Kythera sits like a tear drop at the bottom of the Peloponnese. a rocky island around which the waters of the Aegean and Ionian seas flow. From where I sit, I can see both the sugar cube houses of the Aegean, scattered amongst the brown terracotta roof tiles of the Ionian islands to the west, and further again, to Italy. The landscape too is a mixture of these island groups, the sooty green shrubs with small copses of pine forest, and grey limestone ridges and promontories of austere beauty, which plunge into the cerulean sea.
We spent the day at the beach today, which sounds not so unusual for a tourist in Greece. But, for us, with a dermatologist grandfather in the family, it is a guilty pleasure to lounge in the sea and afterwards, lie on the hot pebbles soaking their warmth through our wet swimmers.
Our beach of choice today was Fourni beach, accessed down a dirt road whose fine dust coats the cars. The beach is a stretch of pebbles, no more than 200m wide, with a small beach shack selling souvlaki and cold beers. At the end of the beach is a sea-shell pink one room cottage with an arbor painted a dusky blue, which Bill and I dream of as a holiday house. For our kids the lure of this beach are the limestone cliffs, which plunge into the sea, giving them water so deep it is impossible to touch the sandy bottom. They leap, like Icarus, into the blue dome of the sky, momentarily flying, before plunging into the deep blue sea below them.
Bill and I sat on a rare patch of smooth rock and watched our youngest from a distance chat to a middle aged, portly man. They were both perched on the edge of a 5m high cliff above the water. We couldn’t hear their voices, but we knew their conversation. The middle aged man sat apprehensively close to the edge of the cliff, and his repeated gazes into the impossible blue below showed his nervousness. Jock sat patiently, waiting his turn for the leap into the blue. The only nervousness for him was mine, as I watched my boy, braver than me, making ready for his jump. The middle-aged man noticed us watching their conversation and he called across the rocks to us:
‘I only started to live when I was 49.’
He smiled, and leapt into the blue.