Location: Alonissos, Greece
by Angus Forrest
It is unfair, totally unreasonable. Nowhere in life should be quite this good. You see, it is dark, officially pitch black and I am sat alone, on the nearly top of a Greek mountain. Before me is an infinity pool and beyond is laid a smooth Aegean Sea. To be frank, being at peace with the world is a huge understatement.
Thankfully, the cicadas have long gone to sleep, the cacophony of a perfectly sunny day replaced now by the utter peace of a perfectly quiet night. Quiet that is, save the irregular splash, maybe tinkle, of a tiny bird that has taken ownership of the far end of the infinity pool. “Come on, bird!” I whisper, “Whose place is this? Yours? Mine? Maybe we should agree.”
I am sat on the ground, leaning comfortably against the trunk of a pruned and time-worn olive tree, a tree that looks considerably older than me. Difficult, should you see me in a mirror. If this were Heaven, I think, and presuming one day I go up rather than down, the Happy Hunting Ground will not be a bad place to be.
This is Infinity, perfectly named, a point in space that is endlessly distant, for that is what I see. Endless nothingness, endless somethingness, endless views and endless time. Infinity is where a crazy someone, crazy with vision that is, has positioned a spa. Yet despite the remoteness, there can be no better escape, no better occasion. The Sporades island of Alonissos is where they have put it. Alonissos, that island of islands, said to be the oldest of all. Alonissos, the limestone marvel that is a hop and a skip and the tiniest of jumps from anywhere in the world. Thank Heaven, I think as I sit here by night, that others have yet to join me. When the world discovers Infinity, brace yourself for the rush.
High above me is the fullest moon, perfectly sharp, perfectly formed, perfectly crafted. Its seas, craters and flat expanses, names I once knew but have long forgotten, are visible to even my naked eye. The moon reflects off the flat sea beneath me, while to my half left are the double mound-like shadows of Alonissos’ most famous neighbours, islands the locals call The Two Brothers.
The Two Brothers disappoint me, not their shape, nor their existence. Islands in the Aegean are to be expected. No, my disappointment is thanks to the locals, charmers all; many I have met and all I have asked the same question. Who better to ask about mythology than a Greek?
“Tell me, please,” I query, “how did The Two Brothers appear?”
None, absolutely none, can tell me. Mythology, I sense, has died with earlier generations, replaced by social media, rock music perhaps, and a desire to live life at speed. But the stories and tales that held the world enthralled for centuries have seemingly passed to oblivion. Oh, Gods of Ancient Greece, forgive our inconsiderate and impetuous human race, whose priorities have turned akimbo and where the past appears to hold no sway over the future. Vital matters are now forgotten while the less important rule.
This is Thessaly, you see, of which Alonissos forms part. Thessaly is the centre of Greek mythology. You name the story and this is where it was told. Thessaly is where the Gods were created and God-like wars were fought. It was where Zeus eventually sat astride the razor-sharp summit of Olympus, itself not too far away.
The islands that surround me are the Sporades. Twenty-four in total, of which Alonissos is but one. Yet the Sporades are not islands at all, certainly if you follow mythology. They are the debris from an earth-shattering fight between the Olympians and the unbearded brothers, Otus and Efialtes. The two siblings were battling hard to reach the summit of Mount Olympus as there they would find Artemis and Hera, ladies they might take for their own. Olympus is Greece’s tallest mountain, a challenge of a climb to this day and an item all Greeks seek to battle at least once in their mortal life. To reach the top, the two brothers had to be creative, so piled mountain upon mountain, Mount Pelion on Mount Ossa, to reach the very apex of Greece’s highest peak.
Yet the Olympians were no pushover. Huge boulders were thrown, faces drawn, teeth bared, fangs exposed, muscles bulged, cries uttered, while blood spilled and deep wounds were inflicted. The earth shook as enormous feet stood astride the Gulf of Thessaly, the clouds parted and lightning bolts gouged valleys from the earth. But for Otus and Efialtes, success was not to be. Zeus stayed atop Olympus, Artemis and Hera were untouched, while Apollo soon did away with the assailants. For Otus and Efialtes it was not a happy day.
Meanwhile the debris of battle fell to the sea, and as they touched the water, the thrown boulders instantly became the Sporades. Alonissos was the first, plenty others followed, but it is Alonissos that holds prime position, an island which carries perfect place. Alonissos is the home of the Greek storyteller, or should be, had social media not made its unwelcome arrival.
By day, Infinity allows its spa professionals to work their magic ways. By night they leave you to ponder, as I for one have my most revealing thoughts the moment it becomes dark. Up comes the moon, down goes the sun, a splash of red, maybe orange, even purple, and then my mind kicks in. Impossible problems suddenly become simple. Stupid ideas rapidly seem wise.
So, there is a thought. Take the politicians of the world, the folk who believe they control us but in fact rarely do, take the globe and all its problems, and bring them to me now. Let them watch the moon, the birds, the myriad stars as they twinkle. Let them see the Space Station as it careers overhead. Allow them to glimpse the shooting stars, the constellations such huge distances away, and encourage them to look at Saturn, Neptune and Pluto as they gleam. I bet, I wager, I venture, within moments the world will be a better place. Allow the impossible to be solvable, thanks to the effect of Infinity.
About the Author
Angus Forrest is the pen name of a travel writer who lives and works in London. He was formerly a member of the British Special Air Service and is the author of several highly-acclaimed books across a variety of genres and written under various names. He is also a frequent contributor to the widely read, long-form travel blog, Tales for You. He may already have written about you.
Angus has worked for many years in the humanitarian sector and in this role attended the earthquakes in Kashmir, Java, Haiti, the desert conflict in Libya, the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan and now works extensively in the Middle East, largely on the Lebanon/Syria border. He has published widely for both academic and general readerships, is an editor in his own right, with articles appearing in The Daily Telegraph, The Spectator, the Evening Standard, Reader’s Digest, The Independent, and many other publications. His first article was published when he was only 13 years old, for the Church of England Newspaper. Angus travels widely, lectures extensively, and has appeared on television and radio on numerous occasions. Outside writing, which dominates his life, his interests include mountaineering and classical guitar. So, look over your shoulder right now. Could that person with the notebook be Angus Forrest and could he be writing about you?