Κλήδονα – a Traditional Greek Rite

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We heard that there was to be some sort of local celebration in the village square, we assumed it would be linked to one or more saints – these things often are, and given the date had a connection to John the Baptist.  We were told there would be live music and dancing and jumping over fires.  Jumping over fires we are familiar with, this happens in Turkey earlier in the year.  Anyway, we thought it would be fun to head up to the square, eat at the taverna, drink some beer, and watch the events unfold.

Fortunately a friend, Simon, had booked a table.  We’d have been squeezed in somewhere but this was nearer the front and not indoors.  So we settled down to chat and watch, chat for a while because nothing much was happening yet, and nothing much would happen until the sun went down.

What we witnessed was quite strange.  Two figures draped in cloth and clearly unable to see were led into the square by groups of women, some in traditional dress.  The figures were then seated and some sort of conversation or ritual took place between representatives.  This was all in Greek, it was clearly poetic, and had elements of humour.  One woman would say something, then there would be a retort, and this continued back and forth for some time.  We had no idea what the content was but it was fascinating to watch.  What was clear it that it was clearly female thing so probably not as linked to John the Baptist as we initially thought. After much applause the draped figures were led away.

Then there was traditional music and dancing.  The dancing is familiar to us, it is very similar in Turkey.  Same clothing, similar steps, but more mixing of male and female, so definitely not traditional Turkish where that would not happen.  The music was particularly good, and we learned that the musicians were considered to be some of the best on the island.

At the same time three fires were lit on the street and there was some sort of traditional fire jumping.  This was mostly children.  Some would just jump over one fire, others who were more brave ran down the street and jumped each in succession.  It was all watched carefully by adults and there were water extinguishers suitably placed just in case.  Nothing unfortunate or bad happened, the children seem to have lots of fun.

Afterwards the musicians continued and there was more dancing.  By this time we were very full of food, the taverna had kept up a supply to all the tables which must have taken some doing given how many tables there were many of which were piled up with plates for food.  Needless to say the beer, wine and ouzo were also flowing.

Towards the end we were given a rolled up sheet with more details on what the earlier rite was about and an apology because it was all in Greek.  More on this in a future post – Hilary translated it.

The evening ended rather abruptly when there was an orange glow in the sky from a field on fire and some ash being carried into the village.  This caused some concern but it appeared the local fire service dealt with it quickly and no great harm was done.

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Moving Forward

What with various major life events involving unplanned trips to the UK and all manner of running around and life stress this blog and many other things got neglected.  Slowly we are getting our feet back on the ground even though we are back off to the UK fairly soon for amongst other things another bout of running around in what at times feels like a headless chicken.

Through all of this, and the moving back and forth between Selçuk and Παρακοιλα we have been crazy busy.  This now needs to stop, apart from anything else life in the Aegean through July and August is a time to slow down and relax.  Anything strenuous can wait until the heat of summer starts to subside.

In Παρακοιλα we now have the kitchen done, lovely custom hand made units, marble worktops, and German appliances.  We have also done all the essential repairs, got the electrics corrected (there was some crazy old wiring), the plumbing sorted, a garden that is ticking over nicely and external woodwork repaired as best as possible.   The rest can wait, apart from anything else the bank accounts need to recover.

In Selçuk we don’t need to do any of this stuff, it is all done, though we do need to have some inexpensive repairs done to the solar system.  Plus Ashley needs to go back to the cardiologist in İzmir for a follow up.  More on this and a bionic cardiac artery might be a subject for a future piece.

We have been asked on numerous occasions in both Selçuk and Παρακοιλα about our long term plans and to a lesser extent the why behind them.  So to set the record straight.
Are we planning to move permanently to Παρακοιλα? – No. We intend to spend time in both homes.  We might spend more of the summer months in Παρακοιλα and more of the winter in Selçuk but this is yet to be decided.  We envisage it will be a roughly 50/50 thing.
As to why, well there are a few forces in play.  The main one is our desire to protect and maintain our status as European citizens which is now largely (in so far as is possible) achieved.  The rest is as they say, “not my circus not my monkeys”.

A new roof and a lick of paint

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Once again we had ‘drama’ getting over to our home on Lesvos.  We had booked to go on 14th October.  But, due a row between Greece and Turkey, all ferries with Turkish flags were due to be banned from travelling to Greek Island ports until 12th.  As it turned out, this came to very little –  the authorities came to an arrangement.  But, having engaged the roofers, we felt it was wise to change our ferry and sailed out on 11th instead.

As you can see, a new roof was needed.  We had four men on the roof for a week.  They took off all the old tiles and boards, repaired the rafters that needed repairing and replaced those that couldn’t be fixed.  Put on new boards, added insulation, raised the concrete base to accommodate the insulation and put on new tiles.  A lot of work.  We had been dreading the cost and, whilst it was not cheap, it was very, very reasonable.

Whilst we were there, our good friend came over from Chios and introduced us to another friend, originally from Thessaloniki but living in Kalloni.  We took the bikes for a run to a village on top of a mountain which has a very good (and traditional) restaurant – very popular for Sunday lunch.

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Apart from the roofing, we cleared a huge patch of the upper terrace in the garden and the front garden.  We put a few plants in the front (herbs and lavender which may or may not survive).  The interior doors were rather nasty untreated hardboard.  We made a decision to paint them a rather attractive shade of blue…  Well, we think it’s attractive.

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We also had the air conditioning unit moved from above the front door (where it nicely cooled the hall but nothing else) into the sitting room.

On our last day we found the new supermarket in the village.  Not sure yet how far this will save us from daily trips into Kaloni on the bike.

In which we replace the solar system

We went back to Parakila right at the end of August.  We wanted to be away for Kurban Bayram so we booked ourselves onto the vehicle ferry from Ayvalik on a midweek evening before the holiday was due to start.  Well, that was not to be.  First the government extended the national holiday to start before the religious holiday, then the ferry company phoned us to say that the ferry would be leaving in the morning, meaning that we had to travel to Ayvalik the night before and book into a hotel.  No major issue and the huge crowds were marshaled through Greek immigration with great efficiency.

We let ourselves in, unpacked a whole load of tools and other things and were delighted to get out onto our own balcony in Parakila and were happily discussing our plans for our two week stay when we noticed a drip coming from…. somewhere on the roof.  Ashley briefly inspected it and concluded that we needed a plumber.  What to do?  Well, we headed for the town square, bought ourselves a delicious homemade lemonade each and asked if anyone knew a plumber.  A plumber was phoned and arrived before we’d finished our lemonade.  Hilary was allowed to take hers home as long as she promised to return the glass.

And that is how we met Manos, plumber and husband of the lady who owns the local taverna (he does the home deliveries).  He came home with us, borrowed a ladder and inspected the damage.  Our solar system was badly damaged to the point of being dangerous (the solar tanks there have an immersion heater in them).  He told us that it needed replacement and gave us a price.  Well, three prices for systems of varying quality.  We chose the middle one that had to be ordered from Athens.  Which turned out to be a fairly painless process (except financially as this was an unexpected expense).  A week later he and his assistant were up on our roof, fitting the new system.  Which seems to be perfectly satisfactory.

However, whilst the guys were up on the roof, they noticed a problem.  The roof was distinctly…. sloping where it should not slope.  There was no time to do anything about it that trip, but a roofer was arranged for next time we were out.  This was the cause of some anxiety for us as roofs, as everyone knows, can be very expensive items when they go wrong.

We had a very busy two weeks as it turned out.  All the windows in the house have wooden shutters and those which were exposed to full sun all summer needed some urgent repair and maintenance.  We experimented with various stains and varnishes and Ashley ended up treating all the shutters with polyurethane varnish.  This left them looking very good but we doubt if it helped his tennis elbow.

We got into a bit of a routine and found our way around Kaloni and the delights it has to offer (it’s a small town but it has several supermarkets and DIY/hardware stores including one that came to be known as the man cave).  We went to Plomari which is famous for ouzo, had lunch and bought a bottle for a friend who was going to bring Ashley’s new lens and boots over from the UK.  We lounged around on the terrace and we read.

We got back to Selcuk just in time for our neighbour’s middle son’s wedding.  Which was a lot of fun.  Loud, as Turkish weddings inevitably are, and everyone danced.  The groom is a professional singer and he sang a couple of songs himself which, as he has a wonderful voice, was very much appreciated.  We met up with our friend and Ashley got his boots and his camera.  And the rest of September was spent catching up at home.

 

Things we almost didn’t mention

Ashley-building

 

I’m not sure that we have photos of any of this but….

Early on in the spring or summer we took the bike to Pamucak beach and parked it up whilst we went for a walk.  Whilst we were walking ‘something’ happened to the bike.  We didn’t notice till we were a way down the road but, one way or another it had been knocked over and the end of one of the handgrips had come off.  We rode back to the carpark and, after some digging around, managed to retrieve it.  For a while we hoped it might be repairable but it had just sheared off through the metal.  The price of those grips in Turkey does not bear thinking about.  They’re quite expensive in the UK (and we weren’t due to go to the UK for quite some time).  Fortunately they are far cheaper in America and we were expecting a visit from some friends in March.  Parts were duly ordered, delivered to our friend and put in his suitcase so he wouldn’t forget them (thank you Wes).

Then Hilary got bitten by a spider.  Hardly noticed it at first, then enough pain to prevent sleep.  She let it go for a few days, at which point her leg swolled up most horribly and red lines developed, necessitating a trip to the local hospital and two courses of antibiotics, along with some magic water to apply to the bite and instructions to keep the leg elevated.  It soon started to improve and the two courses of antibiotics cured the problem.

Meanwhile, one morning when Ashley was watering our garden, our neighbour called us in to witness his carpets floating on at least 18 inches of our watering water.  It had seeped through from our tiny square garden into the lower part of his house.  We promised to fill that bit of garden in at the soonest opportunity.  Sadly this meant uprooting the bougainvillea which had grown up to cover our roof.  Ashley dug stuff up and, in the course of so doing, decided to use his rib as a lever.  And yes, it did break.  This made the rest of the work harder than it should have been not to mention more painful.

So, in between trips to Greece, we had a great week with our friends from America, got the part fitted, destroyed our tiny square of garden and paved it over with tiling.  It looked very sad at first but we’ve got some pots on there now and we intend to buy a lemon tree in spring, so it is filling up quite nicely.

Oh, and did I mention that Ashley built us a permanent barbecue on the roof?

He made an excellent job of it and has cooked some excellent meals on it.

With all this work, it’s hardly any wonder that if he’s not got tennis elbow, he’s got something pretty similar.  But it’s not slowed him down at all.

Hilary, meanwhile, has been working on costume for Conscience, a larp based on Westworld we shall be attending at the end of January.  This has included a full set of victorian ladies underwear, including a corset.  She’s still working on designing a hat!

Three countries in a week

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We had a busy week after we got home from the Greek trip on which we lost the camera. Hilary had some health check ups at the State Hospital in Kuşadası and we sent off for her residence permit (ours expire in different months due to a complex set of circumstances which involved an official thinking he was doing us a favour rather than making our lives more complicated). Actually getting a residence permit here in Turkey is a great deal easier than it used to be. It can all be done online and through the post and we now both have permits for two years – so no more of that hassle till 2019!

We then headed to London for a flying visit to family. Really only a long weekend but it was good to see them. Home for one day (just enough time to throw the clothes in the washing machine) then we were back to Lesvos. The very nice lady who was selling us the house had arranged to be out for a week so that we could visit the noter together and do all the legal stuff. It all went very smoothly and our estate agent took us all out for a very fine lunch to celebrate.

Next day we got the water and electricity put into our names. Then we moved into the house. The day after that we opened a bank account and got a mobile phone. Though, actually, the bank account was not properly opened as according to Greek law, you have to put 10K euro into an account to fully open it and that could not be arranged until we got back to Turkey.

We spent most of August at home. Both of our residence permits were safely delivered. Ashley updated his Turkish driving licence to the new format (an incredibly easy process). The guy in the Emniyet who told us what we needed to do didn’t know the url for making an appointment and advised us to Goggle for it. We now goggle for everything!  He also gave us a slip of paper which listed all the paperwork we needed.  Two new photos, a medical report from the family doctor, receipts for two payments from a government bank (the two payments totaled around 15 lira which is less than a fiver sterling) and his existing Turkish licence.  We have a new family doctor surgery here in Selçuk so we took the opportunity to visit her.  No one else was there and she and her assistants were very pleasant.  Because Ashley wears glasses, he also had to go to the ophthalmologist in the state hospital here and get a vision report.  We took all those things back to the Emniyet at the appointed time and, four days later, got a text message asking us to go back to the Emniyet and pick up the license.

What with the lost camera etc. this is not really a very photogenic post.  The picture at the top shows the dog who frequently visits us in the Lesbian House!

In which we almost acquire a cat

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Hilary has long been in the habit of feeding the local stray cats by the bin – especially in winter.  We do try not to let them become too dependent on us.  We travel a lot and cannot really take responsibility for a pet.  However, this grey cat was very friendly.  We called her Duman (with is Turkish for Smoke).  Because she was entirely grey.  We got back from our long Central American trip very late at night and there she was, on the doorstep, chatting away and…. very pregnant.

We took her to the vet who said we should bring her back four to six weeks after she had her kittens.  She had two kittens.  One was killed by one of the local tomcats.  The other…. well, she kept trying to hide it under our bed and we had to stop her from doing that because it would have been impossible to continue with that whilst we were not at home.

We were quite concerned about the situation when we went to Berlin for a few days so we built a kind of blanket fort on the terrace.  Sadly it was not enough protection as we never saw the other kitten after we got back.  Duman was fine though, so we took her to the vet.  She had her inoculations, she had her internal and external parasites dealt with, she was spayed.  The vet phoned us to come and collect her but, sadly, when we got to his office, she had died.  He was as distressed by this as we were.  He thought it must have been a reaction to the anaesthetic.  Whatever…. We never bought her home.

This year has been very tough on the feral cat population.  There has been a devastating viral disease (feline infectious peritonitis) which has killed a great many of them.  However, this winter there are a lot of kittens about.  The population is very resilient. But I am very wary of ‘adopting’ a street cat again.  I don’t seem to be very lucky for them.