Friday, 12 July 2013

Things can only get feta - new book on Greece

The world is full of coincidences and my life is full of them.

There are a number of serendipitous moments connected with my Big Fat Greek Gap Year. Coming across the journalist Marjory McGinn is one of them.

We have a number of things in common, not least of which is a love of all things Greek. And both of us have actually taken the plunge and moved here for a year.

In Marjory's case, she and her partner, Jim, planned on staying in the Peloponnese for twelve months, taking their crazy dog, Wallace, along for the ride. They ended up living there for three years.
She's just brought out a book, Things Can Only Get Feta, about the first year living in a rural village in the Mani. It is available now on Kindle and will be out in a paperback version later this month.
In an interview for this blog, she shares the highs and lows of her Greek odyssey.

Q: What makes a couple exchange life in a quiet Scottish village for Greece in crisis?

Madness I guess. And that’s what family and friends thought when we told them we were planning an adventure in Greece in 2010. And madder still, taking a daft Jack Russell dog (Wallace) to a country with zero dog tolerance. But with Britain also in recession and having both been affected by a downturn in the newspaper industry in Scotland, what was there to fear from Greece on the edge? At least there was the hope that we could turn our experiences there into some freelance articles for British publications.

Q: Why did you pick a remote village in the southern Peloponnese?

We were attracted to the Mani region (middle peninsula) because it sounded spectacular and unspoilt. To get a taste of authentic Greece and to improve our language skills, we rented a small stone house in the middle of a hillside village where nothing much had changed in a few centuries and most locals are farmers and harvest olives. We threw ourselves into local life: church services, village fetes, coffee mornings in goat compounds; and tried our hand at olive harvesting the traditional way, wielding sticks at 100 year old olive trees, to whack down the olives. It nearly killed us.
Q: How did the local Greeks take to the pair of you, and Wallace the dog?

The Greek villagers were incredibly friendly and were intrigued by the fact that we wanted to stay a whole year and take part in village life. They were more intrigued though with Wallace since dogs are generally not kept as pets in rural areas and no-one had ever seen a JR terrier before. On the first week in the village a local farmer stopped her donkey to talk to us thinking we were out walking a small sheep, since Wallace is sheepy with a white body and black face. We had quite a few escapades with Wallace, taking him with us on trips around the Peloponnese and on one occasion even smuggling him into a large archaeological site.

Q: It sounds like there was more than enough there to write about.

Yes there was, and apart from writing freelance features while in Greece, I was writing a regular blog for our website. After the first year in Greece, I had the urge to write a book about some of the mad/strange things that happened to us. Also, I felt many of the situations and people we met were quite unique and that we were seeing a way of life that couldn’t last forever. I wanted to capture some of that.

Q: How did the economic crisis impact on your adventure?

Not a lot at first but it was sad to see how much it impacted on Greeks including friends in the village. Greeks are normally the most chilled-out people but we began to see them become more stressed and frightened for the future. I think that was the worst aspect of the crisis for us. We stayed nearly three years in the Mani and by the time we left we did see some serious problems emerge. Nevertheless, what I will always remember from our time in Greece is how stoical Greeks are. As Greek people constantly told me: 'Look, we’ve had the Turks, German occupation, a junta, earthquakes. This is just another crisis for us.'

  • Things Can Only Get Feta (Bene Factum Publishing, London)  is currently available in bookshops and on Amazon and the Book Depository, and on Kindle. For more details, visit Marjory’s website.

I'm planning to write a book about my own Greek odyssey. It's going to be called Kalimera Kerkyra and will be out next year.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x


  1. Interesting interview and great title for the book. But really.. daft JRT is redundant. ;)

  2. Yes, Jack Russell + daft = tautology.


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