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: https://www.whatacarveup.com/

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.

 

Old photos

The first photo below was sent to me by my friend Anna, with the sole information that it came from the archive of Agnes Baldwin Brett. Elegant ladies walk in the snow between neo-classical houses under mount Lycabettus, in what today is Kolonaki Square, the chic quarter of Athens.

 

 

Looking up Agnes Baldwin Brett (1876 – 1955), I found out that she was an American numismatist and archaeologist who grew up in Newark, New Jersey. She attended Barnard College and Columbia University, and from 1900 she spent two years as a Fellow at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. While in Athens, Brett worked on the coin finds from the excavation at Corinth and also took a number of photographs. The one below is entitled ‘Delphi’, but I was unable to find out why there are camels there! I thought it was very amusing.

 

 

Finally, here’s a photo of what used to be called ‘The Great Road,’ which became the main retail high street in Athens, Odos Ermou, named after Hermes, the god of trade. It was one of the basic axes of the first urban plan of the city, designed by architects Kleanthis and Schubert in 1833.

 

 

And a later view, circa 1920 (unknown photographer). It has been paved, but as you can see it’s somewhat narrower, slices on each side having been appropriated by the owners of the buildings…

 

Summer colors


I love this season, and can’t resist posting about it each year. The swallows have arrived, geckos are running up the walls. As everything is drying up, colors burst all around .

My agapanthus is out.

 

Oleander bushes are the best things to plant in Greece, since they don’t need water once they’ve had a good start in life. They can grow to be huge, and flower all summer long.

 

Bougainvillea – bright as flames.

 

Even roadside weeds are pretty.

 

And the figs are coming along nicely.

#ilovesummer

The last days of spring


Summer comes to Greece quickly, and everything dries up. Wild flowers and weeds get overblown, and dried grasses have to be cleared because of fire risk. We live in fear of forest fires, which is a big downside of our lovely summers. Pine trees are especially at risk, because of the resin in their sap. They can spontaneously combust just from the heat of a forest fire, and the cones can fly as far as 500 meters, thus accelerating the spread of the fire.

 

 

We have had a little welcome rain lately, which has kept things green, and so we can still enjoy wild flowers and the blossom on trees. Of course in the mountains spring will last a while longer, but around Athens summer has a habit of establishing itself quite early. People are already heading to the beach – in fact, we had our first swim in the sea on April 14. The water was freezing, but invigorating! Then it turned cold again for a few days.

 

 

I don’t know what these flowers are called, but they were so pretty growing amongst the rocks, that I felt inspired to make a sketch in my journal.

 

 

Tortoises are coming out of hibernation, to the great interest of some! This one came to visit. It’s amazing how much faster they move than what you’d expect. I went into the kitchen to get it some lettuce, and by the time I came out again, it was gone. In the countryside, sometimes they decide to cross the road, stopping all traffic.

 

 

Nature at its best!

 

 

 

 

Greece – through Harold’s lens

Harold is a photojournalist and a great traveller. I always think it interesting to look at places through different sets of eyes, and I loved the photographs of Greece he often posts on his blog, Through Harold’s Lens. He very kindly agreed to be a guest host when I asked him, never imagining the amount of work this entailed! In his own words: ‘What a fun project this has been. Going through and selecting from 1,500 photographs from Greece was a challenge.’

He has been more than generous in sharing his photographs, and since I found it quite hard to choose from this bounty, I will divide them between a couple or more posts.

Harold goes on to say:

As a recent visitor to Greece, I was alive with excitement strolling through this historical cradle of Western Civilization.

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To journey through Greece’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and experience the numerous gods of the ancient Greek religion as well as the mythical heroes.

 

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To feel the faith of the country.

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To embrace the warmth, joys and sorrows of the Greek people.

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With my sidekick Mr. SLR Nikon, we have tried to capture some of the riches and beauty of your country. We hope you enjoy.

 

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To thank M.L., Through Harold’s Lens is celebrating “Greek Week” on our blog www.throughharoldslens.com. You are invited along on our journey.

 

IMG_3956(to be continued…)