I think it would be fair to say that my newfound love of growing, cooking, and baking things started back in the UK.
It's only accelerated since we have been here as the supply of homegrown goods from the locals continues. I have always been conscious of food waste, it's a pet hate of mine. Now though, it feels as though this is a new level and I am extremely conscious of the effort that has gone into making the goodies we are gifted. The time that has been taken to plant, tend and harvest the crop before we hear a knock on our door is something I won't take for granted.
The Greeks are known for their kindness and generosity and it's a reputation well deserved.
Gary has done some little jobs for the elderly neighbours. On one side, a burst mains pipe inconveniently spurted water on a Saturday afternoon when all of the shops closed early and stayed closed until Monday morning. We love the fact that the opening hours transport us back to the 1970s of England, except of course when there are important things to be done. Three hours of fashioning a joint from a hosepipe, broken jubilee clips, and a hairdryer and our very elderly neighbours had a fix that would at least mean they could turn the water back on in their home. We were rewarded with an abundance of syka (figs). They have been used partly to make some fig chutney but also thrown into the freezer just as they are, to eat as a refreshing sorbet-type snack, as and when needed. In addition, their daughter brought us some of her homemade bergamot liqueur which will make a lovely after-dinner drink, if we ever have a posh meal and haven't already devoured it. A couple of days later she gave us Cretan pollen, a superfood, harvested from her beehives and considered to have great health benefits.
The gifts continue to trickle through, as and when they become available, olive oil and a homemade jam with almonds followed over the next few days.
Another elderly neighbour was struggling with her balance and unsteady on her feet, and so Gary fixed a disability rail outside her home. Home-baked biscuits, potatoes with horta and more olive oil quickly followed. He's got himself quite the reputation in the village with the old ladies, especially as he insists on carrying their bags to the rubbish bins for them. He has been told by a local to help himself to as much horta from the garden as he wants, although neither he nor I would have a clue what we're picking. He visited the local bakery and was sat amongst a bevy of elderly ladies, all fashioning a conversation out of hand gestures and vying for his attention.
Maybe I should consider doing a calendar of him to give as Christmas gifts, in various diet Coke model poses.
The grapes just kept coming, carrier bag after carrier bag. I can only imagine the stomach pains had we eaten them all, instead, they have all been pricked with a fork and left out in the sun to dry. We now have copious amounts of raisins.
Did I mention the neighbour and the cat?
There's a very old cat, it's well looked after by the neighbours and does, in fact, belong to someone. However, it sits upon the old lady's doorstep opposite us. As Gary and I stood chatting, she opened the door, picked the cat up by the scruff of its neck, opened its mouth, and spat in it. The cat reacted as though this was completely the norm, neither struggling nor offended. Our violated eyes couldn't believe what they had just seen and I spent some time trying to find out if it was some kind of tradition. As far as I can tell, it isn't and that has led me to the inevitable questions - how did this begin, why, when?
::Photo: 'The' cat. It may have inspired the song by Phoebe Buffay. ::
The nick out of its ear indicates that it has been neutered.
I may as well just label all the casualties that have been a victim of Fibi-gate.
* Socks x 2
* Mosquito net door x 1
* Knickers x 3
* Boxer shorts x 3
* Bedding sheets x 6
* Raw chicken breasts x 2
* Pegs x 23
* Shorts x 1
* Tupperware x 1
* Plant pots x 2
* Roll of poo bags x 1
* Flip flops x 1
Things got a little tricky a couple of weeks ago and I wondered whether we were failing her, or at least whether we had reached the best of our training ability. Her destructiveness was relentless, the barking headache-inducing, and the hourly wake-up calls during the night were torturous. In my sleep-deprived weary sobs one day, I wondered if keeping her had been the right thing to do. We made a pact to step up the intensity of the training and so far, it seems to be working. It's easy to forget what she's come from when she is at home, playfully biting Morris's ears, tail, or leg and not knowing the power of her own legs as she accidentally clears the double bed she had intended to jump on. For months she had to survive in whatever way she could, she had never lived in a home with nice things, surrounded by love, she had never had a bed, regular food, and water. Eating stones, as is now a habit of hers, was purely an attempt to fill her once empty belly. One good night's sleep later and I was consumed with guilt for even considering such a thing as taking her back to the shelter.
Walking her is a challenge, not so much around the village anymore, but anywhere where we have a wall/window/bin/stationary vehicle at the side of us. She would rather run into oncoming traffic than walk past something we would all consider harmless. I've no idea what happened to her to cause this, but we are using the desensitizing technique and walking her past these kinds of things several times a day.
What we now understand is that she had likely been born from a breeder, as a Cretan scenthound she can demand a sum of €5000 if she is capable of 'working'. At a couple of months old they would be taken out to the fields to test their abilities and any dog that showed fear at the sound of a gunshot would get 3 chances. If they continue to be fearful then the dog would simply be set free (at best). As awful as this sounds, I'm thankful that their solution wasn't to shoot her, and at least she has been given a chance to live a happy life.
A memory popped up on my social media a couple of days ago, I posted it a year ago following the death of our black labrador, Daisy. Both of us immediately stopped in our tracks and a lump formed in our throats as we realised the new pooch looked just like Fibi from behind.
::Photo Credit - Unknown::
We have had some amazing news. Remember Morris had tested positive for Leishmania? He has been on a course of treatment to keep it under control and it's standard practice that they have regular blood tests to ensure the disease is being managed. At his second blood test, the result came back as negative. That's not to say the drugs have worked - the disease is not curable. It means that the first result was a false positive.
The results couldn't have been any better and we're so relieved.
He will continue the tablets for 10 days each month, as a preventative measure.
We had formed a semblance of structure to our days until very recently. It consisted of a trip to the beach to burn off the dogs' energy in a futile attempt to get some peace, drop them back at home, and then a second visit for us to have a morning swim. We would then come back to the house to do some work, have some lunch, then a siesta, and either continue working later in the afternoon or take a big walk. It's been wonderful.
Due to a fairly major hitch with our transport (I will explain more in a future blog when everything has been sorted out), we have had to change things up a bit. Basically, anything that's going to wear the dogs out enough for us to have a bit of peace and quiet throughout the day is the plan. Transport-wise, we have now bought an old scooter until we can make a decision as to what car we want to buy. The scooter has about as much power as a hairdryer, but we've really enjoyed having a new sense of hop-on, hop-off kind of freedom. It's also a doddle to find a parking space. Most of the Greeks leave the keys in their car or bikes, so if anybody needs to move them, they can. We haven't gone that far, but we know we can just hang our helmets over the handles and they will still be there when we return hours later.
The weekly shopping has become hilarious as our self-imposed challenge to fit as much on the bike as possible increases on each visit. We may have been incentivised by a family who we have seen riding around the local town, Mum and Dad, child and dog, plus shopping all jigsawed onto a bike of the same size as ours.
Photo: Our best effort to date and probably the most Greek we have ever looked on our Scooter.
I've never been on a scooter before and I was terrified when Gary went above 20kph (about 12mph). I told him to slow down, he said that people run the 100 meters faster than we were driving.
I decided to spend some time on a patch of spare land practicing my turns and figure of eights.
Imagine a space the size of 2 coaches, maybe even 3. It turns out it wasn't big enough for me to complete my first turn and I hit the wall, or more accurately, my knee-jerk response was to stick my foot out to stop the bike from hitting the wall. I now realise you need to release the accelerator in order to stop, a mistake I won't make again after having spent a couple of days hobbling around on a sprained ankle.
Tricky business, that brake and accelerator stuff.
My first proper drive, with Gary riding pillion, was exhilarating.
I even made it all the way down to Sitia harbour...
We're loving all of the new experiences we're having, big and small.
The paperwork on the house purchase continues, I won't bore you with the details - hopefully, in the next installment, I'll have more exciting news to share on that front.