The Corfiot Village That We Call Home
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This is our first post for April 2014 and I must confess that it is a little late but then there are no surprises there!

We have much to look forward to this April. Chronologically, on the domestic front both Tricia and I have (independent) trips to the UK planned. We have Easter to look forward to which is the same as in the UK this year. (Easter Sunday is the 20th April.) We have our son David and daughter-in-law, Shelley due to visit just after Easter. It is going to be a busy month! Let’s see how it has unfolded so far.

The weather has been kind to us and we actually planted out some tomato plants after a frantic bout of digging and rotovating space in our overgrown vegetable plot. It was a bit early and to be honest we have taken a bit of a chance because it could easily turn very cold. If we get away with it, we will be ahead of the game.

I left for the UK on Saturday, 5th April leaving Tricia to immerse herself in housework! We had both been suffering colds and to be honest I had looked upon my visit to the UK as something of revenge as I normally manage to return with some ailment from the germ infested place! I will give the short version of my trip just to highlight my usual round of dramas highs!

I arrived on time and located the pickup point to get to the car hire company. All went well until I discovered that the car hire company would not be open at the time when I wanted to return the car. My only solution was to return it a day early. I was not a happy bunny! On the upside, my hire car was a brand new Vauxhall Astra automatic.

I decided that I ought to let Louise know that I was my way, only to discover that I was out of credit on my UK mobile. I hastily attempted to add credit to my account only to discover that, try as I might, I could not get the keyboard to appear on the phone so that I could follow instructions to, “Press 2 … etc.” I struggled for 20 minutes before hurling the mobile across the car in disgust!

I arrived at Louise and Steve’s in Hextable without further incident! They had arranged a meal out at a venue that was new to me – Bartella’s in Meopham. What a lovely place! The place was buzzing with an amazing atmosphere, not dissimilar to eating out in Greece. Much of the food definitely had a Mediterranean feel to it. It was a great meal and the place is certainly one that I will revisit, given the opportunity.

Sunday, 6th April was something of a first for Louise and I. I am not neglecting Steve but he had to work that afternoon! Louise and I had been invited to Sunday dinner with David an Shelley at their flat in Chadwell Heath, Actually, if I am honest, I did give a strong hint that I would like to squeeze in a visit as David and Shelley usually get left out on my trips. It’s never anything personal! It’s merely the timing and location of my various appointments. However, as I had come a day earlier this time, I thought the opportunity was too good to miss out on. I can report that their flat is lovely and David’s Sunday roast was excellent. We had a great time. I think that Tricia was extremely jealous!

Unlike my last trip to the UK, my journey on Monday, 7th April to Corinna and Dave’s in Chatteris was uneventful. My text to Corinna upon my arrival read, “Are you awake?” Corinna’s response was to appear at the front door in her PJs and shout, “I am now!” I was very early!

I couldn’t believe that nobody had colds … including me! Maggie had something of a stomach bug but appeared totally unphased. We celebrated my arrival with copious bars of Greek chocolate for the kids, a bottle of Metaxa for Dave and a belly-buster of a takeaway for myself and the children. It was very brave of Corinna as this was her ‘fast day’ and she abstained as did Dave.

Tuesday, 8th April saw Corinna and I heading into Ely in the morning. I had a medical appointment and she wanted to visit a handicraft shop. We managed to fit in a visit to Ely Cathedral where I took several photos. We did not pay to go right into the main part of the cathedral as I object to having to pay to enter a place of worship. I must confess that I have revised this view as I have since learned that the cathedral costs £6,000 a day to maintain and they will negotiate if visitors have difficulty in paying. I have included some of my photos.

That evening, I watched Chelsea play Pais St Germain in the second leg of their Champions League quarter final. Chelsea won 2 – 0 on the night and progressed through to the semi finals on the away goals rule. Bring on Atletiko Madrid!

Wednesday, 9th April was another first for me and also for grandson Ryan. I took him to York by train. I had wanted to see the National Railway Museum for years and once Ryan had checked out York on the web, he found several things he wanted to see – mostly involving Castles and dungeons and the like. We knew that it was going to be a full day and we weren’t disappointed.

What a fabulous city York is! There is no doubt that they have capitalised on its historic past but what history! York Station was an impressive start.We first visited the National Railway Museum which was a real eye opener for Ryan as steam engines were something that he had never experienced. I have always loved railways and even during the journey I saw things that as a youngster I would have been mesmerised by. Some of the specialist equipment and rolling stock that seems to litter the railway as one travels north is amazing.

For me, the highlight was “Mallard” which anyone with the slightest interest in railways, especially of my age group, will be aware holds the world speed record for a steam engine. (126 mph). I had never seen it in real life before and the number of photos that I took bears witness to my fascination with this outstanding locomotive.

I was impressed with Ryan as well! He had told Corinna that he had wanted to take photos and so she had lent him her memory card for his phone which has an impressive camera, I don’t know whether it is because he knew that I was interested in photography but he certainly seemed to enjoy taking photos and was frequently seen positioning himself to get the better shots.

Conscious of the time, we cut short our visit to go into the City centre by ‘Road train’. York Minster is Magnificent and if I ever get the chance to return to York, I will visit it rather than taking a couple of passing shots. In desperation, we settled for a quick lunch in a local Greggs, What can I say? “Never again” springs to mind!

With the aid of a tourist map and a couple of helpful locals we found our way to the Clifford Tower which sits impressively atop a steep mound in the middle of the city. It was only after climbing a steep set of steps that you discover that you have to pay to enter! Don’t get me wrong, the entry fee is worth it if only to climb the ramparts for the spectacular views of the city, Particularly York Minster.

From there we mad our way to the Castle Museum. Ryan was very interested in the many displays and tableaus. we also had access to the old prison. Many of the cells had images of actors in traditional costume of the period projected on the walls whilst they gave accounts of prison life. Ryan was fascinated.

With the day rapidly getting away from us, we made our way back towards York station stopping only for a quick bite to eat in the local McDonalds. Much more to our taste than Greggs! Our return journey got us to March at about 8.30pm where Corinna was waiting to ferry us home. I should add that this was under great duress as, she had had to record her beloved Manchester United’s Champions League match against Bayern Munich. Sadly for Corinna, Manchester United faded after a promising start. I didn’t gloat. Honest!

I returned to Louise and Steve’s on Thursday, 10th April and Steve followed me back to the car hire company. (Remember the debacle that I had described upon my arrival.) We made it back to their house shortly before Louise returned from work. That evening I was given the choice of Chinese or Indian takeaway. I settled for Chinese as I thought that it would be antisocial of me to fly home the nest day reeking of Madras curry!

Fortunately for me, Louise was not working on Friday 11th April and so at about 3.30am we set off to Gatwick AIrport. For once I had no dramas at the check in or with security. and it wasn’t long before I was on board the plane. We took off on time and arrived in Corfu 25 minutes early. After trying to contact Tricia a couple of times on the home phone from the airport, I gave up and tried her on the mobile. It transpired that there was a power outage in Loutses. Some things never change! At 15 °c with showers on the way home, it wasn’t unlike the UK!

By now, some will be wondering why I entitled this post ‘Fasting and Feasting’ I will explain. At this time, all devout Greek Orthodox believers were in the midst of Lent. They would not have been eating anything with a backbone. Sorry, but I am a confirmed carnivore and need meat! As a result, we had decided that we would go out for dinner on Saturday, 12th April.

Readers must remember, that ‘the season’ has yet to star and that there is a limited choice of places to eat out. We had decided to try a new place in Acharavi but by the time we arrived it was pretty full and evident that there was going to be live music. The only free tables were near the source of the music and so we decided to give it a miss. After some discussion, we decided to visit Marios at Ta Rembetika.

There were two people sitting outside and had it not been for them, we would have assumed it closed! Unperturbed, we went to the door where we were met by a very enthusiastic Marios! We had decided that as the inside was empty and the fire wasn’t lit, were were going to go somewhere else! Marios begged us to come in and have a Metaxa with him. Reluctantly we agreed and said that maybe we would come back during the week! Marios was having nothing of it! We tried to fob him off saying that we had only called in to book a table mid week when he would have time to prepare for us. That didn’t work

He dived out to the pizza oven and came back inside with a shovelful of red hot embers which he proceeded to throw on the fire! Instant fire! He produced a tray of fresh fish and we were swayed. We were staying! The table by the fire was set and we were treated to an impromptu feast! What we thought was going to be a dismal night was transformed. Marios insisted on filleting an deboning the fish at the table for us, all the time resplendent in his chef’s whites. It was like having our own personal chef. It was an unexpectedly good night.

Remember that attempt to fob Marios off? As we were leaving, he reminded us and all of a sudden we were due to return the following Wednesday!

The feasting continued on Sunday 13th April when we decided to pay a visit to Gabriel’s Steps in Old Peritheia for lunch. Because it was Palm Sunday it was very quiet. It had been quite a while since we had seen Theodoras, Lolla and their ‘boys’, Kostas and Yiannis. After the previous night’s blow out, we were very modest with our lunches, although the family insisted upon plying us with the occasional drink! The best thing was that we left with an invite to join them for Easter Sunday lunch. This was going to be a departure from our normal Easter and as it was close to home we are looking forward to it.

Yiorgos, our jobbing builder, turned up early on Monday, 14th April to start with painting the wood on our veranda roof. I had my own task lined up – pumping out the cesspit! We both worked hard that morning! Yiorgos finished around 4pm having sanded and primed the roof.

The next day, Yiorgos returned and filled in all the cracks before finishing off the priming. He even found the time to clean out the gutter for us. So as not to appear bone idle, I decided to strim part of the garden. There are places where it grows at an alarming rate.

It was fortunate that we both got our respective tasks completed because the weather was about to change for the worse.

It turned cold overnight and the rain started. When we got up on Wednesday, 16th April it was still raining and very cold. That put paid to the painting and more strimming. However, I did see Yiorgos that day. He turned up clutching a carrier bag full of lemons for us.

That evening we kept our appointment for dinner with Marios at Ta Rembetika. Again we had a fish feast! It was a lovely meal but Marios kept bringing us food to try that we hadn’t asked for! It was another good night with our personal chef although on this occasion he split his time between us and an Albanian family with three young children! We left thinking that we were going to explode!

That brings us to today, Thursday, 17th April was freezing when we got up. Well actually it was 7°C which is freezing by our standards! It was also raining off and on. I wasn’t too bothered as I had an important mission during the morning. I had to see our accountant to get our tax return done. That was €70 well spent!

This brings us up to date! We will be hurtling towards Easter and hopefully more eating, drinking and general celebrating! We will have fun. We hope you all enjoy your Easter too!

Happy Easter!

Bob & Tricia.

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