There are many “whys” that explain why I like my job. The most important “why” is the opportunity to meet other people. Crossing the line between business relationship, acquaintance and reaching the coveted friendship relationship: that is undoubtedly the best thing about Elias and my job. I am very grateful and proud that Kelvin and Melanie are now part of our circle of friends in the beautiful Mani. Below Kelvins “why-the-Mani-and Peloponnese-story”. Thank you Kelvin for your time! Below photos from the Taygetos village close to Kelvins and Melanies home in the Mani.
Living in the Mani: “You just have to stop, slow down, let it come to you”
Kelvin and Melanie bought their first house in the Mani in 2001 and are planning to move to the area next year from Brussels. Since the first visit to Greece Kelvin has written several books of poetry about Greece. His Collected Poems will be published in May 2023. The poet David Wevill has commented, “Kelvin Corcoran has said, ‘Greece writes itself for me.’ If so, Greece is a gifted poet indeed.”(link)
What was your first experience of the Mani, how did you find it?
About thirty years ago Melanie, my wife, thought it might be interesting to visit the Greek mainland. Ok, let’s try the Peloponnese, we said. We’d visited various Cycladic islands in previous summers and the parts of Crete untouched by partying youth. We thought let’s go in the spring, this Easter. We paused in Nafplio happily and then drove on across the Argolid into the unknown.
Once we took the road south from Kalamata alongside the Taygetos mountains something happened and the impact remains as a life-changing moment. This is not an exaggeration. Despite the twists and turns of the road, and its potholes, and the less than executive hire car we were transfixed. The world was all around us in 3D, the impossibly blue sea, the layered mountains and the air itself a sweet medium. As a first date it was ecstatic.
How did that relationship develop?
We bought our house here as soon as we could afford it, about 8 years after that first visit. Without internet or local contacts back then I’m not sure how this happened at all. The house was the last one we viewed in a hastily arranged short visit. It was small, more or less derelict but in a perfect location. If you are considering buying a house, you may wish to stop reading at this point. The key to the house could not be found and we couldn’t get inside, so we made an offer on the sure method of peering through a broken window. One of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
Unknowingly we moved into the part of a village which until then had been entirely Greek, and mainly Greeks of the same extended family. Since then, all our holidays have been taken here, our children accepted our obsession and now submit their children to the same experience. Apparently, we became known as the quiet English – which suggests to me acceptance, without shouting about it. Perhaps, in those early days, I’d confused matters by walking around and telling anyone I met – Είμαι Αγγλίδα (Eímai Anglída). I thought I was saying – I am English. I was actually saying I am an English woman. Oh well, nobody seemed too bothered.
So, why in particular is the Mani right for you?
We seemed to take to the place straight away. More than twenty years on we still do now what we did back then to enjoy ourselves and I’m still writing about it. I think part of it is that in an atmosphere and climate attuned to the human nervous system the simple pleasures of life here take on new meaning it seems; to walk in the landscape along the old calderimi, to be aware of the presence of the sea and to simply sit out with friends at the taverna at night. The secret is also simple – stop, slow down, let the world come to you – and ask a Greek friend the meaning of the word κέφι (kéfi).
Where do you think that atmosphere comes from, what are its origins, its roots?
Of course, all of the immediate attractions of the Mani are as described here and you are free to live on this glittering surface but it’s not the full story. Unsurprisingly the Mani is rich in its cultural and artistic associations and prompts a creative response. Kazantzakis was inspired to write Zorba the Greek whilst living in Stoupa, the origin of the setting of the novel, and was visited by his friend the poet Sikelianos who eulogized the Taygetos landscape. The family home of the often exiled and imprisoned poet Ritsos can be found in Monemvasia and such writers as Kevin Andrews, John Levy and Patrick Leigh Fermor have recorded the inextinguishable life of the region.
None of these achievements have been easily won. You may have seen a flag on display in the Mani bearing the slogan ΝΙΚΗ Ή ΘΑΝΑΤΟΣ which translates as Victory or Death. Interestingly most of these authors experienced and survived the major historical conflicts of their times, the victories and the deaths, and came to write about Greece and the Peloponnese in particular. If the place itself is restorative, it may well be as George Seferis claims, the spirit of Greece is to be found in its villages. It is there alive in the courteous greeting and the other simple gestures of shared feeling. This quality has been won through a long history reaching back to Greek war of independence and beyond.
So, for you, the history is important too?
Yes, I think it’s part of the place, it’s in the air and has meaning. And one night, if you are lucky, you might here Tsitzanis’ song Συννεφιασμένη Κυριακή, Cloudy Sunday played in the taverna, and you will hear everyone around you join in the chorus and you will not forget the moment. It is perhaps the depth and richness of such continuity that draws us to Greece in the first place and is encapsulated by the genius of Seferis, yet again.
‘I belong to a small country, a rocky promontory in the Mediterranean, it has nothing to distinguish it but the efforts of its people, the sea, and the light of the sun. It is a small country, but its tradition is immense and has been handed down through the centuries without interruption.’
That’s it, the Mani has all of this, the sea, the light, the sun – it’s all there, it’s all keenly focussed here. There’s hardly a day goes by when I’m not surprised and discover something afresh. You just have to stop, slow down, let it come to you.
Thank you Kelvin, below my own photos from the area called The Deep Mani and from Vathia, “the goast village”. Welcome to the Magical Mani!