Five on Friday Flashback with Marjory McGinn @fatgreekodyssey

Today I’m delighted to revisit my Five on Friday feature with Marjory McGinn that first appeared in June 2019. It has been brought up to date to include all of Marjory’s books. 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 four travel memoirs and two novels.  

Marjory is a Scottish-born journalist whose move to Australia as a child inspired her interest in travel and writing. She has travelled widely, including an early work stint in Athens. She has worked as a feature writer for most of her career, initially on major Australian newspapers. After returning to Scotland in 2000, she freelanced for British publications, including The Times, Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday, The Scotsman, The Herald. She has written on travel, lifestyle, and has interviewed celebrities, from top Aussie cricketers to the odd Hollywood legend.

Over to Marjory:-

Which five 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).

What five things (apart from family and friends) would you 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.

The Lovely Wallace

Give five pieces of advice 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 five 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.

Tell us five things you’d still like to do or achieve.

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.

Marjory’s Books

(NB This post features Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases)

Things Can Only Get Feta (The Peloponnese Series Book 1)

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 (The Peloponnese Series Book 2)

Homer’s Where the Heart Is continues the story where the best-selling memoir, Things Can Only Get Feta, 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. This candid story also the story of the author’s passion for Greece. Woven into the narrative is Marjory’s gripping 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 Kardamyli, just after he died in 2011, and a trip to the island of Kythera. This edition also features some of the author’s own photographs of Greece.

A Scorpion in the Lemon Tree (The Peloponnese Series Book 3)

Following on from the first two acclaimed travel memoirs (Things Can Only Get Feta and Homer’s Where The Heart Is), Marjory, Jim and their crazy dog Wallace are on a second hilarious odyssey in southern Greece but this time they end up in a peninsula they didn’t choose, and a house they never wanted to 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 are in love with this resilient country, despite its ongoing economic crisis. And there’s not even a sting in this tale. Well … not one you could imagine!

A Donkey on the Catwalk (The Peloponnese Series Book 4)

While this book can be read as a standalone, loyal readers will be further enlightened by the escapades of the unforgettable farmer Foteini: her unique take on life; her outrageous ‘fashions’, including a makeshift shoe design you will never forget, and her ‘haute couture’ offerings for Riko the donkey.

As well as tales of the Peloponnese, there are stories from other Greek locations the couple have visited, including Pelion and the islands of Santorini and Corfu. This book also offers a fascinating glimpse into some of the author’s earliest trips to Greece with tales that have not been published before, including a year of teaching English in Athens during a dangerous time of political upheaval; a humorous story of facing up to bizarre religious relics in Corfu; and a long sabbatical in Crete that didn’t quite go to plan, with a hint of unexpected romance in an idyllic setting.

A Saint for the Summer (Bronte in Greece Book 1)

In this romantic suspense novel, 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 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.

How Greek is Your Love? (Bronte in Greece Book 2)

This sequel to the novel A Saint For The Summer (Book 2 in the Bronte in Greece series), is a page-turning mystery drama full of romance and humour. Expat Bronte McKnight is in the early days of her love affair with charismatic doctor Leonidas Papachristou. But as Bronte tries to live and love like a Greek, the economic crisis spawns an unlikely predator in the village. While she begins to question her sunny existence in Greece, an old love from Leonidas’s past also makes a troubling appearance.

Now working as a freelance journalist, when Bronte is offered an interview with a famous novelist, and part-time expat, it seems serendipitous. But the encounter becomes a puzzle that takes her deep into the wild Mani region of the southern Peloponnese, for which she enlists the help of her maverick father Angus, and the newest love of her life, Zeffy, the heroic rescue dog.

The challenges Bronte faces bring dramatic as well as humorous outcomes as she tries to find a foothold in her Greek paradise. But can she succeed?


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