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

Thoughts on the future of Greece after that election thing

Symi Greece photos

A Monday rainbow

Here are some interesting speculations about what is going to happen in and to Greece over the coming months… Obviously not from me. I am as likely to make an in-depth, considered political analysis as I am a strawberry pavlova, so don’t worry that I am going to get serious on you.

But a journalist friend of mine in England sent me some interesting distilments from the media that I thought I would share. These are quick thoughts from early Monday morning as the results were still coming in:

Symi Greece photos

Yialos in better winter weather

“The BBC has more or less decided this radical left party with the slogan “Hope is Coming” will be forming the government. They have of course now raised vast expectations among disgruntled Greeks who will expect them to deliver. In fact, the newspapers here are reporting that lots of Greeks have now stopped paying their taxes in the expectation that the new government will just write off the bill. The expectation is that if the new party tells Europe to [Foxtrot Oscar], and refuses to pay any of its debts, then taxes will go down, so why bother paying them now?

Symi Greece photos

Parking space

The truth is that if the new government does refuse to pay its debts and just writes them off then Greece will be at a position zero (ie no debts) but will be unable to borrow anything. As it happens, the old government has managed to balance the books. They’re managing to raise in tax exactly what they need to pay for public services. So, provided they continue raising the same amount of tax then they should be able to pay everybody’s wages. But if taxes go down, then they won’t.

Symi Greece photos

Delivery boat in Yialos

What they won’t be able to do is modernise, build new schools, new hospitals, and the private sector won’t be able to move forward and create new jobs because there will be no investment in Greece. So the country will stand still – with the notable exception of tourism which will boom, but there won’t be enough money to improve facilities for tourists (new hotels etc).

And standing still also means no jobs for the 25% currently unemployed (which is 50% of young people as well).

Symi Greece photos

Symi town

So in a nutshell, those currently in work will continue to get paid but basically the country will come to a standstill. Everything will carry on just as it is now and Greece will be locked in austerity for years with no end in sight, or else go bankrupt. Tourism will flourish, but most of that money will be spent on jobs for people working in tourism and building new hotels (not hospitals or schools or roads).

Symi Greece photos

Symi hinterland

The drachma (if it comes to that) will be a rock bottom currency, which means Greece will be very cheap for everyone outside Greece but people in Greece won’t be able to afford much in the way of imported goods. Everything outside Greece will be hugely expensive for them. Anything imported will rocket in price. And if Greece imports a lot of fuel and energy, then that will also cause price rises for Greek goods depending on them (manufacturing and delivery costs).”

But we shall have to wait and see what happens now. Right, that’s that done. Tomorrow I shall talk about something a bit closer to home.

A taxing Saturday, and a calmer Symi Sunday, I hope

Symi Greece photos

Started putting things in boxes.

Well, that’ll teach us to do the right thing. Popped into the accountant’s office on Saturday to check up on a piece of paper that came through the post, a fifty-something VAT bill from last year, so no big shakes. And was then told that taxes were due for 2013… I mean, nearly two years ago now, and where did that come from?

Symi Greece photos

Boat at the Kalodoukas office

Ah, some is personal income tax so fair enough but then there’s this large amount for having a business. Doesn’t matter that a) you only had a small business and you’re not Microsoft or anything and b) you don’t actually have a business anymore, you closed it because c) you had no money… So, that’s now been added to the list of monthly expenditure to be paid off in instalments. And, what’s worse, there will be another one along soon for 2014, including a tax for having a business during that year. The bill, for anyone who is interested, covers 24% personal income tax (no matter what, apparently, and the income threshold seems to be more a serving suggestion than anything remotely helpful), €600 for the joy of having a business during that year, plus something like 45% of that year’s income tax paid again, in advance, towards the following year’s income – if that makes sense. So, the bill due to come along in a few months will be for 2014 income tax, + business tax + 45% towards 2015 income.

Symi Greece photos

Opening of the well being centre

Someone is having a laugh, and why didn’t this arrive back in June or whenever it usually comes in? Perhaps Sunday’s elections will cause a change for the better and this ridiculously high (for a small biz) business tax will go by the wayside – I am sure it’s never been that high before. (Used to be €250 a year. No wonder small businesses are going out of business.) And here endeth the Sunday morning rant – as I am writing this on Sunday morning with ‘death bells’ ringing rather atmospherically, though interspersed with joyful bells – as if someone is secretly happy that someone else has passed on and can’t resist pressing the happy button every now and then – the wind has died down and the sun is out. Once I wake up and get over it I may actually go out and about.

Symi Greece photos

View of Yialos, Saturday

We did that yesterday (Saturday), with a visit to the new Well Being centre in Yialos which was opening its doors. That was followed by a wander around the harbour looking for a cover for my tablet, no joy but I should hear today (Monday) about one that can be ordered for me. I could buy one online and have it delivered, but other people have small business taxes to pay, so I would rather support them. And that was followed by a visit to the Wind shop. It’s amazing what you can buy on Symi, you can even buy wind.

Symi Greece photos

And another one, taken on Saturday

No, actually, you used to be able to buy Symi air, from Neil, at his shop (taxes included) but I am talking about my mobile phone service provider which used to be called Telestet then changed its name to Tim, found that rather too informal and so became Wind. Now lots of people in Greece have wind, myself included. I’ve been on a contract for a few years now paying around €30.00 per month. For that I can make calls and send texts until the balance is used up, and then on 19th of each month they make the balance up to €30.00 again, so, if I use it all up I do okay but if I only use, say €5.00 worth, they still only make it up to the €30.00 limit and I still have to pay €30.00 – yes I know, takes a bit of getting your head around –though I do get a ‘free’ smart phone every 18 months.

Symi Greece photos

Photographos!

But not any longer. I cancelled it yesterday, and I will go back to a pay as you go one instead. This means a new sim card, but the same number, apparently. So, if you have my phone number it remains the same but I may lose yours when I change sim cards (March 19th) and forget to transfer them over. I hardly use the phone anyway, and now I have the tablet I will miss the thing even less. Always best to send me an email or a text, rather than ring me, I sometimes watch the phone ringing and think, ‘No, not answering that, it could be someone wanting to speak to me.’ Which is, I know, pretty daft as that what phones are for, but I just don’t like their intrusiveness and the way they keep ringing.

So, that’s me got that off my chest, I’ll let you get on with the week ahead now. The cat is bothering me for his second breakfast and I have Harry’s washing in our machine to tend to so best go and get on with that…

I just blew in from a windy Symi

Symi Greece photos

Village view

(Actually, I haven’t been anywhere, I was just suffering a Doris Day earworm as I wrote that title.) Suffering from a bit of wind you see, Friday, with shutters rattling and roof tiles clattering, the olive tree outside bending and flapping about and the Blue Star ferry unable to dock. Apparently it left several hopefuls stranded on the quayside after almost making it in. Such is Symi island life in the winter.

Symi Greece photos

Clouds over the hills

We took a walk on Thursday afternoon, just up and out along the valley path, via crazy dog, passing a couple of dog walkers and their rather large hounds, avoiding the poo left by dogs, their owners (I mean as in, no pooper scooper… you know what I mean!), sheep and goats (such is rural living) and up to the monastery. It had become a cloudy day as you might see from the photos I took, but still, a pleasant walk. We checked the museum on the way back. The outside looks, to me, to be finished. I have no idea what is happening inside but I did notice, over the wall, that the facia on the roof of the old servants’ quarters/house was as it had been; un-renovated but not removed.

Symi Greece photos

Village goats

We also walked by the supermarket on our way home in case there were any boxes to be had, but there were none. I must find out the best time to pop down there and collect some. I’ve already asked George (at the ‘American’) if I can take them, and it’s not a problem as they only throw them away. There is often a truck load of the things outside waiting to go to the bins, but I can’t remember what time of day that is. Still, there’s been no word yet on when we will be signing the contract for the new house and no desperate reason to rush around packing just yet. Moving in is still three weeks’ away.

Symi Greece photos

Outside the museum

And so to the weekend and what does that hold in store? Well, not a lot so far. Perhaps some packing and box hunting, perhaps a walk on Sunday if it’s not too windy and wild, perhaps a quiz, maybe some housework and sorting out, perhaps some writing, and possibly attending the opening of the new Well Being centre in Yialos – more about that, with photos, after we have been. The weather is set to be cloudy and wet over the next week or so, with a day off on Tuesday apparently, but with this mighty wind due to have calmed and settling in around four or five Beaufort only. Here’s wishing you a good weekend and I should be back with you on Monday.

Not funny but fast

Symi Greece photos

As you can see, Symi is in its green period at the moment

So, that’s one small cabinet emptied and a couple of large boxes packed. Strange how there seems to be more things outside of the cabinet than there were inside. At least the packing has started. Well, I’ve chucked a few books and things into a few boxes…

Symi Greece photos

The silver boat with a candle in it

We went to the celebration for Brian yesterday, there was a minute’s silence, we had his non-religious order of ceremony to read, some of his favourite songs were played and many stories were told. Neil’s silver boat was floated in a bowl, and candles lit inside it – the closest we could come to a Viking send-off, and we stayed far too late. But it was a bitter sweet time and glasses were raised and the bells were rung as a mark of respect.

Symi Greece photos

Deliveries at the supermarket – I am starting to admire Sotiris’ boxes (I know that sounds wrong but…)

Thursday dawned bright and warmer than it has been of late and we were able to get on with a few things around the house. It’s now Thursday afternoon and we may be heading up the hill for a short walk, or perhaps along the valley to ‘To Virisi’, one of the monasteries that look down onto the valley.

Apart from that, there’s not much going on, not too much to report. So I’ll just put up this short blog and then get ready to go or a walk. That’s it. Short but sweet. I may not be funny but at least I’m quick.

Wednesday, late morning…

Symi Greece photos

Harbour boats

Just back from a very productive meeting with the new landlord and the agent – all extremely helpful and reassuring. I feel I can now start collecting boxes and start packing.

In a little while we are heading to the Sunrise kafeneion for a memorial gathering in honour of Brian, who lived on Symi for a while. You may remember Brian, he covered two years at the Rainbow Bar for Yiannis, and his wife Marj worked for various people on the island, including a season (or two?) at St Nicholas beach. They left Symi a couple of years ago due to Brian’s health and he passed away a couple of weeks ago.

Symi Greece photos

Harbour extension work

He used to tell us that he wanted a Viking funeral. ‘Just put me in a boat and send me out to sea,’ he’d say. We did consider this and, at the time, joked about it. We would have to push it towards international waters so as not to create an incident between Greece and Turkey, and we’d have to fire flaming arrows from the cliffs and aim well. Otherwise he’d wash up in Datca or somewhere and would be difficult to explain. Today, instead, we are going to do the best we can, because that’s what you do when you live in a place like Symi.

Symi Greece photos

Yialos view

Neil has made a boat from silver foil and we are going to put a charcoal ‘brick’ in it and maybe some frankincense, as you do in church. You then light the charcoal and it flares up, with smoke, and then calms down and glows and the incense melts and does its stuff. That’s the nice smell you find when wandering the lanes on warm days, often on a Sunday morning, though on any day is acceptable; it’s a way of purifying the house.

Symi Greece photos

It’s those ducks again!

That’s the plan for the rest of the day. Afterwards I can see us coming home and not doing much by way of working; it feels like an odd day – the thoughts of Brian, of course, and of moving house, and of how Jack will settle in (the new house is the property of a ginger tom who lives there now and who will be living across the road, so they will have to learn to share the courtyard). Having been a housing manager for 11 years and a member of the Chartered Institute for seven of them, I know all the potential problems that house rental brings with it. But, after this morning’s meeting, I am confident that we are all in the right hands, Jack included.

Moving house on Symi – Day 10

Symi Greece photos

As seen in Yialos

I thought it was time we had an update on the house move. Even though there is not a lot to report, I am sure some people will be interested to know the ins and outs of what moving house on Symi entails.

Today I am having a quick meeting with the new landlord and our agent from The Symi Estate Agent (www.thesymiestateagent.com) who has been very helpful and understanding. We are just going to make sure both parties are singing from the same hymn sheet to make sure everything goes smoothly, for the benefit of all.

Symi Greece photos

Reflections in a calm harbour

Meanwhile, we’ve been looking at furniture and things we need. There are places where you can buy and order furniture and white goods on Symi, and these days you also have the option of ordering online. I’m going for a bit of both. I’ve found out that I might be able to get the supermarket in the village to arrange a fridge freezer for us (the old one is on its last legs and needs replacing). That would be handy as they would also deliver it. We’re looking at Ikea via Rhodes for some other pieces, which does involve someone on the inside knowing how the delivery system works, but we have our agent for that too.

Symi Greece photos

Didn’t Paul Nicholas play him once?

I’ve also has a word with an electrician who is going to come and wire the cooker in when we get there, so that’s that job sorted out. We have also started planning our system of actually moving but there are some questions still to answer and an order of things to do. For example, we need to find out if the current landlord wants us to ‘do up’ this place before we go. As I understand it he’s going to be ripping everything out and starting again, so I don’t see the point of filing in holes made by shelves, and then decorating. But we will ask. This house was last fixed up in 1981, according to the date on the paperwork found with the old boiler.

Symi Greece photos

Reflections in a calm mirror

Then we need to get our new contract with the hand-over date so we can start arranging the moving party. We will need at least two strong men to move the heaviest things for us (will be advertising and paying for this in due course), though Vasilis has already offered his motorbike flat-bed ‘truck’ if we want it, which is very kind of him. A couple of strong lads and a sack trolley should do the trick. (Sounds like a Victoria Wood line.) Then, keys in hand, we will go in, clean up and paint up if necessary and move things in bit by bit.

Symi Greece photos

Symi harbour on a calm day

There will, at that time, also be the thing about moving the phone line and I may ‘go dark’ for a few days if we get cut off here without being switched on there. These are all things you have to take into account when planning a move and the more you plan the smoother it goes. You also have to bear in mind that the nearest road to us is still a way away and the ‘road’ outside the new house is too narrow for a proper truck, so physically moving is not going to be easy. But that is still a few weeks away. I just thought you might like an update on where we are.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoyed today’s photos which are some of the ones Neil took recently, as promised yesterday.