Sunday, August 20, 2017

Travel Fever

Blogs, like tadpoles, evolve. 'My blog' originated to reflect the different aspects of 'a writer's life' but has slowly become mostly all about Frome, a 'what's on' of where to go and what to see. This posting is a temporary regression as I've spent the last two weeks leading a writing group in the magical island of Skyros. 'Magical' is not hyperbole. I'll quote Christina, a participant on the other morning course: "Even to me as a Greek, this is not like the other islands. It is very special, it is totally authentic."

We learned some of the unique history and traditions in a talk from Michael Eales on one evening, and explored five thousand years of legend & culture at the fascinating Manos Faltaits Museum near Rupert Brooke Square. Why is a poet so quintessentially English here a landscape feature? He died nearby while sailing to Gallipoli, from a mosquito bite, and was returned to Skyros for burial in an olive grove in the barren south of the island. In that dry earth a richer dust is concealed, as the poet sentimentally foresaw, and though his words seem to us callow & jingoistic compared to the angry truthfulness of Owen and Sassoon and all those poets who saw action, Skyros has taken to its heart the young man who loved Greek myths and set off to fight for freedom.
And here on this island for two weeks I spent my mornings writing and conversing about writing, with coffee and fresh juices, at various bars all a strolling distance from the Skyros Centre: at the Plateia in town, by the beach, and on the Faltaits museum veranda. We wrote, and shared, and in these small but perfectly formed groups there was time to explore ideas and even invent words. Tom Kelly created one that sums it all up: scrawlwonderblossom, which means 'feeling your mind open to the sunlight in a Skyros writers' group'.
These two weeks are the busy season for Skyros town, whose 3000 population swells extensively ~ fortunately for their fragile economy ~ but most visitors are Greek as this isle is a favourite with Athenians, so the surround-sound of their conversations enhances the sense of exciting unfamiliarity. As do the daytime temperatures 26-30C (that's 78-86F for you, Mo) but there was always a warm breeze.  Also on my list of constant sensual pleasures: that intense dazzling azure sky, the scents of jasmine and town life, the marble-cobbled streets regularly sluiced by conscientious townsfolk ~ streets so narrow the small delivery trucks passed mere inches from the shop-front merchandise and tiny bar terraces, scarily but skilfully reversing long stretches of these steep, narrow, curving paths.
And when the sun drops behind the rock is my time for twilight writing: at Anatolikos Animus high above the sea, beach-bar Korfari, and sophisticated Kalypso in town.

Evening comes late to Skyros but it's worth staying up for the band in the hillside amphitheatre under the full-moon, and the fiesta in the plateau.
I've arrived home still in a prolonged state of Travel Fever ~ the term coined by delightful Marion P√ľning for the thrill of a journey full of excitement and enriching memories. I could say so much more, but you get the pictures...

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