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

How many steps must a man walk up?

How many steps must a man walk up?
I finally found time to get out of the house and head to Yialos to do the usual bank and business, get cat food for HRH Alarm Cat, check the post office and dash back up again before the final on-line meeting with the editor where we finished off the last edits for ‘Remotely.’ This was after watching a flotilla (or regatta) of boats leaving after spending a night in the harbour. I assume it was a race of some kind as there looked to be some marshal boats alongside them. A very pleasing sight to see, over 30 over-nighters heading off for a good day’s sailing.

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The boats heading off for a day’s sailing

Now then, people often ask how many steps there are up to the village and my reply usually is, it depends on which way you go. There are various ways to do it. The most straightforward is to head up past the Kalodoukas office, turn left after browsing Freddie’s shop and saying hello to Pet Corner, and then Carry On Up The Kali Strata – a good opportunity for a plug for the second ‘living on Symi’ book in the series. This way will give you roughly 360 + steps to take, with gentle slopes to break the journey, and some nice views.

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Heading down the Kali Strata

You can also head to the bus stop and resist the temptation to take a taxi or bus and then head up the slope that way. Here you can turn off half way up or continue to the top and the high school, up the slope and then join the Kali Strata on the viewpoint corner. Or, you can start on route one and turn off opposite the large red house, turning right and taking the almost sheer set of steps to the zigzag which brings you out near Lemonitisa and the domed church you see from the harbour. Turn left there to find the village square or zigzag up some more to find the Castro.

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An interesting use for pebbles

You can also just take any of the right turns and steps as you climb up and see where you end up. I took the slope that doubles back about half way up the steps, between the two properties used for The Symi Gallery and then weaved my way up to our house from there. It saves going all the way around but although it’s only four levels from that slope, it’s still pretty sheer, and very good for the thighs. Whichever way you go, remember water and wear a hat if it’s really hot as there isn’t always shade. You’ll find the off-the-beaten-steps routes interesting as you never know what you will come across; ruins, views, chickens, cats, more chickens and the cockerel that goes of around four every morning and keeps going until well after seven. It’s an interesting walk whichever way you do it.

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A plaque marking a family house

As for the number of steps involved in these routes, my advice would be not to count. You can’t feel your legs after 50 of them anyway so it doesn’t matter. And as for my weekend, well, the usual is planned; writing and chilling out as I watch the boats come and go and set about setting up the things needed to get ‘Remotely’ published, hopefully in a week or so’s time. Whatever you are doing, have a great weekend and I’ll see you back here bright and early on Monday.

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Gulets in for an evening

Symi Shakespeare

Symi Shakespeare
I came across an expression in Greek yesterday and typed it into the online translator. Πολύ κακό για το τίποτα, was the expression and it was being used by the chairman of the town council to describe something or other that was going on, on Symi, the other day. It translates as ‘much ado about nothing,’ and that put me in mind of other Shakespeare titles that could apply to our little island.

Symi Shakespeare

A Symi sunrise

So, I went to my complete works, dragged it down from the shelf, put it down on the desk with a resounding thump and had a look at the list of plays.

Symi Shakespeare

It’s not a sparrow, it’s too big apparently…?

It strikes me that a trip to one of our supermarkets when news of fresh produce reaches us in the winter could also be much ado about nothing, and the sorting out of the country’s economic problems is currently a comedy of errors, if you are able to laugh at what’s going on. But a trip to Symi (a must for every traveller) will give you the chance to have your holiday just as you like it and, measure for measure, you will have a good time. Sitting out in a courtyard on a clear might in June, watching stars and listening to the owls overhead is definitely a midsummer night’s dream and by the twelth night of your holiday you will be fluent in the language of ouzo and relaxation, if you haven’t achieved that before. Obviously, if you journey here between December and March, and it’s possible, you will return home with a winter’s tale to tell though there may be a tempest or two to contend with during those months. You could take a walk and visit one of the island’s hamlets, the small farming communities out in the hills and whatever way you take your Symi holiday it will be a case of all’s well that ends well.

Symi Shakespeare

Kali Strata mansion house

I could go all silly and suggest you might meet the merry wives of Horio and the two gentlemen of Nimborio, but that would be gilding the lily, as my uncle would have put it. Or, as Shakespeare himself may have put it – in fact he did: “If all the year were playing holidays; To sport would be as tedious as to work.”

Make of all this what you Will.

Symi Shakespeare

Symi harbour

Hungry birds and Symi weather

Hungry birds and Symi weather
Wednesday had a bit of a late start to it thanks to a late night on Tuesday; great barbeque, lots of fun chat and good company. One of those nights where you forget about time, until you realise it’s well after midnight and you should have been in bed hours ago. Wednesday was also pretty humid here with a few clouds about, one of those sticky days where even the breeze felt damp.

But that didn’t stop people being out and about on the jet-skis at Nos beach, or in the water swimming. It didn’t stop the day boats from coming in or the visitors from enjoying time in the harbour, up in the village, making use of the many tavernas and bars we have here on Symi.

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Baby swallows being fed yesterday – hungry birds

It was also day two of the final edit of ‘Remotely’ which took up two hours of my day. Another twenty chapters were finalised, leaving 11 to do on Friday. That means I can start the online publishing process through Amazon, as we can’t finally finalise the book until I have the ISBN number, which I can only get by starting the process online, something I should do today or tomorrow. Meanwhile I am still working my way through the next one (for next year) in its first draft form and finishing my scriptwriting course. I have one last assignment to do by the end of August: to write a screenplay. It has to be at least 15 pages long, and tell a complete story. I think mine is going to come out at an odd length for a film, but it is after all, only an exercise. Once that’s done and ‘Remotely’ is out, I shall have a lot more time to put into the next two books but, once ‘The Saddling’ first draft is finished, I might take a few weeks off from writing and have a bit of a break.

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Things to do on a jet-ski; go around in circles

Perhaps I will get a chance to head to the beach one day, I may even dip a toe in the water, but let’s not be too hasty. People find it odd when I say I don’t go to the beach very much, but you have to remember we’re not here to be on holiday. We both work every day at some job or other and finding time off is not always easy. Mind you, I did have Wednesday morning off as I woke up three hours beyond my usual time, so the morning actually went past very quickly. But yes, a couple of mornings on the beach or on a long walk could be on the cards soon, as soon as we’ve got this book out and that one drafted, and the next one planned and the course finished… Upwards and onwards.

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Symi view

Working ramble

Working ramble
I had a good online session with editor on Monday and another is booked in for today. This is the process of going through the layout of ‘Remotely’ and tidying up a few things: making sure the quotes at the start of each chapter are consistent in their layout, making sure the ‘widows and orphans’ are tidied up so we are not left with an odd word at the start of a page, and things like that. We have done 20 out of the 50 or so chapters and aim to do another 20 later today. It’s an interesting process: I am watching his desktop screen from over here (he is in Britain) so I can see what he changes as he changes it. It’s a bit frustrating for me as I keep trying to click on things and of course, although I can see my pointer, it doesn’t actually do anything to the pages.

Live editing across Europe

Live editing across Europe

Meanwhile, life on Symi goes on, though it’s quieter than of late. This is the time of year that many Greek and Italian people come on holiday but we are seeing far fewer this year, doubtless due to the economic situation, the severity of Greek cut-backs and… well I don’t know anything about Italy, but I am sure they have their reasons. Roll on September when more northern European, British and Scandinavian visitors particularly, come to Symi to soak up the sun and enjoy the beauty of the island.

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That’s meant to be the moon

I found a few photos from our evening out, which I have put up today. The moon was up as we waited for a taxi, but my camera is not very good at night shots of the moon, it is, after all, an underwater camera. I think it’s been in the sea twice in its life as I am not really an underwater person, I don’t think I’ve been in the sea since 2014, apart from one paddle earlier this year.

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Shopping in Yialos

There are also some shots of shops at night, which may look empty, but I was careful not to snap innocent passers-by as not everyone likes to have their image put up on blogs. The shops stay open late into the evening in most cases. I know when I worked for Takis he was always there before eight in the morning and not often closed until after 11 at night. (And some people think the Greeks are lazy!) It’s very common for people at this time of year to work long hours, fifteen or more a day at times. Up in the village, Noufris is at work at Georgio’s early in the morning, has an hour off in the afternoon and is then back again until sometimes well after midnight. Yiannis does the same at the bar. We went out on the Poseidon the other evening and the guys there start early to prepare the boat, make the lunches, and then set off at 10.30 and work through until at least seven in the evening, and then often go out again for an evening booking until midnight.

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Shops are open late

So, don’t let anyone tell you that folk around here don’t work long hours. I start at 6.15, break for lunch at around 12.30 and often get back to the desk again until four or five, which by local standards is part time. You might also be fooled by seeing some men sitting with a drink at 10.30 in the morning and staying at the bar until the afternoon. That’s because they’ve been up since one and working on their fishing boats. Same with the bakers who work through the night and often have their bakeries open in the evenings too.

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Live music in Georgio’s at the weekend

Anyway, that’s my little ramble for today. I have some writing to do now so I will get on with that; the devil makes hands for idle workers, or whatever the expression is. Have a good day and enjoy the photos.

So You Think We’re Remotely Interested?

So You Think We’re Remotely Interested?
Or, ‘Straight Swap’ as the original, working title of my next book was. It’s now titled ‘Remotely’ and the editor has just finished going through it. Now there is a little layout work to do that has something to do with slaughtering widows and orphans (a publishing term) and then it should be on the virtual shelves within a few weeks. I will keep you posted on my posts here.

Remotely. Out soon

Remotely. Out soon

The book will be available at Amazon around the world and there will be a Kindle version probably a few weeks after the print version as Kindles have different layout things to take into consideration. The cover illustration, by the way, was created by the very talented Clive Wakfer and, to give you an idea of the story, the back blurb of the books reads:

“Britain’s newest and most pointless TV talent competition is coming to Middlestone-On-Sea. ‘So You Think We’re Remotely Interested?‘ has taken Friday night viewers by storm as it streams live variety shows from remote, provincial theatres across Britain. The theatre with the most audience votes wins regeneration and revival, and lord knows, Middlestone needs both.

The dying seaside backwater rests its hopes on the performance of two ex-best friends, gay Gary and straight Stag.

The visiting celebrity judge, the mysterious and timeless Miss P, knows that for all to be well, they must mend their broken friendship. But there is no success without trial. She magically swaps Gary and Stag into each other’s bodies. Secrets are learned, comedy ensues, and yet the community remains divided.

Rifts must be healed, differences accepted, and bodies swapped back before the season grand finale in four days’ time.”

Now then, to give you a rough idea of what you are letting yourself in for when you buy a copy (I will publish links in due course), you may want to read the first chapter. So, if you follow the link at the bottom of this post, you should open a PDF document. Each chapter starts with a quote and there are only two genuine quotes used (the others are made up by me), the one you can read in this chapter and one later on in the book.

You WIsh, James CollinsAnd, if you were wondering about the style, you can get used to what’s about to hit you between the eyes by reading my ‘You Wish!’ which is a similar style, but, I have to say, is a bit rougher than ‘Remotely’ which my editor describes as my best work to date, bless. ‘You Wish!’ Was written a long time ago and is nicely, camply, over the top (and unedited, it’s an ‘early work’). ‘Remotely’ has taken about two years to put together and is a longer book. A magazine in the UK described ‘You Wish!’ as “Perfect poolside reading.” And I would say ‘Remotely’ will be the same.

Anyway, click the link and check out chapter one, it’s a short one, it won’t keep you for long.

‘Remotely’

You Wish!’ Available here in print and kindle

 

 

 

Saturday night Symi

Saturday night Symi
I was hoping for a lie in on Sunday as we’d been out quite late on Saturday, but the cat had other ideas. So I thought I would use this unusual time of morning (6.45) on a Sunday to prepare a blog post for today and then take the rest of the day to myself to work on a book or something. Actually, it wasn’t that late a night by some standards, we got home just after midnight; there are some (no names mentioned) who think nothing of heading home in the dawn-light after a good night out on Symi – and when you’re on holiday, why not? Or even when you’re not on holiday, why not?

Saturday night Symi

Trying to hide

Anyway, we’d been down to Yialos with the godsons as one of them has just turned 13, so it was our treat for a night out in the big city. This involved a walk around the harbour so we could watch the big super-yachts come in. The Vava I and II were both in; apparently they are owned by Ernesto Bertarelli, an Italian-born, Swiss businessman And philanthropist. Very impressive boats and it was good to see the harbour busy with many other boats, especially at the west end.

Saturday night Symi

Vava I and Vava II in Symi on Saturday

After present buying (new Croc flip-flops) Dinner was at the Dolphin Restaurant, otherwise known as Vasilis and Rachael’s pizzeria by the bridge. This is a good place to watch the world go by and also, when there is something on the festival stage in the town square, it’s a good place to sit and listen, or even watch. I’ve seen shows from a table there with a better view than if I had been in the audience. It’s also worth going for the food, of course! Pizzas, pasta, salads and all homemade, you can see Vasilis in the kitchen throwing the dough around. The prices are good: Three pizzas (two of them large, and here large means large!), one large garlic bread (like a pizza), a salmon pasta, one litre of wine, water and two soft drinks for under €58.00 – that’s a dinner for four, by the way, not just me.

Saturday night Symi

Ice-cream time

After that there was an insistence for ice-cream so we wandered over to the ice-cream and cake shop in post office square. (I did see the name on the street plaque but I can never remember it.) Here you have ice-cream by the scoop and if you ask for a small one they think you are joking and you end up with a large one anyway, for the same price as a small one. Again, the prices are good, three large tubs for €6.00 and it’s nice ice-cream. Someone had a double with cookie-dough and peanut (and it did taste like peanuts), someone else had chocolate with hazelnut and I went for a simple vanilla with chocolate chips in it.

Saturday night Symi

In flight entertainment

After that, we admired the taxi rank for 25 minutes and then went to catch the bus. There are only a few taxis on the island of course, and things do get busy at the site of year. But here’s a tip. If you are waiting for a taxi, wait in the taxi parking area, where there’s a shelter and where everyone can see you are waiting. Don’t sit on the quayside opposite and then expect everyone to believe you’ve been waiting for a taxi and were first in the queue – everyone will assume you’re making it up and you won’t get yourself a good reputation. Worse, you might get a mouthful of malakarisms – especially at night; how does anyone know you’re waiting for a cab, and not just sitting over there for the fun of it? Anyway, the bus was busy but we were able to watch the new television and the advertising display on the way up; a kind of Symi in-flight movie.

Saturday night Symi

Dusk in the harbour

And so to the square for one on the way home, chat with friends, the boys off to their home after another drink and a play in the square and the end of a lovely evening. Knackered to bed at 12.30 and the Alarm Cat setting itself off at 5.45. Lovely.