Appledore – Paxos
Appledore is in North Devon, UK. Paxos is situated off the coast of Corfu, Greece. Although some may think these two places are worlds apart, to me at least, they have similarities, which having lived in one, led me to reside in the other.
Some fifteen years ago, my son fled the nest and headed for Medical School, a month before my beloved Mum had died. I had reached that cross road in life, which we all experience at some stage. I was lost! Having had a mental breakdown at the same time, I just did not know what to do, or where to go. I needed escapism ? Sticking a pin in a map, it hit on Paxos in Greece. I booked a flight to Corfu and was gone, I originally booked a two week return flight. – I know you are thinking ” here we go, Shirley Valentine”. – However, nothing was further from my mind, I wanted to paint and Paxos, was where I was going to do it….
…..and paint I did. From the minute, I stepped off the hovercraft from Corfu, I was dazzled by the beauty of this tiny Agean Isle. Aquamarine sea lapped at the harbour wall, brilliant sunshine gave clarity to the pastel coloured houses which lined the narrow cobbled streets and the aroma of wild herbs and roasting lamb driffted on in the air. I hadn’t booked accommodation so hitching my paints and suitcase on to my shoulder, wandered along the quay, stopping every now and again to wipe the sweat from my brow. Pausing for a coffee in a small Italian run Cafe, I found myself talking to the proprietors wife, she was an artist and hailed from Scotland. Helping in the cafe, during the morning, she also had a small Gallery tucked away in a tiny back street. “Accommodation” she said “of course, see Spiro next door he has some small apartments to let”. And so it was, I was to spend the next three years on the amazing island of Paxi. Moving to small house in an olive grove, I utilised my cooking skills and provided evening meals from local produce to holiday makers, selling my paintings at the same time. I was totally accepted by the Greeks, who are so much more friendly than us, stiff upper lipped Brits. Meeting lots of interesting people of all nationalities, I avoided the expats, who wanted to change the Greek customs and simplicity of their life style. If they wanted English ways, why didn’t they go back to England? I was introduced, one evening, to a friend of the Cafe owners wife. “You will like her” she said, ” She comes from Appledore”.
I was ignorant, “Appledore” I enquired, “where is that”? “North Devon” Emma replied “a tiny village on an estuary, a bit like here”. I was intrigued, I thought I knew North Devon pretty well, when I went back to England I was determined to pay the place a visit. Emma, married a Greek man and stayed on Paxos. I returned to England and visited Appledore.
Over the next few years, Appledore was to become my holiday destination of choice. On that first visit, I experienced the same feeling of elation as when I stepped onto the Quay in Paxos. My main ambition now, was to live in this idyllic location. Easier said than done. I had no money. With house prices in Appledore reportedly averaging at £250,000, and my advancing years against me, I had no chance of purchasing a property and even less of finding one to rent.
However, is was meant to be. Whilst spending two weeks in Appledore last Christmas – part work, part pleasure – I happened across an advert in a local paper, for a tiny cottage to rent in a cobbled court yard, I was on to it, like a ferret up a drain pipe. Things moved quickly, the lease was signed and on 1st Feb, I was ensconced in my quirky cottage haven..
To say I am happy is an understatement. I’m ecstatic. Meandering the steep streets, watching the dinghies on the estuary or walking my dog on the shore, brings back memories of Paxos and fills me with a calmness and sense of self worth, only experienced in brief moments of my life.
And the people, well what can I say? On the whole, most are welcoming. I can understand the locals, being adverse to us “blow ins” who may well think they should change local ways and “show them how things are done in the real world”. But, like in Greece I tend to avoid most of the “incomers”, like myself. I find these people the most intrusive. ” Have you bought your cottage” is the first question! “I must pop round and have a look”. Answer, comes there non, to these questions. All I can think to myself is ” If you are so interested in wealth and it’s encumbrances, leave me alone to enjoy my peace and contentment in beautiful Appledore.
To my English friends: Good Afternoon. To my Greek friends: Kalimera.