It's me

My name is John, but I use the nickname Ostraco on the Net. Ostraco is Greek for seashell. It also happens to be the name of my favourite bar in Plakias, Crete. This is my favourite holiday destination, which I have been visiting regularly for nearly 30 years.

I live in Plymouth, Devon – although I am Cornish by birth, and very proud of it. I think my Cornish upbringing is why I love the sunshine and the beach so much - after all, we do have the best beaches in the UK!

In 'real life' I used to work in Computing. I joined the Land Registry IT section in 1980, and have worked in many areas - programming, system design, procurement, computer audit etc. The most interesting jobs were those involved with the people rather than the machines - I enjoyed running the training team, then moved into project management. After managing a project to merge telecoms into the IT section, I stayed in that area, and spent several years as National Telecoms Manager. But telephone systems are just computer applications these days, so I we merged with the IT Networks team, where I spent the last few years of my career.

 
 

In 2009, after visiting the doctor with a small lump near my left knee, I was diagnosed with a Sarcoma. This is a rare type of cancer that develops in the supporting or connective tissues of the body such as muscle, bone, nerves, cartilage, blood vessels and fat. In my case, it was in the leg muscle. My luck was in however. I met a great specialist surgeon who guided me through 3 operations, then handed me over to an Oncologist for radiotherapy. Today, everything is clear - and I'm down to regular checks at the hospital. If you are interested, I highly recommend this 15 minute video, which reflects many of my experiences so well: VIEW VIDEO Since my diagnosis, I have met many helpful professionals, but must also pay tribute to the efforts of Macmillan Cancer Support. They run a fantastic drop in centre at my local hospital, but also fund so much research, often supplementing our under-funded National Health Service

I was still working when diagnosed, but having had 5 months off during my treatment, I returned to work thinking I might reduce my hours. However, the economy (and poor LR management) being what it is, I was able to take a redundancy package shortly after. So, I have been a gentleman of leisure for over a year. I don’t understand those who are afraid to retire. While appreciate working on will be a necessary evil for many in years to come,  my pension provides all I need, so I have been able to enjoy:

 
 

TRAVEL

It’s more than 20 years since my first visit to Greece. At the time, I was really busy at work, helping to run a restaurant in my spare time, and taking part in a lot of amateur dramatics. No wonder I was stressed out. A very good friend of mine also needed a holiday, and suggested that we might both benefit from 2 weeks on a sunny beach. So off we went. At very short notice, and ended up in Lesvos, where we relaxed totally. That holiday is still very vivid in my memory – including the 36 hour delay on the way home. We were both hooked, and I’ve been back to Greece every year since – at least once.
We tried several islands, before picking Plakias, Crete from the brochures, and loved it when we got there. The following year, everywhere we looked at didn’t seem as nice – so we returned, again and again. Eventually, my friend married – and her husband wouldn’t let her come with me! So I have been going with other friends, who all love it – or even on my own – ever since. It’s not the most attractive place I’ve visited - or the cheapest. It’s just got that certain something which makes me want to go back for more.

As Plakias is a summertime destination, I should also mention Corralejo, Fuerteventura. CLICK HERE if you'd like an idea of where I like to spend my winter holiday  It’s great to escape the British winter here, and I’ve been going for several years.

Greek ice cream  
 

GARDENING

While I was a busy working man, I didn’t have time for a lot of gardening. This summer, I cleared away loads of shrubs from the back garden and excavated a long forgotten vegetable plot. After a lot of hard work, I got some seeds in, and have not had to buy much veg throughout the summer. Next year I’m hoping to be more organised and make up for the failures I had this year – especially broccoli, which I think I sowed too early, and garlic, which I planted too late! It surprises me how many gardeners there are around - I was talking to one of the instructors at the gym, and he recommended an organic plant supplier CLICK HERE for details. I've just ordered a load of plants to fill the garden over the winter.

 
 

READING

I have always loved books; I remember as a child going to the library and searching out the latest Enid Blyton, and the feeling of pride when the librarian suggested I could try looking in the adult section for something more interesting. I felt I had really grown up that day! As an adult I now read all sorts - detective fiction, fantasy, biography, science fiction etc. I do read quite quickly, which meant that when packing for holidays my suitcase was had a lot of heavy books inside. About three years ago, I bought my first eReader. It was a Sony, and I loved the portability. On my first holiday after that purchase I took 50 books with me! Although the hardware was good, the Sony supplied software is terrible - loading books was a nightmare. I fixed those problems a few years back when I switched to Kindle. This is lighter, easy to load and a pleasure to use. It's cheaper too. Yes, I know I'm heavily tied in to Amazon, but I think it's worth it.