Furno, Guesthouse, Terrace
When we first came to assess the project I took a number of photos of the house, interior and exterior, the garden and some outbuildings. There were two main outbuildings, one was a tumbled down old ‘furno’ building. That was where the food had once been prepared. The other appeared to be an old wash-house. When we came back to begin work the next year we employed two Albanian stone masons to help us rebuild the back wall and the old furno.
‘Since we couldn’t start work immediately on the roof, Takis was on the lookout for helpers to work on some of the other most pressing jobs, particularly on the walls along the back and front boundaries and those that had collapsed around the furno building. He finally asked Anestis if he could recommend a good stonemason and the next day he turned up with another Albanian, a large fellow called Marcos. Now Marcos was as strong as Anestis but in bulk he could make three of the little man. And whereas Anestis worked quietly, Marcos had a loud voice and was very temperamental. He’d order Anestis to get this or carry that, and told him off when his directions weren’t followed. We soon discovered that when Marcos was happy he sang loudly, and when he was not so cheerful he shouted at Anestis. One day I asked Anestis and Marcos how I could greet them when they arrived. Miremengjes, Marcos told me, was like saying ‘Yia sou’. He and Anestis would grin each morning when I attempted it. ‘
A few years later we had complete this project and had turned the ruined bake-house into three separate areas, the rebuilt furno, a guest room, and a carpentry workroom for Takis.
Next to the House a Guest House-Workroom
From the very first year we began working on the project we had guests. The first year we had four, but since then it has usually been about ten a year. Having the guest room set up even before the house was ready was very helpful.
‘Phone calls and emails had helped to keep our children and grandchildren in touch with us, and what we were doing. But it was so much better seeing them in person, and one summer the two oldest grandchildren arrived with their mother. Melinda is Takis’ oldest daughter, and she and her two boys were the first to stay in our ‘furno’ guesthouse. The boys had a wonderful time swimming every day and getting to know two of our neighbour’s nephews. That summer we also accommodated my younger son, who stayed for a couple of weeks, and my daughter, who called in briefly on her way back from a sporting engagement. Koula and George, Takis brother also came for their usual stay, as did a cousin from Canada.’
Vines: Shade givers and scent givers ....
Another lovely jasmine is the Chinese Jasmine, Jasminum polyanthum which has pink buds that open into a mass of fragrant white flowers. Takis remembers jasmines from his days in Alexandria. As children they would make ‘daisy chains’ of jasmine to hang around their necks.
Like the Star Jasmine these too are native to woodlands and like to scramble up and over pergolas and fences. Once established they can cope with relatively little summer watering.
Parthenocissus tricuspidata (three lobs) also called Boston ivy is self clinging and I have planted two plants to climb the house walls, much to Anestis displeasure as he had just painted the house and its suckers leave marks on the painted surface that are hard to get rid of. However I have seen it used in England on old houses, and feel that it can also help to cool the house, so we have struck a deal and he will allow it in two patches, and trims them back twice a year. It tends to go a deeper autumn red that the five lobed variety of Virginia Creeper.
Takis memories of groups gathering on the back terrace. Neigbours remember twenty or more of the Mavrellies family sitting around small tables out there after siesta, playing cards.
‘For a time all Takis and I could discuss was how to take up, re-level and then re-lay the outside terrace. Eventually the two strong Albanians heaved and wheelbarrowed each stone separately, and stored them all in a heap in the garden. When that was done Marcos re-leveled and laid the steel reinforcement over the whole area. He would start each day singing, while Anestis would fire up the wonderful Memorial Day Cement Mixer and begin churning out one cement-load after another. Takis had to get on the phone again to ask for new deliveries of sand and gravel and more bags of cement. The amount we were using horrified and silenced me, as I’d been accustomed to expressing my disgust at the way Greeks use cement with abandon, and here we were doing the same.
Though it had been a very big job to take up the pavers, it looked like being an even harder job to put them back. Each stone was not just unbelievably heavy but also of a different size. What were we to do?
‘We don’t have to put them where they were before, nor do they have to be laid as tightly,’ I said, while trying to lay the breakfast table.
‘I’m sure there’s a way to put these pavers back down again.’
‘Why go to all that trouble?’ I asked. ‘Perhaps we could use them somewhere else, and you could use ordinary crazy paving stones,’ I suggested, trying to get out the tea caddy from the cupboard behind him.
We’d have loved to put the stones back where they came from, but in the end we could see it was impossible, especially as we also had to maintain a slope to drain the surface water away from the house. But that morning we couldn’t come to an agreement, so we decided we’d have to leave the pavers where they were in the garden for a while. And eventually we did decide to lay crazy paving, which, though not as beautiful, was more practical. (In the end the old pavers were used to make some very distinguished garden walks.)'
Honeysuckle (Lonicera, Ayioklima)
And over the top of me in this picture is an old grape vine. This has been here many years. It does not produce good eating grapes as they always have a heave mould on them, no matter what we do. But the vine does produce shade over our breakfast table.