Meanwhile, on my Other Blog…

Hello! For the Saturday blog spot today, I thought I’d give you a quick catch-up on what’s going on over on my other blog. You might already know that I run two blogs. This one is for my Jackson Marsh antics, research discussions, book promotions, and writing, while my other one is about life here on a Greek island.

A lot has been happening here in the weeks since New Year. The weather has been mainly fine and the temperatures are in the mid-teens. It’s not always sunny in Greece, and it’s not always warm. I’ve known my office to take all morning to warm up to nine degrees, and we’ve had icicles on our rosemary bush before. There have been storms that have washed away parts of buildings, we rarely have snow, but we had that a couple of years back, and now and then we’ll get an earthquake.

Our main town and harbour, Yialos, yesterday.

Sometimes, there’s not a lot to talk about but I try and write something five days per week, leaving the weekends free so I can update this Jackson blog and have a day off from blogging. The most popular things on the Symi blog are the photos. I’ve put in a random selection here today. When there’s not much happening, as there isn’t in the winter months, the images tend to be of views, but they are pleasant enough. Right now, the greener parts of the island are in flower, and everything is starting to grow back. In the height of summer, everything will be dry and brown.

Recently, I’ve noticed a fair few travel enquiries on some Facebook pages, so the blog has been about where to stay on your way over to the island, what boats there should be for the summer, and now and then, I try and put up travel news, though I make it clear I’m not a news site. As I was in Rhodes recently, there are also posts about spending time over there (it’s our nearest bigger island), with some photos, and I put that up because travellers often have to spend time there before coming over here; it depends on the boats. I’ve also been blogging about day-to-day life at home, a friend’s birthday party we had here the other night, the models I am building with my godson, his piano lessons, my husband’s antics at the gym, walks and strolls, and anything else I can think of to a) publicise the island and b) publicise my books, as I have four books about moving to Greece and living here as we have done for the last 21 years.

View from the top of the 400 steps that connect Yialos to the village.

If you want to know more about where Jackson Marsh lives and what I see from my window every day, then click over to Symi Dream. There, you will see the list of books in the side column. These were put together a long time ago, so long ago that I’ve lost the original files so I can’t even pop back in and update them or their typos (they were released before I invested in a proofreader).

Now, I am heading into the final chapter of Delamere Three (Follow the Van). I have a long list of ‘things to tie up’ to check and make sure I do indeed tie them up, and then I have a final read-and-fix before sending it to be proofread. There will be more of an update on Wednesday’s blog, so tune in for that.

Click the cover to reach my James Collins author page on Amazon

Meanwhile, over on my other blog… Symi Dream

View from our balcony.

An Author’s Easter in Greece

It is Easter this weekend here in Greece, and as I write, Symi is about to be rocked by festivities.

I first experienced Greek Easter in 2003, and I’d never seen or heard anything like it. At that time, we were living in a house at the top of our village, only a few yards away from one of the larger parish churches. We were so close, we could hear the mechanism of the bells before they chimed, and when they did ring, would often have to turn the television off, because there was no point in trying to watch anything; all you could hear were bells. That was one thing, and we got used to it and enjoyed hearing the bells on the hour and the half, at weddings and baptisms, and, later, at Easter.

But Easter in Greece is not only about bells. There are various stages of Lent, the 40 days before Easter. Even before then, the traditions start with a Monday where the last of the cheese is eaten, a Thursday when the last of the meat is consumed, and a carnival, or a Mardi Gras, as they have in other countries around the world. If you follow the Greek Orthodox way of life, you follow a strict diet throughout Lent, which becomes stricter during ‘Great Week’, the seven days before Easter Sunday. On ‘Big Friday’ (Good Friday) for example, you don’t use cutlery, you don’t work, and the island falls eerily quiet – except for the day-tripper tourists. It was during my first Easter here that I experienced the literal silence of the lambs. There were many not far from our semi-rural house, bleating away during the lead up to Good Friday, and then on Good Friday… Silence.

In Spring the sheep are tethered on wasteland to munch their way through the fresh greenery

Lamb is the main staple of the Easter Sunday feast. Say no more.

Today, Easter Saturday, is another quiet day that leads to a very noisy night. Yesterday, the effigies of Christ were removed from the crucifixes in the church and laid on decorated biers. Villagers parade this, bring it into the churches which are decked in black and indigo, and a very serious and funereal service takes place.

The services continue through Saturday, leading to what we might call midnight mass on Saturday night. Then, at midnight, all the lights in the churches are turned off, and the priest appears with the sacred flame. This has come from Jerusalem to Athens by special plane and is used to light other candles and lanterns, which are then passed down to the towns, cities and islands. At midnight, the priest uses the flame to light the candles worshipers have brought, and people share their flame with their neighbours, so the light spreads further.

The Priest sharing the holy flame

This happens at the moment of the resurrection, midnight, and with candles lit, everyone returns home to mark their doorway lintels with X and A, standing for Xristos Anestsi. Χριστός Ανέστη. Christ is risen.

Easter Sunday is a time for feasting, relighting the barbeque, visiting family, and celebrating the new beginnings, and on Easter Monday, there is a national holiday. The ceremonies continue with the burning of Judas (an effigy, often wearing the mask of the global villain of the day, this year, I imagine, it will be Putin), a bonfire and fireworks.

This will be our table for Easter Sunday lunch, we are invited to The Anchor House with its fabulous views

And while all this is going on, there is the noise. Children and many adults delight in warding off evil spirits by setting off bangers (firecrackers), some much louder than others. Teenagers in particular love to find places where the sharp bangs echo most and make the loudest noise, and it takes some getting used to. Then, on Good Friday night and Easter Saturday night, in particular, the menfolk are up on the hillside with massive barrels stuffed with dynamite which they ignite. It’s no exaggeration to say the island rocks. Depending on where you are, you might find debris falling on your head, you can see flares shooting up and dropping onto rooves, lighting the sky red, and some people set off fireworks too. For as long as I have lived here (20 years), I’ve never heard of a fire or serious accident, which is something of an Easter miracle.

I will try and upload a video of the proceedings tonight and share on my facebook page.

That’s where I am right now; in the middle of the Greek Easter weekend. Down here in the South-East Aegean, Symi is starting to wake up after a long, wet and cold winter — we had snow for the first time in many years — and tourists are beginning to return.

Nicknamed the ‘Judas Plant’, this lily is always in bloom at easter time, it looks beautiful but exudes the smell of dead goat

Harbour and village businesses are opening, though the beaches and water taxis aren’t up and running yet, and we have our first visitor too. My mother is staying for a month, which is fun. Luckily, she understands that I have ‘Seeing Through Shadows’ about to come out next week, and I am currently working through the final proof, organising the cover, setting up publication on Amazon and doing those 101 things that need to be done ahead of the release date. That, by the way, should be during next week.

You don’t have long to wait to meet our new characters, Chester Cadman, Henry Hope and Edward Hyde. You’ll find out who falls in love with whom, what eccentricities Fleet is getting up to, and some of the history behind Larkspur Hall. There’s a ghostly mystery to solve, and a few exciting things happen in a bath, a bed and a laboratory…

Seeing Through Shadows
Coming Soon!

I will say no more, except. Kalo Paska – Happy Easter – and remind you to look out for Wednesday’s work in progress blog where I’ll tell you more about ‘Seeing Through Shadows’, the Larkspur Mysteries, book four.