Saturday, 5 September 2015


Time after time we are hearing about these poor refugees on TV, radio etc. and yes one has to have a concern about their well-being.  However give a thought to the actions of our ancestors.  Did they flee from war?  NO they fought for their country, to make it a safe country for their descendants.  So safe others now see it as the "place to be".

Ask yourself the question why are all these young men capable of military service leaving their country, leaving their families etc. and not fighting to make their country a better place for their descendants?  Perhaps part of the solution to the current situation is for Western governments to place those capable into military service, train them to fight and help them return to fight for the freedom of their own country from tyranny. Fight to make their country safe for their dependants and descendants. 

These actions would also immediately stop the flow of economic migrants, the thought of being placed in the military would not be that appealing would it?

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Come on holiday

As another tourist season is well and truly under-way on mainland Greece and it's islands there is of course hope by the local communities the season will bring "big spenders".  With the Euro exchange rate against other foreign currencies at a 7 year high Greece needs all the tourist income it can gain to offset it's massive "imbalance" in the economic balance of trade and indeed it's massive EU debts.  However the Greek Tourist Board seem to be doing very little to help win the tourists, is this because there is no money for advertising, or just plain lethargy?

Few places in Europe can offer the brilliant blue sea and unspoilt beaches Greece can offer, if partying is your thing some of the island resorts may be your ideal location. If you want peace and quiet, then again the choice is massive.

Do not let the political situation in Greece put you off coming to this magnificent country for your holidays, this will not effect you as a tourist and your support for the local people who have business in tourist resorts will make all the difference!

Friday, 1 August 2014

UK retail scene...

Having spent quite a lot of time away from the UK over the last few years and having retired from the retail grocery trade some 6 years ago I decided to take a closer look at the current supermarket trade that appears to be going through a difficult time.

The grocery trade has seen difficult times before, in the mid 70's discount stores like Kwik Save & Lo-Cost rapidly grew at the expense of the mid market and upper end supermarkets. So the rise of Lidl & Aldi today should be no surprise for the "big four". The problem is memories are too short, and of course many true grocers from those early days have long since retired. 

So is this just a repetition of those early days?

Well truthfully, yes and no.........certainly interest rates are a fraction of what they were in the 70's. Yes unemployment is high, yes money is tight (isn't it always) and yes people are more demanding.  However the question must be asked have the modern day supermarkets (the big four) lost their way?

I am more inclined to answer a   B I G   yes to the last question.

Tesco built its early growth on a "pile it high, sell it cheap" philosophy, in later years growth was through expansion both at home and overseas, now instead of being satisfied at being a leader in the "middle market" it is trying to be all things to all people. Consumers do not need to see Tesco store staff dressed in fancy dress costumes "making shopping fun" and being told to raise money for charity.  Staff "forced" to make idle conversation so you "feel" welcome.....what most consumers want is choice on the shelves (not just the current trend of 75% Tesco own brand that make higher profit margins), good prices across the whole retail shop (not just special offers on demand lines, and massive mark ups on toiletries and less price obvious items) and quick, efficient service.

Morrisons also have moved away from its true roots, whilst early Safeway trading practices were sound and solid, latter year Safeway policies and customer facing practices faltered. Ironically Morrisons seems to have been enveloped in those latter year practises.  I have little time for Ken Morrison but he was a "grocer" and knew how to watch the "pennies" with a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach to trading.

Sainsbury still take the approach that they will allow you to shop with them and who can afford to do a whole weeks shop in Waitrose?

Is it any wonder "Joe Public" are voting with their feet and walking to Lidl & Aldi?  Frustrated as it can be with queues at the checkout all too often, but there is a fine balance between price-variety-service. The two main discounters are on the whole clean and simple stores, no frills, no pretence to be something they are not but just offer an acceptable product for an acceptable price.  Now if they can address those checkout queues currently I see no limit on what they can achieve in the UK.

Let us now look at food producers, have you noticed not just how prices are increasing, but in many, many instances how weight of items has been reduced. Compare for yourself, one example is the now 190gm jar of coffee that has always been 200gm (think this was Dowe Egberts, but I stand corrected). The biscuits that drop to 185gm instead of 200gm and so on. Look closely, you will be amazed and I am not even mentioning the quality of some supermarket own label items that have greatly deteriorated, especially in the processed food and ready to eat ranges.

Net margins in the 70's were as low as 2-3% in some cases, now its in double figures and of course shareholders want more.

So to use another catch phrase, come retailers.....GET BACK TO BASICS.

Simple, well stocked shelves......Two brand leaders and one own label of any item only......find out what the customer wants, not what buyers think should be stocked.....efficient checkout service.....a basic greeting not a life story or the Spanish inquisition from staff.....concentrate on YOUR role to provide food not sponsorship or fund raising in your stores.....a fair price and quality across the whole range of goods stocked, not high / low prices....

because if you don't it will definitely be:-

 Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, Über alles in U.K

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Road tolls and FREE Britain

Come to Britain and drive on our roads FOR FREE for up to 6 months in your European car.......It never fails to amaze me why the UK government have not imposed a road toll tax on foreign vehicles that enter at our ports. Certainly an easy way to raise funds for the Exchequer. 

I have just driven through Italy from Bari and entering France through the Frejus Tunnel the toll costs added up to 186 Euros !!!  Of course on top of that I have French toll road fees also. 

Come on Mr Cameron, reduce some of our taxes...and introduce boarder fees on foreign vehicles......

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Life and money......

Seen from our balcony snow appearing on the Taygetos mountains can only mean one thing, its nearly Christmas.  So as another year approaches its end what has  been happening in Greece.  Truthfully down here in the Peloponnese not all that much!  The economy is still bouncing along at the bottom of the ocean (but at least the ocean is beautiful and blue)  with little growth on the business front, but perhaps the housing market is starting to move very slowly. Our accountant told us of four of her British clients that had sold properties recently and a friend of mine has just sold his property in Corfu. 

When you look around its a very mixed story, drive towards Kalamata along the old Athenon road and around one in five businesses have gone, there are many empty buildings. Yet walk along the sea front or city square and the terraces are filled with people drinking frappe etc., and no these are not just tourists but locals. Its hard to get a "handle" on just how the financial situation has really effected this part of Greece.  A builder we know said to us, you may think that old man and old lady in the village may look tired and poor, but when I do work for them they pay me from a suitcase of money! 

Thankfully though the overall cost of living has remained more or less constant this year, and hopefully next.  Oil prices are level (if not minutely lower) than the same time last year. Road taxes for car for 2014 are practically the same as in 2013 and during the year we did see the 23% tax on eating out lowered to 13%.  However reduced earnings and pensions for many people are still very much in evidence.  A school teacher earning just over 2000 euro per month in 2012 is now earning 1350 euro per month.  Imagine how you would feel, and what cut backs would you have to make if your salary dropped by 30%.

So what next?  Well currently its olive harvest and families tend to get together to gather in the crop, and that is the difference here to much of the "western" world. Families do come together to help each other, be it to gather olives or to look after "granny" in their home during the colder months. Sundays still remain special family days (despite the Troika pushing the country to introduce Sunday retail trading) when their sons and daughters bring their children back to "mum's house" for a traditional Sunday meal and play in the garden with Grand-dad. 

What does 2014 hold for the Greek people?  Well I recall a story told me by an old Greek man as  he mocked an American tourists' idea.

"There I was sitting on the harbour front having just come out of the five seater taverna I own and run about to set up my fishing rod for the second time in the day.   This American, who had been eating in my taverna came and sat by me and said :-

"Kostas, you should expand that business, you offer great food, there's plenty of opportunity out here.  In a few years you could have a whole group of taverna's bearing your name and making you lots of money". 
......and why do I need lots of money I said, what would I do with it?

Well he said, "you could retire, buy a small place buy the harbour and fish every day.........."

I rest my case........................................

Saturday, 9 November 2013

The summer of 2013

click on photo to enlarge

This summer we travelled a fair bit around Greece, including trips to Kefalonia, Evia, Poros as well as many other places on the Peloponnese. The original plan was to take our caravan, but our experiences of a couple of years back with the weather getting so hot in June to the end of August demanded a rethink as it tends to be rather uncomfortable without air-conditioning. On top of this road tolls here in Greece tend to on average double if you are towing a caravan, as can ferry prices. Added to that the extra fuel costs of towing and after a brief search on the internet it was clear it was actually cheaper to book self catering apartments, again taking into account a nights stay at a caravan site would cost 20-25 euro.

To give you some example of what you can get if you search, a week on Kefalonia at Easter cost us just 87 euro !!!!  (see apartments below)

Of course these islands become far more popular in the main holiday season, but are far more pleasant when not busy!  The nearest airport to our home (Kalamata) according to local Greek newspapers had this year the second largest percentage increase in tourist arrivals in the country. Saying that, that only resulted in about 15 planes a week. However next year we are already hearing that more carriers are planning a longer season, good news for the tourist industry.

So are things picking up in Greece?  Despite what many will say, I do  believe they are. Yes times are still hard for locals in the village, yes unemployment is still appallingly high and there is a long way to go but locals here are no stranger to hardship and adapting, something perhaps we British find much harder to do.

To see more photographs of the places we have visited why not visit  "Rosie's Blog"  at  she has been far more active than me at keeping the blog up to date.