Saturday, October 28, 2006

Birthday Party

Birthday Party
Originally uploaded by Barbara Y.

Oh I am so content to be back in the attic of our village house, overlooking the rising hills of the French countryside after two and a half weeks of traveling through Greece.

I am overwhelmed by the Greek culture and people - so much diversity in the land of the gods, as we moved from the urban Athens with the ancient acropolis above the city to the green and, for us, often rainy windy island of Skopelos where Rob's birthday celebration took place, to the southern island of Crete where we wandered the ancient port of Hania and drove along the west coast to a resort near Kissamoo, and finally back to Athens where we met up with Helen and Angela and their cousin Margaret for dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant.

Rob admitted feeling out of place in the company of four women though, in my eyes, he looked quite comfortable during the evening. I must remember that appearances can be deceptive. One can never know what another - even a close other - is feeling or thinking. My first thought was that he would have enjoyed being the sole male but after his admission, I thought what if the shoe was on the other foot, what if it were me dining with four men? I imagine that I would feel similar to Rob.

Earlier in the day, I shopped with Angela and Helen. These two are so much fun and know the city so well that I followed their lead in and out of small shops and one grandiose department store until I felt I would drop though we did stop for lunch at a Taverna where my two Greek friends ordered a simple but delicious meal of appetizers (in Greek) and later, they did take me to their favourite boutique where, with their prompting, I bought myself a pair of turquoise, hand-crafted earrings. (Helen and Angela have a penchant for the beautiful and unusual in jewelery and scarves. I feel like such a plain dresser beside them.)

The next morning, our last full day in Athens, Rob and I went to the Archeological museum. I felt as if I were back at university in an art history class, learning about the origins of western art and civilization. Wandering through the rooms, beginning with many statues of larger-than-life young men, Kouri (most with their penises missing), to the free-standing statues of the gods in motion, to the reliefs on sarophagi, to the... to the... my head was swimming though it was one of the finest musuems that I have ever visited. The passage from room to room, the chronological order of the exhibits, the introductions as one enters each room (in Greek and English) were easily assimilated and gave one (me) an idea of just how smart and artistic these old Greeks were/are. The world as we know it began here... I feel so small and ignorant about all this stuff but I left wanting to know more.

Rob and I parted and I wandered through the old market streets to meet up with Helen and Angela who were as sick of stores as me so we went to the Benaki musuem, ate well in the elegant dining hall, and then wandered through rooms filled with mannequins dressed in authentic Greek costumes (or what were once the everyday clothing) from all the islands. Again the diversity was extraordinary and it was so much richer visiting with my women friends as Angela would shout with glee when she saw outfits from her paternal grandmother's island, Nexos and then another from both their maternal side, and Helen had the same response when she saw a similar dress from Skopelos that she wore to her wedding, making all so much more personal. At the end I bought of portfolio of costumes - fine enough to be framed - to adorn some walls in our French house.

In the evening, Rob and I went to a small Taverna at the foot of the acropolis and the next day, spent most of it on the tedious and tiring trip back to Toulouse.

Today I return to my writing... it's too difficult for me while traveling though I think about it all the time. Sometimes I write stories inside my head, without a pen, and I am more than pleased with the results; but when I pick up pen and try to replicate these or something, anything, I most often become frustrated... they don't flow... I hate what appears... but I can't seem to stop myself... I must stop here. I don't want to bore you once again with my writing angst.


Rob in Athens

On Skopelos

Birthday Party

Susan and Yvonne on Skopelos

Rob on Crete

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Crete on Sunday, Internet Cafe

I knew nothing or little about this island before this visit. Rob chose it because it's the furthest isle south in hopes of finding sun. What can I say? On first glance, I was enchanted to discover that the island is unique, especially the architecture because of 400 years of Venetian rule (around 1200 to 1600), then Turkish, and finally a short (around) fifteen years of self-rule until this small island joined Greece in the early twentieth century. (And, of course, there's the early BC civilizations but we've seen few of the artifacts... )

One would think Crete would be wonderfully exotic, spicey even, with the mix of cultures but I find it too touristy, even during this off-season. Summer must be hell. Rob and I spent three days in the ancient port of Hania and yesterday, rented a car and drove west along the coast. At times, I was terrified: the roads were narrow and high (without safety rails on the sides of cliffs)but most of the time, the scenery was breathtaking (and the sun was shining lighting the many silvery olive trees. At several points, billy goat gruffs lazed on the side of roads and boringly looked at us through the windshield.

We were rising higher and higher into the hills until, unexpectedly turning round a bend, we looked downwards to see water, almost turquoise in colour, lapping up onto a long sandy beach with rows of chaise lounges and umbrellas. We drove into the rsort area, found a hotel complex that is sparkling white and clean with dining area and swimming pool and much cheaper than city accommodation and so booked ourselves in. Breakfast is served at 9 but when I said "oh dear" to the owner, he said he could offer me coffee at 7:30 (and he did - in a silver flask with warm milk. This was pure luxury, sitting early morning, reading, writing, all by myself. We have decided to stay our last night on Crete here.)

Late afternoon, Rob and I walked along the beach, sandals in hand (the first time I've had sandals on this trip) and watched the sun set - just like a commercial. It was undeniably glorious but where are we, I ask Rob. We could be in any resort area in the world. Much of Greece, Crete rather, reminds me of Mexico though it is more modern, more touristy, less picturesque (oh I think I want the Crete of yesteryear - how selfish of me - do not think that I don't feel priviledged to be here.)

Yesterday, sitting out on the balcony of our room, I felt warmed and content - and so lucky to be able to travel the way I do. But I want to think about this traveling business more and try to streamline it, especially the hard part where one is in transition, on the way, hasn't quite arrived at one's destination.

Still, I think travel, all of it, is good for anyone, being somewhere where one doesn't know the rules, can't read the signs, feels the same panic a child does when he or she is lost. I often have to try to communicate my needs while at the same time fight my desire to scream and run back home where all is comfortable.

Greece has been especially frustrating for travel - time consuming and expensive - but there have been moments that make all the trouble worthwhile. I know too that as time goes by more moments will stand out and I will forget the tedious all together...

We leave for Athens tomorrow evening and the sun today is the best yet so I must leave... more soon.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Twenty Years Ago Today

Twenty Years Ago Today
Originally uploaded by Barbara Y.

Happy Birthday, dear Gill

I love you - you twenty year old.

Hope you didn't mind the early morning wake-up call and that your day has been special... more than special as you leave your teens behind... I hope it has been fucking fantastic.

We are now on Skiathos - a neighbouring island to Skopelos but larger with an airport. Tomorrow we fly to Crete. (Life has been crazy wonderful but with little time to alight and write. Soon. Now that our partying is ending. And yours is beginning. )

As I promised, we will toast you this evening, sweet baby girl.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


I will be short as I'm sitting in a small internet cafe on the island of Skopelos. All is well though it was quite an adventure getting here but will elaborate later.

Helen and her cousin Angela are here, so is Thomas (Helen's ex who is so damn sweet we're hoping that they'll have a fling) and Susan and David who seem madly in love - this is where they met.

We're having a party Greek-style. Helen says I have to relax and go with the flow. The party will start around two in the afternoon and go on forever. Everyone will dress up and eat and drink and toast Rob and so on and so on. Everything goes... I've created a slideshow of Rob's life that we will flash on the white wall of the house that stands on a cliff and looks for miles over water and white-washed houses and oh it is so gorgeous and I think, hope that Rob will see what a wonderful life he has lived so far. I have to admit that putting it together has made me fall in love with him all over again.

Athens was amazing and I will comment further on all when I can but I find it difficult to concentrate in public places. If I don't answer emails right away, forgive me. There are no wireless cafes... and I will respond as soon as I'm back in France. We don't know where we're going for the rest of our stay: it's a mystery.

And for all of you who tried to come and celebrate but couldn't for numerous reasons, thank you with all my heart. (Rob says we should have chosen Las Vegas - much easier to get to.) (But it so glorious here and I have been laughing since I arrived but that's another story that I'll tell later.)

Saturday, October 07, 2006


For the first time since arriving the second time this summer, I sit at Les Arcades sipping a morning cafe creme. I have been reading, writing, talking to Rob who arrived late Monday. He is still having difficulty with jet-lag and, most likely, work-lag. Though, at times, his work seems more hellish than hollywood glamour, especially the last film, there are benefits. He can now take three months off and write and read and do what he pleases, including escaping to the small island of Skopelos to celebrate his sixtieth birthday.

We drove Susan and David to the airport on Thursday. They will have explored Athens and probably be wandering Evia at this moment and will meet up with us most likely on the ferry to Glossa to be met by Helen and Angela, her cousin from Montreal. I had so hoped a number of friends and family could join us for the celebration but unfortunately timing is bad for most. So though the number will most likely be small, I still hope it will be a joyous rite of passage for Rob. I have a trick or two up my sleeve to help make this happen.

What else can I say? For the last few days the weather has been glorious - sun shining on the red stones of buildings, making me happy to be here, content with my lot. Yesterday, Rob and I went down to the small store at the foot of the village and bought a new wood stove that will be installed during our absence. The owner, Medina, has promised that it will deliver seven times the heat of an electric heater - plenty warm enough to heat one floor of the house and perhaps even two. Thank goodness. We nearly froze last winter though Rob and I agree that this is really not a place to live year round. Without a shining sun, the villagers close their shutters and all appears grey and lifeless for the winter months.

I am reading my second novel about the region (or close enough) and the Cathar religion. This one is interesting in that the main character is a historian who has written a book about famous or rather, infamous, females (i.e. Marie Antoinette, Mary Magdalen, Salome) whose actions have been misinterpreted by recorders of history - most often by men who have their own agenda, sometimes sinister, and sometimes anti-women. I feel a little stupid, perhaps naive would be a better word, especially since I write, and know that events are often rearranged and exaggerated for the sake of a story, thinking that historical texts are always accurate and written with integrity...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


(Oops, it's a little difficult to read my birthday message so I'll repeat in larger type.)

Happy Birthday to an extraordinary woman,

writer, listener, teacher, singer, dancer

who is always intelligent, loving, generous, sometimes a mite bossy; who can cook up a storm, eat chocolate like it's no one's business; who appears, at different times, as gypsy, angel of mercy, goddess, cowgirl; who has held me while I cry my eyes out and joined me on tabletops. Though her repetoire of faces may shock some, none would deny her beauty and wisdom. I can't help but be extravagant with this friend as she has been such a positive force in my life. I am more than grateful. I am so glad that she was born. Happy, happy birthday, dear Marlene. May this year be everything you want it to be. Love Yvonne

Monday, October 02, 2006

Sorry, again I am finding it difficult to continue with this blog. Other projects take over - other passions besides writing. This reminds of Stella Bowen as described in Stravinsky's lunch who, though an artist like her writer husband, Ford Maddox Ford, took time away from her art to look after their child, run the household, hold conversations with friends... and thought these activities well worth the effort and the hours away from painting. (I see I'm trying to justify my absence.)

I will quote a section from my journal as I can't seem to gather my thoughts. I'm going to lunch with three good women in a couple of hours and later this evening driving to the airport to pick up Rob. He's somewhere in the sky at this moment - probably over the Atlantic. He told me yesterday that he plans to write up a storm here and I'm hoping some of his concentration will rub off on me.

September 29

A strange sleeping night. I had Rachel and Alice, mother and daughter, for dinner last night. After, we sat easily talking about, amongst other subjects, the queen. (Oops, Gill - I served roast chicken, cooked with garlic and herbs on top; and surrounded the bird with onions, whole gloves of garlic, potatoes and carrots - and basted often with wine.) They left just before midnight and I crawled into bed, ignoring the dishes, only to find myself wide awake at 3 a.m. I tried to get back to sleep but my head keep conjuring up images of an old stone wall that instead of rising to some great height, like some walls in this village, went downwards. I started descending though more like a feather than a solid being, but as I went deeper and deeper always facing the wall, I became frightened - though I could see the ground, I never reached it. I was awake enough to make the decision to stop and rise into the sky but when there, I felt my position more precarious than I had felt below.

I had been reading Cixous earlier, before my guests arrived, and had written down several questions to play when time was freer - pertaining to the worst and best in me - and wondered if this had something to do with my imagination working overtime.

Time is moving so quickly. Earlier this week, I welcomed two couples into our home for several days. Although they did interrupt my writing schedule, I didn't mind. I am too much of a recluse when alone and these friends were so considerate in the house and so enthusiastic about the village and Cordes and Albi, that it was a pleasure to show them round, and talk and laugh and live outside my head.

It was especially good to have time with Nita because, though we live less than 15 minutes apart in WV, we never seem to be able to find time to get together. I don't understand this. Nita is an angel. She is one of three women I've known in my life who own a special softness, a kindness that exceeds kind, and who appear, to me, to bear no malice toward any other person in the universe. Furthermore, all three have an almost child-like innocence and delight in all - even the most mundane everyday occurence or object. I asked one's husband once how could his wife be so good and he responded that nothing bad had ever happened to her. She had never been given cause to doubt anything or anybody. Wow.

More observations later - I must check Rob's progress and dress for lunch.