PERSONAL, UNDILUTED VIEWS FROM TOM WINNIFRITH
58 days ago
205 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.
Almost immediately on arriving they stared into the sky and started shouting "Chrissy, there is Chrissy". I stared up and saw a very large bird of prey. I like the numerous birds of prey that circle the hills above the hovel as they eat snakes and rats. Good job. The more birds the better. But why Chrissy? And the size: this bird was very large indeed, why was that?.
Chrissy was their nickname for a bird based on the Greek word Chrysos (gold). For this magnificent creature was a golden eagle. These birds have large territories so though they may all look the same the odds are this was indeed Chrissy. He or she was truly magnificent.
Later that day as the Mrs said that she had important work to do, preparing a lesson plan to fill the heads of impressionable young folk with left wing nonsense, Joshua and I went for a walk.
Or rather, as you can see below, I walked with my son and heir on my back and we headed up the hill behind the hovel towards the house of my neighbour Charon. It is a jolly steep climb and the track soon turns to grass. The view down to the hovel was a wonderful one as the sun started to set.
Walks with Joshua soon turn into nature lessons. And so we saw a large grasshopper sitting on a wire fence and, real excitement, the skin shed by a snake. I tried to explain that to Joshua but I am not sure he got it, saying "goodbye snake" as we wandered onwards and upwards.
280 days ago
If you head to a seaside settlement in the Mani right now whether it be Islington-sur-Mer (kardamili) or the Costa-del-Stoupa they will be packed with people. Head there in the winter and they are semi-deserted. Up here in the lower reaches of the Taygetos mountains, in unfashionable old Kambos, the population barely changes throughout the year. The faces I see when harvesting olives in November are, essentially, those I see now in the burning heat of August.
Sure there are a few seasonal visitors. Poor Nicho the Communist, Papou, a man several years older than I am, has been saddled by his sister with two young nephews from Athens. He brings them to the Kourounis taverna of lovely Eleni where they play mindless games on their tablet with the other kids. Poor Nicho, a “moderate drinker” in the same way as the late Charles Kennedy, orders another large whisky and sits there resigned to his fate.
But most of the folks in Kambos are all year rounders. My first stop in the village was naturally at one of the two hardware stores to stock up on snake repellent canisters and to teat myself to a new saw and axe as my old ones appear to have been lost in the building works.
My olive trees are pretty clean having been thoroughly pruned in May and re-pruned in June but the rain of July has seen new sprouts emerging and so a re-cleaning exercise is called for and is now underway. 250 trees – almost for weeks so ten a day will do me fine. Yesterday I did twelve but even early in the morning it is jolly hot and so I’m not planning to spend that long each day in the snake-fields.
The second person I met was the ageing mother-in-law of lovely Eleni. I was wandering down the back street that leads from the Church and where I park my car, down towards the main street and there was the old lady painting white the pavement outside her house and the kerb.
In Ulster if you are a loyalist you paint the kerb red white and blue, a Fenian paints the kerb orange, white and green and you make a statement. In Greece all kerbs are painted white making the statement “We Greeks may have buggered it all up over the pat decade but we are calm and at peace and by the way we invented democracy, literature and philosophy three thousand years ago when you were all living in trees and caves. PS Glad to see Turkey buggering it up too.”
And so I greeted her and she greeted me. Tikanis, Cala, etc. She asked how old Joshua was and I replied “Theo”. I thought of trying to explain that he and the Mrs would arrive soon but given that my Greek is as non existent as her English thought better of it. Anyhow it was a warm greeting. And so I wandered on. The village square is packed in the evening with families as well as the normal old men chatting, drinking and eating at either Kourounis or at Miranda’s. trade is roaring. They are all familiar faces: the shepherds, the goat herder, Vangelis in his pink shirts, all the other m en who will all be called George, Nicho or Vangelis but whose names I cannot quite remember. It will be one of the three. Tikanis, Cala, Yas, Tom. I shake hands with many of them.
As ever I reflect on how few folks in Bristol I know well enough to greet them with a warm handshake. Come the weekend the Mrs who speaks some Greek pitches up. I’m not sure that will aid the conversation greatly but, of course, Joshua melts all hearts and builds bridges at once.
Up at the hovel after midnight there was another familiar face spotted. You may remember that three or four years ago I befriended a small black and white kitten up here by giving it milk. It has been a periodic pleasure in subsequent years to see my old friend, now a large cat, striding purposefully across the land. Cats eat rats and snakes and as such he, or she, is most welcome here.
My room being a tad stuffy I ventured outside shining my torch ahead of me to ensure that I had no unexpected encounters. There is a slightly cooling breeze and I wanted to catch a bit of it before heading off to sleep. If I hear a noise anywhere I shine my torch in the right direction hoping to spot what approaches. I saw a brief bit of black and white but the cat darted behind a tree. I kept the torch on that tree some 30 yards away and after a short while my friend broke cover and walked, with no sense of panic, off towards the snake fields. Happy hunting comrade cat.
282 days ago
I started today at 4.30 AM GMT in Bristol. I did not have the rub of the green with logistics in Athens and thus I did not arrive at my posh Kalamata hotel until 6 PM GMT, 8 PM local time. I have checked my emails , enjoyed a Greek salad and am just about to order an ouzo. But the really good news comes from George the Architect…the Bat Room at the Greek Hovel is wildlife diversity secure, the power and water is still working and so tomorrow I move in….
Of course, three years ago, I used to stay at the hovel in the one room which was then, at least partially, wildlife diversity secured. But it was only partially secure and as I lay there at night I could hear rats running outside the window and I found sleep almost impossible as I pondered what else might be trying to get inside.
George did not relay progress on doors and windows elsewhere at the hovel which is rather important to the Mrs and daughter Olaf who will arrive, with Joshua, over the coming week. All will become clear as I head up to Kambos and the hovel at just after noon.
The Bat Room may indeed be secure but, unlike here in Central Kalamata, all will be quiet outside apart from the screeches, rustling, squawks and other noises of the wildlife diversity community. It will take me a while to adjust to that and I admit that I feel rather nervous. But I have booked only one night at my hotel. The die is cast after four years of hard work it is time to move in. Fingers crossed.
296 days ago
Six more photos have arrived of the work cracking on apace at the Greek Hovel, c/o George the Architect. The first three are of the kitchen, formerly the only habitable room - if you did not mind the rats - in the whole house. It used to have a flat concrete roof but now enjoys an arched wooden roof and the stone walls have been plastered.
Photo four is of the master bedroom now with its stone walled bathroom area - looking down away from the Taygetos mountains. Number five is of the balcony which runs outside the room above the master bedroom and the room above the rat room - there is in fact no wall between these two rooms. It looks up to the Taygetos.
Finally with Gregori the snake killer sitting in the foreground another scene of men hard at work. The stonework on the bread oven next to the stars has been repointed, the tiles are almost all on... we are getting there.
308 days ago
Okay my labouring in the snake fields is not a fraction as hard as the work the chaps rebuilding the Greek Hovel do but they are used to it and I am not so I reckon our suffering is equal. And here is how we keep going.
When I first arrived at the Greek Hovel there was a fridge but rats were using it as a nest and had chewed all the cables. And so I invested in a small replacement which might not pass a Bristol City Council food hygiene test but works. It is now perched on top of a heap of junk at the top of the main steps next to the gap that is my front door. And inside are bottles and bottles of freezing water.
We do have water at the hovel but having been transported up the mountains in metal pipes it is a perfect temperature for my er ...ahem ...shower. So the fridge is a life saver...
Fear not Olaf, when the works are finished we will be upgrading...just for you (and the Mrs)
531 days ago
In my final days in Greece there really was progress up at the Greek Hovel as a large concrete mixing lorry somehow found its way up the long and winding track and got to work, as you can see below.
The result is that there was a floor laid in the bat room (picture 4) and foundations poured for new walls for the rat room (5). The bar room used to have a rock and earth floor but it was dug out to a depth of almost a yard in places.
Now there is a solid floor there. As for the rat room the team can now start building new thick walls. Fear not the grey grout will be picked out when dry so these very solid walls will look like the rest of the hovel.
By Easter the bat room will have a window, a bathroom, power, internet and a new floor and ceiling as well as an external door and one into the rat room. The lattter will also be nearly complete although it may not have a wooden ceiling as I am not sure when the floor above it will be completed.
But progress is being made.
PS. Newer readers wondering about how rooms are named should just think about what was the dominant wildlife in that room or space when I first arrived. Of course there were also bats in the rat room and vice versa but it is what dominated. The same is true of the snake patio and snake veranda areas.
544 days ago
618 days ago
731 days ago
It has been agreed with the Mrs that Joshua is to inherit the Greek Hovel on condition that any other family member can use it at no cost. And so the lad was taken to see his inheritance. Unlike his mother, also in the picture, he made no complaints about eco-loos, the lack of a shower, rats or snakes. I feel the place will be in good hands.
731 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.
738 days ago
There are two hardware stores in the village of Kambos (pop 537 including me) providing everything that we peasant farmers need: poisons, fertilisers, tools, plants. You name it we can buy it here. There is one store on the Square where Miranda's and lovely Eleni's Kourounis taverna provide two of the other borders. It has suffered a grave misfortune.
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?
741 days ago
My almost sixteen year old daughter Olaf has so far declined to visit the Greek Hovel. It was something about the homemade eco-loo. Or was it the hosepipe that is my shower. Or perhaps it was the snakes, rats or scorpions. Honestly, kids today. No gumption at all. But Olaf will be delighted to see how much progress has been made on what will be her bedroom when she stays, what is currently known as the bat room.
This is the room underneath, what is currently the only habitable room. Its light is broken and its one shattered window and door with holes in it have allowed various members of the wildlife diversity community easy access. My guess is that in days gone by it was where the sheep or goats sheltered for there is no evidence of it having had a fireplace.
About half the floor was dirt covered and beneath that a mixture of rocks and soil. But on the far side of the room a giant rock bubbles out of the surface. On that far side the gap between rock and ceiling is only about five foot.
And so the plan is to dig out the soil and hack out the rock so that, without damaging the foundations, we create a gap of seven a half feet. Buy the time we have laid a floor, which will be polished concrete so giving a marble like appearance, there should still be seven foot of headroom. As Olaf is not that much over five foot that will be fine. Indeed it should fit more or less anyone.
One of the stones recovered has been set aside by the workmen. I can see why. It looks as if it has been hewn by man. I am not sure what it is but it merits further investigation I think, don't you?
As you can see we have extracted large numbers of big stones which will be used when we rebuild and extend the Hovel.
And there is also a vast amount of red earth which, pro tem, is parked on the other side of the wall.
The workmen are now on their fifth day and this job is almost finished as you can see. Next up...tree removal.
765 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.
The grass is still green and one cannot but be amazed at the flowers that cover our land: yellows, blues, purples, whites, reds - truly it is wonderful way to be greeted. And gazing at the flowers delays the moment when - carrying a big stick I open the doors to see what has entered the hovel since I left.
In the only semi habitable room there appeared to be nothing living. Perhaps my defences, taping up all the holes and then filling them with liquid cement, have actually worked? Or perhaps something was hiding under a mattress. I grabbed my fishing rod and did not bother to investigate. But my hand axe and small saw which I needed for olive pruning were not in the main room. I must have left them in the rat room below. I said "bugger" several times, not that any man was listening.
The rat room is also my wood store and God only knows what has decided to make a pile of dried olive and frigana logs its winter home. Sure it is protected by a ring of snake repelling sulphur but, as I have discovered in the past, some snakes do not know that they should not cross sulphur. As for scorpions or rats it is no deterrent. And so I poked my head around the corner nervously and sadly noted that my tools were hanging on the far side of a room named after its inhabitants when I first cleared it out.
In walked in carefully. Flap! flap! flap! Not rats but bats - as you can see below. FFS don't they know that the bat room is on the other side of the hovel, this is the rat room. Actually bats are good guys. Down here in the Mani they do not carry rabies and they eat mosquitoes so I should like them. But after all those Hammer House of Horrors movies of the 1970s you cannot but help think that they might turn into Lord Howard of Quindell. Despite this I do not fear them.
All God's creatures have a purpose. Even snakes are good, in a way, in that they eat rats which I really do dislike with a passion. I have nightmares about rats entering the Hovel and me waking up with one looking down menacingly at my face. But then I have even worse nightmares about finding a snake slithering up towards me. So it is hard to think of snakes in a positive light. The snake sinned in Eden and thus God decided that it would be hated and despised for eternity and who am I to argue with God?
But back to the bats, I left them in peace. Today I must retrieve my pick axe from the rat room, or the spare bat room as it now is, as I start to knock down the illegally contsructed additions to the snake veranda, the area above the rat room. If the only wildlife diversity I encounter is some more bats I would call that a result.
Finally, since I know all Brits are obsessed by the weather, it is a hot 30 degrees today. But yesterday was far cooler as the storm clouds gathered on the Taygettos mountains above the hovel.
903 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.
Of course olives are not the only things growing up at the hovel. I was amazed to see that there are still some prickly pears on the bushes and apparently edible.
Rather less good is that the frigana has also grown back.
In fact everything has grown. You probably think of Greece in the summer as a country where everything is a burned straw brown. But right now everything is just green. What a wonderful place. And at this time of year the snakes are all asleep. The rats less so although preliminary investigations inside the hovel detected no obvious signs of wildlife diversity.
985 days ago
1071 days ago
British Airways staff were again brilliant today. On Saturday I arrived at Kalamata airport with a barely mobile father and weak step mother. Within minutes a cute airline lady had helped me get a wheelchair for my father and i was told my job was over. The lady put them at the front of the line and I had nothing more to do. Today it was the turn of the Mrs. We arrived and the small departure lounge was again heaving with lobster pink Northern Europeans forming long lines to check in for flights to London and Paris.
I found a different cute airline lady and said that my wife was heavily pregnant, as she is, and within minutes she was again at the head of the queue leaving dozens of the lobster pink Brits and froggies fuming behind her. Then she was through passport control and was off and I headed back to town to face another three to four weeks at the Greek Hovel with just the snakes and rats for company.
When the Mrs is here I am on holiday so I only work 3-4 hours a day at my PC and I do no manual labour at all. I enjoy three meals a day and more than the odd drink. "After all we are on holiday" say I as I order another ouzo. I get to sleep on clean sheet in an air conditioned hotel and enjoy swims in luxury pools. The Mrs is paying and it is a treat. I enjoy my hols with the Mrs. We talk, we plan, we discuss. Life without the Mrs is very different.
Aware that I will have gained a few pounds while she has been here I want to lose weight badly, as I did do in my first stint here this summer. So it will be down to one or two meals a day and by meal I mean a greek salad. There will be virtually no boozing. And there will be hard labour in the fields every day. Greece with the Mrs is perhaps not very good for my figure but it is a holiday. You may think that I remain on holiday just because I am here and not in the Bristol house. But I made that mental leap two years ago. The Greek Hovel is as much my home as Bristol is and it is where I work hardest and most effectively.
I stopped off in Kalamata to watch the footie and made it back to the hovel at six. So guilty was I about my waistline that I abandoned writing work for the day and headed out to the fields. I know that late evening olive pruning risks encounters with the wildlife diversity but I could not wait to work up a good sweat and feel like I'd done something really productive. I thought I'd just do one tree but then I did another and another. All in all I was just into double figures on trees when I cut my finger on something and took that as a sign to call it a day.
I wandered in and Nigel Wray called. It turns out that he has two massive olive trees outside a house he owns....maybe I could become a full time itinerant professional olive tree pruner. It is just so relaxing. It is almost addictive.
1080 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.
I am pretty sure that this little black and white creature visited me two summers ago when I gave it some milk. It is a little larger now and will be one of the numerous feral cats that roam the hills around here. There is clearly a domestic cat gene or two in it but it is wild and terrified of humans. What it was doing on the snake veranda last night I cannot imagine.
This member of the wildlife diversity community is most welcome. I am by nature a cat person but out here I want as many cats as possible roaming the property. For not only do they eat mice and rats but they will also attack snakes too and wll kill them for food. Before I could reach for a camera, Mr cat shot off into the fields where, after yesterday, I must wish him the happiest of hunting.
1103 days ago
I know I have been banging on about this all week but today I wake up having not smoked for three months and I am fecking proud of myself. It did it via cold turkey so there is no legacy nicotine in my body from vaping, gum or patches.
It was playing soccer with a range of nephews and nieces aged 7 to 16 on St Valentine's Day that made me quit smoking. My lungs were burning after just a few minutes. I wanted to run but could not. Being outpaced by a 7 year old is just not on. Enough was enough.
And so today I will toil in the fields for a couple of hours. I am clearly not fit, that is a given. I've put on a few pounds during the past three months. But while my limbs ache it is that that forces me to take a break not any shortness of breath. My smokers cough has gone and apparently my circulation is improving while my blood sugar is falling. Just nine more months and apprently I will have more than halved my risk of a heart attack. Touch wood. It is all good news.
I do feel better and there is really virtually no desire to get back on the weed.
I say virtually as just now and again I find myself thinking gosh a fag would be great. But then I think that one would lead to twenty as it always has when I have given up before. And so I stay clean.
I hope that being back at the Greek Hovel will start to deal with the weight as well. Being here means only lunch and supper, no breakfast. It means a diet of Greek salads for both meals, it means physical labour every day - as opposed to once in a blue moon in Bristol - and then there is the nervous energy expended worrying about snakes and rats.
Maybe I should market the place as a health farm?
1103 days ago
The way that the rat "sweeties" were disappearing made me pretty sure that relatives of the rats that I had killed off with poison last summer, were making a comeback at the hovel. And so I have laid down more and more sweeties in the gap between one of the windows and a shutter which is their favoured run. The rats can't enter the hovel but can just look in through the glass.
My pal Dave Paxton grew up in Zim and said that the best way to get rid of rats is to get more snakes on your land. No doubt if he was here, Dave would be wandering around the hills collecting vipers in a bag to release at the hovel. For obvious reasons that is not my approach. I'm happy with poison.
And so I returned tonight from supper in the village (Greek salad no booze, as I am on a strict regime) and although the main light was on, casually shone my torch at the rat run.
There sat a rat nibbling at the sweeties. I banged the window with my torch and tried shining it straight into its eyes. The rat blinked and then just carried on munching away at a blue sweetie. Heck, it can stay there all night for all I care, just as long as it carries on eating and takes some back to its nest for the little rats.
1107 days ago
I was hoping that the canisters which are meant to keep the snakes away would have arrived in Kambos today. I was told they would. Naturally they have not. This is Greece. "They will be here on Wednesday" means "There is no chance at all that they will be here on Wednesday". I am bloody well not moving up to the hovel without them.
My friend Nicho the communist asked why I was not yet resident in the the village and I explained. "You really are frightened of them aren't you" he said while laughing loudly. Fecking hell isn't everybody? Nicho then explained to a gaggle of Greek old men sipping ouzos what was happening and they all laughed too. Ha bloody ha. They all live in the village where there are no snakes, I dare them to wander up snake hill in the dark to see me.
Tonight I head to a store in Kalamata which is meant to sell the magical canisters. If I install tomorrow I might move in later that day or perhaps Friday. It is not that the hovel is uninhabited. I was up there today laying down rat poison, just in case a new colony had arrived to replace the ones I killed last summer, when I heard a noise on the window sill behind my bed. I jumped. I really do not like hearing noises whether in the house or from the bushes as I wander through the fields.
Upon closer examination it was two mice. They were quite sweet and being a pansy Westerner I delayed going after them with my small spade just long enough for them to escape through a small hole in the window frame. I have left them some poison too and taped up that window. I really do not mind mice. Yes, like PR people they are filthy little vermin but they harmless enough. They are not rats. Rats fill me with dread. As of course do snakes.
So far I have yet to encounter one of the 29 species of snake resident in Greece on this trip, but it is only a matter of time. I am now working hard in the fields every day and I know what is out there. There are plenty of lizards already evident. The biggest one I saw was nine inches long and a stunning fluorescent green. It just stood there in the road at the bottom of the hill beneath the deserted, and I am convinced haunted, monastery, seemingly daring me to drive over it. Again, I was a Western pansy and so got out of the car and ushered it into the bushes. A Greek would just have driven over it. The other lizards are less beautiful but they are everywhere. And where there are lizards there are always snakes.
I carry a camera at all times so when I do meet a snake I will do my best to capture that moment for you all, dear readers, before I run as fast as I can away from the serpent, shouting "fucking hell its a snake" forgetting that there will be nobody listening.
1173 days ago
1368 days ago
I had consoled myself as I contemplated snakes, bats, rats and scorpions at the Greek Hovel that at least there were no poisonous spiders in Greece. Phew. We may have more types of snakes than any other country in Europe and the hills around the Greek Hovel may be infested with them but at least I felt sure, having – I thought – read it somewhere that there was no spider issue. Spiders eat Mosquitos. We like spiders right?
And so last night as I sat tapping away I looked up and there was a spider with what looked like an enormous abdomen full of something. It must have been about two inches long. Just out of curiosity (and fear) I did a quick google search. Fuck me. There are three types of poisonous spiders in Greece and I had a sneaking suspicion that what was sitting above my head was one of the three.
As rats and snakes already know to their cost, they do not call me “killer” for nothing. Once again the thick mining presentation left by my guest last summer (well, that portion not used to light fires) proved invaluable. Smack. It was an ex-spider.
The wildlife diversity at the hovel increases by the day. What next?
1368 days ago
The owner of one of the two hardware stores in Kambos sold me another bag of rat sweeties, the blue pills which he promises will kill Roland within a day. These supplemented my existing stocks and they were duly placed between the windows and the shutters around the house with a particular concentration on the one window where rats have been spotted every day.
The initial six in that window disappeared within a day and instead when I returned to the house I was greeted by a large rat grinning at me from behind that window. Thus I carefully remove two or three sweeties from other locations to ensure that the rat window is fully stocked each time I leave the Greek Hovel.
And coming back today, as has been the case every day the sweeties are gone. I reckon that the rat or rat family must have taken at least 14 sweeties by now and given that one sweetie kills a rat within 24 hours something is just not right.
I have a horrible feeing that the rats are simply storing the sweeties for the winter and so genocide is being delayed. The other alternative seems to be that there are just rather a lot of rats. Either way, tomorrow I shall buy another bag of rat sweeties and restock. I am not giving up in this fight.
1372 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.
Returning today there was no sign of snakes. Good news. But on entering the house I saw a most enormous rat (4 inches excluding its tail) in the space between a window and the shutter. I grabbed a spade but as I tried to open the window the rat scuttled off. I left him five rat sweeties which I am delighted to say had all, by my return this evening after supper in Kambos, been devoured. I do hope they were taken back to a nest for a treat for the entire family.
Sadly the wildlife diversity had one last treat for me inside the hovel – a swarm of flying ants. They were in my hair, jumping on my arms and climbing down my shirt. No ants in my pants but they were most everywhere else. Two hours of stamping, swatting and laying strips of sellotape across the floor and dangling from the ceiling has seen a genocide. There ae still too many but the ranks have been massively thinned.
Just to add to my woes I have just seen a spider on the ceiling which looked fearsome. I had thought that there were no poisonous spiders in Greece but a quick google search shows that – rather predictably – I was wrong and that three venomous species live in poor Hellas. And I am fairly sure that one venomous species was on my ceiling. But they don’t call me “killer” for nothing. It is now on the bottom of my fireplace spade – the same device that has despatched a couple of rats.
I sleep with the light on tonight.
1460 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 I looked in my rear view mirror and the creature - about three foot in length - was still slithering into the undergrowth. It may be wounded but it will live to fight another day. My pal Vangelis says you have to make sure you go over the head and neck to ensure a kill. Next time if I miss I shall do the real Greek and reverse back to ensure it is a kill.
I am sorry of there are any wildlife lovers who are offended by this but there is wildlife and there is wildlife. Snakes, rats and scorpions are not the good guys of the natural world. It always amazes me when folks bleat about how species such as the British adder face threats to their habitat. Good! I shed no tears.
But today my attempt to reduce wildlife diversity was foiled. I feel frustrated.
1475 days ago
When I left in February I tried to buy two cans of snake repellent to keep the 27 varieties of Greek serpent away from the Greek hovel. The man at the hardware store said “there is no point as they are asleep, when are you back?” I said May. He said, do not worry they do not wake up till June. What he meant was “I have none in stock.”
And so I wandered in yesterday and bought two of the cans which you position 10 yards away from two corners of the house and which emit a scent which scares away snakes. Except when like the one I met on my front doorstep last summer they do not scare them away. I asked if the snakes were awake yet, rather fearing that I knew the answer.
“Yes, the sun is bright they are everywhere” said my friend cheerfully. Great. As I drive up the long and winding road and track to the hovel I saw no snakes but stacks of very large and very small lizards. Winnifrith’s Rule No 1 of reptiles “when you see lizards on the road, snakes are lurking in the long grass”. My heart sank.
I approached the hovel nervously. I made load noises as I approached. The grass is now turning from green to brown but is long enough to be an ideal hiding ground for snakes. I will not be wandering barefoot across the lawn until I have put the strimmer to work. But there were no snakes. As I unlocked the door a lizard scuttle across my feet but as I looked inside nothing moved.
A dead rat lay on the floor. The vast amounts of poison I had left in February had worked although I cannot figure how the critter got in to start with. I tossed the rodent into the bushes hoping that a snake would gobble its poison filled body up greedily and grabbed some masking tape to attach the snake repellent to two trees. I sprinkled sulphur all around the house – my inner snake free redoubt and left. Give it 24 hours, thought I and I shall have a wildlife diversity free hovel.
Returning today I checked the bedding and disturbed a live rat. Seriously, Brokerman Dan you must come over to catch some treats for your kids in the Manchester slums. I do not fear rats during the day it is just the thought of them crawling close to my face at night that freaks me out. I wondered why it had resisted the temptation of the rat sweeties but chased it into a crack in the chimney. I quickly lit a fire and he/she is now roasted or well smoked or has wriggled to freedom. I kind of sense that he/she will not be coming back.
And now I sit in lovely Eleni’s Kourounis taverna in Kambos contemplating my first night in the hovel with darkness all around and the wildlife diversity making strange noises at all times. I think I shall “sleep” with the light on and a heavy spade next to the bed tonight.
1542 days ago
The man at the hardware store in Kambos said there was no need to buy snake repellent canisters as they will not wake up till June and I’m back in May. I am not so sure about that as I distinctly remember meeting a snake on what is known as the snake veranda on my first visit to the hovel in April. But I did not argue, I said efharisto and shook his hand warmly.
I worked at the Kourounis taverna in the afternoon and headed up to the hovel to lay out sweeties for the rats. But on arrival I found myself staring at one patch of rocks where I had hacked down a particularly loathsome frigana bush in the summer. There was still some dead frigana branches by the fence which George had overlooked,
And so, having learned how to light a fire with dried grass and a cigarette lighter I set to work. As the skies darkened the flames took out not only the dead branches but also the old stumps on the ground and some of the new green shoots that had appeared. I love the idea of old frigana providing the blaze that burns new frigana. The rocks are now black. The rain will clean them up and wash the ashes away.
There was a time when the dark at the hovel frightened me. But no more. As I stood by the dying fire I took three pictures – maybe you can see the hovel in the background in the first and the mountains in the second and third. I laid out the rat sweeties, locked up and now sit back in the Kourounis tavern planning a farewell Metaxa and my goodbyes. I will be up at 5 AM your time as I start the trek back to the UK.
It is back to the UK not back home. The Mrs, the cats, my family are in the UK and so that is in a way home. That is where I pay tax. But this is also my home. Slowly I am learning Greek. In the summer I shall start work on preparing for the rebuilding of the hovel, sort out my residency, and buy a gun, a motorbike and a truck. A few tweaks to the way I run my work and I could live here all year. Of course I can’t yet. The Mrs has her career and Oakley needs looking after. My father is old.
But I am sitting here at the Kourounis tavern. At the bar Vangelis – the man in the pink shirt – is playing on his computer. Lovely Eleni’s mother in law is watching more bad news on the TV. A rather hungover Nikko the communist may recover from an all-day ouzo session to pop in later. And I sit in the corner tapping away as part of the furniture.
I start counting down the days to my return to the Mani in May on Wednesday morning.
1760 days ago
I am sorry for the delay in sending this over. Challenges? Dealing with Greece’s OTE. I pay the bastards for internet access, my account at the hovel shows I have credit but ….er OTE will not let me use it. Bastards. So I took the afternoon off.
The video is really about the challenges I face here at the Greek Hovel. Aged 46 I have done sod all carpentry since gaining 27% and coming 127/127 in the U4th woodwork exam. I have never ridden a bike. Never barricaded a room against rats, dealt with snakes, showered with a hosepipe, coped with living in a land where I don’t speak the language, the list goes on and on.
But I am enjoying he challenges while getting on with my working life. I also cover the fact that many of the liberal idiots who support Hamas appear to have no knowledge of the history of the region.
PS Having watched this you are now meant to email me and congratulate me on the weight loss!
1771 days ago
1771 days ago
What in nature scared me a few days ago? Snakes? Yes big time. But also rats, bats. scorpions and the dark. I also have a great fear of heights but that has not been an issue to date as I settle into the Greek hovel. But the rest of my phobias have come in spades.
I know there are snakes on the land here. I saw one on what is known as the snake veranda the first time that the Mrs and I visited. And Foti says he has seen plenty of them in the olive groves. Cheers mate. So far I have not seen one. Perhaps my snake repellent system is working? I touch wood. I awoke early today and spent a couple of hours clearing some of the leaves and detritus that lie on the path to my door, the snake patio next to it and the entrance to the room below the snake veranda. The path is now clear and as I returned tonight for the first time I could not hear “crunch, crunch” and was not wondering what lay beneath my feet ready to spring out and bite.
The rest of the detritus, which snakes love, goes tomorrow and later on this week I shall be spraying the immediate vicinity with snake repellent. I am not taking chances.
After a third load of junk disappeared tonight with Foti and his pal, both lower floor rooms are now almost empty. The bat room still needs a bit of clearance before I tackle digging out its earthen floor but the paradise for rats that existed a week ago has gone. Now the almost clean floors have a few “rat sweeties” on them. Rats are becoming less of an issue and, while I would not want to wake up at night to find myself staring one in the face, I am actually less scared than I was. If I met one in daytime I would now like Foti seize a broom or a spade and go for it.
The bats seem really very harmless and small. There is no rabies in this part of the world and I was happy to chase the last bat resident here away today.
To be honest I had not thought about scorpions until today. I popped into the local garden centre/poison store for a chat and the chap there mentioned them asking how many I’d seen. Cheers pal. Lovely Susan Shimmin from Real Mani reassured me this evening that scorpions are at their most poisonous after hibernation in the spring but by now are only vaguely poisonous. She advises me just to hit them with a broom in the way that I smash any bug that is foolish enough to venture inside my almost perfectly enclosed bedroom.
The dark I cannot avoid. The village of Kambos is well lit. I linger there at night (as I still have no internet at the hovel) in the taverna which is open until 1 AM or later. I delay the drive back to the hovel by swapping emails or writing something I need not write. But eventually I must face the dark.
Leaving Kambos the road is unlit and I am the only car on the winding and rough track. As I drive down to the old and large monastery with just one monk left in it I find myself imagining ghostly processions of long dead monks dressed head to toe in black. Do I believe in ghosts? My mother swore that she saw the “Grey Lady” at the gates of Portman Lodge on the edge of Bryanston in Dorset when she was young. I think that I do not believe but driving past the monastery in the dark my mind runs riot.
After I reach the valley floor the road gets far worse as I start the long climb to the hovel. I saw a rabbit yesterday but I am conscious that I am alone. I dread finding an obstacle in the road and having to get out of my locked car to clear it but when I reach the hovel I have no choice.
It is ten yards from my car door to my front door. I leave the light on before I go but they are still ten dark yards as the shutters are closed to keep the wildlife away. As I reach the front door I fumble nervously with the keys desperate to get inside and to shut out the dark. Having checked for signs of wildlife I lock the door and am, I think, safe from nature until the dawn.
But outside the dark is everywhere. And there are the noises. There are still cicadas clicking away, you can hear dogs bark across the valley but there are other sounds that you cannot quite explain. With my shutters firmly drawn I cannot see the dark but it is out there. However much I want a pee I simply cross my legs until dawn – I dare not wander outside and round the house in the dark to use the (very smelly) facility. I really must build my portable eco-loo!
I am now man enough to sleep with the light off. I am sure that I will get used to the dark and conquer my fear but I greet the morning as my friend and with enthusiasm.
1772 days ago
Oh dear, I thought that I was making progress on eradicating wildlife diversity at The Greek Hovel but it just got worse. I am sure that it is just a temporary blip.
My new best friend, and business partner in the olive business, Foti and a friend of his were clearing out the two first floor rooms again this evening. Another truck load of rubbish has now gone and still we are not finished.
However in the room under the snake veranda we discovered not one but two rats. This time I did not run, my fear of these creatures is diminishing. But Foti was more proactive, grabbing a broom and thrashing wildly. There was no escape for either rodent. After a couple of minutes of wild thrashing the first one was no more and Foti carried it by its tail and threw it into the olive groves for the snakes to feast upon. The second one he trapped under his boot and pressed down. It too was an ex-rat and on its way to be snake supper.
I should have explained to Foti that in the slums of Manchester and other Grim Northern Shit holes fresh rat is considered a treat for the kids and that we could make a few quid sending the carcasses freeze packed back to Dan Levi. But I do not know how to say that in Greek.
I then asked Foti and his pal to lead the way in clearing a pile of bricks on the snake veranda. Although it now boasts a can of snake repellent so should be snake free I have bad memories.
From there it was off to bedroom two on the ground floor, the one with the earth floor which I must dig out. Once again a rat appeared but before Foti could act it had scuttled off into a hole in the wall. But the wildlife adventure was not over because something then flew past my head. FFS what’s that? I asked rather nervously. It was a bat. Oh great…more wildlife diversity. Just what I needed. There is in fact a small colony of bats in this room. But it is getting smaller, all three of us prodded the ceiling and encouraged them to leave. Things can only get better.
And now to the sheep…I had a brainwave about how to accelerate clearing the land: bring in goats. They eat anything. Sadly that includes olive trees but sheep apparently behave themselves and as an added bonus snakes do not like sheep and will flee them. And so with Foti’s pal translating I grabbed a local shepherd who was wandering past with his flock. What a result: As of tomorrow he will be grazing his sheep in the grounds of the hovel. Meanwhile I plan to clear the detritus from the immediate vicinity of the house (including years of leaves) to make it 100% snake unfriendly, to rig up my shower and to install the internet.
There are probably another two more truckloads of rubbish to go and then after a bit more poison is laid down the whole house should be rat unfriendly and rat free. I am however thinking that I now need a couple of pigs to assist in the regeneration plans, how shall I break this to the Mrs?
1775 days ago
I procrastinated and procrastinated as I dreaded what I would find when I arrived at the Rat Room – aka my bedroom for the next three months. So I bought a spade to bash rats with and to dig out the “estate” at the Greek hovel. For tomorrow I start work on my eco-loo and humanure system. Then I bought a few vegetables for supper, rather forgetting that I have no knives or forks although the previous owner has left me a fine collection of quite amazingly horrible plates as well as a can of warm beer, which I have binned. On this trip I plan to stay dry.
Then I had a coffee in the local taverna where I sit once again this evening having failed miserably to get my mi-fi internet connection working.
But in the end I had no choice and started the drive along the long and winding road. As I passed through the gates I turned the car music up to 11 determined to show the wildlife that I had arrived and they better scram. With spade in hand I wandered up to the building and peered nervously over the ledge of the snake veranda. Maybe the snake repellent had worked for it was deserted.
And so I unlocked the door of the Rat Room and raised my spade. The sticky pads had been flipped. Mr Rat had been in residence last night. And the blue “sweeties” I had left for him had also disappeared suggesting that he would soon be on his way to “a better place.” But there was no corpse.
This is what a rat sweetie looks like.
And so I started the process of sweeping the floor rather more thoroughly than the previous owner had done. Mirabelle you would be proud of me! The two cabinets were emptied and moved and I swept under them. And then to the two beds both of which had layers and layers of rugs upon them. One by one I removed the rugs banging the beds loudly every few minutes with my broom. And then there he was…Mr Rat. Alive and kicking.
He looked at me and I looked at him. I had already found his nest with three well-nibbled sweeties in it and so I know that he is “on his way” but before I could think about how to accelerate that process he darted away underneath the other bed. I finished with bed one, hung all the rugs outside to air and then repeated the process with bed 2. But Mr Rat had gone…I suspect here is a hole that I have yet to discover through which he escaped.
And so with the Rat Room thoroughly cleansed as you can see in the pic below I have escaped to the tavern and an internet connection.
Right now I accept that it looks like a student room. It is sparse but it is clean enough. The rat will find no food and no bedding if he returns only sweeties and death. For his sake, and mine, I rather hope that he does not come back.
As an aside I offer you the view from the bedroom window and balcony out over the valley at the front…such a sight when you wake up explains why both Mr Rat (RIP) and I are so fond of the place.
And at least the former owners left me some chairs. I spent a happy break this afternoon sitting outside on the level below the snake veranda trying not to think of what might be above me, listening to the cicadas and to the tinkling of goat bells on the hillsides. A shepherd wandered past with his small flock and tried to speak to me in Greek. That was not a long conversation. Tonight I really will start to learn Greek.
1776 days ago
I have procrastinated for as much as I can. I have sat here in a comfortable pool catching up on nearly all of my work because my mi-fi internet system at the hove at the Greek Hovel may not work. I say that because a) I am an IT loser and b) it was bought in Greece and this is Greece so things do not always work. Okay that is one excuse.
The other is that I left sticky board rat traps out last night in my bedroom for tonight. What is worse?
a) finding no dead rats so assuming they are still there somewhere
b) finding a dead rat killed by the poison I laid and having to dispose of it.
c) finding a half dead rat on the sticky boards and having to kill it & then dispose of it.
d) finding a snake inside eating a rat which it has either caught and killed or was killed/half killed by me?
My mind is naturally pondering all these matters. A good friend emails to urge me to stay in the hotel another night. But I can procrastinate no more. I might be online later…off I go, into battle.
1776 days ago
By now you might have wondered quite what possessed the Mrs to snap up falling down our Greek hovel in the middle of nowhere and which is teaming with rats and snakes. Hmmm. Good question. And I have not even started on the works I need to do on the grounds or of the sanitation, er…..issue. But let me show you the view.
I start with the view from the back. The hovel sits on 15,500 square metres of olive groves. It might actually be 16,000 – non-one is exactly sure…this is Greece. From the back one looks over at the other side of the next valley, our land slopes half way down this side. There are a couple of houses there and behind them the mountains where in winter there will be snow.
And then to the front…in this direction lies the sea but it is a good ten miles away. I am not sure that I captured the monastery in these two shots, it is about half way up the other side of the valley, over the top of the brow of the hill is the village of Kambos. The second picture is our land to the side of the house on top of our hill At the far end is a ruin...that is a project for another summer.
And thus as you can see I am surrounded by olives trees, peace and quiet. The odd goatherd wanders by now and again but that is it as far as human contact goes. It is just me, the olives, the goats and …er, I’d rather not think about that.
1776 days ago
I spare you photos of the Rat Room, aka my bedroom for the next three months. I would not wish to scare the Mrs so will tidy it up a bit first. But it is by far and away the smartest room at the hovel. In fact it is the only one not completely littered with junk and totally unfit for human habitation. It is on the top floor next to the snake veranda.
Here are both from the outside.
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…
1776 days ago
And so we arrive at the Greek hovel that the Mrs has snapped up. Before I can contemplate the enormity of the task at hand there is the little matter of the rats and snakes to deal with. We have visited the village hardware store where – rather worryingly – about 40% of the product lines seem to be associated with dealing with, er…rats and snakes. Susan Shimmin and I are now armed.
To the snakes first. I have bought two pots of snake repellent which I am assured will deter the creatures from visiting the hovel any more. I lodge one firmly ten yards from one corner of the hovel, surround it with stones to ensure that it stays firm emitting whatever it emits to keep the snakes away. The other I lodge diagonally opposite it at the far edge of what we term the snake veranda.
On my first visit to the hovel it was on this piece of the property that we all encountered a snake. Having researched it hard on the internet I discover that this type of snake bites and can stand its ground but is not poisonous. At the time I just thought “Shit!!!! – how do I escape”
The snake veranda is not actually a veranda. It is an illegally constructed platform above the second “bedroom”. One of my jobs this summer is to knock it down. We will be building up this section of the house both properly and legally in due course but right now its only purpose in life is as an ideal habitat for lizards and snakes. Though I am an ardent supporter of wildlife diversity there are limits. It has to go.
Then to the rats in my “bedroom.” Poison has been laid. Sticky boards have been set. If a rat ventures onto them it will find itself trapped. I will then have to finish the job.
The hovel has thus been transformed from vermin heaven to vermin hell. It is time to retreat to a hotel for the night and to see what we find waiting for us in the morning. As a statement of intent I leave my axe and saw at the hovel. Into battle tomorrow when I move in.
1776 days ago
As you know I am this summer starting the reconstruction of a Greek hovel snapped up by the Mrs. Please do not regard this as an investment. There is more chance of making money from Quindell (QPP) shares than from buying hovels in Greece. Actually that’s a lie. There is zero chance on both counts.
I shall post updates all summer of my progress but I start with the news I received two days before arrival. That is to say that our lovely estate agent Susan from The Real Mani ( who - as her name suggests comes fro an Isle of Man family) reported back on Tuesday that when visiting the hovel she had encounter a rat in the only room that is (vaguely) habitable – the room henceforth known as my bedroom for the summer.
Hmmmmm. I try to look on the bright side. If there are live rats in my bedroom at least it means that the snakes have not managed to penetrate that part of the building. Things can only get better from here.