Monday, 5 September 2016

The sequel to our Greek odyssey in Corfu begins

It is morning on Nikiforou Theotoki Street in Corfu Town and someone is playing a clarinet. They're high up in one of the tall, Venetian buildings and practising their scales, the notes rising slowly and then falling again, up and down, up and down.

The smell of garlic wafts down through the street from the Restaurant Rex. It's early September and the shops are full of cut-price summer sandals, on sale now that the season is coming to an end.

A new pair of shoes is just what I don't need, having bought a pair of shoes every week for the last six weeks as a bizarre way of coping with my grief.

Mr Grigg shares a surreptitious rice pudding with Gorgeous George and then he meets Eleni on her fruit and veg stall. A friend in the market is better than money in the purse.
 
'Why you been away so long?' she says.

Back in the village, a swallowtail butterfly flaps by and lingers, lazily, on the cerise bougainvillea that spiders its way along the front of the syllagos, where just a few weeks ago they were mixing the sperna for the annual feast day on August 15th, the national and religious holiday that marks the falling asleep of the Virgin Mary.

The chattering swallows are still here, but printing their boarding passes for the long flight ahead.
A moth takes a rest on a mosquito screen outside Dukas taverna and reveals a scary face on its body and wings.
Pavlos and Vasso put on pork in the oven, just for us.
It's ten months since we've been here in our village, the place where we spent a year away from home. Locals walk through the plateia and nod a greeting and then do a double-take and come back for kisses and hugs when they see who it is.

'You been away too long,' says Canadian George.

There are hugs and commiserations from Betty, a trip to The Three Brothers at Astrakeri to give Yianni Pianni sheet music for Side Saddle, with the instruction that he must learn it by the time we come back next time. And in the kafenio, the men still play cards.

On hearing my sad family news, white-haired Maria, who speaks no English and communicates with us by the use of facial expressions, hand signals and our smattering of very poor Greek, breaks down in tears.

She lost her husband sixteen years ago.

'She is still sad but you have to be strong,' Kiki from the kafenio says.

I tell her about my broken heart, for which I needed hospital treatment.

'You have the memories, Margarita. Now you must travel and see many things.'

In my book, Kiki is likened to Athena. She has a wise head on young shoulders.

Meanwhile, Mr Grigg is told by the proprietor of the kafenio, eager perhaps for another coffee sale, that he has the skin of a thirty year old.

Filming is just about to start in Corfu for a second series of ITV's The Durrells and actress, producer and singer (and Tom Hanks' wife) Rita Wilson is one of five prominent Greeks of the diaspora to be honoured by a new stamp.

And then there's my book.

'Paw, paw,' Kiki says. 'My sister-in-law has read it. British people have read it. They like it very much.'

'Yes,' says an English woman. 'And now you must hurry up and write the next one. We want to see what happens next.'
That's about it.

Love Maddie x

The sequel to our Greek odyssey in Corfu begins

It is morning on Nikiforou Theotoki Street in Corfu Town and someone is playing a clarinet. They're high up in one of the tall, Venetian buildings and practising their scales, the notes rising slowly and then falling again, up and down, up and down.

The smell of garlic wafts down through the street from the Restaurant Rex. It's early September and the shops are full of cut-price summer sandals, on sale now that the season is coming to an end.

A new pair of shoes is just what I don't need, having bought a pair of shoes every week for the last six weeks as a bizarre way of coping with my grief.

Mr Grigg shares a surreptitious rice pudding with Gorgeous George and then he meets Eleni on her fruit and veg stall. A friend in the market is better than money in the purse.
 
'Why you been away so long?' she says.

Back in the village, a swallowtail butterfly flaps by and lingers, lazily, on the cerise bougainvillea that spiders its way along the front of the syllagos, where just a few weeks ago they were mixing the sperna for the annual feast day on August 15th, the national and religious holiday that marks the falling asleep of the Virgin Mary.

The chattering swallows are still here, but printing their boarding passes for the long flight ahead.
A moth takes a rest on a mosquito screen outside Dukas taverna and reveals a scary face on its body and wings.
Pavlos and Vasso put on pork in the oven, just for us.
It's ten months since we've been here in our village, the place where we spent a year away from home. Locals walk through the plateia and nod a greeting and then do a double-take and come back for kisses and hugs when they see who it is.

'You been away too long,' says Canadian George.

There are hugs and commiserations from Betty, a trip to The Three Brothers at Astrakeri to give Yianni Pianni sheet music for Side Saddle, with the instruction that he must learn it by the time we come back next time. And in the kafenio, the men still play cards.

On hearing my sad family news, white-haired Maria, who speaks no English and communicates with us by the use of facial expressions, hand signals and our smattering of very poor Greek, breaks down in tears.

She lost her husband sixteen years ago.

'She is still sad but you have to be strong,' Kiki from the kafenio says.

I tell her about my broken heart, for which I needed hospital treatment.

'You have the memories, Margarita. Now you must travel and see many things.'

In my book, Kiki is likened to Athena. She has a wise head on young shoulders.

Meanwhile, Mr Grigg is told by the proprietor of the kafenio, eager perhaps for another coffee sale, that he has the skin of a thirty year old.

And then there's my book.

'Paw, paw,' Kiki says. 'My sister-in-law has read it. British people have read it. They like it very much.'

'Yes,' says an English woman. 'And now you must hurry up and write the next one. We want to see what happens next.'
That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

The Jolly Boys' and Girls' Outing to Sidmouth Folk Festival

It's that time of year again, when the coach stops off at Lush Places to pick up villagers for the annual outing to Sidmouth Folk Festival.

There were only six of us this year, after several cancelled at the last minute and another overslept. Still, the people from the next village made up for it, with seventeen of them climbing aboard as we pulled up outside their pub.

The view from the bus was glorious as we wove around the lanes, past Dorset's highest point and then on to the main road down into Devon.

It was a quick stop-off at The Volunteer Inn first, where one pint turned, quite magically, into several.

And then we wound our way down to the seafront where it was all happening, including a mesmerising performance on a handpan and then off to another pub in a quiet backstreet where there was some foot tapping music going on.

There was more music and more stops at various pubs in the town, a picnic lunch on the beach before the tide came in, music and more stops at various pubs in the town, pre-booked supper at a nice little spot overlooking the main street, music and more stops at various pubs in the town and then back on the coach.
 
 
Mr Grigg was one of three people to count all the passengers when we boarded the bus and then count them all back in again for the return journey.

'If there's three people doing it,' said Mo, who helped organise the trip, 'then at least one of us might get it right and no-one will be left behind.'

And, after the long journey from Sidmouth to Lush Places, with lots of singing, the passengers had earned themselves another stop at our local when we got back.

It's fair to say that Monday was a complete blur. And, as far as I know, no-one was left behind.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Good Morning Corfu: 'Jack Kerouac meets the Archers via the Durrell family'

In a parallel universe, my book, Good Morning Corfu: A Year on a Greek Island is going down very well, like ouzo and iced water in the village plateia on a balmy evening.
The reviews have been lovely - thank you - with the latest describing it as 'Jack Kerouac meets the Archers via the Durrell family. Delightful!'

My dear friend, Betty, who is featured in the book, messaged me today in great excitement, after meeting a couple from Manchester who were in our Greek village looking for the Villa Oleander.

'I walked them to the house,' she said, 'and then they told me they were looking for it because they read your book! They already went up to the Square to visit every single place you mentioned.'

Apparently, the only reason they visited the village was because they had read the book. Of course, when Betty revealed that she was in it, they were delighted.

'The lady told me to tell you how much she enjoyed your book!'

I hope they spent some money in one of the tavernas and the mini-market...

Meanwhile, back in the real world, there is still so much sadness around me. I am wrapped within the pages of a family tragedy. I feel like I'm climbing a big wall of grief and I keep slipping down to where I first began. 

We must all grasp the good times when we can and share those precious moments when everything seems perfect.

Like the weather here in Dorset today.
If you have read my Corfu book, please take a few minutes to leave a review on Amazon. 

In the meantime, here's a (heavily edited) interview with yours truly for the Great Destinations Radio Show.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Not waving but drowning: how BREXIT landed me in hospital


Down in the depths, Boris and his sirens have slunk into the shadows.

'There is no plan,' they say in unison, sniggering behind jagged and yellowed teeth. 'Now you're down here, you just have to be bottom feeders along with the rest of us.'

There's something nasty on the seabed. It's pulling at my ankle and I'm out of here. Millions more rise in a mass of bubbles towards the light and up to the surface to await rescue. But no-one comes so we band together to make a human raft.

It is what it is and we have to jettison hate and anger and reach dry land, by paddling together.

On the morning the referendum results came through, I was attached to a heart monitor in A&E. The hospital was full of it, the staff had been listening to the news all night.

As I was wheeled up to the coronary care unit, the nurse in charge was upbeat.

'I voted for out,' she told all the patients, as if we should be thanking her personally for taking us to the brink of disaster and beyond.

'I really didn't think it would happen. But, wow, now it has, now it has!'

A student nurse shook her head as she attended to my stickers and wires behind the curtain around my bed. She was livid.

'That's my future,' she said. 'I just can't believe it.'

Neither could the young doctors, who greeted the joy of the health care assistants with long faces.

I couldn't believe it either. Here I was, hooked to a machine, in a Dystopian world where my own future and that of the country was stuffed. I had moved from England to live in Jeopardy. Had someone stepped on a butterfly a few millions years ago?

Rewind to the previous night and I'd posted a picture on Facebook of an empty pub and the results coming in on the telly:

On Midsummer's Eve, we're in the pub listening to the Referendum results show. We might just have to stay up all night. On Midsummer's Day we could all be part of a short story called A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury.

Seconds later, as the results from Sunderland came in, I felt suddenly unwell, with chest pains and a numb, heavy sensation shooting down both of my arms. It took a good hour for an ambulance to arrive and I was carted off to hospital.

The next day, we were in that chaos theory and time travel story and I was right in the thick of it.

My own build up to Brexit has been accompanied by the worst few months my Larkin-like family has ever had to face. My lovely, kind, compassionate sister died suddenly in March, my dear old Dad slipped away in April and then, last week, my talented, smiling nephew died following a fire-related incident at Glastonbury.

Me, I'm alive, with an angiogram showing coronaries clear as radiating and beautiful tree branches, and being instructed to rest. It appears my recent bereavements have had an abnormal stress response on the heart. The condition is called Takotsubo cardiomyopathy and is more commonly known as broken heart syndrome.

So my own reaction to the news about Brexit has been muted, out of necessity. I am terribly shocked, but more shocked and saddened about what's going on with my nearest and dearest. Hold them close, they are all that matters.

And when the dust settles, as indeed it will, we must face the fact that, whether we like it or not, we are all in this together. We have to make the most of a bad situation. The sun still rises in the east, the honeysuckle still exudes its warm and heady scent, even when a dead rook lies at the roadside.

This morning, the Dorset landscape I love is all washed out but it's still there.
We can blame the politicians and media all we like for creating the backdrop to this mess. But it is what it is. We have to heal this broken country, together. It's all we can do.

There is love and goodness to be had all around us, as the Crowdfunding appeal set up by a stranger for my nephew's funeral shows. We have to believe in the good of humanity, otherwise there would be no point in carrying on.

Peace and love and stuff.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Good Morning, Corfu: A Year on a Greek Island storms the charts

I'm delighted to discover that Good Morning, Corfu: A Year on a Greek Islandis at number two in this month's FeedARead Top Ten.

FeedARead is a leading independent publisher, programmed with Arts Council funding. 

My initial reaction to being in second place was deep joy (the last time this happened, I went to Peru), swiftly followed by, 'Why isn't it Number One?'.


I consoled myself with the fact that the current Top of the Pops has been there for months on end. Actually, when you cut through the German description, it sounds fascinating. And I'm not being sarcastic, either.


The reviews Good Morning, Corfu have been getting on Kindle have been brilliant, too. (Thanks so much, Mum).


I love you all.

So all in all, Reasons to be Cheerful (a record that reached only Number Three in the UK singles chart, which is pretty outrageous in my book).

Now for Part II.

That's about it - although if you are at a loose end tomorrow evening, tune in to Air FM between eight o'clock and ten when my alter ego and two friends are presenting the Hijack Show.


Prepare yourself for terrible ballads from one friend, raucous, shouty stuff from the other and some sublime stuff from me, in memory of my dear sister and dad.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

The first of a new Corfu trilogy steps out into the sunshine

Well, Good Morning, Corfu: A Year on a Greek Island is going really well, with interest from national magazines and newspapers.

Read about it here, on The Bridport Press website.

And if you're an agent or publisher who'd like to work with me, please get in touch. In the wake of The Durrells, I can feel a new Corfu Trilogy coming on.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

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