Wednesday, 31 August 2011

(un) happy feet

Yesterday I went to yoga and had a proper look at my feet for the first time in a while. Poor unloved things. They definitely won't be the subject of any toe-suckage in the near future that's for sure. There was a time when they used to be lavished with attention in the shower (scrubbed top and bottom) but I realise they have been forgotten for some time now.
It's not that I completely disregard them. I mean I always take them on holidays with me and I do dress them up in lovely red sandals with shiny buckles. But I am definitely a candidate for a love-your-feet-awareness-course if such a thing even exists.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Time to begin imagining again

Beware Greeks bearing stones!

My friend Z came from London for the weekend and announced that she would quite like one of the Skyros stones I had painted. Of course I obliged! Regard the cheesy smile -  yet another happy customer (of the non-paying variety you understand!) I  would never dream of charging Z for one of my creations as she is (a) a friend and (b) bona fide Greek. Surely charging a Greek for one of their stones would be akin to charging a Laplander for  ice cubes? Actually it's not like I have charged anyone yet for a stone anyway - I am a true struggling artiste! 
To be honest I am really missing painting my stones right now. I have a whole stack I brought back from Greece but I just haven't had time over the past two weeks. I think I need to find time. Actually the same could be said for my writing - I really need to write. I need to start. I need to create. I need to find the same amount of energy which I give to my students and give it to myself as well. Not even the same amount actually -just some time. A little window to catch my breath and begin imagining again. I have lost enough breath already this year.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Mice to meet you

I had a new beginner class start last week and one student insisted on saying mice to meet you the whole time. I tried to coax a nice to meet you out of her but she really couldn't hear the difference.  After a while I thought - does it really matter? She is a happily retired lady learning English for fun and actually it was mice to meet her!
I have to say that little moments like these make up for all the other things that are not so mice about teaching sometimes - e.g.  the hours, the pay, the endless preparation and the fact that some students like to encroach on your private space as if they own it somehow. I have resolved to be firmer this year about my boundaries with (some) students but it is hard because sometimes I think they just choose to ignore the signs and keep pushing  me because they can sense I am a soft touch.Perhaps I need a dog with big teeth or maybe a personal hygiene problem! Actually the more I think about it the more I realise this is my problem not theirs.  I shall cancel the garlic bath for now and work on my ability to decide what I can give and not give.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

In lieu of the sea

Since I got back to Basel I have gone paddling in the Rhine a few times in lieu of the sea. (Not today because today I felt crap!) The current is quite fast in the river so I often find myself being whisked away to France with very little warning. Luckily I have my floaty orange thing with me which keeps me buoyant and is (rarver conveniently) stashed with depreciating euros that I can spend on chocolate eclairs should the current finally win. 
I particularly like this picture of me with my floaty orange thing bcause of the lovely oompa-loompa-ish shade to my skin.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Hello sun

I believe I may have brought the sun back with me to Basel. Apparently it was a miserable summer here but now the sun is beaming between the clouds.
Ok I realise it probably wasn't me at all (my powers of persuasion are really only limited to coaxing cats out of bushes with slabs of tuna fish and convincing mosquitoes they would be better off biting the other person in the room!) No - it was  simply the all seeing, all loving sun letting me know she is still above my head wherever  I am.

I think of Hafiz and his lovely poem. 

The Sun Never Says

Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth,
"You owe Me."

Look what happens with
A love like that,
It lights the Whole Sky. 

When I read this poem I think of a friend I have right now who is suffering deeply. I hope she will see the sun again some time soon.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Goodbye Skyros

 So my Skyrian dream had to end some day as I forgot to meet a Greek shipping magnate while I was away. I should have written it on my to-do-list because I always finish my to-do-list. :-(
Goodbye Dimitri my other BSB

Goodbye BSB
Saying goodbye is never easy and I must confess that the sea outside Cafe Ferogia became a little more saltier as I wept amongst the waves.
But above all  I am grateful to have been here at all - to have felt so wlecomed, so loved and so free.

Goodbye Vicki BSG

Goodbye Theo ( Tutu's owner)

Goodbye Gift

I'll be back!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

on being tamed

Yesterday 'the gift' and I visited a very beautiful bay called Pefkos. Of course I was very reluctant to leave the safety of my Cafe Ferogia microcosm but it was worth the distraction (at least until the stones started calling me home again.) There was a lovely taverna full of families having lunch and a quiet beach with deep clear water. What I love about Skyros is how each area feels like another world - all of them lovely, all of them unique.

During the drive I saw an island out in the sea which looks very much like the drawing of the boa-constrictor swallowing an elephant from The Little Prince. It's interesting because independent of this I have spent a lot of the past 6 weeks here reflecting on The Little Prince - in particular on the story of the fox and the responsibility that comes when you tame someone.  I know I was tamed last year. That is why this year has been so hard.

The Gift

 'The gift' reading from a book of Hafiz poetry I lent him.
Heh Heh - how easily I amuse myself!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


This is a sign at the port town of Linaria which amused me greatly.  
Who is the master now?
I like Linaria very much. It isn't shady or tattered and has lots of pretty little boats bobbing about in the water.

I haven't been doing much beach dancing the last couple of nights but I have done a bit of sea-wiggling in the afternoon. You can hear the bar music from the water and it is nice to give the fish some sort of entertainment ( although they seem quite happy to entertain themselves by nibbling my bottom at any chance.) I particularly enjoy listening to a Greek version of 'itsy bitsy yellow polkadot bikini' which is played at Cafe Ferogia every afternoon at some point.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Peace restored

my studio
Yesterday afternoon I was having a lie down on my bed when there was a knock at the door and this cut glass English accent called out ' Are you the stone painter?' It sounded very otherworldish and I felt she could have just as easily asked  - are you the cloud-gatherer or perhaps the woman who speaks with spoons. Naturally I answered in my best otherworldish voice that I was and she asked if she could have /buy some of the stones I had on my windowsill. In the end I offered to paint her a new one. Some of my stones I have given away when I feel I know where they belong but otherwise I prefer to paint new ones than give away the ones that just 'arrived' somehow.
Another commissioned piece

But of course I am digressing from the most important news which is. 'Yes - Tutu has been found.'
 Peace has been restored to the sands of Molos. 

Friday, 5 August 2011

the dog-whisperer

Today I swam out to a rocky island near the bay and nearly stood on a sea anemone. This will teach me to be Robinson Crusoe. I shall stick to the land from now on which isn't that difficult when you get to walk along beautiful streets like these.


Later I went to my favourite restaurant (Tom's) and I was informed by Theo ( who works there) that Tutu ( beach dog) was missing. I was then summoned by Theo's mother to help search for the dog and have been asked to scour the streets of Skyros town. My instructions are that if I find Tutu I must escort him immediately home. I am sure Tutu has happily got his nose up some other dog's bottom but obviously as a most-trusted dog scourer/whisperer I shall bring the rogue home should he be found.

P.s. Last night I went for a swim in the sea and then danced on the beach to Supergirl.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

a small fit of sociability

Last night 'the gift' invited me for a sunset drive around the island. ( Clearly I will never be able to tell 'the gift' about my blog now!) I thought about telling him about my propensity for vomiting when driven around Skyros roads but then decided I should be sponatenous and leave my stone-painting hermit existence at least for a few hours. Fortunately the gift was a gentle driver as I believe we may have circumnavigated the whole island in a desperate chase to catch the sun and I didn't vomit once.
Skyros really is a rugged, remote island with lots of wonderful patches of wilderness, redolent with cypress trees and the sound of joyous cicadas. I could  live here I believe and quite happily embroil myself in local gossip while feeding the local cat population. One is allowed to dream.
We finished our cruise (with a pause for dinner) at the  spectacular Kavos bar over looking the port of Linaria. Whenever a ferry comes to dock on the island this bar blares out 2001 A Space Odyssey to welcome the travellers in. Unfortunately no boats were arriving when I was there so I may have to return for the experience.  The bar itself though was gorgeous and was cut into the cliff in layers that went all the way down to the sea.
Other than sporadic bursts of sociability I have been passing my days in the usual way: swimming in the sea, painting stones, drinking very fluffy banana smoothies and increasing my kudos on the island.)  Yesterday BSB's mother-in-law told me I was the perfect woman. I believe it is because (a) I don't stagger home late at night drunk (b) I don't invite men friends to my room: (c) I paint stones which is a most wholesome endeavour and delights small children.  I did have to lay low for a day or so though because there was a persistent fisherman trying to entice me onto his boat for a 4 a.m. fishing expedition. There were so many things wrong with this proposition ( fish: fishing: sea sickness: 4 a.m. and the fact that he seemed to to be asking my breasts anyway) that it was very easy to say no - repetitively.
Still beach dancing each night - Loona  and Mike Oldfield the latest victims of my midnight flings.
Heard from a friend in Syria too ( not the one from Hama). It was nice to have contact

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Cats that speak Greek

This is my adopted cat whom I have started feeding. He comes and yowls outside my door every morning and night. I have tried to explain the meaning of the word 'discreet' to him but he only speaks Greek. The interesting thing is that as the days pass more Greeks are coming to me with scraps of food to give to him. In a couple of days I am going to have to 'home' him somehow or at least find someone who can continue when I leave at the end of next week. I think I will be able to do this as he is a very friendly, affectionate cat. If not I will take him to the cat sanctuary up in the town. (I am strictly not allowed to cry about leaving him until I actually leave him - no pre-emptive tears Joanna J.)
Two days ago I was commissioned by an Athenian woman, Sousanna, to do a portrait of her yogi cat Sylvester. She went back to Athens last night and telephoned me to say Sylvester had something to say to me. I think it was 'thanks for the portrait' but obviously he speaks Greek too. As she was leaving yesterday she told me she had a special 'gift' for me. I told her it wasn't necessary but she said I would like it. Anyway it turned out to be a single Dutch man she had met the night before and thought would be perfect for me!!!! Later the 'gift' turned up at my door to introduce himself. We had a nice chat - who knows she probably gave me as a 'gift' to him as well. I  am not looking for any 'gifts' right now though. I am still dealing with previous 'gifts' in my life.

Monday, 1 August 2011

a dance for my friend

I have decided that dancing on the beach after dark is very good exercise for the thighs and soul so last night I danced to Somewhere Over The Rainbow/ Wonderful World by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. It was very dark -  just me and the stars and that beautiful song.
Then I went inside and read the news only to find my beloved Hama was all over the headlines for all the wrong reasons. I began thinking about how I had been dancing on the beach just moments before as my lovely Hama burned and I wondered how two such opposing human experiences (amongst the countless others) are able to exist at the same time on the same earth. I felt guilty and sad. Guilty that I had danced when Hama was suffering and sad that this was how the world was. Then I thought some more and wondered what I could have done (could do) instead of dancing on a beach and I remembered the times the Syrians had danced for me when I was in their country. The family in Homs who did a spontaneous, hip wiggling 'we are not terrorists' dance in their living room before feeding me on corncobs;my wonderful family in Damascus who had all danced together when the uud man came to play;  the women in the Hama hammam who had turned their buckets into drums to dance; or perhaps my dear friend I met in Hama who used to suddenly throw his arms in the air and dance whenever he felt joyful.  The same friend who was sent into military service two years ago to drive tanks. The same friend who should have left the army this January. The same friend I have not heard from for a few months now

In the end I decided that I should keep dancing each night and so last night I danced to Marco Polo and I remembered Hama.