How important is plot?

A few years ago I watched a film called Arrival. A number of mysterious spaceships appear and station themselves near major cities on earth. Then nothing happens. The usual debates start: Shall we attack before they attack us? For once the doves prevail over the hawks, at least momentarily, and the American government hires a woman expert in language and communication to try and establish some kind of contact.

I’m very interested in language and means of communication between humans, or even between humans and animals; and in this instance the aliens were, in my opinion, portrayed in a very imaginative and subtle way. So I became fascinated by the ways this woman came up with in attempting to communicate with a species which has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in common with us humans. We do not share any parameters of DNA, culture, location, experience or anything else.

Anyway, I found the film explored this subject well so, when two of my grandsons turned 11, I thought this would be an interesting film to watch all together (with something to discuss after). Well, that was not a huge success, to say the least. One of the boys kept pausing the film to criticize some technical or scientific detail they’d got all wrong, while the other kept up a running commentary on the ‘plot holes’. At the end I got mercilessly teased about the fact that I hadn’t understood half of it but it was just as well, because the whole story made no sense and if I’d tried, I’d have become even more confused. We ended up crying with laughter because yes, they were right in a way—the plot did contain holes, and a ridiculous and unnecessary subplot at the end. Moreover, when I looked up the reviews, I saw that I really hadn’t got the half of it. However, I still remember the scenes where the woman tries to find ways to connect to those aliens, and I still find them fascinating. This made the plot secondary in this instance.

At other times I can get so annoyed with the blatant disregard for continuity or even simple cause and effect, that I stop reading or watching. So, how important is plot in a story? Of course, a solid, well-constructed plot is a thing of beauty in itself. But the impact of it on the enjoyment of the story can be quite relative sometimes.
Mystery or crime writers can be so clever at unexpected twists and red herrings that they paint themselves into a corner—and you find that the brilliant page turner that kept you up all night ends in a damp squib. Or a denouement that defies all plausibility. But—you’ve still enjoyed the ride.
At other times the lack—or manner—of plot is so annoying that you’re unable to go beyond a couple of chapters or episodes. Is the difference in the quality of the writing? The characters? Your own mood? What do you think?

Also, I think that tastes have changed. Exposure to new technology means that we expect instant gratification: for example, usually we don’t even have to wait a week for the next episode of a series, we can binge on the whole thing at once. Thus people’s attention span has become shorter. We don’t feel we have the time to read reams of description. We expect short bites, hopefully ending in a cliffhanger, which keeps us turning the page, or going on to the next episode. Long, meandering novels like Middlemarch, or classical short stories such as those written by Charles Dickens or Herman Melville have given way to flash fiction and mini series.

I’d be curious to know if some of you still have the patience to read the old classics and enjoy the slower pace.

Anyone for a Limerick?

The limerick packs laughs anatomical
Into space that is quite economical.
But the good ones I’ve seen
So seldom are clean
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.

But limericks were not always bawdy. In fact the form was made popular in the 19th century by Edward Lear, a great believer in pure silliness. In 1846 he published A Book of Nonsense, which went through three editions and made limericks so popular that many people started using them to amuse, scandalise or satirise.

We used to have the Lear books and other collections of limericks, and as a child I read them so many times that I still remember my favorites. Here are some of them, interspersed with illustrations from the Lear books: 

There was an old man from Blackeath
Who sat on his set of false teeth
Said he with a start,
Oh lord, bless my heart
I’ve bitten myself underneath!!

I sat next to the duchess at tea
Distressed as a person could be
Her rumblings abdominal
We’re simply phenomenal
And everyone thought it was me!


A feisty young girl from St. Paul
Wore a newspaper dress to a ball
The dress caught on fire
And burnt her entire
Front page, sporting section and all.

The wonderful artist Edward Gorey also liked witty and sometimes unsettling verse, and joined the party with gusto: 


He illustrated the verse with his detailed ink drawings 


British wordplay and recreational mathematics expert Leigh Mercer (1893–1977) even devised the following mathematical limerick:

This is read as follows:

A dozen, a gross, and a score
Plus three times the square root of four
Divided by seven
Plus five times eleven
Is nine squared and not a bit more

Quite clever, don’t you think?

Not to be outdone, I’ve produced a few limericks of my own over the years, some of which you might have seen, since I made illustrations to go with them for Inktober 2019. (Posted Here )

And so, dear readers, hoping I have sufficiently inspired you by now, I would like to urge you to send me your own efforts. We’re not talking about a competition here, just a fun thing to do. No prizes to be had, but if I get enough, I will do a post on them and make a few illustrations, too!
So come on, people, put your humorous thinking caps on!

Snow on ancient stones

While people who live in northern countries are getting heartily sick of snowy conditions, in Athens deep snow is so rare and lasts so little that it’s a cause for celebration. Schools stay shut since anyway many of the roads are closed, and everyone just makes the most of it.


A friend who is fortunate enough to live downtown, close to the Acropolis and the ruins of the Parthenon sent me these wonderful photos.



The Parthenon

The entrance to the Odeon of Herodotus Atticus


Did the Ancient Greeks make snowmen? It’s very probable.

The Tower of the Winds was built around 100 – 50 BC by  Andronicus of Cyrrhus for measuring time.


At the foot of the rock


Flying the flag on the walls



An overview


Lemon sorbet: this one was taken by my sister in her garden

All other photos by Eugenia Kokkala-Mela, owner of the wonderful HEROES shop at the foot of the Acropolis. 

And the best of it? Tomorrow there will probably be brilliant sunshine, and all traces of slush will vanish.

The HOME project

I find myself at a loss writing about the refugee crisis, which might be taking a backseat to the pandemic in the public eye at the moment, but is far from over. I know both of these emergencies are very difficult to deal with, but I feel that the authorities are not making a very good job of managing either. Everyone has become quite weary of the constant stream of bad news, so I was glad to come upon the work of a wonderful young woman whose dedication and positive attitude have resulted in the foundation of the HOME Project, a non-profit organization set up to address the needs of unaccompanied minors in Greece.

Sofia Kouvelaki is the CEO of the HOME Project, and she very kindly agreed to answer my questions:

Tell us a little about your story and your engagement with unaccompanied refugee children.

My engagement with lone refugee children began when I went to Lesvos for a documentary on unaccompanied children in detention for the Bodossaki Foundation just as the refugee crisis was beginning in November 2014. At the time, there were only a few, self-organized volunteers in addition to the coast guard who were helping people out of the water. The situation was unprecedented.

During this time at Lesvos, I was thinking about my path in life and the great inequalities this world contained. I witnessed first-hand a situation in which many of the children had been dressed by their parents as the opposite gender in order to protect them from various dangers during their journey. Having to negate one’s whole being in order to save one’s life was very shocking to me.

It was at this point when I began to recognize the need for a support channel to bring aid to the most vulnerable, especially children who were travelling alone and were exposed to all sorts of threats.

Could you give us some details on the issue of unaccompanied refugee children in Greece?

In Greece, there are more than 4,100 unaccompanied children, of whom more than 2,020 are outside a system of protection (according to the latest data of National Center of Social Solidarity). This means that at the moment there are children in the streets, in camps, and exposed to all kinds of exploitation such as abuse, violence, drugs, organ trafficking and more. If these children are not placed in a safe shelter, they cannot and will not receive any information on their rights or have access to any appropriate services. Furthermore, they are missing crucial aspects of their development as they grow; such as access to education, access to mental and physical health services, and social inclusion.

The HOME Project addresses this issue by receiving children from camps, police stations, and detention centers and welcoming them in the safety of our homes in Athens, where we provide a holistic network of child protection services through an individual development plan for each child that we care for. This plan addresses the general and particular needs of each child, including physical and mental health, educational, social, life skills, and legal support with the ultimate aim of social inclusion.

From a broader perspective, we would like to change the way people perceive the refugee crisis, especially regarding minors. Integrating these children and youths into society can only have a positive effect, as long as their marginalization is eliminated and replaced with social inclusion and equal access to opportunities.


So, what was the next step—and how was The HOME Project founded? What organizations do you have supporting you?

The HOME Project began as a targeted intervention of child protection for unaccompanied refugee children in Greece. It was founded in response to the call made by President Obama to the private sector to help in addressing the refugee crisis in 2016. Our partners are people and organizations who truly care about children and believe in our model of child protection.

We started with the opening of the first shelters in 2016. Soon after, the IKEA Foundation and the Shapiro Foundation supported us to scale up our operations, reaching 11 shelters. Recently, with the support of the Dutch Government we managed to open 3 more shelters in collaboration with a Dutch NGO Movement on the Ground.

Currently, we operate 14 shelters and we have offered child protection services to more than 570 children since 2016. One shelter is for young children, from 5 to 12 years old; three are for underage girls including underage mothers with their babies and nine are for teenage boys 13 to 17 years old. There is also one shelter for the children who turn 18 and are supported in their step toward autonomous life.

Equally important are several private partners and foundations that have supported smaller scale projects, especially during the lockdown in Athens. Due to these latest public health developments, other donors covered the emergency budget needed to cope with the challenges of Covid-19 pandemic.


What is the action plan for THP beyond the infrastructure?

The Home Project shelter model is based on three pillars:

1. Provision of holistic network of child protection covering food, shelter, material, medical provision, social, legal and mental health support with the ultimate goal of social inclusion.
2. Job creation. We have created 170 jobs for refugees as well as for Greeks. In order to integrate into any society, people need a HOME but they also need a job. Half of our shelter staff is comprised of refugees who become role models for the children, demonstrating a better future is achievable.
3. Adding value to the local economy. We create value for the local economy by renting unused buildings—victims of the financial crisis—and we empower the engagement of local communities via community building events. The development of healthy relationships in the shelter and with the local community, as well as enhancing participation and social inclusion, are equally important. Specifically, we actively seek to collaborate with the neighborhoods in which the shelters are located. For example, we supply our shelters with everything needed from local grocers, butchers, supermarkets, and pharmacies. Through this practice, we aim to create a support system around each home and fight xenophobia and stereotypes.

How are the HOMES organized?

At the core of our model is child protection. Our Child Protection Unit consists of professional social workers, psychologists, lawyers, psychiatrists, and an implementation model, which concludes in an Individual Development Plan for every child we care for. The Individual Development Plan represents a complete framework of child protection and is an ongoing process, aligned with the development of a child in five main areas: a) Mental Health, b) Education, c) Life Skills and Socialization, d) Social Support, e) Legal Support. The HOME Project recognizes and addresses the reality of the needs of each child, which go beyond just nourishment and housing.
The staff in the shelters attend weekly supervision by external mental health professionals and receive monthly training from our Child Protection Unit in child protection protocols, in order to be prepared to take on the responsibility of replicating the parental environment as well as providing a system of social welfare and support that is nonexistent for these children in society.

You insist a lot on education as well?

Education is vital to the development of children, and all children under our care attend school. In addition to public schools, we have partnerships with two of the biggest private schools in Athens.

43 children have received full time scholarships at ACS Athens with the support of Shapiro Foundation and over 210 children have participated in the innovative, educational “Youth to Youth” Program in collaboration with ACS Athens and supported by IKEA Foundation; Similarly, more than 70 children participated in the innovative program “School Project” in collaboration with Athens College. As part of these programs every Saturday, by physical presence and/or online children of The HOME Project “buddy up” with students from these schools and are taught Greek, English, art, math, music, and sports. This initiative aims to create a space of interaction where youths from the school have the opportunity to socialize with refugee children as a way to fight xenophobia, break stereotypes, and bring the two communities closer.

I heard you’ve had a big success story regarding educational achievements?

We have one case of a young adult who had been accepted to Science Po in Paris. Though he was initially denied asylum and wasn’t able to travel, we began a large public campaign to push the authorities to review his application. His asylum request was subsequently granted by the minister himself along with the asylum of two other children under our care. He is now living in Paris and receiving an exceptional education. We are very proud of his success.

How do children arrive at The HOME Project and how long do the children stay with you?

The children we accommodate are being referred to The HOME Project from all sites, camps, detention centers and homelessness, through national authorities. The authority of the referrals recently moved to the office of the Special Secretary for the Protection for unaccompanied Minors at the Ministry of Migration and Asylum with a Ministerial decision from the National Center of Social Solidarity (EKKA). The Public Prosecutor for Minors in Athens remains the legal guardian of all minors referred to our shelters.

The length of the stay for each child depends on the individual case. We have children who with our support apply for asylum and stay until their adulthood, while we have cases able to reunite with their families in other EU countries and who stay with us until our legal team completes their process.

Do the children eventually reunite with their families? How does this process work?

Since the beginning we have already managed to help 130 children reunite with their families. However, this process can take more than a year, as we need to prove they are indeed part of the same family. This length of time can take an immense toll on the children. In one case, a girl under our care suffered from eating disorders for a year because she couldn’t join her mother in Germany. After receiving multiple unlawful rejections, the decision was challenged at a court in Germany and she finally received a positive answer. Though this process is often arduous, family reunification is a necessity for each child if possible.


Are there children who arrive in Greece without having other family members with whom they can be reunited? What happens to these children in the future?

There are children who do not have families to reunite with. These children have left their homes for various reasons such as war, persecution, or poverty. Other times they have been separated during the journey or the parents have passed away.

With our support these children apply for asylum in Greece and stay in our shelter until they reach 18. However, no child leaves the shelter until they are ready for the next step. Some of the children who remain under our care after their 18th birthday stay in the 18+ shelter; others move into their own apartment and find their own job with the help of The HOME Project. Many go into technical fields; becoming plumbers, electricians, tailors, and chefs.

During the last four years, 45 of our children have been integrated into the labor market with permanent or seasonal jobs after turning 18 years old. Additionally, several of the children formerly under our care are hired as cooks, cleaners, and caretakers in the shelters upon reaching adulthood. Having been given these jobs in the shelters, the new staff members serve as role models for the children they are caring for. In this sense, they instill hope in the minds of the children.

How has THP dealt with issues presented by the pandemic?

The pandemic has made operations more difficult. The complications mostly stem from the lockdown: employees cannot move efficiently from shelter to shelter. Asylum service offices have suspended operations and affect our lawyers who are working on important issues regarding the children. Moreover, we hired more staff to temporarily take the place of those who have a higher health risk and to ensure that the needs of all children were being met.

Despite the recent COVID-19 pandemic, we have successfully managed to support the community building aspect of our model through projects such as the WWF Shelter-Greening project, which included the offering of plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables to the neighboring local community as well as a mask creation project in which the children of The Home Project in collaboration with WWF Hellas and WaterMasks designed and produced protective masks for the homeless people of Shedia Street Paper. The project aimed to raise children’s awareness on environmental and social issues, while giving them the opportunity to give back to the community and express their solidarity amidst these challenging times.

Recently, during the holiday season, children created greeting cards which they shared in the neighborhoods and send by post to our friends and supporters in order to thank them. In this way they can learn universal human values that will accompany them throughout their lives.

In terms of the risk directly posed by COVID-19, testing is the most effective way in which we can combat the virus. There has only been one positive, asymptomatic case in the shelters from a child who got it at school, and the entire shelter underwent a 2-week isolation period. While no more cases were recorded anywhere in The HOME Project network, the pandemic has taken an emotional and financial toll.

What can people do to help?

People can help in three ways
• Financial support: The HOME Project welcomes donations from individuals or organizations – either single gifts or regular contributions.
• Time: Join our team as a volunteer
• Resources: All forms of support (e.g. materials, food, clothing, services, internships, job opportunities, etc.) can make a big difference in our work

People could also spread the word about our work towards the most vulnerable children and help us raise awareness on our initiatives. Europe of 2021 has to ensure that no child can be allowed to remain invisible or alone.

Let us talk of something frivolous

Life under the present conditions has become very monotonous. It’s impossible to plan anything and, although I’m never bored—having access to books, paint and nature helps—I must confess I find it hard to come upon interesting subjects to write about. There are no cultural outings or trips to be had, and I do miss dinner with friends in a restaurant (oh, the luxury!) and occasional evenings at the cinema, theatre or a concert.

Books aside, we’ve been obliged to fall back on Netflix for entertainment and the really good films or series are few and far between. Thus I have found myself watching the extremely popular series, Brigerton, which has managed to accrue over 80 million viewers—and one can see why: a steamy romance set in Regency England, full of family secrets and racy subplots. Pure froth and escapism, just right for this dreary winter.
Those of you who have not watched this extravaganza, or are planning to watch it and want to avoid spoilers, switch your laptops off now. Anyone else who feels like a trivia-fest, feel free to weigh in.

I greatly enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek look at the racially-mixed high society, the—at least partial—disregard for historical fact, the anachronistic musical scores, the petulant character and gravity-defying wigs of the Queen (see above), the lovely settings, the exquisite clothes and especially the beautifully choreographed ballroom scenes.
However, even more gravity-defying than the Queen’s wigs was the plot, or absence of it: instead of being a skeleton on which to hang the different parts of the story, it seemed to have been cobbled together with the sole purpose of taking the viewer from one set piece to another, necessitating a major suspense of disbelief.

Tell me, dear reader,

Why would the Queen be so determined that her nephew, who surely must have had a bevy of princesses and duchesses at his disposal, should marry the daughter of a minor lord?
Why was the Duke of Hastings’s vow to his father such a big secret? Couldn’t Daphne have asked her mother to find out, or asked Lady Danbury directly? (Well, I suppose that if she had, the story would have been over by Episode 2…) 
What happened to the Prince’s necklace? Daphne can hardly have just dumped it in the shrubbery.
How does Penelope, who is meant to be penniless and, surely, chaperoned, have access to a printing press and a horse and carriage in which she is seen gallivanting by herself in the middle of the night? (spoiler alert, in the ultimate twist she is revealed to be gossip columnist Lady Whistledown).
How does a ball held outdoors, which ends with the guests being soaked by a sudden shower, have chandeliers hanging above the dancers? (See below)

And what the hell is ratafia? (I admit I looked this one up—it is a kind of sweet wine, much favored by the ladies at the time. Also, I should have known this: my mother was a fan of the Georgette Heyer books, which I devoured at the age of around twelve—too long ago to remember…)

Lastly, all the male characters strut around in calf length riding boots, which seem to just …vanish (melt away?) when they decide to get naked with their love interest. In my experience, however, this kind of boot takes ages to pull off, or necessitates a boot-pull or a third party to help. That’s why modern riding boots have a zipper down the back of the leg…

I can hear you saying, who cares? No one, it’s just a bit of fun. But please, Shondaland, pull yourself , and the plot, together  before season 2!

The women’s gowns were ‘exquisite’ but I’d kill for that waistcoat

And just so you don’t think I’ve gone completely daft, I have two new recommendations for you: I greatly enjoyed Girl, Woman, Other by Booker Prize winner Bernadine Evaristo—a very shrewd look at human relationships via some avant-garde writing. Also a quietly elegant film called The Dig, about the pre-war archaeological discoveries at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, starring Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes and Lily James (new on Netflix).

Random thoughts (and drawings)

January and February have never been my favorite months—it’s still SO DARK! Usually I’m a morning person, but I find myself feigning sleep so the dog doesn’t ask to be let out at 7 a.m. She also has to be dressed, alas. See below the latest in dachshund winter fashion…

We have been deprived of many little pleasures of normal life: sharing a bottle of wine and a nice meal with friends (preferably prepared and served by someone else!), wandering around an art exhibition, taking in a show…Moreover, in any wanderings we are surrounded by people wearing masks, so even exchanging a smile is not the same.

We are lucky at least that we can enjoy some entertainment at home. I really enjoyed The Queen’s Gambit (about chess) and Dickinson (a very amusing takeoff on the poet’s early life), and a wonderful documentary called My Octopus Teacher. Remember I wrote about An Octopus in my House (A strange Pet)?Well, this one is even more remarkable, since it is filmed in the wild, underwater, in a kelp forest. Highly recommended. Unfortunately, it has quite put me off eating octopus, which I used to love. But, it inspired me to make an ink drawing.

There is only so much screen time I can take, but I’m a bookworm, so I’ve devoured some of my TBR pile: Where the Crawdads Sing,  by Delia Owens, about a girl growing up in a swamp—wonderful), two cozy mysteries: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Oscan (very entertaining) and The Guest List by Lucy Foley (a page-turner), a thriller called Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins (another page-turner). On a totally different note, Fresh Water for Flowers by Valerie Perrin (about a woman caretaker of a cemetery). And finally a memoir called The Lightless Sky, by Gulwali Passarlay, describing his journey, as a twelve-year-old boy, from Afganistan to the UK (mind-boggling). 

I do love to have a couple of books on the go, so now I’ve started Girl, Woman, Other, which won the Booker Prize for writer Bernadine Evaristo, together with The Mirror and the Light, the last in the Cromwell trilogy by Hilary Mantel (a huge slab, but I loved the first two, so I will persevere). I’m also dipping into The Lemon Table, short stories by Julian Barnes. Hope this list will inspire some of you.

Apart from chilly walks wrapped up in layers like an onion, I’ve also been drawing. I finished up a few Christmas present comissions.

The ones above inspired me to make a large elephant pencil drawing.


I find I’m more in the mood for drawing than painting at the moment. I added a couple of drawings to my ‘Travelers’ series.


My resolution for this year is to include more human figures in my work, and even, dare I say it, some portraits. I find I always collect portrait photos because I so admire the capability of artists to reproduce likeness and expression. I’m also drawn to portraits in museums because they show so much about each era. So perhaps it’s time to try for myself.

Laughing into the New Year

As we march, or slither, into an uncertain future, I thought what better way to convey my somewhat belated good wishes than by trying to amuse you. It is a well-known fact that laughter is the best medicine.

So here’s a selection from some of my favorite comic strips and New Yorker cartoons: 

🔸For those who never make to midnight

🔸For parents of annoying teenagers

🔸For doggy people

🔸For cat lovers

🔸For those who aren’t sick of politics yet

🔸For ladies who lunch

🔸For optimists

🔸And pessimists

Hope that’s got you smiling at least.  Happy New Year!

And may it be less bizarre than the last one.


Celebrating Christmas

This year’s celebrations will be difficult if not nonexistent for a lot of people. Yesterday my thoughts were with the hundreds of truckers blocked on each side of the Channel who will not make it home to their families for Christmas. But it’s not only them: so many elderly persons living alone and unable to see family, so many families divided, so many displaced and homeless people. Those of us who have a roof over our heads and food in our plates already have a lot to be thankful for.

At a time when the news is relentlessly bad and the future is uncertain, what better way to celebrate than by listening to children’s voices, joyful and pure.


El Sistema is a social education program founded in Venezuela in 1975 by Dr. José Antonio Abreu, which aims to provide inspiration through music. It has expanded to more than 60 countries and, since 2016, El Sistema Greece has the goal of bringing music education to children and young people, including those in refugee camps in Athens and on the island of Lesvos. Thanks to music, these kids are given a platform for dialogue and togetherness across diverse communities.

One of the most fervent ambassadors of El Sistema Greece, world-famous Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato has visited Athens many times, for performances and workshops. Now she joins her voice once again with the members of the El Sistema Greece Youth Orchestra and the El Sistema Greece Youth Choir, who come from 30 different countries, in a virtual concert hosted by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

I give you The First Noel, and wish you all a very happy Christmas!

Saying it with flowers

Life seems to be getting more and more weird each day—with new lockdowns everywhere, people are forced to exist in a sort of limbo. We’re waiting—for what? To be free to return to our previous existence? But when? Meanwhile the virus in Denmark has mutated and is spreading via mink farms. They’re planning on culling 17 million animals to try and stop it. What next? Hopefully we won’t have to cull our dogs and cats. That would be too horrible to even contemplate.


In every way, we’re trying to adapt to a new reality, and make the best of things. I love going to the theatre, but sadly that’s out, so I took the opportunity to watch a play online. What a Carve Up is adapted from a satirical novel by Jonathan Coe. It is an ingenious play about the venality of the Thatcher era, a murder mystery with an extra twist. I enjoyed it: the actors were excellent, the plot was developed in original and interesting ways. Well worth it and a change from Netflix. A ticket costs £12, and you get a link to watch in the 48 hours following your chosen date. You can watch on a laptop or, better still, connect to Apple TV, in which case you can make a family evening of it, with drinks and popcorn. For anyone interested, you can get a ticket here:

This cultural foray made me mull things over. Art depicts life in many ways—if this pandemic carries on, will people in new films be shown wearing masks, and staying away from each other? If I write a short story, do my characters need to wear masks and keep washing their hands? I continued wondering about this while watching a film set in the fifties, where the actors smoked non-stop, and nobody wore a seatbelt. Now characters in films are constantly peering at some kind of screen, and if they smoke, it’s something stronger—but more tolerated nowadays—than nicotine.


I digress, but there doesn’t seem to be much to write about these days (I refuse to dwell upon the American Elections). So I will try and lift your spirits by posting some pictures taken a few months ago, when we managed to squeeze in a visit to Monet’s garden at Giverny. There were not many people around, which was just as well, because Giverny is not a public park, but a private garden, with narrow paths between the flower beds. I dread to think what it would be like to visit when they have their usual 4000 people per day—shuffling along in a queue behind a coach group led by a guide, I suppose.


As it were, we wandered about happily. The place is beautifully kept up, and we were told it’s worth visiting at different times of the year: in May it’s covered with different types of iris, and in late August it’s full of sunflowers.


The famous lily pond lived up to expectations—it’s a magical spot. Apparently the water lilies tend to take over, so they are carefully pruned back to resemble the patches Monet painted over and over (he made a series of about 250 Nymphéas, as they’re called in France).

The inside of the house is very pleasant, with a collection of lovely Japanese etchings on the walls and a sunny yellow kitchen. Monet had a complicated personal life, reading about which gives a little extra spice to the surroundings.