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Moving

Light Relief

For a final Saturday-swim that day, the salty-feisty sea-dog and her fine-warm human took me to the Light House beach at Kiotari. Earlier, we’d ventured into the blue and then relaxed cheek to cheek. The freddo cappuccino, the laid-back soundtrack, the soothing shade and the cooling sea provided the ultimate chill on a hot afternoon.

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Moving

Cheek to Cheek

Me, with salty-feisty sea-dog and captain of our trip, Zumba, in the beach tent at Lachania, Rhodes, Greece.

Just after our first swim, not our last, into the blue.

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Moving

Into the Blue

One September Saturday, together with a good friend and her salty-feisty sea-dog, we went swimming here.

At Lachania, on the island of Rhodes, Greece, the beach is close enough to the village to take its name and distant enough to keep its integrity.

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Loving

Swimming With My Father

This morning, on my way to the pool for a swim I recalled a story my father told me. During World War II, he served with the RAF and for some time was stationed in Egypt. At one point, he said, he was billeted with a Franco-Egyptian family in what was then a leafy suburb of Cairo; Heliopolis. Finding out that he was a keen swimmer, the family suggested he use the nearby facilities of the Heliopolis Sporting Club (of which they were members) and accompany their daughter on her morning swim – she would show him the way. Their daughter was three years old. Each morning she dressed in matching bathing suit, dress and hair bow and led my father to the swimming pool – once there, she would walk in under the turnstile (staff joked to my father that she had been made an honourable life member of the club for her ability to do this), go poolside, pull her dress off over her head, fold it neatly and jump into the pool. Once my father had negotiated entrance and changing facilities, he was able to join her for a swim. When it came time to leave, the little girl climbed out of the pool, dried herself off, pulled on her dress and waited patiently while my father renegotiated the changing facilities. She would then walk him back to her home in companionable silence. In fact, barely a word was ever exchanged between them – there was, of course, a language barrier. However, there was also a common understanding, so nothing needed to be spoken.

I often wonder what became of that child, yet twenty years later, I was to become her. Only this time, the roles were reversed. This time, he showed me the way. He was forty-five years old when he taught me to swim and I know it gave him great pleasure, even more so as I’m sure he did it for her, too. There was, of course, no language barrier, but little needed to be said. We had a common understanding, you see. Later, at school, I was to win my swimming badges and certificates – each one for a greater distance or a new skill. I was, unsurprisingly, workaday proud to have that recognition of my achievements. But, that swimming was about limits, checking boxes and measurement. It was a world away from the freedom, confidence and peace we – me and my Heliopolis sister – experienced when swimming with my father.

Categories
Loving

Three Sundays: Back in Time

On foot:
I’ve just walked back from the swimming pool – one at a nearby hotel. It’s been a quiet, unassuming weekend and it was the perfect way to spend a fading Sunday afternoon. A cold drink, a swim, time in the hot tub, a good read – all with a cheesy 80s soundtrack in the background. Added sport included beating SoundHound to naming that tune. I’ve known the town as visitor and resident for many years now, but it wasn’t until last May that I walked into this hotel to meet an old friend who was staying there before she headed to the airport. Since then, I’ve been back, summer and winter. I like it. The place itself has become a friend.

By car:
The previous Sunday saw me on a drive down to the deep south of the island to two places I’ve watched change a great deal over the years, yet which I never tire of revisiting. A friend (of tenacious longstanding) was celebrating her birthday at a beachside restaurant with a group of tourists and residents. The temperature rose, the mercifully-cooling wind blew, we ate, we drank, we chatted, we laughed and we had cake. The beach was full of happy holiday makers, the sea full of determined swimmers. A slow drive back took us to a fishing village in a small bay dominated by a ruined castle on the rocky outcrop above. The birthday cake digested, we stripped off and jumped in the water with the local ducks.

By boat:
Two weeks back now, and my Sunday was spent on as well as in the sea. The friend who’d introduced me to today’s hotel, invited me to meet her on another island at a favourite bay. One catamaran and a speedboat later, there I was and so was she. The crystal blues of the water were clearer and colder than usual – choppy, too, as the wind blew hard. On the boat and at the beach, I met two Dutch women, who talked of heartbreak, survival and fortitude with gusto and good humor. For a while, I walked alone along the shore, I had time for reflection before the return boat journey. I travelled through time at speed, remembering the first time I was there, the lasting value of the friendships made then, moving past all those made since, arriving happily, bumpily, covered in sea spray, back in the main harbour with those made that day.

Categories
Moving

The Agia Marina Blues

My favourite Agia Marina is still the small bay on Symi – there the blues are as blue as they could be. Over ten years ago, the land there was bought by an Italian woman and her husband and they set about developing it at great personal cost (in many ways). What they created, and now lease to others who have added their own touches, is a great place to relax, eat, and play sport – as well as swim, of course.

I visited several times last year and plan to do so again soon, in time for the name day of Agia Marina on 17 July, but the visit I remember most fondly is one in September on the weekend of the blue moon. I went with a friend and her son and it was such a perfect day I doubt anything could have been added to improve it. It’s possible to walk to the bay, but the boat trip is part of the whole experience and means you can arrive feeling fresh and having seen those blues up close already. So, we went by boat.

We took beds and a parasol under the trees at the far end of the beach. Then we swam – I like to swim to the small islet in the middle of the bay and go for a walk there. This time I swam there with my friend’s son. Almost at the islet, wordlessly, we both stopped to tread water and look around. We could smell the dry herbs from the bay behind us and see the small chapel on the islet, but what had stopped us were the blues.

Such blues. He had plans to study abroad and I was about to leave for California. However, right there, right then, those blues we agreed were unique and would stay with us – to join whatever colour palette we put together on our travels. He swam back to the beach and I carried on to the islet, had my walk and swam back around the yachts, through the sea clear as glass.

We then ate food I still can’t quite believe I had – it was so good. The way it looked on the plate, the tastes (expected and unexpected – all a joy) and the smells. Luckily, my friend took pictures or I’d still believe I’d dreamt it. Then it was off to dodge hornets while playing table tennis – personally, I think my game improved as a result (fear of being stung, maybe). All the time, there was a soundtrack of light jazz, people chatting and children playing. Eventually, I caught as late a boat back to the main harbour as I dared, leaving just enough time to catch the night boat back to Rhodes.

This was first posted on axrhodes on 17/07/2013