In 1951 the Australian writers Charmian Clift and George Johnston left grey, post-war London for Greece. Settling first on the tiny island of Kalymnos, then Hydra, their plan was to live simply and focus on their writing, away from the noise of the big city. The result is two of Charmian Clift's best known and most loved books, the memoirs Mermaid Singing and Peel Me a Lotus. Mermaid Singing relays the culture shock and the sheer delight of their first year on the tiny sponge-fishing island of Kalymnos. Clift paints an evocative picture of the characters and sun-drenched rhythms of traditional life, long before backpackers and mass tourism descended. On Hydra, featured in the companion volume, Peel Me a Lotus, Clift and Johnston became the centre of an informal community of artists and writers including the then unknown Leonard Cohen who lodged with them, and his future girlfriend Marianne Ihlen.