Thursday, 28 April 2016

Crackpots: Easter in Corfu*

Easter in Corfu. Moving and bonkers.

Here's the bonkers bit:
And then a mad scramble to pick up the broken pieces after the Easter Saturday pot smashing in Corfu Town is all over.

We took ours home and put them on the mantelpiece as an offering to Hestia, the goddess of the hearth and home before a siesta and the evening festivities to come.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

*First published 4 May 2013

Monday, 25 April 2016

Fireflies, flowers and Faure for May Day in Corfu*

* First published 2 May 2013

The sense of anticipation is mounting here in Corfu for Holy Week.

Church bells ring twice a day as the devout and those who do not want to risk eternal damnation make their preparations for Easter and pile into the church.

In the evening, the village plateia is alive with people as the congregation mingles with the card players and coffee drinkers, beer imbibers and children, now on school holidays and tearing around on bicycles. There are swallows and swallowtails, hooting owls, croaking frogs, waking cicadas and a host of magical fireflies flitting around the lanes and gardens.

The air is heavy with the scent of jasmine and mock orange blossom.

Yesterday was Labour Day, a May Day celebration which saw garlands on doors and small posies of wild flowers under car windscreen wipers. At first, I thought Turkey Spiros (so called because he breeds turkeys) had a female admirer when I noticed a bunch of marigolds on his bonnet. An hour later, Mr Grigg had his very own nosegay, made with scabious, flax and wild fennel.

And in the evening, a concert at the theatre in Corfu Town, courtesy of our lovely friends, Gorgeous George and The Graceful Mrs G.

'It's some choir or other,' I told my English neighbor, Mrs Bancroft, who has come over for Greek Easter with our other neighbours, The Champagne Charlies.

So we went, completely open-minded and none-the-wiser, to meet our Greek friends on the theatre steps.

Corfu is probably the most musical island in Greece, with more philharmonic bands than you could shake a drumstick at and more music students than notes on the most demanding song sheet you are ever likely to encounter. So whoever was playing would be good in our book.

And then we saw the poster and realised it was rather more than 'some choir or other'.

Greece's finest classical musicians began the programme with what many call the saddest music ever written, Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings. I was melting in the heat, which came in great waves in between bursts of cool from the air conditioning. I was also melting with the emotion of the music, a wonderful mixture of pathos and passion, a lament in the minor key.

'They played this at my cousin's funeral last week,' Champagne Charlie whispered, as a tear rolled discreetly down my cheek.

And the music played on while a young child of about six in the seat in front of me waved his arms in harmony with the conductor.

And then, after the interval, Faure's Requiem performed by the Corfu Municipal Choir.

Deep joy. You do not have to be religious to enjoy the spirituality of this music. Instruments are beautiful things, and the most beautiful of all is the human voice. With a large choir, the effect on an individual is enormous. It stirs the soul, it takes you to the very heart of the human condition.
But did our guests feel the same?

At the end, Mrs Bancroft turned to me and said: 'You know, I've sung that four times. I was miming along to it. I have had such a wonderful time'

'I hoped you enjoyed it,' said the Graceful Mrs G.

Lost for words.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Reliving the Corfu dream in the build-up to Easter

This week, in the build-up to Greek Easter and the release of my new book, Good Morning, Corfu: A Year on a Greek Island, I will be republishing some posts written during the twelve months that I lived in a rural village in North West Corfu.

The book is now available to order as an ebook on Kindle and also as a paperback.

I'll be doing a signing in Corfu on Greek Easter Monday and also in Bridport in May.

Here's the blurb:

Good Morning, Corfu: A Year on a Greek Island
charts the spell woven by this Greek island on an English couple for whom the past is in danger of being more exciting than the future. In an honest, affectionate and warm account of a grown-up gap year, UK magazine columnist Maddie Grigg introduces the reader to a cast of real-life characters and the rich history of Corfu’s traditions, and reveals what happens when the holidaymakers have gone home.

Who wouldn't want to throw in the day-job and head off to the sun for a year? Just like the Durrells, Maddie Grigg and her husband abandoned rainy Dorset for a new adventure on the Greek island of Corfu.

With beautiful countryside, kind neighbours and plenty of sunshine, what could have been better?

But Maddie was unprepared for the ache for home, which lives in us all. Good Morning, Corfu: A Year on a Greek Island is a story of love, friendship and laughter and what happens when two people go on a whim and a prayer to a beautiful but foreign country.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Monday, 18 April 2016

Just like the Durrells, we moved from Dorset to Corfu, but eight decades later

So, what do you think of it so far? The Durrells, I mean.

If you live in the UK, Sunday evenings on the telly have just got a whole lot gentler. The always-watchable Keeley Hawes heads the cast in a series based on Gerald Durrell's Corfu Trilogy.

And it's pretty sublime. The warmth and light of Corfu shines through in this very enjoyable series. It's a bit like The Darling Buds of May only set in Greece. Just the thing for a Sunday evening.

It's got me hankering after Corfu, where I lived for a year in 2012-2013. I do pop back there from time to time and I know how lucky I am to have a foot in beautiful West Dorset and another in the jewel of the Ionian (although I have to be careful not to do the splits).
Just like the Durrells, we left rainy Dorset, pretty much on a whim, for life on a Greek island. Who wouldn't want to up sticks and escape the drudgery of the day job? Especially to Greece.
But my grown-up gap year was not what I expected. I was homesick beyond belief. By the end of it, I had learned a lot - not much in the way of the language, it's true, but a great deal about myself. Most of all, I absorbed the power of philoxenia, that extraordinary Greek kindness which is more than just hospitality, it's true generosity of spirit and part of the greater concept of philitimo.

The following video sums it up beautifully. (Yes, I know it's from Crete, but you get the picture.)
My book Good Morning, Corfu: A Year on a Greek Island is due out on 29 April and is available to pre-order on Kindle. The paperback version will follow soon after.
That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Some Corfu news on the horizon

There's a bit of news on the horizon - my book Good Morning, Corfu: a Year on A Greek Island is due to be published in paperback and for Kindle over the weekend of UK May Day bank holiday and Greek Easter 2016.

I'm planning to be in Corfu to launch it and hope to have a signing session in Dorset a week or so later. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I leave you with this, the work of a talented young illustrator, Laura Brown, who created this short, graphic novel for a university course, with the help of some quotes from me, last year.

Things have moved on a bit since last year. But if you're thinking of going abroad this summer, visit Greece. You will not be disappointed.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

There she blows: the Devon Belle roars through the Somerset countryside

There is nothing quite like a steam train to get those nostalgic feelings surfacing.

I was born next to the Chard branch line but can't remember the trains travelling along the track because it closed in 1962.  Apparently, though, I went on the last train, safely tucked up in a pram, with my parents and siblings.

It's a nature reserve now, and well worth a visit. The old halt has been restored, and there's a lovely statue of a little girl who was evacuated to the village in the Second World War.

There's something reassuring about a steam train, the sound, the sight and the smell of it taking people back to an age gone by, a period of time in which things seemed much more simple but probably weren't. That's what nostalgia does for you, it makes you look at the past through rose-tinted spectacles.

So when I heard via Facebook that a recreation of the historic Devon Belle was going to pass through the main line closest to Lush Places - several miles from us but on a clear day you can sometimes hear a train in the far distance - the word soon spread.

The train features the engine No. 60163 Tornado, completed in 2008 at Darlington Locomotive Works.

The original Devon Belle ran from London Waterloo station to Ilfracombe and Plymouth from 1947 to 1954.
At the weekend,  people gathered all along the track at appropriate viewing spots to see the train, which was coming from Waterloo, going to Exeter and then back via Taunton and Castle Cary.

I was at Wayford Bridge and there were cars pulling up, people spilling out, disturbing a fox which ran across the track, and we waited for what seemed ages. And then, we saw it and heard it at the same time. It roared through, giving us a whistle and a great puff of smoke.

My camera's battery decided to pack up just at that point. And the train went so fast, Mr Grigg - at a different vantage point and close to a trainspotter with a Box Brownie camera - just managed to snap the carriages as the train shot through down towards Axminster.

Boy, did it go fast! And so many carriages. The next photo and video is by a friend, James Dawson:
And there she was, gone.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

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