Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"Difficult beginnings bode great success" quoted Dina our Course Director as we traipsed like an abject line of drowned rats into the Skyros Centre. The heavens unzipped at Athens and remained fully open for business all the way to the island. Hot soup and radiators never looked so good in Greece.
Amazingly - or was it amazing? I should trust spells on Skyros by now - she was right. Last's week's writing group was simply fabulous, one of the best I've ever enjoyed leading - and that's saying something.

And it's never just about the courses in this magical place. There was dancing, drumming & singing, yoga every morning, fab food, much mirth, beautiful walks and blissed-out beach-babing.
But my writing group was special; great voices and lovely people, and their affirmations will leave me on a high for quite a while.
I won't blog the messages they gave me at an incredible end-of-course meal at Tomas' beach restaurant but, since I promised I would, here are the words they chose for our week's 'creative writing' journey together:
"Exhilerating" ... "enlightening" ... "heartwarming" ... "affirming" ... "dynamic" ... "inspiring" ... "unfolding & awakening"... thanks, guys. You too.
So here's a few glimpses of the terrace where we met - the beach - greek lesson with Martha - and a working lunch, Skyros style.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

From the sage pages of Mslexia, advice to "give blogging a go. It is a great way of reaching out, and an exciting way of writing about your life." For me this week it's a way to suffuse my days with the colours I'm missing - those stinging golds and lemon yellows of the Cretan hillsides, the sizzling blues and turquoises of the sea and sky. I blame the sun-block on my Sustainable Frome chums (no of course I'm not serious, I know global warming is Very Important, stop stoning me). I've tried, I really have, to relish the dense veridians of England, to forgive the lowering sky on the grounds that 'we need the rain', but after getting soaked walking and hail-stoned cycling, I'm longing for next weekend when I fly off to Skryos. I'll accept the reproaches and pay my carbon footprint fee to the Big Green Pardoner, because 'til I find a way to live away from these grey skies for longer at one time, these jaunts are my life-nourishment.

But there have been writerly consolations this week, including excursions out: Poetry Can at the Raven where guest Robert Palmer gives a fascinating spiel on Joanna Southcott and I get to see Brendan the Pop Poet's gorgeous little baby Eliza, and a Writers Circle night at Mike's with lotsof good writing and toomuch chocolate.
On Saturday a clash of Titans: Frome Creative Network puts on a hoolie royale, complete with casino as well as ultraviolet-lit disco-dancing cavern, organised by my lovely friend Niamh and attended by the entire dentate community of Frome (and some still teething too.) And Guy Dartnell brings his scratch piece "Something or Nothing" to the Merlin Theatre. Guy is to entrepreneurial Impro what Alan Sugar is to lucretive business and this is a brave and highly watchable scrapbook of personal exploration pasted alongside discursive theorising to answer existentialist questions like 'Who are you?' and 'Is this it?'
How do I know about both? This being Frome, the theatre cancelled the interval for Guy's show so the audience could scoot off in time for the hoolie.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Local walks with friends are essential before I can get into my work-head, to relish cow-parsley verges and may-blossom bowers. The azaleas at Longleat are already out and in the shady woods there are still dense swathes of bluebells. Great to connect again...

OK, I’m home now – and a wonderful night at the theatre: Diary of a Madman and The Inhabitants of the Moon are Noses, a bizarre and brilliant double bill put on by my mega-talented mate Steve Hennessy. The first play is by Gogol, who was as crazy as his Pooteresque monologue-narrator, and the second is about the comi-tragic life of this 19th century Russian writer who craved immortality through his divine talent and died self-starved, mentally sick, and largely derided. The actors, especially Seb Steiger, were amazing, juxtaposing buffooning humour with stark suffering, and Steve's script showed moving undercurrents to this strangely timeless case-study: "Are there not absurd things everywhere? Not often, but they do happen."

So here's my ditty on
Researching Nikolai Gogol:
I giggled when I googled Gogol,
although his life sounds sad.
Gobbledook seems cool for a kook
absurdly profound and quite mad.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Wow, I feel like Rip Van Winkle coming down from the Cretan mountain to find the countryside I left completely altered. England seems to have fast-forward the entire spring season. My garden, which I left in winter mode, is now florrid; my camellia’s come and gone, and the horsechestnut whose blossom candles I watch from my study window slowly unfurling is in full leaf already. What’s going on? My body’s back in Frome, but my head’s still circling Gatwick. And there's a whole week I didn’t have time to put on my blog…
Hora Sfakion to Loutro is the section I’d remembered as easy but it’s trickier with a rucksack – even dangerous on the high-crag narrow paths with a freak wind whipping the sea-spray into white spirals which hurtle ferociously across the water towards the shore. Maybe, Peter says, this bizarre phenomena was the origin of the legend of the Drossilites, ‘dew-shades’ supposedly the ghosts of nineteenth century murdered warriors, who haunt this shore-line...
Loutro is a place I know already from leading writing courses here, a picture-postcard village where exclusivity is cherished, music frowned on and topless bathing banned. It’s charming but a tad boring so we spend our day off here clambering across the headland to the tamarisk beach at Fenix.
From Loutro to Agia Roumeli the path is intermittently perilous until beyond the marble beach of Marmaris. Around 4 hours into this 7-hour trudge, the scrubby garrigue gives way to an exquisite pine forest above a turquoise sea. This stretch of coast with champagne-pale sand and turquoise sea is where Apollo made love to the nymph Akakalline, so besotted he forgot about his fiery chariot and made the whole world darken for a day. Here's where we meet our first walkers: a German couple kitted out in lycra shorts, headbands and trekking poles. We exchange chat, feeling like smiling hillbillies in our casual gear.
Agia Roumeli is still blinking blearily in pre-season sleepiness; the Samaria Gorge – its raison d'etre – isn’t open until May so the unexpected heatwave finds these pragmatic farmer-hoteliers hurrying to finish re-whitening walls and re-blueing paintwork. This is the site of old Tarra, and the tiny Byzantine chapel of Saint Paul near here is built on top an old temple – not to Apollo, though. To Poseidon, the god of elemental energy, Georgios tells us. He talks of his decision to exchange his previous work-hard-play-hard ethic for 17 years of monkish life on this beach: 'Do not think, "I'm sacrificing something." The money you can get back. You can never get back time'