Tales at My Mother’s Knee

We have an old ikon in the family dated 1831 which my mother says has been passed down through the matriarchal line.  So I shall in turn pass it to my daughter,  As she has no chidlren, she may give it to her god-daughter. I won’t be around to mind what happens really, but that would be a nice gesture, I feel.


 Mum escaped Greece just as the Nazis were stolidly advancing on Athens, and took the ikon with her.  She always felt deep attachment and belief in her ‘miraculous’ ikon and was convinced it would see her safely over to Crete and she was right.  At the dockside in Piraeus, she decided not to board the big liner Patrice 3.  She could hear the German prisoners singing away in the hold – which was off putting for a start.  But she also reasoned that a big liner was an easier target and took the little minesweeper instead.  And indeed, Patrice 3 was sunk in the ocean by German fire.

Apparently one of the pilots she knew in the RAF asked for a small piece of the ikon for luck but she forgot to give it to him in the haste of the Allied departure.  She later discovered he had been shot down by the Italians which made her feel deep regret.

I love the calm, sweet face of the Panayia (Madonna) on this ikon.  I always felt her eyes followed me about when I was a child and this kept me a bit in order as I really believed my Mum when she said, ‘The Panayia tells me if you are naughty!’  Despite the idiotic attentions of a careless servant we had in Cairo who tried to clean it with Vim!!…it’s still soft and beautiful in colour .  It’s also survived my childhood curiosity about what lay behind the silver halo round the head of the Virgin – so that the whole things is a bit wrecked but suprisingly intact despite its travels from Turkey, to Greece, to Egypt then to England. It’s gentle mysteriousness still comforts me and I will keep it close till it’s time to hand it over.


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