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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lighthearted and funny
I'm afraid that I totally disagree with the previous reviewer. The book made me laugh out loud several times. Yes many people have done a book on a similar theme before but this one is particularly well written and funny, particularly the contrast between uptight John Humphrys and his laid back son. Being middle class and buying a property abroad is not a crime, and I...
Published on 13 Sep 2009 by Sarah

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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A 'nice' book about building a home in Greece
This is a fairly factual telling of how tough it can be to build a second home a long way from your regular home - and in a country as laced with red tape as Greece.

John Humphrys is a news journalist and it shows, with his son Christopher coming across as perhaps the more natural of the two storytellers.

The problems encountered, the beauty of the...
Published on 9 Feb 2010 by C. GLYNN-JONES


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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lighthearted and funny, 13 Sep 2009
This review is from: Blue Skies and Black Olives: A Survivor's Tale of Housebuilding and Peacock Chasing in Greece (Hardcover)
I'm afraid that I totally disagree with the previous reviewer. The book made me laugh out loud several times. Yes many people have done a book on a similar theme before but this one is particularly well written and funny, particularly the contrast between uptight John Humphrys and his laid back son. Being middle class and buying a property abroad is not a crime, and I strongly recommend this book.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To whom it may concern: a biased review..., 2 Feb 2010
By 
K. Iliopoulos (Athens, Greece) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Blue Skies and Black Olives: A Survivor's Tale of Housebuilding and Peacock Chasing in Greece (Hardcover)
...because I've known Chris for a long time and I've seen his father twice: once in Chris' wedding (a surrealistic event in many ways) and once in Top Gear (I said seen not met!). So first of all I feel obliged to confirm the accuracy of what is written. It's not fiction, it's the Greek reality. Being both a Greek and a friend I think my point is valid beyond doubt.

To be honest I don't understand the criticism about the book. It probably won't win a Pulitzer or a Nobel (although we had some surprises there lately) but it's certainly entertaining (a real detoxing time in the day) and worth reading for a number of reasons:

If you are a foreigner (sorry, I mean a non-Greece resident) I truly believe that this story is an insightful view to what contemporary Greece is, beyond the days on a beach "chosen by Gods", where you can "live your myth" under the sun, in an all-inclusive package offered by your local travel agent. Although it might not tempt you to build a house here, it might make you jump on a regular flight and visit a place in the other 9/10 of the country during the other 3/4 of the year.

On the flip side if you do live in Greece, this can be a really enjoyable, yet quite accurate, way to have a different view on our contemporary reality, through the clearer eyes of a "foreigner". What was striking though for me is that in many cases I felt that Mr. Humphrys conveyed an underlying optimism about this country, beyond the ordinary British phlegm, something that made me really questioning his sanity, but being who he is, I guess he should know better. Maybe there is hope. The only consolation for us (the Greeks) is the fact that eloquence in English, seems to go hand-in-hand with the increased use of Greek or Greek-originated words. Isn't that fantastic?

IN SHORT: WHEREVER YOU ARE FROM, BUY THIS BOOK, YOU WILL ENJOY IT!

PS One star is missing so that I sound more objective!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a great read!, 19 Sep 2009
By 
E. Jones - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Blue Skies and Black Olives: A Survivor's Tale of Housebuilding and Peacock Chasing in Greece (Hardcover)
This is one of those books you just don't want to put down. I loved the contrast between the famously grumpy old man that is John Humphrys and his evidently chilled out son Christopher. It's so much more than just the story of building a house in Greece - although that in itself proves hilarious. Christopher offers an insight into Greece and its traditions that can only come from someone who has clearly immersed himself fully in the culture. This isn't just another 'celebrity' telling a story, it's an entertaining take on life in a country I knew little about (there's some really interesting historical stuff too). It takes a lot for me to chuckle while reading a book, but the peacock chapter had me literally laughing out loud. Whether or not you're a fan of Mr Humphrys, this is a top book - I'll be buying it for my friends this Christmas!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If Humphrys could only learn some Greek!!, 26 Jan 2011
This review is from: Blue Skies and Black Olives: A Survivor's Tale of Housebuilding and Peacock Chasing in Greece (Hardcover)
Loved the book! It should be mandatory reading for all the Greek bureaucrats whose job is to invite/encourage foreign investment in Greece. Talking about a system that needs to change! Despite the fact that I am Greek, it took me ...10 years to build my house in Corfu. Like Mr. Humphrys, I lived far away(in New York), but I was in Corfu as often as I could,I had my father and brother living next door to the house I was building and was using builders/carpenters etc from my village whom i had known all my life. None of these helped and although now Mr. Humphrys' stories make me laugh out loud, they still bring back similar to his and unbelievably frustrating memories I would like to forget. But there was one thing that I would like to suggest to all the wonderful Brits who seem to love to come to Corfu (or any other Greek place for that matter)and make it a second home: please make an effort to learn some Greek. It's not as difficult as Mr. Humphrys would have you believe and besides, Greeks are very forgiving with visitors mispronouncing words. It will not help you with the building of your house (Alas it made zero difference in my case being a native Greek!) but it will certainly make your life so much more enjoyable there. Having lived in Canada and New York for over 30 years now, I am so impressed with how quickly people from other countries assimilate and learn English. But English speaking people do not behave the same way when vising or living in other parts of the world. A real shame in my opinion.So Mr. Humphrys, now that your house is done start learning Greek and tell us about this adventure in your next book. MS
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read, 1 Dec 2009
By 
Tromba Marina (Gloucestershire and Chania, Crete) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Blue Skies and Black Olives: A Survivor's Tale of Housebuilding and Peacock Chasing in Greece (Hardcover)
This is all too believable - we've been there! - and if you're thinking of building a house in Greece, you'll be well primed. (I wish we had had a peacock experience; but I'm glad our pool hasn't started - yet - sliding down the hillside.) It's essential to have someone on the spot who understands Greek people and Greek ways, and Christopher's contributions are every bit as entertaining and well-written as his father's. They write with real affection for each other, and for the land and its people - perhaps especially when describing some of the frustrations of the project and their life there!

Middle class? Not so, if you actually read the book. But even if it is - what's wrong with that, for goodness sake? Because he plainly hasn't the time (and perhaps the skill - he doesn't try to hide his DIY exploits) to do the actual labouring himself, must John be denied his Greek paradise? I suppose, because he's a Classical Musician, Christopher must be a Middle-Class Elitist. What nonsense. Some reviewers' comments here just reek of sour envy, which is rather sad, and reflects more on them than on this book.

Anyone who can relax, Greek-style, and isn't simply scouring the book for things to be outraged by, will find huge amounts of enjoyment in every chapter here, as well as sympathetic (though often bemused) insight into all sorts of aspects of Greek life and culture. It's a great holiday-read, and as a "relocation" book, it's one of the best out there.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book this year!, 26 Sep 2009
This review is from: Blue Skies and Black Olives: A Survivor's Tale of Housebuilding and Peacock Chasing in Greece (Hardcover)
I absolutely loved this book. We all know that John Humphrys can tell a good story -his journalistic career speaks for itself - but the hidden gem in this book is his son Christopher. The banter between father and son is very funny and adds another whole layer to this book. Christopher tells great stories about his many years spent living in Greece (I loved the saga surrounding his marriage to his Greek wife)and does so with real flair and wit. I'd be very happy to go out and down a few ouzo's with this guy - he has clearly lived life to the full while in Greece! Perhaps this pair would like to tackle another building project so that we can do some more laughing from the comfort of our sofas.. Great stuff!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hellenic insights, 30 Oct 2009
By 
Michael Sweet (Greece) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Blue Skies and Black Olives: A Survivor's Tale of Housebuilding and Peacock Chasing in Greece (Hardcover)
In following the process of building a house in the Peloponnese, this is a story of contemporary Greece - in all its glory and frustration. The anecdote on how Chris had to undertake an Orthodox christening, in order to marry, is one of the book's many typical gems, revealing the culture and living traditions of an adopted homeland. The experiences of father and son, shared with great humour and insight, make Blues Skies and Black Olives a highly entertaining read. Few books make me laugh out loud, but this is one that did. Highly recommended for Greekophiles, or anyone who has ever wished to leave a northern winter behind!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully Greek!, 24 April 2010
By 
Lincs Reader (Lincolnshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Blue Skies and Black Olives: A Survivor's Tale of Housebuilding and Peacock Chasing in Greece (Hardcover)
I am a big fan of all things Greek and my ultimate dream is to live there one day, so I have a love for these 'moving to Greece' memoirs and have read quite a few now. I was especially attracted to this one as John Humphrys is such a well-known and respected figure and it almost seems as though it is a friend or at least an acquaintance who is writing this story.
John's son Christopher had already been living in Athens for well over 10 years and is married to a Greek girl. John often visited them and when he saw the site, overlooking the blue sea with uninterrupted views, he decided there and then that he had to have the land, and had to build his dream villa.
The story that follows is often laugh out loud funny, those of us who are familiar with 'Greek time' will nod in agreement as John waits in vain for tradesmen to turn up on the day that they said they would. The notion of anyone Greek arriving on time is unheard of, and it took John quite some time and a lot of raised blood pressure to realise this!
John's son Christopher co-authors the book and was left in Greece to oversee proceedings whilst John was back in England working. It was poor Christopher who had to report back when things had gone wrong (often).
Filled with memorable Greek characters and stray peacocks - lots of drinking, back slapping and shaking of Greek heads - this book is a wonderful read. I wanted to return to Greece on the very next plane, to sip a Greek coffee whilst looking out to sea and listening to the locals argue and laugh in the background.
Wonderful - I'd recommend this to everyone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly entertaining, scarily enlightening, & truly enviable!, 18 Jan 2010
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This review is from: Blue Skies and Black Olives: A Survivor's Tale of Housebuilding and Peacock Chasing in Greece (Hardcover)
I love this book. Shortly after devouring it at a fairly swift, compulsive rate, I wanted to re-read it to pick up all the nuances. And the second reading was just as absorbing.

The main 'raison d'etre' of the book may have been to document the adventures and extraordinary obstacles of buying and building a dream house in Greece, but it has so much more. Sections of the book are written by John's son, Chris, and the interplay and contrast between father and son is terrifically enlightening and charming. John is (on the surface) the realist/pessimist 'Grumpy old man', while Chris is the diametric opposite - the easy-going eternal optimist. (How can two such diverse personalities come from one gene pool, and even more surprisingly understand and compliment each other so well?)

There are many clues and flashbacks to the Humphrys' family history, which particularly shed light on 'the making of' John, and how he came to be the professional, focused, hard-working, successful, demanding, sometimes difficult, but ultimately thoroughly agreeable 'Grumpy Old Man' with an ascerbic (and very witty) sense of humour that we recognise from his public persona and writing.

Chris, on the other hand, lives in the very different, more relaxed (if equally demanding), world of the professional musician. He has been working and living in Greece for 20 years. Having married a Greek girl, and with a young family, he is also thoroughly absorbed into the Greek way of life, and has many tales to tell with fascinating insights into the Greek national character, and the all-important Greek traditions. His contribution to the book adds light and contrast, and he is an engaging natural writer.

Between them, John and Chris have produced an intelligent, absorbing, well-written book which highlights the contrasts and contradictions of that sometimes-exasperating, but essentially wonderful country that many of us love.

If there has to be a criticism, it has to be the flow of the book. Too often it dodges back and forth in time and subject, so that for example at a critical time when you want to know what happens next in the Greek building project, you are suddenly taken back 10 years, reading about John's impulsive venture into Welsh dairy farming. (Reticent of an Eastenders' soap technique to spin out the suspense, I think?) These diversions are all interesting, and I do want to hear about them, but I'd rather a chronological approach, than have them interrupt the ongoing flow?

Anyway, that's a small quibble that won't spoil my enjoyment of the book. It is perfect for a holiday read, essential for anyone mad and brave enough to contemplate a home in Greece, and its pages are also a welcome escape to the Greek sunshine on any grey English day. How I ultimately admired John and Chris's tenacity, and even more how I envy them their own well-deserved piece of Greek heaven!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars nice to read, 5 Feb 2011
I had this book as a Christmas gift,from a friend in its been fun reading it and heart-warming... People who try and travel abroad and make a new life usually have a lot of gumption! we have done the same...I laughed heartily in some places.... A fun read.

I know many books are out there about travel or people that flit abroad, I got 2 for Christmas, Chasing dreams in Lefkas and this one...

The Greek seem to be a fun bunch! Wonder what the food is like? We expats get everywhere ! :o)
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