the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other Dorset writers

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Limitations and opportunities during the pandemic

Last month I received the news that the Mani Lit Fest 2020 is cancelled. I had been excited about travelling to Greece in October to deliver a couple of workshops and some readings. Although the decision is totally understandable, it did come as a disappointment. But not any more. I understand the festival will be running in 2021 so that’s definitely something to look forward to.

bruces-church

Church in Chori where Bruce Chatwin’s ashes are buried

The Mani is a beautiful part of Greece and you can read about an earlier visit to writer Carol McGrath‘s house near the delightful seaside town of Stoupa here. Living through a pandemic has many limiting factors and prospects for overseas travel or indeed any sort of travel takes considerable planning. It seems that Coronvirus has the capacity to clip wings but it opens other opportunities. I’ve loved having more regular Zoom calls with friends in Australia, for example.

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A week in the Mani

I was fortunate to spend a week at the beginning of June with Sarah Bower and  Carol McGrath at a house that Carol has taken for a year in the Mani area of Greece. Stoupa is a delightful village with a harbor and sandy beaches at the south of the Peloponnese, quite the best spot for a writing retreat owing to the literary connections. A little way along the coast at Kardamyli is the home of Patrick Leigh Fermor, which was bequeathed to the Benaki Museum following his death. Patrick was made an honorary citizen of the village  following his participation in the Cretan Resistance during World War 2. He wrote about the area in his book titled Mani, Travels in the Southern Peloponnese and he is regarded as one of Britain’s greatest travel writers.

Bruce Chatwin is the other notable writer with links to the Mani. He finished writing The Songlines while staying at the Hotel Kalamitsi in 1985. The book records his experiences of traveling in Australia and his ideas about the necessity of walking to human development. For my undergraduate dissertation I wrote about the works of Bruce Chatwin and I’ve always felt that he had a hand in securing me a first-class honours. So, when the opportunity came to visit the place where his ashes are buried, I was delighted.

Most references to where Chatwin’s ashes are buried refer to a tiny, Byzantine church in the mountains above Kardamyli. Some name Exochori as the nearest village and others refer to Chori. Without definite directions, we set off early in our search, visiting several villages situated in the Taygetos mountains that provide the backdrop to the glorious coastal area. The road took us into Chori where there was a white-washed church beside the road. From there we looked across to the golden stones of a church perched amongst olive trees. We found the path that took us alongside residential houses and out onto a grassy strip of land. The view from the church showed the wide expanse of aqua sea and the land spilling down from the mountains. An ideal final resting place for Bruce Chatwin, someone who loved broad horizons.

The church in Chori

The church in Chori

A picture of Bruce marks the spot where his ashes are buried

A picture of Bruce marks the spot where his ashes are buried

After the excitement of this discovery and the time spent absorbing the atmosphere and the wonderful views, we headed for Kardamyli. At a restaurant beside the beach we enjoyed a mezze of salads for lunch.

My companions at the restaurant

My companions at the restaurant

Cheers to Carol and Sarah for your great company and a big thank you to Carol for being such a brilliant host.

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What sort of notebook do you use?

This post is inspired by Vikki from The View Outside, who drew upon Simon Whaley’s article in Writers’ Forum, to reorganise the way she records ideas for writing into separate notebooks. I have a similar system, which I’ll share with you here. I am a prolific note-maker:  to do lists, shopping lists, birthday lists, packing lists you name it, I make a list.  I use reporters’ notebooks for all household things and rip the pages out as I go. But for my writing, I use better quality notebooks.

These are the Moleskin notebooks I carry around with me in case of emergency note-taking. I have two different sizes which are used according to the handbag selected.  The covers are plain and functional.  Bruce Chatwin favoured these notebooks and bought a stock of them to take to Australia when researching his book The Songlines.

This year, I’ve decided to keep a record of all the books I read and note the details in this pretty book given to me by my niece for Christmas. You can find out which book is currently beside my bed and my latest recommendations here.

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