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Saturday, 11 September 2010

Saint Arsenius' Shrine, Lawrence Durrell's Second Birthplace

Lawrence Durrell called Saint Arsenius' shrine his "second birthplace" or "place of predeliction", where he "woke up to reality". He and his wife Nancy considered it their "private bathing-pool". They used to bathe there naked.

He writes about it in "Prospero's Cell", in "A Smile in the Mind's Eye", in "Blue Thirst" and in his essay "Oil for the Saint; Return to Corfu" (in "Spirit of Place, Letters and Essays on Travel").

It nourished his imagination all his life and he would think of it when he practised yoga.

He'd finished "The Black Book"  there and had made a selection of his first poems there.

He and his first wife, Nancy, would (he claims) drop cherries onto the sandy floor and dive down for them, Nancy bringing them up in her lips.

None of this was mentioned on a recent caique trip, when around sixty of us (thanks to John and Mary) moored there for a swim. A pity Corfucius didn't come!

Alas, we had no cherries to throw in (just as well, perhaps). But some of us did swim through the low, narrow sea-cave tunnel, and most of us banged our heads on emerging from under the stone 'lintel'. As I came out, I was given an unwelcome kiss by a large and naked jelly-fish, so, sorry Larry, it is not my place of predeliction.

I should mention that the first time I visited the shrine (above) and swam there, it was thanks to a trip organised by the Durrell School of Corfu, when the significance of the spot made it a kind of literary pilgrimage, or a 'total immersion' in Durrell.

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