‘Yvonne’s World’ Digital painting by Beth Edwards (1stAngel)
How many times have you heard this:
“Attention! Ladies and Gentlemen. This store will be closing in 20 minutes. Please proceed immediately to the nearest checkout with your purchases and exit through the main entrance. Thank you for shopping with us and have a nice day.”
Well, like a huge department store, Skiathos too is closing. There are just a few days to go before the last charter planes and ferry boats will carry away the last tide of tourists. Awnings will be rolled-in and dismantled. Shop-front shutters will be rolled down and secured for the last time, this year. Taverna chairs and tables, beach beds and brollies and bed-linen and mattresses will be stacked, packed and stored away as another season comes to an end. Summer is officially over and sad as it may appear, for many, namely the weary waiters, chefs and shopkeepers, holiday reps and hoteliers, it’s not a day too soon.
For them it’s been months of relentless hard work and few will be sorry to see the island return to it’s naturally serene and slow pace, not least those of us who remain behind. Now it’s our turn for a holiday and a chance to enjoy (for a short time at least) another other side to Skiathos; the peaceful side, an island, still open to the elements but no longer baked crisp and dry by the unforgiving heat of the sun but one slowly returning to verdant green, refreshed by soft rain, it’s shores lapped by in the sparkling seas as it basks warmly in the late autumn sun.
(The seas around the Sporades can be seen this brilliant turquoise colour in late summer – it’s a phenomenon only visible under certain weather conditions, and usually only at this time of year)
In the words of local poet and artist, Richard Buchanan-Dunlop, in his poem ‘Autumn Dance’:
“For Autumn dance is filled with bursting grapes
That in the summer have absorbed the sun
And so the muses have now called us out
To turn the Sun to wine now Summer’s done
The fruits of Autumn cannot last for long
For Winter is the king of nature’s night
And we with him must dance the long night’s dance
Till the day of the White Horses kindle light“
(The ‘day of the white horses’ refers to the day of the battle of Salamis, fought on 20th October, BC 480 in Aeschylus’ poem ‘Salamis’)
Before heading back to London I look forward lazy days filled with long walks along the deserted beaches (without a sun-lounger in sight!) or venturing high in the hills with only birdsong to break the silence – instead of the roaring engines of the rental 4 x 4’s and mopeds that have traversed the island and flattened the riverbeds and mule tracks all summer. Idle chatter over a leisurely glass of ouzo will be the order of the day, on the all but deserted ‘Paralia’, once the pleasure boats are returned to the dry-dock to over- winter. The community will draw together once again; friends and neighbours will finally have the chance to catch up and exchange their experiences and stories of the past summer.
And what a summer it’s been!
After a late and very shaky start, filled with trepidation and uncertainty (in light of the global economic crisis) eternal optimism, it seems, has paid off. Speaking to many local business owners, it would appear most have enjoyed a pretty lucrative summer season after all, ‘Enough to see us through the winter months and keep the banks at bay anyway”, seems to be the general consensus.
Many days were marked by the regular monthly religious festivals (there’s always a saint/feast day/icon to be celebrated):
(photos courtesy of Lauren Cook)
There were the annual, commemorative historical events such as this one on September 14, the Lambros Katsonis Submarine Memorial. (While trying to intercept a German troop transport, she was attacked and sunk by the German submarine chaser UJ-2101. 32 men of the crew, including Cdr Laskos, went down with her, and 15 were captured. However, Lt Eleftherios Tsoukalas, the ship’s XO, and petty officers Antonios Antoniou and Anastasios Tsigros, managed to swim for 9 hours and reach Skiathos. There they hid and eventually managed to return to Egypt and rejoin the Greek fleet).
and plenty of patriotic parades:
as well as the usual art and cultural exhibitions (including, most notably an exhibition tracing the history and traditions of the people of Asia Minor who had settled on the island following the seizure of their lands by the Ottoman Empire, more than a century ago). There were choir and dance festivals and a series of concerts staged at the Bourtzi’s outdoor theatre.
One such memorable event was a benefit concert, organised by Vasilis Koralis to raise funds for the local dog and cat shelters:
Unfortunately, immediately following the introductory speeches given by Vasilis, Mayor Nikos Plomaritis, and representatives from the two charities, there was a clap of thunder, the sky lit up with flashes of lightning and the audience had to run for cover as the heavens opened! Sadly, the event had to be postponed.
Happily though, a couple of weeks later, the show went ahead (this time at the local tennis club) and the evening’s entertainment, aptly called ‘Skiathos Has Talent’, with participants of all ages, was enjoyed by all! Here are just some of the many acts who entertained us:
Gigi Varsakis with her young dancers
Skiathos’ very own, ‘home-grown’, teenage rock band ‘Kids’
This man stole the show with his natural flair for enteraining, his fabulous voice (and his unforgettable ‘Elvis’ knee trembling!!)
Music provided by Graham (above) and Derek (below) who also stage managed the event
Star turn Selena, the belly dancer
All such events play an intrinsic part of Skiathos island life throughout the summer months and the constant stream of holiday makers, in search of rest and relaxation were probably pleasantly surprised to find the huge variety of events Skiathos had to offer, in addition to it’s glorious weather (most of the time!) clear blue seas, sandy beaches, ancient monasteries, picturesque setting and bustling night-life .
Personally speaking, my summer has been absolutely wonderful! Filled with adventure after adventure, inspiration and creativity has known no bounds. I’ve been truly blessed with a constant stream of wonderful guests; artists, enthusiasts and visitors, from all corners of the world, each of whom, without exception, have so generously shared their passions, emotions and skills.
Students of Irish artist & guest tutor, Mary Dillon’s water colour master class
I finally got to meet my dear friend, fellow artist and blogger, ChrissyMarie
and her lovely partner Andy:
A liquid lunch with Despina, Maggie, Liz (from Scotland and Australia) & my dad, at Theo Tzoumas’ (Top R.) restaurant, ‘Mesostrato’ situated at Ag. Paraskevi (absolutely the best pork chops on the island!)
One of several meetings this summer, with fellow ‘Boomerangers’ from the Bulletin Board of www.skiathosinfo.com‘. Here at Rosemary & Georges lovely restaurant, ‘Varelli’ in Troulos.
A day out at my favourite place on earth, Kastro, with more fellow ‘Boomerangers’: Sue, Darren and Steve.
Dad & I enjoy a surprise visit (and impromptu piano recital) by the supremely talented Maz, his wife Kaz and friends
Sharing a cipouro (or three!) with Liz, My dad, Thanassis, Maggie and Theodoros, on the harbour, after a long day on the high seas visiting neighbouring islands, Skopelos & Alonnissos.
Maggie and Liz had never painted before. They were complete beginners (!) on my ‘Introduction to Painting’ course – just look at the amazing paintings they managed to produce after just one week’s tuition!:
Liz’s still life in water colour
and her first painting en plein air, of Kastro (in acrylics on canvas)
Maggie’s still life in water colour
And her first painting, of the beach at Kastro, in acrylics on canvas.
Fabulous, funny, fearless, feisty ladies, both – Their visit was total delight and I am SO proud of them!
My dad (R) and dear friend Ian, raising a glass,
Ian’s lovely wife Kamila with their gorgeous baby, Olivia.
I was so taken by her wonderful smile (and colourful sun hat!) that I was inspired to capture her in oils. Here’s the completed portrait:
And here’s my last guest of the season:
the lovely Carole Robinson (L), a hugely successful and talented artist from Edinburgh who works primarily in glass but came in search of new skills and inspiration. Here she stands rightly proud of her very first attempt at Byzantine icon painting (amazing!) with her tutor, my dearest friend, Despina Mitselou.
And here is a fine example of her work: a beautiful piece, in my favourite ‘Skiathos’ colours, that I had specially commissioned (and that she carried all the way from Scotland for me!):
Thank you, Carole, and for your wonderful wisdom and friendship. (See you soon – and bring Nigel LOL!)
Yes, it’s been a wonderful summer. Life-long friendships have been forged and I pinch myself every day! When I began this venture I secretly hoped for, but dared not imagine it would be such a rewarding fulfilling experience. All my expectations have been exceeded a hundred-fold and it’s with complete humility and gratitude that I would like to thank everyone who helped in making ‘Painting Skiathos’ the successful enterprise it’s become……Most of all my husband and children for their constant support and for allowing me the time and space to follow and realise my dream….Gosh! How lucky am I?
There are many more new photos of all of this season’s classes and excursions to see.
Please visit the new ‘PHOTO ALBUMS’