Halloween Humor

Halloween is not really a thing in Greece but, as it amuses children—and some adults presumably— Halloween parties do take place, but no trick or treating as such. However, as put off as I am by the usual overdose of merch etc, I admit I do love some of the jokes and cartoons.

I’m a big fan of Dan Piraro and his Bizarro comics

And the inimitable Roz Chas

The one below is a little gross

And the next one, decidedly non-PC

❤️❤️❤️ the raven

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#6Degrees of Separation October 2022

Bookworm alert: I don’t know if you have come across this blog, written by the delightful Marina Sofia, but it always contains interesting tidbits. This post is about books set in schools and universities. I had read these, and others with the same setting, what’s not to like about it? A quick google search brought up an amazing number of such books—if anyone’s interested, I might do a post with a selection.

findingtimetowrite

Always a little late to the party, i.e. first Monday rather than first Saturday of the month, but always a pleasure to take part in the Six Degrees of Separation, hosted by Kate of Books are my Favourite and Best. We all start with the same book and then link it, one by one, to six other books to form a chain. There are no limits to our imagination as we use the links!

This month the starting point is Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller. There was quite a buzz about this book when it first came out and it was filmed as well, although I haven’t seen the adaptation. Originally a little sceptical about the book (the blurb did not do it any favours), I was actually impressed after reading it: the unreliable narrator is done so unobtrusively well. It is set in a school…

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Party time!

Word press has lately informed me of my 7th blogging anniversary. Who would have thought the years would go by so fast? (At least in blogging terms…) Of course I knew it was seven years, because I started the blog during the big—and continuing—crisis we had in Greece in 2015. New readers can read all about it in this post. And some of the following ones.

June 2015: my friends from abroad kept calling to find out what was happening, we were spending a horrible summer stuck in front of the TV. I thought, rather than keep repeating things to each one, I would try and put it down in writing. After a while, I decided I did not always want to talk about the bad news and difficulties,  I also wanted to present the ‘good’ side of Greece—seeing as we were being stigmatised in the press, branded as a nation of feckless tax evaders, and worse.

Although we obviously were not without fault, it has since become apparent to many people that Greece got the short end of the stick, and a whole nation was made to suffer, and is still suffering, because of the usual misguided political and economic schemes and interests of more powerful countries.

 

I have been, since university, very pro Europe, but I confess I have been sadly disappointed. How a bunch of highly qualified (supposedly) and highly paid (by the taxpayer) people managed to make such a mess of things, beats me. And they are still doing it—viz their handling of the refugee situation.

Despite all this, I still feel a united Europe is  a good thing, in order to pull its weight with the huge empires that are the USA, China and Russia. 

To come back to the blog, it will not have escaped the notice of older readers that I have been writing less often of late. Well, I lead a very busy life, shared between Greece and France, since we have had to make big changes due to the above-mentioned crisis. So, my days are full: and, besides work, I have been doing a lot of drawing and painting, as most of you know—and writing, about which you don’t, since I never put any of it on the blog. I also volunteer for two refugee organisations in Greece, which I have not talked about yet—but maybe I will in future, since it has been a most interesting, although often heartbreaking, challenge.

Therefore the blog has taken a back seat, and not only because of the above.  The fact is, I have not been feeling very inspired: the situation, both in Greece and worldwide, is depressing, and who wants to hear any more about it? We read enough in the papers. Art is a solace, but I am wary of overload.


I admit there are days when I have thought of giving up the blog, but what keeps me going is you guys, my dear readers and bloggy friends. Over those seven years there are people who have stuck with me through thick and thin (Yes, you, Pete, Goeff, Jennie, Franklin, Anne, Derrick, Bruce, Deborah, Ellen, Eha, Bea, Mick, Sue, Jacqui, Anne, Kate, Tialys, Mona, Jack, Willowdot, Mariella, Pamela—and countless others). I could not bear to lose touch with you, or stop following your own blogs and exchanging remarks and comments. Also here I must mention the few who have, in the course of those years, sadly left us—I think of them often.

So thanks, everyone, keep checking in, and let me know if there are things you particular want me to write about. In return, and since this is, after all, an anniversary, I offer you cake!

Happy Easter

For Easter, let me share images of lovely stained glass panels seen in the National Gallery in Dublin (more about this in a future post). They will put you in the right mood.

 

This is a detail from the work below, by Michael Healy RHA (Dublin, 1873-1941)

 

The works below are by Evie Hone (Dublin 1894-1955)

So modern for her time.

The work above is titled Resurrection, so very apt for Easter.

Greek Easter is next week, but this post is for all of you, whatever your beliefs or geographical location.

Happy Easter!

Drawing

On Mondays I attend an art workshop, where, appart from the creativity, there is good conversation to be had, in a congenial atmosphere. Art is soothing, it distracts from the harsher realities of life (i.e. the news).

Lately we have been doing pencil drawing, which is interesting since it obliges you to look closely at the subject, whether live, or taken from a photo or a painting—and notice multiple intriguing details of light, volume and texture.

 

We started with studies of hands, from Renaissance paintings. It is amazing what beautiful hands these men had—I prefer men’s hands to women’s, because they have more character. Women’s hands in paintings of this era are softer and more bland, I suppose to denote their owners had no need to do manual work.


The study below is from a photo of a 17th century sculpture by Bernini, The 
rape of Proserpina, which depicts the abduction of Proserpina by the god Pluto . I can never get my mind around the way these sculptors managed, out of a block of marble, to produce something so closely resembling human flesh. Again, his hands are beautiful, at odds with the violence of the scene (he was dragging her to the underworld).

The photo below is different from the one I used, which was black and white and taken from another angle, but it shows the likeness of stone to flesh even better.

Photo: Wikipedia


We progressed to a human figure, and I chose the Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta, who I’ve had the privilege to watch live, in the magical setting of the ancient Herodotus Atticus theater in Athens,  under a rising moon (here). He really could defy gravity, like Nureyev and Baryshnikov.

 

Then a still life, trying to reproduce volume as well as shape.

 

Now we are onto portraits, and my first is of the pre-Raphaelite artist Marie Spartali Stillman. She was the daughter of a wealthy Greek merchant who was the Greek Consul-General in London. Her mother was also Greek and she was early on introduced to an artistic milieu. She studied with Ford Maddox Brown but, due to her beauty, also sat for many famous artists, including her mentor and Dante Gabriel Rosetti. She produced an oeuvre of 150 works.

 

Next on my list are the writer Margaret Atwood and the actor Tilda Swinton. Both have, in my opinion, very interesting faces, which defy mere beauty. Stay tuned.

 

Collateral damage

The  papers these days make for grim reading. The war in Ukraine is raging, with scenes familiar to us from WWII films. Rubble everywhere, dead bodies, crowds of civilians trying to flee. Endless talk of sanctions, strategies, freezing of assets…

Beyond all this, there already are huge collateral damages. Family left behind: the grandparents who are unwilling, or unable, to travel—and in such conditions. Do you stay, or prioritise your children? Animals left behind: we keep seeing people clutching a dog or a cat, but what do you do with a large dog, who does not fit in the car with four adults and their suitcases? Turn him out in the street? What do you do if you have horses? Or goats and cows?

At least spring is here

Large European companies with offices in Moscow were warned by their governments to close them within days. Some had hundreds of employees, who have been fired at a moment’s notice. Even the oligarchs’ super-yatchs that were seized had crews, who will now perhaps not be paid. And there is a long supply chain of businesses who will take a hit.

I even read an article of people who were finally picking up a child they had adopted, only to be stranded in a war zone.

European countries are proudly talking about increasing their defence budget. So more of our taxes will go to guns and missiles instead of food and housing for the poor, or improving the roads…

Inspiration

And another kind of collateral damage: the refugees from non-european countries have now found themselves at the back of the queue again. Someone else has stolen the limelight, dim as it was in the first place.

It is not good news

I haven’t written a post in a while, because all I had to write about was the marvelous art exhibitions I’ve seen, and I didn’t want to have an overload of those (in case you all started rolling your eyes!)

Mixed media painting. Detail

And now, everything is overshadowed by the situation in the Ukraine. It beggars belief that this is happening so close to us. Children in schools are talking of a third world war. 

However, one must not forget that this is one more war in a series of wars. Syria or Afghanistan might seem further to us, but people are people, all over the world. When my Afghan student said to me, ‘I can’t concentrate today, because the Taliban are in my village and there’s fighting in the streets,’ he was no different than any of us would be in the same situation. A few days later his mum, dad and two little brothers moved to safety in Kabul—then Kabul fell. I still live in dread of bad news every time I talk to him.

Mixed media painting. Detail

 

The Bosnian wars, if anyone remembers them, only ended in 1995.  At the time I knew various people in Greece, both Serbs and Croats, whose relatives at home were watching bridges being bombed from their kitchen windows. Who knows how many friends and relatives they lost.

 

 

What is it about men and guns? And why is always some megalomaniac allowed to rule?

This is already resulting in more population movement, more refugees, more children who suffer.

 


Meanwhile, I was shocked by photos of people being denied access to trains going to Poland because—unbelievable—they are black. Are we still in the 21st century?

 

Pencil study of Bernini sculpture, The rape of Proserpine

There is some consolation to be found in poetry:

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust. ”

T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

Belated wishes

Well, this has certainly been a strange year. Life goes on,  but in a rather surreal way. Are we getting used to going around in masks? Personally, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it—not to be able to see people’s expression is just weird. Are we getting to the end of this? It doesn’t look like it at the moment. Are we learning to live with it? In a way, we are. And we must.


But it’s not just the pandemic. Wars are either going on or are threatening to start in many places. Catastrophes brought on by climate change are causing untold damage and unprecedented population movements. Humanitarian crises are happening all around us, and governments are becoming increasingly tough in their handling of them.

 

Canada geese. Part of a six-panel work on paper.

But this is still a beautiful world, and this year I’ve witnessed many wonderful acts of kindness. All things considered, I felt very thankful to be able to spend the holidays with my family around me. There was a lot of cooking, art workshops, board games and beach walks. And the inevitable screen time, obviously.

 

Family workshop output

When I looked through this year’s work, I realised I’ve drawn a lot of birds lately. Birds=flight? But they are mostly birds of prey. I wonder what that means.

 

Wolf series. Ink on Nepalese paper
Travellers series. Pencil and collage on khadi paper

To conclude, let me wish everyone a very Happy New Year, and may all your troubles last only as long as your New Year resolutions!

 

Rhodesian ridgeback portrait. Oil on linen

Festive Wishes

I am aware I have been less than prolific with my posts lately. I have been kept very busy with various mundane things such as work and holiday preparations and other, less mundane, such as seeing friends before everything is locked down again. I attended a very cozy and festive lunch with old school friends; and a party for refugees organised by the NGO METAdrasi which was the most fun I’ve had for a while. People were so happy to be there and spend a few hours just enjoying themselves. There was so much talent on offer—young people singing, playing the guitar and violin, kids singing carols and thanking their teachers for their Greek lessons, and a play.

What strange times we live in—I still cannot get used to seeing half of everyone’s face covered with a mask. It has lasted so long, and it’s not over yet. I am just thankful to be able to be with my family for the festivities—let alone for something most of us take for granted, having a roof over my head! Looking forward to plenty of cooking, family art workshops, card games and walks with the dogs.

I wish all of you, my bloggy friends, a lovely time over the holidays, health, happiness and hopes of a better year ahead!

Down memory lane: Sports Day

Since our school didn’t possess the necessary facilities, our annual sports day was held at the Athens Tennis Club, on one of the clay courts, which had a ‘grandstand’ from which the parents could admire their offspring.

For this occasion we wore white shorts and a white T-shirt, on which the letter of our class—Α, Β, Γ, Δ, and so on—had to be sewn by the mothers using blue ribbon. Every year we were issued with detailed instructions regarding the dimensions of this letter: the exact width of the ribbon, the height and width of the letter and its position in the middle of our chest. Each year most parents totally disregarded these instructions, so that some kids had a tiny letter attached to their left shoulder, some had a huge one going from neck to waist, and so on. No two T-shirts looked the same! My mother, needless to say, obeyed the instructions to the letter, and we were the proud wearers of the perfect specimen.

First there was a display of Greek folk dancing—for girls only—for which we pulled a blue skirt on over our shorts. Each class formed a circle, supposedly led by the best dancer. In our case, however, since both my sister and I were very tall for our age, and it would have looked strange to place us in the middle of the circle, we were made to lead our respective class, despite our evident lack grace and talent.

My mother, stifling laughter, once overheard the following conversation, between two ladies sitting in the row in front of her.

‘Why are classes Α and Γ led by older girls?’

‘They can’t be older, they have the same letter on their T-shirts as the others.’

‘Actually, I’ve heard there are two sisters in the school who are huge. It must be them.’

After the dancing, we pulled our skirts off and were joined by the boys to do basic gymnastics. Some of the exercises meant our backs came into contact with the clay court, so that when we stood up our back view was covered in red clay.

 

After the show was over, we were all treated to sour cherry ice lollies dispensed by a little man with an icebox on the front of his bike. These rapidly melted in the heat and dripped down our front—so that a little later, in the streets around the Tennis Club, groups of parents could be spotted going home with children who were plastered with red clay down the back, and stained red down the front.