Wednesday, 14 September 2016

PATMOS - AN AEGEAN ISLAND OF HEALING


I had said in my last blog that there would be no blogging for three weeks since we were going away on holiday. But having taken the laptop away with me in order to keep up with publishing news (sales figures for 'The Road to Corbyn', reviews, et.al.) the urge to blog again has become irresistible. This island is too important in our life journey - and in that of others too - not to give due acknowledgement.

Patmos is less than a dozen miles from the Turkish coast, eight hours ferry-ride distance from the Athenian port of Piraeus; a Dodecanese island small enough to drive around in a couple of hours that is the site of one of the great monasteries of the Greek Orthodox church at Chora on the highest point of the island. This is the Holy Island. John the Evangelist, it is claimed, received the revelations that were then in time recorded in the last book of the Christian bible here on Patmos, in a cave, at the end of the first century. The cave itself is now a focal point of devotion within the Convent of the Apocalypse, half-way up the hillside ascending to the great monastery itself that was built around the end of the 11th century.

Agriolivado 




Whatever the historical truths of such claims, many travellers have spoken and written of the sense of peace that comes to them on this island. The American poet, Robert Lax, lived a hermitic life here for several decades, writing much of his major poetry, before returning to end his days in the place of his birth. Peter France, a former BBC editor, made this island a place of personal pilgrimage for himself and his family and wrote with insight about its power, not least in 'Patmos a Place of Healing'.

And we have been coming here - first in August and now I am no longer in the classroom in September - every year we could afford to since 1988, the year of our first visit. We are approaching fifteen visits. They have been a lifeline. Two weeks of rest for weary pilgrims on a life journey that

has sometimes been exhausting if always interesting. We depend on ritualised routines - the same hotel, the same breakfast, the same two and a half mile walk to Agriolavadi beach, the same area of tamarisk trees to shelter under, the same tavern at lunchtime, even the same food. A swim in the Aegean every morning, the same walk back to the hotel in Skala, the same pattern of three or four restaurants for the evening meal, the same bars for an evening drink. Occasionally, the routine is broken in order to catch the bus up to Chora for another routine - the walking through the warren of narrow largely silent streets of whitened wonderful houses that make up the monastery town on top of the hill.

View towards Vagelis Square in Chora


This year has been very special. We have met new friends as well  as renewing old friendships. And Louise has started the official process that could lead to her first international exhibition as a textile artist here next September in 2017. This island is not just a spiritual haven, it is also a centre of culture with a number of galleries and shows. The influence of Athens is never far away.

'Where the wind knows my name' - Navajo Native American type wisdom


As for 'The Road to Corbyn', it is still early days. Publication was only a fortnight or so ago and there have been no reviews to date other than those from friends that have been helpfully praising. Do please review it on Amazon if you have read it and see some merit. I get mean return from Amazon sales but they are likely to provide most of my income on present trends - unless my bid to access the thousand-strong membership of my local Labour Party comes up trumps.

More on all these threads when we return but for now - yassas (or yassoo) kai kali spera!