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Making a home in Rhodes II

December 25, 2017

A busy month since the last communication in November.

Blue skies and beaches – life on Rhodes

My first panic was caused by booking my first Greek lesson of the winter.  Only a week to go and I needed to get back to where I had left off last April.  I started from the beginning of the text book again and was horrified at the amount I had completely forgotten and spent a good part of every day for a week trying to catch up.  Areti, my teacher, was very sympathetic and reassured me that I was not the only one to have this problem!


Small mosque – Rhodes town

I am still trying to work on the future tense which sort of stands in for the infinitive in English, so is quite important.  However it would be good to move on to the past tense – it is a bit limiting to only be able to converse in the present and future!

That said, I did manage to have a (very) stilted conversation with the lady in the shop who finally managed to obtain a couple of bent wood armchairs for our sitting room.  She had managed to get them from Athens after about 2 weeks of trying.  She called me yesterday (Sunday!) to say they had arrived.  She speaks a little English but gave up after a while.  I eventually deduced that she was saying that they were flat pack, and did I want someone to make them?  I then stuttered that we could “make” them ourselves – handy that the word for make sounds like “fix”!  So all was well and we now have two quite comfortable chairs as well as a settee.

Flowers in our front garden

So how come the shop was open on Sunday?  It turns out that many of the supermarkets and larger shops open on Sundays just before Christmas – normally everything is shut.

I have had to explain to several people that we have been living on the boat for 8 years, with limited space and resources.  So we had no furniture, no Christmas decorations, no appliances to speak of and so were starting our lives again from scratch as it were!  And getting ourselves sorted out with residency in a different country.  Hence the last two months has been a constant stream of buying stuff and getting ourselves sorted out administratively.  Also finding that technology has moved on – we are very impressed with the new LED light bulbs that are now available.

My study

But in between all that, Susie and I had an exciting but exhausting couple of days out.  In the last blog I mentioned that we had acquired a lot of furniture from one of Areti’s pupils who was moving back to Sweden.  I didn’t mention that their apartment in the Old Town was next door to Susie’s, and I only later found out that she and Micke were hoping to move there and got the go ahead that weekend! So we had taken all the furniture from the apartment that they could have used.  Oops.

She and Micke only have a scooter for transport, so when I offered a ride to the big shops out on the main road she was happy to come along.  It was great fun – we hit the big DIY store, then checked out rugs at the shop whose owner (Maria Epiplo) had pointed me in the direction of our new apartment. I got a large “throw” that is now pinned to the wall in the sitting room and cuts down the echoes.


New Carpet and throw on the wall

After that we headed to Kalitheas where we had lunch in the sunshine, then checked out some 2nd hand stuff being sold by a lady who is moving to Thessalonika.  She is a seamstress, specialising in clothes for professional dancers! Wow.  Susie managed to snaffle loads of stuff, much of which wouldn’t fit in the car.  I had an appointment nearby the next day to see Zambeka – the Axa insurance lady, so could pick up the balance then.

We unloaded all Susie’s purchases then back to our apartment where I gave her back a bathroom cabinet that belonged in Susie’s bathroom (I still feel slightly guilty) having acquired a nice wooden bench from Kalitheas.

Snow on the mountains in Turkey

Then back to Susie’s to deliver it and a quick beer at their “local” before collapsing back home!

The following day I went to see Zambeka in her office in Faliraki – an awful “resort” town that is deserted in winter.  She spent a long time explaining the different types of insurance that we could take out.  I felt that what she was offering sounded really good.  Many ex-pats use her and the products that she has recommended for us.  So we now have basic health insurance and house contents insurance for a very reasonable €300 each annually.  It took a couple of weeks for the policies to come through (all in Greek of course) but Zambeka was careful to explain everything and we are now set.  The health insurance includes a full annual medical checkup – something I have never had before.  What a good deal.

Then I collected the rest of Susie’s acquisitions and ferried them to her new apartment. Still feeling guilty!

The trip to the DIY store had resulted in curtains for my study and Brian’s workshop, which went up and look nice.  I managed to negotiate the IKEA online website in Greek (see, I must be improving) and ordered a daybed – two stacking beds that can be taken apart for visitors.  Very neat.  There is an outlet here that acts as a delivery point for IKEA.  They called a week later to say that the bed had arrived and would be delivered in an hour or so.  It turned up in a falling apart bedford van – the back door held up by a broom stick!

Stacking IKEA bed – brilliant

It took Brian and I an hour and a half to put the first bed together – then we found the instructions in the 2nd box.  It fits in my study very nicely, so when I get tired of working at my desk I can retire to the couch!

All the furniture and much of the goods in the online stores and DIY stores that I have seen so far is all made in China, including our new armchairs.  It is all a bit tacky and may not last long.  I am still looking for bookshelves.

I had acquired a long thin set of shelves aka a spice rack from Kalitheas, Brian painted it white and it fit very nicely in the kitchen, giving us a bit more storage space. Heavy duty and not Chinese!

In between all that we have had various meetings to progress our possible acquisition of the house off Kapodistriou street.  We have met with surveyors (Kostas and Vassileios) at the property and they have given us a quote for fixing the essential issues of the roof and masonry.  We got access to the huge basement and found that there is a space and plumbing for installation of central heating – necessary for the large sitting/kitchen area.

We met a lawyer (Maria-Christina) who has now looked at the property documents.  Vassileios had found these in folders at the house! Many of them are on forms in Italian – legacy of the colonial occupation until the ‘40’s.

Italian property form!

After our meeting with the lawyer we went to Marks & Sparks to get new underwear for Brian.  The Chinese shop versions just fall apart after a year.  At the checkout the lady wanted us to ensure they were the right size – I pointed to Brian who was hovering nearby.  The two women peered over the counter, sized him up and decided that they would be OK!  We were in fits of laughter all day after that, Brian being most embarrassed.

In the middle of these meetings, I joined Mara and Susie for a cycle ride out to a beach near one of the big resort hotels – not far from the shipyard.  We left the bikes at the top of the hill and walked down to the beach where Susie was intent on collecting “sea glass” – small shards of glass that have been worn smooth and translucent by the waves.  It was a gorgeous afternoon and we sat on the pebbles chatting, picking up hundreds of pieces of glass – this beach is renowned for it.  Elisabeth joined us having driven down.  It was the first time we had met since last May, so we managed to do a bit of catching up.  We wondered why this beach in particular had so much glass on it.  Elisabeth found out later that the town rubbish dump used to be on the site of the hotel!

Down on the beach collecting sea glass with Mara

All of a sudden it was December.  Another outing was mooted with Susie to hit Jumbo – a huge store with very cheap and cheerful goods.  I couldn’t believe the quantity that Susie managed to load up into her trolley! I managed to get some Christmas decorations and some sticky pads to stop rugs sliding around (the only thing I had gone there for) and a couple of new cushions.  By the time I had wound around all the aisles I had had enough – awful shop really.  I escaped to the kiosk outside for a coffee and chocolate croissant in the sunshine – eventually joined by Susie.  We headed to Faliraki and found “the British Shop” but they had run out of crumpets.  Then to Lidl to pick up some Cheddar and Stilton cheeses and another huge trolley load from Susie!  It was a bit hairy getting to her apartment as the main road round the old town wall was being resurfaced, so I had to squeeze in through one of the old gates – eek.

OMG – No more shopping!

I had ordered some cotton rugs from Maria Epiplo which arrived and I collected.  They are lovely very thick woven cotton – made in Greece by the only remaining factory.  Apparently there used to be a thriving industry in these, but now much reduced.

Quiet on the beach in town – diving board in the background

I am still working on finding an accountant.  Various things need to be sorted out – not least to change our marital status with the tax office as they have us down as single at present.  For this I need a certified and translated copy of our marriage certificate!  The one I have is not sufficient apparently.  Hmm.

Another exciting event was to get bank accounts opened at Piraeus bank.  It all went remarkably smoothly.  We got debit cards immediately, a bank book each and I registered for internet banking, which Piraeus bank provides in English, as well as an app on my smart phone.  I set up an account with a money transfer company, so we now have money in our Euro accounts.  Amazing!

Farmer’s market

A spurt of enthusiasm made me head to the fruit and veg market last week, where I bought ingredients for chutney.  The last batch we made on the boat must have been four years ago!  I even found green tomatoes.  I am now checking the 2nd batch every quarter hour as it simmers away.  We had found our large preserving pan (really a lobster pan I think from our time in Montreal) at Butte Farm and put it in with the shipment to Rhodes.  It is wonderful to have all the facilities now to cook and do stuff like this.

A call from the shipyard invited us to their Christmas barbeque.  It was good to see the workers in a more relaxed environment – the chief travel lift operator was a wizard on the grill!

Experts at the grill

I chatted to the boss and his English wife – also Rosemary.  I also spoke to Mara’s partner Ali.  He has acquired (the previous owner kind of gave it to him?) his own boat which he sailed to Rhodes from Marmaris last week.  It is a small gulet, very pretty but needs quite a lot of TLC after being ignored for a few years.  We went to have a quick look at it before I left.  He is very proud of it!

Ali (right) and friend at the BBQ

Ali’s new boat

Last week we put up the Christmas lights on our front balcony.  I put the baubles (Wesley bobs according to the resident West Yorkshire person) in a large glass bowl, then went to hunt for a Christmas “twig” – a Smith family tradition.  That is now installed with Wesley bobs and lights and looks very pretty.

Christmas twig

Crimbo lights on our balcony!

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