Mad Dogs and Englishmen

On living the Simple Life in a rural Greek fishing village – Agii Apostoli – on the Gulf of Evia

Simple words and pictures – by James Dee Clayton.

A resting place for heart and mind…

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Having Greek family comes with its bonuses. Not only do I have a constant connection to this pure land I so love, with its rich cultural heritage, its humble people, its delicious FOOD – but also this place holds so many memories for me – memories I’m blessed to have shared …under those blue, blue skies.

After my stint Alone in Venice, I headed over to Athens, and the surrounding coast, to spend some time with my loved ones. (As if I hadn’t already been spoiled enough with a whole month in Venice!)

Life can be so strange sometimes – so wonderful, so colourful and light – and then suddenly blue, sad and lonely – all in the blink of an eye, the turn of the head, the beat of a heart. This is one of those places I always head to when I need to reconnect – with myself – the me that doesn’t worry, the me that gives everything up to God, to life. The me that is free – of baggage, of guilt, of longing, of an overly energetic consciousness… For me, life is always an emotional place – I always feel my way, through the good and the bad – which is one of the reasons, every now and then, I just need to get away…

So about an hour or so from Athens I often find myself heading down the coast to the pristine Gulf of Evia – where I stay in tiny fishing village Agii Apostoli. No tourists, no English speakers in every shop, no over-priced coffee shops or over-populated beaches – just a simple life.

Food, earth and sky – time to breathe and reflect – and time to dive down into the waters of my soul…

The simple pleasure of walking down to the morning market, buying grapes, tomatoes from the farmers, getting fresh fish off the back of a just-moored boat, climbing the mountains, picking figs, olives and lemons off the trees, swimming in the crystal clear waters of the gulf, and then heading up to the villa to cook fish over the fire… stopping… just feeling…

The very taste of life itself. Simple and pure as nature herself surely intended.

Then of course, a meal with a load of rowdy Greeks is one you won’t forget in a hurry. One can hardly come all the way over to Greece and just lay passively on a beach. These people are so proud and passionate – of their food, their family, their heritage – Greek after Greek arrives, generation after generation, family upon family, all mingling in together happily round the long table – informal but respectful – and don’t even try remembering all those names! Then plate after plate is brought over – you will be practically force-fed by these overly-generous people… and I’m certainly not complaining!

There’s always plenty of wine and laughter too…

Don’t forget to speak loudly and smile!

*

Like in Athens, I had an opportunity to do another little photo-shoot with Freddy P. Photography.
My favourite yet.

So we’re just setting up a shot by this blue van that I liked the look of (above) when suddenly the owner comes walking up to me. Thinking I was in trouble I turned round to find the dear old chap (a farmer selling at the market) just wanted to come say hello and get a picture! I felt honoured…

Humbled…

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He took us over to his market stool – gave me some grapes – my mbamba translated and found out this chap, Barbas Ilia, had served with his granddad in the war.

Another little tale, another face I hope I’ll never forget…

*

Now, whilst I like to get down with the Greeks whilst in Greece, walk and talk like an Italian when I’m in Italy, party like it’s 1920 when in Paris, and dance with druids when in Avalon – one thing will always remain: I AM ENGLISH. Regardless of my mixed (and slightly uncertain) racial background, I was born in England and grew-up with English principles.

One thing I never saw growing-up in England: animals starving on the streets.
The Greeks don’t really have much time for feral animals, and most of them have just enough money to feed themselves, no spare change, no spare time.

Well… I do. Me and my English side of the family did.
Come midday, everyday, on the streets of Agii Apostoli you will see two things –

Mad Dogs and Englishmen!

These little puppies and their mother followed us everywhere we went, waited outside the gates for us all night, ready to follow us down to the beach every morning. We fed and watered them whenever we could, and they became our loyal pets, watching the house and body-guarding us against other packs of feral dogs as we walked through the streets… the Greeks thought we were mad, of course. But being mad is surely just a byword for English??

And then there were cats, too…

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Some mornings I would wake up, having left my bedroom window slightly open (on purpose – don’t tell the Greeks!) with three or four cats in my bed, snuggled up by my legs, or licking my hair, climbing all over my face. I loved them. Little tigers!

*

I lose myself in these pictures and memories. I feel blessed to have connections to so many different parts of the world, to so many people, to live the life that I lead… and dream my dreams.

My family, my friends, my loved ones, my memories shared are EVERYTHING to me.

Me and my beautiful mother.
Me and my beautiful mother in Agii Apostoli.
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Me and my Greek Godmother, Andrea – Forever Living Headquarters, Athens, 2014.
At a Greek wedding - my Mothers!
At a Greek wedding – my Mother’s!

As I go onward on my journey I think back to places like Agii Apostoli – to the memories she holds for me – the rest and grace she has given me. The lessons she has taught me – to appreciate the simple things, in life, in love, in family.

The blessing of clean, crystal water – of freedom…

The next leg of my journey begins.
I am prepared, ready to spread my wings.
To cross the sea…

To shine.

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J x


All photos, words, ideas and concepts on this post are copyright
Diary of an Aesthete and James Dee Clayton respectively.
I would like to thank Freddy Peters and Jason Clayton
for their wonderful and much-appreciated contributions to this article.

Find out more about the author here.   Read more about My Journey here.

13 Comments

  1. So did you go to Mykonos and Santorini too ? Even I had a mad experience with a dog in Mykonos who refused to leave me . Have wonderful memories in the form of pictures. And Greek people are just amazing people , hope they haven’t lost their sanity with the kind of turmoils the country is facing .

    Like

    1. I doubt they ever will – far too proud, stubborn, faithful and strong willed for that. I have a lot of family on the Greek mainland around Athens, so I’ve spent a lot of time in those areas mostly. Haven’t explored the island yet. Will, for sure… still have a lot of Greece to walk. Have always seen a different side of the country due to family… Jx

      Like

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