Synopsis: “Sometimes on nights like these, when I’ve been working late and the house is quiet, my mind skims away through the years to the time when we lived on Corfu. Our time there floats in the darkness of the past like a tiny island of green and yellow light. . .”
They arrived as tourists, Wendy from Canada and James from England, young, new to each other and probably even more in love than they realized. The two-line ad in the Sunday Times, advertising “Villa Parginos, Loutses, Corfu,” conjured an image of long afternoons drinking wine on a marble patio shaded by a grape arbour, looking out over an impossible Greek blue sea. Instead they got a little pink bungalow with linoleum, a buzzing fluorescent light and a patio separated from the village’s main street by a wire fence.
And yet Corfu delivered so much more than their wildest fantasy had suggested. Yes, there was the warmth of the sun, intoxicating to frozen northerners, and languid walks along sage- and oregano- bordered byways, and swimming naked off an idyllic beach. Olive trees dropped their fruit into nets, and there were fresh apricots, grilled sardines, marinated lamb and long evenings of storytelling at the local taverna — life, reduced to the sensual quotidian. But what captivated James Chatto and Wendy Martin (who soon became his wife) was the way the islanders embraced them, once they bought and renovated a house of their own. The baptism of their firstborn son was the demarcation line; after that they were locals, not tourists. And, as Chatto’s eloquent memoir so touchingly reveals, their deep connection to Corfu and its people sustained them through tragedy just as it had carried them into love.