Friday, 20 November 2015

A Busy Time of Year

A Busy Time of Year

Writing and Other Projects

One reason I’m taking out time and not doing two blogs a week is that it takes time from my writing schedule. At the moment I’m writing a whodunit about Lemnos. I’m finding this great fun and hopefully it will be finished soon so I’m trying to get most of it finished before Christmas.

Its set in the year just before Syriza was elected, and a time when folk in Greece knew that great changes were ahead but could not guess what they were. But I won’t say anything about these ongoing writing projects, as I feel to talk about them too early is bad luck. (Am I becoming Greek, with a belief about the evil eye?)

Library Talks

Takis also signs the books as the story is as much about him as me.


I’ve mostly done these in the form of an interview, with my Emerald friend and teacher of a writing group asking the questions. She’s read the book and can prompt me, letting me ramble on for a while and then bringing me back to what she thinks the audience would like to know about the book. We cover the main stories of the retirement adventure, the house renovation (including those about mice, hidden fireplaces and discovery of the well.) I included a slide show as folk gather for nibbles and buy books after the talk.

Garden Club Talks

Recently I’ve also done some garden talks (with slides) of the garden in Lemnos, and of the Lemnian natural flora. I’ve really enjoyed this last venture, into talks for garden clubs. They are great folks and very curious about gardening situation overseas, as well as fascinated by tales of other people’s gardens.
Before picture of Pergola
After picture of Pergola

The slides however are the main feature when giving the garden talk. I chat while the slides are showing. I have three slide shows that follow each other. One shows plants seen on walks through the island early and later in the year. Another about the planning and setting out of our garden and the last showing the house and garden today.

I tell folk that I’ve found its not always easy being a gardener in the Mediterranean. As I tried to point out one ‘Med’ place is often very different from another. On Lemnos the problem is not just of the hot dry summers, that can extend for three or even four moths, but the frosts and winter snowfalls, and also the very strong winter winds, which mean a root system is weakened and a plant that looks OK suddenly dies as the weather warms. And I tell folks that the plants I use in Greece are survival plants, found along roadsides, or plants that do well in neighbour’s gardens. Nursery plants I often have to replace year after year.

I tell them …
There were a few trees in the garden when we arrived, olive, almond, bitter orange (naranzi), fig. Most of the almond trees were very old and have since died of old age. The olives and figs survive well. The orange, though old and tough, nearly died one cold winter BUT it may be coming back And as we use bitter oranges to make marmalade I’ve planted another two trees, hoping they survive. 
While island nurseries are limited in their ‘Mediterranean’ offerings I’ve bought pomegranate, pine, box, rose, bougainvillea, citrus, agapanthus, bottlebrush, lantana, gaura, wisteria, yucca, fan palm and agave. Some of these do not survive the winter cold, especially the bougainvillea, though I have one of the hardy purple variety in a very sheltered corner and even if cut back by the cold so far it has regrown.  The lantana too is cut back by the cold but often revives. I’ve had to retry lemons several times!

But that plants from the roadsides do well, like euphorbia, hemlock, daffodil lilies, oleander, obviously they can cope with the summer and winter weather but when put in a garden situation they can take over! However mostly I check out what was doing well in other gardens and asked for cuttings or roots. I got my, honeysuckle, rosemary, bay, Iris, canna lilies, pampas grass, jasmine, basil, pittosporum, Virginia creeper, lilac, pelagonium and grapes in this manner. And then there are plants that I started with seeds, or have just arrived and continue to self-seed. These I happily keep and include, fennel, marigolds, pokeweed, zinnias, nasturtiums, alyssum and chamomile daisies.

And then there is Christmas to Plan!

Another reason, I’m afraid, my blogs are getting put on the back burner is that Christmas is drawing closer. 

In Greece Christmas is not as important as Easter, and in America the importance of Thanksgiving means that some of the business is taken away from Christmas. But here in Australia Christmas is the BIG holiday. It falls at the beginning of the summer holiday. It’s that time when works places close down for the long holiday and everyone has Christmas parties. So Friends meet and exchange present, Families have to decide who’s home will be the one that will be visited this year (often this planning involves going to one family home in the morning and another in the afternoon.)

As I look at my diary I see I have already six Christmas get together parties at our house to plan for.

We have already done preliminary menus and had one early shopping expedition. I’m pleased that Takis loves cooking, and so he’ll make a ham, and a roast lamb, and a couple of fish dishes, for these various occasions. I really love the traditional English Christmas pudding and cake but no one else in the family does. But whether anyone else will eat them it would not be Christmas with out mince pies and a trifle, so I’ll be making them.


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