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

Tom Winnifrith Bearcast: Not grabbing Mrs Chav's Pussy and as Julie Meyer threatens myself and Nigel Wray - how I will respond

33 days ago

https://www.shareprophets.com/views/42104/tom-winnifritrh-bearcast-not-grabbing-mrs-chav-s-pussy-and-as-julie-meyer-threatens-myself-and-nigel-wray-how-i-will-respond

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - good news and bad

44 days ago

George the Architect sends over photos from the Greek Hovel where there is good news and bad.

The good news, as you can see below, is that progress on the swimming pool continues apace. Now I know it does not look very deep but walls will be built around it so, fear not daughter Olaf, at the deep end the water will be 1.9 metres deep. 

The bad news is that the water connection to the hovel and indeed neighbouring houses has broken so we are without water to fill the pool, in due course, or to water the olive trees we moved to make room for the pool. Greece being Greece, no-one has any idea when this will be fixed.

The good news is that God has been watering the trees - it has been raining heavily for days. The bad news is that heavy rains stop any further work on the pool.

For now my attention is on our house move in the UK to the Welsh hovel but, fingers crossed, the Greek hovel will be utterly completed by mid May.

Admin

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - take heart Olaf, work on your swimming pool accelerates

65 days ago

Don't the skies look glorious above the Greek Hovel? How I wish I was there to see the little snakes emerge after their winter sleep. The weather is improving and thus a digger has made it up the track and so work on the swimming pool for daughter Olaf is, as you can see, accelerating. George the Architect assures me that the olive trees we had to move, about seven, are being watered every day and are recovering well. All is good...

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel - a swimming pool for Olaf starts to take shape

69 days ago

I say start. Bad weather has hampered the workmen with the rains causing walls on the track above Slater slope on the way to the hovel to collapse so making them impassable for lorries and the excavator. But now the work is, as you can see, underway.

Six or seven olive trees have been moved carefully and the rains should help them to bed down at their new homes. And so work has started on what will be an infinity pool, one terrace below the hovel with views out towards Kambos. We aim to have all works finished by some time in May which means that daughter Olaf will agree to honour us with her presence this summer.

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Photo article: meanwhile back at the Greek Hovel

90 days ago

George the architect has made it up to the Greek Hovel for the start of the spring campaign to completion. He will take a few days out in March to come to England/Wales to help draw up plans for the Welsh hovel. But for now it is full steam ahead in Greece. Or rather not.

As you can see below, the skies are now blue but it has been raining solidly for almost two months. Some of the dry stone walls that stand next tol the mud track, as it wends through the olive groves at the top of snake hill and Slater slope, have fallen down. Cars can get through, lorries cannot and so that will delay work on the swimming pool that daughter Olaf demands as a condition of her honourings us with her presence.

The house itself has survived the winter relatively unscathed. The chimneypot was blown off and will be replaced and there are still a few small jobs for the carpenter and the electrician to complete but they are on the case. Next week George will start to transplant seven olive trees and then work can start on the pool.

Admin

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Photo article: Joshua and I decanting olive oil from the Greek Hovel - it tastes awesome

160 days ago

For the first time I tasted the oil from the 2018 harvest. It is peppery and just plain fabulous. This stuff is for drinking or eating with bread not for wasting on salads or in frying. The remnants from 2017 will do for that. Joshua and I bought a stack of jars from Dunelm yesterday and today we decanted most of my first, of three, 5 litre cans. As you can see below it is a classic lime green. Perfect in colour as well as taste.

Andrew Bell, the reward for your labours is the big one litre jar which i shall post early next week. The rest are for family and other friends. The best thing about Christmas is giving presents and thus, this afternoon, Joshua will drop off two of the small jars to our friends at the local Italian greasy spoon where we sometimes have lunch and to the man from the Deli, the croissant shop as Joshua terms it. Those folks will really appreciate it. The others will be posted or hand delivered over the coming days as will a few more jars I have yet to fill.

Joshua's part in the decanting? Creating a total mess with the wrapping paper - a task he excelled at.

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Your money’s arriving avrio said the man at the Olive Press in Kambos

164 days ago

I cannot say that 290 Euro is going to make that much of a difference to my net wealth but a few days after the dire news came in about my 2018 Greek Hovel olive harvest I was at a loose end and in Central Kambos.I was not quite ready for an ouzo and supper so wandered into the press to ask about my money.

It was a hive of activity. The good sergeant at the Kardamili nick who lives in Kambos was there with his harvest. Arresting Brits on suspicion of drink driving – a safe bet – can wait for another day. This is the Elias season. My friend Vangelis, the man in the pink shirt, was there. His deliveries for Dixons can wait another day, not that I imagine there are many these days. He was dropping off a large harvest. Everyone said “yas Tom” and the man in charge, another Vangelis, summonsed his son who speaks a bit more English than I speak Greek. That is to say, not a lot.

Eventually it was understood that I was asking when my cash would be paid into my bank account? As was the case three days ago the answer was the same: avrio. That is to say tomorrow. It will arrive,of that I am sure. But I rather suspect that it will not actually be arriving avrio.

Tom Winnifrith

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My first visit to a Greek bank in three years, I'm half way to owning a gun!

165 days ago

You may remember, that at the height of the Greek Financial crisis I went to deposit 10 Euro in an account with the National Bank. As I entered the branch the queues at the withdrawal counters were endless. I went to the special assistance desk where there was just me and three completely senile peasants.

Though they did not know what day of the week it was, they were not so far gone as to be making a deposit. They too wanted their cash out, they just needed help. I was the sole person actually putting money into the bank and for that heroic act, Jim Mellon, rightly, suggested that they should have erected a statue of me in Kalamata next to those of the heroes from 1821.

At some stage I will need 4,000 Euro in that account in order to get Greek residency so I can buy a car and a gun. Please don’t blather on about Brexit. My father’s Canadian friend Peter has had residency for years and Canada is not in the EU. Being a non EU resident just means that you need to pop along to the local cop shop once a year to present your papers. I can handle that.

Pro tem I have not actively deposited cash but the proceeds of the Greek Hovel olive harvest each year are deposited into the account automatically. Wondering how much was in my account and being in Kalamata I wandered into a branch which seemed relatively quiet. I took a tab from the machine and got a number (205) and waited my turn. The big sign showed 193. Though the bank was full of staff shuffling papers there was only one of six counters manned. After 20 minutes the counter showed 194 so I asked a young man if there was a quicker way for me to find out what was in my account. I was shuffled to the special assistance desk and pretty soon was sitting opposite a young lady presenting my account book and passport.

The account book was pushed into a machine and came back with a raft of transactions on it. Blow me down, I have 2057 Euro in the account and will have another 290 shortly. At that point the young lady started suggesting that she’d like to see an electricity bill which I said was not needed, took my passport and account book and left.

The time is coming to risk c1700 Euro of real money, visit the branch again and get my account book to show that I have 4,000 Euro in it.  Since the Greek banks are all bust, though we all pretend otherwise, I may well lose the lot but if I act quickly I can secure my residency before that happens. And then, like everyone else in Kambos, I get to own a gun.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel - Problemo: It's all Greek to me

166 days ago

In a couple of days time I head back to the Mrs, in Bristol, and so I thought it prudent to start washing my clothes and that it might earn me major brownie points if I washed the bed linen as well. And we now have a washing machine up at the hovel. Prudently I handwashed a pair of underpants and a pair of jeans and put them outside to dry. But all of my socks and much else besides was put into the washing machine with some detergent in the right place. Problemo.

As you can see the washing machine and the instructions are all in Greek. I selected a wash at random and switched it on. The machine started beeping. A timer came on and after two minutes and nineteen seconds it went off to be replaced by a sign saying 4 degrees. The machine carried on beeping. It was locked. My socks are trapped and nothing has happened. After about an hour of beeping I could stand it no more and turned the wretched machine off. No more beeping but it has stayed locked. I am without socks. 

Thankfully George the architect is here later today. He can translate and I might just be able to retrieve my socks or maybe even wash them.

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel - take that Bernard! Mr Fire is here

166 days ago

During the week that he was here, ShareProphets reader Bernard from the Grim North of England, c/o Donegal tried manfully to get my new wood burning stove going. It is jolly chilly at night. He failed. Over to the maestro.

This was last night. To be fair to Bernard I think the twigs he brought in are now that bit drier. Or maybe it is just my superior technique? Anyhow I lit it again to keep me warm while I prepared breakfast today so it was no fluke. It looks good does it not?

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - something that has not happened here in years, maybe decades

166 days ago

When the Mrs and I first came to see the Greek hovel in 2014 ( or was it 2013) it had been abandoned for many many years. And those who remember my early photos will remember why. You just could not live up here. So today we have a groundbreaking first as you can see below.

I have just prepared the first meal cooked at the hovel in what must be years if not decades. Mushrooms and a local orange flavoured sausage for breakfast. It may be no great culinary triumph but it tasted good and it marks a new milestone in bringing this place back to a habitable condition.  Okay I have no plates or forks, so had to eat from the pan using a knife, but it is a start. 

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel - just to show my "neighbours"

166 days ago

Of course I have no neighbours up at the Greek Hovel but across the hills you can see folks burning off branches of olive trees hacked away during the harvest. My own harvest may not have been a spectacular success but just to show them that I too can play the game...

I have set a couple of bonfires going. Besides which leaving branches lying in great piles may provide suitable and attractive accomodation for the less pleasant members of the wildlife diversity community.

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Day 5 of the Olive harvest at the Greek Hovel and a final P&L – Don’t all laugh

167 days ago

I have been sitting on this account of the final day of the 2018 olive harvest for some days as I am rather cross. I know the sums involved are trivial but none the less….

Having thrown four workers at our harvest for a couple of hours the son of George the Albanian dropped nine bags of olives weighing 442kg down at the press in Kambos. So ended day four of the harvest. More than eight of those bags were the results of the labours of team GB: myself, Andrew Bell and ShareProphets reader Bernard from the Grim North of England (c/o Donegal).

On day five, George lead a team of five who pitched up a quarter of an hour late at 8.15. Once again he insisted that they would be finished within a day. Bernard and I helped make up a magnificent seven. It was soon clear that the way they would finish was by tackling only really full trees. We stopped for lunch which George’s Mrs had prepared – a cracking sort of cheese pie and a custard version of the same for pudding. I showed them inside the house which they agreed was splendid but that break was only half an hour.

At about two thirty in the afternoon I had to break to do some work on my computer. I emerged at 3.30 to find that they had “finished” the entire lower terraces on one side of our lands and were packing up to go. Tackling the best trees on the hovel that day had produced just under nine sacks.  We had a Greek coffee made by Mrs George on a portable stove and George and I discussed payment with his son translating.

200 Euro he said. That seemed fair. Then he added on 50 for yesterday. And 20 for taking the olive bags to the press in Kambos. Hmmm. I handed over 270 Euro and said that I'd pop into the press later. That I did to find that we had 856 kg in all. I was a bit pissed that the total was so low and really could not be arsed to watch my oil being pressed but left four 5kg cans (one for Bernard, three for me) for my oil and headed off to lovely Eleni's Kourounis taverna to write an article or two.

The news when I got back was not good. 146 litres minus my 20. Minus 10 for the press. So that is 116 litres which will be sold at just 2.5 Euro per litre which is 290 Euro. Knock off a 9.46 Euro admin fee and I am left with a profit (ignoring my own oil) of 10 Euro. The price of oil is down because, although it still tastes great, the quality of oil from Kambos is deemed to be lower because of chemicals sprayed all around – though not on my land – to combat the flies.

However, the bottom line is that hiring team Albania was an economic disaster. Had we merely sold the olives produced by team GB in the first two and a half days we would have cleared 140 Euro. Had team GB minus Bell carried on for and done five days we would have netted almost 300 Euro. The way I have to look at this is that I have transferred a portion of wealth from rich GB to an impoverished Greece. But I do feel a bit resentful. Had the yield not been cut by around 40% by the flies, storm Zorba and the strong winds of ten days ago the same trees harvested in the same time would have made me an additional 100 Euro profit. So that is God’s joke on me.

None the less I am a bit cross and George the Albanian has lost a customer. I feel that I contribute enough to the Greek economy already without paying over nearly all my revenues for the pleasure of his company and a great portion of cheese pie.  Next year, with or without volunteers from the British Isles, I shall harvest without local help. I have all the equipment I need and if, God plays no jokes on me and I tackle only the better trees in a five or six day hard slog I could easily produce 15-20 bags alone or 30-40 ( depending on God’s jokes) with help from a new team GB.

The point of me harvesting is not to make money. It is about being part of the community here in Kambos. So there is no great bitterness in me. Each year I learn more about pruning and about how to harvest so I should get better returns from my trees. 2019 will be the year to go it alone. Perhaps if God can play his part with no more of his little jokes I might just make a real profit.

Tom Winnifrith

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Tom Winnifrith Bearcast: Call me dim or old fashioned but I dont understand the Versarien valuation

167 days ago

https://www.shareprophets.com/views/39786/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-call-me-dim-or-old-fashioned-but-i-dont-understand-the-versarien-valuation

Tom Winnifrith

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Tom Winnifrith Bearcast: will FinnCrap show a shred of integrity and quit as Telit's Nomad tomorrow?

171 days ago

https://www.shareprophets.com/views/39702/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-will-finncrap-show-a-shred-of-integrity-and-quit-as-telit-s-nomad-tomorrow

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo report from the Olive harvest at the Greek Hovel Day 3: the Albanian cavalry arrive

171 days ago

I rather regretted that third jug of local rose the night before, when my alarm started ringing at 5.20 AM. For Thrasher Bell had to get back to London and that meant getting him to the bust station in Kalamata before 6.30. Feeling a bit groggy I drove him into town and dropped him off. Stopping off at an ATM on the way back to load up with cash to pay my Albanian troops I arrived back in Kambos in time for an early morning coffee at the Kourounis taverna owned by lovely Eleni. The news was bad...

George the Albanian's brother had been hospitalised late last week so he was running half a day behind schedule. I headed back to the hovel with a hot cheese pie for Bernard and as I walked to my car who should I meet but George being driven by his son, an English speaker. I was assured that five Albanians would arrive by one.  My next encounter was with the local golden eagle sitting on a fence as I drove down the back track towards the valley floor.

ShareProphets reader Bernard and I laboured manfully all morning. And at two o'clock the Albanians pitched up. As you can see below, they know what they are doing. But we only enjoyed two and a half hours of their work before the dark descended.

My worry is that George reckons he will be done in a day arguing some trees are empty. He has another job to go to. I know that and having walked my land with Bernard I know that there are an awful lot of good trees. That will be a battle for day four. Can we get an extra half day out of the Albanians? So far we have c470kg of olives either down at the press weighed and waiting for pressing or up here bagged at the hovel.

I discussed this with Eleni after supper. This is Greekenomics for you. There is mass youth unemployment in Greece. But as this country;s economy has tanked some Albanians have gone home or to go work in a car wash in Britain. So there is a shortage of Albanians.  Thus Eleni has no-one to crop her olives. Everyone is fighting for Albanians meanwhile hundreds of thousands of Greeks sit there not working paid welfare by a country that is bankrupt. Go figure.

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel -don't my new shelves look amazing?

171 days ago

The brother of the infamous carpenter was as good as his word, coming back on Friday and Saturday of last week to finish the shelving in the master bedroom, the downstairs of the new wing. First up were three deep shelves underneath the stairs leading to the living room. These could have been installed earlier but he arrived with wood of the wrong colour so had to be sent back.

The idea is that this is where clothes can be stored. You can see above the stairs an open metal box, a vent for heating and air conditioning. It will be covered with a wooden grill in due course. One of the final jobs.

Below are the book shelves in tow of the four insets into the internal facing walls of the master bedroom. Like those under the stairs these are "floating shelves" and, IMHO, look stunning. In one of the other inets is a reminder of home, the document given by the King to my great grandfather, Sir Arthur Cochrane when he was made Clarenceux Herald at  the College of Arms. Its sister document when he was given another heraldic post is framed and back in the UK.

Incidentally, one of the coats of arms he created was that of my alma mater, Warwick School, something I noticed only relatively recently.

Now all I need is a few books...

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Photo Report: Day 2 of the olive harvest at the Greek Hovel

172 days ago

And so to day two of the olive harvest. We merry band of three all have our jobs. As you can see below, Shareprophets reader Bernard really is wearing shorts and a T shirt as, during the day it is hot enough to do so. He trained as an engineer and so, naturally, he is the twerker specialist.

Andrew Bell went to Eton and denies that he thrashed little boys when a prefect. But he has a great technique for thrashing the branches we cut down. I have my suspicions. What I need is Boris Johnson, David Cameron and Jacob Rees Mogg to come out and I would have a complete team of Eton thrashers.

Me, well I only went to a minor public school so I do a bit of thrashing but have no great technique. I  am allowed charge of the saw with which to cut down branches. Bernard was allowed iit briefly but Thrasher Bell and I turned around and saw that in just minutes he had cut one poor tree almost back to the bone. And so he is no longer allowed the saw.

At the end of day two we were up to seven 50 kg sacks. Yes we are getting faster but it took us until six to finish work by when it was almost completely dark and we could barely see a thing. It was also bitterly cold. And then came the hammer blow, "thrasher" Bell has to return to England and so after a night of three jugs of wine in Kambos I set my alarm for 5.30 AM to take him to the bus. And then we were two.. 

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel – the Olive harvest underway, Andrew Bell in action

174 days ago

10 AM Greek Time: We merry band of three are now sitting in the Kourounis taverna in Kambos having a late breakfast but the harvest, is as you can see below, underway. So far two trees have been harvested but we will pick up the pace shortly.

As promised I have a new toy, that is to say an electric twerker (I think that is the right word) and first into action is AIM CEO Andrew Bell who handled it like an expert. While in Kambos I have bought a bit more equipment and when Shareprophets reader B has finished his morning session of trading like a dervish, harvesting will resume.

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Biblical photo article from the Greek Hovel: life after death, the tree of life and a sinner (well his brother) repents

176 days ago

You may remember that two olive trees had to be moved to allow the hovel to be extended. One perished quickly. The other one appeared to be at death's door by the summer. Thus I applied the sort of fertilizer only a man can apply at every opportunity and as you can see below... it is a sea of green. It has made it. I am not sure if it will bear any olives next year but the fightback has begun. 

On completion of this year's harvest six trees must be moved to make way for the swimming pool that daughter Olaf demands as a pre-requisite for her presence. Fingers crossed on that transplant.

Continuing the biblical theme a sinner, that is to say the unreliable carpenter, has repented. Well sort of. He was due to pitch up on Friday to install shelving. But much to my surprise his brother and a workmen made it up to the Hovel today and work is now underway. Six of the eighteen shelves have now been installed and look amazing. I have spent a happy afternoon starting to fill them with books. On that subject more to follow.

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Video from the Greek Hovel - rain, rain go away

176 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

176 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 a wet Greek Hovel - the "view from the "dry" river

177 days ago

As you may remember, there is a dry river bed at the bottom of the valley beneath the abandoned convent and before the climb up snake hill and on to the Greek Hovel. It has been raining here for several days and is still raining heavily. So the dry river is filling up rapidly and will soon start to cross the track. The photo below is of the growing pool and after that the view up to the convent.

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Tom Winnifrith Bearcast: How Green is my valley and how cool is my hovel

177 days ago

https://www.shareprophets.com/views/39624/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-how-green-is-my-valley-and-how-cool-is-my-hovel

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel - the kitchen is almost finished, floorboards in true glory

177 days ago

It is unbelievably wet at the Greek Hovel. The rain is still sheeting it down making the track up here ever more reminiscent of a WW1 battlefield. But although the heating is not yet working thanks to the electricity company not upgrading my meter, the thick stone walls keep it warm inside. And there is real progress to show you as you can see below.

In the kitchen the Range Cooker has arrived from Austria so is installed with a granite work surface, a Belfast sink and a washing machine. There is still some work to be done on internal shelving in that unit but that needs my friend the carpenter who, right now, is hiding in his factory. I shall be paying him a visit tomorrow. The flooring is complete thoughout the upper level and looks magnificent, if i say so myself. We have lights, a fridge freezer and a wood burning stove.

Sadly the wood has not been briought to a dry place so is utterly sodden and lies in piules outside with god knows what members of the wildlife diversity community sleeping below. I have started to, rather gingerly, pick up a few logs and bring them in to dry.

Finally a view from the second floor balcony up into the Taygetos moyuntains behind me which look menacingly black and wet as they often do at this time of year.

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Olive harvest plans are laid and 1 brave volunteer from England comes forward: any more?

198 days ago

I have just booked my next flight back to Greece. It was cheaper than a super off peak train ticket to London. By late on 26th November I should be in Kalamata and the next day I shall pick up a car and head up to the Greek Hovel where I sincerely hope all will be ready. For I have a guest, a volunteer to assist myself and George the Albanian with this year’s olive harvest. Step forward a Woodlarks walker, Mr Andrew Bell, chairman of AIM listed Red Rock Resources. I am not sure how skilled Mr Bell is at olive harvesting but we will soon find out.

Bell is due to arrive in Athens later that week and any other volunteer wishing to join us should get in touch right now, there is room for more helpers.

When the olive harvest actually begins is, of course, a bit uncertain.  I have to contact lovely Eleni at the Kourounis taverna in Kambos and she will have to try to pin down George the Albanian and his wife and sister in law on dates. Then there is the rain. Rain does stop play and it rains quite a bit. So maybe, with Comrade Bell pitching in we will be done ion three days. Or maybe it will take ten. Who knows?

But the excitement is mounting… the clock is ticking…I am on my way home.

Tom Winnifrith

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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: Charon's Lair above the Greek Hovel

205 days ago

And thus on the final evening in Greece, Joshua and I set off on the walk up to the house of Charon my closest, in fact I think, only neighbour for several miles.

The walk is uphill all the way for Charon lives on the next hill up from the hovel towards the Taygetos mountains. But the track, as you would imagine, winds and bends. Initially it is stone or concrete but after a while, as is the case  in the last 800 yards before the hovel itself, the way forward is earthen. But cars only very rarely venture up here. For most of the time I have known Charon he has been without a motor and I have thus driven him to the village by car or on the back of a bike many times.

And so, sheltered by olive trees, the track turned to thick green grass eventually ending up at two houses. I think, judging by the underpants on the washing line, he lives at the one in the first photo. He is, as it happens an accomplished musician and also a DJ and sometimes you can hear his music blaring out in an otherwise silent evening. As it happens he was not at home and so, with the sun starting to set, Joshua and I beat a retreat.

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Photo Article: One final walk in the hills above the Greek Hovel with Joshua & new wildlife diversity

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.

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Discussing the Iliad, the seven cities and the Greek Hovel with my father

205 days ago

On our last day in Greece, The Mrs, Joshua and I showed the Greek Hovel to an elderly British couple, diehard lefties from a village up in the mountains above Kambos. The highlight of their visit was ornithological of which more later but what I really picked up on was a throw-away comment that the area around the hovel might be one of the “seven Cities.” My father and I discussed this in Shipston on Sunday and have been chatting by phone ever since.

The reference is from the Iliad book nine. Achilles is sulking and refusing to fight in the siege of Troy. Agamemnon, the King of Mycenae, sends an emissary to attempt to persuade him to rejoin the battle and offers him numerous bribes including, from a rough precis “Seven well-populated cities he shall have: Cardamyle, Enope, and grassy Hire; holy Pherae and Antheia with its deep meadows; lovely Aepeia, and vine-rich Pedasus. They are all near the sea, on our far border with sandy Pylos, and the men there own great flocks and herds”

There is evidence of Mycenaean civilization in Kambos. There is a Tholos or tomb which you can see HERE on the outskirts of the village and a gold cup was found at some stage. Between the modern village and the Hovel, at the bottom of the valley by the deserted convent, is a natural spring which would have been a pre-requisite for the establishment of any City – think a large village not London or Athens. It is, of course, all rather sketchy.

But my father’s carer Emma has fetched Iliad ix from his study and some old primers and this will keep him busy for the next day or so, seeing if the original offers up any more clues.

Tom Winnifrith

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Tom Winnifrith Bearcast: Malcolm kids himself, FinnCrap & Sam Smith must be desperate to IPO right now, why?

207 days ago

https://www.shareprophets.com/views/39080/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-malcolm-kids-himself-finncrap-sam-smith-must-be-desperate-to-ipo-right-now-why

Tom Winnifrith

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A full length video of the Greek Hovel inside and out

207 days ago

It was more than four years ago when the Mrs bought the Greek Hovel, an abandoned farmhouse with one (barely) habitable and certainly not wildlife proof room set in 16,000 square metres of olive trees in the foothills of the Taygetos Mountains. Today the hovel is almost complete as an eco palace, the video below shows you all, inside and out.

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel Joshua says its "my bed" as workmen eff it up

208 days ago

As we headed to Kardamili on Thursday we got a call saying that workmen were arriving with bunk beds for the Rat room and would assemble them. I gave instructions. The Mrs insisted they needed no supervision. My heart sank. Natch I was right as you can see below.

The very expensive beds from a posh shop in Kalamata are designed to be assembled however you want. So natch the workmen assembled them in a way that won't allow folks to open the window. The upper bunk should be on the other end of the lower bed and so slotting nicely into the wall which I had measured carefully. Any fool could see that. Except , of course, the workmen assembling the bunks.  George the architect will now have to ensure the beds are reassembled before I return.

Joshua naturally loves them - as you can see  and has proclaimed them his beds! Maybe next year. 

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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 - the Big Sofa arrives at the Greek Hovel

210 days ago

I refer not to the AIM Listed company Big Sofa run by the incompetent wanker Simon Liddington but to a real four metre long Big Sofa which has arrived at the Greek Hovel. God only knows how the big trucks make it up here but they do and this is our first real bit of furniture - a landmark and a great way to enjoy the views from the living area out towards the deserted convent on the other side of the valley.

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Tom Winnifrith Bearcast: Fuck Yu - ex FD but shareholders in Totally screwed too

210 days ago

https://www.shareprophets.com/views/39017/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-fuck-yu-says-ex-fd-but-shareholders-in-totally-screwed-too

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel - the veranda & scorpion zone starts to take shape

211 days ago

I am not sure folks will understand the point of the veranda until it is completed. But weather permitting that will be by Friday so here is a progress photo with the carpenter who has featured here so often, in action.

The veranda runs on the convent side of the house in front of the kitchen but not the new wing so about two thirds if the house in length and is pretty deep, or will be. That means tt it will serve two purposes. Firstly you get onto it from the two floor to ceiling windows in the kitchen and there will be a table there where at certain times of the day you can eat outside. 

But underneath there is well over six foot of clear space. So it will be an area to eat in the shade at certain times of the day and also the scorpion zone, that is to say a dry area where I shall store wood from the land for use in the wood burning stove.

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Photo Article from Eleni's Kourounis Taverna - Joshua reads the Gruffalo ahead of a castle walk on my back

211 days ago

A quiet day in Kambos and at the Greek Hovel for both the Mrs and I have deadlines and important work to do. Right now Joshua is watching some moronic rubbish on his mother's smart phone up at the hovel while the Mrs and I tap away like dervishes. This morning the Mrs, whose deadline is more pressing than mine, got to work in lovely Eleni's Kourounis taverna, while Joshua and i went on a tough walk which he deemed to be "exciting" largely as I kept falling down. 

Below you can see my boy, over breakfast, studiously reading the Gruffalo - the English not the Shetland version. Thereafter, as in the summer I put him on my back in a special carrying pack and headed off to try and climb to Zarnata Castle from the Kambos side rather than through the village of Stavripgio. As in the summer I failed to make it to the top. I got a lot closer, making it to the outer wall but it is now topped with wire fencing and unlike some Ottoman warrior of the fifteenth century I could not breach the defence.

One trouble is that the track, stopped a couple of hundred yards shy of the wall. Thus I had to walk along terraces and then clamber between them which with Joshua on my back, and noticeably heavier than in the summer, and the ground slippy after the recent rains, was not easy, Three or four times I slipped. I ensured that each time it was me landing on the ground and Joshua was protected from any harm and as a result my trouser are now stained with the red Maniot earth.  Each time I'd ask Joshua if he was alright and he'd day "yes, daddy are you alright?" I said yes and we continued on, eventually heading back down the road, along which we marched up the hill into Stavropigio.

The joy of that climb is that you can look back at Kambos spread before you and then if you peer closely enough you can see the Hovel as the hills behind the village start to turn into mountain. The other joy was a coffee for me and an ice cream for Joshua at the other end. After such a trek we deserved it.

Walking back to Kambos was all downhill. I sang Molly Malone and one man went to mow, Joshua did not seem to mind. One day Joshua and I will make it up that hill and find a way to the castle.

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Dragged to the Greek Hovel, Nicho the Communist gives his verdict on my olives….

213 days ago

My best friend in Kambos, bar lovely Eleni, that is to say Nicho the communist said that he would, this weekend, give his verdict on my olives – will the harvest be good, bad or indifferent? He is by nature a pessimistic fellow and so, though I was filled with modest optimism, I was braced for a more downbeat assessment.

It was early afternoon on Sunday when I encountered him. I had finished my writing for the day he was starting his first beer. I asked him how he was and he said that he was tired. Drinking last night? I asked, for Nicho can be a thirsty fellow. Too much work, he assured me.  We agreed that he would pop up for an inspection in 15 minutes and sure enough, thirty minutes later, he pitched up in his truck.

I showed him my trees. We agreed that some were better than others. He looked at the sprinkling of olives downed by Zorba or the flies around each tree. He gave one of those hang dog expressions which are so much easier if you sport a large moustache. “Not too bad” he professed. His “not too bad” is my “jolly good” But he believed the crop would be commercial and asked who would be harvesting with me. He seemed reassured that it was not just me and a couple of other Englishmen but that I was bringing in real workers, otherwise known as Albanians.  The crop is commercial.

Nicho has an interest in the wild olives on the edge of my land. He wants to harvest them to see what their oil tastes like. But sadly, as per normal, the wild trees bear little fruit. We have made plans to address that in 2020. We always make such plans but this time we are serious.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel My ailing olive tree – this is a battle we will win

216 days ago

You may remember that in extending the Greek Hovel I had to move two olive trees. One perished quickly, the other just about survived. But it is a battle. I have done my bit, providing fertiliser in a way that a man finds easier than a woman, one cycling champion excepted, but it looks touch and go as you can see below.

If you look carefully there are some green shoots, some signs of life. In many ways it is like the Greek economy after a few years of tender love from the EU and the banksters. So the game is not up yet. I gave it some more liquid fertiliser this morning and will make it my pet project this break to give it as much as I can provide. Then the autumn and winter rains arrive.

I am not sure that it will ever be a major producer again but I battle on with my tree, it will survive.

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel - the olives the flies and Zorba got

216 days ago

As I noted yesterday the olive harvest will be pretty good and the first photo below is evidence of that. But the second shows that it could have been even better, a true bumper crop.

For beneath each tree lies a small pool of brown, rotting olives. Those are the ones the flies got or which were knocked down by storm Zorba. It is not like last year when the hailstorm left the area around each tree carpeted with fallen olives but is a reminder that what should have been a fantastic year will now only be good to very good. As long as God plays no more jokes on me, I look forward to the harvest with optimism.

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel – one step at a time

216 days ago

The carpenter and his assistant were hard at it again today. This time, as you can see below, building steps from the second floor kitchen up to the living area. They asked what I thought. Cala said I, lying.

I did not have the heart to tell them that a couple of the small panels were ill fitting and need to be replaced. I could not face another one of those hang-dog expressions of gloom. But before you think I am going soft, George the Architect pitched up and I have asked him to relay the good news. He has also laid down the law with regard to work that must take place PDQ, i.e before the Mrs and Joshua arrive via Athens on Monday afternoon.

Inspired by a comment from a reader as to how to motivate the workers I have asked George to let it be known that we have planning permission on a second house further down the snake fields, where the ruin used to stand before it was pulled down to provide stone for the main house. This is true and George will imply that there could be work for all of next year for builders who deliver this year. 

That is not exactly true, I am minded to defer this work for a while and enjoy furnishing and living in house one without guests or relatives dropping in. But it seems like a good carrot.

I am now braced for my personal Bulletin Board troll Wildes to lambast me for creating more jobs and wealth in Greece by building another house in an area where no Greek actually wants to live. No doubt he will explain why this is an act of evil and exploitative capitalism.

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Tom Winnifrith Bearcast: So you are the man obsessed with Julie Meyer said the chap at Gatwick & don't be an ARS do the maths

217 days ago

https://www.shareprophets.com/views/38910/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-so-you-are-the-man-obsessed-with-julie-meyer-said-the-chap-at-gatwick-don-t-be-an-ars-do-the-maths

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel -how green is my valley?

217 days ago

I run these photo articles every autumn for you folks who only come to Greece in the summer and know it as a country of burnt brown grass and vegetation. Right now with autumn rains kicking in the area around the hovel is bursting into life. The patches of green are expanding rapidly and the brown is in full scale retreat. Meanwhile, everywhere, you see reds, blues, whites, purples as little flowers spring to life. It is almost alpine. All we need now is snow on the Taygetos mountains behind us. It will be here by Christmas.

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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 - A Lizard enjoys the 23 degree heat

217 days ago

I am in a short sleeved short. Tomorrow it will be a T-shirt. I am not trying to make you jealous but though it is mid October it is jolly hot. As I drove along the Kalamata sea front earlier the beaches were well populated. Folks were swimming. It is lovely.

there are lizards everywhere. My old saying is that where there are lizards there are snakes. But from memory, and fingers crossed, the snakes start to hibernate well before the lizards and you do sometimes see lizards even in the winter. Anyhow, here is one chirpy fellow I spotted sun bathing on a wall on the way from the Hovel down towards snake hill.

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel - my olives are looking good, despite everything

217 days ago

Nicho the Communist is sitting with me in the Kourounis taverna in Kambos and says that his harvest this year will be so so. Pride comes before a fall but I think mine is, all things considered, looking good. Nicho says he will come and inspect this weekend which may be a reality check.

On the ground there is a good sprinkling of rotten berries killed either by the flies in the summer or knocked off by storm Zorba a few weeks ago. Notwithstanding that, the trees I have inspected so far are pretty laden with berries. Some are turning from green to purple and brown. Others stay green. That means nothing, all get chucked into the same press at the end. But they look big and the trees are fairly heavy with olives as you can see below.

Of course God could still throw in a hailstorm as he did last year or there could be another disaster before the harvest in early December but as things stand it looks good, to my untrained eye at least.

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Progress report from the Greek Hovel – storm Zorba hits my olives

233 days ago

I am beginning to think that God is not pleased with my restoration work at the Greek Hovel and is punishing me with an annual plague of my poor olives. Last year it was the hail storm ten days before harvest that destroyed the crop almost entirely, leaving my field carpeted with rotting berries and my neighbours crying into their ouzo and facing economic misery.

This year it started with the flies which destroyed, maybe, 20% of the crop. Then last week storm Zorba hit southern Greece.  Winds of up to 100 kmh were reported. Waves on the seafront hit five metres and the rains caused flash floods.  Up at the hovel the sea is ten miles away and so not an issue but e wind and the rain?

I called George the Architect this morning to check on progress and to warn him that I’d be there in less than three weeks. Such warnings tend to accelerate work.  I was assured that the planks for the second floor would arrive avrio, that is to say tomorrow.  Most things in Greece are scheduled to happen avrio.  But George insists that the flooring will be completed by the start of next week.  We discussed the Range Cooker on its way from Austria, fridges, wood burning stoves, balconies and sofas and then it was the olives.

George had headed up to the hovel specifically to inspect them.  That will have been some trek. From the top of snake hill as one winds through other folks trees up to the hovel the mud track will, thanks to Zorba, be reminiscent of the Somme battlefield 102 years ago. But he made it and as he has his own trees he knows his olives and reckons that the storm has taken another 10% of the berries the flies did not get.

However, before God intervened twice, this was set to be a bumper harvest so – assuming no further interventions from the Almighty – it will still be a pretty decent year. I am negotiating with the Mrs as to when I head out, treat myself to a new electric machine for harvesting and start what will be my fifth harvest. I am already excited by the prospect. To those who have volunteered to join me as replacement Albanians I should have dates soon for the great undertaking.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - stairs and ceiling arrive

248 days ago

George the Architect has been in touch and has sent more photos of the progress being made in turning the Greek Hovel into an eco palace. Boy I wish I was there rather than in Bristol. I bet Joshua does too. All we need is for Priti Patel to sweep to power, shut down the "university" where the Mrs teaches and another 50 odd joke left wing madrassas for future Tesco shelf stackers, and we could all move right away. Pro tem I can just dream.

As you can see below, the ceiling on the big new wing is now in place. This is the master bedroom. You can access it via the Rat Room or from outside via two floor to ceiling door/windows at either end. But what to do if you are upstairs in the huge new living area and do not fancy a wander in the dark? Simple, there is a trap door and beneath it a ladder running along the wall of the bathroom. 

Next up the floors on the new wing and then some shelving, the cooker, freezer, wood-burning stove, washing machine, sofa and bunk beds for the Rat Room have all been ordered and should arrive soon. It is all happening out in Kambos.

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Arguing about money with lovely Eleni and her husband Nicho

255 days ago

Lovely Eleni was the first person the Mrs and I met in Kambos, the village closest, bit not close, to the Greek Hovel. We had landed at Athens at 4 AM and were driving to the Mani before we had even seen the Greek Hovel or thought of the idea. We stopped off at this taverna in a village whose name we did not know and asked if there was anything they could create for breakfast.

The woman was lovely Eleni, the village was Kambos, that was late 2013 or early 2014 and the breakfast was an omelette. The rest is history. Since we bought the hovel Eleni, as a speaker of some English, has been a God send, negotiating with Albanian helpers, advising on everything from snakes to deal with power cuts and just being someone to talk to.

But now I have argued with her and her husband Nicho. My lunchtime bill came to 6.50 Euro. I handed over seven or eight and said keep the change. I always do that at Eleni’s or at Miranda’s next door. I just do not want lots of Euro coins to weigh down my trousers and so just hand over coins to get rid of them.

A few minutes later I realised I needed some milk so headed back in as the taverna is also a general store. I don’t know what a small carton costs. Greek milk is expensive for reasons of Greekenomics that we can cover at another time but I guess the pice is 1-1.5 Euro. No don’t pay said Eleni and her husband. They insisted. So did I. After a bit of too and fro I put a 2 Euro coin on the counter waved and walked out.

Too often I am gifted a free coffee or some other titbit in Kambos. Don’t get me wrong, it is charming and not something you tend to experience in the tourist villages by the sea . But I am aware of my relative wealth and that Kambos is not a rich village, in financial terms anyway. And so I find such generosity, which I cannot imagine enjoying in Britain, a little hard to take in.

 Anyhow, that’s the closest I’ve come to an argument with Eleni in more than four years.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: Walking with Joshua in Greece this summer

257 days ago

As I pack my last things at the Greek Hovel, prepare to empty the eco loo, one last time and head to the airport the Mrs sends me a few photos of me walking here in Greece this summer with Joshua on my back, wearing either his hat or hers. Happy, if rather tiring at the time, memories....

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Tom Winnifrith Bearcast - The most deluded soul of the week: our own in house BBM Wildes, David Lenigas or Elon Musk

257 days ago

https://www.shareprophets.com/views/38157/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-the-most-deluded-soul-of-the-week-our-own-in-house-bbm-wildes-david-lenigas-or-elon-must

Tom Winnifrith

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Tom Winnifrith Bearcast - We Bears are usually right - ref IQE

258 days ago

https://www.shareprophets.com/views/38150/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-we-bears-are-usually-right-ref-iqe

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: a present from Greece for wine snob Evil Knievil

258 days ago

George Cawkwell is the greatest living scholar on the subject of ancient Greece. His son, my friend, the philistine Simon, aka Evil Knievil. refuses to come to the Hellenic Republic on the grounds that the wine is all awful. He is wrong and I intend to prove it to him and lure him out here to open up his mind. My father attended George's lectures so it is my duty to educate Simon.

Thus I headed down to Kardamili, Islington-sur-mer, where a German married to the sister-in-law of lovely Eleni and who lives in Kambos, runs a shop selling fine wines and olive oils. The fellow spends a good amount of time in places such as London, which he loves, promoting his wares and thinks I am very peculiar in saying how much I loathe the English capital and also in preferring a simple Kambos life to the elegance of Kardamili. I try to say of the world he craves "been there done it" but he still regards me as odd.

Anyhow I popped in and said that I have a friend who is a total wine snob and thinks all Greek wines taste of piss and what could I buy to start to educate this poor chap. Evil had expressed a preference for a red and so I will, somehow, get to him this full bodied Syrah from the Corinth area. Right now it resides in the Greek Hovel. 

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Photo article: Joshua and his dad on a walking tour of the back streets of Kambos

259 days ago

So on Sunday as the Mrs sought a few hours to catch up on her important work, Joshua and I set off exploring with my young son on my back. Part two, the climb to Zarnata castle, I have already recorded HERE. part one was to head off around the back streets of Kambos and the pictures pain a mixed picture as you can see below.

The man from whome Joshua gets his middle name, Paddy Leigh Fermor, was not very kind about Kambos, the nearest village to the Greek Hovel, in his classic book, The Mani. I cannot remember if he described it as dull, dreary or boring but whatever word he used it was not flattering. Of course the village has changed a lot since the early fifties but I think Paddy missed a certain charm.

The first photo is of young Joshua who enjoyed our walk. it started in a back street leading off the square bordered by what was Miranda's and lovely Eleni's Kourounis taverna. Heading past the, thankfully, deserted creperie the street becomes a narrow one - not that deters locals from driving along it. Balconies from houses that were here a hundred years before Leigh Fermor hang over your head.

Heading further along we discovered what, I count, to be the seventh church in this village of 500 odd souls and it is still in occasional use. thereafter we went past houses old, houses new and a couple of quite dreadful combinations of the two. Some of the older houses in Kambos have been restored well, others maintained carefully but sadly others are ab abandoned, a testimony to Greece's insane inheritance laws, There are new houses too, some tasteful and constructed during the "good times". The odd one, cheap, ugly and deserving of a bulldozer.

At the end of our trip we found ourselves at the big new Church at the top of the village and headed back past the Mrs counting cats on the internet, the main task of all public sector workers, and out towards the castle. I include, at the end, two small abandoned shacks on that road. Folks really did live in such houses kin days gone by. and then the final house in Kambos, a ruined tower house once belonging to our most famous son, an obscure nineteenth century Prime Minister of Greece.

I was trying to think of the most obscure British PM of the nineteenth century. Resorting to Wikipedia I offer you Viscount Goderich who lasted 144 days. maybe I am being unfair on our boy here in Kambos he did distinguish himself by sending troops into the Mani to kill his fellow Maniots so he is not a total nobody. Perhaps the earl of Roseberry is a fairer comparator? But can you imagine in the UK the home of any former PM being allowed to disintegrate in this way?  Particularly if it sits next to a Mycenaean Tholos (tomb). It is very odd but still a splendid relic as you walk out of the village.   

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Tom Winnifrith Bearcast: Telit & Yosi Fait, Tesla & Elon Musk - who is going bust and who is going to jail and or the mad-house?

260 days ago

https://www.shareprophets.com/views/38107/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-telit-yosi-fait-tesla-elon-musk-who-is-going-bust-and-who-is-going-to-jail-and-or-the-mad-house

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article - walking to Zarnata Castle the other way with Joshua

260 days ago

The easy way to go to Zarnata castle which overlooks Kambos is to head to the next village, Stavropiglio, drive up past the church and clamber the last 400 yards up a very rough track, almost a non track. I did that the other day with the Mrs, daughter Olaf and Joshua on my back as you can see here - the views from the top are amazing, you can almost see the Greek Hovel. But there is a tougher way.

The Mrs wanted to do some important work on Sunday so I put Joshua on my back as you can see below and endeavoured to trek up the whole way from the Kambos side. The photos below give you some idea of what a climb that is and Joshua is not getting any lighter. sadly there are no signs.

Paths forked, ran out and crossed back on each other. Pretty soon, Joshua fell asleep and offered no guidance. In the end I just could not make it to the outer walls but instead cut around the hill to the upper reaches of Stavropiglio where the outlying houses were old but deserted and crumbling. we found a nice old church but as we wandered on met more and more barking dogs.  We retreated back into Stavropiglio for a glass of milk for the lad, woken up by the dogs, and a coke for me. Walking home we stuck to the road.

It is thus an adventure uncompleted, a challenge for another day.

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RIP Oakley 2001 to 2018

261 days ago

As if the Mrs has not suffered enough during the past five years, today she has the unenviable task of explaining to our, almost, two year old son Joshua why, when they arrive back in Bristol there will be no Oakley to greet them. For yesterday afternoon, Oakley went to a better place.

Joshua adored Oakley, He calls the Greek Hovel, where I am staying on for a few days, “Joshua’s House,” The house in Bristol is “Oakleys house”. The “King of cats” he called “Oakley da King” and repeated the phrase endlessly. Da King would go to sleep next to Joshua’s cot to keep him company and would head into his room to listen to bedtime tales. He must have known more about the Gruffalo than any other cat.

I first met Oakley seven years ago when my previous companion, Kitosh, died very suddenly having travelled with me from London via Paris to the isle of Man. Grief stricken I headed to the MSPCA where two older cats were sitting unwanted and unloved. There was the very affectionate Tara, who passed away a couple of years ago, and another one who hid in his hutch but was, I was assured, very friendly, if very fat and lazy. That was Oaks.

They travelled with me after my rather hurried departure from the tax dodgers and for a while stayed with the pizza hardman Darren Atwater in Hackney. I know that Darren and his Mrs are devastated by the news. It was during this time that Oakley developed cancer and had his leg amputated. We were told that the big C would probably return within five years but that he was so fat and old that it would not be an issue.

At one point, even with three legs, Oaks tipped the scales at 6.6 kg. So he went on a diet. But in the past year his weight has plunged from 3.7 kg to just 2.7 kg and it was almost certainly the cancer that got him. There is a guilt in that his final days were spent without us. But he was receiving many visits a day from professional cat sitter Terry the hipster plus numerous visits from admirers such as Mu and Godfather Johnny. Perhaps it was a day spent with a junior doctor (Johnny) and being forced by the cruel Shipman to watch the hammers lose on MOTD that proved the final straw, oaks slept loyally in a West Ham blanket.

When Terry the most excellent hipster cat-sitter found him yesterday he had lost all his energy was not eating or drinking and was rushed to the cat hospital. By the time he arrived his eyes were losing colour, jaundice was setting in and there was only one outcome. The Mrs and I both had tearful final conversations with him, well monologues. He did recognise our voices, he really was fading fast. We told him we loved him and said goodbye. I am glad that Terry rather than the Mrs and Joshua had to go through those final hours. Sorry if that sounds selfish.

We will bury the ashes in the garden with a small ceremony as we did when the ashes of Kitosh were interred.  Tara’s body was buried rather hastily underneath a rhubarb plant before Joshua could notice.

I think back to five wonderful cats I have owned. There was Big Puss ( aka Jesus) a gift from Uncle Chris when I was young who earned his blasphemous nickname by sleeping in the straw of our crib back at Byfield. He lived to a ripe old age, fathering many children. Poor babysitter, the great, Neil Masuda had to bury him. His replacement had enormous triangular ears and being born in 1982 was named after the bomber with huge triangular wings sending Easter presents to the Argies at that time. Vulcan lived a long life and died peacefully sparing my father a trip to the vets he could not bear to make even though it was the only option so decrepit was “Vulcs”. Then the much travelled east End lad Kitosh and then Oakley and Tara.

In my worst times they would lie in bed with me as I watched old videos and were a great comfort. Oakley was always keen on jumping into bed even when with three legs it involved taking a long lollop up and launching himself like a missile. Not having him launch himself into our bed to offer up big fishy breathed kisses as a reminder that it was time for his first breakfast, will leave a big hole in the life of myself and the Mrs.  As for poor Joshua, I just don’t know what the Mrs will say.

I am not sure I can face another pet death. I have had a cat in my life for almost all of my own existence but Oakley really was the king. There could be no substitute.

I take consolation that the King is now at peace with no more suffering. Below he is pictured with his long time companion Tara, with Joshua and alone

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: Another major setback at the Greek Hovel - I'm floored by this one

263 days ago

It is Sunday and our shutters were left open so we were a bit surprised and alarmed that about 8.30 there were sounds outside the Greek Hovel. Surely even the hard working tilers would not be labouring on the Lord’s day? We left the tilers to it and started to prepare Joshua for a day of walking with his father.

After about an hour there was a polite knock on the door. It was not the tilers but the unreliable windows man who had come to start laying the floors on the second floor.  But sadly the tilers had hidden the keys to the main door and he and his apprentice were locked out.  We looked and looked and then decided that the best way forward was for the apprentice to climb up through the rafters of the new wing which has no ceiling or floorboards thanks to you know who and to let us all in. Great. It worked.

Then she showed me the proposed floorboards made of real oak he said proudly. Uggh interlocking shiny things about 40 centimetres long, I could not believe it. Who has ordered these things which might look great in a mock Tudor house in Esher but are not what is wanted for an old style farmhouse in the Mani.

Heated phone conversations with George the Architect followed. I am not paying for these suburban bits of wood. I have always made it clear that I want long planks of darkened oak, 20 centimetres wide and two meres long, rough creations that look like they came from a tree not a factory. I am warned that I shall have no floorboards for weeks. So be it.  The windows man can at least put up a ceiling in the new wing.

He looked dejected. He slumped, his tummy spreading over his shorts and gasping on a fag as he contemplated trying to get the money back on the Esher floor boards.  And I almost felt sorry for him.

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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: back at the Greek Hovel and a 5th wedding anniversary lunch costing 18 Euro

264 days ago

The Mrs and I got married five years ago today. I salute her patience, tolerance and good humour in lasting half a decade. I am a lucky man. And, in fact, very lucky for we are today back up at the Greek Hovel and she took me and Joshua for an anniversary lunch at Miranda's in Kambos as you can see below.

Two beers for me, two glasses of wine for her, a plate of spinach and beans ( amazing) to share, chicken and pasta for her (look at the size of that chicken leg!), oven banked pork and spuds for me. We each gave some to Joshua and had more than enough for ourselves. Total cost - 18 Euro. Quite amazing.

Tonight I pay for a rather more expensive meal at a fish restaurant in Kardamili followed by wine tasting at a fine wines bar run by lovely Eleni's brother in law, a kraut living in Kambos. But I bet the food will not be as good as that at Miranda's.

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel - wildlife diversity edition: the Mrs and Olaf both screamed

266 days ago

Right now I am in a luxury hotel organised by the Mrs for daughter Olaf's last night in Greece and for me to recover in after a ten hour road trip to drop Miss W off at Athens airport."Baywatch" has a great view, a lovely pool, ouzo is on tap, the internet works allowing Joshua to sit like a moron watching Thomas the Tank Engine without interruption and the Mrs is lolling happily. And there is no wildlife diversity to report. Not so back at the Greek Hovel. Let us start with the scorpion.

It seems to have got into the house before the windows were installed but the noise of workmen roused it and led it to its death as it tried to crawl on a rapidly drying polished concrete surface. It got stuck and mist have died an unpleasant death. George the Architect whose foot also appears in the picture has only fessed up to this incident a few dates later having removed the corpse when it was found.

Of course I knew there were loads of scorpions up in the area around the Greek Hovel. A bite would not be fatal but would be painful until treated, especially for Joshua. However, in the five years that I have been up here I have not seen a single scorpion. Until now. I guess I shall be “seeing them” everywhere now as I already “see” snakes everywhere. It is not that there are snakes everywhere but as I see shapes dancing in the shadows or in the gleam of a car headlight my imagination races away.

Next up was what caused the Mrs and Olaf to scream. we were driving back late at night from Kambos to the hovel. we had just come down Monastery Hill, the steep slope thick with wood on one side and with the abandoned convent on the other and must have been doing 20 kilometres an hour. just as we reached the bottom out it shot from the field on my left, bursting through a fence, and cantering up the back track into Kambos... a wild boar.

The Mrs screamed as it rocketed across our headlights, not more than a yard or so from the car. Olaf screamed. Joshua was just burbling on about steep hill, Gordon's Hill and carried on burbling. I braked and then drive hurriedly on. I think I was rather brave for not screaming, my father says I was a chicken for not putting my foot to the floor and bagging a week's worth of supper. Yeah dad, like you would have done that? Really?

The boar was not fully grown but it was large enough. a fully grown boar charging at your car as opposed to across it, would cause real damage. I muttered about this was why I should be allowed a gun. Olaf made some elitist comment about Trump supporters and morons. Anyhow that was also the first boar I have seen although I am sure I heard one crashing through the undergrowth around the hovel three years ago but it was at night and I declined to investigate.

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

269 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: trekking up to Zarnata castle with Joshua on my back - amazing views of Kambos and the Greek Hovel

269 days ago

The ruined Frankish castle of Zarnata sits on top of the hill overlooking Kambos and on its nearer side the village of Stavropiglio. I often sit staring up at it, in awe at the largely still standing outer wall which threads its way around the hill, when enjoying an ouzo in Miranda's or from the tables outside the Kourounis taverna run by lovely Eleni. In an attempt to inject a bit of culture to the holiday of Godless daughter Olaf, I led the family on a trek up that hill yesterday, with young Joshua on my back.

If you approach from the Stavropiglio side you are much of the way up already. But the final climb is a rough one with the steep track littered with loose stones. With my son and heir on my back, as you can see below, it was a bit of a slog. The castle is very much a ruin but the small church next door is well preserved but locked so, sadly for Olaf, we could not go inside. Heaven only knows which saint it is dedicated to, I could not make out the sign - perhaps a reader can assist?

As you can see, the views down to Kambos are spectacular. In the second panoramic shot you can just about make out the Greek Hovel if you look closely.

As we left the property and headed back to Stavropiglio I noted the prickly pear bush pictured. I did not notice that i had brushed a pear but by the time we were back at the car a cluster of tiny needles had started to press through my shirt and was causing real pain to my right arm. We drove onto Kardamili with me half wearing a shirt and half Stoupa (topless) where the Mrs bought me a replacement T-shirt before I headed out in public.

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Photo Article: Joshua posing in his mother's straw hat

270 days ago

Okay, I am biased, but surely you would agree that my son, two in just over three week's time, is pretty good looking. Natch, it goes without saying that he takes after his mum, who sneaks into the first photo. Here he is borrowing her hat at a posh restaurant in Kardamil,i as we took time out from the Greek Hovel to allow daughter Olaf to go and breathe the same elitist air as her Islington kith and kin who tend to swamp this particular town.

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Photos of the truly tiny Church of St Nicholas, near the Greek Hovel

270 days ago

This church is in the middle of nowhere on the long climb up from the sea at Kitries towards Stavropigio, the next village to my home one of Kambos. We drove up that road today after a day by the shore. I remember driving past this church with my father and late step mother on her last holiday before she passed away. She was clearly very ill at that point. We stopped the car and myself and Helen went inside. There was barely enough room for the two of us and the small lizard we found there.

My step mother had faith which helped her in those last awful weeks. I struggle with faith. But little demonstrations of the dedication of others such as this, what appears, pointless church, fill me with awe. As an indication of its size, godless daughter Olaf (height five foot two) can just about get through the door without stooping as you can see in the second photo.

Inside the walls are covered with icons and three frescoes as you can see below but which were of no interest to the godless child. I find them fascinating. I  recognise a few of the figures and can translate most names but not all. 

 

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Encircled by sheep at the Greek Hovel

270 days ago

As I am not poisoning frigana I leave the big iron gates at the end of the Greek Hovel open to all. It saves time for me, the builders and for any shepherd who wishes to use my land. Not that many do right now so brown is the grass.

And thus yesterday afternoon as the Mrs and I dozed on the bed of the Bat Room we were woken by very load bells and bleats, the unmistakable sound of sheep. We normally hear these sounds from the other side of the valley, up past the abandoned convent but these noises were coming from far closer than that. And so I opened the door and there was a sheep. I stepped outside and there were several dozen sheep just wandering around the house.

Herding them was not a wizened old man or crone, leaning on his or her staff but a brown dog which barked fiercely at me. I beat a quick retreat and closed the door. For another ten minutes or so I could hear sheep wandering around the house. I was encircled. I had a quick look outside the door and there was a sheep but where was the dog?

And then they were gone, the sheep and the terrifying dog had disappeared. Our brief period of having company up at the hovel was over.   

Tom Winnifrith

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Hatches, matches & despatches – a tale of two cats from the Greek Hovel & Bristol

270 days ago

Shall we start with the good news, the bad news or more good news? Well let’s start with Oakley, my once morbidly obese but now painfully think three legged cat who is back in Bristol. While we are away we have a professional cat minder Tim, a bearded young man who sends us photos of him and Oakley nuzzling up together and looking happy, hence his name, the “cat molester.”

The bad news a couple of days ago was that Oakley was again off his food, very lethargic and had been rushed to his £300 a night  (with drugs) cat hospital. We waited nervously and there was a message about “managing the pathway”. But old oaks is a resilient chap and after being rehydrated and given anti nausea drugs he has been discharged.

The cat molester is putting in extra, non billable, visits and a small army of Bristol well wishers are popping in to watch TV with the old boy who is now on his food once again, and in high spirits. I fear that, aged 16, his best days are behind him but for now all seems well. But these near collapses are becoming more frequent. The writing is, I suspect, on the wall.

Meanwhile here in Greece, the wild kitten who I gave milk to at the Greek Hovel four years ago and who pops in now and again as a grown cat came back again last week. She sat there doing nothing about fifteen yards from me under a tree. And then I noticed… she had two kittens with her, playing in the rocks behind. I brought Joshua out and the Mrs and they stared, my friend the cat just sitting there proudly.

The Mrs decided that evening not to eat her supper in full but to bring back the meat for the kittens and cat. I tried to explain that, like Aslan, they will visit when they wish and that might not be for weeks and you can’t just leave the meat out as that will attract other, unwelcome, members of the wildlife diversity community. But that was to no avail. So the meat lies in our fridge, slowly degenerating as we await another visit which may be tonight or may not be for months…  

Tom Winnifrith

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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: the Greek Hovel starts to become an eco palace

273 days ago

And as a bonus, daughter Olaf and the Mrs will be able to get hot water for their showers. Those of us who remember the, post rugby, freezing showers we were forced to take at Warwick School with some old master perving at us all in the pretence that he had to ensure that we went home clean for our parents, do not need hot water. By the time the stuff has arrived up at the hovel in largely metal pipes it is already a lot warmer than those Warwick showers of old.

But we now have a solar panel parked out in the snakefields which heats our water. How fecking green is that? It gets better, the humanure pits are now almost built (they are complete on three sides, with well crafted stonework, but await wooden slats at the front and a net on top to keep out the wildlife. But the first "deposit" in the pits has already been made and with daughter Olaf already having used the eco-loo we are now just three years away from the first black earth to feed my olive trees. I shall spare you a photo of the deposit but will update you when the pits are complete.

It does not end there. At the end of the project we will install PV cells elsewhere in the snakefields to ensure that we can generate all the power we need. How fecking green is that?

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel as workmen race to complete ahead of the arrival of daughter Olaf

274 days ago

They all know that daughter Olaf will be here tomorrow morning and that she is a terribly frightening creature. Actually that is a lie but one I have spun consistently and thus the workmen are slogging away as you can see below. There is real progress.

The doors and windows man is sweating like a pig, working like a dervish, as he tries to bring his poor mother back from the dead. Windows, like this one in the room above the Rat Room are being installed at a rate of knots and he promises to have the house secured by tomorrow.  The floor men are applying the penultimate polish and glaze to the Rat Room and the ground floor of the adjoining new wing while on the roof the tilers are finishing off.

Not pictured, other men are right now installing solar panels and a boiler to give us eco-friendly hot water all year round. More photos this evening as the various tasks are completed.

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel – disaster averted

274 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: storm clouds over the Greek Hovel

278 days ago

Just in case you think that I am suffering in 33 degree heat every day...

The clouds gathered yesterday afternoon over the Taygetos mountains behind me. I was hoping for a deluge. My olive trees would love it and there is something truly comforting about sitting inside your nice warm, dry hovel as the rain lashed down outside. Besides which it would have cooled the air making sleep that much easier at night. So what if the mud track to Kambos would become like the Somme? I have navigated it before in such a state.

In the end the rainfall was short and modest. The rain was warm, I'm sure my trees were grateful but it did not exactly live up to its billing as storms go.

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Tom Winnifrith Bearcast: Frantic hovel tidying as the Mrs arrives tomorrow

279 days ago

https://www.shareprophets.com/views/37793/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-frantic-hovel-tidying-as-the-mrs-arrives-tomorrow

Tom Winnifrith

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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 from the Greek Hovel - the Eco loo is almost ready for use

279 days ago

As you can see below, the little room in the Bat Room, the eco-loo room is almost ready. Fear not, there is a sliding door which locks in any odours as well as an extractor fan.  As you can see there is plenty of reading material. Euro loon Jonathan Price will no doubt approve of the positioning of "Castle of Lies" the definitive history of the EU, by Uncle Chris Booker, next to the loo roll.  But we are not quite there yet.

First up I need a bucket to go inside. That is not hard. And a receptacle for the sawdust you throw in after using the loo. The man making the windows and doors has already dropped off a big plastic bag of the stuff.

Meanwhile, Gregori the snake killer, and his men are, right now, constructing three humanure pits, one to use each year in the cycle of creating "black earth" for my olive trees. These will be up-market pits, each one metre cubed with three stone walls and one removable plank wall at the front. Photos of those will follow on Sunday when they are completed. And at that point i shall stop having to time my visits to the Kourounis taverna quite so carefully, in order to use its "facilities"

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Photo article: It is all familiar faces back in Kambos and up at the Greek Hovel

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.

 

 

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Photo Article - marble from Kosovo now in place at the Greek Hovel

281 days ago

I suspect George the Architect is still a bit cross about me using marble from Fox Marble (FOX) in Kosovo rather than local marble at the Greek Hovel. But I am a shareholder, get a discount, and want to show my support.

Anyhow it is now in place. This window sill is - as you might have guessed by "the rock" at the end of the now elongated Rat Room. When the windows go in, later this week, its true splendour will be apparent. But here is a taster.

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - George says this is a World War One bomb

281 days ago

On the steps up to the front door of the Greek Hovel in the side of the bread oven there is a small hole in which a curious, rusting, metal object, pictured below, has always sat. I have always wondered what it is. George the Architect says it is a World War One bomb which would have been dropped from planes, minus of course the fuse and the head. Well maybe, but that begs other questions...

Firstly the hovel was built in 1924. that is after WW1 and was there much use of planes over Greece in the first global war? I doubt it, certainly not in this part of the world. Perhaps this bomb might have been a relic of the Greco-Turkish war of 1919-22, a conflict which did not cover the Hellenes in glory and is thus perhaps not one that George would care to mention? If there are any military historians out there who can shed more light on this, feel free to get in touch. Meanwhile the bomb stays in situe in its resting place at the side of the bread oven.

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Photo article - so close to completion of the Greek Hovel

281 days ago

George the Architect says he is proud of his work at the hovel. And so he should be. For four years we have worked on plans, tweaked, re-tweaked, waded through layers of Greek bureaucracy and now we are almost there as the photos below show. I am proud too. I know I am not an easy client and so I have had walls pulled down and rebuilt and made big changes as we went along but they have worked.

the biggest change was in insisting that the old flat roof be removed from the former kitchen'living room on the second floor. Now you stand there and gaze up into the timbers of the wooden roof above you.

As you walk out of the kitchen, there will soon be wooden steps but for now you just haul yourself onto a brick wall and if you are brave enough walk across the beams to the balcony which runs outside the room above the rat room and the upper floor of the new wing looking up into the Taygetos Mountains. Suffering a bit from vertigo George had to offer a helping hand but gingerly i made my way to that balcony and the view is spectacular. 

Ignore all the wires hanging from various parts, they will soon be boxed in and tidied up. Try to imagine it without the wires and with floorboards. In a few days you will not have to imagine! One photo below shows the tiles, old style in colour and texture and laid the old way, interlocking. We are now so close. Close enough to discuss with George matters such as the humanure pit, where to put solar panels and PV cells, the type of freezer we want and how to get our chosen cooker from Austria. There is the choosing of terracotta tiles to surround the house ( better wait for the Mrs on that front) and the buying of beds and the insertion of book shelves. These are but little details, in the overall scheme of things we are almost there! 

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

281 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!

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.

Tom Winnifrith

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Jesus Wept! The Greeks bring disaster upon themselves – snagaroo at the Hovel

293 days ago

You wonder why the Greek economy is such a trainwreck?  Of course there are all sorts of reasons: the scorched earth policies imposed on Greece by Germany, the EU  and IMF banksters; the debt Greece should never have been allowed to take on, the bloated public sector, corruption, they all play a part. But, as I discover again today as I try to rebuild the Greek Hovel, it is the smothering bureaucracy that kills enterprise. Take my marble, stuck at Kalamata.

The shipment to go on windowsills etc passed through customs on the Greek Kosovo border with no problems at all yesterday morning. Last night it arrived at Kalamata where it needs a second customs check at the port. Why?

Simple: two customs checks means two employees, probably more, have something to do. More rules mean the bloated State can hire more folks which it thinks is creating jobs. But they are jobs paid for by a State drowning in debt. And the regulations created to keep the state employees busy just kill enterprise.

I am not in Greece to sign for my marble. And so although George the Architect has produced my tax number and documents at Kalamata customs that is not enough. He needs a piece of paper saying he is authorised to act for me.  He has one from my Mrs and he has a Greek version of our wedding certificate but that is not enough, he needs a paper from me.

But not just any paper, not a normal lawyers letter. I need an official paper stamped by the Greek consulate in Birmingham or the embassy in London – more work is thus created for State employees to help them fill their day. And until I produce the paperwork, the Marble will be impounded which means that workers who were planning to install windows and doors next week will be stood down.

This is one little episode. I can resolve it by wasting a day trekking to London on Tuesday. But this sort of thing happens countless times every day in every part of Greece. In giving all those state employees something to do it helps to strangle the private sector. Here end eth the lesson in Greekenomics

Tom Winnifrith

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More Photos from the Greek Hovel - let's start in the kitchen

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.

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Photo Article - the latest tiling and plastering from the Greek Hovel

297 days ago

Just a few more photos which arrived late last week from the Greek Hovel. We start with the inside of the roof above the new wing once again. Then it is the plastering on the extension of the rat room leading down to the new stone wall at the end encompassing"the rock". Finally more on the tiling of that roof. Eta Greece 16 days! Bring it on.

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel - more roof shots as the tiles arrive

300 days ago

A few more photos of the new roof at the Greek Hovel have arrived from George the Architect. The first three are internal and in the new wing. The third giving an idea of how the second floor of that wing will lead seemlessly into the new area above the rat room. The final one show that on the area above the kitchen the tiles are now actually going on!

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - yes that is a completed roof

303 days ago

Okay the tiles are not yet on but the timbers are and, though I say it myself, they look splendid. The first two photos are of the long balcony outside the room above the rat room and the new wing second floor. The roof extends over this providing summer shade and winter rain protection as you star up at the Taygetos mountains. Photo three looks through the kitchen to what will be the front door. Photo four is from the new wing up into the room above the bat room which flows without wall into the second floor of the new wing whose magnificent high ceiling appears in photo five. Most excellent.

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - And now the roof starts to go on

306 days ago

This is from Wednesday and is self explanatory. While work continues on the bathroom in the main bedroom below, the roofers have started to create the roof at the Greek Hovel. They are working quickly and I hope to have another progress photo early next week.

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Photo Article: the Greek Hovel and the Rock

306 days ago

About a yard and a half from the edge of the rat room of the Greek Hovel as was stood a very large rock. It was so large that it was just impossible to move. How it got there I have no idea but it seemed wrong after so many thousands of years to whitewash it from history...

And so, though the workmen found this hard to understand, I insisted that it be dug out and that the now extended wall of the rat room be built in a way that incorporates the rock, as you can see below. It bulges out from the smooth lines of the house on both the inside and outside and so some may think this is an error. But I'm happy to stick with the rock. 

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Photo article: The views from snake hill as I say goodbye to the Greek Hovel

306 days ago

It was my penultimate day in Greece and my last time at the Greek Hovel until I return next month. Driving down my side of the mountain towards the valley floor, I stopped briefly on snake hill to take in the view.

The wider lens shot shows the abandoned convent on one side. Next to it runs the road up to Kambos. But there is a second road, in even worse state, which leads to the very top of Kambos village where the modern church sits. You can see this road winding up the hill, on the left. The second photo just zooms in on the deserted convent, a small oasis of cool and calm.

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Take that you sweaty Bulgarian pooftah - that is what I call a lorry: the roof arrives at the Greek Hovel

307 days ago

As I discussed here, on Monday, a sweaty and inbred Bulgar refused to drive his ford transit van from the valley floor up snake hill and onto the Greek Hovel. The road, the lying xxxx, was not good enough. On Tuesday a lorry twice the size of his van and many time heavier brought, as you can see below, the wood for my roof right to the front door.

The wood was winched onto the house where some of it lay on the balcony created on the Taygetos mountain side and other long logs were left on the ground below. And as soon as it was offloaded the workers started to give the hovel its first proper roof in years.

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - Doing what the Bulgarian pooftah wouldn't

308 days ago

I explained a couple of days ago how a sweating, lying, wretched Bulgarian xxxx was too much of a pooftah to do as he was paid to do and bring a van load of goods from Bristol right to my front door at the Greek Hovel But we made it thanks to my heroic Greek workmen as you can see below.

The books, tables, wall art and chests of drawers plus four Belfast sinks were transferred from the white van of the wretched Bulgar to my hire car, a jeep and a workman's lorry as you can see in the first photo below.

The sweaty Bulgar did little of the shifting, that was down to myself and two burly Greeks. Up at the hovel we shifted the stuff inside the now completed and secured bat room. The second photo shows a heroic Greek carrying a Belfast sink as if it was a pillow case. The box in which the sink was has strict elf 'n safey wording about how it must be lifted by two men. Maybe it is the overt and shocking sexism of that warning that caused the Greek to ignore it?

And now everything, including a new purpose built mattress for an unusually sized bed, sits in the bat room waiting for my return in a few weeks when I shall be staying up at the hovel awaiting the arrival of the Mrs, Joshua and Olaf. 

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel - how we workmen keep going in the 36 degree heat

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)

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Confronted by the Kambos Village President in Miranda’s

308 days ago

As is my wont, when in Kambos, I walked into the restaurant formerly known as Miranda’s and headed for the small cooking area at the back. The new supremo, the new Miranda, explained what was on offer and after due consideration I went for small pieces of pork in a wine sauce with a side helping of zucchinis and okra.  That will end up costing me six euro.

As I wandered back to  my table on the stoop, the step just outside the restaurant but before you get to the tables on the square, a place where an open window leaves you sort of inside while enjoying the breeze, an old man started gabbling at me. He was sitting on a table with a younger man who I did not know and a man my age who I have got drunk with once or twice, who I exchange yassas and a wave with but who I don’t really know. Is his name Georgios? I think it is.

The old man had a vaguely swivel eyed loon look to him and talked faster and in a louder at me keeping me fixed in his gaze and pointing at me. He seemed almost angry. I tried to make him understand that I did not speak Greek and my drinking friend, I think, made the same point. I moved onto my table, one open window away from his. As the new Miranda put water and bread on my table I asked who the old man was. “The village President Stavros”. Aha. I nodded politely at the man who talked even louder and started banging the table, looking at me then at his companions and then at me again.

The young man several times tried intervening as did my drinking friend. Further evidence that I was being discussed came as I heard the word Toumbia mentioned several times. Toumbia is the settlement of two dozen farmsteads spread far and wide where the Greek Hovel is located. I am pretty sure that there are only two residents of Toumbia, me and my mad neighbour Charon.

I asked the new Miranda what the old man was so cross about as she arrived with my ,lunch. “He is just mad” she said and that was it. Perhaps Kambos is following some ancient Athenian model of democracy where the only folks eligible to be village President are those deemed so mad that they are utterly unfit for office?

I ate my lunch.  A couple of other folks with whom I have spent an evening on the ouzo headed to the old man’s table, leaned over and exchanged words. The an ger subsided. There was no more table banging.  Twenty minutes later I wandered in to pay and as I left the man waved goodbye and smiled a very friendly smile. I have no idea what that was all about.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel - the stone (not brick) bathroom takes shape

309 days ago

As I arrived at the Greek Hovel on Sunday I was surprised to find the two elderly men employed by Gregori the snake killer hard at work. They sat under the shade of a large olive tree hammering away at stones to make them the right size and shape for use. Following my "ban the shiny modern bricks" edict those stones are now being used to build the bathroom in the master bedroom, the bottom floor of the new wing.

As you can see below, progress is rapid. The stones will go up to floor height and it looks as if this part of the job will be finished this week at which point the stones will need pointing and then we await the floorboards. Once again you can see the views up to the Taygetos which folks on the upper floor of this building will enjoy as they sit on the large balcony, sipping a large ouzo with ice

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel - yes this really is the view from the main door

309 days ago

Of course there is not a door there yet or a roof, nor have the walls of the kitchen been plastered and it does not have any windows but....

Taking a photo from inside the kitchen this is the view that will greet me every morning as I throw the doors wide open - that is the Taygetos mountains you see over the tops of my olive trees.

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Photo Article from Kambos - if you wondered what happened to the accursed Creperie

310 days ago

In Asterix the Gaul there are bouts of frenzied activity, hostilities and then, after the Romans are sent packing, the little Gallic village gets back to normal with everyone eating, drinking and doing nothing much in the way of work. I am reminded of this as I stare out of the restaurant formerly known as Miranda's where I will soon pay six Euro for a superb home cooked lunch. In case you wonder: park in a wine sauce with Okra.

As I stare out at the small square in front of Miranda's with the Kourounis tavern, run by lovely Eleni, on the right, all is quiet. A few men sit around having a drink. The world goes by with folks speeding by on the road to Kardamili. But nothing changes here in Kambos, the village closest to the Greek Hovel. Last summer, of course, it was all different.

Back then, a new interloper, the creperie, opened shop on the left of the square and then parked horrible plastic chairs everywhere which remained almost empty as the battle of the eateries commenced. By the autumn the creperie had "closed for winter". As you can see below, it has not re-opened. Peace is restored. It is back to normal. Everyone is content.

 

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel - take that snakes

310 days ago

Fear not daughter Olaf, I have now laid down the snake repellent at the Greek Hovel. Two canisters, as you can see below, 10 yards away from opposite corners of the house now emit a smell which snakes are meant to regard as foul and so will keep the hovel, if not the snake-fields, free from serpents for three months until Autumn hibernation. Well in theory.

Snakes, have in the past, ignored the foul smell and approached the hovel anyway. But in theory they are already slithering away. Fingers crossed. I was wading through longer grass today as I pruned my beloved olive trees. I trod heavily, as one does, but had no encounters at all with the wildlife diversity community.

I should note, without sounding too conceited, that there was relatively little pruning to do. Whover did the pruning in May did a very thorough job and should be very proud of himself.  

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Photo Article - through the keyhole, whose books are these?

310 days ago

When I visit my dad, he urges me to take away one or two of the zillions of books in his house. Naturally I want to please him and do as requested but I am equally conscious that the Mrs reckons that our house in Bristol has too many books and that my suggestion that she bin her sociology books to make way for more of mine is not a runner. And now Joshua is collecting book after book as well...

The solution is to take boxes of books to the Greek Hovel. Some I have read some I keep knowing that one day I will read them. Others are there so that guests at the Hovel will have a wide variety of reading material. I have designed the hovel to have plenty of book space as you will see in due course.

Most of the books now sit in boxes but one box broke and thus future guests can see a bit of what is on offer. Uncle Chris Booker on the EU, Dom Frisby on Bitcoin (someone might be interested, surely?), books on oil, a Wilson biography, Gore Vidal, a David Lodge trilogy which now seems oddly dated though it is not that old,  my fellow Christ Church reject and Hertford scholar Evelyn Waugh and of course books on the Mani and Greece. plenty to enjoy in the years that lie ahead.

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Waiting for Godot, aka a Bulgarian xxxx at the Greek Hovel.

311 days ago

Today was the day that my books, a few pieces of furniture and wall hangings as well as four Belfast sinks were meant to arrive at the Greek Hovel after a van journey from Bristol, via Bulgaria.  Much to my surprise the Bulgarian chap in London called yesterday and said to expect delivery this afternoon.

It got better still. At 11.30 AM he called and said that the van would be at the Petrol Station in Kambos to meet me in 45 minutes. I got in my car sped up here and waited. And waited.

Eventually I called to be told that the driver was indeed at the petrol station. I assured the chap in London that this was not the case as I was at the petrol station and was alone. It took a while before it was established that the van was waiting at a petrol station back in Kalamata. I gave instructions and killed time by wandering into the hardware store to buy some snake repellent canisters.  The man who knows me well, said “do you have snakes?” He smiled. He knows I do and that I am shit scared. It was his little joke and he fetched two canisters which, at 28 Euro, is the best investment I will ever make.

I killed some more time by heading up to the hovel and explaining, via one worker who speaks English, to a crew working incredibly hard, that I might need a bit of help unloading my van.  I headed back to the petrol station.

Eventually the van arrived and I explained to a sweaty little Bulgarian who spoke no English that he should follow me up the road to the hovel.  He drove slowly along the first half of the track which ends with the slope down past the deserted convent to the valley floor. I made to turn on to the track up towards the hovel but he stopped. He refused to go on.

He insisted that his van – which is exactly the same size as one used by the builders this very day and smaller than some of the heavy machinery we have taken up to the hovel – could not go on.  He tried to insist that he was only meant to take the goods to Kalamata even though the docket clearly stated my house name and Toumbia, the widely scattered group of houses. At this point I really started to think of a four letter word beginning with c to describe this sweaty Bulgar who wanted payment for dumping my goods in a deserted valley floor.

I told him to wait, headed back to the hovel and brought down two Greek labourers one driving a jeep the other a truck with a flat bottom. With little help from the tardy and cowardly Bulgar we loaded my possessions into the jeep, my car and the lorry. One chest of drawers belonging to my grandmother appeared to have become slightly damaged. I repaired it up at the hovel but as it was handed over I looked at the sweaty Bulgar who just shrugged his shoulders, it was not his fault. I thought the c word again.

Up at the hovel we unloaded the goods. The sinks have strict elf ‘n safey instructions in English about how they must be lifted by two men. They are very heavy indeed. Greek workers picked them up, slung them on their shoulders and carried them single handedly to the bat room where everything is now stored. I’ll put up pictures later.

The Greeks were heroic. I did my bit. The Bulgar is a pathetic wretch. Over at Kardamili there is a monument to Greek military successes. Suffice to say that nearly all of them were two thousand years ago. The few in modern times were largely against the Bulgarians in the Balkan wars of the early 20th century. 

I suggest that most Bulgars who have anything about them are now gainfully employed driving Ubers or selling the Big issue in London.  Those left in Bulgaria are clearly a dishonest, feckless, inbred and pathetic bunch. Perhaps to distract the good folk of the Hellenic Republic from his own treachery and incompetence, our loathsome Prime Minister Mr Alex Tspiras might consider invading Bulgaria as a distraction. Judging by today, it would be a walkover for mighty Greece.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: Bloody Bricks and an all parties meeting at the Greek Hovel

314 days ago

Once before I arrived at the Greek Hovel to find workmen proudly admiring a construction made of brand new shiny bricks. Much to their pleasure I had it torn down, an extra days work for them. I rather assumed that the message had got through. You can imagine my horror when arriving at the hovel yesterday to find piles of shiny new bricks in the new wing and the rat room. Cripes!

George the Architect is not around, for family reasons, but his business partner Sofia and a young trainee who acts as translator soon arrived and a heated discussion with a gaggle of workmen ensued. It is the way of the Greek language that a discussion on the most trivial matters becomes so animated that it appears as if all parties are trying to solve some major international crisis. I stood my ground.

In the rat room, the walls are the old ones and are, frankly, not that beautiful. So they will be plastered with a smooth white finish. As such I showed that I can compromise and accepted that in that room, a narrow room, bricks can be used to house the eco-loo and then plastered. They will fit in.

But in the new wing the stonework is magnificent. A brick and plaster enclosure for the eco-loo and shower would simply be wrong. One of the workmen who spoke reasonable English agreed with me and it was agreed that stones would be used. There was a rear-guard action in some quarters. Do I not realise that this will make the bathroom that bit narrower as the walls will be thicker. We worked out the maths and it was agreed that my net loss would be 24 centimetres. I do not see that as a problem.  Eventually folks conceded.

Sofia, the trainee and I wandered around the house ironing out numerous other little points as we waited for the doors and windows man to arrive. He, I gather, is also the man who will build the floors/ceilings in the new wing and above the rat room. Eventually a rather large and unshaven chain smoking individual toddled up.  Now for the bad news.

The roof, which was meant to have gone on three weeks ago will start to be erected early next week and will be finished by the end of July. But the windows, doors and floors? Er.. September said the man. What the fuck? I was wielding my olive pruning axe and started waving it angrily, as would a Greek, to show that I was cross. I had made it quite clear to George that in late August the Mrs, Joshua and Olaf arrive for a holiday and that while I had no problem with a lack of windows and doors the women of the household would do.  The man said he would do his best and started measuring up the windows and doors. FFS why did he not do this weeks ago?

It has been agreed that at least some windows and doors will be installed by the time the Mrs arrives with an aim of getting everything done. Pro tem, at least the bat room has a door, a window, a shower and an eco-loo. It might be cramped but we could all stay in that one room but surely we could at least get the rat room made wildlife diversity proof? Amid talk of how ferocious Olaf can be (what do they know about my charming daughter?) it has been agreed that they will work all hours to hit our targets.

I needed to calm down as the all parties meetings continued, without the windows man who was measuring away. So though in shorts and sneakers, not the jeans and sturdy boots one should wear in the snake fields, I headed off to prune my beloved olive trees.  Now and then I was called back to settle another minor point. In the end I gave up as pruning, especially when you are being extra careful as to where you tread, requires concentration and some semblance of tranquility.

Notwithstanding my concerns about snakes and other members of the wildlife diversity community I cannot stress how much I feel at home working in the fields. I accept that I am perhaps not the most efficient of workers and it is also very possible that I may not be the greatest of olive tree pruners or harvesters but as I work, amid the almost deafening but soothing  noise of cicadas, there is a real sense being at peace. One can forget about work back home, indeed it helps you to realise that it really is not that important or, at many levels, enjoyable. The frustrations I feel almost every day as I stare at my computer just disappear.

The view, BTW, is of the new wing ground floor looking away from the mountains.

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Photo article from inside the Greek Hovel - now do you get the views?

316 days ago

Progress on the hovel has been a bit slower than planned but we had an "all parties meeting" today and the riot act was read. We are, sort of on track. Ahead of the meeting I took a few photos from inside the new wing I have added onto the house. I hope they, perhaps for the first time, start to show what we have created and why we chose this spot.

Photo one shows the view from the mountain facing side of the house. Yes that is part of the Taygetos you can see on the upper level. On the lower level there is an olive tree outside and one looks through that to the terraces where its brothers and sisters live. The floor is part finished. It is my one surrender to modernity. On top of what has been laid will be polished white concrete, shiny and smooth. The rest of this room on both levels will be bare stonework. If you look through the upper window you can see some lighter stones which are a balcony which runs the whole length of that side from the end of the new wing to the end of the new room built above the rat room which links into the kitchen.

Photo two shows where the upper floor of the new wing meets the room above the rat room. There will be no dividing wall, they just flow together. Between the upper and lower floors there will be solid timber beams.

Photo three is the other end of the new wing showing the solid wall between it and the bat room on the lower level and the kitchen on the upper level and huge windows at the end which will look out towards the deserted convent on the other side of the valley. 

Do you start to see the appeal? 

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel - my olives are looking good

316 days ago

This is good news for those, such as Andrew Bell ,who have volunteered to come to Greece as unpaid slave labourers on this year's olive harvest. My babies up at the Greek Hovel are looking good. It must have been the pruning I did a couple of months ago. As you can see below the olives are of a good size already and while the trees are not dripping with fruit, as they would in a great year, most trees have a good amount and some are dripping.

I am wandering among them pruning the odd one which I appear to have overlooked in May and which be covered in new sprouts as a result. On those which I did prune on my last visit there is just a bit of tidying up work to do on new sprouts that have emerged since then. Of course there could be another hailstorm, another act of God, to destroy the crop as there was in 2017. But as things stand I reckon that our team of volunteers should be able to pick well over a tonne of olives in December. Time to start training Gentlemen...

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Tom Winnifrith Bearcast: Putting on a smart shirt as the van speeds away

318 days ago

https://www.shareprophets.com/views/37055/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-putting-a-smart-shirt-on-as-the-van-speeds-away

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: The white van arrives with its Bulgarian driver - its off to the Greek Hovel time

318 days ago

The Mrs is delighted. Boxes and boxes of my books, my artwork, my Morse and Sweeney DVDs, and furniture is off. Lifting four Belfast sinks was a two man job and the Bulgarian driver sweated heavily. But the van is loaded and starts its journey today. I shall meet it in Kambos a week today, by when the Greek Hovel might have at least part of a roof under which to store the cargo from England.

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Photo Article: pointing and main stair entrance complete at the Greek Hovel

320 days ago

By noon London time on Tuesday I shall be up at the Greek Hovel to survey progress. I gather that the polished concrete floors, a very smooth white surface, in the rat room and the new wing have been laid and expect to post photos before I go. Next week the roof really does start to go up, something the Mrs and daughter Olaf - who arrive in 40 days view as important. Pedants.

However, as you can see below, Gregori the snake killer and his team of Albanians have been hard at work. All the pointing is now done and as a bonus the staircase leading up to the main door has now been completely rebuilt, tearing away any old concrete and replacing it with solid stone. The countdown is underway, three days to Greece!

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Photo Article - Progress at the Greek Hovel, next up roof

341 days ago

Business partner Darren is still obsessing about the dead snake and rat photo and unable to focus on the real progress made at the Greek Hovel. Okay, he is not the only one. But as you can see below, the pointing of the walls is now almost complete - in one shot you can see a completed wall next to an undone one. Next up are the roof and floorboards and having just whizzed a large sum out to Greece that should start next week. Doors and windows have also been ordered. The last major work will be the floors on the ground floor of the new wing and in the rat room and then it is on to power points, installing a range cooker, a woodburning stove, lighting etc. We are getting there...

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Grotesque large, very poisonous but dead, snake and rat photos from the Greek hovel

341 days ago

The headline really does reflect the photos so if you are squeamish do not look any further. This trio of pictorial horrors arrived this morning in an email from George the Architect. Chief builder Gregori the snake killer has been at work.

Most snakes of this type of adder, the most poisonous of the nine Greek species that are poisonous, are 20-30 centimetres long. This one was forty centimetres in length.  You may wonder what it is hanging out of its mouth…

That is the tail of a large rat which it had just killed and was digesting. The act of digestion slowed it up greatly so allowing Gregori – who came across this on the building site – to act. The snake killer needed no invitation.

That the serpent was hanging around in the vicinity of the Greek Hovel is a bit of a shock. I was rather hoping that all the noise made by Gregori and his crew of Albanians had persuaded the wildlife diversity to head elsewhere, preferably to land owned by other folks but at least to the further reaches of the hovel’s fields.  I was mistaken. As I plan my next trip to the Mani in three weeks: Yikes!

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Farewell to the Greek Hovel & Kambos - 240 trees and out

354 days ago

I have just enjoyed a cracking lunch of beef in tomato sauce and peas at Miranda's in Kambos. Actually it is not called Miranda's any more as it has a new owner but I stick with the old name. The prices have not changed. That will be 5 Euro.

I have also downed two litres of water after pruning twenty more trees up at the hovel.

Skipping, okay I exaggerate a bit, up and down the terraces to the most snake infested long grass, in the far reaches of the hovel's lands, was tiring work in 30+ degree heat. I am shattered and must return to Kalamata soon to wash my trousers which contain ten days of sweat and blood - from when I cut my hands and arms on saw or frigana. I wipe them on my poor trousers which now feel like cardboard and carry on. Anyhow the Mrs suggests I wash them before returning home. I say suggests but it is not in an optional sort of way.

So I have pruned 240 trees and there are, perhaps, a dozen more in the furthest reaches that are un-pruned. I shall tackle them next month. I have far more trees than I thought. Four years agon on prune one it took three days and Foti the Albanian trousered 210 Euro. There are more trees now thanks to the ones that we discovered as we cleansed the frigana forest. Okay it has taken me ten stints of a couple of hours a day but it has not cost me a cent. I feel good about that.

Now its farewell to the folks in Kambos and back to the bloody UK. Next time I come here the hovel will have a roof, ceilings, more doors and windows and a bed in the snake proof bat room. And I shall therefore be staying here not in Kalamata. It is all very exciting.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel: is this grouting, pointing or what?

355 days ago

As you can see below, the main job of Gregori the snake killer and his team, the building of the walls at the Greek Hovel is now done. The last bit was the balcony with views up into the Taygetos mountains and it is done. Next up is grouting, pointing, or whatever it is called. In the second photo you can see that the stone of the hovel are held together with concrete. But that is now to be scraped out and replaced with a coloured mortar. I was offered a choice of colours and went for the one you can see, a very pale yellow.

So now as the roofers and floorboard team prepare to move in, Gregori and his men will work on all the internal and external walls in the newer part of the house (the new wing and the room above the rat room) regrouting or whatever it is called. In the old part, the walls will be plastered and painted white as they are in the bat room.

A final meeting before I head back was held with George the Architect today. we are now discussing things like installing a Range cooker, what tiling to use outside and pretty minor details. We really are getting there...

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Photo Article - the view from Miranda's: nice weather for Ducks

355 days ago

I am under instructions from David Bick not to complain about the weather here in Kambos. And I should say that it is 30 degrees right now and I am dripping with sweat having pruned another thirty olive trees up at the Greek Hovel. I am on my second litre of water as I enjoy a late lunch at Miranda's in Kambos and recover from my labours. Yesterday I was in the same place at the same time having completed my manual labour for the day and the heavens opened. This was the view....

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel - almost there on the walls, it really is 1 more day!

357 days ago

Okay I know I said one more day and the Greek Hovel would be ready for a roof but I was wrong. But now it really is one more day! As you can see below...

The wall of the room above the rat room is now complete. So all that remains is the balcony which you will enter from both the rat room and the room it leads into - no door just a lack of wall which is the upper floor of the new wing. As such this will be a long balcony for sitting on at the end of the day as the sun sets on the Taygetos mountains. Or is it the beginning of the day as the sun rises above the mountains. I forget.

The roof will extend over this balcony so it will be in shade and it is the last piece of the walls jigsaw. Gregori the snake killer and his team are hard at it. Tomorrow is the big day!

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - heading into snake territory, olive pruning update

358 days ago

I have grossly underestimated the number of olive trees that sit on the land at the Greek Hovel. Yesterday and today I upped my quota to thirty so I have now pruned 160 which is what I thought we had. I was very wrong. But i now enter what I deem the land of the snake.

The top level of the land is almost done. I have pruned almost down to the far end. That is an area which was once a frigana forest. I was blissfully unaware of what lay beyond our land so thick was the accursed thorn bush. Thanks to months of hard sweat and labour in summers gone by it is now all gone and that has unearthed new olive trees which we can now harvest.

In one or two cases the remnants of the taller frigana trees, piles of logs surround an olive tree as you can see in the bottom photo. We Gruffalo readers know what lives in the tree log house and I prune such trees extremely carefully approaching with loud footsteps and trading carefully.

On the flanks of the top land are the terraces and as you head down to the lower terraces the grass gets longer and longer as you can see below. In years gone by I have seen shapes swishing through that grass which can only be one thing. I have done some work on the terraces but more remains - I reckon ten or fifteen trees on the monastery side and thirty or more on the mountain side.

Finally there are is the rocky area on the left of the track as one approaches the hovel. It too was once a frigana forest. I was over this that I clambered with lovely Susan Shimmin of the Real Mani when I first visited the house with the Mrs and it was absolutely crawling with snakes. But again, I have cleared the frigana, it is a bit less snake friendly but I have had encounters there before. I probably holds another 20 or so trees.

The bottom line is that the total is well over 200, I must up my work rate to forty tomorrow but I enter the badlands as I do so.

Yesterday my toils were interrupted by a rather portly young man who wanted me to move my car so he could deliver cement. As he strolled over to see me and explain he said in broken English "you know there are snakes here?" What is the Greek for "Do you know bears shit in the woods?"

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Photo article: 1 more day and the Greek Hovel will be ready for its roof

358 days ago

As you can see below, Gregori the snake killer and his team have been working hard and now have just one last bit of work to do and the external walls will be complete. I am heading up into the mountains shortly and it may already be done. Next up..the roof!

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Photo article: Olaf it's here! The first eco-loo lands at the Greek Hovel

362 days ago

As you may have gathered, both the Mrs and daughter Olaf have suggested that lavatories are a bit of an issue at the Greek Hovel. Both are unconvinced about my solution of eco-loos. Well girls, prepare to be shocked. The first eco-loo, made by the same chap who crafts the doors and the Bat Room Bed which has also arrived, has landed as you can see below.

The bed raised a bit of an issue. The slats are of the wrong wood so are being sent back. The eco-loo will be up and running shortly but will only be "christened" in July when the humanure pit has been created at what is becoming the eco-palace.

In case you are worried about smells. There are three points to make. First - put the lid down. Second there is an extractor fan thingy in the loo closet and, thirdly, in the closet there will be a bucket of fresh sawdust and after using the eco loo you are mewant to throw in a handful or two. That soaks up liquid, negates smells and also is part of the decomposition process in the pit which after a couple of years will be yielding rich "black earth" which will be used to boost the yield on the olive trees.

I am sorry to be so graphic but these things need explaining to folk like Olaf.

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Photo Article - my 20 a day complete I ponder how many olive trees does the Greek Hovel actually have?

362 days ago

I am horrified by how much pruning is needed on some of our olive trees. It is as if they have not been "cleaned, as they say here, for years. But this is just one season's growth. Maybe I have Alzheimer's but I really do not remember it being this hard other than in year one when Foti the Albanian and I tackled trees that had not been pruned in eons.

Below are two "before" shots, one of a floor covered in prunings and two "after" shots of one of the trees I tackled this morning. Phew. I had said that I have 160 trees so a kind reader said "that is 16 a day" but the truth is that I do not know how many trees we have.

For one thing the number is confused by wild olive trees ( no fruit) a handful of big olive trees (used for curing and eating not oil) and a half a dozen old trees that produce nothing. In due course Nicho the Communist and I will replace the old trees and wild olive trees with trees for oil. And we will plant new trees on land now emptied of frigana and so ready to domesticate.

There are also the trees which, until I arrived, were drowning in snake rich frigana and so were ignored. I have butchered the frigana but it is still pretty wild in the far reaches of the hovel's lands and I prune nervously.

So the truth is that I have no idea how many trees there are. But i shall stick to my 20 a day and see where I get to by the time I head home. I shall reveal the results of the olive census then.

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Photo Article: The Greek Hovel Progress Update - mindblowing, the roof is on the way

362 days ago

It may have escaped your attention in the photo below but the external and internal walls are almost complete. Assuming the weather holds - and that is a safe enough bet - snake killer Gregori and his team will have the job done by the end of next week. And thus George the Architect tells me that it is time to install a roof. Cripes, we are ahead of schedule.

Daughter Olaf, who is due to make her debut visit in late August, says that a roof is a good thing to have. She is also keen on toilets and showers. Girly Girly. But she shall have her wish. George reckons that within four weeks we will have not only a roof but also the wooden floors above the master bedroom (new wing) and rat room in place.

At that point Gregori and team will return to take the concrete out from between the stones and regrout the traditional way to bring out the real colour of the hovel/eco palace. When that is complete the polished concrete white floors will go down in the rat room and master bedroom

But first things first. The roof. George had a funny idea that we would keep the old concrete flat roof in the kitchen. I disabused him and it was removed. Instead there will be a vaulted wooden roof across the whole second floor, so giving a feeling of more room as you star up at the timbers. On top of the wood will be tiles.

Below are two photos from Kambos. The first are the newer brighter tiles. The second the older duller tiles. We will, naturally, be using the latter. But it is not just the colour. These days the modern mass produced tiles stick together being laid side by side. Think of a row of Cs facing down. In the old days they interlocked a C facing down links into a C facing up, etc, etc. I hope the pictures make it clearer than my words. Natch we go for the old way.
God willing you will see a finished roof within a month.

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Report from the Greek Hovel: I fail to kill the first snake spotted. Drat!

363 days ago

Damn. It was a near miss but I failed to kill it. The serpent was not in the olive groves where I trod carefully today as, armed with my new axe pruned 20 trees. I start with the highest yielders, the ones nearest the house which have always enjoyed my tender care. Those in the long grass on the further reaches of our land I save to the end as I know what will be lurking in that grass.

But as I headed back to Kambos, to lovely Eleni's Kourounis taverna for a diet coke and a most excellent Greek salad, I saw it. I was on the stretch of road leading up from the deserted convent to the village about 1000 yards out of the village outskirts and there on the road ahead of me was a snake which must have been at least two foot long.

I should say that i was in my car but feeling Greek I did as the locals do and put my foot on the accelerator and swerved violently to the edge of the road. sadly the snake was an adult and knew the score so just managed to slither into the long grass and escaped me. I heard no crunch under the wheels. I looked in my rear view mirror - there was no snake, dead or alive. I missed.

I think I am a bit out of practice. Next time my reactions will be faster.I am, after all, a proven snake killer.

Tom Winnifrith

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Tom Winnifrith Bearcast - picking up Andrew Monk on a couple of things

363 days ago

https://www.shareprophets.com/views/36233/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-picking-up-andrew-monk-on-a-couple-of-things

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 - a gentle start to my olive pruning: but this will be tough

364 days ago

With the one room at the Greek Hovel that was used to store goods out of action for re-flooring my possessions - such as they are - are scattered around the plot. After a bit of a search my saw was located. It had been used to stir concrete and so, rather sheepishly, on of the builders did his best to clean it. It is usable. My small axe (about a foot long) which one uses for taking away sprouts of new growth at the base of an olive tree could not be found. I have just bought a new one from Vangelis in Kambos.

But with only a saw I started the task of pruning my 160 trees. Bloody hell. It was as bad as it was in my first year of pruning, some 48 months ago. The trees have sprouted new growth as if they were on steroids. Below you see the carnage from pruning just one tree.

I am not sure what the impact of pruning is. By how much does it increase my yield? I suspect it is pretty marginal but I find it therapeutic if quite tough. Bend down for the new shoots at the base of the tree, stretch up to hack away shoots on the branches. After four years I reckon I know what I am doing although I am willing to stand corrected. I was taught by Foti and George, Albanians whose fitness is er.. a little bit greater than mine. I suspect they do not cut themselves with the saw on on jagged bark as I do buy my blood might act as an added fertilizer for the trees. I donated happily today.

With saw only my progress was limited. Tomorrow I return with axe and saw to put in some hard hours. It is all good training for my 30 mile sponsored walk in late July and it is a time to think and relax. What will the harvest be like this year? God only knows? Certainly the trees have a decent amount of small olives developing as you can see below. My sense is that it will not be great but it should, at least, be worthwhile.

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Back at the Greek Hovel - snake report: two more corpses

364 days ago

When I am in England I do not think much about snakes. Okay, three times a week I pick Joshua up from his nursery and he says "snakes" so, on the way home, we pop into Pets At Home and go to see the snakes. They are tiny little creatures, corn snakes, which nearly always hide in their houses and only rarely peek out. When they do, Joshua gets very excited. Most of the time we see no snakes so Joshua just says "bye bye snakes" and we head on past the fish where Joshua says "fish," past the hamsters and gerbils where he says "mice", and to the rabbits where he says "By Bye Babbits" and we head home. And I think nothing of it.

But now I am back in Greece and as soon as I started driving out of Kalamata, where there are few snakes, and up into the hills towards Kambos and The Greek Hovel I started thinking of nothing else. Would I see one on the road? Would I swerve and kill it as a Greek driver would? What about up at the hovel? Surely by now the place is crawling with snakes?

And thus I arrived to find snake killer Gregori and his team of ethnic Greek Albanians hard at work. After a brief pleasantry or two "tikanis, cala, etc, etc" I asked the big question. Apparently since they came out of hibernation about eight weeks ago two have been spotted. There was a big one but it was dead. And a smaller one nestling under a T-shirt someone had discarded. After meeting Gregori it was also dead.

Small ones, this year's crop of adders, are the most dangerous since if they bite they have no idea how much venom to inject so just keep on injecting. But this one met its match in the snake killer and he had a photo of the corpse on his phone to prove it.

The workers are making a lot of noise now and have heavy machinery up there. My hope is that the snakes have done the sensible thing and moved away from the house and, I pray, onto the neighbours land. The odds are that as I prune my olive trees over the next ten days in the further reaches of my land, I shall discover otherwise. There were certainly plenty of lizards in evidence and I am sure that my old adage "where there are lizards there are snakes" is not far wrong.

Tom Winnifrith

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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:

373 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!

382 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

414 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

429 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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Just to prove it was no fluke: Fire No 2 from the Greek Hovel

444 days ago

Further evidence of my skills as a pyromaniac will come later but just a brief shot showing how I burned off more olive branches on the, by then, rain sodden, site of my first triumph at the Greek Hovel. Flames leapt into the sky, high enough for my neighbours to see, so further restoring my reputation as a real man.

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Photo Article - Sunset over a snow capped Taygetos, the view from Kambos Church

444 days ago

It was my penultimate day in Kambos, the nearest village to the Greek Hovel. I had parked in the small side street that leads off the main road up and past the newest and biggest of the, at least, five churches in out settlement with a population of 537 (when I am there). I enjoyed a lunch at Miranda's - pork in a wine sauce, oven cooked potatoes and an ouzo for seven Euro. I left eight, headed back to my car and drove up to the turning square opposite the Church.

This is the highest point of the village. The telephone wires spoil the photo a bit but the view up into the Taygetos mountains is spectacular none the less. The pinkness of the rock is not a camera trick it is how it really looked at four thirty that day as the moon started to rise into the sky and the light started to fade

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - Rain stops play again

450 days ago

For some reason I could not sleep a wink last night and thus my excuse for not returning to the Greek hovel for more failed bonfire lighting is that I am just so dog tired that I fear that I may fall asleep at the wheel. That is not something you wish to do on a Mountain road. Hence I content myself in my hotel wish washing my socks, admin matters and writing like a dervish. And trying to catch up on some sleep. If I manage all of that I may treat myself to a slap up meal at Katelanos tonight: Mountain greens, octopus and ouzo.

Yesterday I did try my hand at pyromania up at the hovel. It was a wet day and thus a) I had an excuse for failure b) there were no workers on site to laugh at my inevitable failure. Perfect.

As you can see below there is hard evidence of the triumphs from my previous pyromania. But yesterday's effort was another failure. Lawyers letters from Roger Lawson burn really well but everything is so wet that nothing caught. I retreated and admitted defeat. On the way down I stopped at the very much, not dry, river bed and took a shot of the olive trees on the other side dripping with rain. I am not sure if I captured how they shimmered in the downpour. maybe you just had to be there to appreciate it.

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Photo Article - The Rock at the Greek Hovel

450 days ago

For thousands of years the enormous rock below has sat in the ground at the Greek Hovel, situated about a yard and a half from where the rat room used to end. It was almost a feature.But as as we seek to extend the rat room by two yards it had to go. But there would be something wrong about hacking it to pieces and discarding it don't you think?

And thus we have not only preserved it but will be using it in its entirety as we build the new longer walls on the rat room. Okay that will not leave them neat and symmetrical.And indeed it might even reduce the floor space by a few square inches but that is neither here nor there. Using stones that were to hand is how houses used to be built. It is environmentally friendly to have to fetch fewer stones from places outside of our lands and it just somehow feels right.

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Photo article: Proving I am a real man... pyromania at last at the Greek Hovel

454 days ago

You know that I am a feminist. Child care, nappy changing, shopping, washing, cooking, I dxo more than my fair share. But there are some things that only women can do. Breast feeding for example. And there are some things we men do: snake killing, ouzo drinking and.. lighting fires.  My repeated failure to burn off the olive branches and frigana I cut down last year at the Greek Hovel has thus been somewhat emasculating. And it got far worse yesterday before it got better.

After meeting George the Architect I tried again to create a bonfire. Sure, lawyers letters from Roger Lawson went up in smoke but nothing caught. I retreated to my nearest village of Kambos disheartened. On my way down snake hill I saw a roaring blaze in a field by the side of the road. That was bad but worse still was that it was being tended by its author, a fair maiden of the olive groves, a woman. FFS that really was a kick in the gonads.

Thus after lunch at Miranda's - an excellent calamari cooked in a sardine based sauce and some mountain greens boiled and doused in lemon for 7 Euro since you ask - I determined to return to the hovel for another go. Running out of Lawson's letters I started to use empty concrete sacks to set the pyre on fire. Occasionally one took but then spluttered and faltered as you can see below.

Almost despairing as the afternoon wore on and the air started to chill, I resorted to the traditional methods of using a handful of long grass to set the fire going. It was still a bit wet but there seemed hope. But hope turned to despair after several more failures.  One last try thought I and picking a huge bundle of grass and adding in some twigs I set it alight and plunged it into the heart of an enormous pile of rather damp branches, twigs and dried frigana leaves.

Alleluliah! The Lord rewards those who persevere and something caught. Very soon I had a real blaze going so big that I am sure my neighbours on hills miles away must have seen it. They won't be laughing at me in Kambos anymore thought I.

As you can see below, pretty soon darkness was closing in but I wanted to stay until the fire was done. Flames reached up into the night sky. And before long I turned around to stare into a pitch black sky. I could see nothing at all, not the hovel not even my car fifteen yards away. But I worked on, not leaving until the whole pile was gone and the flames were starting to turn to embers.

I was not back to my hotel until nine O'clock. I spoke to the Mrs about how I felt that my manliness mojo had been restored and she told me that I was talking complete nonsense. But I am sure that if you are a man you know what I am talking about, don't you?

 

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Photo Article - the Dry River at the Greek Hovel is gushing and indeed another has appeared

455 days ago

I was woken this morning by the most almighty explosion of noise. For a moment I wondered if a ship had crashed into the quayside for my hotel in Kalamata is right on the harbourside. It had not. It was thunder. Yet again it was sheeting it down, making three days of torrential rain on the trot. Now the sun is shining but the effects of the downpour were evident as I made my way up to the Greek Hovel.

The first three photos below are of the dry river that heads across the valley underneath the deserted convent on the way to snake hill and on to the hovel. As you can see it is anything but dry and now runs several inches deep across the track.

Indeed the rains have been so heavy that another stream has appeared at the bottom of the hill by the side of the convent, which I incorrectly labelled deserted monastery hill when I first pitched up here almost four years ago. What is in summer, a muddy ditch, no doubt home to numerous snakes, is now a stream so swollen with rainwater that it spills out onto the road.

Both streams now pour into Susan Shimmin's "lake" - more on that tomorrow.

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Photo article: A Spectacular view from the big ugly church in Kambos

455 days ago

There are at least five churches in the village of Kambos, the closest settlement to the Greek Hovel and a place with a population of 537. There might be more small churches hidden away somewhere that I have yet to find or have found but forgotten about. But the largest of the lot is the most modern and without a shadow of doubt the least pleasing to the eye.

Situated on top of the hill on which the village sprawls, this is the first thing you see of Kambos as you drive up into the mountains from Kalamata.I can say little in its defence as a building except that it is functional and unlike some of the smaller churches which can hold no more than a dozen and open just twice a year, it could hold most of the village which is a good thing as even the Godless in this part of the world go to Church a few times a year.

The other point in is favour is the view. Man builds ugly buildings which will one day crumble but the Taygetos mountains in the distance will be there forever and, the high reaches, are now fully draped in global warming. What a view...

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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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A day of non appearances at the Greek Hovel and I fear I'm outed as a failed pyromaniac

457 days ago

I turned up as agreed with George the Architect at 11 AM to discuss progress at the Greek Hovel. Twenty four hours of solid rain with more coming down today has left the site a bit of a mudbath and I was not greatly surprised that there were no workers present. But I was rather expecting George. He was not answering his phone so I kicked my heels and tried to start the process of burning off the branches cut down from last year's olive harvest.

In my defence the whole place is sodden. But I noted on other hills nearby that fires were burning away happily. If my neighbours could do it...

With some lawyers letters from Roger Lawson to use to start the blaze I set to work. I knew old Lawson would come in useful one day. But let me tell you that there can be smoke without fire. I managed it several times before giving up and heading back to the village of Kambos.

Sitting in the Kourounis taverna an old man approached me and started babbling away in Greek. He seemed friendly enough and after a while managed to grasp what everyone else in Kambos knows, that is to say my Greek is rudimentary at best. But I did gather two words: spiti (house) and fire (demonstrated by him producing flame from a lighter). He was laughing.

Given that there is no-one for miles around the hovel I do not understand how news of my pyromaniac failings have reached the village already, but it seems to be the way. At last I got hold of George the Architect who was sitting in his nice warm office in Kalamata. Apparently work on making the bat room habitable starts first thing tomorrow. I shall be there. I will not be betting the ranch on anyone else being there too.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: from bikini clad women in the sea to snow covered mountains in half an hour

459 days ago

This being a family website, and since I am such a fecking feminist, I decline to bring you photos of the ladies in bikinis. but as I drove along the Kalamata seafront today they were there, on the beach and heading in to the water for a swim. Not many brave the sea at this time of year and, I grant you, those that do may be out on day release, but it is just about do-able. Down by the shore it is again in the high teens and I wander around in a T-shirt.

As you drive up into the mountains of the Mani it gets a bit colder but I sit now in my office away from home, that is to say the Kourounis taverna in Kambos owned by lovely Eleni and I still wear a T-shirt.

It is a pleasant day. But if one looks up to the high Taygetos behind the village and above the Greek hovel ( photo 3 is looking down the "drive" of the hovel) , the global warming, as you can see, lies thickly.

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Photo article - "the alpine" Greece that so few Northern Europeans ever see

459 days ago

I think that I have published articles similar to this before but it is a point worth making again and again, there is a hidden Greece that so few of we Northern Europeans never see. for most of us Greece is a place we  only visit in the stifling hot summers. If we bother to leave the coastal strip we see grass burned brown by a constant sun, if not scorched black by the forest fires that happen all too often. But there is another Greece, the Greece of winter and spring.

The fields all around me are, as you can see below, green. This could be England or Switzerland in the summer. And the flowers are everywhere: reds, yellow, whites, purples. It is a glorious view.

But all too soon it will be gone. By May the sun will have started to have its effect. as the snakes come out to play after their winter sleep, green turns to brown and those flowers disappear. Right now it is T-shirt weather both down in Kalamata and up here at the Greek Hovel in the lower reaches of the Taygetos mountains. there are no snakes around and the view is wonderful. It is, in many ways, the best time to be here.

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Photo article: the only sounds I hear as I drive down snake hill

459 days ago

Driving down snake hill as I headed back from the Greek Hovel towards the village of Kambos all was quiet. I could hear nothing at all. Bliss! Can God please have words with the Mrs about retiring and us living here all year round.

And there was some sound, not humans for there were none about but the tinkling of bells as I encountered a herd of sheep. The grass is lush and green at this time of year and they were feeding greedily, hopping over the rocks in a dedicated quest to fill their bellies.

And at the bottom of the hill there was another sound...that of water. The dry river has filled up after recent heavy rains and now spills over the track before falling off a ledge into a stream on the other side on its way to Susan Shimmin's "lake"

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

459 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 - DO NOT READ THIS if you are afraid of snakes

498 days ago

A kind reader in Australia has twigged that, despite rebuilding the Greek Hovel in an area teeming with snakes, I have a, perfectly rational, fear of the little critters and has thus taken to sending me photos and stories about them on a regular basis. Today's really is the stuff of nightmare and comes with photos.

His mate was just driving along when he noticed something on the driver's side window. The snake in question is a highly venomous red belly black snake. I would have jumped out the passenger side and left the car in the middle of the road running as fast as I could shouting snakes fuck snakes fuck. Natch the couple in question being hard Aussies merely stopped the car and removed it safely with no harm done to anyone.

Reasons not to go to Australia No 107 - snakes on the car.

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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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Tom Winnifrith video - 2 share tips & some great scenery at the Greek Hovel

534 days ago

https://www.shareprophets.com/views/33079/tom-winnifrith-video-2-share-tips-some-great-scenery-at-the-greek-hovel

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article - so why can't you eat your olives at the Greek Hovel?

534 days ago

 

About six of the trees have much bigger olives. These are black (not green, purple, brown and black) and are often almost an inch long. The oil is not good for drinking, instead these olives are cured in brine and then eaten.

I have suggested that picking these olives and curing them might be her job but she has other ideas. When we are installed at the hovel on a more permanent basis this will be another challenge for me.

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So my neighbours still want money for the now non existent olives - I meet with them

535 days ago

I accept that we hacked branches off about 30 olive trees that stood by the side of the track up to the Greek Hovel in order to allow the builders to get their bigger trucks up. We also appear to have damaged the dry stone walls in places. Its a given. My bonkers neighbour ( he lives two miles away but is my closest neighbour) Charon has not asked for any compensation. He is a good guy. But then there are two cousins who want more. I met with them in my hotel this week with George the Architect there to translate.

Old men they appeared friendly. The reasonable cousin has seen about 20 trees damaged but he knows that the branches will have regrown by next year's harvest and his main concern are the walls which we have promised to restore when the hovel is rebuilt. He said you compensate me what you think fair.

The unreasonable cousin has seen just eight trees damaged. He wants 300 Euro. I pointed out that as a result of the storm the economic loss this year was exactly zero and both men agreed. We also agreed that the branches would be back by next year. So the unreasonable cousin has lost exactly nothing. His harvest this year will be so bad that he probably won't even bother doing it at all. So having accepted that his economic loss was exactly nil I was hoping for some movement. After all you can buy land with five trees on it for 300 Euro!

George confirmed that he still wanted 300 Euro.

I paid for our drinks and said George would let them know my decision tomorrow as it was not good to discuss money in this way. My decision is to give them 400 Euro. If the unreasonable cousin still demands 300 he will clearly be stealing from his reasonable relative and that is not the done thing. My offer is more than fair and - as they squabble among themselves to divide the spoils they will know that.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: the Greek Hovel Olive Harvest 2017 a final report and plans for 2018

536 days ago

I have not reported back on the Greek Hovel olive harvest as after each day's labours I have been just too dog tired to do anything. What can I say other than on many of the trees it was hunt the olives so bad had been the storm and it was very hard, boring work. But by Saturday noon I had three sacks filled to a greater or lesser extent with tens of thousands of tiny olives all harvested by myself. Enough is enough thought I, surely this is 80 kg and the 15 litres of oil I'd like to take back to the Mrs.

As they emptied the bags into the hopper at the Kambos press I began to think that maybe I had not harvested that much after all and sure enough the little piece of paper that followed my olives through the various stages of pressing told the stark truth - 54 kg. But that should be at least 9 litres thought I and bought two 5 litre cans from the Kourounis taverna. At least I knew that I would not be troubling the limits on my Easyjet baggage allowance flying back to Britain.

The final scores: seven and a half litres. that is enough for a year's personal use (I'm not David Furnish you know!) and Christmas presents for the usual folks but perhaps in smaller bottles this year.  The big fat controller looked at my paper chit as I asked him how much I owed for the pressing. "Good eating Thomas" - for that is my name at the olive press -  he said and ripped up the piece of paper. 

Though I am knackered I could not have beaten God on this one. Next year I am treating myself to a late 50th birthday present: a second mat and an electric twerker. I want to do a full harvest without paid Albanian labour. Now all I need is a couple of willing volunteers to help me: no pay but free accommodation, what say you all?

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Photo Article: Can I buy your sawdust? I said to the man with the sweetest kitten - he looked puzzled

536 days ago

George the architect is a modernist. I am a traditionalist. And thus at every stage of the design and reconstruction of the Greek Hovel he has an idea, my heart sinks, we discuss it and we reach my conclusion. And so last week we took a trip to a windows, shutters and door factory in the neighbouring village. I say factory, it was a big shed with - as far as I could see - the boss and just one employee.

The matter of shutters was not up for dispute. The Mrs had sent over a photo of her favoured - traditional - design. George tried to suggest we look at newer ways which...I cut him off. The Mrs has decreed, we don't argue. So that was settled. Doors were also settled in that we had sent photos of the big external door at Paddy Leigh Fermor's house down the road in Kardamili. Take away the grill and we are there. Again. Don't argue with the Mrs.

So we entered the factory and George and the boss took us over to a demonstration window frame which was clearly of the modern style. Complex machinery allowed the windows to tilt open as well as be flung open to let in the snakes. I let George and the boss gabble away for a while. I was distracted by the two factory cats and a small kitten which was playing happily.


After a few minutes George and the boss looked at me. I know that the window is expensive, modern and that when the complex joints and bolts break it will cost an arm and a leg to get a little man out from Kalamata to mend it, especially as he will have to order in new parts from Germany which will take weeks.  Besides which our house was first built in 1924 not 2014. So I said no and looked at the windows of the factory itself, old style and simple. The message got through.

So we moved on to discuss which wood we should use and after that I looked at the big bags of sawdust piling up and asked "what do you do with that - can I buy it from you?" The man looked puzzled, he just gives the dust away to shepherds for winter bedding for their flocks. Of course he'd be delighted to help but he still looked  confused.

George had to explain to him about how you use sawdust with an eco-loo. Not speaking Greek I'm not sure into how much detail he went. But the man nodded and understood. Another problem resolved.

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A video Christmas card to Kambos from my father, myself and my son Joshua

537 days ago

This may all be Greek to you but my neighbours in the village closest to the Greek Hovel will understand.

Tom Winnifrith

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The storm - no olive harvesting today

542 days ago

If I was Byron, seperated from Hobhouse at Zitsa, i would be dashing off some verse after last night. But I'm not. i sit alone in my Kalamta hotel looking out at roads that look like the infamous Japanese Grand Prix where Lauda retired gifting James Hunt the world championship. It all started last night with loud bangs which I worried might be a bomb or a ship crashing into the harbour next to the hotel.

It was just thunder but the noise was deafening. Then the rain started and five sleepless hours later it continues. There is now a river running down the main road outside into a sea which is grey and boiling as the rain continues to tip down.
Normally from here I can see the spine of the Mani, the giant Taygetos mountains standing tall and imposing at a right angle to the seafront. Today the odd mountain peers out from the mist and the cloud but even it is blurred.

There will be no harvesting for anyone today. Working in such rain is not pleasant and the danger of slipping down a terrace is very real. So I have an excuse to just sit and write. But where to write? I know that to get to Kambos will be less than pleasant. On the edge of Kalamata at Verga there will by now be a lake in the road. That is passable but with the fear that my small hire car may be stuck in its midst. After that there is the mountain road where rivers will be flowing down the sleep slopes onto and along my intended path.

It is quite fun sitting in the Kourounis taverna when it rains as - with no work to do in the fields - the whole village seems to stop by. The place gets crowded, the smell of aniseed (from ouzo) is all pervasive. Getting to the Greek Hovel itself maybe a bit trickier. The dry river will not be dry by now but the read perror is the mud for once you get to the top of snake hill, the last half a mile of "road" is just a mud track winding through the olive groves. Right now it will be filling up with deep puddles and as each car, truck or flock of goats passes by it will become more like the Somme becoming ever more slippery.

Decisions , decisions.

Tom Winnifrith

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Tom Winnifrith photo Bearcast - my friend the Greek Hovel cat is back & setting the record straight on Adam Reynolds

544 days ago

https://www.shareprophets.com/views/32908/tom-winnifrith-photo-bearcast-my-friend-the-greek-hovel-cat-is-back-setting-the-record-straight-on-adam-reynolds

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: olive harvest at the Greek Hovel day 3: Nicho the Communist says I am mad

544 days ago

My best friend in Kambos said it in the nicest possible way and I should admit that i am beginning to doubt my own sanity. After day three of my harvest i now have just over half a 50kg sack of olives. As i wandered into the Kourounis taverna in Kambos, Nicho had asked how I was and i replied that i was a bit tired after harvesting. He said "you are working with the Albanians?"

I replied no. I am doing it alone. There are too few olives to make it worthwhile hiring Albanians. His verdict on me is, I think, fair. At the start of this adventure, as George the Albanian lent me four sacks to fill, I thought "I will show him, I will fill six!". By yesterday I had scaled that back to four. Now my goal is to get to two which will give me 15 litres of oil to take home. But as i try to fill those bags I am starting to question my own sanity as this is back breaking work.

Many of the trees have no or very few olives as a result of the storm. Those which still bear fruit do not have enough to justify moving the mat and beating the olives down with my paddle and so I have a new strategy. The mat stays stationary. Instead I use my trusty hacksaw to chop off any branches with a half decent amount of olives. George the Albanian uses an electric saw for this but I am reliant on the old ways. I then drag the branches to the mat to give them a damn good thrashing. That can be quite therapeutic.  The piles of branches are, as you can see, getting bigger.

By the time I finished today it was starting to get dark, it was getting colder and my limbs were starting to ache. As i kneeled to scoop my weedy pile of olives from my mat into the sack I felt just a little pathetic. This is not how a harvest is meant to be. A sane man would call it a day and buy some oil from his neighbours to take home. But as CJ from the Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin would have said" I did not get where I am today by being sane."

A sane man would not have bought an uninhabitable hovel half way up a mountain in Greece and a sane man would not be working to renovate it. In that vein I battle on tomorrow...

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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: The Greek Hovel Olive harvest Day 1 - in for a penny in for 28.5 Euro

546 days ago

Having been told by George the Albanian that it was uneconomic to do a commercial harvest this year after the storms he loaned me four sacks as I said I wanted to go it alone. I had meant to start "avrio" but something made me haed up to the hovel. I think it was frustration with certain aspects of work back in the UK. It has been one of those days when I really just wanted to pack it all in and spend my life writing about life here in Kambos.

Arriving at the hovel I saw George the Architect again chatting to the builders and we discussed a couple of issues regarding the interior of the bat room and the location of a trap door. I explained that there were so few olives left on the trees that I was just going to hand pick enough to produce 15 litres of oil, my annual consumption, including presents.

I spend about an hour hand picking and managed two and a half trees. One did indeed have so few olives on it that hand picking made sense. But the others were not quite as barren as I had feared. As he strolled back to his car George asked why I was not using a paddle and a mat to bring down the olives in the traditional way. I said that there were too few to make it worthwhile and he shrugged his shoulders. But, of course, he is right. The near barren trees can be ignored. The ones with a modest harvest should be attacked in the traditional way.

So far one and a half modest trees and one near barren one have yielded a few kg of olives. A sack will hold 50 kg. After a lengthy discussion lovely Eleni and her husband Nicho agreed that one sack would yield 8-10 litres of oil so I need a sack and a half for my needs, anything else I can sell. for ouzo money.

In for a penny in for 28.5 Euro I have invested in a paddle and a mat. Tomorrow I start work in earnest.

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Photo Article: Building "progress" at the Greek Hovel

546 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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The Greek Hovel olive harvest 2017 - it will be team TW (i.e just me) by hand

546 days ago

At 7.30 sharp I met George the Albanian up at the Greek Hovel. He skipped and jumped across the terraces like a young goat. In his sixties he puts me to shame. But it did not take him long to reach his verdict. I don't speak Greek but I understood. He is an honest chap. We retired to the village and went to see Vangelis, at the recently relocated hardware store. a man who speaks English.

It is not worth me paying George to harvest so bad has been the storm damage. But I am determined to bring some Greek hovel olive oil back to England so I asked if George could give me a few sacks. Vangelis understood "you will harvest by hand". Indeed I shall. There are so few olives left on most trees that actually picking them w2ill be quicker than laying down sheets and beating them off with paddles. On a few trees, sheltered from the storm, the crop is bigger.

I reckon that at five hours a day I can do it in four days. I start tomorrow. Avrio. This is not going to be easy because, as followers of previous harvests know, it is bloody hard work which will break you, unless you are a 65 year old Albanian or his wife. But cometh the day.... I want my oil.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel: Susan Shimmin's "lake" fills up

547 days ago

Shortly after the Mrs agreed to buy the Greek Hovel we got an email from the most excellent estate agent Susan Shimmin of the Real Mani suggesting that there was a small lake at the bottom of the valley which one must cross before climbing snake hill. At once I had visions of stocking it with trout like the one from Metsovo I enjoyed with the amazing baker of Zitsa. Then reality kicked in.

Sure there is a pond of sorts directly underneath the abandoned convent. It is fed by a spring which spews out water all year. In winter and spring as the dry river gushes into action it also flows into the pond and it can grow quite large. But as summer arrives the river is dry once again and the scorching heat more than matches the output of the spring and the pond shrinks to a small sink hole.

But that water is still a treat for wildlife. I have seen foxes drinking there. I can only imagine what other members of the wildlife diversity community use it. I say that I can only imagine because I do imagine and have no desire to confirm my worst fears. We know what lives in the dry river during summer storms and I am sure the same creatures use Susan Shimmin's "lake".

For now, the snakes are hibernating and, as you can see, the "lake" is filling up.

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Photo Article for Paul Roberts: Traffic Jam on Kambos High street

547 days ago

It is, perhaps, my favourite "office." Sitting in the Kourounis taverna in Kambos I tap away happily. Lovely Eleni keeps the coffee coming and every now and again I look up to watch the world go by, oh so slowly, on the main street in Kambos,, the village closest to the Greek Hovel.

The main street through Kambos is, of course also the road from Kalamata down into the Mani and in summer it can get busy with tourists heading off to Kardamili, if they are middle class Brits or Norwegians heading to the Jazz festival, or to Stoupa if they are the sort of folks who like to wear football shirts when on holiday in case a game breaks out. In winter the traffic is thin.

But occasionally there was a jam. A tractor pulls a cart full of kit or produce. A horse pulls something else. Or, as yesterday, a flock of sheep or goats is walked along the road with no great urgency with an ever longer line of cars following on behind. But what is there to rish for. Sit back, look up at the mountains on one side or Zarnata castle on the other. Enjoy. This is Greece. You can always wait until "avrio" to do what needs to be done.

And thus as I sat yesterday the sheep were in town...

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Photo Report from the Greek Hovel - the olive harvest is a disaster for the whole village

547 days ago

I wandered up to the Greek Hovel this morning and saw, at once, that something was not quite right. Yes there were olives on the trees as you can see below but not vast numbers.

Instead the floor around each tree was carpeted with leaves and olives. Disaster! What had I done wrong?
Heading back to the village of Kambos it was soon clear. It is not just me. The whole village is in mourning for here the trees are like a beautiful woman, they are to be nurtured, protected and loved. In return they give generously. That is the theory. But the Gods have not been kind to us this year.


A few days ago there was a terrible storm. I kind of guessed as much as, in places, the track up to the hovel is reminiscent of the Somme in 1916. And the dry river at the bottom of the valley which one must cross to start the ascent up snake hill and to the hovel is getting fuller by the day.

The storm smashed into the trees hard. Gloomily my neighbours suggest that 60% of the harvest has been lost. Others say it is 80%. What on earth have they done in Kambos to suffer such a fate. Have the Gods not punished this country enough?

For me it is a pain but nothing more. My olive income might, in a good year, pay for a flight and a holiday here. I still hope to do a brief harvest for a day or two to bring back some oil to Britain and perhaps sell a few litres to get enough to pay George the Albanian for his help. But for my neighbours who really do need that olive money this is truly disastrous.

There is a glimmer of light. Lovely Eleni from the Kourounis taverna says that the Government is there to help. Welcome to Greekenomics. The Greek state is, as you know, bankrupt and only exists by borrowing more money from the ECB, the EU and others in return for taking measures to screw its poorest folks even more - real austerity. But the bankrupt Government may, it seems, be prepared to hand out cash to we poor farmers to cushion our losses - can Mrs May agree to up the Brexit divorce bill by a bit more, Kambos needs her to be weak. 

All I need to do is head to the Town Hall ( workforce 4 for a population of 637) and ask for my cash? Suddenly a bare and broken olive tree becomes a money tree. What's not to like.

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I'm off to Greece - yippeee

573 days ago

It seems that Easyjet has started direct flights from Bristol to Athens and I am booked in. It is now just over three weeks to D-Day and a trip to the mighty Hellenic Republic. I can't wait.

The Mrs was unaware of this new service and asks if she can come too? Only if you are prepared to work on the olive harvest up at the Greek Hovel say I and that shuts her up. So it is all booked. A return flight with baggage for just £110. Bargain.

All that is needed now is a few calls to lovely Eleni to make sure that my comrade in olive harvesting, George the Albanian, is free and I am set. By the 21st November I shall be sitting in the Kourounis taverna in Kambos relaxing over a morning coffee and all will be well in my world.

I cannot wait. Two weeks of heaven is arranged.

Tom Winnifrith

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The Highlight of the week - Joshua and I meet a real snake

574 days ago

After I pick up my one year old son Joshua from nursery we allow ourselves a little treat - a vist to Pets at Home. Later on we look at the tanks of fishes and go visit the rabbits and guinea pigs. Joshua knows what they all are and makes appropriate noises at each point of the store.

The staff do not seem to mind our daily visits apart from one rather stern young lady who I made the mistake of telling how I had eaten guinea pig in Ecuador and how good it tasted as we stared at a cage full of the little creatures. The sour faced millennial said that my comments were not appropriate and stares at me in Paddington Bear like fashion whenever I enter the store.

Our first point of call is always the snake tanks of which there are four. In each tank there is a little house and for the six weeks we have been engaging in this routine the snakes have always been hiding. So Joshua looks at the picture on the tank and goes ssssssssssssss as we wave our hands in snake like fashion and laugh. We know all about snakes from reading the Gruffalo.

But yesterday a banana python was out of its house. About a foot and a half long it was sliding around the tank and then up the front pane directly in front of us. Joshua watched intently but was not laughing. The snake stated at us and flicked its tongue and Joshua looked again but was still not laughing. I think he realises that snakes are not nice creatures which will prove useful when we encounter them in the snake fields at the Greek Hovel.

Tom Winnifrith

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Would you Adam and Eve it? Breakthrough at the Greek Hovel it is all systems go

583 days ago

It has only taken three and a bit years but the final planning consent has now arrived. We can now start putting a roof on the Greek Hovel and extending it to more than double its original size. George the architect has been in touch and it is all systems go. However, there are, Greece being Greece, a few minor issues.

There is the little matter of my neighbour who is still demanding a silly amount for the few branches we cut off his olive trees to allow heavy machinery to get up the long track to the hovel. George suggests compromise. I think otherwise. There is a discussion with another neighbour about the excavations needed to create an "infinity swimming pool". George assures me that this is a "good neighbour" but I rather fear the outcome.

But there is nothing to stop the trusty band of Greek Albanians from re-starting work on the house itself. Fingers crossed it will be completed by next June although, since that is George's prediction, I am thinking that next September is more likely. But at that point the Greek hovel will become a green palace, generating all of its own power from PV cells and recycling all the waste from the eco-loos and other waters into improving the yield on my olive crop.

On that note the olive harvest looms. I am mentally preparing to fly out in just over five weeks time to once again work in the fields with George the Albanian and his gaggle of female co-workers. I cannot wait.

I was intrigued to see on a Bulletin Board the other day that one particular knave was still pushing the idea that I had fled to Greece to evade justice as I was afraid of charges of market abuse. I cannot remember when this myth started but it was many years ago. Suffice to say, all the regulators know exactly where I am in England for most of the year and it goes without saying that calling out a fraud or a daft stockmarket promotion as such is not market abuse.

How I wish that I lived in Greece all year round even if it did encourage stockmarket halfwits to push this myth even more. I suppose when obvious scoundrels promoting fraudulent shares spread lies like this, one should take it as an endorsement of your work.

Bring on the closure of sociology departments across Britain and an unemployed Mrs might just be persuaded to agree to a move. But until then I fear that I must remain in old Blighty for the bulk of the year.

Maybe when the Palace takes shape I can persuade the Mrs to join me in early retirement in the Hellenic Republic? Fingers crossed.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article 1924 - a date stone found at the Greek Hovel

617 days ago

We were told, when we bought the Greek Hovel in 2014, that it was 100 years old and had been substantially rebuilt after the commies burned down in the Civil War of the late forties. Perhaps we might date it a bit more accurately now.

The workmen who are turning the hovel into a palace have uncovered a stone as you can see below. We can't make out the exact date but the year is 1924. Was the hovel built then or extended then? We don't know. But the snake killers (aka  the workmen), George the Architect and I are all chuffed by the discovery. The stone will be preserved and will remain on the external wall of the new enlarged ex-hovel as it takes shape.

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Photo: Stunning Portrait of my very handsome dead Great Uncle David Cochrane and a Donegal Mystery

617 days ago

I have written many times about my Great Uncle David Cochrane who, in 1931, died falling down the mountain now named after him, opposite Delphi in Greece. He was at the time a student at Trinity College Oxford. As my father seeks to de-clutter his house a few paintings have been offered to his children and step children and feeling a stronger Cochrane link than most I took these two below.

The first is of David from his days at Oxford. My first cousin once removed Henry, whose mother was a Cochrane, reckons that both he and I shared a Cochrane nose and other facial features with David. I have never seen that myself but cannot help but think how handsome David looks in a picture done by another distant relative. And within a year he had fallen thousands of feet to his death. How sad.

The second picture is a rather sentimental offering. The Cochrane's hailed originally from Co Donegal. At the time of David's death one branch of the family had repurchased the family home - residences of the old Protestant squirearchy in the new Free State were, for obvious reasons, going cheap at that time. But I am sure that David himself never visited Ireland. The picture is of Mount Muckish, one of the Seven Sisters chain. On the back it says that it is painted from the settlement at Glock. I guess the painting is from the late 1890s but can find no reference today to Glock. Perhaps a reader with local knowledge might enlighten me.

The Mrs thinks these two paintings and two others are to be hung in the garage, that is to say stored. I fight for David to stay the house if not for Muckish. But when the Greek Hovel becomes a mansion both will hang with pride there, a little bit of Ireland in the Mani.

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A last lunch in Kambos, Gary Sausage holds court, excrutiating embarrassment at the creperie

624 days ago

With a day to kill before flying back from Greece to what the Mrs calls home but I call Britain, there was time for one last lunch in my "home village" of Kambos. First a brief stop off at Joshua's inheritance, the Greek hovel, where a bulldozer had arrived and great progress has been made. I have photos of that, of my olives and also of my prickley pears but they can wait. For the main event, in a village whose great attraction is that nothing ever happens, was lunch in the main square.

Three of the main four tables at Miranda's were occupied. At two sat local Greeks sipping slowly at cool beers. At a third, Gary Sausage held court. He is a Brit but a permanent resident not of Kambos but of these parts. He is not really called Mr Sausage. I have no idea of his real name and I am not sure if anyone else knows either. But since he makes his living importing pork pies, British bangers and the like for those other ex-pats who - for reasons I cannot fathom - have a yearning for British food, he is Mr Gary Sausage.

The name has a naughtier sub text. Gary arrived here with his wife. In these progressive times I suppose I should make it explicitly clear that his wife was a woman. I say was because she appears to have tired of his charms and returned to Blighty. This information would surprise you as Gary Sausage is both rotund and also just extraordinarily camp. My gaydar is clearly very defective because I just assumed that he was one of life's big fat fairies. Think Christopher Biggins in shorts.

What is more, Gary Sausage always holds court when I see him in Kambos. He is always surrounded by a gaggle of British ladies who, like him, are in their sixties and have seen more than their fair share of Mediterranean sunshine and who seem to hang on his every word. Gary Sausage is the only straight man in the West to have this power over women. Anyhow he was holding Court on a large table strewn with rapidly emptying plates and bottles. Gary Sausage knows who I am, though since I have no cravings for pork pies or marmite, we have never talked.And so as the Mrs and I walked, with Joshua in his pushchair, towards the fourth table there was a fleeting acknowledgement from the great man before he refocused his attentions on his gaggle.

Miranda's was thus pretty full for a late lunch period. It was surrounded by empty plastic chairs ans empty plastic tables from the ghastly new creperie. On one of those tables sat the half French half Greek owner and her Greek father - the interlopers. They talked to themselves for they had no-one else to serve or to chat too. If someone passed by they would smile. The old man caught Joshua's eye and smiled. Joshua smiled back. That looks like a rarity.

The plain fact is that the locals are not using the creperie at all. And the last tourists have all gone, not that there was any sign that they were using it either. You do not need to be Richard Branson to see the gaping hole in the business plan going forward. And everyone in Kambos knows that.

There will come a day this Autumn when the creperie will not bother with the charade of opening its doors and laying out tables for customers who will never come. Perhaps the froggy will have another go next summer. I hope not. But pro tem the excruciating embarrassment goes on. The owner and her Dad sit there because they have to pretend they have a business and have tp keep smiling.

We all know that their fate is sealed and many of us look forward to the demise of the creperie and a return to the old order of the square being "owned" by the Kourounis taverna, Miranda's and the shop where I buy poison for frigana and get my strimmer mended. For now, however, we avoid catching a French eye, avoid having to smile back, avoid the sheer embarrassment of it all.

Tom Winnifrith

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An empty Kambos creperie says what Lovely Eleni is too nice to say - the intruder is toast

629 days ago

A meeting with George the Architect at the Greek Hovel went well. Joshua inspected his inheritance. The Mrs fretted about where to put the washing machine. For a house that is half built with no doors windows, roof and, in the case of two and a half rooms, walls, I reckon she may be getting ahead of herself.

After that a visit to our local village of Kambos and for 12 Euros we share two courses and a quarter litre of Rose at Miranda's. Miranda herself has retired but the food is, as ever excellent. Chicken in a lemon sauce with potatoes (not chips) and a Greek salad all made with fresh local ingredients. Perfect. Miranda's was packed out - that is to say all six tables were occupied.

Afterwards coffees at the Kourounis taverna run by lovely Eleni. It is agreed that her two year old daughter will marry Joshua in due course. The dowry, free Greek salads for life. well actually I have not negotiated that bit yet but the wedding has been agreed. The Kourounis taverna is pretty busy and conversation turns to the ghastly creperie which had absolutely zero customers during our time in town.

Eleni is ever the diplomat but she is no fan of the bossy French woman who has parked her tables across the square and intruded on life in a village where nothing is meant to change and rarely does. But the lack of customers has not gone un-noticed and there is a small smile noticeable as she notes that the business plan keeps changing. First it was crepes, then pizzas and now coffee and toasties. And now the summer is over, the tourists who might have stopped in as they drive from Kardamili to Kalamata or vice versa are all gone. And the locals will stay in the four of five long established watering holes of Kambos.

The creperie is, methinks, toast. Eleni's smile tells you it certainly is not hurting her trade though it is an annoying eyesore. I reckon by the time I return for the olive harvest in November the creperie will be shuttered up. Good.

Tom Winnifrith

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Sitting in the Caribbean Beach Bar in Greece repels me and sends my blood pressure zooming

633 days ago

One day the Mrs will learn that me and the seaside really don't mix. She has booked us into a pleasant hotel, the Baywatch, which to her annoyance, is nowhere near the sea. It does, however, have a wonderful view of the bay of Kalamata, a pool which Joshua, the Mrs and I like and is relatively quiet. The guests are nearly all young couples so I am the oldest there and find the music at the bar mildly irritating. That is to say it is all post 1995 and thus, by definition, utterly crap. But the internet works so I can relax by tapping away while Joshua crawls around the floor, licks windows, pulls books apart and does all the other things that make him happy. The Mrs is reading a book on the philosophy of marriage and occasionally draws my attention to a passage which highlights one of my rare failings as a husband.

But today here we are by the sea. Why have a Caribbean themed bar with a range of cheap gin, rum and vodka cocktails here in Greece except to cater to tourists with a limited IQ? Oh for the days of old when the charm of a Greek beach-side village was that it might have just a couple of shacks where you could drink ouzo or perhaps a Fix beer with fishermen and locals. Okay the shacks had no internet but then again I can't get the internet to work here either. That always makes my blood pressure soar.

Of course the shack for the fisherman is not the Greece of my lifetime. When I first came here, the Colonels had already been ousted and with an ever plunging drachma the foreigners were already swarming in for a cheap and cheerful holiday by the sun. But away from the sea, back in the 1970s, the Old Greece still existed. Food was rudimentary and based on sheep or goat, drink was almost always local wines not beer, roads in the mountains were either bad or non-existent and so some places really were preserved from the dreaded tourist. You really were enjoying a glass of local red wine for just a drachma with shepherds and other land workers. Conversation was in German as at least some men in every village had been Gastarbeiten at some point to escape the grinding poverty of rural Greece.

But, when I revisited Anelion to catch up with my father's oldest friend Mike the Vlach some eighteen months ago, even up in the high Pindus that world of Old Greece has now been swept away by new EU funded roads, by television and by all the other forces we call "progress."

Writing in the 1960s Paddy Leigh Fermor saw Greece at a crossroads. Would it try to preserve something of its mystical past or would it clasp the tourist DeutscheMark and Pound to its bosom and rush to a world of wall to wall Caribbean Beach Bars? Paddy was a bit too optimistic for his own good. It was no contest. As I stare across the bay of Kalamata somewhere up in the Taygetos Mountains opposite, even my own little village of Kambos now has its ghastly creperie seling toasties to folks sitting on horrible plastic chairs laid out neatly in rows; its own bit of progress. Perhaps that bit of progress will be knocked back. I hope so.

But the battle of the Kambos creperie was the dilemma Paddy pondered. For the natives the creperie and toasties might seem to offer them new choices. It might perhaps bring the possibility of new jobs and income to the village. As such it is a seductive siren just as, many years ago, wall to wall Caribbean themed bars must have been where I sit now . But for those with money and a real love of Greece it just forces us further afield to places that are still Greek. With its giant banners advertising Spanish beer or Swiss coffee this bar could be anywhere. How I wish it was somewhere else. Like Spain.

You will be glad that my camera is still unable to upload photos and so sits idle in my bag. For the view here is of human bodies sweating in the sun. I cover my own rolls of flesh with a T-shirt but most folks here wander around in swimsuits. A few of our species, such as my young wife, look wonderful in partial undress. But far too many of us just expose great rolls of blubber. Others wear all in one outfits into which the blubber is poured. As it desperately fills every inch of swimsuit and tries to escape it leaves nothing to the imagination.

And so I sit here surrounded by vile bodies listening to elevator music, dreadful remixes of tunes re-designed so as not to offend seventy year olds. The meze we are offered could have come from Iceland, the store for chavs, not the Country and, as a coup de grace, the Mrs and I are offered a shot of locally produced cough mixture on the house. That is a way of saying "you are tourists so all you want is to get hammered after paying 20 Euro for some third rate junk food now piss off."

Joshua sleeps soundly through all of this.

This time next year the Greek Hovel will, I believe, be finished. We three will sit by our own pool. I shall have no cause to grumble as the only semi-clad adult body on view will be that of the Mrs, there will be quiet all around, the meze will be made by me of local produce. And if the Kambos creperie has gone bust, all will be well.

Tom Winnifrith

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Off on a road trip with Joshua to see his inheritance and the snakes

636 days ago

It is the 50th birthday party of the sister of the Mrs today. The sister in law is married to a bubble and we are staying in their house in his family village about 90 minutes the other side of Kalamata from the Mani. The party is on a boat so Joshua is not invited and I am showing solidarity with my 11 month old son and we are going on a road trip together.

The destination is the Greek Hovel. The workmen are not on site so it will be just myself, Joshua and the snakes up there as we inspect his inheritance. Joshua does know the animal sound for snake. He waves his hand from side to side in a snake like movement and hisses through his teeth. He has seen a picture of a snake in the Gruffalo but yet to meet a real one. I think he knows that they are bad things and not like Oakley ones where you can pinch them and try to push them around. 

Then to the nearest village to the hovel, Kambos, to see my friends and for them to see the son and heir. I am charging my camera tonight for a full photoshoot and will bring you the results over the weekend.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - I'm happy to pinch ideas as a magnificent new doorway takes shape

642 days ago

Work continues on remodelling the existing structures at the Greek Hovel as we await final planning permission for adding new structures, including a roof. And so I bring you the new main doorway which is now almost complete as the photos below show.

You may remember that the old door was a rectangular green metal and glass object which was not going to win any prizes in a beauty contest. It kept out the snakes but small lizards could manage to wriggle in around the frame. as the hovel becomes a palace I have grand designs.

George the architect says that the stones used around the door and the arch above will lighten over the next few weeks so blending in with the existing stonework.The white plastic you see below the arch is temporary and there will be another ring of stones on top. The doorway will thus look like one in an old building in the centre of the nearest village, Kambos which is the last photo in the selection.

As for the door, here my pinching of ideas moves down the coast to the house that Paddy Leigh Fermor built just outside Kardimili. A thick wooden door painted a light blue has been ordered. But doors and windows are for the future. For now the wildlife diversity is free to enter at will.

I leave for Greece early next week with the Mrs and Joshua. Sadly, for most of the trip we are booked in to stay with her sister and her husband, the bubble, whose family live about an hour and a half the other side of Kalamata. It is my friends in Kambos who I want to see and the hovel that I wish to photo and admire. Sitting near the sea at the height of the tourist season in the midst of a madding crowd is not MY Greece. That is sitting with the snakes and the quiet up in the foothills of the Taygetos.

I shall try to escape as much as I can and bring you more photos on my rare snatches of freedom.

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Photo Article Real Progress at the Greek Hovel but....

650 days ago

There is a snag. We have all the demolition permits but the building permit iss er. delayed. Yes that is the one we were promised by June 30. Now it is August so after eleven months of toil and endeavour the Greek State bureaucracy grinds to a halt. So the builders can do nothing until September. I head to Greece shortly and will be popping into the Kalamata planning department for words... However there is good news as you can see below.

The stonework on the existing hovel has been replaced and window spaces made perfect. it looks a bit grey but that is only because the cement used to seal the stone is grey. It will now be scraped out and replaced with a yellower cement which with the light yellow, brown, red and grey stones means the Hovel will be the same colour after completion as it was before. It will just be a place not a hovel.

The roof is off and from September, before the winter rains start , a new pitched wooden roof to be tiled, will start to go up. The end of the rat room has been taken off so that it can be extended out by another two yards to make a great bedroom for Joshua. All in all there is real progress. I shall be back in the Taygetos mountains seeing my friends in Kambos and checking out the hovel in a couple of weeks time but it is heading the right way.

The rat room, at least, should be habitable by the time I head over for the olive harvest in December.

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Photo: Picking gooseberries in the glorious English Rain at Shipston - how I would miss our summer rains

677 days ago

In Greece the summer rains are violent. Dark clouds gather above the Taygetos Mountains above the Greek hovel or sometimes out to see in the bay of Kalamata. The wind starts to pick up and you can hear it unsettling the trees, after a while the rustling of the leaves is so loud it sends a clear warning of what is to come. Thunder booms loudly, you start to see lightning and before you know it the rain is pouring down. You can be drenched, a dripping rat, within a minute or so as the skies empty.

And then it is over. vast puddles lie across the mud track that leads up to the hovel. The mud is slippy and your car or motorbike slides its way up and down the hill but the sun is beating. Soon the land is steaming and within a day or so the puddles are gone.

If you are lucky the thunderstorm whips up at night, breaking the oppressive summer heat and allowing you one night of contented sleep. But whenever the rains break it is a violent affair. If you doubt me, listen six minutes into this podcast when - as I recorded - the hovel was struck by lightning.

By contrast, in England the heat is less intense. The rain arrives more often and is not the warm rain of Greece but a colder if less violent downpour. Such were my thoughts as I picked dessert gooseberries in my father's garden at Shipston.

Almost thirty years ago when my father and late stepmother, who died a year ago yesterday, moved to Shipston their four hundred year old house was in an awful state and the garden was just a total mess. They worked hard to create a wonderful central lawn, sprawling flower beds and a fruit and vegetable patch which year in year out has yielded potatoes, lettuces, broad beans, tomatoes, raspberries,m strawberries, red currants, black currants and both dessert and normal gooseberries.

Gardeners still pop in once a fortnight to keep the place in order. But my father rarely ventures into the garden and the soul has gone from the place this last year. The six of us (my two sisters and three steps) all visit and do our best to harvest what is there. It is a duty to my step mother and father not to let it go to waste. And so I sent the last of the raspberries back with the Mrs and Joshua on Sunday and as I waited for a lift to the station I picked half of the dessert gooseberries. Normal green gooseberries are just too bitter for my palate. I can't see why everyone does not use the purple dessert variety.

If I end up spending more and more time in Greece I shall miss the English summer rains, thought I, as I slowly got wetter and wetter, dutifully cleaning the bush.

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Photo Article - It's just cricket

681 days ago

In England life is so clinical and clean and removed from nature. Our food is covered in plastic. Seeing your cat wander through the cat flap counts as a wildlife encounter. How different life is for me in Kambos, Greece.

I wandered out out of Eleni's Kourounis taverna and round the corner to my car which was parked on the road whicfh heads up past the big new Church on top of the Kambos hill and then out through the olive groves and off up into the Taygetos mountains. There is a small right turning one hundred yards past the church. If you did not know it was there you would miss it.

It looks like someone's drive but is the way to another small road which winds its way past yet another tiny old church which can hold a dozen folks no more and on through the olive trees, eventually tumbling down the hill to meet the road to the Greek Hovel just at the bottom of abandoned monastery hill. It was on this road that I killed an adder with my motorbike two years ago.

I digress. I got in my car and there on the windscreen was a cricket. I drive off and it stayed there seemingly enjoying the ride, only departing as we headed down the sharp slope towards monastery hill. The greens and yellows and intricate patterns on its body are not really captured in this photo but, once again, I was left to marvel at how God's design work really is pretty special

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£20 for a litre of Greek Olive Oil - you is avin a giraffe at the SPRINGfest today

684 days ago

For a couple of weeks, the Mrs and I were wondering why the widely advertised event in this part of Bristol was called SPRINGfest. After all it is July. Perhaps it is that unfashionable old Brislington is just a bit behind the times? It turns out that this is the festival of the Sandy Park Road Improvement Neighbourhood Group. It is a bit out a mouthful but the main thoroughfare in this part of the world sure does need improving.

It has one uber dodgy pub, one fairly ordinary restaurant but a proliferation of charity shops, fish and chip shops and low grade Estate agents. I suppose there is a new Deli.. it is improving a bit.

At the top of the road is St Cuthberts where Joshua was christened two weeks ago. It was hosting the sort of "producers" Bristol abounds with. that is to say folks who produce home made jewellery, cards and tea towels. We said hello to the vicar who, once again, was on good behaviour, managing not to mention the oppression of the poor Palestinians, for a whole two minutes. We wandered round. £8 for a tea towel. Bargain. Off we headed to the bottom of Sandy Park for the food festival.

Somerset cider, meat pies from Bath, cheese from the Mendips you get the impression. In among the stands was one selling olive oil from southern Greece, from the Peloponnese to be exact - where the Greek hovel is situated. There was a card with a lot of horse about how the olives head from tree to press within 18 hours making the oil that much better. Horse say I. Pure horse. Olives are harvested and sacked. At the end of the harvest on each piece of land be it one day or several you takes the olives for pressing. It is cool in December in Southern Greece, perhaps a degree below zero at night. There is no rush to get your olives to the press.

For what it is worth, the oil was a pale yellow with no green tinge and utterly bland in taste. So much for all its special qualities. Horse say I and horse again. But what about the price? You could buy 200 ml bottles, 500 mil bottles or - the best value - 2* 500 ml bottles for a mere £20. Twenty fucking quid!!!! In Kambos we sell our oil - which tastes far better - to the co-operative for just under £3 a litre and the local producers make a gross profit margin of around 60%, including labour costs, even at that level! £10 just try and work out the markup on that one? The stand older was avin a giraffe. The sort of margin he is making is right up there with that on heroin importation and his oil is not even that good.

I bit my lip. It does not make me want to go into olive oil in a commercial sense. It just makes me think how silly, pampered and detached from the real world of the soil and the field, the British middle classes have become.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: The Greek Hovel new stonework shows great progress

695 days ago

There seems some scepticism from, inter alia, daughter Olaf, that any progress at all is being made in turning the Greek Hovel, our 100 year old farmhouse, into a habitable palace. Ye of little faith! Let me show you three photos.

The first is the view from the only room which has been inhabited in modern times. that is to say it is where I have stayed. The ghastly modern metals windows and plastic shutters have been removed. This view is across the valley to the other side where the deserted convent and not a lot else is situated.

Photo two is from some old stonework from the 1950s when the Hovel was rebuild after being torched by the commies in the Greek Civil War. as you can see it is rudimentary.


The third photo is of a window on the front of the house as you approach it. Beneath that window there used to be concrete breeze blocks put there in the 1980s by former owner vile Athena. As you can see they have been removed and replaced by old stone which has been crafted in a far more attractive way than the work from the fifties...real old style.


The workmen are now working their way around the hovel removing ugly concrete plastering from the fifties and later and re-pointing old stone work so that it all looks like our newer work, that is to say as it would have done a hundred years ago. See Olaf, that is real progress.

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Photo article: "hearing" the silence of a snake at the Greek Hovel

695 days ago

Gosh I am brave and show it my devotion to you dear readers. The other day I was working in the fields at the Greek Hovel in an area where the grass is long and the frigana slashing involves wading through that grass. I trod carefully and heavily as I have had wildlife diversity encounters in that area before.

And then I heard it. Well, I did not hear it, that is to say the reptile but I heard the grass moving, a couple of yards to my left. Those who have met me at investor shows will be aware that I am a little hard of hearing but in the silence of the snake-fields your average post can hear almost anything happen. And after a while your ears can, as they sometimes say in Greek, "smell" the different noises.

A lizard makes one noise in the grass as its little legs scuttle rapidly, crushing small stems but brushing very little aside with the swish of its tail. On the other hand as a snakes' body creates great ox-bow lake shapes as it speeds through the grass its powerful muscles push the blades violently this way and the other.

I turned to the noise but the grass had bounced back quickly and no shape was visible. But the sound was clear. It was a snake and it was fleeing from me. It must have heard what a feared snake killer I had become on the serpent grapevine.

Emboldened by this as I drove back to the village a bit later I stopped off at the dry river and glanced at the last remnants of water in the last pool of water where I had spotted "eels" a few weeks earlier. Bravely I got out of my car and approached the stagnant waters to bring you the photo below. Clearly my reputation as a snake killer proceeded me as once again the vipers had fled. Cowards!

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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

700 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: So I picked up a young woman and was shamed

700 days ago

I was driving on the road that heads up into the mountains heading from Kalamata to Kambos. Of course it does not end in Kambos, the nearest village the Greek Hovel. Kambos is just a settlement, of no particular historical significance, beauty or importance, sitting on the road as one heads to Kardamili, the ghastly tourist fleshpot of Stoupa or the regional capital Areopolis. But Kambos is as far as I usually go.

The sun was beating down and 600 yards out of town as the road starts to climb I saw a young woman, laden down with shopping bags and gesticulating wildly. Naturally, being a gent, I stopped and she said she was trying to get back to Stoupa. I said I could take her as far as Kambos and she tried to get into the front seat.

And then she stopped. as you can see lying on my front seat was my axe and 12 inch saw. Worse still I had my frigana chopper sitting there with the shaft running into the back seat. It has a tiny leak in the tank and so the whole car stank of petrol.

In Britain in the current climate that would have seen the girl calling 101 on her cellphone and an armed response unit arriving within minutes. JK Rowling would be on twitter within half an hour, talking about how yet another white supremacist had been nabbed and how Katie Hopkins and Nigel Farage were to blame. But here in the Mani I bet many cars are kitted out thus at this time of year. The young lady clambered into the back and we started chatting.

Looking in my rear view mirror I though she polished up well and that confirmed my prejudices. She was a Greek from Stoupa and my shame is that I leapt to the conclusion that she was just another dippy millennial out shopping and now heading back to Stoupa, a cultural desert, to head out to the bars. Shame on me.

Her passion was botany and we talked flowers. She searched for rare orchids up in the high Mani. She had spent the morning talking online to a world famous Irish botanist about a plant she had discovered. Did I know of him she asked? I had not heard of him. I remarked on the flowers up at the Hovel in spring and how I photographed them,. She asked me what flowers they were.

All that I could say is that I thought they were varied, of many colours and very attractive. Who is the bloody airhead now? C'est moi. I did not dare to mention that, as Nicho the Communist and I had purged the snakefields of frigana with poison, I had wiped out most of the flowers at the same time. An airhead and a vandal to boot, I was shamed.

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Shocking Photo Article - Miranda's sweet pussy

701 days ago

The shock is for any google pervs out there who have alighted on this page and though the photos are wonderful will be rather disappointed by their nature, The Miranda's I refer to is, of course, the restaurant next to the Kourounis taverna on the square where the road through Kambos makes a sharp right angle as it heads off to Kardamili.

Miranda's boasts a wide menu but in fact normally has one dish a day. But the food is awesome and so cheap.
And thus for 8 Euro I enjoyed a sort of beef burger containing some cheese and also very sharp and spicy peppers. Okay, that is high on calories but I had done several hours of manual labour up at the Greek Hovel. The point for a type 2 diabetic like myself is that it was carb free. Moreover I shared this with a cat which does not really belong to Miranda's but just wanders around begging as Greek cats do. Aaaah what a sweet pussy.

To accompany that there was a vegetable side dish: peppers, zucchini and a few slices of potato which I ignored all topped with local feta. Just wonderful.

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - another selfie and one of "my babies"

704 days ago

I think the last dripping in sweat, post frigana chopping selfie photo was not very flattering. Apparently some of you think that i have multiple chins. Au contraire. That was just the angle. I have not commented on my trouser size for a while but since we are on the subject...

There has been no change. I shifted down from 36 inches to a 34 inch pair about six weeks ago and they now feel very comfortable indeed. I am conscious as I wander into the swimming pool each evening that I still have a bit of a belly but it is not, as it once was, a vast expanse about which I feel real shame. If I breathe in you can see my ribs.

I have not weighed myself for a long while. That is no longer because id be terrified of the reading but because, as I noted the last time I was back at 32 inches and in Greece there seem to be no scales here. I suspect that my BMI is now mildly overweight but not what is termed obese. My priority has been tackling blood sugars - now back happily in range after yesterday's freak reading - not weight loss. Anyhow I hope the selfie below shows that i do not have multiple chins.

Indeed on yesterday's skype call to the Mrs, Joshua and Oakley, the first post haircut, of which more later, the Mrs - without prompting - said my face looked quite thin. That may be relative to that of Oakley but it is progress of sorts.

Meanwhile my babies are growing. The more I look the more I fear that it will be a poor olive harvest this year. For my neighbours who need the income it is bad news. For me it is a minor frustration but one that I can live with. But those olives that are there are now up from tiny balbearing size to small ballbearing size.

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Diary of a diabetic - 9.6 WTF?

704 days ago

I am meant to test my blood sugars twice daily and be in a range of 5-7 whatever that means.Almost two months ago I was 15.3 but these days an almost zero carb, almost zero alcohol, low stress and modest daily exercise lifestyle plus five pills a day has seen me happily in "normal" territory for someone tackling type 2 diabetes, for some days. But I just tested myself and it was 9.6. WTF!

I have not has any ouzo, though I deserve it today, and have had no carbs or sugars. But I have done a two hour stint of frigana chopping up at the Greek Hovel. I am drenched in sweat and I could feel my heart beating fast. So natch, I checked on google.

Vigorous exercise can, it seems, cause a short term spike in blood sugars. And this has been my most vigorous exercise since last December's olive harvest.But it should unwind within an hour or so and long term doing exercise will cut my blood sugars. Pondering this over a most excellent lettuce salad and numerous big glasses of water at lovely Eleni's Kourounis taverna in Kambos I am resolved to take it easy this afternoon.

As I butchered the frigana earlier I found several olive trees that I had neglected to prune and a few large bushes of frigana which might be hiding a you know what. They are in an area of my land where I have had unpleasant encounters before. And thus this afternoon an hour of gentle pruning and somewhat less gentle poisoning beckons. The fight goes on.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: Maybe not see you in a Greek Court Bitchez - as Paddy says, 1% of Greeks are bastards

706 days ago

After quizzing George the architect, it appears that it is just one of my neighbours who is asking for 900 Euro compensation for chopping off branches on his olive trees to make way for the heavy machinery needed to renovate the Greek Hovel. In fact it is even better than that...

The olive trees are owned by a father and son. The young man reckons 500 to 600 Euros is about right. It is his father who wanted more - 1500 Euro. So they settled in the middle. It is the father who goes to show that, as ever, Paddy Leigh Fermor has the Greeks nailed. 99% of Greeks are the nicest, most fair and generous folks you can meet. My neighbour Charon wants no compensation and neither does the sister in law of lovely Eleni. But, as Paddy noted in his classic book The Mani, just now and again you meet a Greek who is just such a complete and utter bastard that he will serve as a reminder of how great everyone else is.

I have inspected the thirty trees which we have "pruned". In some cases the branches cut are the sort you would cut at harvest time to flail across a machine to clean off olives. They are that small and they will have regrown by the time of the 2019 harvest. So it is one year's harvest lost. In other cases the branches are bigger and it will take three years for them to re-grow.

George and I did our maths and we cannot see how the loss of income over three years is anything more than 400 Euro and that is generous. So I said I would pay 500 Euro and if the old bastard does not accept he can take me to court. Moreover I shall tell the entire village what a bastard he has been and shame him in public. It is his call and I am very relaxed either way.

Meanwhile at the hovel work continues apace. I cut frigana and the Greek Albanians work on the building and on killing snakes. As you can see the ugly concrete blocks beneath the old ugly windows have now gone as well and the one window into the bat room has been extended so that it will get more natural light. The upstairs room will be flooded with light as the windows will be be almost floor to the current ceiling. Of course when it is finished that room - which will lead into the new room above the rat room and the new wing, will have a pitched wooden roof so it should feel very spacious indeed.

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Diary of a diabetic - all over the shop with the blood sugars as Diane Abbot lets down her fellow sufferers

707 days ago

I really do not understand this type 2 diabetes. There was I celebrating several days within a normal range of 5-7 and I woke up in the sevens. That was bad enough to prompt me into leading a very blameless day with a normal breakfast of a bit of bacon and eggs and a very modest lunch of fried zucchini. I then worked up a great sweat with hard manual labour chopping frigana at the Greek Hovel. And thus by eight PM, pre-swim my blood sugar reading had plunged to ...WTF?

It was 8.6! So I swum hard and had a glass of milk and thought I'd just lie down for ten minutes before going to a light supper. A call from the Mrs woke me up. It was 11.30 and I felt feint and groggy. My blood sugar had plunged to 6.2. At that rate it would be heading back through 5 and on the way to diabetic coma territory by the morning. I really just do not get it at all.

With the restaurants here on the very edge of town now shutting for the night I scrounged a piece of cake off the hotel and enjoyed that with my meds and another glass of milk. I do not have rhe raging thirst one suffers when the diabetes is out of control but I've sweated a lot of liquids today and I do just like milk. Anyhow I now feel really full of beans and absolutely fine. But this diabetes is a jolly confusing enemy.

I see that Diane Abbott has fessed up to being a type 2 diabetic and is using that as an excuse for her shambolic performance during the election. That a lard-bucket like Ms Abbott has developed this condition is no shock. However, I feel she does her fellow sufferers a grave dis-service in saying that the stress of six or seven interviews a day caused her condition to rage out of control so leaving her unable to answer basic questions. That is just a lie.

Her car crash interview with Sky HERE was her only interview of that day She crashed because she is thick and had not read her brief. Like many other diabetics I struggle through big stress times - the run up to Uk Investor Show - coping with this disease. I might end up pissing seven times during the night but I do not let down colleagues by failing to answer basic questions.

That my diabetes was raging out of control at the time of UK Investor was not down to stress, though it cannot have helped, but to persistent abuse of my body: not taking enough exercise, eating too much and eating the wrong things and drink. Ms Abbott needs to be honest with herself and with us in admitting the same.

Diane Abbott should take time off from politics to get her diabetes in check. And then carry on taking time off because she is just not fit for purpose as an MP. Having accused her critics of racism she is now using diabetes as a defence. It is pathetic.

Tom Winnifrith

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Diary of a diabetic - day whatever: in normal range, but its see you in a Greek Court Bitchez!

708 days ago

You will remember that back in early April my blood sugars measured 15.3 and I was told that my type 2 diabetes was raging out of control. It has been a long slog since then as I have aimed to get into a target range of 5 to 7. Whatever that means.

But I can now say that for three days both in the morning and evening my bloods have come in at between 5.5 and 7.2 with most tests in the 6's. This is normal range. This is where I should be. No booze, no sugars in anything and no carbs is the key with some gentle exercise thrown in. Oh, and no stress.

There is bad news on that front to report from the Greek Hovel. We had to chop a few branches off trees leading up to the hovel to allow heavy machinery in. The neighbours happily agreed. They have now, post chopping, asked for 900 Euro compensation. I am spitting nails. You can buy a new sapling for 8 Euro. You can buy land here planted with trees for 65 Euro a tree and even that is more than the Net Present Value of the olives you will harvest. And we have cut off a few branches.

I know that they are taking the piss. They know they are taking the piss. And I have told George the architect that they are taking the piss. As I say when some crook sues me for libel in the UK "See you in Court bitchez." There are three neighbours involved. I have told George I will see them in Kambos and face them down in front of their fellow villagers so exposing their greed to all. Their assumption must be that I am a rich Brit who will roll over. They are wrong and we have the photos, before and after, to prove it. If needs be I shall go to Court.

I am sure that I will calm down by tomorrow, but stress is not good. maybe I need to just fly back to the UK and calm down. Probably not. I need to stay here and sort this out.

The diabetes is not beaten yet. I am on heavy meds and I am sure that my GP will want me to get back into normal range with ever lower doses. But so far so good. My first goal has been reached and I am starting to think about a return to work in September.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - I scar the landscape and feel shame

709 days ago

I wonder how long the road up from the bottom of the valley to the Greek Hovel has remained unchanged? The house is 100 years old so there will have been a mud track up to it for a century. In the 1970s, I think, the stretch known as snake hill, was concreted over. The biggest pot hole in that part is so large that you need to partially go off road to avoid your car wheel getting jammed inside. Smaller pot holes litter the road but these days I know how to navigate around them. But from the top of snake hill as one winds through the olive groves it is almost entirely just baked mud.

Since the good folks of Kambos have been tending their olive trees up here for a lot longer than the Greek Hovel has been around perhaps the stretch of track through the groves is even older. But my point is that it has stayed pretty much as is for decades. The sheep use it. The snakes sleep on it without fear of interruption, lizards scuttle across it and now and again myself or my neighbour ( two miles away) Charon might drive or wander along it. At olive picking time folks lay mats across the road knowing that they are unlikely to be disturbed.

But all that has changed and its my fault and I feel a bit of a sense of shame. In order to get the equipment we need up to the hovel it has had to be widened. Some awful machine had just scraped away at the grass on either side of the path. In places, new piles of rocks lire discarded as some ancient wall has been pushed aside. You can tell where the earth has been disturbed as it is red. The photo below contrasts new track with that leading up to hovel, earth bleached white by years of sunlight.


I know that walls will be patched up and that in a few years the grass will have regrown and the track will be back as it was but for now I feel as if I have cuased some ghastly modern intrusion in the groves which have lain tranquil and undisturbed for all of living memory. It is my fault and I do feel a sense of shame.

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Photo Article: Frigana slashing at the Greek Hovel part 2 - Lightning stops play

710 days ago

To be struck by lightning at the Greek Hovel once is, perhaps, understandable but twice would look like carelessness. You may remember how, six minutes into THIS PODCAST the hovel was indeed struck but I soldiered on anyway. However, I'd rather not repeat the experience.

As I started my second session of frigana slashing up at the hovel it started to rain. To be fair, the clouds in the Taygetos mountains above me, looked a tad on the ominous side. And the weather has been all over the shop for the past 24 hours. Last night I was unable to sleep and so at 3.30 AM I opened the window in my hotel which faces out over the bay of Kalamata looking towards Koroni. That is to say the part of Greece where I go to milk goats with my wife's sister's in-laws.


I couldn't hear thunder so the lightning must have been 15 miles or more away but it was stunning. Sheet lightning lit up the clouds in the night sky and fork lightning rained down on the poor goats. For a good quarter of an hour the power of God, of nature, had me captivated. As we sit around tweeting and playing on snapchat we humans really are insignificant little creatures.

Anyway, back to the hovel. What is a bit of rain thought I. I am a Brit after all. And it was not exactly cold so I started attacking large frigana bushes with relish. Take that you Cloudtag morons, swoosh. Take that you fucking students who want to hike my taxes so you get to study sociology and basket weaving at no cost, swoosh again.

However, after about fifteen minutes there was a massive flash of lightning and about three seconds later I heard thunder. I did my schoolboy maths and decided that a kilometre away was just a bit too close for comfort. Did I really want to carry on waving the five foot metal pole, that is my frigana cutter, in the air? As a bonus this metal pole has a full tank of two-stroke at its end.

You may think that I am a bit rash now and again but I am not that rash. I retreated to my car as quickly as I could carrying the pole not on my shoulders but as close to the ground as possible. On the way a foot long pea green lizard scuttled across my path seeking shelter for by this time it was tipping it down. A wildlife diversity sighting is normally my cue that God is telling me to stop work in the snake-fields as you never know what the next piece of wildlife diversity you will encounter will be.

As I drove back towards the village the rain really was pelting down. On snake hill there were already rivulets forming. Snake hill got its name for a good reason so I did not leave my car in taking the photo below.


As for the last pond in the dry river? It is filling up happily. Good news for the "eels." Such is the localised nature of weather here that by the time I was back in Kalamata the roads were dry, the sun was shining and there was not a drop of rain. Kambos may be only twenty minutes drive away but as you head up into the mountains things can change very quickly indeed.

 

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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: frigana slashing and a sweaty selfie

710 days ago

Two years ago I would do four or five 45 minute frigana slashing sessions a day at the Greek Hovel. Somehow I forgot how I needed a good break between each one as both myself and my machine cooled down. I also forgot that I built up to that level of work over three months. And so heading up there today I convinced myself that I would do a good two hours before a lettuce salad lunch at the Kourounis taverna. Yeah right.

I was fairly amazed that my machine, which has lain gathering dust for a year worked at all. But I got it started in no time and strode off into the snakefields with the building team trying, not terribly hard, to hide their smiles as I wandered to the far edges of the property. I should be fitter than i was two years ago but I had forgotten just how hard work it is slashing away at the larger bushes and also just how heavy a chopper with a full tank of 2-stroke actually is.

After 25 minutes i was delighted to get a phone call, cut the power and lifted my mobile to my ear. My hand shook like I had some sort of degenerative disease.That was the result of controlling hard vibrations for less than half an hour. Manfully I continued and as you can see below, some big bushes have bitten the dust.

But after three quarters of an hour I was hurting badly. I was also sweating profusely which I hope you can see in the selfie I took. The Olympiakos baseball cap is about the only thing of any use left in the hovel by the previous owner vile Athena. Now enjoying that lettuce salad my right arm which carries the full weight of the chopper is aching. But the day is still young. One more session awaits before I head back to Kalamata and, if the rain holds off, a relaxing swim. This is the life...

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel – the Frigana battle, I need to start chopping

710 days ago

As I have noted many times, killing frigana is very therapeutic. To date this year, the weapon of choice has been poison and as you can see below, that has worked in places to very good effect. This is a patch I sprayed about a week ago and it is already on its way out. Leaves that were a shiny green are now visibly browning and pretty soon this whole patch will be a golden brown. But sadly that is not the whole story.

As I continued pruning my olive trees on Saturday I headed to the furthest points of our lands. I would say that it is almost 1,000 yards from the front gate to the point where a wire fence marks a patch that was pure jungle from an isolate place where someone, I know not who, keeps a few chickens and sheep. I did not actually know about this enclosure until a year after we bought the hovel so dense was the frigana at the far end of the land.

I always view the fight against the frigana as some sort of military conflict. The massed ranks of the enemy have largely been destroyed. But as you can see, a few large bushes remain. And in some places it is a bit more than a few. They ave held out against Nicho the Communist's spraying. Maybe some of the upper leaves are now golden brown but most of the square, I guess I now think of a British formation in the Napoleonic wars, has held firm. As Lady Thatcher once said, There Is No Alternative. TINA.

Tomorrow I must try to hope that my frigana cutting machine with its three pointed blade of death is in working order and I must wade in. The plan is to slash the bushes down to and including the roots and to revisit in August. At that point, I move forward from 1815 to 1916 and will, if needed poison again should new small green shoots be coming through.

Tom Winnifrith vs the frigana. This is not a battle this is a war. And we are now into the fourth summer campaign. Victory is in sight, onwards and upwards.

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Nature Photo from the Greek Hovel – isn't God an amazing chap?

711 days ago

I always carry my camera with me as I wander round the Greek Hovel. This is because of the snakes. If I meet one my first instinct is to flee. My second instinct is also to flee. Just conceivably, if I am carrying a pick axe I might go on the offense. But I have nightmares about snakes and, on balance, I know that I am told that they are more afraid of me than I am of them but I think that is bollocks. Though an official snake killer these days I am still shit scared. And I also recognise that I might just tread on one by accident. Hence the camera.

I walk with heavy step and I tread carefully so I hope that I will never tread on a serpent but one day I shall be unlucky and may therefore be bitten. At which point I shall whip out my camera and take a photo of the little bastard knowing that I have ten hours to seek medical attention. I will thus be able to show the quack what it was that bit me and ensure I get the right anti venom. With luck it will be a non poisonous snake – 18 of the 27 varieties of Greek snakes are non poisonous – and the Shipman will just tell me not to be such a wuss and to piss off. But all bases will be covered.

Having that camera also allows me to snap away at the other wildlife diversity. Yesterday I came across the stump of the tree which used to stand behind the, now demolished, old ruin whose stones are being cannibalised to extend the hovel. What glorious colours were on show. I hope the camera captures the beauty of nature.. Is not God a jolly clever chap? .  

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Photo article: Diary of a Diabetic (Second Time Around) day 11 - all in the 7s

712 days ago

Amid a general feeling of despondenc and uncertainty, the one constant joy is my blood sugar levels as I tackle type 2 diabetes. It is eleven days since I got back to Greece and I continue my regime of moderate exercise and avoiding booze and carbohydrates at all cost. Well almost.

I must admit that as I stayed up on Thursday night to watch the election I had a couple of glasses of white wine. I thought it would be one celebratory drink. It ended up as two to numb the pain. The odd thing was, that having been off the booze for a while, I did not really enjoy them. And as I struggled on Friday with lack of sleep, I was aware that even a modest amount of alcohol had made that feeling worse.

But I am back on the straight and narrow now. As a recap my blood sugars were 15.3 when my GP read the riot act to me. They got down to a stead 8 on my first trip to Greece before the visit of the wife's family. They were high 10s as I started again. I have now had six readings on the trot in the 7s. This is not a rogue poll. It is a steady trend.

Okay i am on heavy medication but the target range of 5-7 is very much in sight. My trousers feel looser and the symptoms, which a Gentleman dos not discuss in public, have almost entirely disappeared.

I know that I have a good few sessions left to complete my olive pruning and frigana poisoning up at the Greek hovel. By the time I head back to the UK in a couple of weeks to see my GP I have every hope that I will be in an acceptable range. The battle then is staying there.

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - another vile Athena legacy goes

714 days ago

We are almost there in removing the ghastly modern additions made to the 100 year old Greek Hovel by its former owner vile Athena. I was up there today pruning my olive trees at an incredible pace and almost the last legacy has gone.

I refer to the loathsome glass windows in metal frames and plastic shutters that covered them. As you can see, they are going.

Of course the rat room and bat room do not have windows at all just holes in the wall so this was just an issue for the main room upstairs where I have stayed when here in the past. We will now be removing the concrete blocks which are underneath these windows and replacing them with stone before, in due course, inserting new windows in wooden frames with traditional wooden shutters.

Pro tem the wildlife diversity now has full access to the living quarters. And that is a good reason why I shall not be staying here until that is rectified later this year.

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Photo Article: General Election Result from Toumbia is in: Tory win!

714 days ago

The Mrs claims that she has put up a Labour poster in our house back in Bristol. The shame of it. What will our god fearing, hard working, tax paying white van driving neighbours think of us. They will have no idea that I am not, like the Mrs, a deluded Guardian reading lefty. The Mrs also made it clear that My Tory poster would be used as litter by Oakley or ripped up by Joshua in my absence. So I have brought it to Greece and as you can see it is now up on display ay the Greek Hovel.

There are several dozen houses in the large geographic area of Toumbia but only two are inhabited: the Greek Hovel (sometimes) and the house of my nearest neighbour, two miles by track away, Charon. He is, of course, mad as a box of frogs so Id but him down as a SNP voter. But since he's Greek he can't vote in the UK election which means that we can already call Toumbia as a landslide win for the Conservatives.

Theo Clarke, our Tory candidate back in Bristol East is a remoaning member of the (London) metropolitan elite who appears not to have a shred of Tory DNA in her body. But given that our sitting Labour MP Kerry McCarthy is a barking mad extremist, I have held my nose and voted for Theo. I sense that Bristol east may well go the same way as Toumbia.

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Diary of a diabetic day 8 ( 2nd time) - a day off

715 days ago

Please do not read into this that I am enjoying a day of gorging on baklava or downing gallons of retsina. far from it. As it happens I have not had a drink for more than ten days and I am really enjoying being sober every day. It is not that I have had so much to drink that I have had a hangover for months and months. I really do not enjoy that sort of drinking any more. But I actually feel better for not drinking at all.

And I shall have another carbohydrate free day as well. It is just that - I have no plans to do manual labour up at the Greek hovel. I did a major session of olive pruning yesterday and I think that I am about three or four sessions from completion.I am getting so much faster than I was three years ago and - after years of neglect - my little darlings actually need far less pruning than they used to. But at the end of that I felt pretty ill, maybe it was dehydration maybe a mini migraine. I eschewed a swim and just collapsed into bed. I got up for a light breakfast at 7.30 AM and at 11 AM have just got up again.

Today is a day for admin, swimming and writing, a day of taking it easy. There will be no work up at the hovel.
The really good news is my blood sugar levels are almost within target range of 5 to 7. You will remember that they were 15.3 at the start of this battle and almost 11 a couple of days into round 2. Like General Election opinion polls you get outlying readings now and again. So I had a 7.2 yesterday afternoon and a 9.3 that morning. But today I started at 8.5 and for several days now my readings have all - other than those two outliers - been between 8.0 and 8.9.

That is not good but its heading the right way and it is not "off the scale" as I once was. I am convinced that dodging carbs as well as sugars and taking even gentle exercise is the key to getting back to a consistent sub seven by the time I head back to the UK. The battle then will be maintaining that.

The one scare was that yesterday I ran out of one of the three pills I take to control type 2 diabetes. All credit to the most excellent Messinian Bay Hotel. One of the chaps at the front desk scuttled off and though it is a prescription only drug he had a pal at a pharmacy and within half an hour I had replacement supplies to hand.

So today, it is 31 degrees, pity me as I tap away by the side of the pool. It is a hard life.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: Two new olive trees emerge and the Greek Hovel as have my babies!

716 days ago

What a delight it was to be among the olive trees yesterday. the first treat was to go an investigate two new trees that no-one has seen for years. They were enclosed in a patch of dense frigana bushes with some large frigana trees there for good measure. Previous owner vile Athena had chucked a stack of wire into this mess meaning that I have never been able to tackle it with my strimmer. It was too dense to poison and anyhow I was convinced it was home to numerous snakes so I gave it a wide berth.

But my brave Albanian Greek workforce led by Gregori who kills snakes with his bare hands waded in and the frigana has gone. Instead we have two trees surrounded by logs as you can see below.

I was a bit nervous of treading over the logs but ventured in anyway and gave both trees their first prune in years. What a treat for them and for me.


The other big news is that my babies, the olives themselves are emerging. as you can see they are tiny right now, about the size of a very small ball-bearing but they are there. I fear that it will not be a great crop but the annual delight of seeing your first olives is a delight none the less. that is it for me for today, it is off to the hovel for more pruning.

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Photo article from the Greek Hovel: farewell the snake patio, farewell the "smoking" steps

717 days ago

The snake patio is not to be confused with the snake veranda. The latter was the flat surface on the (illegally constructed) concrete roof above the rat room. It was surrounded by (illegally constructed) concrete blocks which have now gone. We did meet a snake there on our second visit to the hovel hence the name. It was where i killed an adder a few weeks ago.

The snake patio is in front of the house as you approach it. Laid on a concrete slab the former owner, vile Athena, had laid a series of tiles. But the roots from the oak tree (now cut down) broke through and the surface was thus cracked and uneven. Frigana flourished in the cracks as did the wildlife diversity. I never actually encountered a snake there but it is a slam dunk certainty that they visited. But like the tree and the concrete blocks the snake patio has been demolished. as you can see below

In time there will be a new patio there with a wooden construct above it on which a vine will be trailed. Our patio will be made of rough local stones so it will not be even but it will be in keeping with a 100 year old property. In the shade of the vine I will put up a large wooden table for lunch.

Also disappearing is the stairway up to the front door. In my old unhealthy days I used to sit on those steps enjoying a cigarette and the complete calm and quiet. I rather liked the steps. They too were topped with concrete but it was so old and weathered that it almost blended in. But the steps have had to be partially removed to allow the injection of concrete into the main structure to ensure that it meets the standards required to withstand earthquakes. They happen in this region every few decades and so it seems a sensible enough move.



If you look inside the hole created you can see the old stone-work of the main house which really is very attractive. The new stairs will be built of the same stone with no concrete topping.



The Greek Albanian team of workmen have dug all around the house to expose more original stone and allow the concrete injection. This shot is of the back of the house. For now this is an external wall. But the intent is to add a whole new wing along this side of the house, doubling the overall floor space and making this wall an internal one.

Tom Winnifrith

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Diary of a diabetic Day 6 ( second time around)

718 days ago

Just a very quick note on my blood sugar levels as I battle type 2 diabetes. Yesterday i reported how the trend was my friend as i re-started the fightback. After a day of hard olive pruning, swimming, no booze and healthy eating more dramatic progress has been made.

Supper last night was grilled octopus and boiled mountain greens. That dish is, as far as I can work out, a cross between spinach and weeds. But with a drowning of lemon it is actually rather nice. I turned down bread and felt virtuous because my pre-supper reading has been 9.7 and I was not going to let it slip.

As a reminder I started before my first campaign against the diabetes at 15.3 ( off the scale) and my target is sub 7. Back below 10 was a landmark. This morning, pre breakfast, my reading is in at 8.9. yes that is EIGHT point fucking NINE! Today: frigana poisoning and olive pruning at the Greek hovel, a swim - target is sub eight by next weekend.

Tom Winnifrith

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Diary of a diabetic day 5 ( second time)

719 days ago

As you may remember when I was joined in Greece my by wife and her family my type 2 diabetes control went badly off the rails. In the ten days i spent in England there were days when I almost gave up. I was not dreadful, I ate no chocolate and I did take some exercise but not a lot. But I had a few drinks and some days I skipped my medication. I was angry with myself and depressed. But my flight back to Greece on Tuesday marked a new beginning. So we start the clock again.

On the morning of day 5 I am now into a routine of doing enough exercise out at the Greek hovel each day which sees me break into a sweat. Today it was an hour and a half of olive tree pruning. Boy my little babies are vigorous. the ones I prune a month ago have sprouted new shoots to lop off, the ones I have yet to tackle are really hard work. In 30 plus degree heat I have worked up a good sweat and climbing up and down the terraces left me almost breathless by the end. Good news. And I did not see one snake. Even better news.

My hotel has a pool and at 32 degrees down by the sea i am sorely tempted to have a swim. I am taking my medication religiously. I have not had a drink since Sunday nor do I imbibe fruit juice or diet coke. My diet is largely based on Greek salads, although I am allowing myself bacon and eggs for breakfast, and is almost entirely carbohydrate free. I am now enjoying a late lunch of soda water and a salad with no bread at the Kourounis taverna in Kambos.

By blood sugar measurements were 15.3 before I headed to Greece the first time. They were down in the 6, 7 8 range before the mother in law arrived but back in the low mid teens by the time she left. Stress free and back in a routine I tested 10.3 this morning having been 10.5 the day before. That is, of course, far too high. I should be sub 7. But I am heading the right way.

The good thing is that the symptoms of type 2 diabetes, most of which a gentleman does not discuss on the internet, have almost all gone. I feel more alive, more energetic and really looking at new challenges. I did my first podcast for two months today. It is not going to be a daily thing for a good while yet but it was a fun diversion. I have three work projects which I am mulling over. They will not take much time but will be fun and I feel up for a challenge.

There is no plan of going back to normal work any time soon. 10.3 is still shockingly high and unless I get that down to sub 8 by the time I next see my GP in three weeks I shall be getting a right old rollocking. But the trend is my friend and I feel pretty good about the way things are going.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: Doing what makes me happiest - a 2 hour workout at the Greek Hovel killing frigana

721 days ago

It may sound silly but I find that killing frigana - the horrid thorn bush in which snakes hide - is really the most relaxing thing that I can do. Whether it be with poison or with my strimmer I become the grim reaper and could not be happier.

Today "Death" was armed with a brand new 16 litre spraying kit. One measure of poison from my 5 litre can (also pictured) for nine of water and off I went. The lever on the side must be flexed in order to build up pressure and then you spray away. Oh what joy.


The strimmer brings the satisfaction of causing instant decapitation but the bloody plants just grow again. Poison takes a while but after ten days what was sprayed today will be a golden brown and on its last legs.

Three years ago I used a strimmer only as the frigana was anywhere between waist height and my height and had to be slashed back carefully because of what might be lurking inside. But three years of slashing, burning and poisoning have left the 16,000 square metres of land at the hovel a very different place. And that in itself brings a sense of fulfilment. I have, with my own hands, turned a wildlife diverse jungle into land which can be farmed for olives and - longer term - for vegetables. It is land across which one can wander with clear sight of whatever wildlife diversity may be ahead of you, the diversity has nowhere to hide.

These days there are whole patches that are frigana free. The plants that have grown back are mostly knee high. The industrial spraying by Nicho the Communist a month ago missed out a few areas entirely and the odd plant or row of plants elsewhere. So I am really just adding the finishing touches. Across our lands most plans are now golden brown, dead or dying.

The only concern I have as I spray away is snakes so I tread carefully. But standing on a snake free spot, wearing an Olympiakos baseball cap left at the Greek hovel by the former owner vile Athena, I can then just spray away in pure joy. As the liquid falls on each plant i think of some Bulletin Board moron or share poltroon who has accused me of theft, tax evasion, child abuse, murder or whatever. I compare the frigana plants to the stockmarket villains I hunt in my day job. Maybe my poison is as weak as UK financial regulators in that just when you think a villain is nailed slam dunk or a frigana plant is drowning in poison and doomed, it goes away for a while but then comes back a year later to annoy you once again.

I am not sure if I am winning the battle against stockmarket fraud but who cares? Two hours of poisoning the frigana sees me dripping in sweat but thoroughly fulfilled. In ten days I will be able to witness the tangible fruits of my labour. And there will be a tangible win. Tomorrow I can tackle a whole new swathe of frigana. I can feel my blood pressure falling already. This is the life.

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Photo Article - back at the Greek Hovel - it is starting to look rather beautiful, but there is bad news

722 days ago

I headed pretty much straight from Kalamata airport up to Kambos for a Greek salad at the Korounis taverna. As i wandered in a couple of old men whose names I do not know raised their hands and said "Yas." Everyone in the village knows about the snake-phobic Englishman who lives surrounded by snakes up in the hills at Toumbia. After that it was up to the snakefields and the Greek Hovel where Gregori and his gang of Greek Albanians have really started to transform the place as you can see below.


The first photo is of the house as you approach it up the garden path. The old tree which used to tower above the hovel and whose roots were gradually undermining it has gone. that exposes the ugly metals windows and the breeze blocks below them to full view but they will be gone too within the next week or so. Imagine that view with old style wooden windows and shutters painted a Greek blue and you can start to see this 100 year old house for the beauty she was once and will be again.


Further along this side of the house all the metal railings have been removed on the stairs up to the front door and the area above the old bread oven. Gregori, who kills snakes with his bare hands, has cleaned out that oven and declared it fit for use. That is a bonus. I must admit that in three years i have not even dared look inside for fear of what members of the wildlife diversity community I might find.


On the other side of the house, an old door which had been replaced with breeze blocks by the vile former owner Athena has been re-opened giving a second entrance to the rat room. That door will in time be filled with a wooden door linking the rat room to the new part of the house which we will add on to double its floor space. The rat room is for Joshua and will link to what will be the master bedroom.


At the back of the house I found Gregori's co-workers. The older guy is actually his father in law. The work they are doing is turning boulders extracted from the digging out of the floor of the bat room into stones that can be used to build the extension. This is done by hand, the old way. It is how the stones were formed when the house was first built more than a century ago. And also when it was rebuilt after the civil war which saw the Commie burn down this place as punishment for its owners supporting, as did nearly all of Mani, the Royalist cause.

The bad news is that yet again planning permission for building as opposed to demolition has not arrived. I was told that it really would come through within four weeks. But i was told the same thing four weeks ago and four weeks before that. I arranged with architect Sofia that we would go to see the planning department in Kalamata first thing tomorrow so find out what is happening. The other bad news is that the timescale for completion has er... lengthened. There is no cost implication, although I brace myself, but instead of being ready by Christmas I am told that it will be ready within a year. I hope that is a British year not a Greek one.

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Photo Article - another dead snake at the Greek Hovel: slight change of accommodation plans

722 days ago

In my absence my gang of Greek Albanian workmen have been busy at the Greek Hovel as you can see HERE. Arriving almost straight from the airport we discussed how work was going, what was next and then came to the main point of my visit, an update on the snake situation. As you may remember this gang got hired after its leader Gregori, pictured below, boasted that he killed snakes with his bare hands.

"So have you killed many snakes?" asked I. Gregori beckoned and showed me a small one that he had killed just the other day. Do not be fooled into thinking this is a harmless little serpent. This was a junior adder which is more dangerous than a mature viper since it does not know how much venom to inject, it just bites and poisons away.


I looked at the small snake and asked if Gregori had met any others. Rather like a fisherman he opened up his arms to indicate the length of the two others he had sent to snake heaven. Bother were adders and more than two foot long. One made the mistake of slithering across the door of the bat room as the gang dug out the floor. The door offers the only light into the room and thus it was all too visible and Gregori had pounced. Three kills in a week, yikes. Gregory cheerfully pointed out that if he had killed three it indicated that there were many more out there in the land around the hovel. We agreed that we need to get hold of some cats as a matter of urgency.

Worryingly all three kills had been within a yard of the hovel which indicates that the snakes do not seem to have noticed that I have snake repellent canisters up to ensure that there is a snake free zone. At this point I was beginning to think twice about my plan to stay up at the hovel on this trip.

If I was in any doubt as to my intentions, that was resolved as Gregori explained that among the next jobs was removing all the ghastly metal windows and shutters so that the stonework could be improved to encompass new old style wooden windows and shutters. My friend seemed worried that this would allow humans to enter and steal what is inside. There is little of value inside the hovel other than my strimmer, which I can store in the village, and my concern was about what non human animals would be heading into the hovel. My decision has been made. I have extended my booking at my hotel in Kalamata.

Living in a hovel surrounded by snakes but with every hole and window securely sealed is bad enough. Call me a wimp if you wish but living in a hovel with no windows surrounded by snakes is sheer madness.

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Sitting in a garden centre in Bristol I dream of the snake repellent shop in Kambos

725 days ago

The plants the Mrs and I have planted in our back garden have almost all suffered death by cat defecation. That is to say my fat, though no longer morbidly obese, three legged cat Oakley hads shat them into oblivion. And so during my brief UK visit I have led a drive to re-plant. To complete that task the Mrs, Joshua and I headed to a garden centre here in Bristol today. Before stopping to pick up a few herbs (me0 and some flowers (the Mrs) we sat enjoying an expensive coffee and watched the masses head by.

I could not help but reflect about how in two days time I shall be sitting in the Kourounis Taverna in Kambos, the nearest village to the Greek Hovel, enjoying a coffee at half the price and looking at folks wander in an out of our own garden centre run by Vangelis.

Here in Bristol there is no need for shelves of poison for your frigana or snake repellent or hard tools small farmers use for clearing ground or for some part of the process of caring for, nurturing and harvesting the olives. That is what dominates the shop in Kambos, it is a place for folks doing a real job.

Of course it has plants too which one can buy. But they are mainly vegetables or herbs. There is no money or need in Kambos for vast arrays of colourful weeds, oops I meant flowers. Here in suburbia there were any number of colourful weeds to choose from.

There were even little olive trees for sale at thrice or four times the price of a sapling back in Kambos. Of course the British trees will never generate an economic return, they are mere ornaments. If I told my friends in Kambos that my neighbours in Bristol will pay 30 Euro for an olive tree that would never create oil they would think folks here were very strange indeed. They would be right of course.

The garden centre in Bristol was packed. I guess it is what baby boomers do on a bank holiday weekend in Suburbia. There were probably more folks in that centre during the course of this morning than live in Kambos, and all the British suburbians just buzzed about, picking up things, lining up to hand over more cash than they should really be spending and then crawling home through the traffic with cars laden up with things that are not really needed.

And this is meant to be relaxing? Whatever. I shall be back in Kambos by Tuesday lunchtime.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: Ways to annoy the Mrs No 34: putting up a Tory election poster In Bristol East, then Greece

728 days ago

I am back in Bristol for a few days and was wandering back from lunch with Joshua when we happened to pass the Conservative Club. The door was open and i was conscious that I needed to renew my father's membership. Though not a Tory, or indeed a Bristol resident, he likes the idea of being able to access cheep beer at a place not far from our house.

Thus, while spending £16 on the renewal, delighting in the idea of pinning Dad's membership card up on a wall at Shipston just to annoy my pious left wing public sector employed sisters, I asked if anyone was in the office upstairs which the Conservative Party uses at election time. It seems not. They must have been obeying the election halt called by Mrs May after the Manchester attacks. "Shame" said I, "Joshua and i were hoping to pick up a poster."

Luckily the lady said that they had a selection behind the bar. I eschewed ones celebrating Mrs May, I wanted to have lots of blue and the word Conservative on it, in order to really ensure that the Mrs (Labour voting, Guardian reading sociology lecturer) was annoyed as much as possible.

We on the right believe in freedom of expression but the Mrs points out that she owns the house and I am only a lodger and has thus barred myself and Joshua from displaying our nice new poster. This is regrettable - should I refuse to pay my rent?

Eight month old Joshua appears to want to nibble the poster which I take as a sign that he is a good Tory. Remember my son: greed is good. I want to put it in the window of the spare room which is where myself and Oakley are sent when one or other or both of us are in the doghouse.

But the Mrs is not for turning. So it has been agreed that my poster - for the drippy remoaning local Tory Theo Clarke who does not appear to support any Tory principles at all - can stay in the room where I work. Pro tem that is the front room as you can see below and it can be seen from the Street. As of next week it will be on show in the Greek Hovel where no-one will see it other than myself and my Albanian workforce.

But for the next few days, as the Mrs watches TV at night, there it sits glaring down on her, urging her to do the decent thing on June 8. Go on dearest... you know it makes sense.

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Photo Article: Joshua goes to see his inheritance ( the Greek Hovel)

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.

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Photo Article - cats in Greece

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.

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel: At the snake house - pruning THAT tree at last

733 days ago

I have been pruning olive trees at the Greek Hovel for four years now. But there is one tree that has almost entirely escaped my attention until now, the one that lies within the outer ring of stones of the abandoned ruin on our property, a.k.a. the snake house.

The ruin was surrounded by thick bushes. In the first year there was a forest of frigana around it. And time and time again I have heard rustlings from inside. Over the years I have hacked back the frigana as much as I dare and poisoned it some more and now the bushes are almost gone.

Last year I did a quick attempted prune but as I saw a snake disappear into long grass about a yard from where I stood I bear a hasty retreat. This was the snake house and I accepted that.

But now Nicho the Communist's poison has left the last few bushes brown and dying. More importantly, as you can see HERE, the ruin is being pulled down so that we can use its stones to extend the main house. And all that poison and activity has forced Mr snake to seek a new home. So on a symbolic day the Mrs snapped me pruning that tree, at last.

jjj

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: I have won the Mrs over to Miranda's in Kambos

733 days ago

Okay you come to Greece to star at the sea. There is no sea up in Kambos, the village closest to the Greek Hovel where I live. As you sit in Miranda's you stare up at the castle, you see cars, lorries or flocks of sheep wind their way along the road, and you see like in Kambos progress at its slow place.

We sit outside on one of the four tables underneath a wooden shelter. On another table the father of Vangelis from the snake repellent shop was holding court. He was chatting for five other older men, I guess not that much older than I am, as they nibbled some cheese and tomatoes and drank merrily. In due course Vangelis wandered over. He can keep an eye on the store and have a beer at the same time. Im not sure what was being discussed but there was no rush to end the lunch, after all it was only four in the afternoon when we left.

As ever, whatever the menu says about a wide selection there was just one selection - it was pork and peppers today. The choice was whether you wanted it with new boiled potatoes in a sauce or okra in sauce. We went for the latter and some tomatoes for Joshua. The total damage for two portions of pork & peppers and okra and the booze and Joshua's tomatoes was 14 Euro - call it £11.

Not only is that much cheaper than by the sea, the food is fantastic and the pace just so slow. I have won her over, the Mrs is a member of the Miranda's fan club too. As for Miranda herself she picked up Joshua and took him round to introduce him to everyone. He did not quite know what was happening but enjoyed his celebrity status.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: Pulling down the snake house at the Greek Hovel

733 days ago

At the Greek Hovel, about half way along our land on top of the hill, there is an old ruined house. It was almost entirely covered by frigana but over four years I have cut and poisoned that away. As I have have done that I have repeatedly heard rustlings inside. Last year as I ventured in a snake made a clear exit in the other direction. I saw not the snake but the snake shape curving its way through the long grass. In a way that was more frightening. 

But now tthe snake house is being pulled down. The stones are needed to extend and rebuild the main hovel. As you can see, work is progressing well. he backdrop of the Taygetos mountains behind us is, I hope you agree, spectacular

 

 

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Diary of a diabetic day whatever + 1: still seething

737 days ago

I am now, once again, doing regular resting of my blood sugar levels. And after a break of a few days I am again taking my medication. Being by myself since Sunday lunchtime has assisted in a no alcohol diet and a meal schedule which is regular and healthy. I wonder could I spin out a diet based on two Greek Salads a day plus raw oats into a 30,000 word diet best-seller? Probably not.

But the damage done by the previous week and not taking my pills has been profound. I started this campaiagn against type 2 diabetes with an off the scale reading of 15.3. Before the arrival of "the family" I was scoring 7s and 8s in both of my twice daily readings. And heading lower and within sight of being "normal". Yesterday, my first full day back on the pills and with the right lifestyle choices I scored 12s and 13s. I started today at 11.9. I now have 10 days of "family time" here and back in the UK where I do not care who I offend: some things are more important than others. I am furious that three weeks of great work has been undone in such a short space of time.

It may upset all and sundry but I will eat alone during that time. I cannot seem to explain to the Mrs that communal eating since she arrived with her parents has involved wine on the table, over-ordrering of joint dishes and interminable waits for food - as others dither on their choices. When bread lies in front of me, this and the other stresses are just a suicide trip. If I had any self discipline I would not be in this mess right now. I don't. My bloods this morning are 11 point fucking nine. They were sub 8 and trending lower. All this stress is doing me no good at all.

A reader put it this way. You are invited out to a friend's house. His Mrs says that a massive Chinese takeaway has been ordered and will arrive in five minutes. You offend her by saying you cannot eat any of it. But you woud offend her more by barfing over her carpet in reaction to that meal before dropping down dead and sliding into the sick.

When I return here I have been thinking of buying a mountain bike and ditching the rented car. That would get me down to Kambos from the Greek Hovel, where I plan to stay on a camp bed, even in the event of a snake bite. And cutting myself off from the outside world and its temptations is what my body really needs more than anything.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel: dealing with rats as I discuss kidnapping some cats

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?

 

Tom Winnifrith

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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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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - another lizard

738 days ago

As you may be gathering, I am really getting quite fond of the lizards at the Greek Hovel. that is good news as they are everywhere and I shall be moving up to live there full time in about ten days. And so here is another very sweet little chappie, or chappess. I still can't "sex them" but he/she was about three inches long and seemed relatively fearless, sitting less than two foot away from me for several minutes before wandering off in search of an insect for his/her lunch.

Tom Winnifrith

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Diary of a diabetic day ..whatever: a disastrous week

739 days ago

I have not even bothered to test my blood sugar levels for the past few days. I know they are up. I can feel a couple of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes making a minor comeback. Last night, for instance, I felt the need to piss several times. Net result: no sleep. And it is all so predictable. I could kick myself. Or certain others.

The theory was simple. Come to Greece and shock my body into beating back the diabetes. I have done it before. I know what to do. It means physical workouts every day either in a gym or up at the Greek hovel or both. It means no booze. It means no stress at all. And it means a limited and largely carb free calorie intake with meals at regular times. And it worked gloriously until last Saturday, eight days ago. At that point I was getting blood sugar readings that were in the "normal range" for diabetics. And I was happy. I was on track to end the shock treatment and be able to just "manage my way" to an even better score and that could even happen in the UK. 

But eight days ago my wife, eight month old son and the parents of the Mrs arrived. We transferred to a base in Kardamili, a town that I do not really like and the routine went out of the window. I have spent one day and a couple of short sessions up at the hovel in the past eight days but my exercise levels have fallen off a cliff. Other folks just could not be abandoned and no-one other than I wants to spend any real time at the hovel.

Then there is the food. The Mrs, quite rightly, points out that I lambast fat welfare junkies who demand State aid to stop being so fat, because what you put into your own body is your own choice. However, the reason that I have type 2 diabetes is that I do not have great will power when it comes to food or drink. Nobody is perfect and I am far from perfect and this is one of my many weaknesses.

If I had will power I would not be in this mess to start with. Surely she understands that? 

Meals are now communal. My mother-in-law, who I should stress has a heart of gold,  fusses about ordering, asking for things that are not on the menu and then insulting waiters later on. The end result is that there is invariably too much food on the table but also long delays for the meal proper during which time, like Joshua, I just eat bread. I have it with oil, Joshua likes it plain. Wine is ordered for the table and I end up having just one glass.

The drinking is in fact worse than that. My mother-in-law and my dear father have a few things in common. Their faith ( laudable) but also a staunch political mindset made only possible by living in a post fact era. My mother in law is entitled to state  that the pound has fallen by 25% since June 23rd 2016 ( it is down by 2% actually) and that post Brexit the UK will not be allowed to export to anywhere in the world at all. I am sure my father would love to hear it and they could remoan away together.  But I do know a bit about economics  and happen to know this is not true. But there is an insistence this is fact.

Yesterday evening I hit the ouzo in response. I had three small measures.

That may not sound like a lot but ten days ago I was on one unit of alcohol a week. Now it is 3 or 4 a day. The Mrs says "we are on holiday" as if it does not matter. She does not have type 2 diabetes which was "raging off the scale" just weeks ago. I do. She is not being told by her GP that there is a good chance that she will be dead within five years. I am.

So for me it bloody well does matter as I try to explain. I was doing a great job of shocking my body back into shape and avoiding stress so that I had a better than evens chance of making it to 55 but the past week has seen a dramatic reversal. Forget the mother-in-law (a committed Labour supporter) insisting that, whatever the Mrs and I believe, Joshua must go to a fee paying school, I am not going to be alive to make that decision, the way things are going.

This afternoon we part company for a couple of days. I head back to Kalamata while the others stay here in Koroni. I intend to restart shock therapy and when we all meet again I have asked the Mrs if she minds if I eat alone. That did not go down well.

Next weekend there is the return to Britain. I am there for just a few days but am meant to be seeing my GP to discuss my blood sugar levels, medication and how things are going. He is worried that I do not take my diabetes seriously. I think perhaps the Mrs should come with me so she understands why the past week has been such a total bloody disaster for me. I take the prospect of having a heart attack at 52 all too seriously and am trying my hardest to avoid that in a way that I can achieve. 

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article from the Greek Hovel - readers this is not an eel

740 days ago

The bravery I show on your behalf, dear readers, knows no bounds. I wrote an article the other day about how the last pond in the rapidly drying out, and now almost dry, river that crosses the road up to the Greek Hovel, contained certain shapes. I maintained that they were snakes. One reader suggested that they were in fact eels, that I should wade in and capture a few for lovely Eleni to cook for me for my supper at the Kourounis taverna. I can only conclude that this reader wishes me ill. Today I ventured closer to the rapidly shrinking pond and bring you two new photos.

The shape was moving but I think that you can clearly make out that it is not an eel. I have showed the photos to lovely Eleni who says that the snakes I see are not that poisonous but that I should try not to tread on them. Fear not, I got within five yards of the pool, it moved and I retreated rapidly. But not before I captured the two images below.

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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Photo Article: Friendly wildlife Diversity at the Greek Hovel as I prune and think

741 days ago

An hours olive pruning each day is good for the olives and good for me. For starters it is some exercise to keep the type 2 diabetes at bay. Reach up, saw, reach down, axe, reach up axe, look around to check for snakes, hear a noise, panic, discover its not a snake, stop panicking, walk over the rocks and bushes to the next tree, check there are no snakes. Repeat. Repeat again. If I could do this every day the pounds would roll off.

And when not panicking about a noise in the bushes or thinking which shoots and branches to lop off it is a chance to think. I am not sure I always get the pruning 100% correctly in terms of what to lop and what to leave but locals from Kambos who have inspected my work up in the snake fields at the Greek Hovel nod with some sort of approval. I think I get it more right than wrong.

In terms of the thinking I am not sure I get that all right either. There is an awful lot to think about and you can do so in almost total silence. Sometimes you can hear the bells of the sheep or goats. Now and again it is a rustling in the bushes but mostly it is just silence. Its the best place to clear your head.

Anyhow you wanted a photo. sadly I could not find a snake for you so you will have to make do with a lizard. They are everywhere. This little specimen was scrambling up the wall at the Greek Hovel. He  or she, for I am no expert at sexing lizards) is about four inches long and could not get away from me fast enough.

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Kicking myself for that parting line: I am not a gin sozzled ex pat

741 days ago

As we walked out of the restuarant last night here in Kardamili, my eight month old son Joshua made eye contact with two ladies who, I guess, were about a decade younger than I am. He started smiling, they started smiling and soon conversation broke out. Joshua is a great ice-breaker whether you want him to be or not.

It turns out that one of the two, who were British, pops over to Kardamili several times a year for four or five day breaks, long weekends. She just loves the place. She asked about us and why we were here. We mentioned the Greek hovel and our family connections with Greece.

The lady knew Kambos. And shared in our joy that after three years we are finally building. It is exciting. But conscious that Joshua needed to get to bed and we needed to keep an eye on the mother in law before she insulted any more of the locals, I attempted a parting gambit "See you in the Kourounis taverna in Kambos, one day maybe". It worked as a way for us to separate and head home but I'm kicking myself this morning.

One of the joys of Kambos is that there are no other Brits in town. A few pop in from neighbouring villages and a couple of them do live up to the stereotype of the gin sozzled, or beer sozzled, ex pat. Lobster red, Daily Mail reading old bores, bleating about how England has gone to the dogs & how the natives out here cannot organise a piss up in an ouzo factory. But generally that sort of person is rarely seen in Kambos. And it is not me!

I rarely drink anything at lovely Eleni's taverna these days. Its coffee and a Greek salad for me. I avoid hanging out with the Brits instead chatting, if I talk at all, with a few worlds of broken Greek on my part and a few words of broken English on theirs, to my fellow residents of Kambos. I am kicking myself for giving the impression that I behave otherwise.

Tom Winnifrith

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In trouble with the Police again

743 days ago

Before any deranged share rampers start recycling fake stories of non crimes I did not commit seven years ago start to get too excited, my problems were once again with the Old Bill here in Greece. As regular readers know, I am all too familiar with the inside of Kardamili nick.

The main road from Kalamata to Kardamili and on into the Mani winds its way through the heart of my local village of Kambos. Once you go past the turning up to the Greek hovel there is a long straight stretch of around 400 yards which takes you to the Kourounis taverna owned by Lovely Eleni and the square in front of Miranda's. At that point the road makes a 90 degree right turn and then heads past the main shop in the village and out on towards the Mycenaean tombs, the Frankish castle and the road to Kardamili.

For as long as I have lived here cars have parked on the kerb in front of Eleni's taverna and the square of Miranda's. Traffic coming in from Kardamili can see such cars very clearly and there is no reason not to park there. And no signs indicating that it is illegal to do so.

And thus, as per normal, I parked my car there yesterday afternoon and headed inside to answer an email or two and have a coffee. All was well for 45 minutes until a man at the par said "police, Police, your car". I looked up and indeed a cop had parked his car next to mine and was starting to write out a ticket. I rushed out. He said something in Greek. I said "I will move it now" in English. He said in English "don't you realise how dangerous this is?" I nodded obediently, moved my car and, I think, dodged a ticket.

Of course it was not dangerous. Cars have been parked in that spot 365 days a year for forty years and there has never been a crash. Traffic hits this bend in the road at sub 30 km/h and anyone travelling on the same side as my car was parked (that is from Kardamili) could have seen my parked car for at least 200 metres. But I am not a man to argue with Greek cops.

As I write there are cars parked where mine was, on the other side of the road, just around the corner. The cop is back in Kalamata or Kardamili. Life in Kambos goes on.

Tom Winnifrith

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Sitting in Kambos speaking French - looming competition for lovely Eleni & FFS I am NOT a Kraut

744 days ago

There was I sitting in the Kourounis Taverna in Kambos having taken the Mrs and Joshua up to see his inheritance, that is to say the Greek Hovel. The Mrs and I were enjoying a Greek salad prepared by Nicho the Magician, that is to say Eleni's other half and Joshua was enjoying a few bits of bread and smiling at all passers by. A lady came up and introduced herself.

I already knew who she was. Nicho had pointed her out as the French lady. She rather stands out as her mother was from Cameroon. Non white folks rather stand out here. Until recently the Mrs, has on her visits, been 100% of the non white community.

We spoke in a mixture of French and English. Thanks to the chain smoking WW2 tank hero Harry Owen who taught me at Warwick School my French is not that bad. But her English was better. early on in our conversation she asked if I was German. I think my body language made it clear that I took this as a grave insult. Do I look like a fucking Kraut FFS? Apparently i do. The woman blundered on by saying she only said so because I was tall, like a member of the frigging master race. Whatever.

It turns out that her late husband was a bubble and so her daughter lives in Kambos and is going to start a creperie this summer. She pointed at where it will be... about twenty yards from the Kourounis taverna and just next to Miranda's. Now Miranda's limited menu does not include crepes but in the summer Nicho the Magician gets out a special machine and his crepes are most excellent. Naturally, as a good diabetic, i shall not be indulging but the kids love him.

This new entrant to the scene means that with a population of 536 (539 including myself, the Mrs and Joshua), Kambos has two ouzeries where you can get nibbles, coffee and ouzo. Plus three places to eat ( and get ouzo).

Naturally, lovely Eleni will retain my business. Accusing me of being a Kraut is not the way to win me over.

Tom Winnifrith

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Taking the Mrs to the Greek Hovel - a mass snake encounter

745 days ago

The Mrs, myself, Joshua and my parents in law are staying about 15 miles South of the Greek Hovel in a nice hotel by the sea. As I mention here, I have very mixed feelings about Kardamili and would really rather be back in Kambos. But this break is not about me. Today, we escaped the in-laws and took Joshua to see his inheritance, that is to say the Greek Hovel. The Mrs has not visited for almost a year and was keen to see how the building was going. I was just delighted to be out of Kardamili and able to do some manual labour.

The half way point as one goes on the long and winding road/dirt track from Kambos to the hovel is the crossing of the dry river which winds its way along the valey underneath the deserted convent. Get over the river and you are soon climbing snake hill and on your way up our side of the valley.

In winter the river is full enough to spill over the road and after especially heavy storms it can be many inches deep as it crosses the track. As we head into May the river has almost entirely disappeared. As one heads towards the hovel there is just one deep-ish pool of water. It is covered in green algae and must be both the temperature and consistency of soup. I have not investigated first hand for reasons that will become clear.

This last remnant of river is about four yards from where my car door would open if I dared to get out. For the past two or three days I have been aware that there were black "shapes" cutting their way through the algae. They were clearly moving. They were long and thin. I stared at them long and hard and was pretty sure what they were. One day I got out to go have a closer look but then heard a nose in the bushes and quickly got back in my car and wound the window up.

As the water level goes down I guess there is less surface area and a moving shape becomes more visible. And thus as we drive past today I peered past the Mrs in the passenger seat and stopped the car quickly. "Look" said I. The shape was very visibly moving as only a snake would do. And it was not alone. It was a veritable snakefest and the Mrs had not even arrived at the Hovel yet. It is a good job her husband is such a brave snake killer. Notwithstanding that I drive on quickly.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article - Work starts on the rebuilding of the Greek Hovel: the snake veranda

747 days ago

As you may remember, work was delayed on the rebuilding of the Greek Hovel after the authorities insisted we needed a permit to demolish bricks put up without a permit by the previous owners. This is Greece after all. that permit has arrived and so the demolition starts, and phase one is the snake veranda.

It is the area above the rat room and got its name after, on our second visit, we encountered a snake which was aggressive but, it appears, not poisonous. It was also where I killed an adder the other day. On this roof - which was itself added illegally - the previous owner had added hideous breeze blocks and iron rods all round.

As you can see they are now all gone. The house looks better already!. the view from the top up to the taygetos mountains behind us is even more magnificent with all the clutter removed.

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After three years...building work starts at the Greek Hovel. Laptop off!

748 days ago

I left Heathrow at midnight Greek time. Having picked up a stomach bug in London the flight and the bus journey from Athens that followed were less than comfortable. Wearing a jacket and winter coat from London I was feeling pretty awful by the time I arrived in 29 degree Kalamata at 10 AM.Thank heavens my hotel had a room ready for me to wash and dump my coat in. I headed straight to the Greek Hovel feeling extremely tired.

The good news is that after three years of planning woes work is now finally able to start. If there was an Olympic event in Government inefficiency, Greece would win gold, silver and bronze.

Gregori the Greek Albanian foreman and two assistants had already demolished most of the illegally added structures on top of the snake veranda. By the close of play tomorrow they will all be gone as will the, illegally added, platform on the other side of the house facing the deserted convent and the, illegally constructed lavatory, that does not work.

Tomorrow is a big day. For starters I join the work team. It is agreed, Gregori will kill any snakes we find with his bare hands. But with all the noise he and his two assistants are making the snakes will be in full flight to my neighbour's land. They will be working an eight hour day. My plan is to start at a couple of hours and build that up over the summer.

The other big news is that the Mrs, Joshua and the parents in law are arriving in the evening. We switch hotels to one in Kardamili. My commitments at the hovel might mean a bit less time with the mother-in law but we must all make sacrifices in life.

Anyhow, for the past three weeks I have been able to do a bit of financial writing as I do just a spot of manual labour. It is now full on work with a target of having one habitable room by late summer and the rebuild complete by the time of the Olive harvest in December. As such, that means less writing, I shall just keep my hand in with photo articles from the building site. You cannot get more exciting than that can you? That is what I call page bait!

Tom Winnifrith

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Frigana poisoning at the Greek Hovel... avrio arrives as I slip past Didcot

750 days ago

There was i just dozing off gently as the "Cathedrals Express," which I had caught at Moreton in the Marsh, pulled slowly past Didcot. Then my phone rang. It was a Greek number but not one that I recognised. It was Nicho the Communist on a land line.

So you are in England, he said. I replied that I was. He was calling to say thart he and "The Albanian" were returning to the Greek Hovel this afternoon to finish the frigana poisoning. Thank you very much I said in Greek. We will meet this weekend to sort out a second payment for the Albanian and for me to hand over his favoured currency, whiskey.

The job is done, even without my assistance. In less then ten days what were green fields dotted with green frigana will be a golden brown. And we can start plotting where to plant our new olive trees.

In Kambos, Avrio may not always be tomorrow but it always comes in the end.

Tom Winnifrith

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Frigana Poisoning at the Greek Hovel Delayed again - this time it is not God

752 days ago

I arrived at the Greek Hovel at 9 AM sharp for the delayed day two of the frigana poisoning. I parked outside the gates. I could not be bothered to open them, close them and almost certainly have to open and close them again when my comrade in Labour, Nicho the Communist turned up. For I had a feeling that once again he would not. Yesterday it was God's fault...

Three quarters of an hour spent watching lizards outside the car window was anough for me. I reversed and headed back along the three mile track to Kambos. I passed Nicho's car and his truck parked outside his house and headed to the Kourounis taverna. Lovely Eleni tried calling Nicho but there was no answer.

Lovely Eleni confirmed that Nicho had, as I had suspected, been on the whiskey last night. If there is a a Y in the day it means that it is a "Yamas" day. The suggestion was that he had kept going to 5 AM. In which case his lie in, is understandable. When will we complete our work? Avrio. Avrio.

Tom Winnifrith

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Frigana Poisoning at the Greek Hovel - bottles of whiskey cause postponement, or maybe it was God?

753 days ago

I arrived at the Greek Hovel bang on time at 9 AM for day two of the frigana poisoning. Not to my great surprise, Nicho the Communist and The Albanian were nowhere to be seen. I sat there watching lizards for three quarters of an hour.
I am not sure whether the large number of lizards around the hovel is a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, I am pretty sure that my old saying "where there are lizards there are snakes" is valid. The conditions are perfect for all sorts of wildlife diversity. But on the other hand, lizards are not daft.

Lizards eat moths and insects and snakes eat pretty much anything but they are very partial to a spot of lizard. So if the lizards are everywhere around the hovel perhaps that is because my snake repellent cans are working and they have identified it as a safe space? I know what I hope for but I am not sure where the truth lies. Anyhow, they are gorgeous little creatures. Some are a pure pea green, others are a mixture of green, yellow and black. The smallest are a couple of inches long but I have seen peak green monsters of a foot and a half in the past. They all scuttle along always looking around for both things to eat and for er...danger. I like watching lizards.

But there is a limit to my appetite for lizard watching and so in due course I drove out of the hovel, stopping to shut the creaking gates, and headed off to a packed Kourounis taverna in Kambos. The one notable absentee was Nicho the Communist and it soon emerged that he had, last night, been, once again, celebrating International Worker's Day ahead of time. Assisted by the usual suspects it appears that three bottles of whiskey had been downed and it was suggested that Nicho might be having a bit of a lie in. I left my number with lovely Eleni - whose wealth must be boosted materially by Nicho's celebrations - and about an hour later, shortly after I arrived back in Kalamata, I received a call.

I asked if Nicho was feeling a bit tired after last night and he agreed that he was. But that was not the reason for the postponement of the poisoning. "It's the air - the air is wrong - if the air is good we will do it tomorrow" said my Comrade. I accepted him at his word but rather suspected that the whiskey was the real cause of the postponement. I saw nothing wrong with the air, it was a lovely sunny morning.

But, as it happens, I sit here mid afternoon in my hotel looking up at the Taygetos mountains which form the spine of the Mani peninsular and they are clouded in a thick fog. In fact I cannot actually see the mountains at all. It is almost certainly raining heavily up at the Hovel and so Nicho's excuse was valid. There is no point in spraying the frigana if the rain washes it off just a few hours later. You need a clear 24 hours of hot dry weather for all the poison to be sucked down into the roots.

So it was God not the whiskey that postponed the final bit of poisoning.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: Frigana Poisoning at the Greek Hovel - Part 2

754 days ago

You may remember that George the Architect is a little nervous about chopping down non olive trees which the forestry survey may have identified at the Greek Hovel. On the other hand Nicho the Communist regards these snake shelters as an obstruction to the basic human right of every Greek to plant as many olive trees as possible on his land. I am with Nicho.

And thus while on day one of the poisoning Nicho started work dealing with the frigana -as you can see here - The Albanian was sent off with a chainsaw to deal with one of the five trees that we have earmarked for removal.

Sod elf n safey, this is Greece. The little chap just set to work clambering up the tree and taking at apart branch by branch as you can see below. In fifteen minutes the tree was an ex tree and Nicho had another place to plant an olive tree this Autumn.

Admin

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Photo Article Part 1 - Poisoning at the Greek Hovel with Nicho the Communist

754 days ago

As he had promised my friend Nicho the Communist returned to the Kourounis taverna after half an hour and so shortly before eleven, two hours after we planned, we were ready to start poisoning the frigana, the ghastly snake hiding thorn bushes, that blight the Greek Hovel. Shall we go in my car I asked?

I must take The Albanian, said Nicho. Great he has hired an Albanian. I felt much happier. No offence but Nicho is getting on a bit and when it comes to hard work here in Greece you can't beat an Albanian. Moreover, since my status has been elevated to that of snake killer, I have sensed a diminution of the previous bravado of my friend when it comes to serpents. I rather feared that if we encountered one he would join me in flight. Say what you like about the Albanians but they are as hard as nails. They will kill snakes with their bare hands.

And thus I set off in my car, Nicho followed behind in a battered truck with the young Albanian, who greeted me like an old friend "Hello Thomas", sitting beside him. That, it turned out, was the full extent of his English but in Nicho we had an able translater. He is the best English speaker in Kambos, not that there is much competition for that title. For what it is worth I like it that way. Coastal villages might lose their character. Kambos stays resolutely Greek.

When I go poisoning by myself I use a 5 litre bottle which is jolly heavy. But what i was about to witness was industrial scale poisoning. It was genocide. No other word is appropriate for the slaughter which was set to unfold. Nicho drove his truck past the hovel, past the ruin where a snake lives to the far end of the fields. I have never seen that done before and as he squeezed past rocks and over stones the truck became that bit more battered.



As you can see the truck contained a cylinder into which we added 20 litres of poison to the 380 litres of water it contained. I saw we, of course I mean Nicho and the Albanian. The Albanian started a motor and a long hose was unwound and Nicho started spraying. It was not just the frigana but all sorts of bushes and flowers. Everything in fact. The poison does not harm olives trees and of course the trees were spared but everything else got the treatment.

After a while Nicho handed the hose to the Albanian. "I am old" he said. "The Albanian is young and faster." I thought both were frighteningly efficient. My role was limited to helping pick up the hose when it snagged on a rock or a plant but three hours traipsing around the hovel was enough to leave me feeling pretty drained. I thought about trying to explain about diabetes and blood sugars and the dangers of them falling too low but thought that this might be lost in translation and just be seen as a sign of being pathetic. So i soldiered on but celebrated greatly when the 400 litre tank ran out.

We start again tomorrow at 9 AM. The job is 80% done. Nicho assures me that the snakes hate the smell of poison and will flee. And also that within ten days everything sprayed will be dead. We will have another session to finish off anything we missed in a couple of weeks but the land will then be clear and so we can mark out cleared spots for planting new trees in October. And the snakes can bugger off to plague my neighbours. What's not to like?

I handed the Albanian some Euros but Nicho refused to take payment. I mentioned bottles of whiskey and that seemed to meet with his approval.

 

 

 

 

Admin

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Poisoning at the Greek Hovel - what about the poor sheep and goats?

754 days ago

A reader asks how do I ensure that, when the land around the Greek Hovel has been poisoned, the various herds of goats and flocks of sheep that wander the foothills of the Taygetos do not roll on by for a fatal meal. The land will be pretty bad for their health for at least a week. Its a fair question with a three part answer.

Firstly I have told lovely Eleni what I am up to. Since all the shepherds and goatherds frequent the Kourounis taverna she has warned them what is afoot. Secondly word about Nicho the Communist and I going to poison the snakefields has spread throughout Kambos and is the subject of much hilarity. The Englishman from Toumbia - snakes - Nicho - sober - you get the gist. So everyone knows what is happening anyway.

And finally...I have shut the gate. There is a rickety metal structure at the end of what you might term the "drive" but is really just a continuity of the mud track which leads to the hovel. Normally the gate is left wide open as a sign to all shepherds and goatherds that our land is a common resource. But when I am poisoning I shut the gates as a sign. The gates are very much on their last legs and your average sheep could open them with a good shove. I suspect that the gates will not last the year. I have plans, not yet discussed with the Mrs so do not alert her, to build a great wall around our land and with it large new wooden gates.

I have discussed this with a man called George - that would be George the wall builder as opposed to all the other George's in Kambos - and shown him what sort of wall I want. Once, like the Patron Saint of the Old Country, I have purged my land of snakes, the wall will help keep them out. And it will also keep out any unwelcome visitors from Britain who might object to some of the things I write. Like Donald Trump, I like walls.

Pro tem I make do with an old wire fence that keeps nothing out and a gate whose only purpose is to signal that the land will, for the next ten days, be under poison. So readers, no sheep or goats will be harmed by what Nicho and I are up to.

Tom Winnifrith

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Delayed poisoning in the snakefields at the Greek Hovel...but not for that long

754 days ago

I had agreed to meet Nicho the Communist at 9 AM sharp to poison the frigana at the Greek Hovel. Lovely Eleni had promised to keep him sober on the Friday and although I tarried a bit over my breakfast coffee I arrived at the track leading to the Greek Hovel by 9 AM and was at the house by seven minutes past. No Nicho. Perhaps he was celebrating International Labour Day early with some breakfast tsipero? I contented myself with some gentle olive tree pruning.

Two or three years ago that would have exhausted me but i worked at a good pace for half an hour or more, saw no snakes, but at 9.45 AM really did start to wonder where my friend had got to. I had grave fears that lovely Eleni had not managed to keep him under control last night. There was nothing for it, I started to drive along the long and winding track and road back to the village of Kambos.

I passed the village simpleton, well one of a few, who was wandering through the olive groves with no apparent purpose. I waved, he raised his hand weakly. I passed an aged old crone, with an arched back where black from headscarf to toe. She was aged indeed. her face looked like an old olive tree, lined and wrinkled and with boils where the tree has knots. She was wandering up the mountain as 80 year old crones do here collecting herbs. I got stuck as a shepherdess and her flock marched along the road. But after quarter of an hour I was sitting with a coffee in the Kourounis taverna in the heart of Kambos.

Sure enough in wandered Nicho the Communist. to his credit ( or rather that of Eleni) he did not appear in the slightest bit hungover. He explained he has a problem with his car. He is taking it to the petrol station where he and Spiros, the owner of the garage which is also where the post for outlying houses such as mine is left, will mend it. In half an hour he will be pack and the poisoning can begin.

Tom Winnifrith

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Diary of a diabetic day 25 - lifting poison in Kambos

755 days ago

My strips for my English meter should have arrived by Fedex yesterday. They have not. And so i am still on the Greek meter where my readings are all over the shop. Overall the trend seems down and yesterday post run I scored a reading of 106 which I gather is 5.9 in proper money. Okay vigorous exercise really spoofs the meter but three weeks ago I could have run a marathon and still not got anywhere near that level. Okay that is a lie.

Yesterday i managed 3.1 km in 26 minutes. A new post diabetic personal best but still a bit short of a marathon. And i was a sweaty wreck. Today it will be 3.3km in 27 minutes and I am jolly proud of myself. that pride was a bit punctured by a late night call from soon to be 16 year old daughter Olaf who claims to be able to do 5 km in 25 minutes. "But well done daddy you are starting from a different base" she opined. Patronising little witch. I will show her.

That was not the extent of my exercise. I headed up to Kambos to pick up my poison for a weekend of frigana poisoning with Nicho the Communist. 80 Euro saw me get a massive plastic bottle which weighed a tom. well not quite but it was frigging heavy and I had to put it down several times as I walked back to my car. Lovely Eleni and her husband Nicho (not a communist as far as I know) laughed as they saw me and at that point Nicho the Communist wandered up. So you two are poisoning tomorrow said Eleni and laughed even more. There seemed some doubt as to whether Nicho the Communist would be sober enough to do it but he assured me that he would. 9 AM sharp on Saturday. We will be poisoning hard all weekend.

As I lugged the massive container to my car I walked past three little old ladies dressed in black who just sit around all day. I could hear them chatting. The Englishman from Toumbia is a phrase I recognise. A truck went by with two young workers from the village olive press. They shouted out "Hi Tom" and seemed to be laughing as well. Another lady hooted. I sense that the nicho The Communist/Tom frigana poisoning the snake fields story is all round Kambos and is seen as a potential source of merriment for all.

Olaf and I discussed how I know more folks in Kambos than I do in Bristol. It is true. Other than a couple of folks from the Conservative Club and our neighbours on one side I know no-one other than my wife's mad left wing friends in Bristol. I have more conversations in a tiny Greek village with 536 people - of whom three speak some sort of English - in a day than i do in a week in Bristol. and I live a healthier lifestyle. And its 27 degrees. What is not to like?

I ended the day with a spot of olive pruning at the hovel. The trees are now enjoying their fourth prune with me after years of neglect so they need less and less "cleaning". It is so quiet up there. There was a flock of sheep but they wandered away so it was just me. In a way that is wonderful. The downside is that even a deaf old man like me can hear the smallest twig crack or leaf rustle. And as I hear such sounds, a voice in my head immediately shouts out "snake." I look around. There is nothing visible. I tread even more carefully. After a while I decided that was enough snake panicking for the day and headed off. But three bouts of exercise fuelled by a bowl of raw oats and two salads, is not bad for a man with type 2 diabtes is it?

One day I shall go into all the symptoms although a Gentleman probably should not. But suffice to say they are all in retreat if not gone altogether.

 

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: Nicho The Communist, the Goats and a lesson in olives

758 days ago

Fourth time lucky. At the agreed time, Nicho the Communist wandered into the Kourounis taverna in Kambos for our trip to inspect the olives at the Greek Hovel. I had left him the previous day five hours into his binge with George, George and anyone else he could find as he celebrated St George's Day. He confessed that he had continued celebrating until late at night on a taverna crawl round Kambos - there are four places to drink in our village of 536 souls.He had that look, that I remember from my own days of heavy drinking, that says "I am never going to touch alcohol again." But of course you always do. Having not touched the demon drink for almost ten days I am feeling a little smug. Excuse my smugness.

I drove us up to the Greek hovel. We discussed snakes which are all now out of hibernation. "It is their time" he said in a way that reminded me of the Lord of the Rings. Now starts the fourth age of man. Or in Kambos, Gandolph, or Papou, announces Now is the age of snakes. But conversation was a little hard when your companion obviously just wants to go back to bed. He did however note that the Hovel is a lovely place but, as we crawled along the long and winding and very bumpy track looking for snakes to run over, just a bit far from the village. "I like it that way" I assured him. "No-one can find me."

Arriving at the hovel we immediately met a herd of goats. Whose are they asked Nicho. I did not have a clue but said that I did not mind. Nicho was less certain pointing out that they will eat my olives. And indeed that is the case. Sheep walk on the grass and tend to eat only things that lie on the floor. Goats jump on rocks and will eat anything, frigana included, but do have a penchant for olive tree leaves. Nicho went up to an enormous billy goat and told it to bugger off. Which it did. I assured him not to worry. I do not mind losing a few olives if I also lose some frigana. More importantly, snakes do not like goats.


The purpose of our trip was to check out my wild olive trees - trees whose fruit cannot be processed into oil. I seem to have been a little confused on this matter. The two trees I had identified as wild as they produced big black olives which George the Albanian shuns when we harvest, are in fact not wild olives. Those are olives which you need to cure to eat as opposed to pressing for oil. Aha. I told the Mrs later that this was women's work and a job for her. She seemed unconvinced.

But as we wandered to the far reaches of the property, at either end, we did indeed discover at least 20 wild olive trees. Nicho says that he will monitor them this harvest and we will splice on domestic olives for next year so upping my yield. But it gets better still. As we wandered across the land we identified spaces for at least another sixty new trees to be planted this October at a cost of 8 Euro a pop. The net result of this all would be to increase my harvest, ceteris paribus, by at least 50%.

George the architect looks at a non olive tree and says "the Foresty Commision has said we must not chop it down.". I look at these trees and the undergrowth that surrounds them and say "that looks the sort of place snakes like". Nicho looks at that tree and says "I will chop it down so we can plant more olives." I like Nicho's attitude.

So this weekend we are are to poison the frigana which has made a resurgence in certain of the further reaches of the property and will chop down some trees. Nicho has ordered the poison already and he assures me that the areas we deal with will be brown and weed and frigana free within a month. And that the poison will also drive the snakes onto my neighbours' lands. I like the sound of that. We start at 9 AM on Saturday. I cannot wait.

Tom Winnifrith

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Diary of a diabetic day 21: Trousers now a real issue - they are falling down

759 days ago

This is all great news if a tad embarrassing. Very healthy eating, lots of exercise and no booze is definitely helping me shed the pounds. As i wandered back into the hotel elevator yesterday evening I looked and with my trousers slipping down my boxers were clearly visible. However much I hitch up my 36 inch trousers they keep on falling down. What good news.

This is not the weight loss you can suffer while eating like a horse as a result of type 2 diabetes. This is weight loss caused by burning more calories than you take in. No booze helps. But other than a few portions of grilled octopus I have not eaten meat for ten days. I am existing largely on raw oats in the morning and Greek Salads for the rest of the day.

Here in Kalamata as I prepare for my morning session in the hotel gym the sun is shining and wearing a pair shorts, which are also starting to slip, is okay. Up at the Greek Hovel sturdy boots and long trousers are needed in case i step on a member of the wildlife diversity community. Luckily I have two spare pairs of black jeans with me, bought at various points of my weight gain/loss cycle so I hope to find something that fits. I don't want you thinking that i am anorexic. far from it.

My stomach is too large but the trends are positive. And yesterday's gym run was up to 2.47 km in 22 minutes. Today's target is 2.6 km in 23 minutes. Things are heading the right way and all the symptoms of diabetes, which a Gentleman does not discuss, are in full scale retreat.

What is my blood sugar level? God only knows. The Greek machine I bought the other week has given me results from 120 to 236. I am getting more than the odd result saying that I am in a "healthy range." But then I get a result starting 2 with a 2. I am just plain confused. The Mrs will - I hope - fedex me some good old British testing strips today and so I have a clear idea where I am. But given the weight loss, healthy living and retreating symptoms surely the trends are good?

Tom Winnifrith

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Olive inspecting with Nicho the Communist postponed (again) - St George's day drinking in Kambos

760 days ago

On the first day that Nicho the Communist and I were due to inspect the wild olives at the Greek Hovel to see about turning them into yielding trees he forgot our appointment. Yesterday it was raining so we postponed until 3 PM today. After a morning scribbling away and a good session at the hotel gym, I arrived on time to find my friend, rather worse for wear, at Miranda's the establishment next to the Kourounis taverna of lovely Eleni.

He apologised but explained that he had been drinking with his cousin George and a friend since 10.30. He was, he confessed, rather tired. I asked what had brought this on. Simple. It is St George's Day and his cousin is called George. The man in charge of Miranda's today is also called George. In fact almost every man in Kambos is called either George or Nicho with the odd Vangelis thrown in. It seems that George is an important saint not only in England.

George (the person in charge, not the cousin) offered me a coffee on the house as it was his Saint's Day. And, as Nicho poured himself another glass of wine and more Tsipero arrived, we sat there discussing olive trees and who owns the trees around the hovel. It turns out that some are owned by the brother of the third man at the table who was the cousin of the previous owner of the hovel, the loathsome Athena. Others are, as we already knew, owned by my eccentric neighbour Charon.

We sat there in the sun a bit longer and discussed planting new trees on the land I had cleared of frigana. And we agreed to meet up tomorrow at 4.30 for a site visit. Avrio. As is so often the case in Kambos.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: It's almost May but the global warming still lies thick here in Southern Greece

760 days ago

Back in early December when I arrived at the Greek Hovel for the olive harvest, the Taygettos mountains behind me were already covered with thick snow which you might think a bit odd. After all we are at the Southernmost edge of Europe and Al Gore and the global warming loons were telling us twenty years ago that this area would be almost a desert by now. Well guess what?

The snow still lies thick on the higher mountains above the hovel. As I drove down from Kambos towards the nearest harbour at Kitries today I looked up and there it was as you can see in the photos below. The same global warming I saw in December is still there and it is almost May. Give that man Gore another Nobel prize.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: Diary of a diabetic day 18 - a tale of two soups

761 days ago

Having explained to the nice lady who runs my favourite restaurant here in Kalamata why I had to turn down a free ouzo she expressed great sympathy about the plight of a man with type 2 diabetes. And thus, having finished my grilled octopus and black eyed peas and mountain greens, I was presented with a bowl of soup.

Next to the bowl, which contained small bits of asparagus, was a slice of lemon. It was on the house and I was assured that it would cure diabetes. If I had a quid for every time I had been told that something would cure my condition I'd be retiring for good already. But I tried the soup and it was fantastic. Heck, I really like this "cure."



The lady returned. Oh no! She exclaimed it only works if you add the lemon. It changes the colour and will cure you. This is the sort of thing I'd expect to happen in Asterix the Gaul but she brought more soup to which I added the lenon juice. Suddenly my soup turned pink. I tried again, keen to be cured, but it now tasted absolutely awful. Under a bedy eye I managed to finish and was assured that the cure was underway.

In Victorian times they believed that spa waters in places like Leamington or Harrogate must be good for you becuase the water tasted so nasty. That was, of course, hocus pocus. And I have grave doubts about this cure for diabetes. I have not asked for another portion.

My blood sugar goes all over the place. On the new scale it was 232 this morning which is alarmingly high for a reason I cannot fathom as I have been virtue incarnate. Yesterday, after doing a gym session for thirty minutes in my hotel I hit 120 ( six point something on the old scale). God knows what it is now after a breakfast of raw oats.

In my prime when I worked out or played rugby at London Irish five days a week, I could do an hour at 7.5 km an hour on a treadmill and still do some weights and then jog home. Yesterday I managed just over 2km in 20 minutes and felt wrecked. But I like this gym as a) there is no-one else in it to laugh at you and b) the lady on the front desk is not one of those fitness freaks who looks at you with a mixture of sympathy and derision but a total blubber mountain who could almost certainly do with testing her own blood sugars. Her kindly and welcoming smile will see me go again. It s not quite a hovel workout but there are no snakes to panic about.

Today... gym, a light hovel workout and - at last an olive inspection with Niccho the communist - and another stab at fishing. I have bought more hooks and a float and solen some bread from the Hotel breakfast buffet. a new day, new tactics as I try to break my 41 year duck when it comes to actually catching anything.

Tom Winnifrith

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Report from the Greek Hovel - after three years we have a permit, well sort of

763 days ago

I arranged to meet architects George and Sofia at the Greek Hovel at 11 AM. I arrived twenty minutes late but no-one was there. This is Greece so eleven sharp means any time before twelve and at about twenty to twelve my friends arrived. They brought with them the head builder, an ethnic Greek from Albania, so a man my father will approve of big time. I got down to the main point quickly. I showed them the snake I had killed and asked the builder how he felt about snakes. "I kill them with my bare hands" he said. I like him a lot and said that "you can have the next one."

I sense that town dwelling George and Sofia are not, like me and the builder, brave snake killers and they trod carefully and nervously as they inspected the property. The good news is that after three years one permit has come through. That is to say the permit to demolish the illegally added concrete blocks and bricks put up without any permit at all by Athena, the slippery former owner. That permit will also allow us to start digging out the rock floor of the bat room, into which I have not yet dared to venture, to unpick some bad external plastering and to cut down the giant oak tree whose roots threaten the bat room.

There are one or two other trees which the forestry survey may or may not have noted but which might accidentally get cut down by mistake over the next few weeks as well including a clutch of giant friganas which are entangled with wire netting and where, I am sure, many snakes live. We will start work as a crew on May 5 when I return from a brief visit to England but I will work alone until then. Although the giant frigana and wire snake nest is a treat I will leave to my new friend the builder.

The actual building permit is still "in process." It is now expected to arrive in late May. Once again I asked if we might consider bribery but George assured me that he would not know how to do that and he is sure there is no bribery in the building permit department. I was only kidding as I know that this is not a country where such practices occur.
Next to arrive was the man who will provide stones and cement. All was going swimmingly until the group of four worked out that one or two of the roads and tracks needed widening to allow big lorries to access the Hovel. This will require lovely Eleni to allow George to chop a few branches off some of her olive trees and my eccentric neighbour Charon - who harvests a neighbouring grove - to allow us to concrete over a few of his rocks. In a normal world this would be easy. But this is Greece. I imagine the conversation:

G: We would like to concrete over five of your useless rocks of no value, is that a problem?
C: But these rocks have been in my family for hundreds of years...it would be like selling my mother
G: But until last year they were covered in frigana and they have no value whatsoever?
C: You are insulting my dead mother...reaches for gun
G: Would 500 Euro ease your suffering
C: For my dead mother how dare you...shall we say 1000 Euro?

Rather George than me. Lovely Eleni seems a bit more relaxed about losing a few branches. She did ask how many but i said not very many. But then I mentioned that it was to build a swimming pool which she and her family would be free to use at all times. Her eyes lit up. I think that conversation might be rather less challenging for George.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: A no go zone at the Greek Hovel - I blame the Gruffalo

764 days ago

Not withstanding my snake killing heroics of yesterday, I still live in dread of the vipers that slither around the Greek Hovel and across its fields. Irrationally, for I have never seen a snake there, there is one spot that holds particular dread. And it is all the fault of Julia Donaldson, the author of the children's classic, The Gruffalo.

Many moons ago folks were installing telephone poles across the hills around the hovel. God knows why as no-one lives up here but it probably seemed like a good idea in the general scheme of Greekenomics. Let's tarmac roads no-one uses and fix up telephone polls where there are no phones - more jobs for all paid for by a state with no money. What is not to like?.



But as you can see four of the poles were left on our land. As one drives up to the Hovel they sit there on your right by the first terrace of olive trees. It is now about fifteen years since I first read the Gruffalo to my daughter Olaf but the pictures, the images of the logs under which the snake lives are clear in my mind. He lives under the goddamn telephone poles taken from the hovel!

Then, the mouse continued his journey through the deep dark wood. A snake saw the mouse and the mouse looked good.

The hungry snake asked, “Where are you going to, little brown mouse? Come for a feast in my logpile house,”

“It’s kind of you, Snake, but no - I’m having a feast with a Gruffalo,” the clever mouse rejected. “A gruffalo? What’s a gruffalo?” asked the curious snake. The mouse played his trick again, “A gruffalo! Why, didn’t you know? His eyes are orange, his tongue is black, he has purple prickles all over his back”.

The snake started to get scared, he asked, “Where are you meeting him?”

"Here, by this lake and his favourite food is … scrambled snake,” replied the mouse. “Scrambled snake!! It’s time I hid!! Goodbye, little mouse,” and away the snake slid.

The mouse couldn’t’ help but laugh hysterically, “Silly old Snake! Doesn’t he know there’s no such thing as a gruffalo …hahaha!!!!!!!!!!"

I am not sure that Greek snakes know about the Gruffalo but the image from the book will not leave my mind. I am sure I hear rustlings whenever I pass the logs. I hurry on as fast as my legs can carry me for even a brave snake killer like myself does not seek out serpents.

 

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BREAKING: I met a snake at the Greek Hovel and I killed it!

765 days ago

This day goes down in history. I am terrified of snakes. Everyone in the village of Kambos knows it and laughs at the idea of the weird Englishman from Toumbia living in a hovel in the snake fields at the top of snake hill. But I need to do manual labour and so this afternoon headed to the hovel. Retrieving my pick axe from the rat room, or spare bat room as it is now known, I went onto the illegally constructed level above it, the snake veranda.

It was there we met a, non poisonous but still terrifying, snake on our first trip to the hovel. And the name stuck. And so I peered nervously over the wall and established that it was snake free zone.

In the middle of the snake veranda is a two sided brick wall. It serves no purpose at all other than being ugly and so I started to attack it with my pick axe. Bang. Bang. Bang it slowly came down and after twenty minutes I had worked up quite a sweat. Some of the bricks have are constructed, for a reason that I fail to understand, with hollowed out tubes running through them.

And from one such tube there emerged... a snake. It was an adder albeit a juvenile one about a foot long. But as you may know, juvenile adders are more dangerous than their parents as they are yet to learn how much poison to deploy when biting. They just bit, hang on and inject their venom. I stood and stared for what seemed like a long time but cannot have been more than twenty seconds as it started to slither. And then I acted. Whack when the pick axe on the long sided blade end. I missed.

The snake had little time to respond because whack went the pick axe again and I scored a direct hit. And then another. The snake was now in two halves but the front end was still moving on a pile of rubble the other side of the now half demolished, so just two foot high, wall. Whack, whack whack I hit it again and again first with the edge and then just clubbing it with the end of the axe. It stopped moving.

I, on the other hand, was shaking like a leaf. I may now be a snake killer but I rather worried that where there was one there may be others. And so leaving the pick axe inside the rat/spare bat room I retreated hastily to my car to phone my father and the Mrs with news of my heroics.

Retreating, again, to Kambos I stopped first at the snake repellent store where my friend the owner had two canisters in stock which I bought eagerly. I told him that I had killed one and, knowing my reputation, he seemed surprised but in a good way. He offered other advice for repelling the snakes. Apparently they do not like the poison one uses to spray frigana. I need to get clearance from the shepherd as I have no desire to poison his sheep but I think some spraying is on the agenda.

I have also discussed with news with lovely Eleni at the Kourounis taverna. We talk snakes regularly and she seemed happy for me. Killing your first snake is, I think, a coming of age landmark for folks around here and aged 49 I have now made the grade. I now wait for Nicho the Communist as we are meant to be heading back to the hovel to talk olive splicing. While we are there he can inspect my handiwork and I can install the snake repellent canisters.

Watch out watch out serpents, Tom the snake killer is coming for you!

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article Wildlife Diversity encounter No 1 & floral wonders at the Greek Hovel

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.

Tom Winnifrith

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Diary of a diabetic Day 15 - Disastrous fishing and 6.8 on the bloods - far too low far too high

765 days ago

After my sedentary Easter Sunday I was determined to make amends with a perfect display of type 2 diabetes virtue on Bank Holiday Monday and thus having skipped breakfast I picked up my car and headed out to the Greek Hovel. There were wildlife encounters as I explain here and that must have seen me sweat off a few pounds. Indeed my 36 inch trousers are not very obviously starting to fall down. I must, every now and again, hitch them up to spare my blushes.

A spot of olive tree pruning followed and then after a no bread Greek salad care of lovely Eleni at the Kourounis Taverna I headed off for a spot of fishing at a spot recommended by one of my fellow part time residents here. He assured me that it is where all the locals who are in the know head to.

After a 30 minute drive on the old Kardamili road which is now a case study in Greekenomics, as I explain here, I arrived at a rocky cove and started fishing. That is to say I clambered over rocks as the waves crashed in. Being completely isolated and miles from the nearest human being I sweated off a few more pounds of nervous energy. What if I fell in? What if I met a snake and was bitten? In the middle of nowhere snakes were bound to be everywhere surely?

I need not have feared. Within 40 minutes the sea had seized two spinners and a line of hooks and I was heading back along the old Kardamili road towards civilization. My 40 year record of not harming a single fish was, unlike my kit box, completely intact.

By the time I reached Kalamata I was feeling really rather feint. I tested my blood sugar at my hotel and they were just 6.8. That is at one level far too high - 5 is my target. At another level it was alarmingly low - they had fallen by more than 4 points since the morning. I read all the warnings about bloods heading too low and the threat of diabetic coma.

I am advised to keep a chocolate bar handy just in case but ignore that as I know I'd at it in a non emergency.

Thinking on my feet, I delayed taking my evening sugar busting medication and other delightful pills and headed to my favourite restaurant which I had noted was finally open once again. As is nearly always the case it was empty. I really do fear for its future and urge all folks who ever visit this place to head straight to 23 Navarino Street to save the Katelanos. After a delightful portion of grilled octopus and a small black eyed pea salad with a small amount of rough bread, lightly toasted and drizzled with olive oil and herbs I felt so much better and wandered back to my hotel.

My bloods this morning are 9.5. That is of course far too high for the long term but it is where I should be right now. This afternoon there will be more manual labour at the hovel and the trend is heading the right way once more.

Tom Winnifrith

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Back at the kourounis taverna in Kambos - it's like I have never left

766 days ago

In fact I have only been away for about ten weeks since the February burning & olive fertilising season so it is not exactly long time no see. But even had it been ten years not ten weeks I doubt that much would have changed in Kambos, the village nearest to the Greek hovel.

It is a Bank Holiday of course so, don't laugh, most folks here in Greece are not working. But the guy at the petrol station was on duty and greeted me knowingly as I drove up into the mountains on what is a rather cold and grey day. I am not exactly shivering in my Viva Steyn T-shirt but by Greek standards for late April it is fairly cold up here. The fields are a glorious green as the summer suns are yet to burn the grass to straw brown. The alpine like flowers are everywhere. On the mountains ark clouds gather so it will rain later.

The two snake repellent shops are not open. that means that I will have to buy the canisters tomorrow and lay them down to ward off he serpents at the hovel. I am slightly reluctant to start work there until the canisters have been in place for a few hours and are repelling away.

In the Kourounis taverna a few familiar faces greet me with a knowing nod and a Yas Tom! There is a new young man behind the counter who does not know me but I am welcomed warmly by Poppy the ageing mother in law of lovely Eleni. As ever it takes her just a few minutes to lecture me in Greek about how I really must learn Greek. I do understand what she is saying as this is a lecture which has been given many times before. as normal I assure her avrio, avrio. That means tomorrow, tomorrow but in Southern Europe tomorrow very often never comes.

I can see her explaining to the new young man who I am. she points at me and then points up in the direction of the mountains above the village, to the smattering of , almost all abandoned, homesteads that is Toumbia. I think that only the Greek hovel and the house of my nearest neighbour Charon, a mile and a half away from me, are actually inhabited. The other houses stand, like the old convent, slowly crumbling and home only to ghosts and, probably, large numbers of snakes.

Nicho the Communist
is not yet here. That means there are no English speakers and also that we cannot finalise our plans for the splicing of domesticated olives onto wild olive trees which we must first cut back. That will, in about three years, turn trees that yield nothing into producers. That is phase one of increasing the yield from the hovel. Phase two will be planting new trees on the areas that two years ago I cleared of the accursed frigana. Phase three will be to buy up my neighbours fields.

But phase three can wait until the hovel is rebuilt something I pray will happen this year. My aim is not to produce enough oil to "turn pro" or become a full time olive farmer. The amount we are paid for our oil is so pitiful ( £3 a litre) that this is not viable. But Id like to think that in a few years I might just be producing enough to pay the land taxes here and for my flights to and from Kalamata. That is for the future. For now it is time to venture up to the hovel to see my friends the snakes.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article - Learning to be a pyromaniac at the Greek Hovel with George the Albanian

817 days ago

George the Albanian said to be there at 8 AM and I, more or less, was. No one in Greece is ever on time and so I operate on the "when in Rome" principle. Having showed that I was a hopeless pryomaniac a few days earlier I was preparing for humiliation. I got it.

George gathered a bunch of grass a few twigs and then, as you can see, within a few minutes there was a roaring blaze of the olive branches we had cut as part of the harvest before Christmas.

We moved quickly on to one of the terraces on the Mountain side of the hovel. Again within minutes the fire was blazing away.

 

George's Mrs then arrived and she too was a natural pyromaniac. I having failed so miserably myself I could but watch and throw branches from the terrace above where the fires were running to the fires below.

For George and his Mrs this was about setting fires to burn the branches. My hope with every fire was that it would also "take out" some of the live frigana plants which were once again growing despite three season of cutting and poisoning by myself. I think George sensed this but it was not his agenda.

After a while I decided to start a fire myself, feeling that having watched the master I could do it. I chose a spot where there were a stack of branches nearby and also lost of green frigana poking through the golden leaves of its brethren which I chopped last year. As you can see I too am a pryomaniac. But George wagged his finger. Apparently my blaze was too close to an olive tree and the fact that it was pursuing a scorched earth policy against the frigana was of no interest to me. that fire was left to burn out. But, sod the olives, I reckon that I did some damage against the real enemy!

Later a couple of fires started to move up the slopes away from the original inferno to take out reasonable chunks of young frigana. I thought happy thoughts. George cut a branch off a tree and beat it out. I am just not thinking Greek, thinking of making lift happy for the olive trees. Instead I think of my enemy the frigana.

In two months I shall be back at the hovel near the village of Kambos. My main job is rebuilding it. A secondary job is introducing new trees to the areas I really have cleared of frigana and splicing domestic olives onto wild olive trunks which I shall create with Nicho the Communist. But my third job will be to brave the awakening snakes and wage war for the fourth year with my enemy the accursed frigana. This year it is all out war...the last battle.

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A last picture of the ruin at the Greek Hovel - it comes down this summer but will be a Phoenix

823 days ago

Just over a third of the way between the Hovel and the far end of the land lies an old ruin. I think it was a house once and in a sense it still is. For inside the ruins there lived a snake all of last summer and the summers before. I heard it many times as I rushed on by. When foolish enough to prune the olive tree at its edge last summer I saw a snake shape disappearing into the grass. This is Mr snake's house. But not for much longer.

In a job that I shall supervise not actually take part in, for one very obvious reason, all the stones will be removed and taken to the main hovel to be used in rebuilding and extending it. That is one way that we can ensure that the new hovel even in its extension which will, on its own, more than double the floor space, retains the appearance of the old in terms of stone type. As a bonus Mr snake will have to fuck off and find somewhere else to live - I suggest the other side of the external fence.



But then the ruin will be a phoenix. For what we embark on this year is just phase one - the hovel and the pool demanded by my daughter, she who must be obeyed, as a condition for visiting. The planning permits we have submitted also allow for phase two which is to turn the site of the ruin into a new house with three rooms and a garret study for me.

At that point we would have seven bedrooms plus a massive living space with additional sleeping space on the sofa. The Mrs wants to invite her sociology pals and they can sleep in the Phoenix. I have few friends but hope that folks like Abbe Aronson, the woman who broke my heart in 1986 and whose birthday it is today (Happy Birthday you old lesbian who have caused thirty years of misery and mental trauma for myself with your callous rejection BTW) will pop over for a visit and, natch, stay in the hovel itself.

Right now I cant' wait to supervise the tearing down of Mr Snake's house, but the Phoenix will - one day - arise in its place.

 

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Photo Article: The you know what .... in the woodpile in the rat room at the Greek Hovel

823 days ago

I have been reluctant to enter the rat room at the Greek Hovel. Its light is broken and it is dark. I bravely ventured in once to leave my axe and saw but did not enjoy it, as the room contains a great pile of logs I put there a year ago to burn in the fire when this place is finally habitable.

I have surrounded the logs with sulphur to keep out snakes. But not all snakes appear to know that sulphur is a line they cannot cross and scorpions have no fear of the yellow powder at all. I have not yet seen a scorpion at the hovel but I am told that they are everywhere. It is only a matter of time.

True, both scorpions and snakes are hibernating but both like to find winter sleet in a dry place such as an empty room in the middle of nowhere and under a pile of logs. Put another way, the rat room is now set up as a 5 star hotel for the wildlife diversity.

Having hung up my axe and saw I scuttle away quickly. Best not wake the little darlings up. When it comes to moving these logs in the summer rebuild, that is a job where I am keen to supervise rather than take part. I am sure you understand why.

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Photo Article: Fertilizing the olive trees at the Greek Hovel

823 days ago

Fear not there are not any pictures of my fertilizing olive trees as only a man can do. Although I have assisted a few of my little darlings in this way over the past few days. This is the formal process with George the Albanian, his Mrs and myself in a team of three.

First stop, at 8 AM sharp, the shop of Vangelis the man who mends my strimmer and sells me 1 Euro bags of sulphur to keep away the snakes. 210 Euro are handed over and Vangelis and George load up his truck with about fifteen 25 kg bags of fertilizer, one of which you can see below.



It goes without saying that the skilled task of doing the fertilizing is reserved for George and his Mrs. The little white pellets of goodness were poured into two buckets and off they went spreading them in circular loops around the trees as you can see below. Was there not a kids drawing game in the 70s that helped you to make similar shapes? I was, natch, not up to such demanding work.

Instead, as the two Albanians, wandered further and further from George's truck my job was to carry new bags of fertiliser to wherever they were. 25kg is less than the 30-40kg sacks of olives I was carrying in the Autumn harvest. But still, over rough terrain, it was not exactly a bundle of laughs.


But after less than two hours there was just one bag left. The job was done allowing a bit of time for some more bonfire work. Before I knew it, a four our stint was done. All over. No more manual labour until April at which point I shall no doubt be applying top up fertilizer to my favoured trees in the way that only a man can.

 

 

 

 

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Photo Article: This really will make Evil Knievil drool again

823 days ago

Charlatan Darren Winters coughing up nearly all the cash he owed us after his latest court thrashing was a good reason to celebrate. And thus, I headed to my favourite restaurant here in Kalamata and started with an ouzo. Sadly the fresh octopus was not available. Hmmmmmmm. how to tease my friend the bear raider Evil Knievil with pictures of what treats lay in store? Could I top the honey soaked puddings at the Kourounis Taverna in Kambos (prop. lovely Eleni) or the fresh octopus at this place?



As you can see below I started with Dakos. That is a Cretan dish which they also serve quite often here in the Mani. On top of a dried barley rusk is placed generous helpings of a soft sort of creamy feta, chopped tomatoes and the odd olive. At this place there is a generous drizzling of balsamic vinegar and that and the tomato juice drain into the crispy rusk - magnificent.



To follow, for I felt that after a hard day of manual labour I deserved more, I went for a small plate of calamari. In many places here you get large chunks of frozen squid in a clumsy rather fatty batter. It all tastes, pardon the pun, just a bit greasy. That is your cheap and cheerful seaside dish. But I enjoyed small pieces of fresh squid in a ,well made, light batter onto which I squeezed fresh lemon juice. Truly it was wonderful. Natch that called for another celebratory ouzo.



I know that the wine snob Evil is concerned about the quality of booze issue when travelling to the Hellenic Republic but these pictures will again have him salivating badly. I grow confident that I can persuade him to bring a case of Burgundy white inside a large suitcase and come join me here next summer when the Greek Hovel is ready. I shall continue to torture him with photos until then.

Tom Winnifrith

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Naming Mark Slater Hill at the Greek Hovel

824 days ago

I am reluctant to draw a map of the route to the Greek Hovel pointing out all the landmarks that I refer to in my writings. Maybe you want to see exactly how Monastery Hill links to snake hill? Well tough, I enjoy the safety that comes with folks finding it bloody hard to find me.

You may remember that when I explained to my neighbours in Kambos about the death threats I received for exposing the Quindell fraud, Nicho the Communist and Vangelis kindly offered to shoot anyone who came to Kambos and was asking where I lived. Thus I have a belt and braces approach to my safety: it is very hard to find where I live and if you ask, Nicho will kill you. You can't say fairer than that.

And so you will just have to imagine. Monastery hill leads down past what, I now know to be, the abandoned convent. When I first arrived I thought it had once housed monks and as I drove past it in the dark I terrified myself with images of ghostly monks in long black robes trouping past my little auto. Even in the daytime that hill is covered by a canopy of trees and so feels cold and it is often damp. So it used to have terribly negative connotations.

But then I met the most amazing lady who looks after the place with a, I fear misplaced, belief that the nuns will return. And I know it was a convent not a monastery so though the hill retains its name in my mind and in my writings, if nowhere else, I view it in a wholly positive fashion.

On the other side of the dry river is snake hill. My guest in 2015 encountered a live snake there while running up the hill. For me it is too steep to do anything other than walk up the concreted surface. I have only met a dead snake there but numerous times I have heard rustlings in the bushes on either side. Snake hill = negative thoughts.

At the top of snake hill there is a short gently sloping patch where concrete turns to mud as you head into the olive groves owned by the lovely Eleni. This short stretch of track is now officially, in my mind at least, known as Mark Slater hill. It was there at the start of a torrential thunderstorm that I had a long chat with my friend shortly after Brexit. The noise of rain on my car roof was thunderous so I opted to stand outside, getting drenched, to take the call.

It was what happened next that made it a memorable chat I headed back to the hovel in my car and rushed inside to dry off. I sat down in dry clothes and started to record a bearcast. Six minutes in - Bang! Lightening struck the hovel. You can hear that bearcast here. I hope never to be struck again but it was a memorable experience that day. Try everything once apart from incest and folk dancing and all that.

Being a fund manager Mark will know all about finding himself next to snakes. But now Mark Slater Hill lies next to Snake Hill.

Tom Winnifrith

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Tom Winnifrith Bearcast: My legs feel like logs, I am just too old for this manual labour malarky

824 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/27249/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-my-legs-feel-like-logs-i-am-just-too-old-for-this-manual-labour-malarky

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article - flowers at the Greek Hovel , it is almost alpine

824 days ago

I have noted before that at this time of year the fields around Kambos and at the Greek Hovel are not the straw brown you associate with a Greek summer but pure green albeit daisies are everywhere so there are spots of white dotting the field. But as I wandered around burning old olive branches today (gosh I smell like a bonfire) there were other colours, other flowers just growing on their own here and there as you can see below..

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The smug fucking Kraut lecturing on why hard Brexit will screw England, here in Kambos - fuck you Nazi

826 days ago

I do not normally pay much attention to what folks on neighbouring tables say when watching the world go by in the Kourounis taverna in Kambos, the village closest to the Greek Hovel where I hope to spend most of the rest of my life.  I just tap away at my keyboard or think about olives. But today I exploded as a fat and smug German explained to a couple of timorous Brits why hard Brexit would screw England and thus why we should "obey orders" and fall into line with what Germany, sorry the EU, wanted. I exploded.

Seventy years ago folks like him were shooting villagers around here, raping the women and setting fire to the houses. They too were just doing what Germany ordered. They too just thought that there was no other way to behave and that it was all part of creating a united Europe under German leadership. This guy had already opined on all the good stuff the EU had done for Greece to make it the happy place it is today and then he started on Brexit.

If we have a hard Brexit, this man said that the first thing that would happen would be that Scotland would vote for independence and that would really mess up England. Already riled by his comments about Greece I turned round and said " Since the Act of Union in only one year has Scotland subsidised England not the other way round. Do you not know that 88% of Scots are net takers from the State - if the welfare junkies wish to leave England good riddance. Maybe Germany can pay their benefits?"

There was a bit of a stoney silence before the Kraut started blathering on about how Germany was putting Trump in his place, etc, etc ,etc. On every issue he stated opinion as fact. He was always right. Smug bastard.

My friend George the Architect, who was sitting opposite me, was a little surprised as - even when dealing with delay after delay on our planning permit - he had not seen me this angry. But like most Greeks he is not wild about the krauts either and this man's comments on Greece had not impressed him much.

On my first night in Kambos I was struck by how much the folks there still loathe the Germans with a passion. Sure they can be polite to tourists even like this pig. Money is money. But deep down they cannot forgive and the hatred still burns with a real intensity.  Back in the UK, the liberal elite tell us that we must be good Europeans and not mention the war and when it comes to crazy EU diktats we must just be "Good Germans".

On days like this I feel that I fit in far better in Kambos than back in Britain.  

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: olive pruning in February at the Greek Hovel & a far better Taygetos snow picture

828 days ago

I hope the picture below conveys the sheer beauty of the taygetos mountains which tower above the Greek Hovel. I caught this shot of the snow capped peaks as I headed up for a spot of olive tree pruning earlier this afternoon.


On the land next to ours the trees have been pruned aggressively with whole branches lopped off. They look naked but ready for action. I am always a touch nervous about what to hack away but armed with my trusty axe and saw below I set to work.



There are two massive advantages of pruning now. The first is that the snakes are asleep and so you just do not hear rustling in the bushes causing you to turn sharply and breathe heavily. I walk across the property with gay abandon.
The only sounds one hears are the bells and bleating of the shepherd's sheep and the sound of gunfire. For it is now the time of year when men line the roadside to blast away at little birds.

This is not for food just for the pleasure of killing little birds. Spent shotgun cartridges litter the ground everywhere. It is all so utterly mindless but I guess it is better than shooting each other which is what used to happen in days of old in the Mani when the culture of blood culture held sway.

The second advantage is that the shoots and branches one cuts back are that much smaller than they will be in May when I normally start pruning. I will prune again in the summer but I hope that this work eases that burden. And in theory, this early additional prune, will mean that more of the tree's energy will go towards productive branches so invceasing the yield. We shall see.

More important in terms of increasing my output is going to be planyting new trees on land I have purged of frigana and also splicing domesticated olive shoots onto wild olive trunks of which I have a few so that those trees come into production. Nikko the Communist (Papou) who is to assist me in that task has just wandered into lovely Eleni's  Kourounis taverna hrere in Kambos and we are agreed that we will do that work in April when I come back to start rebuilding the hovel. 

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: A new bridge is spotted under the double murder bridge near Kambos - I must investigate

828 days ago

You may remember that, some three years ago, one of my fellow residents of the Greek village of Kambos hooked up with a pal in Kalamata to murder two drug dealing body builders. I have viewed it as rather indelicate to enquire as to what has happened since but it was a clear cut case. The bodies were dumped from an old bridge that crosses the deep gorge on the road back towards Kalamata.

These days there is a brand spanking new (EU funded) bridge that cross the gorge. For 90% of the year there is a dry river at the bottom, the rest of the time it is a gushing torrent. Right now, since the snow on the Taygetos Mountains has not melted it is dry.

The old bridge was built when the road to Kambos - the village nearest to the Greek Hovel - was first constructed in the 1970s. You can still access it via a road strewn with rocks but it is driveable and a simple detour from the main "highway." Hence you can dump bodies there after you have murdered someone.

For no reason at all I took a detour yesterday to the murder bridge and - for the first time - spotted an even older bridge underneath it. It looks very ancient indeed and can only be wide enough for pedestrians and sheep. It must have been used in the pre-road era and has thus been abandoned for years. I have no idea how old it is or who built it but you can see it below.



With the river dry and the snakes asleep now looks like a good time to investigate. When the heroic  Paddy Leigh Fermor walked into the Mani and towards his first stop in Kambos - a village he was jolly rude about - he recounts walking along a river valley and discovering the bones of a man killed in the recently ended civil war. Paddy, like the folks in the Mani, fought with the Royalists and one assumes that the skeleton was that of a dead commie as no-one had paid it any attention.

In April the Mrs and I plan to cross the Bridge that is the real killing fields of European drama, that between Denmark and Sweden, as we take Joshua on a road trip. The Mrs used to work in Sweden so will be yakking to her former colleagues in the world of sociology, I plan to go fishing with Joshua, whose second name, for reasons you can guess, is Patrick, or Paddy. But for now it is an old bridge in the Mani that excites me.

 

 

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Photo Article: back at the Greek Hovel, a failed pyromaniac reports in

829 days ago

As I drove up the mountain road to Kambos and the Greek Hovel I could see smoke rising all around me. It is the season when you burn the branches you chopped down in the olive harvest, start pruning your trees and give them a bit of fertilizer. I bought a lighter in Kalamata and, having been trained by George the Albanian on how to start a fire with a few bits of dried grass I was determined to match my neighbours.

As you can see their fires roar away. I must report that I tried for 30 minutes and failed. The piles of branches are the sort of places that snakes might hibernate so I have two reasons to want them to blaze away. But my repeated attempts to set fires going ended in abject failure. Reluctantly I have asked lovely Eleni at the Kourounis taverna in Kambos - my conduit to Greek speakers - to call George for assistance. Until he is ready I must content myself with a few days of aggressive pruning.

The hovel is changed little. I pray that we start rebuilding it in April and it will be transformed and so for the record here it is as it stands today with one shot from each side. I opted not to venture inside either the main room - which is sort of wildlife diversity proof - or the rat room or bat room which are not. God only knows what is living inside and so I shall save that treat for when George arrives. Fearless George will tackle whatever lies inside.







For as of now the Hovel is as isolated and devoid of human contact as ever. Great. The Grouch is my role model. The only creatures who wandered by are below. The sheep and goats here are mighty big creatures and I see that - as I requested of my friend the shepherd - they have been grazing my land hard for sheep droppings are everywhere. that is good for the land and short well grazed grass makes me happy too as it offers less cover for the you know what's in the summer.



Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: The Snow and Green green grass of Southern Greece

829 days ago

Yesterday I served up a picture of the snow capped mountains of the Northern Peloponnese to show that it is not just in the far North of Greece that global warming falls each year. I am now in the Southern Peloponnese, in fact the Mani, where the Greek Hovel is located, is the most southerly part of mainland Greece. And guess what?

Firstly the grass is a gorgeous green. Our house is half way between the village of Kambos and the mountains and it is almost alpine. Sadly it is not only the grass that has grown but also the accursed frigana, the thorn bush that is my sworn enemy. I will have to tackle it once again this summer with my strimmer.



But above the hovel lie the Taygetos mountains and as in December when I was here for the olive harvest they too are covered in snow on the higher peaks. Greece and snow are not the images most folks in Britain have in their minds. But from North to South this country sees global warming falling every year.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: The Snow in Greece falls not only in the North

830 days ago

I gather from my father, Darren and the Mrs that it snowed a bit in Shipston, London and Bristol today. It was snowing in Metsovo this morning and the fields on the Anelion side of the vallet were all white. But in case you think that the snow falls only in the Northern Pindus mountains, have a butchers at this photo taken from the Northern side of the Gulf of Corinth at Patras. The bridge across the gulf is pretty spectacular but look on the other side. That is the Pelopponese.

I am now at the southern tip of the Pelopponese (and thus of mainland Greece) but it is too dark to see the Taygetos Mountains that loom over the Greek hovel. But they too will be covered in snow. More on that tomorrow.

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Time to start the Field? A Childhood Memoir

840 days ago

I know. I know. I have made minimal progress at all with learning Greek or with the novel based out in Greece so why start a third project? Well I shall make progress on both of my major tasks this summer as I take six months away from full time writing to work on a building site, that is to say the Greek Hovel. So before I get Alzheimers...

Prompted by my jottings on the brutal world of Warwick School in 1977, a friend suggests that, while I can still remember my earlier years growing up on a self sufficient farm in rural Northamptonshire, I should start jotting down some tales from that time.

We lived in a village called Byfield until a year after the death of my mother. And at the centre of my life then was our field, the field. Most things of importance that I remember were linked to it in some way.

It was a very different world then. The second war was much closer, many villagers had been combatants and not all on our side. Transport links were bad enough that we were very much in the Countryside and cut off from urban sophistication. There was the world of self sufficiency and strange guest who came to stay. Most folks who feature in The Field are dead now. So I see no reason not to be candid.

And so I plan to start jotting down those memories here, one by one, until I can remember no more. If no-one else reads it will offer a link to Joshua to a world and people he will never know.

Tom Winnifrith

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There was me in my underpants and the Gauleiters of Bristol's Environmental Services Operatives showed mercy

842 days ago

The Mrs asked me to put the bins out today. According to the complex glossy grid posted to us by cash strapped Bristol City Council, it is a 4 bin day. I am still not sure what the difference is between the green box and the black box but they together with the big black bin and the brown food bin must all go outside by 7 AM and if you are caught putting the wrong stuff in the wrong box you are publicly stoned to death in a multi cultural ceremony to demonstrate Bristol's commitment to diversity as well as saving the planet.

Actually I am not sure what the penalty is but I realise that it is a heinous crime, like owning a Golliwog you were given fifty years ago as a kid, or allowing your infant son to dress up as a soldier rather than as a fairy in pink so that he can view his sexuality objectively.

For some reason I forgot. And so I found myself lying in bed at 7.15 AM ( having already done a one hour early shift on the keyboard) but thinking that it would be nice to hop in next to the Mrs having brought her a cup of tea. I do that chore every morning as part of my atonement for 3000 years of living in a patriarchal society. Clunk, bang, clunk the sound of the environmentally unfriendly garbage truck making its way down the road could be heard.

I leapt out of bed wearing only some rather old boxers which these days contain almost as much hole as boxer and my Hillary for Prison 2016 T shirt. I rushed downstairs and flung open the door and started to put the four trash containers on the street. I could see one burley Environmental Services Operative, or dustman as we used to refer to them in less enlightened times, removing boxes on the house one side of us while a colleague dealt with the ones on the other side.

"Am I too late?" asked, in a pathetic begging manner, the barefoot figure in the old boxers that left little to the imagination and a T-shirt that is deemed a hate crime in this culturally sensitive City. It rained last night and I was aware that my feet were not enjoying this experience nor, one suspects, were any neighbours unlucky enough to be staring out of the window as they ate breakfast.

One Environmental Services Operative growled "you are late". As if it makes any fucking difference that my bins arrived on the pavement at the same time as his noisy lorry rather than before the 7 AM deadline set by the eco-fascists at Bristol City Council. But you do not argue with ESOs. It would be like trying to argue with operatives of the 3rd Reich. These guys are obeying orders and they expect you to be good fucking Germans too. So I just apologised for missing the deadline and hoped that - as the operative was at this point standing just two yards from my bins - he might relent. That he did.

Now, five hours later, another lorry winds its way up the street, belching fumes and making a racket as it has to collect the big bins which contain something different to the black and green boxes or whatever. I am sure it is all very environmentally friendly.

When the Greek hovel is complete I aim to achieve the target set by the guru of self sufficiency John Seymour with whom my mother corresponded at length. John reckoned that you could arrange your life so that 99% of what entered your house never left it. For us that will mean PV cells to power everything, eco-loos, using waste water from the house on the olives, not buying anything wrapped in plastic, recycling any paper that comes in as part of the eco-loss composting system or to light the fire which will heat us with waste wood in the winter, etc, etc.

Over in Kambos the nearest waste bin is some two miles from the hovel just by the small church looked after by the most amazing woman for its two services a year. There, three big bins fill up with everything (and those who know how Greek loos operate realise what "everything" means). My neighbours would look at our four bin arrangement here in Bristol and laugh "So you are saving the planet?" Ho Ho Ho. Indeed.

Tom Winnifrith

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Aged 49 my child like obsession with snow makes me really jealous of folks in the North

860 days ago

If you are preparing for a five hour journey to work along snow covered roads or your pipes have just burst you may think that I am talking utter rubbish. But the lack of snow here in Bristol is really starting to annoy me.

Over in Greece there is lots of the white stuff on the mountains above the Greek Hovel and in fact far lower down as well. The Express tells us on a daily basis that Britain is braced for a deluge of global warming. Channel 4 News last night reported - with a straight face - about the threat of global warming ( as in the world getting hotter) but 24 hours earlier was reporting about how unseasonally cold weather ( and snow) across South East Europe and Turkey was hitting poor refugees. That, of course, was climate change.

But while the North is blanketed, here in Bristol we see almost nothing. I realise that I am a bit old to be building a snowman but as I talk to my daughter I share the excitement of what that might entail and exchanging a few snowballs with the Mrs is always fun. Above all I'd love Joshua to see snow for the first time.

So, reverting to childhood: where is the snow? It is so unfair!!!!

Tom Winnifrith

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Greek Hovel Update: the Mrs goes to Birmingham, I enjoy a large glass of wine with breakfast

862 days ago

The Mrs has a new best friend, the Greek consul in Birmingham. Once again she is trekking her way up to the frozen grim Northern post industrial wastelands in order to get more official forms stamped. Such is life in Greece. There are rules governing everything and always forms to fill in. Native bubbles rarely bother with many of them but some, such as this latest one which allows us to submit a building permit for the Greek Hovel cannot be avoided. Hence the trip to Birmingham.

After the Consul stamps our papers we can apply for the final permit needed to start work. We are told it will take three months so shall we call that six? With its booming economy, officials in Greece are under a lot of pressure don't you know?

Welcome to the first law of Greekeconomics: Unneeded regulation will always be created to provide public sector jobs. These are needed because the regulation kills off enterprise so creating unemployment.

It is the sort of madness that Jeremy Corbyn could well sign up to but the result is the mess that Greece finds itself in today. We can blame the EU and the Euro and the banksters and indeed all are to blame. But the inherent problem of Greece has always been a bloated and corrupt State supported by the entire political class.

While the Mrs heads off to the welfare safaris I find myself looking after baby Joshua and have done as suggested, taking him for a walk to what the Mrs terms her office, the Grounded Cafe. In this sleepy place the full menu does not start until four.

And thus at 2 PM I am on the breakfast menu, enjoying a full English with a glass of wine. Though I am oft accused of being a drunk this is, I think, the first time I have enjoyed alcohol with breakfast and is also my first booze since last week as enjoy an almost dry existence these days. Joshua - as is his wont - after a walk - sleeps soundly. For now.

Tom Winnifrith

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New Year Resolutions 2017

872 days ago

I did okay in 2016. The notable win being quitting smoking although that was not something I started until February 15. So I guess I don't need to start my 2017 resolutions right away. that is jolly useful as we still have a bit of Christmas cake and an excellent cheddar cheese from Uncle Chris to finish off. That brings me to resolution one.

I am a type two diabetic and have let things slip over the past year - perhaps to offset the lack of nicotine - I started to re-assert a grip in the autumn but its a long hard fight back. The annoying thing is that back in 2012 I had managed to get this illness under total control. Admittedly that was driven by dramatic weight loss as part of a near nervous breakdown but every cloud should have a silver lining.

And so resolution one is to take my medication faithfully.

Resolution two is to avoid alcohol and sugary drinks (no more ginger beer which, these days, really is my tipple of choice!) until the weight, cholesterol and body sugars are under some sort of control.

Resolution three is to eat more healthily. That starts after this weekend

Resolution four is a financial one. In 2012 when it all went so horribly wrong I reckon that I was worth minus £150,000. The coward's way out would have been to declare myself bankrupt but I did not take that route. I suppose I have too much pride. So these days money is less of a concern.

None the less there are still a few small debts to clear and the Mrs has to find a way to pay for the renovation of the Greek hovel. That is the goal for 2017. Clear all the liabilities. At that point I know that merely by doing the odd bit of scribbling I could support myself and more living in Greece. The downside is protected. If the Mrs wants to "re-align" her career we could call it a day and live from a bit of scribbling and olives. Getting to that place is a resolution in itself. You may say that it is ambitious but I see a pathway, a number of choices that I can make to deliver that. Choices I did not make in 2016 but will in 2017.

Resolution five is to slog my guts out to make UK Investor Show on April 1 a sell out success. We are pretty well advanced in that so it just requires a January "surge" and I think we are there. The deal with the Wray family is that if I can deliver that in 2017, our partnership will see the Wrays deliver far more in 2018 and I can do less and less.

And that brings me to resolution six. Four years ago the idea that I would have the most amazingly kind and stunningly attractive wife and also a three month old son would have seemed the stuff of fantasy. But I do. There are folks who covet wealth and material goods. That is not me. Joshua and the Mrs are far more rewarding. And so they deserve more of my time and I want to spend more time with them. Again wheels are in motion but they will spin far faster in 2017.

The Mrs heads back to work in June. And that will leave me as the primary carer. So less work. More nappy changing. Surely that is not a bad resolution for the New Year, albeit not a common one?

Resolution seven? Take regular exercise. If I lived in Greece that would be easy. There is always work to do in the snake fields and in walking into the village and back I'd burn a stack of calories. But in Britain I do sweet FA. I am a member of a gym but never go. That all has to change.

If I manage 5 of 7 that will be a triumph but after 2016's heroics in quitting smoking - which I thought impossible - I reckon anything is possible. 

Tom Winnifrith

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Midnight mass - I leave feeling good about the world, then I talk to Uncle Chris

878 days ago

On Christmas Day I chatted to Uncle Chris Booker. A wide ranging chat but we cannot help but conclude that at a geo-political level the world is going ever more badly wrong. Price Charles this populism is a real danger and must be fought. Quite right you unelected hereditary multi millionaire, lets pursue policies that favour the 1% and screw the masses. Let's stick with policies that, for a reason that a patrician fool might not grasp, are not popular in any way. As a life long republican I really do hope that the Queen lives forever.

I tried to say that there were reasons to be joyful. And there are. We have welcomed Joshua into our family. There are events in Syria where the right side is winning and the folly of our leaders is being exposed - a matter I reflect on HERE. Article 50 will be triggered. The EU may well implode. President Trump may stop the global warming bandwagon, a false religion if there ever was one. It is not all bad. But Uncle Chris seemed unconvinced.

Some eighteen hours later I was filled with, almost joy, as the Mrs and I walked with a sleeping Joshua back from Midnight Mass. Of course - as is always the way of the CofE the priest made a couple of political points straight out of the Guardian - but there was no anger in me. The Mrs and I are both from actively Christian families but we are both fairly lapsed, she less so than I am.

But over the past year I have thought more and more about faith, belief and other matters. I do find myself reading the bible now and again and I marvel at those who have genuine faith like the amazing lady in Kambos. At the communion, this year for the first time both the Mrs and I went up to the altar leaving Joshua snoozing and watched over by friend Mu. we did not take communion as that would have been a fraud, neither of us could say we believe. But we asked for a blessing and I felt really like something did happen.

The final carol came with that last verse we only sing on Christmas day.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing
O Come let us adore Him, etc

That last verse always tells me that it is Christmas day and this year with Joshua it is a very special celebration of the nativity for this family.

Before we braved the chill night air we headed to the crypt for tea, coffee and mince pies. There was another younger couple there with a tiny baby. It had been due to be born - as was I almost 49 years ago on January 12 but instead joined this world on November 24. This Christmas will be truly special for that family too. The other worshipper were almost all elderly. I suppose our grouping of the unfashionable, the elderly and those of faith will be the sort of folks that the metropolitan elites, the EU loving Godless millennials and almost the entire media will sneer about either covertly in "locker room talk) or, increasingly these days, in the open.

For Christianity is the a barbarous relic that, unlike other faiths, it is now acceptable to mock without fear that you will have your head chopped off or even face mild rebuke. My fifteen year old daughter from Islington has again enjoyed a Christmas without making one appearance at a religious ceremony. For her Christmas has nothing to do with faith, it is one almighty consumerist binge. Santa gave her, inter alia, a book about "Everyday sexism" which she delighted in telling me about. We of the old world are all sexists and lost of other ists and we might go to church.

I felt joyous as I walked home from church from spending an hour with some really good and loving people. My joy - which the Mrs shared - was not born out of knowing that presents and fine cooking awaits. That was just a bonus.

Next year, I hope, we shall celebrate Christmas in a packed church in a place where most people still cling to a faith. A place where consumerism is yet to dominate all. Maybe, just maybe it will be our first Christmas at the Greek Hovel.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: Decanting those last Christmas Presents from the Greek Hovel

881 days ago

The photos below are self explanatory. One five kg tin has been changed into ten presents. Eight were posted yesterday, after 2 hours was spent at the Post Office wrapping them in the prescribed manner. I know that it worked as the first has just landed in London. Two more remain for hand delivery or post Christmas sendings.

And we still have ten litres left for ourselves. When you buy olive oil at Tesco is it this green? Nope. This is a first press of the olives from the Greek Hovel. The peppery back of the throat aftertaste is very powerful. There is no need to add pepper to this as you prepare to dunk in your bread. This is the real deal squeezed from some of the 2.681 tonnes of olives I helped harvest from the hovel a few weeks ago.

In decanting I spilled a bit on the worksurface. That was a bonus as i could mop it up with bread and treat myself whikle also clearing up so impressing the Mrs. I am such a domestic God.

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Full photo shoot as olives from the Greek Hovel become oil in Kambos

891 days ago

What follows shows how the olives from the Greek Hovel (2.681 tonnes) became 450 kg of olive oil. Having revisited ny 2014 results that is a tiny fall in olives but a steep fall in oil. But I got a better price so have walked away with roughly the same cash - 1650 Euro, against labour costs of 770 Euro now that I do my pruning myself.

The photos are from the press in the local village of Kambos where you can see the machines in order of use without olives and with, the strapping lads who lift 50 kg sacks as you and I might lift a 10 kg bag of potatoes, and the little chemistry set that determines the quality of each batch of oil. It is all very high tech. Enjoy.

 

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Photo Article: An Olive Oil Bath sir? Three might be tight but two would be cosy

892 days ago

Before I gert any snotty lawyers letters from fascist law firm Web Sheriff which acts for celebs who drone on about promoting safe sex and AIDS awareness while not practising what they preach, the picture I furnish you with below is not actually an olive oil bath. But it could be.  It is in fact a tank into which the oil from the Greek Hovel is actually pouring as this photo is being taken. We produced 449 litres which would fill this up to about three quarters full. That would easily be enough for a cosy bath for two, but maybe it would get a bit tight with three. What do you think?

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: Olives are not the only Fruit

892 days ago

I have mentioned elsewhere that there are oranges growing everywhere here in Greece. The trees do need watering every day so we could not, for instance, have them at the Greek Hovel as we are not there all summer. But there are so many other trees that you can just pick your own as you walk along the street. The tree below is just along the side street where the Pharae Palace hotel in Kalamata is situated and where I am staying. 

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: The olive oil harvest at the Greek Hovel - I have a cunning plan

892 days ago

Each year I take 16 kg of the olive oil from the Greek Hovel back to the UK with me in a big can and sell the rest. But the can is just too big for my rucksack so means I have to pay both to put it in a special box (30 Euro) and also for an extra piece of hold luggage ( 25 Euro). It is still cheap oil but that rankles. But I have a cunning plan.

Exhibit A is one 16 kg can of olive oil.

Exhibit B is three 5kg cans bought last night from lovely Eleni as I said goodbye to the Kourounis taverna and to Kambos. I have borrowed a funnel from my fave restaurant in Kalamata, the Katalenos on Navarino Street where you will taste the best Octopus of your life. And I then achieved a transfer.

What happens to the excess 1 kg of oil you say? Well there was a bit of, er, leakage on the transfer. Holding a 15 kg can and pouring gently into a small funnel is not easy. So I guess there is 0.5 kg left. Tonight I meet George the Architect and it may be coals to Newcastle but I don't think he farms so he can have an early Christmas present.

And I have tested already. All three 5kg cans fit into my rucksack leaving plenty of room for the few books and clothes I brought with me. Cunning eh?

Tom Winnifrith

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How much would my Greek Hovel lunch on Thursday have cost in London?

893 days ago

Lunch on Thursday at the Greek Hovel was provided by the wife of George the Albanian. At least I think it was his wife, it was one of his two female assistants. I pondered how much an Islington bistro would have stung me for, offering similar fare.

The lunch was, I admit, simple. A slice of bread, from a freshly baked loaf at the Kambos artisanal bakery, dripping in locally produced virgin olive oil, half a fresh organic tomato from George's garden and a lump of home made feta. The cheese was a tad salty for my liking but genuine artisanal fare. And an orange picked from one of the many trees that are dripping with the fruit right now. The cost to George, with labour, must have been about 20 Eurocents.

But imagine how this appetiser would be dressed up in London. Artisanal, organic, fresh, etc, etc, etc. I cannot imagine getting any change at all from a fiver and suspect it would be more.

Life here in Kambos is cheap but that does not diminish the quality of the food and of one's existence. I know it is a bit of a pipe dream to live here full time and so be able to keep my own goats. But as you may remember, my wife's brother in law comes from a village the other side of Kalamata and there I have learned how to milk the goats belonging to his mother - as you can see in this video.

I reckon I could live here on a couple of Euros a day. Should the world financial system collapse I guess it is always an option.

Tom Winnifrith

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The feral kitten at the greek Hovel who looked like Kitosh is now resident as a magnificent cat

894 days ago

It was in the summer of 2015, I think, that I made the acquaintance of a feral kitten at the Greek Hovel. The timid little thing was terrified of humans but I managed to persuade it to take a few saucers of milk. I did so because I love cats and who cannot love a sweet little kitten? I also thought how much it looked like Kitosh, pictured, the cat I owned before Oakley. And there was self interest at play as well.

I have now and again wondered if the little kitten had survived the winter as I have not seen it since. Until, I think, this week. Now it could be another young cat with Kitosh type markings or my memory could be playing tricks on me. But earlier this week I saw this magnificent beast striding through the olive trees beyond the ruined cottage, presumably on the hunt.

I made that sound you do with your lips to attract cats and it turned and stared at me. It gave me a look that said "whatever" and turned away to move on. Again, late ;last night the same cat strode close to the hovel and looked at myself and the two women as we thrashed olives wildly, and then just wandered off.

Feral cats eat both rats and snakes. So having such a beast regard the hovel as home turf is damn good news. I hope it is "my kitten" but the real news is that we have a vermin catcher in residence.

Now and again as the Mrs and I chat we wonder how our morbidly obese three legged cat Oakley would fare against a rat or a snake. The conclusion is not that well. I suspect he would just sit there giving it a stupid "what are you" look. The Mrs thinks he would run as fast as his, three legs, could carry him. Oakley has his own charms. The feral cat/kitten is, however, a magnificent hunting machine.And my joy that it is batting for team Greek Hovel is very real.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: What does a Greek Hovel olive look like?

894 days ago

I imagine that you are all thinking of large black specimens. Think again, the olives here are mainly green with some turning a shade of purple while others are indeed black. But they are also very small, think of a small marble and then think a bit smaller. The photos below should give you some idea. The reference point is my hand.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article day 7 ( and out ) of the olive harvest at the Greek Hovel

894 days ago

And so we entered what George the Albanian said would be the final day of the 2016 olive harvest at the Greek Hovel. The final trees were those around the house which had received special care from me in the summer and so I hoped for a good day. But it started badly with George, his women and me trooping off to the far corners of the hovel to collect sacks full of olives.


They were not full at 50 kg but almost full so must have been 40 kg each. Carrying those things slung over your shoulder over 300 yards of rocky terrain was no bundle of laughs. It reminded me of that exercise in rugby training when you used to have to fireman's lift a team mate for half the pitch before he lifted you for half a pitch. Being a forward I always got paired with another hefty fellow. But that was 50 flat yards and then you got carried before doing a gentle 100 yard sprint. And I was 30 then. I am 48 now. Four of five of these runs and even the women were breathing heavily. I was in a bad state and it was not yet 9 AM.

Mid morning came light relief. George had loaded up his truck with 25 bags. And we headed off to Kambos where strapping young men unloaded the truck. as you can see the Kambos press was buzzing with activity. The Cop from Kardamili nick, the shepherd, the whole world was there.

By the time we finished it was dark. I described yesterday the last frantic hours at the hovel - HERE. At six our final bags were delivered. The press was still in full swing as you can see. Pressing took place today (Saturday - day 8). A full photo report will follow tomorrow.

Tom Winnifrith

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Sleep glorious sleep

894 days ago

For the past week I have been getting up at 5 AM Greek time ( 3 AM GMT) to do a couple of hours writing before heading off to the olive harvest at the Greek Hovel for an 8 AM start. Yesterday's harvest finished at 5 PM and I was shattered. I arrived back at my hotel at eight and after one glass of milk went straight to bed. I was vaguely aware that someone called (it was the Mrs) but I was oblivious to it. I dreamed of little olives of all colours falling through my seperating machine.

I normally sleep for only six or seven hours and so I awoke at 1.30 AM. But after a few emails and a bit more milk I was back in bed and only woke up again at nine. A day without alarm calls and twelve hours glorious sleep. I feel like a new man.

Outside the sun is shining, it is T-shirt weather and I can see small fishing boats heading out from Kalamata into the bay. It is a day for doing nothing other than a catch up on my writing inspired by my muses here in Greece.

Tom Winnifrith

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Olive harvest at the Greek Hovel - day 7: They think it's all over...it is now!

894 days ago

Myself and the two women who work with George the Albanian finished work at 5 PM today, having started at 8 AM. It was dark at the end. I could not see what was an olive and what was a leaf as I worked the separating machine. I just bashed the twigs and leaves hard with a plastic paddle and pushed anything that felt like a olive through the grill. My hands are stained with olives and feel raw from pushing those twigs and olives across that grill all day.

George was off to see a bloke about another job. But the ladies and I did high fives at the end. It is all over.

The weigh in at the Kambos press is complete. 2.681 tonnes. Had George not bunked off early we could have tackled a few more marginal trees. But what do I care? It is over and I survived without bunking off early once. That is an achievement and I feel rather proud of myself.

The press was heaving with folks. There was the cop from Kardamili nick who greeted me warmly. My friend the shepherd and all sorts of folks were there. No-one there spoke English so I had to fetch Nicho the communist from the Kourounis taverna to translate for me.

I have photos of the press and of olives from the hovel but will put them up in the morning before returning to Kambos for pressing. For now I have bought Nicho and the shepherd a drink and myself my first ouzo for many days. A quick coffee and then it is back to Kalamata and bed without having to set an alarm in the morning. Bliss.

Tom Winnifrith

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Day six of the Olive Harvest at the Greek Hovel - bad marks Peter Greensmith

896 days ago

Adam Reynolds and the Mrs are in my good books for returning phone calls and thus giving me phone breaks today. Peter Greensmith of Peterhouse did not and so ensured more toil and torture for me. Bad man Peter. Anyhow the sun shone all day and we toiled away as ever.

I am now getting so quick at my main (old ladies) job of seperating leaves from olives on a big metal grill that I found myself under-employed and so promoted myself to the job of thrashing branches, chopped down by George the Albanian, to cleanse them of olives.

Needless to say I clean one branch in the time it takes the ladies to clean three but I hope that every little helps. The end result is that we have finished the terraces on the mountain side and George thinks we have finished the top main level although I think there are a few tress in the far, snake infested, corner that we have missed. So we just have the short terraces ( two of them) on the Monastery side, the best trees in the area either side of the house and the poor trees in the other snake sanctuary, rocky ground by the entrance to the property, to go.

George ended today with the words "avrio, Kambos, ferma" which means he thinks we will be done tomorrow evening. He is the expert but I think he's missed out the main snake area which, as they are sleeping, and as I risked life and limb to clear it of frigana and prune the trees in the summer, is not on. If I am right it may be a Saturday finish. We shall see.

If it is tomorrow there will be no afternoon writing for me as it will be to Kambos to watch the press and have an ouzo and a settle up with George with lovely Eleni translating. Bring it on. The torture is almost over.

Tom Winnifrith

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The Olive Harvest at the Greek Hovel - day 5: FFS George Vreki!!!!

897 days ago

Arriving at the Greek Hovel this morning it was damp underfoot. There had been overnight rain and the puddles in the dry river are growing and threatening to link up to form a vibrant stream, but the skies looked clear enough. I wandered down to the other side of the ruin, the lair of the snake, to trees that have gone from zeros to heros in the space of a year. George the Albanian was hard at work as was one of his women. But only one. Hell's teeth: what could have gone wrong?

These Albanians they are not like snowflake millennials in Britain who throw sickies at least once a fortnight because it is a basic human right to do so. My comrades in labour could be bitten by a snake, be running a fever and have a broken leg and they'd still turn up for work. What on earth could have gone wrong?

I speculated that lady two might have been bought by a rival team. In football terms she would be a bargain. Valued as an "old lady" she has been playing as a valuable mid-fielder given the arrival of a new old lady in the team (me). But this is the Mani, the land of the blood feud. Any attempt to pinch one of his team, who might actually be his wife, would see George heading off with his shotgun to ensure honour was satisfied. Maybe George had sent his son to do the honour killing while he cracked on with the harvest?

I should not have worried. In due course she too wandered into the fields and we all cracked on. Well some more than others. Though I am only doing the old ladies tasks I was soon shattered and any interruption from a phone call was most welcome. Anyone who wants to phone me tomorrow feel free, any time after 6.30 GMT I am keen to talk.

Actually I am getting quicker at my jobs. I am still very slow by Albanian standards but less slow than I was a few days ago. But by 2.30 PM I was in deep trouble. I had passed on lunch to do a bit of catching up but then it started to rain. Vreki thought I, with joy, and looked at where George the Albanian was labouring away. He too had noticed and so electrical machinery was covered in plastic. Goodie goodie thought I, we can all bunk off early. But George and the ladies simply started thrashing branches the old fashioned way, by hand. My heart sank. The Greeks on the terraces on the other side of the valley had packed up why weren't we heading home?

By 3.15 PM it really was starting to tip it down. I was tempted to wander over to George to point at an increasingly sodden T-shirt and suggest that I was going to Kambos. But that would be wimping out. It is day five and I have lasted the pace (sort of) so far. Just as I prepared to capitulate, George wandered over. "Vreki. Avrio" said our great leader. Naturally I did my best to look disappointed but reluctantly agreed that we would try again in the morning.

Looking out of my hotel window in Kalamata it is sheeting it down. My guess is that the dry river is now flowing across the track up to the hovel and that tomorrow morning, as the track turns to an earth path through the olive groves at the top of snake hill on my side of the valley, it will be covered in puddles and slippery mud. If we do harvest tomorrow I very much doubt that we will finish the job. I reckon we need two more days and that we are still looking at between two and two and half metric tonnes - a record result. Naturally that is is a testament to my pruning of this summer.

Do I want clear weather tomorrow? Naturally I do. But if it is raining? Every cloud has silver lining.

Tom Winnifrith

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What on earth are my fellow harvesters talking about?

897 days ago

Greek is one of those languages where folks sound animated even if they discussing the weather or when the next bus arrives. But the conversations that break out between George the Albanian and his two female assistants, as we harvest the olives up at the Greek hovel, seem very animated indeed. I have no idea what they are on about.

The paranoid view is that the women are complaining about how slow I am and George is placating them.It could be that they are discussing the impact of the Italian referendum on the price of southern european olives though I doubt it. My guess it is about where to lay down the next set of mats to catch olives that are twerked. I can see that there are various routes across the terraces, which are not in straight lines and in places end and become half terraces. Perhaps mapping out the strategy for completing the harvest is sowing discord. I have no idea at all.

But after each discussion quiet resumes. The only noises you can hear are chainsaws being used on groves across the hills, the clock from the Church in Kambos, the sound of the threshing machine, the pitter patter of olives on the mats as someone twerks away and George singing some strange Greek or Albanian song. It seems a happy little number for he is a man who appears content with life. He still speaks to me in Greek though we are both aware that I have no idea what he is talking about but in year three of our business relationship all seems going well.

Rested, after a very hot bath which has left my limbs only hurting rather than in agony, I look forward to hearing more discussions about God knows what in the morning.

Tom Winnifrith

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New Bulletin Board Moron of the Week Contest sponsored by sleazy Lord Peter Hain

897 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/25710/new-bulletin-board-moron-of-the-week-contest-sponsored-by-sleazy-lord-peter-hain

Tom Winnifrith

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Day Four of the Olive harvest at the Greek Hovel: into the lair of the snake

898 days ago

I am so tired. As soon as I press "publish" on this article i am off to bed. Today there was no break other than 20 minutes for lunch and so I did a solid six and a half hours. It is not that I am spectacularly unfit (cue jokes from health guru Paul Scott), it is just that I have to try to keep pace with hardened professionals, viz George the Albanian and his two female assistants. Boris Johnson likes riding bicycles but he would be some way off the pace in the Tour de France. It is similar here.

But I am proud to say that although I thought about bunking off early I stuck it out to the end. And I am getting quicker at my given tasks, the ones normally allocated to the old ladies, they having been promoted ahead of me.

The progress was rapid today. I reckon we might just be finished in two days time and we must have lifted at least 550 kg of olives once again today. If not more. What is surprising me is that the trees the other side of the ruined cottage on the property which yielded very little, even in the bumper year of 2014 and almost nothing last year are also dripping with olives. Naturally I put this down to my skilled pruning in the summer. It is just possible that we will need another three days to finish so great is the harvest.

Today saw us tackle the tree that lies inside the ruin. It is a not a tree that I think about with anything other than fear as I have often observed a snake slithering into the bushes around it. I have not actually seen the snake because as soon as I see a slithering motion in the grass I run as fast as I can in the opposite direction shouting "fuck it is a snake." Not that is ever anyone around to hear me. But the number of times I have seen the slither makes me certain that it is the lair of the snake.

And so my pruning of this tree has not been as diligent as on other trees. I did some hacking but trod gingerly and the prune was not complete. Of course the snakes are all hibernating or, as they say here, asleep. But where do they sleep? I think of the Gruffalo and look nervously at fallen logs. Maybe it is underneath stones or in holes? I do not know but there are plenty of places around the ruin for Mr Snake to sleep. So what if I tread on him or kick over the log or stone by accident? Will he wake up in time to bite me before I scarper, screaming as I go?

George went for the tree and chopped off lots of branches. One of his ladies pointed at the fallen branches and pointed to me and said something in Greek or Albanian. I knew what she meant. Gingerly I picked up each branch and threw it onto the pile that I was assembling for flailing. I think I lost about a stone and a half of nervous energy during that task. But no snake was seen. None the less I have been thinking about snakes ever since.

At the end I was so tired I considered just crashing out with the rats at the hovel. But then I thought of my nice warm bath, nice warm bed and snake and rat free hotel in Kalamata. It was no choice.

And now to bed.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: Day 3 of the Olive Harvest at the Greek Hovel

899 days ago

At about 2.30 this afternoon George the Albanian wandered over carrying the electric olive harvesting rod which I think is called a twerker. Battery kaput he said and looked unhappy. I endeavoured to look sad too but internally I was delighted because surely this meant that we could knock off early. Bar a 40 minute break to upload my Advanced Oncotherapy bombshell article and 20 minutes at lunchtime when I devoured a hunk of bread dripping in olive oil, a small piece of feta and a tomato all provided by George, I had been working hard since just after eight. And I was aching all over.

Sadly my inner joy was short-lived. George whipped out an additional old fashioned manual paddle and he and his two female associates cracked on. My heart sank.
Naturally I am still doing the jobs normally reserved for old women, that is to say carrying branches sawn off by George to the flailing machine and then sorting olives from leaves in the manual separating tray - as explained in my day one photo article HERE. The old women have been promoted to operating the flailing machine and twerking/paddling as well as laying out and collecting the mats. They are not allowed to use the chainsaw. That is man's work and by man we mean George only.

The weather was delightful as you can see in the photo of the mountain behind the Greek Hovel. The sun shone all day and it was T-shirt weather.
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You can see the piles of branches, stripped of olives, are mounting up. The sheep love them and I must ensure my friend the shepherd gets his flock onto my land as soon as we are done.
 

So where are we in terms of the yield. I reckon that we did at least 600 kg today which makes 1150 kg ( 1.15 metric tonnes) of olives. The photo below shows where we are up to on the land, about half way from the hovel to the small ruined house (but excluding my best trees in the fenced off area around the hovel). Beyond that house is about the same distance against from the hovel to the ruin but the trees there are fewer in number. But that is on the top level. I reckon we have done half of two terraces out of four and a half terraces. Which is my way of saying that I have not got a clue as I have never actually counted how many trees we have.

My gut instinct is that we have another three days work. The 2014 harvest ( a good one) was 1.6 tonnes. I will be gutted if we do not hit two tonnes and am dreaming about getting closer to 2.5 tonnes. If my memory serves me correctly, 2.5 tonnes would be c860 litres of olive oil. But at this stage it is al guesswork. Now time for another long hot bath and, having lasted a full day, I really think I desrerve an ouzo

Admin

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The Lady from the British Council said sod the Greek peasants "what about the environment?"

900 days ago

It is too cold to stay up at the Greek Hovel so I am in my bolt hole of choice, the most excellent Pharae Palace hotel in Kalamata. It is far from packed but there is some activity as the British Council is organising exams for bubbles who have been learning English.

Over a healthy muesli breakfast, I chatted briefly to the two other people present, ladies a bit older than myself who were there to invigilate the exams. One complained that whenever the windows of her room opened she could smell olives and she did not like the smell. Hint Madam - don't come to Kalamata as you do know what it is famous for don't you?.

The obviously middle class lady, who struck me as one of life's utterly joyless Guardian readers, asked if it was an all year round smell and I assured that it was to do with the olive harvest and the processing of olives into oil which involves a lot of heat. I should say that, maybe it is because I am living the olive harvest, I cannot smell anything amiss in Kalamata. But she was insistent and suggested that it was all wrong.

I pointed out that olives were how many folks here earned enough to live. She said that that is all very well but surely they should think about the environment. Yeah peasants you go starve so that middle class ladies from Guardian la la land can open the windows of their seafront hotel rooms, thought I. But being a diplomat I said nothing..

Before she left she asked me what I was doing here? I cannot tell a lie and so with some pleasure I answered truthfully: "I am here to harvest my olives" I sense that we will not be chatting at breakfast tomorrow.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article - day 2 of the olive harvest at the Greek Hovel: Vreki!

900 days ago

You find me sitting in the Kourounis taverna of lovely Eleni in my Greek "home village" of Kambos. Idle bastard, I hear you say, it is only 9.30 AM Greek time why isn't the slacker off harvesting olives. Au contraire mes amis, I have completed my second day of harvesting without injuries and honour intact. The truth is that rain (vreki) has stopped play for all of us hardworking labourers.

Almost from the moment I arrived I could hear the thunder claps. They were loud but, having survived a lightning strike direct on my roof while recording a bearcast in the summer (it is about six minutes in HERE) I know the score. George the Albanian said vreki but as it started to tip down we carried on working for a while.

But the thunder grew louder and the rain grew heavier and at about nine George started packing up. as we are on top of a hill we are, I guess, a bit lightning exposed.I can see the logic of not wishing to hold onto a long metal twerker or paddle and stick it up into the trees. we will try again tomorrow (avrio). Since my body aches all over I must admit that my disappointment at not adding to yesterday's triumph was slightly mitigated by the thought of spending a day in a warm room relaxing and catching up on my other work.

The thunder clouds are rolling in not from the mountains above but from South, the road down the Mani towards Kardamili. The photo is the view from the front of the hovel towards the Frankish castle of Zarnata which overlooks Kambos.

Meanwhile the Kourounis taverna is filling up as my fellow labourers also retire from the front line until avrio. At least one has already started on the ouzo. Even for me, I reckon that it is a little bit early for that,

Tom Winnifrith

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Tom Winnifrith Bearcast - Please God let those emails arrive so I can ruin someone's weekend

900 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/25690/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-please-god-let-those-emails-arrive-so-i-can-ruin-someone-s-weekend

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: day one of the olive harvest 2016 at the Greek Hovel

901 days ago

In 2014 we harvested 1.65 metric tonnes (1650 kg) at the Greek hovel which yielded 566 litres of olive oil. Last year was a disaster - 550 kg and I fell and ended up in hospital. So far 2016 has been a triumph. I did not fall. Albeit with a few breaks I lasted the full working day and we have already harvested 550 kg with only a fraction of the trees finished. It is a triumph but I am shattered.

The first thing of note is that we have new technology. No longer are the trees only hit with plastic paddles but there is now an electric device - is it called a twerker? This is a sort of vibrating rake and it is a pleasure watching my colleagues wield it. My colleagues are, of course, George the Albanian and two women who, I think, are his wife and sister in law. After three years I should know but am too embarrassed to ask. Not that I speak Greek or Albanian or they speak English.

George is our leader so his main job is chopping branches off trees with his chainsaw.


  

These branches are then taken to a threshing machine where they are expertly flailed. This is skilled work so, naturally, I am not allowed to do it either. My first job is to carry the branches from where they fall to where the flailing machine, operated by lady 1, is wheeled to.

All the time we walk across the mats which are laid down by the ladies. This too is quite a skilled job and so naturally I am not party to it. Most of the branches are not cut from the tree but sit there to be attacked by the twerker or, now and again, by George wielding an old style long plastic paddle. But the twerker is king. Naturally it is a skilled job and so I am not allowed anywhere near it although I really do want a go and might ask to use it on the last tree so that if I break anything the harvest is in the bag.

Watching lady 2 or George wield the twerker is watching an artist at work and, as I take an occassional breather, I do just that.


In due course the mats are rolled up and the olives plus small twigs and leaves are poured into another machine. This is a skilled job and so is left to the ladies. But at this point my second job comes into play. 
 

This machine has no moving parts and is very simple to operate. I think that normally it is what the old women do. But in this case I am the old woman and the old women have been promoted. Using the wooden stick one beats the leaves and twigs and the loose olives until all olives are loose and fall through the mesh on this tray and then slide into a sack. Even I cannot screw up on this. It is quite tiring but really satisfying as you see your bags fill up.

At the close of play George summonsed me and we wandered around the half filled bags with me holding one as another was emptied into it by George so making one full 50 kg bag. George can lift them easily. I rather struggled, straining muscles I had forgotten that I had. The bag below is two thirds full. By close of play we had 11 utterly full 50 kg bags.

I now invite you to consider a before and after photo. The first is of a tree dripping with olives and thick with leaves. It is the BEFORE photo

And below is what a tree looks like after it has been twerked. Can you see the difference AFTER? The sun shines through a tree that really has been stripped back, shaved and cleansed.

We started work at 8 AM sharp. That is 6 AM UK time which is the time zone I am still operating on. By 2 PM Greek time I was aching all over and it started to rain. Normally rain stops play and indeed on the neighbouring patch of land a team lead by my neighbour Charon and including the goat-herd and several others did stop for a while. I was at that stage thanking God that I might get an early break but George and his ladies just carried on. These Albanians are made of sterner stuff. 

In one of my short breaks I went over to say hello to the heavily moustachioed goat-herd (not to be confused with the Shepherd) who, as ever, spoke to me in Greek knowing that I do not understand a word of it. But he had heard about Joshua and, having four children of his own, the Old Goat, kissed me on both cheeks to say well done before kissing the photo of my baby son on my camera. It seems that the whole village of Kambos knows of Joshua's arrival which is touching.

Now I am back in Kalamata. Tomorrow we start again. 8 AM sharp. No rest for the wicked. A long hot bath is greatly needed. 

 

Admin

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First Photo Report on the Olive Harvest at the Greek 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.

Admin

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Photo: The global warming falling hard in the Mani Greece this year

903 days ago

I noted yesterday that the rain clouds were so thick that from the Kalamata sea front I could not see the start of the taygetus mountain range which winds its way down the Mani peninsula. Later in the day as I drove east towards the mountains the cloud had lifted and I could see clearly that there was already a good covering of global warming directly ahead of me in the higher reaches. It got better.

The Greek hovel lies in the lower reaches of the mountains up from the village of Kambos which is itself pretty high up. As you can see the view from the hovel is of snow clad mountains. I sense that it has fallen earlier this year and in greater quantities which is, of course, all down to global warming.

Up in Kambos there was a definite chill in the air and everyone was wrapped up warm.

I should say that today in Kalamata the sun shines, I have seen a few brave souls swimming in the sea and I am wearing a T-shirt and feel quite warm. But up in the mountains the snow is not melting - the dry river in between Kambos and the Hovel is still dry. The snow in the mountains merely waits for more to fall.

Admin

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Now at Athens Bus Station and freezing, I blame Paul Scott

904 days ago

I landed at the airport at one in the morning and was aware that the bus from the Athens coach station to Kalamata did not leave until 6.30 AM. And I remembered that the bus station was cold and among the grottiest places in town. And thus I settled in a comfortable arm chair in a coffee shop at the airport, got online and produced three articles and started to feel quite productive. But then share blogger Paul Scott started tweeting me.

Pretty soon he was blathering on about mosquitos in Greece and for some reason that goaded me into leaving the nice warm airport and heading out into the cold night. It is about 5 above zero right now. A quick taxi ride saw me at the coach station which was even more grotty than I remembered. All its shops and the ticket office were locked up and on some of the benches slept members of the homeless community. In a few places some rather dodgy looking men gathered. It was bloody cold. I pulled my hoodie tight over my head but it made little difference.

I guess I remembered it from last summer when - even at 4 AM - it was quite warm. I had forgotten how bloody cold this place was this time last year. Remind me in twelve months time that Athens bus station is fecking freezing and not a place to spend any part of the night.

After a while I moved to a set of chairs where a little old lady sat chatting to two men in their forties. The presence of the little old lady was reassuring. Pretty soon we were talking. A Cypriot who had lived in London for 53 years she spoke great English and was very keen to lert me know that she was a strong supporter of Brexit. We chatted away until just after 5 AM, 3 AM your time, when the ticket office finally opened.

Hooray. Warmth. I have now defrosted and, as a bonus, the bus station has finally moved into the 21st century and got wifi. Perfect.

At this rate I shall be in Kalamata trying to get into a hotel by 9.30 and up visiting the Greek Hovel this afternoon. But for now, I just want it on record that if I go down with pneumonia it is all the fault of Paul Scott.

Tom Winnifrith

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As I wandered from Fleet Street to Ludgate Hill my mind wandered to Kambos and the Greek Hovel

916 days ago

I know the area at the bottom end of Fleet Street, where it turns into Ludgate Hill and you wander up to St Pauls, like the back of my hand. Twenty years ago I worked around there at the Chronic Investor and used to walk home Eastwards. For two decades, at Christmas I would go to midnight mass at the journalists' church, St Brides. The area has changed a lot over the twenty five years that we have been acquainted. Unlike me, it has smartened itself up. But it is still familiar territory.

And thus I needed no map to walk from the pizza restaurant to last night's mining presentation which I attended in order to be disruptive. On the way, I made a call to lovely Eleni in the village of Kambos, the nearest settlement to the isolated Greek hovel to which I decamp in a couple of weeks.

Eleni would have been sitting in her taverna in the heart of the village ( population 538) with the place packed with the regulars, all local folks. At this time of year, very few foreigners venture to the Mani. Indeed in Kambos, since it is more than half an hour from the sea, tourists only ever pass through even in summer. They don't stay.

In the Kourounis taverna, everyone drinking and smoking there works with their hands to produce something real. Some may have outside jobs. My friend Vangelis, the man in the pink shirt, delivers for Dixons; Nicho the communist is a manager for an organic food company. But they, like everyone else have olive trees and will be gearing up to start harvesting already. Indeed I can't imagine there are many deliveries in austerity stricken Greece these days so that leaves more time for ones beloved olives. Others in the taverna are shepherds or goat-herds. All are somehow related to the land.

In London folks earn far more, rushing between meetings and shuffling bits of paper. Is there really any point to it or are most folks just playing a game and making money? But everyone bustles hither and thither from meetings to smart restaurants and back again. The cost of a meal for two where I was last night would keep me in food and drink in the tavernas of Kambos for a week.

The buildings as Ludgate Hill heads towards St Pauls are a mixture of old and new. A Wren church nestles next to a 1960s block. But then pretty soon you are at Paternoster Square a modern and impressive construct. They all sit side by side but the district is smart and contains many impressive buildings. There is a buzz and excitement as folks rush around London like the ants in our fields back at the hovel on a day when they are set to swarm. In Kambos there is no such buzz, no drive to make money and no vast choice of over-priced and pointless goods and services on which to waste your cash. There are no new buildings and in fact very little of note.

I am perhaps a bit hard on London in saying that I loathe it. I can see the point in visiting twice a year to see the ants rushing around. But it is not my world any more. More than a few days in London leaves me drained, exhausted and vaguely angry at the pointlessness and crass consumerism of the place. Bring on Kambos.

Tom Winnifrith

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Speaking to lovely Eleni - less than two weeks to the Greek Hovel & the Olive harvest

917 days ago

Last year the olive harvest at the Greek Hovel was dire and I fell and ended up in hospital. I am hoping that things got far better on both counts in 2016. And thus yesterday I found myself calling the Kourounis Taverna, owned by lovely Eleni one of the two English speakers in Kambos, the nearest village to our place. Sadly it was her husband Nicko who answered and thus I struggled in Greek. Is it calinichta or calispera? God only knows. I tried both and then said "Its Tom". Aha cala? he said. Cala said I. And he called Eleni for our conversation had just about reached its limits.

I told her about Joshua and she said that she was chatting about me to George the Albanian only that day. She will make sure George is ready for my arrival to assist with the harvest. By assist I mean that George and his family will do it and I will try to assist without falling over or collapsing in a heap. But we are underway. Two weeks to Greece to file our planning application and to pick the olives: surely this year it will be more than two tonnes.

I cannot wait. The countdown is underway.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: Four Christmas Puddings almost ready - thank you Darina & Myrtle Allen

921 days ago

You are meant to make your Christmas puddings six weeks before Christmas to allow them to age and mature and so, leaving it to the last possible moment I have now just done that. The recipe is from a cookbook from the Queen of Irish cooking the amazing Darina Allen although she says that it is from her mother in law Myrtle, the founder of Ballymaloe. I think that Myrtle is still with us though she must be 92 by now and I am lucky enough to have visited the famed cooking school near Cork several times.

I say that I used Myrtle's recipe but I am sure that she and Darina would agree that you are allowed to play around with recipes a bit. Thus while I stayed true to the baked apples and most of the fruit I felt compelled to add in some nutmeg, mixed spice and cinnamon. And instead of Irish whiskey it was the remnant of some old Scotch but also some rum which was lying around and which no-one here drinks in any great quantities.

I think that I may have overdone the rum a touch but as of now I have steamed for 6 hours each of four two pint puddings. As a divorced Dad I get two Christmas meals to prepare and the remains from the second ( the Mrs and myself) will head up to Shipston for my father on boxing day.

Then there is one for the sister of the Mrs and her crazy Greek husband and finally one for Susan Shimmin of the Real Mani which I shall drop off in a couple of weeks when I head off to the Greek Hovel for the olive harvest. I can't see Susan compalianing that there is too much alcohol in her pudding.

Admin

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Hooray - Great News just in from the Greek Hovel

930 days ago

A process that was meant to take just four weeks has taken four months but heck this is Greece we are talking about, the Scotland of the South. A third of adults in Greece work for the Government but nothing ever gets done. But today we have learned that the Architects Council has okayed our plans to redevelop the Greek Hovel. Phew.

We can now take that clearance and the Forestry permit to seek a building permit, a process which is meant to take less than three months. And at that point we can start the process of rebuilding at once.

My guess is that three Greek months is about six English months so we start rebuilding in May 2017 (three years after we bought it) and will thus be able to spend Christmas and the Olive harvest 2017 in Greece as a family

Tom Winnifrith

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Don't count your chickens...but some good news on the way from the Greek Hovel

947 days ago

The Mrs and I bought the Greek Hovel about 28 months ago. Naively we rather assumed that by now it would have been renovated and we could both head over to enjoy the forthcoming olive harvest in comfort. Au contraire. If there was an Olympic gold for bureaucracy then the Hellenic Republic would be winning it every year. But there is good news today.

You may remember that I had to make a few, ahem, adjustments to the land before submitting an application for forestry clearance. that is to say that I had to hack away 2000 square metres of snake infested frigana which I did in the summer of 2014 enabling us to submit a forestry permit after I had burned the evidence in February 2015. That should have taken three months. I think it came through after various misadventures in May 2016. Aha so we can now submit the building permit application said I?

Not so fast said George the Architect. First we need the approval of the architectural council but that will take just 4 weeks. We submitted on June 2nd. It will not surprise you to hear that we have yet to receive clearance. But this morning George says that the Council meets tomorrow and we are on the agenda. Hooray!

If we pass this hurdle then it is just the Building Permit which we will be ready to submit at once and should be given within three months. The Building inspectors are based opposite the office of George so he can harass them and says that he will. I have again raised the issue of bribes but am assured that things like that just do not happen in Greece. Whatever.

Three Greek Months is, about six to nine English months which means that we could well start rebuilding between April - when I fly out anyway - and June next year. Hooray!

Tom Winnifrith

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Alex Tspiras PM of Greece says EU betrayed his country - no Alex you betrayed your people

973 days ago

It is a bit off the radar screens of the mainstream media right now but life in Greece grows ever more miserable. Nothing works. The poor are getting poorer and hope has just gone. But of course PM Alex Tspiras, a man reminiscent of Tony Blair in all the worst ways, will accept none of the blame.

I linked to a report earlier on how folks now cannot even afford bread and how Greeks are responding. This is not just in Athens but across the land. Thanks to "reforms" implemented by Tspiras at the behest of the EU and IMF, pensioners must now live on 9 Euro a day. Despite the EU bodge agreed with Turkey which saw our isolamofascist neighbours pick up a 6 billion Euro bribe, economic refugees still arrive on Greek shores daily and Greece must foot the bill.

Is there any sign of the supply side reforms we were promised which might create real jobs in Greece? Precious little. The Mrs and I learned today of yet another bureaucratic delay stopping us from starting to rebuild the Greek Hovel. It is a pointless delay caused by one of the daft bureacrats on the state payroll trying to justify his job and it may last for months and months. We are now 18 months into seeking planning permission and there is no end in sight.

Give us that permission and 240,000 Euros will be injected into the Greek economy at once creating jobs for several men who currently stand idle. Once the hovel complex is rebuilt there will be more visitors going to Greece, more cash into the economy. But one of the 2.5 million jobsworths paid by the Greek State is again delaying matters. We do not know who it will just stay that way and Tspiras has done nothing to deal with these sort of issues.

And so the cleverer and more ambitious young folk continue to leave. The population gets older and poorer and hungrier.

Last year the Hellenic Republic voted Oxi!, No!, to all of this. We voted no to the EU imposed austerity. It was Tsipras who lead the Oxi! campaign but then went and agreed to more austerity from the EU. It was Tsipras who betrayed Greece not the EU. The EU just screwed the Greek people but it was upfront about saying that it would do just that. It did not lie. It betrayed no-one.

Alex said the other day: "I would say that what is creating conditions of delay in regaining trust of markets and investors ... is the constant clash and disagreement between the IMF and European institutions."

No Alex, what is needed is quite simple. Greece should leave the Euro and go back to the drachma. that would effectively get rid of the debt in that Greece could repay in worthless new drachmas from the printing presses. Tough luck banksters but that will be your problem not ours.

As the drachma collapses in value, as it surely will, there will be a tourism boom and real inward investment and that will allow Tsipras the leg room to fire hundreds of thousands of the jobsworths on the state payroll and to let the private sector flourish.

Tsipras could have done that, with a mandate from the Greek people, last year. But the odious little man rather enjoys hob nobbing with other PMs and Presidents as an equal within the EU. Tsipras betrayed Greece and put himself first. He will go down in history as a Traitor for that but there is still time for him to change the way he is viewed, one last push for Grexit and he could be a hero.

But, sadly for Greece, the odious Blair clone is unlikely to go down that path. Instead it is easier to blame others as het gets on a jet plane for another summit and more high jinks on the World stage.

Tom Winnifrith

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Going back to the gym after er... a long break

975 days ago

I have had an on off battle with my weight for forty years. 2016 has not been my best year. The scores on the doors as we head through September are Fat 8 TW 1. Giving up smoking on February 15th was a great thing to do but I put on a few pounds in the Spring. In May and June I worked hard in the fields at the Greek hovel and managed to shed much of the post smoking gain. Since then, comfort eating, and the odd cider, with a bereaved father and with a pregnant wife has been bad news indeed. But enough is enough. The fight back is underway.

The presence of my in-laws is not helpful since I am constantly offered very pleasant South Indian food and also chocolate. But they depart tomorrow and at that point i am the master of the kitchen and shall cook nice food for the Mrs but restrict myself to a spartan diet.

I know this is not terribly PC in that I should take no responsibility at all for my own weight and instead rely on an army of state funded counsellors to help me all the way while insisting that it is my human right to have the NHS fit a gastric band. But I am no slave to political correctness so I am taking responsibility for my own body and have also joined a gym.

In my early thirties I worked out three days a week and either trained or played rugby on three other days. On the seventh day I would rest with a game of tennis or a swim. But that was a long time ago. By the time, yesterday afternoon, that I had walked 600 yards to the gym owned by Perry, the flagbearer for our local Tories, I was already feeling that I had done enough. But Perry greeted me with a smile and I did my own workout for an hour surrounded by half a dozen incredibly muscular men. This is a "man's" gym that I appear to have joined.

Perry is in good form as we discussed how both Labour Councillors for our part of Bristol have now been suspended by the People's Party for being nasty about those who opposed comrade Corbyn. But the main task at hand is dealing with my weight. There is no time for gloating at the chaos and mutual hatred amomg the Comrades.

Today, Perry took charge and I did a session of his own creation. Climbing back up the hill afterwards I wondered if I would make it home at all. But I did and now have 24 hours to recover before tomorrow's session which Perry has already planned. It is now 81 days to the olive harvest in Greece and I have two stone to shift and my upper body muscles to sort out. Wish me luck.

Tom Winnifrith

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Grounds for Divorcing the Mrs...she just cannot be serious!

992 days ago

Given that she is due to give birth to our son in nine days time I might just forgive her but the Mrs is pushing her luck.

Among the very few possessions of mine that are allowed in the house as opposed to the garage are a signed and framed Mark Cavendish shirt which, given what team it is from, is actually quite rare and a framed and signed Geoff Hurst 1966 Replica shirt. That is far less rare and so worth less but as it is from the year West Ham won the World Cup it has sentimental value. And it reminds me of a girl I knew once.

When I say my possessions, I should note that they are not actually mine. They are owned by FIML which is owned by a Trust of which I am not a beneficiary but the Mrs is. I am worth nothing and always will be just in case I get sued for libel by a company that, unlike my current adversary African Potash, is not a nailed down fraud and is not advised by the stupidest lawyers on this planet. But I am the guardian the possessions of the Trust and I rather like the shirts anyway.

The Mrs would rather have a poster for a mythical country called Palestine on the wall and so my shirts sit hidden behind a sofa. They will go to the Greek Hovel if it is ever ready. But back to the divorce.

The Mrs said "I think we should sell the framed shirts on ebay or give them to Oxfam." Bloody hell, if that is not grounds for divorce on the basis of unreasonable behaviour, what is? Saying she has bought a season ticket to Spurs? Investing all her money in African Potash shares? Vetoing calling our son Thomas? Putting my morbidly obese three legged cat Oakley up for sale on ebay? Few crimes could be worse than the one suggested today.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: Oakley the cat is not playing Pokemon

1023 days ago

Our friend M popped by last night for an amazing supper prepared by yours truly. The roast chicken stuffed with lemon and ginger really was superb. I would be modest about my culinary skills but it is hard to find anything to be modest about. The strawberry and dessert gooseberry crumble was almost magical. It was almost a perfect 10. I digress. M has in the space of seven days become addicted to Pokemon.

She now logs onto the app one hundred times a day. Morning noon and night she is at it. With great excitement she described how one could buy food for your Pokemon or go fight other players in a virtual sense at the Pokemon gym.

As she explained the joys of her new addiction with the enthusiasm a drug addict would display on news that the Candy man had arrived, it was one of those moments when I despaired of the modern world completely and wished that I was back at the Greek Hovel chatting only to the Shepherd, him speaking Greek and me English and neither understanding each other.

But at least I think the Shepherd and I are roughly on the same page. I am sure that we can both agree that Pokemon is pointless and that milking a sheep is not. Chatting to a Pokemon player is, I imagine, like trying to converse with a Martian or a dolphin.

 just do not get it. Nor does Oakley, my morbidly obese three legged cat. As you can see there was a Pokemon in the room above his head. Quite rightly the old boy was just not interested treating it, as you can see below, with the disdain it deserves.
 

Admin

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Photo Article - the House of Paddy Leigh Fermor in Kardimili part 4

1040 days ago

I sit here now in Shipston with my father, trying to persuade him to come to Greece for the olive harvest in December. It is not that he would be much good in terms of picking olives. I suppose he might lean against a tree up at the Greek Hovel and bash the branches with his walking stick. But I think his role should be more concerned with drinking ouzo with the older men of Kambos so that my liver is preserved and I can play a full part in the harvest working with George the Albanian and his family.

The Greek Hovel seems a long way away. As does the house of all round superhero Paddy Leigh Fermor which I visited with my wife and my father and step mother. on June 8 It was only five weeks ago but things moved fast for my step mother on her return. She enjoyed this last Greek trip as you can see.

There are a couple of internal photos in an earlier article HERE. Below are photos of the dining area, the courtyard, the steps down to the sea and the sea itself and of myself, my father and step mother sitting inside the main entrance.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: The last view of Kambos until December

1040 days ago

It was my last evening in Greece. I felt sad both to be returning to Britain and because of the reason that I was returning early. having been blown out on my hot date with the amazing woman, I drove from the abandoned monastery not back to the hovel but to the village one last time for supper. Having problems parking in the Centre of kambos I continued on the main road out of the village seeking a place to turn.

As one leaves the village you start to climb the base of a hill on whose top stands the Frankish castle of Zarnata. As the road heads round a bend there is a parking and turning spot where I stopped the motor. Looking back below us is a ruined tower house which sits just above the Mycenaean tombs, the real hidden gems of Kambos. Behind them lies the village and on a clear day from this spot you can even see the hovel in the very far distance.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: The most amazing woman in Kambos blows me out on the hot date

1040 days ago

It is one of the charms of Greece that if one makes an appointment for 7.30 PM on Friday in really means any time between Wednesday and Sunday afternoon. It was in that spirit that I prepared for my date with the most amazing woman to be shown around the deserted monastery, actually a convent, which sits on the other side of the valley from the Greek Hovel. As the crow flies it is actually my nearest neighbour and, as you can see, it is a pretty impressive building.



It was my last evening at the hovel and so, to show respect to the woman but also ahead of seeing the Mrs for the first time in three weeks, I tried to shave but with no mirror I removed not only three weeks growth but also good chunks of flesh. As I stepped into my shower, that is to say under the hosepipe, I was bleeding profusely and the water stung. Notwithstanding the still bleeding cheek and jawbone, I looked reasonably smart as I drove down my side of the valley across the dry river and up from the valley floor to the top of monastery hill. Instead of carrying on for another mile or so into Kambos I swung right to where one can enter the convent. It was 7 PM and I thought I should be early.



I waited patiently until 8.30 PM at which point I conceded that I had been blown out and untied the string that keeps the front gate closed. Feeling rather nervous ,as I was an intruder, I entered a small courtyard. It is maintained well with neat flowers and on one side of the path there was a gravestone. It was the last resting place of the last nun to live at the convent a woman who must have been fairly old when she died.

Her death was about eight weeks before The Mrs and I first visited the hovel and the village of Kambos. I still do not know whether this little old lady of faith died alone at the convent where she must have lived by herself for many years or whether she was elsewhere at the end or with others. Whatever faith she had to sustain her in her final years out in this isolated place I hope that at the end she also had human company.

The Courtyard was only about six yards long and at the end was another wall and another iron gate. This one was locked with a padlock and chain. As such I could only peer through to another small courtyard. On one side is a small house where perhaps two or three nuns could have lived. On the other side the accommodation building with another 15-18 cells and at the end a small church.

At one stage those cells would have been bustling. This would have been a vibrant community. With water at the spring that lies at the bottom of the valley, into which the dry river flows creating a large pond in winter, and surrounded by fields for the nuns to tend this was once a real self sustaining community. Now the area around the convent grows wild. Only the amazing lady from Kambos keeps nature at bay from the inner sanctuaries of the site and one wonders if there is another generation to act as the convent's defender in this way? I fear there won't be.

The amazing lady has faith that there will be nuns there again one day. If there are I would beg to assist them with their olives or in hacking back the frigana which is advancing upon the buildings. But I do not expect to get that chance for I have no faith that the nuns will return. I suspect that the last nun of Kambos is the one lying in the grave in the courtyard.

Tom Winnifrith

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Video - Do you understand why I love where I live in Greece now?

1053 days ago

Sorry it is a poor quality video and yes that is Abba in the background. I shot it on the penepenultimate evening at the Greek Hovel. I was travelling down from Kambos to the sea at Kitries for a last meal of octopus. About two miles from where, just outside my home village, one leaves the main Kambos to Kalamata road, there is a  small hamlet.

I stood above this hamlet looking down on its church in the sunset. Then I panned the camera around. I hope you can make out the 180 degree view starting at the Frankish castle above Kambos, moving down to the bay at Kitries and onwards to the church. And so why would one live anywhere else?

Tom Winnifrith

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Is the Mrs reading Grazia Magazine grounds for divorce?

1054 days ago

Back in the UK I sit at my desk looking out on a quiet surburban road. It is all very different to the view from the rough table at which I write at the Greek Hovel. I see people, cars and neat brick walls rather than olive trees, sheep, the abandoned monastery and the wild of the Mani countryside. Here in Bristol, I also spot in a magazine rack next to my desk a copy of Grazia magazine.

On the front cover is Harry Potter star Emma Watson offering her opinions on things I don't care about plus pictures of other celebs whose names I do not recognise. Grazia is an inane magazine for women.

I ask the Mrs "surely you did not buy this?" because spending cash on such matters is surely grounds for divorce. Last time such a publication entered the house, the Mrs claimed to have found it on a train. This time she claims that her friend Katie brought it with her when she trekked down from the Grim North for a visit the other day.

I detect a pattern here. Surely catching your Mrs reading such piffle, however it came to enter the house, is a valid reason for divorce?

Tom Winnifrith

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Has the Mani listened to Alternative Ulster before?

1055 days ago

As I go to sleep in the Greek Hovel I drown out the sounds of the wildlife diversity with a bit of music. Right now this is playing, I suspect the quiet valley has never heard SLF before.

 

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: The road to nowhere ahead of my hot date in Kambos tonight

1055 days ago

I am not sure if my date will turn up but I am counting down the hours anyway to my trip with the most amazing woman to the abandoned monastery, which was actually a convent. I try to imagine what is inside the buildings which I pass every day on my travels from the Greek Hovel into Kambos, but only time will tell. Or won't.

Meanwhile I have solved another mystery. As one heads up my side of the valley just past snake hill there is a turning off the mud track to the right. This turning is clearly a road but a road to where?



On my way down to Miranda's I stopped the car and started to walk up this road. Given that it is used even less frequently than the road to snake hill I trod rather nervously as I climbed up the hill and round the corner. And what was around the corner? Nothing. The road, deliberately created by man just stopped after less than one hundred yards.

On one side a path headed off into the olive trees. Naturally I followed this path, treading even more deliberately and slowly than I had on the road lest I encounter a member of the wildlife diversity community. And after about one hundred yards the path passed two large trees and I reached...nowhere. It stopped.

There was a gap in the bushes to a field which looked better manicured and greener than all the other fields. But was this the lush pasture of a green and pleasant land or just very long grass for snakes to hide in. At this point my nosiness was overwhelmed by cowardice and I carefully retraced my steps along the road to nowhere.

As I headed back to the car I was struck by the view, a view towards the abandoned monastery. Enjoy.

Tom Winnifrith

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An evening that was a farewell to Kambos until December

1055 days ago

Lovely Eleni's Kourounis taverna has still not reopened. But the hardcore clientele led by Nicho the communist and Vangelis in his pink shirt still sit resolutely on its outside tables, using its internet link and chatting with the wider Eleni family. Rather naughtily I have discovered that I can use the Kourounis wi-fi while sitting in Miranda's next door and did that as i tucked into a last meal of Mani sausage and courgettes.

And then I said farewell to Miranda explaining, in Greek, that I was going to England tomorrow. Yes you heard that correctly I spoke a few words of fucking Greek. And then back to Elenis where I explained why I was leaving. I showed them all the picture of the Mrs at Mistras and they understood...

Vangelis talked of drinking. Yes we shall all drink together again my friend. And you can again drive me back to the hovel at 3 AM 15 ouzos later.

Elias! I shall be back at the Greek Hovel for the olive harvest in December. Nicho can try out his wild olive experiments on my land and we can talk together of snakes and other matters. And yes my friends, we shall all drink some ouzo.

I shall be back in December to harvest with my friend George the Albanian, but also to look out on olive groves and towering mountains and to hear nothing for most of the day bar the bells on the sheep. To speak to no-one except the Shepherd unless I make a conscious decision to do so. To write with a sense of freedom and to think thoughts one dares not think back in Airstrip One.

Oh well, its now time to start packing, to clean the eco-loo I built with wood I found at the hovel; to slash frigana one last time and to head back to a grey Bristol suburb.

I know I must return to bloody England for all sorts of reasons but to say that I am heading "home" would be an untruth. The population of Bristol is 428,100 and I can't say that I have a single friend in the City. I like some of the friends of the Mrs but they are her friends and my personal social circle is zero.

In Kambos there are 538 people including me. For some reason, everyone here knows who I am - the English guy from Toumbia up in the snake infested mountains who is terrified of snakes, who writes all day and falls off his bike and who wants to be an olive pruner. And though very few folks speak English I have more conversations with people I like and respect here in a week than I do in a season of Bristol life. The shepherd speaks Greek to me. I speak English to him. Neither of us understands a word but we become better friends as every day goes by.

As I drive back from the village down monastery hill, across the dry river, up snake hill and through the olive groves the car bumps from side to side and the songs playing on local radio Live FM are two songs I hear out here all the time but rarely back in England. In my mind they are summer songs. Winter starts tomorrow night.


Tom Winnifrith

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My status is upgraded by Miranda: I am honoured

1056 days ago

It is my last full day at the Greek Hovel until December and I shall miss my life here badly. It is just after three in the afternoon and I sit in the shade in the centre of Kambos typping away with a glass of ouzo to hand (celebrating vengeance after eleven years) watching the world go by. As ever the A Board on the main street of Kambos advertises all sorts of delight at Miranda's little taverna. Fish, grilled meats, toasted kangaroo, the list goes on. Actually I made up that bit about the kangaroo but it might as well have been on the public menu because the actual menu is...what is on top the oven today which is chicken and spaghetti.

Miranda gets me to taste the chicken and says something in Greek including the word "spiti" which is one of the few words I actually know. Until this morning what i am about to devour was fluttering around at her house. spiti = house. Now it is covered in a superb sauce and part of it will be my lunch.

And so I order what is on the actual menu but it seems that patronage is now rewarded with an upgrade in that I am trusted to lay my own table in the little square outside the taverna. Miranda hands me one of the paper sheets that are clipped to tables in Greek restaurants, a glass and a bottle of iced nero (water) and off I toddle.

I guess some of the Bulletin Board morons back home who just hate it when I expose as frauds the companies that have invested in will be delighted by this news. It is evidence that once again I am really just a waiter in a restaurant. One such moron was again abusing me today "and your pizza is shit."

I suppose in the tiny addled little mind of such a total fucktard buying a loss making restaurant, turning it round and selling it on at a profit is the same as being a pizza waiter. Such folks will no doubt now also define me as being Miranda's waiter. What a silly world I inhabit back in Britain.

Postscript: the chicken was really fantastic. I am not a big fan of spaghetti but this was thicker than the Italian version and coated in crumbly local cheese it was not bad at all. A thin cat sat next to my table as soon as the food arrived and started begging loudly. I gave it some spaghetti which it devoured.

Tom Winnifrith

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Plucking up courage and heading back into the fields...sssssnakes!

1057 days ago

After yesterday's encounter with an adder I was not exactly gagging to go frigana cutting today. The only real patches left are thick bushes whrere the shoots can be up to six foot tall and where, one imagines, snakes regard it as an ideal place to sit around waiting for prey. Or me. So I procastinated, swapping emails with David Lenigas, and writing a long piece on Tony Baldry, a loathsome scumbag former Tory MP who makes your avereage adder seem like a nice piece of work.

But I was conscious that I had enjoyed a few ouzos the night before and so needed to spend some time toiling in the heat to burn off those calories and so, in the end, plucked up courage and headed off to the fields.

Full of petrol my frigana cutter is pretty heavy but whereas I carried it two handed at the start of the summer there is now real muscle in my arm and I carry it one handed and can indeed wield it with one hand if needs be. Maybe when I get back to Bristol the Mrs will do a blog post on how muscular my arms have become.

It would be fair to say that I trod more carefully than usual as I waded through the long grass towards the bushes. I attacked from the edges peering carefully in every now and again to see if I could see anything moving. Gradually the bushes thinned and I could see through to the other side. This was a snake free zone. I slashed with renewed vigour.

After forty minutes I was surrounded by cut branches with yet more thrown over the wall to the terrace below.When I approached this small terrace it was surrounded on all sides by a wall of frigana which has now gone. I can now see clearly down from the top terrace all the way to the fence. I still ponder how I managed to miss this little forest two years ago when I thought I had cleansed our land. Frigana simply does not reach six foot in two years we must have missed this little area of the land. But now it is cleansed.

I doubt that I shall entirely clear the land of frigana by the time I return on Saturday. But as I wander around I can see large expanses of leaves turning golden brown which, when I arrived, were bright green frigana.

This may not be the final push into Berlin where i am the Russians and the frigana is the Nazis, but this summer can certainly be seen as the siege of Stalingrad. it is the beginning of the end for the Nazis and with dead Germans lying across the lands of the Greek Hovel, the frigana boys have taken one hell of a beating.

Tom Winnifrith

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Fuck Fuck Fuck I shouted - poisonous snake encounter

1058 days ago

I decided that it was time to tackle the frigana bushes that sit just outside the fence on the mountain side of the land at the Greek Hovel. Access is easy as the fence runs alongside a paved road used by the shepherd and, as far as I can see, nobody else at all.

I approached the first bush which sat on a rock and slashed away the grass in front of it so that nothing mide jump out at me. So far so good. I then started hacking away at what was a ha5rdy old bush with every sprout intertwined with grass and other green things. Fuck!

One of the green things was moving. I could see just a couple of inches of it through the frigana but it was green with black markings which means that it was an adder. Had I been an Albanian I would have said - in Albanian - "sod the frigana" and started slashing away at the snake.

Being a pansy Brit I shouted Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! and turned tail running as fast as I could up the road and away from the snake, the bush and the scene of my cowardice. After about thirty yards I turned around. The snake was not following me. Who cares? I ran again.

That is it for frigana cutting today. I need an ouzo or five and shall resume tomorrow but there is one area where I think I shall let the frigana grow in peace.

Tom Winnifrith

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My father and his twenty five penises

1058 days ago

Some people are just good at languages. The Mrs speaks perfect English (for a Northerner), very good Swedish and very acceptable Greek. Some of us are bad at languages. Other than English I speak poor French and a smattering of Greek, Latin and German - all poorly. And some of us are bad at languages but think we are rather better than bad. I think of my father.

For I am sitting in Miranda's taverna in Kambos enjoying a lunch of chicken and peas before returning to the Greek Hovel for some frigana slashing. The roast chicken is not bad, the peas are amazing. And I laugh as I think of my father and the chicken.

Many years ago, as he travelled around rural Greece, some villagers asked him what animals he kept. Since my parents were into self sufficiency there was a good choice and my father announced loudly that he owned twenty five chickens. There was a stunned silence as he had plucked the wrong word from the ether. The assembled crowd looked at him in a strange way. Did he really have 25 penises? Someone explained.

Perhaps my father shoukd have remembered his French oral exam aged 13. He was asked "quelle profession a ton pere?" Unable to remember the word for civil servant, he replied "mon pere est mort" and looked sad. Straight A. Nailed it.

Tom Winnifrith

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The date I was dreaming about with the amazing woman in Kambos - its Friday night

1058 days ago

The meeting with the most amazing woman from last week is still something I am thinking about almost daily. Prompted by a couple of let-downs, I almost sent an email firing nearly all of those working with me today. That was a direct result of that meeting.

I have known for a while that my working life was in many ways pointless, rushing round a hamster wheel spending most of my time doing things that bring no happiness to me and do nothing at all for the wider world. What is the point of busting your guts off to try and run a business when you can have a simple life writing what you wish to write about and still make more than enough to get by? Empire building is surely for fools.

I didn't send the email but I am thinking hard about my life. I thought a lot as I spent two hard sessions today slashing frigana in the fields at the Greek hovel. I was in the far reaches of the land here and this is frigana that has not been cut for at least five years. How on earth did we miss it two years ago? So it is woody and the stems are up to six foot tall and where I slash at the base an inch in diameter. It was very hard work but I slashed away, sweating hard and thinking harder. Why go on as I am, in vain pursuit of added wealth but at the expense of personal happiness? Why, why, why? What am I achieving?

At the end of it all I felt I deserved a meal by the sea in Kitries and headed off to enjoy the same meal I always have: octopus, tzatziki and a couple of ouzos while staring out at the waves a few feet in front of me. I did not need to order, the waiter at this small place just brought what he knew I wanted. I chatted to British Airways booking an early flight home and had another ouzo.

With it now dark, I drove home up the steep road towards the neighbouring village to Kambos. On the way up there is a church which is so tiny that it cannot possibly fit more than four people at any one time. I wonder if it too has a mass at any point but it is open all year and I remember well how last summer my step mother and I wandered in after we had enjoyed a meal with my father at Kitries. It was just her, me and some lizards who called the place home.

As I drove through Kambos tonight, I hoped as I had hoped every night since last week to see that amazing woman again. It was around eleven by the time I approached the church and there was light inside. I stopped the car and bounded up the three steps to the Church, I am sure the excitement was written all over my face. Inside was the woman, this time dressed not only in a black head scarf but in a shawl covering her arms and top half.

She beamed widely "hello Tom, how are you?" I did not even bother with Cala ( Greek for good) but in English explained a few matters and asked if, although I was a man, I could gain entry to what I thought was an abandoned monastery but is, in fact, a convent of which she appears to be the guardian. I think it is possible. We have a date on Friday at 7.30 PM. I gather there are two churches inside, one small one hewn from a rock and a larger structure. I look at the buildings looming over the valley, each day as I drive down snake hill on my side. Now I may just gain entrance.

But this is Greece. Nothing always goes according to plan. But I am truly excited.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: the road to Mistras

1059 days ago

You want photos of Mistras? You really should for it is truly an amazing place but patience dear friends, let me first tell you about our journey there. The Mrs was in charge of logistics....yes, I know, but I am a feminist so I did not kick up a fuss.

And so it was decided that we would take the older road from Kalamata to Mistras which is about 60 kilometres door to door. The Mrs informed me that it would take an hour and a half.

You are 'avin' a bubble I proclaimed it is me driving not my father.  Thankfully my father was some years ago told very firmly by his offsprng that his driving days were over. Folks who drive at 15 miles and hour, mostly on the correct side of the road may not have accidents but they cause them. The Mrs insisted she was correct.

Ninety minutes later after about fifteen thousand million hairpin bends through the mountains I had to concede that she had been right all along. As  a vertigo sufferer I don't always find these roads the most pleasant to drive but I guess with all my trips in the area around the Greek Hovel I am getting used to it.  Next time we might perhaps take the newer road. 

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo: Grapes I shall never eat as, sadly, I book a flight back to Britain

1059 days ago

With some sadness I contacted British Airways today to move my flight forward and by Saturday evening I shall be back in the UK. I don't say back home because I feel more and more that my home will be out here at the Greek Hovel. I leave a lot of thoughts and ideas behind here in the mountains above Kambos. But I also leave something more tangible. It is with great regret that I shall not be here in mid August when the grapes below which trail from vines either side of the hovel, are large, ripe and tasting fantastic. Drat! 

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: Oakley's Greek cousin in action

1059 days ago

Who would believe that the fine cat below is the same species as my morbidly obese three legged moggie Oakley. The latter, for some reason, has a deep aversion to the working classes and so when middle class folk arrive he is uber-friendly. When tradesman arrive it is rather different. Right now plumbers are installing a new bathroom for the Mrs and Oakley is spending his entire working day cowering under the duvet in the top bedroom.

Back here in the Greek mountains I was driving down from the hovel last evening and towards the end of the track through the olive groves about 200 yards before snake hill I spotted this cat.

Though domestic in terms of gene pool, he or she lives totally in the wild up here in the area around the hovel. They are afraid of humans but not of snakes, rats, mice, lizards or indeed more or less any other member of the wildlife diversity community. All are considered fair prey for supper.

Oakley, who could not catch a cold, would not last up here for more than a day. Like the Mrs he is not cut out for hovel dwelling and would be demanding a move to a posh hotel by the sea, very quickly. His cousins are in their element and the more members of the wildlife diversity community they devour, the better.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: Hit by Lightning, losing all power and getting out of the Greek Hovel before the floods get too bad

1061 days ago

I mentioned earlier that the weather was turning for the worse at the Greek Hovel. I should cocoa. As I drove back from a very late lunch in Kambos, Mark Slater called. I parked almost at the top of Snake Hill and we talked but then it started raining. After a good chat I had to hang up as the rain was hitting the car roof so hard that I could barely hear a word. I made it home and saw a small man holding an umbrella walking towards me from the side of my house and waving.

Who on earth could be up here in this weather - what a lunatic. The rain was so heavy I could not see who it was until we were just yards apart. Vreki said the shepherd, for it was he. I said ne for it was indeed raining. He then started speaking Greek again but mentioned the word elias (olives). Of course the rain is good for them and so I said ne again.




By the time I reached my house twenty five yards away I was semi drenched so heavy was the rain and I decided to record a podcast quickly. Half way through - as you can hear HERE - there was a massive bang, the lights flickered and plaster fell from the ceiling. There is a first time for everything and that was my first experience of a lightning strike. The storm continued and I soon lost all power. The clouds on the mountains told me this was not going to get better tonight.



As it was getting dark and as I feared I might at some stage get cut off by flooding I made the decision to evacuate. Call me a big girl's blouse if you wish. It might just be the fusebox but I really do not fancy a night without power, without the internet and cut off by floods in the middle of a violent thunderstorm in the middle of nowhere.
Already the puddles on my land are getting large. How my olives must be loving it. The top one is just by the bat room, the larger one - about twenty yards long - is at the end of my land as, an increasingly muddy and slippy, track heads through the olive groves towards snake hill.





At the bottom of the valley the dry river was springing into life but on the other side as I swung right onto deserted monastery hill it was already a river. I pressed on

L

On the road to Kalamata traffic was - understandably - light and so at the gorge where the double murder took place a couple of years ago I stopped my car and took this picture of the view up towards the mountains. What a place to live, eh?



The rain kept on beating down ever more heavily as I made it into Kalamata. At one point on the mountain road all the cars stopped as the lighting crashed around us. Gradually a small convoy plucked up courage and I tagged along as tail end Charlie at 20 kmh all the way down to the sea and Kalamata. Sometimes we drove on the right, sometimes on the left to dodge the biggest puddles and at some times we drove in the middle.

Even here in Kalamata, one of the larger towns in Greece, the roads are in places a foot deep in water. At times I worried that my small hire car would not make it through but we made it. In a nice warm and dry hotel room, the thunder and lightning continues outside. It is still raining heavily.

Heaven only knows how the poor snakes and rats are coping back at the Greek Hovel up in the mountains.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: Room with a view & who said sheep were stupid?

1062 days ago

There was I having a late afternoon doze in the Greek Hovel when I awoke to a sound which seemed right outside my window, the sound of sheep. For those living the other side of Offa's Dyke this might sound like the climax of a wet dream but for me it was reality as I went onto my balcony on the Monastery facing side of the hovel and, you can see what I saw right beneath me.

I was delighted. I am very happy for the shepherd to let his flock wander across the land here. It tends to scare away certain members of the wildlife diversity community and the sheep eat anything, grass, frigana and olive branches I have cut so I want them here.

I pulled on a T shirt and sneakers and wandered out of my door on the mountain facing side and headed off down the track to greet the shepherd who naturally spoke to me in Greek, which he knows I don't understand, and I answered in English, which he does not comprehend. That is how we fail to communicate when we meet, as we do almost daily. After a while he wandered off, cajoling his flock with a long stick and by speaking to them in whistled messages as well as shouts. Clearly, the sheep understand more Greek than do I. I wandered back to the hovel.

Bugger me. On my return I looked out of the balcony to see two sheep standing there on their own bleating and just looking stupid on their own with no shepherd. Since I cant speak Greek I could not tell them where to go and the Shepherd was long gone with the rest of his flock.

I tried to cajole them in the right direction but they don't understand English and my instructions fell on deaf ears. As I tried to user them one way they went another. Eventually after a bit of a chase through the groves, we headed the right way down the track towards the gate but instead of turning left to go to where the Shepherd had headed they pushed on into a neighbouring olive grove. Exasperated I gave up and jogged off in the other direction to find the shepherd and after about a quarter of a mile I found him putting his flock in a pen where they spend the night.

I said "Thee-oh" and pointed at the sheep and gesticulated towards where I had come from. He smiled and spoke some more Greek to me. Suddenly I could hear bleating from where I had come. The Shepherd shouted something in Greek and the bleating grew louder as two sheep cantered past me back to their master, homing sheep delighted to be reunited with their brethren. All my herding was pointless, the sheep knew what they were doing. These sheep are a lot cleverer than some folks think.

Tom Winnifrith

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A cooling breeze and much wanted rain at the Greek Hovel

1062 days ago

I was woken today by the sound of heavy thunder in the tall hills to my far right and in front of me. There was no lightening and it has now abated but in those hills dark clouds still loom, indeed a fog of rain clouds are now covering those slopes directly in front of me obscuring my view. Behind me, and to my left, in the Taygetos mountains there are also dark rain clouds evident. After day after day of 40 degree heat or worse this is such a break.

We have had a few spots of rain already. It has not deterred the cicada orchestra which is in full song but if the downpour intensifies they may cease. I read on the internet that in ancient Greece they used to eat cicadas. It goes without saying that the Chinese still do. I remember having deep fried locusts at a City party once and they were not bad but I am not sure that this is going to be a staple part of my long term self-sufficiency plan here.

Pro tem the front window is open and I have wedged the back door, the only door, wide open with a fishing rod. I sit in between in shorts only with a cooling breeze passing through. I pray for more rain. Let the heavens open, let me think of Byron and of Zitsa and my friend the baker and his barrister wife. A day of storms, of sitting here in a cooling wind would be a day to get so far ahead on my writing as to allow me a full day in the fields tomorrow.

And my poor olive trees could do with a drink, it must have been hard work for them in the recent heat, I know they would love a drink. I hear sounds on the tin awning I have above the entrance to the hovel...my prayers are being answered.

 

Tom Winnifrith

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A new Reality TV show at the Greek Hovel: Lots of snakes & AIM CEOs having to do real work

1063 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/21590/a-new-reality-tv-show-at-the-greek-hovel-lots-of-snakes-aim-ceos-having-to-do-real-work

Tom Winnifrith

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An evening out: Miranda seduces me as Lovely Eleni can only watch

1064 days ago

After a long hard day at my desk and labouring in the olive groves I left the Greek Hovel as it was already getting dark and headed through the olive groves, down snake hill to the valley floor and then up past the deserted monastery and into the bright lights of Kambos. I could not wait for another excellent healthy Greek salad from Miranda, whose offerings I had sampled for the first time just eight hours previously.

I parked my car at by the snake repellent/frigana cutter tweaking store as the main road makes a 90 degree turn in the centre of Kambos. Lovely Eleni and her family sat outside her Kourounis taverna which is still undergoing a totally un-needed upgrade and so is out of action. Still feeling like I was being a tad unfaithful I sloped past and waved. Can I ever admit to lovely Eleni just how good Miranda's Greek salad tasted?

But it was only a Greek salad, nothing more, I would stammer. And it was only because you were not there for me. I walked up the small square and sat at a table outside Miranda's as the woman herself toiled at the stove inside. So a small man beckoned and escorted me in. Miranda gave me a small piece of pork she had cooked. It was so tender. She pointed to a big pan with peas inside cooked ina thin herb-packed sauce. My attempts to order a salad were to no avail.

Between myself, the old man and Miranda we might speak 40 words of each other's languages. Trying to explain that I was trying to shock my body into weight loss and to cut my blood sugar levels as part of a plan to tackle my diabetes following interesting articles I had read in the Daily Mail was just not an option. And so I succumbed. No salad it was pork and peas and it was absolutely magnificent. Just brilliant.The best 5 Euro meal on this planet. Cala? said Miranda, Ne said I , cala, cala, cala, ne, ne ne!

I walked back to the car past lovely Eleni and her family still enjoying an evening meal outside a half finished Kourounis taverna. I waved but the guilt is getting worse. Its not just a Greek salad now but full on pork and peas and it was just so good

Tom Winnifrith

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Venturing into the next door taverna to Eleni's in Kambos - Miranda's

1065 days ago

I was feeling a little weak. It is just so bloody hot and this one meal a day regime is not helping. My pruning is done and my frigana chopper needed a tweak down in Kambos and so I left the Greek Hovel and, being brave, made my first visit to Miranda's, the taverna in between the Kourounis taverna and the snake repellent/frigana chopper ,mending store.

I think that this is Miranda's. I have translated the sign from Greek lettering so I would not bet the ranch on that but henceforth I shall refer to it as Miranda's. The taverna itself is set back 25 yards from the road in a small square. It is dark and dingy inside but no-one eats inside - that is reserved for a few very old men who look as gnarled as the olive trees and are almost fixtures, smoking and drinking. But for the rest of us there are six tables outside under wooden and canvas protection. There is, of course, no internet I just type and save, I shall load this later.

Miranda's has an A Board on the street but that is just for tourists passing through the village in that it offers a wide and varied menu. Once they leave their car they are ushered inside and shown a few pots on the stove. That is the menu. Suckers! We Northern Europeans are, at that point, too polite to leave and so make a choice of goat or goat, for it is often just one dish on offer.

At that point they are happy as this is a great place to sit and watch the world go by. There are two very sweet little cats that pester you for food. In terms of what I watch go by, I admit that not a lot happens here. Right now the renovation of lovely Eleni's Kourounis taverna is THE hot news in Kambos. Oh, and our cash strapped village council ( 4 employees, 538 citizens including me) has invested in painting two zebra crossings on the main road, one by the taverna for old men and one by the fourth taverna, which is a less polished rival to Kourounis and which I am yet to visit.

I did not go for the goat. My healthy living regime continues and its Greek salad and water for me and it is a very fine Greek salad indeed. I am almost tempted to compare it favourably to that of lovely Eleni but that would be disloyal. Even the cats are begging for a bit of it.

A few men loiter by the entrance. I am not sure if they are customers or staff but I am served by the one woman present who, I assume, is Miranda. She is a very friendly old soul but as oil paintings go not perhaps quite as lovely as Eleni. I could be a fecking diplomat, don't you think, for the way I phrased that?

Being two hours ahead of London means that I had much of what i wanted to write today penned before you chaps and Mr stockmarket were awake. So just a couple more things to pen this afternoon and then it is back to frigana chopping.Big time. Tonight it will be Miranda's again. it is a day for the two salad diet

Tom Winnifrith

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Visit to Paddy Leigh Fermor's House part 3 - My father holds Court

1065 days ago

And so our party finally made it through the large blue door which marks the entrance to the house that Paddy built in Kardamili. Turning right along a terrace open on one side we found ourselves with the rest of the group in the library. This was all rather different from the Greek Hovel.



My father finds movement hard and so soon plonked himself on a chair and within minutes the group was aware of his views on the EU ( a good thing, shame you on you Dad, your father would be mortified) and that he had been there before to have lunch with his friend Paddy. Dad neglected to mention that as our guide he had forgotten the way here or indeed what the place looked like, the posh Brits who dominated the party were in the presence of a friend of Paddy's and my father was in his element.

Have I mentioned how the two men met? My father was lecturing at the spectacular fortress of Monemvasia on the vlachs - a Nomadic tribe in Northern Greece. There is no connection at all between the Vlachs and Monemvasia here in the far South so I assume it was some sort of academic junket. Amazingly, thirty folks turned up and one of them - driving three hours to get there - was Paddy. There the friendship started.

My dear wife says that I have too many books. She points out, correctly, that I do not read that much and argues that she should be allowed to give them all to a Charity shop. I say that I will read more when I re-balance my life and become the primary carer for our son. Bedtime reading little one: have we finished that Ayn Rand yet? Okay time for a bit of Mark Steyn. Between Bristol and Greece we have more than enough room, in fact we need more books!

Paddy certainly had books. There are those in neat bookshelves as below and then just piles and piles of books in every room. My stepmother and I started to hunt for what would really please Dad, sight of a copy of his book on the Vlachs which he gave to Paddy. It was like hunting for a needle in a haystack and eventually we gave up. But my father was still in the library with folks hanging on his every word. Or at least that was what he said was happening as we collected him and started the trek down the long path.



At this point he was propped against me for support as we edged down the hill. On the other side was a middle aged American lady who appeared to think that she had just met the real thing. My father told an old joke about his bad greek once leaving him boasting that he had 25 penises ( he meant chickens) and the lady roared with laughter. Maybe I did too the first time I heard it but that was many incantations ago. Eventually we reached the car and the lady departed sadly.

We Winnifrith men, like Paddy himself, we know how to pull the birds in Greece.

Tom Winnifrith

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Rejoice: A new high score at snake chasing at the Greek Hovel

1067 days ago

My daughter calls to wish me a happy father's day. Sadly she has not been tracking my whereabouts and so this serves as a just past midnight wake up call. It is not as if I can sleep anyway. The fan is broken and the heat inside the Greek Hovel is unbearable. I dare not open a window for fear of what might come and join me, although the night air is cool.

Now and again I venture onto the small balcony outside my prison cell which looks over the valley towards the deserted monastery. I stand there in just my underpants for there are no humans anywhere and it is refreshing. I return inside, seal the door and within minutes sweat is again pouring down my arms and off my face. I suppose it must be good for the figure.

Unable to sleep, I play the one game that sits on my battered old Nokia phone, the sort of old handset that causes my daughter to say "oh Daddy" as if I have committed some appalling faux pas. Now you may think that it is strange, given how my life out here is driven by a fear of snakes, but the game is called Snake Xenzia and I have just recorded a score of 1,524 which is a new personal best. So there.

You may well say that this is ten minutes of my life wasted. I agree completely. But pro tem sleep is just impossible and I cant spend the whole night watching old Def Leppard videos on youtube. Something which, in itself, is not the most productive way to spend my time

 

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: So what is olive pruning you say?

1068 days ago

For the reasons explained in the Tomograph and bearcast I sense that my visit here will be cut short and thus there is a mad scramble to complete my olive pruning. I had reckoned that I had three days work left. I blitzed it today, doing two sessions in which I worked till I felt feint and I think I am now just a day from completion.

It is hot and after each session as I trudge slowly back to the Greek Hovel, for the last trees are in the far reaches of our land, my mouth is parched and my limbs ache. I arrive back and dive for the little tap on the side of the house which is where we get all our water from here. I splash it on sweating arms and my face. I gulp greedily. I am drinking pints of water now to replace the sweat that has poured into my T-shirts and long black jeans. 

Given what lives in the long grass and bushes that surround the trees, this is not a place to wander around in shorts.

When walking between trees and pruning I always have half an eye on what may be watching me.

My tools you have seen before.



As I prune, I thank the Lord that at Byfield Primary School back in 1973, teachers with a Victorian mindset, forced me to stop writing with my left hand and to use my right. It means that I can do certain things with both hands such as hold a squash racket or, more importantly, use either axe or saw.

The point of pruning, I think, is to remove any twig, shoot or branch that has zero chance of bearing fruit or which has so few fruit that it is very low yield. I admit that I would not bet the ranch on calling every branch right but the Shepherd has inspected my work and reckons its okay.

Some of the slashing is at the base of the tree where new shoots are coming up. that is axe work. You see some such shoots below.



Most is up in the branches. Sometimes it is just a young shoot, other times a large branch with just one or a few tiny olives which must be sawed off. Water and nutrients are rare here (despite my efforts) and so all goodness must be pushed to the most productive olive bearing branches.



And when it is all done there is a mass of branches, leaves and twigs on the floor. he Shepherd's sheep love them and view them as a real treat. He should be up with his flock shortly.



But the trees I prune today are ones in the far reaches so I am not sure the sheep will find them. I know they were not pruned last year. My suspicion is that in some cases it has been several years since they were pruned or even harvested.They are often surrounded by tall grass, frigana and other bushes. To reach them one must clamber over rocks. I just know this is snake territory. But I battle on.

ETA completion - Monday night. And for a bloke who normally sits behind a desk all day that is quite a feat. I will feel good about myself as that last branch is lopped off.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo: The Mrs at Mistras - a stunning view

1068 days ago

It was towards the end of the visit by the Mrs to Greece that we drove up to Mistra, a place that I had never visited before. I shall do a three part photo series on the trip shortly - as i while away my evenings at the Greek Hovel - but on the off chance you are planning a trip to Greece soon ensure that you visit this incredible place. Meanwhile here is the Mrs offering a side profile which now reminds me of East Anglia. She looks amazing don't you think?

Tom Winnifrith

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Disaster: The Kourounis taverna in Kambos owned by Lovely Eleni is shut for upgrade - Greek salad crisis

1070 days ago

It was eight days ago that my father and I popped over to Kambos to visit the Greek Hovel and to meet a friend of mine from the neighbouring village. We will come to him and his village, the Feta village, in due course. He did not show up. Perhaps, as we had both had vast amounts of ouzo when we made this plan, he had forghotten. Worse was to come, we arrived to see that the Kourounis taverna was shut. Eleni's husband Nicho said "ten days, no coffee, no Greek Salad, no ouzo" And with that Dad & I sloped off to the ouzerie opposite, a place frequented only by very old men.

It was my first visit there and we had a couple of ouzos. The owner - with whom I crossed swords regarding parking a couple of years ago - brought tiny plates of cheese, bread and olives with each round. It is the real deal old style ouzerie. My father left a good tip and the owner now waves at me like a long lost friend. My presence will reduce the average age of the clientele materially and now that I am "in" I may go again.

Last night I popped into Kambos after some good olive pruning and there was lovely Eleni sitting outside the taverna with Vangelis, wearing his trademark pink shirt. She explained to me why she was upgrading the taverna which joins her general store which is not changing. I am not sure I see the point as Kourounis is already the smartest gaffe in town by a long chalk. I should say that the competition is poor but it is Eleni's place so she can do as she wishes. I shall remain a loyal customer. But when will it be ready?

Eleni says 7 days. Vangelis smiled and though he speaks not a word of English he knew what was being discussed and so said a few words of Greek which I understood "August, September, October" and laughed. I laughed. Eleni laughed but rather less convincingly. Doing renovations at a time when tourists pass through the village every day on their way to Kardamili or Stoupa seems a bit daft to me but heck I'm not in the restaurant business anymore.

But I do like a Greek salad. There is a place next door to Kourounis which is rumoured to sell them but I am not sure of the etiquette. Will they mind that I am a sweaty smelly wreck after a day in the fields? Do they sell diet coke? Or, more importantly, ouzo? I am nervous. And so I bought four fresh oranges from Eleni for my supper and headed back to the hovel. The Mrs says this is not a balanced diet. She has a point.

And so I am moving to a one meal a day set up. That should help with the weight loss and justifies a trip tonight down to Kitries by the sea for my salad and maybe a bit of Octopus. As for Eleni, seven days, er...if I had to bet on how many English days seven Greek days would be I think I'd be looking at ten or more.

Tom Winnifrith

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The Mrs heads home from Greece - life without her is very different, I'm back at the Hovel

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.

Tom Winnifrith

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A Grape Photo from the Greek Hovel

1075 days ago

It is not just the olives that are getting bigger and bigger but also the grapes. A rather untrained vine winds its way across a random set of wires either side of the Greek Hovel. One day I shall have a trained vine and lots of grapes but, for the time being, I fertilise this feral creature in a way that only a man can do and watch with delight as the fruit grow and grow. I fear that when the grapes are ready in early August I shall not be there to enjoy them as they are large, sweet and incredibly "more-ish".

They will instead provide nourishment for large wasps who drink and drink grape juice which is slowly fermenting inside the grape. My absence will thus create a generation of totally inebriated wasps. For as you can see below it is looking good for the grape harvest 2016

Tom Winnifrith

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This Blog is 4 years old - Happy Birthday: my top twenty stories & 20 Greek stories

1075 days ago

I see from numerous congratulations messages from folks who I do not know, sent via LinkedIn, that I am celebrating another anniversary. Having checked it out it appears that www.TomWinnifrith.com is four years old. It was a very strange birth indeed.

For it was back in June 2012 that I formally left Rivington Street. The board wished me well and made me sign a compromise agreement which I honoured but they did not. Jim Mellon and the asset strippers still owe me £15,000 and even had the audacity, after not paying the money they were obliged to pay, to send lawyers letters not only threatening me if I did not abide by my side of the deal but also if I did not agree to a full one year extension of a non-compete clause. That lawyers letter still brings a smile to my face, surely Jim Mellon must feels some shame about it now? You can tell me Jim, blame it on a minion surely that is a source of extreme shame?

Faced with fascist lawyers letters from a Sunday Times rich list fellow and worth minus £250,000 I was obviously in a pretty low place and so I turned to writing as therapy. In the beginning there was more or less no-one reading this website other than Mellon's bully boy lawyers at Kerman & Co. It could not be called a commercial enterprise. But gradually word spread and the legal eagles from Kerman & Co were joined by many thousands of other readers. It has been gratifying.

In my last few years at Rivington, when team Mellon ran the show, I was barred from writing on numerous topics. Israel, global warming, welfare reform so many things were deemed verboten in an atmosphere of tyranny, the release I enjoyed of saying exactly what I thought was a delight.

I am not sure what has given me more pleasure during the past four year. Is it competing against t1ps - the company I founded - which was asset stripped from Rivington? Because that company has fired nearly all its workers and - albeit with a new name - continues to lose hundreds of thousands of pounds a year for Mr Mellon, while my start up competitor hires talent and makes profits. That gives me some pleasure but is it more than being able to write exactly what I want?

I think it is the latter. Would I rather get that £15,000 back and not reveal how rich men send the most amazing fascist bully boy letters to try to crush those who are already down or woulde I take the money? You know what Mr Mellon, you can stick that £15,000 where the sun don't shine. Here's to the next four years of free speech for me and of me making money from the media world as you lose ever more.

Four years ago I fled to Greece on a one way ticket. Since then many things have brought me back. Retracing the last footsteps of my great Uncle David Cochrane, holidays with the Mrs, the Oxi vote and - of course - the Greek Hovel. And so:

Here are the twenty most read stories on this blog from the past four years...

  1. Tom Winnifrith snowcast from Greece
  2. Greece v Albania for my next Holiday: No contest. Albania wins unless...
  3. Greeks, Lesbians and Vlachs – why my fascination with Greece?
  4. Lunch with Kostas and Anna at the best Bakery in Greece – Farewell Zitsa
  5. Looking forward to the last day of the month here at the Greek Hovel
  6. Picture article: Pressing the Olive Oil from the Greek Hovel
  7. Seeing my guest at the Greek Hovel Naked – what does a Gentleman do?
  8. Frigana Fields of Death Picture Special from the Greek Hovel
  9. Picture Report from the Greek Hovel Number 14 – Porn for my Welsh Friends
  10. Photo Article: Meeting Mr Rat in my new bedroom – Report from The Greek Hovel Number 6
  11. Rats, Bats & Sheep – Report 11 from the Greek Hovel
  12. I was dragged to the Police station in Kardamili and bullied, Greece in context
  13. Picture article - day 1 of the Olive Harvest at the Greek Hovel
  14. A snake encounter at the Greek Hovel, silly me: do as the Greeks go
  15. Reflections on an expensive meal in Corfu – Greece still does not get it
  16. Video & Photos: Finding the grave of Great Uncle David Cochrane in Delphi – Part 2
  17. Essex: Washing Powder from Greece
  18. Is where I have just been called a clip joint?
  19. Tom Milks a Goat Video - It is not easy
  20. Farewell Zakynthos – Am I a snob? Yes



And here are the top twenty non Greek stories

  1. Tom Winnifrith Postcard: Mad Bernie Sanders to beat Crooked Hillary in California - Donald Trump gets an early Christmas treat
  2. Tom Winnifrith Postcard #137 - #Rhodesmustfall rewrites history and is PC bollocks
  3. The Downing Street Affair – Cameron is dreaming if he tries to gag the story
  4. Downing Street Affair - Have you figured it out yet? Surely you have
  5. Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson what a strange affair in Downing Street
  6. The Number 10 Downing Street Sex Scandal...back to basics
  7. Are you a Northern Git? Take the Test: I am 0% Northern
  8. Cheap booze at the local Conservative Club…sign me up at once (and what my Lefty Mrs said)
  9. Why UK house prices must crash
  10. Kevin Maguire – vile, bigoted, thick leftie
  11. The Talking Dog Joke 
  12. Call Me tasteless & see if I care: Recycling the Oscar Pistorius twitter jokes
  13. Funny Ed Miliband Joke
  14. Findus Beef Lasagne is 100% Horse: the twitter jokes
  15. The Scots cannot have Independence and a blank cheque from England – Can’t they just Fuck Off and Go it 100% alone?
  16. Thought for the Day – Rev John Bell is ghastly
  17. Kate & Gerry McCann – my sympathy is diminishing rapidly
  18. The best of the Chris Huhne MP (pro tem) jokes from twitter
  19. The best Tesco jokes from Twitter today. No foaling.
  20. EU Cabbages & Why this Insanity must cease in so many words

 

Tom Winnifrith

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The Patronising Patrician Twit looks down his nose at me at Paddy Leigh Fermor's house

1077 days ago

Rather foolishly no-one took exact directions to the house of Paddy Leigh Fermor which is about three quarters of a mile outside the main area of Kardamili. My father sat in the other front seat and my step mother and wife sat in the back as I drove along the main road reliant on the fact that the Old Man had been there before. That was an error, Not for nothing does my father make regular donations to the Alzheimer's society.

Indeed, on occasion he manages a real triumph by sending a cheque to the society in an envelope addressed to one of my siblings while sending to the Alzheimer's folks a long, rambling and illegible letter in which he makes rude observations about a range of family members exempting - on this occasion only - the intended recipient.

As such the satnav skills of my father were rather lacking. He being almost totally immobile, my very pregnant wife not much better, it was thus down to my step mother and I to find a native and get directions. I take my hat off to my step mum who took directions in Greek and thanks to here we, somehow, arrived albeit rather rather late.

The house is open at certain hours and you have to get on the list to visit as part of a large group. Chez Leigh Fermor is up a rather steep track which I drove up by car to deposit the almost totally immobile and nearly immobile before somehow reversing down to secure a parking spot. A walk along a leafy path from the top of the track found the advance party of my step mother and I facing a long wall which encircles the property. Where the wall turned lower I peered over and saw a very well dressed middle class Brit and asked him how we might secure entrance.

Paddy Leigh Fermor attracts disproportionate admiration from elitist British snobs and this well bred member of the elite peered down his patrician nose to find himself staring at a man who has not shaved for two weeks and who was wearing a shirt without a collar, that is to say an Indian shirt, black jeans and sneakers. Clearly I was not the right sort of fellow and with great pleasure he answered my question "by arrangement only". I responded - we have made arrangements I just wanted to know how we get in?

But at that point the man turned on his upper class heels having spent far too long engaging with a member of the lower classes. Thinking that a man such as Leigh Fermor would have happily have sat at the Greek Hovel drinking ouzo unlike this upper class twit, I said "patrician tosser" in a voice loud enough for all to hear. The chap strode off to distance himself from the peasantry while my step mother, the daughter and sister of a Baronet and someone noted for being really rather posh, looked at me a little disapprovingly.

We headed back to the door to the compound which had been locked and somehow managed to attract the attention of a Greek. He had no reservations about speaking to a man in a beard who was wearing an ethnic shirt and entrance was secured.

Tom Winnifrith

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Apologies to the English Couple over-hearing my father and I last night - I was only joking

1078 days ago

Winnifrith males have loud voices and we like to tease each other and also anyone unfortunate enough to join us, in the case of supper last night that meant my dear wife. And thus as the wine flowed we found ourselves discussing the output of our various universities.

My father is, of course, a full on elitist but knowing that his deluded lefty wife who forces him to read the Guardian may disapprove sometimes finds himself having to pretend otherwise. And thus as we discuss the Brexit vote, I note that John Stuart Mill raised in "On Democracy" the idea that more intelligent folks should get more votes. Why not, I suggest give 10 votes to those of us who went to Oxbridge (my father and I), 5 to Russell Group graduates, 2 to those who attended other old universities, 1 to those with no degree and minus 1 to those who attended the former Polytechnics. Thus my wife would get 5 votes and her students would all get minus 1 votes. On reflection having lectured to them, make that minus five votes.

I am joking but with this wheeze get a double tease. My wife is naturally appalled at every level but after a while twigs that I am joking and her indignation about posh white male Tories subsides. My father secretly agrees with my absurd proposition but cant bring himself to admit it so must counter that University degrees are not a very good way to test intelligence. He asks " who is to say that he is more intelligent than, er...."

I helpfully complete the sentence with, Sam, the ex husband of my youngest step sister Flea who is almost certainly the stupidest and most feckless individual known to us both. My father - who has never defended this hopeless worm before thus finds himself having to suggest that he has hidden talents and depths. As I ask my father how this man - who makes the students of my wife seem like Einstein and Socrates combined - would have fared when studying for my father's Oxford degree he rather gives up on this one.

I note that the couple at the next table are smirking. They appear to have encountered two Brits who hold rather extreme views. Well one in me - they are not sure about my father. Of course they actually have it the wrong way round, it is my father who is the closet elitist, I just enjoy seeing him squirming in an ever straightjacket created by his refusal to "come out" as an elitist, while annoying the Mrs for a few seconds until she realises that I am joking.

Kardamili is the Mani destination of choice for middle class Brits without kids and so I'm sure that on may tables here there are intense discussions based on the works of John Stuart Mill. It is that sort of place. Tonight we done in Kambos after visiting the Greek Hovel. John Stuart Mill is rarely discussed there.

Tom Winnifrith

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5 O'Clock Today - we manage to secure access to Paddy Leigh Fermor's house

1078 days ago

I have written before about the war hero and writer Paddy Leigh Fermor. He was an all round superhero and also Mr Mani, not just for writing the book "Mani" but because he built his house here in Kardamili. There are plans to turn it into some sort of writers retreat. Those who have seen the Before Sunset trilogy with the lovely Julie Delpy will know Paddy's house well from the final film set here in Kardamili, Before Midnight. The scene below sees Paddy ( played by an actor not the man himself) holding court.

I am not sure that my father has seen the film which, as you can see, is vaguely annoying. But he came here many years ago on the one family holiday when I was not in Greece, to have lunch with Paddy. The two were friends, sharing an academic interest in Northern Greece, the subject of Paddy's book Roumeli.

Paddy's walk to Greece which started his remarkable life was prompted by him being booted out of King's Canterbury for seducing the daughter of a local greengrocer. My sister was at that lunch and had been head girl at Kings. Paddy told her "if there had been girls like you at Kings in my time, I should never have encountered the greengrocer's daughter". What a charmer he was. The comparisons made with James Bond were not only prompted by his heroic war record.

Getting access to the house required me to engage in some negotiations with Greek officialdom. Such is life, as our existence at the Greek Hovel teaches us on a daily basis. I am sure it will be worth it and will report back later.

Tom Winnifrith

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Thunderstorms and flooding in the UK and here in Greece: Brexit must be to blame

1079 days ago

I gather that back in the UK you have all had a spot of bother with thunderstorms and tornados. Has David Cameron managed to blame a surge in support for Brexit yet? Just watch out little people, if you back Boris and Priti you are all going to drown and here are a list of 100 experts who support that claim. Okay 98 of them are on the EU payroll in some way, shape or form but they are frigging experts and you are little people who cant be trusted to make your own minds up. So either start building an ark or vote the right way!

As it happens the mountains above Kardamili are also covered in dark clouds and the thunder sounds ominous. The Mrs has conceded that there will be no sea swimming today and I have opted not to head back to the hovel for a spot of snake spotting and frigana slashing. It is clearly set to tip it down. Is Brexit to blame for the Greek deluges? Apparently Dodgy Dave's NBF President Erdogan of Turkey blames it all on the wicked Kurds.

Update: it is now tipping it down, the lightening is lighting up dark skies and the thunder is noisier than ever. We sit in our hotel room and I say to the Mrs that we must look on the bright side, at least this rain is really good for our olive trees. She says: even better, it means that you wont make me go and see them today! The cheek of it all, what could be more enjoyable than olive pruning at the snake safari that is the Greek Hovel?

As it happens I am rather glad to be in a warm and dry hotel room with air conditioning right now rather than at the hovel. By now the mud track, which leads from my front door to the top of snake hill where the road turns to concrete, will be filling up with puddles and driving will become less than easy. The snakes love water and will be out and about. And the one room I live in will be dry but either freezing or boiling, a fridge or a sauna - not a place to be trapped inside by a deluge.

 

Tom Winnifrith

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"Treating" an olive tree at the Greek Hovel as only a man can do

1080 days ago

I am sure that many of you reading this believe that olives like all other food come from Tesco wrapped in clean plastic packets and therefore may scream "yuk" as you read what follows. Yes, my dear sweet wife I am thinking about you and all the other latte drinking townies out there. Those of us who grew up in the boonies know that producing food is a hell of a lot easier if you have loads of shit ( i.e manure) to boost the process. I have no manure yet although my first batch of humanure from the eco-loo should be ready next year. But I have something even better...wee wee.

Urine contains not only stacks of nitrogen but also potassium and phosphorus which, essentially, are the key ingredients of those plastic bags of sanitised fertiliser folks buy at the garden centres. And thus, as a man, I am in a position to do what a woman might find harder and provide daily doses of loving fertiliser to my trees.

I can see right now some of the City dwellers among you making cheap jokes about the peppery taste of the oil from our olives here at the Greek Hovel in Kambos.Thank god you don't know how many of the organic vegetables you eat at your fancy, twee, restaurants are grown in organic material. That is to say manure.

The problem is that while I might occassionally treat a tree on the far edge of the property if I am caught short while pruning, most of the times when I am in a position to dispense treats I am sitting in the hovel. As such the trees in the immediate vicinity have been very well blessed. Those further away will be lucky to be blessed once a summer in this manner. But it all helps.

Tom Winnifrith

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How many frigging olive trees does the Mrs own? I now prune into uncharted and snake intense territory

1080 days ago

When the Mrs bought the Greek Hovel we were told that there were around 120-150 olive trees here. A few are wild so bear no fruit but still we had a lot of trees. I am now convinced that the number is far greater as I navigate the far reaches of the land. I do so more conscious than ever, after yesterday, that I am not alone as I work.

There is 16,000 square metres of land here. Okay knock off 500 square metres for the house, the ruin and the "drive" but that is still a lot of land. Looking out at the immediate garden which is olive tree rich and, roughly, 100 square metres contains eight trees. Elsewhere on the property the intensity of tress is far less but a bit of basic maths suggests that we must have well over 150 trees here.

What also convinces me that we do have more trees than previously thought is that I have now been pruning at between 8 and 15 trees a day pretty much every day for at least 20 days. And I still have a stack of trees to go. The trees I tackle now appear not to have been pruned for many a year indeed I somewhat doubt that they were harvested in the past given how deep they were buried in frigana bushes. But that frigana was hacked back big time two years ago and poisoned and chopped aggressively last year. Now I am wading into what must be the last redoubts of the frigana, the last bits of this land which it clings to and, in doing so, I am exposing yet more trees.

The problem - as I am sure you have guessed - with a foray into land which has not seen human visits for many a year is that I am very much not alone. I tread heavily, carefully and slowly but the grass, frigana and other bushes are thick and hide many things. I hear creatures moving around me more often than I care to consider and I find myself thinking what happens if I do meet a you know what? How brave will I be? Will I stand my ground, armed with axe, saw or frigana chopping machine or will I run away screaming. And then suddenly it was not exactly a hypothetical question.

There I was yesterday and after about two hours in the fields I was tired, my limbs ached and I was almost ready to call it a day when I heard something. I spun around and the grass and bushes were moving in a clear S-shape pattern. They were at least moving away from me. I stared transfixed at where the snake appeared to have come to rest. I could not see it but was acutely aware that it was blocking my path back to the Greek Hovel. A dilemma indeed.

And thus I found myself swinging right - that happens a lot as one gets older and grows up - and clambering up a wall to take an indirect route home. That saw me discover three more trees that have not felt man's tender love for many a year. They were duly pruned before I heard another noise. Enough is enough, time to head back to the hovel.

However, as I push on to the far reaches of the land here, there will inevitably be other encounters. I am now on the lowest terrace that surrounds the property on both sides, I find trees up against iron fencing that marks our boundary and which are protected by thick bushes.The work must go on. Not only do the olives deserve a prune but the land here must be cleared for only then can myself and George the Albanian undertake the replanting programme we plan for the spring.

My sense is that around 40 of the 200+ trees here are either wild or in such bad nick, for whatever reason, that they need to be replaced as they will never yield us anything. Moreover there are now vast stretches of land which two years ago wre covered with frigana but which are now clear and where olive tree density is perhaps only 1 per 100 square metres or less. I had calculated, from experience, that this property would generate 600 Euro ( bad year) to 1800 Euro (good year) revenues from oil.

I can see that my maths was all wrong.Not only can we almost double the number of yielding trees but with a bit more care of the whole estate, pruning, watering and fertilising it should easily start to yield 1500 Euro (bad year) to 4500 Euro (good year). And then when I buy another field.... Bear in mind that I could live on well under 800 Euro a month out here and I am sure you can see where I am heading. That sort of maths would allow me to spend all my literary time writing not terribly commercial articles about life in Kambos and up here at the hovel. Sod the stockmarket. What fun!

Okay, I am getting ahead of myself. I still have another ten days of olive tree pruning and frigana clearing, perhaps more. But at least I shall have company at all times.

Tom Winnifrith

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A welcome addition to the wildlife diversity at the Greek Hovel...Hello Mr Cat

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.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: How Brown was my valley..but signs of life everywhere: look at my olives size matters!

1080 days ago

It is now 30 degrees or more day in and day out at the Greek Hovel. And I am up in the mountains, down by the sea it is warmer still. But that constant sunshine now leaves the fields and hills looking ever browner as you can see below.



The poor sheep must be struggling to find green grass to eat as the wander the mountainside with my friend the Shepherd. But at least they are now getting a summer shear from a fierce looking lady with electric clippers. She looks like the sort of woman who used to represent East Germany in the shot put and so she needs no help in wrestling a sheep to the ground and pinning it down as she removes its coat.

She is now plying her trade in the rather overgrown field just past the bottom of the valley at the side of Deserted Monastery hill on the way up to Kambos. I would like to stop and take a photo of her in action but she owns a very fierce and large dog. Even as I drive past, the Hound of the Baskevilles starts to chase my car, barking fiercely and eyeing me up. His jaws are salivating. Sorry reader, but my devotion to you is not that great that I will leave my car and face Cerberus in order to capture an image of the sheep sheering female shot-putter at work.

Back at the hovel the sunshine seems to be doing wonder for my olives. I think it was two weeks ago that I posted a photo of little fruit the size of pin heads covering the trees.

Today I furnish you with a new photo suggesting that we will be drowning in olive oil this winter.



I am not sure that this demonstrates how the little olives have grown in the past fortnight but they have. What were green pips the size of a pin head are now the sizre of four or five pin heads. You may think that I am becoming slightly obsessive but I just keep looking at the trees, checking their load, it is all so terribly exciting.

Tom Winnifrith

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Mr Rat is back at the Greek hovel: doesn't he know I'm the frigging Gruffalo?

1081 days ago

He is back. In the space between the window at the far end of the room from my bed and the shutter sits a smallish rat. It is where the rats always sit. I thought that I had driven them all away with generous helpings of rat "sweeties", the little blue pills which help send them to a "better place".

Sadly I heard a rustling last night and there today sat the rat. I banged on the window and it did nothing. It was clearly unaware that I am a serial rat killer well versed in using both poison and the mini spade I use for clearing out the fireplace for smiting my enemy. Frigging hell Mr Rat have you not seen the axe and saw I wield as I wade into the snake fields? I am the frigging Gruffalo and you are meant to be scared of me like the snakes who slither away. But Mr Rat seemed unphased.

So I opened the window a bit and dropped in four big rat sweeties. Mr Rat is delighted and is sitting there now munching away happily. Be my guest Roland....

Tom Winnifrith

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It is one of those times when I actually want a cigarette

1082 days ago

I've been nicotine clean now for three months and three weeks exactly and the urge to have "just one" cigarette is now really pretty rare. But I must admit to having such an urge just now.

I do not feel the desire to smoke when drunk or when stressed. Indeed quite the opposite. Just now I have completed more than 90 minutes of hard manual labour, that is to say olive tree pruning on some of the rockier, wildlife friendly and TW unfriendly terrain at the Greek Hovel. Returning covered in sweat and with sun tan lotion dripping into my eyes I turned on the shower, that is to say hosepipe, and ...well... gosh it was brilliant.

The sea yesterday was an inviting and sparkling blue. I plunged in because I was very smelly not because it was enjoyable. It was cold. Not Whitby or Margate cold but too cold for my liking. My shower, on the other hand, has its water heated in the metal pipe that climbs the mountain, linking the Hovel to civilization. The shower was, as ever, better than sex - to quote my guest of two years ago. It was blissful.

And so I sit here after a hard afternoon's work and the best shower a man can ask for with most of my work done for the day and what could be better than to enjoy just one cigarette, sitting on the steps leading up to the snake veranda watching the world go by? Or, given where I am, watching it not go by.

The desire is passing already. There are no fags stashed at the hovel and Kambos with its 4.5 Euro packs of twenty is two miles away. I know that one fag will lead to two and to twenty and I really don't want that to happen. I may have put on the odd pound but as I labour in the fields I am conscious that I am fitter than I have been for ages. There's no going back.

Tom Winnifrith

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There he goes again, Malcolm blaming Brexit for everything - he is just plain wrong

1082 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/21233/there-he-goes-again-malcolm-blaming-brexit-for-everything-he-is-just-plain-wrong

Tom Winnifrith

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Tom Winnifrith Bearcast - sticking it to Mayair, Jupiter Energy and in fact all Australians bar Kylie

1082 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/21209/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-sticking-it-to-mayair-jupiter-energy-and-in-fact-all-australians-bar-kylie

Tom Winnifrith

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All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy, no more writing today - a sea swim beckons

1083 days ago

That is it. I have written a stack of articles. I have done two very hard and sweaty sessions of frigana slashing and I shall do a stint on the olive pruning and then I am off. Ive served my time in the fields of the Greek Hovel, I've penned my golden prose and apart from anything else, having been drenched in sweat, I smell less than perfumed.

Because of the wildlife diversity I wear thick black jeans when wading into the frigana bushes. Given that it is 30 degrees plus even up at the hovel that is less than comfortable and I have spent all day dreaming of wading into the sea. All work no play makes Tom a dull - and in this case smelly - boy. Off to the sea I go.

Tom Winnifrith

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No Torch and the Light off - stumbling back to the Greek Hovel at the dead of night

1083 days ago

I have somehow lost the only torch that actually works. And that means that the eight yard walk from where I park my car to the front door of the Greek Hovel must be made in complete darkness. Well almost. I always leave the light on at the hovel to guide me. Except that last night I also forgot to do that.

And so, after a long phone call from a fellow member of the Banstead Athletic supporters club, taken in Kambos last night I made it back to the hovel just after midnight and the skies were black. I shone my car headlights at the bat room and had the music blaring from the car radio. I hoped that the wildlife diversity was listening and fleeing.

In theory the path to the house should be safe from you know whats as it is inside the zone protected by Herpotex snake repellent canistsers. Indeed there is one canister right by where the car is parked at the start of the path. But I always worry that some snake might not get the hint and thus I trod slowly with heavy footsteps getting a small amount of blue light from my battered old mobile.

Crunch went my feet on the brown leaves. I heard no noises. I made it home safely and locked the door from inside. After several days of 30 degree heat the hovel is steaming inside but I dare not open the windows for obvious reasons. A secure wildlife diversity free room is more important than personal comfort.

I swapped emails with Uncle Chris (Booker). I said that I will be buying a torch this morning. He said "buy two...you never know when the lights will go out all over Europe". Two it will be. That will make a collection of five and at this rate I shall be opening a broken Torch museum before too long.

Tom Winnifrith

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The Greek Hovel...now to the Architectural Council ...the joys of Greece

1084 days ago

The forestry permit was meant to take three months but took seven. Our architects - who one imagines are not exactly rushed off their feet with new projects - then took another two and a half months getting ready plans which were meant to have been ready when Forestry came through. But last week I was told that we will submit for a Building permit next week.

No-one answered my emails since then and so this morning I paid a surprise visit to the architects and was told that plans had been submitted but not for a building permit but to the Architect's Council which, it emerges, is a new hurdle to overcome. No-one had mentioned these guys before but apparently they will take only one month to rubber stamp our documents. That is one Greek month or anything up to three months in English. And then we can apply for a Building Permit which will take 3-4 months even though we are the only folks in the whole region who have both the money to pay for a building project and are a young enough to live through all of the regulatory hurdles.

A building permit will take 3-4 months Greek time. I reckon we will be lucky to be rebuilding the Greek Hovel this side of Christmas.

What is the point of all this red tape you ask? It is simple it is how the Greek State creates jobs for all the millions of folks on its payroll. It makes it impossible to do business here so it helps to trainwreck the economy but that is socialism for you. Greece is the ultimate demonstration of Lady Thatcher's observation that the problem with socialists is that eventually they run out of other people's money.

Twenty years ago I would have been infuriated by news of the Architect's Council. Today I just shrug it off. This is Greece. Everything happens avrio (tomorrow) but in the end it does happen, of that I can be sure. Meanwhile I can just sit back, enjoy another ouzo and prune my olive trees. Life goes on.

Back in Britain the people I know work frantically shuffling bits of paper living in a mad old City, rushing hither and thither and becoming ever more stressed by life on the hamster wheel. It is no contest.

Tom Winnifrith

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Back at the Greek Hovel ...brown is the new green

1084 days ago

Ten days ago I was, via lovely Eleni, telling the shepherd about the lush green grass up at the hovel and urging him to bring his flock up to graze lest they miss out. When I see him next I shall be begging him to bring his sheep up out of pity. The green grass has almost gone. Almost everything is brown.

Driving up the grass track to the house I was horrified. It was as if the whole area had been affected by a great heat. But as it happens that is exactly what has happened. Down by the sea at Kalamata today it is 33 degrees. Up at the hovel it is over thirty. It is wonderful weather to work in but the grass is burning away.

The purple flowers, a sort of lavender, survive but the dominant colour is now brown. The only green patches are the leaves on the olive trees and, of course, the accursed frigana bushes. I have retrieved my frigana cutter from the farm equipment shop in Kambos and this afternoon waded into the few remaining bushes with gusto. Those bushes are are the very edge of our land, they are thick and I dread to think what might lurk inside. But I wade in anyway.

The more central frigana that has somehow survived tow years of attacks from me was dealt with on the first part of my trip. The bushes I slashes now lie on the ground a golden brown. The odd green stalk I missed pokes through the mass of dead branches in a defiant way. Its defiance is its downfall for as I pass I "take it out""

The Mrs arrives on the afternoon of the seventh. I want to ensure that by then the last 40 olive trees are pruned and the frigana gone. At that point the fields will be even more brown and it will be time to start digging out the earth floor of the bat room in preparation for the eventual rebuilding of the hovel.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo: The last person to say goodbye and the only person in Kambos who speaks worse Greek than me

1090 days ago

A final farewell to Kambos...well for a week only. Having escorted my father back to Kalamata next Thursday I shall be back at the Greek Hovel in a week's time. A final farewell means popping into the Kourounis taverna for an ouzo with the owner Nicho, the husband of lovely Eleni. Farewell, say I to Eleni who wishes me "good travels." I remind you that she is the best English speaker in the village. In her arms, as you can see below, the only person in Kambos whose Greek is worse than mine. 

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: The Tools of the olive pruning trade and an frigana tree meets death via me

1090 days ago

I leave Greece for a few days with, I think, almost 80% of the olive trees now pruned. my hands are covered in scratches and cuts and I am not sure that I shall win any prizes for my pruning but I think I am getting there.

The tools of the trade are below. The shaving foam canister is just there to show you how small my axe and saw are. I wield one in each hand. One of the few advantages of my Victorian era primary school teacher forcing me to start writing with my right hand when I was a natural "leftie" is that I can swap hands when olive pruning. I can pull the same trick on a Squash court in extremis.



The idea - I think - is that you cut off any branch, shoot or twig that is not going to yield any olives or will yield so few it is not worth it. There are the small sprouts at the base of the tree which you take out with the axe. Where the tree has not been pruned for years these can be rather big. And then there are shoots and twigs along the branches. You start bending to the floor. You end reaching to the heights. It is tiring.I am sure I cut a few branches in error and maybe missed some I should have hacked but when the Shepherd examined my work he seemed to approve.

At the end of the fields at the Greek Hovel is a large frigana tree. This accursed plant can start as a small shoot. It is mainly a shrub up to a yard high. But left unchecked it can turn into a tree. As a final act of part 1 of this Greek trip I took my saw to it and removed half its branches. This monster knows it is now in retreat...part two to follow!

Tom Winnifrith

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So I told Nicho the communist about my snake encounter

1090 days ago

As you may remember, Nicho the Communist delighted in telling me upon my arrival in Kambos that the snake harvest had been excellent this year and that the fields around my house, the Greek Hovel, would be full of them. During the past few weeks he has several times asked after the snakes, managing to speak and laugh at the same time. And so having encountered one, I felt I should relay the news to him.

We were sitting, as you might expect, in the Kourounis taverna. I told him what had happened and he looked straight into my eyes and asked earnestly "Did you kill it?"

You and I know that as the snake slithered away from me into a bush I moved in the opposite direction and regarded it as a good thing that we part company. But that is not the Maniot way. Someone from the Mani would see it as their duty to dive into the bush and club the serpent to death with whatever lay to hand. Should I fess up to Nicho that I ran away or would that be seen as almost as bad as supporting Turkey in the Euros? "It escaped" I said. He grunted, suspecting I think, that I was not really that keen on snake killing unless it was from the safety of a car or a motorbike.

It is not just the Maniot men who have the killing gene. During the Greek war of Independence from the accursed Turk, the rebellion started in the Mani. The men took time off from fighting each other in blood feuds to march on Kalamata and slaughter the Ottoman garrison on March 23rd 1821 just six days after the Mani led Greece in declaring war.

Later on in the campaign the Turks thought that since the Maniot fighters were engaged in hostilities in the Kalamata area they would send 1500 Egyptian soldiers by ship, forty miles down the coast to land at Diros and then seize the Maniot capital Areopoli which is a couple of miles inland. The Turks landed their men but 300 Maniot women and some old men were working in the fields, harvesting crops with scythe and sickle. The maniot women fell upon the accursed invaders and catching them by surprise drove them back them back. As another 300 Maniot old men and women arrived the panicking Egyptians had to swim to their ships or die. Very few made it home.

There are other tales of heroic Maniot women fighting the accursed turk through the ages. And as such when anyone from this region sees a snake they will pursue it and destroy it in a fearless fashion. For snake read Turk. I am afraid that I just do not possess this fighting gene and though I am now more relaxed about snakes, the idea of pursuing one into the bushes is just a step too far.

Tom Winnifrith

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And so an elderly English couple walk into the Kourounis taverna in Kambos

1091 days ago

I had seen them earlier as I had driven in. They were dressed in walking clothes so I knew they were westerners and were, for some reason, trekking along the road from Kambos to the Greek hovel, a road to pretty much nowhere. Whatever.

Two hours later and I am tapping away at my PC in the Kourounis taverna in Kambos. There is a half eaten Greek salad on my table and an ouzo.I know that it is only lunchtime but after today's latest major vindication of my work as a fraud buster I felt I was entitled to a small celebration.

I guess I have picked up a bit of a tan since I arrived but the Brits wandered up to me and speaking very slowly in English tried to order a fanta from me. Nicho the owner stood a couple of yards away looking a little confused but smiling. His English is somewhere between pretty dire when he likes you to non existent when he does not.

There was a temptation to accept their order and help out but instead I shrugged my shoulders in a "I don't speak English" sort of way and gestured towards Nicho who took their order.

The couple has just left. As she paid her bill, the lady tried to explain to Nicho that doing all this walking was hot work. He said "yes" which in translation means "I have no idea what you are on about lady, FFS I am Greek why do you assume I speak English?"

As she wanderted out, she smiled at me in a sort of "poor foreigner, if only you spoke English" way.

Tom Winnifrith

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

1093 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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A snake encounter at the Greek Hovel, silly me: do as the Greeks go

1094 days ago

There is a reason that the Greeks, or rather the Albanians the Greeks hire to do manual labour, start at 8 AM and finish at 3 PM. The reason, I think, is snakes. That is to say the snakes are at their least active in the morning. During the day they sunbathe and so by dusk they are really quite frisky. I have hitherto been working to a different schedule. Silly me.

You see when I awake I start writing articles for you my dear readers. By the time you open up your PC at seven I have already been generating golden prose for at least ninety minutes. As such by the time I had finished generating golden prose and had my lunch (Greek salad) in Kambos today and got back for olive pruning it was 4.40 PM.

And so I headed straight for that part of the property which, when I first arrived, was a thick frigana jungle. I was convinced then that it was the sort of place that snakes really would want to hang out in but two years ago cleared it none the less, wading into the bushes in a fearless manner and, as it happened, encountering not a single snake.

It is not an area where the olive trees yield much. I think that is because for years they have never been pruned or fertlised as they were simply immersed in frigana, in dense jungle. That, I have determined is all to change and so I started work. On one tree a wild olive, non fruit bearing specimen, had attached itself to the trunk and I sawed away, eventually dragging the parasite trunk in three cleanly cut pieces onto what will be a huge bonfire at Christmas but is for now just a huge pile of branches, a sort of sanctuary for the wildlife diversity.

As the evening light started to fade my limbs started to tire. It is hard work olive pruning. One must bend down to remove little shoots of olive at the base of the tree with your axe and also reach up into the highest branches to axe and saw away new growth that cannot yield fruit this year. I was sweating and tired and on my penultimate tree. And then I heard a rustle and looked around to see something shoot off into a bush.

Lizards shoot off in a straight line. Their back legs propel them like a bullet straight to safety. Snakes slither so you can see the S shaped movement as the tail disappears. This was a snake. It must have been a small one which suggests it was poisonous but it headed away from me and must have been sitting in a bush two yards from my feet as I heard no more noise.

"Fuck me" I said rather loudly although the only creature that could hear me was the snake. I chopped a last few branches from the tree and decided that maybe the Greeks were right not to prune as dusk approaches. I decided to walk the "safe" way back to the hovel, that is to say along the goat path that runs between our land and that of our neighbour and onto the main track. It is rarely used but surely safer than walking back through the bushes. It goes without saying that within thirty yards I heard a very loud noise and something slithering off into the bushes.

As I wander I carry my pruning axe in one hand and my pruning hand saw in the other. So the snakes should be aware that I might be a hard Albanian who will go for them, not a Western pansy who is fecking terrified. Anyhow, I shall write late tonight so that I have a clear morning of pruning tomorrow. When in Rome do as the Romans do.

When in Greece do as the Albanians do because the Greeks are too lazy.

Tom Winnifrith

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Charon visits the Greek Hovel - gosh this is awkward

1094 days ago

I was on the phone to the Mrs who had some good news to relay when I heard the unmistakable voice of my neighbour Charon outside. Then he banged on the door saying "Tom, Tom." I had no choice. He knew I was there. I could not hide. I opened the door.

When I say neighbour it is not as if he is just round the corner. As the crow flies his place is about another mile up the mountain. By road it is a two mile trek and Charon had walked over and was there on my doorstep topless and sweating.

It is not that I don't like him, it is just that he insists on speaking English to me. His English is better than my Greek but not a lot better. And so we have long exchanges of words which really cant be described as conversations. Sometimes I get out my Greek English dictionary and try speaking Greek words. However we go about it it is painful.

The one bond we used to have was the common language of cigarettes. The poor man was out of fags and so asked me if I had one. He was clearly in great need of a fix. I said "stopped" and waved my arms to express finality. He asked "why?" Trying to explain about playing soccer with my nephews and nieces on St Valentine's day and feeling like shit after five minutes would have been tough so I made a coughing noise.

"Oh no!" he cried and looked alarmed. I tried to say just to stop me coughing but I think he now worries that I have been diagnosed with cancer. Looking a bit shaken by my bad news he trudged off in the direction of Kambos. Another two mile walk for him to pick up fags at 4 Euro a packet.

Cheap fags have not tempted me back. Nor has the fact that everyone in the Kourounis taverna smokes away like there is no tomorrow. If I can quit smoking I can do anything..maybe even learn Greek.

Tom Winnifrith

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Tom Winnifrith Photo Bearcast - some porn from the Hovel in Greece today for Paul Roberts, Justin the Clown & other Welsh listeners

1095 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/20947/tom-winnifrith-photo-bearcast-some-porn-from-the-hovel-in-greece-today-for-paul-roberts-justin-the-clown-other-welsh-listeners

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo: Weather Report from the Greek Hovel - I feel like I am back in the Isle of Man

1096 days ago

You guys think that I am wandering around in a T-shirt and shorts. Boy you could not be more wrong. For starters, when I am up at the hovel I always wear sturdy black jeans and long boots. You never know what is going to slither out of the bushes and bite you. I want some protection.  

More importantly, the weather here over the past couple of days makes me think that I am back in the Isle of Man. The Manx folk are protected from bad things by the cloak of the Celtic God Mannanan, in other words the fog. It seems that the old boy is on his travels as a thick fog rolled in yesterday from the mountains. And that was followed by vast amounts of rain.

I suppose it is good for the olives. But also for the frigana. On Friday night the wind was howling and the rain was beating down. The oak tree outside the Greek Hovel thrashed against my roof. I am not sure if the normal wildlife diversity was hiding but its noises were, for once, just drowned out.  The hovel is at least dry but it provided little relief from the cold.

This is really not what Greece should be like in late May. I blame Brexit.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: The miracle of life..I furnish evidence of flowers turning into olives at the Greek Hovel

1096 days ago

A reader tells me not to count my chickens. Just because our 150 trees are heaving with flowers that means nothing I am told, I must see evidence of flowers becoming olives. Okay, here you go. It is happening right now, across all the trees as the photos below demonstrate.

Those tiny little green things are olives. They will need to grow a lot before we harvest in December but we are now on track for a mega harvest from the Greek Hovel which means that I shall have anywhere between 500 and 600 litres of oil to sell. that enough to fill a pretty big swimming pool. Can anyone think of someone who can me help promote our olive oil

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo: A lizard on my balcony

1096 days ago

I like lizards. They do no harm to me and eat little creepy crawlies. There is one which has lost its tail and is about an inch and a half long that sleeps on the wall at the far side of the one habitable room here in the Greek Hovel. I say good night to it as I switch the lights out. It seems to have accepted my presence and no longer runs if I approach its end of the room for whatever reason.

This lizard is a bit longer and has a tail and was just sitting on the balcony here as I worked, staring out at the valley.

Tom Winnifrith

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A tale of two keys - late night panic at the Greek Hovel

1096 days ago

I have two sets of keys with me and both lie on the table here at the Greek Hovel. One is my English keys, my house and the restaurant. The other a set of Greek keys, one of which opens the hovel's door the rest of which are there for decoration - God only knows what they open.

For once I left my laptop in the hovel last night having worked solidly all day. I took just a bit of cash, my phone, my passport and credit card down to the village for supper. Really that is all I need to get anywhere in the world so I always carry those things with me. I grabbed a set of keys, locked up and headed off for a Greek salad.

There was an almost full moon but on my return it was still very dark. I hope that the snake repellent canisters make the area around the hovel a safe zone but I always flash my torch nervously as I walk, slowly and with a deliberately heavy step, up the path. I reached in my pocket and all I could find were my English keys. Feck. I must have dropped the Greek keys somewhere.

I headed back to Kambos to the Kourounis taverna and checked where I had been sitting. Nothing. It was by now almost eleven and I was panicking. I established that I had not - as I thought I had - given lovely Eleni a spare key. Where the feck was that spare key?

There is a way into the hovel clambering up a back wall and through a window. But at night. the snakes.... perhaps not

And so I gave up. I drove to Kalamata to the most excellent Messenian Bay hotel where they recognised me from 15 months ago when - for 10 days - I was their only guest and i was greeted like a long lost friend. An ouzo on the house and a luxury suite at a single room rate was provided. Luxury. Sleeping in clean sheets. Having a proper shower.It was almost worth the hassle.

This morning I returned to the hovel. You know what? A thought crossed my mind. Maybe somehow a Greek key has slipped onto my English ring? Indeed it has. Inside on the table lay my Greek keys. I feel a little foolish and am not sure how I shall explain my stupidity to lovely Eleni later today. I have already been out for one session of frigana slashing to punish myself for my stupidity.

Tom Winnifrith

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Thrashing away hacking back the frigana, I am reminded of a short story from the depression

1098 days ago

I once read a short story but for the life of me cannot remember its title or author but it comes to mind as I toil in the fields at the Greek Hovel, slashing away with my frigana cutter below.

A man is travelling across America in the 1930s with his family in search of work. They drive up to a wonderful farm surrounded by fields of amazing corn but it is abandoned. They cannot believe their luck and just move in. The man cuts corn and his family have all the food they need. One day he hears a cry as his scythe goes through a sheaf of corn. His kid is dead. They bury it. A while later the same thing happens again, another kid is dead. And then it is his wife. He realises the corn is humanity. He is the grim reaper. The only way out is to cut the stalk that is him and he slashes wildly to find it. Folks who drive by see a man crazed, just cutting away all day and all night. The Holocaust, Hiroshima, he thrashes on and on, cutting corn at an unprecedented rate.

Can anyone remind me what this story is?

Meanwhile I slash at the frigana here at the Greek hovel. There appear to be some islands of the vile plant left which have escaped the cutting of 2014 and the poisoning of 2015. They stand there green and defiant challenging me to risk snake attack and to wade in for an assault. I am not sure what i would do if a snake emerged from the frigana. I like to think I'd plunge my cutter, with its whirling blade of death, straight at the serpent. I rather fear that I'd drop the cutter and run like the clappers. I pray that I am not faced with this problem.

But I feel like a man possessed and just wade into the bushes and attack. Yesterday I managed four sessions - one can cut for only so long before the machine over-heats and cuts out. Today it is a cool day and the machine wanted to go on until it ran out of petrol and so did I. Slash, slash, slash. My father, reading this, would have been thinking about his former colleagues at the University of Warwick. The grim reaper was searching for his own straw. I sometimes think of other folk but mainly just want to nail the frigana once and for all.


The frigana when alive is a shiny green. After just three days in the sun the plants that I have slashed have been blanched. By next month they will be brown. Already there are satisfying patches of white next to the brown areas I poisoned last year.

This afternoon it is back to olive pruning. There is only so much death one can hand out. It is time for a bit of nurturing and life.

Admin

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Video: Tom Winnifrith on why David Lenigas should be drummed off AIM from UK Investor show

1101 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/20766/video-tom-winnifrith-on-why-david-lenigas-should-be-drummed-off-aim-from-uk-investor-show

Tom Winnifrith

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That is not a snake that is the best shower in the whole wide world

1103 days ago

After three days of manual labour at the Greek hovel I was conscious that I did not exactly smell like a male model doused in perfume and thus it was time to rig up the shower as you can see below.

Okay it is indeed a hosepipe. The water travels up the mountain in metal pipes. in winter with the temperature hovering around zero it means we have a constant supply of cold water. In summer the water arrives a perfect luke warm to warm. The water runs at a constant pleasant temperature unlike my shower back in Bristol which alternates between scalding and freezing.

I was a little nervous ahead of the first shower. Hence the three day delay. I need not have worried. It was awesome.

In case you were wondering and it is perhaps not a thought that you wish to dwell on, yes I shower naked. There are only two folks who might see me. The shepherd wanders past with his flock about once every three days and sooner or later my neighbour Charon will pop over from his house a mile and a half away. But they are men of the world. And 99.9% of the time the hovel's only living souls are myself and the wildlife diversity.  

Tom Winnifrith

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Today is three months without a cigarette day

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?

Tom Winnifrith

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Saying hello to Mr Rat at the Greek Hovel

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.

Tom Winnifrith

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Two more snakes spotted at the Greek Hovel...both on snake hill

1104 days ago

Snake hill is a stretch of, very rough and multi-potholed, concrete that tracks down from the quiet olive groves on my side of the valley to the valley floor. It ends at the dry river where the track once again turns to mud for a couple of hundred yards before one takes a sharp left to head up the concreted track next to the deserted monastery where, when driving at night, I still imagine the presence of ghostly phantom monks.

Snake hill got its name two years ago when my guest that summer made the grave mistake of going for a run in the midday heat and encountered a serpent sitting on the hill. She sidestepped the viper but the hill got its name.

Ever since then I have been waiting to see another snake there. I have seen plenty of lizards and heard lots of rustling in the bushes on either side of the road but not seen a snake. But today: two!

I am delighted to say that both were of the variety deadus deadus and were in the process of being devoured by ants, flies and other little creatures. What caused their, very welcome, demise? Perhaps it was my only neighbour, the man I know as Charon although like half of the village he is actually called Nicho, who has a new moped which could just have despatched the serpents?

I tend to think that a more likely snake killer would be one of the feral cats that roam the hillsides around here. They are, apparently, perfectly capable of taking on a snake, even a poisonous one. I noted that one of the two serpents looked half eaten so maybe it was a cat that can claim these "kills".

Somehow I cannot see my morbidly obese three legged cat Oakley coming out well in a one-to-one match up with a viper, but these Greek feral cats are made of sterner stuff.

Tom Winnifrith

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Back online for my first night at the Greek Hovel with Alice Cooper

1104 days ago

With the snake repellent canisters laid down yesterday I had no excuse and have returned to the Greek Hovel. It is now 11 PM my time, outside is just miles and miles of darkness. I don't mind that too much, my torch guided me to the front door from the car. I could see in the car headlights that there were bats flying around the rat room. But bats here are not rabid and they wont bother me.

I left the light on before I left and so I did not walk into a dark room. But its not the dark that spooks me it is the noises. Out in the fields, on the windowsill and outside my door the wildlife diversity is in full cry. I just dread to think.

But, in a stroke of genius, I have managed to get the internet working here as well as a kettle. Thus I can drink coffee to keep me awake for a few hours knowing that I really will not sleep well tonight. I shall catch up tomorrow during the day.

And I can both work and also play music from the internet. The wildlife diversity does not seem very keen on rock music. And so with no irony given what it is that I fear the most outside, the song we kick off with to scare away the creatures of the night is from Alice Cooper.

Tom Winnifrith

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52 Euro, I thought it was 120 Euro but would gladly have paid 300 Euro - this is snake business

1106 days ago

And so I tracked down a shop in Kalamata which sells canisters of Herpotex, cans that emit a smell snakes find noxious and which will keep them away for three months. In theory at least. The guide says I only need two to be placed 10 yards from two diagonally opposed corners of the hovel. Fecking hell, we are talking snakes here. I asked for four, one for each corner. The lady said "they are 30 euros each."

I thought that the price had gone up quite a bit since last year. Perhaps the fantastic "snake harvest" referred to by Nicho the communist means that demand is outstripping supply and that Herpotex snake repellent is the one item in Greece seeing real inflation? But this is snakes so I found 120 Euro and prepared to hand over the cash and to do so gladly.

The till rang up 52 Euro. Either I had misheard or the lady was a bit confused about 13 and 30. I tried to explain that I would have happily paid her 120 Euro or for that matter 300 Euro. These are snakes we are talking about.

The canisters are now in place. In theory the snakes are fleeing the area around the hovel and thus tomorrow I shall be moving from my nice secure hotel in Kalamata and out to the hovel, to the snakes, rats and mice. The trip begins in earnest.

Tom Winnifrith

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Wildlife diversity report from the Greek Hovel - day 5

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.

Tom Winnifrith

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Tom Winnifrith Bearcast 9 May - Iofina, No, no, no, Mr Market all wrong

1107 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/20613/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-9-may-iofina-no-no-no-mr-market-all-wrong

Tom Winnifrith

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Back in the Kourounis taverna in Kambos...it is as if I had never left

1108 days ago

Having checked out the hovel on Sunday I drove back into the village of Kambos. There have been a few more potholes mended on the two or three mile track from the house into the village. But for every one mended another has appeared including a quite giant crater at the base of snake hill. Somehow I manage to wiggle past it and am soon sitting in on a quiet lunchtime in the Kourounis taverna owned by lovely Eleni.

I wander in with my laptop and sit in my normal seat. At the bar are Vangelis, the man in the pink shirt, and Nicho the communist, the chap with whom I had a bit of a disagreement over football on my first night in Kambos but who is now my firm friend. The two men sit in the same seats they were in the day I left last time, next to the bar tapping away at their PCs. The only change is that one of them, Nicho, has swapped fags for vaping. Or so I thought. On my next visit on the Monday he was back on the fags leaving me feeling extremely smug as I now approach my three month anniversary of being clean.

Cala? Vangelis asks. I reply Ne and that one word seems to encourage him in the idea that I have learned Greek and off he goes. I stare blankly and Nicho, one of the rare English speakers in Kambos wades in to assist. We are back where we left off.
Lovely Eleni is there, holding the daughter that was born when I was here for the olive harvest in December. I shake her hand but she leans over for the European kiss on both cheeks. I know men do that here, a reason I very firmly push out my arm when meeting anyone male. But a man and a woman? I thought that was not what happened. I really do not understand the etiquette here at all. Eleni explains the Greek name for her baby which is one of those names that is so long and so Greek that I have not got a hope of remembering or pronouncing it but I smile at the infant and it smiles back. I tell Eleni that I am glad to meet someone in Kambos who speaks less Greek than me.

The baby is named after the mother in law of lovely Eleni who potters over and as ever opens with Cala? Ne I reply. It is groundhog day as she too seems to think that I have learned Greek. Now there is no-one to rescue me and I just smile like an idiot and shrug my shoulders. As I tap away various other folks wander in and greet me warmly. They arrivals include the man who helps harvest my olives, George the Albanian, and his English speaking son. I now make that three English speakers in the village plus half a speaker for Vangelis in the snake repellent store.

On the subject of which, I ask Nicho if the snakes are awake yet. Rather predictably he responds that they are and says that he has seen many snakes already. It is apparently a very good snake season on the mountains behind Kambos where the Greek Hovel lies. I can tell that he is taking great pleasure in relaying this to me. My fear of snakes is well known to all and the fact that I live in a snake infested patch of the countryside is seen as a bit of a local joke.

The snake repellent shop is out of the canisters which I use to protect the hovel. I am told that new stock will arrive on Wednesday. Hmmmm. That means that if I install Wednesday I can move in on Thursday. Until then I can enjoy the luxury of Kalamata where there seem to be no snakes.

Tom Winnifrith

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Amazing news from Greece - we have a forestry permit for the Greek Hovel, next step... a bribe?

1108 days ago

It was meant to take three months but took closer to a year but who cares? We now have a forestry permit received for the Greek Hovel. It seems that I failed to (illegally) cut down a few wild olive trees but most of my good works of the summer before last in clearing 2000 square metres of frigana have not been noticed and so we can now.....

Apply for a building permit. Lead by George the architect the team is now looking to submit within the next couple of weeks and the office that handles our application is just across the street from that of George in Kalamata. The process should take 2-3 months but this is Greece.

Once again I am happy to bribe anyone but George insists that Greece does not work that way. I am not quite so sure. I can just imagine the conversation:

Mr Official: I can approve your plans now if you give me 1000 Euro
Me: I am sorry but I am a moral man
Mr Official: This application could take quite some time, we have a big backlog of work
Me: Since you put it that way, have you not heard of austerity - shall we call it 250 Euro and I'll buy you an ouzo
Mr Official: make that two ouzos.
Me: Done.

Alternatively, George could just wander across the street once a day and kick up a fuss. Anyhow... we are making progress.

Tom Winnifrith

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Tom Winnifrith Bearcast - 3 days to Holiday: Yippee & Wildes is a comic genius

1109 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/20491/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-3-days-to-holiday-yippee-wildes-is-a-comic-genius

Tom Winnifrith

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The Mrs has got her Nashville ticket and this makes her week

1159 days ago

Sadly in late June I shall not be in Bristol but will instead be working hard to rebuild the Greek Hovel. Even if planning consent is not quite in by then, I am free to start preparatory work such as digging out the stone floor of the bat room and demolishing the illegal construct on top of the rat room, the area known as the snake veranda.

The Mrs was set to join me but is now altering her travel plans. Tom Winnifrith just cannot compete with Deacon Claybourne, Gunner, Scarlett and Will Lexington. Nashville fans will know exactly what I mean. If you are not a fan of this must-watch TV series you do not know what you are missing.

We caught Gunner in action at a Country show last year in London. Rather suprisingly the actor who plays Texan born Gunner is in fact a Brit and is an accomplished singer songwriter as well as an actor. Gunner used to date Scarlett who is the neice of recovering alcoholic Deacon, now back with his sweetheart the star of the show Rayna. Deacon may or may not be dead, that is the cliffhanger at the end of series three. Well actually there was no way that Deacon who is the star of the show could be killed off, and as American viewers who are already well into Series 4 know, Deacon is alive but his ghastly sister Beverley is not doing so well.

At least for British viewers, Will is back as Gunner's housemate following the collapse of his faux marriage because he is in fact a closet homosexual. It all happens in Nashville.

Anyhow, Deacon, Will, Scarlett & Gunner are on tour and the Mrs and her fried Jeanetta managed to get seats to the Bristol leg before they sold out after just a few hours. She has not worked out yet that this means a change to her holiday plans so excited is she about the prospect of seeing Deacon in the flesh. It means that she will have to fly to Greece after the gig which gives me even more time away in the Hellenic Republic. As such I am not complaining but I shall leave it to her to work out what this all means in her own sweet time.

Wait till I tell her that my internet searches show that Deacon is still alive. What a bonus.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: My first snow of the winter - in Greece 3 weeks ago

1249 days ago

For most of my early December stay in Greece I was wearing a T-shirt all day although at night I needed a sweat shirt and coat as the temperatures plunged towards zero. But on the penultimate day it started to rain heavily both in Kalamata, where I was staying, and up in the village of Kambos in the foothills of the Taegessus Mountains. The photos below show what happened next.

Photo one is of an orange tree just off the main street in Kambos. As we worked in the fields picking olives in quite warm weather oranges were handed out by my friend George. They are just ripening for picking now.



The next two photos are from the Greek Hovel another 50 metres or so higher up into the Teagessus and three miles away from Kambos. Those who have seen the hovel in the summer will associate it with grass burned brown by hot sun. But, as you can see, it is now a lush green - this is the view looking back along the drive. The rains of October and November have left the place looking very much alive. The second photo shows a front lawn strewn with olive branches post harvest. Come February I shall return to burn them off.

 

But now look up into the mountains, into the Taegessus. What fell as rain in Kambos fell as snow higher up. Those peaks will remain snow covered until March or even into April.

Elsewhere in Greece in places such as Metsovo in the Pindus or in Pelion folks go skiing. I described driving through the snow in between Athens and the Mani in the snow last Febuary. But the Taegessus are wild and rugged. There will be no skiing.

My Uncle Chris (Booker) who turns 79 next year says that we must climb these mountains together. In the summer that means incredible heat and snakes. From now until April that means treacherous snow. I think, dear Uncle that it must be October. The heat will have lessened but it will still be warm anough. The snakes will be asleep. And there will be no snow.

 

 

 

Admin

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A picture show: Olive Oil from the Greek Hovel from start to finish

1251 days ago

Today I was posting bottles of olive oil brought back from the Greek hovel to a few lucky folks like PR bird foxy Bex.It was a poor harves - 179 litres of oil this year - last year it was 574 litres. You always have a bad year followed by a good year and so on. You can mitigate that greatly if you are around in the summer to water the trees.

Indeed I "water" the four trees closest to the house personally several times a day. Urine is a great fertiliser and I note that those trees were amongst the most productive on the farm.

No doubt some urban sophisticates will go ugh. Where do you folks think that agricultural fertiliser comes from? The hardware store?

Photo one shows the sacks that get stacked up in the Kambos olive press and photo two shows them being emptied into the great press.

Photo three shows them washed and ready for pressing, little green little black, little purple and some larger black olives looking like sweeties, and photo four is my olive oil as it arrives.

Finally here it is. I lugged 16 litres back to BRistol and the Mrs and I have decanted some of that into bottles. Dark green. Peppery, it is awesome.

Admin

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Tom Winnifrith Bearcast 11 December - I prove I'm an optimist - putting cash in a Greek bank

1258 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/17175/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-11-december-i-prove-i-m-an-optimist-putting-cash-in-a-greek-bank

Tom Winnifrith

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Olive Harvest at the Greek Hovel over - it has been dismal but that is not the point

1261 days ago

Even without my, pretty pathetic, assistance, George and his team completed the olive harvest today as I sat in the hospital. Last year it took us 5-6 days, this year it was just three. The sacks now lie at the village press whose boss greeted me like an old friend, forgetting that my Greek is somewhat weak but gabbling away happily. Tomorrow afternoon we press.

I shall take 16 litres in a can back to England for Christmas presents (Foxy Bex I have not forgotten) and personal use for the next 12 months. The rest I shall sell and that will cover George's wages, a bus fare back to Athens and maybe my flights. That is not really the point. Unless you are here to water your trees in the summer you know you will have one good year followed by one bad year and this is a bad year. I'm in this for the long run and so it is important to me that I pop in to see my gun toting friends in Kambos regularly. This is where the Mrs and I plan to retire, it will be our community.

Anyhow, I am in Greece to attend to a number of matters. There is a meeting tomorrow with the architect. We finally have a forestry permit, now we need a building permit and then the Greek Hovel can be rebuilt so that it meets the sanitaery requirements of the Mrs and my daughter. And so that Paul Scott, Andrew Bell, Thierry Laduguie, the Pizza Hardman, Richard Poulden, Matt Suttcliffe, Paul Atherley, Harry Adams and others can pop over for holidays as we have oft discussed. The Hovel will be renamed Write Minds (in Greek). Its a pun - geddit? When it is rebuilt, the Mrs and I can stay here every summer to tend the olives.

There is also a meeting tomorrow on global shorting conspiracy matters and I plan to spend Saturday in Athens filming a video outside the headquarters of an AIM listed company. I wonder if you can guess which one? From Athens with Love - the sequel.

Tom Winnifrith

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Most Certainly ouzo o'clock - George the Albanian is located at last

1265 days ago

After a whole day spent at the Kourounis taverna in Kambos I have finally met up with George, the sprightly 60+ Albanian who leads our olive harvest. I called lovely Eleni at the hospital to see if she had any idea how to track him down. She gave birth to a baby girl yesterday and admitted to being a bit tired but knows she will be back in the kitchen by Sunday and so is gearing herself up. She offered up an idea of where to find George's number.

Lovely Eleni's younger sister, who is really very, very lovely too, called and at about seven tonight in wandered George. In great relief I hugged the man for I was starting to panic. As ever, I bought him a Tsipero and myself an ouzo. And we sat in silence as he speaks not a word of English and my Greek is er...rather weak. But lovely Eleni's very, very lovely younger sister stepped into the breach. We start harvesting at 8 AM Monday. With that arranged, George and I sat in silence once more.

So on Sunday I move up to the Greek hovel. The power works, the internet does not. It will be bloody cold at night and with no shower - the hosepipe option does not appeal at this time of year - it will be fairly tough and I may be rather smelly by this time next week. I guess it gives me an insight into hiow life is in the grim Northern welfare safaris back in England.

Others will have to lead the effort on ShareProphets next week for I am committed to playing a full part in the harvest and so completing it in less than five days this time so that I can get back to the Mrs and the cats as soon as possible. Of course vreki can stop play. But at last I feel we are ready to go.

With that to celebrate I am back in Kalamata at a nice little restaurant for some tzatziki followed by calamari washed down with a large ouzo or three. The place is the best little eating house on the winter seafront even if it does not allow smoking. Perhaps that rather un-Greek health fascism explains why last night I was 100% of the customers and on a Friday night am 33% of the clientele.

I take it all back. The waiter has just rushed outside to tell me that, notwithstanding the no smoking signs everywhere, I can smoke inside. Okay the restaurant Katalenos on Navarino Street is perfect.

Tom Winnifrith

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Major problemo at the Greek Hovel... Hell's teeth

1270 days ago

I fly tomorrow morning and will arrive in Kalamata so late that I shall enjoy one night of luxury in a hotel before heading off to the Greek Hovel for the olive harvest. George the sprightly 60 year old Albanian and his Mrs are ready to lead the harvest from Wednesday or Thursday and we are off. But there is a bit of a problem. I still speak no Greek and have hitherto relied on the lovely Eleni from the Kourounis taverana to assist. It is either her or Nikko the commie, no-one else speaks more English than I speak Greek in the village of Kambos.

In May I wondered if Eleni had put on a couple of pounds but did not like to say anything. By the time I arrived in August I was fairly sure that she was with child but being a gentleman and not wishing to offend I dared not ask. Aha. I speak to Eleni tonight and she is going into hospital tomorrow. Don't worry she says, she will be back at work by Sunday.

Well that is very good, none of this maternity leave nonsense of the West, back in the kitchen with you young lady. But pro tem I must now work out how to communicate with George - who speaks not a word of English - as well as to the rest of the village.

Nikko the commie will be hard at work on his own olives and so his presence cannot be guaranteed. This could be an uncomfortable few days as I struggle to heat the hovel, deal with the rats and communicate with absolutely anybody.

Tom Winnifrith

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Work Related Trips I’d like to do: Kosovo, Spain – any other ideas?

1335 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/15304/work-related-trips-i-d-like-to-do-kosovo-spain-any-other-ideas

Tom Winnifrith

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Greek Hovel wildlife diversity report…now it is the poisonous spiders

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?

Tom Winnifrith

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Greek Hovel Air Conditioning – I am frigging Heath Robinson

1368 days ago

There, as you may remember, is just one habitable room at the Greek Hovel and its windows are sealed with masking tape, holes in the wall are now filled in, I fact it is almost impenetrable for the local wildlife diversity. But in summer that also makes it unbelievably hot at night.  Without a fan I would be sitting here drenched in sweat as I type and unable to sleep afterwards in what becomes a sauna. 

And so last year I bought a fan.

Sadly at some point, no doubt after a few ouzos, I tripped over it and thus the fan head and controls is now detached from the stand.  But I am beginning to think that I am a bit of a closet Heath Robinson. After all I made my own eco loo from waste wood I found around the hovel. I constructed an outdoor shower using a hosepipe and I have just made a new fan stand. 

Well that is to say I bought a six pack of bottled water one night to use as emergency rations if ever I ran out of water in the hours of darkness. For reasons you can appreciate I am less than keen to wander outside to the tap when the wildlife diversity is starting to party and when I cannot see a thing.

Hey presto, I removed two bottles and rammed the fan head into the middle of the remaining four. A fully functioning fan stand which allows the head to rotate as designed. Genius or what?

Tom Winnifrith

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Rat Report from the Greek Hovel ….Something is not quite right

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.

Tom Winnifrith

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Wildlife diversity report as I return to the Greek Hovel – snakes, bats, rats and ants

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.

 

 

Tom Winnifrith

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Paying an Electric bill for a witch: Greece does not work anymore & never worked

1416 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/13375/paying-an-electric-bill-for-a-witch-greece-does-not-work-anymore-never-worked

Tom Winnifrith

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My cunning travel plan to get back to Bristol - yes it involves ouzo

1449 days ago

The Mrs wants me back in Bristol by tomorrow afternoon and it is nice to be wanted. And so I embark on the journey back from the Greek hovel with a cunning plan given that there are only intermittent flights from Kalamata at this time of year.

First up, I have already booked a seat on the 9.45 bus from Kalamata to Athens. But that gives me four hours to kill and, being on sabbatical, I really do not have any work to do. And so I sit in a bar by the sea in Kalamata knocking back a few ouzos. Certainly enough to ensure that I fall asleep on the bus to Athens.

I arrive at c1.30 in the morning at Athens bus station which is a dump in the worst part of town and so will quickly hop into a cab to the airport where I know that I can access the internet and keep myself occupied from 2.15 AM until I check in at 7.15 AM Greek time.

Once onboard the plane I should be so shattered that I fall asleep at once, waking up at 11.15 AM GMT at Heathrow. If I am still tired then the coach to Bristol will be my next bedroom and by early afternoon I shall be back with the Mrs and the cats.

Simple eh? Ouzo is the answer to any problem.

Tom Winnifrith

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Tom Winnifrith Bearcast - 4th June: farewell Greece

1449 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/12618/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-4th-june-farewell-greece

Tom Winnifrith

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Tom Winnifrith Bearcast - 3rd June: sweaty wreck edition

1449 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/12592/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-3rd-june-sweaty-wreck-edition

Tom Winnifrith

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A sad day, a chapter ends in the Conrad Windam comedy show - he walks the All Star Plank

1450 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/12567/a-sad-day-a-chapter-ends-in-the-conrad-windam-comedy-show-he-walks-the-all-star-plank

Tom Winnifrith

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Feeling a bid odd - The Kourounis taverna turns English

1450 days ago

As I write there are six customers in the Kourounis taverna in Kambos. Including me four are English. This is a little unusual. Normally Kambos is a haven of Greeks but as summer approaches a few Brits arrive. It is all very middle class. We are all using the wifi and naturally not saying a word to each other. The only noise comes from a couple of noisy children who have wandered in.

Anyhow after a hard day in the fields poisoning frigana I am too tired to talk anyway.

Its just a Greek salad a glass of wine and home I go to the Greek hovel. Okay maybe two glasses. Like the late Charles Kennedy, I describe myself as a moderate drinker.

Tom Winnifrith

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Tom Winnifrith BearCast 2nd June

1451 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/12562/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-2nd-june

Tom Winnifrith

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First day of sabbatical - Zero Hedge flattery & asked to speak at top fraud conference

1452 days ago

So how is the sabbatical going? Hmmmm. Not quite so restful. when at the Greek hovel I live on English time so I work late and get up not quite at the crack of dawn. Other than today when my nearest neighbour - he lives a mile and a half away - Charon knocked on my door at 6 am GMT. I answered in my underpants in a rather sleepy fashion but that did not phase him.

As ever Charon speaks a mixture of a little English and a lot of Greek. The former is so bad that I do not understand it. The latter I still do not understand at all. Our common languages are cigarettes and coffee and I provided both.

A text from London's top tech analyst arrived "fuck me, you are on Zero Hedge". Sadly I was not online at the hovel for reasons I cant quite fathom and so I said "sto Kambos" and bundled Charon into my tiny motor to head off to the Kourounis taverna in the village. Lovely Eleni is also not yet up but her husband and mother in law were and yup, my Greek Bank Run story is indeed right up at the top of the front page of the top US website, getting rather a lot of reads. I am flattered.

It is a double flattery day as checking my email I discover that I have been asked to speak at a top conference on financial fraud held eack yeart in London on "market abuse on AIM." I am told that on October 1 I will be speaking at the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners shindig with delegates drawn from the legal profession, forensic accountants, law enforcement and fraud investigators . I wont be short of things to say.

Now that I have fully woken up it is off to the fields. The sun is blazing. It is a bank holiday here in Greece so no-one is doing any work. No cheap jokes now! But I shall be frigana poisoning all day.

Tom Winnifrith

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Vangelis asks if I am tired - too frigging right I am, olive pruning is hard work

1454 days ago

I invested in another big can of frigana poison this morning but also in a new boy toy, a 12 Euro olive axe. It is about 18 inches long and used for pruning becuase I must prune all 150 trees before I leave. Cripes it is hard work.

On days like today, when dark clouds hover on the Taegessus mountains above the Greek hovel it is an olive pruning day. The last thing you want is the rain washing the poison off the frigana plants and so your choice is made. In one hand I carry my hand saw in the other my sharp new axe (the blunt old one I found on the property broke yesterday).

Like most of you reading, I am not used to manual labour, still less work that involves you cutting and hacking with your arms above head height. I managed about twenty trees this afternoon and my arms ache. Vangelis - the man in the pink shirt - thinks I should get a power saw and that it is ather funny that I do it the old way.

Though I was taught how to prune by Foti the Albanian last summer, I sense that my work is not quite up to scratch. The axe does not always hit its target. The villagers in Kambos regard their trees as like beautiful women, to be cherished and treasured. They prune with a skill that I shall only learn with time. I rather hope that my handiwork is not inspected as it may be viewed as the olive tree equivalent of wife beating. Anyhow I am on a learning curve, things can only get better. Meanwhile, my arms feel like they are falling off.

In other news, the shepherd who grazes his sheep on snake mountain where the hovel sits has asked lovely Eleni to ask me if he can use my land. I am sort of touched that he asked since he could have wandered in at any time without asking, and have tried to explian that he never need ask again. Right now he cannot graze his flock there for a couple of weeks until the frigana poison has worked its way through the system. Thereafter it is full sheep ahead.

Reason one: the sheep will eat the long grass so meaning that snakes have less scope to hide and spring a nasty surprise on me. Reason two: snakes do not like sheep - and a shepherd - wandering around and will head onto somene else's land. The more sheep the merrier, that is what I say.

Besides which, and please do not think that I am becoming a soft lefty, I am not using the land. Yes the Mrs owns it but why not allow communal grazing right?. The folks in Kambos have been very kind to me, my guest last summer, my wife and my father. It is only right to give back what I can.

Tom Winnifrith

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Another ouzo says Vangelis - after an hour of subbing Zak Mir I deserve it

1455 days ago

I was just planning to return to the Greek Hovel after an hour of subbing Zak Mir's golden prose. I had forgotten just how appalling is the way that he mangles the English language and am feeling pretty shell shocked. It has taken two ouzos to get this far and my task is only 30% done. 

And at that point I heard a cry from the bar at the Kourounis taverna "Tom, ouzo". It seems as if my pal Vangelis has bought me another drink. Ok I shall be marginally over the limit as I drive home but I will be the only vehicle on the track and after what Zak has inflicted on my brain I feel I deserve it. And anyhow it would be rude to refuse.

I said Efharisto and there then followed a conversation in Greek between the mother-in law of lovely Eleni and Vangelis about how I really need to learn Greek. I understand eniugh to know what  they are saying and agree with them 100%. But first I have the rest of Zak's quite unintelligble gibberish to translate into English. At least I know what pergatory will be like.

Tom Winnifrith

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Karadimili Conversations - Tuscany in Greece

1455 days ago

Kardamili has no sandy beaches and so is not a family resort. It has no bars and cafes serving fish and chips, burgers and cheap lager. Folks seeking sun, sea, sand and burgers and a pint of Fosters head to Stoupa down the road. Kardamili is an oasis of gentility which the Mrs rather prefers - for reasons I cannot understand - to The Greek Hovel and life in Kambos. And so last week I swapped the hovel for six days in a luxury hotel. It's a hard life.

A fortnight ago Kardamili hosted a Norwegian jazz festival. All year round it attracts Paddly Leigh Fermor pilgrims. The tourists it sucks in are generally very middle class, generally a bit older than me and largely English. As a journalist I am always nosily eavesdropping in on conversations at neighbouring tables and so I bring you these delightful snippets from a few days in Kardamili:

"of course it was just a construct of New Labour triangulation."

No I am not sure what that means either.

"I am not sure that the olive oil is as good that that we enjoyed in Tuscany last summer"

Whatever. By now you should have twigged that with its Venetian and quiet charm, Kardamili in the early summer becomes Islington abroad, Tuscany by the Greek Med. I guess they are not really my sort of people but I'd raher be there than with the soccer shirt wearing Brits at Stoupa.Folks who are, let;s face it, simply Non-U.
Does that make me a snob? Ok. I plead guilty as charged.

Tom Winnifrith

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An English couple walk in to the Kourounis taverna in Kambos

1455 days ago

After a hard day at the PC and in the field, braving the snakes to poison frigana, I plan to spend a relaxing evening at the Kourounis taverna in my home village of Kambos. Lovely Eleni has made me a Greek salad covered with herbs and drizzled with home produced olive oil and so far it is just coke zeros but I may allow myself an ouzo later. In the village where we have no tourists it is just me and the regulars. They chat. I tap away on my PC and say Yassas and Kale-nichta as required.

But an English couple has just walked in. As I heard them struggling to order a shared baclava and a glass of wine from lovely Eleni it was clear where they came from. Rather older than me they are now siutting on the far side of the room.
Being on the road from Kalamata to Kardamili and the hell hole that is Stoupa we get visitors here who just pop in on a daily basis. Sometimes I encounter Brits who live in the various villages around here as they too pop in.

After my solitary existence at the Greek Hovel a bit of me sometimes thinks I would like to chat to my compatriots. But I am not sure Id have much to say. Do they know about poisoning frigana, about pruning olive trees or about dealing with rats and bats? Probably not. Do I want to chat about events "back home?" Certainly not.

One of the joys of being here is that I just do not have to think about all of that nonsense. I chat to folks and scour the internet to write about things on the AIM casino but fill my head with things that really matter such as which patch of frigana I shall clear tomorrow or how on earth I shall manage to prune all the olive trees in just six days.

And so I say "yas" to George the builder, as opposed to George the architect, and sit in my corner tapping away at my computer. I say nothing more lest my countrymen rumble that I am one of them and try to talk to me.

Tom Winnifrith

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Tom Winnifrith BearCast - 21 May - delayed by IT snags

1457 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/12335/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-21-may-delayed-by-it-snags

Tom Winnifrith

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Snake killer foiled - but I did it the Greek way

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.

Tom Winnifrith

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A two snake day & the Mrs is on a plane struck by lightening

1465 days ago

I was meant to pick the Mrs up at Kalamata airport in about thirty minutes but it appears that she is back at Gatwick. Her plane was struck by lightening and so had to turn back. Now her phone battery is dead so what to do? Sit in Kalamata and have an ouzo or two? Sounds like a plan.

Meanwhile it has been a two snake day. I was out poisoning frigana thinking of who the plants represented as I sprayed them with a lethal liquid when all of a sudden I saw it. It must have been two foot long, a light brown and perhaps an inch and a half in diameter. It had seen me too and was slithering away rapidly. But not as rapidly as I sprinted in the opposite direction. I guess at our closest we were less than a yard apart.

I looked on the interweb and assured myself that it was not a poisonous snake that was within 15 yards of the Greek Hovel. But when I asked lovely Eleni and described it in detail she assured me that it was highly poisonous. Hmmm, I look forward to spending a few days with the Mrs in a luxury hotel in Kardamili. That is if she ever arrives.

With snakes rather on my mind as I biked into Kalamata guess what I spotted on the mountain road. Yes, you are correct. My third snake in three days. This one looked pretty mangled and was at the edge of the road but was rather large and an alarming green. My guess is that a car had alreadty dealt with it but I gave it a wide berth and did not hang around to examine it in detail.

 

Tom Winnifrith

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Tom Winnifrith Bearcast 19 May - another snake encountered and snakes telling lies on AIM

1465 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/12278/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-19-may-another-snake-encountered-and-snakes-telling-lies-on-aim

Tom Winnifrith

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My first ouzo for the road as Geriatrix stares at my screen in the Kourounis taverna

1465 days ago

I am sitting happily tapping away at my computer loading a bit of blockbusting copy for ShareProphets in the morning. The Kourounis taverna in Kambos is pretty full with little groups here and there chatting away happily. The doors are flung wide open as it is a warm night. Outside at one of the tables my friend Nicho the Communist is holding Court. Behind me I can hear lovely Eleni chatting and laughing loudly. How do I know it is her? Well there are only four women in the taverna and the other three are sitting in front of me.

As I tapped away an old man reminding me of the Asterix character Geriatrix hobbled over propped up by a stick and stared at my screen.  He looked hard for a couple of minutes. I am not sure of he has ever seen a content management system before, I know he can't read or speak English. Indeed it is far from certain that he can read Greek.

But it clearly fascinated him and he peered intensely for a good two minutes before muttering something in Greek and tottering off. Perhaps like my father he refers to all PCs as Beelzebub and that is what he said.

Around me the smell of ouzo is everywhere. It is what all the older men drink. I have resisted the lure for almost two weeks now but, what the heck, one for the road before heading back to the wildlife diversity at the Greek Hovel.

Postscript. Make that two. No three.

Tom Winnifrith

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Wildlife diversity report from the Greek Hovel - first snake met & I might have killed it

1466 days ago

On the way back through the olive groves at the top of snake hill tonight I found myself tracking a fox. It did not seem too scared and eventually trotted off into the bushes. But that was not the real wildlife diversity news today - I met a snake.

I was travelling into the village in the early evening for a salad. Roadworks yesterday on abandoned monastery hill meant that I have been forced to discover a new way to get from the bottom of the valley into Kambos. It is a side track, not in that bad a condition, which winds its way all the way up to the top of the village past a little abandoned church coming out above our new big church. So from the top of that track you actually go downhill again to the Kourounis taverna. One day I shall draw a map for you all.

I was biking along thinking about nothing in particular when I heard a crunch under the wheels. I pulled up and looked back and about five yards behind me was a small snake. It is the small snakes that are the dangerous ones, the nine poisonous types of adder here in Greece.

There were three scenarios. It was dead before I crunched it. It was alive before I crunched it but now dead. Or it was alive before I crunched it but not yet dead. I thought about it and took one step towards the viper and could see enough to know that I did not wish to conduct a post mortem in case it turned out to be a pre-mortem.

Instead I got back on the bike and sped off as fast as possible to the village. At the taveran they all thought it rather funny. The bloke who is terrified of snakes now actually meeting one as well as the rats, bats, tortoise and crab. Lovely Eleni suggests that the hovel is now officially the Kambos zoo. Very funny.

It goes without saying that I took the other route home but each time I saw a strange line in the road you know what was going through my mind. Twigs, breaks in the concrete, they all suddenly became - in my mind at least - snakes.

Two more nights here and then the Mrs arrives She has one or two issues with the hovel as it stands and so it is off to a luxury hote in Kardamili, funded by the greatful taxpayer (that is to say my public sector employed wife) we go. After tonight I think I can manage to suffer a few nights of wildlife diversity free luxury.

Tom Winnifrith

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How on earth did I miss that monster at the Greek Hovel

1467 days ago

Last summer, with a bit of assistance from a man called Vangelis, I chopped down 2000 Square metres of the vile thOrny frigana bushes at the Greek Hovel. In Febuary I came back to burn off the roots and now I am tramping across the property poisoning the fresh shoots that are appearing and some bushes that seem to have suervived the onslaught of 2014.

Frigana can grow to be a 15 foot plus high tree. It is a horrid plant and as I poisoned all the little shoots and bushes I came across what looked like a rather big bush. F**k me how did I miss that? The tree must have been eight fot tall with five distinct trunks the thickest of which was an inch and a half wide. With thorns protecting it, the plant was fearsome but how on earth did I miss that last year?

Death for the tree has only been postponed. On completion of the day's poisoning I fetched the trusty old saw my father had given me for Christmas 2013 and which I had brought out from England. With the thorns to protect the trunks it was hard going but one by one they fell and were carted off to the place where theywill be burned in November when fires are legal once again and where bits of oak tree already sit awaiting the same fate.

But I am still puzzled, how did I miss this monster last year?

Tom Winnifrith

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Weekly Postcard #112 - ISIL, The Med Migrants, UKIP, Labour & the working class edition

1467 days ago

In a fairly long postcard from the Greek Hovel I cover a number of issues and start with the migrants in the Med and the ISIL threat - as ever the howling right wing British press has got this wrong. Then to the battle for the soul of the deserving working class: Labour vs UKIP vs The Tories - I have a few ideas for George Osborne.

Tom Winnifrith

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Wildlife diversity report from the Greek Hovel - a new spot

1467 days ago

I was standing on the horrible concrete balcony which I look forward to demolishing. But it has wonderful views out over the valley and something caught my eye - movement in the long grass by the prickly pear plants. I looked more closely and it was moving really quite fast seeking sanctuary in the big bowl where we collect water. Yes it was a tortoise. They roam wild here in Greece but are rather shy so by the time I had got down there with my camera it had scuttled into a hole. I am beginning to feel a bit like Gerald Durrell.

Tom Winnifrith

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Tom Winnifrith BearCast - 15 May, Shocking Wildlife Diversity Issue

1467 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/12209/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-15-may-shocking-wildlife-diversity-issue

Tom Winnifrith

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A New addition to the wildlife diversity at the Greek Hovel - land crab

1469 days ago

There was I motor biking from the Greek Hovel into Kambos when suddenly I saw it. I had just turned left after the dry river and started the climb up the hill next to the abandoned monastery (or was it a convent, one day I shall find out) when it appeared just sitting in the middle of the road.. a crab, potamon potiamos to give it its full name.

You and I might think that crabs live in the sea but there are in fact three varieties of land crab here in Greece, to go with the 27 varieties of snake. The little creature was about three inches wide and stood there as I fumbled in my bag trying - unsuccessfully - to find my camera. And then it headed off into the bushes.

More wildlife diversity here at the Greek Hovel

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Admin

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Tom Winnifrith: No Bearcast today but my dedication to you dear reader knows no bounds

1471 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/12117/tom-winnifrith-no-bearcast-today-but-my-dedication-to-you-dear-reader-knows-no-bounds

Tom Winnifrith

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Feeling frigging macho as I kill a rat at the Greek Hovel

1471 days ago

I thought that I had driven the live rat from the Greek Hovel but as I returned tonight I heard a distinct scuttling noise. A year ago I would have panicked but these days I am just not scared of the little critters any more. And so I picked uo the mini spade I use to clear ash from the fireplace and headed towards the noise.

I saw the rat dart under a pile of rugs. I lifted them ine by one and at rug five there stood the rat - a small thing about three inches long excluding tail - blinking in the light. 

Thwack. I missed. Thwack. I missed again. Thwack. Bullseye. If it was not dead it was almost a gonner and it just lay on its side. I scooped up the corpse, or near corpse, in my spatula and strode outside tossing the little thing off into the darkness for the snakes to gobble up.

I am feeling jolly proud of myself but have promised the Mrs that I shall use the silicon I bought today to fill in all cracks in the walls so that the one habitable room here is 100% rat proof before she comes late next week, But for tonight I shall wallow in the macho pride. Tom the rat killer.

Tom Winnifrith

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The Oak Tree at the Greek Hovel in its final summer – yes I’m going to be a mad axeman

1474 days ago

It is a lovely old tree. It offers shade both for me and also for various members of the wildlife diversity. But it must come down. Its roots are now getting under the floor of the bat room and have already cracked up most of the pavement on the snake patio so giving accursed frigana plants a footing. And so it must come down and I have been thinking how for a while.

I reckon that I should climb onto the roof with my saw and or axe and start at the top removing it branch by branch. I’d rather that falling timber did not crash out the vine trellis but it will be going anyway during the rebuilding works this fall.  For now I just stand and ponder and think about how I do it. But I think that I might try to get onto the roof in the morning to start work.

 

Admin

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Forgive me mother for I have sinned with chemical warfare at the Greek Hovel

1474 days ago

My mother was a bit of a hippy self-sufficiency nut in the early 1970s. I spent a happy holiday on a commune in Wales not fully taking in why the dreamers who lived there were so doomed to failure. I wonder what she would think of the Greek Hovel?

At one level I am sure she’d support the idea of eco-loos, ultimate plans to be self-supporting with solar energy and to grow or catch more and more of my own food. But would she be proud of me today as I head out to spray lethal chemicals on the land?

You see the frigana (little thorns that can turn into trees) is back. Last year I chopped it all down thinking of Bulletin Board Morons as my strimmer sliced through 2,000 square metres of the stuff. In February I burned whole areas down to the root. But just with BBMs it is back. You think a BBM moron has seen the light as he accepts that Worthington is not the new Hanson and then he pops up insisting that Daniel Stewart is the new Goldman Sachs.

And so across the land I have frigana again. Okay the plants now range from 2 inches (most of them – as above) to a foot whereas last year it was 8 inches to 4 foot and with giants coming in at 12 foot or more. But the bastards are all back. And so I have already started a 28 day programme to kill the lot with chemicals. This is my new backpack and already today I have sprayed a whole load onto the frigana. I shall do another session this afternoon and should have finished the whole property within 12 days. At which point I shall start again. This is war!

I cannot remember if my mother was so green that she did not use chemicals. I shall have to ask my father who arrives here next week. But if she did not, I beg her forgiveness but there really is no alternative.

Tom Winnifrith

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The better than sex water is flowing, the internet and coffee machines work – what more do I need?

1474 days ago

Slightly gingerly I got on my new bike and rode back to the Greek Hovel tonight. I encountered no wildlife diversity on the way home and, even better, none inside the hovel.  Things are actually working quite well here.  For starters the electricity has not been cut off despite there being an outstanding bill of 900 Euro. We think this is a bit of a misunderstanding and George the architect has played a blinder in keeping us in power. I sense we are not the only household in Greece not paying the bills. But we will do once the little misunderstanding is cleared up.

The water is also flowing. My guest last summer described the hosepipe shower as better than sex. That of course depends on who you are having sex with and, from a personal perspective, I would not be making such claims. But the water is great. It comes up the hill in a metal pipe and so by the time it gets here it is warm, shower-perfect. It is seriously the best shower you will ever enjoy. And so I flushed through the last winter water and pretty quickly I had warm water flowing strongly.

I have also managed to rig up by internet device and the coffee maker and so am online and now sipping my first mug of coffee. If the wildlife diversity gets too noisy at least I now have music to keep me company.

Already I can see moths gathering outside the glass of the front door. Okay the only door. They are drawn by the light. Pretty soon that door will become a killing field as the lizards start to feast. Occasionally you hear the lunge of a lizard as it thrashes its head gripping a soon to be ex-moth. If that is the only wildlife I hear tonight I shall count myself blessed.

For now Jon Bon Jovi is keeping me company and scaring off the wildlife diversity.


Tom Winnifrith

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Suffering Head On Bike Crash in Greece – Feeling Bruised and stupid

1474 days ago

In the end I could not get my head around a 200 cc bike with gears and so chickened out and hired another 150 cc automatic. But it felt great being on two wheels again as I whizzed up the mountain road from Kalamata to my home village of Kambos. It was warm but the wind was in my hair and as I swept down towards Kambos with the ruined castle looming in the background I just felt content and happy.

After dealing with the rat at the Greek hovel I headed into Kambos to do some work at my office, aka the Kourounis tavern. But for some reason they key in the bike was jammed and then broke. I could start the machine but not turn it off so I knew it had to be fixed or I’d have a dead battery by morning. Feeling really pissed off I headed back to Kalamata. I was so pissed off that I drove on the left hand side of the road.

Prang! At the corner by the petrol station I hit a van head on at about 20 km an hour. It all happened terribly fast but I sort of protected myself and ended up sprawling on the floor with my bike several yards down the road.

The driver was initially jolly good about it but the citizens of Kambos rushed out. The man from the snake repellent/hardware store, a chap whose name I cannot remember who drinks at Kourounis a little old lady were all at my side. I was told to sit down, given water to drink and the folks could not have been kinder.

After a while the the man whose name I cannot remember stick various bits of bike back on with sellotape I called the bike shop in Kalamata and John the bike man said he’d be there with a new bike in 30 minutes. I headed back to the Kourounis tavern where once again all sorts of folks fretted over me and waited with the driver of the van and his girlfriend. John was late. The chap got a bit testy and said we should head to see the Police at Kardamili police station, a building of which I do not have the happiest memories. I refused to budge knowing full well that the Kardamili Sergeant who lives in Kambos would be along soon. I’d rather play with a home referee.

After about ninety minutes the Police arrived. Despite all my neighbours saying that I was good to pay the 100-150 Euro it will need to mend the small issue his van has with its bumper, the van driver had called in the filth.  Luckily at that point John the bike man turned up and showing diplomatic skills worthy of Kofi Annan managed to get the Police to leave and the van man to put a sock in it. By this time I was not exactly feeling warm feelings towards him given that the deal he agreed with John was the same as agreed with my neighbours ninety minutes previously.

I feel daft for driving on the wrong side. My father had a prang in Greece 35 years ago and ended up in Court where the Judge said “the professor was driving beautifully but just on the wrong side” as he let him off. I guess it runs in the family.

My leg is a bit bruised as is my arm. I imagine both will be stiff as a rod in the morning. But above all I just feel a bit stupid but also very much at home with the folks of Kambos who were again so kind and who have all shouted “Yass Tom” as they have wandered into the Kourounis taverna tonight. Thanks also to the kind folks who have wteeted their best wishes.

PS Before you ask. No I have not had a drink for two days!

Tom Winnifrith

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Wildlife diversity report from the Greek Hovel

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.

 

 

Tom Winnifrith

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Tom Winnifrith BearCast May 8th - Rejoicing & snakes edition & Daniel Stewart ho ho ho

1475 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/12071/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-may-8th-rejoicing-and-snakes-edition-daniel-stewart-ho-ho-ho

Tom Winnifrith

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Weekly Postcard #109 - two weeks to Greece & the Moors Murderer backs UKIP edition

1488 days ago

News that the Moors Murderer Ian Brady is backing UKIP must delight Nigel Farage. Will he now admit that at least one of his supporters really is a fruitcake? But that is not the theme of this week's poscard it is Greece and the challenges I face this summer - starting in less than two weeks - and the challenges Greece faces. Mine are physical at the Greek Hovel. The country's challenges are financial and - I sense - coming to an uncertain head.

Tom Winnifrith

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Wouldn’t Grexit be bad for me personally? Yes. But why I support it 100% anyway

1508 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/11448/wouldn-t-grexit-be-bad-for-me-personally-yes-but-why-i-support-it-100-anyway

Tom Winnifrith

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The 57 year old Punk from The Stingrays makes my day on a train journey of two halves

1531 days ago

Gone are the days when I could start my working day at 3.30 AM on Monday, down two bottles of wine during the day, work through the night and a full day Tuesday, stay up all night fretting about a Court case, suffer a High Court ordeal, down a pint of champagne and feel totally on top form on the Wednesday evening. I guess I am getting old. And so by the time I arrived at Paddington for the 7 PM to Bristol Temple Meads I felt like death warmed up and just wanted to get home to the cats and my bed. The Mrs is still with her mother.

I sat in my seat, wrapped up warm and tried to sleep. But life is not always easy and the first part of my journey just made me feel like even more of a grumpy old man who wants to leave this rotten country and sit on my Greek mountain away from everything that is ghastly abut Britain today.

Being the first off peak train it was crammed and the vague smell of cheap fast food wafted through the corridors since many of my fellow passengers had grabbed some junk to gorge upon as they rushed to get home.

In the seats behind me a kid was doing maths with his mum. 19 + 19 is 28 he insisted. The generation that will look after mine in retirement is not only thick as two short planks but also shows no deference or respect to its parents. The mother was simply wrong, the kid insisted as his voice rose. But I guess like all the other morons he will grow up to be a wannebee celeb so his stupidity won’t be an issue.

A drunk gave me a long gaze as our eyes met. I’m a nice drunk. He was not a nice drunk. I shifted my eyes rather glad that there was an older gentleman sitting between me and the drunk who promptly collapsed and spent most of the time between London and Swindon lying prostrate in the aisle or trying to do the sort of pointless exercises that only the totally inebriated consider demonstrate that they are half sober.  I and the other passengers exchanged embarrassed smiles at his antics.

First Great Western apologised in a blundering, we really do not give a fuck, but pretend we care way as the fast train turned out to be a very slow train indeed, all the way to Reading. As we crawled into the City where Wilde was jailed I thought lovingly of life at the Greek Hovel and my friends in Kambos and contemplated booking a flight next week and just not coming back.

Pulling into Didcot I saw that the older gentleman next to me was interested in shares. His mobile thingy device had messages from Hargreaves Lansdowne and so I piped up “I see you are interested in shares”. We started talking. We will gloss over his ownership of Afren which I warned him was not perhaps the wisest investment, something 100% vindicated today. He has a very prudent and sensible approach to creating a balanced portfolio weighted towards collectives. He knew his onions.

The chap is a social worker but not, I think, the sort that steals your kids if you vote UKIP, but what was truly fascinating is that he was and is a real punk rocker.  He was the lead singer with the Stingrays, a band once described as the Bristol equivalent of the Ramones.  I had not heard of them but just as we could talk a common language in shares music was also a common language.

 

 

The Stingrays never made it big although John Peel loved them. But perhaps we should not really talk about everything Pee loved back in the 1970s these days as this is a family website. Not. But they played support to the Pretenders. I once bumped into Chrissie Hynde in an upmarket kitchen equipment shop in Swiss Cottage but that’s not really sex, drugs and rock n roll is it?  The Stingrays were also support on the first UK tour of U2. “They were rubbish” back then I was told. I guess Saint Bono of Smugness is therefore getting back to his roots these days.

One member of the band went on to play with Jo Boxer and made real dosh (remember The Boxer beat?). Was my new friend jealous? He smiled and said “of course” but admitted that the fellow was far more talented than he was and seemed really quite happy for him.

What is amazingly is that the band is still touring but just for fun. Rarely do they play in the UK although they did a couple of years ago on a SLF reunion bash. What would I have given to have heard this SLF number live  back in the days? Music is a common language, my friend says SLF and I say “alternative Ulster” – I know what he is talking about.

 

The Stingrays tour only in Japan. Apparently the kids there know all their songs. My friends says the band can’t actually remember the numbers themselves so have to re-learn them each year before touring, something they will be doing this April and – “according to our business plan” every April until 2017 when they turn 60.

I’ll say this for the UK. It throws up some real characters. Meeting this chap made my day and really reminded me why I sometimes like living here. Next time he gigs in Bristol he can drop me a note and I’ll be there.

As an aside, I shared with him that the best gig I ever attended was on the Lower East Side. in New York in the early eighties. Not the Bristol Ramones but the real Ramones. Continuing the video theme, I share with my pal, if he is reading, a gig that I'd also have given anything to attend: The Go Go's playing a Ramones classic from a set in Central Park in 2001. I wanna be sedated. That Belinda Carlisle: sex drugs and rock n'roll ( especually the drugs) - she knew how to party.

 

Tom Winnifrith

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Europcar are bastards, total bastards and should be avoided at all costs

1536 days ago

I used to use AutoUnion at Athens airport but for some reason switched to Europcar a couple of years ago. It is very cheap and they pick you up at the airport and take you to a compound in the middle of nowhere. And they let you drive away however hammered you may be so all in all it seems like a fair deal. The drawback? The compound is in the middle of nowhere so when you try to return the car you have to allow an hour for getting lost.

Natch when I picked the car up on my last trip to the Greek hovel it had a few scratches but I did not care. It was 4.15 AM and I wanted to get through Athens and off to the Mani before rush hour. Anyhow it was snowing and I was not going to hang around freezing my nuts off arguing about the odd scratch.

Wind forward 12 days and I returned the car and having duly spent an hour getting lost was getting a little flustered about checking in.  The man looked at the car and detected some small new scratches in four places. Driving up to the Greek hovel you go through bushes and other fauna and so I imagined he’d get a spray can and fill in the small scratches.

That will be an extra 400 Euro said the man. I should charge you 480 Euro, 120 Euro to respray each panel but I can offer you a bulk discount. WTF!

a) Such a respray would not cost 480 Euro even in England when you have a bulk deal with your local shop as Europcar must do.

b) Was the bloke who used the car before me leaving it with various scratches also charged for a total respray? Knowing what Greece is like do they honestly respray whole panels every time they get a small scratch?

Whether it is a or b I felt ripped off but they knew and I knew that I had no time to argue. And so I paid and stated that one good turn deserved another.  And on that basis might I encourage you to pass this article on to anyone heading for Athens and looking to rent a car with the clear advice that Europcar are complete and utter bastards and should be avoided at all costs.

Next time?  Next time I go to Greece I am finally sorting out my residency and that means I can buy a pick-up truck, my own motorbike and a gun. Never again will I have to go anywhere near Europcar. Have I made it clear that Europcar are complete and utter bastards and should be avoided at all costs?

Tom Winnifrith

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My last day at the Greek Hovel – 1 last satisfying bonfire

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.

/p>

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.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: A personal triumph at The Greek Hovel

1545 days ago

Those who visited the Greek Hovel last summer will remember the enormous pile of frigana built at the end of the garden. We all rather feared what wildlife diversity lived underneath it. It is no more.

I arrived on Friday with the rain tipping down so there was no George. Vreki = no burning. But sod it, I thought I'd have a go myself. With a small dose of petrol from my frigana cutter and a broken seat from an old chair I got the blaze going. What is that recipe from The Gruffalo? Baked snake? No apparely Nigel Somerville says that it is scrambled snake. Anyhow the great pile is no more and I burned it myself while rain stopped play for the locals. A triumph Indeed.

 

 

Tom Winnifrith

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The Hills are alive with the sound of....gunfire

1545 days ago

From morning through to night you can hear gunfire everywhere in the Mani right now. Yes it is the Albanian hunting season. Only kidding. What the folks shoot are little birds – anything with wings. In the old days Thrush was considered a delicacy and at least some of the carnage was eaten. These days the dead birds are just left to rot. This is all done in the name of “fun”

The area around the Greek Hovel is deemed a good killing field and so twice now I have been forced to reverse either up or down a steep hill as a convoy of pick-up trucks travels the other way. Normally quiet tracks are now humming.

Up on the mountain roads one comes across stretches where every 200 yards for a mile there is a parked truck on one side of the road and a – usually old – man on the other with his heavy gun.

 I know the Mani has a gun culture. I am considered a total weirdo for not having one. In the old days of blood feuds (19th century and before) when a boy was born he was known as “a gun” and by twelve was expected to be fighting.

I am a tremendous supporter of the right to carry firearms. Houses in Kambos do not suffer burglaries because a) there is not a lot to steal and b) the robber would get his head blown off. So the burglars focus on foreign owned houses by the Coast as the foreigners are richer and being woolly minded liberals would not dream of getting a gun.

I shall be getting a gun this summer for rabbits and to let it be known that I am no woolly minded liberal should any burglars find their way up to Kambos. But I shall not take part on the bird shoot. It is senseless and pointless. Besides which, unlike the old men, I have work to do.

 

 

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo Article: Snow on the High Taygetus behind the Greek Hovel

1546 days ago

I shall try to drive up to the snow covered peaks of the high Taygetus at the weekend. For now I just gaze up at them from the Greek Hovel. While we enjoy bouts of heavy rain and intermittent sunshine in the foothills of the Taygetus the high peaks are covered in snow.

The first photo is from the Greek Hovel itself and the far peaks are a bit covered in cloud but you can just make out the snow.

The second two shots are taken from the back of Kambos village near the main Church ( we have three) and give a rather better view of what lies ahead on my weekend field trip.  I very rarely snows in Kambos itself. The only effect of that snow is that when it finally melts the dry river will stop being a stream as it is now but will be a gushing little river, if only for a few days.

Tom Winnifrith

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Photo article: Burning the frigana at the Greek Hovel with George

1548 days ago

George the olive picker is back in my life and there is no end to his talents. I tried to set frigana on fire and failed abjectly. George gathers a pile of dried frigana – the stuff I slashed last summer – or olive branches from the harvest and whoosh! We have a bonfire. In fact he must have started about 25 as we moved up and down the terraces. 

George starts the fire and then he, his son and I would gather all the detritus from that terrace and the one above and throw it on. With the detritus half cleared George moves on to start another fire and the son and I finish clearing that little area.

It goes without saying that George is the fastest worker. He reaches into a pile of branches and twigs and gathers an enormous bundle which he lobs onto the fire. The son has no gloves and also reaches in in a fearless manner but being a young person appears to get a call or text that he must answer on his cellphone about every ten minutes. 

And there is me. I left my cellphone charging in the house but approach a bundle of branches and leaves with some trepidation. I am mindful that the snakes are in hibernation ad I know where they tend to sleep. What would a sleeping snake do if I disturbed it or, god forbid, picked it up? And so I tend to chuck on rather smaller piles.

There is also the fitness issue. George has the stamina of an ox. His son is less used to manual labour but has youth on his side. And there is me. Climbing up and down the terraces and bending down and reaching up for five hours has left me exhausted and I awake this morning with my body aching all over. But there is no rain forecast and so once again I shall be heading up to the Greek Hovel shortly.

There are small shoots of frigana appearing all over the place and the odd stem and branch we missed last year. It is nothing like the jungle I met last summer and hacked away with pleasure with my strimmer thinking bad thoughts about Bulletin Board Morons as I chopped away.  As such there is a sort of pleasure when one sees old dead frigana ablaze, with the flames reaching out and burning off some of the new green shoots. It feels almost like poetic justice. 

I can see that there will be light frigana cutting this summer or perhaps some poisoning as I treated myself and bought a new heavy duty poisoning backback in the autumn. The war is not over but I feel like we are at early 1945. The enemy is trying to fight back but it is very much on its last legs.

Tom Winnifrith

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Tom Winnifrith BearCast - A very special double Greek Hovel Prize Edition

1548 days ago

http://www.shareprophets.com/views/10778/tom-winnifrith-bearcast-a-very-special-double-greek-hovel-prize-edition

Tom Winnifrith

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The not so dry, dry river at the Greek Hovel

1548 days ago

As predicted, by Monday mornng as the heavy rains on Sunday washed down from the Taygetus mountains, the dry river at the bottom of the valley that lies between the Greek Hovel and the village of Kambos was, er, not so dry.

Two photos, one upstream and one showing where the river flows over the road and downstream show what I mean. It is not exactly life threatening but having driven over a parched and dry river bed all summer it makes an interesting change.

Tom Winnifrith

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Wet, Wet, Wet at the Greek Hovel - photo article

1551 days ago

Not only is it freezing cold but it is pissing it down in the Mani today. So in a rather cowardly fashion I have extended my stay in my nice warm hotel in Kalamata rather than catching pneumonia at the Greek Hovel. But I have popped over to make sure that I can work online here as tomorrow I am multi-tasking: writing and burning frigana. But boy is it wet. 

Photo one is of a puddle – one of many I drove through – this one is at the bottom of the valley.

The next two photos look upstream and downstream at the dry river. As you can see it is not so dry and is now starting to flow across the track. Heaven knows what it will be like by tomorrow. 

Because looking up to the Taygetus mountains behind the hovel it looks wet, wet, wet indeed. The rain that falls there today will be hitting the dry river tomorrow morning just as I try to cross it.

Tom Winnifrith

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Weekly postcard #101: paper phalluses, lent, masks and cheese week

1551 days ago

I am greatly confused. I record from the Greek Hovel and the noise outside is a storm blowing. There is a large statue in the centre of Kambos. Tonight we celebrate the start of lent. Is it no more meat or the start of cheese week? Why dont we have paper phalluses in the Mani? I try to explain all.

My more serous postcard about the ills of Greece and what she should do is HERE

Tom Winnifrith

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Greece from snowstorm to sun in 60 miles

1553 days ago

In my snowcast earlier I described my journey today to the Greek hovel. At Athens airport there were small flakes of snow but as I drove up into the mountains of the Peloponnese the snow thickened. The short video below was shot at 6 AM my time (four yours) in the dark of a service station 10 miles shy of Tripoli and only 60 miles North of Kalamata where I crashed into a hotel bed at 7.30 AM my time.

When I woke the scene below is from my window. It was cold but sunny and I worked with the window open. It was chilly enough to keep me awake but not too cold.

But as darkness fell it started getting colder. There is a howling wind and it s now just about 0 degrees outside. Up in Kambos it is a three degrees colder as it is half way to the Taygetus mountains. The sun set over the other side of the gulf is pretty spectacular.

Tom Winnifrith

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West Ham dumped out of FA Cup by West Brom, it is my fault but fat Sam still talking cobblers

1558 days ago

And so the FA Cup dream is over after we were thrashed 4-0 by West Brom at The Hawthorns. Fat Sam Allardyce is quoted as admitting that we were “second best” on the day. No shit Sherlock. FOUR NIL you might justifiably say that we were second best. Put another way we played like shite.

But I must admit that I played my part on our downfall. I did not watch the game. That would have made it six nil. I did not even think about it. However I allowed myself to dream.

I shall be heading back to the Greek Hovel in early May in order to avoid the General Election and to start a five month sabbatical working on a non-finance project.  But the other day I thought “what about the FA Cup Final?” I decided that were we win it I would fly back, take out a second mortgage and get a seat for myself and my daughter. Yes, I made those plans and that ensured that we would not get anywhere near Wembley.

I apologise to all West Ham supporters for my part in our 2015 downfall.

Looking on the bright side we are on 38 points. By my reckoning that is one win and two draws and we are safe from relegation. When was the last time you can remember us going into March contemplating the fact that we were certain NOT to go down?

Tom Winnifrith

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Five Days to Greece! Getting in the mood with Despina Vandi

1559 days ago

In five days time I shall be landing in mighty Hellas. Within six days I should be back among my friends  in the little village of Kambos. The weather forecast says that it will be minus 7 tonight at the Greek Hovel. I imagine that the Taygetus mountains that stetch out behind the Hovel are capped with snow.

On the bright side, I spoke to lovely Eleni from the Kourounis taverna yesterday. I called and said in my best Greek "kale-nichta" at which point she laughed and said "oh, hello Tom." I guess there are not many folks who call who speak Greek as badly as I do. Anyhow plans are underway for frigana burning with George the olive picker.

Also on the bright side, at minus seven the snakes are still going to be very much asleep. 

On the minus side I sense that the hovel might be a little on the nippy side. We shall brush over the matter of my Greek lessons, I have promised the Mrs I will do some revision before she returns from the Grim North tomorrow. So don't call me in the morning even if you are Quindell whistleblower. Meanwhile I am doing a spot of revision with Despina.

 

Tom Winnifrith

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Spot The Odd One Out Competition: Win Greek Hovel Olive Oil

1571 days ago

This is easy. All you have to do is name the odd one out and why. The deadline for entries is noon on Monday 2nd. Simply post your answer in the comments section below. The prize is a bittle of Greek Hovel olive oil. 

So which is the odd one out and why? (hint the picture is a clue)

Voltaire, Peter Tatchell, Schillings the lawyers, Mark Steyn, David Cameron, James Beckwith, Guy Aldred.

Easy…

Tom Winnifrith

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Charon – my nearest neighbour at the Greek Hovel

1572 days ago

I have no pictures of Charon. That is because he always pops up by surprise. If you arrange to meet he is never there. He just turns up and then disappears. 

His house is the nearest one to the Greek Hovel. The long and winding road from Kambos does not end at the hovel but turns back on itself and up the next hill. I really had no idea where it headed but one day curiosity got the better of me and I turned my bike around and headed on up. After about a mile and a half you arrive at a ramshackle but clearly inhabited set of buildings, the house of Charon. He is one hill higher up than me. The next range of hills behind him leads straight into the mountains.

Charon is not his real name. It is Nikko but since half the village is called Nikko I stick with the name I gave him when we first met. The poor man was returning from a walk into the village to buy cigarettes. It was a blazing hot day and not being the fittest fellow on this planet he was dripping with sweat. His greying hair is longer than mine and with the sweat pouring off him my mind sprang to Virgil’s description of the ferryman to the underworld. Nikko’s rather long face always looks a little sad even when he is smiling.

There is only one thing worse that trying to chat to someone who speaks only Greek when you speak only English. And that is trying to chat to someone who speaks just enough English to think that he can communicate but in fact cannot. And thus when Charon and I chat it is a truly painful experience. He says a few words in English which are in fact the wrong words and intersperses that with Greek which I cannot understand at all. 

So for cold Nikko uses the word hot. After a while I figured that out when we drank some “hot” water straight from the fridge. When Charon is around I grab my Greek English dictionary to dull the pain of non-comprehension but our conversations are still monumentally hard going. 

The man appears from nowhere for our chats.  I am standing there holding my strimmer hacking away at the frigana thinking about Bulletin Board Morons and suddenly I am conscious that there is someone behind me. If I turn too quickly leaving the strimmer on I’d cut his testicles off but I have learned to live with the appearance of the apparition. I am sitting tapping away at my PC with my back to the door and I hear no sound of anyone approaching but there he is standing behind me gazing into my screen. 

Charon is a big music fan and tells me that he has four stereo systems at his hovel - that might in facr mean anything between 1 and five. But there is at least one because just occasionally the night time silence is broken by the sound of music blaring from the next range of hills up towards the mountain. It is as if there is a party but while there will be plenty of music and drinking there is only one man partying on all night.

Charon’s catch phrase is “English cigarettes good" at which point I hand over a few of my Greek fags as he appears to have run out. But it is not all one way trade. He brings almonds from a tree near his house and figs, not that the latter is in short supply at our Hovel. And it was he who showed me how to pick and eat prickly pears without taking in a mouthful of prickles. For that I am truly grateful.

How will our relationship develop? I have no idea. Occasionally I give him a lift into Kambos on my bike and we swear to meet up a day later for a drink. Of course he does not turn up although I am always there expecting for some reason that he will be. Perhaps as my Greek improves our conversations might progress a little further.

 

 

 

 

Tom Winnifrith

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It is all Greek to me -Lesson one tomorrow

1586 days ago

After spending a total of four months at the Greek Hovel and holidaying in mighty Hellas perhaps twenty times in my life I still speak almost no Greek. It is shameful. But that ends tomorrow.

For my birthday the Mrs, who speaks good Greek and fluent Swedish as well as Northern English, has bought me five lessons. The teacher is recommended by none other than the ex wife of Red Trousers, the buffoonish money treee worshipping Mayor of Bristol. Lesson one is on skype and starts at 10.30 AM.

To the folks in Kambos...I am going to shock you all on my return on 18 Febuary.

Tom Winnifrith

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Seeing my guest at the Greek Hovel Naked – what does a Gentleman do?

1600 days ago

The normal routine at the Greek Hovel this summer was that I would go for a short run first. Not being the fittest of fellows the run would indeed be short. At best I would make it to the bottom of snake hill, have a brief rest staring at the pond at the bottom of the valley and then walk back up snake hill – bitterly regretting having gone down the steep slope in the first place as I looked our carefully for wildlife diversity. I would then jog back along the olive groves and arrive back at the hovel a sweaty and topless wreck.

My guest would make no comment on the brevity of my run in distance terms. For I had been away a good while and so she naturally assumed that I had managed a reasonable distance. She would then trot off spending about the same time away but managing to make it to the village of Kambos and back. That means climbing two steep hills and covering twice the distance. By the time she returned I would have had time for a restorative cigarette or three and for a naked shower. I would then hide inside the hovel while she showered.

You will remember that my shower at the Greek Hovel is a hosepipe draped over the vine. The water has come up the hill in metal pipes and so is just the right temperature. It is the best shower in the world in summer. My guest said that the shower is “better than sex”. Well it is good but not that good. I suppose that it depends with whom you are having sex with.

But one day my guest went running first. As she arrived back I trotted off but on snake hill on the descent I felt a muscle pull. I tried to limp on but could not. And so – feeling quite relieved that I had only a bit of snake hill to reclimb - I jogged slowly back to the house.  As I approached the entrance to the drive I distinctly saw a pink shape underneath the shower. What is a gentleman to do?

As luck would have it my glasses which had cracked earlier that year were still cracked. Indeed they remain cracked to this day as I never seem to find the time to go into an optician. They are also usually dirty and on this occasion were tinged with sweat. As such the pink object was sufficiently blurred that I have no graphic details to relay. But there was no doubt about it, my guest was enjoying the best naked shower one can ever enjoy which she was thinking was better than sex.

Should I call out “Cooeeee, I’m back and I can see you are starkers” which might for a reticent well brought up Englishman be a bit embarrassing? Or should I hide round the corner and wait. Naturally it was the latter. After a few minutes I popped my head around but boy was she enjoying the shower. It was clearly going to be an endless shower. And so I waited another ten minutes and the pink blurry shape had disappeared and I wandered in, not mentioning that my run had been a little truncated.

Being too much of a bumbling shy Englishman I have not mentioned this little incident until now. But I guess with the passage of time it is better to fess up.

Tom Winnifrith

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Picture article: Pressing the Olive Oil from the Greek Hovel

1601 days ago

In the summer I used to drive past this old shed on the main street of Kambos every day. I was told that it was the olive oil factory but it looked deserted as if, like so much of Greece, it was a relic of times gone by when folks actually had jobs. But how wrong I was. By mid-November this place is a hive of activity. It is positively humming.

From late morning until well into the evening there is a constant queue outside of pick up tracks, of trailers pulled by tractors or just of ordinary vans and cars each bringing in bag after back of olives for pressing. Some folks deposit just a couple of bags, a trailer behind a tractor might disgorge fifty or sixty.

My seventy five bags arrived in three trips made by George the chief olive picker at the Greek Hovel in his battered blue pickup.

Each time strapping young men wearing military trousers grabbed the bags and loaded them onto trollies. They tossed the bags on into need stacks as if they were lifting a bag of groceries. I attempted to help, almost collapsed into the pile, so heavy were the bags, and thus just decided to watch while trying to look sort of managerial. No-one was fooled. They all knew that I did not have the faintest idea what was going on but none the less humoured me.

My bags were weighed and the charming factory manager, pictured below, gave me a yellow slip with their weight.

All in all, George and his team with some help from myself had harvested 2.7 tonnes (2,700 kg) of lives. Eventually some hours after our final bags were dropped off it was time to press my olives and as pre-arranged with the manager (with Nikko and the lovely Eleni interpreting) I was there as the sacks were emptied into a hopper.

As you can see my olives are green, purple and black…they look like sweeties but the great machinery does not discriminate on the basis of colour and the lives slip gradually into the hole in the hopper before emerging going up a conveyer belt which allows a young man in combats to take time off from texting to to remove some of the more obvious leaves and twigs.

The olives are washed and then rattle across rolling bars which remove the last of the leaves and then it is into a great big whirring machine.

Inside this machine are separate chambers allowing olives from separate farmers to be multi-crushed. My olives filled three of the six chambers where giant blades turn olives into a sort of sludgy tapenade but already you can see oil oozing to the surface.

The tapenade heads through anther machine which separates the oil from the sludge which is sent off elsewhere for what I do not know. And after heading through a few more pipes a bright green liquid starts to gush out into huge vats.

From one vat we extracted 16 litres of oil. This can headed back to England with me in my rucksack and was exceptionally heavy. It has dug into my back from Kambos to Bristol, hurting every step of the way. But the first bottle from that can will today be handed out as a Christmas present.

The rest of the oil was just sucked away into a communal vat, another 336 litres. After lovely Eleni sorted out the paperwork I was presented with a chit allowing me to claim a cheque for 1779 Euro from the big Olive Oil factory in Kalamata. That factory is, you see, fed by the little presses in each of the villages of the Mani.

As the oil poured into the tank the young man in combat trousers in charge of the whirring machines took a quick break from checking the machines while at the same time smoking sixty a day to stick his little finger into the green fluid. He tasted and pronounced it to be of the highest quality. I followed suit and naturally agreed. You really can taste the olive in this oil and there is an afterkick in your throat. It is quite amazing stuff.

It is far too good for salad dressing or certainly for cooking. back in Bristol we just dip bread in it and dream of Kambos.. Meanwhile small bottles of he stuff have been handed out this Christmas to the chosen few and a few more NewYear gifts are on the way.

 

 

Tom Winnifrith

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In praise of Nicho, Papou in Kambos

1601 days ago

On my first night at the Greek Hovel I wandered into town to watch the World Cup Final. As you may remember I was the only person present supporting the Krauts against the Argies and this drew particular disapproval from one man wearing the heavy moustache one would associate with a Maniot warrior of old.  That man was Nicho.

By the end of the summer we were firm friends. He speaks English and is the life and soul of the Kourounis tavern run by the lovely Eleni. The young men call him Papou (grandfather) but respect him as a chap who can drink them under the table, happily do a Greek dance – after half a bottle of whisky – but also be deadly serious.

As the only English speaker bar Eleni he is a conduit for me to wider world. His main job is with an organic food form headquartered in Athens. But he can work remotely and one imagines that business is not exactly booming and so he has plenty of time for more important things such as growing olives.

You will remember that an olive tree is viewed as a being like a beautiful woman who must be treasured and cared for. And Nicho owns a 500 year old specimen which in Kambos terms is like saying that you have Cheryl Cole waiting for you at home lying in a state of undress on your bed.

The Mani has always been staunchly Royalist and so will vote heavily for New Democracy in the forthcoming election although I am sad to say that Golden Dawn – the Nazis - has prominent headquarters in the centre of Kalamata and will attract some support. But Nicho is a communist. He knows that I am not.

Greek communists, supporters of KKE, are not quite like the Marxists of Islington we might know. I’d say on the left of the UK Labour party but with a heavy dose of loathing the Americans thrown in. And the Germans of Course. The British are n