Sunday, October 28, 2007

Comments on Airport etiquette...

No-one enjoys the experience of waiting at an airport for their flight home after a holiday. We had waited for our transfer coach to Corfu Airport for almost an hour in a sleety rainstorm that made one wish for another mug of hot chocolate!

We excused the driver that one, as the weather was so foul, and the village was experiencing one if the (not infrequent) power cuts.

Once we arrived at Ioannis Kapodistrias, we were met by a rep from our Tour Operator (TO), who breezily informed us that we did know that our 2245hrs flight would be 3 hours late. This was bearing in mind we were due to have be collected from Kassiopi at 1840hrs. No, we replied, we did not know this....

Apparently, the bad weather that day had meant that a morning flight form Norwich had had to return to Brindisi in Italy to refuel, as landing had not been possible at Corfu. Obviously this had a knock-on effect on later flights, ending up with us.

I am sure it would not have been beyond the realms of possibility for the TO to have contacted us to advise us of this and allowed us to enjoy our last meal on the island in resort, rather than in the crowded and expensive airport cafeteria.

We finally boarded the aircraft about 0200hrs on Wednesday morning, Corfu time. There were several calls for two passengers who had checked in, but not boarded the aircraft. After some thirty minutes, the Captain informed us that there would be a further short delay whilst the missing passengers' luggage was located and removed from the aircraft. One poor Corfiot baggage handler did this all on his own, with the rain slashing down - the Captain said that he hoped their luggage would be left out in a large puddle.

Eventually, we took off for a totally uneventful flight back to Stansted, and arrived home in Wisbech about 0645hrs UK time, exhausted and ready for bed!

In these days of heightened security, I have nothing but praise for how the both the air and ground crew handled this incident. Passengers on the plane were muttering unhelpful comments abut taking off with the missing people's bags on board - I know it is highly unlikely that a tourist flight from a small airport on a Greek island would be a 'terror target', but I know I don't want to have bags without an owner on my flight!

The lack of consideration showed by the missing passengers was inexcusable - it wouldn't have taken much for them to contact the TO to let them know they would be on a different flight, but to leave their bags checked in? Words fail me.

Autumnal Update

We have recently returned form our October visit to Corfu, for both a chance to catch some late-summer sunshine and to see the progress that has been made at Ano Kato.

The new 'old' roof looks superb, and is ready for the addition of a traditional style Corfiot chimney to go with the fireplace that our builder is going to construct in the enormous (10m x 5m) living area.

He has said that he will be using as much of the stone that has been salvaged from the original building - in fact the workshop at the side of the house is currently chock-a-block with chunks of stone ready for use elsewhere on the build.

Work has also commenced on our 'vothross' or septic tank; this is situated close to one of the orange trees in the garden; we ought to have a bumper crop of those in the next few years once the house is in use! I did at one point suggest that we might use it for a swimming pool once it was filled with some of the copious rainfall that fell whilst we were there...

Fittings for the bathroom, such as tiles, sanitary ware and taps have now been chosen, and we have decided ti invest in an Italian fitted kitchen with solid chestnut doors, and a travertine stone worktop. This is a lovely stone, neither a marble or a limestone, which we chose at one of the large 'Marmara' stores that proliferate on the island.

Our builder has promised that the house should be completed sometime next spring - we can't wait to see our house restored to some of her former glory!

The weather, however, was not as kind to us. Our first two days there were lovely - kind autumnal sunshine that warmed the bones and gladdened the heart. Then it all changed. Prolonged heavy rainstorms that caused road-wide rivers to cascade down the streets, soaking ones trouser bottoms and gouging mini-gorges in the as-yet unmetalled mountain tracks that still exist on Corfu. We were intrigued to see some of the mountain tops on Albania, just across the narrow Corfu Straits had had a dusting of snow on their peaks, a sure sign that winter is on its way....

Even so, we did see some beautiful rainbows and lightning, which as usual, made one thrill at the natural light shows caused by rain and sunshine!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

More mosaics...

I had better put a bit more here about me this is what I intend putting on a website I'm trying to set up to advertise my work:

'I am a UK based mosaic artist making unique and beautiful wall plaques, tabletops and signs in hand-cut glass and unglazed porcelain.

Recently I have completed several small commissions for name plates for properties both large and small in locations across the North of Corfu.

We intend to relocate to our house in Ano Korakiana in the next few years to work in the inspirational Corfiot countryside.

If you have any interest in what I can do for your business, please do not hesitate to contact me, when further pictures of my work to date can be provided.'

Here is a sign that I have produced for a friend's olive wood workshop in the North-East Corfiot resort of Kassiopi:

Hope you like it!

The Roof is Complete!

More photos have come hot-foot from Corfu, showing us that the roof on Ano Kato is now complete, so we are a lot nearer to having the house weatherproof before winter.

The interior of the roof looks great with its wood ceiling and exposed beams.

Luckily we will be able to assess the work in a month's time when we will be visiting the island for a weeks rest and recreation.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Up on the roof!

Following those rumours that work had progressed up to roof level at Ano Kato, and that the site was 'a flurry of activity', I was really pleased to get an email from a friend on the island.

He let us know that the timbers were 6'' x 1'' T&G, and that there were a great many packs of insulation waiting to be installed.

At this rate, she'll definitely be weather tight for the winter!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Great news!

I have heard from a neighbour who overlooks our house that at long last the roof is being erected. This should mean that our 'ideal' of having the house weather tight by the end of the summer may actually happen!

Over the last few months, I have been kept busy making mosaic name plates for friends on the Island. This is an idea I have been working on as a money-spinner to help keep us in ouzo and Mythos once we move to Corfu.

I have even been approached by a small chain of shops who specialise in Corfiot products to supply pictures to go into their catalogue of goods. Lets hope this is the beginning of something big!

Should you be interested in one for delivery anywhere worldwide, contact me through this blog!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Kindness of strangers

They say that strangers are only friends you haven't met yet, but I have to admit that this seems to be the experience of Corfiot people.

We asked our builder if he and his wife would join us for dinner one evening, so that we could get to know each other and make sure we were thinking along the same lines for our houses final finish and appearance.

Of course, we needn't have worried, they were a delightful couple - although there was a slight language barrier, we got along really well, and 'put the world to rights' in an most enjoyable fashion! We all enjoyed the simple but excellent grilled meats offered at George and Margaret's Grill Room in the North Eastern resort of Kassiopi.

Margaret has, in my humble opinion, the most gorgeous light, fruity locally made red house wine that I have yet to sample on the island. Served chilled in a metal jug, it is almost a rose, and slips down so very easily with the wonderful grilled meats and chunky homemade chips that the Taverna specialises in. Such simplicity sounds simple and rustic, but has to be tasted to be believed - Simon is virtually vegetarian in the UK, but he can't resist the local meat! It is absolutely excellent, tasty and rich - just as it used to be in our far off childhoods!

A phrase we've picked up from John Mole's excellent book 'It's all Greek to Me', that seemed to be easy to drop into conversation is 'Ti na kanoume?' - 'What can we do?', accompanied by an almost Gallic shrug!! This helped to break the ice and helped what we hope to be a great friendship to develop.

As is Greek custom, though we invited this couple to drive for over an hour along mad hairpin bends and blind corners, we were prevented from picking up the tab! I really hope that they will let us reciprocate when we return in October.... especially as we hear our builder's brother runs a very traditional Grill Room just south of Corfu Town!

Happy days.....

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Long time...No post!

It seems like forever since I updated my blog, although back in Corfu our house is rising from the rubble and taking shape again!

When Simon and I returned to the island in late May, it was with some trepidation that we drew up at the bottom of the lane that leads to Ano Kato. We held hands, and with lumps in our throats looked upwards towards our house!

We needn't have worried, as our builder and his team had been hard at it throughout the Corfiot spring, pouring 25m2 of concrete on top of several tons of steel reinforcing mesh to create a hefty, and (hopefully) earthquake proof foundation on which to erect the hollow block walls.

The house is going to end up being somewhat bigger than we originally expected, as the original rubble walls were up to a metre thick, as opposed to the 300mm brick that they are now constructed of!

The house now has two ring beams to brace the structure, again another must for areas prone to earthquakes - in fact, a 5.4 magnitude 'quake was felt on Corfu on 29 June 2007!

Our wonderful builder was hoping that he would be able to start erecting the roof beams shortly after we returned to the UK, but we were able to see some of the wonderful cypress beams that are being used as ceiling joists - the roof will be having similarly sized timbers.

The builders on site hop from timber to timber, but I was not brave enough to try, although Simon did gingerly tread some boards that had hastily been laid for him to use!

Every time we looked out over the southerly countryside from what will be our verandah/balcony, it reminded us why we were undertaking this insane project, and why we cannot wait until mid-October when we will again be back in the gentle arms of a Corfiot autumn or 'Second Spring'

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

2007 Starts well at Ano Kato!

Our builder has been very busy since the start of the New Year, with his application for a 'Renovation Permit' being successful, allowing works to go ahead.

The hideous old 'chicken shack' at the rear of the house has now been demolished, which has greatly improved the aesthetics of the building!
Huge areas of old plaster have been hacked form the interior walls revealing interesting niches and other 'nooks and crannies' that will form useful features in the new house.
The internal ceilings have been removed with many smoke blackened timbers being removed, and judged as being past viable repair or reuse...
Luckily, this year, the Corfu winter has been relatively dry, as Ano Kato is now totally topless! All the old hand-made pantiles have been carefully removed, and stacked ready for reuse.
Finally, and most drastically, the end gable wall of the house has been demolished, and is now awaiting several truckloads of steel and concrete to consolidate and strengthen the whole structure.

Watch this space for further developments!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Good News on the Builder Front!

This blog has been quiet for too long! Since my last entry, when our original builder had had to withdraw from the project, there has been a great deal going on behind the scenes.

Our excellent representative on Corfu has been working hard on our behalf; contacting a plethora of builders, trying to get us someone who shares our vision, but can accommodate our tight budget.

We visited Corfu in mid-October for some well-earned sunshine before winter set in, and to speak to our prospective builders.

Several hours were spent up at Ano Kato, speaking to both Greek and English builders, and after lengthy deliberations, it looks like we might j-u-s-t have found 'our Man'!

We've got a detailed quote, and are just in the process of deciding on the finer points of the proposal, then (hopefully) our Corfu house should start waking up from many years of sad decline.