When your children have left home, there’s no reason why you have to stay there either.
Especially when you can run a highly successful business from a place in the sun
WOULD YOU PELOPPONESE IT?
Like most sizeable decisions in my life, the one to work for a month in a beachfront apartment on the beautiful Meme beach on the Pelopponese peninsula of Messenia began life as one item on a list of fanciful dreams. I’m prone to lists, and as I recall, this particular one directed me to take a day off each week; travel to Burma, Colombia, Bolivia and Africa; take up yoga and sort out a particularly tricky member of staff. Two years on and I’ve knocked Burma off the visiting list and only have the four day week issue to crack from the other items. So far, so smug. It’s at this point that I should point out that other lists in my life haven’t done quite so well, but age and bitter experience have taught me that dreams of running a multi-million pound PR conglomerate whilst carrying George Clooney’s lovechild tend to require a little bit of tweaking if they are ever to make it into the real world. As a PR consultant working from a small office in my own house, it wasn’t too much of a stretch to think that upping sticks to the sunshine for a month might be a possibility. Up until the last couple of years, my two sons have kept me happily tied to my home town of Bristol, give or take the odd week away in the Mediterranean. Now 20 and 23 and living away from home, I’ve had to accept that they might not need me quite the way they used to when they were 6 and 9 – a double-edged experience that has taken some getting used to but has opened up a space that has the potential to be filled with an adventure or two. My day to day work is split between office-based e-mailing, writing and general admin and schmoozing journalists and clients in London and various locations across the UK. I figured that the latter could be put on hold for a while and that I wouldn’t be missed for a few weeks if I set myself up properly with good wi-fi and a cheap internet ‘phone system. They probably wouldn’t even notice that I wasn’t in the country – which is exactly how it turned out.
Until August 2013, my experience of Greece was through holidays on the very pretty islands of Aegina, Corfu, Cephalonia, Skopelos and Skiathos. I had little knowledge of the mainland, bar a brief visit to Athens en route to an island, so when a good friend invited me to fly with her into Kalamata and travel down to Koroni for a week, I was all ears – particularly as the plan for my June escape had already been hatched and I was already mentally planning for that beachfront office. The apartment we chose was owned by Vasili and Kiki, a Greek couple who were both wonderfully, generously Greek and fascinatingly cosmopolitan, having lived and worked for years in New York and London. In his retirement, Vasilli had embraced woodturning and Buddhism in equal measure and had created a home that was beautifully crafted in natural woods, just steps from the sea. And Kiki, whilst she didn’t actively share her husband’s beliefs, had a spirituality and wisdom that shone through at first sight. They hadn’t planned to let their beautiful apartment to visitors, but Greek austerity measures had cut their pension in half in 24 hours and left them with no choice but to live in the studio downstairs during the Summer in order that people like me could take residence for a week or two by Meme Beach. In my holiday week there, I scoped the apartment for working possibilities. Great internet connection, air-con, office space with sea view for the day time.
Two minute walk to the beach (walking very slowly), five minutes from the nearest taverna and the briefest drive away from the very pretty harbour town of Koroni for weekends and night time. By the time I’d landed back at Gatwick, I was ready to speak to Kiki and Vasilli about renting the apartment the following June. It was free for the whole month ; I paid the deposit, booked the flights and broke the news to my colleague, Alex, who broke her own news that she was pregnant and expecting her first baby on 2nd June….. There was a moment then when I considered abandoning the plan, but it was short lived and – thinking back on it now – I think I made the mature decision to bury my head in the sand at that stage and trust to luck and some kind of judgement that I’d find someone to cover Alex’s maternity leave who would be able to manage perfectly with her boss out of the country for the first few weeks of her employment. Which is exactly as it turned out. It wouldn’t be true to say that I had no second thoughts. The week before I left, I panicked completely and persuaded myself that it was a ridiculous decision – the boys would never cope without me, the business would disintegrate, I would be unbearably lonely……. However, I arrived to Kiki’s warm and steady welcome. We picked up a huge bag of fresh oranges (about 30 for 3 euros) on the drive back from the airport and Kiki presented me with a dish of Spring lamb in lemon sauce for my first evening meal and I settled in to watch the month of June unfold over the sea. From my balcony less than 30 metres from the Mediterranean, I smiled as each day brought me something new to admire – a full moon, a pinker than pink moon, a white sliver of new moon, a milky, motionless sea, a grey and raging sea. There was rain, flash floods, sweet sunshine and searing heat and I loved every minute.
Work-wise, the timing was perfect. We were two hours ahead of the UK in Greece, which meant that I could wake up around 7 and do some yoga or go for a (very gentle) run, slide into the sea, squeeze those locally grown oranges for breakfast and be ready to start the working day at exactly 9am UK time. I could finish at 7 each day, close the laptop, shut the door and wander onto the beach before dinner. My internet ‘phone even had a Bristol number, which fooled anyone who didn’t know into believing I was still back in the UK – and after a whole month of constant communication with newly installed and brilliantly supportive staff members, Naomi and Harry, I still only had a bill of £22 to pay for all those long-distance ‘phone calls. Back in the UK, there are times (not as many as I’d like) when I can still hear the sound of the sea, the gentle backdrop to my days and nights. Friends who know what a joy it was for me to have spent that time away from the city guessed that I would be back there next year and even suggested that I might stay for longer next time. Which is exactly how it seems to be turning out.
Book through www.ownersdirect.co.uk/accommodation/p8070803 From £495 per month
Pictures by Gill Tomlinson