Walnut Cottage renovation and Greek fish and chips.

Walnut Cottage renovation and Greek fish and chips.

“Mind your head.” Mr Sidestepping-Normal shouts to me.

We’re pootling up the uneven dirt track between our house and Walnut Cottage. Our little motorbike faithfully navigates the bumps and stones whilst I judder up and down on the back seat like a bowl of jelly. I’m not a huge jelly fan myself, don’t get me wrong, it’s okay as far as deserts go, but it’s not my favourite. Mr SN on the other hand loves the stuff. Five year old birthday buffets are just his kind of style. Give him jelly, ice cream and cocktail sausages on sticks and he’s a happy man. Sorry, I digress…where was I? Oh yes… We both bow our heads to avoid the long overhanging brambles that are obstructing the path. We keep meaning to bring a pair of secateurs, but it always slips our mind. 

The bumpy track between our house and Walnut Cottage…

This track has become very familiar over the last few months. The potatoes that we planted in the front garden of Walnut Cottage have needed daily watering. Consequently we’ve combined walking Dora-Dog, watering the potatoes, and as of late, checking the progress of the building work. Up ahead, Walnut Cottage comes into view, peeping from behind the large walnut tree that towers next to it.

Our little Greek ruin Walnut Cottage…

We bought Walnut Cottage five years ago, and until now, it’s sat there patiently waiting to be renovated. It’s been hanging over our heads; intimidating and overwhelming. That is until we met Stefanos, our builder and all round fixer of problems. Now that Stefanos is on board, progress is galloping ahead. He’s organised, professional and fair, and his team of tradesman are just as agreeable. We feel such a relief to have found them.

The view from the roof terrace of Walnut Cottage…

We knew that if we stood any chance of getting the cottage ready for next season, then we’d need help. Within a matter of days, the bathroom has been built, the wall around the roof that Mr SN painstakingly begun has been finished and plastered, the electrics are in, and the doors and windows have been ordered. Stefanos expects his team to be finished in a few weeks time. By the time his team have finished, we’ll just be left with the finishing details to sort out: the kitchen to fit, the garden to landscape and the soft furnishings to buy…the fun bits…the bits where Mr SN rolls his eyes as I stand deliberating which cushions to buy or which bedding set matches best…Maybe I’ll have to bribe him with jelly and ice cream…

We park the motorbike, dismount, and look at the latest changes. The electricians have made a great job, and although it still looks like a building site, I can imagine the house once it’s complete. We double check that all the sockets and switches are in the right places before locking the door.

“The potatoes should be ready, shall we dig some up and see?” I say excitedly.

“Why not.” Says Mr SN. “We could go fishing and then make our own Greek fish and chips; all homegrown and freshly caught.” He grins.

I enthusiastically dig at one of the potato plants. They’ve been in the ground for three months now, so it should nearly be time. In amongst the soil, a few feeble miniature potatoes reveal themselves. They’re no bigger than marbles, except for one, which is the size of an apricot.

“Is that it?” Mr SN says in a puzzled manner. “Three months of watering and that’s all we’ve got?”

I have to agree with him, it is disappointing, but I can’t help but find it funny. For three months we’ve lovingly tended to these potato plants and the result is laughable. If we were tiny leprachauns we’d be feasting on potatoes for months on end, but we’re not, and by the looks of it we won’t be.

“Lets give them a good water every day for the next couple of weeks and then dig them up again.” I say optimistically.

“I guess we’ll be having no chips with our fish then.” Mr SN says looking fed up.

Catching the fish…

The sky is a brilliant blue; completely free of clouds. We’re driving the little motorbike down to Panormos to go fishing. Being a Sunday morning, the roads are quiet and the shops are all shut. On the back of the bike I tussle with a fishing rod, a large bucket and two coffees…because we live in Greece now, so it’s become mandatory to take coffee with us everywhere. We meander along the deserted roads, past olive groves and blue corn flowers. The Carob trees are dripping with bright green pods that look like giant caterpillars. 

Down at the little harbour, we park up the bike and unload the box on the back. Little fishing boats bob up and down on the gentle waves and a fisherman starts the engine of his boat. As the engine softly chugs, he cleans the deck and sorts through his nets. A greek flag flutters on top of the mast like a trapped butterfly. Thankfully, the coffees have made it safe and sound, and I sip at the hot drink whilst taking in the sights and smells.

The beautiful fishing village of Panormos…just a 15 minute drive from Walnut Cottage.

The village of Panormos is just waking up. When we passed the kafenion, a couple of men were already sitting outside drinking Greek coffee. I can see a couple of people already swimming, and a dog is splashing in the shallow waters excitedly. 

For the next hour, we sip our coffees whilst Mr Sidestepping-Normal fishes. My hair whips around my face in the wind, and I breathe deeply. The sea always makes me feel calm. Gradually more people are arriving. There’s a man playing a saxophone on the little stony bay opposite the pier where we’re sitting. Jazz riffs float up as the waves crash on the rocks just a few metres in front of him like a cheering audience. A couple in a camper van sit outside their mobile home with cups of coffee, drying off after a swim. Families begin arriving and children eagerly run into the sea to play.

Mr SN puts bait on the line and sits on the end of the pier waiting for the fish to bite. He’s new to fishing, but I can see how much he enjoys the tranquility. The sun tickles our skin and the smell of the sea fills the air. The fish are eating the bait, but manage to evade capture. Time and time again, Mr SN pulls up the line, replenishes the bait and tries again. Suddenly he shouts gleefully.

“I’ve got one!” He yells.

He adds it to the bucket of water he has sitting next to him. For the next hour and a half, he catches nothing else and as the sun grows more intense, we call it day and begin to pack up.

“We can’t take back one tiny fish, I think we should set him free.” I implore.

“I agree.” Says Mr SN “I feel sorry for him.” 

With that, he gently releases the little fish back into the sea, and we watch him swim away.

“So we’ve got no fish and no chips.” I laugh. 

Mr SN grins back at me. “But it was a lovely morning.” He concedes.

Reflecting…

We’re sitting on the terrace watching the sun set. The cicadas are screaming, the crickets are chirping and the tree frogs are babbling. Nancy-Floss is playing with a beetle and we’re swatting away the gnats that keep hovering around us. The sky turns the colour of bonfire smoke and little clouds gather and disperse over the mountains like wisps of candy floss.

The sunset from our terrace at Villa Theodora…

Tomorrow the plumbing at Walnut Cottage begins, and as we sip on beer and eat peanuts, we discuss the details of where the kitchen sink will go and where to locate all the pipes. Dora-dog sits in front of us and tries to talk. She purses her lips and stares at us pleadingly whilst making a strange warble of sounds that all join together. The result is a strange noise that makes us giggle.

“She wants to go for a you-know-what.” I whisper being careful not to use the word ‘walk’ which she knows all too well.

“The potatoes could do with a water anyway.” Mr SN says whilst rising from his seat.

Dora dog instantly knows that her attempts to communicate have been successful. She twirls around in circles whilst wagging her tail and barking.

Walking up that bumpy dirt track again…

Once again, we’re walking up the bumpy dirt track. We hope that in the future this will continue to be a regular walk to meet the guests staying up at Walnut Cottage. In a few months, we hope to start taking provisional bookings for next year.

It’s getting dark quickly, but the air is cool for the first time all day. Dora-dog chases her ball and pants with exertion.

“You know what we’ve forgotten again, don’t you?” I say.

“What?” Mr SN looks at me enquiringly. 

“The secateurs to cut back the brambles.” I say whilst rolling my eyes.

Αύριο, tomorrow.” He says smiling. “We’ll do it tomorrow.”

Watering the potatoes up at Walnut Cottage…

Summary…

Greek fish and chips may be off the menu for now, but we’re hoping that our potatoes will miraculously grow over the next couple of weeks. We fail as much as we succeed, and if they don’t grow then that’s okay, we’re optimists…maybe we’ll just trade our potatoes with a leprechaun for a pot of gold.

To find out more about Walnut Cottage, you can have a read here.

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22 thoughts on “Walnut Cottage renovation and Greek fish and chips.

  1. Good luck with the potatoes…..and the fish! You probably know the spot, but just west of the village might be a better place to fish – I can’t claim any knowledge other than that there always seem to be a couple of Greek blokes there fishing! Great views of Panormos too, thanks for a glimpse back into the real world, (well, what I think of as the real world, at any rate, while remaining exiled from it). Hope Walnut Cottage continues to progress, it’s looking good 😄

    1. Thank you! It was funny because a Greek man came up and told us we were in the wrong place, with bad bait and the fishing line wasn’t deep enough! We basically did everything wrong! I’m glad he told us, he was really nice and just wanted to help. We’ve now got plans for another trip down there – hopefully we’ll get better results!

  2. I think you dug the potato’s too early.
    Crop type Planting time Approximate harvest time
    First early potatoes From end of February 10 weeks from planting
    Second early potatoes From mid March 13 weeks from planting
    Early maincrop potatoes From late March 15 weeks from planting
    Maincrop potatoes From late March 20 weeks from planting

    1. This is very interesting, so perhaps there’s still hope for our potatoes yet! The only problem I can foresee is that the soak-away (for the toilet) needs to be dug where the potatoes are growing! Our builder is itching to dig them out soon!

      Thanks as always for your help and advice. It’s always gratefully received 😃

  3. If it’s of any comfort, our potatoes lovingly tended in our UK garden are not ready yet either. I’m still hoping we get to Crete later this year, in the meantime, I love your view on the Cretan lifestyle and for a few minutes reading your blog I am transported there.

    1. I hope your potatoes pick up as well! This gardening malarky isn’t always as easy as first thought!

      I’m glad I can give you a Crete fix whilst you’re unable to get here. I can’t believe we’re in July already, maybe by the end of the summer you’ll be able to get out.

  4. I love reading about your experiences and hope to what you have done even at my stage of life. I look forward to visiting Crete! It is great to read about the progress of Walnut cottage

    1. Age is just a number, definitely go for it! If you’re ever in Crete then stop by and we’ll show you Walnut Cottage 😃

  5. I really look forward to your posts. Lovely reflections on a day well spent, appreciating the important things in life. Good luck with the potatoes!

    Can’t wait to see the completed Walnut Cottage.

    1. Thank you! It’s so exciting to see Walnut Cottage being transformed. I can’t wait for the stone walls to be repointed. That’s when it will really turn a corner I think.

      I’ll have to let everyone know about the ongoing potato saga in a couple of weeks time!

  6. Yet again, I get great joy from reading your words as I imagine everything you say in my minds eye and I am there with you both, as I have tried fishing in Rhodes from Rocks, and Loved every minute of Not catching a thing, I even snorkled round my own float and watched the fish nibble on my Bate!! LOL !!!
    Good to see that Walnut Cottage is coming along again, and that you have found help as well!!
    Unfortunately our latest hopes of a flight to Crete has again been scuppered and has been cancelled for the 4th time, we are now getting sooo frustrated with it all, we just want to get back to Crete, and sort out our next move for renting the house we have found in Gonia, Rethymnon, so we can start our next chapter of living in Crete!! Keep up the good work, I am sure the Tatties will be fine, Have a chat with them, I used to with My Veg when I used to grow my own!! ;-))

    1. Fishing seems to be fail safe because it’s enjoyable even when you don’t catch anything!

      The flight situation is so frustrating. My mum’s flight has been cancelled three times too. I hear that people are arriving, but they either drive, or get multiple flights across Europe. I really hope you can get out here soon, we know what it’s like to survive on dreams and plans. Soon enough you’ll be here, sipping wine on the terrace 😉

  7. Wonderful as ever, I closed my eyes and I was with you walking up the lane, on the beach, Matt needs lessons from Uncle Fred regarding fishing, so enjo6 every word sending all our love x x x

    1. We’re looking forward to showing you the transformation when you make it out again. Yes, he needs a bit more practice on the fishing front. He’s got plans for a better bait! xxx

  8. Nice story again! Relaxing for sure now we are home on Crete! Took a while but worth it! Greetings from Xirosterni!

    1. What a relief it must have been to get back. How did you get here? Did it involve lots of flights?

  9. Sounds like Covid 19 has little effect on you and your neighbors – what a welcome change for us in the UK (where the weather is dull again after some early signs of summer), Your notes on fishing brought back some happy memories. I never got the bug – one unsuccessful visit to the Mill Pond in Mid Sussex taught me the value of the saying “If at first you don’t succeed try something else”.., Many years later when walking along the sands on an island in Florida we chatted to 2 men sitting in comfortable chairs fishing who said it had been a great day with no catches to disturb them.

    1. The Mill pond (off of Maple Drive) is such a special place for me. As soon as I was old enough to roam free, my friend and I spent every hour we had there making mud slides, climbing trees, going for bicycle rides and generally getting covered in dirt! The stuff of proper childhoods!

      I like the fisherman’s ethos on catching no fish! 😀

  10. Hiya, people:- I’m lying here in a nice hot bath at home in what we jokingly call god’s county, relaxing and reading your blog? and all of a sudden the black dog of depression swiftly passes overhead!! but worry not it thankfully moves on at a pace. That said I remember our couple of visits to Crete and just how wonderfully relaxing it was but most of all the people, so so friendly nothing was a bother and the food in the tavernas ooh the food no wonder my better half and I came several Llbs heavier. Cannot wait to come again, and we shall.

    1. We both have something that the other wants…a bath sounds fantastic! We only have a shower and in the winter there are the odd times when we dream of a bathtub!

      We’re both agreed on the Greek food – it’s always fresh and delicious. When we visited the UK at Christmas, we realised how tasteless and mass produced a lot of the food at restaurants is! We couldn’t wait to get back to the fresh produce here.

  11. Fair play to you guys, you’re living the dream and working hard for it. We’re in west Ireland, though visit Crete twice a year to renovate an old cottage above Maleme. It’s a stunning island, we’re smitten! Hopefully we’ll be back in August and our kind neighbours have managed to water our garden. Good luck with your endeavours.

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