Welcome to the third week of International Romance! Nicole Ducleroir and Katie Bell have already left us some interesting stories and this week we have Jessica Bell (bottom left). Here's a little introduction:
Jessica Bell is an Australian who lives in Athens, Greece, and writes literary women's fiction and poetry. Her debut novel, String Bridge, is scheduled to be published by Lucky Press LLC, in late 2011. She makes a living as a freelance writer/editor of global English Language Teaching materials for Pearson Education, Hellenic American Union, Macmillan Education, Cengage Learning and Education First. A list of other publications can be seen on her website, www.jessicacbell.com. She posts four days a week on her blog www.thealliterativeallomorph.blogspot.com
Ok, my post is going to be a little different. I’m not going to talk about my love for my partner (though I do love him to bits); I’m going to talk about my love for
When I was about six years old, arriving to the Greek island where my grandparents lived was like stepping foot into an enchanted pop-up fairytale book. At dawn, especially, it was a Never land of lush luminescent green mountain, deep purple sea, sherbet orange sky and sharp-toothed cliffs so high you could literally walk on clouds — a much needed change from falling asleep on a vibrating carpeted floor that reeked of old amplifier wheel grease and waking up to cigarette smoke wafting through ducted heating vents. My parents were musicians.
The island’s windy mountainous roads are framed with olive groves and air so crisp you can snap it like celery. The houses are stained with whitewash and embedded with old-style stiff wooden shutters, tailored by the locals to keep the summer swelter out. They are painted blue, red, or green, but occasionally you may come across the odd pink or orange shutters, which are more often than not inhabited by the eccentric barmy type who are color-blind, or the young and loaded foreigner who believes an island revolution should be in order.
Most folks have a siesta between two and five in the afternoon, so there isn’t much to do except wander the streets and explore. By about six p.m. the sun still reads midday, and the waterfront cafés fill with shouting teenagers drinking frappé. And there they stay until it’s time to return home, quickly scarf down some homemade mousaka, and get dressed to party until seven the next morning.
By about ten p.m. the sun hides behind a mountain of shrubby arid terrain, and the cool edge to the air is relieving. At the mountain’s topmost peak, a silhouette of an Orthodox church can be seen, accompanied by a soundtrack of owls and crickets. At this time of day mosquitoes congregate for their evening feasts. Shepherds’ voices echo through the valley while their goats’ bells jingle as they steer along their hot dusty trails back home.
In the morning, when glittering sunlight made patterns on my wall through the thin slats of my bedroom shutters, my mother would make me Vegemite toast. I’d eat on the verandah, without a plate, propped up on a whitewashed ledge full of tacky red plastic buckets, where my Nona would hand-wash our laundry. Dad would play guitar in the garden, and mum would sing along as if she were the happiest person alive. Papou would tend to his veggie patch, and as soon as I’d finish my toast, I’d probe the olive trees for camouflaged cicadas.
At night I would ask Papou to play cards with me on the wobbly kitchen table covered in clay brown checkered laminate which matched the wrinkly brown-orange lino floor. We’d sit by the wood-fire oven to use it as a side-table for our flat orangeades.
Papou would show me his clever shuffling tricks with his sun-spotted trembling hands and I would smile and nod at his mumbling despite hardly ever understanding what he said. My father later said he often told stories about the earthquake that initiated the mass migration to
in 1953. Melbourne
However, I do recall one instant when I’d understood what he said. It was one afternoon before going for siesta that Papou and I sat together in the lounge room for a while. I was flipping through old photo albums as he picked up the newspaper and sat in his faded maroon armchair facing the window. I glanced up for a second to see him looking from side to side and then patting his shirt pockets.
“They’re on your head,” I said.
His eyes lit up as he removed his reading glasses from his balding and scratched head (from consistently knocking it against the wine cellar entrance), put them on his nose, and said as if he had been touched by an angel, “How you know? How you know what I look for? My God, my God, you have gift!”
At six years old, of course, I believed him, until my mother explained I had just used common sense. At least she’d made me feel intelligent instead of crushing the novelty of possibly being psychic.
I’ll never forget the day my father returned from spear-fishing one morning and had brought home a massive live sea creature as big as his head, thinking it was just an empty shell.
We all gathered on the verandah to take a closer look at the twenty-centimeter thick monster that slowly emerged from its shell like a slimy skinless muscular arm. It was bright red with purple veins and a slippery transparent membrane. But Nona suspected it was a local delicacy and promptly ‘prepared’ it for the grill. She put it in the washing machine. To tenderize. The whole house stank of dead fish for weeks, and thank God the washing machine was never used for its intended purpose. Most of the time it just sat, unplugged, by the toilet as an ‘asset’.
It turns out the creature was deadly. If its poison hadn’t been sucked out during its two-hour cycle in the washing machine, Papou and Nona would have been poisoned to death!
So as you can see, I have plenty to write about. My memories are endless. A lifetime of writing inspiration. And that’s what I love about it the most. This country makes me want to write! Thanks for reading!
Don't forget to join us next week for Joanna St. James!