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
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
tO Sergeant Anastatakis
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.
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
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.
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 email@example.com
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
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
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
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
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?
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
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.
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
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
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.