Flying into Athens, I used to be dropped at tears on the aerial view of this metropolis I had no connection to, no historical past with, had by no means been to earlier than. I deliberately cued up a track that made me emotional – Cat Stevens, I believe – to play as we started the descent.

usually discover flying makes me really feel cinematic and theatrical and I prefer to lean into that impulse, indulging the grandiosity, staring out the window, crying in a manner which is neither unhappy nor joyful precisely, simply from the depth of the way it feels to maneuver freely in regards to the earth.
Travelling to Greece for 3 months in that autumn of 2016, I felt this sensation of fortunate freedom greater than ever, arriving as I used to be with a brand new objective. I used to be going to jot down a e-book.

I had lived in London for somewhat over a 12 months and was making little or no cash scraping collectively stints of temp work and distant admin jobs, however this did appear to imply I used to be seeing extra of the world than I had after I lived a relatively regular and regularly-waged life again in Dublin.

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A avenue within the Plaka district in Athens

A avenue within the Plaka district in Athens

As lengthy as you did not thoughts occupying no matter space for storing your long-suffering mates might spare you and dwelling primarily out of a suitcase, there have been a lot of locations you could possibly go to stay at no cost or very cheaply.
I taken care of cats, primarily, or simply the homes themselves, in Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, Amsterdam, and located that it suited my open-ended confusion about easy methods to stay. It felt much less determined, extra directional, than doing the identical factor caught in London, unable to afford many of the issues which make it an interesting place.
When I used to be awarded a grant to work on a e-book from a basis in my hometown of Waterford, the Ted and Mary O’Regan Arts Bursary, I knew I might use it to its greatest benefit exterior the UK. The grant was sufficient to stay comfortably in London for maybe 4 or six weeks at a push, however there have been many locations it will final 3 times that.
I selected Athens kind of at random, having chatted to a pal weeks earlier, an Athenian who divided her time between there and London. I sourced a well-priced sublet in a not particularly fascinating space, gave up my room in London and packed a bag. I packed 10 books I hoped would function inspiration and affect alone writing and a skinny blue rug which I introduced in every single place I went, impressed by a Jeanette Winterson quote which reads: “When I left house at 16, I purchased a small rug. It was my roll-up world. Whatever room, no matter short-term place I had, I unrolled the rug. It was a map of myself. Invisible to others, however held within the rug, had been all of the locations I had stayed – for just a few weeks, for just a few months. On the primary evening wherever new, I preferred to lie in mattress and take a look at the rug to remind myself that I had what I wanted despite the fact that what I had was so little.”
Immediately, stepping out of the airport into the midnight warmth, I beloved Athens. I beloved that the standard of even the precise air felt totally different and denser than any I had recognized elsewhere in Europe. I beloved my neighbourhood, rundown and missing in outstanding points of interest because it was – my coronary heart sang gently on the sight of aged males sitting on the pavements exterior their houses enjoying checkers and consuming and smoking.
Finally, a spot whose temperament and schedule suited my very own, the place I might get up at 10am with out feeling I had wasted the day, and sit out studying and writing till the early hours of the morning.
And I beloved that I didn’t know something right here, not even the language past probably the most primary of requirements, in order that I had to concentrate and be current, in order that I could not retire inside myself in public locations as I used to be in a position to do elsewhere.

I spent a lot of my spare time strolling the town over and again, turning into misty- eyed and mawkish on the ruins because the solar was setting, attempting to be taught the patterns of meandering neighbourhoods. Even probably the most completely touristic areas and moments – the sq. in Monastiraki filled with distributors of scorching nuts and squeaky toys and postcards and flags, all illuminated by the lights of the Acropolis above – nonetheless felt relaxed and value being round.
Usually areas of extremely concentrated tourism make me really feel somewhat strung out and desirous to go by way of them, however right here I felt no animosity in the direction of the crowds. Why would not they wish to be right here? I did, too. One evening, inside my condominium, I heard the sound of movie dialogue bouncing in a courtyard someplace close by and went to research.
I discovered an outside cinema and waited for its second exhibiting of the evening, getting into what felt like a big household backyard to look at The Champ. I purchased popcorn and a beer and lit a cigarette and thought, “I’m completely joyful”.
I used to be studying to be alone, which was part of studying easy methods to maintain the momentum of writing an entire novel. I had some mates go to over the three months, however for probably the most half, I used to be on my own.
Being on my own was an idea I had beforehand discovered alarming, borderline insufferable even, and that was one motive I’d determined to return right here the place there was no actual probability to socialize even when I wanted to. My should be out and seeing individuals on a regular basis stopped me from writing in a fabric sense, taking my time and vitality, but it surely additionally made it mentally tougher. Trying to maintain distracted and in fixed momentum prevented the form of slow-burning contemplation and perception I knew I wanted to entry to jot down the e-book I needed.
Now, with no one else to see, I hung out with myself and the work. I did not beat myself up if I did not get out the specified variety of phrases in a day. I sat with what was there and tried to not demand an excessive amount of of it. I woke within the mornings and ate yoghurt on the balcony and browse and made notes and obtained an hour or two of writing in earlier than my strolling would start. I might return to my work within the lengthy, lazy night, generally taking it with me to a restaurant down the road the place they served an outrageously beneficiant array of complementary sandwiches and fruit together with your espresso.
A couple of days every week I made my method to an inconveniently positioned little English language bookshop on a dusty avenue in the midst of empty workplace blocks and loaded up on studying materials. I introduced that with me on the tram that went to the coast and alighted on a seashore which was unremarkable to locals, nothing in comparison with the islands, however which was lovely to me. It made me really feel peaceable and content material, a budget meals and beers on the snack stand, how a lot mild there was and the way it fell so splendidly, the swimming and the low murmur of sunbathers chatting to one another throughout deck chairs.
It had given me a lot this place – the solitude I wanted to work properly, but in addition the happiness that I wanted to be sturdy sufficient to jot down what I used to be writing, to mirror on previous errors and struggling.
It meant a lot to me that I needed to provide my narrator a few of what I used to be experiencing too, and on the seashore sooner or later I had a thought and commenced to jot down, saying to myself, “I believe she leads to Athens”.

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‘Acts of Desperation’ by Megan Nolan

‘Acts of Desperation’ by Megan Nolan

 
‘Acts of Desperation’ by Megan Nolan is printed by Jonathan Cape and is accessible to order from bookshops now

Sunday Independent