On holiday in Crete. Looking out across the terrasse, the Mediterranean is a wealth of azure silks, the pool a grotto of turquoise diamonds to be mined and then sewn onto the costume of a sky-borne aerialist, the catkins above are a rope to be weaved, the horizontal branches of the olive tree to the left are now a trapeze, and the cactus to the right a natural foil for a clown. #circuseverywhere, I think.
"There is no circus here in Crete." I am told. "From time to time shows come over from the mainland, bringing the Russians, or the Chinese. They are astounding and I always make sure I see them. Every single show. But apart from that, nothing. I've heard there is a pole class starting up in Heraklion though ..."
Well, you know what I think. Evangelical is my middle name. Often shortened to plain Eve... But you must try it out. The pleasure and satisfaction comes from the moves you master. Sexy? Well yes, if that means relishing what your body can do and how it moves. And yes, your partner's full support is pretty much guaranteed. The pole classes I have been to are communities of women, a celebration of sisterhood and strength. And it's a giggle. But it will only be as good as the teacher and soundtrack. I think I've convinced her to try it out ... I've lucked out with my masseuse in any event. Like the other women I have met in Crete so far, she has the qualities I admire in circus women - their beauty is in their straight-talking, fearlessness, curiosity and the way they embrace life with open arms. Within two minutes we are talking birthdays (days apart) establishing that we are pretty much kindred spirits, and the next hour is a potent blend of almond oil and storytelling. We swap love stories, of how she met her boyfriend, how I met my husband, how our parents met. Epic family sagas, the stuff of screenplays...
... and Mills & Boons. "Agape-mou, agape-mou, my love!" I'm pretty certain the last time I heard that term of endearment was in one of those books, wolfed-down as a teenager, with my sisters on sun-loungers, at the moment when *Stelios reveals himself to be not only a Greek shipping magnate but the tender lover of *Flora, a blushingly blossoming English Rose, and they easy-jet off into a Happily Ever After. This time round the words are uttered by our heroine, our Greek Flora, the hotel cleaner, in a squeal of delight with diminuitive "ishis" at the end, as her hands thread themselves through the mass of tumbling, fair, rubenesque curls, belonging to our toddler. Few can resist. My daughter is a little shy today, managing a ghost of a smile before she burrows further into me. She has a raging temperature, and we are in hibernation while the rest of the family, and their cousins, are off in Knossos catching minotaurs. Maybe it's the warmth of the welcome and the island setting, but Flora's company takes me back to Cuba. She has a grounded, maternal air that is Yemayá incarnate, also known as Our Lady, Stella Maris. Yemayá is the powerful orisha or goddess of the Santería religion, a syncretic mix of Yoruban and Christian religion, that flourishes in Cuba. Yemayá is motherhood incarnate, the sea, the source of life, and my own personal "santo" too, I was once informed by a cowrie shell-casting santero priest, clad in white, in Trinidad (the Cuban town, that is, not the island). So there is an affinity there as well. We swap tales of our children, she checks the toddler's temperature and accurately diagnoses the degree without recourse to a thermometer. Later, when she leaves, with the toddler out for the count in our bed, I slip out of my clothes and into the waters of the pool, washing away all the baggage brought on holiday, exchanging Cowries for Conches, Yemayá for Aphrodite. My own Achilles' heel though is the winged messenger. One day, perhaps, my story-telling will take off...
*names have been changed due to loss of memory and creative licence