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Thursday, 30 December 2010

Know Thyself- Find Yourself- Discover Yourself!

"Know thyself", γνῶθι σεαυτόν (gnōthi seauton).


Whether an Ancient Greek aphorism or a piece of advice such as you might find in a Christmas cracker or inside a Fortune cookie, this idea has always held some appeal.


Lawrence Durrell believed that Greece could offer you "the discovery of yourself".


All good advice, provided you know where to start looking.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Jak na Nový rok, tak po celý rok!

An old Czech saying, and a good New Year's resolution:

Just as for the New Year, let it be for the whole year -

Jak na Nový rok, tak po celý rok

Šťastný Nový rok!

Robert Burns reads Auld Lang Syne!

Gott Nytt År!

Now which language is that?

One resolution I'm making is to brush up my Swedish and Czech

"Nechval dne pred vecerem" - "Don't praise the day before the evening comes"


The Amharic will have to wait for another lifetime.


 

Kathimerini Commentary on Greece

A useful commentary on the state of Greece.

Few people I know find any cause for optimism.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Old Photos

Christmas cards bring greetings, old memories, sometimes even never seen old photographs, such as this one from my second year at Oxford.



Robin, Ben, Ian and Jim.

Photo by Dave Moir; kindly sent by his widow, Carole Moir.

She also sent two of me in my first year as a freshman (just turned nineteen) at Wadham College, Oxford, in Staircase 7, Room 4,
(note the pipes!) -



Monday, 27 December 2010

PF 2011!

It's time to post my New Year's Greetings, PF 2011!

PF =Pour féliciter

The phrase may be French, but the custom is Czech. 

I'm going to combine it with an old Swedish custom which takes place at Skansen in Stockholm, the recitation in Swedish translation of Lord Tennyson's poem, which comes from In Memoriam (106) . The poem is always read out loud by a famous actor as the clock strikes midnight to ring in the New Year

Ring, klocka ring!

Ring, klocka, ring i bistra nyårsnatten
mot rymdens norrskenssky och markens snö;
det gamla året lägger sig att dö...
Ring själaringning över land och vatten!

Ring in det nya och ring ut det gamla
i årets första, skälvande minut.
Ring lögnens makt från världens gränser ut,
och ring in sanningens till oss som famla...

Ring, klocka, ring... och seklets krankhet vike;
det dagas, släktet fram i styrka går!
Ring ut, ring ut de tusen krigens år,
ring in den tusenåra fredens rike!

From the original poem by Tennyson:

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
        The flying cloud, the frosty light :
        The year is dying in the night ;
    Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
 
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
        Ring, happy bells, across the snow ;
        The year is going, let him go ;
    Ring out the false, ring in the true...
   
Ring out old shapes of foul disease ;
        Ring out the narrowing lust of gold ;
        Ring out the thousand wars of old,
    Ring in the thousand years of peace.

  
Both wonderful customs to wish people peace, health and happiness in the New Year. PF 2011!

Stereotypes

There were plenty of stereotypes (that didn't need much deconstructing) on display in yesterday's traditional Boxing Day pantomime. "Peter Pan" was great fun, even if there would have been a lot more boos at a London theatre.

The Boxing Day edition of The Sunday Times contained an interesting quote, worth a little deeper deconstruction, in an article by Marie Colvin.

Who is the Australian who regards himself as a 'victim of radicalism'? What is his (as-quoted) comment on Saudi Arabia and Sweden?

Quote: "Sweden is the Saudi Arabia of feminism...I fell into a hornets' nest of revolutionary feminism."

As an admirer of both Sweden and Australia (I've never been to Saudi Arabia), I find that hard to take, Julian.

More on country stereotypes here.

Stereotypes of Sweden here.

Sweden (IKEA) in Russia

And to finish, a disarming video about stereotypes of Greece! 

Better than the lame Jeremy Clarkson effort at stereotype humour.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

My Memphis!

the original, by Chuck Berry


and my own Memphis song (100 viewings registered!)


Sol Invictus?

my most popular YouTube number to date! More songs on YouTube at


TCOB wasn't recorded at Sun, Memphis (it's a Corfu recording, thanks to Raul Scacchi).
This album was all Memphis (and a copy is currently being auctioned on EBay): 




Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The Shortest Day of the Year

Today marks midwinter, the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.

Is the glass half empty, or is it half full?

No problem. Just listen to Kiri Te Kanawa sing "In the Bleak Widwinter".

Very appropriate for the weather outside: earth as hard as iron, water like a stone; snow fallen on snow.

RIGHT NOW!

Anyone heading for Stonehenge?

Sol Invictus!


Photo copyright Marie-Lan Nguyen

Who needs Rocking Chair Money?

Final salary, index-linked (which index?), "inflation-proof" pensions are almost certainly a thing of the past. They'll go the way that the gold watch, the golden handshake and the "big cheque" lump sum retirement payout are going...down the tube.

No more "Rockin' Chair Money", even for war veterans?

Hank Williams sings the Bill Carlisle/Lonnie Glosson composition (copyrighted in 1947). Hank recorded it in 1949 (this Shreveport radio version has been overdubbed).


Bill Carlisle 


The Honey Dewdrops


Finally, my own demo-take on the song (recorded at the Sun Studio, Memphis). Rock on down the line!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

West Bay Cliffs, with snow





On "Kallitechnies/ καλλιτεχνίες"

Some days ago I received an anonymous comment, in highly demotic Greek, complaining about "Kallitechnies".

The word (καλλιτεχνίες) means "The Fine Arts". In the context, I think the writer was being dismissive of blog postings that deal with anything "arty", perhaps implying that "kallitechnies" were not much different from "vlachies".

It's a point of view, duly noted!

I try to mix and match.

 

Traditional Christmas Cooking in Britain

A nice piece by Bagehot

If this snow continues, there'll be no need to cook- the turkey will stay in the freezer, as there won't be anyone here to eat it.

On the Music Business...and the potential of YouTube

This article could be of interest (click on "This article...") to those who scorn the potential importance of YouTube.

A friend recently wrote to say that his old friend, who had been a successful singer, would not be interested in putting his material on YouTube because there was no money to be made that way.

Fair weather sailor

I've had many opportunities to learn how to sail, and successfully completed two courses in Sydney Harbour.

Although I love being on the sea,  it seems I'm somewhat reluctant to pursue the sport and I'm not over-eager to take up invitations from friends to go sailing.

I put it down to the coverage of the Sydney to Hobart race in 1998.

That race ended in tragedy . I'll be thinking about it again on Boxing Day. I remember standing on South Head, watching the yachts leaving Sydney Harbour at the beginning of the race. Many yachts soon found themselves in dire distress.

I recall it as if it happened yesterday.

This is how the BBC reported it.

For me, it changed the meaning of Boxing Day.

It's the main reason why I've become a fair-weather sailor.

The Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 was the ultimate nightmare.

The Yetties: Bound for South Australia 

Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick, Ship in Distress

A. L. Lloyd, The Ship in Distress


Plain Sailing (Alexander’s 28th Birthday Poem).

Sailing in Stockholm harbour:

I praise his skill.

My son’s the captain now.


June 2004.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Vikos-Aoos National Park: The Best Bolt-Hole







My preferred natural habitat and bolt-hole. 
Now in UNESCO's Global Network of National Geoparks.

http://www.greeknewsagenda.gr/2010/12/yet-another-greek-entry-on-unesco-list.html

Thanks to Richard Pine for drawing this to my attention.

Wikipedia on the National Park 

Some definitions of bolt-hole:

- a hole through which an animal may bolt when pursued into its burrow   or den
- a path of escape 
- a place for hiding, seclusion, etc.

Where's your favourite bolt-hole?

The Seagull that thinks it's a Phoenix

Samizdat, 1961


A Buddhist WikiLeaks revelation?

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

British Propaganda Films of the 1930s and 1940s



It's not often that The British Council hits the national news headlines. The recent release, online, of newly digitised propaganda films produced by the British Council in the 1930s and 1940s has caught the national imagination. Click on "Digitised Films" on the left side of the home page.

Corfiots and Australians, amongst others, may be amused by the film on cricket.

The Guardian comments. 

Channel 4 News 

The Telegraph, Harry Mount's blog

Monday, 13 December 2010

On Autobiography

Some people get it down in one go. Here's a witty biographical note written by an old friend, Simon Brett

Writing a blog is another approach to autobiography. I've always favoured a diffuse, mosaic-like method.

Maybe that's why I find it so hard to write a novel.

In the meantime, Simon has published 83 books since 1975.

In performance at a library.

Blues Raffle, and More

I was lucky enough to win a 6 CD box set  ("Robert Johnson and The Last of The Great Mississippi Blues Singers") in the raffle at the local Blues Night on Saturday.

Wonderful music by Robert Johnson, Bukka White, Tommy McClennan, Robert Petway, Robert Lockwood et al.

140 tracks! I love Tommy McClennan, but it's not the ideal soundtrack to have rasping through the earphones for an hour when you hit the sack.

I was keen to compare Bukka White's "Bukka's Jitterbug Swing" with the version performed by the evening's talented duo, the song with which they opened their show.  Jim Crawford  and Ian Briggs did a flawless and subtle version on bottleneck and mouth-harp. Mellow, understated, acoustic blues. Refreshing. Easier listening than Tommy!

Their encore was Robert Johnson's classic "Come On In My Kitchen".

Nick Bryant on Sydney...and Oprah

Sydney now

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Standing Too Close to the Edge


Am I the only one to suffer from sympathetic vertigo?

"Standing too close to the edge" - there must be a song title there.

Before the Revolution...British Music in Prague



This is the cover of the programme of a wonderful festival of British Music in Czechoslovakia, which took place in October 1988, the year before the "Velvet Revolution".

Nearly twenty years later:

Walking in Dorset




In the hills above Plush
near the Dorsetshire Gap.
A pity we couldn't stop for a drink at The Brace of Pheasants.

"These Scattered Isles, Alonnisos & the Lesser Northern Sporades"- first impressions

Although, sadly,  I've never been to Alonnisos, I have no hesitation in recommending a splendid new book by Kostas Mavrikis, edited and translated by Anthony Hirst (Academic Director of the Durrell School of Corfu):

"These Scattered Isles, Alonnisos & the Lesser Northern Sporades", Oxford Maritime Reserach, 2010.



I look forward to reading it over the Christmas holidays. It is richly and beautifully illustrated, and the translation and additional material by Anthony Hirst are both scholarly and of interest to anyone concerned with Greece, its culture and history. I found the translator's introduction particularly valuable. I can't wait to settle down to the full 478 pages.

It's available from Colenso Books:

68 Palatine Road
London N16 8ST


Here's the description from the back cover:

"Unlock the mysteries of the Northern Sporades - the Aegean's hidden jewels. Once a refuge for pirates, known variously as Satan's Islands, Demon Islands, Thieves' Dens and the islands of the Magnesians, the Northern Sporades - literally meaning 'scattered' - with their dramatic changes from island to island, strange geological forms and historical remains, are among Greece's most delightful secrets. For These Scattered Isles Kóstas Mavríkis, in the company of those who live or used to live on these islands, has extensively explored the lesser Northern Sporades photographing every trace of ancient habitations which have given rise to countless legends and traditions. Piecing together these legends, the historical evidence and the written texts, Mavríkis has produced a multi-faceted image of the islands of Alónnisos, Peristéra, Kirá Panayá, Yoúra, Pipéri, Psathoúra and Skántzoura and many other smaller islands. Thousands of ships of all epochs lie on the sea-bed of the Sporades, constituting perhaps the most important collection of wrecks in the world, not only for their sheer number but also because of their significance and antiquity. From the time men first set sail with primitive log boats to today's high-technology ships, these islands have served as an important junction, stopping place and refuge. All these wrecks, preserved from human greed and natural disasters, still lie on the sea-bed, ready to deliver their secrets to those who care to look. Originally published in Greek, These Scattered Isles is the product of the author's passionate curiosity to explore the islands and all that they represent, while bearing the fruits of his extraordinarily detailed research. Now translated into English by Anthony Hirst, with additional research by both Mavríkis and Hirst and a wealth of new illustrations, this book cannot fail to delight and enchant you."
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Maritime Research (September 1, 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 0956618103
  • ISBN-13: 978-0956618108

Don Giovanni, Mozart, Finale

While I'm on an opera kick, here's the finale of Don Juan, which opened in Prague on 29 October 1787.

In Joseph Losey's film version

What a great director Losey was (The Servant, etc).

Leoš Janáček , From the House of the Dead


Yes, I sometimes like listening to opera too...

Not the most obvious operas, perhaps. Corfiots tend to like Verdi and Italian opera.

I particularly like Czech opera, as a result of my years in Prague (and travelling throughout Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia). 

Leoš Janáček (July 3, 1854 – August 12, 1928):

"From the House of the Dead", the Overture.

Based on a story by Dostoevsky. Powerful!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Roving Press Book Launch

Congratulations to David Macpherson on the publication of his book "Defenders of Mai-Dun" and to his publishers Tim and Julie Musk of Roving Press, for arranging a very original book-launch at Dorchester Museum in the presence of the Mayor and the Town-Crier.



I was impressed by the publications of Roving Press, and by the owners' sensible approach to locally-focused publishing and to distribution on a manageable scale. It's a very effective model.

On the Irish in Greece, and the Greeks in Ireland

From Athens News, with the views of individuals, including Corfu's Richard Pine

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Bluegrass Time




Photos, Jim Potts (no connection with poem below)




Blue Ridge Mountains


Blue Ridge mountain horseback ride;

Down the forest track in Fall.

The owl is watching. The coyote prowls.

The deer are grazing; quilts are stitched

In the Shenandoah valley.

Country singers entertain us:

Bluegrass or Nashville, they glorify war.

----------------------------------------

The songs that follow don't glorify war!

Bill Monroe and Lester Flatt
My Little Cabin Home on the Hill

Jim and Jesse
I wonder where you are tonight

Claire Lynch
Sweetheart, Darlin' of Mine

Bob Dylan and Ralph Stanley:
The Lonesome River

another song popular with bluegrass and country singers,
Jimmie Rodgers' Anniversary Blue Yodel

Hello City Limits, Red Allen and the Kentuckians 

Tony Rice and Terry Baucom, Blue Ridge Mountain Home (shaky camerawork)

Bill Monroe, Blue Moon of Kentucky

finally, one from The Monroe Brothers (Banks of the Ohio)

Greek Christmas, Ethiopian Christmas

Two very different Orthodox cultures celebrate Christmas:

Greek Christmas Chant

Lalibela, Ethiopia, Christmas Eve

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Euro in December 2010

Gavin Hewitt (BBC) on the Euro.

and Robert Peston (interview with Gordon Brown) 

A useful contribution to the debate from The Corfu Blog citing an article by Kathleen Broooks, of Forex.

The Economist 

Dr Nouriel Roubini (Athens News) 

Charlemagne, 16 December

EuroIntelligence 17 December

The Telegraph 21 December

Euripides at Kingston Lacy; 1503 copy of Euripides, from the convent of St Catherine on Mount Sinai


We all know about the Elgin Marbles, but I didn't know about the Kingston Lacy Euripides volume until I started reading Anne Sebba's biography of William Bankes (The Exiled Collector, William Bankes and the Making of an English Country House) following a visit to the National Trust property at Kingston Lacy, Dorset.



In her chapter on "Exploration" (p. 65) she writes of Bankes' collecting trips and of his visit to St. Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai, where he "rummaged in an astonishing library of 2,000 dusty volumes including several manuscripts and ancient works in Greek and 'brought away' several volumes. Perhaps the monks allowed him, or Bankes decided to help himself. One volume is today in the library of Kingston Lacy, a 1503 copy of Euripides annotated on the flyleaf: 'Brought from the convent of St Catherine upon Mount Sinai in August 1815 by Wm. John Bankes'. If he removed (or was given) others, they were apparently returned."

I'm curious to know if the Euripides volume contains any significant textual variants or lost plays.

What else is in the library or lies in the cellars at Kingston Lacy?

Much of great interest it would appear.

Bankes Family Archive, Dorset History Centre (UPDATE July 2015)

The Bankes Homer



On Literary Terms...and Reality

There are certain literary terms which I have been using freely and uncritically for the best part of forty to fifty years, concepts which seem to have no scientific basis, if we wish to talk in terms of 'objective reality'.

I am thinking of words, phrases and concepts like "the Absurd" (Camus), "Catharsis/Katharsis" (Aristotle), "Inscape and Instress" (Hopkins), and terms like "Metaphysical" as applied to Donne and others.

Yet I think I understand the meaning of these words. I've always recognised "the Absurd", I've occasionally experienced something akin to "katharsis" when watching a Greek tragedy, Shakespeare's "King Lear" or listening to a profound blues song, and Hopkins' concept of "inscape" makes absolute sense if one takes the trouble to look closely at natural phenomena, even something as simple as a frost-covered branch, a leaf, or a hollow old oak-stump.

A sketch by  Gerard Manley Hopkins: Hampstead. 1862. Oak-stump.


"And for all this, nature is never spent;
  There lives the dearest freshness deep down things"

(Hopkins)

The Most Moving Greek Song- of all time!

It's subjective of course, and there are hundreds of songs that might qualify, but I am going to propose an old Smyrna (Asia Minor) style song by Marika Papagika:


Ti se meli esenane apo pou eimai ego?

It's a real heartbreaker. Especially when you think of the fate of the Asia Minor Greek population from Smyrna and the surrounding villages.

"What does it matter to you, where I come from?"

There are some other masterpieces of Greek song posted here.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

On Bob Dylan and Retirement

This is worth a read following my posting on Little Richard (one of Bob's first influences, believe it or not).

Bob's still got some hard travelling down the line.

But are people still buying and collecting?

Monday, 6 December 2010

Little Richard plays at 78!

Rock 'n' Roll and Soul don't come any better than this...

I don't know what you've got, but it's got me

Lucille

Ready Teddy

and somewhat tasteless, but tongue in cheek...Good Golly Miss Molly 

Long Tall Sally (Live on radio, Australia, 1957)

You wouldn't think that Little Richard (born December 5, 1932) "gave up" rock 'n' roll back in 1957, after he'd played Newcastle (New South Wales). According to Johnny O'Keefe, Little Richard "opened the window of the bus and threw his jewellery into the Hunter River." Then, in Melbourne, Little Richard was "very worried about the first sputnik that was going over on the night we opened...Richard says, 'That's it. The end of the world is coming. I'm going to die in America. I'm not going to sing any more'."

He quit show business to go back to religion. Interview extract

Joy, Joy, Joy

Before too long he was rocking again. Yesterday he was 78.

Chronia Polla!

This is the song I first had as a 78: Long Tall Sally (backed with Tutti Frutti).

Titos Patrikios, Greek Poet



Titos Patrikios

An interview with Saskia Handley

and a poem, The Mountains on Poetry International Web (there are other fine poems here)

Check out other Greek poets 

Try this poem, 13-12-43, by Manolis Anagnostakis. One to read on December 13th?

Promoting UK Higher Education- in Australia (from the Archives)

"For the seriously imaginative"
with Dr. Alison Chiu, David Malouf AO and Malcolm Turnbull (Sydney, 1999).

With the current controversy about the planned increases in student tuition fees at UK universities, it is worth remembering that the UK model of student loans/tuition fees came from Australia, where the system seemed to work well and impressed Sir Ron Dearing and his visiting team (Dearing Report, 1997).

Malcolm Turnbull was a former Rhodes Scholar. Poet and novelist David Malouf taught in a British secondary school in the 1960s.

"It is important for Australians to engage the world. The great virtue of studying away from home is that it provides a wider variety of experiences. We are living in an increasingly international world", 
said Malcolm Turnbull then.

British students would do well to heed his advice nowadays. Relatively few  (1 in 200) study overseas, even for a part of their degree courses.

Some recent thoughts by Bagehot (December 16, 2010)

Other concerns



Sunday, 5 December 2010

Santa Lucia in Sweden

Santa Lucia is celebrated in Sweden on 13 December... whether you experience it in church or at Globen, it's unforgettable.

There's nowhere more beautiful than Stockholm at this time of the year. It's a city of light.

I was fortunate enough to spend more than three years in Stockholm, and to work with a wonderful small team of people (photo by Cato):







Sweden has some great blues singers and musicians too, like Louise Hoffsten
- although you couldn't get much further away from the image of Saint Lucia.
Some find her version of this Muddy Waters song a little too different. Ignore the images, listen to her play that mouth-harp.

The Season of Goodwill, the Czech Way



What better way to get in the feel-good mood than with Ryba's Christmas Mass?

Followed by this carol:

Vánoční koleda: Půjdem spolu do Betléma 


This is another delightful carol sung by  Linda and Radek in a simple home video

And a recording by my old friend, the songwriter and guitarist Vladimir Merta, made in 1989, the year I left Prague

It wouldn't be my image of Golden Prague without hearing from another old friend, the brilliant  Jan Vodnansky  (Jan Vodňanský) 

and Jan again 

Finally, another old friend who found fame as a child actress/singer:

Jiří Suchý with Magda Křížková - Toulaví zpěváci

Saturday, 4 December 2010

The Ionian Islands and Epirus, A Cultural History- still selling well

Waterstones book-signing, today.
"The Ionian Islands and Epirus"

Online excerpts

Update
Review in the Times Literary Supplement, 11. 2. 2011:


Luckily the snow turned to rain.






(Photo Above: Dorset Echo)

ALEXIS, Dorset Soul Sensation!


A lively performance at a local Indian restaurant by ALEXIS last night, singing all the Motown and Tina Turner hits with great panache and conviction. A very talented and professional singer.

She deserves to be much better known. With good management and a live backing group, she could hit the big-time.

Friday, 3 December 2010

A Letter about Smoking in Greece

The Athens News sometimes prints some good letters from readers, such as the first one here about smoking in cafes and restaurants. Let's hope the law is being enforced this time around.

Update, December 17th, Richard Pine in The Irish Times.

The Wolf is Back (Howlin' Wolf) - for Ian

This one's for Ian and family. Not the ideal Christmas or New Year's song!

Going Down Slow

Did you know that the spoken introduction is by Willie Dixon, not Howlin' Wolf?


I Have Had My Fun  

Man, you know I’ve enjoyed things that Kings and Queens will never have-
In fact Kings and Queens will never get-
And they don’t even know about,
And good times, ooohmmm!

I have had my fun….

Now looka-here,
I did not say I was a millionaire
But I said I’ve spent more money than a millionaire.
If I had kept all the money I’ve already spent
I would have been a millionaire a long time ago-
And women! Googlie-mooglie!

I have had my fun...


Another cool-cat song, more suitable for the Christmas shopping season:

Shoppin' for Clothes, by The Coasters. Ian is right about the brilliant inventive wit and poetic comic narrative of so many Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller lyrics.

"Try it on, stand in the mirror and dig yourself ".

It takes me back to schooldays in Bruton, Somerset, going to the "out of bounds" cafe with a juke-box where everyone selected "Yakety-Yak" and "Charlie Brown".

Snow! - in case you didn't know


Yes it's been snowing

It might almost be Flanders or Greece (I mean the Pindus mountains in February) :



I'm beginning to wonder if I'll make it to my own book-signing at Waterstones tomorrow.

My writing desk: