Tobias Roote

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A little bit about me and where I hang my hat.

A little bit about me and where I hang my hat. Our Home and smallholding in Corfu. Taken during the Summer of 2018

I live on the Greek island of Corfu. It's a couple of 'sea miles' from Albania across the Ionian strait where in winter we can see icecaps on the mountain range stretching all the way down the Albanian coast. From here it's a few hours ferry journey south to the Greek mainland where pretty much all of our supplies originate. When the weather's bad, the ferries don't run, and supermarket shelves quickly empty, while general supplies become scarce.

Corfu is a holiday destination for British, Russian, French and Germans with a smattering of Italians and other East Europeans. As such, the infrastructure is poor at best and at its worst, non-existent. In summer, most of the attention of the authorities and their meagre budget is directed towards the revenue-earning tourist which swells the population fortyfold and more. The water, electricity, waste management and roads heave under the strain of a populist visiting consumer group that is on the onehand highly demanding and on the other severely lacking in understanding of the issues that their very presence on this small island creates. The infrastructure isn't designed to manage such economic excess and the establishment refuses to invest in the essential resources to cope. In 2017 we had a garbage mountain that could be seen from the ISS and only the gargantuan efforts of the Expat community have made any dent in the issue since then. We manage recycling centres all over Corfu on a completely voluntary basis. We're now shaming the municipalities into doing something other than taking all of the credit.

Our own location is very remote. It's on a hillside between the sea and the mountains and also between villages that are not highly populated, or empty for large parts of the year. We're self-reliant for the most part, a trait essential to surviving here amongst the multiple acres of olive groves. Our main access to the house is a dirt track which in winter can become impassable unless I spend time on maintenance every year. The roads themselves are subject to landslide and subsidence as well as a plethora of potholes that would have most drivers taking to drink just to get to the supermarkets. The nearest store is a few miles from us, but the main supermarkets are a half an hour drive away. Even petrol stations are rare occurances in these remote areas.

Don't get me wrong, the Greeks and the Ex-Pat communities are very civilised and we have fibre broadband and excellent mobile communications as well as supermarkets, shops, restaurants and various amenities. The problem is the island is under-developed and the authorities are reticent bordering on regressive; holding onto their old ways, while trying to maximise their grasp of new things that bring money into their coffers. Much is wasted on uneconomic or frivolous activities that lack foresight and longevity.

During 2019, I had serious issues with writing, much worse than before. Some of it revolved around my health, but much of it was due to our lifestyle and the need to work on other projects that maintain our security and peace of mind. 

 The left-hand image is from our open terrace facing both the mountains and the sea. You can see how remote we are and somewhere down there is a herd of wild goats that visit us at night and break into our gardens eating our produce. We work hard for that summer and winter food and the animals decimate it all with monotonous regularity. We placed fencing all around the property just to keep them out. They now twang the fence panels with their teeth trying to get to the green stuff on our side of the barrier. It's funny now, but it has given us some real headaches in the past. Now all we have to contend with are toads the size of mangoes, foxes, pine martens that scream 'blue murder' in the night, owls, buzzards, feral cats, stray dogs running in packs and the odd human here and there. The other image is from the same terrace and those houses are our neighbours. It's a mile to the sea from here.

Below us are acres and acres of olive groves. One-hundred-and-fifteen are managed by us, thousands of others by distant neighbours. We cropped 28 x 56 kilo sacks of olives in a previous winter (2017). This year is moderate as it's been very dry up to now. We're also late getting the nets down because a hurricane came past and blew off many of the olives before they were ready (and nearly blew me off the terrace while I was trying to shutter the patio doors).

So, it's now mid-November. I just prepped the fireplace and will begin the hard work of bringing up the mountain of firewood to the back terrace (hidden from view) to keep us going through the cold and wet months. Approximately three tons will be needed as well as five-hundred litres of diesel for the central-heating system. We want to replace the large fireplace with a somba boiler and add solar roof panels for constant hot water, but that didn't quite happen this year, but it might well get done next year. It should save us five-hundred euros a year in bills.



A Summer Project: SFBookReview.co.uk
 

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Friday, 21 February 2020
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