Thursday, February 16, 2012


Barbarossa? Read on, all will be made clear.
I never intended my blog to become a soapbox for the airing of political grievances or economic solutions. I leave that to others.
I wanted it to be a little voice of gentle humour spiced with some nuggets of interesting information, some alternative perspectives.
But I cannot ignore what is going on in this country that I love so much and that I call home.
I have to get my head out of the sand.

I have lived here for so many years – over half my adult life, and while I know that I can never say ‘I am a Greek’. I am proud to say that I feel like a Greek.
I feel passionate about the country and its history and its people, and I feel the anger and humiliation and helplessness the Greeks are currently experiencing. What am I saying? That WE are experiencing. I live here, and Greece is MY country now.

 I have to confess to a deep sense of disappointment in the way Greece is being treated by the international media. Like a stray dog in a hostile market place, this country is being abused, pelted with stones, chased and harried and thoroughly misrepresented as a worthless, lazy, disobedient tyke.
That is not the Greece I know, and I object most strongly to this attitude. It is obviously in someone’s interests to depict this country so unfairly.
What a fine way to repay all that Greece has given us.

Greece, and most of Europe, is in the midst of an unprecedented wave of cold, ice and snow. Greece itself is poised waiting for the results and effects of decisions that will have a long-term influence on its people and its way of life. Corfu is lashed by thunderstorms, its skies riven by lightning, its very air burdened by thunder and the echoes of thunder. It rains, incessantly and heavily. Hail lashes the olive trees.

“Now is the Winter of our Discontent’ said Richard III. Sure is Rick.

But in Corfu, even winter discontent is rapidly dispersed by one of those unique Corfu Moments. Driving back from a visit to friends on Sunday, a visit that began with a lifting of the clouds, a suggestion of sunshine, we were driving along the road that skirts the Bay of Garitsa in Corfu Town. A few days earlier, with a southerly wind blowing (the notorious ‘sirocco’) vast quantities of sea water were flung in the air to break over the sea wall and flood the entire road.

On Sunday it was less dramatic – the wind was from a different direction and the bay was sheltered, but the entire area was devoid of any detail, like a very old, very faded sepia photograph. The Old Fortress loomed out of the dimness, but sea and sky merged in a colourless blur.
Oddly enough we didn’t feel depressed or anxious, though the scene before us could have been the epitome of the national mood.
We were a family together, three generations, warm, finding pleasure in the austere beauty of Garitsa in winter.
Corfu worked its magic again.

Corfu has always given us the ability to enjoy simple pleasures. On Sunday we were given the opportunity to taste a Corfiot sweet that most likely was made to a recipe dating back at least to the years of the Venetian Empire, or perhaps was brought by the Maltese workers from their own island in the nineteenth century.

I thought Nikolas was offering me a dish of olives, black, a little shrivelled, but the aroma that emanated from them was that of tsipouro. Intrigued, I tried one, and then another, and then… it became hard to stop.  Nikolas was smiling and mysterious, pleased that I liked his offering, making me guess what the little fruits were.
Eventually he relented and told me not only what they were – figs, which I had managed to guess – but how this delectable sweet was made.
The small purple figs, from his own garden, had been dried in the sun beneath a protective covering of muslin and were then steeped for days in a syrup made from tsipouro to which the following had been added: bay leaves, fennel seeds, cloves, black pepper, vanilla, lemon, cinnamon and mastica – and one more thing, something that Nikolas called ‘barbarroza’ which flummoxed me completely and sent me on a quest! I searched the Internet amd then asked my truly Corfiot friends - I should really have done this the other way round -  and learned that what he called by this oddly piratical name was in fact arbaroriza which is the rose-scented pelargonium, called ‘nutmeg geranium’ in England. It grows wild everywhere in Greece and looks like this:

The leaves are used to flavour quince preserves, loukoumi and ice creams.
But here in Corfu it finds its way into this wonderful fig preserve and also into the famous fig-cakes of Corfu (sykomaitha). These are formed of the above ingredients worked into a paste with chopped figs, ouzo or tsipouro, then shaped into a small cake and wrapped in fig, vine or chestnut leaves.

I’m assuming you all know what tsipouro is – (not to be confused with tsipoura – a type of fish – and now I have confused you haven’t I?) Tsipouro is a very strong alcoholic drink, similar to grappa, about 45% proof. It is made from the residue of the wine press, and was once illegally brewed privately. Now it has become ‘respectable’ and even fashionable. I had the great pleasure, however, of drinking it when it was still illegal and hidden under the bed of my hosts in Arachova. I have no recollection of what happened after the first glassful. It certainly banished winter and all its discontents.

After that boozy digression, I leave you with food for thought.
The town of Villamayor de Santiago, in Spain, has for some time now reverted to the use of the peseta. (Remind you of the old Elstree comedies?) The inhabitants, like so many other Spaniards, have hung on to their pesetas since 2002, ‘just in case’. (Around 1.4 billion pounds sterling worth of pesetas is said to be hoarded and stored in Spain.) In due course, the Chairman of the local merchants’ association will collect the pesetas and take them to the Bank of Spain to change them into euros, which will then be distributed to the shopkeepers and businessmen who have joined the scheme.
Well, why not?
 According to a recent study by Spain’s consumers’ association OCU, the price of essential goods has risen by 43 per cent since the introduction of the euro. The cost of bread is up by 49 per cent while milk has risen 48 per cent and the price of potatoes has  increased by 116 per cent.
No comment.

On a lighter note, and to bring today’s blog to its conclusion:
Over a million UK drivers are aged 80 or over. Of those, 65,000 are aged 90 or more, while there are 122 drivers aged 100 or more, with the oldest being a woman of 106.

Back seat driver of indeterminate age!

Cheering thought for the oldies amongst us, though not perhaps if you are a pedestrian living in the same area as these ancient and probably stubborn motorists!

Thanks to Frosso for allowing me to use some of her photos. Others are by me and my sister.


  1. Lovely,inoffensive blog Ang.,lets me wander those hills and roads with you.

    My heart grieves for Corfu and Greece,and i really wish for an upturn in the economy. I will certainly be back, and hope for some figgy delights!

  2. ...και εγώ επίσης!
    I will link your blog to mine. S


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