The last few days on Symi were unusually hot and sunny for the end of September and beginning of October but there were signs of Autumn approaching.
From Panormitis Monastery on Monday a strange layer of cloud could be seen wafting around the edge of the mountains and humidity was higher than previously with correspondingly poor long-distance visibility. But it was still hot weather and the cloud soon dispersed.
On Tuesday, with necessary tasks completed in the morning we walked to Agia Marina via the direct route from Horio and took considerably longer over it than anticipated.
Unlike Northern Europe where the majority of plants flower in the summer, in Greece the severe drought of summer is the dormant period and some plants start flowering as Autumn approaches. Some of them seem to push their flower straight from the soil without any leaves which follow at a later stage. The most dramatic and prolific is the squill which can get up to a metre high on long solitary stems with tapering spikes of white flowers and must number in the millions. A few times we had seen Autumn crocuses bravely pushing broad pink trumpets up out of the powder-dry soil.
But on the walk to Agia Marina we passed perhaps the most intriguing flowers I have seen for a long time seemingly growing out of barren rock, not just a few but hundreds. I have no idea what they are but hope to find out. Again a sign that Autumn is on its way.
It clouded over during the morning as we dawdled taking photos of the ’new’ flowers and while a good deal of perspiration was generated walking over the mountains to the beach it clearly wasn’t the weather for hanging around drying off after a swim. Latent heat of vaporization (evaporation) cools the skin. For the first time I used the towel rather than letting the sun and the breeze do the job.
Another indication that Autumn was approaching was that the Management of the beach-side taverna had removed half of the sunbeds (half the number of beds, not half of each bed). They were all there only a few days before at the end of September but now that we were into October, albeit only the 2nd of the new month, it was obviously time to start to batten down the hatches. And back in Horio locals were wearing coats and jeans while the tourists still flounced around in shorts and short-sleeved shirts.
Crossing to Rhodes early on Wednesday morning we were back to cloudless blue sky and hot sunshine. Perfectly comfortable for sitting outside on the deck of the catamaran and looking wistfully back as Symi receded into the heat haze. Wistful because we had made the mistake of checking out the weather forecast and knew what to expect when we landed back in Grey Britain.
It had been an exceptionally good end to the second part of my 2012 Greek Odyssey.
The change in 4 hours was surreal. From cloudless skies and bright sunshine wandering around Rhodes Old Town to the gloom of cold Grey Britain.
To be fair, back in Grey Britain has been mixed. The weather on our arrival in Manchester was as cold but not as wet as forecast. The drive down to South Wales and home on Thursday was very pleasant in sunshine, warm even if not Greek-hot. Put my shorts on again.
I made a foray into the garden to check how things had changed in my absence and came back quite depressed. The soil was sodden after a cold wet summer and giant caterpillars had munched their way through all the cabbage I planted for the winter and most of the Brussels sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli. The Charlotte potatoes I had carefully planted in July and earthed up before I left for Greece in August so as to be ready for Christmas dinner had disappeared completely. Not a trace. Autumn raspberries had fruited and were covered in mildew on the canes.
The only roaring success was the solitary tomato plant which I had put in the Blue House (a very large greenhouse but painted blue). I watered it copiously before I left and as the rain had been kept off it and the temperature is always a good few degrees higher so it had grown to 3 metres across. And this year the mice hadn’t eaten the beetroot which seems to have cropped fairly well.
Elsewhere in the garden the persistent weeds which I had painstakingly cleared before I left had returned and had set seed. The edge of the ‘Acer Glade’ at the bottom of the garden which I had carefully cut down with a new strimmer bought for the purpose was overgrown once again and the path to the shed had to be found by Braille. It needed a lot of TLC.
But not on Friday. It was grim. Grey Britain at its worst. The cold, wet summer sliding unnoticed into cold, wet autumn just as the sunny, dry summer on the Hot Rock had slipped almost imperceptibly into autumn. By the end of the day there was standing water on the soil.
Saturday was considerably better, Autumn sunshine all day, but after heavy overnight rain it was the afternoon before the garden had dried out enough to work on. Ho hum!
I made a start but there is a lot more to do. Going away for a few months at a time in the summer doesn’t sit well with having a quarter of an acre of garden. I look at the smallholdings on the dry but fertile soils of Nisyros, with courgettes, tomatoes, peppers and much else irrigated in summer by water collected in tanks in the winter, unblemished by the wet and untouched by slugs …. and get a little jealous. I really need to develop a better planting strategy to be able to leave the garden in the summer and have winter veg when I’m around in winter.
But that’s not an immediate priority. Short term I have to pack to go away again. This time to North Wales on a course to learn how to rite proper. Maybe even learn to write properly. Maybe turn Barry’s Ramblings into a book. Now there’s a plan!
And then skiing in Canada January/February ???
Have to do something to get the grey out of the brain.