Delivery, Small Island-Style


A dozen years ago – can it really be? I’ve never lived in a place for so long! – Yorgos Orfanos showed up one day at the Honey Factory to deliver all my belongings I’d shipped from England.

Now I’ve been in my own house, equally unbelievably, for five years. When I bought it, I’d agreed to buy it with all the contents and I didn’t want to change too much about this authentic little island house by the sea. But my house is finally entering the twenty-first century – which feels OK now that it’s 2024 and all.

It started with a trip to Rhodes a few weeks ago to take the car for its MOT (KTEO), meet my mum at the airport, and take Lisa to the vet; then since I had the car, we went for a drive out of town. I’m pretty sure last time I visited the IKEA in Rhodes there wasn’t much of a showroom. That may have been several years ago.

This time, it was rather more impressive, and I’d been thinking a few of my old things really had to go. Maybe I was ready for a new couch (I have two, both second-hand, or maybe third-hand). And some new outdoor furniture. And a thick rug would be nice under my feet in the winter. Oh, and some lightweight, stackable chairs. And…

The sales assistant at IKEA at first insisted they didn’t deliver to Tilos. But luckily I knew that they did. We insisted. They checked. They did deliver to Tilos. We placed the order.

Back in Tilos a few days later, the next thing that happened was that another hotplate became unusable on my old cooker. This stove was also in the house when I bought it five years ago, and already very old, but two of the hotplates and the oven still worked. Why change it…? I even painted over the rust a couple of years ago with white enamel. Really. And painted little icons to show which knob was for which hotplate.

But recently it seemed the oven only had two settings, off or burning. And there were no numbers left on the knobs, so only I knew how to work it. To be fair, I have considered buying a new one, but the little hotplate for the briki, the Greek coffee pot, has been something of a sticking point – and not because it hasn’t been cleaned. Most new cookers don’t have them, and I didn’t want an extra appliance. I liked making my Greek coffee on my stove.

Then one night when my mum cooked dinner, one of the knobs came flying off onto the floor. An accident? I’m not sure… But I did go online and order a lovely new cooker.  

Anyway, so, a few days ago I was in Livadia when I saw Yorgos hanging out with a group of guys I knew, and as I said hello, I mentioned that I’d ordered some stuff, because Yorgos is still the man who transports large items by truck via the big ship from Rhodes to Tilos.

‘It might be here already,’ he said. ‘What is it, chairs?’

‘Yes, and other things… Call me!’ I said. I was excited; and then as several days passed, I figured it must have been someone else’s chairs that had arrived.

Delivery to Tilos is fairly haphazard, at the mercy of boat schedules plus mysterious other obstacles. Christmas cards from the UK arrive in February. Last year I ordered something from a company that refunded my money because it took so long to arrive, even though I told them that was normal. Yesterday I received an email from another company asking me for feedback on my recent purchase of a new bag. Don't you get tired of being asked for feedback on everything? But in any case, it hasn’t arrived yet.

This morning was Sunday morning, as peaceful as most Sunday mornings at this time of year. Lisa stayed in bed after a big walk to the monastery yesterday, so I made myself a Greek coffee and a little breakfast. Then I noticed someone standing at my gate, and heard my name shouted. It wasn’t Nikos the fisherman, and didn’t seem to be one of the farmers with vegetables…

It was Yorgos, with a truckload of boxes that he said were all for me.

‘Where d’you want it?’ he asked as he and his helper started unloading and carrying stuff in.

I suggested they just stack most of the stuff against the outside wall and I’d sort it out myself, but clearly the cooker at least would need to find a place in the kitchen to await the electrician.

‘If I’d known it was coming,’ I said to Yorgos, smiling, ‘if you’d called me, I could have made some space and cleaned…’

But Yorgos perhaps thought that most people would have their house already in some kind of order and cleanliness, i.e. as a general state of affairs. Whenever I clean, I think how nice it looks and that I should do it more often. But then I go for a walk instead, or into the garden to plant some seeds. And with my front door always open, the kitchen floor seems constantly covered in mud, dust, sand and bits of firewood.

I hurriedly moved boots, dog food, bags, socks, snorkel, sarongs, etc etc and swept a space for the cooker, and the guys carried it in.

Yorgos said, ‘Don’t stand on it,’ and grinning, pointed to the icon on the packaging on top of the cooker that did in fact show a pair of feet and an X over them.

‘Oh, I was hoping to dance on it!’

(And anyone who's been to a party in my kitchen knows that stranger things happen.)

The whole thing had taken maybe ten minutes and then they were gone, with everything piled neatly. I thought Yorgos probably doesn’t call people in advance because this way it all gets done quickly, or as they say in Greek, derived from the ancient Doric I believe, ‘taka-taka.’

It was a warm, sunny morning, but somehow it felt like Christmas. I retrieved my coffee and started opening my first package.