My connection to the island of Spetses goes back two generations when my grandparents were first offered land there to build a holiday home away from the pollution of Athens. They’d travelled to Greece from the highlands of Scotland following the depression – the story goes that my Grandfather, Robert Mackenzie, a Classics Scholar, was offered a job sweeping the floor of the EMI factory. Something went wrong with one of the machines and he fixed it..and then rose quickly through the ranks to become managing Director of EMI in Greece at a very special time: it was the cheapest place in Europe to record and make records and consequently drew talent talent from across the board from the Beatles to Maria Callas. My father was born there, although he was sent back to boarding school in the Lake District at aged five..it used to take him two days of travel by plane with a pit stop in Rome to get home, all in a converted Lancaster Bomber.
In my grandparents time, this house was the inspiration for John Fowles’s book, The Magus – he taught English at the once famous school (now a conference centre) on the island, said to be the Greek equivalent of Eton, he would walk all over the island in the quiet of the winter months in search of solitude and ideas. The house was owned by an eccentric millionaire and was then (before the great fire: another story) hidden from view by layers of huge pine trees. As a child, I went there for tea with my Grandmother to be shown faberge eggs and ancient seals. I don’t remember it, but I do remember the millionaire ended up in jail for forging an ancient land deed..with a biro.
Just down the valley is the bay where my parent’s house is…virtually unchanged. This picture is taken from the balcony of my sister’s parents-in-law’s house….Greece lies deep within the family blood and it’s special to have a proper Greek family that has linked the time and generations together.
My sister’s In-law’s house is next door to Madame Pourri’s on the hill – she’ll be ninety this year and is still going strong with a swim every day…….she was evacuated on the same boat with my grandmother and my father as a small child when the Germans invaded in the Second World War…first to Egypt, then eventually to South Africa.
They spoilt us with a treat normally reserved for Easter…roast lamb..my absolute favourite!
Bella and Charlie are now the third generation to enjoy this special place and it’s unique atmosphere, where even walking on water is possible…
Spetses is famous for it’s pine tress, crystal clear waters and the coloured stones on the beaches: yellow, green, pink..each one a gem.
It’s very much an Athenian resort island with a siren call to all the big yachts of the Mediterranean and a play ground for the super rich….but always over seen by Laskarina Bouboulina…an incredible lady with seven children from Spetses who became an General of the Greek fleet and an Admiral of Russia and led the Greek navy in the battle of independence against the Turks….Greece will always be a land of beauty, mystery and contradictions where anything..absolutely anything is possible…
Leaving, as we arrived on a speed boat – we were all sad to go, but we had another adventure ahead of us..to the island of Lefkada…and we’ll be back….it’s only au revoir..
Laters, Kate x