Tag Archives: sea

In which I debate house and home

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Synonyms are such a bizarre thing, wouldn’t you say? “House”…”Home”… They’re usually used interchangeably even though their connotation is rather different. I say this as a person whose first language uses the same word for both concepts (and then some). I do find myself leaning towards “home” in preference though. “House” feels so impersonal, a word that should be used to describe a building instead of the (hopefully) warm and fuzzy feeling that is “home”. Yes, I think “home” is a feeling, a state of being if you will, instead of a particular place. It’s being safe and comfortable and familiar with all the quirks that come with it.

For me home is Athens (some parts of it more than others), Paros, Norwich, heck! at a stretch I’d add Nottingham. Goodness knows I’ve grown at least used to this confused whirlwind of a city. But home for me is also fire crackling, swimming surrounded by waves, getting lost in a library, walking in the countryside or a very select playlist on my mp3 (no, you don’t get to learn what songs). I’ve travelled, not nearly as much as I wish, and there have been places that felt welcoming, like almost-homes or potential homes, and places I couldn’t wait to get out of. As much trouble as I have reading (real) people, places and atmospheres are open books. Don’t know why. Must be the story-teller in me. If a place has potential for stories to be told in the years to come, you can bet your glossy pages I’ll want to be there!

What has onset my latest bout of philosophical rambling, you ask? My ever-un-pleasant, ever-stressful job hunting. Word to the un-wise: your chances to get that dream job you’re sighing longingly over are probably higher if you stay positive about it, no matter how farfetched. And what better way to do that than to indulge in some daydreaming of walking around the place you’d be living in (if you’re like me and likely to move), find your dream house (never mind your paycheck, this is a daydream after all!)? I didn’t even realise it at first, but one of the most recurring questions running through my head while I was going through Zoopla ads (after “How far from the rail station is it?” and “How do they get away with charging this much for a hole in the wall?”) was “Could I make a home out of this house?”

There’s a question that’s loaded, terrifying and exhilarating at the same time! Especially in the few cases when, while going through apartment pictures, I found myself mentally assigning places for my stuff or imagining what kind of posters I would put on which walls… I mean, I have no concept how far out of my budget I’d be in the places I was looking (probably less than I fear). I suppose that’s the nice thing about dreams. Unless you’re desperate to make them your reality, you are allowed to be as grandiose as you wish…

 

 

 

But what does it say for me, that my idea of grandiose is a successful job interview, an decent apartment with a kitchen I can cook in (and bake, and have a fridge all on my own) and not having to worry about money by the end of the month or whenever bills show up? Welcome to the 21st century, I suppose….

In which I go a’merry travelling again!

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Or rather went? I mean, the day trip itself was back in July but I just got around to uploading the photos on my computer so… Whatever! Point is, this is a little excursion my younger cousin and I took together.

 

There we were, relaxing in Paros (fancy, huh?), lazing away the days until I figured; What the heck? Let’s do something a tad different for once. Hence my dragging C. out of bed at the ungodly hour of nine in the morning, with the intention of visiting the beach of Marchello (oh the joys of transliteration!).

 

So, after plenty of yawns, a quick breakfast and even faster double-back (because certain people forgot stuff…) we made it to Paroikia. For the uninitiated, this is the island’s largest village and where the boats from Athens (or pretty much any starting point) leave you. From there we took the boat (as in kaiki, not a proper ship) and made the short trip to Marchello.

 

There's this little kiosk where you can buy tickets and find out departure times right next to where the boat is tied.

There’s this little kiosk where you can buy tickets and find out departure times right next to where the boat is tied.

That's the inside of the boat! I swear one of these days I'll brave my seasickness enough to climb on the top deck!

That’s the inside of the boat! I swear one of these days I’ll brave my seasickness enough to climb on the top deck!

And here's Yours Trully! Picture kindly taken by Cousin who, although nine years younger, has a far better eye than I do for this sort of thing!

And here’s Yours Trully! Picture kindly taken by Cousin who, although nine years younger, has a far better eye than I do for this sort of thing!

 

A word from C.:

We stopped and bought some magazines to read on the beach!

 

Back to Yours Truly:

So, as you can see from the pictures, we get our own tiny tropical paradise complete with white sand and sapphire-blue waters! And all for less than 20 € too. The adult return ticket for the boat is 5 €, for the kids 3 €. Moreover, part of the beach in not what is commonly known here as “organised”, meaning you don’t necessarily need to pay for a sunbed/umbrella combo. And even if you want to treat yourself, it costs 7 € for the umbrella/two sunbeds, or 3€ for the single sunbed (for all you lonely souls).

 

The water was a tad cold, not all that surprising. For the past few days the temperature has been dropping and anyway, I never claimed to like the “cool” part of the spectrum… There was splashing around and swimming and laughing at those who had never been here before and did not know that a ship leaving the port on the opposite side is both impressive to watch and the cause for waves.

 

C. The water in the beginning was cold but then it got warmer.

 

To which I say: WHATEVER, I still got all tingly! –ahem- Yeah, at some point we decided we had enough of “swimming” and moved back to the glory that is the combination of dry towels, sunlight and sunbeds.

 

The taverna/changing rooms/sunbed rental place at the back of the beach.

The taverna/changing rooms/sunbed rental place at the back of the beach.

Pretty water is pretty. That's Paroikia at the back.

Pretty water is pretty. That’s Paroikia at the back.

I swear this picture was not staged. C. had my camera at hand and I was about to get back in the sunny bit of the sunbed and well...picture happened...

I swear this picture was not staged. C. had my camera at hand and I was about to get back in the sunny bit of the sunbed and well…picture happened…

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I would like to say at this point that normally I find fashion magazine B.O.R.I.N.G. but with the sun making me drowsy that’s just about what I can mentally handle. Cue the sunbathing time (I do love the heat) and obligatory laughs at some of the more outrageous designs.

 

C. The fashion magazines are not boring. Especially when they have summer clothes and swimsuits.

 

-sigh- Three guesses on who is entering their teenage years and who is happily out of them. We only left from the beach because our stomachs were growling and a nearby tavern was making us even hungrier with the smell of roasting meat.

 

A quick shift of clothes….

 

Have I mentioned how much I ADORE this dress?

Have I mentioned how much I ADORE this dress?

 

…and it was back to the boat and Paroikia for us,

 

This picture took way too many failed tries to take....

This picture took way too many failed tries to take….

C. Marchello beach was awesome. We had a very good time while we were swimming, talking, reading summer magazines and of course laughing. ^_^

 

You heard it! “From the mouths of babes”… There’s plenty of eating choices in Paroikia, but one of the side effects of coming to the same place summer after summer is that you will have your favourites (and will always go there). C. wanted souvlaki (not that I complained). Our favourite is Pepe’s with its great food and gorgeous prices.

 

Why yes, I do have a thing for taking pictures of signs.

Why yes, I do have a thing for taking pictures of signs.

 

And by gorgeous, I mean cheap. And by cheap, I mean broke student friendly. 😀

 

C. The souvlaki was really tasty and the chips were even better.

 

We had a quick lunch there and went for a stroll, which –because this is Paros- meant that we ended up at a coffee shop, specifically Distrato (again, joys of transliteration). It’s one of those multi-purpose places where you can have breakfast, lunch, in-between coffee, sit down for a crepe or an ice-cream, or even have a beer. Nobody can say anything about the adaptability of a “café-restaurant”. I would whole-heartedly recommend the  sweet crepes there, as well as the coffees.

 

C. I had a banana milkshake! 🙂

 

Banana –shudder-…

 

Anyway… After a blessed (and much needed) coffee break there was more aimless roaming, and drooling over jewellery store windows. I just looooooove gemstones! It’s sorta funny walking in Paroikia this early. Nearly all the shops are closed for lunch break or siesta break (call it what you will). So you actually get to see the buildings instead of being dazzled by the waves of people around you.

 

Unfortunately at this point C. started realising that she was tired so we caught the bus back to Naoussa (a village closer to our own place) and waited there for mum to pick us up. (Love you mum!)

 

Bag doubles as pillow...

Bag doubles as pillow…

 

Overall a fun day methinks…

The Fisherman and the Water Maiden (rewrite)

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Author’s note: I usually don’t post rewrites of pieces I have already uploaded, but I wasn’t happy with how it originally turned out, so here’s the edited version.

The fisherman and the water maiden

In a land not far from here, in a time not long ago, there lay a small village at the edge of the shore. Many of the men made a living out of fishing, leaving their wives and children before dawn and returning with the setting sun –or not at all. The shoreline near the village was treacherous, littered with sea caves and reefs, waiting to claim unsuspecting sailors. It was here, the stories said, that water maidens lived. It was rare one might see them, as it was said that they appeared only to those that made them curious. Nevertheless, people said they made excellent wives.

 

In the village lived a poor fisherman with his mother. The lad was reckless, as young people tend to be, and often brought his boat far closer to the rocky shore than most considered wise. One year, the young man was making the customary wine liberation ‘to appease the Old Man Sea’, as his elders taught, when a most unusual thing was caught in his net; a golden comb inlaid with pearls. The fisher threw the comb right back in the water, not wanting to face a water maiden’s wrath.

 

Little did he know that the comb belonged to one of the daughters of Old Man Sea himself, who had been drawn near by the unfamiliar sweet taste of wine in the water. The following dawn the fisherman returned to the same spot and cast his net once more when, out of the gleaming water, came the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. Her skin was pale as foam, her eyes were the gold of the sand on the shore and her hair the many blues of the ocean. Fascinated, he offered her some of the stone-baked bread that he had brought to lunch on. The maiden took one look at it and laughed, as tiny waves rocked the boat gently.

‘Your bread won’t do for me!’ she said. ‘It’s far too hard.’

Still laughing, she dived underwater and disappeared.

 

The fisherman returned home and that night and every night after his dreams were haunted by the water maiden’s laugh. Every morning he would return and cast his net on the same spot, hoping to catch another glimpse of her. At the end of the week his patience was rewarded. The mid-spring sun was burning overhead when, with a mischievous smile, the water maiden reappeared. This time the fisherman offered her unbaked dough, but the maiden shook her head and a cascade of pearls fell from her hair to the boat.

‘Your bread won’t do for me!’ she said. ‘It’s far too soft.’ With a wink she disappeared underwater again.

 

The lad returned to his mother with feverish eyes and a bag full of pearls instead of fish. One look at her son’s sorry state was all it took for the woman to understand the situation. Knowing this to be the sort of love-sickness that cannot be cured, she determined to help her son win the maiden. For the next few days she gave him half-baked bread to offer to his faery sweetheart. Indeed, in a week’s time, when the water maiden appeared to the fisherman with a smile, he offered her the loaf and, to his delight, she accepted it.

‘My name is Awel,’ she said softly before diving once more into the wine-coloured sea.

 

The fisherman almost jumped after her in his despair, but, before he could, the sea grew choppy and out of its depths appeared the Old Man himself, followed by twelve girls, all identical to Awel.

‘Choose wisely, young human,’ said the Old Man. ‘Pick the one you have been courting and you may take her and all that is hers to your land-bound house.’

The fisherman studied the twelve sisters carefully. They were all silent, all gazing at him with the same sweet-as-wine smile playing on their lips. And yet…near the middle of the line one of the maidens had breadcrumbs on her lips. The young man looked at her and said,

‘You are Awel.’

 

With sparkling eyes Awel stepped inside his boat, dressed in a bride’s white raiment.

‘Know this, young human,’ Old Man Sea said once the couple had settled on the boat. ‘My daughter shall be your wife and bring happiness and prosperity to your house. But take heed! Should you forget she is not bound by the rules of your world three times, she and all that is hers will leave you.’

The fisherman was so entranced by his bride-to-be that he eagerly promised to accept her in every way.

 

And so the fisherman brought the water maiden to his house and made her his wife. Awel was always cheerful and industrious, and the couple were happy together. True to the Old Man’s word, from that day on the fisherman prospered, his nets always full and his boat safe. Awel bore him three sons and three daughters and there was never shortage of laughter and merry-making at their house.

 

So happy was the fisherman, that he was willing to overlook some of his wife’s more… peculiar habits. She might like her fish raw but the food that she served on their table was always perfectly cooked. And if the children grew as wild as the seals at the sea caves, what did it matter? Everyone agreed that they took after their mother and he loved them just like that. Days turned to months, and month turned to years, and the fisherman counted himself the happiest man in his village. Then, one day, he returned to find the house empty of wife and children. Awel had a habit of taking the children to the sea, but she always brought them back before her husband returned. The fisherman didn’t have to wait long before his family walked through the front door, laughing and soaked to the bone. Torn between fondness and exasperation he chastised his wife for not having the house prepared for his return. Awel looked at her husband.

‘I cannot live all day by the hearth,’ she said. ‘Take care.’

 

The fisherman understood the warning and, loving his wife too much to lose her, paid extra care to avoid anything that might cause her departure. For a while all was well in his household once more. Then, after a terrible storm, news reached him that one of his closest friends had drowned. The entire village gathered to pay their respects to the man when, amongst the cries and tears, Awel’s lilting laugh was heard. Despite her years away from the sea, she still remembered the tricks her sisters and her would use to lure young men to their caves whenever they felt like taking a lover. The man might be lost but he was far from dead. The fisherman, hurt by his wife’s reaction, scolded her. Once more her laughter stopped and she looked at her husband with sad eyes.

‘I know of things you cannot know,’ she said. ‘Take great care.’

 

The third and final error came not long after the second. Awel’s eldest daughter had grown from a child to a maiden and, as maidens are bound to do, she fell in love with a young man. The wedding was swiftly arranged, but, amongst all merriment, Awel cried, knowing her daughter forever bound to land and forever out of her reach. Forgetting himself and not wanting to cause a scene, the fisherman insisted she stop crying on a happy occasion. Awel looked at him with tear-filled eyes.

‘Your rules do not bind me. Now my house and yours will forever be divided.’

 

A sound like a thunderclap shook the wedding hall to its foundations, a wild ocean gale followed it, and in its wake Awel and her five remaining children disappeared, taking with them the fisherman’s prosperity.

The fisherman and the water maiden

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In a land not far from here, in a time not long ago, there lay a small village at the edge of the shore. Many of the men made a living out of fishing, leaving their wives and children before dawn and returning with the setting sun –or not at all-. The shoreline near the village was treacherous, littered with sea caves and underwater reefs, just waiting to drown an unsuspecting sailor.

 

It was perhaps because of that, that the sailors often returned with stories of the water maidens, beautiful blond women whose songs were what caused the drownings. Despite their lethal reputation they were thought to make excellent wives for those cunning enough to entice them to the shore. In fact, many of the older families in the area boasted of having a water maiden as an ancestress.

 

Now, in the village lived a poor young fisherman with his mother. The lad was reckless, as young people tend to be, and often brought his boat far closer to the rocky shore than what most might consider prudent. One year the young man was making the customary wine liberation “to appease the Old Man Sea”, as his elders said, when a most unusual thing was caught in his net; a golden comb inlaid with pearls. The fisher knew if the stories, so he threw the comb right back in the water, not particularly wanting to be at the receiving end of a water maiden’s wrath.

 

Little did he know that the comb belonged to one of the daughters of Old Man Sea himself, who, having never tasted wine before, had been drawn near the boat by the unfamiliar sweet taste overpowering that of the salt in the water. The dawn the fisherman returned to the same spot and cast his net once more. The newly-risen sun painted the water gold and out of it came the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. Her skin was pale as foam, her eyes were the blue of the deep ocean and her hair the gold of the sand on the shore. Remembering the stories he had heard, he offered her some of the stone-baked bread that he had brought to lunch on. The maiden took one look at it and laughed, as tiny waves rocked the boat gently.

“Your bread won’t do for me!” she said. “It’s too hard.”

With one last laugh she dived underwater and disappeared.

 

The fisherman returned home and that night and every night after his dreams were haunted by the water maiden’s laugh. Every morning he would return and cast his net on the same spot, hoping to catch another glimpse of her. One week later his patience was rewarded. The mid-spring sun was burning overhead when, with a mischievous smile, the water maiden reappeared. This time the fisherman offered her unbaked dough, but the maiden shook her head and a cascade of pearls fell from her hair to the boat.

“Your bread won’t do for me!” she said. “It’s far too soft.” With one last wink she disappeared underwater once more.

 

The lad returned to his mother with feverish eyes and a bag full of pearls instead of fish. One look at her son’s sorry state was all it took for the woman to understand the situation. Knowing that this was the sort of love-sickness that cannot be cured, she set off to help her son win the maiden. For the next few days she gave him half-baked bread with the instruction to offer that to his fey sweetheart. Indeed, in a week’s time, when the water maiden appeared to the fisherman with a shy smile, he offered her the loaf and –to his delight- she accepted it.

“My name is Awel,” she said softly before diving once more to the wine-coloured sea.

 

The fisherman almost jumped after her in his despair, but before he could the sea grew choppy and out of its depths appeared the Old Man himself, followed by twelve girls, all identical to Awel.

“Choose wisely young human,” said the Old Man. “Pick the one you have been courting and you may take her and all that is hers to your land-bound house.”

 

The fisherman studied the twelve sisters carefully. They were all silent, all gazing at him with the same sweet-as-wine smile playing on their lips. And yet…near the middle of the line one of the maidens had breadcrumbs on her lips. The young man looked at her in the eyes and said,

“You are Awel.”

 

With sparkling eyes Awel stepped inside his boat, dressed in a bride’s white raiment.

“Know this young human,” Old Man Sea said once the couple had settled on the boat, “my daughter shall be your wife and bring happiness and prosperity to your house. But take heed! If you strike her unnecessarily three times she, and all she has brought, will leave you.”

The fisherman was so entranced by his bride-to-be that he eagerly promised never to lay a hand on her for anything other than a caress.

 

And so the young human brought the water maiden to his house and made her his wife. Awel was always cheerful and industrious, and the couple were happy together. True to the Old Man’s word, from that day on the fisherman prospered, his nets always full and his boat safe, no matter how treacherous the water he treaded. Awel bore him three sons and three daughters and there was never shortage of laughter and merry-making at their house.

 

So happy was the fisherman, that he was willing to overlook some of his wife’s more… peculiar habits. She might like her fish raw but the food that she served on their table was always perfectly cooked. So what if the floor of their house was never quite dry? They lived close to the shore, some damp was inevitable. So what if the children grew as wild as the seals at the sea caves? There were six of them and born as closely as they were, there was always a baby to focus on.

 

Life was as perfect as could be for the fisherman until, one day, he returned to find the house empty of wife and children. Awel had a habit of taking the children to the sea, but she always brought them back before her husband returned. The fisherman didn’t have to wait long before his family walked through the front door, laughing and soaked to the bone. Torn between fondness and exasperation he lightly pulled his wife through the door. All laughter immediately stopped. Awel looked at her husband.

“This was the first strike,” she said. “Take care.”

 

The fisherman loved his wife and had no intention of losing her. For the longest time he paid extra care, fearful that he might forget himself and bring her closer to her departure. Alas the day he feared came sooner than he thought. After a particularly nasty storm, news reached him that one of his closest friends had drowned. The entire village gathered to pay their respects to the unfortunate man when, amongst the cries and tears, Awel’s lilting laugh was heard. Despite her years away from the sea, she still remembered the tricks her sisters and her would use to lure young men to their caves whenever they felt like taking a lover. The fisherman, embarrassed by his wife’s reaction and not privy to her knowledge, lightly rapped her hand. Once more her laughter stopped and she looked at her husband with sad eyes.

“This was the second strike,” she said. “Take great care.”

 

The third and final strike came not long after the second. Awel’s eldest daughter had grown from a child to a maid and, as maids are bound to do, she fell in love with a young man from their village. The wedding was swiftly arranged, but, amongst all merriment, Awel cried knowing her daughter forever locked in the land and forever out of her reach. Forgetting himself and not wanting to cause a scene, the fisherman lightly struck her hand once more. Awel looked at him with tear-filled eyes.

“This was the third strike. Now my house and yours will forever be divided.”

 

A sound like a thunderclap shook the wedding hall to its foundations, a wild ocean gale followed it, and in its wake Awel and her five remaining children disappeared, taking with them the fisherman’s preternatural luck.

Summer sun

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The smell of clay-baking soil rises from the ground.

The waves are sluggish, muted,

Even the wind has settled down.

Wrapped in a golden haze the midday world

Ambles along the dusty road.

The sweat is heavy in his brow,

A chain of storm clouds from the east.

Afternoon rolls, the thunder sounds,

Delirious relief for all the thirsty things.

The Drowning

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The gentle breeze that greeted them the day before like a childhood friend’s caress had transformed overnight to an old warrior’s booming voice. The girl released the last knot from her sash as the wind picked up again, sticking the wet sarong on her legs and whipping the long hair to her face. In the grey-gold sunrise the waves below looked like mercury. Sprays of foam flew all the way up the cliff, where she was standing, landing at her feet and putting away the candles from the night before one by one.

 

She had stayed up with the full moon, sitting away from the others and their noisy laughing talk as the hours grew longer, the air colder and the sea wilder.

 

With a hysterical laugh she took a few steps forward and jumped in the water.

 

The water had been inky black and, even with the moon shining above, they had nearly lost the shore as they tried to swim out.

 

A deep breath bringing air to salt-burnt lungs. Another wave dragging her to its embrace. The current taking her by the hand, leading her in an intricate dance, now waltzing towards the ocean, the next moment back to the shore. The rapidly rising sun burning overhead, changing the water surrounding her from nearly silver to foggy grey and blue. Another large wave and then the silence –blessed silence- of the underwater. Darkness behind closed eyelids, blood pumping against eardrums, pressure building against the temples.

 

She had lain on the pebbled shore and named the constellations that were still visible, the stars going brighter with each breath held a little longer, until she was racing amongst them and she had to remind her body to breath, counting inhales and exhales, one-two, one-two, one-two.

 

Her body was left to move with the water currents, while she floated above it, flying with the wind until the need to exhale became too strong and she slammed back inside the heavy, heavy body, crawled to the shore, even as the waves pulled her legs back in like an insistent lover.

 

He had come to sit next to her, the touch of his hand too warm, sticking to her skin. Her breaths were heavy, doubly now that he was close, and she pushed him away violently, ignoring the surprised words from the others.

 

Lightheaded and giddy she let another stilted laugh escape her lips before standing on shaky legs and moving to the water again. The winds that she dreamed of never lasted enough, not hardly enough to drive the maddening pressure of people and their thoughts…

 

Voices disjointed as they reached her ears, too many different words crashing against one another and why can’t they just be QUIET for one moment?

 

…against her mind. Another deep breath and she dove under again for just one more minute of peace…one and a half…two…before the burning became painful and she burst out of the water, in front of the wave, swallowing water instead of air.

 

She had burnt her finger whilst lightning the candles, trying to save the battery on their phones just in case, because of course they’d remember to bring drinks but a flashlight had been too much to hope for.

 

This time it took longer to resurface and by the time she is on dry ground again they are all there to berate and ask and even as she coughed the last of the sea from her lungs and tried to fill them with air (when did breathing become a chore?) the ever-present pressure is back. So much noise and how can anyone understand anything, answer anything, when voices and faces blur in a mess that is not the fault of an oxygen-starved brain.

 

In the semi-darkness the ground had seemed so inviting, the faces, drawn with sharper lines from the yellow-orange light, friendlier somehow. It was an illusion, as much as her race with the constellations but she had allowed herself to believe it, if only for a few moments, before the noisy talk had started again.

 

What were you thinking? Are you alright? Do you need some water? (I just drank a wave-full, I think I’m all set.) Did you get dizzy? That wave was huge! How could you miss it? It’s too windy, we shouldn’t have stayed.

 

What’s wrong with you tonight? Can’t you have fun? Why were you carrying matches anyway? What else do you have in that bag? Did you bring any water bottles? We’re nearly out of drinks? Did anyone bring food? Where’s my phone? Where’s my shoes? Is that a shooting star? Quick! Make a wish!

 

Even as she dragged herself to her bag and picked her things from the ground her eyes kept returning longingly to the waves. She could hear them whisper invitingly, and though she followed the others back to the house, well, wouldn’t it have been better if she had stayed under, in all the peace and quiet?