Friday, February 25, 2011


Ha well, just as I thought life might be getting a bit boring 'SPLAM' it hit me in the face yet again!

There I was minding my own business, when Yianni from the cafeneo took the smile of my face by telling me that the police had been asking for me, something to do with, guess who, yep you got it, the nameless person who has caused me so much worry over the last few years, none other than George Stefanakis. And what is it this time? Well it's not a long story.

Way back in September 2008, when this guy, who had been my friend for years, threw a benny and tried to blackmail me, I was so flipping mad with what he was saying in the bars of Sissi, that I posted a picture of him in my office window with the word 'liar' (in Greek 'Ψευτις') on it. Well, his mates telephoned him, and before too long the police arrived (with him cowering in the background). I was taken in to Neapolis police station where I signed a statement.

I suppose it was silly of me to think that would be the end of it. Almost three years down the line I have to appear in court. The 8th of March to be precise. Honestly, if he had been my child he would have had a good spanking! I made a dreadful mistake the day I befriended this man, but hey, we all make mistakes.

When the policeman did find me, a not too dificult task, he served me with the paper, and then told me to put it in my pocket. He then bought me a drink in the cafeneo, shook his head and said words to the effect, "as if the courts haven't enough to do without something like this."
And I certainly agreed. But I suppose a complaint was made, and there has to be a follow through. If you still blogwatch my lovely friends from Tesco's, you will remember the day in question.

Of course I'll let you know what the outcome is.

By the way, I could do with selling a few more of my books 'Tears from the Sun - A Cretan Journey, to pay the costs of this heinous crime. If you haven't looked lately, take a peek at my website:

I also heard yesterday that someone (or two) had been arrested for the spate of break-ins in Sissi. You will be glad (I hope) to hear that it was not me. Local lads though.

Other news -well, it is Neapolis Carnival on Sunday, the week after is Malia Carnival (and Rethymnon same day). Then it is Clean Monday (kites at the ready), followed by Tuesday 8th March - INTERNATIONAL WOMENS' DAY.

And now it is Friday afternoon and time for a bit of cello music. To Tracie, thank you so much for your lovely message. Have a wonderful, peaceful weekend everyone. Bye for now.
Love Jane x

Sunday, February 20, 2011


To some people, my life during the past week will seem a bit of an insignificant affair; to me it was one of the most exciting weeks ever. I'll tell you why.

For one thing my headache has disappeared, and the cloud of grey, through which I have been looking for about a month, has lifted. I feel fitter and more alert than I have for quite some time, and that in itself has made the week special. I became reunited with Valentino (cello) to find that, like riding a bicycle, I picked up where I left off, more or less in tune. And if that wasn't exciting enough in itself, I enjoyed playing my piano too.

Since my fall I find that I can appreciate so much of what is in my life: little things like being able to see the cowl of a chimney pot turn in the wind, see the grey of a winter morning, knowing that I am safe and warm in my house, wonder at the sight of a lemon tree festooned with more lemons than a Christmas tree has fairy lights; and to know that I can walk freely amongst it all without fear, without hunger, without cold.

During the week I saw some of my dear friends. We sat together, drank tea, ate buscuits and listened to each other's stories. There was a lot of love around me, something that I am very aware that some people have a lack of. To be able to share intimate moments of other peoples' lives is always, I feel, a privilege. It shows trust and openness, both things that make good relationships. One of our friends even did a bit of extra baking, and gave us a 'take away' cornish pasty. Another invited us for lunch and treated us to home made shepherds' pie. To have such good friends is without doubt a wonderful thing in life.

The book which another of my friends loaned me to read this week, and which I have just finnished, is called Angels in my Hair. It is the autobiography of an Irish lady who grew up seeing angels and spirits. She describes angels and how they work. Thousands of people say that she has changed their lives for the better. I am sure she has. If you get the chance do read this book.

David has looked after me so wonderfully well during the past few weeks - not that he hasn't done for the whole of our 43 years together. Just to spend time together doing the necessary things, like shopping, making meals, cleaning the house, has been such a bonus. To sit for a while and discuss each other's work, to vision the future together, is such a great thing to do.

Another joyous event of my week, was to have a conversation with my grandaughter, Star. She is a busy 15 year old, and for her to make even a minute to think of me, fills me with such happiness.

It is Sunday today, our three little puppies are 4 weeks old and little cuties. The black one is going to a good home in the village, but we can enjoy him for a couple of weeks longer. That leaves two blondies, a boy and a girl. I don't want to get too attached but on the other hand...

This is life in the slow lane! I did spend a few hours doing my Greek homework, and our lesson yesterday was very helpful. And I did spend a few hours writing a sestina, for those of you who do not know what this is, it is a poem with a very interesting form. (click the word to find out how to write a sestina). It will go in my next collection of poems. Oh, and the full moon just highlighted the excitement of the week.

Next week I am going to make myself useful and try to get the council to clear the overgrown streets of Vrahassi.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, that this week I heard about the Greek dancing classes that have been organized by Dimitri Kiriakakis, for the children of Vrahassi. I was so happy to hear about this opportunity for the kids. The ones I spoke with were very enthusiastic, especially as they told me that when they were good enough, they would get a costume and dance for funtions in the village. I know I have nothing to do with this but I would like to thank Dimitri for his efforts towards keeping village traditions alive.

So, it is time for us to take the dogs for a walk. I wish you all a very happy Sunday and a most exciting week ahead.
Love Jane x

Monday, February 14, 2011


I had planned a special dinner for two, you know the sort of thing, best crystal, a glowing log fire, my man's favourite fodder, sirloin with pepper sauce. Ah well, it wasn't to be. The steak is still a block of ice, the fire strangely flickering and the crystal, still packed away after Christmas, was just not handy enough to be found.

But did it stop us celebrating Valentin's Day? Not a bit of it. We popped a cork, ate a healthy salad and tucked into the cherry cheesecake which was a meal in itself.

And the best of it is, we've got steak to look forward to tomorrow - yippee! It just goes to show, what you don't have today, is still there for the taking (or in this case, the eating).

Now there is Forrest Gump on the TV. Will the joy never end! Happy Valentine's Day!

Love Jane x

Friday, February 11, 2011


By the sixth day I had bonded with my companions on the ward, and their relatives. The old village woman, who had nearly been battered to death on her first night, had a serious heart problem and was failing. She no longer called for help; her niece was quietly attentive, and her bed had been placed by the door. The lady next to me had been relieved of her pain, and was sitting up in bed, and my balance had returned. An optician had been brought to my bedside to give me a full examination of my eyes. He found nothing wrong. All that was left was for me to have an M.R.I. scan.

There being no M.R.I. facility at the hospital, I was told that I would have to visit a private clinic in Heraklion, where I would have to pay for the test. Well, when you think you may have something wrong with your brain money doesn’t come in to it, but I did secretly hope that we would not have to sell the car to pay for it. So, I was discharged from the hospital with a piece of paper to take to the clinic where an appointment had been made for 10.30 a.m. that day. After three weeks I could finally walk in a straight line and stand up with my eyes closed. I had the scan, it cost 235 euro. I should add, it was a painless experience which took about ten minutes (for anyone worried about having this test, don’t, but do expect loud banging noises, strange whirring sounds and a little head shake while in the machine. And best to keep your eyes closed to avoid any feelings of claustrophobia). I returned to Heraklion four days later for the results. Yes, I do have a brain, and no, there is nothing seriously wrong with it.

I am very grateful for the professional care I received at Agios Nikolaos Hospital. I know that lots of people sent good wishes and energy which helped speed my recovery, and the people who came to see me brightened my days and kept my taste buds on track with chocolate, fruit, and apple pie and custard, which without doubt was a life saver. David, of course, was the best nurse of all, never failing to be there for me.

I have to say that I have been left with a little phobia of vacuum cleaners, but I dare say I will get over it. I have lost a month of active life, no cello practice, no writing, and no Greek homework, but at least I’m here to tell the tale. Let the party continue!

Love to all, Jane x
To read about my hospital experience from the beginning please see previous blog entries.


This protest against people having to pay 5 euro every time they see a doctor, did not hinder my quest to have a blood test. It did make my wait in reception quite colourful!

Thursday, February 10, 2011


The third night was not good. Now it was the turn of the lady in the far bed to be in pain. All this time my situation had not changed. I was sleepy, my eyes had not settled down, and my head was still full of interference. The next day I resolved to be better. I told myself that I had to get home, that I would be much improved, and the doctors would say ‘go’. During the two previous days I had been aware of pack of doctors moving from bed to bed, talking amongst themselves, discussing each case and moving on. David arrived, and whilst I was relating the story to him an orderly with a wheelchair came into the ward indicating for me to get into the chair. I was to be examined by the neurologist.

The neurologist, obviously a very erudite man, looked something in between Father Christmas, a Greek philosopher and an over-sized Lenin. He had long white hair and a long, white beard. He didn’t acknowledge my presence, and carried on reading whatever report he was reading. The orderly handed him my file. There was a silence and I finally thought the time was right to say good morning. He peered at me over his half-rims. “I am feeling much better,” I said. He continued to read my notes. I looked around his office while he did so. In one corner there was a large, metal filing cabinet. It was weighted down with bottles of booze: whiskey, gin, brandy, some in fancy boxes, obviously presents. His bookshelf contained medical books but the top shelf was littered with trinkets, little porcelain vases, statuettes etc. Behind him there was a cupboard which was festooned with family photographs, and on the wall right beside me, was a life-sized picture of a brain, sectioned and in full colour. The inflated neurologist spoke. He asked me the usual questions, my age, how old I was, etc. “Can I go home?” I asked. “Walk down the corridor and back on tiptoe,” was his answer. Hm, it was not so easy. Then he asked me to hold my arms out in front of me, and to close my eyes. No amount of gripping the soles of my shoes with my toes stopped me from falling backwards. I was not ready for home.

The next day, just after my visitors had left, we were told to move wards. It was a silly assumption on my part, but I thought we were moving to the next ward along. I was wrong. As the middle bed was wheeled out I emptied my locker of chocolate, bananas, bottles of water and magazines onto my bed. I piled all my clothes into a plastic bag and waited for them to come to move my bed. “Can you walk,” the orderly said. I could take myself to the toilet, so next door should not be a problem. That was the last I saw of the bed pushers. Loaded with my plastic carrier bags I set off. There was no ward next door. Looking down the corridor I saw my other companion entering a room at the far end. By the time I reached my new bed I was totally off balance. Sheer will got me down that corridor. I got into bed and slept.

As the days passed, my balance improved, my headache was less, and my eyesight gave a much less wobbly view of the world. I was well enough to notice the line of crusty dust in the tubular bed frame behind my head, the salt-less food, and the fact that every night I had been presented with tinned peaches for a sweet. I joked later that it was a wonder people didn’t die of an overdose of peaches, or else get hooked on them for life. Having laughed at the peaches, I have to say, that while the food I was given was not tasty it was wholesome. It came in strict rotation of fish, chicken, beef burger or chunk of stewed beef. Sometimes the protein was with potatoes, sometimes it was with rice or pasta, and always accompanied by a chunk of brown bread, an apple or orange at lunch time, and peaches with the evening meal. I was only given one meal which was disgustingly inedible. It was, I suppose, a beef broth made out of the previous day’s beef, but it was completely salt-less and had the consistency and appearance of dirty dishwater. Yes, I was definitely getting better. It was food though, and as I say, on the whole there was nothing unpleasant. For breakfast each morning I was given a cup of tea and two small pieces of crisp bread, with a small plastic pot of jam. All other drink had to be brought in by visitors, or else bought by visitors from the hospital coffee shop.

Personal hygiene was also my own responsibility, luckily I was able to walk to the toilet and wash myself, but other less fortunate patients had to rely on their relatives to keep them clean. Each ward of three beds had an en suite bathroom with shower. This was a luxury which I was so grateful for. My friend had a short stay in an Athens hospital which was much less convenient. The floors of the wards were mopped every morning. I made my own bed. Nurses administered drugs, fixed drips, took blood pressure and temperature, applied catheters and gave injections. In a weird sort of ‘patient-care sharing’ with relatives, the daily routine of the ward seemed quite efficient. There were no set visiting hours as visitors were part of the health-care team.

By the sixth day... to be continued.

I will tell the rest of my story tomorrow but after one month I can tell you that, apart from not wanting to pick up the vacuum cleaner or walk to the shop alone, I am doing OK. And I am finally beginning to think about my music practise. Maybe tomorrow!

Monday, February 7, 2011


The second night was not good. Some time during the day, the middle bed had been filled by an 82 year old peasant woman. Her frail body was badly bruised. Her legs and the backs of her hands had raised, bloody flesh, as though it had been snagged on barbed wire, and the raw tufts left to dry, like crimson stuffing poking out of her knuckles. It distressed me to see her. But what was much worse was the treatment she received from her sister and niece, whose frustration at not being able to help had manifested into anger, impatience and violence. Their only communication was Neanderthal. As in many villages, they shouted at each other, a constant barrage of loud, sharp, monotone instructions: “Leave it. Don’t touch it, Be quiet, Keep still, Holy Mother, Leave it….” Plus profanities that are the same in all languages. And so it went on and on in a round of speech that was answered by the almost unconscious calls of, “Oooh, it hurts, my hands, it hurts…” The oxygen mask, which kept slipping off the poor lady’s face, was a constant cause for concern. The main problem seemed to be that the piece of elastic which was threaded into holes at each side of the mask kept coming away. The niece had not grasped the idea that if she did not put an anchoring knot at the back of each hole, then when she fixed the elastic around her aunt’s head, it stretched so far that the end simply slid away again. Finally a nurse came. She shouted at her patient just as harshly as her relatives were doing, but made a better job of the mask. The word bedlam came to mind as the whole scene developed into some sort of macabre reality, which, if it had not been a reality would have been funny. Finally the niece left. Another Bulgarian woman arrived to attend to the lady in the end bed. This one was not as lucky as the one on the previous night, as she had to sleep on a chair.

My eyes were causing me some problems and they were so sensitive to the light that I had to wear my sunglasses. My instructions were to lay as still as possible until my dizziness had passed. It was an impossible request. When all the visitors had gone a nurse came to switch of the main light, it was a relief. My comfort did not last. The peasant woman turned the light back on, and keeping up their hatred of peace and quiet, the two sisters continued to bicker at each other in a very loud and vituperative manner. The oxygen mask came dislodged again, and in her delirium the patient began trying to remove her drip feed which was heavily taped to her wrist. Her minder, the old, black clad village woman, rushed to her bedside, slapped her across the face, and putting her hands around her ears, began to shake her and shout at her. It was more than I could bear. I jumped out of bed and told her to stop it at once. “Sit down,” I commanded, and marched over to the light and switched it off. To complaints of, “It’s too dark,” I put the small light on over the middle bed, saying: “It is time for sleep,” in as authoritative sounding voice as I could. The woman with the stick sat down, mumbling. I got back into bed. One second later I was up again stopping the old woman with the stick from landing a blow on her miserable sister. A man from the corridor who had been sitting at the death bed of the next terminal patient, rushed in and gave his two penneth, closely followed by a nurse who, obviously overworked and at the end of her patience, stormed in, added her shouting to the cacophony of language, and proceeded to tie the sore, painfully damaged hands of the bedridden woman, to the rails of her cot sides.

The barbaric treatment of this poor woman reduced me to tears. A dirty cloth screen was put between me and the next bed, in the words of the nurse, “…so you will not see.” But I could hear, and was very distressed at the pitiful moans for help and the words, “Oh my hands, help me,” being repeated over and over until I fell asleep. The lady in the far bed, trying to deal with her own pain, was also distressed, and the next day her family spoke to whoever was in charge. The result was that the Neanderthal mountain woman never came again. The niece returned in a much quieter state than before bringing sweets and buns as pacifiers for me and the other lady. It was an episode I will never forget.

The third night was not good. Now it was the turn of the lady in the far bed to be in pain… (To be continued)

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Hello my dear blog watchers, if there are any of you still following me, and hello to all my friends on Face Book,

I hope you haven’t given up on me. Just over three weeks ago I suffered a terrible crack on the head when I fell onto our granite tiles whilst vacuuming the stairs. I also twisted my ankle which further incapacitated me. Well, I am now out of the pot, out of hospital, and out of my routine of music and writing. I am not quite out of the woods yet, though trying very hard to be positive. I have no enthusiasm for my cello, I certainly have no interest in housework, and sitting in front of the computer is a great strain on my eyes.

Bear with me therefore, if my reports start of slowly.

I think, however, that you may be interested to hear about my stay in hospital. Over the years the one question I am asked more than any other about life in Crete is, “What happens if you are ill?” I always used to say, “Don’t worry about being ill, better to enjoy being healthy.” By focusing on being ill, taking out health insurance, pandering to every health phase going; one minute eggs are bad for you, the next they are good, in my opinion, many people miss the joy of the moment.

So, this experience crept up on me, and suddenly I needed a doctor. As I lay on the floor, my leg twisted, and my head feeling like a cracked egg, I knew it was not just a graze on the knee to be rubbed better. David and friends picked me up and got me in the car and to Neapolis hospital very quickly, where my ankle was X-rayed and put into pot. After a second opinion at Agios Nikolaos hospital, I was given a CT scan of my scull plus other tests and admitted to the ward.

This is an account of my stay.

The first night was not good. After a thorough examination in ‘out patients’, which included a cardiogram, a CT scan, a chest X-ray and numerous other tests, the opinion of several doctors was that I should be admitted and see the Neurologist the next day. My head hurt, my eyes were not functioning correctly, and all I wanted to do was sleep. I had a constant resounding inside my scull which made me feel like a bell just after the clangor has struck. This effect however, did detach me slightly from the real world, which once I was more aware of, disturbed me greatly.

The first thing I noticed was the intravenous acceptors which had been inserted into my right arm on the inside of my elbow. Thankfully they were never used. The second thing I noticed was my companion in the ward, an elderly, bulky woman with shot white hair. An empty bed separated us, but it was not enough to muffle the sound of her moans: “Παναγεια, Παναγεια.” She called on the Virgin Mary for help as her family, three sons, two daughters, their spouses and a parcel of grandchildren gathered around her bed. When they left she was quiet.

A Bulgarian woman, employed by the family to watch over their mother during the night, (I later found out, for a price of 45 euro) made her comfortable. She remained peaceful until she needed the toilet. I was obviously dozing very lightly, because I was aware every time this happened. In between the toilet activity the Bulgarian woman lay on the spare bed which separated us. It was lucky for her that I had discarded my hospital blanket in favour of one which David had brought me from home, a blue cellular one which had been washed and put away for the winter in favour of our duvet. The Bulgarian woman was glad of the blanket as she tried to get some sleep too. I dare say she worked around the clock.

Of course there wasn’t much chance of sleep for any of us. Terrible pain induced cries were coming from the next ward, where a woman was obviously suffering. Her loud pleas of “Μανα μου, Μανα μου,” filled the night as she called for her mother. The man, whose bed was in the corridor just outside our ward, and in full view, was beyond crying for help. His death rattle seemed to last longer than it probably did. The silence of his departure was broken by voices and bedside activity. Our ward light was blindingly switched on at 5 a.m. when a hospital nurse descended on us to tae our blood pressure.
After that I slept soundly for two or three hours.

... that's it for now, more later. Love to all, and thank you for all your good wishes and energy.

Jane x