Sunday, 29 July 2012

Night and Day

This is Dimitri - a native Skyrian. By day he works at Ferogia ( my current address) where he traipses around serving drinks and salads to hungry-holiday makers. It is a long day for him punctuated by lessons in 'how-to-make-a proper brew' by well-meaning English tourists. He works all summer so he can pay for his studies on Crete.

Sometimes, however, he dances too.

Although obviously not with me since I seem to perform best in shady Canberra bars accompanied by a chair. But yes he does dress up in traditional Syrian garb and dance under the moonlight to intermittently (depending on the power situation) live music. The last time he did it was two nights ago.  The official reason I still can't quite decipher but I am beginning to think that nobody else really knows either.

It began at twilight with a  flotilla of little fishing boats making their way out to a barren rocky island just off the coast. On the island is a solitary church with an enormous brass bell which one of the priests chimed as all the locals clambered across the rocks. Somehow I managed to wing my way onto one of these over-crowded fishing boats where I sat amongst the nets and listened to the Greeks gossip - there was way to much eye-rolling and arm-waving for it to have been anything else. I had been told there was a dress code for the island so I had brought a pretty colourful scarf with me to cover any offending bits. Turns out I think it was more offending not to reveal your bits.
Anyway I made my way up to the church where there was an altar of bread waiting to be blessed. Fairly soon a Dustin-Hoffman lookalike priest came out to sing grace with two other priests. (Actually I am not sure if singing grace is part of the Greek Orthodox tradition but it sounded like that to me.) I have to admit that if there was a prize for most attentive congregator I might well have won it apart from a few elderly women dressed in black right at the front. Everyone else seemed much more interested in perching on rocks and scandalising.
After some time had passed I began pondering how exactly I was going to get off the island as the Greeks are not prolific queuers and they tend to board boats like a row of line-dancers -   arms linked; one next to each other instead of behind. Happily I found a small boat ferrying people back and forth constantly so I joined this one before the masses had line-danced their way down to the rocks. I ended up sharing the boat with an Athenian family who told me 'Greece suits you'. (Not sure whether this is because of my appreciation of feta cheese or the sparseness of my wallet) Maybe it was simply because I was smiling like a dog and enjoying the wind in my hair just as they were.

Once back the dancing began and out Dimitri and his troupe came to do an array of traditional numbers, improvising whenever the power failed, and thoroughly enjoying themselves. At the end all the locals linked arms and joined in the dancing too. I watched on feeling a little bereft that I don't come from a culture where the elderly and the young, the middle aged and teenagers, all come together and link arms to dance. Surely the currency of such community spirit has got to be worth something!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Olympic search

So I spent last night trying to find a screening of the London Olympics opening ceremony. You would have thought  - being the Olympic  birthplace and all -  I would have been spoilt for choice on a Greek island. No such luck.  I had to make do with a sidewards glance through the window of a local house where a family was watching the show on a TV the size of toaster. It may have even been the only TV on the island. Thwarted, I ended up eating at a restaurant near the plateia (central square) where I quickly became friend, plate-taster and raki-skuller with the family that ran the restaurant.

 But Regarde!!
The One-Eyed cat. Looking content and shiny and not opposed to being photographed. I know the missing eye is sad but in general he seems a very contented cat these days and his coat is very glossy.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012


So slowly I am finding my Skyrian feet. 
Walking the beach, collecting stones. Exchanging shy glances with local Greeks who recognize me from last year. Locking myself out  twice ( I am adept at breaking and entering now.) Eating beautiful grilled vegetables and hot Skyrian cheese.
Today my new friend Kate from London took me to Kavos for lunch. Kavos is a magnificent bar that cascades all the way down to the ocean. It is near the port town of Linaria where the big ferry boats come in.
 Regard its ginger-haired manager. I gave him a good tip.

Monday, 23 July 2012

O Damascus

Three years ago I passed a wonderful summer in Damascus ( apart from an overnight stay in hospital in which the staff were very lovely but my stomach less so).) The streets were bustling with children playing hopscotch, donkeys delivering watermelons, women eating ice-creams and men laughing and  chattering as they played backgammon together.

Damascus now.

No clatter of backgammon pieces only that of guns. No children playing in the  streets. It's far too hot for ice-cream. I have a friend in Damascus who writes of bullets hitting her brother's room, of cowering in the lounge room, of not daring to go outside.

My heart scrapes along the ground when I hear of beautiful Syria so wounded now.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

tickle the happy spot

Over the past couple of days one of my stories has been used a thank you in a fundraiser and another was complimented by a stranger as being ' brilliantly written and touching -- the kind of story that sticks with a reader.' I need to write again. I need to stop being so unsure of myself. I need to stop letting my anxiety and fears stop me from creating. I need to tickle my happy spot again - it so elusive these days.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

the one-eyed cat

is by his seat. Repeat: the one eyed-cat is by his seat. And the black poodle is at his post. Repeat: the black poodle is at his post. This won't mean much to you I suppose unless you were on Skyros last year but if you connect the dots I guess you will be able to work out that yes I am indeed on Skyros once again. (No sign of Tutu the dog as yet and I have been warned that some dogs met a grisly end over the past twelve months but I'm holding out for  miracle.) Unfortunately I have been unable to capture any photographic evidence of either the one-eyed cat or the black poodle as they are notoriously shy signposts so you will have to make do with a couple of random shots to confirm my arrival.
View from Skyros Centre - I'm not actually doing a course here this year but I did enjoy a rarver tasty lunch.    

Friend of the one-eyed cat - hereon to be  referred to as conjunctivitis cat - junky for short.

I am actually staying down at Ferogia where I stayed last year. Everybody here has been very kind and welcoming to me  but I have to say I don't really feel settled at this time. A bit melancholy and aware of my current jobless state.
 It's early days though and I hope to find my groove some time soon.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

the stone lady

When I was a teenager I went and saw Steel Magnolia's with a girlfriend of mine. Her mother had died less than a month before and both of us were still too young to really know how to manage it. I remember that sinking feeling as I watched the film that it was not going to end well and I started planning my strategy. I was determined not to cry even as the egg in my throat started weighing down on my heart. How could I cry at  Hollywood make-believe when sitting next to me was some one who had just lost her own mother to an insidious disease. So I sat there, mute, dried eyed right through to the end and then probably made some insightful comment about how wonderful Dolly Parton had been. A few years later my friend teased me and called me 'the stone woman' for how unemotional I had been that day. Of course I felt miscast ( I mean cry over dead pigeons for goodness sake) and just to prove it I cried like a baby when we went to see Philadelphia a few months later on. Now I cry with great gusto at any movies I see. I think my best effort was watching Jesus of Montreal. Inconsolable. Anyway I only mention the stone woman because of the one I recently painted for a knowledgeable-frau I know in Basel. A thank you I suppose but definitely not a good bye. I much prefer this stone woman though she's not afraid of anything.

Monday, 9 July 2012



Look as long as you can
at the friend you love
No matter whether that friend is moving away from you
or coming back toward you.


Something I try to do each and every passing day.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Clockwork Phoneix 4

Mike Allen, the wonderful, courageous editor of the Clockwork Phoenix series ( in which I have two stories)  is planning to release a Clockwork Phoenix 4. He has set up a fund raising project at Kickstarter and you can watch him here share the magic of the world he has created. ( I even get a mention - oh the fame, the fame.blush etc.)

Publishing is hard work and I am truly grateful to him for the opportunities he has given me to showcase my work in this wonderful series. If anyone reading this ( that's you -my one fan) feels so inclined please feel free to contribute to this cause so the tales of beauty and strangeness can keep on coming.


Thursday, 5 July 2012

Fox hunt

The other night I had a very vivid dream about a fox. And yes if you could be sued for copyright infringement in your dreams I am sure Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's would have a strong case against me.
 I was on a Greek island and I met this speaking fox with the most beautiful fur coat. I believe we only spent one day and night together in which we rode together on a  bicycle, talked about everything and at night he slept at the foot of my bed. The next night we were out and there was a small explosion. The fox was startled and ran off into the night. Later he came to me (I was waiting for him) and he told me how he had been chased by a couple of dogs. He said he didn't want to go back to that life that he wanted to stay with me. At that moment I realised that I couldn't keep the fox because I would be leaving the island some day soon and even though I wanted to keep him safe and have him on my bed I had to let him go before I tamed him completely. Honestly it really was the Little Prince all over again but I cannot even think what triggered it in my sleep.  Now I find myself missing the fox in my waking hours and it makes me sad.. I feel as if I let him down somehow. I don't even think I agree with my decision. I think we should have just kept riding bicycles - he was getting very good. I mean who knows what I might have done tomorrow. I might have stayed on the island and opened my own ouzo distillery. He could have been my tester ( since I'm sure a fox who speaks as well as he did must surely have quite a discerning palate as well.)

 I hope he visits me in my sleep again soon so I can make amends.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

C permit baby

Guess what ...I now have a C permit. It came in the post last week. This means I  am now permitted to use the letter "c" freely in conversation without paying commission to the c-police. ( See I can even use words like 'commission' now.)
OK... I confess ...there's no such thing as the c-police even in Switzerland.
It actually means that I have a permit to live and work freely anywhere in Switzerland, I can even buy property with my 50 franc savings.
I have realised I am fast becoming quite the passport/permit hoarder since I already have Australia and the EU under my belt.....I just need to bag that elusive American one and I am well on my way to somewhere.  Not sure where though.
A Swiss friend of mine on hearing the news said I should be sure to put in a police complaint about a noisy neighbor soon to cement my C-permit status. (I can repeat this because a Swiss person  said it.) Not sure if I am ready for such a bold move right now but I did suggest to a boy last week that he give up his seat to an old, old, old man with a walking cane on the tram. Obviously I said it very nicely and in fluent German as now I have a C permit my German is miraculously perfect.

regard the C permit holder
Ironic I just quit my job really.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Monster recruitment

I have just designed myself some business cards for the future recruitment of English-learning monsters. You have a choice of ...

(a) - the pet version. Note the excitable 'sheep' on the end. At least I think he is a sheep. I drew him at the end of my first draft and well he had to stay really - didn't he!
(b) - the monster version. Speaks for itself really.