syros & lainee – lockdown 2 day 162

We’re back on Syros again. This time with Zefi for company and its Lainee who’s going to hospital.

Soon as we got to the hotel Lainee made herself comfortable on Zefi’s bed. So much for mom and all the love and care she gets!

Then again, maybe there’s method to her treacherous little ways… after all, its not me who has to sleep with my knees under my chin on half a bed…

If you think a small poodle doesn’t take up a lot of room, just ask Zefi!

First thing we did was walk around town. I love the quiet streets and the old mansions in this non-tourist season. It really is a beautiful town. I’d like to see it in summer, cafes and restaurants open, to see some of the small streets come alive, despite tourists.

Zefi in her usual theatrical pose outside city hall. No cafes to sit at so everyone buys take away coffee and food and sits outside.

No photo collection of mine would be complete without a photo of an old door…

Or an interestingly framed photo. I’m never all about happy snaps.

Then back to the room for a rest and dressing change for Lainee. I love this photo. It really is like changing a baby, pulling on her onesie… and so much less disgusting than changing pooey nappies.

Lainee is so good, I flip her onto her back and she just lays there quietly till I’m done. I’ve even walked off to get something and told her to stay and she remains where I left her. She’s an angel. I can’t resist giving her tons of kisses.

She made a few new friends and left lots of ‘in your face Syrian dogs’ pees around town. She was a hit with people too with her onesie and little bands.

Pizza for dinner then some more napping for Lainee – always on Zefi’s side of the bed! Good girl Lainee.

I’m going to call these my Exploring Syros Series, kind of part of the lockdown series but separate as well.

z

enjoying the weather – lockdown 2 day 159

We’ve had a couple of glorious days in a row after the rain and wind so we’ve been taking advantage of it with long walks around the bay in the late afternoon. That way at the end we get to enjoy the sunset.

Its been me, my cousin Zefi and her mom. We walk and chat and its a nice way to get exercise, fresh air and just enjoy the gorgeous days when the sea is flat and before sun gets too hot.

Panoramic pictures aren’t ideal when seen this small, but I still insist on taking them.

And sometimes I see a door, window or broken down wall I just have to photograph. Love this old door right on the beach.

One thing about masking up is that you can more or less go incognito as Zefi proves.

Meanwhile, here is Lainee in her onesie, the first one I bought. I’ve been back and bought a couple more cause I figure they’ll be handy later too, to keep the stitches safe. For now I’m keeping her ‘crater’ clean and changing dressing twice a day. At least it no longer stinks.

So its back to work now. I have to finish so many things I have on the go, photograph finished things and start a few commissions I have. One is due by Easter, so in 1.5 weeks. Time to get cracking on that one!

z

stir crazy – lockdown 2 day 150

You’d never guess it, but that’s my dining table behind me. Buried under all that STUFF.

Dining table, kitchen table, work table, studio table, very rarely eating table.

Here is a close up of the latest dog sculpture in progress.

For some reason I’m finding it really hard to concentrate and really work on my dogs lately. I can psyche myself up to work on them but I can only do it for a short time before I run out of steam. No idea why.

Maybe its time to move onto something else? Take a break from sculpture?

I mean the mending got me into a sewing mood. Maybe its time to tackle some items of clothing that just aren’t ‘right’…?

I don’t know.

Anyway, I’m not the only one going stir crazy. The entire greek population is. They’re going out in huge numbers and crowding beach-side walkways and parks on every sunny day. They’re going to parties and gathering in enclosed places despite the country being in lockdown with full restrictions and curfew in force. Why?

Cause it feels like the government is mocking us.

They restrict movement from one council or municipality to another, put a 2klm distance from home restriction on walks, exercise and shopping, yet they allow tourists into the country with no restrictions.

I mean, how is that fair?

Greeks have been paying the price of COVID19 safety most of a full year. Businesses are suffering, people have lost jobs… yet despite daily COVID19 cases being in the 3000 range, we are opening for the tourist season officially on May 15. Right after greek Easter, which greeks will not be allowed to celebrate with the usual church services, the Easter Friday procession of Christ or the Saturday night celebration of the ascension of Christ.

Not even with family Easter Sunday lunch where the entire family/neighbourhood gets together for the traditional lamb on a spit.

Do you see the hypocrisy in all this?

No wonder people protest and break the rules. They’re sick of being treated like idiots.

z

the old ladies – lockdown 2 day 139

Mom and two aunts visited me today. Its a weekly thing, a nice way to catch up with aunts I don’t often see, and I enjoy having mom here.

Its really funny though. They come here and sit on the couch, turn on the TV and talk over the shows they want to watch, get on their phones (especially my mother who’s a social butterfly) but they enjoy their time together.

Meanwhile I make coffee, serve them some tsipouro (otherwise known as raki or home made rotgut) with nuts. I sit at the table and work on my sculptures or paintings and listen in to their discussions about people I know or don’t know but should know.

I enjoy it.

Being around mom this year has been good. Sure, she still drives me crazy at times, I think its her job, but I’ve also loved just getting to know her. We’d never been close when I was growing up but as an adult I appreciate mom a whole lot more.

Its been nice to hear her stories of life on Paros as a child or as a young woman in Athens and Australia. Even if I’ve heard them 500,000,000 times. Some stories never get old.

At least now she’s driving again so I don’t have to take her everywhere cause driving with her still drives me crazy… every single time we get into a car together she tells me the same stuff, as if I’ve never been here before:

“Turn here. (Yes mom, I know. I’ve been here before. You bring me every year.) Here! Yes, next to that house with the blue shutters. That road leads to Pounda…Where the boats to Antiparos go. (I know mom) That’s where my father’s sister Evgenia used to live when I was a child. (Yes, I know.) You remember Spiridona? (No) He’s her grandson, you used to play with him as a baby. Surely you remember him. (Ummm, no…) Well, he married a girl from Marpissa and has 2 children, one is now studying in Italy, he’ll be a doctor. Pity about the other one, he was never right in the head… but then again, neither was Evgenia. We used to pick on her as kids. (You picked on your aunt?) No, not my aunt Evgenia, her grandaughter, her other son’s daughter. Now turn left after the barn. (Yes, I know. I’ve been here before…) There’s old barba Thodori checking his vines. He’s related to your cousin’s mother through marriage. (I won’t ask which cousin, I have 23 first cousins, countless second cousins…) His brother married Kyriaki, who’s father owned the bakery in the old town, the one next to the shoe shop that became a bar. He got cancer and died last year. (Who? Kyriaki’s husband?) No, the guy who owned the bar. This is the house, stop. (Yes, I know mom. I’ve been here before). Park here. (Yes mom)…”

Ah the joys of family!

But there are stories which I love to hear. About the old man who used to go out drinking and one night he was sneaking in late (or really early) and was taking off his pants quietly when his wife woke up and asked “Why are you getting up so early?”. He replied “I couldn’t sleep” and pulled his pants back on an went out again.

Or the old woman who set the table for her family and told her husband she’s slaughtered a chicken for lunch. The husband said “But did the chicken have 4 legs?” when he saw the meal, and she said “just eat and shut up”… an expression often used in our family when anyone comments on food: just eat and shut up.

Or about the woman who was a ‘working’ girl in a small town on a small island. Everyone knew it and many husbands visited her. Every now and then she’d get pregnant and have a child which she called by the father’s name. No use keeping secrets in such a small place.

And the sad story of the day germans bombed the school, killing the teacher and two children. My mom’s youngest brother was supposed to be in that classroom but he’d been sent to the principals office (sometimes being naughty does pay). Mom said that as children they were all curious and went in to see… she remembers seeing the teacher’s legs sticking out of the rubble. The plane went down in the port and boats rushed out to try to get the crew out. Days later bloated bodies washed up on shore and once again the kids ran down to take a look. Not the best of memories, but kids are curious and mom grew up during a war.

I love hearing about the old days on the island. Mind you, I have some ‘old days’ stories myself since we first came to Paros in 1970 and it was a totally different world back then.

We used to get woken by farmers with their donkeys crying out their wares in the cobblestone streets. One man and his donkey was my favourite and I’d always rush out to say hello and give the donkey, Pitsos, a treat. Another man would come by with goat milk and mom would send us out with pots to put it in and would put it on the stove boil it straight away.

We’d run down to the port and dive off the end of the pier with a ton of other kids. There used to be a small pebble beach next to the pier where mom and my aunts used to swim while we ran and jumped off the end. Back then there were only a few ferries a week, and all ferries to Paros stopped at Syros first. The port was clean and small. Now the beach is under concrete, the pier is huge and dozens of ferries come in every single day. There’s often a queue in the bay, ferries waiting to dock in summer. And traffic is impossible cause there are millions of cars on the island and not enough/wide enough roads, let alone parking. And more rentals are brought in every year for tourists, yet the infrastructure isn’t in place for that much traffic or such a huge rise in population.

Back then very few people lived on Paros all year round, most young people would leave for the cities and work, leaving the old on Paros. Most of our family had moved to Athens and only came to Paros for summer. The streets were quiet. We had quite a few foreigners living here – artists and writers. The hills around Parikia (and everywhere on the island for that matter) were dark at night – no houses.

Nothing like today where there are homes on every single hill and more are going up every day. Progress they call it. I call it destruction of natural beauty, but you can’t stop progress. I’m reminded of the Counting Crows lyrics:

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
Hey now, they paved paradise to put up a parking lot
Why not?

z

PS the photos are all prior to 1970.

not dead – lockdown 3 day 2

Another full lockdown, but thats not the point of this post. I wanted to touch base cause I know some people might be concerned.

Basically, I’m in hospital in Athens via the hospital on Syros and the health center on Paros. I had a very bad gall bladder attack, a difficult surgery and then complications after surgery.

I’m feeling ok now, just attached to a drip via a port and stuck in hospital waiting for another test so the doctors can pinpoint the problem and choose the best way to treat me.

I miss home. I miss Lainee and Eric and no one messing with my veins. I miss being outside a hospital! Its been 2 weeks of this now…. sigh.

Anyway, believe me when I say I composed a ton of very hateful posts during my time in pain… the greek hospital system sucks big time. Maybe by the time I share my misadventure I wont be as vitriolic…

Whatever.

More later. Not sure when. Maybe I will feel up to posting again from here, maybe not. I predict another week in hospital the way things are going…

z

break out – lockdown 2 day 80


I managed to get out for a couple of hours yesterday, to explore and see a bit of Ermoupolis, the capital of the Cyclades Islands. Then this morning I was out again, running all over the place doing errands like getting tickets for our return tonight, buying turkish delight for mom and others (a specialty of Syros) and bananas for Aunt 1 cause she won’t eat much and the Dr said to feed her bananas.

I had a bad night last night, not sure why but I had my old stomach issues re-visit me, kept me up half the night. I’m ok today but feeling a little delicate and tired. I’m so looking forward to being back home with Lainee and Eric.

So here are some photos I took of the town. Its very different from Paros and the other Cyclades cause Ermoupolis is full of neoclassical buildings, nothing like the small white washed buildings of most of the other island towns.

I have finally seen a bit of the town so I’m glad I had the opportunity. Though cafes and restaurants are all closed and the town is very quiet, it was still nice to walk around a bit. Syros is nice to visit if you don’t have to spend your time in the hospital.

There are a couple of things I noticed which stood out to me. Good and bad.

Good is that drivers actually give way to pedestrians here. Unlike most everywhere else. Who knew?

Bad is that I saw tons of stray cats. Virtually tons of them. And not a single one had a notch out of its ear to indicate it had been neutered. That really worries me. Also, where most of the cats in the Parikia streets are calm and friendly, most cats here seem very scared of people.
I love the old shutters, I’d never seen this kind of shutter in Greece before.
There are so many old, abandoned and falling down mansions… Its beautiful but so sad.

z

the squirt bottle no longer works – lockdown 2 day 49

Eric is a very demanding kitten. Especially when I’m eating breakfast. I should never have let him sit on my lap when he was tiny, then never given him a taste of panettone. Now when I sit down to breakfast and coffee at the computer in the morning one hand is busy lifting him off my lap and plopping him on the ground constantly. Even when he has his own breakfast with a dab of butter on it. Even when I’m not having panettone. And the squire bottle doesn’t work any more. He takes it in the face and barely blinks. sigh.

I’ve created a monster.

Yesterday I tried the new WordPress feature of ‘Stories’. I was uploading the pics of the girls with their Christmas bandanas and thought “why not give it a try?” Turns out it didn’t let me add any text and you have to actually click on the one pic it shows to view the rest.

Not exactly what I thought it would be… Won’t be using that feature again.

So, Christmas has come and gone. New Years Eve has never been a big thing for me, and with lockdown, there won’t be much in the way of New Years Eve celebrations.

The greek tradition is families get together and play cards, dance, eat, etc, till midnight. Then they cut the Vasilopita which is a cake with a coin in it. Mom always made a walnut cake for NYE and it was delicious. Most cakes are plainer and often made like the Easter tsoureki (which I find to be a sort of boring version of Panettone. I’m sure Eric wouldn’t like it.)

At midnight dad would do the sign of the cross on the cake (to be honest until I read that bit on Wikipedia I thought he was dividing the cake into quarters in order to more easily slice it up!) and then cut a slice for Jesus, for our home, for our family in order of age, then for the rest of the visitors. There was a coin in the cake and whoever found it was meant to have good luck for the rest of the year. I got the coin for the first time ever in 2019 at a friend’s house. I took it to mean my move to Greece was the right one.

This year I anticipate some people will risk curfew and go to friends or family and have the celebration while most will stick at home in their own little family unit. Unless they lift curfew for that one night.

I’d say doubtful, but this is Greece so who knows.

Personally I’ll be home watching Netflix till I get sleepy. At least thats the plan.

z

my drying rack – lockdown 2 day 36

Eric has begun to leave little hairs on me when he’s on my lap.

The reason I never wanted a cat.

But its a trade off I guess. I have the cuddles, the cuteness, the purring… vs the hair! (oh and lets not forget the kitty litter!)

I better get back to brush training. Sigh.

Meanwhile what have I been doing? Not that much. Yesterday I had family related things to do in the early afternoon, so when I got home I started work on some more clay things. They’re all on my ‘drying rack’ (the shelf in front of and above the tv, under the air conditioner).

I saw this on FB this morning and I think it sums up my house:

I love it. In fact, I want this.

I need a studio. I’d like to be able to work with ‘real’ clay, not just the air dry stuff. That needs space and makes a mess.

(Everything I do makes a mess.)

I’d like to be able to redo furniture and make things…

I began dreaming of how/where I can find myself a workshop for cheap and went off on all kinds of tangents: a container fitted out as a workshop, a caravan gutted and used as a workshop…

My options are rather limited. Renting will cost more money than I have to spend unless I can find a garage or something cheap. Real cheap. Huh. A challenge on an island. I have land, but no power or other amenities to it, and to build is not only expensive, it also needs permits and the costs just escalate from there. So, back to something temporary like a container or caravan unless I can find a cheap rental space. If I’m not renting those are the only options since kit shed/home/office buildings are not allowed on the islands.

Something temporary still needs a site with access to power. I know I could use a generator, but generators are expensive to run and I hate the noise and the stench of fuel.

What do I do?

Not having the space to work is getting me down.

Last night I tossed and turned for quite a while, thoughts of how and where running through my head, ideas on what I could do with a container or a caravan, what I would need, what I could work on, how I’d gut a caravan, how to fit out a container, what type of clay I could get, what I could make, how to organise firing of my stuff, what kind of pottery I’d like to make, what kind of glazes I’d use…

I do love sculpture it turns out, so I’d enjoy doing more of it. But what happened to painting?

It just got too complicated. In the end I think I fell asleep cause I was too exhausted thinking.

z

summer days continue

It’s been the best October ever. Like September used to be. Warm weather, not too hot, no wind at all most days. The sea is still warm and the beaches are no longer crowded. We still have more people on the island than is usual for this time of year, partly cause a lot of people who have houses here and no jobs to rush back to are chosing to remain rather than return to a big city rife with COVID 19 risks. There are also still tourists on the island, though not tons.

My routine continues much as it has all summer. I wake up, walk Lainee, take her to work with me, come home, change into my swim suit and go for a swim. Spend the afternoon doing something while watching Netflix or else doing nothing and watching Netflix.

Twice a week I bring mom up to my place for a visit. Twice a week or so I have lunch or dinner at mom’s. Every now and then I meet friends for a coffee somewhere. This last week Lainee and I had breakfast at an outdoor cafe and on Sunday I went to Alyki with mom for a swim and lunch. Its a little custom mom and I started a few years ago: lunch, just the two of us, at Alyki. A taverna right on the water. Just the way I like to eat: tzatziki, taramosalata, fried potatoes and fried zucchini. Yum.

There is so much uncertainty about almost everything right now. I have work till the end of October for sure, but if we get another big order maybe longer. I just keep turning up till I’m told there’s no more work for me. Then I wait till they’re ready for me to start work again some time next year…

Mom and my aunts are all still here, thinking of staying at least till the end of October. Why go back to Athens and lock themselves up in houses or apartments? Looks like at least half of them will winter on Paros this year. Puts a bit of a crimp on my workshop at my uncle’s place if he’s using his garage…

I’m really hanging out to use my power tools again. I’ve missed them all these months. I have some pallets I want to pull apart and make my shoe storage and the cupboard to keep linen in. Itching to get to work on the antique wooden couch too… at least paint it so its ready whenever I am to finish it off.

Travel is also iffy… my plans to visit my friends in Denmark and Norway keep getting put off to some vague date in the future. First it was to be March, then October, now… Christmas? Christmas in Germany for the markets with my dutch friend was cancelled for this year. Maybe next year… Who knows? If we get hit with another lockdown (entirely possible) I doubt I’ll be going anywhere. I mean, I might be willing to risk myself, taking all precautions while travelling etc, but what about mom and the others once I return? It really sucks.

Anyway, you know I love being on Paros and in my own home, surrounded by my own work, projects and hobbies. The problem isn’t there. Its that I have no idea what the future holds – with things the way they are its impossible to make plans in advance. Everthing is up in the air. And I really don’t like so much lack of direction in my life.

So I’ve made one goal for myself: soon as I stop working for someone else I will start working on my own projects full time. I’ll go back to painting on marble, making mixed media art, making art from trash, sculpture, and whatever else takes my fancy. I might even make a few new dolls. I’ll find a place to work and I’ll start working on projects which require space and power tools.

I might even start cooking for myself on a regular basis again! I made thai green curry last night. Its been so long!

And next summer I’ll plan an exhibition of my work, all the different kinds of things I like to do.

But first I need to find out if I need a registered business to exhibit.

Sigh.

Greek bureaucracy.

Wonderful.

z

summer in october

Its been seriously wonderful here for the last two weeks.

The weather has been perfect. A bit hot some days, a bit humid on the odd occasion, but generally its been just perfect.

When there’s been any wind its been from the south which means the sea on this side of the island is flat as a pancake, though most days we have no wind at all.

Swimming in the sea is like swimming in a pool… still, warm, and clear.

Its the kind of weather where you really can’t justify NOT going for a swim. It feels like a sin against life to stay home and watch Netflix or have a nap. In fact, I think it should be made illegal. Its October and the beaches are lovelier than they were in summer.

I continue to work at the ceramic workshop and every day I think I’m so lucky to have a job where I can paint all day. I love the atmosphere of the place, I enjoy being there even when I have days where time drags, my back hurts and I feel uninspired. Its more me than any other job I’ve ever had. Well, except for dog grooming, cause I just adore dogs and love meeting new dogs all day.

Generally, I love being on Paros even if things can be hard financially here – partly cause of COVID 19 and partly cause its Greece with all its strange enterprise-strangling ways.

I have been working on another sea rope basket, just needs a couple of finishing touches and it will be ready to share. Tomorrow I hope.

Surely the weather will change soon and I will feel more like staying in and doing something!

z