I couldn’t believe my eyes, but there it was in the Charleston Festival programme. SKIOS – a new novel by Michael Frayn, author of the West End hits Noises Off and Copenhagen. Skios, I thought? Never heard of it. I know my Greek islands pretty well, and couldn’t locate anywhere by that name.
Last year I published a book called SKYROS about a well known holistic holiday centre. Frayn’s story was ‘set on a sunlit Greek island’ where guests at the Fred Toppler Foundation’s Great European House Party study Minoan cooking and early Christian meditation techniques. ‘They had interspersed their labours with swims and siestas…now they were moving towards further intellectual refreshment over dinner and various pre- and post-dinner drinks.’
It sounded familiar – like my Skyros Centre. Yet my mental roll-call of the famous writers who’ve taught at Skyros didn’t summon up Michael Frayn. So I bought a ticket for his talk at the festival, and up I popped at the end. ‘I often visit a real and magical Greek island called SKYROS – yes, that’s SKIOS with an R!’ I said. ‘Of course I’m dying to know whether you knew about SKYROS when you wrote SKIOS!’
Some of the writers who taught at Skyros, including D M Thomas, Hanif Kureshi, Nigel Gearing and Sue Townsend, have written marvellous comic turns on it. Not, though, Michael Frayn! He clapped his hand to his head in shock, claiming not to know about the real Skios. And he quipped that my book might help his sales, though it’s more likely to be the other way round.
Afterwards I joined the queue of fans. He signed my copy of SKIOS with a witty dedication, and in exchange I gave him a signed copy of SKYROS. At last I’m a literary lion - swapping books with Michael Frayn!
If you haven’t read SKYROS yet, it’s available as a free download at www.skyros.com/about_us.htm. SKIOS by Michael Frayn, published by Faber and Faber, is a good laugh. Almost as good as mine.