Licence to………Kill??

Obtaining my Greek citizenship last year, brought into affect a chain of events, which not only forced me to revert back to my maiden name, but also led me to re-take my driving test in order to obtain a Greek licence. After ascertaining that the standard of the driving test here is actually rather high, I just had to ask my driving instructor. “Why is it, given the standard of driving instruction is notably high, are there so many bad drivers here in Greece?” I held my breath in anticipation of his provoked, heated response, something along the lines of… “get out of my car!” Instead, I saw his face contort into a series of impossible to interpret, grimaces. After giving my question due consideration, he decided to spill the truth. A truth, that perhaps a few of us already suspected. Many drivers obtained their licence by, let`s say, not so legal means, and didn`t actually sit the true exam! “Noooo!” I exclaimed, feigning indignation. “I don`t believe it!!” He gaily notified me of this nugget of truth as he wound the window down and hurled a plastic bag out of the car into the wind! As I slowed down to stop at the STOP sign, which he had previously, explicitly instructed me, that all vehicles MUST be brought to an absolute standstill before passing the stop sign, he gestured impatiently for me to pass without stopping! After I had pulled over so he could pick up his morning coffee, I made an executive decision. I considered that I had reached the required level and obligatory number of hours of driving instruction and will await the actual test, rather than endure further lessons.

Having passed the first two hurdles, (two theory tests – one for the car and one for the motorbike – which entailed me learning over three hundred road signs, road priorities etc, whereupon the theory exam required me to correctly answer a minimum of 29 out of 30 questions to gain the certificate, I am forced now, to wait out a strike, which is holding up the practical driving test itself. Nevertheless, I am confident that I will soon hold both a Greek and a UK driving licence. Barring any unpredictable events that is……

This rigmorol presented the usual mental gridlock (`scuse the pun). A clash between my basic, disciplined standards, deep rooted in my innermost self, my perceived ideas of how things “should” be done – and how things are actually done here. The result – inflammation of that damned enduring thorn in my side once more.

The only way to stay sane? Wham some Sudacrem on that itchy thorn, slap on a plaster and hope the irritation goes away swiftly!

Waterproof Groupie

This year`s astonishing amount of rain has had us penned up in the house for more days than could be considered healthy.

Gotta admit, once those clouds close in, releasing yet another deluge, (at times it feels like one of those tarpaulins that gather water over a market stall suddenly gives way and empties the contents over your head), leaving the courtyard and garden resembling a tidal swimming pool, with mud bath attraction thrown in. The kitchen light comes on and I launch into another earnest kitchen cupboard hunt, for ideas of something else to bake to occupy myself with. The consequences of several quiches, pies, jams, preserves, not forgetting the 3 and 4 course dinners over the past week or two, have forced me back into my stretchy waist trousers. Vags on the other hand, suffering from his own serious case of cabin fever, paces, huffing and puffing, flicking from one news channel to another in search of something to keep him occupied whilst house-bound.

Togged up in my waterproofs, I`ve managed to walk the dogs every day. Despite expertly rebutting Vags` incredulous reaction at my insistence on walking them when it`s bucketing it down, he still shakes his head in disbelief as he watches me bustle from the house looking like an Atlantic Ocean trawler fisherman. On the whole, the dogs seem unperturbed by the rain and are quite happy galloping around, getting wet. They are, however, developing an unrealistic fear of thunder, which is a little disturbing.

The extraordinary volume of rain this year has had gorges, rivers, storm drains and forgotten springs running at full capacity, which, after two drought years, is a wonderful sight. However, the destruction left in it`s wake – the brunt being felt mainly in the West of Crete – is equally extraordinary. Ancient bridges have been swept away, roads simply disappearing into caverns and slipping down mountainsides, land slides and falling buildings, not to mention the loss of 5 lives to date, (flood related), here in Crete alone.

I can only assume that there can`t be much rain left to rain, but who knows. I rather embarrassingly admit though, it colludes with my hermit-like nature, which regularly tries to restrain me from participating in the outside world.

I live in the hope that we have an extended period of cool-ish Spring conditions, which will hold off the inevitable onslaught of high temperatures for which Crete is notorious.

Bergamot Orange Spoon Sweet (Περγαμόντο Γλυκού του Κουταλιού)

This outsized, nobbly citrus, is yet another unusual fruit found here in Crete. It is not to be found in everybody`s orchard though. However, if you hunt around some of the older villages, you may be lucky enough to find a bergamot tree.

The type I was given appear to be the uncultivated type, which in no way resembles the cultivated one. See here. When it comes to their usage, Cretan housewives create yet another epic spoon sweet. Although the actual flesh, described as tasting somewhere between a lemon and a grapefruit, is edible, it is the rind which is valued here. Using the bare minimum of ingredients, allows the aromatic rind to work it`s magic. I describe the process below.

The essence extracted from the aromatic peel is used for flavouring not only Earl Grey tea, but an all round favorite, turkish delight! I awoke the next morning after preparing the sweet and the divine aroma still permeated the house.


500 g approx, bergamot peel

1 kilo sugar

1 1/2 cups water

Juice from one large lemon


Wash the bergamot well under running water. Due to the uneven surface of the fruit, use a very sharp knife to scrape away the exterior of the peel, in and around the lumps. (This can be kept and used to flavor cakes or salad dressings etc.)

Slice a ring off the top and the bottom of the fruit, continue with four vertical cuts, which will allow you to pull away the peel in sections. Discard the fruit. Remove any fibrous strands from the inner part of the peel.

To de-bitter:

Put the sections into a pan with cold water and boil for 10 minutes. Strain the peel and add to cold water again. Once they are cool enough to handle, slice into thin sticks.

Repeat the boiling procedure, discarding the water and adding fresh, twice more. At this point you should check to see if the peel retains some bitterness. This is purely personal preference. It is a characteristic of this spoon sweet to retain a slight hint of bitterness. If you prefer to eliminate the bitterness completely, leave in cold water over night.

If not, continue, by straining the peel, press lightly to expel excess water. Add the water and the sugar to a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring, to ensure the sugar has dissolved. Add the chopped peel and leave to boil for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and leave until the next day.

Next day boil the peel to bring the syrup to setting consistency, using a plate kept in the freezer to check periodically the thickness of the syrup.

Once the syrup has thickened, add the lemon juice, allow the sweet to boil for a minute or so more and remove from the heat. Jar up into sterilized jars.

You`ll be the envy of your friends when you serve this special treat.


Fog or Foe?

With sand on my lips and the whiff of camel dung in my nostrils, I took my dogs for their walk today. These photos reflect the seriousness of the situation once again, here in Crete. A situation which seems to be commonplace now in early Spring. Whilst this horrible, Saharian sand invasion once more, ventures to bring Crete to a coughing standstill, I commiserate with people suffering from respiratory problems.

The second full blown invasion in less than a week, will have residents outside tomorrow with the hosepipes once more, washing away the aftermath, with doubtless, thousands of cubic metres of scant, precious water going down the drain. Nothing can be done however, about the “pink” snow which now caps our higher mountain peaks.

Words fail the agitation I feel, experiencing this very obvious, global warming alarm bell, resounding firmly across Southern Europe. Most conscientious citizens hear the toll, but what of it, are the powers that be listening? Seriously, I doubt it.

Whilst Donald Trump shoves his head deeper into his own sand-pit sand, I suspect his already challenged notion regarding global warming, will be further hindered by the erection of his proposed wall, reducing more profoundly, his peripheral vision to zero.

Happy (Hic) New Year

I`ve written, deleted and re-written this year`s Christmas post more times than I think I care to admit. It would seem my non-eventful Christmas, has sapped my posting inspiration.

Despite several local establishments` attempts to lift dull moods whilst attending to Christmas/New Year shopping, by cunningly plying us with generous brandy tots – their kind gesture, a “thank you” for patronizing their store, being tipsy at the unearthly, disgraceful hour of 8.30 am, offered no comfort, but only served to highlight my weak-kneed self control, which crumbled, spectacularly before the proffered drink.

However, later at home, feeling invigorated, taking advantage of an upsurge in energy, I gave the dogs a brandy fuelled speed walk, which left me rozy-cheeked, icey-eared and short-winded.

Christmas day dinner was cancelled, as the three grandkids and DIL dropped like flies with a dreadful tummy bug, it left us to our own devices. Not a massive calamity, but we had looked forward to some unruly, noisy, “grandkid time” It did, however, allow us to work to our own programme. Taking a quiet drive out to Neapoli we enjoyed a relaxing coffee in the square, where cafeterias all seemed to be working normally, appeased our moods. I did manage to cajole Vags into tipping the dedicated staff whom served us our coffee on this Christmas morning too.

Marvelling at my normally, tee-total body`s ability to cope with the alcohol over-indulgence, we enjoyed New Year at home, wrapped up in PJs and blankets. The excellent company of Captain Morgan, a fabulously scrumptious cheese board with crackers and Netflix held my uninterrupted attention till the wee hours of the morning.

That`s it though, holidays over, all bottles which chink suggestively, have been pushed to the back of the drinks cupboard – thus, moderating the fatal temptation they exert on us weaker souls.

Albeit belated, I`d like to wish everyone a wonderfully happy and healthy New Year, may it be cram packed full of fabulous events, caring love, treasured family and great friends.

New Year 2019

We awoke yesterday morning to this toe-chilling, yet heart-warming sight on the mountains around us.

An unusually low 4 degrees allowed the hailstones which fell around Kanakary in the night, to linger at the edges of our garden and road sides. Villages at not so much higher altitudes than ours here at Kanakary, woke to find their villages completely blanketed in snow. Even our dogs, unused to seeing snow, licked and munched happily on the icy left-overs.

The falling of snow always dominates the news channels and, in turn, generates excited Cretans, whom, suddenly reverting to being kids again, enthusiastically head for the hills to enjoy a day frolicking in the snow.

As I hear the rather hardier residents of more northern countries cry out in indignation, “What?? Are you mad?? Who wants to wake to snow and freezing temperatures?” I must rush to our defense. We live on an island that has perpetually hot temperatures, and often extended periods of drought, (a phenomona becoming more frequent in latter years), where even Winters find us basking in temperatures of 18 or more degrees. Not only does snow bring a sigh of relief to our thirsty land, it also carries a measure of appeal on a recreational level.

We have had a good start to our Winter, with seemingly plenty of rain. We were however, rather disturbed by the still unusually low levels in the Aposelemi reservoir in the vicinity of Potamies and Abdou, which we visited recently. On a previous visit, three years ago, water levels three-quarter swamped the little hillside village of Sfentili. An intriguing sensation, peering into abandoned houses, as of then, unclaimed by the water, whereas other dwellings had completely sunk below the mass of water.

Sfentili on the hillside

The reservoir has the potential to hold an astonishing 30 million cubic metres of water. Today, already half way through our Winter, the water line still falls to a desperately low level, where we had to walk a good 300 metres from the lower edge of the village to meet the water`s brim. In the last quarter of 2018, levels had fallen disastrously below one million cubic metres and operators were forced to deactivate the pumps which distribute the water, in order to safe guard the machinery.

Views of Aposelemi and Sfentili

Lakko (Λάκκο) A District With a History

We were intrigued by reports from a good friend, of street art emerging on the walls of ruined houses tucked away in a quiet corner of Heraklion, close to the old city wall and Nikos Kazanzakis`s burial place.

Stepping back in time into the old district called Lakko (Λάκκο), we discovered a wonderful medley of artists` impressions, on canvases of crumbling brickwork and render. These fabulous artists have dressed the decaying walls of this community with vibrant colour and originality.

Wandering along the narrow alleys of this almost ruined part of the city, I could imagine I was strolling through some remote Cretan village. The concept – simple, but surprisingly emotive, led us passed tiny stone buildings, time worn and run down, doors, chained shut, overgrown courtyards, tumbled walls, where, suddenly, we would find one more select masterpiece adorning the flaking wall.

This corner of Heraklion, which today is putting on it`s better, prettier face, hides a rather shady past. In the early 1900 `s, the Greek government decided that the area served itself well as a designated red light district. This fact, aptly reflected in one artist`s impression of a “lady of the night” in provocative clothing, adjusting her garter – entitled “Wall of Goodness” made me smile.

In the heart of the community, a small square, banded by kafenions and drinking establishments, which drew hordes of ruffians, dealers and pimps of the age, looking to provide a good time for a paying audience, bringing with them hashish, nargile dens, (hubba bubba pipe), outrageous parties and rebetikamusic – these elements, coupled with a slang all of it`s own, cultivated a deeper dye to the red light district.

This “underground” commerce, quickly isolated the area from the rest of Heraklion, which shunned this unrestrained, liberated district.

Rumour has it, that FIL frequented the district for a number of his younger years – a conversation that I`d be keen to have with him – one day.

I digress.

Below are a few photographs of the street art, which by all accounts, are being continuously contributed to.

Special thanks to Keith and Linda Poole

Racing Sunday


The weekend had arrived, it was early Summer and the weather was fine, this combination always prompted a “volta” (βόλτα).  I`m obliged to introduce you to this word, as it carries importance in Greece, meaning “take a walk, trip, drive” etc. You would “voltaris” with your girlfriend, “voltaris” down to the Kafenion, or the local bar, and there seems to be no equivalent word in the English language which creates the same image.

So, the vaguest of plans were made for a Sunday morning departure.  With the family still fast asleep in bed at 9 am the next morning, the dogs barking alerted us to visitors. I allowed Vagelis to investigate.  I failed to decipher the muffled voices and closed my eyes to snooze some more.  He came crashing back into my dreams, yelling for us to get up and out of bed NOW!  In fear of an earthquake, or some other unimaginable natural disaster, we all stumbled to our feet with bleary eyes, to be told that they were closing off our drive entrance to hold the annual road racing event along the old National Road, where our house is situated, and if we did not leave now, we would be trapped in the house for the full day. A calamity in all senses of the word, when the whole of Crete beckons to be explored!

In the next few minutes, outright havoc reigned at Kanakary.  Three frenzied females and Vagelis, attempting to grab the necessities required to leave the house for the day, created quite an alarming sight.  Half dressed and clinging on to shoes, t-shirts, beach clobber and hairbrushes, we all jumped in to our old Fiesta and made our way up the driveway, where the official in the yellow fluorescent jacket was gesticulating and shouting that we should not leave, as the race was due to begin any minute.

Determined not to be trapped at home for the day, Vagelis stubbornly indicated that we would leave in the opposite direction.  We left Mr. Fluorescent with his stripy plastic tape half tied across our driveway entrance and sped off in the opposite direction of the race start line.

Adrenalin pumping after this unusual “wake up”, we all started giggling as we tried to finish dressing.  As Vagelis sped around corners at breakneck speed, we were flung from side to side like rag dolls, whilst his chuntered, “it isn`t funny” and “this is serious” comments, made us laugh all the more. 

On a tight left hand bend, a small group of spectators applauded our speedy approach enthusiastically.  As we hurtled around the corner, their applause faltered as they glimpsed us pulling on clothing, combing hair and applying lipstick. Puzzled looks flashed across their faces, as they wondered why this “race car driver” had three attending females, which appeared to be dressing as they went.

The sight of the applauding spectators accelerated our laughter and hysterics took over, till tears streamed down our cheeks.

Once we had safely exited the “race track”, Vagelis`s mood lightened and he allowed himself to laugh at the extraordinary way our Sunday volta had began.

Squash and Chestnut Soup (Κολοκυθόσουπα με Κάστανα)


Despite the weather still being warm here in Crete, (18 c ish), the overcast, rainy days of late, had me rattling my big soup pan from the depth the cupboards.

Having an abundance of pumpkins and the shops being full of nice, fat chestnuts, I created this lovely “Winter” soup, which had Vagelis coming back for a third plate.


650/700 g peeled and cleaned butternut squash, sliced

1 large onion cut in half

2 sticks celery

2 1/2 to 3 cups chestnuts

1 litre chicken stock

1 chicken stock cube

1 tsp 5 spice powder

Good pinch of cinnamon powder

200/250 ml fresh cream

2/3 Rashers bacon

Olive oil

S & P 


Slice the chestnut skins from top to tail and boil for about 20 minutes or till the chestnut is cooked.  Whilst they are cooking, place the squash, onion and celery in a baking tray. Sprinkle well with oil, S&P, cover with tin foil and bake for about 1 hour till tender.  Once the chestnuts have cooked, peel and chop roughly.

Place the baked vegetables into a large pan with the chicken stock, add the chestnuts, the seasoning and spices, allow to simmer gently for 30/40 minutes.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little. Pass through the blender, ensuring it is well blended.  Return to the hotplate, but with the hot plate turned off, if the soup is a little thick, suppliment with more chicken stock.  Add the cream and stir well.  You can serve with a swirl of extra cream if you wish.

Crisp fry the bacon rashers, cut into chunks and sprinkle over the soup as it is being served. 

A November Day Out

We stumbled across a raki distillery, (as you do), in the lovely village of Prina.  Disastrously, I`d completely forgotten the season was upon us.  Needless to say, I was delighted to be invited to join this friendly family, for a mid afternoon tipple – or three (as you do).

Light headed and rozy cheeked, with bellies full of jacket potatoes and fire-roasted chestnuts, we continued our exploration of the village, where pretty little alleys displayed colourful flowers and derelict homes.  A raki fuelled hike up to the little church helped ease the surging blood.  

We continued high along the mountain roads and reached Kalamafka, where I decided there was still some raki burn to combust.  Accompanied by sis, we climbed the 235 steps to Timios Stavros, a curious, pretty little church, stashed in a mini cave in the mountain side. 


Now, getting pretty good at selfies, (up till now we were newbie selfie-ers), we immortalized our cardiovascular workout at the top of the stairs.

The fresh water springs and the pretty, burbling brook, surrounded by plane trees with unfathomable girths, is located at the edge of the village.  We gathered myrtle sprigs, enjoying their intoxicating scent.  Suspecting we had disrupted a clandestine meet between two teens, whom had crept to the shade of the autumnal trees, we decided we should depart this quiet paradise and leave them be.

Having my awesome sister living in Crete too, I can see Vags breathing a sigh of relief at NOT having to join me on various crazy climbs and hikes which I hanker after.  After asking him to join us on the Thrypti forest trek, his incredulous retort………”What??? Five hour trek???? For fun????? Ha ha ha!!! You must be mad!!”

Perhaps I am!