Last of the summer wine….

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Hi Folks!

Sorry, I didn’t mean to be silent for so long, after packing up ‘Painting Skiathos’ for another year and returning to London, I immediately contracted the dreaded ‘Australian ‘flu! I guess, with the air being so much purer on the island, these days, whenever I return to this thriving metropolis…I get sick! Happens every time. When you consider how many millions of people are crammed into this city, living and working side by side and all the accompanying germs, well, it’s hardly surprising I suppose! Happy to report I’m as fit as a fiddle once again. Wish I could say the same about my computer though (why does every thing go wrong at once?) I’ve been struggling along on an old lap top that just wouldn’t let me upload files or photos. Very frustrating! Any way, at long last, here I am.

Skiathos, when I left a couple of weeks ago, had certainly slowed down; beaches were deserted, tavernas empty and shops closed up for the season.

Skiathos old port from the now deserted Bourtzi

Skiathos old port from the now deserted Bourtzi

The last of the tourists depart on the sea-cat

The last of the tourists depart on the sea-cat

and the Skiathites, tired from the frenzied pace of the summer, were winding down and re-claiming the island as their own once again. It’s actually a lovely time to be on the island. The leaves were turning from green to gold, the skies clouded over and the smell of wood smoke was beginning to fill the air.

Richard Buchanan -Dunlop, artist, poet and probably the longest ex pat resident on the island captures this time of year perfectly in his poem ‘Troulos’. This, the final verse, is taken from his ‘Skiathos and other Poems’ anthology:

“At Troulos in the autumn time a gentle peace returns again

The withered grass and weary pines recover in welcome rain

The small taverna once more closed sits in a state of silent dread

Waiting for the lonely solitude the cold damp days that lie ahead

Summer debris lies around left for the wind and sea to clear

And Troulos sleeps the winter out whilst waiting for another year”

Sadly this book is now out of print but a new one, with his latest works and illustrated with many of his own paintings, is in the pipeline.  I was fortunate enough to visit him in his studio, when he asked if I would photograph them in preparation for their publication, and I was surprised to discover what a prolific painter he is. There were literally hundreds canvasses, each bearing his trademark  colourful, vibrant style ( a true reflection of his own profound, many-faceted, fascinating personality) everywhere!

Richard Buchanon-Dunlop in his studio, with some of his paintings

Richard Buchanon-Dunlop in his studio, with some of his paintings

Richard B-D and yours truly

Richard B-D and yours truly

Old friends, Richard B-D with my Father

Old friends, Richard B-D with my Father

—————————————————————————–

SURPRISE, SURPRISE!

There’s nothing that makes being an artist more worthwhile (for me anyway!) than seeing one of my  paintings going to a home where I know it is appreciated and will be treasured. My dear friend Matt (from the Loulou and the Dolpins Antiques gallery) and his friend, Kees, paid me a visit in the studio earlier, in the summer. I had just finished an oil painting of the olive tree that’s visible through the studio window. They didn’t stay very long and it was only when Matt called me a few hours later, to tell me how Kees had been waxing lyrical about the ‘Olive Tree’ ever since they returned home, that I had any indication he was even interested in it! With Kees’ Birthday coming up in September, Matt wanted to buy it as a surprise for him. I was leaving for London the next day and had planned to add it to the exhibition (running on the Bourtzi throughout the summer). He instructed me to go ahead and display it publically anyway but to make sure there was a (sold) red sticker on it – and I wasn’t to breathe a word to anyone, as it was to be a surprise.

Apparently, in my absence, Kees had visited the exhibition and was distraught to find the painting ‘sold’, wishing he’s seized the chance to buy it himself when he first saw it! Several times he went back, to show friends, kicking himself every time!

When September arrived and I was back in Skiathos, I was invited to Kees’ birthday dinner. I took the painting earlier in the day, secreting it in the kitchen – so when I arrived at 8.00pm with only a ‘bottle’ and card, the deception was complete. When the moment arrived for Kees to open his gifts he’d clearly absolutely no idea what was wrapped in the large package. As the realisation dawned, incredulity was written all over his face (not only at receiving the painting he’d loved but that Matt had been able to keep it a secret for so long!). I was just delighted to be on hand to witness his amazement and to capture that very special moment on film. Take a look – the photos speak for themselves:

Hello. What's this?

Hello. What's this?

Hmmm, interesting....

Hmmm, interesting....

This can't be what I think it is...

This can't be.....

It B**** IS!

You ******!
You ******!
———————————————————————
A FOND FAREWELL
This winter, I’m sad to report, will see fellow artist and gallery owner, Helene, the kindest sweetest lady you could ever wish to meet, closing up, packing her paints and brushes and and moving back to her home town of Thessaloniki. She’s a wonderful lady who has been a much-loved and familiar figure on the island for as long as I can remember. She’s talked of leaving for a couple of years now but this time I noticed her shop sign has actually come down:
Her gallery, filled with her own handywork, a veritable Aladdin’s cave,
was tucked away in the back streets of the old town.
A broad smile and a warm welcome were always on hand
to anyone who stumbled upon it, finding Helene, seated
as she always was, at her tiny desk quietly, patiently painting-away……
We wish you all the best for your retirement, Helene.
We will miss you!
————————————————————————–
CHANGES
I wonder what other changes will lie in store for when I return to Skiathos, early next Spring.
Some will be happy ones;
Magda from Taverna Alexandos will be a proud mum for the second time
Congratulations Magda!
Tour operators may come and go, new developments and roads will appear on the ever-changing landscape but in my eyes, Skiathos will always remain the same Skiathos I love.
I’ll sign off with another of Richard Buchanan-Dunlop’s beautiful poems, that sums up its magic perfectly and is as relevant today, as when he wrote it many years ago:
‘Skiathos’*
“Skiathos the pearl the sheltered isle
Lying in the shadow of the holy mount
Uncounted olives rustling the gentle breeze
Tumbling in unordered rhythmn down its slopes
Of tangled grass down to the sole-hot sand
Down to innumerable coves washed by the dazzling sea

Skiathos the island of scented pine and heath
And the fragrance of spring and autumn flowers
Bunched in profusion on its green-grey hills
The sweet smell of honey and of warm leaves
Mingling the salty perfumes of the salty sea

Skiathos a welcome rest for birds in flight
Flying to their summer and their winter homes
A sanctuary for those who come to stay
Bringing their songs to sanctify the day
And at night the ode inspiring nightingale
Sings out its heart in the scented olive grove

Skiathos set in a ring of verdant isles
Fading from emerald greens to distant greys
Fading into the haze of the sun-warmed noon
And closer islets fringed with sandy bays
Where peace can still be found on busy summery days

Skiathos a town of winding cobbled lanes
Stepping their way between sun-white walls
Sharp shadowed walls with painted iron-wrought doors
And balconies decked bright with sleepy flowers
Fishing boats nuzzled close along its quay
Nodding and swaying in the quiet motion of the sea
As blue smocked children tumble in noisy stream
Across the causeway of their island school

Skiathos alive with sound and light and smell
Casting like Prospero’s isle an all-embracing spell
A place to linger and absorb a place to stay
A place above all to pass the time of day
A place above all to while the weeks away.”

* N.B. Punctuation (or lack of) is as the author intended.
(poems, reproduced here by kind permission of their author,
remain the copyright of Richard Buchanan-Dunlop)

2 thoughts on “Last of the summer wine….

  1. hi! i met mr.dunlop last summer thanks to his friend Gale Stathakis,during my summer vacation in skiathos. I was wondering how are they doing,They were both great and very helpful,i still didn’t have the chance to really thank them. If you see them, please say hi from a girl that they made really happy last summer. I love his poems!!So full of wisdom,so strong they make you cry.
    One of my favourites :

    Footsteps imprinted in the golden sand
    Prints that record the measured path of time
    A moment lingering alittle while
    Waiting for the tide to smooth them out

    Footsteps that march into our silent minds
    Gently disturbing there the soul’s content
    Moving the surface of our deeper thoughts
    Thoughts that are etched there by the print of time

    And as the tideway of our memory floods
    Ebbing and flowing in the sea of life
    So do the footprints softly disappear
    Into the surface of the soul quiet strand
    Into the myriad grainw of memory

    The little sands of life’s experience
    Lying quietly in the mind’s cold store
    Smooth and unruffled in the tide of time
    The footsteps disappear into the sea.

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    • Thank you Fey – a beautiful poem, one of my favourites too!
      I will certainly pass your good wishes onto Gail, whom I see regularly and to Richard when he returns to Skiathos in the Spring after his winter break. I do hope you’ll pay me a visit me too, the next time you find yourself in Skiathos. Best Wishes, Yvonne

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