Sunday, December 19, 2010

A GREAT BIRTHDAY

9.20 p.m. at the end of one of the best birthdays ever. My crib is full of flowers, courtesy of neighbours, son Peter and niece Mary from Plymouth Mass. My in box is full of messages from friends from all over and my phone is busiest it has been since last birthday. This afternoon, in company with friends Glennys and Ethelwynne, I went to see the Metrpolitan Opera production of Don Pasquale; The music is still ringing in my brain. Then we had roast beef at the Star and Garter, my favourite restaurant in Oamaru. I tried to upload a couple of photos to share but my machine kept making excuses, drat it. I think the pictures have gone to Facebook.

The Opera season, showing once a month at Movie World, is incredible. Das Reingold, the first of Wagner's Ring Cycle, is German, Boris Gudenov, by Moussorgski, is Russian and today, Donizetti's Don Pasquale, Italian, so we are seeing a range of pera styles and hearing music in different languages. Also we are seeing behind the scenes to the incredible and vast complex which makes staging these operas possible. In Don Pasquale we saw entire stage settings mounted on tracks moved silently off stage, to be just as silently replaced by the next scene, from Don Pasquale's dilapidated Roman villa to Norrina's rooftop terrace to Don Pasquale's garden. The singing and acting was brilliant of course but the stand out performance was Anna Netrebko, a stunningly beautiful lyric soprano who literally danced about the stage, while singing, she even turned a couple of somersaults! Another highlight was the Duet between Don Pasquale and Dr. Malatesta , what musical comedy would call a patter song, but delivered at full operatic throttle with machine gun speed but perfect ennunciation.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

DISGUSTING, WHERE CAN I GET ONE?


A news item on Yahoo this morning shows a photograph of a nude rugby player mid interception. Not a Whetton or a Brookes or a Bunce, or whoever the pin up All Blacks are these days. A Women's Rugby Club decided to raise money by publishing a calendar a la 'Calendar Girls'.Not completely unclothed, she wore boots and socks and looked rather nice. I have several adolescent grand sons who would appreciate a calendar like that for Christmas.
But where is this going to stop? Imagine the shelves in Paper Plus or Whitcoulls some December in the future - all the groups who huddle at tables outside supermarkets on freezing cold days selling raffle tickets could each have their own nude calander: Cancer Society with daffodils in strategic places, St Johns Ambulance,Stroke Foundation;Gray Power; Citizens'Advice? Fire fighters and Women's Institute have been done. The mind boggles.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

SOME PEOPLE GIVE ALL YEAR ROUND


Ruth Arnison is a Dunedin poet who recently won both first and second prize in the Timaru Rose Society's annual poetry competition. But as well as writing great poetry Ruth prodces POEMS IN THE WAITING ROOM a pamphlet of poems distributed free to doctors' waiting rooms and rest homes. They are a mix of old fashioned traditional main stream and new poems by New Zealand poets. Ruth selects the poems, clears copyright, sweet talks sponsors and arranges printing and distribution four times a year, a big task and all voluntary.

Jan Vernon is a Temuka poet who won first prize in the Rose festival contest three years ago. She is often published in The Listener and other magazines. Recently she completed a magnificent long dramatic work of Poetry, 'Pele's Children'. Jan regularly visits a local rest home in Temuka and reads poetry to the residents, many of whom are younger than she is.

These are just two of the people who quietly give their talents and time to making life better for people around them. As well as these two there are the secretaries of groups,social, religious,sporting dramatic, musical who work incredibly long hours without pay. I wonder, if some 21st century Guy Fawkes succeeded in exterminating Parliament would we notice? If our unpaid volunteers disappeared how long would our communities be able to carry on?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

GODUNOV FOR OAMARU


Our local cinema complex holds Sunday afternoon screenings of what I can only describe as 'cultural events'. They are sparsely attended.
In 2004 I paid $4,000 to travel to and attend the Adelaide production of Wagner's Ring Cycle, all four operas. They were magnificent but last month I paid $28 to attend the screening of New York Metropolitan Opers's production of Das Rheingold, the first of the Ring Cycle and it was even more magnificent that the Adelaide experience. Brilliant photography put us right on the stage of the Met, looking at Bryn Terfel's tonsils, we were so close.
So yesterday I, and six other people watched and listened to Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov which ran for 5 hours 30 minutes. My head is still ringing with the music, my eyes are still dazzled from the opulence of the production, and my mind is still grappling with the complexities of a plot straight out of Aristotle's Poetics.
Boris Gudonov ruled Russia in the sixteenth century. He was a kindly, well intentioned man who did not understand the hugeness of his task. He wanted to be loved by his subjects so he handed out scraps of bread to a few beggars be but had no concept of the reforms needed to make a real difference. He was gullible, believing the fairy tales fed to him by corrupt boyars and greedy churchmen.
There is a lot of subtle political comment, for example the itinerant friars who rob a sleeping guest in a wayside inn, the shallow bitchiness of the Polish court,and finally the dying Boris who advises his son to rule Russia by 'heeding the simple wisdom of the common people and to trust in God,' while outside those common people are rioting and welcoming the false pretender Dmitri, and the military arm of the Roman church including those two venal friars who have swapped from Orthodox to Catholic.
What I found tragic was the thought that four hundred years later people have still not learned 'simple wisdom'. But the sight of two horses being ridden on to the vast stage at the Metropolitan Opera House was worth every cent of the admission price.

if you want to learn more google www.nzmetopera.com

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I'M DREAMING OF A WRITE CHRISTMAS


ADDIE ACCIDENT by Shirley Corlett Scholastic ISBN 078-1-86942-971-2 Shirley sent me a review copy which will go to my ten year old grandaughter. It deals with self esteem, how to overcome bullying and using one's imagination all packed into a fast action slightly improper story.
A SINGULAR SKYLARK by Shirley Grave ISBN 978-0-473-18043-3. Shirley is dedicated to rhyme, which would usually turn me off, but these verses are entertaining and funny,
with often a thorn amid the hearts and flowers, like 'Phasing Out Home Support' and 'The Farmer's Wife.' Fun to dip into.
TOM PEPPER'S DOG a Geraldine anthology collected and edited by Jan Hill. ISBN 978-0-473-15973-6; Pleasant Valley Publishing. I love good anthologies from writing groups. It's like eating home baking after a diet of factory food. Another one for dipping into at odd moments.
ARISTOTLE'S POETICS FOR SCREENWRITERS by Michael Tierno, Hyperion, ISBN 978-0-7868-8740-8. This is going to grandson Tom, 2nd year University classics student who was having stories broadcast on EARS at age 4. The chapter headings alone are worth the price of the book. His brother, who was making films at age 11 is getting Robert McKee's STORY.
FROM BEIRUT TO JERUSALEM by Thomas L. Friedman. Farrar, Straus & Giraux ISBN-13:978-0-374-15895-8. A personal account of the Arab-Israeli-Lebanese-Palestine conflict written by a real newspaper correspondent. Real, as in what John Ralston Saul calls 'the faithful witness.' This is going to ex-soldier son Terry when I have finished reading it myself.
THE WRITER'S JOURNEY MYTHiC STRUCTURE FOR WRITERS by Christian Vogler published by Michael Wise Productions ISBN 978-1-932907-36-0. This one is for me. I am sick of lending it and never getting it back so this time it is mine, all mine.

TIS THE SEASON


Deck the malls with plastic holly
Fa la la la la la and razz ma tazz
the season's come for retail folly
cards maxed out and all that jazz
sun is sizzling
kids are grizzling
carol muzack rapes our ears
feeling anything but jolly
we'll do it all again next year.

MY CHRISTMAS WISH LIST
1. a gadget for my car which automastically debits a farmer's bank account when I drive over the shitty mess left by his cows and have to get the car cleaned again.

2. a set of shelves which automatically tidies books away.

3. a toy boy that hangs on the wall beside my apron and only comes down to mow lawns, dig the garden and change light bulbs.

4. a computer that does what it's told, does not lose whole swadges of my text and does not refuse to upload images when I tell it to.

That will do for starters.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

NOT DEAD YET


The phone call came from an acquaintance who asked in slightly boozy tones'why did I wrie a blog. Nobody would bother to read it.
'Right,'I decided 'keeping a blog is a bit like talking to oneself, or shouting down a black hole. If nobody is bothering to read I shall concentrate on real writing, 'and I did for a couple of months. Then the e mails began, not many, but enough to give me heart, and friends started asking what had happened to my blog, so here I go again, with details of my rivetting ocial life.
By the way I am not responsible for what happened in Christchurch a week after I came home. It was not caused by tremors from me getting off the plane. I have lost too much weight to endanger anything.
After shivering throughout September, bewailing the fact that I should have still been in Crete I spent a day with Glenavy Women's Institute on their mystery bus tour.
The photo at the top of this posting is from the Annalong gardens, near Makakihi. It seems there were three tearaway brothers named Quinn who did something dreadful in Ireland. Their father collected rents from Annalong villagers for the absentee landlord. The brothers stole the rent money and took of to Liverpool. When they heard the landlord was after them they stowed away on a ship to Australia and finally reached New Zealand. They started a brick works and prospered, built a homestead which has endured inspite of being damaged by fire. We enjoyed tea and hot scones in the farm kitchen, as well as hearing some cracking stories about the house, like the priest's room. An itinerant priest travelled from Timaru to Oamaru, and stopped for a night at Annalong homestead in a room set aside for him.
Annalong was only the first stop on a busy day, I shall continue this saga on another day; lunch at a millionnaires playground, an Ashburton craft village where the clothes are NOT made in China, but right there on the premises, a garden which won a gold medal at the Ellerslie Flower Show and what Par Lap's statue in Timaru is resting its foot on.
Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

ABROAD THOUGHTS FROM BACK HOME



On my last day in Crete I stayed in Chania. at the Best Western Hotel in Porto Venezione, built by Venetians in the 15th century. Taking a last walk along the shore I found the Maritime Museum which houses the replica of a Minoan galley, built and sailed by a group of enthusiasts, just to prove it could be done. There are exhibits of the drills and lathes used in the building of the Minoa, a photographic record of Cretanmaritime history. I spent two hours looking at it zall, bought a yachting cap for Richard.
And if anyone reading this blog is wondering about an affordable holiday in the Mediterranean I recommend Chania, with walks around old harbours, sea walls built nearlya thousand years ago cafes serving delicious food, and that tideless ocean withing metres.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

BELIEF IN ANGELS

I am not religious, apart from suspecting that each one of us creates God in our own image, or the image of what we would like to be. But I find the evidence for the existance of angels close to overwhelming, an angel being a person who appears at a crucial moment and gives help just because it is needed. Consider-
LOUTRO 2008, I was due to take the noon ferry to Sfakia and catch the bus to Chania but one ferry broke down and the other could not get into the harbour. Finally about 7 p.m., on its last run for the day, MV Daskalogianis manouvered into the bay and picked ua up. The ferry decks were crammed so I joined the dozens of people in the cargo bay. Standing next to me Doug and Rose from Arrowtown. when we reached Sfakia Doug carried my suitcase and Rose scurried ahead and located my bus for me before heading off to their tour bus. (Angels 1 & 2 )
CHANIA bus station, later, after a three hour bus ride I went to climb off the bus, only to find my right leg had gone to sleep, and I amde a most undignified exit. A group of people who had been on the ferry, having walked the Samaria gorge (28ks)
took over, rescued my luggage and steadied me.
'How much have you had to drink to-day?" asked a tall grey headed man with a Scottish accent. 'I mean water.'
His Mexican wife rummaged in her bag and produced a bottle of water. The group (nurses on holiday from Edinburgh) insisted on giving me their taxi. (angels 3-8}
I was booked into the Porto dela Colombo, a boutique hotel in the old town. The taxi could only take me to the bottom of the hill. The roadway upwards was jammed with tables full of late diners. So I hoisted my carry on bag and lugging my suitcase on wheels I set off up hill. It was hard going and I was beyond carying about how I looked, a silly old cow trudging up hill.
Then behind me I heard the patter of running feet, 'I'm going to be mugged,' I thought and kept trudging.
'Let me take your suitcase,' said a velvet covered male voice. He was a waiter at one of the restaurants, his mother had seen me trudging past and sent him to help me.
He carried both my bags up the hill and down the steps to my hotel. Without him I would have been stranded because the hotel was locked. a notice on the door, in Greek, gave instructions about opening the security box that held the keys. My rescuer got the door open, found the light switch, deposited my bag, shook hands and left. (angel 9 & 10 his mother counts as an angel).
Next morning I felt better, but my leg was still hurting when I went down to breakfast. Two other guests were in the room.
"What's wrong with your knee?" asked the man. I explained about the broken down ferry and the bus ride.
His wife handed me a card of pain killers. They were doctors from Brisbane in Crete for a conference. (angels 11 & 12)
At the end of that particular trip a man in Bangkok airport carried my overnight bag for me, then on arrival in Auckland organised my baggage collection and saw me safe on to the Christchrch plane. He showed me the plans he was brining from Mogolia so that he could build a genuine yurt.(anhgel 13 and I refuse to be superstitious.)

Then this year I boarded the bus in Kissamos, very disgruntled that Greek bureaucracy had ruined my plans for another month in Crete. Sitting in the seat next to me a middle aged Greek lady. We conversed with nods and gestures and my minimal Greek and her limited English. At Chania she walked a half kilometre to the taxi rank, carrying my big bag and found a taxi driver who spoke good English. She smiled, wished me Adiosa and vanished. angel 14.

So although I am not religious I do believe in angels, they are people who, when they see a need, give help without expecting recompense. Being an angel is a quality of mind, not a matter of feathered wings and haloes.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

NEITHER EARTH TREMOR NOR EQUINOXIAL GALE


Just a bump as I come back to earth, along with the other several hundred air bus passengers, and a sigh as I wish I had taken this trip years ago.
On the plus side, discovering still more secrets of Crete. One is the Best Western in Porto Venezione in Chania's old town, which is steps away from the Maritime Museum in a 15th century Venetian warehouse, next to a waterside cafe which serves fried fresh sardines with Greek salad. Then there is a lovely little garden attached to the hotel's bar where I sat in the cool and drank frappe for the last time. I shall certainly stay there next time I am heading for Loutro and that will keep me out of Sergeant Anastatakis' way.
Then there was the courtesy and kindness of airport staff. Chania does not have air bridges but now it has a special machine which lifts wheelchair passengers up to the plane entrance. And there was a procession of handsome Greek, Arab, and Australian men who wheeled me to and from planes, not forgetting the jolly Aussie blonde in Sydney and the New Zealand girl whose kiwi accent almost sent me into tears of homesoming joy.
And here is a free advertisement to anyone thinking of travelling. Give Emirates a try. I am going to devote a whole blog to them later. What Dubais is accomplishing is quite incredible. They have a literary Festival there each March. The last one attracted 100 writers and 25,000 people! As for their airport, a vision of sand blasted glass, chromium columns. marble tiled floors and space and coolness.
It is now 5 p.m. yesterday according to my body clock, and my skin is complaining because it has not felt this cold for four months. So goodnight, Kalinocte all.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I WISH I HAD WRITTEN THAT

EDWIN MORGAN born 1920 died last week. He was the first Poet Laureate for Scotland,wrote wonderfully imaginative poems with the main these of communication.I knew about him because of the Loch Ness Monster's song. But his website (just google his name } has a wonderful selection of his work. In particular the poem he wrote about being eighty:

Being Eighty
Edward Morgan 1920-2010

Push the boat out compaleros
push the boat out whatever the sea
through the boiling reefs black as they are
the enemy of us all makes sure of it!
Mariners! keep good watch alight
for that last passage of blue water
we have heard of and long to see
no matter if we cannot, no matter
in our eighty year old timbers
leaking and patched as they are but sweet
well seasoned with the scent of boards
long perished. Servicable still
in unarrested pungency
like distant ships in mist, or bell
clanging ruthless from stormy buoys.


And Edwin Morgan's definition of Poetry? Partly an instrument of exploration.

Monday, August 23, 2010



Taking pictures in bright sunlight when I cannot see the screen is disappointing. Maybe I need one of those cloths my father used to hide his head under when he was setting up his plate camera and we all had to hold our breath and NOT BLINK for an eternity before he pressed the little plunger that opened the shutter. These shots were meant to be of the hill that dominates the back of Kissamos, taken from the elementary school and the other was to show some of the useful Greek words I have learned looking at the street signs; good Greek words like 'Toyota Hilus',Honda, Motorent, and there is one on a garage door on the way to town. Parkn verbot.
I found another little bookshop in the shopping area to-day and bought a copy of 'Zorba The Greek' in English, plus a rather weighty tome about Crete which is not Lonely Planet or Let's Go! What would Jimmy Fitzpatrick say if he were making travelogues to-day?
'As our plane pulls away from the ground and the sun sinks slowly in the west we say 'Farewell'to the Island of Crete, birthplace of Zeus and countless legends renowned in literature.' But I don't suppose anyone reading this has ever heard of Jimmy Fitzpatrick who made travel films in the days when everyone had to go everywhere by boat.


Well to-morrow I shall head down the hill for the last time and rewind the road to Xania

Sunday, August 22, 2010

OH THAT FEELS GOOD!



The yard was littered with dead leaves again but I ignored them and set off for the beach. This is my last Subday in Kissamos and I am not going to spend it sweeping up.
As soon as I turned the corner I felt the wind, not strong but cooling and the olive tree by the old Roman baths was shaking its silver green leaves and singing a little song of delight.As I walked from the museum down towards the promenade I could see long lines of white waves surging into the bay, and not a surfboard in sight. Nobody was drinking at the outdoor tables either, although plenty of people strode into the wind, relishing the cool.The cafes have not opened their big sun umbrellas. A little boy, about three years old,with black curls and olive skin chased the spray as it slapped above the sea wall. Voluptuous young women with long brown legs and short white dresses strode into the breeze, the wind lifting their long hair as they walked.
My lunch was a cheeseburger, with more garlic and onion than MacDonals would serve and an ice cold frappe. My bill was inserted into a little plastic tube so it would not blow away and I set a 2e 2x 1e and 2x50c beside it before calling 'Adiosa'to the waitress. I set off up the hill past the windmill which was spinning steadily.The a neat little house across the road stands on bare ground, the tomatoes, beans and eggplant I have watched mature over summer have been gathered, only some large green squash remained.
'Kalimera!'hailed a white haired Cretan in blue singlet,orange trousers and jandals as he strode past me up the hill.
'Yassu,'I replied.
A large black Mercedes car drove down the hill taking up most of the roadway, but I knew now about the tiny track at the very edge, near the fence where wild grapes rampage across the empty ground.
The old square was full of buses. The bread shop is closed on Sunday, but I stopped at the supermarket for olives and fetta cheese before heading up the hill.
Nowadays when I tirn on the computer I don't bother to switch it to English, I know what 'úsername and password'look like in Greek, even if I cannot pronounce them.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

FINDING POETRY

No photograph to-day, my camera batteries have died and it's too hot to walk in to town until this evening. However, the poets on Poetry Kit have been talking about 'found poetry'which is taking an extract from prose, arranging the line lengths as they would be if a performance poet was reading them, and either highlighting the original writer's intentions, or casting a new light on to the words. William Shatner did this to a Sarah Palin campaign speech, I was told.
One of the treasures left by a previous occupant of this cottage (along with John Pilger's 'Hidden Agendas'is Thomas L Friedman's 'The Lexus and the Olive Tree'a highly informative and entertaining treatise on globalisation.
Here is a 'found poem'fashioned from Friedman's prose, I have changed only the line lengths,

AMERICAN GOTHIC 2 views
Straightlaced couple, pitchfork in hand
expressions controlled
stoically standing watch
in front of their barn

To twenty something software engineers
long hair, beads and sandals
rings in their noses, paint on their tows
they kick down your front door
stick a big mac in your mouth
slam a cable box into your television
lock the channel to MTV
plug an internet connection into your computer
and tell you
"Download or die."

That's us, we are
Apostles of the fast world
enemies of tradition
prophets of the free market
high priests of high tech

We want
a web site in every pot
a pepsi on evey lip
Microsoft Windows in every computer
and most of all
everyone
everyone everywhere
pumping their own gas.

found on page 384 The Lexus and the Olive Tree by Thomas L Friedman
Anchor Books 200, ISBN 0 385 49934 5

Friday, August 20, 2010

POSEIDON,TANGAROA OR ZEUS IN A BAD MOOD



I have been trying to get a close up of this guy ever since I came here. It is the only thing left in the sculptor's yard now that the building is having one of its never ending makeovers.
Crete is the birthplace of Zeus, father of the immortals, but there are earlier legends if a matriarchal civilisation here before Zeus came along and spoiled it all.
I wish I had studied ancient Greece more at school, but being a good girl in the A stream I learned Latin and French which was interesting but not really of much utility.

Apart from the idyllic tideless sea and the horrific heat (40 degrees four days running) is Crete worth visiting? Definitely. There is layer after layer of history starting from mythological times. If I was, like my grandson Tom, at the start of my academic career I would spend my lifetime unravelling the legends and finding out the truths behind them. The wife of King Minos fell in love with a bull? and the result of their miscegenation was the minotor, so hideous he was kept i a labyrinth and fed on human flesh. If I was eighteen, like young Tom, I would be looking for the political realities behind that myth.
Then there is the Greek era followed by the Roman. I pass the ruins of Kissamos'Roman baths when I walk into town. They are over the road from the guy in the photo. After the Romans the Venetians who built strong walled forts all over the place, then the Turks, then the Germans and now the tourists.
If you have read this far and are thinking, 'Mmm, I might go there one day,'go now, while you are still young enough to drive a rental car on the wrong side of the road, walk 25ks through the Samaria gorge in one day, scramble arond moutain villages, where boys of my own generation helped fight the battle for Crete. AS I said layer after layer after layer of history.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

MUSIC IN THE NIGHT


True, I like every kind of music, from massed choirs to brass bands to solo performers; from Handel to Hip Hop. Dizzy Doolan is a hip hop performer based in Brisbane,a joy to watch and listen to, a disciplined body that responds perfectly to rhythm and delivers incredibly sophisticated lyrics. Off stage she is quiet, polite and unassuming, a truly nice person. Meeting her was one of my learning experiences at word storm.
But much as I like music I can no longer be an indiscriminate listener because very loud noise hurts my ears and makes me physically sick. I found that when trying to listen to a rock band within the stone walls of Brown's Market at Wordstorm's farewell party. Where is all this leading? To Kissamos where else, where concrete houses are sounding boards jammed across narrow lanes, and they do peculiar things to sound, for example, the young couple arguing in their apartment three houses away sound as though they are in my goathouse. Motor bikes roaring up the main road to Xania sound as though they are driving through my kitchen and one frightening Satuday night I heard gunfire outside my gate. Nobody else seemed worried so the actual event was probably well separated from the sounds.
The posters were around town, in Greek of course, but obviously something was going to happen on August 17th which involved musicians with expressive eyes and sexy looks. Interesting I thought, and forgot about it. This morning at 3 a.m. I woke to hear faint beautiful chords and melodies which drifted in and out of my bedroom window. I got up and tried to locate the sourse, impossible, so I pulled a chair on to my darkened sundeck and enjoyed it anyway. It was very Greek,mainly strings without drums. Bazouki chords set me thinking of icy wind blowing through high mountain passes, twice a young baritone voice delivered a ,ournful song, but I had no idea what he was singing about.
Was it a Greek Rock concert in town? Maybe, but there was no applause between items, just the enchanting music and song. Maybe one of the neighbours had turned their television to a music channel? It didn't really matter, I sat in the darkness and enjoyed it all.

Friday, August 13, 2010

MEANWHILE BACK IN THE SUN



Papadakis is a taditional Cretan restaurant on the beach front. It has traditional Cretan food cooked and served by a traditional Cretan family. The best value in any language is their Greek salad, with fresh baked bread, 7 euros. It is a symphony of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and black olives, topped with fetta cheese and doused in olive oil. It is nutritious and satisfying, in fact when I have Greek salad for lunch I don't eat until next morning. Their terrace is inches from the sea, the breeze blows, the view is spectacular and the staff are fluent in English. Their wine is O.K. too but in the middle of the day I prefer orange juice, fresh squeezed.

Speaking of Mediterranean Cuisine, a couple of my daughters in law asked me where they can get a copy of the diet which has trimmed me from 96 kilos, size 24 last October to size 18 now. They themselves are slim, but their husbands tend to take after their mother and be cuddly. Well the book full of diet advice is free.Doctor Morehan gave me a stern warning after a blood sugar test showed what I considered a minimal rise in my level. His nurse handed me a little green book about living with diabetes, and I have been following its principles ever since. It is probably on the internet. And apart from the liberal use of olive oil with just about everything the Mediterranean way of eating fits right in with the recommended diet. Lots of vegetables and fruit, reasonable amounts of meat and protein, and no sugar,

Even my shoes are loose on me! It's a great feeling.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

WHEN I GET HOME I SHALL ENJOY


Frosty sunrises, sleety rain
lambs in paddocks, daffodils
Vogels bread with crunchy grain
looking at snow covered hills

My feather duvet, electric blanket
hot soup and toast, marmalade
a brand new shower room I'll have to thank
my neighbour Don whose skills have made
it possible. My office chair with padded seat
which swivels if I move my feet
and won't leave ridge marks when I sit.
I think I'm looking forward to it.

And the cause of my sore toe is my $200.00 sport sandala, bought especially for hiking in the heat. They have been rubbing, I now slop around town in the $20.00 boat shoes I bought at Marks and Spences last year and the problem has disappeared.



its

Sunday, August 8, 2010

BOTHER, I MISSED IT!

I was just getting too cocky. I am so pleased with being able to read 'Í'm feeling lucky'in Greek I don't bother any more to switch Google to English and so I missed an event I would have walked over the white mountains, sore feet and all, to see and participate in. (block your ears for a moment while I let off steam with as many four letter expletives I can remember, none of them in Greek.
I thought the beach front cafes were rather empty last Saturday, I assumed it was because the summer holidays had ended. I could not have been more wrong. At sunset 150,000 people, most of them in national costume made a line out of Chania, which is one hour's drive from here,and they danced, You remember Zorba? Greek dance is a very masculine thing. This was to comemorate Hiroshima Day and the organisers were trying, successfully, to set a world record for Greek dance.
Maybe there were posters on walls around Kissamos, I could not have read them, Maybe those vans driving through the town shouting at everybody were telling us about Hiroshima day, I could not know. I missed it, and when I get home all my neighbours who stay at home and watch satellite TV when they are not fishing are going to say, 'Oh, yes, Greek dance, saw that on TV.'

LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE OLDIES


Thia photo has very little to do with to-day's blog. It was taken at Fogg Dam out of Darwin where we went to look at birds and crocodiles. It's relevance to my blog is the age of the people.We are oldies,and I am discovering that to-day's newsmakers have some oddly old fashioned ideas about us. We are not all gaga with senile dementia. In the above photograph is a major Australian poet, a painter, a French writer seeing the world, an English writer, and me. We are educated, and not afraid to express our opinions.
What brought this on? I was cruising the NZHerald's web page to-day and found a story about an old lady who had 'fought city hall'and won. It appears that her WOF had the wrong expiry date. When the city council sent her a notice of fine she wrote and explained and refused to pay the fine. She was shuffled around through the bureaucracy (Greece is not the only country full of incompetent buck passers) and her initial protest, that the city council had made amistake , was ignored. Then she was told $25 per week would be taken from her pension until the fine was paid.
Now, the conventional model of a nice old lady would have accepted that. but not this one. She sent e-mails to her M.P. the Minister of transport. That brought results and the money already taken from her pension has been refunded.
(Google NZHerald for the full story with photo)but it surprises me that a newspapwe finds a computer literate, logically thinking eighty year old newsworthy. What is news worthy is that she defended herself and won against the system. I am not surprised to find it took an eighty year old woman to do it.
We octogenearians are the 'Beeby brats'. We were the first generation to get free secondary education, and we have made use of it. We are the products of the first experiments in running a 'Welfare State.' We got free education. free health care,
we were paid an allowance to raise our children. Also we were the first generation to see a different world, every Saturday afternoon at the Regent, or the Paramount we saw children who sang and danced, heard music from symphony orchestras and jazz bands and saw newsreels of events we knew had happened. We are a pretty clued up bunch.
When I get back to New Zealand I am going to raise some questions, relax Sergeant Anastakakis, you are safe, but I want to know why my e-mails to the consulate general for New Zealand in Athens were ignored. And I shall keep hollering until I get sensible answers,

Saturday, August 7, 2010

CRETAN CUISINE & A PAIR OF GREEK DISHES


Aren't they lovely? They were looking out to sea and I wanted to take a picture of them backside on, but my Greek was not up to that and I don't like taking pictures without permission.
To-day was so hot my eyes were stinging from the sweat dripping into them. I walked down to the beach, past the windmill and decided to lunch at a seafront cafe. Now the Greeks have gone back to work there are not a lot of tourists around. Anyway, for 9euros I sat under a shady umbrella a meter from the sea, and ate a delicious veal stew, full of onons and tomatos and countless herbs, plus the best part of half a loaf of fresh bread to sop the gravy up with and a bottle of ice cold water. It was a bit early in the day for wine.
The two Cretan cuties were playing along the promenade.
Behind them one sailboat with spinnaker set was sailling along the horizon, a welcome wind ruffled the water of the bay. It was worth the kilometre trudge down there just to feel the cool breeze, almost worth the trudge back up hill again.

Meanwhile back in New Zealand my second son, Richard is celebrating his 56th birthday. When I talk to any family they are all wapped up warm and complaining about the cold. Ha!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

SHEBA'S BREAST & SAINTED SPINACH





Thank you to the clever people who identified the pomegranite, Now we know what the Queen of Sheba's breasts looked like, remember the Song of Solomon? 'Thy Breasts are like Pomegranites.'

And I lunched today at another cafe in the old square, on the shady side because it was so hot. I ordered Moussaka and iced coffee. Their moussaka came in an individual terra cotta dish and had rather more meat that the one I ate at Petrakis. And it was salty, I have been drinking litres of water since I came home.

SOUVLAKI, MOUSSAKA & A CHEESE PIE TO YOU!


Can somebody tell me what this fruit is? It grows on a bush up the road from here, and I am curious.
And talking of fruit, vegetables and food in general I am experiencing some delicious adventures. If I ate in a different cafe five times a day I still could not try every cafe and restaurant in Kissamos, but here are some of my findings:-
BREAKFAST: a big bowl of Greek yoghurt covered in wallnuta and Cretan honey, yummy and filling, best eaten under the big shady tree in the old town square. Or a cheese pie with capuchino; the cheese pie is made with super short pastry and is probably incredibly unhealthy, but tasty.Or a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. The Greeks have a neat machine, where the operator throws three or four oranges in, sets a glass under the outlet, pushes the button and out pours fresh, fresh, fresh orange juice.

LUNCH: There are some cafes where the truck drivers and workers go to buy their lunch, like chinese takeaways in NZ. They serve plain, simple food which is usually on display in heated cabinets so I can indicate what I want. There is a green vegetable here rather like water cress which is tasty steamed with potatoes.
Then there is moussaka, spinach beattified by eggs, tomatoes and cheese; souvlaki, rotisseried meat cooked over charcoal, and hundreds of different kinds of fish, grilled, boiled, fried in batter or crumbs and of course the wonderful Greek salad which is a symphony of red onion, cucumber, tomato, olives and feta cheese served with a basket of fresh bread to mop up the olive oil.

DINNER; I don't know because Cretans like to eat late in the evening so I have not bothered with late dining.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

BLOWING IN THE WIND


Isn't this beautiful? I found it in the old part of town below the wall. It's in the garden of an old style house, and I just pray the developers marching across the landscape with their reinforced concrete and 'mediterranean' monstrosities don't knock it down.

A TODDLE THROUGH THE TOWN






We complain about resource consent and such but when I stroll around Kissamos I am grateful that we have some limitations on what people can do when they are building. The pink house in the next block of my street has one wall is set right across the footpath. We have to step out into the road to pass it.


Ivor tells me that the Greek government does not charge tax on a house until it is completed. That is why so many houses have reinforced steel sticking out of the roof, stairways leading no where, like a Mark Escher cartoon, and piles of rubble on the footpath. And houses have extra floors stacked on them like slabs of cake.

This morning my in box was full of commiserations about my sore toe, and suggestions for cures, thank you my friends in Darwin, Oamaru, Dunedin Liverpool and other places. I am eating lots of yoghurt and honey, but I had not thought od spreading some on the offening toe. I don't think I will try it, having seen the ant population here.

I am feeling rather virtuous. In spite of the aforesaid toe I walked down to the beach, taking a detour past the old town wall, and I saw not only the wall,but a windmill. shall post some morepictures in thenextblog.

Friday, July 30, 2010

KINDNESS IS AN INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE

No photograph to-day, just further advantures as I practice living alone half a world away from my family, who call me on Skype several times a week in case I get lonely.
A couple of days ago I developed a very painful right big toe, cold bathing did no good, neither did a contorted attack with nail clippers, cutting one's own toe nails is never easy. By this morning my toe was swollen and painful to put on the ground. I limped into town to the apothecary. He has a lot of Dr. Scholl's products on display and I know he speaks English. The shop was busy. a tall blonde in a green bikini and a crocheted open work over dress was buying sun block, three Greek ladies of senior years sat around a table covered with pamphlets waiting for ther prescriptions, one cleared another chair and beckoned me to join them. A very pregnant young woman in a dress which emphasised her bump rather than hiding it, brought a prescription in.
The apothecary is a patrician looking Greek man with rimless glasses and fluent English. His two assistants are efficient and courteous, and the younger one. daughter perhaps? is stunningly pretty, pale white skin, wide set grey eyes, long dark hair and slim but with curves. She looked at my toe, prescribed a pain killer, then took me outside to point out where the hospital is.
'Íf it doesn"t get better go to the hospital," she advised.
The three Greek matrons smiled and clucked their sympathy.
I turned the corner by the bread shop and almost collided with a Cretan couple, his silver moustache would have been prized in the R.A.F. years ago, his wife wore a dress of green and brown print. They were laden from shopping so I stepped back on to the roadway to let them pass. He nodded but as his wife passed by she said something in Greek and patted my arm.
When I reached the Post Office corner the lunch time rush hour had started, Four tour buses, sundry trucks, panel vans, and cars were squeezing through the roadway,Life the bloodstream of a person with blocked arteries. I stood on the sidewalk, waiting for a break. A young woman dashed out of the Post Office, held up an imperious arm to the traffic,
"Komm"she commanded, hand on my back she pushed me across to the other side.
When I reached the supermarket I was greeted with nods, and 'Te Kana tay'(how are you?) They know I am trying to learn Greek. The young woman who only had a couple of purchases insisted on giving me her place in the queue.
É theristo'I murmured.(Thank You)
"Pari Kola"she replied. (you're welcome)
I camre home, took the pill and my toe feels better already. Now I am wondering about the blond in the crochet dress. Her sun tan is going to look really interesting.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

ONE THING I CAN'T RESIST


In the late sfternoon, after several hours spent writing, or just relaxing out of the sun I like to walk into town for my evening meal. There are dozens of cafes serving genuine Cretan cuisine but I like to walk down to Petrak's where the teenage waiter lets me practice my Greek and he practices his English. I sit outside at a table on the sidewalk, there are a few in the actual roadway but the tour buses are still setting arrivals down and picking departures up. From my table I look across the courtyard of the old Venetian headquarters, now a really interesting museum , and I can see the magnificent sweep of Kissamos Bay.
Many of the little shops are still open. The lady at the breadshop on the corner is about the size of my nine year old grand daughter,brown and stooped, but her eyes are still bright, and when I call in to buy bread we manage to converse really well, she in Greek, me in English. As I usually call at the end of the day she will often drop an extra loaf into my bag, and as I have yet to spend more than two euros in the shop I suspect she drops her prices too. Yesterday when I picked out a soft white load covered in sesame seeds she added a small braided loaf which smelt of cinnamon even when I was eating my dinner at Petrakis. For eleven euros I was served an enormous greek salad with feta cheese, tomatoes, red onion, cucumber all soused in herbal olive oil. Plus a huge portion of roasted chicken, with chips, and a glass of cold white wine. I sit there for an hour enjoying the off shore breeze and the little vignettes of local life, like the taxi driver who stopped his car and shouted at a pretty woman walking past with her small daughter, She shouted something back and continued across the square threading a path between cars and mopends.
About half an hour later they returned, the taxi driver walked over and picked up the little girl and the three of them sat down at one of the tables near me, shouting at each other in Greek the whole time.
I walked up the hill, past the Agorra supermarket, past the ruins of the Roman Baths, held my breath as I passed the refuse skips, past the abandonned farm house that will one day be a museum and into my cottage. I had eaten a huge dinner in town, but the smell of that little braided loaf was just too tempting, I broke a piece off. It was sweet and fruity and spicy, a bit like New World's hot cross buns but better. I should not be eating sugary things, but- - -
I ate the last of it for breakfast this morning.
;

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A LETTER I WOULD LIKE TO WRITE


tO Sergeant Anastatakis
Dear Sergeant,
This is to tell you that I am giving up my efforts to stay one more month in Crete after my three month non visa residence permit expires. It is not because I cannot meet the demands of the Greek authoritites as to paper work. I can. I have in my possession bank statements, e mailed from my accountant son yesterday. And I have the requisite five passport photographs. But I realise that when I am dealing with you I am not confronting the real bureaucrat who has decided to be as obstructive as possible.(I wonder what the Greek name is for Sir Humphrey Appleby}
You, dear Sergeant are a nice boy, the age of some of my grandsons, and when I walk into the police station I just cannot bear the look of terror that I see on your face.I am an eighty-four year old great grandmother and I don't like frightening people.
Also I realise that if I do walk into your office with the required bank statements and the passport photographs (frightening enough for anybody) you, and your fellow officers will then have to find something else I need before being allowed to stay. It has become a game hasn't it. What can you demand next?
My grandfather's school records? My late husband's baptismal certificate? Certificates of circumcision for each of my eight sons? So I am calling a halt. It has got to silly already.
You, dear Sergeant have always been studiously polite, in spite of your limited English and my almost non existant Greek.For that I thank you. May you have an outstanding career in the Greek Police Force, marry a Pink Singlet and live happily ever after.
Yours sincerely

BUT of course I cannot write such a letter. But I would like to.

Another letter I would like to write would be to
The Consul-General in Greece for New Zealand
Sir Two weeks ago I sent you an e mail in clear English explaining the difficulties I was having trying to extend my three month stay in Crete. I have received no reply. I shall be reporting you lack of action to the New Zealand Department of External Afairs the moment I return home.
There may be some excuse, maybe you have been busy preparing to attend your parents'wedding?
Waiata Dawn Davies

Friday, July 23, 2010

WANTED A WOODEN HORSE


This is the fountain in a beautiful little square near the town hall and is currently full of diggers and hydraulic hammers. I get the impression that the developers have moved in here and construction companies are making profits but the unique charms, like shady trees along the beach are steadily being destroyed.
And I have descided to admit defeat in the saga of extended residence, well not quite, I am giving up, but not quietly. If any newpapers or journalists read this blog you are welcome to use it in publicising the saga of the 84 year old woman who had been buggered about with by petty bureaucracy to the point of desperation. I have been polite, I have been courteousm I have followed directions to the letter. BUT Sergeant Anastatakis hangs up when he hears my voice on the phone (after telling me to ring). One of his junior officers (at least he offered me a seat) told me I could only stay in Greece for something important. What should I have said?
'Í am a journalist investigating incompetence in the Greek Police.'
'Í am a terrorist organising an attack on your new building. and its lovely marble floors.'
'I want to join the Greek Police and wear a pink singlet.'

I explained about Loutro and its special significance as a place where writers gather.
'O"dismissively,'tourism.'
Well I thought Greece needed foreign currency.
It cost me 50 euros to take the bus to Heraklion and back to see the tourist police there, and another 15 euros this morning to buy passport photographs. When Sgt Anastatakis tol me I deeded to prove I had enough money to keep me over the extra weeks I wanted to stay I showed him my gold visa card. no reaction. He wanted to see my bank statements. Try explaining to a nice young man with limited Englsh that one of my sons is a chartered accountant and I don't carry bank atatements, or even much cash, around with me.
So I am giving up. On August 25th I shall leave Crete, and in the meantime I shall concentrate on writing.
But if anone wants to make publicity about it go ahead.
NEW ZEALAND WRITER STYMIED BY GREEK BUREAUCRACY'.
CRETE DOES NOT WANT HARD CURRENCY IF IT INVOLVED EFFORT.
ELDERLY TRAVELLER DEEMED UNDESIRABLE
if anyone wants to publicise my story you can contact me at waiata.davies@infogen.net.nz

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

THE UNENTHRALLING ADVENTURES OF ME



This picture is of an artist's workshop near where I live, He has a 'totem pole'or perhaps a 'whare runanga'in his courtyard that looks like Poseidon or Tangaroa.
Now, down to my efforts to get my entry permit fixed. Yesterday I walked, following the directions Nick gave me, and finally located the Police Station, a new building down a narrow lane behind the new Gertman Embassy. These policement were in uniforms reminiscent of Blue Heelers, Lisa Kudrow would have looked cute in a pink singlet, but there were only males visible. The sergeant who beckoned me into his office without rising from his desk reminded me of the young cop who had an affair with the publican. Anyway I explained, slowly, that I needed my entry permit extended. He had a rapid conversation with the other policeman in the office before telling me I would have to go to my own ambassador, He had not yet invited me to sit.
"He's in Rome,"I told him, very tempted to add "Greece is not important enough to warrant and embassy," but realised that such an assertion would add nothing to my case. I handed him the address the courteous officer in Heraklion had given me,
He rang the number, and his voice almost came to attention when the other guy spoke. He took my passport, photocopied it then said, "You call this number to-morrow;"
Si, not wishing to appear too impatient I waited until 3 p.m. and rang the number.
The police station is closed, I have to ring in the morning.
In the words of the toyota add Bugger!
I wonder, if I ignore the regulations and happily spend an extra month here, it would probably take them six months to catch up with me. If they stopped me at Athens airport what could they do? Deport me? Great, I would be going home anyway,

Monday, July 19, 2010

GETTING SORTED


Who was it said, 'We English really are a marvellous race'? Thank heaven for ex pat poms living in Kissamos. Nick, who maintains these villas, came to show me how to find the cop shop at last. He thought it was in the first place I looked, around the corner from where I am staying.But he has discovered they moved about two months ago to a completely new complex near the sports stadium. So to-morrow I shall try again. I have a piece of paper with the Greek for Police Station clearly written. If the officers at the Kissamos cop shop do not speak English I have a piece of paper with the telephone number and name of that helpful Heraklion Officer and I am to tell Kissamos to ring him,
I read on the ODT web page that the temperature in Dunedin to-day was 9.5C. While I was reading the outside temperature here was climbing into the high twenties. At least in cold weather one can add a few layers. If I remove any more clothes I could be arrested.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

YOU WON'T BELIEVE THIS


Kissamos is a kind of Greek Lake Woebegone, you know strong women, good looking men and all the kids above average. Well the children are the easiest to talk to because they like to practice their English on me. But can you imagine a town where citizens have only a hazy idea where the Police station is? And I have yet to see a cop on the beat, not even in a pink singlet. I came back from Heraklion on Tuesday and for the last two days I have been hunting for the Police Station. Ít's not where the tourist map says it is. It's not near the old town square and bus station, it's not in the little square with the fountain of two dolphins playing, it's not near the '2 B.P.s', all petrol stations are B.P.s even Shell and Europa.It's not near any church, and there are a lot of churches.
Now this is all very frustrating, but isn't it wonderful, a town where nobody knows where the cop shop is! No wonder the traffic is chaotic, but they sort it all out themselves, they don't honk at each other they just have some kind of tacit code by which they all get where they need to go.And when I want to cross the road I wait at the kerb until a driver stops and waves at me. Who needs lights and zebra crossings?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

AN URBAN MYTH CONFIRMED



You know the one, you wait for ages then three come along together. Well I missed the six thirty bus by minutes so I sat outside the ticket office in 24C cool and talked to a nice Iranian boy who was waiting to be picked up for work. He has been in Crete for three years and hopes that after the next Iranian election he will be able to return home. I told him about my former pupil, Nima Alavi, I wonder what you are doing now Nima? You were one of my bright memories in teaching. However a red utility drove up and the Iranian boy climbed in and set off for work. Moments later three buses arrived, So the urban myth is a fact in some places.
About a dozen people got on, probably commuters heading for work in Chania. The temperature climbed to 28C.
There was a thirty minute wait in Chania the a lot of us climbed in and began the three hour drive to Heraklion, along the coast, up steep hillsides with tempting glimpses of gorges full of wild flowers and creamy brown cliff sides. On the other side were little secluded bays full of swimmers and sun bathers. Along the tops developers were building new tourist hotels, tarting them up to look like ancient Venetian castles. At each village the bus would stop, people in shorts would get off and more people in shorts and sun tops would get on. By Rethymon the bus was full. A beefy young masn with a short pony tail took the seat next to me and began barking loud Greek into his cell phone. Two young women who looked like teachers on holiday took the last two seats. The one by the window curled up and slept. At the next village more people climbed on. When I looked again a young man who did not look Greek, had perched on the armrest of the seat in front of me. He was listening to his ipod with one earplug. The other earplug was in the ear of the young woman, Her friend stayed sleeping. The bus pulled up at yet another village and the young women got off, the boy shook hands and spoke to them before they alighted. I have got so used to hearing Greek it didn't register for a couple of minutes. He had spoken in English, with an Australian accent. He got off at one of the Herklion suburbs and the bus went on to the Heraklion bus station, past the ancient fort which has been scrubbed and restored for the tourist trade.
Heraklion is obviously geared to tourism. The station has differents counters with big signs in English and Greek showing where buses for the tourist sites leave from. There was a long queue at the Knossos counter, and another advertising a water park that from the posters was based on Disney. I heard a lot of different languages as I sought the toilets. A young nordic backpaker who must have been in a hurry barged in front of me at the swing doors, slamming them into me as she hurried in. She did the same thing coming out and almost sent a little girl sprawling.
The taxi rank was across the road.I found a driver who was fluent in English and off we went to the Heraklion Police Station, a large complex away from the city. I explained to the man at the gate, who looked like Maurice Shadbolt in police uniformm, that I needed to have my entry permit extended. He handed me a yellow card, pointed out the path, and in fluent English told me how to reach tourist police, first floor, turn right. I followed his directions to the building, up the marble steps, through the electronic door and up the stairs. There another
wonderfully courteous cop who looked like Sam Neill cast as Barnney Miller, redirected me to another corridor. There was an mother with her two young daughters ahead of me. At last a young woman in tight pedal pushers, a pink singlet and long black hair called me into the office. All the women police I saw were in pink singlets, a bit confusing when my pink singlet barked, 'Çome!'and dashed out the door. When I followed I didn't know which pink singlet in the hall way I should follow. She came looking for me however and led me to the office of a man who was obviously very senior his dark polished desk was so bare.
Why did I need my entry extended?
Because I wanted to go to Loutro to a writing workshop in September.
Where was I living now?
Kissamos
You have come to the wrong place. Is there a police station in Kissamos?
I haven't found one. (in fact I have not even seen a policeman in Kissamos)
Well if there is no police station in kissamos you should go to Chania
He wrote on a square of paper.
This is my name and telephone number, Tell the police if they do not know what to do do ring me. But three months is enough time to stay in Crete.
I hope he was joking.
I returned my yellow ticket to Maurice Shadbolt at the gate and he rang a taxi for me. I caught the 2.30 but back to Chania, connected with the Kissamos bus and arrived home at 6.25 in 33C heat, bought bread and tomatoes at the supermarket, walked home and slept.
Now I shall head off to town and ask for directions to the local cop shop.

And anyone reading this, Lonely Planet has got its instructions wrong. If you need to extend your residence go to the nearest police station, not Heraklion.

Monday, July 12, 2010

MORE VIEWS OF MY COTTAGE




This is one end of my living room, where kitchen and laundry facilities are, evidently that slimline washing machine is very popular here in small apartments. I have learned to do without electric jug and microwave.

The time is 5.25 a.m. and I am getting ready to go into town, catch an early bus to Heraklion and get my 3 month residence permit extended for another month.

MY CRETAN COTTAGE




For some unknown reason my blog refused to upload the article I wrote on Saturday with pctures and facts about my cottage. So here I go again:-
Peter has asked me for more pictures and data about this place. I first found it a year ago when I was surfing the internet in the middle of a New Zealand winter, (google Crete Direct) and the idea of spending three months in a town in Crete appealed strongly. Over the year I have been assiduously learning Greek, I have mastered perhaps a word a month. But for $NZ1200 per month (that is less than I would pay for a flat in Wellington or Auckland) I have a cute little traditional Cretan house, two rooms and bathroom with a sun deck and courtyard in the town of Kissamos. It is very simple, but hey who wants complications at my time of life. I am about three hundred metres from the shops and another three hundred from the sea. If I want to live the tourist life there are a lot of glitzy cafes along the water front, but also some really good traditional Greek restaurants (Papadakis and the Cellar are the best I have found so far). Buses run from the town square, fourteen per dat to and from Xania which is a hub connection to Heraklion and the South CoastIf anything goes wrong, like my water heater failed last Tuesday I ring Nik the English manager of property services and he is there to fix it withing minutes.
I am connected to broadband internet and can talk to my family on Skype.
Living here is quite cheap, as long as you don't try to convert Euros to dollars, and I do not have to pay running costs to take my car into town, nor do I have to buy firewood, the temperature at 7a.m. this morning was 26C. Sunblock and skin lotion is a different matter,I need loads of it.

Who would I recommend it to? Families with kids, they would learn Greek playing with the neighbours'children; Honeymooners, it's secluded; retirees for the same reason.
Wo would I not advise to come here? Shopaholics, there are no malls.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

AN AFTERNOON AT THE BEACH


Falisarna was a city state in the 4th century BC. It had a port with a sea wall and a thriving infrastructure, the only remnant of all this is a stone chair and a lot of stones. A huge earthqake raised the sea bed and the people left. Now there are acres of shade houses, it looks a bit like Kakanui before the developers moved in.
The bus dropped us at one of the two tourist complexes, and we scrambled down a rough track to the beach, a wide stretch of pink sand with a narrow boardwalk and a few shady tamarisk trees. Unfortunately people had parked their cars under the trees and the only shade for humans was rows of sunbeds and beach umbrellas where a lot of pale Europeans lay like loaves of bread set to rise. But there are lots of little rockpools suitable for children and old women to paddle in. The sea was full of swimmers. One end of the beach is reserved for nudists and I was tempted. If I come here again I shall definitely bring my togs. Lonely Planet says that people come here to experience the fabulous sunsets which light up the coral sand. Eventually the heat drove me off the beach and back up the path to an outdoor restaurant shaded with tamarisk trees where I ate fresh Greek salad with crusty bread and newly squeezed orange juice, and sat in the shade for two hours until the bus came. There was plenty to entertain me. A local swain, on pretence of talking to the teen age son of the house was trying to chat up the pretty waitress, who wasn't interested, I could not understand a word they said, but I could tell what was going on.
Eventually people strolled up from the beach and took shelter under the few trees in the car park, A middle aged couple from the English midlands, a German youth twined with his blond girl friend, she will probably have gravel rash from his wiry beard, a very dark African lady with her two stunningly beautiful daughters, and a horde of teenagers chattering in at least three languages, but understood each other perfectly.
Two buses arrived, the teen agers got on the Xania bus I got on the Kissamos but and we headed up the hair pin road over the hills. I for one was craning to get a last glimpse of the stunningly beautiful and secluded valley.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

PROCRASTINATION


In a white cup with pink flowers painted on, above the shelf where I plug in my web book, the landlord has left three brand new sharp hb pencils. So I have no excuse, everything is here for me to start the GNZN (great New Zealand Novel) I don't mean the romantic novel I wrote seventeen thousand words of before I left home, that was just writing for fun, and I don't mean the historical tome that is now in the computer equivalent of a desk drawer, I mean that GNZN the Jungian stereotype novel which is in the limbo of my subconscious waiting to spring into existence the moment I have three months to concentrate on it.
Well I have the three months,I have the pencils, the lined paper, I can just sit down and write, but first I must finish reading the books left in my cottage (apart from the da vinci code in German) just to make sure nobody has written the GNZN before me. Then of course I must clear my e mail.I haven't looked at it for several days. Now the sorting mechanism on my little machine seems to have a philosophy all its own, it regularly fills my in box with advertisements for VIAGRA available at bargain prices, notifications that I have won lotteries worth millions of dollars, all I have to do to collect is sent my bank details to somebody in Nigeria, that dozens of firms in the United States have made a mistake in my billing and yet more millions are waiting to be collected, all I have to do is send my bank details, you get the picture? They go into my in box as letters. But when I had a look in my folders I found one labelled 'Intercepted spam'so , curious, I opened it and there were the e mails I had not got and had been wondering about; from my niece Mary in America, my writing friends in New Zealand, Jan in Temuka.
So the GNZN is not even started yet, there are several things I have to do firstt like sweep up the dead leaves in my courtyard, change the little pads in the electric mosqito repellers, kill the ants, take my rubbish along to the skip around the corner, and one day I shall tell you all about the disgusting way the Greeks dispose of their toilet paper, write this blog. That should keep me busy for a while.

Monday, June 28, 2010

FINDING HISTORY



Previous tenants in my cottage have left books, some treasures some not so. War and Preace, Animal Farm, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, John Pilger\s Hidden Agendas and a shelf full of airport thrillers, Dan Brown,Stephen King and others too awful to mention. Almost hidden were two real treasures. Vasili, Lion of Crete by Murray Elliott ISBN 960 226 348 2 published by EFSTATHIADIS 1987 is about Dudley Perkins who was killed in action after volunteering to return to Crete and help the resistance.
On the Run, Anzac escape and is evasion in Enemy-occupies Crete by Sean Damer & Ian Frazer ISBN 978 0 14 300722 7 is published by Penguin in 2006.

They are both rivettingand full of details passed over in official war histories. On the run has also alphabetical lists of known evaders and escapers, and the men involved in major escapes from Crete. I found a few familiar names, boys from Hastings High School who in September 1939 had only one worry - that the war would end before they were old enough to go to it.

But the rivetting thing in On the Run is the incredible heroism of the Cretan women who took food and clothes to soldiers hiding in caves,looked after sick and wounded soldiers and guided them along mountain trails risking their lives, and the lives of their families. There should be a special medal struck for these women, and their stories need to be collected. It's too late for first hand stories, but their some of their daughters might still be around to record their mothers'stories.

I knew about the retreat from Hora Sfakion and the trek through Imbros Gorge, but according to On The Run there were New Zealanders guarding the port at Kissamos Kastelli who escaped into the mountains. The villages they escapes to are still there, and if I can find an English speaking driver willing to take me I intend to go looking for Sifirinia,Topolie, Polirinia, Kalithenes.

Watch this space:

Friday, June 25, 2010

WHAT IS YELLOW PAGES IN GREEK?



Last night when I took off my glasses the right wing came off in my hand. It was not just a loose screw,(all my screws are tightly set than you) the whole thing had snapped. Without my glasses I cannot see the print on my computer screen, or read the title on a book cover, How to find someone to fix them? Of course, let my fingers do the walking. Except of course the yellow pages here are in Greek.
So holding my glasses carefully to my nose I set out for town. I knew I had seen an opticians somewhere, it was a matter of finding it. I did, it is one of the tiny shops opposite the new town square on the way to the beach. A bank with an ATM iis on the corner, then a pastry cook selling Danish Pastry, then the optician next door to the apothecary who sells Voltaren without prescription, but don't try to buy codeine in Greece, it's banned.
The optometrist and his assistant clucked and commiserated. The wing was broken, could not be repaired. Could they fir my lenses into a new frame? more clucks. Not possible, something about the lenses, But bless their hearts after five minutes he returned the spectacles to me with the wing mended (I shall have to be extrta careful until I get home,) and he refused to charge me.
I continued down towards the old town square and sat under a huge umbrella surrounded by middle aged and elderly Greek men. Two very beautiful waitresses organised my breakfast for me, practising their English as they did so; Greek yoghurt with Cretan honey and wallnuts. Cretan honey is the best I have ever tasted, and that includes the manuka honey I used to buy from roadside stalls in the Coromandel. One of my Loutro friends told me it is because the bees are allowed to roam the countryside and feast on herbs. Anyway just this morning's breakfast was worth the trip!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

IT IS ALL SO ANCIENT!



Next door to my cottage with its white painted walls and blue shutters and doors is what I think was originally the farm house, It is bigger than my place but it has been empty for fifty years. There is no paint anywhere, and the windows were boarded up so long ago the timber had rotted. My landlord tells me the building will eventually become a museum.
Next to that is the ruined Roman Baths, an empty section full of broken stone columns and what looks like the roman equivalent of the whaling pots that are scattered around the New Zealand coast. I have no idea what they are. They look truly ancient.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I KNEW THERE WAS SOMETHING!


Yes, it's a pretty town, except that the public squares are full of chairs and tables with waiters of both genders dashing about serving coffee to Greeks who scream at each other fortissimo. Greek is not only a rapid language, it is loud. I would like to sit under a tree down on the beach, but the tamarisks have all been cut down, developers are flat out building tourist hotels and the only places one can sit out of the sun is in yet another cafe on the purpose built promenade. Of course there are a few old fashioned family restaurants, like Papadakis on the beach with chairs and tables at the waters edge but so far I have found nowhere to sit and watch people coming and going, to strike up conversations so people will tell me their stories.There are no car parks outside the supermarkets, and their aisles are so narrow there is no way two shoppers can stop and discuss the merits of what is on display. Houses are built flush with the road and they have high walls enclosing them. I can't compliment a gardener on her dahlias, or chrysanthemums as I pass.
I have yet to find a public library, not that it would be of use to me if I did, but in New Zealand and Australia the Library is one of the main places a stranger can make contacts in a new town. Someone there always knows where the writers'groups are.
And how I miss the Women's Institute! There might be an equivalent here, but without Greek I am forever excluded. My phrase book does not have'Çan you direct me to the Women's Institute please?' Glenavy W.I. I miss you all!
In Oamaru, when people go into town they can stroll around on wide footpaths and stop to talk to friends, Here the footpaths are about 30 centimetres wide, and the town is a warren of tiny streets full os tiny shops, apart from the Agora Supermarket, which is about the size of a corner dairy. Men sit outside the shops, and in the sidewalk cafes and shout at each other. If there is a wider piece of footpath somebody will have parked his car on it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

FROM KAIK ROAD TO KISSAMOS







This machine has loaded the pictures the wrong way round, so I suggest you, my readers, both of you that is, look at them from the bottom up. They begin at my crib at the Waitaki River mouth, then go to the Wordstorm Festival in Darwin and a picnic with some friends at Fogge Dam bird sanctuary and finally the foreshore in Kissamos.
Problems with the ageing population? Instead of giving all our money to Rest Homes we are out, active and having fun.