopped off at this taverna in a village whose name we did not know and asked if there was anything they could create for breakfast.
The woman was lovely Eleni, the village was Kambos, that was late 2013 or early 2014 and the breakfast was an omelette. The rest is history. Since we bought the hovel Eleni, as a speaker of some English, has been a God send, negotiating with Albanian helpers, advising on everything from snakes to deal with power cuts and just being someone to talk to.
But now I have argued with her and her husband Nicho. My lunchtime bill came to 6.50 Euro. I handed over seven or eight and said keep the change. I always do that at Eleni’s or at Miranda’s next door. I just do not want lots of Euro coins to weigh down my trousers and so just hand over coins to get rid of them.
A few minutes later I realised I needed some milk so headed back in as the taverna is also a general store. I don’t know what a small carton costs. Greek milk is expensive for reasons of Greekenomics that we can cover at another time but I guess the pice is 1-1.5 Euro. No don’t pay said Eleni and her husband. They insisted. So did I. After a bit of too and fro I put a 2 Euro coin on the counter waved and walked out.
Too often I am gifted a free coffee or some other titbit in Kambos. Don’t get me wrong, it is charming and not something you tend to experience in the tourist villages by the sea . But I am aware of my relative wealth and that Kambos is not a rich village, in financial terms anyway. And so I find such generosity, which I cannot imagine enjoying in Britain, a little hard to take in.
Anyhow, that’s the closest I’ve come to an argument with Eleni in more than four years.
265 days ago
The ruined Frankish castle of Zarnata sits on top of the hill overlooking Kambos and on its nearer side the village of Stavropiglio. I often sit staring up at it, in awe at the largely still standing outer wall which threads its way around the hill, when enjoying an ouzo in Miranda's or from the tables outside the Kourounis taverna run by lovely Eleni. In an attempt to inject a bit of culture to the holiday of Godless daughter Olaf, I led the family on a trek up that hill yesterday, with young Joshua on my back.
If you approach from the Stavropiglio side you are much of the way up already. But the final climb is a rough one with the steep track littered with loose stones. With my son and heir on my back, as you can see below, it was a bit of a slog. The castle is very much a ruin but the small church next door is well preserved but locked so, sadly for Olaf, we could not go inside. Heaven only knows which saint it is dedicated to, I could not make out the sign - perhaps a reader can assist?
As you can see, the views down to Kambos are spectacular. In the second panoramic shot you can just about make out the Greek Hovel if you look closely.
As we left the property and headed back to Stavropiglio I noted the prickly pear bush pictured. I did not notice that i had brushed a pear but by the time we were back at the car a cluster of tiny needles had started to press through my shirt and was causing real pain to my right arm. We drove onto Kardamili with me half wearing a shirt and half Stoupa (topless) where the Mrs bought me a replacement T-shirt before I headed out in public.
304 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
As is my wont, when in Kambos, I walked into the restaurant formerly known as Miranda’s and headed for the small cooking area at the back. The new supremo, the new Miranda, explained what was on offer and after due consideration I went for small pieces of pork in a wine sauce with a side helping of zucchinis and okra. That will end up costing me six euro.
As I wandered back to my table on the stoop, the step just outside the restaurant but before you get to the tables on the square, a place where an open window leaves you sort of inside while enjoying the breeze, an old man started gabbling at me. He was sitting on a table with a younger man who I did not know and a man my age who I have got drunk with once or twice, who I exchange yassas and a wave with but who I don’t really know. Is his name Georgios? I think it is.
The old man had a vaguely swivel eyed loon look to him and talked faster and in a louder at me keeping me fixed in his gaze and pointing at me. He seemed almost angry. I tried to make him understand that I did not speak Greek and my drinking friend, I think, made the same point. I moved onto my table, one open window away from his. As the new Miranda put water and bread on my table I asked who the old man was. “The village President Stavros”. Aha. I nodded politely at the man who talked even louder and started banging the table, looking at me then at his companions and then at me again.
The young man several times tried intervening as did my drinking friend. Further evidence that I was being discussed came as I heard the word Toumbia mentioned several times. Toumbia is the settlement of two dozen farmsteads spread far and wide where the Greek Hovel is located. I am pretty sure that there are only two residents of Toumbia, me and my mad neighbour Charon.
I asked the new Miranda what the old man was so cross about as she arrived with my ,lunch. “He is just mad” she said and that was it. Perhaps Kambos is following some ancient Athenian model of democracy where the only folks eligible to be village President are those deemed so mad that they are utterly unfit for office?
I ate my lunch. A couple of other folks with whom I have spent an evening on the ouzo headed to the old man’s table, leaned over and exchanged words. The an ger subsided. There was no more table banging. Twenty minutes later I wandered in to pay and as I left the man waved goodbye and smiled a very friendly smile. I have no idea what that was all about.
306 days ago
In Asterix the Gaul there are bouts of frenzied activity, hostilities and then, after the Romans are sent packing, the little Gallic village gets back to normal with everyone eating, drinking and doing nothing much in the way of work. I am reminded of this as I stare out of the restaurant formerly known as Miranda's where I will soon pay six Euro for a superb home cooked lunch. In case you wonder: park in a wine sauce with Okra.
As I stare out at the small square in front of Miranda's with the Kourounis tavern, run by lovely Eleni, on the right, all is quiet. A few men sit around having a drink. The world goes by with folks speeding by on the road to Kardamili. But nothing changes here in Kambos, the village closest to the Greek Hovel. Last summer, of course, it was all different.
Back then, a new interloper, the creperie, opened shop on the left of the square and then parked horrible plastic chairs everywhere which remained almost empty as the battle of the eateries commenced. By the autumn the creperie had "closed for winter". As you can see below, it has not re-opened. Peace is restored. It is back to normal. Everyone is content.
350 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
I have just enjoyed a cracking lunch of beef in tomato sauce and peas at Miranda's in Kambos. Actually it is not called Miranda's any more as it has a new owner but I stick with the old name. The prices have not changed. That will be 5 Euro.
I have also downed two litres of water after pruning twenty more trees up at the hovel.
Skipping, okay I exaggerate a bit, up and down the terraces to the most snake infested long grass, in the far reaches of the hovel's lands, was tiring work in 30+ degree heat. I am shattered and must return to Kalamata soon to wash my trousers which contain ten days of sweat and blood - from when I cut my hands and arms on saw or frigana. I wipe them on my poor trousers which now feel like cardboard and carry on. Anyhow the Mrs suggests I wash them before returning home. I say suggests but it is not in an optional sort of way.
So I have pruned 240 trees and there are, perhaps, a dozen more in the furthest reaches that are un-pruned. I shall tackle them next month. I have far more trees than I thought. Four years agon on prune one it took three days and Foti the Albanian trousered 210 Euro. There are more trees now thanks to the ones that we discovered as we cleansed the frigana forest. Okay it has taken me ten stints of a couple of hours a day but it has not cost me a cent. I feel good about that.
Now its farewell to the folks in Kambos and back to the bloody UK. Next time I come here the hovel will have a roof, ceilings, more doors and windows and a bed in the snake proof bat room. And I shall therefore be staying here not in Kalamata. It is all very exciting.
351 days ago
I am under instructions from David Bick not to complain about the weather here in Kambos. And I should say that it is 30 degrees right now and I am dripping with sweat having pruned another thirty olive trees up at the Greek Hovel. I am on my second litre of water as I enjoy a late lunch at Miranda's in Kambos and recover from my labours. Yesterday I was in the same place at the same time having completed my manual labour for the day and the heavens opened. This was the view....
440 days ago
It was my penultimate day in Kambos, the nearest village to the Greek Hovel. I had parked in the small side street that leads off the main road up and past the newest and biggest of the, at least, five churches in out settlement with a population of 537 (when I am there). I enjoyed a lunch at Miranda's - pork in a wine sauce, oven cooked potatoes and an ouzo for seven Euro. I left eight, headed back to my car and drove up to the turning square opposite the Church.
This is the highest point of the village. The telephone wires spoil the photo a bit but the view up into the Taygetos mountains is spectacular none the less. The pinkness of the rock is not a camera trick it is how it really looked at four thirty that day as the moon started to rise into the sky and the light started to fade
450 days ago
You know that I am a feminist. Child care, nappy changing, shopping, washing, cooking, I dxo more than my fair share. But there are some things that only women can do. Breast feeding for example. And there are some things we men do: snake killing, ouzo drinking and.. lighting fires. My repeated failure to burn off the olive branches and frigana I cut down last year at the Greek Hovel has thus been somewhat emasculating. And it got far worse yesterday before it got better.
After meeting George the Architect I tried again to create a bonfire. Sure, lawyers letters from Roger Lawson went up in smoke but nothing caught. I retreated to my nearest village of Kambos disheartened. On my way down snake hill I saw a roaring blaze in a field by the side of the road. That was bad but worse still was that it was being tended by its author, a fair maiden of the olive groves, a woman. FFS that really was a kick in the gonads.
Thus after lunch at Miranda's - an excellent calamari cooked in a sardine based sauce and some mountain greens boiled and doused in lemon for 7 Euro since you ask - I determined to return to the hovel for another go. Running out of Lawson's letters I started to use empty concrete sacks to set the pyre on fire. Occasionally one took but then spluttered and faltered as you can see below.
Almost despairing as the afternoon wore on and the air started to chill, I resorted to the traditional methods of using a handful of long grass to set the fire going. It was still a bit wet but there seemed hope. But hope turned to despair after several more failures. One last try thought I and picking a huge bundle of grass and adding in some twigs I set it alight and plunged it into the heart of an enormous pile of rather damp branches, twigs and dried frigana leaves.
Alleluliah! The Lord rewards those who persevere and something caught. Very soon I had a real blaze going so big that I am sure my neighbours on hills miles away must have seen it. They won't be laughing at me in Kambos anymore thought I.
As you can see below, pretty soon darkness was closing in but I wanted to stay until the fire was done. Flames reached up into the night sky. And before long I turned around to stare into a pitch black sky. I could see nothing at all, not the hovel not even my car fifteen yards away. But I worked on, not leaving until the whole pile was gone and the flames were starting to turn to embers.
I was not back to my hotel until nine O'clock. I spoke to the Mrs about how I felt that my manliness mojo had been restored and she told me that I was talking complete nonsense. But I am sure that if you are a man you know what I am talking about, don't you?
529 days ago
Of course poor Tara, the lifelong companion of my three legged cat Oakley is now at peace underneath the rhubarb plant. But this friendly soul sitting near Miranda's in Kambos is her doppleganger.
543 days ago
As I wandered into the little square in Kambos which has Miranda's at the top, looking up at Zarnata castle, and the Kourounis taverna on one side, something looked very wrong.
The plastic chairs laid out by the accursed new creperie last summer had gone and it looked very closed. Hooray. Lovely Eleni at the Kourounis taverna says that it is "closed for winter" but then smiled. And perhaps for summer too I suggested. And she smiled again. Pissing off the locals, having no customers what could possibly go wrong with such a business model?
But there was something else missing. The hardware and garden store where i buy snake repelling (sometimes) sulphur and get my strimmer mended had also disappeared. It used to occupy the building next to the creperie but sprawled out into a side square as well. But no longer, as you can see below.
The good news is that it has merely relocated to the old man's ouzerie opposite the Kourounis taverna on the main street. I popped in to see my friend Vangelis who runs the store and we discussed the olive harvest disaster and then why he had moved. He reckons it will be easier for his customers to park and so is a good move.
Eleni thinks it is a good move too. There are just four tables inside Miranda's and the temperature here as it gets dark is already heading to close to zero. Do not believe what the weather forecasts tell you about Greece being hot. Sure those clear blue skies mean that it is 17 degrees as I write now, at midday. I can sit outside at the Kourounis in just a shirt. But those same clear skies see the temperatures plunge as it gets dark.
And that means that if the 537 residents of Kambos want a drink in the evening, one the 15 seats in Miranda's are gone, they now appear to have a choice of...the Kourounis taverna. Eleni may have seen her olives wiped by the disaster but I sense she has a decent winter ahead.
I rarely used the ouzerie where the the clientele made the House of Lords seem like a bunch of young whippersnappers but now and again I popped in so I regret its passing. That regret is not shared by team Kourounis taverna. But we can, at least, agree in delighting at the closure of the Greco-French creperie. Here's hoping that it is goodbye not au revoir.
624 days ago
Enjoy this scene while you can. I have described elsewhere how the ghastly new creperie has parked rows of plastic chairs and tables in front of the handful of wooden chairs and tables under a wooden shade at the Kambos institution that is Miranda's. This is shown in the photo below. The Chairs on the left of the photo are those of the Kourounis taverna run by lovely Eleni's. The cameraman (me) is standing on the edge of the square by the main road. The creperie chairs are, as you can seem all empty. A few more weeks of that and it will be toast.
631 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
I am afraid that I have lost a lead and so cannot upload photos just yet so you will have to bear with me as I describe the scene in the main square of Kambos, my home village here in Greece. I have returned after three months to discover that the creperie run by a French Greek woman has opened. Quelle horreur!
Kambos is on the main road from Kardamili and the lower Mani up to Kalamata at about the half way point. As you drive into Kambos from Kardamili with the ruins of Zarnata castle on the hill behind you, the road turns sharply left at an angle of 90 degrees. Take that turn and you will head to Kalamata. Fail to take that turn and you would head into the small main square of the village which would be regrettable as it is entirely pedestrianised.
On your left hand side is lovely Eleni's Kourounis taverna and its dark wooden tables and chairs hug the side of its walls. Straight ahead of you is Miranda's restaurant which advertises wonderful choice but will serve just one offering. But it is fantastic rural Greek food and incredible value. Miranda's itself has a few small wooden inside but it is dark and hot so outside of winter not a place to sit. Outside, a large wooden shade has been built so there are now about six wooden tables which are often packed.
In the far right hand corner of the square is the new "creperie." I do not know where to start with my objections. Firstly the menu chalked up in poor English on a board stuck in front of Miranda's shade does not mention crepes but instead has a list of the sort of shite food you get at a Greek seaside resort. Food for pot bellied Brits wearing football tops. It is the sort of think I hoped I'd never see in Kambos.
Worse still the creperie not only has ghastly plastic tables and chairs outside its walls but has put up two rows of tightly packed plastic tables in front of Miranda's tables. You must try to navigate around them to get to Miranda's and the clear intent is to steal any passing trade.
This has all happened in the three months since I was last in Kambos. The creperie was, I am delighted to say, deserted apart from one table of foreigners - that is to say Brits. Mirandas was packed as was the Kourounis taverna. I would hope that as the tourists disappears so too will the creperie. Maybe other folks in Kambos are more tolerant but I wish the place a speedy demise.
PS. If you happen to be passing through Kambos and actually want a crepe, in the summer Eleni gets out a machine and her crepes are just awesome so head straight for the Kourounis taverna and go no further.
697 days ago
The shock is for any google pervs out there who have alighted on this page and though the photos are wonderful will be rather disappointed by their nature, The Miranda's I refer to is, of course, the restaurant next to the Kourounis taverna on the square where the road through Kambos makes a sharp right angle as it heads off to Kardamili.
Miranda's boasts a wide menu but in fact normally has one dish a day. But the food is awesome and so cheap.
And thus for 8 Euro I enjoyed a sort of beef burger containing some cheese and also very sharp and spicy peppers. Okay, that is high on calories but I had done several hours of manual labour up at the Greek Hovel. The point for a type 2 diabetic like myself is that it was carb free. Moreover I shared this with a cat which does not really belong to Miranda's but just wanders around begging as Greek cats do. Aaaah what a sweet pussy.
To accompany that there was a vegetable side dish: peppers, zucchini and a few slices of potato which I ignored all topped with local feta. Just wonderful.
727 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.
To survive they must do what they are really there for: catch mice, rats and snakes to eat. In fact they will eat anything. Flies, lizards and insects are all protein. At the start of summer those who have made it through the lean months emerge to sidle up to tourists as they sit and inevitably over-order.
The gullible foreigner at first thinks that the cat has fallen in love with them as it purrs and brushes against a fat sun reddened leg. Aaaaaaah what a poor thin little creature thinks the foreigner who tosses over-priced octopus, souvlaki, calamari from he table. It is all appreciated. Bread, Greek salad, the cat is not choosy - after its winter famine it will feast on any calories going.
As soon as the food is taken from one table the cat flicks its tail indicating "laters" and heads off to the next table to express its undying love to a new stranger. For the cats by the sea we Westerners are a soft touch and the summer months allow them to put on some fat to prepare them for the winter hardship. Up in Kambos there are fewer drippy foreigners to fall for the son story.
The Greeks are no soft touch but still titbits are offered and that will be an all year round offering in those non tourist villages. It is not that the Greeks are great animal lovers. I have noted before how Greek children will often taunt and mistreat restaurant cats with the parents watching on. On occasion I have intervened with a load "Oxi" so horrible are the little brats.
But in places such as Kambos folks appreciate that having cats around means there will be no mice, rats or snakes in attendance. Cats are useful friends to have, which is why I must work hard on my feline kidnapping policy for the Greek Hovel.
The specimen below is from the small seaside village of Kitries, the nearest harbour to Kambos.
729 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
Okay you come to Greece to star at the sea. There is no sea up in Kambos, the village closest to the Greek Hovel where I live. As you sit in Miranda's you stare up at the castle, you see cars, lorries or flocks of sheep wind their way along the road, and you see like in Kambos progress at its slow place.
We sit outside on one of the four tables underneath a wooden shelter. On another table the father of Vangelis from the snake repellent shop was holding court. He was chatting for five other older men, I guess not that much older than I am, as they nibbled some cheese and tomatoes and drank merrily. In due course Vangelis wandered over. He can keep an eye on the store and have a beer at the same time. Im not sure what was being discussed but there was no rush to end the lunch, after all it was only four in the afternoon when we left.
As ever, whatever the menu says about a wide selection there was just one selection - it was pork and peppers today. The choice was whether you wanted it with new boiled potatoes in a sauce or okra in sauce. We went for the latter and some tomatoes for Joshua. The total damage for two portions of pork & peppers and okra and the booze and Joshua's tomatoes was 14 Euro - call it £11.
Not only is that much cheaper than by the sea, the food is fantastic and the pace just so slow. I have won her over, the Mrs is a member of the Miranda's fan club too. As for Miranda herself she picked up Joshua and took him round to introduce him to everyone. He did not quite know what was happening but enjoyed his celebrity status.
734 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
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.
Run by a nice chap called Vangelis it was where I bought my frigana strimmer. My man toy. That was poor Vangelis' misfortune since he now finds me trouping in every few weeks having broken something or other. He patiently fixes it and I go away for a few more weeks. I also buy Sulphur, to deter snakes, from Vangelis.
But i spread my patronage by buying snake repellent canisters and rat poison from the other store from a man whose name I do not know but who seems to be the greatest living expert on the snakes of the Mani, especially the flocks of vipers that inhabit the fields around the Greek Hovel.
My plan is to move into the hovel in about twelve days time and thus I popped in today to buy some rat sweeties. Men of a certain age might think that they are extra large viagra tablets but I assure you that they are lethal rat killers. And so I bought a bag for two Euros.
Wearing plastic gloves I placed sweeties all around the one habitable room at the hovel where i shall be moving in a bunk bed and sleeping bag very shortly. I shall keep you posted on how the rat killing goes although I am braced for the usual bleatings from mad liberals about what a bastard I am for harming the wildlife diversity. Hmmmmm. If any such folks are reading this page, please imagine you are lying there in the dark, two miles from the nearest human being hearing all sorts of noises in the night-time air. Imagine a nightmare of waking up to find a rat staring down at you.
Hey fucking liberals, are you still on the side of Mr Rat?
While in the shop as the snake expert weighted out 2 Euros' of rat sweeties, the conversation turned, as it usually does, to snakes. I said that I had the repellents he had sold me up and working and that Nicho the Communist had helped me poison the land which the snakes did not like. I explained how the workmen were making big vibrations with their power drills which will drive away the snakes. And I reminded him that I was now part of the brotherhood of proven snake killers. My mixture of English and demonstrating with actions seemed to work and the man nodded but said "still you need a cat, or lots of cats."
For, as lovely Eleni has repeatedly said, cats kill snakes. But I explained that i was not always there to feed the cats. that did not matter, I was assured, just get cats there and when you go if they can find no food they will go too. But where to get such cats I asked?
At this point the snake expert chatted with an old man who sits in his shop doing nothing all day. They were laughing. I think they were laughing at my naivete. Mr snake expert said: "The cats are everywhere, you just pick them up and take them." Well this is indeed true. There are cats everywhere but I sort of assumed that the vaguely belonged to someone. I gather some do but most are just fed by whoever feeds them or by God if they happen upon a nice juicy snake.
Owning a cat in Kambos is a bit like owning a bike used to be when I was a student at Oxford. there is no point getting a pedigree Persian in the Mani or a top of the range mountain bike in the City of Lost Causes. Just accept that your cat/bike will disappear and that you will then "find" another one. It seems that cat-napping is thus perfectly legal.
Maybe this is a project for the summer. I think I need an Albanian to help me but we must go and find some cats in Kambos to relocate to the hovel to deal with the snakes once and for all. What could possibly go wrong with this cunning plan?
735 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
I could not sleep for reasons that I shall discuss later so was up at the crack of dawn leaving the Mrs and Joshua snoring loudly in our hotel room. We are in Koroni, a pretty little sea port around the coast from Kalamata, going away from the Mani. The stated reason is to visit the parents of the husband of the sister of the Mrs, Stavros & Stavroula. It is the latter who taught me everything I know about the art of goat milking.
I say that Koroni is pretty. It had old buildings, narrow and winding streets and a charm. It is still a working town as well as a tourist resort. So there are fishing boats in the harbour and this morning I wandered through a market where the local peasantry bring their fruit and vegetables to sell - it was an array of colours and the size of the specimens on offer is stunning. We might almost be in Chernobyl.
On the other hand, I do not enjoy eating out in any place in Greece that has a whiff of tourist. There is the hard sell from the owner as you walk buy, the insistence that all his fish is fresh and local when the octopus and calamari is almost certainly not. And there are the relatively high prices one pays for fairly ordinary food.
Before any remoaners start bleating, the pound is now just 2% down on where it was before Independence Day last year. Tourist Greece used to offer cheap and cheerful food (ie, not terribly good). The standards of cooking in most tourist resorts have not improved but prices went up once the drachma was replaced with the Euro. They need to re-adjust downwards. I resented paying 9.5 Euro for a very tough pork souvlaki with a few greasy chips, which I gave to Joshua.
I thought fondly of Miranda's up in Kambos where there is never any fish on offer. But where the cooking is consistently good - if simple - and where a meat and veg option plus an ouzo & greek coffee will still leave you with change from a ten Euro bill. In Koroni one can watch the sea but the noise of people and tinned music is everywhere. Up in Kambos there are just a few people talking and laughing, you gaze up at the mountains or at the castle on the hill in the other direction. You just ponder as the world goes by.
My family has been writing about Greece for 150 years. Greece is "in the blood" but that Greece is up in Kambos not here by the seaside.
At 8 AM and the tourists are sleeping off last night's ouzo. I found one coffee shop open and it is opposite the main church and so as I tap away on my laptop, smartly dressed little old ladies wander by on their way to praise the Lord. I can hear the priest intoning loudly inside. The people respond in an age old ritual. That would be the same ritual being celebrated by many of the folks back in Kambos right now.
No doubt many people reading this, including my proudly godless daughter Olaf, will deride such faith as just another meaningless relic of the old world. But Daddy what is their stance on LGBT issues? Don't you know who won Eurovision last night?
Which is likely to be more long lasting: the modern cult of celebrity and ephemera or the quiet faith of the little old ladies, even if it fails to condemn Tim Farron for homophobia as all snowflakes and metropolitan elitists must do once a week as their ritual? On that, my almost 16 year old daughter and her ageing father are, as usual, likely to disagree.
739 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
Before any deranged share rampers start recycling fake stories of non crimes I did not commit seven years ago start to get too excited, my problems were once again with the Old Bill here in Greece. As regular readers know, I am all too familiar with the inside of Kardamili nick.
The main road from Kalamata to Kardamili and on into the Mani winds its way through the heart of my local village of Kambos. Once you go past the turning up to the Greek hovel there is a long straight stretch of around 400 yards which takes you to the Kourounis taverna owned by Lovely Eleni and the square in front of Miranda's. At that point the road makes a 90 degree right turn and then heads past the main shop in the village and out on towards the Mycenaean tombs, the Frankish castle and the road to Kardamili.
For as long as I have lived here cars have parked on the kerb in front of Eleni's taverna and the square of Miranda's. Traffic coming in from Kardamili can see such cars very clearly and there is no reason not to park there. And no signs indicating that it is illegal to do so.
And thus, as per normal, I parked my car there yesterday afternoon and headed inside to answer an email or two and have a coffee. All was well for 45 minutes until a man at the par said "police, Police, your car". I looked up and indeed a cop had parked his car next to mine and was starting to write out a ticket. I rushed out. He said something in Greek. I said "I will move it now" in English. He said in English "don't you realise how dangerous this is?" I nodded obediently, moved my car and, I think, dodged a ticket.
Of course it was not dangerous. Cars have been parked in that spot 365 days a year for forty years and there has never been a crash. Traffic hits this bend in the road at sub 30 km/h and anyone travelling on the same side as my car was parked (that is from Kardamili) could have seen my parked car for at least 200 metres. But I am not a man to argue with Greek cops.
As I write there are cars parked where mine was, on the other side of the road, just around the corner. The cop is back in Kalamata or Kardamili. Life in Kambos goes on.
740 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
There was I sitting in the Kourounis Taverna in Kambos having taken the Mrs and Joshua up to see his inheritance, that is to say the Greek Hovel. The Mrs and I were enjoying a Greek salad prepared by Nicho the Magician, that is to say Eleni's other half and Joshua was enjoying a few bits of bread and smiling at all passers by. A lady came up and introduced herself.
I already knew who she was. Nicho had pointed her out as the French lady. She rather stands out as her mother was from Cameroon. Non white folks rather stand out here. Until recently the Mrs, has on her visits, been 100% of the non white community.
We spoke in a mixture of French and English. Thanks to the chain smoking WW2 tank hero Harry Owen who taught me at Warwick School my French is not that bad. But her English was better. early on in our conversation she asked if I was German. I think my body language made it clear that I took this as a grave insult. Do I look like a fucking Kraut FFS? Apparently i do. The woman blundered on by saying she only said so because I was tall, like a member of the frigging master race. Whatever.
It turns out that her late husband was a bubble and so her daughter lives in Kambos and is going to start a creperie this summer. She pointed at where it will be... about twenty yards from the Kourounis taverna and just next to Miranda's. Now Miranda's limited menu does not include crepes but in the summer Nicho the Magician gets out a special machine and his crepes are most excellent. Naturally, as a good diabetic, i shall not be indulging but the kids love him.
This new entrant to the scene means that with a population of 536 (539 including myself, the Mrs and Joshua), Kambos has two ouzeries where you can get nibbles, coffee and ouzo. Plus three places to eat ( and get ouzo).
Naturally, lovely Eleni will retain my business. Accusing me of being a Kraut is not the way to win me over.
741 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
As I tap out a few words on my laptop next to the bright blue sea it is about 27 degrees. It is T-shirt weather and the Mrs is forcing myself and Joshua to go for a swim in an unheated pool a bit later. It is hot here in Kardamili. But as you can see in the two photos below, in the higher points of the taygetos mountains behind us, the last remnants of the winter snow still cling on. These are not the highest points of the range but Al Gore would be mortified to see global warming still on the ground in the sourthnmost part of Europe in May. The computer models, global warming nutjobs like George Monbiot and the entire population of Canada, plus 99% of peer group approved scientists all predicted desertification not this.
I have mixed feelings about being back here. I have bad memories of this town, such as when I was carted off to the police station by a bent cop. Those memories don't go away.
It is also Islington by the Sea. Partly because it was home to Paddy Leigh Fermor and partly becuase it is just incredibly pretty, this place is swamped with middle class Brits. You might say "like you" but they are not. Next year they will be in Tuscany. Perhaps Provence thereafter. Or maybe a summer in the Hamptons. I have overheard dinner conversations here about "the Triangulation of New Labour" and comparing the olive oil to that from our place in Tuscany."
Kardamili has only a pebble beach and it is away from the heart of town. So it is not a place for families. And so my fellow visitors tend to be older then me and guardian reading tossers from Islington. Right now, most folks here are actually Norwegian as next week is the Norwegian jazz festival, but, if anything they are even older than the Guardianistas.
Having all these affluent tourists without any kids means that this town has some nice restaurants. But you pay for that through the nose. Yes we can afford it but I am happer with the simpler and much cheaper food up at the Kourounis taverna or Miranda's in Kambos. Kambos is a Greek village with no tourists. Its population is pretty much unchanged at 536 all year round. Kardamili might have three or four times that many people here in July or August but in December it has fewer folks than my home village. It lives for those Guardinista tourists.
Its beauty, the Leigh Fermor link, the food and the views make me happy enough but I'm sure that by the weekend I shall be going stir crazy. I have been given a day release tomorrow to go work up at the Greek Hovel which will be a treat. But my longing is to be back in Kambos full time. Indeed, as the Mrs plans two days with her sister's in laws, the folks who taught me goat milking, I am threatening to stay up at the hovel for a couple of nights just to see what it is like.
1052 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
It is my last full day at the Greek Hovel until December and I shall miss my life here badly. It is just after three in the afternoon and I sit in the shade in the centre of Kambos typping away with a glass of ouzo to hand (celebrating vengeance after eleven years) watching the world go by. As ever the A Board on the main street of Kambos advertises all sorts of delight at Miranda's little taverna. Fish, grilled meats, toasted kangaroo, the list goes on. Actually I made up that bit about the kangaroo but it might as well have been on the public menu because the actual menu is...what is on top the oven today which is chicken and spaghetti.
Miranda gets me to taste the chicken and says something in Greek including the word "spiti" which is one of the few words I actually know. Until this morning what i am about to devour was fluttering around at her house. spiti = house. Now it is covered in a superb sauce and part of it will be my lunch.
And so I order what is on the actual menu but it seems that patronage is now rewarded with an upgrade in that I am trusted to lay my own table in the little square outside the taverna. Miranda hands me one of the paper sheets that are clipped to tables in Greek restaurants, a glass and a bottle of iced nero (water) and off I toddle.
I guess some of the Bulletin Board morons back home who just hate it when I expose as frauds the companies that have invested in will be delighted by this news. It is evidence that once again I am really just a waiter in a restaurant. One such moron was again abusing me today "and your pizza is shit."
I suppose in the tiny addled little mind of such a total fucktard buying a loss making restaurant, turning it round and selling it on at a profit is the same as being a pizza waiter. Such folks will no doubt now also define me as being Miranda's waiter. What a silly world I inhabit back in Britain.
Postscript: the chicken was really fantastic. I am not a big fan of spaghetti but this was thicker than the Italian version and coated in crumbly local cheese it was not bad at all. A thin cat sat next to my table as soon as the food arrived and started begging loudly. I gave it some spaghetti which it devoured.
1059 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
last night I met an amazing woman here in Kambos. More on that later but I am in awe. Then it was watching the Brexit results on the BBC on the internet as the smug biased lefties had to come to terms with how the great unwashed had given them and the rest of the elite a total kicking. I tried to get two hours sleep but a drunk comrade from the Eurosceptic trenches, Lucian Miers, woke me up. So I worked a bit and then slept. By 2.30 PM it was ouzo o'clock. So I headed to Miranda's as you can see below and raised a class to Boris, Priti, Nigel, Michael et al but also to my late grandfather Sir John Winnifrith and my Uncle, Chris Booker, who was in a fine mood today. Cheers to you all.
1061 days ago
— Tom Winnifrith
I was feeling a little weak. It is just so bloody hot and this one meal a day regime is not helping. My pruning is done and my frigana chopper needed a tweak down in Kambos and so I left the Greek Hovel and, being brave, made my first visit to Miranda's, the taverna in between the Kourounis taverna and the snake repellent/frigana chopper ,mending store.
I think that this is Miranda's. I have translated the sign from Greek lettering so I would not bet the ranch on that but henceforth I shall refer to it as Miranda's. The taverna itself is set back 25 yards from the road in a small square. It is dark and dingy inside but no-one eats inside - that is reserved for a few very old men who look as gnarled as the olive trees and are almost fixtures, smoking and drinking. But for the rest of us there are six tables outside under wooden and canvas protection. There is, of course, no internet I just type and save, I shall load this later.
Miranda's has an A Board on the street but that is just for tourists passing through the village in that it offers a wide and varied menu. Once they leave their car they are ushered inside and shown a few pots on the stove. That is the menu. Suckers! We Northern Europeans are, at that point, too polite to leave and so make a choice of goat or goat, for it is often just one dish on offer.
At that point they are happy as this is a great place to sit and watch the world go by. There are two very sweet little cats that pester you for food. In terms of what I watch go by, I admit that not a lot happens here. Right now the renovation of lovely Eleni's Kourounis taverna is THE hot news in Kambos. Oh, and our cash strapped village council ( 4 employees, 538 citizens including me) has invested in painting two zebra crossings on the main road, one by the taverna for old men and one by the fourth taverna, which is a less polished rival to Kourounis and which I am yet to visit.
I did not go for the goat. My healthy living regime continues and its Greek salad and water for me and it is a very fine Greek salad indeed. I am almost tempted to compare it favourably to that of lovely Eleni but that would be disloyal. Even the cats are begging for a bit of it.
A few men loiter by the entrance. I am not sure if they are customers or staff but I am served by the one woman present who, I assume, is Miranda. She is a very friendly old soul but as oil paintings go not perhaps quite as lovely as Eleni. I could be a fecking diplomat, don't you think, for the way I phrased that?
Being two hours ahead of London means that I had much of what i wanted to write today penned before you chaps and Mr stockmarket were awake. So just a couple more things to pen this afternoon and then it is back to frigana chopping.Big time. Tonight it will be Miranda's again. it is a day for the two salad diet