Winter’s no hardship on Kefalonia

Well, here we are, one third of the way through the winter break of the tourist season on the island of Kefalonia, writes former Wem resident Colin Dodd from his new home.

I have been asked what folk do in the winter. The answer is, as little as possible.
After working for six months, seven days a week in temperatures of 40 plus, the working ex-pats take a well-earned rest. Many go back to the UK to visit their families and friends, but they have to be here to visit the employment office every five or six weeks to claim their winter payments – about 400 euros per month for each worker. This is not government money, but is paid into the IKA fund in the summer by the employer. IKA is similar to graduated pension payments in the UK and is required by law. Anyone caught ignoring this law is in big trouble, both employer and employee face very hefty fines, yet there are still a few who take the chance.

A few have been caught out by the UK weather this year, getting stranded in Athens for a few days; however, those using Olympic Airways have been well looked after. Food and accommodation has been provided with no argument, unlike some of the larger companies who left passengers sitting around in the airports in England. Biggest is not necessarily best, it seems.

For the locals, life goes on much as normal, working their fields, building etc. The majority of the taverna owners have outside interests as well, and they still have to work when their English employees are taking things easy.

I used to enjoy driving down the road and seeing my boss hard at it when I was off to the hostelry for a quick couple. Some days you’re the dog and some days you’re the lamp post. There are a few people who find a bit of work in winter, tradesmen especially, but there are more menial jobs for someone who wants to make a bit of cash to supplement their “dole money”. Not really legal, but this is Kefalonia, and nobody bothers too much.

In early November last year we had a few heavy storms, and the main road to Argostoli was blocked by landslides. The main road runs down the coast along the foot of mount Ainos which is 5,000 ft above sea level, so as you can imagine there is not a lot of room between sea and mountain for storm water to dissipate, and the result was a lot of olive trees lost and some houses buried up to six feet deep in mud. At one point the road was nearly washed away.

However, the workers were there at daybreak with diggers and trucks, and the road was reopened within five hours later and the houses were soon cleared too. It was a damn fine effort by those guys.

On a similar note, about four or five years ago we woke up in the village of Mavrata to two feet of snow. The locals could remember nothing like it. The weight of the snow, which accumulated on the power lines, brought down 100 poles and about 40 pylons. Despite the severity of the damage, generators were shipped in straight away so we had partial restoration of power in two days and, with some outstanding effort by the power workers, we had full power restored in eight days. The only snow we have seen since that day is a dusting on the mountain top. I hope it stays there.
Winter also gives the local authority a chance to complete the upgrade to the sewage system in and around Skala. Anyone who came last year will remember the state of the roads in that area. Two weeks before the season began we had trenches eight feet deep in an around Skala. In order to be ready for the start of the holiday season, they had to suspend the work, and bodge the roads to make them passable. Now, they are once again digging the place up and chaos reigns again. Single file traffic in places, no traffic lights, no traffic control, you just close your eyes and hope for the best. Highly amusing at times, at others, scary.

The reason for all this disruption is that, at present, all the toilets here empty into a septic tank built from concrete blocks. Most of the liquid waste is absorbed into the ground, but they still have to be emptied by the tanker at regular intervals.
If you have stayed on Kefalonia you will have seen the signs in the toilets saying, “do not throw paper in the toilet”. Pedal bins are provided for used toilet paper as it blocks the tanks after a while, causing big problems. I found this a most unusual custom when I first came, and on my visits to the UK I found myself looking for the bin. When the upgrade is complete, there will be no need for these weird and wonderful contraptions, but, what’s the betting the Greeks will STILL put the paper in bins? They’ve been doing it for years and old habits die hard.
Apart from a few days’ rain, heavy rain, the weather has been very kind this year again. A lot of sunny days, not hot, but not overcoat weather either.
I leave you with a simple question, “if the monopolies commission is such a good idea, why is there only one of them?’

Hope you get some decent weather soon.