Thursday May 23, 2019
Photo Article - a Woodlarks training walk up the River Dee
Photo Article from the Welsh Hovel - this is what I do when not writing or walking
Photo Article update from the Welsh Hovel - a sight to delight daughter Olaf

PERSONAL, UNDILUTED VIEWS FROM TOM WINNIFRITH

Video from the Greek Hovel - rain, rain go away

177 days ago

As I write the sun has just emerged. That is handy as the workers have also emerged and appear to have cut off the power. But for 24 hours the weather has been awful. Thunder kept me awake most of the night and continued well into the morning. And as for the rain.. put it this way, the drive down the mud track towards snake hill and onto Kambos will be a hoot. This is the view from outside of the Bat Room a couple of hours ago.

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel - shocking wildlife diversity encounter

177 days ago

 Okay so i am a big girl's blouse. But you too would have been shocked by what happened.

Someone (er..me) left a filter in the coffee ,machine and it had, unlike Australia, developed a thriving culture all by itself. And so I took out the various parts and took them to the Bat Room sink for cleaning. The actual coffee jug looked a bit mucky so I filled it with water and yikes!

Up floated this wriggling creature which, I swear, was, when fully extended, almost three inches long. I shouted "yikes" or something like that and emptied the jug, water and monster into the sink. It struggled manfully but eventually I had poured enough water into the sink to flush it down the plughole.  

It will take a few days before even a seasoned snake killer like myself regains his courage in the face of wildlife diversity.

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - Veranda completed and Joshua proof

204 days ago

There you go, we leave and finally the veranda outside of the kitchen and over the entrance to the Bat Room is completed with the addition of Joshua proof railings. All it needs now is a table and what better place could you want for a summer lunch. Unless you want shade in which case the table beneath would be ideal...

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel… dead cat not bouncing

209 days ago

You may remember my joy this summer when my old friend the black and white cat, to whom I had given milk as a kitten, wandered by with her two kittens. Brace yourself this is not a happy tale.

On Wednesday evening with it almost dark I stepped outside of the Bat room  to see one of the kittens racing past.  A few minutes later as I put Joshua into the car to head down to Kambos I could see the kitten sitting on the drive and miaowing and I could hear its mother answering in the distance. I thought no more of it.

On Thursday afternoon after a day spent in the rain in Kardamili we returned home and at the bottom of the drive saw the kitten as you can see below. Rigor Mortis had set in and with a workman’s spade I flipped the body into the bushes so that Joshua would not see it and be upset. The Mrs was traumatised enough, I could not handle both of them blubbering.

Today I saw the cat. No kittens at all now just herself strolling across the hovel in search of prey as is her wont. All alone. I’m sure she is very sad.  I certainly am. The incident has brought back memories of poor Oakley and the Mrs and I are starting to think about a replacement.

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel - guess what? Progress er ... slower than expected

217 days ago

I left here six weeks ago and was promised that the workmen would remain on the case. Guess what?

I arrived to find my old pal the windows man hard at work. At last.  The first two photos are of the living area above the new wing and the Rat Room, the next two of the kitchen which leads into the area above the Rat Room; the last is of the ground floor of the new wing, the master bedroom. To be fair we do now have floorboards throughout the second floor. But they need staining and that will not happen until the weekend. The Mrs and Joshua arrive on Monday afternoon at the same time as a huge sofa for the living area.

Where there is a min ladder in photo four there will, by tomorrow afternoon, be a step leading from the kitchen to the living area.

The final photo shows the staircase which I climbed without too much problem. When it gets a rail it will be very manageable, steep though it is. But the master bedroom is a store room for timber for the a veranda and for much else. I was stern and instructed George the Architect to read the riot act which he has done. It will be tight but we might be ready for the Mrs and Joshua. Pro tem I shall again sleep in the Bat Room where, to their credit, they have fixed the flooring beneath the shower so it no longer floods the whole room.

At least a fridge and washing machine have arrived and the Range Cooker is in transit from Austria. We are getting there.

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel - tiling almost complete

264 days ago

The big jobs remaining at the eco-palace are the second floor floorboards and the first floor ceiling for the new wing. That needs the unreliable windows man to get his fat arse back up to the Greek Hovel. As such I have declined to pay his most recent bill for 14,000 Euro. In the past I have paid him in advance. He gave me his word he'd be back up here today...he was not. So the bill is on hold until he pitches up again. I am playing hard ball... Meanwhile the tilers have almost finished their work as you can see below.

The photos are, in order, from the convent side by the Bat Room, the front approach and snake patio, the back of the building behind the new wing and the mountain side opposite the Bat Room. The final one is of the kitchen where the area under the Smeg cooker, Belfast sink, washing machine and granite surface and about two foot further out will be tiled. The view as i cook will be of the approach to the house and onwards and upwards into the Taygetos mountains.

Photo one has a grout between the tiles to match that of the walls, some of the other tiles are yet to be grouted. But the tilers are reliable and by close of play Tuesday the tiling and final resurfacing of the Rat Room floor will be complete and their job will be done.

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - the author in his outdoor study

270 days ago

Behind me is a pile of earth and rubble, largely what was excavated from the old floor of the Bat Room as we dug it out. I sit on the area in front of the Bat Room, now concrete but by Wednesday covered in terracotta tiles. Coffee, a phone, an internet link and a laptop, my study is complete

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - no elf 'n Safey here

273 days ago

And so daughter Olaf has survived her first night at the Greek Hovel. She slept in the Rat Room, I slept in the Bat Room. She is even using the eco-loo without complaint. Meanwhile building work continues at pace as you can see below.

first up is a small stone seat that Gregori the snake killer has constructed on what was once known as the snake patio. It will be pointed in due course and surrounded by terracotta tiles by the end of next week. On the roof tiling is almost complete while the windows team has now finished its work. You will note that in accessing the second floor the scaffolding is rudimentary, there are no high viz jackets or hard hats here either. Elf 'n' safey is swapped for the idea of personal responsibility.

You will see that many of the workmen wear not baseball caps but straw hats. I wonder about these. Are they just straw hats as any tourist might buy or a a hat doff to the past. In his book, the Mani, Paddy Leigh Fermour talks of how in the 1950s when this region was largely cut off from the rest of Greece, folks all wore wide brimmed straw hats.  I ponder this matter. Today more progress is promised and so Olaf and I have headed out to go pick up the Mrs and Joshua and leave the workers to get on with it.

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - almost there as daughter Olaf snores away

273 days ago

 At 4 AM I picked up daughter Olaf at Athens airport and by 5.30 AM we were peering down from a bridge over the Corinth canal, at the isthmus. It was light enough to see that the drop was a mile and while Olaf peered, I, suffering from vertigo, gripped the back rail and pretended to peer.

Olaf had been kept awake on the flight not by a crying baby behind her but by a crying brat behind her. I'd been driving all night and so despite one coffee stop eventually we had to pull in at the side of the road for a power nap. By 10 AM we had enjoyed breakfast in Kambos and were up at the hovel. Olaf had pretty soon occupied the one bed, closed the shutters and has been snoring ever since.

I had to wait until mid afternoon when a bed was installed in the Rat Room for my snooze. Meanwhile the workmen laboured like demons to get things finished before frightening Olaf wakes up. The windows and doors are, as I speak all in. The bubbly stuff you can see in the first photo around the top windows in the new wing holds them in. Photo two shows that when it hardens it is scraped out and replaced, as photo four, of the Bat Room door, demonstrates, with the normal mortar grout.

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel – disaster averted

275 days ago

As you know, young Joshua, is obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine and friends. The highlight of his year was meeting Thomas on the Watercress Line  with godfather Lucian Miers.  The Bard of the Boleyn gave him a plastic Percy which makes real noises and that goes everywhere. But for some reason his favourite train is bossy Gordon. He is also very fond of my Mother-in-law.

And so Joshua’s pride and joy is a metal two inch Gordon which comes with a separate tender. Everywhere we go out comes Gordon and Joshua runs him up a surface, my arm, a sofa, whatever saying “Gordon’s Hill”. Occasionally Gordon gets stuck at which point I say loudly, in a Gordon type voice “The Indignity!”

And so as I prepared to hand the Mrs and Joshua over to her brother-in law for a few days away from the building site over at his familial home 50 miles the other side of Kalamata, out came Gordon and the tender as we met up in the lobby of my usual hotel. Joshua played happily, we chatted and it was time to go. We packed up everything but where was the tender? Disaster!

As we go swimming in the sea in the bay of Kalamata Joshua looks over to the land on the other side in the far distance and says “The Mainland!”. That is because we are all on the isle of Sodor. And so, we lied and said that the tender was on the mainland and panicked about how we would replace it.

Yesterday afternoon as I returned to the hovel, the excitement of a day dealing with bureaucrats in Kalamata got to me and I fancied a lie down in the Bat Room. The Mrs will be impressed because before clambering on the bed I did actually take off my walking boots and, praise the lord, from beneath the flap above my ankle, what tumbled out….

The sense of relief as I phone the Mrs with the good news… Gordon’s tender really is on the mainland.

 

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Photo Article - slow but real progress at the Greek Hovel

275 days ago

George the Architect said that the doors and windows man would arrive this afternoon to ensure that his work was complete before Thursday when daughter Olaf arrives. Mr Window swore on his mother's life. I have bad news for his mother.

Notwithstanding that we have real progress. the floors of the Rat Room and the new wing are now one glaze away from completion as you can see below. The Rat Room has a window and shutters and a door. It also has a door fitted into the new wing and into the Bat Room as you can see below - the final photo is taken from inside the Bat Room. The tiling is, as you can see, also in its final stages.

And so, assuming Mr Window arrives tomorrow as will the floors man (who is very reliable) we will certainly have two rooms ready by tomorrow night with a bed for the Rat Room arriving before Olaf on Thursday. We might even have all the windows and doors in throughout the house making the place wildlife secure. On the current schedule by early next week we will also have a ceiling in the first floor of the new wing and floorboards throughout the second floor. Sadly it is Mr Window who also does floors and ceilings and so i am not betting the ranch on it. But we are making progress.

We should also have the humanure pits completed by tomorrow night. Photos of them will follow. 

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Photo Article: Fear not Olaf & the Mrs: chairs arrive at the Greek Hovel

279 days ago

For the past few days I have been sitting at the Greek Hovel on a large box of books as I tap away at my laptop in the Bat Room. What's wrong with that? Why can't everyone make do thus? It seems as if the Mrs and daughter Olaf have different ideas and have demanded chairs and as you can see...

Rejecting a modern urban twist on the traditional wooden chair ( at 180 Euro a pop) which the Mrs was rooting for, I opted for a more traditional design at half the price. Hand made in Kalamata by the same fellows who are making a bed for Olaf - to arrive on the day my daughter lands in Greece - I am more than happy. 

There should have been six chairs but it appears that one of those packed speedily away into the car of George the Architect, my shopping guide, has a defect. I told George we should beware Greeks bearing gifts which, I think, went over his head. He is returning the chair - as he knows the fellows at the factory - to get a replacement. Anyhow I now sit in more comfort as I work, the chairs pro tem rest on the veranda outside the Bat Room which will - next month - be covered in terracotta tiles.

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Photo Article: My bedroom at the Greek Hovel - not as frightening as I had feared

282 days ago

My memories of sleeping at the Greek Hovel are of bedding down in the room above the Bat Room, terrified about what form of wildlife diversity would creep in, twitching at every noise outside and sweating in insufferable heat. as such I approached my first night in the bat Room with some trepidation leaving the light on before I headed into Kambos to guide me back in in case my torch failed.

What with the Bat Room lights, the stars and my torch visibility was good when I got back at around midnight. I locked the door firmly and tapped away on my PC for a while. I have rigged up an internet link and so was able to send my photos back to London to be uploaded here.  Finally i could postpone sleep for no longer and so crashed out on the mattress with my torch in one hand and my new olive pruning axe close to the other.

But it really was not that bad. There was the odd sound outside. But walls that are almost two foot thick deaden the impact and it was clear that there was no wildlife diversity inside other than one mosquito. As to the heat, the thick stone walls are meant to keep the place cool in summer and hot in winter.  And to a great extent the theory holds up so far. I think that i shall invest in a fan to please the Mrs and Joshua when they arrive but the temperature was a lot more bearable than in many Greek hotels I have stayed in where air conditioning is not on offer.

With hard working Greeks enjoying a Bank Holiday today there were no workmen on site to rouse me and I snoozed happily until ten in the morning local time when a compelling urge to prune my beloved olive trees roused me from my slumber. For we farmers there is no day off.

 

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel: Doors and windows

282 days ago

Like a true imbecile I left the cable i use to connect my camera to my PC back in England so I head back from Kambos into Kalamata in a few minutes to buy a replacement. For I have spent a wonderful hour up at the hovel with George the Architect and it looks magnificent. That is not to say that it actually has any doors and windows bar those in the Bat Room where I shall sleep tonight but...

The good news is that they are almost ready. Tomorrow is a bank holiday here, allowing hard working Greeks to celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin Mary by eating and drinking in excess. On Thursday or Friday the doors, windows and floorboards arrive at the hovel and will be installed. They are almost ready...here they are at the factory earlier this week being treated and painted. 

Fear not daughter Olaf and the Mrs by the time you get here the eco palace, formerly known as the Greek Hovel, will be fully habitable. Okay, no cooker and just one bed and a few other things missing but habitable and secure. George says he is proud of his work and so he should be, the place looks magnificent. 

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A great and exciting day looms – I move into the Greek Hovel tomorrow!

283 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.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article - can you now see the scale of the rebuild of what was the Greek Hovel? I'm very excited!

364 days ago

Finally I hope the photos below show the scale of the rebuild, turning the small Greek Hovel into an eco palace. I was shocked at the, rapid, progress made since February and my last visit. The scale of what is being undertaken is only now dawning on me. We start with the shutters and door to the bat room which used to have open gaps and an earth and rock floor - it was where the animals ( both domesticated and wild) lived.

The concrete srea in front of the bat room (photo two) will be tiled and will sit underneath a large decked area which one approaches from the second floor. Photos three, four five and six are of the new part of the house which will more than double its size.

Photo seven is of the now much enlarged rat room. If you look carefully, the boulder that once stood outside the hovel has - as instructed - been incorporated into this wall. Eight shows the inside of the now almost complete bat room. I am using traditional materials and designs, the floor of the bat room ( and in due course the rat room and the ground floor of the new wing - the master bedroom - are my one nod to modernity in that I am using polished concrete but I think it looks great.

The next photo is from the room I used to sleep in with the rats inside and snakes trying to get in through cracks I plastered up. It is on the second floor and although without a roof right now has had its external stonework sorted and will be the kitchen and route out to that decking mentioned earlier.

The last two photos show the stone we uncovered marking the construction of the old house in 1924. It has been relocated to what will be the external wall of the new room above the bat room which has no internal walls as it leads directly into the upper level of the new wing.

The builders say that the rat room should have a roof and be semi habitable within weeks and we are still on track to complete this part of the project by August. Then it is phase two ( an infinity swimming pool looking out on the deserted convent on the other side of the valley) and three (a second house where the old ruin once stood, about 400 yards away. It is all very exciting indeed...

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Photo Article: The Greek Hovel Bat Room update

368 days ago

Daughter Olaf has agreed to join me at the Greek Hovel in late August but only after making detailed enquiries about sanitation. As you can seem the bat room now has a ceiling, a door to keep out the snakes and a shower! What more could a young Lady want? I shall be in The Mani by next weekend so more photos soon.

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - yes: the bat room now has a door, window and ceiling:

374 days ago

I will today book my ticket to Greece next week.I am not yet decided whether to fly direct to Kalamata and the hovel or go via Athens to shoot some videos outside Folli Follie HQ and at some of its bogus shops. I have not doorsteppoed a Greek fraud for a while. It has been too long. Back to the hovel and you can see we have two doors in the bat room: one for the eco loo and an external one. We have a window, so the room is snake proof, and a wooden ceiling. This week power points and the floor are being installed!

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Photo Article: The Greek Hovel - the bat room beckons me to come inside

380 days ago

George the Architect sends more photos. You can see that the bat room now has a polished concrete floor and the dividing walls for the eco-loo and the shower are up with a stand waiting for a sink to arrive from Bristol. The door into the rat room is bricked up pro tem to allow me to sleep there in a wildlife free zone when I head over in a few weeks time. Elsewhere progress is rapid with the rat room now appearing to be semi roofed and progress on the upper floor rapid.

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The latest photos from the Greek Hovel - what progress!

383 days ago

As you can see there is real progress at the Greek Hovel. The new extension is now up to two floors and in the bat room the walls are plastered and the floor installed. All we need now is the shower, eco-loo, sink and a bed and I am off. I hope to be in the Mani within two and a bit weeks and at this rate I might actually be sleeping on site.

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Photos - the latest progress at the Greek Hovel

405 days ago

You cannot see it below, but one room from the old house, the bat room, is now completely renovated and habitable with power,lights, water, the works. But the real progress is on the whole new wing of the house which will double its floor space, creating a new master bedroom and above it a living area which will extend into a second floor built above the rat room from the old house and on into the kitchen.The Greek Albanians are hard at it and an August finish date is looking ever more likely.

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Photo Update - major progress at the Greek Hovel

415 days ago

As you can see below, the Greek hovel sits beneath blue skies and te sun is shining in the taygetos mountains of the Mani. And real progress is being made. The first photos are of the bat room where a new floor is being laid and which will be ready for habitation by the Greek Easter in two weeks time. Elswhere you can see that the lengthward extension of the rat room is complete and the new wing which will help to double the size of the hovel is now being built up to above the first floor. Real progress is being made, as the hovel becomes an eco-palace.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photos from the Greek Hovel - at last it is starting to take real shape

430 days ago

George the Architect has been in touch with an update on progress at the Greek Hovel and, as you can below, see there really has been progress. The rat room extension walls are underway and the new wing of the house which will double the floor space is now also starting to take shape. George says the door to the bat room is on its way and it will be habitable within two weeks. The rest of the hovel is still on track to be finished by September, after just 51 months!

The skies over the Hovel and Kambos look dark in these photos but I see that today it is 17 degrees and sunny in Kambos and tomorrow it hits 19 degrees. Later in the week there will be rain and it will dip to 14 degrees but still why on earth am I sitting here in Bristol at my laptop when I could be pruning olive trees in the Mani?

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Doing a bit of a Paddy Leigh Fermor at the Greek Hovel and boosting the local economy

455 days ago

When building his house at Kardamili, 20 miles down the road from the Greek Hovel, all round superhero Paddy Leigh Fermor decided that he needed to go back to England for some literary business. On his return, some months later, he decided that the builders, though following plans, were building his house the wrong way round. Thus he instructed them to tear it down and start again.

I arrived at the Greek Hovel this morning to meet George the Architect and to inspect work on the bat room. The builders had been hard at work creating a bathroom space. Quelle horreur! I suppose it is what was in the plans but it was not what I wanted. Bricks rather than stone had been used and the walled off area was enormous devouring far too much space in what will be my residence this summer while the rest of the eco-palace is completed.

All change. George got out his tape measure and we have agreed that there will be a small room for the eco-loo with a sliding wooden door. Next to it will be a semi-open plan shower with an external wall just five foot high to keep the water in but and spare the modesty of whoever is using it. Outside that there will be a sink with storage space. The footprint of the bathroom area has been slashed by almost a half and my bolt-hole will feel all the bigger at the end of it.

The builders were, naturally, delighted as they started to tear down their work. There is an extra day and a half of labouring in it for them. Once again I am doing my little bit for the Greek economy.

The good news is that we are still under budget even with this minor hiccup since the old house was in marginally better shape than George had feared. The even better news is that the bat room will be finished and snake secured by mid April. The rest of the hovel will be finished and ready for fit out by August or September which I take to mean Christmas.

Perhaps 2018 guests might have to think about 2019 now but as I wandered around with George we started to discus where beds will go and where power switches will be situated. We have redesigned the rat room bathroom on the hoof to take out a shower and create more space, and additional bookshelves. I can, at last, really feel my retirement home starting to take shape.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: I take it all back, Greeks hard at work at the Hovel - major progress

460 days ago

I headed back to the Greek Hovel expecting to find an empty building site and no signs of progress. I take it all back. It may be Sunday but three hard working Greeks were on site with a mini bulldozer, hard at work. How could I have ever doubted the work ethic of the citizens of the mighty Hellenic Republic?

As you can see, the foundations of the extension which - with the new room above the rat room - will more that double the size of the Hovel are now laid. Because this is an earthquake zone they must be concrete and sturdy and they look fit for purpose. Today's work was on filling in earth between the foundations so that - after a bank holiday tomorrow - the team can start laying the floors.

You may think that the final two photos of the bat room and the old house indicate little progress since December and that might indeed be the case. But George the Architect confirmed by phone that work restarts on the bat room this week and that we are still on track for it to be completed with power, a shower, water, lighting and snake proof doors and windows by Easter. Yes, Easter 2018 and that is our Easter not the Greek Easter two weeks later!.

That means that when I come back next time, in early May, I can live up at the hovel in a room with a double bed, water, lighting, the internet and full snake defences. By the early summer the rat room should also be fit for habitation and by late summer the ground floor of the new wing, the master bedroom, will be in use while work on the upper floor and the roof should be finished in the Autumn before the olive harvest.

So that means that all those invited over this summer can now start booking their flights and that Joshua and I can, indeed, spend the Autumn here fitting the place out for a family Christmas in Greece. Yes that is Christmas 2018!

PS It also means that those who volunteered to come over for the olive harvest 2018 can stay at the hovel so I shall be taking you up on your kind offer of working unpaid to do our bit for the Greek economic recovery.

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Photo article - real building progress at the Greek Hovel, the Bat room has a floor!

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.

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Photo Article: The olive harvest from the Greek Hovel day 2

545 days ago

Being a UK work day I started my harvesting a lot later than planned and finished a bit earlier. Well that is my excuse anyway. It won't wash tomorrow. But by late morning I had arrived at the hovel with my 5*10 metre mat and my olive tree basher. I was ready to go.

Harvesting was damn hard work when I was part of a team of pros. On my own it is worse. I found it hard to lay out the mat to catch what few olives I could smash down from the trees and it is harder still dragging it along between trees. having only one mat I can only do one side of a trees so must swat the olives on the other side towards the mat.


From inside the hovel I retrieved my trusty hacksaw and some branches, sadly all too few, which had a decent yield of fruit I chopped off and beat on top of the mat. After a couple of hours I had dealt with eleven of the 150 trees. My yield was - as you can see below, not great. I now have about a quart of a 50 kg sack full. You will remember that my minimum target is two sacks. That would be enough to allow me to take 15 litres home at no cost.

That oil really will be my oil, hand produced it will taste even better than usual. Tomorrow there is no excuse for not putting in a longer day and - as an added treat - the builders are promising to lay the first bit of concrete on the, currently, earth floor of the bat room. Progress on all counts.

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Photo Article: Building "progress" at the Greek Hovel

547 days ago

I cannot say that I expected dramatic progress in the rebuilding of the Greek Hovel. And my expectations were matched. No. They were exceeded. Eventually I extracted from George the architect the admission that the builders had enjoyed a long break as they awaited permits and then as the weather turned against them In fact they had only restarted work again 24 hours before my arrival. But now they are hard at it.

As you can see there are now giant piles of earth as they have dug out the excavations for the expansion of the hovel. Its floorspace is set to more than double by the time we have finished. And thus there has been limited progress on what was the old hovel: the bat room, the rat room (now demolished) and the small living space on the second floor.

The big excavation is for the new wing which will on its own have the same floor space (over two floors) as all the existing rooms. The other additions will be a lengthening of the rat room and the building of a new room above it which will link without a wall into the extension making it just an additional part of that room, and via a door to the old living area which will become the kitchen.

Finally there are foundations being laid outside the bat room as you look out towards the monastery. That is partly to reinforce the external wall there so that it can withstand earthquakes and partly as a base for a wooden platform to sit outside the kitchen which will become an external dining area.


It all seems a long way off right now. We had been hoping for a June 2018 completion. George now concedes that will not happen although the bat room should be habitable by Easter. Overall completion? This time next year? 2019? Who knows. In Greece "avrio" is, as ever, the default timetable.

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Photo Article: The escape hatch at the Greek Hovel for daughter Olaf as George says words no father wants to hear

701 days ago

It has been troubling me deeply that in the plans for the Greek Hovel, the room known as the bat room will not be connected to any other part of the house. Since this bedroom will be for daughter Olaf, who will be 16 in exactly one week's time, I worry what happens if she gets scared by a noise at night or sees a snake? Heading out through her front door into the dark is hardly practicable. So I have changed the plans.

As you can see, from this picture taken in the rat room, a hole has been knocked between the bat room and the rat room which will be connected via the big new extension to the rest of the house. George the architect was worried that the wooden door, which we will install, might not be very high but I assured him that it would only be used in emergency and that Olaf is not very tall anyway.

But she is sixteen said George whose own daughters are not yet one years old. I nodded. "Pretty soon she will be bringing a boyfriend here and so you won't have to worry". He laughed. George, my friend, you will not treat these matters with such levity in a decade and a half's time. I was not laughing and explained what lay ahead to him. Some subjects are better not discussed or even contemplated.

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - look snakes so many new ways to get in!

710 days ago

The Greek Albanian building crew are making cracking progress at the Hovel. There are now so many ways to get into the room in which I used to sleep that even the stupidest snake in Christendom can find its way in.

The first photo shows the main door which, pro tem, remains. But if you look right you will see that there is now a hole from the main room linking it to the snake veranda. The plan is that the rat room underneath the snake veranda will be extended by a couple of yards. Then this doorway from the only habitable room will then be a link from what becomes my kitchen to the start of the living area. The plans see us building a whole new wing adjacent to the kitchen/snake veranda which on the second floor just forms a vast living area and on the first the master bedroom.
But that is all for the future. Right now we have another doorway for the snakes.
The next photos are of the front of the house as you approach. The small window at the bottom is the only natural light for the bat room and will be enlarged. The upper two windows are now snake entrances into the only habitable room. And if you look through the snake doors you can see more on the other side.
It is hard to imagine what the hovel will look like when finished. But to try and help you visualise it, one other thing to remember is that the flat concrete roof will be removed and replaced by a pitched wooden roof supported by wooden beams and covered in old style tiles which should, I hope, make the much enlarged upper floor feel truly spacious.

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel: darling daughter Olaf, your bedroom is almost ready!

738 days ago

I have been updating you on progress on what was known as the bat room but is now know as Olaf's bedroom at the Greek Hovel. The initial task was to dig out the earth and rock floor so that there was 7 foot of headroom rather than 5-6 foot in what was once where the animals lived. I should say that my almost 16 year old Islington dwelling daughter did not respond with great excitement to the first photos HERE. Fear not Olaf, things are looking better.



For starters we have installed a light in the room so you can see where the bats are. I am such a loving and supportive father. But as you can see the digging is almost complete. In deed in the second photo, showing a bit of belly which is all my mother -in-law's fault, you can see that I can raise my arms and still not touch the ceiling. There is a clear seven foot gap.



What more could a girl want? Olaf, your bedroom is ready. Only kidding. we need to install windows, a door that keeps out the wildlife diversity, a polished concrete floor, re-do the walls so they are WD proof, plaster the ceiling,m install a shower and an eco-loo and so much more. But it is a start is not Olaf?

 

Tom Winnifrith

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Building works photo update from the Greek Hovel - daughter Olaf this is your bedroom

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.

 

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One noise of the night explained - bats have taken over the rat room at the Greek Hovel

1094 days ago

I can hear a loud chirping noise from outside as I prepare to go to sleep at night. Surely it cannot be a bird? I hear nothing in the day. Tonight all has been explained. Beneath the one room that is habitable at the Greek Hovel is the bat room, named after the dominant species of inhabitant when I arrived. Behind me but a level down, underneath the snake veranda, is the rat room, the veranda and the room both named for similar reasons. The latter has been cleansed of rats and it is where I store wood for the winter.

As I drove back the other day the headlights of my car were undipped and shone into the rat room and I saw little creatures flying around. The bats, it seems, have a new home.

Bats here do not carry rabies and they eat mosquitoes and so they are, in my book, good guys. I do not mind them although if they fly towards you as they did when I initially cleared the bat room of junk, it is a touch un-nerving.

And so it finally dawned on me, is the noise I hear my friends the bats, perhaps magnifed by a pretty much entirely blocked off ventilation pipe that connects the rat room to my bedroom? Luckily the internet has everything. Below is the noise that will send me to sleep tonight.

 

Tom Winnifrith

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