Hilary Paipeti moved to Corfu many years ago and since then she enjoys every day on this lovely Greek island. In fact, she has integrated well in the local community and offers her services for the welfare of the island: working in tourism, writing books about Corfu and publishing a local magazine, The Corfiot.
"I created The Corfiot at the start of 1990 with a friend called Angela Papageorgiou in response to a need for the growing foreign community to find out what was going on", she says. "Don't forget, this was the time that the Greek authorities, anxious to gain full membership of the EU, were making things easier for foreigners to settle and work in the country (in the mid-80s, I had to import money just to be able to reside here!). As a result, we were starting to see a different group of people arriving, not just the "old school" of wealthy retirees and the girls who married locals. We thought there was a need for all the groups, but especially the new ones, to keep in touch with what was going on. Thus we named our first news-sheet Epaphi, which means "contact". The first few issues were run off on my quite sophisticated electric typewriter, which could justify columns, and to a certain extent word-process. But then I had to cut and paste manually onto a paper template, which the print-shop then photographed for the page-proofs. About a year down the line, when due to work commitments Angela could no longer offer any input on production, I moved into a cooperation with a Corfiot newspaper proprietor and was able to use his computerized production facilities. At this point, the magazine was renamed The Corfiot. A couple of years later, I got my own Mac, and that's where we are today, but now handling everything on a little laptop!"
What are the usual topics in your magazine?
Each issue contains a mix of topics, starting with an editorial take, often slyly humorous, on what's been going on ('Ear to the Ground'), then news and events ('People in the News') and articles on various Corfu-related subjects. Towards the back we usually have some recipes based on seasonal ingredients, letters if any, and during the summer some standard tourist information, like beaches and places to visit. The articles are very eclectic in nature, and could range from someone's experience of life in Corfu ('My Corfu'), to uncovering a scandal (for example, the truth about Corfu's rubbish tip), through to speculating on possible key-lines and how they tie in with local mythology. Sometimes we feature a trip off the island- somewhere accessible from Corfu, like Athens, Albania, Zagoria or Venice. And often there's a piece about some spot I've discovered on the island, and want to share with readers ('Corfu Off the Map'). In general, I would say that the general editorial thread is very much pro-Corfu, slightly anti-establishment, and very much concerned with environment and tradition. We were the first local publication to protest against the aerial spraying of the olive trees, and our campaign against the devastating cropping of the trees was one of the main factors which prompted a change in the law. We struggled for years to list events coming up during the coming month, but working to the necessary timescale with the locals proved impossible, and was only delaying publication.
For example, the cinema only knows what films are playing a couple of weeks beforehand, which is no use to me, and the "administrators" at places like the theatre would be downright rude when I requested information for the coming month. Anyway, the matter of event information has now been resolved with the online What's Up Corfu site, which works on a much shorter timescale.
Is your magazine printed or online?
Up to now, The Corfiot has been a print magazine available in shops selling foreign press. In parallel, during the past 3-4 years we have developed an online issue, which so far has been presented as a downloadable pdf file of the print copy. All issues are free-to-read online. Now, due to the economic crisis, which is causing hugely rising print costs (why? they should be reducing them!) and increasing difficulty amongst advertisers, we are going fully and exclusively online, completely free. Once I get the technology sorted, The Corfiot will be in html format - that is, it will be laid out like the Telegraph or Mail. This means I'm no longer constrained by a set number of pages, or even concerned by what will catch someone's eye at the kiosk; so I'm expecting this move to be a forward step as significant as was graduating from cutting up and gluing bits of papers to make up pages, to creating the layouts on a Mac! That's not to say that there will not be any more print issues. If it looks as if things are going better as the tourist season approaches, we may bring out a Summer Bumper Edition, which will be distributed as normal.
Do you have standard journalists or anyone can send in their articles in your magazine?
Yes and yes. We have certain standard writers who might contribute more or less regularly, but we also welcome contributions from any writer (by the way, we are able to pay only by special arrangement). We have had a series of Anglican Chaplains who have supplied a 'Chaplain's Chat', but possibly our most distinguished semi-regular contributor has been John Forte, formerly British Consul, and the man who single-handedly saved Corfu's cricketing tradition. As far as a one-time contribution goes, my favourite remains one sent in by my brother, Colonel Andy Whitton, who gave me a world exclusive story about a secret visit by David Cameron to Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, photos and all!
How did you find yourself from the UK to Corfu?
I came to Corfu by accident in 1981, having applied for work as a travel rep in Crete. In lateryears while working at the World Travel Market, I'd sometimes run into the guy who hired me, and he'd say: "Mmmm... and you wanted to go to Crete..." In truth, I would admit that I was so desperate to get away from the UK that I'd have settled anywhere I got sent - I was just very very lucky it was beautiful Corfu! I think what a lot of us like about the island is that Corfu, certainly the rural part, is settled in a sort of time-warp. It's a place where those who say 'stop the planet, I want to get off!' really can get off (that's as long as you keep away from bureaucracy!). You can follow a more natural lifestyle in many ways, yet still jump back on Planet Earth by going to Town or by heading for one of the resorts in summer.
Another aspect I find many people like is the contrast in the way of life according to the seasons. Depending on whether it is winter or summer (or indeed spring and autumn now we've got them back), your sleep patterns are different, as are the type of food you eat and the activities you indulge in. I don't think it's really like that in Northern Europe any more - there, the year is just a blur of sameness, apart from, of course, the excitement of The X-Factor on the run-up to Christmas... Oh yes, Christmas! Though in recent years shops have begun to suss out that they can make money from encouraging you to buy gifts and so on, the level of commercialism is much lower. Except amongst some isolated ex-pat groups, there's no 'keep up with the Jones's' ethos, and no-one looks down on you because you don't have a fancy new car and designer clothes. At least, not the folk I mix with. Now I have tracked down a local source of my favourite Lapsang tea, and can buy good walking boots from the Internet, there's nothing I need that I can't get.
What's the special thing about this island?
What I think defines the island as far as tourism goes is its diversity, which has not really been exploited by the tourism authorities (most of whom would prefer to stick tourists in a resort and forget about them). There really is SO MUCH to do and see, even after nearly 30 years I am still discovering new places! Unfortunately, our visitors, unless they are very independently-minded, miss out on this, as they are just sold the idea that Corfu is a 'Sun and Sand' destination, with the other 'S' being available mainly in Kavos. In response, and with the invaluable support of Acharavi hotelier Fried Aumann, I created the Corfu Trail, to help people hike and discover the real Corfu out of the resorts. Fried and I are also developing some local footpath networks. Unfortunately, these are among very few initiatives designed to provide the "alternative tourism" product which the authorities have all been ineffectively mouthing on about for years. All hot air. It's very indicative that whatever has been achieved in the "alternative tourism" sector has been enacted by private enterprise, whereas whatever has been enacted by the authorities has only achieved a lucrative siphoning of public money into private trouser pockets.
Since I am aware that not every visitor wants to go out hiking (and in high summer no-one wants to), my latest venture is called 'Corfu Off the Map'. It comprises a collection of the articles previously published in The Corfiot on this theme. The idea came from an email sent by a reader praising an 'Off the Map' about the Springs at Kyprianades; he wrote that a visit there 'made his holiday' and begged for more of the same. I hope that this may encourage more visitors to leave the confines of their resort and see the real Corfu that we know and love.
What's your favorite place in Corfu?
That's the trouble: the island's so diverse that to give an answer would be like choosing my favourite song from twenty different genres of music! Out of the villages, I love Lefkimmi, but also Giannades, and any settlement on Pantokrator especially on a blustery winter's day. For walking, I would choose the Pantokrator Massif, but I also adore Agios Mattheos Mountain and the open plains around Lake Korission. Things to do? A fossick around Jumbo Hypermarket (for stuff I really, really need, honest!), but also an egg-and-chip lunch with friends in Strinilas. I'm not a great beach fan, but if pushed would choose either Arkoudillas on the west coast near Kavos, or Arillas in the north west. But I think that my absolutely very favourite spot is that little corner behind... but I'm sure you will discover it for yourself.