Agatha was a gift from the rent-a-bike man and another one from God
It had been a few weeks since I had learnt how to live with Nature. After my experiences with Roy, that lesson was one I would never forget. I had now completed two more paintings. One was a memory of the time one of my children had enjoyed time on the beach of Agia Marina. It was the image of my Son totally engaged with a bucket and a spade, am image had been burnt into my memory. The painting was a capture of that special day. I enlarged the red bucket because it had played such an important part in my Sons imagery scenario or game, or whatever it was that was going through his mind. I called the painting “Red Bucket” and dated it 1983 because it was around the time of when I took my young family to this amazing island in the middle of the Saronic Gulf in Greece. And where I first felt that special sensation, a feeling of coming home.
I decided that I would hire a moped to aound going around the island looking for compositions for a painting.
The other painting was a sort of abstract. I’d seen the sporadic outcropping of small Poppies in the normally dry fields after only one night of rain, when I was on the way to the village for supplies. The Red and the Yellow flashes of smaller flowers jumped out and almost screamed – Look at Me – It was the first of a few Poppy paintings I was to make over the coming years. For now, I felt satisfied and pleased with myself of what I had achieved in a short space of time. It was a great feeling, one that I had not felt for many years. I realised that what I was actually feeling was happiness. And that was definitely something I had not felt since I attended the Art School in Manchester when I was very young in 1962. I was becoming an Artist for real, perhaps remembering, that was what I felt when I first stepped through the gates of that incredible Art School. I was born to be an Artist, but forgot for almost thirty years.
It was only the beginning of May and I already had four complete works and several good solid sketched ideas – I was on target to meet to my self made goal of creating 30 works paintings of substance. So, I decided it was time to explore the island to gain more ideas and perhaps be inspired. I noticed that the shops had begun to prepare for the tourist season and the village bustled with owners preparing their premises for business. One was a small shop that had scooters and motor cycles for hire by the day. I decided that I would hire one and spend the next day going around the island.
I awoke early. Roy and I shared breakfast as usual and I went for my daily swim at my beach. After showering and dressing for the hot day that was to follow. My choice of clothing was simply two main items, t-shirt and shorts plus shoes. I walked into the village to hire the bike. After reaching the shop I saw the owner sat inside a small shop, which was dark but cool. “Yassas…” He said to me. “Can I hire a bike please.” I said rather embarrassed that I couldn’t answer him in Greek. “Yes, English, driving licence, parakalo.” He said and held out his hand. I took from my wallet and gave it over.”You should have a hat.” He said.
You need a hat English
I nodded thinking he meant that I would be given a crash-helmit. He filled out a form and gave it me. He then pointed to the paper along with a ballpoint pen. “Mark here and here, then give me 2500 drachma parakalo.” He said and smiled. “One Day, Yes, bring back tomorrow, same time,“ as I gave him the money. He went outside to show me the bike. I followed. He gave me instructions of me how to operate the bike. It was a Yamaha 50cc that had seen better days, but it worked. I sat on the bike and he ran through the controls once again and then again, making sure I knew that to stop – and start and stop again.
the gift was firmly fixed on my English head…
And insisting that I must use the back break and the front break together in emergency. “Perimendi….Hat English, you need Hat.” He said and ran back to the shop. He came back with a sort of partly worn out American Base Ball Cap. “My gift to you English.” He said and smiled. With that gift firmly on my head I drove off, closely adhering to his last instructions, which was to go slow and to which side of the road to stay on. And not to worry about Greek drivers beeping their horn all the time, as they will know I am a tourist and it is a normal warning on Aegina to pull over.
I rode out of the village and onto a dirt road which led to a slightly better road made with small stones. The bike was steady but shaky. The surroundings were stunningly beautiful. Eventually I met the main road that connected Agia Maria with the Capital of the Island, Aegina Town. Turning left and after a few minutes I passed a huge church that was still under construction. I turned back to take a closed look. The building was enormous. There was a carpark full of buses, and lots of people getting out of them. I kept going to pass the cathedral looking building, then took a sharp left turn up on a steel side road.
As I rode up the hill and to my left was an old white washed building, again lots of people milling about. So I carried on up the hill. After a very short time, and to my right was an incredible site.
Seemingly out of nowhere there was a triangular looking mountain with buildings dotted from the top of it to the bottom of it and down into a valley. I stopped to investigate. At the top of the steep road there there was a small church with a space under pine trees, here is where I believed I could leave the bike. I walked up a path and found some huge very broad and steep steps, which looked ancient and I began to climb.
…they were leading me up the mountain.
As I walked up the steps I passed many small churches, each with a path that seemed to work their way around the mountainside. But I decided to stay on the climb up the mountain on the path, which by now was getting smaller in width and steeper in incline. I reached half way. Nd here was a small courtyard with a church and somewhere to sit down. I looked around and below me was the huge cathedral sized church which now look quite insignificant, from a size point of view. All around me were almond nut cases, some opened some not. I tried one of two of them – some were bitter some were sweet. By now I was thirsty, but determined to reach the top of the mountain. So I carried on.
…now I was thirsty.
As I walked up the steps I passed many small churches, each with a path that seemed to work their way around the mountainside. But I decided to stay on the climb up the mountain on the path, which by now was getting smaller in width and steeper in incline. I reached half way. Here was a small courtyard with a church and somewhere to sit down. I looked around and below me was the huge cathedral sized church which now look quite insignificant, from a size point of view. All around me were almond nut cases, some opened some not. I tried one of two of them – some were bitter some were sweet. By now I was thirsty, but determined to reach the top of the mountain. So I carried on.
The path led to another church and another courtyard but this one was bigger than any on the mountain. The path seemed petered out, so I began climbing over the large rocks that led one way and that was up. Eventually I reached the top. Here were two churches built as one, I opened the wooden door and walked inside. There were many icons and other paintings of Jesus on the inside all around the walls. In a corner there was a small table with some items on it. I walked over and found a note it said, unexpectedly in English- “here is the refreshing taste of the Lord our God from the blessed Wells of Souvala.” I picked up and then opened the bottle then took a mouthful of drank the water, it was good. I picked up the note and there was also a note written on the other side of the the small piece of paper, that said. “Those that drink from the well of Souvala will always be part of the life of Aegina and will always return.”
“How could I have wasted so much time.”
I sat for quite some time in the centre of the two churches on a old string and rickety chair, just to cool down and rest. And somehow I really did feel part of the life of Aegina. My emotions, or something deeper, got the better of me and a tear ran down my face. “How could I have wasted so much time…?” I said aloud.
I calmed myself with the understanding that ‘this-place and this exact time, in this exact space’ was the only time that I could have been chosen for me, to find that part of myself that I had lost in England, I had followed the wrong path. So another path in life was being mapped out for me. And it was, once again, my choice to follow it or not. Perhaps I was being guided better this time? – It was clear to me that God surely dwelt on the mountain and his gift to me was the path of Art…I now wanted to follow it to the end of my life.
It became important to me to spend a more time here and I could not think of a better way than creating Art of this special place. I made a decision to ride straight back on my bike to the village and ask the man if I could hire the bike for a longer period of time.
…this place held mysterious magic waiting in store for me.
Magic that I needed to both absorb and be part of. My Odyssey was now clearer than ever. I rode straight back to the hire-a-bike man and pulled up outside his shop. He came out to greet me. “Problem English?” “No” I said. “May I hire the bike for a week, or maybe two.” He smiled…”Bravo English… you have fell in Love with our dear Agatha.” He said and smiled broadly. “Who is Agatha?.” I asked. He pointed to the bike and laughed.
“She is old, but beautiful Lady..is she not?.” He said. “Ok. Keep Agatha, treat her well..return her when you are done.” I offered him money as a deposit. He laughed.. ”So where you going to go English, we are all on an island? Everyone on Aegina knows Agatha… I will trust you.” With that I kick started Agatha once again and off we went through the Village and onto the dirt roads that led back to the my villa, which I called… Studio 3.
I felt inspired and happier than I had ever felt in my entire life.
Manchester Born the artist enrolled in the Manchester High School of Art at the age of 11 years old. After a succcessful career in design the artist dedicated his life to Art in 1988. First solo exhibition UK 1989. The artist has exhibited and curated Art shows since 1995 in Europe and the UK. His main studio is located in Southern Sweden. (studio 5).