Archives for posts with tag: love

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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

 

IMG_4348A Mr Matthew Barr

IMG_4351A Mrs Jessica Barr

IMG_4362 Mr and Mrs Barr

IMG_4607A Love

I am still enjoying the memories from my besautiful niece and her gorgeous husband’s October wedding. As promised…….. introducing Mr Matthew Barr. Matt and Jess are about to embark on their new life together in Darwin, a big change from their familiar Sydney.  I hope it will be great adventure for both of them. Thank you for Matt and Jess for being in my life, I love you both.

 

GRACE SPREAD A

GRACE SPREAD B

My beautiful god-daughter and muse, Grace Bagot.

BINGO & FABRIC 2 These animals sure know how to choose their owners. Bingo one of our rescue cats always finds a way to get inside.  He fits perfectly into the our white house and I think he knows that. He’s a very special boy.

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At this time of year the village is quiet. Our village friends tend to stay indoors. It’s not at all surprising as the weather the last few days has been extremely wet. I felt the need to go back into my archives to remind myself of village life in June. Here are some of my friends. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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I LOVE the way Eadie looks. So simple, such beauty.

Eadie photographed by Claire Lloyd

Eadie photo copyright claire lloyd

I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas with friends and family. Love Cx

CHRISTMAS PRESENTS

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.

 

 

Last weekend our rescue dog Fanti left us and boarded the overnight ferry from Mytilene to Athens. He was accompanied by our friend and dog lover, Vassilia. On their arrival at the port in Athens they were met by a pet taxi and taken to Athens airport where Big Fanti had to be brave and travel in a large box for the next part of his journey, a flight to London’s Heathrow. Matthew found Fanti next to the bins on the outskirts of our Greek village just over two months ago. He was suffering from malnutrition and had very little fur due to skin parasites. He was in a very sorry state indeed. Matthew scooped him up and took him to the local vet where he was given treatment. Fanti didn’t like the needles one bit and cried. When he arrived home Matthew and my father showered him using ‘Fur so fresh’ shampoo. Fanti did not looked back and loved being in our garden with all our other pets, particularly Bingo our white cat. They would play for hours. As Fanti began growing  it became clear he was going to be a big dog. He was floppy and very uncoordinated and often fell over his own head when running. On several occasions he did this on the beach, running into the water. It was so funny to watch but a shock for him. He became part of our family over the short time we had him and was a joy, a gentle loveable giant. We fell in love with him and I shed many tears when we said goodbye. Fanti has gone to a great home and he has new friends to keep him company. His life will be a full and fun one and we both know he will be loved dearly. Thank you to his new family for taking Fanti and loving him, allowing us the space to rescue yet another . I took these shots of Fanti before his departure.

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