Sunday, November 29, 2009

Random photos of life and times...

Lake Michigan calm as a pond... NOT typical in November...

miles and miles of empty sandy beaches- of course the temps were a bit nippy!

Amazingly clear fresh water lake.

Stopped to stretch our legs at the beautiful Sarett Nature Center on the way back to Chicago.

We surprised a beautiful white tailed deer just a few feet from us, but she was long gone by the time I got the camera focused...

Back to the city though in time for Thanksgiving holiday preparations!

Everyone enjoyed the turkey!

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Day in the Life...

I am so happy to finally be settling in here. Still there are so many things to get used to again! Seems like there's an awful lot of driving one does in the USA.

After Corfu, this is a bit of a shock.

We went hunting, today, for some furniture and draperies for middle son- meaning of course, we spent some quality time at IKEA (in Schaumburg Mall) and walked about 4 miles through the interior of the store!!

We decided to drive to Oak Park for lunch, and found a nice place to eat there. Bar Louis is a nice comfortable place that serves a HUGE amount of food and calls it lunch...

The simple cheeseburger that made me reconsider becoming a vegetarian...

We then made a few more stops before finally coming home and putting our feet up for a couple of hours.

One always seems to be driving with the city always in view out of the corner of your eye.

I love the city but I really do forget how car dependent you can be here! Public transportation takes you into the city, but for the neighborhoods really need a car... unless you're just going to stay in YOUR neighborhood. Otherwise you really have to know how to get around to navigate the buses and the el. (I am not that good at it!)

You also need REALLY comfortable shoes because walking is what you do here, as you never find a parking space close to where you are going.


Finally we decided to get ourselves organized for supper. Middle son had a birthday date (hers!) with his lady this evening, so youngest son swung by the house, picked me up, and we went to his house for a very nice dinner.

Ah the concentration of it all!! My darling baby Gabriel -
SUCH focus! (on a balloon actually...)

I have settled into Chicago, but I do not feel very articulate. In catching up with my children, I am mentally filing away their stories and my memory pictures of them and all the while there's a little voice saying "Yoo- Hoo! The blog! Write something! Post pictures!" (which by the way I am doing courtesy of my dear middle son, whose camera I begged to borrow- as I cleverly left my camera on my desk at home in Corfu!!)

This weekend we'll be going to Michigan to visit my oldest son who has just moved into a new house. So again there will no doubt be disjointed ramblings when I return.

The blues remain the soundtrack of my life- so that hasn't changed yet.

I will update you all to one important fact however... The huge HOLE/ABYSS in the front yard in Corfu, is filled in!! T has managed to slog through the process fairly well and only parted with 2500 euro.

(I will post pictures of the process, when I return, as T has informed me he took photos from the roof - where he continued toiling to try and seal its little clay pot surface for potential problems, during the "great filling" of the abyss.)
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Poem: Chicago by Carl Sandburg


HOG Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I
have seen your painted women under the gas lamps
luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it
is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to
kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the
faces of women and children I have seen the marks
of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who
sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer
and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing
so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on
job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the
little soft cities;

Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning
as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with
white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young
man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has
never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse.
and under his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of
Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog
Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with
Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

by Carl Sandburg (1878- 1967)

Carl Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois, on January 6, 1878. He became an editorial writer for the Chicago Daily News. Sandburg was recognized as a member of the Chicago literary renaissance, which included Ben Hecht, Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, and Edgar Lee Masters. Sandburg became known for his free verse poems celebrating industrial and agricultural America, American geography and landscape, and the American common people. In the 1930s, Sandburg continued his celebration of America with the second part of his Lincoln biography, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years (1939), for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. He received a second Pulitzer Prize for his Complete Poems in 1950. Carl Sandburg died in 1967.


I am here safe and sound and getting my bearings. I will update soon. Welcome to Chicago!
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Friday, November 13, 2009

What I am looking forward to when I get to the USA...

I am REALLY looking forward to seeing my Chicago sons and their ladies.

Of course, I totally want to hug him, but I will have to wait until my darling baby grandson gets used to me... (he doesn't remember me, as I was there when he was born and again when he was a wee one who napped in my arms!)

I looked forward to reconnecting with now licensed (a learners permit! AHGG!) and driving grandson in Michigan, and of course, his father, my number one and firstborn son.

I look forward to dropping into assorted bookstores in the Chicago area, both new and used, and wrapping myself up in books again.

[As an ex-librarian, that is the hardest thing to separate myself from... all the books I used to have at my fingertips!]

I will relish the delights of whiling away several hours, just book browsing! I so look forward to the smell of new books in the big bookstores, and I relish the thought of the quiet hush of concentration in the used bookstores.

I have already got my list of books by my favorite authors, and I know which one's have just published their latest!

I am totally looking forward to seeing both the ever changing Lake Michigan and the amazing skyline of downtown Chicago.

I know it will be cold and blustery but that too has it own charms.

I hope I am lucky enough to catch the last bit of fall colours as it can be a most spectacular show in the Midwest of the United States.

I know I'll get a chance to roam around downtown, and I look forward to State Street and Michigan Avenue. I plan on doing a lot of window shopping (O.K., with a few serious shopping moments) but I know I'll enjoy the hustle and bustle on the streets and I really DO enjoy riding the El train into the "Loop".!

I know I'll meet my sons for lunch downtown. I'll walk down LaSalle Street and enjoy the marvelous architecture and design of the Art Deco touches on so many buildings.

I might even find time to leave the city and head out to one of those marvelous outlet malls, that seem like self-contained foreign shopping countries...

I am looking forward to seeing my mother again, as she will be flying to Chicago for a week midway through my visit. We will scope out a few retirement places and I am even (sort of) looking forward to it, though I know it will be difficult with my mother not really wanting to move from New Mexico, but needing to. The great news will be that my mother, myself and her grandsons, will be able to enjoy a bit of the weekend together and share a couple of meals all together as a family, and make some new memories.

I have a lot to be thankful for.

But I am not looking forward to the snow, which will certainly put in an appearance and inspire me to purchase boots and a warmer coat, so I can navigate in it!

I am glad that I have sons, as at least I will not have to shovel it away!

I am currently booked to leave Corfu this Sunday morning so I am guessing, what with packing and last minute things (like getting my hair cut tomorrow!), my next post will be from the USA, and lovely Chicago.

I will try to keep the blog updated on the fate of T and the large hole (or "the abyss" as we refer to it... not fondly.) I will try and post pictures and give you a view into what I am babbling about. Sadly, T is not too technical (hahahahaha) so there won't be any good pictures of Corfu for about a month.

Sigh. I will miss this my Corfu home but I have been blessed with many places I can call home!

[The "soundtrack of my life" is currently set on Chicago Blues Music. I hope you enjoy it. If not just click it off.]

POSTSCRIPT: I will also miss my beautiful and only granddaughter Alexa, who just turned 21 years old this month, BUT as she's living in South Carolina and going to University there, I won't be able to see her. She decided to spend Thanksgiving in Washington DC, before she knew about my visit- and I am happy for her (but very sad for me!!!) The good news is that of course, being in the US will make phone calls easier. Alexa will have her own post one of these days...

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Two November Roses

They managed to stand up to all the weather we've been having - AND they smell Divine!

(the "heartbeat song" goes well with the roses!)

Monday, November 9, 2009

"Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav'n."

excerpts from Milton seems appropriate today:
Thou from the first
Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread [ 20 ]
Dove-like satst brooding on the vast Abyss
The dismal Situation waste and wilde, [ 60 ]
A Dungeon horrible, on all sides round
How overcome this dire Calamity,
What reinforcement we may gain from Hope, [ 190 ]
If not what resolution from despare.

Paradise Lost: John Milton

So. Moving right along, we've had two different "experts" come and survey the abyss and determine the fix-abilty factor and we are awaiting the dreaded (or dratted) "estimates". The probability is high that it will cost a bundle.

Part 2 of our Paradise Lost, was the roof leak. T spent the day Friday patching and fixing and Friday night it leaked again like a sieve. So Saturday he got the BIG stuff out, and spent a good part of the day redoing it yet again, but with better goop.

(All this doesn't preclude the need for a new roof, it only gives us a modicum of hope that we'll make it through this winter and the winter rains without too much inside damage.)

Part 3 of our "horrible terrible no good very bad day" was our phone problem that lasted all last week. A friend called and reported our phone was STILL out of order this morning (she speaks Greek) and she did NOT mention that the DSL line still was working.

Thankfully, someone came to fix the downed line, downed I might add because the pole was not buried deeply enough, so that the gale force winds caused it to sway and pull at the line until it broke.

A single guy alone worked on digging the hole deeper and reseated the pole, then scrambled up the post to reconnect the wires! T watched him work from our front yard and called out to him, wondering if he could check out our phone as it wasn't working.

So the guy who spoke a little English, was very nice and he came over did something, and fiddled with the phone connection to the house and ... TA-DA two minutes! and the phone was fixed.

All in all two out of three ain't too bad, right?

[Today's three songs are Adiemus: Song of Tears (tho where it went I do not know), Penguin Cafe Orch.: Perpetum Mobile and Robbie Richardson: Mahk Ichi (Heartbeat Drum Song)]
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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Just another day in paradise...

Yes, this is for all of you out there who think we're "living the dream" here on Corfu...
Currently we're facing a few problems: First there's this giant hole that has appeared in the front garden. It is huge. It is in fact the septic field. OK, it is one of the THREE septic fields that are in the front garden. This is the septic field we didn't know about. To date it now appears, it has never functioned as anything but a large underground hole covered over by cement and grass. (It's a good job T wasn't mowing the grass when it disappeared as it's' about 30 feet deep!)

To make a long story short, when we first moved here we had a "shakedown cruise" with T and myself, two of (the three of) our grown sons and six of their strong young friends (you know who you are!) who all flew, train-ed and ferried here from different parts of the globe, to spend a happy couple of weeks at Christmas time clearing the yard and attics of assorted useless gear and on the way, having a nice "free" vacation. T and I rented a few cars (all well past their service due dates!) and ta-da - Instant houseparty!

As with all houseparties this one shortly after inauguration fell afoul- literally- as the toilets backed up with ten of us using them. We were fortunate and had someone come out to take care of the problem within a day- but it was long 28 hours to work around!

After everyone left, we decided to put in a new septic field to assist the first one. When the diggers dug up the front yard, imagine everyone's surprise to discover that there was a second one already in the ground. It had never been properly connected to the first one, making it obsolete before it was ever completed.

We put in the "third" septic field anyway, connected it, and the diggers filled in the front yard and for the last ten years, T has been trying to get grass to grow where the diggers mangled the soil to the level of a gravel road .

That is our first paradisical challenge. The second is the water leak that is currently in our front hallway.

This- T is convinced- is because the many angles of our roof line are challenged by the great need for a total roof replacement.

At this point the roof tiles are about as water repellent as clay pots added to the small and large spaces between many of the tiles (and no underform at all!) the roof is good for shade, but not so useful with rain.

T has jury rigged and repaired as best he can but he says that the time has come. Of course this is a VAST roof that needs many many many tiles as well as an underfoundation because the pitch needs to be changed so the water will run OFF the roof rather than pool in the center of certain roof areas that are a bit flat making the water trickle into the attic below and run to whatever point is most vulnerable in the ceiling line of the inside of the house. Sigh. The worst of it is that the roof really can't be dealt with til next spring at the earliest. So we're in for the rains AND for the potential redecorating (plastering repainting) it will entail.

Sometimes I think we are rebuilding this house piece by piece.

Lastly our challenge in paradise is the phone. T went downtown to the bizarre and Kafkaesque offices of Ote (phone company) and felt like an extra in Brazil (the movie- not the country)

After finally speaking to a man to tell him our phone was out, the man insisted in an irritated voice that it was our inside phones that were the problem. He never dialed our number to hear the recorded message claiming technical difficulties with the line, nor did he take note of T mentioning that there was an actual LINE down since the storm!

The odd thing is that we still can connect to the internet, tho the connection is irregular. (ranges between nothing to 18Mbps to 54Mbps)

Not having a phone wouldn't be so terrible if it wasn't for the fact that I am leaving in a week and we are tying to organize and connect the equivalent of the landing of the forces in Normandy on D-day with my mother and my sons and several retirement facilities, hotels and airlines.

So. We here in Paradise are baffled. Confounded we are, to the point where we decided to go out last evening with friends and have a glass at the Exhausted Dog Bar (also known as Stavs) in Gouvia.

We were all entertained by this dog that simply "crashed" on the floor for the evening and EVERYONE had to step over him.

We decided he'd been drinking all afternoon and needed a place to crash.

I've changed the music again to reflect the irony in our lives in paradise- it's a bit like instead of an orchestra, rather the steel drum rendition of "Thus spake Zarathustra" or the perhaps the wistful pan pipes playing a lively "stomp"! (I find this little music player to be seductively becoming the vehicle of the soundtrack of my life!) Oh and I also include an old chestnut version of the song Brazil...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A walk on the beach

So. For the last couple of days I have been battling a really impressive head cold. Mostly it felt like the head cold was winning. I have been coughing and sneezing and blowing my nose until I am bored with my existence. (Where does all that snot come from, anyway???)

Today, my dear T decided enough was enough. As I leave for the US a week from this coming Sunday, he sort of wanted to have better mental picture of me than a gooey blob surrounded by a drift of used tissues, coughing consumptively, and constantly saying "huh?" (ears are blocked). So he decided "we" would take the dog to the beach for a walk.

Balou loves the beach, she can run and run away from us and not lose sight of us. Then she can run back like a giant missle for a cookie treat or some water. [We always take along some water and a fold-up water dish which she appreciates now that she knows not to drink the sea water.]

Inevitably there are other dogs loose on the beach and so she has some dogs to play with - usually, they are fairly good-natured, though sometimes just a click up from feral! (This time there was a black shepherd type dog and a puppy with very big feet.)

Actually I had been looking forward to going to the beach again since the middle of October when the businesses finally take down the umbrellas and put away the chairs and the pedalos, and finally dismantle the "pay to enter" station in the parking lot for the main beach at Glyfadda. But as my mother was here and not really able to walk on the beach, we did other things instead.

The waves were running high and the beach was taking a pretty good beating! This is one of the biggest and most popular beaches in the summertime (and it's also packed with locals on kite flying day!!), so losing vast amounts of sandy beach to the autumn/winter storms hurts! Wet sand does however make for easier walking!

It was a gorgeous day to take the walk and we had a lovely time. The wind was blowing but the temperature was mild. The dog had a wonderful time AND she somehow managed to share some of her cookies with her new friends (not *entirely* her idea...)

Then we took a little ride and speculated on taking her with us the next time we go to Brussels. We thought we'd drive to Belgium instead of fly! (We did the drive once before three years ago, but not with the dog. We took my mother instead. We also took the ferry to Venice, but I fear that 24 + trip in a kennel cage, may be too hard on the dog, so we might have to go via Brindisi (only 8 hours) a shorter ferry boat ride; a longer - but more scenic- drive in the car.)

Anyway, we had a wonderful walk, (my knee didn't hurt once!) the beach was lovely and so was T.

I will certainly enjoy my time in the US, but I will miss Corfu like crazy!!!

So enjoy my pictures of the beach (click on them to make them full screen) and I sincerely hope none of you get this massively annoying head cold!

[Oh and there's new music on the little music player... I decided it was a Vivaldi kind of day.]
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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Who Killed Cock Robin?

When we first came to Corfu, we came as tired business tourists needing a break. We came in the winter time, and in the Spring and then in the Fall. Eventually we came to Corfu whenever we could grab a weekend and could fly from Athens to spend a little time here, but again it was always "off season". We stayed in Corfu town, and wandered the silent little winding streets and took in the beautiful and serene views to find peace and contentment.

First we landed at the Cavalieri Hotel and stayed several times.

Then we stayed at a guesthouse run by the charming (and now sadly gone) "old world" gentleman, Christopher Lavranos in his old mansion downtown.

Finally we stayed at the Levant Hotel in Pelekas, when we had time enough to rent a car and drive around on our own. We were almost always one of very very few tourists in the mid nineties.

When we finally moved here on the first of September, were were stunned by two things: first that the temperatures were SO hot! and second: that so many people came here to holiday!

We had never been here in the summertime, or even in the slightly less busy September or May.

Ironically we were delighted we had decided not to buy a house on the coast or on the seaside as in the summertime it's crazy busy and there is no privacy or peace and quiet! Instead we found an out of the way little valley 10 minutes (well if there's no traffic and you drive a teensy bit over the speed limit) from either side of the island and five minutes from the only golf course. [At the time we bought the house it was only one of two golf courses in Greece!]

The land the house was built on was a lovely place covered with a carpet of wild cyclamen, almost two acres with beautiful views of hills of cypress and olive on the one side and the mountains of Greece and Albania on the other. As a bonus from one corner of the terrace and front yard, we had a view of the sea in the distance. Perfect! Or so we thought.

At no time were we aware of Corfu's dark secret: Hunters!

Hunters, who rise in the dark and head to the pristine wilderness (and small out of the way valleys!) of Corfu, who blast away at anything that flies or hops. They take their coffee's and other supplementary beverages, refreshments and extra boxes of shells, and head off to play fearless hunter against the wild beasties of the island. Hunters make a MESS.

Of course you can make the point that it's their country and they can do as they please, only they usually do it on another Greek's land, and that Greek is generally not amused when he has to clean up the mess to gather his olives!

[and yes, those ARE feathers...]

We are not amused when a gun blast goes off on the other side of our hedge and lead shot rains down on our heads (or that of our terrified dog!) or sprinkles into our swimming pool (we've discovered that lead shot left in the bottom of the pool, stains the tiles)!

Then there's the secondary problem of the hunters dogs. Often the dogs are kept on a meter long chain for the better part of a year. When hunting season arrives the hunter brings his dog/dogs out for the sport. He looses the dogs and shoots the guns and the dogs disappear into the bush terrified of the sound of the gun and then delighted to be off the leash and into freedom!

Ah you may say "Good for them! At least they've escaped!" but you would be wrong, as now the dogs are alone and without food or water. They spend the night afraid and wandering too near other houses trying to perhaps beg for scraps or maybe even a new home, and instead set the piles of dogs in the neighborhood off in cascades of barking that last the night through. There is worse of course as the dogs become feral, if they DO survive and prey on sheep and other small animals. Usually they die of starvation though. [As side note: besides lost hunter dogs, every year we have at least 6 puppies either alone or in clumps of 2 or three, dumped over our garden wall- for us to "dispose of". Greece is generally, not a kind place for animals. This link is for the Ark, a small and often overwhelmed animal aid program on Corfu ]

If you can't sleep through barking dogs, then you might be fairly grumpy when you are awakened after just drifting off to sleep by the sound of more guns!! Hunters like to get a jump on the day so the guns usually go off at 6 AM and generally the local countryside is treated to a major barrage of gunfire until at least 7:30 AM. Then, some of them anyway, must go to work and there is only the odd blast of gunfire until evening. Every day, starting on October 1. (well OK, sometimes before...) and usually running until Easter. This pretty much brackets the tourist season here. It does seem however that ALL year is hunting season, as a gun seems to go off somewhere every month! I'm sure there is a tighter season, but with enforcement issues on the back burner here, I'm guessing that hunting is pretty much any time you want.

I am also certain there are laws regarding the closeness of hunting to domestic dwellings - but I haven't noticed anyone paying ANY attention to those rules, unless there is a conservation officer called who parks his car near a house, or checks on the hunting licenses randomly. Those weeks are filled with blessed silence in the early morning, as word seems to spread and no one seemingly wants to hunt near our house on the days official vehicles are visible.

In the beginning we were the only house out here, with a two kilometer "house-free" ring, around us. Now there are at least thirty houses around us in that two kilometer ring. We have noticed no slacking off of hunters, tho I will admit that though I hear the lead shot in fall in the yucca trees on occasion, I no longer feel it on my head. (This could be because I am not outside!)

We have noticed that there are more abandoned dogs in the neighborhood and there are fewer songbirds though... Also that I am grumpy from lack of sleep.

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