Sunday, 21 September 2014

Good things come to those who wait

They say that good things come in threes...

Well, two good things have just happened to me, writing-wise.

There's a feature about my year in Corfu in the October issue of Good Housekeeping magazine. One of their feature writers contacted me after reading this blog.
I didn't make the front cover but then Tess Daly is rather beautiful, even if I've never actually watched Strictly Come Dancing.

And then I had jaw-dropping news that I'd won a holiday for two to Peru (to Peru!) in a travel writing competition for Saga and The Daily Telegraph.
There are two things I'm waiting to hear about, but I won't jinx them by saying what they are.  The moral of this story is you have to be in it to win it - you need to put yourself out there, here and everywhere, if that's what you want.

Yes, you'll get rejected - lots of times - and wonder if it's really worth carrying on. But if you love writing, you're passionate about it, you just do it - as with any other all-consuming interest or hobby.

You do it because you want to, you enjoy it, it's what makes you you.

My head hasn't quite filled the room yet, but there is part of me thinking yes! after an unsolicited encounter with a drunken Scot earlier this year, which has preyed on my mind ever since she snarled: 'The trouble with you is, you're riding on the back of past success. Just because of what you achieved in the past doesn't mean the things you do now are any good.'

Ouch. At the time, I consoled myself with the fact that she was drunk and I was not, having gone on the wagon for Dry January.  But it did get to me.

It was worthy of a blog, really, but rather embarrassing in this sweet, gambolling world I have created for myself from my window. Conflict is good in writing, but I wasn't prepared to share that with the world.

But as with all these put downs, the moral of this story is don't give up. If you want to do something, and think you can do it, just do it. Don't let lack of confidence or people eaten up with bitterness get you down.

You are in charge of your destiny. And only you. And if you are indeed riding on the back of past success, then well, good on you. If it's your success in the first place, why not?

And, as my old primary school teacher always used to  say: 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again.'

Which is sort of ironic really, because the person she was quoting was Robert the Bruce. Who was Scottish.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 18 September 2014

From a magical bay in Ithaca

The four old friends bob around in the water. Three of them are wearing white hats and all have sunglasses on.

It's a daily ritual, this swim in the bay at the bottom of their village. They chat in gabbled Greek, they exclaim, they laugh. And then they swim slowly to the shore, still talking, a loud kalimera! shouted at them by a local fisherman.

A cool breeze ripples across the water and what sounds like a tune from a faraway flute winnows across the bay as the wind catches in the wires of the masts of yachts anchored by the Cave of the Nymphs.
The clear, blue-green water laps around the boats and on the fine shingle. In the distance, there's a goat bell tinkling

I am sitting in the sheltered bay of Polis, on the north west tip of Ithaca. It's not hard to imagine, in this wonderfully peaceful place, that this is the true home of Homer's wandering hero, Odysseus.

Like Penelope, I sit and wait patiently. And then Mr Grigg returns with two large bags of bay, thyme and sage collected from the hillside.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The view from a bar in Kastos, Greece

Laid-back, Latin music is playing in the little bar by the harbourside on the island of Kastos, Greece.

The wooden chairs - directors' chairs - are full of Dutch people speaking a strange, guttural, glottal, purring language only the Dutch understand.

There is a blast from a ship's horn down on the quayside and all eyes turn to a twin-masted wooden vessel, a tripper boat called Christina.

The Dutch people pay for their beers and coffees, taking their hats, sunglasses and smiles back along the harbour.
And now the sound of a Latin trumpet wafts through the bar's shutters onto an empty terrace.

A dog barks and the cicadas are like constant maracas accompanying this jazz tune which whirls around in my head and through the clean, warm air. The island hugs its bigger, more rugged brother Kalamos in the wine dark waters of the Ionian Sea, close to the Greek mainland.

A kitten snakes its way along the terrace, after jumping from the arms of an America woman who says: 'I'm gonna take this little one home with me.'

Far out in the bay, our boat Nestor, named after the wise old man of The Iliad, bobs about in solitary splendour, nose pointing towards Meganisi, Ithaca and Kefalonia to the west, our next ports of call on this odyssey.
The music turns into something like the theme for Muscleman on Opportunity Knocks, an anchor chain clunks as a boat heads for the open sea and the sun hides behind a blanket of mackerel clouds as a swallow thinks about flying south.

And, for a while, the small village of Kastos sleeps. Until the next tripper boat arrives.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Friday, 29 August 2014

Fun in the sun in Corfu: video

Something for the weekend...
Featuring our local beach here in Corfu.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Greek hospitality and birthday surprises

A smell of garlic began to make my nostrils twitch. I was inside the house, the shutters were closed to keep out the sun and mosquitoes and I didn't know where it was coming from.

The aroma grew stronger and stronger until it became overpowering. Like some bloodhound, I tracked it all through the house, to the utility room and out through the other side to the home of Spiros, our neighbour.

'You want some skordalia, Margarita?' he said, rhythmically mashing boiled potatoes with a cup full of two bulbs of pureed garlic and lashings of lemon juice. He added some olive oil, potato water and more lemon juice.

'You try,' he said. It was smooth, spiky and pungent. There was no way a mosquito would touch me now. In my skordalia armour, I was invincible.

It was on, then, to Gialiskari, a secluded beach near Pelekas. It's one of our favourite spots, the beach now replenished naturally with sand after last year when shingle and rocks took over the small cove for twelve months.
A lunch of grilled prawns, marinated anchovies, taramasalata and rocket salad, accompanied by a nice white wine, and then it was down to the beach, to lie out under an umbrella and grab a few pages of The Goldfinch before sleeping off the food and then cooling in off in the sparkling sea.
Back to the house for battered plaice, skordalia and boiled greens, which my neighbour had thoughtfully set aside for us, before flitting off into Corfu Town, the place buzzing with young people, vibrant and happy, for an expensive cocktail (a Margarita, of course) on the top of the Hotel Cavalieri.

And then a walk along the beautiful Liston.
Talk about being spoilt. It was an indulgence but I could handle it. After all, it was my birthday.

'Aren't the villagers having a party for you?' Number One Son had asked, when I Skyped him that morning.

'As if that's going to happen,' I said.

At eleven-thirty that night, as I sat on the bed in my birthday suit, Mr Grigg rushed downstairs to answer his mobile phone.

'They're only coming over to wish you a happy birthday,' he said as he tore back up to put on shorts and tee-shirt.

'They've got a cake and everything.'
So, hastily clothed, Mr Grigg and I sat outside, eating our wonderful ice cream cake, drinking beer and wine, listening to our friends gabbling in Greek, with the cicadas engaged in a similar sounding conversation. And with skordalia pouring out of our pores, the mosquitoes kept well clear.

Greece. There is nothing quite like it.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 16 August 2014

We are Happy in Lush Places

Back in Lush Places, a new video has just been premiered on the village website.

It might be old hat but we thought we'd get in on the act.

Because, you see, we are Happy.

Here's the film on my YouTube channel:
It's a varied village, a lovely and lively village, with lots going on. Heck, even the horses are musical.

And for my next trick, I'm going to try to persuade our Greek friends in Agios Magikades to do something similar...

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 14 August 2014

It's party time back in Greece, the land that invented hospitality

I'm up here in shorts, a floral top and Birkenstocks. New shorts and bright pink Birkenstocks, it's true, but I'm feeling rather under-dressed.

Up in the plateia, in this heat, this death/life defying heat (it's said Greece will reach 42 degrees at the heatwave's peak on Saturday), and the women are dressed up to the nines. Immaculately coiffured hair, sleek and shining, teetering in strappy sandals and glammed up in off-the-shoulder dresses.

Beside me, the village president tops up Mr Grigg's glass with retsina, while my husband queues at the barbecue, desperate to buy some souvlakia to repay the villagers the hospitality we have been shown since arriving in Corfu late the previous night.

Plates of souvlakia, feta cheese and briam are plonked on the table in front of us.
'Go on,' the people say. 'You eat.'

Xenia is a concept from Greece's ancient past. And it's still practised to this day.

And you can never, should never, outdo a Greek when it comes to giving gifts. If they present you with a gift, just accept it with a gracious efharisto poli. Don't try to top it. It's not a competition. And if it was, you'd still never win. The Greeks will always have the last word. Whatever you give, they will give you something bigger, and better.

It's festival week here in the village and the plateia is packed. We've only just arrived and already we're made to feel like old friends.
'Where you been? On your holly-days?' says Nikos the Dancer, resplendent in Che Geuvara T-shirt.

The musicians play Zorba's Dance and he's off.
And then the young boys and girls dance in friendship around him.
Oh, those Greeks.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

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