Sunday, 28 September 2014

Two On a Retirement Adventure

Two On a Retirement Adventure.

We visited Lemnos and Fell in Love with the Island

When my husband and I decided to take up a retirement project and renovate a large old house in Greece we were filled with excitement. He was an owner of a food factory and I was an academic. That was ten years ago, and since then we have been travelling to our old house to Lemnos Island in the Aegean for six months every year. He became skilled at carpentry, painting, electricity, plumbing and I have had to hone my skills of painting, decorating, and gardening in the Mediterranean.

Retired from Food Factory

New Job in the Carpentry Workroom

Old Job as Academic

New Job as Gardener, Painter

While the dream of a house on an Aegean island, with sunshine, warm seas and rural peace, is something many busy, driven, city folk long for, it’s not easily achieved. Land in Greece always belongs to someone. Even if you spot a ruined house on an empty block you’ll very soon find it belongs to absent landlords who are planning to return sometime soon.

We were lucky; Takis’ was part owner of his grandfather’s old house on Lemnos Island. It was Takis’ perseverance over a very long period that enabled us to buy the house from 36 other relatives. We spent two years exploring our options and then six more years (while renovating) before we managed to fully own his great-grandfather’s house.

The Ruin
And then it took even longer to renovate. However all this time the house has continued to be a magnet for us and has made the effort worthwhile. I think what we’ve most enjoyed has been the fact that we have been thrown back onto our own resources. There are only a few shops nearby and it’s hard to get what you want when you want it. This is a challenge Takis enjoys, for not being able to go to a large Australian tradesman’s centres he has to find ways of fixing things himself. As for me, I like working at a slower, more organic, pace. One has time to notice the scent of lemon and nutmeg when baking a homemade cake, and to become more aware of garden scents when making bags of lavender seeds.

The Finished Dream House
It has been project that has taken its toll in various ways, emotionally, physically and financially over the years. We’ve watched the exchange rates, carefully noting when they went up or down. And then, when economic uncertainties hit Greece and the worldwide financial crash hit, we wondered how long we could afford to keep flying to Greece and paying for the renovations. There is no doubt that Ogden Nash got it right when he wrote that ‘It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home. It takes a heap o’ payin’ too.’

He Had the Money Worries

And I Took to Drink! No not really.

There’s a saying in Lemnos that one cries twice when coming to the island. This saying may have originated from the time when the island was a designated place of exile, and folk would cry when they landed on the island, going there reluctantly, but often they would cry again when they left as by then they’d fallen in love with the island and its people. It’s a saying I’ve also adopted for there have many been times when I’ve come to the island grudgingly, and many times when on leaving I’ve walked around my Greek garden very unwilling to depart.

But, after each questioning period, we’ll always decide that we’ll keep coming – at least for a few more years. The time will eventually come when we have to leave permanently and there will be so many things we’ll dearly miss, especially those sounds that are completely lost in a big city: the music of cockerels calling early each morning, the chatter of young children walking home from school, and even those street-sellers who drive us to distraction by blaring out descriptions of their wares as they drive past, or the psalmist in the church who turns up the volume so that we can admire his beautiful voice each Sunday.


The Weary but Satisfied Couple

1 comment:

  1. Hello Julia,

    What a difference from the time you started the renovations. It must be so satisfying to bring the family home back to how it is now.

    Happy days.