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Setting up home on Ios


Moving to Greece
Frederic Raphael Writer
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I wrote the script of Nothing But the Best, I sent it off to my agent who said it was the best screenplay that he'd ever read. He was an agent, of course, but it was pretty good, pretty good. David Deutsch liked it very much and he then hired a man called Clive Donner that he had known in the Rank Organisation who had edited a great hit of the 1950s called Genevieve about the Brighton car rally with Kenneth More and various other people. So, would we come back to England and have a conference with them about that? So, we loaded everybody into the Standard Vanguard and drove all the way through France back to England and it didn't seem to take a minute and we stopped at lots of nice little restaurants along the way and all the rest of it. And I had conferences with Clive who talked and talked and talked and talked and never seemed to finish a sentence, but he was a very sweet guy. And he wasn't entirely stupid. David was very nice. Claire was very pretty. And I went back to finish that and then we were in Rome until beginning of '62. This was now 1961. In '62 we were in Rome so I said to Beetle, I don't really want to go back to England. Let's go to Greece.

So, we loaded the kids in the Vanguard and drove to Bari on our way to Bridinsi, and in Bari I became quite ill. Not seriously ill, but I mean I had a very high fever and we're in this quite fancy miserable hotel in Bari and I remember I said, tomorrow morning we're going to go. I haven't had a temperature today, I'm going to go tomorrow and the following morning I took my temperature and it was 101, and Beetle said, what is it? And, I said, it's normal, let's go. I left the temperature behind and we went down to Brindisi and, like Cicero and many other famous Romans, we took ship. We took ship, actually, to Igoumenitsa in Epirus in northwestern Greece. And, that's where we got off because I thought we should have a look at as much of Greece as we possibly could. And, once again, I had that feeling at the age of, now 31 or so, that I'd actually made a complete balls of my Classical education or the Classical education was complete balls because, of course, it was very much to do with texts and learning antique languages and not about the culture and all the rest of it. We went up to the oracle of Dodoni, up in Epirus, is the oldest oracle in Greece and the priests were famous because they never washed their feet. I don't know why, but they didn't. And they used to hang things in the... in the sacred oak trees they would hang questions and then they would rattle and they would divine what they meant. And it's still a sort of extraordinary and numinous place. But, you can only take so much numinosity at a time.

So, we drove down to through the western side of Greece until we got to wherever it was and took the ferry across to Patras, and then we drove along the top of the Peloponnese and eventually wound up in Athens, where I went to see, or we went to see, a travel agent called Thalia Targa just off Syntagma Square. She'd been recommended by Dilys Powell in one of her articles. Dilys was a great Helenophile, the film critic of the Sunday Times. So, I made a quite bold suggestion to Thalia Targa that I was actually a friend of Dilys's although, truth, I don't think I knew her at all. But my Hampstead friends always did that kind of thing. Guy Ramsay knew her, so I thought it would be fine. And it was. We were in Thalia's little office. We said to her, where should we go? We don't know where to go. We want to go to a Greek island, you know, and a beach and I want to finish the book, which I was halfway through, which I had started in Rome after I'd finished the script. I mean, I don't piss around with not working. Because if I do I get depressed. Anyway, I'd written the book… I was in the middle of writing a book called Lindmann. So, she said, you could go to Skiathos, which is an island actually in the north, towards Thessaloniki. And, then the phone rang and it was a man called Artemis Denaxas and he was an old politician who had, actually, administered the Marshall Plan, the Greek bit of the Marshall Plan for the Americans, so, as you can imagine, he was not at this point a poor man. But he was very British. When we eventually met him he had a dog called Dick and another one called Rover, and he subscribed to the British way of life. And on the telephone he said to Thalia, why don't you get them to go to Ios in the Cyclades. I am the Kyrios, I am the Lord of Ios. He had certain delusions of grandeur although he was fairly grand, and he did own an awful lot of the island. He said, they must go to Ios before the Germans and the French get there. He wasn't stupid, old Denaxas. So, tell them, if they will go there I will take care of them when I come, I'm coming later. I will take care of them.

So, a few days later, maybe the next day, I think we went to see the treasures of the Athenian museum, the mask of Agememnon, or the supposed mask of Agememnon and Schliemann stuff. It was fantastic and there was all this Greek written everywhere. I bought, of course, I bought a grammar and I found it fairly easy to start learning enough Modern Greek to get by because I had all the Ancient Greek words as a back up. In Modern Greek the most common words are the most unlike Ancient Greek because, of course, they've been corrupted in usage by Italians and by Turks and various other folk who've come and gone in Athens. The longer words get, the easier it is to decrypt them, if you've done all that stuff.

Born in America in 1931, Frederic Raphael is a writer who moved to England as a boy. He was educated at Charterhouse School and was a Major Scholar in Classics at St John's College, Cambridge. His articles and book reviews appear in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times and The Sunday Times. He has published more than twenty novels, the best-known being the semi-autobiographical The Glittering Prizes (1976). In 1965 Raphael won an Oscar for the screenplay for the movie Darling, and two years later received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for Two for the Road. In 1999, he published Eyes Wide Open, a memoir of his collaboration with the director Stanley Kubrick on the screenplay of Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick's final movie. Raphael lives in France and England and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1964.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Greece, Ios, Clive Donner, Thalia Targa, Dilys Powell

Duration: 6 minutes, 22 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 10 September 2014