Flowers for Valentine's Day

With apologies to readers who are paddling their way through a biblical flood or deep in an ice age, but we've just had an extraordinary taste of summer here in Tilos. For days, lizards have been sunning themselves on rocks, and plants were wilting on the balcony and had to be watered. 

The early morning walk, while ostensibly for Lisa, is becoming an essential part of my day for feeling calm and energised. One morning it turned into an hour of watching the sun come up over the gap in the hills, 

stumbling upon caches of unusual flowers or the smell of a field full of sage; noticing how the sweet almond blossoms are on their way out, white margaritas spilling across the fields, and bright red poppies are on their way in. 

Yesterday was too cool for swimming, but still sunny, so I put on my hiking boots and walked up to the Italian House - top of the highest hill near Megalo Horio.
Again, I was astonished by how many different flowers I saw by the path - I wished I had a proper camera with me.


As you know, botanical knowledge is not my forte. 'Tiny purple flowers' is about as specific as I get; our good friend over at When the Wine is Bitter is your man when you need botanical information, but he is now in exile from our shores, in distant Australia. A source informs me, however, that he was seen stuffing a copy of The Wild Flowers of Greece into his backpack as he went. So perhaps he'll be tempted to provide botanical notes from... somewhere near Botany Bay?

Coming back from a morning walk, I happened on a group of men discussing work to be done to the pergola over the road, which has been deteriorating badly (see 'Tilos Life' page). It seemed the time had come for repairs and I was delighted to be there for this momentous occasion.
When I went back to check later, it was clear that only emergency measures were being taken, and I have to admit I still felt the need to run quite fast through it. While concrete is being poured liberally over the Skafi side of the village (which now seems like it will be able to cope when Tilos is a Grand Prix destination), 
the pergola continues to lean and rot. Those of us who contributed money to the Save the Pergola fund might need our cash back soon, anyway, given that we haven't had a functioning ATM on the island since before Christmas. If you're worried that Tilos might ever really change and become just like the rest of the mediocre world, then honestly - don't. Long live the People's Republic of Tilos.

And so I've had a week of sunny early morning walks, lunchtime swims on deserted beaches, evening dancing - thanks to the traditional dance classes - and even a dinner of souvlaki under the stars and moonlight. 

One last thing, because it's Valentine's Day.  My friend Gwyn, who plays her flute in Rhodes during the summer (we first met at Stathis Hotel) and spent a few days in Tilos last autumn, is now ready to play at weddings and is just about ready to launch her website, The Wedding Flautist in Rhodes. It's four years since she first performed in Athens on Valentine's Day 2010. Take a look and spread the word...

And in the meantime, love from Tilos x

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.