Sunday, 22 September 2019

Lefkas in August

Another Greek post from the Ionian.  Or indeed, to be more specific, another Lefkas post.

This time from Nidri (Nydri / Νυδρί).   

First off I’d like to give a thumbs up to George, originally from Albania, who runs the Saranda Ola Kala taverna with his wife, Elizabeth, and their lovely daughters, Maria and Eleana.

At the time of visiting, it was crazy busy at the height of the season but George understood our dietary requirements, (Keto diet to control diabetes), and could not have been more accommodating or helpful.  

The taverna is decorated with dish towels from around the world, gifts from grateful customers, and while serving fresh, good Greek food, George entertains his customers and people in the street with colloquial phrases, like “cheers mate” said in perfect British accents, randomly shouting out “merry Christmas” and doing ball and cup juggling tricks in the street between taking orders.  (That may all sound a bit too ‘jolly’ and trying too hard but it works!).

George used to work on the Anna Maria ferry from Corfu to Paxos about twenty-two years ago and also used to do some acrobatics, all before he had four stents put in.  My notes also have something about his aunt, Raki, who is 77 years old but I have no idea what I was meant to remember about her!

George, Elizabeth, Maria and Eleana managed to work in the August heat but still bring that extra bit to their day to make sure everyone left smiling.  Thanks.

Meanwhile, almost opposite, on the other side of the road, is Cafe Pyxida, one of the many large cafes that opens both on totemain street and the harbour front and working there, is Glikeria.  

Glikeria also brought that extra something to work with her.  Looking after my other half, she was pandering to his every need, checking what size and shape mug he would like his coffee in, offering him hot milk if he preferred, that I jokingly complained she would show me up.  She immediately gave me a hug and withdrew the offer of hot milk from himself!  

When I asked if I could take her photo for the blog, like so many beautiful people, she was worried about how she looked but she is a truly gorgeous, lovely, genuine person.  Thanks Glikeria. 

So thank you to everyone above and thumbs up for making all our (Nydri) lives that bit better.

Now you've read this far, do you want to say thank you to anyone?  Well this is the place to do it.

If you would like to write a post to thank someone or tell us something nice that happened just get in touch and we would love to hear from you and to spread the thanks.  You don't have to know how to do the formatting and stuff, we'll help you with all that.  We just need some words and preferably some nice smiley photos.  (don't forget to ask if you can take them).  

This blog is for you, somewhere for you to have your say.  Thanks. 

Friday, 9 August 2019

London for locals and tourists

Some more everyday smiles and helpfulness in London Town.  The place that everyone says is so cold and unfriendly.  Have you tell you guys I’m a born and bred Londoner and I think London is as friendly or as cold as any other city on this earth, depending on what you’re expecting.  Having said that, I think all modern cities can be very lonely places. But moving on....

So first off is Tarkam.   I had some keys cuts a while ago but they weren’t quite right so I went back but the original guy wasn’t there and the whole key cutting operation has been taken over by a new operation, The London Cobbler.

Tarkam, and his father, Mehmet, now run the key cutting and shoe repair shop sharing space with Magic Dry-cleaners in Golders Green.

I haven’t met Mehmet yet, but I’m guessing he will be as lovely and helpful as his son.  Tarkam is third generation shoe repairer and key cutter as Mehmet followed in his father’s  footsteps.

Thank you to Tarkam for your helpfulness and smiles.

Meanwhile, on a beautiful day in July, I found myself back in the Houses of Parliament, looking at the beautiful Westminster Hall ceiling,  and the carved angels that the lovely Helga particularly wanted to see, having seen some in Norfolk and she had been researching them and the work of Hugh Herland.   ---  Also with us was “grumpy/curmudgeonly” (his words, not mine) Rob.  He wasn't either of those things but he really wanted to make it into the blog but didn't want to smile! So now you're in here Rob, hope you like it. Okay? ---- 

But back to the post...   I couldn’t get pictures of the amazing ceiling because of I only had my ‘phone with me rather than a proper camera and there is a bit of scaffolding there that day but if you’ve never been to Westminster Hall, so long as you book, anyone can go in.  If you want to know more about the Hall, you can read about the hammer-beam roof and the architecture here and if you want to visit there are all different ways and you’ll find them here

While I was there I thought I would see if Carlos was around to say hello, (see post, but it turned out he was on leave while parliament was in recess but I’m almost glad he wasn’t there as it meant I got to meet Deidre, Barbara and Gary.

Gary is a visitor assistant and it was he that directed me to Barbara and Deidre when I asked about Carlos.

Gary was working in the central lobby helping the tourists and visitors with directions and answers.  He got very badly smashed up in a car accident a few years ago, shattering his leg below the knee but due to his character, this did not stop him from subsequently completing three marathons, his last and best time being 501, his nickname.

Thank you, Gary, for your interesting stories and smiles.

Over to the Reception desk in the Central Lobby, I asked after Carlos and both Deidre and Barbara were there fielding every manner of request.  Their modern title being a “service delivery coordinator”, (Sorry but it makes me long for politically incorrect titles like, ‘personnel department’, ‘housewife’, ‘waiter’ and ‘secretary’.  That’s me feeling old).  Anyway, when I showed them the blog to explain why I wanted to find Carlos, well it was wonderful, we started chatting like we were long lost friends.

I was sorry I had to go but hope the next time I have occasion to be in the Houses of Parliament they’re both on the desk to say hello again.

Thank you, Barbara and Deidre, for the help, the chat, the gossip and the smiles. 

Since I couldn’t get a picture of Westminster Hall itself, here are a couple of shots from St. Stephen’s Hall, including a plaque to Marjory Hume, the suffragette who chained herself to the statue of the Second VIscount of Falkland and among the expected style of paintings, what I consider a ‘weird’ one possibly featuring death by Charles Sims, R.A.  Sorry they're not better shots but it's quite hard to ge the right angle etc.  Just go yourselves and look at them!

by Charles Sims, R.A.

St Stephen's Hall

by Vivian Forbes

by George Clauses, R.A.

So thank you Tarkam, Deidre, Gary and Barbara for bringing that little bit extra to work with you and smiling while you work.

If you have someone you want to thank, tell us something nice that happened, just get in touch, this blog is here for you.  

You don't have to know how to do the formatting and stuff, we'll help you with all that.  This blog is for you, somewhere for you to have your say, spread the positive and say thank you.  

We would love to hear from you.

Monday, 13 May 2019

London to Crewe via Camden Town and Milton Keynes

So another, seriously, overdue couple of thank yous.

The first is to Dami at a Unite Student building between Camden Town and Kings Cross on St Pancras Way.  

So there's a bit of backstory here, so bear with me...

There is a fabulous (new to me) app call Printt App - check it out at - which if you're a student let's you print stuff for free* but with advertising.  So no good for that final dissertation but perfect for those things you want to read offline or work on in draft.

(*It used to be totally free but as of mid April they now charge a small postage fee for delivery).

You could upload the material on the app and it would be mailed back to you within a couple of days or, some universities have installed Printt friendly printers where you can print out your stuff via the app.

photo courtesy of Unite website
Anyway, during March (I told you this was a long overdue thank you) I needed some stuff printed and normally I upload to the app and the next day or two later, voila it appears.  But we're now at five days and various things I had uploaded hadn't arrived so I contacted them via twitter, @printtapp, and sure enough they were having a problem with their delivery system and advised me to go to a nearby 'station' that I would be able to find via their app.

photo courtesy of google maps
Hence my turning up at Unite.  Now, it turns out that Printt think anyone can walk into their stations and use their app but for security reasons, (which makes sense when you think about it), no they can't.  However, we were met by Dami in reception and I explained our dilemma to him.  

photo courtesy of Unite website

Dami was fabulous, having pleaded our case and checked with the supervisor, Dami made an exception for me and my friend (also needing some printing done), and we were allowed to go up to their very nice and impressive study room to use their Printt printer.

Dami couldn't have been nicer or more helpful while making clear that it was against policy but that he and his supervisor were making an exception.  Thank you both for being human and Dami, thank you for the laughs too!

Meanwhile, also overdue, I want to thank Marc, a senior conductor on London Northwestern Railway.  

Travelling from Euston to Crewe is one of those journeys where your tickets can, depending on how much you paid, be only used at certain times or more importantly, on certain train line companies since different companies run the same route.

On boarding this LNR train, over the tannoy we heard an announcement about the tickets, which ones were valid etc etc, and then a different ending; the conductor added that since he really didn't like having to sell new tickets could everyone check theirs now before leaving the station and get off if necessary.  This little bit of humour added to the routine message made us all look up and acknowledge that someone was even speaking.

photo courtesy of LNR
Then we were off, and after a short while another announcement over the tannoy.  The conductor asked us all a question; "In 1934 what did a Yorkshireman, Percy Shaw lay the first of in this day? No Googling, I will tell you the answer before I leave the train at Milton Keynes.".

Well suddenly everyone in the carriage was laughing and smiling and looking at each other. It changed the atmosphere totally from the usual British one of everyone ignoring each other and just being in our private little worlds to one of community.  We were all discussing the question too and certainly in our carriage, we weren't checking it on the web.

When Marc came along to check our tickets, he was all smiles.  A really lovely attitude when asking to see the tickets, (unlike some conductors who assume you are a criminal without a valid ticket), and spent some time with Maggie, a giggling 4 month old on her first train journey.

I talked to him about how his attitude had affected the whole carriage and he said that's exactly what he wanted it to do, for strangers to talk to each other.  And it worked, I talked to three people in the carriage that day that I wouldn't have done otherwise.

So Marc, thank you and one more pic of that terrific smile!

Oh and the answer.... cats eyes!

Now, it's your turn.  Do you want to say thank you to anyone?  Well this is the place to do it.

If you would like to write a post to thank someone or tell us something nice that happened just get in touch and we would love to hear from you and to spread the thanks.
You don't have to know how to do the formatting and stuff, we'll help you with all that.  We just need some words and preferably some nice smiley photos.  (don't forget to ask if you can take them).  This blog is for you, somewhere for you to have your say.  Thanks.

....And if you don't want to write a whole post, then comments are lovely too.  Thanks.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Paxos, Italian food and London

It’s funny, I’ve always been good about bigging up strangers but never think to do it for friends.

But then I thought, how did this group of people working in a cafe become friends?  Because of their smiles and excellent service.

Caffe Italiano is a small restaurant cafe bar on the Greek, Ionian island of Paxos.  It is run and owned by the by Bartolo, originally from Bari in Italy.  

I love spending time there when on Paxos as the atmosphere is always one of great friendship; by all the staff making all their clientele feel like friends, they actually become friends.  It is the loveliest cause and effect circle.

There is Fiona, Bartolo’s wife, from Scotland, Daniel the chef, who we thought was Romanian, (not least as we visited him there in Bucharest), but no it turns out he’s from Transylvania and then there is Spyros, who lives in Athens but comes from a small village in Ioannina.  A truly international affair of an Italian restaurant cafe on a Greek island!
I hadn’t thought of doing a blog about them but then Spyros asked me why not and it was one of those lightbulb moments.  I am not a president that shouldn’t big up his own interests. ( - being written 3.3.19 - check the news of the day - this gets a big thumbs down), and just because they are friends now there is no reason I shouldn’t point out that these are folk that bring that extra smile to work and make everyone else’s day that much better for it, (added to some lovely food - thank you, Dani).
Spyros, Bartolo and Daniel

As well as being able to chill away hours with a coffee and a book, it’s a real hub of a meeting place and you can often find Ian of Il Pareo, the lovely next-door boutique selling gorgeous Indian and Balinese clothes and gifts, sitting at the cafe holding court.  You might also be lucky and catch the ever smiling Sam and Stuart of there.  Sam writes one of my favourite Paxos blogs Off Season Paxos I will probably get in trouble here for mentioning two lots of folk and then not a lot of others so forgive me, in Oscar’s style speech.

If you want to know more about Caffe Italiano they are on facebook at and should be re-opening for the season some time in April until October.  But for now, a big thumbs up to Barto, Fiona, Daniel and Spyro, thank you for the smiles and look forward to more to come. 

And why might you ask has it taken me so long to post this thumbs up; oh life stuff but then this morning lovely Louise reminded me of the joy of thanking someone.  

We were at Prezzo in Northumberland Avenue the other evening, (after seeing the wonderful show Caroline Or Change and after we left, we were just getting to Charing Cross Station when the waiter ran up with my ‘phone which I had left in the restaurant.  I wasn’t thinking so didn’t get his name or anything else before he ran back to the restaurant but Louise, being one of the smiliest people I know, did think.  She followed up and wrote to Prezzo and we now know the lovely waiter who ‘saved me’ was Bajram.  So a big thumbs up and thank you to both Bajram and Louise.  

That's the end of a first post in a while but, don’t forget this blog is really for you, so if there is someone you would like to thank for bringing that bit extra to their work and your day, please do get in touch, details below. 

Monday, 5 November 2018

A Guest Post from Ruth Cherrington - THE POPPY SELLER

In the weeks before Remembrance Day, November 11th, the poppy seller becomes noticeable on our streets. Those shaking the collection tins and handing out the poppies range from quite young people ‘doing their bit’ to much older people who’ve been doing it for so many years they can’t remember how many.  

Coventry station
I saw one veteran on November 1st who probably fell in the latter category. Derrick had a table laid out quite nicely with a variety of poppies on offer and the tin there for donations. This was at Coventry rail station, a place I’ve spent a lot of time at over the decades (believe me, a lot!) as I’ve waited for trains up and down that line visiting parents and family in my home town whilst living and working in London.  It’s always been a cold station and Derrick looked freezing that day as he stood there doing his job. But he clearly didn’t mind. He is a dedicated collector for the Royal British Legion, the organisation that began the poppy campaign back in 1921.   

I already had a poppy but I had to have one from Derrick’s table. And I very much wanted to shake his hand. He had an impressive display of medals on his jacket and I asked where they all came from. One half of them were his father’s, he told me, earned during the First World War, the rest were his from the Second World War plus some other commemorative badges. I told him he was doing a grand job, had done a grand job. When I asked for his photo, he didn’t hesitate for a minute and stood to attention.

Courtesy of BBC News
Then he was back to collecting and distributing poppies. Trade was brisk! It’s a busy station. During the wars, it was also busy with troops going off to fight, some coming back on leave to see loved ones briefly, or to recover from injuries. After the blitz, the King came to visit the city that suffered so badly from enemy bombing that a new word was invented- to Coventrate. The devastation of the city’s ancient cathedral became an icon of suffering yet also of reconciliation.    

It’s all very different now, this chilly 1960s station, about to undergo a revamp as the city itself changes around it. I imagine Derrick raised quite a lot of money that chilly November day in the year we mark 100 years since the end of the First World War.
Thank you, Derrick, not just for the poppies!

Ruth Cherrington

Ruth Cherrington can be found on
twitter @CHistorians and at 
Author of
Not Just Beer and Bingo! A social history of working men's clubs,
The Dirty Stop Outs Guide to 1970s Coventry and
The Dirty Stop Outs Guide to 1980s Coventry 

Photo of Coventry station courtesy: By Snowmanradio [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0  (], from Wikimedia Commons