Monday, June 28, 2010


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


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


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


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


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.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


I have no photographs to-day because I spent the morning in the Kissamos archaeology museum and photos are not allowed. The ground floor has a collection of artifacts excavated mostly in the 20th century. The greek text explaining the exhibits has an English translation under it. There are maps showing Crete's place in the ancient world and major trade routes of the Roman empire;a collection of amphorae, and diagrams showing how they were stacked in the holds of trading ships. Upstairs was the almost complete mosaic floor of an ancient villa, it showed hunting scenes, a hunter his chariot oulled by two tigers so lifelike they almost jumped off the floor at us. Also fascinating were the marble statues, portraits of children, young people and military personnel. One of a young girl showed the pleats in the draperies of her dress but it was her feet that caught my attention, Very faintly as though burned into her skin by the sun was the shadow of her footwear. She was wearing the 1st century equivalent of jandals! There was just no mistaking it.

Over the road from the museum I ate lunch, a tasty cheese omelet with a huge Greek salad and iced coffee, all for 10euros.

Friday, June 11, 2010


This is the entrance to my villa taken from the front door. Beside it is the grape vine and the courtyard that used to be the goat shed, it is now an arbour. The bricks in the walls date from Toman times and some of them I suspect are even earlier they have a primitive hand made look about them.
I like to take my lunch out into the courtyard and spend a lot of time writing there.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Kissamos Bay is as wide as Hawke Bay in NZ. It used to be an important port but fortunately the container ships have let it be. Not so the tourist developers. The foreshore is rapidly being gentrified with tourist hotels, their outdoor restaurants on a promendade selling hamburgers, spaghetti bolonese, Walls ice cream but fortunately no KFC or Big macs yet. I ate lunch at the only really ethnic looking place on the shore, Papadakis fish restaurant, run by Papa keeping guard at the entrance, Mama cooking in the kitchen, daughter who speaks and understands fluent English and son who thinks New Zealand is somewhere near England. They served me a plateful of fried whitebait and another dish piled high with an authentic Greek salad, feta cheese, onion, capsicum, tomato and olives all dripping with olive oil which I mopped up with really frech crusty bread. It is now 7a.m. the next morning and I am still not hungry again.

Monday, June 7, 2010


In at the deep end one might say. The bus station in Chania is definitely a workplace, not a spot where tourists are cosseted, bit their baguettes were fresh and the capuchino delicious. Greek artisans and American back packers drifted in and out. A Greek Orthodox priest presided at a table for one, his grey beard and black robes dominated the room.
The lady behind the ticket counter sold me a ticket to Kastelli, which is what people here call Kissamos, its full monicker is Kissamos Kastelli. She indicated the left luggage office, and I deposited my bags there with a nice Greek young man who refused to charge me because I was only leaving them for an hour.
Next task, I needed to buy a mobile phone to call Ian in Kissamos to tell him his next tenant had arrived. How do you find your way through a town where the footpaths are almost non existant, the traffic drives on the wrong side of the road and all the signs are in Greek? Easy, you read the signs, I walked around the streets outside the bus station searching for signs that said vodaphone, nokia, samsung and found a cosmote shop which sold an artay of mobile phones and which had a VISA sign on their door. It looked like a family business, father or elder brother sat behind the cash desk, pretty young sister, who spoke English kept out of sight until I proferred my card in payment. The young man who helped me choose a phone was in his early twenties and he spoke adequate English as long as we did not stray off the 'multi function, global roaming, call waiting'words that explained the technology. But he was incredibly patient as he taught me how to use the phone to make calls,
when I proferred my visa card in payment he referred it to big brother at the till, he summoned pretty sister, showing her the card and delivering Greek words at machine gun speed. Little brother asked for my passport which pretty sister photocopied,then brought the copy to me.
Ýou will write your father's name here.'she instructed, pointing to the photocopy of my passport. My father? He died fifty five years ago. no matter they wanted my father's name. I wrote it and stone face big brother picked up his telephone and sprayed whoever was on the other end with a fusillade of Greek. Only after he hung up and nodded did little brother insert the sim card in my phone. attach it to a pretty green neck ribbon and complete the transaction.
Back at the bus station I collected my bags and went looking for the Kissamos Kadterlli bus. I knew how it looked in Greek but none of the buses standing at the platform were going there. Finally the man in the enquiry booth pointed across the yard, behind another bus.
So I reached Kissamos, could not get the phone to work, and sat on a bench outside the museum to work out my next strategy for locating my landlord and more important the Villa Joanna where I would be living. A few minutes later my phone started playing Vivaldi very loudly. My efforts to use the phone had left my number on Ian's phone. He arrived five minutes later and here I am, settled in this lovely Cretan cottage.
More about this to-morrow. stay tuned.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


What a week this has been. On Saturday Kaye drove me some 200 ks into the North Australian bush. We crossed the Adelaide River, muddy and flowing strong, turned off on to a side road and finally arrived at the home of Kaye's friend Viv, another retired teacher/poet who has built a home in the bush, powered by solar energy. The outer walls are strong mesh screens and there are few inner walls, just areas delineated by their furniture. We ate a simple yet sumptuous lunch at the beautiful metal and glass dining table. Viv had made her own unleavened bread for us to wrap our chicken and salad in. As we ate we could look straight out into the bush
On the way home we stopped at the Adelaide Springs War cemetery. Darwin was a real theatre of war and there were many casualties, civilians, servicemen and one servicewoman nurse. The graves are, like the too many war cemeteries I have visited, kept immaculate with green lawns. Further on near the Adelaide springs school we stopped to watch a herd of wallabies grazing.


The Rosella is a type of hibiscus that grows wild along roadsides ib the Northern Territory Its petals are fleshy, red and they make delicious jam. It is unobtainable commercially because the labour involved in picking, stripping and preparing the jam would make the cost prohibitive. When Kaye drives anywhere she always has a pair of snippers in the car. Last Saturday she filled the boot with branched of ripe rosellas gathered along the drive out to Viv;s place. On Sunday morning we began stripping the branched, peeling off the calyx, leaving the tiny green nut on the branch. We sat at the table on the palm shaded terrace stripping the flowers and exchanging secrets about rosellas vs blackberries. Two writer friends were coming for lunch and then I would leave on the 4 o'clock flight to Singapore. But Kaye's brother rang from Adelaide, Their 92 year old mother had taken a turn for the worse and Kay should go down. I carried on stripping the rosellas while Kaye orghanised a flight, arranged for one of her sons to take us both to the airport and look after Kaye's dog. Te rosellas were packed into the freezer to be made into pickle when Kaye returned from Adelaide.
Darwin is the fastest growing city in Australia. It is also multicultural, progressive amd full of intelligent and interesting prople. The aboriginal people are making their mark on the culture, not in the warrior-like posturing and confrontation we see in New Zealand but Aboriginal writers, especially women are recording their views of Australian history, the museum in Darwin has an art gallery full of the most amazing and original work by aboriginal artists. One of the poets I performed with. Dizzy Doolan gave a readig of her own poetry at Wordstorm and then at the party afterwards she stunned us with a performance of hip hop, so polished and with sophisticated lyrics. For the first time I had an inkling of what hip hop is as an art form.

Yes, I would like to go back sometime, Darwin indeed the whole Northern Territory is vibrant and full of interesting people.

Friday, June 4, 2010


I suspect old age begins when one stops learning. These last few weeks have been as tough a learning expperience as learning to look after a new baby was in my youth. I have had to face and conquer the fear of making a mistake, knowing that