The Corfiot Village That We Call Home
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Since we last posted, the weather has been pretty good. With the exception of one day, we have escaped rain. Monday, 10th March saw my first foray into strimming the land.It was the first time that I had used the strimmer since Stefanos had replaced the clutch. What a difference! It was quieter for a start and it cut so much better. I hadn’t realised how badly the worn clutch had been affecting its performance.

Despite a shower overnight, the ground was okay to continue strimming the following day. By Wednesday, 12th March I had strimmed from the garage down to the first terrace; the first terrace itself; followed by the second terrace the slope down to the lowest level and the area we laughingly call the orchard on account of its two surviving citrus trees and our fig tree.

I always tend to undertake strimming in relatively small ‘bites’. Tricia maintains this is because of one of to reasons. Firstly, I am lazy and secondly I am getting old! There is a modicum of truth in both reasons but there is a third reason. I invariably encounter wildlife of some form or another. I obviously try to avoid harming anything bigger than beetles. I work on the theory that if I don’t catch them with the strimmer, by doing relatively small amounts at a time, I give anything lurking time to relocate. I have never forgotten strimming a family of hedgehogs.

I had only caught sight of a slow worm so far but things were about to change. I had been strimming the area under our almond tree and was making my way towards the pear tree. The grass (and wild flowers) was very tall. I suddenly saw something large and brown and very flat. It was somewhere between the size of a tea plate and a dinner plate. To be honest, I first thought that it was something that Jake had … er … deposited! I suddenly realised that my first suspicion was wrong. It was a toad, It was as flat as a pancake and about ¾ inch thick! Nearby was another toad in a similar condition but much smaller. I carefully picked them up and placed them out of the way where I had already strimmed.

I continued working for about 5 minutes when I detected movement out of the corner of my eye. The smaller toad had vanished and the larger one, now very much resembling a fully inflated toad was ambling off to the vegetable patch! I never cease to marvel at the resilience of this species. At about 12.30 I was joined by our friend Doug having previously asked if he wanted a job helping me strim. He had just completed one job and was reporting for duty! He has far more stamina than I have!

I finished at lunchtime but Doug continued all through the afternoon. We weren’t sure what the neighbours would think with him working through siesta but we didn’t get any complaints, thankfully.

Doug’s appearance was opportune as Tricia and I wanted to go to Corfu Town on Thursday, 13th March. We needed some shopping and I was getting worried about our ‘pink slips’ from the bank. We were expecting a summons from the accountant any day this month.

We left Doug strimming and set off for Corfu Town. The weather was gorgeous and Tricia’s sciatica wasn’t too bad. We were just approaching Roda crossroads when things started to go wrong. There was a very loud alarm from the car and the word ‘STOP’ flashed up on the dashboard. I stopped the car. The warning was replaced by another directing me to check the coolant. I checked the coolant. It was fine but the temperature gauge was off the scale. This was strange as the car was not overheating and the electric fan was working fine.

Given some of the previous electrical issues that we have encountered, I considered that a faulty relay was probably the issue. I restarted the car and continued on our way with the intention of taking it into the garage in town. Everything went well for about half a kilometre when we lost all drive! The car couldn’t be considerate and breakdown on a main road. It had to wait until we were on a lane that we use as a cut through! I put out our red triangle just in time to see a concrete lorry approaching. I franticly waved him down and explained that the car was going nowhere. He simply shrugged and reversed all the way back to the main road!

I telephoned the roadside assistance that we have with our insurance. This was a first as I had only changed insurance company in January. They were amazing! I then had to deal with anther concrete lorry – this time approaching me. I repeated my performance with a lot of arm waving and the driver got the message. He also reversed from whence he came!

Something mad me try the car again. By this time, every warning light on the dashboard had come on! The car started and what’s more we had drive. I drove it onto the main road and pulled up by a butchers shop. I wasn’t going to risk it any further. After about ten minutes we had a phone call from the recovery driver. He was coming from Corfu Town and reckoned that he would be an hour. By this time Tricia’s sciatica was beginning to hurt. SHe really wasn’t looking forward to a journey into town in the cab of a low loader.

I decided to phone Yiorgos. I had been doing him an awful lot of favours lately and it was time to call them in! I told him the situation and he didn’t hesitate in offering to come and collect Tricia. We were both very pleased. Sure enough, twenty minutes later, Yiorgos arrived much to Tricia’s relief. Fearing that the car was going to be out of commission for some time, Tricia took the cool-box with her. There seemed little likelihood of us doing any shopping.

I waited for the recovery vehicle who turned up ten minutes before I expected it. The car was unceremoniously hauled onto the truck and secured. At least the journey to Kassiotis was uneventful. Once there, the car was unloaded and a mechanic was given the task of checking it out. The first ( and only) thing he found was that the alternator drive belt had come off! I left the car and took a stroll up the road to the bank. It wasn’t the branch that I needed to visit but it did mean that I could draw some money.

I returned to the garage to find the car outside, apparently fixed! It transpired that the dislodged alternator belt was the only issue. My Trials were not over yet though! I went to settle up with Maria, the receptionist / cashier. She told me that the bill was €198. I was a little taken aback to say the least. Then Maria realised that she had printed the wrong receipt! The mechanic appeared. He assured me that the car was fixed and that there was no charge. I asked how they could fit a new belt for nothing. They hadn’t. They had replaced the original, assuring me that there was nothing wrong with it! That is so Greek!

I still had time to get some of the shopping but sadly not to get to our bank to collect the pink slips. Of course without our cool-box I was somewhat restricted on what I could buy. I was also starving by the time I was ready to return home. Still that was nothing that a flying visit to a grill room couldn’t put right! €2.20 for a takeaway pita gyro – Great value!

It wasn’t the day that we had planned but at least we had the car back and Doug had done more strimming for us.

I was up early on Friday, 14th March and out strimming. I was later joined by Doug. Between us, we finished strimming the land that day. I still had the front garden and the front verge to do but that could wait. The remainder of my day was spent sorting out issues on our forum photogallery and creating a guide to help those having difficulties with it.

Saturday, 15th March was memorable for all the wrong reasons! We went shopping in the morning which was no big deal. Things went wrong in the evening – Big style! As if it wasn’t bad enough that Chelsea were beaten  1 – 0 by Aston Villa, we had the match disrupted by the chimney catching fire!

Tricia had brought some dead clippings in from the bay tree. They were very dry and bunt well. At least they did when she put a few on the fire. A little later, I decided to put the remainder on the fire. The fire roared and then died down. The only problem was that we could still hear a roaring despite there being no apparent flames in the fire place. I drew the curtains and immediately realised what had happened. The entire veranda was lit with bright flickering light. I went out to see flames emitting from the chimney. It looked like the exhaust from an Apollo space craft!

Whilst, I ran to get a ladder, to reach the roof with the hose, Tricia doused the fire with a bowl of water. We succeeded in dealing with this emergency without the embarrassment of having to call the fire brigade. Scary or what?

We took a day off on Sunday, 16th March and went for a long lunch at Binelikia Taverna in Acharavi. They have moved to new premises on the main road. The location was nowhere near as pleasant as the old one on the beach but the food was just as good. We hope that the move proves successful for them. The last meal we had eaten out was on Clean Monday. On that occasion, Tasos and his family from the Grill Room had turned up there. Would you believe it? They also turned up at Binelikia. Mind you, it was only two doors from their place!

As the good whether continued, I decided to continue working on the land. Our olive trees had sprouted no end of suckers that needed cutting off. In fact one tree at the top of our land had been neglected for so long that the suckers resembled small trees themselves! This required the use of the chainsaw as opposed to secateurs. I couldn’t even manage that without a drama! I was on the verge of finishing work on this tree when a sucker that I had cut of knocked my glasses from my face. Could I find them, Could I hell!

I returned to the house and dug out my old pair of glasses. Tricia joined me in the hunt for the missing specs. I was on the verge of giving up and considering visiting the opticians when I spotted the missing glasses. How I hadn’t stepped on them I will never know!

I know that cutting off the suckers seems something of a minor job but it really is time consuming. We had a monster bonfire with the debris so far on Tuesday, 18th March. That wasn’t be the end of it!

Yiorgos’ and my tree-felling exploits continued into Wednesday, 19th March. I must confess that Tricia was seriously displeased! Despite her knowing that the trees were way too large, she had grown accustomed to them and didn’t want them cut. I had to deal with a very long face for at least a couple of days! Things were about to get worse!

Yiorgos and I discussed how one of the trees should be cut. I was worried that it would fall in such a way as to seriously damage two nearby trees.Yiorgos assured me that all would be okay. Wrong! Despite having almost completely cut through the main trunk, the tree obstinately refused to fall. Why was there no wind when you needed it! We attached ropes and heaved. All we achieved was to snap the ropes about three times. Yiorgos was truly disconsolate!

He sat down and had a cigarette … or two. We pushed. We pulled. All of a sudden, there was an almighty crack and the tree fell … taking all bar one branch with it. We have now consulted with a neighbour, Christos, who assured us that he can graft the remaining stump. We shall see. It needs something because the remaining stump is as rotten as a pear. It will be interesting to see whether there is any truth in the old adage that you can’t kill olive trees!

If Tricia hadn’t been upset before, she certainly was now!

By now, you are probably wondering what other disaster call befall this pair of hapless lumberjacks! Don’t worry, there was worse to come, if only for Yiorgos. I was spared the next issue although I felt bad because Yiorgos was doing us a favour by cutting the trees. On Thursday, 20th March we continued our chores. Whist Yiorgos cut the wood into suitable sizes, I dragged and generally carried all the offcuts up to where we had relit the bonfire. Whenever Yiorgos wanted a break, he put down the chainsaw and started helping me.

Now, I should point out that Yiorgos had been making and receiving a number of calls on his mobile phone. Some related to money that he was owed for another job nd some where of a medical nature as his wife was not well. Either way, all these calls were important.

There came a point when Yiorgos could not find his mobile. He was devastated. We hunted high and low and I rang his number but it was going straight to voicemail. That finished the work for the day as Yiorgos had to make arrangements for a replacement SIM, not to mention borrowing an old phone from his son-in-law.

The mystery was solved the next day when Yiorgos raked the remains of the previous day’s bonfire and found the now exploded battery and a few other parts of his phone. He was decidedly unhappy!

Yiorgos and I finished trimming the felled logs, burning them and moving the logs to the vicinity of the log pile. Although we had probably now cut enough wood to last most of next winter. it had been something of a disaster.

Over the weekend of Saturday, 22nd and Sunday 23rd March, Tricia and I took ourselves off for a couple of meals. On the Saturday, we visited Tasos Grill Room and were nearly caught out! Given that it was Lent. There wasn’t a lot left by the time we arrived. It didn’t matter as we still managed to order a minor feast!

Sunday saw us making the first visit of the year to Gabriel’s Steps in Old Peritheia. We were mad very welcome and had a really nice lunch. After lunch, we were chatting with Costas when Tricia noticed Costas’ dad with a bowl of what looked like stew. He was sharing it with his Mum. It turned out that it was wild boar stifado. 5 minutes later, Costas appeared with a small portion, all the time apologising for not having told us about it! There was only about half a portion and it was delicious! We were convinced that this was going to have been Costas’ dinner. What a nice reunion.

The next week was pretty uneventful. Independence Day on Tuesday, 25th April more or less passed us by. I guess that you could say that much of our week was spent scouring our land for Hoopoes! They are truly distinctive birds which although rare in the UK can frequently be seen and heard in Corfu at this time of year.

I first encountered a pair of Hoopoes whilst taking Jake for his morning constitutional. One was on a fence post between ours and Vangellis’ garden. Much to Jakes annoyance, I dragged him back to the house and told Tricia to get her camera out on the veranda. She took some really nice shots despite the distance. During the week we managed to get several pictures but I think Tricia’s were amongst the best.

On Sunday, 30th April we had what for us was a treat in store! We had arranged to meat some friends in Benitses. We met up in Lotsa coffee shop and then went for a really great meal in a Fish Taverna next door called, ‘Klimataria’. What a revelation! The meal was fantastic and the company a delight. Our group was a real ‘League of Nations’. Apart from Tricia and I who are really mongrels   (Me half English / half Welsh and Tricia half English / half Scottish), we had English, Welsh, Dutch, Irish, Canadian and a Dane amongst our throng. It was a really great crowd. What a great way for March to draw to a close. There was no way that we were going to surpass that during the one remaining day of March!

On that bright note, I think we will leave you for the time being.

All the best,

Bob & Tricia.

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