Saturday, July 3, 2010


Linda, a neighbour for the past five years, left this morning; when she returns it will be as a visitor.  I first met Linda several years before she became my close neighbour.  She and her then partner, Ian, were launching a business to run and sell interest-associated holidays and had built a house here in Greece with that end in mind.  My attention was drawn to an advertisement in a magazine inviting people to telephone for a brochure about the holidays.  I had no interest in the holidays but, as in those days there were very few fellow Brits around, I was interested enough in the people who were behind the enterprise and interested to know from where they would be operating.  A phone call later I had learnt that the house they had built was only about a half-hour drive from my home.  The business seemed to flourish and we met moderately frequently.  Linda is a good administrator and an excellent vegetarian chef; an ex-safari chef.  Ian among many other things was an adroit installer and manager of their building's advanced and complex wind and solar power and solar heating systems .  Everything seemed to be going along quite nicely but subsequent events were to prove that they were not.  Ian became unsettled and returned to the U.K.  Linda carried on alone running the business for another season, while she advertised for new business partners but she, happier establishing enterprises than running them, was finding the going tedious and less than fulfilling.  Eventually her personal relationship with Ian ended,  the business ceased to be and the property was sold.  During the period that the business was operating, guests were accommodated in the main building while Linda, Ian and their staff slept in the grounds in three modern yurts that had been bought for that purpose.  The yurts were not included in the house sale. 
Around my house I have a large area of ground; largely unused, untamed rocky hillside.  Linda had nowhere to live but had three yurts and nowhere to put them.  It seemed obvious that she should live in her yurts on my spare land, and that is how Linda came to be my neighbour.  Initially she erected her yurts in the valley, sheltered from winter winds, but it was somewhat gloomy down there so she braved the winds and moved her yurts to a commanding position with spectacular views on top of a little knoll on the edge of the wood.  One yurt has served her as a living area, another as a bedroom, the third yurt she made a gift of to Velanidia, 'in lieu of rent' she said.  For five years this has been her home but she has taken many breaks of varying length, some to boost her economy, some to travel but always to do interesting things and visit interesting, unusual places; Petra, Mongolia, Easter Island, New Zealand, an Ashram in Kentucky, are some of the places that come to mind.
From what little I know of her life, Linda seems to be passing through it as a series of chapters.  Perhaps, in a way, we are all doing that, but Linda's chapters seem to be more clear cut than most; her african chapters, her south american chapters, her greek chapters, her english chapters and who knows what other chapters and what of the chapters yet to be written?  I know they will not fail to be interesting because Linda. a very interesting person is a rare bird in our increasingly uniform mid-grey times.
I shall miss Linda and I shall miss her yarns but there is a final chink in the curtains that will not be closed until October when Linda will be back to dismantle and hand over her yurts to their new owners and for her to lead the three-week, trans-Peloponnese stroll that she has spent hours of this year planning on behalf of a half-dozen or so of her regular tramping chums.  I hope I shall be fit enough to be up for it!.

Phocos SF50E refrigerator

Linda, who is leaving Greece, has passed on to me her Phocos SF50E refrigerator.  I tried, last year to buy one of these life improving gadgets but, according to their website, the German manufacturer had 'ceased to distribute this product in Europe'.  In common with many boats and motor-homes, my home here has only twelve volt, direct current, electricity.  This has not always been so.  For too many years I tried to emulate mains connected homes by feeding twelve volt battery power into an inverter which turned it into normal mains strength alternating current electricity.   This worked well enough during the summer but in the short, cool and invariably partly cloudy days of winter the power system had to be managed with great care, and electricity used with great restraint even so, after ten o'clock at night, there was no power left for the water pump; candles and oil lights were the only option for lighting.
Albeit slowly, I learn.  In a yacht chandlers I had entered, hunting down some odd artifact I believed I needed at the time, I 
chanced to notice a stock of energy saving electric light bulbs identical to mine at home but marked '12V DC'.  I bought one, took it home to experiment with and was both surprised and delighted that it performed exactly as my existing light bulbs.
Water is pumped to outlets around the house by an ingenious pump.  The pump has a large chamber which is electrically pumped full with water.  Within the chamber a bladder full of pressurised air is compressed by the incompressible water.  When a tap is opened  the air in the bladder is able to expand to produce an instant flow of water.  Converting the pump to twelve volt was simply a matter of changing the electric motor but getting an adequate current to the motor did prove to be something of a problem which was eventually solved by adapting a pair of truck jump-leads to link pump to battery.  Nothing else that I use here draws high current so existing wiring is adequate.  Inexpensive car adapters are freely available for computers and mobile phones and many electrical appliances and tools in fact work with low voltage direct current electricity and have to have built-in transformers which can be more or less easily by-passed.  I am fortunate in this respect in having an electronics boffin living near by, it was he who converted the Yamaha Clavinova piano to work with a twelve volt supply.
The fridge will be a godsend; thank you Linda.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Too good to let go

This came by me this morning. The sentiment is too close to my heart for me not to post it: 

"For as we forgive, we are forgiven; as we condemn others, we are ourselves condemned. Thus in patience condemn not, neither find fault; not condoning, not agreeing, but let thine own life so shine that others, seeing thy patience, knowing thy understanding, comprehending thy peace, may take hope."

Edgar Cayce

Six-thirty this morning: the eternal daily manifestation of the First Cause

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pink Slips: A Portent?

I heard disturbing, although as yet unsubstantiated, news this morning; from this coming autumn, foreign nationals resident in Greece will have to produce for the revenue authorities a 'pink slip', or a quantity of them, to prove they have transferred at least 3,000 euros into a greek bank account during any future tax year. Complying with this rule will be no problem for most, if not all, of retired Northern Europeans who have chosen to live here but it may not be so easy for many of the younger and far less well-heeled immigrants from ex Soviet Bloc countries, many of who scratch a living within the extensive black economy here. For me the news came as yet another nail in the coffin of the beautiful freedom I have enjoyed here these past twelve years.
There were many reasons for my coming to live here in Greece. The weather, top of most British ex-patriots' lists, was a minor concern; I could have found fine weather almost anywhere around the Mediterranean. The comparative cost of living here was and still is attractive, although the gap has closed considerably, but that too was, and probably still is, true of other Mediterranean countries, albeit perhaps to a lesser degree. More important than material concerns was an affinity with Greece instilled in me over sixty years ago by the uncle who had had something of a classical education interrupted by the war and who had helped me to be fully literate when I joined, aged four and a half, my first school. Uncle Arthur's Greece was not, of course, the Greece in which I am living but I doubt that the landscape or the night sky have altered much nor, until perhaps fifty years ago had the rhythm of life of most peloponessian Greeks. But it was not the many attractions of Greece that caused me to settle here, it was my increasing concern about the way England, the country in which I and generations of my ancestors had been born, was heading in the name of egalitarianism; into an abyss of mob control. Repressive new legislation was increasingly being introduced and enforced, not as the result of the findings of objective research but, seemingly to me, at the whim of faceless commissars who told me it all made sense. “You know it makes sense” was the mantra slogan of one particular government nanny. Well, to me it did not! Had there been any indications of support from my friends and acquaintances I may have stayed and given my support to a recovery of the standards of freedom known to my ancestors; standards which many decent folk had fought and died to preserve. Far from there being any such indications forthcoming, it appeared to me that my fears seemed to my friends to be irrational. I had become something of a loose canon, why could I not acquiesce as they were with increasing bureaucratic lunacy? The nonsense continued; to sell a bag of apples, or a pound of apples became a criminal offence, laughable notices appeared all over the country warning of the most obvious dangers, they became something of a joke, they still are, yet still the docile mob acquiesced and continue, apparently contentedly, to do so. Fed on material sweeties; one or two mortgages, one or two cars on the drive, one or more TVs, decking over the garden, a conservatory, a fortnight in the sun each summer and so on and so on, of course they did not want any boats rocked! There being no hope of my influencing my fellows I voted with my feet and came to live in this country where nothing is measured but all measures are generous; where walls or fences are not considered necessary; where folk are naturally open and welcoming; where there are few policemen and little crime. This is not true, I know, of Athens but Athens is no more representative of provincial Greece than is London of provincial England.
These halcyon days of freedom which, with a few short but rather nasty interruptions, have been extant here since the Ottomans left around a 180 years ago, are now, I believe, numbered. Our paymasters in Berlin are keeping a very close watch and I have no doubt that they will be quite happy to fund the policing for enforcement that all the new, socially pointless, legislation will require.
The “Pink Slip” rule, will be but nothing to what is certain to follow but we must not be concerned, “we know it makes sense”.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I have read, that to lust after another man's wife is tantamount to committing adultery with her.  I am not convinced about this, surely the thought would be missing all of the ecstasy and a good deal of the agony of the deed but it will serve me well enough as an analogy to the notion that it is dishonest, when means of publication are available, to withhold an idea.
I have a few ideas that I am keen to express but have held off doing so because I would not want to cause pain to anyone who might, correctly or otherwise, identify with what I consider to be causes of deficiency within our society.
I discussed these fears with a close friend recently.  She had not doubt about the dishonesty of harbouring even our most antagonistic thoughts.  Later the same day I read William Soutar's diary entry for Friday 27th April 1934.  Soutar is referring to his diary but the sentiment holds equally good for blog posts:

A diary is like a drink: we tend to indulge in it over often: It becomes a habit that would ever seduce us to say more than we ought to say and more than we have the experiential qualifications to state.  It is a kind of private paper that demands its quota of news every day and not rarely becomes a mere recorder of spiritual journalese.  But not only can it persuade us to betray the self - it temps us to betray our fellows also, becoming thereby an alter ego sharing with us the denigrations which we would be ashamed of voicing aloud: a diary is an assassin's cloak which we wear when we stab a comrade in the back with a pen.  And here is this diary proving its culpability even to its own harm - for how much on this page is true to the others?
This was an augury.  Henceforth, it will be a cause of regret to me that any friend or casual reader of a post of mine should be offended by anything I publish.  Rest assured though that I shall use all my diplomacy, such as that is, to avoid distress.  I have no choice now, however painful it may prove to be, but to express my deepest  concerns; the unseen hand on my shoulder insists that this is so.

Costa Navarino

The Homeric country around Pylos on the west coast of the Peloponnese is exceptionally beautiful. Olive grove and wilderness clothed, this land, known to Odysseus and Good King Nestor, slopes gently to the fine beaches of the island-dotted Ionian sea; from time immemorial it has been home to countless species of animal and plant with which, for millennia, man(kind) has largely peacefully co-existed. What better place in the world then could there have been to construct two international standard, eighteen-hole golf courses with their attendant hotels and services? The courses, I am told by folk who claim to know about these things and are able to afford such fripperies, are 'world class'. Attendant huge hotels are in a class of luxury that affords to provide each ground floor apartment with its own private swimming pool while but a short stroll from these man-made concrete monoliths are the soft sandy beaches of an empyrean, almost unbelievably pellucid sea.
I am not a killjoy nor I am I at all envious of material wealth; I have little need of it. A part of my mission is to try to sow the seeds of the idea of there being wealth beyond material wealth, wealth R.L.Stevenson described as that you can take with you in the event of being shipwrecked. It is not the developers of schemes like Costa Navarino with whom I have a problem, my difficulties are of understanding the lust of the markets that drive them.
The courses are less than a one hour drive from my home so I can not avoid seeing the irreversible effect they have already had on the area. Miles of coast fronting pristine empty beaches that has been open for all have become prime development land; charming easy going bars and tavernas are having international/Italian style makeovers, their proud albeit indolent local staff replaced by more deferential, servile immigrants. Fishermen are turning away from the useful lives of their ancestors to become sea chauffeurs to folk who crave constant entertainment. The champions of these schemes tell me that they are manifestations of progress and that they are 'good for the economy'. I can not argue against the obvious signs of material change but I am also witnessing hugely expensive spiritual and emotional consequences, where are the means to measure these? Time will be the ultimate arbiter but I shall be surprised if what I am witnessing today is not replacing the secure, debt-free, interdependent lives that for centuries generations of folk have enjoyed hereabouts with the insecure, deeply indebted, selfish existences of folk in more 'advanced' countries.
I am aware that Greece has a serious debt problem. Greek villages, those at least untainted by mass-tourism, are still largely self-sufficient but the writing is writ large on the wall.
For more information about the catastrophe visit:

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What God Wants

"God wants spiritual fruits, not religious nuts."
I stole that from a comment on another's blog and left my own comment about liking the idea but thinking it a tad arrogant that we should know what God wants.