Archives for posts with tag: Claire Lioyd

In the spring our village priest very proudly presided over the wedding service of his only daughter, Ismini. Everyone in the village, young and old were invited to this splendid event. Our Papa was not the only clergyman in attendance, there were several more, differing in age and draped in finery according to their importance. It was a spectacular service, a visual feast.

One of the things I love about living in a Greek village is the way the community all come together for these special occasions. Everyone dresses in their Sunday best even if it is a Saturday, and there is a real sense of community love.

Our village church is something to be proud of.  Although the outside is somewhat austere the inside shines with its ornate fixtures and fittings, glitzy chandeliers and wealth of icons. The locals flooded into the church, every square inch was occupied. In the middle of it all was the bride, Ismini who shone like a jewel.

Although these occasions are full of pomp there is still a sense of Greek fun which make them all the more enjoyable.

ismini-1435 The beautiful bride

two girls Anticipation

ismini-1354 The ceremony

chandeliers, and gold and red ornamentation inside church The church

guests seated at church watching wedding

The bride and groom Bride and groom

detail of icon pendant worn by priest

Father of the bride

Bride and groom Bride and groom

Mother of the bride Mother of the bride

portrait of priest

Brother of the bride Brother of the bride

Happiness Happiness

ismini-1464 Off they go

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Our rescue dog Nellie being adored by refugee children who have just arrived on Lesvos, by rubber boat. Nellie is such a sweet girl and so gentle and the children are immediately drawn to her. 

Last week I returned to Sydney. It took around thirty-three hours’ door to door. I travelled from My Greek Island Home by car to the airport and then took three planes before being chauffeured to my final destination, my apartment in Potts Point. I was fed along the way, watched a couple of movies and slept comfortably. On arrival I was greeted by my Mum, Dad and my best friend friend Mary Lou. My apartment was clean and warm and there was a scented candle burning and white roses had been placed beside my bed. We drank wine, nibbled on some delicious, cheeses and chattered.

I felt safe and loved.

So why am I telling you this? Because I have been trying to process a situation that has been unfolding daily, an enormous human crisis.

My journey began on The Greek Island of Lesvos, the third largest of the Greek Islands. My partner, artist, Matthew Usmar Lauder and I have had a house there for the last ten years. Lesvos is a beautiful island situated in the Northern Aegean and up until recently an island that most people had never heard of.

Now not a day goes by without it being mentioned on the news as thousands of refugees flee their homes, from countries where they are longer safe. They risk their lives travelling across the Aegean in over crowded and unsafe rubber and wooden boats in the hope of finding a safe place in Europe for themselves and their families.

On a late spring morning two years ago Matthew and I were walking our rescue dogs along the dirt track which winds out of our village for five kilometres to the Aegean Sea. It was a beautiful day and we were enjoying our walk in the sunshine. The sky was clear and we could see Turkey. On this particular day we saw something unfamiliar, a group of people in the distance, usually we only see a few of the local farmers. At first I thought it was an organised group of walkers but on closer inspection we realized they were refugees. We were shocked, really shocked. There were about thirty of them and the group included woman and children. It was so out of the blue and so out of context. We stopped and spoke with them, a couple of the males spoke English. They were Kurds and Somalian and they did not no where they were, let alone that they were on an island. They wanted to get to the nearest police station. This was our first encounter with refugees and we had no idea at that time of the avalanche that was to come.

Every day is a challenge, a struggle an emotional roller coaster. There are between two thousand and five thousand people arriving daily and there is no end to it, it’s like ground hog day.

The world is aware that Greece has its own problems, the economy is in shreds and there is little infrastructure. But despite this people on the island have been remarkable and generous beyond belief, meeting the boats, cooking food, collecting clothing, doing everything they possibly can to make the refugees safe and comfortable. The Greek people have always been welcoming and generous and the foreigners living on the island are doing remarkable work too.

Since February men, women, children, old people and disabled people have walked in the rain, wind and searing heat for four days to the islands capital, Mytilene. There they are registered enabling them to board boats to Athens and make their way to new countries where they hope to be safe and build new lives. Some of these people have witnessed members of their families dying. These people are unlikely ever see their homelands again. Can you imagine what that must feel like?

It is impossible to ignore the plight of these people, they come in their thousands everyday. Everyone is effected here. It’s extremely traumatic.

I saw a man carrying his pet dog under his jacket walking the road towards Mytilene in the rain, this made me break down completely. One image set me off crying, tears streamed down my face and I found myself sobbing uncontrollably. I was beside myself with an unbelievable sense of grief. Later I felt the most enormous amount of guilt. Why did I not stop? Why did I not take him and the dog to the vet to get the dog chipped medicated and a passport for it to travel further? What made this the thing that tipped me over the edge? When I speak with other people they say the same how just one thing can make them cry uncontrollably.

Witnessing this daily has been unbelievable, everyone is traumatised.

This is the reality. The refugees leave Turkey to travel across the Aegean Sea in overcrowded, rubber and wooden boats some barely seaworthy. They pay traffickers from 1000 to 3000 dollars each to make the journey. The Turkish authorities turn a blind eye to this. If the refugees hesitate because they are terrified the traffickers hold guns to their heads forcing them onto the boats. Some of the rubber boats are being made so fast that the glue has not had time to set. The boats are completely packed, there can be as many as 50 per rubber boat and probably none of the occupants can swim. Sometimes they are told to throw the little possessions they have off the boat. One refugee is given the responsibility of steering the boat, not only can he not see where he is going because the boat is so overcrowded but he has never seen the sea before. Crossing the Aegean can be very dangerous particularly at night. There are many tankers and the sea is rough. Some refugees land with broken and dislocated limbs. Some don’t make it and drown, mostly children and babies.

One pregnant womans waters broke in Turkey and was forced onto the boat and gave birth on arrival on the beach at Lesvos. The Greek coastguards do what they can but don’t always have petrol to go out to meet the boats this leaves the local fishermen and volunteers. The fishermen cannot turn a blind eye to sinking boats and rescue people. Unfortunately, their boats are to small to take everyone and they are left to make the decision on who to take and who to leave behind.

Why in this day and age when they can send men to the moon is this happening? This is history repeating itself and some of the very old locals remember this trip themselves as children, during the cultural exchange. It’s a nightmare.

One of my friends told me that a boat arrived crammed pack with people and there was something different about them that she could not put her finger on, they seemed more traumatised than usual. After they were all taken from the boat she saw the dead body of a woman lying on the bottom. This woman had died before boarding the boat and her family did not want to leave her so her body was put in first and the men women and children placed on top.

Last week there were many lives lost in the sea because of storms it is just the saddest thing and there is absolutely no need for this to be happening. Bodies were washed up onto the beaches, a large number being children. These people have been through enough and deserve to be transported safely and treated with dignity. As the winter descends on us the situation will only get worse. I woke up in the middle of the night a few weeks ago feeling sick to my stomach at the thought of the thousands of men, women and children being exposed to terrible storms, pounding rain, wind, thunder and lightening, with no shelter.

The island itself cannot cope as there are only few ambulances, rubbish collections are scarce and the coastline is strewn with with fluorescent life jackets and rubber boats. There is litter all along the roads. People are volunteering to help with all this but it does not stop building up with new arrivals.

Nothing could have prepared us for any of this. And certainly nothing could have prepared the millions of people who are now called refugees for what they have had to endure to date.

As I sit here writing this from the safety of my Sydney home, looking out over the harbour I fail to make sense of any of it. Each day I am haunted by what I have witnessed. I realise that where you are born impacts so much on how your life unfolds. I question world leadership and political motives and my concern grows for the beautiful Island of Lesvos and its generous people. I realise that this situation is so enormous that it will not end any time soon. I understand that people no matter where they come from or what their religion are all the same.

I have encountered such warmth and gratitude from those I have transported in my car. Usually we hug to say goodbye and the depth of this hug is huge.

It’s important for everyone to see and understand just how fragile the world. It is equally as important to see how wonderful the human race can be when they work together for each other.

Thank you to all the Greek people of Lesvos who are sharing everything they have. Thank you to the non Greek locals who have been brilliant working as hard as they possibly can and thank you to the volunteers who have come from all over the world to help.

And to the refugees the beautiful people I have met I wish you safety and love and that you find peace and another place you can call home.

Please, please don’t let this put you off coming to the island, come and share all the wonderful things that Lesvos and its people have to offer. It is such a special place and it needs not only volunteers but tourists.

#lovinglesvos

 

It’s spring here in Lesvos and a great time to hop on a boat and visit our nearest neighbour, Turkey. Three boats leave from the port at Mytilene at 9am for Ayvalik. The journey takes 1.5 hours unless you take the fast boat which gets you there in 30 minutes. You need to book the fast boat as it fills up quickly. The boats return at 6pm leaving you enough time to shop, eat and explore. Last Thursday we took some friends who were staying with us in Lesvos. We love showing friends around a place that is so dear to us. Thursday is market day and is our favourite day to visit. Market day is always lively and delicious produce is in abundance.  The Turkish people are gentle and warm. This week I was draw to the women. I’d like to thank the ones I photographed they were so open to me and the lens of my camera. Here I share with you their beauty. I also want to share some delicious produce and fantastic colours and patterns.Enjoy!

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I love the combinations of pattern and colour worn by this Turkish beauty. She is so relaxed in front of my lens and has such a beautiful open face. 

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The local produce is so fresh and  displayed  creatively, the bright colours of the fruit are reflected in the fabrics worn by  local women.

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Umbrellas and sheeting cover the fruit and vegetables protecting them from the strong sunlight. Sometimes this casts a hue that accentuates the colours of the fresh produce. I love the dappled light that falls randomly.

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Everyone has something to sell and there is something for everyone. Beautiful smiling faces are commonplace.

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Children are adored by friends, family and relatives. This little girl has the most amazing green eyes. Simple brushes are placed perfectly.

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Such beauty in this face that stares straight at me.  I love her style the way she has wrapped her head and neck in fabric and the wilting herbs tucked in the folds of the fabric.

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More beautiful carnations and this sweet little face.

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There are patterns everywhere I look. They even cover the tables in the cafes.

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Delicious warm freshly baked biscuits covered in sesame seeds must be eaten, yum.

 

GRACE SPREAD A

GRACE SPREAD B

My beautiful god-daughter and muse, Grace Bagot.

This is Margo she is about 4 years old and looking for a lovely home. She loves people children and cuddles. If you think you may have the perfect home for her emails office@ clairelloyd.com. Thank you.

 

 

 

 

Living on a Greek Island has opened our eyes to so many new things. We are privileged to be living our life here. We have met wonderful people and been embraced by our village community. The landscape that surrounds us is spectacular. When we arrived we never imagined the number of cats and dogs that needed help. There are some people on the island doing incredible work with animal rescue and we try to help when we can. Matthew volunteered for 1.5 years at the wildlife rescue centre, which has now closed. We have taken on kittens, cats, puppies and dogs, something I would never have imagined myself doing when I lived a city life in London. All of the animals we rescue are unique and they all have their own special place in our hearts.We do what we can to re home them and to date, with the help of our friends, we have re homed 8 dogs and many cats. The dogs have gone to Scotland, England, Holland and one puppy found a great home here on the Island. Every time we say goodbye it is really difficult but we know it’s absolutely for the best. We are lucky to find them new families and also lucky that the new owners keep us posted from time on their new lives. The last dog to leave was about a month ago now. Her name is Tollie and we found her on the outskirts of the village with a puppy. The puppy was about 2 months old and Tollie the mother only about a year. She was an incredibly good mother. The puppy, now called Cookie found a home here on the island. She was taken by a Greek girl and is happy, spoilt and doing well. Tollie was well loved in our garden and also a big hit with the children of the village. Bingo our white rescue cat had a special bond with her and they played together continuously, it was sometimes quite rough and tumble but they loved it and it was a joy to witness. They slept together every night even when the puppy was still with us. They would choose the smallest dog bed and all pile one on top of the other occasionally you would find that the puppy was at the bottom. She was a sensitive enthusiastic and charismatic dog and when she looked at you, you felt she could see into your soul. Nellie our first rescue dong, the one we have kept became her close friend. Nellie is very particular and doesn’t share herself with just anyone. They had hours of fun together and Tollie even managed to convince Nellie to relax and play, something that didn’t come naturally to Nellie. On the day Tollie left we took her and Nellie to a lovely beach for their last run together. We then drove to the port where she boarded a boat for Athens. This was the first leg of her long trip to the UK. Here are some photos of their last games. They were in dog heaven. I cried when we handed her to Vasillia her chaperone on the boat to Athens. Vasillia then took her in a taxi and checked her onto her flight to Heathrow. It was so sad to say goodbye but we knew it was the right thing for her. Tollie is now in a lovely home just outside of London and we have seen photos of her with her new friend Jack, she is happy. Tollie you will never be forgotten, thank you for all the laughter, joy, love and fun you brought to My Greek Island Home.

 

 

 

GEORGE

DEEP INSIDE THE WORKSHOP

THE ROOF OF THE WORKSHOP

EVERYTHING HAS ITS PLACE

A DEMONSTRATION

 

GEORGE AND HIS GRANDSON MARIO

I love peering through the windows of workshops on my many trips around our village. Some are well and truly forgotten and are sadly left to crumble. Their remains hint at a life and an occupation, which is no longer. There are still signs of life in others though and it’s a treat to be invited in for a closer look. George one of our village friends has had this workshop for the whole of his working life. In fact it has been in his family well before George was born. George is now retired from his trade but you can still find him occasionally pottering around or reshoeing the odd donkey. There are few donkeys used in the fields these days but it wasn’t that long ago when George would shoe all the donkeys of the village a full time job.

IMG_4403 Sweetie and I have been on Australian TV! Sadly Sweetie couldn’t make it in person but she was certianly mentioned. Here is the link to Channel 7’s Weekend Sunrise. Thank you Samantha and Larry for having me on the show. This weekend I am being interviewed live by Michael McDermott for The Well Informed Traveller . My interview will go out at 7pm Friday night New York time, so take a listen. Also the lovely Laura McWhinnie has posted My Greek Island Home on her fab site This Island Life. Thanks Laura! Matthew Usmar Lauder took this photo of Sweetie and I, thanks x.

 

 

 

PURE AND GENERAL 2

 

PURE AND GENERAL 4

 

PURE AND GENERAL 7

PURE AND GENERAL 1

PURE AND GENERAL 3

 

A week to go until Christmas and I’m sure it’s not just me that needs to find things to fill Santa’s sack! A shop I will be calling in on will be Pure and General in Potts Point, Sydney http://pureandgeneral.com . Linda Gregoriou has great taste and every time I step over the threshold I find beautiful things that I can’t live without. There is an eclectic mix from around the world and I guarantee you will find it difficult to leave without a treasure.

roses 2 Claire lloyd

roses ClaireLloyd

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