The House With the Pink Shutters. The River Beach.

Potami (River) Beach is a special place.  Nowhere else on the island can I find such an abundance of different colored stones that line the seashore, shining and glittering in the wash.  Red, orange, green, blue, white, black, grey,  umber, pale or bold, patterned or plain. They are like sirens.  Calling to me each time I visit the beach to admire their unique beauty and shape, tempting me to pick them and treasure them. I select, discard and store for hours and I see others, all under the same spell, doing the same.

Over the years friends and family staying in the house have left piles of these stones in corners of shelves and I have added to the mass, imagining one day that I would create wonderful things that showcase the patterns, colors and shapes. For years I have dreamed and this year I decided it was time.  I taught myself to wrap the stones with silver plated wire and waxed cotton.  I follow the shape of the stone so every piece is unique.


It must be something that many of my friends and family have also wanted to do over the years as now I have a bunch of them regularly handing me river beach stones that they like and think would look good in a setting.   The piles continue to grow!

Recently Gramataki, my neighbor, came up to the house to skype with our relatives in Australia.  She spotted my work bench and wanted to know what I was doing.  Later in the week, as we headed out, she called us over and showed us some small orange oval objects  that she wanted wire wrapped and put on a pendent for her grandchildren to wear.    They are fish eyes she informed us after I had agreed.  From a big fish she added.  They look like fossil shells  I said  but she was adamant.   Ah well I thought this is my first commission and  I’m sure they are not eyes, but I have to admit to  smelling fish as I wrapped them.   When I presented the finished pendents Gramataki was so happy that she gave me  another two to make and a fish eye for myself.

Luckily these additional items were identified as shell by a friend and we googled and found out they are called the eye of the sea by the Greeks.  Something must have got lost in our translation either that or she was having a big laugh at my expense!


The House with the Pink Shutters – Samos Island Greece


It’s taken two years of hard work, planning and saving to enable us to return to Samos.   Armed with ideas on how to modernize the house in Paleo,  live on a tight budget and assist the charities and locals working with the refugees who were arriving on a daily basis, we sold up our possessions in Australia, handed in our notices and headed off.

We arrived in May and in the time it took to cross the globe, with a stop off in Thailand, and land  in Greece the EU had  struck a deal with Turkey.  Since Samos is extremely close to Turkey, the prospect of being returned seems to had diverted the refugees to more hazardous alternative routes.

Its June and we have not seen any boats land or heard of anyone being picked up at sea to date.  There are no life jackets stranded on the coastlines beaches or cliffs and no sight of the daily human caterpillar making its way across the island to the reception points set up by the authorities and charitable organisations.   The temporary camps in the ports have closed and the majority of asylum seekers have been transported to Athens or back to Turkey.  Unfortunately those remaining who seem to be considered as ‘economic’ refugees have been re incarcerated in the Vathy detention center and conditions are reported to be overcrowded.

Sadly for the local people, who dealt with the crisis with compassion and generosity, tourism is at a low.    Beaches have a sprinkling of bathers, cafes and restaurants are quiet, hotels empty.    Media coverage highlighted misery, suffering and deaths and raised awareness of the refugee plight.  They got their copy and viewing rates but possibly also instilled an unreasonable fear about travel to the island.   So I am here to add my voice to the few who are trying to reassure travelers that  all has returned to normal.   I have beaches, forests and mountain villages to myself.


Come and join me.

Back to Basics, Koh Phayam Island, Thailand



Thailand’s stunning palm fringed islands are something of a rarity these days.  Commercialism has spoilt many of the ‘go to islands’ with their large beach front resorts that oh so often  replace the shady trees and their wild life or cause sandy beaches to wash away.  Small family run businesses are squeezed out, prices rocket, girlie bar, seven elevens, jet skis and pollution proliferates.    Full, half, quarter, harvest moon parties thump out music to dawn not giving much respite to those wanting to sleep.  So where can a traveller find a place to chill from today’s  excesses?  Koh Phayam.  A small island that has no cars, runs on solar power and generators, contains unspoilt beaches with family owned restaurants and  accommodation that blends into the surrounding lush forest behind the shore line.   It takes a while to reach this island which is why it has remained relatively unknown to many but the effort is worth it.

We book into the Hornbill – a favourite of ours – owned by T and her husband.  Half way down the 3 mile beach it sits behind the treeline and blends in – just like all the other hostels on the beach.   It is supposed to be rainy season but Thailand is having a drought.  The sky is blue, the sun is hot and the beach is practically deserted.

From the hammock on the balcony  of my wooden traditional hut I count at least 30 different types of bird including hornbills.  I share my bathroom with huge gekos, skinks, tree frogs and a large spider – all of which keep the mossies and gnats at bay.   Since my last visit several new small places have opened up offering good coffee and amazing food.

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However the island is threatened.  A Korean electricity company KPU wants to make the island the first SMART off the grid island in the thailand or maybe the world.  Seems like a good idea until you realise that they want to put the turbines at the end of the beaches as well as inland, widen the concrete road that now only accommodates bikes to 12 ft wide, build a gold course and korean holiday resort and bring in a seven eleven.  Most of the locals are opposed but it seems to be a given thing and that they have very little say.  I attended the second meeting between the company and the locals.   Representatives for the scheme refused to give specifics about amount of land required, how many people would loose their business due to the road widening  how much forest would be destroyed, what impact it would have on the environment and wildlife, how much it would cost the locals for the electricity and so on.

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Meeting between locals and kpu electric company – locals air their concerns.

Only last year Ian Lloyd Neubauer’s wrote an article on the island extolling its virtues.   or

According the the islands committee attempts to contact ministers and newspapers to highlight their plights have been stonewalled and no they have had no response.  Social Media is their next step – hopefully someone out there take notice and write a story on the first SMART of the grid island scheme that is not so green as it seems.




Samos – best hidden gems in Europe


Kokari village – a little  unknown gem on Samos Island according to this article and so it is – but there are so many more to discover.

Return to Samos Island, Greece


For those of you who are familiar with my love of Samos Island and have read my posts  or book about the many characters and life on the island  you may be pleased t0 hear that I am returning.   It may seem a strange choice at this time but our friends, family and people of the island are doing it tough at the moment and they help (see my facebook page for updates) Our house and self contained unit is perched on a hillside in a village with views of Turkey and the sea port and the island




Want to visit the island? Want to sample Greek Cuisine?  Want to see where I live? – for the “Chicken House”



In Who’s World does Melbourne top the Economist’s liveability rankings for a fifth consecutive Year


Down Town Melbourne

I often wonder how these polls are worked out and who is consulted.  I’ve lived in this city for 10 years and can truly say that I do not find it so.

On the upside Melbourne has coastline, sporting events, festivals, celebrations, a thriving night life, good entertainment venues, an arts scene  and so much more to offer.   But it also has a large homeless population,  unemployment, crime, a struggling infrastructure and an underfunded public services

Reports of homes selling for 10 times median annual income, and 6.7 years of saving (as at June 2015) are sadly true.  Small one bed units in apartment blocks often sell for 340 000 plus.  Add on stamp duty, fees and sundries and your looking at probably 360 000.  I could buy a detached house with acres back in Yorkshire for that!  

Over the last 10 years my ability to afford rented  accommodation close to the city where I work has diminished and I have had to move further and further out to the industrial part of town.  I have never been able to save up enough of a deposit for a house and the amount I would have to borrow would cripple me financially.  

Rentals  go for 380 a week in industrial areas and that is cheap compared to the more desirable suburbs.  Rented accommodation in this price range is often sub-standard, devoid of basics such as wardrobes, heating, off road parking, garage space, not noise or draft proofed, has a landlord who does not respond to maintenance requests without having to resort to serving notice on failure to meet contractual obligations. 

Utility bills are a shock compared to when I lived in England, I could buy a bottle of good wine for the cost of a glass in a restaurant, cook a  tasty substantial meal for 4 plus for the cost of a plate of food in most dining joints.

Unemployment is up, crime rate is also up.  I drive to work and everyday I hear on the radio of some nasty road accident or violent act.  Daily I see people drive through red lights, weave across the road because they are high, drunk or on their mobiles.  Every two days or so I have to perform an emergency stop because someone has cut me up, driven out of a side street or walked across the road without looking (well they are but it tends to be at their phone!).

If I use public transport instead it is still stressful.  The train it is often late due or cancelled due to to vandals, accidents, crime incidents or so rammed full that I either cant physically get on or am held up by the press of bodies.  On certain lines I have witnessed people shout and intimidate passengers because they are drunk, high or just aggressive..  

The sad thing is that despite all of the above disadvantages the city has a lot to offer. Yes Melbourne is a livable, and lively, and lovely.  But the MOST livable in the world?  I don’t think so.     

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year

Winter Woollies and Wellies


Counting the months since I posted last, I realize that time has moved faster than I realized.   Winter in Melbourne has been grey, cold and wet. Snow on the beaches, wild bitter winds that topple trees, hail damaged cars, tropical downpours – but worst of all –  skies blanketed with charcoal edged storm clouds that blot out the sun.   My body deprived of warmth aches inside out, flu is rife, sick leave is up and it’s hard to be cheerful in this sunshine deprived city.   Like England, the main topic of conversation has been the weather.  Like England, winter woollies, wellies, thermals, hats, scarves and gloves are being layered on as the population rugs up.  Unlike England, the majority of us shiver in our brick and weather board houses with little or no heating or draft proofing.    Arriving home from an office environment akin to the outer Hebrides on a  blustery day because we cant turn the air conditioning off, I don a beanie, scarf, thick dressing gown, ugg boots and switch the money eating electric heater on.    Never has cooking a meal seemed so appealing as it is an opportunity to soak up some of the heat given off by the oven and hobs.  Sadly, I find myself reminiscing about my centrally gas heated house in the UK, remembering times I looked out on icy white streets snug and toasty indoors in nothing but shorts and teeshirt.  Damm I miss radiators.


A Word A Week Photograph Challenge – Arid



Namib Desert. Namibia

As most of you know, but for the newbies once a week I dip into my old English Oxford dictionary and pick a word on the page that it falls open at.  The challenge is to post a photograph you like best to describe what that word means to you. Please put a link back to my challenge post in your post so others can follow the thread and take part and also put your post link in my challenge post comments section so people can follow it back to your blog, see your take on the subject and peruse your blog.  Good luck.

The Beach Bungalow Build – Zanzibar. Now published as an e book



Sue Llewellyn backpacked around Southern Africa with her partner, Peter, for five months.   Along the way she met a local man, Ame, trying desperately to make enough money to build a house to support his wife and child by running a seafood beach bar and restaurant in Zanzibar, Tanzania.  At the time he was a one man operation and dreamed of owning three bungalows and a successful restaurant.    By reviewing the restaurant on the net and introducing him to a friend who was teaching tourism, Sue set in motion a serious of events that led to the Beach Bungalow Build.   Sue and Peter returned to Zanzibar at the end of their travels to assist with the project, planning to stay a few weeks but ended up living in the isolated village of Pingwe for over two months.  The story of life on the island and progress of the build is depicted through a series of connecting stories and  photography.

I am proud to announce my second book which can be found at Amazon by clicking the above links – Smashwords gives a 30% sample for the reader to try.

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