Posts Tagged household management

Power to the people

Many of us in the “western” world take electricity for granted – it is just there, at the flick of a switch. However, in this country, we are rapidly beginning to understand the relationship which the less developed parts of the world have with it.

For starters – it is “normal” for us to have power cuts if the weather is bad. In many places in Greece, the power is transported on overhead lines; this is a mountainous country and it is totally impractical to install underground cables. We understand, therefore, that the weather can cause problems. In our local area, the engineers from the electricity company work wonders to restore power as fast as possible after there has been a cut. Even last winter, when storms went on for days, they were out there sorting out the lines.

What is “new” is the fact that, for many people now, cuts are nothing to do with the weather. The cost of electricity has risen hugely, as this article shows, and more and more are being cut off because they can’t pay their bills.

Every winter, more and more people are finding that their electricity bills are completely unaffordable. Central heating oil costs have risen sharply as well, so many have cut back on that as well. The “old” way of heating homes (wood burning stoves) is making a comeback, causing smog in the cities, as people burn anything they can find – not just seasoned olive logs, which is what we are fortunate enough to have for nothing.

Electricity charges here are on a sliding scale – the more you use the higher the charge per unit, and all the sundry charges are linked to consumption by a series of complicated multipliers. Summer isn’t any better than winter, as aircon use eats electricity. This has been a cold winter, especially in northern Greece, so there have been some frightening bills. Our own latest one was fairly scary, as I’ve been using the tumble dryer more, due to a cold, wet spell, and we use the aircon fan to distribute the heat from our wood burner better. I’m now reading the meter every week, to see just how much we are using and to try to find further ways to cut back, and keep below the threshold at which the price per unit goes up!

I’m now off to defrost the freezer to make sure that works efficiently.


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Winning the household battle

One of the things which I enjoy most about living here is the sense of exploration which is entailed in the simplest of daily tasks. When we first arrived “permanently” it was necessary to get to grips with shopping for boring stuff (like cleaning materials) rather than just the type of thing I’d bought when we’d been here on holiday.

Most language guides tend not to give you the Greek words for cleaning products – tourists & business people generally don’t need to buy this stuff. Some serious supermarket exploration has taught me what is what, of course, but I’m still fazed by the fact that there are some products which seem to be totally unavailable or which cost the earth. For instance – why are soft toilet rolls so expensive?  Most people are aware of the problems with the drains here, and that you should put used paper in a bin, rather than down the loo, but this shouldn’t have a bearing on the cost of the stuff, surely. Kitchen paper is a mystery, too. Either dirt cheap, in huge rolls, and useless for any task involving water, or horribly expensive and effective. Nothing in between.

Washing powder/liquid – I’ve found that Lidl’s “own brand” stuff is fine – if a bit highly scented for my liking, and around half the price of “branded” things.

Given the economic situation, I’ve decided that this is one area where I can beat “them” at their own game. I bitterly resent spending my hard earned cash on cleaning materials, with 23% VAT added, so I’m making my own where and when I can. The simple solution and wonder product is vinegar which will, it seems, clean virtually anything – either on its own, or with other ingredients added. Malt vinegar isn’t available here, but wine vinegar is plenty cheap enough – 75c for a litre. I use it neat for cleaning windows & other shiny surfaces. I steep zest from a kilo of lemons in 1 litre of vinegar for 2 weeks. Remove the lemon peel & decant the liquid. This can be used in a spray bottle as an all purpose cleaner – great on the mould which is ever present in Greek houses at this time of year – or diluted for larger tasks, like washing floors.

My favourite discovery, though, is using a half & half mix of this liquid & olive oil as furniture polish. Pour a small quantity of each into a jam jar & shake (like vinaigrette)! Apply very sparingly, allow to dry for about 10 minutes, then buff with a clean cloth. Best to make in very small quantities as you need it. I normally use either one teaspoon of each ingredient (for a small piece of furniture) or a tablespoon for something larger. You can soon gauge how much you will need. The end result is beautifully shined furniture, a pleasant fresh (rather than artificial) smell, at a cost of virtually nothing!

The olive oil comes from these trees!

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