Archives for posts with tag: PEOPLE

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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.

 

Yesterday I went for a walk through the Botanical Gardens in Sydney. At the harbours edge I was lucky enough to meet Emma who asked me to take her photo. Emma has such lovely face and beautiful smile and  I would like to thank her so much for sharing it with me. Emma gave me her email address but unfortunately the email bounced back so if anyone recognises Emma please let me know. Through the lens of my camera I can capture intimate moments which give me great joy. This to me was a lovely, lovely moment in time, thank you Emma.

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IMG_7208-2 Emma photo Claire Lloyd

 

IMG_4348A Mr Matthew Barr

IMG_4351A Mrs Jessica Barr

IMG_4362 Mr and Mrs Barr

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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.

 

Usually the images I post of  My Greek Island Home (check out my book) are in colour but Greek village life is just as beautiful in black and white. Enjoy my wandering around the village.

IMG_8650_1a Delicious handmade mazipan flowers by the woman in the village co-operative

IMG_3401a A villager eturnig at dusk along the track laden with hay

IMG_5953a A handfull of newly picked fresh wild asparagus

IMG_2325a Panayiota and Stratos  sitting happily together in their kafenio

IMG_0803a Fresh bread being made in the local bakery

IMG_1247a Wash day

_MG_7786a A quite moment for the late Charalambos

20091011_RALITSA LAN`D_4528a A plate of  grapes just picked from a neighbours vine

_MG_4355a Preparation for the olive picking

_MG_1688a Crocheting lace, the village women are always busy

_MG_5671a Bagging up the olives

_MG_4209a Home baking means hands on work

_MG_8180a Watching the world go by

_MG_1705_1a Things turn up in the most unlikely places

DSC00124a The original kitchen in our house

Vasso's mums handa Freshly picked vine leaves which will be used for making dolmades

 

 

What a great article on our village life in the August issue of  UK House & Garden  magazine. Beautifully written by Ros Byam Shaw and fabulous photos taken by Paul Massey. Thanks for coming to My Greek Island Home and sharing some of  our favourite things. My Greek Island Home published in the UK by Clearview Books.

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My beautiful god-daughter and muse, Grace Bagot.

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When we bought our village house it was filled with somebody else’s life. It was really strange to open the door and feel we were entering a very personal space that was not ours. It felt like someone had just gone out shopping or to visit a friend and had never come back. I suppose that is what happened. The house had belonged to the village priest, Papa, and his wife. After Papa’s death his wife continued to live in it until she passed away. We were extremely privileged to be privy to their lives.

Our village has many abandoned houses. When I am lucky enough to peek inside I find it fascinating. Last summer our village friend George called me into the house of one of his relatives. This house is relatively close to ours and locked up behind big blue gates, completely out of sight. George knows we love the history of the village and its people and also knows I love houses. He invited us in. The house was fab and I asked George if he would mind me taking some photographs of my goddaughter Grace who was staying with us. He didn’t mind at all and here are the results, enjoy!

Isabel La Howe – Conant, “He who loves an old house never loves in vain.”

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently my goddaughter asked me if I found it easy to ask strangers if I could take their photographs. I had to admit I am still really self conscious when it comes to photographing people. I actually find the initial approach scary. I feel sensitive towards my chosen subject and also feel responsible for capturing the essence of them in my shots. When I approach people who I don’t know I am always amazed at how open they are to having their photo taken. I can honestly say that it’s rare that someone says no to me. No is fine and to be respected. When yes is the response I love  the fleeting relationship between me and my new friend. I always feel elated after having taken the snap and sharing a few words with the person or people in front of me. Language is never a barrier if you are warm and relaxed, and that’s also when you get the best result. I shared this with Grace and then suggested we sit down and watch the Bill Cunningham documentary, very inspirational. Thank you everyone who has said yes to me and given me your time whether it be 30 seconds or 2 hours. Below are a few faces who happily said yes.

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This man was not phased at all by my lens copyright Claire Lloyd

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These two were definitely on for a photo copyright Claire Lloyd

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A little self-conscious but obliging never the less copyright Claire Lloyd

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 This gentleman was my favourite. He was so excited I had asked him that he beamed, it was worth it just to see the pleasure in his eyes copyright Claire Lloyd

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I snuck in from the side on this one. This lovely couple had asked someone to take their photo with their camera. I thought she was particularly beautiful and there was lots of love there copyright Claire Lloyd

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He looks exhausted by life but became quite animated when we talked about Australia copyright Claire Lloyd

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This guy was very keen to be photographed he actually asked me and then proudly placed himself in the doorway of his shop copyright Claire Lloyd

 

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