Saturday, 28 September 2013

Twilight barking and autumn in Corfu

The nights here in Corfu are drawing in.

In the gloom, the card players in the plateia yell and shout at the hands they've been dealt. At eight o'clock, as if by magic, the lights in the Narnia lamp post illuminate the scene.

During the day, there are a few open-mouthed holidaymakers strolling around at a snail's pace. But not many.

The tavernas are winding down, many of them ready to operate on weekends only and some preparing to close completely. The planes still fly overhead but the flights aren't as frequent.

Down in the olive groves, the grass under the trees has been cut, ready for the nets to be placed underneath them. It won't be long before harvest.

And the smell of pine wafts down through the hillside as we wallow in the warm sea at our favourite beach, Gialaskari, and then settle down for fresh fish and giant prawns.
The days are still baking hot and skin can still burn. But the nights are cooler and make me reach for my cardi and, heaven forbid, see me glancing with anticipation at my Ugg boots.

And still the dogs bark, their voices reverberating around our village and the valley, night and day, day and night. I won't miss that.

In a few weeks' time we will be heading for home, taking a ferry and driving across Italy and France before sailing across the channel.
And what an incredible year it has been.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Sailing back into the internet

I don't think I've ever gone so long without blogging. It makes me feel quite dizzy, it does.

I've been two weeks at sea, not in an open boat, but as Number One on the the good yacht Nestor.
I've woken up next to this in Astakos.
I've looked out on this in Meganisi.
And we've seen sun, wind, rain and the moon over Mitikas.
And the stars, oh, you should have seen the stars over Ithaca. At four in the morning, they were all out to play.

We went where the wind took us.
We've been in and out of bays, skirting archaeological ruins and tying up to the quayside. It's been magical.
I've read seven novels and spent my fifteenth wedding anniversary anchored off the most beautiful, unspoilt island of Kastos.
We've had only intermittent internet and a laptop with a flat battery. Just before we went, the Vodafone shops ran out of pay-as-you go cards for the dongle and the WiFi was sporadic.

Still, when we did find an internet cafe, you can bet your life it was one with a view.
 Normal service to be resumed shortly.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Friday, 6 September 2013

A Year in Lush Places goes global

Once upon a time when my alter ego was editor of the Bridport and Lyme Regis News, she introduced a feature in the paper which became very popular.

Never mind wills of the week or court cases involving the usual suspects. What grabbed the readers' imagination was Where in The World. We'd ask for photos of them, the newspaper and an interesting location.

A silly idea but, then, that's me all over.

And bingo, the pictures began to pour in. I think it's trickled down to an occasional drip now, which is probably just as well because, really, does anyone want to see some random person's holiday snaps week after week?

'I can't believe people are interested any more,' said a friend from the village.

Probably not. Still, at the time, a lot of people were.

There were photos at Mount Everest base camp, Bridport in Tasmania, outside the Taj Mahal, on the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, the CN Tower and even underwater. Hell, there was one taken on the moon and another of a world terrorist leader reading the paper while dressed as Dr Evil. (Someone told me the last two were Photoshopped).

And then we changed it to It's Not Where You Are But Who You're With. This brought in a few gems, but was a bit more difficult. From memory, we had a surprised-looking Sven Goran Eriksson ambushed by a local plumber on an exotic holiday and then I can't remember who else.

The reason I'm telling you all this is because I've just brought out a book, A Year in Lush Places: Tales from England's Rural Underbelly, a novella based on this blog and tales from Dorset. You can get it in paperback or on Kindle via Amazon or through The Book Depository, who offer free delivery worldwide.

For all you Corfu fans out there, take another sip of iced coffee but stay with me here. There will be a Corfu book out next year. And, as you'll know, the picture at the top of this post was taken on the sunny Liston.

But, in the meantime, back to Lush Places.

I have a Facebook page where I post snippets to do with Dorset and Corfu. As sales of the novella were going well, I asked casually for followers to post their photos of them and their books. It was only yesterday, and now it's snowballed.

The latest features a series of pictures of my book on holiday in New York, read by random people including the concierge at the Trump Tower and some person with white gloves and some sort of miniature bearskin hat. It's a classic.
Hop on over to my Facebook page and take a look. And if you have photos of you and your book in your own lush place, I'd love to see them.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 1 September 2013

A walk on the wild side in San Stefanos, Corfu

On the beach at San Stefanos - the one on Corfu's north west tip rather than the posh one on the other side - the wind is howling, umbrellas are flapping wildly and the breakers rush up to meet the shore.
We walk along the long stretch of sand to a point where the sunbeds run out. A naked man and his topless wife sit in front of a small tent and an exposed, flat shelf of rock. 

The tattoo on his arm could say 'gatekeeper'.

I keep my head down and just follow in Mr Grigg's footsteps.
A little farther along, a young man and woman paint each other with sloppy sand. It's as if they're in a commercial for Sure deodorant or something. There are a few stray souls who have on swimsuits but as we round the corner, we see more naked bodies.  I don't know about you, and I'm not sure what Jesus would do in this situation, but I can't help but look.

A man crouches behind a bush to put his shorts back on. I turn away and my eye is almost taken out by a flapping appendage attached to another man just walking past. A woman a little farther along bends over, on purpose, I am sure. Mr Grigg does not know where to look.

So we stare up at the cliffs above our heads.
A large man with nothing on walks out of the sea with his wife who is in just bikini bottoms. He could be wearing a thong but if he is, it's been eaten by his large buttocks. If ever there was a case for wearing a burka, this would be it.

At the end of the beach, the sand and the people run out. We have no towels - we have come totally unprepared for a swim as we just fancied a walk. Mr Grigg strips off and gambols into the waves like a puppy unleashed.

And I stand on the shore holding my Birkenstocks and his flip-flops, like a forlorn Paddington Bear waiting in the waves.  I look out to sea like The French Lieutenant's Woman. He is having such fun.
The sea roars and crashes onto the sand and he dives in and out of the surf like a dolphin. A large one, it's true, but graceful nonetheless.

It is tempting.

There is nobody here to see, and if there were, who cares? My body is better than Burka Man's any day. So I daintily take off my clothes, fold them up on the beach and get right in.
It's exhilarating as the waves crash over my head and salt water fills my mouth. It's a wonderful feeling.

And as we stroll back along the beach fully-clothed, Mr Grigg turns to me and says: 'It's just like Woolacombe.'

I visualise the annual village outing back home, where all our Lush Places neighbours leave Dorset for the weekend and head for the North Devon seaside resort. Champagne-Charlie, cavorting naked in the sea foam? Mmm, I think not.

So, feeling all daring and gung ho, we head down the unopened Aviliotes by-pass and appreciate why the 'closed' signs are still up.
And then we get to Peroulades just as the sun goes down.
Now that's what I call a good day.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Batten down those hatches, it's recycling day

It's blowing a hooley out there.  The wind is lashing against the windows and the dogs are play fighting in front of the Aga before...