Symi Dream

Living on a Greek island

A Greek island blog from Symi in the Dodecanese islands of Greece. "James’s great talent lies in his careful observation of the absurd and the amusing, the dramas and the difficulties..." Anne Zouroudi.

Symi Dream - Living on a Greek island

Birds on the wire

Birds on the wire
Wednesday morning was a sad day in the village as many of us attended the funeral for Ged, who died last weekend. It was a stately service in a church filled with friends and family. It was presided over by five of the island’s priests and was a sombre and moving ceremony of the kind the Orthodox church is known for. Goodbyes were said under a hundred lights and candles and amid a thousand tears. However, a celebration of life was also held in the square afterwards with his photos and favourite music allowing us all to reflect and be thankful for, and joyous in, the time we had to share with him in our individual ways.

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Kestrel overhead

Thursday dawned with a sense of carrying on as before, as these days-after often do to those not so directly involved. We saw the day boats come in at their usual time, though there has been discussion of strikes by some of the seamen’s unions which may affect our Friday Blue Star. On Wednesday we had the fast, though small-ish, Paros coming in and out with the punctual preciseness of a (mainland) European train. I am hoping, for my own selfish reasons, there is no strike next Friday when I am due to set off to Tilos. Time, and the newspapers, will tell.

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Martin Swift-Swallow

While enjoying the sun on our balcony recently we have been admiring some of our feathered neighbours. These include a pair of collared doves that I’ve called Mr and Mrs Patterson. Why? Because I remember we had some white doves when I was little and they were called Mr and Mrs Patterson after, I believe, the people my parents bought them from. I am sure Mother will correct me if that is wrong. Our pair are often together on the telegraph pole right outside the balcony and yesterday I noticed Mr P was doing some kind of mating dance and getting a bit frisky. He was approaching Mrs P (I assume, they do all look very similar), getting closer and closer up the phone cable and bowing as he went. He eventually went for an all out airstrike but was shown the metaphorical door.

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Martin on a bad hair day

We also have this chap, I’m not sure of his name, it could be Martin, or Johnathon (Swift) but I think he’s a swallow still waiting for the right thermals to take him off to southern climes, if that’s where they go. He’s very friendly and sits for ages only a few feet away preening and trying to get his hair in order. He often has bad hair days but sits and chats to us while he is sorting it out.

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Mr P planning his next move

As you may have noticed, it’s Friday today and that means almost a weekend again. We are out tonight for dinner with some friends, one of whom is leaving soon, after being here a month; how the time flies. I have nothing planned for Saturday, apart from some college work. In my latest assignment, to write two openings and two closing scenes for the same story in a script or screenplay, I was awarded a 17 out of 20, which was rather thrilling. Neil has just sent off his first IGCE assignment and had his feedback and score within a few days. I was alerted to this early on Thursday morning by a ‘When Harry Met Sally’ type scenario from the other room; ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’ And thrice yes! He got 95 out or 100, which is brilliant.

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And some of the local sparrow community

And now it’s on to his round two and my assignment seven, and I have only a few more weeks in which to complete four more, and the last part is to write a 15-minute film script (or play). Not something I usually do, but it’s going to be well-worth getting my head around.

Diary dates

Diary dates
Two pieces of news for you today; two dates for your diary.

First of all, next Monday, there will be an interview published at Effrosyni Writes, a literary blog and site by an author who you’ve met on these pages before. The interview is with me, by the way, and I expect I will put up a link to it on Monday to remind you.

Symi Greece photos

Those speedboats again

And secondly, on June 8th a couple of ladies from the British Consulate in Rhodes are coming over to Symi. They are interested to chat with local British residents to discover their experiences of living on Symi, and also to explain what the consulate does. They will be holding what I’d describe as an informal drop-in on June 8th at The Olive Tree in Horio, and everyone is welcome to come and meet them and have a chat over coffee between 19:00 and 20:30 on that evening. Here’s the message:

“Having considered what you said, Rania and I have decided to visit Symi on the afternoon ferry which will hopefully facilitate a more convenient time for people who are working during the day.  We have chosen to come over a little earlier i.e. Wednesday, 8th June, and thought of asking people to come to meet us at the Olive Tree for drink/coffee at 19.00 – 20.30.  Do you think this will suit?  We would like to meet as many residents as possible, explain to them the assistance we provide to British Nationals and answer any questions they may have.”

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Noddy the neighbouring lizard

There; those are my two pieces of parish news for this morning. Short but sweet, a bit like me actually.

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Boating on a grey sea

Random Symi photos

Randomn Symi Photos
This is one of those days when I stare at a blank piece of virtual, paper and have no idea what to write on the blog for tomorrow, Wednesday. So, instead of forcing out some garbled nothingness, like usual, I’ll find a few recent photos from my file, select them at random and see what comes out.

Symi Greece photos

Cleaning sponges

Sponges were a big part of Symi history until the trade died out, along with many over-fished sponges in the early 20th century. Up until recently there were still some sponge divers still living on the island, but many of the men who risked life and ‘the bends’ for work have long since passed on; there may be still some living on the island. The man here works for Dinos in his sponge shop and still cleans the sponges in the traditional way at the water’s edge. You can often see him in the mornings by the bridge in Yialos.

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Carrying on up the Kali Strata

Here I am living out the title of one of my Symi books, ‘Carry on up the Kali Strata‘ on one of those days when it was too warm to wear a jumper to walk in the sun, but to cool not to be seen without one. Cool as in temperature, not as in ‘cool to be seen in,’ I don’t think I’ve ever looked cool in that sense of the word.

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Romney Marsh, or Symi?

Romney Marsh or Symi, both places are dear to my heart but these are clearly not Romney sheep. But Symi in the spring can look like a British summer, in certain places.

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The monastery at ‘To Vrisi’

Two years ago, and for some of last year, we were up early and walking up to this monastery tucked away in a crease of the hill overlooking the Pedi valley. It’s not been part of our routine this year mainly due to working hours, weather and uninsured knees (my excuse). But when the mood strikes I shall be off there again. It’s a good part of my writing day, when I have them, to take an hour’s walk to clear the head. Apparently Stephen King walks for four miles a day for the same reason. But then he can afford to.

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The train! The train!

And finally: love it or hated it, the train is here to stay, for the foreseeable future. I don’t mind it; tourists love it, it gives at least one family an income and it takes day-trippers to a part of the island they wouldn’t normally have time to see. This not only shows them some businesses they might not otherwise discover, it may also give them an incentive to come back and spend more time on the island. ‘It’s not very Symi, is it?’ some have said, and maybe they are right. But it’s a job, an attraction for many, and it’s fun.

There. Maybe I will be more inspired of a blog post tomorrow. Meanwhile, I must get out and take some more photos.

Symi Animal Welfare update news

Symi Animal Welfare update news today. Here’s the email I received:

Suzan is working on Crete at the moment but has asked that I forward this …

INFORMATION for both residents & visitors

The new tourist season has finally arrived which means that most of us are working or certainly committed to one thing or another for the next 5 months.

The care of our island’s animals isn’t simply a seasonal responsibility however, with limited time & manpower, may we offer you some useful information –

There is now a pet-shop on Symi, located at the bottom of the Kali Strata.  Michaeli the owner is extremely helpful and has built up a small stock of animal-accessories & general medications including flea & worming treatments.  His telephone number is 0030 22460 71469.  He works in close liaison with Panayiotis Margies a vet from Rhodes.

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Harbour resident

Panayiotis visits the island once a month, for consultations & examinations only when a small charge is made.  Unfortunately, he is unable to neuter animals or perform surgical procedures as he’s only here for one day, but the fact that we have a regular vet-visit is indeed great progress.

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Another great Symi shot

Symi Animal Welfare continue the arrangement with another Rhodes’ vet Marika Ioannidou – carers can take a cat across to her surgery on Rhodes; as long as the appointment is arranged through Suzan, the cost of neutering will be covered by Symi Animal Welfare but not ferry/taxi fares or personal expenses.  Suzan’s number  – 6981356421

Just a short blog, but I hope you agree, an important and useful one.

Symi Greece photos

In Horio

Symi news catch up

Symi news catch up
Sunday morning: the soldiers arrived at the clock tower at ten minutes before eight, their truck drove off and they stood there still and silent, waiting for the order. A little before the hour they marched to the war memorial, out of my sight, and there they sang part of the national anthem in their usual, male and slightly bawdy fashion. That duty attended to, I assume they set off back for barracks, or choir practice.

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Symi from high up

The rain that plagued us on Saturday, falling through a persistent and cooling wind, had left more Sahara dust on the outside furniture, the balcony rail and the ground. More rain was forecast for Sunday but as I write (at just after 10.00 on Sunday), it has yet to appear, but at least the wind has dropped and, when there is sun, it is warm, verging on hot. The rest of the week is forecast for sun, so perhaps now we can say that summer is finally starting to arrive. It does feel like this year’s season is taking a long time to kick in. Perhaps it is waiting for its luggage at baggage reclaim.

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Fireworks from a recent wedding celebration

The Blue Star Diagoras made its last visit to Symi on Friday night. We watched it come in late in the evening, all lights blazing and looking like a Viennetta ice cream when out at sea. As it left, it sounded its horn and was given a send-off with a fireworks display from the quayside. It was a moving moment; we’ve been looked after by that boat for several years now and, although not always the most punctual of sea beasts, it was sturdy and safe and got us there and back again when needed. We now await the arrival of the next ferry from Blue Star, which is due on Wednesday.

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My rather poor photo of the Diagoras leaving Symi for the last time

Also on Wednesday is the funeral of our dear friend, Ged Horton who many of you would have known as Wendy’s partner these past several years. Ged passed away in hospital in Crete at the weekend, leaving very many sad family members and friends to mourn his passing and celebrate his life. He was a wealth of knowledge about films, books and theatre. Over the years he had generously donated many of each to us and I will miss our long conversations about ‘movies’ both good and bad, our talks about Irish playwrights, vampire novels, gothic literature and the ghost stories of M R James. He will be sorely missed by all and our thoughts are with his family, Wendy and all who knew him. If you are on Symi, the service is due to take place in Pedi from around nine-thirty on Wednesday. In fitting tribute, his team, Manchester United, won the FA Cup for him on Saturday night.

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Ged , who brought joy to many lives.
“Joy is of all gifts the most divine.”
― M.R. James, The Second Ghost Story Megapack


It’s hard to lift the mood after reporting that but, on the island, death is very much a part of life, and life goes on. For me this means two more weeks of work before I take my break and go on my writing retreat to Tilos. It also means finishing my latest assignment for my scriptwriting course and, for Neil, sending in his first assignment for his IGSC in ‘Global Citizenship.’ (A course which is far more academic and much more difficult than mine.) And so, as I often say, I best get on and get some work done so that I can move on with the next chapter of my next book and have some groundwork done and ready for when I am away.

In favour of Brexit? Don’t read this

In favour of Brexit? Don’t read this
Yay! Saturday and the end of another working week for many, but not all. A few more photos from my recent Rhodes trip today.

It’s not like me to get involved in political discussions, I left all that kind of local and wider politics to my father, who was a district and local councillor for years, and my uncle who was alarmingly close to his local Conservative party in South London years go… But this ridiculous Brexit vote is coming closer and I’ve been reading some posts online and hearing some snippets of news – and I’ve come up with an idea.

Symi Greece photos

On deck

From what I have read and seen (and I know I have not seen or read as much as many, and I only tend to listen to the European news channels as I don’t like what I hear about the BBC, and since they axed Eldorado in 1993 I’ve never really trusted them), there is one particularly hysterical point of view coming out of Britain. I’ve been keeping an eye on some community groups form various places around the country and have read with interest posts from friends-of-friends and it seems that this focused point, this one stirring issue alone, is that if the UK leaves the EU there will be a huge celebration. Horary! Why? Because no more immigrants will be able out get into our country; thus we will be able to provide homes for all of ‘our own kind’; we will be able to control our borders and stop Johnny Foreigner from getting into our wonderful haven of perfect life; Utopia for all! (As long as you are British; even if you are mixed-race British? Even if you have lived abroad for many years and need to return? Who knows.)

In the words of the younger generation: WTF?

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Windy beach early morning

Apart from the fact that there must be more to being in or out of the EU than simply wanting to stop any more people entering the country; apart from the fact that even if you could and did, would that stop those already there popping out four children each and then complaining about lack of housing and resources; apart from the fact that those wanting to leave seem only to be seeing one part of one argument; apart from all that, it feels like everyone in favour of leaving is joyously supporting the extremes of those in power in their country, while at the same time I have all this ‘in-coming’ from the same people about how dreadful those in charge are (the government et al), and yet they blame everyone else for voting them in.

In the words of the younger generation: OMG!

Symi Greece photos

Sky diving?

So, leaving the EU will mean no more non-Brits moving in to scrounge off the social will it? Because that, clearly, is what these people think they all do. And leaving the EU will mean no more overcrowding (on an island that is 93% non-urbanised and even those urban areas are 53% ‘greenspace’, but that’s another story). Yippee, problem solved in an instant. There must be other arguments surely? Or has the old country become so right-wing (thanks to the Government that no-one will admit voting for, apart from one brave Facebook friend) that it can only see as far as this one point?

I don’t know, it’s all very confusing and I really don’t want to get into it, but all this malarkey seems to come down to one simple equation in these people’s minds: UK out = foreigners out.

In the words of the younger generation: LMAO

Symi Greece photos

In the Old Town

But still, my idea: How about the EU issues passports. Those who want to be European can apply and hold dual citizenship; I’ll be in that queue. Here’s my UK passport for if I ever want to admit to having one again, and here’s my EU one for when I am too embarrassed to say exactly where I am from. And those who signed for Brexit can stay with their limited UK passport and just deal with it.

I’ve got a headache now so I am going to chill out and go and write something amusing instead. Have a good weekend and do what you want while you can as, in the words of the younger generation, YOLO.