What a busy time!
Well it’s official, the summer season has definitely begun in earnest and with soaring temperatures and suffocating humidity you’d be forgiven for thinking this was August and not just the start of July. Having spent a comparatively ‘quiet’ few weeks in the gallery (alongside the shop-keepers who were beginning to despair at the lack of trade) I’m pleased to be able to report that Skiathos has suddenly sprung into action. Plane and boat loads of tourists arrive daily now:
cafe’s and tavernas are buzzing and buses are full to capacity once more, returning sun-worshippers in varying degrees of pink, back to their resorts at sunset for a quick siesta, shower and sprucing-up, before they cram temselves back into the buses and taxis, for nights on the town, which is now, thankfully, in full swing!
Skiathos’ summer cultural programme opened this weekend, with the 15th Annual Choir Festival held, as in previous years, in the open air theatre, on the Bourtzi. Organised by the Cultural Organisation of the Municipality of Skiathos, once again a wonderful ensemble, made up of choirs and musicians invited from Tirnavou and Nikaias (on mainland Greece) and our very own Skiathos Municipal Choir, (directed by Mr Arvanitis) entertained us with magical evenings filled with traditional and contemporary Greek music and song. Among much notable talent among the chorus, musicians and soloists, the highlight of the festival for me, was the appearance (and impromptu performance) of one of Greece’s most highly regarded composer/songwriters, Elias Andriopoulos. Several of his well-known (and clearly much-loved) compositions had been sung by the choirs throughtout the evening but when the man himself took to the stage, sat down at the piano and began to play and sing , an awed hush descended on an enraptured audience.
Its at time like this that I despair over my lack of command of the Greek language. Much to my dismay (and embarrassment) I was only too aware of how much I was missing of the poetry of his lyrics but, in the words of my friend, Vassili Korallis
(a member of the Skiathos choir who thankfully was permitted to give an introduction in English – well, on the first night at least – which did much to make the non Greek-speaking tourists feel equally welcomed and included):
“…..Music brings us memories,
Music binds us together,
Music communicates our general feelings to each other
Truly, the language of music is universal”
and I couldn’t have agreed more!
This has been a time of mixed emotions. Earlier this week, I gathered, along with a few old friends, at the peaceful cemetery at the top of the old town (the Acropolis) to say goodbye, pay respects and finally lay to rest my dear friend and neighbour of the last 30 years, Richard Romyn.
Sadly he died from a short illness while indergoing hospital treatment back in England in April. He was 81. His daughter Ann and son Nick returned with his ashes this week, to re-unite him with his wife Elizabeth, who died 2 years ago and is buried in Skiathos.
As almost the last of the original ex pats who built homes and settled on Skiathos in the 1950’s and early 1960’s they were a long familiar sight on the island and as such, had many a story to entertain us with, about how the island was in they ‘old days’ before mass tourism changed forever this Greek idyll.
R.I.P our dear friends. Together again, but you are sorely missed.
Monday night saw the opening of another grand cultural event: ‘Sporades Emerald’, an Art Exhibition organised by artist Maria Kalatzi, and sponsored by the Infinity Blue Restaurant, on behalf of Club UNESCO for Art Literature and Science of Greece.
New works, incuding paintings, mosaics, sculpture and pottery, by several UNESCO artist/members (including yours truly) from all the Sporades islands, were placed on display inside the Bourtzi, following another spectacular evening’s entertainment. This included a poetry recital by guests of honour Mrs Stella Leontiadou, and the winner of Greece’s much-coveted ‘Artist of the Year Award”; Mrs Maro Voudouroglou-Vlachakis, from Skopelos, reading from her latest collection of poems. This was interspersed with piano recitals by the very young and extremely talented Miss Marianna Riganas & the supremely accomplished pianist Mr Themis Simboulidis, both of whom delighted us with a wonderful programme of classical music.
To sit in the open air, on a warm summer’s night, under a canopy of a sky glistening with a million stars, against a backdrop of the twinkling lights of Skiathos town reflected in the gently lapping waters of the Aegean in the harbour below….and all the while listening to Chopin and Delibes….well, I tell you, it doesn’t get much better than that!
After the ensuing speeches and the presentation of bouquets to the guests and certificates (to the artists) a wonderful buffet was served and the exhibition was formally declared open.
The ‘Sporades Emerald’ Exhibition will continue to run for the next two weeks, until July 13th and, as with all the events held on the Bourtzi under the auspices of the Mayor, Mr Nikolas, Plomaritis and the Municipality of Skiathos, it is open to everyone and entrance is free.
And after all the high-brow, allow me to bring you down to earth for a moment. Today, I’m celebrating; I can now proudly announce that
“THE KITCHEN AT VILLA NICARA HAS FINALLY (yes, finally!) GOT A KITCHEN SINK!”
Regular visitors to the villa, who’ve been party to this 18-month-long drawn-out ridiculous saga, will know exactly why I’m so excited and will understand completely why today is such a cause for celebration. A beautiful white marble sink now sits proudly (and fits exactly) where there has been a gap for SO long.
The sink is IN, the plumbing is IN…..and now….
Ah yes…..well now………..there does remain just one small matter ……taps
Oh well (sigh) at least the sink’s in….
And so, the saga continues……….
Finally let me introduce you to my new companion at the villa:
I spotted him grubbing about in the garden and he’s become quite friendly, accepting both my presence, as I potter about, and occasional tidbits, even allowing the odd photo-shoot unperturbed. In early evening he can be seen making his way (rather rapidly!) across the olive grove to visit my neighbour, Stellios, at the Marina apartments where I’ve come to learn he dines regularly on a meal of bread and pieces of meat.
But in the morning he’s back again, curled up and asleep, under his favourite bush.
I’ve called him Charambalos, pronounced (think Tom Conti in Shirley Valentine) Harabalos
Yes, “Harabalos the Hedgehog” has quite a nice (Greek) ring to it, dont you think?