Earlier this year, CWC Vice Chairman, Anne Chinneck took us with her on a journey north of the Arctic Circle. This week she takes us southeast to the much warmer climes of the Ionian Sea, as she sets off on another of her wonderful writer’s retreats.
“As I sit here in the sunshine in a gentle breeze listening to the whisper of the eucalyptus trees and watching the swallows darting about feeding their young, I know that for me, this is the quintessential Greece. Securely tied up in the harbour in the little village of Vliho on the island of Lefkas I know that this has a very special place in my heart, as well as being the place where my younger daughter lives and works. Vliho has been our second home for more than ten years and there couldn’t be a better environment in which to pursue my attempts to become a writer.
I am surrounded by myriad people and boats which characterise this place and others in this part of Greece. Each person and place has the potential to become the setting for story. Those we know best are Vicky’s staff and other friends and acquaintances we meet every year. It would take me a whole book to describe them all, with all their eccentricities and daring do stories of sailing; so many different nationalities from many different walks of life, all with one thing in common, a love of boats and the sea. We are very unadventurous compared with some. At this time of day, as the sun goes down behind the hill and the bar across the way starts to fill up, my imagination starts to wander.
What has any of this got to do with writing you may ask? Well, the potential for writing here is endless. The southern Ionian is made up of seven islands, each very different and with its own history going back thousands of years. These islands have been captured and recaptured more times than I can remember as well as enduring many devastating earthquakes. The remnants of the last one can still be seen all over the Ionian. Nowadays all buildings must be built with reinforced concrete but there are still frequent smaller earthquakes. Over the last 13 years there have been many changes in this area; tourism is providing most of the income for local people, in a still very rural environment and it is all very beautiful, more so than the better known Aegean.
My most productive time is early in the morning when everywhere is still very quiet as people start to wake up and little coffee shops begin to open up. It is the character of the Greek people that most fascinates me and stimulates my imagination with many ideas and potential stories. As long as ‘skipper’ is not being too demanding, my mind can wander and enjoy ‘people watching’. This is not always well received by the captain when I am supposed to be paying attention. Many a time I have been called to order with remarks such as ‘Anne, watch your steering’ Or ‘Think about what you’re doing’ when my mind wanders! But then he is the type of skipper always on the alert to danger and other skippers’ foolhardiness. This sort of approach does have its downside, such as the time last year when he fell off the back of our boat while shaking his fist at a passing motor boat! His memory for all things boats is incredible. He can recall any boat we have seen before, where and when. They all look the same to me!
You can see how the opportunities for writing are endless. This includes the antics of other boat owners who get into difficulties when anchoring or tying up to a jetty. Not that we haven’t been glad of a helping hand on occasions. Everybody helps each other. That is the rule of the sea. I hope this synopsis has given you a brief glimpse into the delights of this area and the reasons we keep returning. As John Masefield wrote, I must down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky, and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.”