Sunday, 2 February 2014

February Colours on a Tiny Greek Island

It was cold and grey this morning, not a dash of colour in the sky when I looked out of my office window. Lisa had woken me with enthusiastic licks to the face, but after being walked and fed had gone back to sleep on the couch. Sitting with my cup of tea, I knew the only thing for it was to get outside. We could go somewhere colourful, like the path to Lethra. Lisa leapt up and down as I took her down to the car, then poked her head out the window and into the wind as we drove down to the start of the path.

Owning a dog in Tilos is not as easy as I’d thought, because of the animals roaming free everywhere. Over the winter, the goats and sheep give birth, and Lisa, who loves to chase them, has to be kept on a lead. Even then, I’ve been shouted at regularly in Megalo Horio for taking her anywhere near animals, though she can't do much harm on a lead; and you never know where the animals are going to be. So a trip to a different path felt like a good idea.

Over on our side of the island, to the north, all the fields are covered in anemones these days, and pretty gorgeous they are. But it almost came as a surprise to find, at the entrance to the path to Lethra, such an abundance of cyclamen scattered over the ground, all over the sides of the path and the hillside. By the time we reached the pink rocks around the spring, the colour was back in February and a smile on my face.

 


I longed to let Lisa run free, but didn’t dare, and hoped it was good training for her. She’d pull ahead; I’d tell her ‘siga’ and ‘perimeneh’, so she’d stop in the middle of the path, until I inched towards her, when she’d pull ahead again and I’d lose my footing. Mark Twain famously said that golf was a good walk spoiled, but perhaps if he’d ever had to walk an ebullient dog on a lead down a precarious path, he’d have agreed it comes a close second. Lisa would probably comment that anyone who stops to crouch down and point a phone at some flowers every few minutes doesn’t really understand what walks are supposed to be about.



Soon I could hear the waves on the shore at Lethra, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t walked to the red beaches around the promontory for ages, so we took the path that split off to the right. The cyclamen had gone, but the trail was covered in tiny purple flowers. Before long we were scrambling down the hillside towards Ammohosti. I let Lisa off the lead, and she veered to the north side of the promontory instead to end up at the stunningly red cliffs of Merisi beach.



 

Lisa had been right. This side was sheltered against the wind, and the beach was a deep shade of brick red. Lisa was in the water first, but I was a close second. It was cold, the coldest swim I can remember having in Tilos, but as always it made me feel happily alive. The air felt warm as I got out and dried off, laughing at Lisa as she raced up and down the beach and leapt upon sticks and plastic bottles.
 


 We clambered over the headland a little to the narrow gap between the land and Donkey Island. Almost three years living on this island, and this grey February morning I was seeing it from new angles.


Later, back at the car, I realised it would be a good idea to head into Livadia to buy vegetables and cheese while I was nearby. Lisa always gets terribly excited as we descend to Livadia, but it was a disappointment for her on the whole: hardly a soul about. We picked out what we needed from the supermarket; Pavlos the bus driver was in there complaining about the state of tomatoes at this time of year; I reminded myself not to think about the high cost of food here, having just come back from London and Athens. Lisa was happy outside, being petted by one of the boys from the village. 

She’d have liked to stay and chase cats, but Livadia feels forlorn to me out of season. I drove back instead to Megalo Horio, which looks solid and timeless in the winter, clinging to the hillside. We got stuck behind a man trundling along on a scooter, but I didn’t bother overtaking, just slowed down and stroked my faithful hound and looked around me.


9 comments:

  1. I totally understand the attraction of these simple pleasures. I went walking in the mountains of Paphos a few days ago and what a joy to see swathes of wild flowers emerging! We even saw the first orchids of the year. I gathered oranges, grapefruit (given to me by a villager), wild thyme, oregano and sprigs of black seeds from an Alexander plant, to give a cumin/pepper flavour to cooking. Happy days!

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    1. Amazing feeling, isn't it?! Orchids emerging here too. Love the idea of those seeds...

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  2. Thank you, Jennifer, I loved this post. I remember the January cyclamen on Tilos dearly. And I'm pleased you had time to photograph the hoary and slightly spooky Mandrake. Those 'tiny purple flowers', by the way, are called Romulea linaresii. There must be millions of them out now.

    Ian

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    1. Aha, thank you for the botanical knowledge! I had been trying to guess what they were, but I admit I wasn't even close.

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  3. Those cyclamen looked so beautiful - and to come across them suddenly must have been something special! I do admire you for leaping into the water at every opportunity - just the thought of it in February brings on hypothermia! But I love reading your blog now I have found it, and seeing your photographs of those lovely beaches and the countryside - so different from wet and soggy England!

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    1. Thanks for the lovely feedback, Gilly! It was cold, but invigorating, and I feel like living adventurously this year ;-)

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  5. Hello Jen, I'm so happy to have purchased your book. My boyfriend and I went to Tilos for a week last summer, what a waist- we should have stayed much longer! So this year we're staying for a fortnight, and I'm really looking forward to explore the island more.
    I was reading your book with my Tilos map beside me, and I'm really looking forward to all the walking, eating and hopefully snorkelling (have to learn it first) I'm going to do.
    I loved your book, I took me right back to Tilos and I could smell the different herbs in the warm breeze...oh, well, it's luckily just five months away now.
    Have a nice day
    Bente :)

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    1. Hi Bente,
      Thanks for the great message - so pleased to hear you'll be spending more time in Tilos this year! Walking, eating, snorkelling - sounds like a perfect holiday. You must come to Megalo Horio and say hello...
      Best wishes,
      Jen

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