2015

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#9 – January 2015

Courses

I find online courses very rewarding, as working with a tutor really helps me to break out of my comfort zone and explore other themes and ideas. As such, I was very excited when The Rooster Moans Poetry Cooperative released their courses early last month.

I first studied through this Cooperative in August last year. The course was on Magical Realist Poetry. Two of the four poems I wrote during this course have recently been published. Next month, I will be doing a course called Emotion? Yes! Sentimentality: No. The course runs for 4 weeks and costs US$85. This is a great price, as online courses can sometimes cost hundreds of dollars.

I am still waiting on courses from Australian Poetry. I took a great course with Sarah Holland-Batt over a year ago now. This group is yet to release its courses for 2015.

Scribophile

As usual, I have spent some time on Scribophile, where I have received a lot of helpful poetry critiques as well as some good general writing information from my Scribophile colleagues. I recently upgraded my free membership to Premium (for US$65). This means I can have my work critiqued more often, I can keep my critiques on the site indefinitely, and I have access to a few small perks. My main reason for upgrading was that I wanted more critiques.

Moving Overseas

If you read last month’s newsletter, you may remember that my partner Lisa and I have sold our home and will be travelling indefinitely. We fly out in just under two weeks. Our first stop is Bali, where we will take a break from writing. We will stay in Bali for a month. Our next stop will be Athens, for a few days, before we head to Crete. We will stay there for a month or more.

#10 – February 2015

On Travelling

We’ve done it! Lisa and I left Australia on January 14 and have spent the past two weeks in Bali. It has been a relief to end one chapter of our lives at Sapphire Beach, and a great joy to be on the road again. This time, though, we have no home to return to! This is both challenging and exhilarating. So we are not rushing anywhere, just taking our time.

So far in Bali, we have visited Ubud, Munduk and Lovina. We have been to Ubud before. It is in the mountains about an hour or so from the tourist beaches many come to when they visit Bali. Ubud is the spiritual centre of Bali, some even say Asia. We have enjoyed having Balinese massages, very affordable meals and rediscovering Balinese culture. It’s got us looking on the net to learn about all the small rituals we see around us, but don’t understand.

The Balinese believe in a mixture of Hinduism, Buddhism and animism. Animism is the belief that non-human entities have a soul. Consequently, the Balinese have ceremonies for all sorts of occasions. These include weddings, cremations and rites of passage, as well as ceremonies for their gods, literature and domesticated animals. There is a lot of worshipping here; in fact, it is a daily ritual.

After Ubud we went higher into the mountains, about an hour and a half’s drive away from Ubud, to a small village called Munduk. We spent five nights there. Apart from visiting a waterfall, we spent most of our time watching a different and very beautiful world around us. It was great for my writing: dogs howling, roosters in cages, a cremation, torrential rain for around one hour most days, cocoa trees, clove trees, orange and yellow coconuts, mountains and rice fields. Munduk was inspirational and life affirming.

We are now in Lovina and will be here for about a week. Many tourists visit this area to see the dolphins. Locals take them out on small boats to see the dolphins up close. We did this several years ago and it was a beautiful experience. But there is a lot of poverty around Lovina with many Balinese living in very basic, unhygienic conditions. Creeks are filled with decomposing rubbish and the beach is completely littered. Yet when we speak to the locals, they are often friendly and eager to share stories about their lives.

On Writing

We have finally begun to focus on our writing. I am back to editing, reading and participating in Scribophile. I have also written a lot of notes and some poems during our trip, which I will be working on soon.

In February, I will begin my next poetry course through The Rooster Moans Poetry Cooperative. It is called Emotion? Yes! Sentimentality: No and runs for 4 weeks. No doubt I will be inspired by my immersion in Bali.

Next

On February 10, we leave Bali. Our next stop will be Athens for a few days, before we head to Crete. We plan to stay in Crete for a month or more. The influences there will be very different again.

#11 – March 2015

On Writing

I have just finished my online poetry course Emotion? Yes! Sentimentality: No. It is run through The Rooster Moans Poetry Cooperative. I now have four very different poems that I can submit to journals. So I am now back to editing, reading and participating a bit more in Scribophile. I have also written a lot of notes and some poems during our trip, which I will be working on soon.

Through The Rooster Moans Poetry Cooperative, I have discovered what seems to be a great (and free!) online poetry course. It is run through The University of Iowa’s International Writing Program. It is called How Writers Write Poetry. It has some esteemed lecturers, is interactive, and runs for seven weeks. It’s challenging immersing myself in these online courses, and seven weeks is a lot longer than my usual four, but it is almost always very rewarding!

On Travelling

Following on from last month, Lisa and I stayed on in Bali for another ten days. We moved on from Lovina to Jimbaran, about three hour’s drive on the other side of the island.

Jimbaran is famous for sunset seafood dinners on the beach and is generally a nice area. But we spent most of our time catching up on writing. Otherwise, we spent our time in a very warm pool, heated by the sun. It was peaceful and beautiful, located in a Balinese garden by mangroves.

On a day out, we visited Nusa Dua, a nearby high-end resort area. We had not been there before. On arrival, we had to go through a security checkpoint. It felt like we were entering a very exclusive zone. The beaches there were nice, kept clean by the hotels that line the beaches. All seaweed and other debris was raked off the sand. Some hotels even had their own private beaches. It was great to be in a clean area, but it was too sanitised. It did not really feel like Bali – more like The Truman Show!

From our hotel in Jimbaran, we could also walk about a kilometre to a local supermarket. The road there was typically Balinese: a few cows, many dogs and chickens, lots of laundries, a few Bakso shops (they only sell bowls of meatballs in broth), lots of rubbish and old colonial Dutch buildings. Overall, it was a good last few days for us in Bali. We both felt we could return and stay here for a while.

Our next stop was Athens, via Istanbul. At Istanbul airport, we walked through snow flurries from the plane to the airport shuttle. It was 0 degrees Celsius! It was the same when we arrived in Athens. This was a big change from the Balinese heat!

It was great being in Athens again, speaking Greek and enjoying some delicious Greek treats. We took a few long walks around the city. Though it was cold, there were still tourists around. We had a great time going to a smoke-filled taverna, complete with bouzouki player!

We are now in Chania, Crete. Our apartment is fantastic, with central heating and a balcony overlooking olive trees. We saw a hawk circling the area on our first day. It is great here, and we feel at home. We have the beach a hundred metres from us, snow-covered White Mountains behind us, and two supermarkets nearby which is great.

We will be staying in Chania for about two months. If we can’t get a visa extension for Lisa, we will visit Turkey for a few months.

Till next month, live authentically and write with integrity.

#12 – April 2015

On Writing

Keep an eye out for my first interview! I was recently interviewed by Lidy Wilks about my writing. This will be posted on her website on 16 April 2015. As a part of National Poetry Month, Lidy will interview one poet per day.

This month, I was meant to start a new online course, called How Writers Write Poetry. You may remember that it was a part of The University of Iowa’s International Writing Program. Unfortunately, this seven-week course has been postponed. I am disappointed, as I was not notified of the postponement until after the course starting date. The new course starting date is yet to be determined. I apologise to any of you who joined the course after reading about it in my newsletter.

I also wanted to let you know about a newsletter I discovered last month. It’s called Poems to Nourish Your Soul and is written by Roger Housden. Roger selects a poem a week and adds a short commentary. Poets so far have included Hafiz, Mary Oliver and Rachelle Benveniste. I’m really enjoying Roger’s selections so far.

On a final note, I joined Google Plus recently, after being invited. If anyone is interested, you can search for me using my name.

On Travelling

Lisa and I are still, happily, in Chania. We are staying in a great apartment, which feels very much like home. Unfortunately, we need to move out soon, as the season prices increase dramatically. So, we have spent the last two weeks walking the streets and emailing hotels for a new place to stay!

Thankfully, we have found somewhere. It’s smaller than our current place, but it’s got everything we need. And it’s not overpriced like the many quotes we received! It’s nearby, which is great, because we love it here by the bay. We plan to stay in Chania for April and May.

We have also confirmed that Lisa can stay in Greece for up to six months. This is great news! We hope to travel around Crete, visit the island of Kos, and then head off to Turkey.

Last week, we went for a beautiful bus ride to Kissamos, which is about 35km west of Chania. We passed through many small villages, filled with beautiful olive, lemon and orange trees. The town of Kissamos itself is a working town, so a lot of the shops are closed this time of year. We had a great gyros for lunch in a local taverna, complete with a warm fireplace, traditional brick walls and a few Greeks!

There are many differences in Greece, which we notice each day. Yesterday, I counted ten dogs playing together on the nearby empty beach. The afternoon light here is magnificent – I have only ever seen this type of light in Greece. The locals are starting to cut back their trees and burn the cuttings – lots of chain saws going and small fires! Locals are swimming in the nearby bay, even though the outside temperature is in the low teens; we walk by in scarves and coats!

It has been quite an experience. Overall, we have found much peace here. We are happy and writing.

Till next month, live authentically and write with integrity.

#13 – May 2015

On Writing

Last month I began an online course, called How Writers Write Poetry. You may remember that it was a part of The University of Iowa’s International Writing Program. It’s a seven-week course and it’s free.

So far, I have found the assignments to be helpful and have consequently written two new poems. I have not engaged with other students as much as I would have liked to, as the site is too big. With over 6000 people subscribed, it is difficult to navigate peer discussion and critique. Still, I have found the course to be worthwhile.

I have recently enrolled in a week-long course in June. Organised by Espirita, there will be a maximum of 8 students in my class. The subject of the course is nature. The course will be held in Loutro, Crete, which can only be accessed by boat. There are no cars or bikes in this village. This will be my first non-online poetry course ever!

On Travelling

Lisa and I are still in Chania. We have been in a studio for a month and will soon move to an apartment in the same building. We will be here till the end of May. In June, we will visit Loutro for my course. After that, we will see more of Crete, then fly to the island of Kos (Greece). From there, we will ferry to Turkey in August.

Last week, we hired a car for two days. On the first day, we went back to the town of Kissamos, which is about 35km west of Chania. It was a great drive, passing mountains, cypress trees and wild goats.

From Kissamos, we drove to the village of Vouves where one of the oldest trees in the world grows. It is, of course, an olive tree, and it is estimated at over 3000 years old! Located in a village of only three families and only five kilometres from the sea, it was a beautiful experience.

The next day we drove through mountains to the south of the island, using the village of Paleochora (literally Old Village) as our destination. We love driving through the mountains, especially as there are very few cars around. On the way back we took a different route. Not used to the petrol gauge, we almost ran out of petrol!

It ended up being very positive, as we took a different route again back home, through the town of Omalos. Omalos, at 1050 metres above sea level, is at the entrance to the Samarian Gorge, one of the longest gorges in Europe (13km). We had a mountain tea overlooking the White Mountains, where there was still some snow on the slopes. Lots of goats along the way, too.

Overall, things are going very well, even though we have faced many challenges. We would still say that we are very happy here. Happy and writing.

Newsletter Birthday!

This newsletter is one year old today. It was inspired during my time at the Writers’ Institute conference, held in Madison, Wisconsin, last year. I’d like to thank all my readers for their support, as well as my partner, Lisa, who helps me edit it.

Till next month, live authentically and write with integrity.

#14 – June 2015

On Writing

I have just finished my seven-week online course, How Writers Write Poetry. Overall, I found the course a little too long. It was difficult to navigate the site and get the benefits that I have usually experienced in a small online group. However, I ended up writing a few new poems, all of which stretched me, which I am currently editing.

Even though I didn’t participate as I expected, I listened to most of the lectures and read the assigned poetry and some discussions in the forums. I will listen to the rest of the lectures over the next month or so. I will still consider a course like this in the future.

This week we are moving to Loutro, on the southern side of Crete, just a couple of hours and a short boat ride away. I will be doing a week-long course taken by poet Helen Mort, the subject being nature. Being my first face-to-face poetry course, I am excited about what I will learn and write. We will be in Loutro for ten days, so I will have time after the course to edit and reflect.

On Travelling

On May Day (May 1), Lisa and I were sitting in our apartment, when I heard live Greek music nearby. Unable to tell where it was coming from, I walked down to our neighbourhood park, by the bay, and found a Greek band with a few people dancing together.

May Day is a public holiday in Greece, so there were people with barbeques all over the park. They were selling souvlaki, drinks, and had tables set up for everyone. It was a wonderful and unexpected experience. Living in Chania is really like living in a big village – except, for now, we don’t have any gossip!

Early in the month, we went for a slow walk with an expat group. The 5km walk began nearby and progressed along the coast to the town of Chania. I got to see wild capers for the first time, as well as the usual fig, lemon, orange and, of course, olive trees. There were a lot of other trees, too – pine, tamarisk and eucalypts. Pigeons cooed above us in the branches, blackbirds and sparrows flew around us, as well as the usual seagulls.

After the walk, we had a group lunch (there were about 20 of us). The lunch was mostly plates of meze (entrées). The food included tzatziki (cucumber, garlic and yoghurt dip); skordalia (garlic dip); tiganites patates (hand-cut fried chips); marithes (picarel – small fish covered in flour, fried whole, eaten with plenty of lemon juice); and gavros (anchovies – fried).

There was also plenty of Greek salad and horiatiko (Greek country bread). We finished off the meal with some dry white wine served in small tumblers. A very typical Greek meal, especially by the sea. We don’t eat like this all the time; this was more like a feast, but it was really enjoyable!

Otherwise, we have both been busy writing and planning for future parts of our travel.

Till next month, live authentically and write with integrity.

#15 – July 2015

On Writing

In June, I finally got to attend my first face-to-face poetry course with Helen Mort at Loutro, Crete. I arrived to beautiful Loutro, to find that there were only three other participants, from England and Ireland. We met for a pleasant welcome dinner on the first night.

The following morning, we met at a café, to analyse and discuss a few poems selected by Helen. We then spent some time writing and sharing our poetry, based on prompts Helen gave us. The small group was great, as we bonded well. It was inspiring to hear each other’s work. This format continued for the week.

In the evenings, we would gather again to read our poems and discuss other aspects of poetry. Overall, the course was extremely rewarding and well worth the time and energy. Helen was an amazing teacher and a wonderful person. I have also written quite a few poems as a result of this course, which was an added bonus.

In addition to the course, Lisa and I enjoyed the company of the group for dinner and drinks. We had free time each day to do as we pleased – write, swim or rest – and I had numerous siestas!

On the final night, we took a boat to the next bay, enjoying dinner and a full session of poetry readings. We also sang a few songs of the sixties, accompanying Stewart, the course organiser, who played guitar. This was enjoyed by the patrons of the whole taverna!

On Publishing

I have had a poem accepted for publication in a new journal, These Fragile Lilacs. The poem, Easter in Chania, was written recently as part of the Iowa course How Writers Write Poetry.

On Travelling

Lisa and I spent ten days in Loutro. It is a very idyllic town, composed almost entirely of blue and white buildings in a small bay. There are no cars or mopeds, so it is quiet during the day. Only the hum of diners along the waterfront each evening, as well as the roar of some boats, reminds you that you are not alone!

Loutro is located in the region of Sfakia, known for its rebellious men and women, especially in the recent past. This area used to have a lot of blood feuds and vendettas.

Although we really enjoyed our stay, we felt that the isolation of Loutro impacted on some aspects of the usual Greek filoxenia (hospitality and generosity) we have normally experienced. As you can only get to Loutro by boat, this means that you are at the mercy of the shop owners and restauranteurs. Prices were higher and portions were smaller. This may have also been the influence of high season.

After Loutro, Lisa and I went to Platanias, four kilometres west of Rethymnon. We have been to Rethymnon before, but as we are currently following budget-priced hotels (as it is the beginning of high season), we ended up in the tourist area of Platanias this time.

Platanias is generally attractive and much of its surrounds are still rural. However, we also found some non-attractive aspects. For instance, a dry creek running to the sea looked very similar to some of those in Lovina, Bali. The creek was overgrown and rubbish was dumped in it. The main strip of tavernas and tourist shops has sections which are dusty, overloaded with signs and noisy with traffic.

Another example was our hotel. Although our room was clean, simple and comfortable, we were frequently disturbed by other guests. The bar area was open till 1am, without any noise restrictions, and patrons continued through until 3 or 4am each night. Is this summer in Greece? We will find out shortly.

Till next month, live authentically and write with integrity.

#16 – August 2015

On Writing

In late October, Lisa and I will be going to England for a couple of writing events. Lisa initially booked to attend the London Screenwriters’ Festival. As such, I looked around for other things for us to do while in England, including anything poetry, and I discovered the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. Our initial week away has now become three weeks!

The Aldeburgh Poetry Festival runs for three days and includes poetry readings, workshops and discussions. This will be my first poetry festival. We are especially keen to attend as Helen Mort, my poetry lecturer in Loutro, will be presenting there. We look forward to catching up with her.

Otherwise, I have been editing poems all month. I have also been sending out poems for publication. Lisa and I have implemented a morning routine for working, especially to balance out the hot Greek weather. This includes having a siesta and lying by the pool in the late afternoons! Our routine has meant we have had a very productive month of writing.

On Travelling

Lisa and I spent the first half of July in a wonderful village, Gerani, four kilometres east of Rethymnon (in Crete). The village was beautiful and quiet and we had a lot of time to write, enjoy the surroundings, and relax.

We loved being in a more rural area. At the back of our apartment, our neighbour had a vegetable patch, which included corn, tomatoes and spring onions. They also had a variety of trees – walnut, carob and pomegranate. We enjoyed the antics of their geese and goslings, numerous chickens, roosters and a pig.

On the short winding road to the village of Gerani, we walked past olive groves, as well as pine and eucalyptus trees. We saw sage, oregano, thyme, and mountain tea growing wild on the side of the road. On one occasion, as we arrived in the village, there was Greek dancing in the school playground.

As it was very hot during our stay, we didn’t go out until sunset on most days. Most villagers came out then and hung out in coffee shops, while the children played in the narrow streets and the school yard. On the walk back down to our hotel at night, there was a small stone chapel and a cemetery with many small oil lamps burning by the graves.

After Gerani, we went to Elounda for a week – around three hours west by bus. Elounda is another beautiful Greek coastal area. A few minutes on a boat and you are at Spinalonga, the island where lepers lived in isolation from 1903 till 1957. We were especially interested in visiting the island, as we had seen the Greek television series about Spinalonga, and read Victoria Hislop’s book, The Island, on which it is based. Spinalonga also has a long history of occupation, which included the Venetians who built a fortress there.

While in Elounda, we caught up with a Greek film director, Manolis, Lisa had previously only communicated with through the internet. After a coffee and chat, he took us to his nearby paternal village, Fourni, where he ordered a great variety of Cretan specialties. We especially loved the small traditional pies, filled with warm mizithra cheese and topped with honey. We caught up with Manolis again a few days later, in Heraklion, where we feasted again in another restaurant with a view over the sparkling lights of the city.

We have now left Crete and have been in Kefalos, Kos, for a week now. It is very hot during the day, but we get wonderful mountain breezes at night. (As well as not so wonderful mosquitoes!) Overall, we have found it relaxing and peaceful here. In a few days, we will be making our way to Turkey!

Till next month, live authentically and write with integrity.

#17 – September 2015

On Publishing

In August, I had two poems accepted for publication in the journal Fox Adoption Magazine. They will be informing me soon about the publication date.

On Writing

I have been having fun looking at all things poetry for when Lisa and I visit London in October. I am excited about visiting The Poetry Café, which has regular readings and workshops. It even has Sufi-inspired evenings with spiritual poetry, music and meditation! I have also planned to go to a large second-hand bookshop. As a lot of my reading is online and on a tablet, I am looking forward to being overwhelmed with books!

We have selected our sessions for the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. The sessions include a reading with Helen Mort, my poetry tutor from my Loutro course, as well as a talk with the Scottish poet John Burnside. We will also be attending a few free sessions, which includes a workshop on how to find inspiration for your poetry.

On Travelling

After our stay in Kefalos, Kos, we stayed overnight in Kos Town, where many refugees are now living. They live in tents beside the port near the old town. Many of them are fleeing Syria, but they are not aspiring to stay in Greece and want to go to other parts of Europe.

As Greece is basically bankrupt and ill-equipped to deal with the situation, the refugees are living in very poor conditions. There is an inadequate supply of food for them. Just recently, I read that a former cruise ship has been brought in to house them. It is very sad.

From Kos Town, we took a ferry to Bodrum, Turkey. Bodrum is a nice place, but very busy at this time of year. Lisa and I really enjoyed our first hit of Turkish food – lentil soup, a pide (Turkish pizza), and a salad topped with pomegranate dressing.

The next day, we took a three hour bus trip to Marmaris. The drive was beautiful, through mountains full of green – unlike the dry summer landscape that can often be seen in Greece. Through our travels, Lisa and I have realised that though we love being near the sea, we also need trees around us. There is a certain peace we feel when we are surrounded by them.

As for the town of Marmaris, we spent our first week very disillusioned. While the beach is attractive and the surrounding mountains are stunning, the town of Marmaris is basically set up for the British. Most prices are quoted in pounds (not Turkish lira); there is a lot of British food available, but not many Turkish options; and it is generally more expensive than other areas of Turkey that we have visited. On our arrival, we even had a shop owner approach us to say, “We make food here just like home!” She assumed we were British.

We love Turkey and have travelled extensively here in the past three years, but we are not getting a taste of the real Turkey here. Only after an extensive walk through the heatwave streets, did we find a few places here and there with authentic Turkish food, generous hospitality, and the culture of Turkey.

Our original plan was to stay in Marmaris for almost three months, so that we could write and prepare for our courses and travel in the UK in late October. We didn’t want to move around much, as we have travelled quite a bit in the last two months. It has been particularly tiring with the summer heat and tourist noise. Still, we have decided that we will stick it out in Marmaris, having found a nice routine. Yes, even on this adventure routine is good!

Till next month, live authentically and write with integrity.

#18 – October 2015

On Writing

Last month, I spent a lot of time working on my first collection – this has been ongoing all year! I also worked on a small chapbook inspired by the poetry course I attended in Loutro back in June. The chapbook is going well and should be finished by the end of the year.

On Travelling

After more than four months without rain during our Greek and Turkish travels, it finally rained in late September. Lisa and I stood on our small attic balcony in Marmaris and watched the storm roll in around us. This was a huge relief after suffering 35-40 degree days for the last six weeks.

As for Marmaris, the tourism has quietened down a bit and the birds have returned to the park opposite our studio. We are really grateful for these changes. Not only is there a bit more peace around, but we actually heard the azan (call to prayer) as it was not drowned out by rowdy tourists and bar music. We’ve also recently enjoyed going to the markets and eating beautiful, fresh figs, which we often put in our salads. Delicious and filling tahini scrolls have also become a staple!

As per our plan, after our three-week stay in the UK, we will return to Crete in November. We have chosen a studio in Rethymnon this time, as the hotel offered us a good price and a sea view. It is also within walking distance to the centre of town. We will stay there for two months.

We have spent considerable time planning our winter accommodation and have more to do. We don’t book directly online unless it is for a few days or a week only. Anything longer, we have to negotiate to save money. Usually, I email numerous places to find out about their monthly off-peak rates. I then negotiate regarding their services and what is included in the price, such as cleaning, heating, water and taxes.

Unfortunately, this time, the prices have increased dramatically. They have often been no different to some of the summer prices we have paid during our trip, which is really unusual. Normally, Greek hotels close down for half the year and are happy for inquiries. And just in case you’re imagining the prices are higher because the Greeks are struggling, you might be interested to know that out of over 50 inquiries, I received just 20 responses. It could be because some of them plan to close for the winter, but it is still quite amazing.

Otherwise, we’re off to London in less than three weeks!

#19 – November 2015

On Writing

Earlier this month, I received the 2016 course pamphlet from Espirita. They run writing courses in Loutro (Crete) and other places around the world. As you may be aware, I attended one of their courses in Loutro this year, a poetry course with Helen Mort.

Lisa and I have worked out a rough itinerary and have decided that we will almost certainly return to Loutro next June. I plan to attend another poetry course, but on a different topic with another teacher.

Otherwise, we are heading to the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in less than a week. We are both excited to be catching up with Helen, who was my poetry teacher in Loutro. She will be presenting some workshops and will also give a reading on the first evening.

On Travelling

This month, Lisa and I had our first Turkish bath. While it was not quite like we expected (a hard, rough scrub!), it was a worthwhile experience. We enjoyed a sauna; a slippery and bubbly scrub in which we slid across marble tiles on our stomachs like seals across ice; a large splash of water from a bucket to remove all suds; and finally, a relaxing oil massage. A great combination!

Just before leaving Turkey for London, we received some amazing news from our new Greek friend, Manolis, a film director we met in Crete. His film was selected for the London Greek Film Festival and he was to be in London at the same time as us!

At the London Greek Film Festival, we spent the afternoon watching two great documentaries. The first was about a gold mining company which destroyed a sacred natural area. The second was about the rise of neo-Nazism in Greece. Manolis’ film was the main feature of the evening. It was a pleasure to see his first feature about the desolation of Greece during its current depression. He also won the ‘Special Visual Effects Award’.

The next day, Lisa attended the London Screenwriters’ Festival. This was a strenuous three days and four nights of all that is screenwriting – lectures, meetings, actors’ table reads, pitching, networking and film discussion. Needless to say, she loved every minute of it and has made some great new friends.

While Lisa was at the conference, I walked to Bloomsbury where I browsed bookshops and visited the Poetry Café. The café is filled with poetry books and also offers readings at different times, but none were happening during my time there. I also visited the Poetry Library at the Southbank Centre, which was a real highlight. It was full of poetry books and magazines on a scale I have never seen before. It was wonderful to actually read hard copies, instead of my usual online reading.

After a day’s rest, we took a full-day tour to Stonehenge and Bath. Stonehenge was awesome! It was cool and windy and drizzly and we loved it. It really gave the area a special feeling. Unfortunately, being on a tour meant that we didn’t get a chance to linger, but it was worth going. Bath was also good to visit. The Georgian architecture is beautiful and the baths themselves are atmospheric with an interesting history. Our drive home took us through the picturesque Cotswolds with a distant view of Wales shrouded in evening mist!

We are now in the town of Cromer and we are absolutely loving it. It is about four hours north-east of London. We have a small, but fantastic flat with sea views. It also overlooks the magnificent church of St Paul and St Peter built around the 14th century. We will rest here for just over a week and already don’t want to leave.

#20 – December 2015

On Publishing

I’ve had two poems published in November. The first poem, All the Birds Have Gone, has been published in the journal Fox Adoption Magazine. The second poem, Not Winter, has been published in the journal Autumn Sky Poetry Daily.

I wrote Not Winter earlier this year at a poetry course I attended in Loutro, Crete. This course ran for five days and was conducted by Helen Mort. Helen is an English poet who has had her first collection, Division Street, shortlisted for the prestigious Costa Prize and T.S. Eliot Prize.

On Writing

Earlier this month, Lisa and I had an inspiring three days at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. It was great to hear my Loutro poetry teacher, Helen, read on the opening night. I also got a lot out of Helen’s talk, MacCaig and Metaphor, which focused on the Scottish poet Norman MacCaig. Not only did I learn more about MacCaig, but I came away with a few critical questions about my own writing.

Over the festival weekend, Lisa and I went to a few of the same sessions. One of these, a free workshop on poetry prompts, proved to be very useful. Though only a quick 45 minutes, I came away with five short pieces to work on. A much bigger thrill was that Lisa not only wrote down her own notes, but produced two really good prose poems. It was great to see Lisa having creative fun in a different form!

Overall, the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival was a fun, inspiring and very worthwhile event! We met a lot of people and made a few new friends. We also packed in an interesting catch up with Helen about writing, travels, and life! It was great to see her again.

On Travelling

Along with the Aldeburgh festival, Lisa and I spent a really fantastic time in Cromer, a small coastal town a few hours north-east of London. We stayed in a cosy studio with a view of the sea and a beautiful mediaeval church. Visiting Cromer was a treat for us.

The town was compact and easy to walk around. We enjoyed the broad and sometimes rocky beach, which also had a row of colourful beach huts (change rooms) along the promenade. Cromer is also well-known for its long pier and beautiful pavilion theatre at its end. Of course, we indulged in local fish and chips, as well as delicious tea and scones.

A highlight of our stay in Cromer was going on a seal-watching trip. On a foggy and cold morning, our small tour made its way out of a tidal creek to sheltered waters near the sea. We saw a lot of seals, both Grey and Common. Most were resting on the beach, though a few were swimming and checking us out at the same time. We even saw a seal pup – only a few days old! It was a first for me to see seals in the wild. Lisa and I loved it. I even wrote a poem on it (of course!)

After a wonderful three weeks in England, we came back to Crete. We were originally going to stay in Rethymnon, but had to change plans. The accommodation provider decided to up the price by 100 euro per month! We promptly said no thank you and, after negotiations, returned to our original apartment in Chania.

We have been in Chania for three weeks now and are loving it. Not only has the weather been superb, but it feels like we are at home. We have a full kitchen here, so we haven’t stopped cooking! We will stay here for two months.

After Chania, we are off to Thessaloniki and Italy for a few weeks. We will then stay in Macedonia for three months. Our budget travel planning requires a lot of time to search for good deals. When using sites like Airbnb, we often find the providers misleading, which wastes a lot of time and energy. Still, we wouldn’t change what we are doing and our adventure continues!

Till next month, live authentically and write with integrity.

 

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