“I have a dream’
A song to sing,
To help me cope with anything…”
“Mamma Mia,” is a HUGE favourite of mine – I have watched, (and sung along) with the movie, many times; I have also seen the stage show. Indeed, I have an autographed poster from the stage stars who played “Tanya” and “Rosie”, adorning one wall!
In early 2015, I had a vivid dream which inspired me to visit the Greek islands of Skopelos and Skiathos, where “Mamma Mia” was (mostly) filmed. Once I had made my booking reservations, I kept up to date with news from the islands via a blog called “Skopelos News.”
Sadly, on 22 September, a freak three hour storm hit Skopelos, a mere 9 days before my planned departure. I read that “walls had crumbled, houses and businesses were flooded, a car park literally fell into the sea, taking with it cars, motorbikes…”
The island was declared a disaster zone. What should I do?
I telephoned my prospective hostess.
“We have suffered no damage, and we are still open for business,” she reassured me. And so I continued with my original holiday plans.
After three separate flights from Donegal, I reached the island of Skiathos in the very early hours of morning. A taxi dropped me off in the old port, (one of the scenes from the movie) as daylight rose on a cool early October morning. The ferry to Skopelos was scheduled in six hours time.
Entering a small cafe, I spied some pastries fresh out of the oven.
“I’ll try one of those please,” I told the waitress, as I pointed to a baked spinach and feta pie or “Spanokopita”. A mixture of spinach, leeks, scallions and onions, feta cheese, eggs and fresh dill wrapped in crisp filo pastry, soon delighted my senses. I felt incredibly happy.
Six hours passed in a flash, as I was subsequently entertained by a large group of tourists joining a “Mamma Mia” themed boat trip. “Dancing Queen” blared out from the decks, as scantily clad men and women stepped inside, on the only chilly morning of my two week Greek Odyssey. They were foundered. Indeed, one middle aged woman, clad only in a bikini and a see through top, had the good sense to turn around and go back to her hotel. The others braved the inclement weather.
When my own ship arrived, I climbed up to the passenger deck and an inside, sheltered seat. Nodding off to sleep would have been soo very easy, but I diligently stayed awake, afraid to miss the joy of crossing the Aegean.
Landing on Skopelos, I was greeted by a sign with “Brigid” held on high, before shaking hands with my new landlady; I then boarded her jeep for the short journey to my lodgings – a beautiful ground floor apartment, with stunning views, perhaps 100m from the seashore. I was lulled to sleep soon after by the sound of the waves.
Skopelos is incredibly hilly and covered in pine forests, with endless winding roads akin to those here in Donegal. Thankfully, the walk into town took a mere ten minutes via flat but now VERY MUDDY roads. Although the Greek army were doing a sterling job in repairing roads and bridges, they still had a mountain of work ahead.
Despite the hardships the islanders had endured, I was greeted with smiles in every shop and restaurant. In one small boutique, I purchased a bracelet and used my few words of Greek to make my acquaintance. I soon discovered that the sales assistant and I shared a love of all things esoteric, and she gifted me with a small boat which she handcrafted for me from several pieces of driftwood. It remains a priceless treasure.
I had envisaged spending endless hours relaxing by a swimming pool, but discovered that my accommodation’s pool lay filled with MUD. This small inconvenience forced me to enjoy the delights of a number of bus trips to Panormos Beach, where I swam in the open sea for the first time in many years, releasing my fears of both “Jaws” and jellyfish!
Several memorable yarns circulated about the stars of “Mamma Mia,” the most amusing being the story that “Strip” and “Pees” had been spotted having a well earned night cap in one of the towns bars! It reminded me of a much told Donegal story of a Hughdie McMenamy (Yehudi Menuhin) playing music in a local pub…
I could not leave this idyllic island, without seeing the chapel of Aghios Ioannis, where Meryl and Pierce tie the marital knot, after climbing all 202 steps up a mighty cliff. This dream took me by bus via the island’s capital Glossa, followed by a ten minute taxi ride round winding roads, that had not fully recovered from the storm.
My driver promised to wait as I made the mighty ascent, which I soon discovered was not for the fainthearted. However, I was incredibly thankful to be the only tourist willing to visit early on a Sunday morning.
I took out a song sheet (as you do) and began to sing:
“I don’t want to talk,
About the things we’ve gone through…”
I know that my version of “The Winner Takes It All” was no match for Meryl’s rendition, but I left a shed load of emotional baggage on those steps beneath Aghios Ioannis.
Incidentally, I enjoyed many delicious meals on both Skopelos and Skiathos, but the most memorable of all was my first taste of Spanokopita.
All photographs Brigid P. Gallagher
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About the author
Brigid P. Gallagher aspired to becoming a doctor but God had other plans!
She spent thirteen years in the life assurance industry, including Actuarial and Life Underwriting departments, before following her heart and training as a Natural Medicines therapist.Brigid trained in colour and crystal healing, aromatherapy, reflexology, nutritional medicine, flower essences, electro-crystal healing, radionics and E.F.T or Emotional Freedom Technique. She practised and taught Natural Medicines for 20 years, teaching at Stirling University’s Open Studies and Summer Schools from 1993 to 1999, setting up the Scottish School of Holistic Healing plus a therapy centre and shop in Stirling, Scotland.
In 1999, she relocated to Donegal, Ireland the home of her ancestors. Four years later, she succumbed to a mystery illness which was eventually diagnosed as fibromyalgia and possible rheumatoid arthritis. Stopping the world for 2 years, forced Brigid to reassess her life, and thus she began retraining in Organic Horticulture. She taught this subject in schools part time until early 2016. Her garden was featured in the Donegal Garden Trail in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Brigid continues her lifelong passion for gardening, singing and writing in her new life of SLOW.
Available on Kindle
Millions of people around the world suffer from fibromyalgia; the majority of them are women. As yet, there is no cure.
In this memoir, Brigid P. Gallagher shares her experiences on:
- The busy life she followed before succumbing to this debilitating disease
- Stopping and soul searching for answers to her vast array of symptoms
- Entering a new life of SLOW
Drawing on her knowledge and experience as a Natural Medicines therapist, she seeks out therapies to aid her healing and integrates a variety of self help techniques and lifestyle changes. She also unearths a love of solo travel including Egypt, India, Rome, Lourdes, Carcassonne and Bali…
Brigid learns many insights about LIFE on her journey, the most valuable being:
“First learn to love thyself.”
*all photographs Brigid P. Gallagher
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