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Wot - No Progress!
Graham
25/07/2015, Paleokastritsa, Corfu

Well, work on the house is progressing slowly, indeed, very slowly! It has been extremely hot and very humid during the past week making garden work during the day extremely tiring. However, as I type this blog update, the thunder is rumbling in the background so we may be in for some very heavy rain imminently. Perhaps this will assist in identifying where the cause of the basement flooding issue originates from. Without a car or scooter at the moment, we are using the Corfu bus service to get into town, about 24km away. It costs £1.63 each way and is very comfortable, air conditioned and takes about 45 minutes. No need to park the car either, so very good for me. The lack of a car has made getting to anywhere off the beaten track a little more difficult, in particular, getting to the timber merchant where we need to buy our wood to start furniture building as mentioned in the last blog entry. Our internet access has also been extremely variable over the past few weeks so doing research on types of wood and ironmongery has slowed down slightly. We have however done one good job...I have replaced all of the lock cylinders on the house and installed an entirely new lock on the front door (which we can now actually use) as well as repairing the basement lock to keep our freezer food safe and secure. Crime is negligible in Greece and it is widely known as one of the safest places to live in the world. However, visitors from some neighbouring countries during the summer season do not always follow the same ideals so we have taken some local advice on such matters. One major achievement in the past month has been to obtain our Greek Residency Permits, required if staying longer than 90 days. This involves a great deal of paperwork, passport photos, and two trips to the local police station, but overall was quite straightforward. If we had brought our EHIC health cards with us from the UK in the first place, it would have been even easier! Now that we have a Residents' Permit, we can buy a car; no permit = no car, despite what some expats are led to believe! We are looking at getting a small Fiat Panda which is more than big enough out here. Some of the streets are so narrow that anything bigger than a Panda won't get through anyway! Indeed, some streets are limited to scooter access only, so a cheap second-hand one of those will appear at some point as they are super cheap to run here and everyone owns one from about the age of 16. Once we are sorted out with the car, it will be much easier to pop out to the DIY store called Profi, and Techno Market, the latter of which sells everything that you could possibly need to build a house, all at good prices as well. Our garden fence and house railings will be addressed in about November after the main holiday season finishes as our neighbours Stellios and Angela are assisting with the construction of replacement items from wrought iron once their business dries up for the season. Another slight show-stopper this week was identifying insufficient mains power into the workshop/outhouse to power up the Dewalt table saw without the mains tripping. This is easily rectified, but I need a few extra cables and will be taking a feed from the electric cooker point in the kitchen as a temporary measure. Given that we currently have no electric cooker, this is not really an issue! Once I have installed a new Main Consumer Unit, the entire problem will be resolved as the correct circuit breakers will be connected to the correct circuits. Another job added to the list! Finally for now, three cats moved onto our veranda this week; one mum and two kittens. They have made themselves at home but are not allowed in the house. We are aware that at Christmas time and when we are working on Quasar IV in the UK, there will be nobody to feed them so they still need to keep some hunting instincts for when we are not around. Greeks generally don't keep cats as pets as the animals assist in keeping the vermin down when left to roam wild. The cats however are very popular with Greeks and other residents alike. I took a day out this week to go wreck diving at Othonoi Island, about 30 miles north of Paleokastritsa and off the north coast of Corfu. Twelve divers plus three instructors - what an excellent trip, with a late lunch stop at Mathraki Island nearby. Tracey and I have run our first Quiz Night at Angels Pool Bar, about 30 metres from our house, which was a reasonable success. The quizzes are not held every week, but we have offered our services to help out as required. Quiz No 2 is prepared, Quiz No 3 is 'under construction'. That's about it for now, but I have added a photo of our painted 150-year old pantile that we bought from our local artist, Lina.

Outdoor Activities and Getting Around in Corfu
Graham
06/07/2015, Paleokastritsa, Corfu

Along with all the hard work of cleaning up the garden and generally unpacking, there has also been time for me to do some scuba diving with my friends at the Achilleon Diving Center located on Agia Triada beach, a good six minutes walk from the front door. I completed a total of six dives last week at a number of different dive sites including: The Wreck, Colovri Rock, The Monastery and Donald's Place, to name just a few. The visibility has been excellent at over 25 metres and I have been in and out of more caves than ever before, one of which was at 41 metres below the surface where we had only six minutes at that depth before we had to ascend slightly to avoid decompression issues. Another achievement of the past week for me was to successfully pass my PADI Diving Theory exam with a 100% mark, a prerequisite for undergoing further training as a PADI Dive Instructor if and when I get around to it. I started the course online in Saudi one year ago but had insufficient spare time while I was working at GPT to complete the course - not so much of an issue here! Tracey and I have also been out cycling on the new bikes that we received from Wiggle Cycles in the UK. We have been very impressed with the lightweight frames and the many gears allowing the long and often steep hills around here to be managed a little easier. The main hill out of Paleokastritsa towards the local butchers is 800 metres of very hard graft and nearly all cyclists that we have seen stop at the top for a breather; that now includes the two of us! It's a real crippler but will no doubt get easier with some practice. I cycled to the closest medium-sized supermarket to get some TV aerial cable on Saturday afternoon, an 8.2km round trip, the furthest that I have been so far. In the 32 DegC heat of the day (shade temperature), this may have been a bad move.... We want to receive some Greek TV to help us learn the language. Aerial plugged in, TV 'stick' on the laptop tuned up, sound no picture....apparently I also need a new Set Top Box as Greece has now 'gone digital' but a different format to the UK. The Set Top Box is now on this week's shopping list for our trip to Corfu town on the bus. It's about 24km to the Green Bus Station from the bus stop at the end of our road, 90 seconds walk, costing £1.63 each way per person. The journey takes about 40 minutes in a luxury air conditioned coach and there is no car parking issue at the far end! Corfu town parking is quite straightforward really; there isn't any! The town is absolutely packed with parked cars so we have usually parked near the sea front and walked in. If you are not in town by about 9-30am, forget it or put on your walking boots - you'll have a long walk into the town centre. At least in Corfu you cannot walk more than about 50 metres without finding a coffee shop to stop in. The bus service is good but the afternoon service home is every two hours so you have to plan your trip more carefully than with the car. Having no car at the moment makes shopping for meat a bit more difficult than usual from the main supermarkets, namely Diellas and Lidl, as by the time we get back from the shop the meat has got too warm. Luckily, the local butchers is within cycling distance and is literally downhill all the way back for 2.5 km, so only takes about 10 minutes by bike. The next step regards to moving in is to draw sketches followed by detailed plans of the furniture to build. Once this is completed, a wood type and cutting list can be provided to the timber merchant near Corfu town who can cut and deliver the wood if ordered in a large enough quantity, which our first order certainly will be as we will be building: entire kitchen cabinets, multiple bookshelves, hi-fi unit, two indoor sofas, two outdoor sofas, two outdoor chairs, two outdoor table repairs, bed, cupboards, workshop tables and shelving, replacement window frames, .....

Getting sorted out....σιγά-σιγά!
Graham
06/07/2015, Paleokastritsa, Corfu

The Greeks have an expression 'σιγά-σιγά', which sounds like 'siga-siga' and literally means 'slowly slowly'. This is the speed at which everything happens here in Corfu as we have been finding out over the past 5 weeks. And yes, that's how long we have been here! Our boxes arrived from England (some via Saudi Arabia) on the 20th June, mostly intact with a couple of minor breakages. We did discover that some of the items packed in Saudi appeared to have been deliberately defaced by Saudi Customs which was disappointing, but our main souvenirs were in our hold baggage so have arrived in perfect condition, good news. Nomad International Limited delivered ahead of schedule and we were very impressed with the service which brought our items overland (and sea) from the UK. We hired a Fiat Panda from Avis for 3 weeks so we could get started more easily and used the time to work out where many places are that we will need to redecorate the house. The locals have been exceptionally friendly in assisting - nothing has been too much trouble. Our main focus of effort has been the garden so far which was not far short of a jungle when we arrived. The newly-acquired Karcher jetwash has been in full time use in cleaning years of dirt from the walls, paths and stones around the house and garden. I am about 40% completed so far, but the areas cleaned are now receiving coats of white paint in selected areas which is making a massive improvement to the garden. Our neighbours have been very complimentary on progress so far and are very happy that the house and garden is no longer an eyesore in 'our' street! Inside the house, decoration is on the back burner at the moment. We are concentrating on getting the outside of the house waterproof before the Mediterranean Corfu Monsoon Season sets in during late September! Inside the house, we will be decorating from scratch and plan on building all of our own furniture, requiring access to a good timber yard that delivers; getting home ten sheets of 1.2 x 2.4 metre 18mm thick sheet ply is going to be difficult on the bike, or indeed, on the roof of any car! As at the moment, we have no car and are waiting for the end of the tourist season when the car rental companies sell off cars at some good prices. We have our contacts at the ready, the Avis contact being the sister of the owner of our local butcher, so perhaps a discount....or there again, perhaps not! Our kitchen has no cooker at the moment so we have recently upgraded our two small CampingGaz stoves to a single, twin burner unit on a larger bottle, situated on the veranda for outdoor cooking. We should be fine out here until at least October, weather permitting. This will give us time to design and rebuild the kitchen from scratch which is going to be a bit of a challenge to put it mildly. I'll add some photos to the Corfu Album here on the Blog later today showing progress so far in the garden. Living conditions at present are basic but more than manageable and not causing any problems at all. I am typing up this blog on the veranda, overlooking the red bougainvillea, apricot tree and the deep blue sea where I have been spending time with my Greek friends at the Achilleon Diving Center during last week, a topic for the next blog entry after a Greek salad for lunch I think :-)

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