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

Bakaliaros Skordalia

Bakaliaros Skordalia
We returned from our lunch at around 3.30 on Thursday afternoon, completely full up, warm (until we got home) and very happy. I took a few shots on the way up through the village, and down again, and then settled in for an evening with the godson, who was staying overnight as his mum was on the early boat to Rhodes on Friday. The boat, despite the winds, was on time, not that I saw it. I heard it through the wind and the closed shutters; the wind died away later in the morning leaving the day bright and clear, and cold. I know some places already have snow and minus degrees at night and we are hovering around 10 degrees out of the wind, but still, it feels cold here after a summer that reached 40 + degrees in the shade.

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Pedi view on a cold day

As for lunch: we were invited to Yianni and Katerina’s house where everything was already festive, the tree up and the discrete and charming decorations placed around the sitting room and kitchen. We were offered something of a feast. Katarina was next door finishing off the Bakaliaros when we arrived; she had cooked at a neighbour’s house so that our enjoyment wouldn’t be overshadowed by the smell of fried fish. The skordalia was already set out and there was a rather generous pot of moussaka each already and waiting, plus fresh beetroot and a salad, and bread. Needless to say, it was delicious and well received and no none went hungry.

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Towards Nimos from the village

The conversation flowed surprisingly well, with Yianni occasionally translating our Greek into real Greek for his wife, but generally we were able to keep the chat going beyond, ‘This is lovely; and ‘No more, thank you!’ and we talked about books, the weather, the house, friends in common and the wedding on Sunday.

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To the Castle!

If you are interested to make Bakaliaros yourself, it’s about as close to good old British ‘fish and chips’ as you’re likely to find around here and pretty simple. (Just replace curry sauce with garlic sauce, recipe included below.) Here’s a version I pulled off a website: http://www.kalofagas.ca/2009/03/25/bakaliaros-skordalia/

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Afternoon winter light

Bakaliaros Skordalia

Approx. 1lb. of salt cod fillets (soaked & water changed 3-4 times until salt is removed)
1 bottle of beer
3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
3/4 cup of corn starch
salt and pepper to taste
flour for dredging
sunflower oil for frying

Potato Skordalia

3 Russet (starchy) potatoes
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
approx. 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
good wine vinegar to taste
sea salt to taste

Place your potatoes (skins on) in a pot of water that’s lightly salted. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cover. Boil until the potatoes are fork tender. Allow the potatoes to cool or drain and replace the pot with cold water to speed the cooling process.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel with the back of your knife and pass through a ricer. Add your minced garlic and mix with a fork.  Pour a slow stream of olive oil while continuing to stir. Add sea salt and some wine vinegar and taste and adjust seasoning. Cover with cling wrap and set aside (or place in the fridge if making much ahead of time).

After you’ve sufficiently soaked your salt cod, pat dry and cut into small portions. Season with salt and pepper and dredge in flour and set aside.

Add all your dry ingredients in to a bowl and mix with a fork. Now while whisking, gradually add the beer to the flour until you get a thick batter (slightly thinner than pancake batter). Drink any remaining beer.

Heat your oil (about 2 inches deep) to about 360F and then dip your cod fillets in the batter then place carefully into the hot oil. Fry in batches until golden brown. Place the fried fillets on a platter covered in paper towels. Sprinkle some sea salt on them, serve with lemon wedges, Skordalia and some Vlita.

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Ah Athanasios undergoing some improvements

Keeping warm Symi style

Keeping warm Symi style
Now that the wind is coming in from the north and it’s turning cold. Heating a Symi house in the winter can be a complicated affair. For us it means:

Closing certain shutters and thus shutting out the daylight. If the balcony shutters are left open, as they are on all but the windiest days (when they rattle, and cause neighbour annoyance I expect), then draft proofing measures must be taken. I was looking at our balcony doors once upon a winter and realised that the (looks up the correct term) threshold has a raised bit running across it (no technical term for that could be found) where the balcony doors rest against when shut; a kind of token draft protector. Except it wasn’t, as the doors didn’t quite meet it.

[A quick aside: this is my dodgy shot of the Blue Star leaving on Tuesday night, taken through the window on an underwater camera, as promised.]

Blue star leaving Symi

Blue star leaving Symi

This meant that the wind could rush in from the north, over the balcony floor, up and over the raised bit (new technical term there) and down the other side, under the doors that don’t quite reach the stone threshold and into the room. It could do this even when the shutters were shut as they too are not a perfect fit. So, one day, I went hunting around the bins up at the windmills (you would be surprised how many people do this bin-hunting thing, you can find all kinds of useful unwanteds there, from antiques to pieces of polystyrene the exact shape and size to act as a draft excluder) I found a piece of polystyrene the exact shape and size to act as a draft excluder. (see, I told you.) I have no idea what it was in its previous life but now it rests between door and ‘raised bit’ on the threshold and keeps out some of the wind.

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Getting colder

That’s stage one. Stage two involves old towels to wedge in the reaming gap on the inside. Stage three involves taking the quilt from the bed (which mother supplied with handy hooks; the quilt I mean, not the bed, that would be too odd) and threading it through an extendable shower curtain pole which then gets extended in the recess within the casing (more technical words, I looked them up) so it stays there, most of the time. That done and all light blocked out even when the shutters are open, it’s on with the heater. There’s another curtain (Habitat) on a shower pole across the open doorway into the passage, directly on the right of which are the double front doors and their own variety of gaps and wind passes, and this curtain is also pulled across as best it can be.

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A few weeks ago now, the Poseidon is now in the boat yard

Then it’s time to sit on the sofa, pull the thermal blanket over the knees and feet, and allow the cat to add itself for extra warmth. Then it’s time to realise you’ve not pulled the outside curtain (Jenine made us) over the outside door on its own extendable shower rail, so you get up to do that and let the heat out. Those shower poles are very useful as they don’t involve drilling and it’s easy to take the things down in the summer.

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It’s not a warm as it looks!

Anyway, there was a slight wind yesterday and so all that was going on. I’m now off to prepare for our lunch up at Yiannis’ house (we have already been though a checklist of things to talk about so conversation in what will be Greek-ish doesn’t come to a halt) which will see me try and put on my Crombie over the new woollen cardigan Neil brought me from England. I shall be waddling up the hill puffed out like an tyre advert, but I shall at least be warm.

Wednesday

Wednesday
A much brighter start to Wednesday, it looks like the storm has passed. The air is so clear you can see right across Turkey to the mountains, some of which will soon have snow on them, I expect. If you are reading this on Symi and fancy a film, there is a children’s film on Sunday at 17.30 at Mandeio’s, ‘Inside out.’ I’ve seen it, it works for grownups as well.

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Symi cinema this weekend

The diary has suddenly started to fill up, at least for this week. Today (Thursday) we have an invite to lunch at Yiannis and Katerina’s house in Horio, there’s a birthday meet on Friday, and a neighbour’s son’s wedding at Panormitis on Sunday, as long as we can get there. So far, and I am not holding my breath, Saturday looks free for some writing. Between all that we have to track down the accountant and do some post, but otherwise, it’s a case of staying warm and keeping the house dry.

I was just checking to see if the Wednesday boat came through, and it must have done as it’s now coming back from Karpathos to Rhodes. Luckily I can’t hear it come in at 5.00 in the morning but it’s a magical sight to see when it is leaving at night; I’ll see if I can get a photo sometime.

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Harbour life

There was something of a ‘cyclone’ on Rhodes on Tuesday night and we caught the edge of it here. I don’t know if it was an actual cyclone, I need to look up the definition and I wasn’t there so I can’t comment, but that is how it was described in the local online newspaper. It was very wet here for a while, there was thunder and lightning coming closer, and heavy rain. I sent Michaelis a text and told him not to worry about the cat litter delivery, not in the dark in a storm, and he replied that he’d come the next day instead. I’d hate to think of someone driving up the hill in that weather just for the comfort of the Alarm Cat who has enough to see him through a few more days anyway.

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Waiting for lunch

He’s back to normal now though still very wary of us. He’s back to disturbing me at least three time each morning with a demand to be escorted to his bowl; the last week he’s just been sleeping all morning. Now he’s a bit dischuffed because there is nothing in his bowl except the dry biscuits the vet prescribed for him. Meat only once or twice per day is the regime now, until the meat has all gone, then he’s supposed to stay on the dry stuff; it’s to do with his age and his heart. We’ll see how that works out as he has always been a fan of Whiskers sachets.

Quick update

Quick update
Yesterday: slightly interrupted work morning, down to Yialos to see the accountant (not there), and pick up post (Christmas crackers). Visited Pet Island (our pet shop) to order more cat litter. Michaels didn’t charge for the bag that was torn even though it and its contents were in another bag and very little was missing; said he’d bring it all up at 2pm. Raid the bank, have a beer, see Michaelis passing and ask him to come at five as we were having another beer, walk back up between showers, feed the strays, make some dinner (breakfast actually), do this and spend the evening watching things on the TV.

That’s me sorted, here is yesterday’s weather. (This blog is fast turning into a weather-watch.)

 

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Dark start to the morning.

A bit cloudy

A bit cloudy

A view of the grey

A view of the grey

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Diagoras in cloud

Turning weather

Turning weather
The weather has turned. Woke to a grey and blustery day today, though the wind is from the south and so it’s not too cold. I just popped out to the shop and felt a few spots of rain, and it’s due to get worse. [Note: remember to close the shutters later.]

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Another shot of the sunrise last Wednesday in Rhodes; walking around from Akandia harbour to Mandraki, being followed by a very loyal dog, carrying the cat in a box and trying to wake up.

It looks like the Saturday trip to Tilos was a great success and much enjoyed. I haven’t heard the score from the football match but I know the junior team won 5:0 in Rhodes (I think it was) the other day. That’s about as far as my football knowledges stretches at the moment.

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The park on the edge of the Old Town/Mandraki in Rhodes in the late afternoon light, November.

I am off out later to celebrate Miss DJ’s birthday at Mandeio (happy birthday for yesterday, I’m writing this on Monday), although I think Neil will be staying in as he is the latest victim to fall foul of a nasty tummy bug that’s going around. There were some very unmusical sounds coming from the bathroom this morning. So, that’s the cat been through it and now Neil, I hope it avoids me, someone has to keep dishing out the medicines.

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This crest, on a building in the main path through Horio, suggests a one-time British consulate operated from here… I guess.

I just had a look through some recent photos that have not yet been posted, so that’s what you have today, and probably tomorrow. I’ve put captions beneath them to explain what they are. Have a good day, I am off to batten down the hatches.

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Saw this lying around a lane in the village. It looks like someone won the giant panda teddy bear and then broke the crane machine. Has anyone actually won anything from those arcade machines where the bears/toys are stuffed so far into each other that nothing is going to move unless you had a claw like this one?

On sale for Christmas!

On sale for Christmas!

 

Back to relative normality

Back to relative normality
Things are all a little calmer now. The weather has been good, though we’re desperate for rain and so is Rhodes and, I expect, other places. (It’s forecast to be wet and windy for a few days this week though.) I’ve been watching the boats come and go: the Blue Star was late on Friday due to a strike the day before, but she came and went. There was a day trip to Tilos on Saturday, mainly for an inter-island football match, but also for a visit to the neighbours. We were going to go but the expense of last Wednesday put paid to that.

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The visting army doctors coming to Symi last weekend; what a great way to arrive.

The Irish passport application is filled out and now just needs to be witnessed and the photos signed/stamped and the whole lot of paperwork sent off; we’re aiming for Monday or Tuesday on that one. I’ve started work proper on the new book, which is travel stories, anecdotes and some of them about Symi. I’ve also started on the Christmas collection so as to avoid a big rush, so expect blog posts over the next couple of weeks suggesting all or any of my books and Neil’s calendars as Christmas gift ideas for those you love – or hate, depending on how you see my books. [My Amazon Author page is here. Wink, wink.]

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Our limited but regular connection to Rhodes (over the weekends)

We arrived back on Wednesday night last week and promptly feel into a wedding invitation for next Sunday at Panormitis; that will be lovely, if we can find a way to get there and back. We also fell into the usual routine for our house in the winter: work in the morning, Neil on his college course, me on my book projects, afternoons too, with lots of television watching and reading in the evenings, housework, sweeping the dying vine leaves from the courtyard, feeding the cats – Symi Animal Welfare have delivered us a large bag of biscuits for the strays at the bins – and some light walking. Last Wednesday I met my Fitbit target in Rhodes by eight in the morning, it was positively ecstatic come lunchtime and could hardly contain its jubilation come three in the afternoon when we walked back from the New Town towards the boat. I was surprised that there was no tickertape shower when I walked into the house after several thousand steps beyond my daily target, which I rarely reach, I have to say. I’m not taking it seriously at the moment.

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Waiting for the ferry to go to Tilos on Saturday

And so all is well, and settled and ticking along towards the busy time of December, and we all know what that means. Hours of searching for ideas for surprise gifts for people. I always have good ideas when I am in a place where I can’t write them down and always say to myself, ‘That’s such a good idea, I will remember that one,’ and then never do. I am looking through my diary for the next two weeks and, apart from the wedding (hopefully) there is nothing in it other than ‘Jack, flea medicine.’ Oh, the things we look forward to here on Symi in the winter.

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Sunday morning light no Symi and Nimos

Actually, there is more going on than that. For example, there was a Christmas craft fair over the weekend at the cultural centre, we have an invite to lunch today (Sunday as I write), we need to see the accountant for the passport form next week, I have a trip to the pharmacy planned by Wednesday and a whole heap of chores to do around the house. Could things be any busier?