Patricia Frew talks about her life choices, the accident that nearly cost her walking and changed her way of thinking, the decision to live permanently on the Greek island of Symi and how her life is on the island, her travels around the world, and of course her first book ” A Greek Summer”.
Bella: Patricia, I’m quite happy you accepted my invitation to give an interview on bellasrealworld and reveal to your readers some things about you.
Patricia: I am delighted that you asked me. I have to tell you that I am a slow achiever! I was in my thirties when I qualified as an accountant, I was in my fifties when I studied for my masters degree and in my seventies when I had my novel published. Can’t wait to see what I will achieve in my nineties!
B: I want to tell you how much impressed I am by your choice to come and live in Greece permanently. How did you make such a decision?
P: I had an accident in which I sustained a broken neck and there was doubt as to whether I would walk again but luckily I was one of few people who walked out of a spinal hospital albeit so slowly that I got caught in the automatic doors! My husband and I had been coming to Greece on holiday for years and as I couldn’t work full time any more we decided to come here for 6 months and think about what we should do and that was 12 years ago and we are still here!
B: Did this traumatical experience change the way you perceive life? Your way of thinking?
P:Yes. I was running a successful accountancy business; commuting to London; working 7 days a week and making really big money. Suddenly I couldn’t do this anymore. I also realised when I was in the spinal unit that I was so lucky to be able to walk as compared to the many who would be in wheelchairs for the rest of their lives. So I was forced to take life more slowly and appreciate what I had instead of grasping for more. It also gave me the opportunity to try something completely different i.e. writing fiction.
B: What do you like most in Greece?
P: The long hot summers are so good for my mobility and I love to swim. But also the friendliness of the people must come high on my list. I have made good friends here both expats and Greeks.
B: What you don’t like so much in Greece?
P:I don’t like much the way people treat animals. Although the animal welfare is not as I would prefer, I am a guest in this country so it is not my place to tell the Greeks what to do.
B: what made you to fall in love with Symi?
P:It is the most beautiful island. If you ever visit Symi, the first sight of the harbour is breathtaking. It is also archaeologically protected so there are no high rise buildings like in big cities. I have also visited other Greek islands and they all have their own charms. However, I particularly like the smaller islands.
B: Do you miss Scotland?
P: No, not at all! I have always felt at home wherever I have lived. I was born and brought up in Scotland but haven’t lived there for over 40 years. I have lived in Western Canada, the Caribbean and before moving to Greece I lived in the South East of England and in all these places I worked as an accountant. However, it is always good to go back to your country for a visit.
B: What is the most vivid picture or the most intense experience you had from a place you visited and you’ll always remember?
P: Possibly in Canada. One winter we had 12 feet of snow and temperatures around minus 40C. It was absolutely beautiful as the moisture in the air froze and looked like silver drizzle. And I never missed a day’s work. From October to April where I lived it was mandatory to have winter tyres on the car and the roads are cleared several times per day.
B: what do you think is the most distinctive thing in Greek culture?
P: The fact that religion pays such a big part in their lives. I am not a believer but I respect that other people are.
B: speaking about culture, I couldn’t leave aside Greek cuisine! Apart from souvlaki – I suppose you eat souvlaki – , what’s your favorite greek dish?
P: Yes, of course, my husband is a big fan of chicken souvlaki! My favourite is a dish served in our local taverna called bourakaki. It is prawns in a cheese sauce wrapped in filo pastry. Just delicious!
B: Is the living on a Greek island an easy task, especially in the winter months where the weather is not that good?
P: In the winter the island is very quiet and very Greek and I like that. We usually take a holiday for around 3 weeks in the winter. This winter was very wet and we had that enormous storm that wrecked the harbour and we were declared a national emergency. The drawback in the winter is trying to get washing dry. I also enjoy the buzz in the summer of the tourists coming and going and seeing the island coming alive after the winter sleep.
B: The last decade Greece had one of its worst financial crises in history. People lost their jobs, banks came close to bankruptcy, the political situation was unstainable and many young people left the country to chase a better future abroad. How much did this affect you?
P: It didn’t affect Symi as much as in big city centers because families here still look after their own land but, it’s true that apart from tourism and building works, there are not much working opportunities for young people here.
B: Have you regret for choosing to live in Greece?
P: No regrets at all. Even if we don’t live here forever it is all part of life’s experiences and adventures.
B: How did writing a book come about? Was it something you always wanted to do?
P: Not at all. I never thought about it but after my accident I wanted to do something different so I took a writing course, thinking I could write articles. Fiction never even entered my head. However, when I came to the fiction part of the course I loved it, so I wrote several short stories and had some success in magazines. I also entered competitions and that was when a publisher took a shine to my writing and offered to publish!
B: Would you like to tell me a few words about your book?
P: It is very a light book that mostly talks about the people, both local and tourists, who live and visit one summer on a Greek island. I tried to give a flavour of how life is on a small Greek island in the hope it may encourage people to visit the Greek islands. I wanted to draw the reader into the feel, smells, sights and sounds of Greece. I have tried to make my characters real so that the reader can identify with their lives, loves and problems. It is not a long book and easily packed for summer reading.
B: What gave you the inspiration to write a Greek story? Was it your life on the island, or a specific character?
P: I suppose because I am living here and love to watch people. I just got inspiration to weave stories round my observations. There are no real people or places although I know that people who visit here regularly try to guess who or what it is based on. The island in the book does not have a name and is based on several islands I have visited and some of the places are straight out of my imagination.
B: I know many people who say they want to write a book but, even though they start writing, they find it extremely difficult to end it. What was your most difficult moment writing the book? The moment you said…will i ever finish it?
P: I enjoyed the writing and the putting together of the whole book but, the endless going back over every word and phrase to ensure that it was correct and ensuring that what I wanted to convey was, in my opinion, jumping off the page into the readers’ imaginations, became a chore.
I didn’t want any typing errors either as that jars when I read something with spelling mistakes and/or bad grammar.
B: where people can find your book?
P: It is for sale on all the Amazon sites whatever country you are in and is available in paperback and Kindle formats. Follow the link below
B: should we expect another book from you in the future?
P: Well, I have been asked, so I must get down to work on that.
B: Have you had any particular idea about the next story or is it too soon to reveal something?
P: It will be along the same lines – all about ordinary people but perhaps set in a different place.
B: What would you tell to someone who thinks about moving to Greece?
P: It is a very different culture but I think that is the case when you move to any country other than the one where you were born and brought up. Remember you are a guest and respect the Greek people and their way of life.
Try and learn at least a little of the language. Don’t think they will understand when you shout at them in English!! Hahaha! but I have heard people do this…
B: At the beginning of our talk you said you are a slow achiever. I would like to end this conversation with a message from you to all these young people who feel disheartened by modern life’s challenges. What would it be this message?
P: Some young people have a clear idea of where they want to go in life and that is wonderful. But some, like me, had no idea when I left school where I was heading. But I learned that this is not a disadvantage as you have many decades of your working life ahead and you can change direction or start afresh. It seems to me that there are more challenges today than when I was young but I think our parents probably thought the same so perhaps it is a generational thing.
B: thank you very much for this talk Patricia and, I wish you all the best with your book selling, and as we say in Greece…Καλοτάξιδο!
P: Εγώ ευχαριστώ πολύ για αυτήν την συνέντευξη. Μου άρεσε πάρα πολύ αυτή η συζήτηση!
Interview by Sotia Bella