While gently floating in the Ionian sea – or was it in the midst of a nighttime dream – the title of our present Greek book came to me.
The Garden of The Grandfather
These words – Ο κυπος του παπου – are written on a sun-bleached sign hanging from a padlocked gate behind the beach in Lourdas Bay. Beyond lies the garden, a fenced-in enclosure where an old man grows potatoes, tomatoes and green peppers. At the far end there’s a small, white-painted shelter on stilts with a magenta-coloured bougainvillea framing its roof against the backdrop of Cefallonia’s Mount Enos. Peter sketched the scene and I began to write in my head the introduction to our book of Greek life as it was in the 1960s.
This morning, at ten o’clock on July 11th 2017, I am at my computer in Devon. But in my head I am overlooking the bay of Kamares, Sifnos, in 1963. I am summoning up memories of the summer when I wrote my first attempt at a novel and Peter painted large canvases in oils built up with sand from the beach. These were exhibited at the Drian Galleries, London. (I want to track down the catalogues of his four exhibitions at the Drian. Can anyone help?)
The workings of the brain and the memory are in a world of their own, very hard to grasp. I plan to re-read “The Human Brain, a guided tour” by Susan Greenfield. I used my brain in an attempt to understand what she wrote. My memory of the details of her book is hazy. Yet I know I took in her expositions and they inform my views. This brings me to consider the difference in Peter’s memories and mine of the same events. I remember, if not the exact details, then the general drift: the atmosphere of a scene or the personality of a person. The way I remember is, I think, more typical of a female, but it’s also a writer’s way. Peter’s memory works in a masculine, fact-focused way. Being an artist, his memories are also visual. These differences work well together as we remember our life in Greece in words and pictures. The eventual book, I hope, will evoke that delicious, sad-happy feeling of nostalgia, appealing to lovers of Greece of any age: the past still visible in the present.
Now back to ‘The Garden of the Grandfather’, not the actual one in Cefallonia sketched by Peter this summer but to our work-in-progress. Back to Sifnos and lighting oil lamps at dusk in 1963 …