Symi Dream

Living on a Greek island

A Greek island blog from Symi in the Dodecanese islands of Greece. "James’s great talent lies in his careful observation of the absurd and the amusing, the dramas and the difficulties..." Anne Zouroudi.

Symi Dream - Living on a Greek island

Carry On Up The Kali Strata

Carry On Up The Kali Strata

Which is what I did yesterday. I just popped down to the post office and the bank, not that popping back up again is much fun. Actually, it was, and I am still able to manage the walk without being out of breath. Mind you, I do tend to lose half my body weight in sweat which is a bit embarrassing if you stop off at the top to buy something from a shop. It’s not the time to try on clothes, that’s for sure.

So today, I thought I’d share some of the photos I took on that trudge up the hill (which I enjoyed). A tip is to stop now and then to take pictures, as that gives you an excuse for a pause without anyone thinking you’re shirking your exercise. Another tip is to have a bottle of water with you, and a third is to stay in the shade as much as possible. You hear people say that they copy the locals and zigzag up the steps to make it easier. I’ve never been sure about that. Yes, people do, but maybe that’s because the mules do and thus folk think it’s better. I reckon the mules have to because of the way they walk, and I don’t find it any easier to zigzag than to go straight for the direct route which must surely involve fewer paces. I go where the shade is, so some tacking is unavoidable. However you do it, remember that there’s also a book by the same name, ‘Carry On Up The Kali Strata’, and it holds all kinds of info and stories and articles which are often fun to read.

And now, the walk:

Kali strata (2) Kali strata (3) Kali strata (4) Kali strata (5) Kali strata (6) Kali strata (7) Kali strata (8) Kali strata (9) Kali strata (10)

Pew. It was 32 degrees.

Pew. It was 32 degrees.

Let’s hurry this along

Let’s hurry this along

I’m aware that I’ve been back nearly a week and still not much news from Symi so I will end my UK trip story with a few photos to bring it to a close today.

I left you on Romney Marsh yesterday, and that’s where I was for three days. During this time, I met up with four other old friends from school days, had lunch with my old deputy headmaster, and there’s another coincidence there, a couple actually. He lives in a house we lived in 50 years ago, so I was able to see inside it again after a long time. I also briefly played their piano. It stood three feet away from where my first piano stood and where I had my first piano lesson. Also, in a revue at school in 1980, not long after we did ‘Cox and Box’, Box and I dressed up as the ugly sisters in a panto sketch where the headmaster was portrayed as Cinderella. Box and I were dressed as the two deputy heads, one of whom I had lunch with in my old house. He remembered it fondly, I am pleased to say.

My old sea wall. Did you know, the landowners used to have to pay a 'Scott' tax to maintain the wall? If they managed to get away without paying it, they got away 'Scott free.' Now you know where that expression comes from, Romney Marsh.

My old sea wall. Did you know, the landowners used to have to pay a ‘Scott’ tax to maintain the wall? If they managed to get away without paying it, they got away ‘Scott free.’ Now you know where that expression comes from, Romney Marsh.

My best mate at school, Andrew T McKay (now a top composer in movies and other neat stuff) took a photo of me sitting on this cannon in a cloak and fedora. Another old bestie, Sally Taylor (mayoress of Hammersmith & Fulham now and I must stop name dropping) took the reverse angle but on the same cannon.

My best mate at school, Andrew T McKay (now a top composer in movies and other neat stuff) took a photo of me sitting on this cannon in a cloak and fedora. Another old bestie, Sally Taylor (mayoress of Hammersmith & Fulham now, and I must stop name dropping) took the reverse angle but on the same cannon.

I also took a long walk along the beach, and out into the marsh to see places and fields I used to play in with my farmers-sons friends, took photos of wildlife for research purposes and had a couple more hearty meals and pints of Old Rosie (cider). The next highlight was seeing my brother at Dungeness for the first time in 14 years.

Another house I was brought up in.

Another house I was brought up in.

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On the last day of my trip, my nephew came down from Folkestone to pick me up. We visited his grandfather’s grave, drove to Ashford to see two of my nieces I’d not met before, and then spent the afternoon and evening in Folkestone behaving badly. I was able to take a look at the theatre I used to work in back in 79 to 81, now derelict and awaiting its fate. We had a ‘sesh’ at a Champagne bar stuck out at the end of the harbour arm, and the next day, the boys drove me to Stanstead. Here, Jet2 were on time until a couple of passengers got lost, and then we were delayed for 20 minutes. Ha! You should try 20 hours, love. We arrived in Rhodes only ten minutes late where the Angela Suits upgraded me as a returning visitor, and I had the biggest bed ever invented. The room was also spotless, unlike the hotel on the outward trip.

At the grave of E.E. Nesbit (The Railway Children) at St Mary in the Marsh.

At the grave of E.E. Nesbit (The Railway Children) at St Mary in the Marsh.

Paddington stayed home this trip, but he was remembered.

Paddington stayed home this trip, but he was remembered.

And so, back to Symi on the Blue Star 2 where, after I arrived, I was resolved to walk up to the village with my case but was rescued by Adriana’s husband who gave me a lift. I arrived at the Rainbow around 17.30 but didn’t get home until 22.00, and home is only fifty yards away. We had dinner at the taverna where I was welcomed back with two main dishes, water and a litre of wine for €20.00. About the same price as I paid for a bowl of lettuce, a trace of wine in a huge glass and a bottle of water in the Travelodge in Covent Garden. Mind you, I’d also had a glass of wine at Stanstead for €11.00 – the cheapest they could manage.

Blurry marsh buzzard.

Blurry marsh buzzard.

The Romney Marsh flag. I now have one in my sitting room.

The Romney Marsh flag. I now have one in my sitting room.

So, that’s it. No more travelling for me for a while, apart from a trip to Athens in winter, Scotland for a wedding, New Zealand in a year or so… Perhaps.

Scroll down for the rest of the photos.

Three generations

Three generations

The Leas Pavilion Theatre, as was. While I was here I worked with an actor called Robert Arnold (Duracel, 'with the copper coloured top' voice... and the RSC). Years later, I worked with June Brown (Dot Cotton, Eastenders). Years later still, I found out that they were married at the time and I never knew.

The Leas Pavilion Theatre, as was. While I was here I worked with an actor called Robert Arnold (Duracel, ‘with the copper coloured top’ voice… and the RSC). Years later, I worked with June Brown (Dot Cotton, Eastenders). Years later still, I found out that they were married at the time and I never knew.

True

True

Who'd a thought it, in Folkestone?

Who’d a thought it, in Folkestone?

Oi! Sonic! (Obvious but private joke.)

Oi! Sonic! (Obvious but private joke.)

Stanstead

Stanstead

Lunch at the Plaza after doing some legal stuff in town.

Lunch at the Plaza after doing some legal stuff in town.

My hat had been with me all that way only to be snatched cruelly away 100 yards from the boat home. It was paper, so would be biodegraded by now, I hope.

My hat had been with me all that way only to be snatched cruelly away 100 yards from the boat home. It was paper, so would be biodegraded by now, I hope.

The Blue Star 2 is huge

The Blue Star 2 is huge

Home again.

Home again.

Saddling Church

Saddling Church

I hope you had a great weekend. I did. I was working on ‘The Eastling’ when not relaxing at the bar or entertaining at home, putting in a claim with EasyJet for my cancelled flight and listening to the party at LOS in Yialos at four in the morning. (I was awake anyway, and you can’t hear it from inside the house.) It’s hot here, of course, it’s August, and it’s busy in the harbour but more relaxed in the village, as always.

The Woolpack

The Woolpack

Now then, on my ‘Rainbow Tour’ (as I named it after Evita) we have reached the south coast, and from Brighton, I travelled to Romney Marsh, the ‘my home town’ of the Tom Lehrer song. [“No fellow could ignore, the little girl next door, she sure looked sweet in her first evening gown. Now there’s a charge for what she used to give for free, in my home town…” And other naughty verses.] So, today’s blog is about Saddling.

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Saddling is a place that doesn’t exist. If you have read the first novel in the series, ‘The Saddling‘ you might even think that it’s a mythical place that our hero, Tom Carey, wandered into, arriving as he did through the mist and more or less stepping back in time. In the stories it is real but ignored and only connects with the outside world on its own terms, and we do have to wonder how can that be possible these days, but it’s a novel, so it doesn’t matter. The point is, the village of Saddling, where all four of the books will take place, was inspired by Fairfield church, seen in these photos, which is a real place. An isolated church more or less in the middle of nowhere that’s still up-kept thanks to local people and the Romney Marsh Historic Churches Trust to whom I will be sending a small donation when my pension comes in. It’s one of those places that has a sign outside: ‘If you want the key, it’s in the box outside the first farmhouse to your left’ which is about half a mile away or something. We didn’t go inside, my driver was keen to get on, but I did stand there for a while and take in some sights and sounds forgotten since youth.

At the church door

At the church door

Fairfiled. 'Saddling' church

Fairfiled. ‘Saddling’ church

We’d already had lunch in The Woolpack, a 15th-century inn out near Brookland and had visited Brookland church which was open and came complete with an honesty box for someone’s locally grown marrows. If you are ever down that way, a day on the marsh is an experience not to be missed. We drove from Brighton to Hastings, through Winchelsea and Rye and then down onto the marsh; Brookland, Fairfield (take a map) and then onto New Romney where, that evening, I was to meet some friends we know from Symi.

Classic Romney Marsh (or Saddling)

Classic Romney Marsh (or Saddling)

I had a perfect stay at The Broadacre, a hotel I used to hang out at with my eldest brother in the 1980s. It’s only slightly changed now, very friendly and with everything, you’d need including very helpful staff, though it wasn’t costly. I had a room that opened onto the garden where I’d sit at night watching the foxes. I was rather impressed.

The zodiac font in Brookland church

The zodiac font in Brookland church

Honesty produce

Honesty produce

Later, I went to dinner with Christina and Roger at The Ship Hotel at the other end of the high street. It was in the children’s room of this hotel/pub that I, when about six, famously threw an older brother over a sofa and cut his head open. I don’t remember that apart from it being a story from my childhood. I think I have been long forgiven. On the way to dinner, we took the backroad to view the church and my father’s flagpole – one was erected in his honour after he died in 1997 to commemorate his work on the town and district council and his job as town mayor for four years. We found the church open, and so had a look inside where I enquired about the organ…

The pipes are a short distance from the console, giving a brief delay between keys and sound.

The pipes are a short distance from the console, giving a brief delay between keys and sound.

This was the instrument I learned to play on when I was 15/16 and the vicar, on hearing my ‘returning home’ story kindly let me play it. Later, she stopped me as they were about to have a service and then asked me to play the first hymn which I did rather badly as I’ve not played the organ for many years and I don’t like playing in public at the best of times. But, it was an experience, and Christina and Roger were able to get some photos and a short video for me – thank you!

"Seated one day at the organ, my fingers were weary and ill at ease..." That's a song by Sullivan, but I look rather Monty Python here, except I was clothed.

“Seated one day at the organ, I was weary and ill at ease…” That’s a song by Sullivan, but I look rather Monty Python here, except I was clothed.

And then on to dinner, where an old school friend popped up to make arrangements for the next day, and finally back to my foxhole for a nightcap and a sit in the garden at night to reflect on the journey so far. There are more delights of the marsh to come in the next couple of days.