Marjory McGinn is a Scottish-born author and journalist, brought up in Australia. She worked as a feature writer on Sydney newspapers and after returning to Scotland for 10 years from 2000, as a freelance writer. Her journalism has appeared in leading newspapers in Britain and Australia.
A youthful work/travel year in Athens inspired a lifelong fascination for Greece. In 2010, together with her husband Jim and their Jack Russell dog, Wallace, she set off from Scotland for an adventure in the southern Peloponnese that lasted four years and was the basis for her three travel memoirs (Things Can Only Get Feta, Homer’s Where The Heart Is and A Scorpion In The Lemon Tree. And her first novel, A Saint For The Summer also set in Greece.
She now lives in East Sussex.
Over to Marjory
Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
The Syrtaki track (Zorba’s Dance) from the theme music to Zorba The Greek
This music accompanies the famous dance scene on the beach led by Anthony Quinn as Zorba. It’s still an iconic Greek track. Greece has had a major role in my life for various reasons and the interest was kickstarted as a newly arrived Scottish migrant in Australia. My first school friend in Sydney was a Greek girl whose house was like a second home. So fate lent a hand there. I first heard this song, and saw the film, not that long before I left on my first Greek odyssey, working in Athens for a year.
Fire and Rain by James Taylor
I heard this at an outdoor concert in London in the seventies, headlined also by Lou Reed. It was an amazing event. When Taylor started singing Fire and Rain, the heavens opened with a huge deluge. It was truly weird.
Bonnie Ship The Diamond by Scottish ‘celtic rock’ band, Wolfstone
I first heard Wolfstone in Scotland about 23 years ago on a long road trip. Bonnie Ship is from one of the band’s later albums (The Half Tail) and is incredibly atmospheric. I never tire of this song and as soon as I hear the opening bars it connects me with my Scottish roots. It particularly reminds me of time spent in Aberdeen, where this folk tune originated. It conjures up wild coastlines, storms and screamy seagulls.
Thriller by Michael Jackson
I simply love the energy and cleverness of this track, and Jackson’s dancing.
Christos Anesti by Greek composer Vangelis, sung by Irene Papas
This is a very devotional and popular hymn sung at midnight on Easter Saturday in Greek churches to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. The music (by the same composer of Chariots of Fire) is haunting as is the video (on Youtube).
Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.
My Filofax. Seriously! I prefer paper to digital and I’ve had it for years. I like the idea of a diary bulging with dog-eared pages and stuffed with notes and photos. Bliss!
Camera. I’m very keen on photography. My current camera is smaller and simpler than past cameras. It’s easy to use and has nice arty settings. It fits nicely in a handbag, too.
Tied in with previous question, my collection of photos, mainly the old family pics that other family members abandoned but I latched on to with Magpie efficiency. I’m quite sentimental really.
My grandfather’s old riding spurs from the First World War. My grandfather served in the Royal Scots Greys, a cavalry regiment. He was in France and Belgium and had a grey horse used mostly to shift artillery and supplies etc. The spurs now have rusty buckles where they attached to his riding boots but it all adds to the ambience. When I hold these objects I sense all the history behind them, even though I never got to hear all of it as he died when I was quite young.
My dog. Except I’ve lived without him for a couple of years now. Our much loved Jack Russell, Wallace, passed away at 16. I loved that little chap and his huge personality. My husband Jim and I took him with us on our 4-year Greek odyssey and he featured mightily in my memoirs.
Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Don’t bother trying to iron your curly hair in your teens when curls weren’t cool. It was a tricky business with brown paper and ironing board and within half an hour the frizz returned.
This one’s related. Never, EVER let your mother cut your hair once you’re 4 years and older, especially the fringe. Mothers do dastardly things with fringes.
Try everything that comes your way and do everything – within reason, of course. This is the time to sample all the appetisers on the menu.
Don’t worry about the future. You only realise when you’re older what a waste of time it is to fester over something that hasn’t happened yet. Illogical!
And don’t fester over the mad or irrational behaviour of your elders and betters. Later on you’ll get what it was all about.
Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.
When I was a feature writer on a Sydney newspaper, I developed a passion for interviewing sports stars, even though I knew nothing about the sports involved. But the ignorance made for some hilarious features. As a result, I watched a lot of gorgeous sportsmen demonstrating their sporty techniques in strange locations, like cricketer Shane Warne (a lovely guy) who bowled bread rolls across our lunch table in a packed restaurant to illustrate his famous flipper and googly spin tactics. It brought the place to a bit of a standstill. You couldn’t make it up, really!
I took up classical ballet in my thirties. Sounds mad but I never had the chance to do it as a kid. Later on, in Sydney, I found a school offering beginners’ classes. I went there for over a year. I can still do a passable pirouette with one rotation – come on, it’s hard!
Apart from the sports reporting, I’ve also been forced or cajoled into trying risky ‘sports’: I’ve had to swim with reef sharks (nervy); riding jittery mares (very nervy); white water rafting (horrible).
I was a “£10 Pom”, as the Aussies call it. My family emigrated to Australia when I was a kid on this famously cheap migration programme. Six weeks on a ship to Sydney: limited schooling, endless running amok, ice-cream every day, camping out on deck every night (women on one side of the ship, men on the other) when we reached the equator because the cabins were too perishing hot. It was a great lark. What’s not to like?
I learnt Indonesian language at school in Sydney, basically because some clever clogs told me it was easy. It was actually, and fun. However, I’ve hardly spoken a word of it since, nor set foot ever in Indonesia. If only Greek had been on the curriculum instead it would have saved me years of Greek classes and I’m still not fluent.
What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?
Swimming with dolphins. Might as well!
I’d love to go to New York and eat a bagel and cream cheese somewhere. And drink a latte outside Tiffany’s.
I love the fabulous Poldark TV drama. I’d love to be in Cornwall if someone decides to produce yet another series. I’d love to try on Aidan Turner’s tricorn hat.
I’d like to trace my family tree on both sides of the family properly, instead of trying to do it every time Ancestry has a free weekend offer.
I took up riding in my forties but haven’t done it for a few years. So I’d like to go for a gentle horseback trek in some glorious location before I fall off the twig. But on a biddable, bomb-proof horse with wing mirrors (preferably). Even a massive Clydesdale with room on the saddle hopefully for a new Jack Russell terrier.
I love your answers Marjory, it was lovely to find out more about you. Though I will admit to a little sadness re Wallace – I’ve been there and the pain doesn’t go away. I’m now looking forward to hearing about that horse ride with a new Jack Russell in tow! Also had a dodgy bit of formatting on my part which had you trying on Aidan Turner – I’m sure there’d be a queue for that! You’re advice to your younger self was very heartfelt – those fringes clearly left a traumatic mark. I very much agree with your ‘try everything that comes your way and do everything’ (a piece of advice that applies at any age) and I’m delighted to see, one you clearly live by.
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Journalist Bronte McKnight is summoned to a hillside village in the wild and beautiful Mani region of Greece by her expat father Angus. She must help him solve a family mystery from the Second World War when his father disappeared in Greece during the disastrous Battle of Kalamata, known as ‘the Greek Dunkirk’.
With the country gripped by economic crisis, and the clock ticking against them, their near-impossible quest takes them from Kalamata to a remote mountain village where its inhabitants are bound by old traditions and secrecy. As tensions rise, the pair are helped in their search by a cast of unforgettable characters, especially charismatic doctor Leonidas Papachristou. He has a pivotal role, not least in challenging Bronte’s assumption that she hasn’t the time or the courage to fall in love in Greece.
The secrets unearthed by Angus and Bronte will be painful and astonishing and the heart-warming conclusion is one you’ll never forget.
After an Arctic winter, a British recession, and a downturn in the newspaper industry, two journalists and their dog embark on an adventure in the wild and beautiful southern Peloponnese in 2010. A perfect plan, except for one thing – Greece is deep in economic crisis. And if fiscal failure can’t overturn the couple’s escapade in rural Greece, perhaps macabre local customs, a scorpion invasion, zero dog-tolerance, and eccentric expats will. This is a humorous and insightful journey through one of the last unspoilt regions of Greece. It is full of encounters with warm-hearted Greeks who show that this troubled country still has heroes, if not euros.
Homer’s Where the Heart Is continues the story where the acclaimed first memoir left off. Two journalists and their crazy terrier Wallace are into the second year of an amazing adventure, living in the wild Mani, southern Greece. They share an olive grove with their new Greek landlords as the country veers towards bankruptcy and social upheaval.
They are soon pulled into the chaos of the economic crisis with some of the original village characters from Marjory’s first memoir, Things Can Only Get Feta. This candid memoir is also the story of the author’s passion for Greece. Woven into the narrative is Marjory’s thrilling back story from another dark time while she was working in Athens, during the military dictatorship of the 1970s. It will reveal haunting parallels between this period of history and the current crisis and will highlight as much about Greece as it does about her own personal journey at a young age.
Homer also takes the reader on a memorable journey around the Mani, including an exclusive tour of the late Patrick Leigh Fermor’s unique home in Kardamili, and a trip to the island of Kythera. This edition also features some of the author’s own photographs of Greece.
Marjory, Jim and their crazy dog Wallace are on a second odyssey in the southern Peloponnese but this time they end up in a peninsula they didn’t choose, and a house they never thought they’d live in. How did this happen? Easy, this is Greece and nothing ever goes to plan.
The couple’s latest adventure in Koroni, on the Messinian peninsula, takes them on another perilous and funny journey, with house rental dramas, scorpion threats, a publishing upheaval, and much more. But when they are finally seduced by the charm of unspoilt Koroni, make new friends, grapple with Greek lessons, and reconnect with some of the memorable characters of their Mani days, they discover once more why they continue to be in love with this resilient country, despite its ongoing economic crisis. And there’s not even a sting in this tale. Well … almost!
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Marjory writes a blog with a Greek and travel theme on her website Big Fat Greek Odyssey