Bring Me Sunshine, Bring Me rain…..

Whew! Well, with the first session of the season behind me, I have a few days off now – and can finally come up for air!

What a busy couple of months it’s been!

Straight after Easter, I returned to London for what should have been just a ‘flying’ visit (to attend a wedding) and found myself at the mercy of the volcanic ash crises. It was almost three weeks before I could return, which left precious little time to prepare for the arrival of my first painting guests. There was still so much to do! But somehow it all got done (well almost!).

As soon as I arrived back and before I could begin, however, I was whisked off to paint a mural on the austere OTE (telephone) building, on the main road between Troulos and Koukounaries.

‘Just 7 metres of wall’ I was told! 7 m turned out to be 27 metres!!! Talk about pressure…but what a day! It was hard work but great fun too, especially as it was a public holiday (one of the many ‘Saints’ Days) and it seemed everyone on the island passed by us at some point, waving, tooting horns or stopping to look or chat. It was  scorching hot but we were well supplied with drinks, hats, and  support.

Children who stopped to look were handed a paintbrush and invited to join in the fun. It was a charitable event on behalf of the local ‘ALKI’ charity which supports children on the island with special needs. Their committee’s newly elected chairman is my dear friend Despina Mitselou and that day, together,  we tackled the wall.with welcome assistance from friend ‘Vasso’, (Vasso, Picasso! was one of the many comments hurled from a passing vehicle)

Unbelievably, our efforts somehow warranted a mention in the National Newspaper; ‘I Kathimerini’! Teo  Tsoumas masterminded this event and thought of everything to make our full day out in the blazing sunshine more comfortable; chairs, umbrellas, a constant supply of refreshments and even some music! One of the sponsors , Mrs Santikos, the owner of the Skiathos Princess and Aegean Suites hotels came along, having first got her chef to bake us a few batches of delicious cookies! And another committee member, Eleni Lampadariou, kindly supplied us with large straw hats!

The event was also organised  in conjunction with ‘ Politistikos Syllogos Skiathos’ a local organisation with a passionate mission; to clean up and conserve the natural beauty of the island.  (the accompanying. photos are courtesy of them too). Organiser, Teo Tsoumas led a team of dedicated  volunteers, young and old, drawn from the community. They worked tirelessly over several weeks on a series of incentives to clean up Skiathos prior to the start of the tourist season. Firstly, they tackled:

The beaches (and there are many!!):

Then the forests:

and Skiathos  town, where flower beds in the Main Street (Papadiamantis St.) were weeded and colourfully planted up:

All the willing participants can feel all rightly proud of their monumental achievements! They even organised a boat trip to the neighbouring island os Skopelos,  to further their ‘Green Action’ policies, where they drummed up local support and helped to clear the forests there too!.

Alas I couldn’t join them – I had too much work of my own waiting for me back at the villa.  My first priority was the old Kalivi/woodstore/ workshop. Its roof had finally collapsed over the previous winter and the whole building was in dire need of repair. It was completely emptied (a week’s work in itself!) before restoration work began. Once again Villa Nicara was turned into a building site. The entrance was virtually impassable with huge piles of wood, sand, cement and builder’s rubble everywhere. The villa (inside and out!) and the whole garden began to look like the volcanic ash cloud had followed me to Kolios. But in just a few short weeks the Kalivi was transformed:




From this:

and this:

To this:

Inside, went from this:

to this:

‘Painting Skiathos’ now has a wonderful new art studio space and I loved its austere simplicity so much, that I was loathe to move all my art paraphanalia into it,  – but I did   – eventually!

Then there were the usual post winter jobs to be tackled: stone terraces to be sealed,  walls to be white-washed and windows to be painted. Patios had to be pressure washed too and ,shutters, oiled, Flower beds had to be weeded and planted up, grass to be cut, the pool to be maintained, studios to be spring-cleaned and, as if that wasn’t enough, even a new stone barbeque to be built! Luckily I’d just got the second coat of stone sealant down when, as if right on cue, the heavens opened up and the mother of all thunderstorms arrived,  accompanied by driving rain – the likes of which haven’t been experienced in living memory!

The dramatic electrical storm that circled the island for days brought with it floods and utter mayhem. The streets of Skiathos town turned into fast-flowing muddy rivers!

Photo © Taverna Lyhnari Skiathos

Basements were flooded and roads became impassable. My heart went out to the shopkeepers who had only just finished painting their store fronts and stocking up their summer wares.  I felt for the poor holiday makers who had just arrived too, in search of a week of sun and sand (especially those who had left a   heat wave back home!) But, I have to admit, I couldn’t help but be pleased that, in all the chaos, every  last ounce of cement dust I’d been choking on for weeks was instantly washed away in one fell swoop!

Thankfully not a single drop leaked through to the studio bedrooms  below  and now with the sterna full once again, I won’t have to buy in water for a while, thank goodness! Wells and springs are full to bursting. The deluge has drained away as quickly as it arrived, leaving behind an island fresh, and lush – with the promise of an unusually heavy olive crop later in the year, judging by the pre-storm blossom that had weighed so heavily on every tree.

photo © Mary Dillon 2010

Tree fruits like peaches:

and pears:

and tomatoes ( well, at least the ones that didn’t get washed away):

will no doubt will  be bigger and juicier than ever as a result, too! We’re already enjoying the first crop of spring vegetables:

(Thanks to friend  Ian – a ‘townie’ expat who is  – very successfully – cultivating his first ‘Mediterranean garden’ in the corner of the olive grove.

It could be the result of Greek sunshine and rain or his own green fingers but personally I put it down to the sunny disposition, charms and serious expertise (in the tasting department) of his young assistant:

As June approaches, the island is once again bathed in such glorious sunshine that the humidity, as the damp evaporates, is unusually high and in the sweet-scented, steamy olive groves and meadows, the wild flowers:

Show no sign of giving way to the dry impending summer just yet.

The yellow broom is particularly glorious this year:

The hillsides are still ablaze with golden yellow:

yet the pollen count has, thankfully, returned to a more tolerable level

Before my first guest of the season arrived, I was joined by Irish artist Mary Dillon, who was visiting for ten days – a week of which, before giving her water colour master class, she spent painting new works for her own forthcoming exhibition (next August, in her Gallery, The ‘Almond Tree’ in Roscrea, County Tipperary, Ireland) She found plenty of material to inspire her again this year:

with Jasmine:


photo © Mary Dillon 2010


photo © Mary Dillon 2010

and Passion Flowers:

photo © Mary Dillon 2010

photo © Mary Dillon 2010

in full bloom and running riot at every turn. On the wettest of days

photo © Mary Dillon 2010

she retreated to the studio to paint.

photo © Mary Dillon 2010

Her awe and enthusiasm for the natural world is boundless –  and very contagious, as her  students were soon to discover. This year, after a day in the studio and garden:

and a night on the town, getting to know each other:

we were all up early the next morning to set off, via the scenic route, to set up a work table in the beautiful gardens of Aghios Ioannis church, on the remote north side of the island:

at Kastro:

(‘Creams’? – Ponds? No. 7?)

Following a morning of painting, they braved the steep, rocky and narrow mule path, that leads down to the beach where they enjoyed a leisurely afternoon swimming in the crystal clear water:

I’d gone on ahead hoping to get a few hours of peaceful painting in myself but it was the first day Apostolis had opened the taverna and the ’round the island boat’ day trippers had arrived before me.

I didn’t mind – they were a jolly bunch, a big tour group from Australia and among them was their leader, Lynne, who’d been my first painting student of the year!

We’d enjoyed the previous day together exploring and sketching in Skiathos Old Town:

Lynne is particularly interested in architecture and enjoys painting buildings, so she loved the tiny narrow streets and old houses in the Plaka neighborhood. She was overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the towering Bougainvillea everywhere: ” A fabulous photo op. at every turn!'” was how she described it, while constantly snapping away:

After a morning of making quick preparatory sketches,  we enjoyed a long leisurely lunch at ‘Kabourelia’,on the ‘Paralia’, over-looking the harbour:

Then Lynne settled down to an afternoon of serious painting:

She got so involved in her work that even after we returned to the studio in the early evening, she wanted to carry on and finish it off.  Here’s the result :- a beautiful painting, started and completed in one afternoon, with its very proud (and rightly so!) happy ‘new’ artist, Lynne:

I also now have a very talented young girl under my wing. She comes for private lessons with me every Monday and is an absolute delight to teach; not only does she have an impressive natural talent but she’s like a sponge  soaking up everything I teach her with great maturity (that belies her ten years!) and then executes it with total ease. Joy! I look forward to posting some of her work soon (if she’ll allow me to, that is!).

My week closed with the return of one of my Irish painting guests, keen to learn more and find the confidence to continue expressing herself through her art. Learning how to paint the sea and sky was her challenge and after just a few short hours in the studio:

she left with a beautiful painting – a seascape…..with a promise to return….and I think she will!

Oh dear, That’s the problem with leaving it so long between posts, you simply store up far too much information then run the risk of boring evryone to death with it….

I still have so much to tell you, but for now, I’d better come to a close. Thank you for reading this far, and do pop back soon after I fill you in with the rest.


Finally, sorry to leave you on such a sad note but last week, Despina’s Mother passed away. Regular readers will remember her, she’s often appeared on this blog :

….I shared many a meal with this charming and gracious lady….. and reported on it here. She was such a lovely, sweet  woman; kind and generous to a fault – she always worrying that I wasn’t eating properly so regularly cooked an extra portion with me in mind – and sent Despina to deliver her special dishes to me; wonderful Greek specialities the likes of which you’d never find in a Taverna!

Sometime soon I’ll dedicate a post to her memory and share some of her unique recipes with you. Modest and unassuming as she was, I think she would be quietly thrilled by that.

She was greatly loved by all who knew her, and is very, very much missed….. R.I.P. Dear Friend….

9 thoughts on “Bring Me Sunshine, Bring Me rain…..

  1. Aw nooo! I was already having so much trouble settling back into the damp UK and getting my head round work and now I’ve read this it’s much, much worse! I so enjoyed teaching with you, Yvonne, and being made so welcome in your home that I’m sure I’ve left yet another part of myself in Skiathos.

    Sorry I missed Ian’s radishes, but I’ve come home to tomato plants, strawbs on my strawbs, potfuls of rocket, basil, coriander and dill, chocolate mint (tastes like After Eights but fractionally healthier)and purple dwarf beans. Now I’m off to make a chilli to combat the weather … lots of love and see you soon!

    Sara x

    P.S. The Exclamation Mark Monitor will scan this comment but knows there’s no hope …


  2. Yvonne, Wow what an update! The kalivi restoration is wonderful and the new studio looks lovely.

    It is lovely to see Mary and some of her beautiful photographs, also that tantalising glimspe of passionflower painting! We both wish her well for the forthcoming exhibition and send our love. As I was reading, I couldn’t help smiling, that exuberance for life indeed!

    It sounds as though you have been working very hard, the wall in particular looks very impressive and at a time when you had so many other things to do too.

    It is lovely to see what everyone is up too, gardening, painting and clean up operation alike. Also, what an image of Papadiamantis street, all that water. Strange we have had some summer storms cause similar here in Shropshire in recent years, not very nice for everyone at all but glad it washed away your cement at least and provided lots of much needed water for the summer!

    It is good to see all your students enjoying themselves, I really must get to Kastro this year (although that may prove difficult)!

    We are very sorry to hear about Despina’s loss and send condolences and hugs to her from both Andy and myself.



    • Thanks Chrissy! Your words, as always are SO encouraging.
      I’m really looking forward to your visit…as for Kastro – you MUST get there this year. Better still, I’ll take you myself (only if you’re up to it, of course!) Keep well xx


  3. lovely blog Yvonne. Looking fwd to maybe meeting up from 4 June, possibly when Elle is playing at Oasis on Mon 7th?


  4. The gardener is still hard at work, planning the later season vegetables.

    Since the photos were taken, Aubergines have flowered, Peppers have appeared, the Carrots are taking hold. Beans and cucumbers are reaching out for the supporting wires. Beetroot and Radishes are taking flavour from the Kolios soil and we have a bumper crop.

    Much to my surprise, the storms did not wash anything away, and our harvest remains intact …


  5. Dear Yvonne

    An absolutely delightful read!

    A dull Bank Holiday Monday here in the UK!!

    I hope the shop keepers have all recovered from the flash flood?
    And so pleased my dear friend that it did have a small positive for you in washing away the cement dust, as that would have been around all summer without the heavens taking a hand!

    The new building looks absolutely idyllic and so has your wonderful, tasteful hand in it!

    Blog more soon before you get too busy.

    Lots of love you



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