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My Greek Island Home

Lesvos changed my life

Driving to our local Limani at end of another beautiful day. Photograph Claire Lloyd

Excerpts from my book My Greek Island Home

I worked like a maniac until 2004, when glandular fever stopped me in my tracks. During my long recuperation, I realised I realised I no longer wanted to work in the same way I had for so many years. I was getting older and my priorities were changing. There were moments when I felt a failure. Not working went against everything I believed in; my life had been my work and my work had been my life. But it was time to move in a different direction. I had to muster a great deal of courage not to retreat back into the safety of what I knew. In reconstructing my life, my creativity returned. The process has taken years and continues every day.

Some where in the midst of this journey I bought a small village house on the island of Lesvos, and it’s now home. My partner Matthew Usmar Lauder, a London artist, shares and loves this new life. This book is a tribute to our life in Greece, so simple in many ways but enriched by loving animals, magnificent landscapes and wonderful people with kind faces and warm hearts.

 

When I bought the house, I was led by instinct – over the years I have learned to follow it without question.

People always ask me why I chose this place, how I came to be here. It was my friend Vicki who introduced me to Lesvos. She is a homeopath I have been seeing for many years and she knows me well. I had often said to her that I wanted a house away from London, a sunny place abroad. One day I walked into her consulting room and said, ‘I have lost my creativity; I don’t feel grounded. I am terribly frustrated.’

Vicki suggested a change in direction. She held up her phone and on it was an image of a traditional stone house in a rugged landscape where fig and walnut trees stood below clear blue skies. She announced in her quiet way, ‘I have bought a house in Greece on a very beautiful island.’ I stared at her screen, entranced. Vicki was touched by my reaction – it felt quite profound. She said, ‘Perhaps this is your remedy.’ It was just up to me to take it. I phoned my friend Domenica and asked if she was up for a trip; her answer was a resounding yes.

So we set off and after a knackering all-night journey we arrived at Mytilene airport at six in the morning. Our first glimpse of Lesvos from the air was exciting: the deep blue-green Aegean Sea and a huge landmass rising from it. Dawn was breaking and warm colours streaked the horizon, a preview of the beautiful day ahead.

The sense of serenity and peace I felt when I arrived on Lesvos was extremely powerful, and my sense of connection to the island only grew over the hours and days of our stay. It was the right time and the right place for me.

Our destination was a delightful little hotel on a small working harbour in Molyvos. Despite being exhausted and fighting sleep, I felt so alive. I didn’t want to miss anything. I was taking in everything: the smell of the sea, the warmth of the early morning air, the sound of birdsong, and the sun in the sky.

Finding my village was an easy accident. We left the main road and found ourselves driving down a narrow stone street edged with small houses. The village was a charming mixture of buildings, some in varying states of decay, others upright and proud with glorious gardens, fruit trees and colourful potted flowers. It smelt of a delicious, earthy combination of food, flowers animals and soil.

As it was spring, the main square – the heart of the village – was filled with older men, all shaded by an enormous plane tree. Some were grouped around tables playing cards and bat gammon while others chatted with worry beads in their hands, drinking coffee and watching the world go by, a great Greek pastime.

A small woman with dark wavy hair greeted us warmly. She had the most beautiful, open smile and placed us in the corner of the room by a window that looked on to the street. We were presented with a variety of tasty food – far more than we could possibly eat – along with an extra dish, on the house. 

When Domenica and I finished lunch we wandered around the village taking in its charm and sizing up any potential living spaces. Camera in hand, I took a few photos of what might be my new project. Captivated by the village, I felt I could not have taken a better detour; every part of me felt as if I was coming home.


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