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Skyros Blog

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Jane Salvage, former editor-in-chief of 'Nursing Times,' has been visiting Skyros Island since 1991 as a tourist, journalist and Skyros participant and facilitator. Jane is author of Skyros: Island of Dreams, a book based on her independent research and personal experience of this beautiful island and her inspiring holiday that is Skyros. Here she talks about her encounter with author Michael Frayn...

I couldn’t believe my eyes, but there it was in the programme. SKIOS – a new novel by Michael Frayn, author of the West End hits Noises Off and Copenhagen. Skios, I thought? Never heard of it.

I know my Greek islands pretty well, and sure enough, I couldn’t locate it anywhere by that name. Frayn’s story was apparently ‘set on a sunlit Greek island, where ‘the Fred Toppler Foundation was preparing for its annual lecture.’ Fred Toppler, I wondered - was the Yannis Andricopoulos in disguise? Was Dina Glouberman the lecturer? And could the fictional Foundation be a thinly disguised Skyros Centre?

So I bought a ticket to hear him talk about it at the Charleston Festival in Sussex, bought Skios from the bookstall and took my seat in the marquee. Leafing through his novel, it definitely had a whiff of Skyros.

Guests at the Foundation’s Great European House Party, for example, spent the day studying Minoan cooking and early Christian meditation techniques, and watching demonstrations of traditional Macedonian dancing and late medieval flower arranging. ‘They had interspersed their labours with swims and siestas... now they were moving towards further intellectual refreshment over dinner and various pre- and post-dinner drinks.’ Sounds familiar?

My mental roll-call of the famous writers who’ve taught at Skyros didn’t summon up Michael Frayn. I had to ask the question, so up I popped at the end of his talk. ‘I often visit a real and magical Greek island called SKYROS – yes, that’s SKIOS with an R!’ I said. ‘Of course I’m dying to know whether you knew about SKYROS when you wrote SKIOS!’

I went on to explain that last year I published a book called SKYROS about a well known holistic holiday centre. I played it straight in the book although Skyros holidays provide much scope for satire. Indeed, some of the writers who taught there, including D M Thomas, Hanif Kureshi, Nigel Gearing and Sue Townsend, have written marvellous comic turns on it. Not, though, Michael Frayn! He clapped his hand to his head in shock, claiming not to know about the real Skios (or maybe he thought I’d sue him for plagiarism). And he quipped that my book might help his sales, though it’s more likely to be the other way round. 

Afterwards I joined the queue of eager fans and he signed my copy of SKIOS with a witty dedication. In exchange, I gave him a copy of SKYROS, which he asked me to sign. At last I’m a literary lion – swapping books with Michael Frayn!



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