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BS: Postcard from Ithaca (Greece) 2009

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Roger the Skiffler 29 Jun 09 - 09:12 AM
Roger the Skiffler 29 Jun 09 - 09:28 AM
Roger the Skiffler 29 Jun 09 - 09:39 AM
katlaughing 29 Jun 09 - 10:44 AM
Micca 29 Jun 09 - 01:27 PM
Roger the Skiffler 30 Jun 09 - 08:24 AM
Roger the Skiffler 01 Jul 09 - 05:59 AM
GUEST,Dani 01 Jul 09 - 06:56 AM
katlaughing 01 Jul 09 - 04:35 PM
Roger the Skiffler 02 Jul 09 - 07:16 AM
Roger the Skiffler 02 Jul 09 - 11:24 AM
fat B****rd 02 Jul 09 - 03:24 PM
katlaughing 02 Jul 09 - 04:25 PM
Roger the Skiffler 03 Jul 09 - 05:59 AM
katlaughing 03 Jul 09 - 01:51 PM
fat B****rd 03 Jul 09 - 01:54 PM
George Papavgeris 03 Jul 09 - 02:36 PM
Roger the Skiffler 04 Jul 09 - 04:55 AM

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Subject: BS: Postcard from Ithaca 2009
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 29 Jun 09 - 09:12 AM

We last came to Ithaca in 1991 and stayed in the same accommodation. Then the owner, Joyce, was living in the main house next door. She has subsequently sold to a Greek-South African family and the main house is now also available to let. The house and spitaki are about 10 minutes outside the village of Frikes. While there has been no development by the house (though the road has been improved, sometimes there was more than one vehicle every 10 minutes!), the village has expanded. Then there were two tavernas, one small shop and a travel agent selling ferry tickets, renting motor bikes and changing money. Now there are four tavernas, a fast food café, two café bars, two good minimarkets (one run by Kiki who used to have the travel agents) two gift shops and a clothes shop. Apart from one block of apartments there are the same few rooms to let and small hotel but the main change is the improvement to the harbour which now offers safe berths and fuel and water for yachts. One evening there were 40 yachts in and never fewer than five. This has given the village a new lease of life. Even if the crews choose to eat on board they shop in the village. Kiki and her (?) English husband Paul now run one of the supermarkets and offer hot showers for yachtsmen, with hairdryers and hair straighteners available. They also offer "personal service" which I hope the yachts crew don't misinterpret. I admired one taverna owner's anti-Arms race T-shirt and he assured me he and his wife were the only Amnesty International members on the island!
        We were glad I could now walk into the village and get fresh bread. Last time there was only a travelling baker who delivered around 6 in the morning, fortunately for us Joyce used to take in a loaf for us. 6 am is not an hour I recognise on holiday!
There was a book and a film called Year of the Locust, last year in Skiathos we thought it was Year of the Cicada as our olive tree was full of them. Last time we were in Ithaca there were very loud cicadas at night, they were less in evidence this year though there were a couple locked in amorous embrace on our terrace most of the time: too busy to chirp! However… it was definitely the Year of the Cricket. In 30 odd years of visiting Greece we've stayed on over 2 dozen islands and visited about a dozen more but I've never seen so many enormous crickets. They were everywhere inside and outside, on the back of my T-shirt, on Her bathrobe, everywhere. It was sometimes like a scene from Starship Troopers. Fortunately we had a whole crew of geckos round the outside lights to keep smaller bugs at bay and a slimmer outdoor lizard living under the bed fulfilled a similar role indoors but I doubt they could get their jaws round the bigger crickets.
        The bouganvillia was in full flower and lots of yellow and orange and speckled brown butterflies around and moths at night. Although the Ionian is much greener than, say, the Dodecanese, there were fewer birds about, but lots of swallows, some still feeding the last of the brood, dive bombing the local cats and nesting in the eaves of tavernas, ignoring the hubbub from the diners below.
In 1991 we could watch a windsurfing school and enjoy seeing people falling off their boards from the comfort of our own terrace. The school closed in 1993, the only relic is a memento painted on the side of a wreck where they used to be based on Limonia beach. The locals said a certain yacht charter firm was buying up local rivals and closing them down. I heard yachties from other companies complaining at the difficulty in obtaining moorings as the large company always got in first. I could not possibly comment.   It was still pleasant to sit with a drink in hand on our own sunbeds on our terrace watching the yachts, passing ferries and liners with great views across to the islet of Atakos and the islands of Lefkas, Meganisi, and across to the mainland and Kalamos and Kastos. We did walk to Limonia beach and found the path through scrubby juniper and low holm oaks continually crisscrossed by heavy spiders webs and huge spiders. Probably hoping to catch a passing goat ( or tourist!). OK now we're in the middle of Arachnophobia with no John Goodman character to help!
The local beaches ( we had four in about 15 minutes walk, the nearest just over the road from our villa) were not busy yet except with locals coming down for a siesta swim and mums and kids after school. None were crowded and none had sunbeds or umbrellas, just trees for shade. When three elderly local men tottered down to the sea, I joked it was the over-60s Iron Man team as one had swim hat and goggles. No joke though, once in the water they swam at a speed and to a distance that would have put much younger men to shame. One in particular had a very graceful backstroke.
One online guide to the village said that "Local feuds often break out into fisticuffs" (how unlike any other Greek village we have ever been to!) but we saw no evidence of this. The loudest discussions were in the bars showing football or volleyball. People tried to entice us inside to watch Wimbledon but we resisted. We had a telly & CD player in the villa neither of which we used, nor did we see a newspaper for a fortnight, missed the Iranian election (I see Mr Afterdinnerjazz got back in , possibly), death of Michael Jackson and the Queen's Birthday Honours list (missed me out again!). Everyone was very friendly but we had no chance to practice our Greek as they all spoke fluent Australian. The 1953 earthquake led to a mass exodus to the Antipodes and the children and grandchildren of those exiles are now returning in numbers.
Ithaca is, of course , the birthplace of Homer (and the Birth Place of Yachts according to a sign in the harbour, since corrected) and that dreadful navigator Odysseus who took 20 years to do a journey which flotilla sailors now do in a couple of weeks. We didn't visit the "School of Homer" this year, there was only a corrugated iron car repair business on the site last time. One day we walked to Stavros and went into the little museum which has finds from prehistory to the Roman period. Many were excavated by the British in the 1930s from a cave which was buried in the 1953 earthquake. The very friendly, well-informed curator gave us a tour of the exhibits and also told us the news of Joyce and her family, once she knew where we were staying.
We also walked into the other main village at our end of the island, Kioni. Last time we had hired a motor boat (not this time: I have unhappy memories of its temperamental starter, my shoulder still aches when I think of it.) and the story of our arrival in the village then has been exaggerated over the years by Herself. OK, perhaps the thought of a beer waiting on shore may have led to my approaching the jetty rather faster than usual, but I still maintain we were in neutral and almost no way on when our fenders made contact. I strongly dispute that diners on the deck at the end of the pontoon had to run for cover or that it was like a runaway boat at a wedding scene from one of the James Bond or Police Academy films. The fact that the pontoon is no longer there is, I am sure coincidence and the word "matchwood" did not apply.
        Walking along the road we saw the usual safe driving practices. One moped driver had a stack of plastic chairs over one arm. Two others were side by side and arm-in-arm ( driver under instruction or just good friends?). We were told that the local police were strict on the wearing of seatbelts and crash helmets though they themselves wore neither. They were less interested in speeding or drunk driving, apparently. There is a house in Kioni called Hamilton House, where Lord & Lady H had stayed. I was amused to see a yacht displaying a company NELSON banner moored right below. There was a swish motor yacht in the bay with professional crew. "perhaps it's Charles & Camilla freeloading" I suggested. Well, on inspection, the boat was called Camellia, (registered in the Cayman Islands, of course) but, no, not them.
Back in Frikes, we walked up a newly opened road (not yet sealed and very light traffic in both directions following the centre ruts, slowly and carefully) towards the bay of Marmaka. Below us we saw a swish sailing yacht with professional crew. We didn't recognise the flag, I thought it might be one of the former Yugoslav states. We then speculated it might be some warlord evading justice. If we'd been snipers we could have… the future screenplay took shape, sub-James Bond or Mary Stewart I fear. We did get so far as to cast our parts. She would be played by Kate Winslet. I suggested Brad Pitt for me but we settled on Timothy Spall as more believable.
My reader may remember the miraculous icon that we saw in the paint splodge on the olive tree near our villa in Skiathos last year. This year She found a stone which She said showed Jesus holding out the loaves (albeit only 3). I picked up a multiholed pice of pumice and said it was the 5,000 waiting to be fed, but was told not to be silly. It could also have been Osama Bin Liner with a baseball glove on.
        The food in the village was excellent, I didn't have the same main course twice during the fortnight and we only had one Greek salad. The local sweet Rovani which I had been looking forward to was usually finished before we got there but I did get some on our last night. I also had several dishes I hadn't had before including the local specialty Savoro: a fish baked with raisins. We didn't think prices had gone up, fish was very reasonable, but, of course, the Euro is strong: almost parity with the pound. We had our pre-prandial drinks on our own terrace (local wine 4 Euros for a litre and a half, no rubbish!) and kept a bottle of Metaxas 3-star in the villa for nightcaps, to save a little money. I only put on 3 pounds, which I was pleased about, the walking obviously helped.
And finally…to what you've been waiting for, the annual swimsuit survey. As last year, black remained the colour of choice for the discerning woman who had reached the age of discretion, and some of the younger element. There was no clear fashion leader though. Emerald green, last year's favourite, had slipped away and leopard prints have mercifully disappeared. Pink, red and multicoloured (including floral) were all in evidence, but especially among the 20-somethings, mismatched tops and bottoms seemed to be common. As the survey has no category to collect such data, your sampler remains confused. The gents continue to wear longer and baggier trunks the younger they are. I myself have been pressured into changing my former boxer style for rather longer legs (though, not the full Surfer Boyz look)as, apparently, an outbreak of vomiting goat disease was predicted if my knobbly and wiry old appendages were on general view.
And that, dear reader, is that, nothing very funny, nothing at all musical, though posters were going up for a production of Snow White and the 7 Dwarves as we were leaving. One bizarre note. We travelled by a Swedish airline in a plane chartered from a Canadian company so although we were going from UK to Greece all announcements had to be in English and French.!

RtS


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Ithaca 2009
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 29 Jun 09 - 09:28 AM

PS I suppose the Australian influence was why there were few English howlers on the menus. Mind you, I did have the "baby lamp in hoven"... and very nice it was too.


RtS


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Ithaca 2009
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 29 Jun 09 - 09:39 AM

PPS I spent ages trying to decipher a road sign showing a traffic light and three Greek words, one of which I couldn't place. Finally I realised: it was an ADVERT for a driving school and the mysterious word was a personal name! I thought it was something about warning of school bus drivers! It actually said "MAMTAZ Driving School"

RtS


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Ithaca 2009
From: katlaughing
Date: 29 Jun 09 - 10:44 AM

YES!!! Thank you!!!


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Ithaca 2009
From: Micca
Date: 29 Jun 09 - 01:27 PM

As always, Roger, your sparkling prose transports us to Greece. Many thanks for bringing us up to speed with your many and varied adventures, (I could almost smell the herb-laden air)


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Ithaca 2009
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 30 Jun 09 - 08:24 AM

Thanks, fans.
I haven't uploaded my pix yet. If any look sufficiently amusing or interesting I'll put some up on Pixum & notify. Before somesmartarse points it out, the Nathanial Hawthorne book and the subsequent film was Day of the Locust, but "Year" fitted the rest of the rambling better.
I was glad that restaurant freebies hadn't disappeared despite the good number of punters. One taverna gave an amuse-bouche (as the restaurant reviewers call it)of olives & olive paste, we had free afters of watermelon & baklava and fruit liqueur and tsipouro. Not at the same time or in the same taverna! She asked for a Campari fisiko (Campari & freshly squeezed orange juice) in one recently opened bar. They didn't have Campari but got some in beforeour next visit! The barman was also trying to encourage the local tottie to try it so S may have started a trend!
I confess to buying 3 small souvenir-style goat bells to add to my skafi plaka. The Nation wails and gnashes teeth!
RtS


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Ithaca 2009
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 01 Jul 09 - 05:59 AM

Just before this drops off the bottom...
I said the food was still cheap, even the fish, probably because there were still three or four small fishing boats serving the village, not just importing fish-farm stock. One 85 year-old was still fishing three times a week. He then spent all the next day sorting and repairing his nets. His boat was one of the village chat centres, there was always someone sitting on a bench or bollard conversing with him while he worked. Every village seems to have one of those, usually one of the shops. In Frikes, the shop was another and also there was a sensible table and benches near the kids playground so parents, grandparents could chat, have an ice or play backgammon while the anklebiters let off steam on the equipment.
Greek villages seem to have invested heavily in playgrounds over recent years. Except for another village of may acquaintance, which shall remain nameless, but where the area I was told in about 1995
would be a childeren's playground still houses a boat, car park and
dog kennel.

RtS


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Ithaca 2009
From: GUEST,Dani
Date: 01 Jul 09 - 06:56 AM

Lovely!

But it did take me a confusing bit of reading to decide that this was NOT about Ithaca, NY.

Dani


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Ithaca 2009
From: katlaughing
Date: 01 Jul 09 - 04:35 PM

skafi plaka Your what? Babelfish translated it from Greek to English and came up with skafi plaka. Good grief!**bg** (I'm always interested in small bells.)


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Ithaca (Greece) 2009
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 02 Jul 09 - 07:16 AM

kat, my Greek friends assure me that is Greek for washboard like wot our dear old grannies used- and I thought they used stones and the local fountain in S>Europe! Literaly, a cleaning board.

RtS


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Ithaca (Greece) 2009
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 02 Jul 09 - 11:24 AM

Sorting the photos for uploading reminded me of a story we were told of an earlier visitor to the island who had returned a hire car with a badly dented bonnet. Sheepishily explained they had stopped to photograph a a donkey and offered it food, wherupon it promptly sat on the bonnet of the car leaving an ass's ass mark clearly impressed!

RtS
(rattle, rattle ting, ting, clang)


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Ithaca (Greece) 2009
From: fat B****rd
Date: 02 Jul 09 - 03:24 PM

Hey, Roger and SWMBO. Don't forget your old academic pal in Dunfermline!
I'm glad you're havung a good holiday
ATB from Charlie


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Ithaca (Greece) 2009
From: katlaughing
Date: 02 Jul 09 - 04:25 PM

LOL, smart ass!

Thanks for the translation!


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Ithaca (Greece) 2009
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 03 Jul 09 - 05:59 AM

I've finished uploading a few pix to Pixum and have sent out "invites to view" to the usual suspects (including you, Charlie). If you don't get one and want to see them PM me your current e-mail and I'll add you to the list of permitted viewers.

RtS


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Ithaca (Greece) 2009
From: katlaughing
Date: 03 Jul 09 - 01:51 PM

Thank you, RtS! I want to wade out into that beautiful water, lie back and just let it wash over me. What gorgeous scenery, etc. You take excellent pix, too!


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Ithaca (Greece) 2009
From: fat B****rd
Date: 03 Jul 09 - 01:54 PM

Looking forward my thimbled friend.


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Ithaca (Greece) 2009
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 03 Jul 09 - 02:36 PM

Another great report, Roger!

By the way, skafi literally means "washing bowl" or "tin bath", which sometimes used to have one corrugated side; this was more in later days and due to foreign influence, because as you point out, the original local scrubbing method involved (large) stones. Early "skafes" would be wooden, dug out of big logs. The clue there is in the name: skavo means to "dig" or "dig out", so skafi = "dug out". Later, a tin corrugated scrubbing plate would be attached on one of the inside surfaces. By the 1930s the whole skafi would be made of tin, but more often than not without a "washboard" side - washboards were sold separately mostly, with two hooks to help affix them to the skafi. I had my baths in one such up to the age of 8, of course I could fit in one then!

If, as I am guessing, what you have at home is an actual washboard, then the appropriate name for it would be triftis (accent on the first "i"), which means "grater" and also "scrubber". So, we use the same word in Greek for "washboard" as for the kitchen grater!


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Ithaca (Greece) 2009
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 04 Jul 09 - 04:55 AM

Thanks, George, for another useful Greek lesson, sadly, whatever I call it it doesn't sound any better! I also grew up in the age of the tin bath in front of the fire, we had a separate "copper" for hot water & clothes washing, though!

RtS


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