MIRIAM Beard wrote: “Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” Richard Clark, an English writer and journalist who has dedicated a lot of his life on writing about Greece, would tend to strongly agree with that thought, as he feels that the country has created some profound changes in him. He first visited Greece in 1982, when he went to live in Heraklion on Crete to work as a teacher. Since leaving the island to work for the BBC in London, he has returned on many occasions, now visiting the islands at least three times a year. He has written six books, Crete – A Notebook (two editions), Corfu – A Notebook, Rhodes – A Notebook, The Greek Islands – A Notebook and Richard Clark’s Greek Islands Anthology a Greek translation of his Crete book will be out later this year. Richard is married and has two grown up children and lives in Kent in the UK.
How Greek are you?
As far as I know, I have no Greek blood in me at all, although when I step on Greek soil I feel I have arrived somewhere that communicates with me on more than just a physical level. I do feel a sense of homecoming whenever that aeroplane door is thrown open and I smell the warm air laced with the aromas of wild mountain herbs, the sea and arid dust. I feel comfortable in my own skin and empathise with the spirit of place in a way I don’t when I travel elsewhere away from home. It probably triggers some deep-rooted memory of when I made my first landfall on Crete by boat in 1982 to begin an adventure, which has been fundamental in steering the course of my life in the years since. I have had a titanic struggle with the Greek language for over 30 years and a combination of a terrible memory and being unable to practice when I am back at home in the UK has meant I am fighting a losing battle, of which I am ashamed. Maybe when I retire…
What is your biggest role in life?
I’m not sure any of us have a predestined role in life, if we are brave enough we can fashion our own destiny. The most important things to me, however, unsurprisingly are my wife and kids so, if I have any role it is to do my best by them. Professionally, as a senior journalist on one of the UK’s leading consumer publications I feel I have a responsibility to deliver accurate, fair and entertaining material to our readers. As for my own writing, I owe it to myself to be the best I can be whilst balancing this with the need to actually get my books out there to the reading public.
What is most important to you right now?
Apart from my family, dogs, cats and friends, trying to live in the present, although I am looking forward to flying out to Crete in a few weeks time.
What are you most grateful for?
I think being born where, when I was and who my parents were. When I look at much of the rest of the world, it is so easy to forget how lucky we are just by virtue of nature’s lottery.
What scares you most?
That, despite the social and economic structures of modern societies being human conceits, we are unable to find a system that eradicates poverty and provides equal opportunities for everyone. Corruption, greed, dishonesty and selfishness are qualities that so often rise to the top in society and what scares me is our inability to find a new, more empathetic way forward.
What is Greece to you?
Physically it is the light, there is something so special about this. Dawn as you approach an island harbour by boat or the sun dropping down over the horizon out to sea as a caique steers it course to the night’s fishing grounds. Emotionally it is a feeling that the country is rooted in eternity and has a tangible link to the past. Culturally, and perhaps most importantly, it is about the people who, for the most part, are the most generous and hospitable I have ever met.
Your one favourite thing about Greece past, present and future?
Past: Sailing from Rhodes to Simi, and spending a silent night anchored under the stars, the only boat in Panormitis Bay.
Present: A cold beer at the wonderful Art Café at Elounda Island Villas before a dinner by the sea looking out over Spinalonga at Captain Nikolas Taverna in Plaka, Crete.
Future: Having more time to spend there.
Your least favourite thing about Greece past, and present?
Past: The neglect of animals.
Present: The current economic crisis brought about by politicians, banks, big business and the troika. It is heartbreaking to see the plight of so many people pushed to the limits by an unsustainable policy of austerity. Just sickening.
Your fantasy / big wish for Greece?
It is hard to see this happening but I would love to see the debt cancelled or paid off so the country could start again with a clean slate. Although this is unlikely, the consequences of the austerity measures could prove far more costly to rectify and the cost in human suffering is incalculable.
Where in Greece do you definitely stay away from?
Malia on Crete, Faliraki on Rhodes and Kavos on Corfu.
Your favourite Greek hotspots right now?
In a sense I suppose I try an avoid what would usually be described as hot spots, it is the ability to get away from these that is one of the things I love most about much of Greece. But of the places I do visit, I regularly go back to Rhodes, in particular Lindos and am fond of Agios Stephanos in Corfu. I love Elounda on Crete as we have made friends there as much as it being a beautiful spot. The places we enjoy there are Olondi, Kanali and Anemomylos Tavernas in the village and Dionysos Restuarant by the lake in Agios Nikolaos and the wonderful Elounda Island Villas to stay at.
Your favourite Greek word, and why?
‘Philoxenia’ meaning hospitality. It encapsulates the generosity of the Greek people towards strangers, even when they have very little themselves.
What smell do you associate with Greece?
Thyme, oregano and baked earth.
What would you take with you to remind you of Greece?
A CD of lyra music, probably by the great Ross Daly and a copy of Report to Greco by Nikos Kazantzakis.