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Sunday, 28 February 2010

FOR PEOPLE WHO CARE ABOUT CORFU: 4 BOOKS




“CORFU BLUES”
by JIM POTTS (Ars Interpres)

“Perfectly captures the colour of the Greek islands and their people." (Proper Home Greece). “A positive contribution towards an understanding of modern Greece” (Athens News)


“THE CAT OF PORTOVECCHIO, CORFU TALES”,
MARIA STRANI-POTTS (Brandl & Schlesinger)

“Read it, it'll change your life and the way you love (and live) the Corfu idyll.” (ISLAND)
“A relentless and seductive intelligence… never less than provocative. A pleasure to read and, even for Corfiots, an education” (The Anglo-Hellenic Review)


THE IONIAN ISLANDS AND EPIRUS, A CULTURAL HISTORY”, JIM POTTS (SIGNAL BOOKS, OXFORD, 2010)

“A mosaic portrait of the Ionian Islands and special places of interest in Epirus, this book focuses on the landscapes, legends, traditions and historical events that have appealed most strongly to the imaginations of writers, residents and travellers. This book reveals the extraordinary cultural legacy of this beautiful part of the world.”


“TO POULIMA TIS PANOREAS” ("The Pimping of Panorea"), MARIA STRANI-POTTS, CorfuBooks.com.

“An absolute must-read” (ISLAND).

“Πρόκειται πραγματικά για ένα λογοτέχνημα-ράπισμα και ταυτόχρονα μια αφοπλιστική περιγραφή του χώρου που ζούμε, ποιότητες που δίνουν στο βιβλίο τον χαρακτήρα μανιφέστου, το οποίο μπορεί να συνοψιστεί στο «τέρμα τα λόγια, ώρα για δράση” Dr.Kostas Kardamis.

“I didn’t just read it, I studied it closely. This book should be read by political candidates, and by all those who work in institutions and who hold any kind of power, or who hold the fate of the island in their hands.” Dimitris Konidaris, Enimerosi.

“The Cat of Portovecchio, Corfu Tales” and “Corfu Blues” are available in Corfu at PLOUS Bookshop, Nikiforou Theotoki Street.


Saturday, 27 February 2010

τώρα που ανθίζουν τα κλαδιά και βγάζει η γης χορτάρι

Για δες καιρό που διάλεξε ο χάρος να με πάρει, τώρα που ανθίζουν τα κλαδιά και βγάζει η γης χορτάρι

Thought for the day, while walking in the hills above Acharavi, nature at its best. It's still a little early for a thought like that.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

FOCUS magazine: the cover





The cover and the article may be highly offensive, but the magazine has sold out in Corfu. You can follow part of the story on the magazine's website:

http://www.focus.de/magazin/videos/focus-titel-betrueger-in-der-euro-familie_vid_15672.html

The magazine's cover caption seems to translate as "Swindlers in the Euro-Family" ("Betrueger" means swindlers, frauds, cheats, deceivers).

Greeks are now calling for the return of their gold, seized during World War II.

It's getting heavy.

The Times carried an article on February 26, 2010 ("Markets on slide as Greek disease scares investors"), which quoted Carl Heinz Daube, the managing director of the German debt management office, who said that if Greece defaulted on its debt repayments, it could end the single currency system in Europe. “If a country goes bankrupt, it will be the end [of the eurozone],” he said."

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The Sea Grave (Plava Grobnica)


Thanks to Ljubomir Saramandic for sending me an English translation of the poem "Plava Grobnica" by Milutin Bojic (see earlier posting on the topic of the poem and the Serbian evacuation of 1916 to Corfu and Vido island).

Here are some extracts from the English translation (from Ljubomir's book, "Pilgrimage to Corfu") by Mihailo Djordjevic:

The Sea Grave

Beneath the sea, on sleeping shells
And weeds that gently fall,
Lies a grave of heroes, brother next to brother,
Prometheuses of hope, apostles of tragedy.

Don't you feel how gently the sea swells
Not to disturb their eternal rest?
From the deep a sense of peace prevails,
While an exhausted moon gazes at the sea...

Can't you feel from these blue depths
That piety rules these seas
And the air is rife with mystery?
The souls of heroes walk the seas...

For many centuries will pass
Like waves which rule the seas.
And a new generation will build a house
Of glory of these very graves.


The poet describes the tragic sea-grave under the blue waves around Vido, and demands silence for his requiem mass in honour of those fellow Serbs whose bodies were buried in the sea.

For the Serbs, the waters around Vido are sacred, "holy waters". Why not have this poem to hand next time you go to Vido and visit the Serbian Memorial or listen to one of the moving Serbian renditions of Plava Grobnica on YouTube?

Thanks, Ljubomir, for sharing this translation. I look forward to seeing your complete book in English translation.

Update 2013

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

"GREECE AND BRITAIN SINCE 1945" - new book




GREECE AND BRITAIN SINCE 1945, edited by David Wills, has just been published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

"In 1945 the modern country and people of Greece were unknown to many Britons. This book explores the transformation and varying fortunes of Anglo-Greek relations since that time. The focus is on the perceptions and attitudes shown by British and Greek writers, audiences, and organisations.

"Greece and Britain Since 1945" has contributions from leading academics, journalists, novelists, and public servants. Subjects covered include: literature by Greek writers in English translation; the work of the British Council and international aid agencies; and television series set in Greece."

Contributing authors include Peter Mackridge, David Connolly and Alexandra Moschovi.

My own chapter is concerned with cultural relations between Britain and Greece, and with the work of The British Council in Greece since 1939, and post-war.

It can be ordered online at www.c-s-p.org or by email at order@c-s-p.org

Monday, 22 February 2010

CORFU BLUES- now read the book!


See the Ars Interpres webpage for book ordering details for "CORFU BLUES"

Please note some of the biographical information on the Ars Interpres page is out of date.

Corfu Blues contains articles (Corfu, Paxos, Zagori; Lawrence Durrell, Lord Byron, Greek music, philotimo; an in depth Cacoyannis interview) and poems about the Ionian Islands, Greece and the Balkans.
 
ATHENS NEWS: "The book makes a positive contribution towards an understanding of Modern Greece"

KATHIMERINI: "He has internalised vast knowledge of Greek culture"

NEW HORIZONS: "An invigorating enthusiasm, a level of scholarship which commands respect and a degree of empathy with another culture which offers insights to us all"

PROPER HOME GREECE: "His work perfectly captures the colour of the Greek islands and their people".

and an online review from 2006

Sunday, 21 February 2010

THE IONIAN ISLANDS AND EPIRUS, Special Order Form




The book is the warehouse and on Amazon.co.uk.

The publisher has sent me this revised flyer. If you print out the order form and fill in all the details, you can order the book (by post) with a 20% discount (post and package extra, as stated). Payment is by credit card or sterling cheque only. Please note that neither the author of the book nor this blog-writer accepts any responsibility or liability for handling these orders. The publisher and publicist are responsible for dealing with these orders and the despatch of books.

The form must be returned to Kathleen May at SIGNAL BOOKS (see revised address on form).

The book can also be ordered through Amazon.co.uk. It is available at Eleftheroudakis Bookshop in Athens and at PLOUS Bibliopoleio, Nik. Theotoki Street, Corfu.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Radio Kima Interview

This is my hundredth blog posting!

Well, I survived the two hour live radio interview last night and thoroughly enjoyed it, thanks to the excellent and sympathetic producer/presenter Angela Rengi. It wasn't "Hard Talk" although there were some hard and personal questions. We established a good rapport. My Greek seemed to fail me at times. It's frustrating when you can't think of the right word or witty answer when you need it. I was able to play some of my favourite songs. This was the final playlist:

Dromoi Palioi (Mikis Theodorakis).
San Pethano Sto Karavi (Sotiria Bellou).
Ta Kleftopoula/Paidia tis Samarinas (Savvas Siatras).
Mia Mera Pou Tha Kanei Krio (Aliki Kayaloglou/Mikis Theodorakis).
Thirty One (Jim Potts/Raul Scacchi)
Theresa (Raul Scacchi/Jim Potts/Kaliroe Raouzeou)
I Just Want to Make Love To You (Louise Hoffsten)
Shake It Baby (John Lee Hooker)
Bird On a Wire (Johnny Cash)

There were a lot more songs I wanted to play (no time even for Bob Dylan!), but I hope everyone was satisfied with the selection. We discussed many other topics apart from music, including my new book "The Ionian Islands and Epirus, A Cultural History".

I once had my own blues radio programme in Sydney. On the whole I prefer to be on the other side of the mike. I was very impressed by the professionalism of the Radio Kima studio.

A big thank you again to Angela, and to Taki, who arranged it.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Radio Kima, 90.3 FM, Corfu, 18 February

I'm looking forward to talking to Angela Rengi tomorrow night (18 February) on Corfu's Radio Kima, 90.3 FM , from 10 pm until midnight.

I'm not quite sure what to expect: the programme will be in Greek, part interview, part chat-show, part music. I've been asked to select about 8 to 10 songs to be played on the show. I'm down to about 20 so far, half Greek, half in English.

The reason I've been invited? The publication of "The Ionian Islands and Epirus, A Cultural History".

Thanks to Takis and Pinelopi for kindly sending out a press release, and for making this possible.

Thanks also to Angela at Radio Kima, http://www.kymaradio.gr/

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Vitsa Carnival Party








There may have been 40cms of snow all around, which prevented the bonfires from being lit, but the carnival party warmed everyone up. It was the last night of carnival. Mulled wine and hot bean soup: the music was even hotter! It even got me dancing with my snow boots on.

Congratulations to the Politistikos Syllogos!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

The Ionian Islands and Epirus: a talk about the book

http://www.corfuland.gr/el/biblio/corfu-books-kerkyra/paroysiasi-biblioy-the-ionian-islands-and-epirus-a-cultural-history-03-03-2010.html

Corfuland.gr is carrying an item in Greek about my forthcoming talk at the Durrell School of Corfu on March 3rd (copy the link above).

I will post the press release in English towards the end of the month, when the book will be in the Signal Books warehouse.

Corfuland.gr is calling this a book launch or presentation, but it will be more of a general introduction to the book and the approach I took in writing it.

I am very grateful to Richard Pine for the opportunity to give this talk.

In the meantime, I'm in Zagori with 25 cms of snow. I hope I can dig myself out in time for the talk! I'm amazed we have electricity again, and intermittent access to the internet (by dial-up phone modem).

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Who is the painter?




The book catalogue gives the game away. It's a detail of a watercolour drawing by Oscar Epfs, a pseudonym of Lawrence Durrell. Other works by this artist are reproduced in "Lawrence Durrell, The Big Supposer, A Dialogue with Marc Alyn" (1973). Durrell told Alyn (p. 101) "I've always done water-colours. When I was about twenty I lived on a Greek island with a young painter. It was then that I started to look at things through watercolours. When I went to Paris, Miller encouraged me...Miller taught me how to paint masterpieces."

Epfs/Durrell may not be a painter of masterpieces, but it is high time that Corfu hosted an exhibition of his paintings, perhaps alongside those of Henry Miller.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

From the Archives: When I met The Rolling Stones





Sir Mick Jagger deserved his Knighthood.

"Sticky Fingers" was one of their great albums ("Wild Horses", "Brown Sugar", "You Gotta Move" etc).

Mick could also be a perfect diplomat, as he was at this State Reception in Melbourne in March 1995. So were the other Stones. It was an honour to meet them (it's not me in the photo with them,by the way, it's the Premier of Victoria).

Not the most likely place to meet the Rolling Stones, perhaps!

Arise, Sir Mick!

From the archives: Honouring Yannis Ritsos




A photograph from 1984, Thessaloniki:

Honouring the Fiftieth Anniversary of Yannis Ritsos's first book of poetry.

Preparing for the evening's event (above).

An article from Thessaloniki newspaper, 24 October, 1984  (below)

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Allied Bombing Raids, Corfu






I've been reading an interesting and well-researched book in Greek, "Kerkyra, September 1943" (1996,1999) by George Athanasainas, which was awarded the prize of the Academy of Athens.

Many people do not realise that, apart from the appallingly destructive German incendiary bombings of Corfu in September 1943, there were also Allied bombing raids such as those in June 1944 (said to be a diversion from the Normandy landings), during which the Panagia Mandrakina church was destroyed, and earlier American bombings such as the P-38 attack on the transport ship Mario Rosselli (anchored in the harbour near Vido) on 10 October 1943, which may have claimed over a thousand victims (killed either by the explosions or by drowning), Italian prisoners of war who had been loaded on the ship by the Germans for transportation to Patras and onwards to concentration camps.

Some Corfiots were hit or injured by "friendly fire" during various Allied raids, my father-in-law amongst them (when visiting Lefkimmi).

Another important book is Sven Lindqvist's "A History of Bombing", 2001. He points out that the Italians dropped the first bomb from an aeroplane. It "exploded in an oasis outside Tripoli on November 1, 1911".

The photograph above of a bomb dropping- not on Corfu, but on Verona, Italy, on 28 January 1944, was taken by a US Air Force airman. Rapporto del bombardamento su Verona del 28/01/1944:"Gli obbiettivi del bombardamento sono segnati con delle croci, i cerchietti segnano i punti dove sono cadute le bombe."

How much lasting bitterness is caused by events of this nature...

I discussed it at length with my old friend Dr. Flavio Andreis in Verona, when he invited me to give a lecture on the Blues as Artform at the Italy-USA Cultural Association, in the beautiful Biblioteca Capitolare di Verona, in April 2008.

A virtual tour of Panagia Mandrakina

Lord Guilford




Lord Guilford (Frederick North, fifth Earl of Guilford, 1766-1827) founder of the Ionian Academy.

The first Greek University started in his house in Metropoleos Street in 1823. It later moved to the Old Frourio and to the famous Ionian Academy building in 1840/1841.

Although there is a plaque outside the Academy building stating that the poet Andreas Kalvos "taught here", I'm not so sure that he did, as he had resigned his professorship before the Academy itself had actually opened in that building after its move from the Old Frourio. He did of course teach at the Academy.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Who is it? Where is it?





It's not Corfu!

Could it be Bermuda?

Could it be Spanish Point?

Could it be John Lennon and his son, back in 1980?

I was standing at the very same spot last October.

John was inspired to write a number of the songs on "Double Fantasy" during his holiday on Bermuda- a wonderful island.

I did a double take when I saw it.

In Stockholm, Yoko signed my "Double Fantasy" CD.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Tsiknopemti: Shrove-Thursday Carnival Event






An enjoyable carnival evening outside Corfu's Town Hall in Porta Remunda.

Free souvlakis were one of the attractions, and people loved the carnival-court satirical trial played by "drunken" masked actors. I enjoyed the kantades, especially the harmonious rendition of Solomos' poem "I Agnoristi". When the poet first settled in Corfu in 1828, he lived for a year or two in the house of Polylas, just above the spot where the "folk-troubadours" did such credit to his poem:

Poia einai touti
Pou kataivainei
Asprodimeni
Och to vouno?

...

Kai ton mallione tis
T'oraio plithos
Panou 's to stithos
Lambei xantho.

Echoun ta matia tis,
Opou yeloune,
To chroma pou 'nai
'S ton ourano.....

Maybe Solomos was back there in spirit this Shrove-Thursday, smelling the smoke of the souvlakia grilling on the charcoal: Tsiknopemti!

Details in Greek:

6.30μ.μ. «Κορφιάτικα Τραγούδια» από τους

Κερκυραίους Λαϊκούς Τροβαδούρους

7.00μ.μ. «Κρασοδικείο» Θέατρο Δρόμου από την

Ομάδα Σατυρικού Καρναβαλιού

See www.corfuland.gr for the rest of the carnival programme.

Simon Baddeley on the British Protectorate

Simon Baddeley gave a fascinating and provocative talk about the Lords High Commissioners and their relations with the Ionians, at the Durrell School of Corfu on Wednesday evening.

Many members of the audience wished Simon's talk could have been twice as long. That's the sign of a good communicator.

A hard act to follow!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Porta Remunda/ Porta Raimonda



This is a detail from the map by Giovanni Battista Bragadin, "Dissegno topografico della citta di Corfu", mid eighteenth century (c. 1755?), dedicated to Andrea Tron.

They have a copy at the Society of Corfiot Studies (Solomos Museum).

Who was Raymond?

Monday, 1 February 2010

Villa Rossa, Corfu - Η ΒΙΛΛΑ ΡΟΣΣΑ ΣΤΗ ΚΕΡΚΥΡΑ







It must be one of the most melancholic and deeply depressing sights in Corfu, the derelict red mansion called Villa Rossa, which really looks much grimmer than an utter ruin.

Building of the splendid mansion had begun in 1864. It was probably the first house in Corfu to benefit from electricity, generated for the Aspioti factory. It became one of the most prestigious centres of social life for the high society of Corfu at one time, with grand receptions, sometimes attended by members of the Greek Royal Family and visited by the King of Greece, according to Tasos Papanastasatos (in his tribute to Maria Aspioti, Porfyras, January-March 2002).

Writers, artists and intellectuals were also warmly welcomed there.
It was owned by the Aspioti family. Maria Aspioti (1909-2000) lived there and entertained many British visitors, friends and colleagues like Francis King and Lawrence Durrell. As Director of the British Council Corfu branch from 1945-1955, Maria (or Marie) was in contact with leading figures of the British arts world throughout that decade, and later.

It is probably far too late now for the restoration of Villa Rossa, although extensive studies and surveys have been made, and although the building was bought by the Greek state in 1997; it is the responsibility of Corfu Prefecture, as far as I have understood the somewhat complicated situation.

The online “Corfu Today” reported in September 2008 that “abandonment has led to the situation that we all see today. Outside the wretched image is visible to everyone, while the internal situation is much worse for those who know.”

The catalogue of neglect is appalling. The building is rotting and about to collapse, which is presumably why it is now propped up and surrounded by supporting iron girders.

The responsible authorities talk of the ‘immediate restoration’ of Villa Rossa as their prime concern.

Much data has been collected. Worthwhile and functional uses have been proposed for the building, if and when it is restored.

There are other unsafe and melancholic sites in Corfu, such as the Olive Oil Factory in Mandouki. I am sure readers can suggest many more.

There may be competing priorities in this difficult economic climate, but somebody should surely do something!

Report in Greek Η ΒΙΛΛΑ ΡΟΣΣΑ ΣΤΗ ΚΕΡΚΥΡΑ

Update July 2011, by John's Corfu World

Update 16 June 2012. The local Corfu press (Enimerosi, Epikairotita, Ta Kerkyraika Nea) reports at length today that a committee decision has been made (14 June) to convert the abandoned Villa Rossa into a Museum of Corfu Town. See ERT


Let's wait and see.