Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

July 2010

GeneralFriday, July 30th, 2010, (9:24 am)

A few months after my Grandmother passed away I got a letter from a law firm with a cheque enclosed. Yogi, as she was affectionately known in our family, had left her five grandchildren a small inheritance. This left me with a quandary I hadn’t expected; How can I make this gift really mean something.

Doris Bradley, aka Yogi.As I stood in my kitchen holding the letter printed on the kind of high grade paper you would expect a law firm to use, I felt a little strange looking at the cheque, almost uncomfortable, as if somehow I had cashed in my grandmother for a little bit of loot. Yogi wasn’t a rich lady by any means so it honestly hadn’t occurred to me that there might be even a small inheritance.

Make no mistake, I was not in the least bit ungrateful, just unsure as to what to do with this money. If I banked the cheque I knew it would just be swallowed up in the benign expenditure of day to day life, and I didn’t want my Grandmothers money to bleed away paying some boring bill or a portion of my monthly rent. I wanted to do something special with this money, something that she might have done herself, but what?

It then occurred to me that Yogi had always enjoyed hearing about my travels. The postcards that I sent her from various locations around the world were always on the wall when I visited her. Despite my asking she wasn’t one for telling her own stories, but she always seemed to enjoy mine, asking me how long it would take to get to this place or that, and what I had done while I was there. It seemed to me that Yogi enjoyed my wandering ways so I had the perfect idea of what to do with her final gift. I would travel.

Thanks to the emergence of low cost airlines the money she had left could go long way if spent wisely. So I purchased a pre-paid MasterCard and reserved it solely for the purpose of buying flights to places I’d never seen before.

Pretty soon I had booked two trips. First would be a weekend in Oslo, followed not long afterward with a trip to Italy, and all for the grand total of a little less that £40!

I was of course delighted at the bargain tickets, but also pleased that while she’s no longer around to send postcards to, Yogi gets to be a part of these trips, and at the price of these tickets I suspect she might be a part of quite a few more to come too.

Thanks Yogi!

Photography and TravelTuesday, July 20th, 2010, (7:05 pm)

I had been warned that the landing in Skiathos would involve a hard bump and the frantic application of air brakes that would hopefully bring us to a timely halt. The little Greek island barely has enough land to accommodate the planes that bring sun seeking tourists to its quiet golden beaches. As the wheels hit the runway the plane lurched for a moment, then we were thrust forward under the hard braking as a few nervous passengers actually screamed, their cries a mixture of shock and excitement.

The Greek island of Skiathos.

With the images of arriving rock stars and presidents in my mind, I always feel like waving when I step out of a plane onto the steep metal steps that lead a precarious path to the asphalt below. Of course, there are no heads of state to greet me, no adoring groupies, and no limos to whisk me away to some salubrious location. Instead I am met by the scowl of an immigration official in an ill fitting uniform sat behind a rickety desk that looks like it was stolen from an under budgeted high school. Behind him a faded poster that’s peeling off the wall reads ‘Welcome to Skiathos’ over a picture of a plane flying perilously low over the town that lies just beyond these airport walls.

Tourists scurry to waiting buses as quickly as they can, clamoring the relaxation of a vacation that will likely see them over-indulge in the sun they hope will give them an enviable tan to take back to their daily lives. Skiathos is very much a package paradise, but for the seasoned escape artist this tiny Greek Island in the middle of the Aegean Sea offers a little more than the run of the mill activities lapped up by the lobster red sun tan clan.




I’m here for a wedding. Not a ‘Big Fat Greek Wedding,’ but the far more slender union of my friend Garry and his girlfriend, Kelly, who plan to enjoy a fairly informal wedding under the Greek sun with a few friends and family. Skiathos is their favorite vacation destination and Garry, already deeply tanned, is smiling broadly when he greets me at their hotel. He’s clearly very relaxed and has already enjoyed a few days on the island with Kelly.

For the next seven days the plan, according to the soon to be married couple, is to lay around on a beach and soak up the plentiful sun. However, something Garry neglected to tell me until just before we set off to meet Kelly at the beach, is that the particular beach they’re frequenting is “clothing optional.”

When Garry told me the wedding would be casual I imagined he meant ‘no jacket required.’ I didn’t realise that I would be required to proudly adorn my birthday suit. While I’m not adverse to a little nudity here and there I’ve never actually been to a clothing optional beach before so this would be a first for me. I know Garry fairly well, but I have only met Kelly once in passing, and here I am in Greece about to get to know this bride-to-be better than most brides I’ve ever met!

It’s been just a few hours since I left the dreary surroundings of Manchester airport, and here I am at Little Banana Bay, a ‘clothing optional’ beach on a Greek Island. Anyone who pictures a naked nirvana full of nubile tanned bodies skating the fine line between naturism and downright debauchery has, like me, probably never stepped foot on a nudist beach before.

Much of the nakedness one could cast a wandering eye across here looks more like a shoe leather convention and a demonstration of the unforgiving nature of gravity. It seems the while the facebook generation are willing to bare their souls online, not one of them is quite ready to bare their ass anywhere near here. However, I’m not complaining, it’s quiet, sunny, and relaxed… very relaxed!

The Greek island of Skiathos.

The Greek island of Skiathos.

The Greek island of Skiathos.


As Islands go, visitors to Skiathos are spoiled for choice with a wide selection of sandy beaches around its 27 miles coastline. Most people tend to stay nearby the more populated areas of the island like Skiathos town and Troulos, but as much fun as sunbathing (clothed or otherwise) might be for some, I decide to rent a scooter/moped and explore the island instead.

Away from the golden beaches dirt tracks thread a wandering path through lush forests. Bright red fire trucks manned by sleeping greek men sit in various locations awaiting a call they no doubt hope never comes. A fire here would spread quickly and no doubt wreak unthinkable devastation.

The Greek island of Skiathos.

The Greek island of Skiathos.

Having carefully watched ‘Long Way Round‘ I feel duly prepared for the rigors of off road riding. It’s true that a moped isn’t ideal for going too far off the beaten track, but my televisual training and generous helpings of over-confidence enable me to push ‘the ped’ to extremes. At times I find myself riding through deep sand, over loose rocks, through narrow woodland paths, and even across a couple of shallow rivers! My rental agreement probably forbids this kind of activity, but it’s only wrong if you get caught, right?

Along my route I run into a number of unoccupied chapels that are dotted across the island. Unlocked and unoccupied their walls are adorned with paintings depicting serious looking men with long beards and various people with tell-tale religious glows around their heads. Religion has always been a serious business in these parts I guess.

The Greek island of Skiathos.

The Greek island of Skiathos.


As the wedding day rolls around it’s hard to imagine the bride, groom, and gathered guests could be any more relaxed. The ceremony itself is held in a small municipal court house at the Bourtzi fortress. Like any groom Garry waits nervously for his bride, and when Kelly eventually arrives her white wedding dress is only slightly more dazzling than her smile.

The ceremony itself is short, and after the “I do’s” the pair are married and happily posing for photographs in front of a paparazzi style gaggle of friends and relatives. From there we head to the reception and into the small hours.

The Greek island of Skiathos.

The Greek island of Skiathos.

In the end, like all sun kissed vacations, the week was over too quickly. As I boarded the plane bound for home the gate agent asks me, “Did you have fun?” “Oh yes.” I answer. “We’ll see you next year then?” He responds. I smile and show my boarding pass. Beach vacations aren’t really my kind of thing so it’s unlikely I’ll come back here anytime soon, but I had a lot of fun here in Skiathos and I’ll be taking some great memories home with me, so you never know… I might be back some day.

[Video] Wild Plane landings in Skiathos
[Video] My video from Skiathos
About Skiathos