Archives for posts with tag: CLAIRE LLOYD

Living with dogs is a new thing for me. I had never had a dog until now, and I have gone from one extreme to another. As a child I begged my mother for a dog but she dug her heels in saying she had enough of us to look after without a dog. I now understand she was completely right and admire her for sticking to her guns especially even when I did my up most to sway her. Matthew and I have found ourselves taking care of many waifs and stray cats and dogs, that have made their way to our doorstep. We both find it curious the way we have become so fond of these furry friendsWe help them as much as we can but it’s very difficult as there are so many. As I write this we feed about sixteen cats, one of which has just has two of the sweetest kittens and six dogs, three of which need new homes. We only have a small garden so exercising the dogs is important. I usually do one long walk in the morning and Matthew another four around the village throughout the day. A couple of the cats like to join in the walks and our village friends are amused when they see the parade.

I dedicated a chapter in my book My Greek Island Home’ its called ‘Nature Nurture’. I write about some of the characters that have passed through our lives. One of my Greek friends, Vasillia has 25 rescue dogs in her care. She once told me that it was important to harden my heart otherwise it would be broken. It often is. We do our best and over the years have re-homed many four legged friends, especially dogs. A couple are now living happily in America, the others in the UK and Europe. We get help where we can and have been lucky to have very generous friends.

London florist Nikki Tibbles absolutely loves dogs and she has helped us with some of the financing and re homing of our four legged friends. We like have make contact with the potential new owners to get an idea if they are compatable with the dog. We have made some new friends along the way and also kept up with most of the dogs beautiful new lives. It’s hard work and expensive. There are the vet bills for injections, chipping and neutering together with the transportation costs, it all adds up. Matthew does the lion’s share of transportation dealing with the flights and the paper work which seems to change daily can be extremely time consuming and challenging.It’s always hard to say goodbye when they go off to their new lives, I sob but I know it’s for the best. When we see the lives these beautiful dogs are living now its so, so worth it.

Matthew has designed a t shirt to raise awareness and money for the dogs and cats we rescue, care for and re home. If you would like to be part of raising the awareness and helping the dogs and cats the ‘want me’ t shirt can be purchased on line www.usmarstudio.bigcartel.com And don’t forget to take a selfie in the t shirt and post it wherever you can. The t shirts will aslo be on sale at my London book launch on Wednesday night.

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Finally after three months away I am back on My Greek Island Home. The weather here is extraordinary, piercing blue skies, warm sunshine and blossom decorating all the fruit and nut trees as far as the eye can see. I have been in my hometown of Sydney and my work town London and enjoyed everything about both of them but there is nothing better than returning to the place that touches my soul, the Greek island of Lesvos. The last three months have flown by and have been filled with family, friends, sunshine, fires and rain. I have been a little slack with my posts to say the least so forgive me for that. Hopefully I will get myself back on track and share with you the things that make my heart sing. In April my beautiful book, My Greek Island Home, is to be launched in the UK by my publishers Clearview Books. There will be more info on that later. I have a new instagram account, mygreekislandhome where you can find images by the day or sometimes by the hour of my life here on this fab Greek island. We continue to rescue and re-home dogs and Matthew with the assistance of Nikki Tibbles in London re-homed five before he left. Three dogs went the UK and two to Chicago. Since his return he has taken in a tiny puppy that had been dumped in the village, cowering, cold and staving.  Whilst in Sydney I came across this great old-fashioned milk bar in the suburb of Summer Hill. My niece, Hannah and I went clutching our cameras; there were so many photo opportunities. We met with the owner a wonderful Greek man who has lived in Australia most of his adult life. I had the opportunity to speak with him using my limited Greek, he seemed happy enough, allowing me to butcher his mother tongue. Below are some of the images I took on the day.

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Matthew knows the small village streets on our GREEK ISLAND HOME like the back of his hand and I think he has now become familiar with every flowering rose bush too. I don’t know how people manage to grow fabulous roses but it seems we are the only people in the village incapable of it. Apparently they just grow there is nothing special we need to do and of course everyone has these flowering beauties in their garden. Everyone but us! But I need not fret as I am lucky enough to have  roses picked for me from someone else’s abundnt crop. We do have a small amount of fruit trees providing us with seasonal delights. A quince tree is the first tree growing as you enter our small garden and although our annual crop seems to be far less than others in the village there is still something that can be used in a chicken staffado . There is also a small plum tree, set in the middle of our yard and an olive, fig and an almond tree too. These were not planted by us and were well established when we arrived probably planted by the wife of the last inhabitant, a priest. She was said to have had green fingers. There is an abundance seasonal fruit and veggies in the village and we are very lucky to receive bags of goodies which we usually find hanging from our front gate. This is always tricky as you don’t know which one of our many generous village friends has left it. Recently we received a bag filled to the brim with persimmons a fruit I must admit to never have eaten before. I really enjoyed this fleshy fruit and found myself unable to stop eating them once I started. I also used them in salads a delicious addition, they taste divine and add wonderful colour. We still have not worked out who left this gift but we are once again truly greatful.

FLOWERS Beautiful delicate pink roses from someone else’s garden copyright CLAIRE LLOYD

FRUIT Persimmons a gift from a village friend copyright CLAIRE LLOYD

I woke early this morning to the most beautiful day here on My Greek Island Home. I was excited as I had been invited to join my friend Stratis on an expedition to pick mushrooms. It was  perfect mushroom picking weather, well perfect weather at least for this would be my first mushroom picking experience. Stratis would  show me how to identify  the edible ones. I wouldn’t trust myself  to choose, I’d choose the prettiest and probably end up having to have my stomach pumped or worse, dead. Anyway I was in safe hands with Stratis. My rescue dog Nellie and I met Stratis and his friend and we headed off into the pine forest. Stratis asked if  I had brought a knife and a plastic bag. Of course not but I had my camera. I found a stick to act as my knife and with a keen eye quickly picked up how to recognise them. The forest floor was covered in pine needles and the mushrooms hide underneath. I loved discovering them and getting my hands dirty pulling them out. It was wonderful being in nature and this city girl didn’t need a knife and a bag, she made use of a stick and her shawl. Can’t wait to go again only draw back is I have a mountain of mushrooms waiting for me in my kitchen to clean.                                                                                                                             MUSHROOM PICKING Stratis in the pine forest, I love the dappled light. Photographs copyright Claire Lloyd

MUSHROOM PICKING2 I am completely on love with the underside of the mushrooms, nature is the artist.  Photographs copyright Claire Lloyd

MUSHROOM PICKING3 Pine needles on the forest floor cover the mushrooms making them difficult to spot immediately.  Photographs copyright Claire Lloyd

MUSHROOM PICKING4 I can understand how mushrooms have inspired fashion designer Issey Miyake. Photographs copyright Claire Lloyd

MUSHROOM PICKING5 My rescue dog Nellie, not a big help, but enjoyed her morning in the pine forest. Photographs copyright Claire Lloyd

MUSHROOM PICKING6 This mushroom couldn’t keep hiding under the pine needles it was reaching for the light and easily spotted. Photographs copyright Claire Lloyd

MUSHROOM PICKING Stratis cuts the bottom of the stem, checking no small insects have made their way inside.  Photographs copyright Claire Lloyd

The chiming of the church bells was the first sound I heard this morning, the next was Papa, our village priest singing at the top of his voice, it must be Sunday. There are many churches and chapels here on the Greek Island of Lesvos and I love visiting them. They are full to the brim with icons,and all things shiny. I find them a visual treat and a peaceful place to meditate and contemplate. Two of my favourite places are in Petra. Panagia Glyofilousa, Our Lady of the Sweet Kiss, is the crowning glory on the top of a 40 meter high rock. It’s a steep climb up the 114  steps that are carved into the rock but worth the effort. The basilica was originally built in 1609 and is considered one of the most important places of worship on the island. Agios Nikolaos is a tiny church below the rock and near to the square. It is a single-aisled basilica with a stone floor and there are three layers of frescos on the walls. It is such a special place and you rarely see another soul inside. blog churches4 Frescos from Agios Nikolaos copyright CLAIRE LLOYD

blog churches3 Chairs sit in front of the fresco at Agios Nikolaos copyright CLAIRE LLOYD

blog churches2 Candles lay waiting to be lit at Panagia Glyofilousa. Flowers at Agios Nikolaos copyright CLAIRE LLOYD

blog churches I love the placement of the icons and the bold colour and pattern of the black cover copyright CLAIRE LLOYD

blog churches7 Details from Panagia Glyofilousa. I especially like the tin money chest copyright CLAIRE LLOYD

blog churches8 Candles at Panagia Glyofilousa copyright CLAIRE LLOYD

blog churches6 Insence burners Panagia Glyofilousa copyright CLAIRE LLOYD

blog churches5 Ceiling details Panagia Glyofilousa copyright CLAIRE LLOYD

blog churches9 I love the wooden doors and they way they are secured at Panagia Glyofilousa copyright CLAIRE LLOYD

There are always surprises behind the closed village doors. My daily dog walking takes me past many uninhabited and also crumbling houses, they are thought provoking.  Past lives stir my imagination and my curiosity pushes me towards any small opening for a peek. Just a glimpse is enough, but the opportunity to step over the threshold is never turned down. This particular house was a gem it had been left almost untouched. It was a friends mothers house and we were invited to tread the grapes from their annual harvest. They said it was important that we came as they wanted the grapes to be trodden by couples who loved each other. This would add to the quality of the wine. Mmmm……… hope we didn’t let the side down. The grapes were in plastic baby baths in the garden and Matthew and I took off our shoes, washed our feet and started treading. I was taking photos at the same time so relied on Matthew to hold me upright. The sensation of treading grapes is a rather wonderful one. I loved the feeling of the soft skins between my toes and the feeling of determination I  took on to squish every single grape to liquid. I took my camera around the house and loved the way it had remained after the death of my friends mother. The only real difference were the bottles of wine being stored  from previous years. The house was now a cellar.

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Patterns of lace panels hang in front of windows and old tin trays sit on top of fabric runners. copyright CLAIRE LLOYD 

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Tin trays rest against the wall, it seems they have not been moved for years and years. copyright CLAIRE LLOYD 

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The old newspaper gives us a sense of time. I love the two patterns chosen to sit side by side each other on this wall. copyright CLAIRE LLOYD 

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A fabulous wooden panelled ceiling and a random piece of lace hang from a nail. copyright CLAIRE LLOYD 

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This is my kind of lighting, I love the single clear bulb hanging from the twisted cord. I particularly love the connection between the cord and the bulb and the cord and the ceiling fitting. Grapes trodden by previous lovers lay waiting to be drunk. copyright CLAIRE LLOYD 

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Chairs stacked up until next time. An embroidered hand made purse hangs open, when it was last used. copyright CLAIRE LLOYD 

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Rotting shutters let in diffused afternoon light. I covert a curtain hook which is attached to the wooden window surrounds. copyright CLAIRE LLOYD 

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A sad, single fallen curtain and some newer hats on the hat rack, reminding us that people still pass by. copyright CLAIRE LLOYD 

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Patterns of slowly disintegrating fabric and paper. copyright CLAIRE LLOYD 

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Electricity was not essential in this household. copyright CLAIRE LLOYD 

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You can feel the bannister in your hand and the photos give you faces to the story you have built up in your mind. copyright CLAIRE LLOYD 

 

Yesterday was a full day on My Greek Island Home. Every one of my emotions and senses were touched and stimulated.

I was woken by the soft paw of my cat Sweetie. She dragged it across my face with only partly retracted claws hoping to raise me from my cosy bed. She then proceeded to lead me downstairs to her empty food bowl, in the kitchen. On my way through I open the door onto the garden where 3 tails wagged madly and there were hysterical sounds of excitement. It was as if I have been gone from the dog’s lives for days rather than hours.

I put on some music, Midnight Oil, and we danced, the three dogs and I. Dog number four was on a sleep over, integrating into the family that will be driving her across Europe to her new home in London. Even though living in a Greek village has many distractions and surprises there are still some routines that must be followed.

Next on the agenda was a dog walk via our guesthouse. We call the guesthouse Ken’s Spiti. Spiti, being the word for house in Greek and Ken being the name of my father. It’s a bit mad really but I like it, as it’s a constant reminder of my lovely Dad. Before reaching Ken’s Spiti we were greeted by 7 cats of varying sizes, colours and ages all thrilled to see the dogs and I. The cats purred, everyone rubbed noses, legs and whatever else that can be rubbed and we moved on to the final destination, the guesthouse. I fed the cats on the wall, some others joined in. High walls surround the house and there is a metal gate at the entrance. You cannot see into the small stone garden. I opened the gate and there in front of me is the most enormous shaggy goat with very long, curly horns. Shocked and amused to find this lone and oversized creature out of context, I laughed and laughed, I could not stop laughing. What has happened, what has my life become? After corralling the goat out of the garden I headed off along the track for my daily dog walk.

A Greek lesson was next and I needed to be in Molyvos, 30 minutes away by 10.30am. At 12pm I had organised to meet a family from Istanbul in the harbour. Several days ago I had an email from a gentleman who lived in Istanbul. He had seen my blog and enjoyed it. He and his family were visiting the island and he asked if we could meet. I was happy to. The meeting was delightful, my newfound friends are very interesting people and we spent a couple of hours together, chatting away. It was relaxing and I really enjoyed it. At the end of our time they presented me with a gift. The most beautiful book called Dance of Fire, Iznil tiles and ceramics from the Sadberk Hanim Museum. I was completely touched by this gesture. I left them feeling so full of joy. Looking at the book has inspired me to pick up a brush and start painting.

I was home about 4pm just in time for another dog walk. Walking through the village I came across a kitten that was unable to walk and was incredibly weak. I picked it up as gently as possible and took it home where I wrapped it in a warm towel and fed it watered down evaporated milk through an eyedropper. It took a little milk and I let it rest.

Alexandra my Albanian cleaners daughter is learning English and I am helping her a couple of times a week with her work. She arrived at 5pm I checked on the kitten and thought I heard a faint purr when I stroked it. After Alexander had left I went into the bathroom and found the kitten had lost its fight. Its little body was limp in my hands and I was so, so sad. I hate it, I hate seeing it, and I hate being so powerless.

The day had almost come to an end a day with life and death, laughter and tears, joy and sorrow. Out of the blue came an email from an Australian friend. She had been moved to send the email by the previous post I had put up on my blog called Turkish faces. She said the photos had reminded her of a radio programme she had listened to recently with Hugh Mackay (click to listen), about life and happiness. She thought I should listen to it. Quote, because it’s all about living the ‘good life’ and what he was saying is exactly what you are doing!This morning I lay in bed and listened to the program, it absolutely hit the spot with me, the timing was perfect. It’s an inspiring interview and really worth setting some time aside to listen. Thank you artist Susan Hipgrave for your perfectly timed email. Thank you Phillip Adams and Hugh Mackay for an intelligent, thought provoking programme. And YES I am living the good life.

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Living the good life! Walking the dogs, late afternoon on the Greek Island of Lesvos. Photograph Matthew Usmar Lauder

Removing the flesh from around the nut

A growing pile of the disgarded outter flesh.

A walnut tree against the piercing blue autum skies of Lesvos.

Our dog Nellie watches on.

My Australian bestie, Mary Lou loved picking the walnuts from the tree.

The ground is dry after a long Greek Island summer.

There is still wonerful splashes of colour to brighten up the dry earth.

Me and my shadow, Mary Lou.

Matthew and Effie doing the dirty work.

The hands of the workers, Matthew and Effie.

A pile of freshly picked walnuts.

Trixie and Teddie help out.

On a beautiful autumn Sunday morning, Matthew, Mary lou, four dogs, our neighbour Effie and I set out from MY GREEK ISLAND HOME to pick walnuts. Effie has a farm outside of the village which we visit with her this time every year, it’s a ritual. Under piercing blue skies we followed her along the rocky track to her land. There has been little rain this year  and the ground is dry and dusty. We were disappointed to find no fruit on the fruit trees and fewer walnuts than usual. When we arrived Mary lou and I began hand picking the nuts on the lower branches, then Mary lou found a stick to knock the higher ones to the ground. Matthew and Effie meanwhile sat down and began the much dirtier task of removing the flesh that encases the shell. This job is done by hitting the walnuts with rocks and tearing away the flesh. The flesh of the walnuts can be used as clothes dye or dye for hair, it is almost black in colour. Matthew and Effie’s stained hands reveal their mornings work. We spend about two hours and gatthered a large bag of walnuts which Effie will remove from their shells and dry, storing them for the winter months ahead. Walking back along the rocky track home with my dogs and friends I felt so connected to nature, a reminder of why I love it here on My Greek Island Home.

 

 

I shot this photo of Grace in one of our local cafes. Hand coloured by Matthew Usmar Lauder.

Another dog who needs a GREAT home. Meet Bruto he is a big dog, 25 kilos and he is 5 years old. He is very social and loves people. Bruto is good with other dogs, he is a gentle giant and a natural born leader.

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