Tuesday, 18 August 2015

What do Artists do on their Holidays? (this is NOT a food blog!)

This me Kirsty E Smith on holiday. This is a photo of a special moment.
Two favourite books from my childhood were Richard Scary’s ‘What do people do all day’ and ‘Busy, BusyTown’. I especially loved the quite surreal illustrations; the banana-mobile and much more. There is also now a great BBC4 television series called ‘What do artists do all day’
Illustrations from Richard Scarry books
But here’s my question; What do artists do when they are on holiday? 

My own art is about people, connections and personalities so I suppose it isn't all that surprising that although I managed to get my dose of architectural concrete (another passion) in on my relaxing and sunny Greek holiday, what is actually much more special to me, is the unexpected and special human connections made while doing the usual everyday things. 

Yes on this holiday I climbed over a mountain in extreme heat, dived off a sailing ship, swam in thermal pools, scuba dived for the first time and even fitted in a ride on the local fun (land) train. But actually whatever exciting things we humans do each day we still have to do the normal everyday stuff. Eating is pretty everyday and necessary and shopping for food is normally a job that you just have to ‘get done’. 

However when shopping in small independent shops it is completely different. People go to those shops not only for a product but also for an experience and when it is a small personally run shop they also want to feel that their purchase is appreciated (and I should know because I did set up and run my own artisan cheese shop in the past.) 
This is me way back in 1991
Yes you can sell top quality products but great products with (on top of that) a memorable human interaction is so much more. This is what makes life worth living! 

And what better than when a customer who appreciates these values buys from an artisan shopkeeper who loves to supply an authentic product to appreciative customers. The connection is so special but also so difficult to explain but actually it should need absolutely no explanation. 

When the relationship works it works perfectly; it does not have to be explained. 
Enthusiasm is a word that is often associated with me. I can’t help it I really am genuinely enthusiastic about so much in life (and quality artisan bakery products is just be one thing that I get excited about!) 

Santa Irini Bakery Perissa, Santorini, Greece (Yes it really is open 24 hours a day!)
perusing the biscuits
But on reflection the root of this excitement is when I feel that I have met a fellow human being who I feel a deep connection with. Someone who takes pride in their work, works to the highest standards, values interaction with other fellow human beings and who works with integrity. 

So that’s the emotional part of this blog post over now on to some factual information and more photos!

Over the seven days of our holiday we went into the Santa Irini bakery not once a day but by the end of the holiday actually twice a day. We bought all sorts from flat rustic white rolls for lunchtime picnics, bread for breakfast, beautifully soft and delicious apple cake and chocolate cake. We ate spinach and feta pie by candlelight when we were too tired to cook ....or even eat out and we had fab picnics in unexpected places where a hunk of bread was perfect with our homemade tzatziki. We also enjoyed biscuits with jam and coconut and sprinkles to boost us before our scuba dive but also to make the airport queue much more bearable. 

take the locals' advice do not do this climb in the blazing sunshine
feet up
mid climb sustenance
Got bread and Swiss army knife...Sorted! 
we shared this...honest!

The best way to use up 'spare' greek yogurt? Buy some some delicious apple cake and chocolate pie.
Going into the Santa Irini bakery was not just about buying home made food to sustain us but actually we (my children Bryony 20 and Dominic 17) and I all enjoy human interaction such a lot that when our big baker (we quickly named him The Hairy Baker - see postscript for explanation) came round the counter to speak with us and to shake hands with us it was completely clear that he too is someone who appreciates human interaction and contact with people who connect on an emotional level. He knew that our enthusiasm and appreciation was sincere. 
a lovely moment
let's talk about bread, merino wool vests and much more
The 'Hairy Baker' is called Spiros and the bakery was first set up by his ...father... grand father...or even great-grandfather?  Anyway, it has been running since 1937 and not only is it an excellent bakery but it is also open 24 hours a day! 
This man does not sleep!!!

My father Andrew Kyle Imrie Smith died only a few days before this holiday. He was 91 and an amazing and very inspirational man. 
Amongst the many things that he did teach me is that talking to strangers is absolutely crucial to making sense of our (short) time on this planet. 
As a child it used to be annoying and frustrating when dad stopped to strike up conversation with a complete stranger but actually what I learned from seeing what came from these spontaneous conversations is actually what fires me up now in my own life and also what (not surprisingly) I have passed on to my own children. Already Bryony, my daughter, has started writing a blog- One Great People which (amongst other things) is about people who have touched her life while being a student in the North East of England and my son Dominic found it only too natural to join in a community Apple Crumble Celebration only weeks after we had moved to a completely new city- Sheffield.  

Explanation about the Hairy Baker reference:
In the UK there is a cookery programme called The Hairy Bikers 
It is presented by two men who not only are good at cooking but also ride motor bikes and are hairy (mostly on their heads and faces) so it seemed obvious to call Spiros The Hairy Baker. And finally when I did speak to Spiros I was especially interested in his vest. I had already guessed (correctly) that it was made from merino wool. Merino wool is chosen by climbers and people who need protection from heat and cold. I am a farmers’ daughter, I have sheared sheep, I teach felt-making and textiles so yes of course it was of interest to me; I knew the importance of Spiros’s merino wool vest for doing his everyday, ‘extreme sport’ of baking for tourists ....and locals too.

PPS. This is an experience that I hope to repeat. 

1 comment :

Elena said...

I enjoyed reading this Kirsty! Brilliant to have met such an interesting character as The Hairy Baker! We have a few Hairy Baker équivalents around here and you are right...just ordinary people doing fascinating things with their ordinary lives...you can learn so much just stopping for a casual chat!