We’ve been back for 2 days and I’m in a dreamlike place. Do you ever have that feeling that however fast an aeroplane can travel, your mind only moves as fast as you can walk? Combine that fact with the strange moment of all-night insomnia last night… and you will know what I mean when I say I’m not quite in the here and now… just yet.
I wonder how many followers of this blog are insomniac, like your author: reading in the small hours of total darkness, of complete stillness… listening to the noise of nothing at all, if you’re deep in the countryside, or to the distant rumble and roar of city life if you’re in town? I’m sure that it’s just as many as those who read my ramblings over a cup of coffee on arrival at work. Anyway, that was my Sunday night. I was up at all hours. There’s a lot of change at the moment. I love change. It keeps things fresh. But you’ll know what I mean when I say from time to time it can get overwhelming. We’ve moved office while I’ve been away, which has been a massive task. The shop has been turned upside down and repainted and is looking beautiful. The decoration department is moving next week. And… by far the most important of all… well, how can I put this? Someone is in the kitchen cooking while I’m writing right now.
There’s quite a lot to take in there, isn’t there?
But before we think about that magical week in early September, which I always think feels like the start of the new year, really… this blog is all about Greece.
It feels like an another age ago that Will and I arrived in Athens. We were there for a day before heading south to Rhodes, to stay with my friend Jasper at his beautiful house in Lindos, dream-like perfection; and then to Patmos.
It’s years since I’ve been at the Acropolis. It’s looking spectacular.
I love the contrast between the ancient creamy stones, and sprawling, gleaming Athens beyond.
And I love the delicacy of modern cranes and machinery housed within the powerful Doric skeleton against a clear dark blue sky.
I loved our short stay in Athens. I really want to go back and discover more.
If you’re not sure about Rhodes, think again. Head to Lindos. This was the view from my bedroom. A dream. We spent the happiest time diving from the boat all day and chatting long into the warm evenings.
And thence to Patmos. I won’t say 6 hours in stormy waters was the happiest crossing for some of our fellow passengers (a scene best left to the imagination)… but in the beautiful light on our first evening, on top of the world, all was forgotten in an instant.
At sunrise the following morning the light was crisp and clear.
Islands appear to float in the haze of the dark sea.
The monstery in Hora is one of the strangest, most curious, ugly-beautiful buildings I’ve visited.
We settled into the gentle rhythms of Patmos life. The gloaming point, as the sun falls in to the sea and all colours merge, is, I think, my favourite of all.
The tiny square was packed by night with an international fashion crowd. Which was all very well, but do you mind my confessing I prefer it early in the morning, with old men on scooters winding their way through and cafe owners scratching their heads and sweeping up the detritus? It’s September, and the scene will have moved on now, but during the third week of August in Patmos the roar of voices in the square at night was like a New York cocktail party – and about as meaningful.
Hora is a curious place… full of dichotomies. In places it can be both beautiful and claustrophobic.In others there are moments of such pleasing perfect simplicity that I was in love.
This set of glossy brown benches by a church was a high point for me. I adore them.
Many houses have been beautifully restored. But I found something almost cloying in too much perfect paintwork and stone. Do you see what I mean?
It was a joy of the house were we stayed that the character was there still, perhaps because it is still owned by people whose ancestors had built it.
I have a feeling my favourite moments were the small views of normal life carrying on despite the crowds of August house guests. Old ladies testing ladders (I couldn’t bear to stay and watch if she was going to climb to the parapet entirely by herself):
The fruit and veg market, in unintentionally beautiful shades of pistachio, brown, pink:
The restored beauty of some of the most special houses was something to behold:
but you almost enjoy more the incidents of little kids and little dogs eyeing each other:
Or of the closed-for-August cafe in Skala, turquoise and pink:
Or dads and kids playing in the heat of the midday sun.
I never thought this would become a blog that posts photos of cats, but it suddenly did:
The turrets of the monastery peep over the beautiful mercantile town house that was our home:
I crave the small details (as I guess you will know if you’ve ever read about the floor polisher of the Pantheon). This brush and pan is at the cave of St. John the Theologian:
And another at the entrance gate:
I loved our tour around the rocky west coast:
Which ended at the Chapel of Profitis Ilias at sunset, with its beautiful view back to Hora:
It was a place of extraordinary memories. I won’t go in to them all.
We left in a final whirl in a helicopter. That was my birthday present to Will, whose celebration year had precipitated the invitation to Patmos in the first place. As we took off, Maggie announced perceptively “there’s not a lot to a helicopter is there?”. It felt a wee bit like being in the Morris Minor, but floating in the sky. We were battling into a force 9 gale back to Athens. Me, being me, I couldn’t help speculating from time to time what would happen when the pilot has a heart attack. I didn’t entirely trust Will as co-pilot.
But then you find yourself floating across a silver sea above rocky islands, and the magic of the Mediterranean starts to take hold.
And so we rushed back to Athens and back to London and time has passed in a heartbeat and I find myself quietly, deeply happy, at home, and looking forward with so much optimism to the rest of the year. Goodbye, August. Hello September. New notebooks.