Daffodil-Yellow Villa: Near Kontokali, Corfu

Home of the Durrell Family and Other Animals September 1935 - September 1937

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"The new villa was enormous, a tall, square Venetian mansion, with faded daffodil-yellow walls, green shutters and a fox-red roof. It stood on a hill overlooking the sea, surrounded by unkept olive-groves and silent orchards of lemon and orange trees. The whole place had an atmosphere of ancient melancholy about it; the house with its cracked and peeling walls, its tremendous echoing rooms, its verandahs piled high with drifts of last year’s leaves and so overgrown with creeper and vines that the lower rooms were in a perpetual green twilight; the little walled and sunken garden that ran along one side of the house, its wrought-iron gates scabby with rust, had roses, anemones and geraniums sprawling across the weed-grown paths, and the shaggy, untended tangerine-trees were so thick with flowers that the scent was almost overpowering; beyond the garden the orchards were still and silent, except for the hum of bees and an occasional splutter of birds among the leaves."

MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS © Gerald Durrell 1956

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The family photographed by Leslie at the Daffodil-Yellow Villa Winter 1936. Margo, Nancy, Lawrence ("Larry") Gerald and Mother

Leslie Durrell 1938 usually to be found reading a ballistics manual

The island of Lazaretto from the coast road in front of the Daffodil-Yellow Villa

Margo "... waited until the sudden, fierce siroccos of autumn had started before deciding that the ideal place for her to be alone was a small island situated in the bay opposite the house, about half a mile out. One day when her desire for solitude became overwhelming, she borrowed the Bootle-Bumtrinket (without my permission), piled the dogs into it, and set off to the island to lie in the sun and meditate on Love. ...

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Eventually it dawned on Margo that she had better start for home before the sirocco got any worse. ...

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The course Margo steered was peculiar, for the Bootle-Bumtrinket tacked to and fro across the bay in a haphazard fashion, occasionally even reappearing above the waves with her nose pointing towards Albania. ...

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Guided by our shouts, Margo pulled valiantly for the shore, hitting the jetty with such violence that she almost knocked Mother off into the sea. The dogs scrambled out and fled up the hill, obviously scared that we might make them undertake another trip with the same captain. ..."

MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS © Gerald Durrell 1956

A seaplane lands at Gouvia Bay, Corfu in 1937

"And then, of course, there was always Thursday to look forward to. Theodore would come out to the villa as soon after lunch as was decent, and stay until the moon was high over the Albanian mountains.

Thursday was happily chosen, from his point of view, because it was on this day that the seaplane from Athens arrived and landed in the bay not far from the house.

Theodore had a passion for watching seaplanes land. Unfortunately the only part of the house from which you could get a good view of the bay was the attic, and then it meant leaning perilously out of the window and craning your neck. The plane would invariably arrive in the middle of tea; a dim, drowsy hum could be heard, so faint one could not be sure it was not a bee. Theodore, in the middle of an anecdote or an explanation, would suddenly stop talking, his eyes would take on a fanatical gleam, his beard would bristle, and he would cock his head on one side.

'Is that ..., er ..., you know..., is that the sound of a plane?' he would inquire.

Everyone would stop talking and listen; slowly the sound would grow louder and louder. Theodore would carefully place his half-eaten scone on his plate.

'Ah ha!' he would say, wiping his fingers carefully. 'Yes, that certainly sounds like a plane ..., er..., um ..., yes.

The sound would grow louder and louder, while Theodore shifted uneasily in his seat.

At length Mother would put him out of his misery. 'Would you like to go up and watch it land?' she would ask.

'Well..., er..., if you're sure...,' Theodore would mumble, vacating his seat with alacrity. "I ..., er..., find the sight very attractive ..., if you're sure you don't mind.'

The sound of the plane's engines would now be directly overhead; there was not a moment to lose.

'I have always been ..., you know..., attracted...,'

'Hurry up, Theo, or you'll miss it,' we would chorus.

The entire family then vacated the table, and, gathering Theodore en route, we sped up the four flights of stairs, Roger racing ahead, barking joyfully. We burst into the attic, out of breath, laughing, our feet thumping like gunfire on the uncarpeted floor, threw open the windows, and leaned out, peering over the olive-tops to where the bay lay like a round blue eye among the trees, its surface as smooth as honey. The plane, like a cumbersome overweight goose, flew over the olive-groves, sinking lower and lower. Suddenly it would be over the water, racing its reflection over the blue surface. Slowly the plane dropped lower and lower. Theodore, eyes narrowed, beard bristling, watched it with bated breath. Lower and lower, and then suddenly it touched the surface briefly, left a widening petal of foam, flew on, and then settled on the surface and surged across the bay, leaving a spreading  fan of white foam behind it. As it came slowly to rest, Theodore would rasp the side of his beard with his thumb, and ease  himself back into the attic.

'Um..., yes,’ he would say, dusting his hands, ‘it is certainly a ..., very ..., er ..., enjoyable sight.’

The show was over. He would have to wait another week for the next plane. We would shut the attic window and troop   noisily downstairs to resume our interrupted tea. The next   week exactly the same thing would happen all over again."

MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS © Gerald Durrell 1956

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