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Monday, 30 May 2011

Oxford Lecture by Prof. Peter Mackridge, 6 June, 2011

Greece, More Food for Thought



See the Financial Times article "Greece set for severe bail-out conditions" (29 May): NB you have to register with FT first.

Kathimerini 


Listonplace

Watching Greek TV news today, and reading the Listonplace blog (in Greek) reveals that the FT piece (29 May, and the interview with Lorenzo Bini Smaghi) really put the cat among the pigeons.

But agreement looks increasingly likely, according to Kathimerini.






Sunday, 29 May 2011

Greece: Much Ado About Nothing?

Telegraph report

All's Well That Ends Well!

Cruise ships, Corfu

To Vima carried an interesting article today (29 May, 2011), about the increase in cruise ship visits to Corfu this year.

452 cruise ship visits are expected, bringing 600,000 passengers in the 2011 season, a 5% increase over 2010 (569,030).

Some sampling research carried out last September suggests that about 48% are over 61 in age, and that around 26% are American, 20% Italian, 10% British, 8.5% French, 35.5% various other nationalities.

83% bought goods in Corfu.

I hope the necessary services and facilities are in place, including regular, inexpensive transportation from the port to the town. Quite a few cruise ship visitors seem to get lost in Mandouki.

For comparison, see also a 2009 posting on the facilities for cruise ships in Bermuda

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Achilleon Palace For Sale? What would Sisi have to say?





There will be many rumours about Greek state assets being privatised or put up for sale. I have already seen a few about Corfu's Achilleon Palace.

Who knows if they are true? Quite possibly, because the Greek state auctioned off most of the old palace furniture belonging to Empress Elizabeth of Austria and Kaiser Wilhelm II many years ago.
Sisi didn't like the palace once it had been built and never returned to Corfu after 1896. I don't blame her for not liking the building. Let it go! It's not something which is authentically Greek.

The Achilleon has also served its time as a casino, amongst other things. How many people read or appreciate the poetry of Empress Elizabeth of Austria? It might be a good idea to sell copies of her poems before they start on the bricks and mortar.



Some literal translations:

"But I return home to your bays if life's storm displeases me. I find it here, what I and my seagulls seek- Peace, well away from the world". 

(Abschied und Ruckfahrt, 15 November, 1887)

She missed the island, her vision of the Garden of Eden, and the Ionian Sea with a fierce nostalgia when away.

In Sehnsucht nach Corfu (October 1887), she yearns "for the cypress trees that stand high on the grey rocks, from which, gravely and forgotten by the world, they look dreamily towards Albania...I wish I could go walking and reflect once more in the aromatic orange grove, as I used to do once upon a time, all alone with my solitary dreams." 

In "Meeresfahrt" (October 1888), she sighs that "Longing will eat one's heart out, it robs one of peace of mind and happiness, and night and day you will dream and think back to the blue seas of the Ionian."
Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Kaiserin Elisabeth),
Das Poetische Tagebuch, Vienna, 1984
and
The Ionian Islands and Epirus, A Cultural History, 2010, pp 110-111
Corfu Blues (the book, 2006) pp 104-108.

Richard Pine, The Irish Times

Richard's latest commentary.

Will there be a referendum? 

Maybe not.

Maria Damanaki 

IMF (Telegraph report)

Too many rumours!

On a happier note, last night saw the launch of Autumn Gleanings: Corfu Memoirs and Poems, by Theodore Stephanides (1896-1983), and tonight there will be the unveiling of the plaque in his honour at 22 Mantzarou Street, Corfu, at 7pm. I hope they spell the names correctly this time! Durrell, for instance.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

From Crescent City to Folsom Prison

"Crescent City Blues" (Gordon Jenkins)- the surprising source (1953) of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues".

Bob Dylan used the melody of Johnny Cash's "Understand your man" for "Don't think twice, it's alright", in his turn.

And did you know that the source of the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time" was the gospel song "This may be the last time"?

More examples?

Reminded of Ray Charles

A seminal song that helped to change people's musical tastes way back then.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

THE CAT OF PORTOVECCHIO, CORFU TALES update





"The Cat of Portovecchio, Corfu Tales" by Maria Strani-Potts, will be published in Greek translation by leading Athenian publisher Kedros in the third week of June.


The English edition is available at Plous Bookshop in Nik. Theotoki Street, Corfu Town. It can also be ordered through Waterstones and Amazon in the UK (from Corfu Books and Music and Colenso Books).

A recent mention


Here are some of the reviews to date:


 THE CAT OF PORTOVECCHIO

‘In The Cat of Portovecchio Maria Strani-Potts has produced a genuinely charming book...The charm consists in the book's wholeness of view...the writer's generosity in letting everything in; her allowing a place for all sorts of ordinary human follies and indiscretions, for bad humour as well as good, but with a sense that what all this makes up is a picture of the way we are… She takes us inside a whole world, lovingly created, that is like no other we have been invited into, but with an eye that can be savage as well as loving. Just when we think we know some of these characters, and feel comfortable with them—too comfortable in fact—she catches them for us in a new and altogether less easy light...She has the writer's eye for detail: for the small, unnoticed aspect of a thing that makes it immediately alive to us; the writer's sense of pace, that makes time, and room in the writing, so that everything finds its place; and the writer's unsparingness that makes truth more important to her than any desire to please.’  David Malouf, 13 November 2007, launching the book:

‘This book enthralls with its depiction of life in Corfu in the 1950s…Maria-Strani Potts takes you back in time, so that you feel you have yourself experienced the Corfu of that era.

It’s like the best bits of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin rolled into one; and if a single book deserves to be read on all Corfu’s beaches this summer, The Cat of Portovecchio must be the one.” (The Corfiot, May 2008)

“Maria Strani-Potts, in a style reminiscent of Louis de Bernières (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin) and Joanne Harris (Chocolat),weaves tales about the inhabitants of a Corfiot fishing village in the 50s and the cat which makes itself part of their lives, whether they like it or not. Right from page one Strani-Potts manages to captivate the reader as the individual stories unwind and intertwine, gradually revealing extraordinarily real characters…It is refreshing to read a fictional account of village life in Corfu, written from the point of view of the locals and not from that of the foreigner in their midst. The Cat of Portovecchio isn’t trying to present a glossy, tourist-ready Corfu- instead it charms us with the inner workings of its people and traditions.”  (Book Review, ISLAND magazine, Summer/Autumn 2008).

"But now comes Maria Strani-Potts' captivating Corfu tales, The Cat of Portovecchio and I eat my words- not a bad image since, if your appetite for the writing flags (which it won't), the stories themselves are laced with scrumptious local recipes. It's about a Corfu fishing village...Read it, it'll change your life and the way you love (and live) the Corfu idyll. Grab it soon because it'll sell out fast and you don't want to be left out of the fashionable chit-chat. Also, get yourself copies for the spitaki, for the London townhouse- and, hey, one for your posh QueasyJet visitors to ease the tedium of rubbing shoulders with us proles."  ISLAND (Corfu's Lifestyle Magazine), March/April 2008

“Maria Strani-Potts is incisive in her observations of her locale…Strani-Potts’ writing is characterized by a relentless and seductive intelligence which can be cruel, compassionate and ironically amusing- often all at the same time. She is never less than provocative. A pleasure to read and, even for Corfiots, an education”. Richard Pine, The Anglo-Hellenic Review, Spring 2009.


5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Greek Story, 19 May 2011, Amazon.co.uk
By 
Lincs Reader (Lincolnshire, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Cat of Portovecchio: Corfu Tales (Paperback)
Earlier this year I managed to get hold of a copy of The Cat of Portovecchio by Maria Strani-Potts, and I finished reading it today. It's fairly difficult to get hold of in this country, I believe it was published in Australia as the author lived there for a while, but I'd recommend it as a wonderful taste of the island of Corfu. Reading it brought back so many memories of times on the island and especially visiting Corfu Town. 

Subtitled 'Corfu Tales', the novel is set in a small coastal village called Portovecchio in the 1950s. It's a novel, but not in the traditional sense. The story is made up of short tales about the inhabitants of the village, but all linked together to create a story of a community. The main character is Louisa - a small girl whose mother has recently died, she lives now with her father Tony and his new wife Blossom in Portovechhio. The sense of Corfu is so wonderfully written, the characters are so lifelike and jump from the pages. The peasant-like Blossom with her bowed legs and big appetite, the wicked priest Father Anthony who is bad to the core, and innocent Theodora who is badly treated yet nursed with love by the women of the village. And in amongst these character is Mamee - the cat of the title. Abandoned by her owners, loved by Louisa, the little cat brings the villagers together, stealing food and causing a nuisance, but also protecting them and comforting them. It would have been so easy for this to be just another twee little story about the good old days, but instead Maria Strani-Potts has created an enchanting story about a community that has it's bad parts and lots of good parts. With a theme of traditonal greek cookery in each chapter too, this is a perfect read.

Lives ripple among mesmerising aromas

Many of us enjoy a recipe, and The Cat of Portovecchio is a work of fiction that moves with confident ease between the world of the cookbook and the tale.
It is a hybrid that announces itself early. Straight after the contents page of The Cat of Portovecchio is another, headed, Food in Portovecchio.

It's an idiosyncratic sequence and also an important indicator of the source of the book's charm, which drifts from its pages in a heady and beguiling combination of aroma, texture and colour.

Avgolemono, frigathelia, bourdeto, yiaprakia, mayiritsa. Fish stew, just picked summer vegetables in tomato sauce, octopus and salami. Strani-Potts conjures a world that assaults the senses and her affectionate descriptions of recipes and food preparation of the kind authentic to Corfu are so vivid and mesmerising, so imbued with social custom and occasion they are a unifying thread running through the fractured, passionate and often difficult lives of her characters.
Together with the cat of the title, a black-and-white stray who moves "like a fashion model on a platform", the author's attention to food brings a dimension of sociability and geniality to tales of a world where celebration, incidents of violence and grim compromise work themselves out in a landscape notable for its abundant gardens, shady squares and the fizzing effervescence of sunshine on the port.
With the exception of Louisa, who loses her mother at the age of six, and who never ceases to struggle throughout the tales to hang on to vestiges of her memory and her affection, Strani-Potts's characters are presented as cameos, flares of energy and of conflict without resolution. Inevitably their lives intersect, for the community is small. A young couple falls in love; the local priest, Father Anthony, spends his time maliciously skewing reality to his personal advantage; the ample, middle-aged Blossom is married off to Louisa's father, Tony.
Poor Blossom: her wiry hair, bulging dark brown eyes, flat nose and thick lips had left her stranded in the family house. She has spent her life being told what to do and now marries during a thunderstorm "with a forced smile" to fulfil a financial arrangement and provide Tony with a housekeeper. Subsequently her married life is a gruelling mix of housework, cooking, needlework and a resignation of nearly heroic proportions.
Another character, Joy, married to a mostly absent seaman, instigates an explosive and accusatory confrontation with Father Anthony in the church vestry after a mass for the patron saint of Kerkyra (Corfu). Wearing her best stilettos and a fur coat from Vladivostock, Joy strikes at his pseudo self-possession with panache, confronting him with such a terrible and accurate account of his misdemeanours that it is hard to imagine how he could ever again lift his head in the village or officiate in his church. But he does…
The Cat of Portovecchio is not a novel that concerns itself much with the fine brushstrokes of the individual psyche, its choices and its fate.
This would matter more if the overall canvas and its characters did not spring to life with such vividness and sensuality, and one's eye were not always being drawn onwards and elsewhere. The tales are persistently eventful, and as they scroll across the feast days and holy days, the cycles of the seasons, births, marriages and deaths, any number of subplots appear and then disappear, traced so swiftly and impressionistically that they ripple across the page and sink without a trace…
The Cat of Portovecchio is notable for its freshness, warmth and spontaneity. Strani-Potts invites us to step into the lives and over the thresholds of this island community with charm and generosity. She leaves us with a seaside village and a landscape so vibrant that it stays in the mind long after the book is closed.’
Cathy Peake | The Weekend Australian, February 09, 2008.

‘It has everything—it’s like eating a full thirty-course dinner. Maria Strani-Potts is like a river that has burst its banks. Everything is included in her work, and she’s not afraid to put it down—no matter whose toes she steps on. Brilliant!’ D.Toteras, Greek American critic, writer and philosopher


"Cats go where they like. Even if they are chased away, they still come back. In Portovecchio, the small fishing village in Corfu, with its slaughterhouse by the sea, its old stone church, vile priest, sexy women, wild weather, fascinating food and wondering children, the cat goes everywhere, sees everything.
  Gerald Durrell used to be my eyes on Corfu, my only information about one of the legendary places of the world. I think I see it better now.
  Australians who come from Greece will recognise their roots, their ancient life, in this Corfu of 50 years ago. Readers who know Greece from afar will see it close here.
  I thank the cat, who moves through these very Greek joys and dreams, for opening my eyes."

Tony Troughear, The Newcastle Herald, Weekender Books Section, February 2008.

 

‘When I read The Cat of Portovecchio, I was immediately drawn to the apparently laid-back way of life of the characters. But it is boiling under the surface in the little village! Every character has a story to tell, and very often their lives cross. You will find passion, lost love, a child missing her mother, grown-ups caught in their own sorrow, incapable of helping others, a priest with bad intentions and secrets ready to be unveiled…and a lot of strong women. It is a book full of warm and understanding people who take care of each other and who are doing the best they can with the life God has given them. There are many original recipes. Most of all, the cat Mamee gives an unusual and enjoyable angle to the story.

It has that little extra. I immediately visualized it as a film. This is a story that will attract many readers. I also think that the timing is right. We need well-written stories with a universal message.’

Gunilla Sandin, Head of the International Seminar Program, Gothenburg International Book Fair.

‘Evocative and charming...her extensive knowledge of Greek culture informs these fictional tales featuring the widowed Tony, his daughter Louisa, the philandering island priest Father Anthony and the object of his longing, the beautiful Zoë. The cast of characters are thoughtfully created, but it is the author's understanding of the subtleties of village life—the rhythm of the sea, religious ceremonies and unspoken rules—that is most appealing.’                                      The Sun-Herald, 13 January 2008

‘Tales of sun-drenched life in Corfu are blended with authentic recipes in Maria Strani-Potts' novel, The Cat of Portovecchio...each of the 10 chapters has a recipe blended into the narrative. “I wanted to give people a sense of what it was like in the 1950s and 1960s...when everything was easy and beautiful,” she said. Wherever she is in the world, Corfu is always with Strani-Potts.’ 
The Wentworth Courier, 19 December 2007

‘Nourished by, and full to the marrow with delicious Corfiot spirit, but also with caustic humour and satire, in The Cat of Portovecchi: Corfu Tales Maria Strani-Potts reveals her intimate knowledge of the Corfiot mentality, customs, idiosyncrasies and ways of thinking. At first glance it's a tragic story enriched with comic elements, but Maria Strani-Potts also offers us a philosophical framework for the tragic social events which have an immediate impact on the inhabitants of the island.’       
Sophia Ralli-Kathariou, Kosmos, 7 December 2007

‘“It’s a book about the landscape of the place, about its history, its food and the way of thinking of its people,” [Strani-Potts] said. “It describes how things were done then.” [She] said it was important because deep in the souls of Corfiots lay three primary concerns: the sea, olive trees and their very long and complicated history.’
The Manly Daily, 2 November 2007

‘Maria Strani-Potts takes readers directly into the lives of the inhabitants of a bustling Corfu fishing village. Every character has a story to tell. Easter and Christmas, saints’ days and name days, marriages and funerals, are celebrated with feasts and through these stalks the Cat of Portovecchio, imperious and opportunistic, both loved and reviled.’                                                                      Gleebooks Gleaner, November 2007

A clever Corfu cat

JONATHAN CARR , THE ATHENS NEWS, 24.10.2008

Mamee is the black-and-white moggie that slinks through the pages of Maria Strani-Potts' The Cat of Portovecchio, set in Corfu in the mid-1950s. Abandoned by the owner of what was once the biggest house in a small, tight-knit community in the fishing village of Portovecchio, Mamee roams the neighbourhood at will. She knows who cooks what best (this is a place where everyone boasts a culinary speciality) and her appetite is seemingly inexhaustible. Slipping in through open doors and windows she helps herself to the most succulent dishes, usually before they have been served, creating havoc in the process. She raises smiles, she exasperates and she always - when necessary - escapes. Some love her, others don't. But Mamee turns out to be more than just a controversial community pet. She acts as a moral guardian for the human society she observes. Befriending the weak and oppressed, she exposes and punishes human wickedness.
1950s Portovecchio is quaint and attractive. Its gardens flourish with jasmine, honeysuckle, oranges and lemons; fish is plentiful and cheap; the climate is mostly forgiving. But it is made clear from the outset that the village does not represent an idyllic lost world. The local slaughterhouse turns the sea red three times a week, and the stench of its activities mixes with that of boiling tar from the shipyards to fill the air with a noxious odour. The scent of a popular kebab, the frigatheli, is far more alluring but it is not allowed to dominate.
And sin, of a sort, never lies far beneath life's surface. Fish is not Portovecchio's only business. The village is used as a conduit for smuggling cigarettes and, far more intriguingly, it supplies "an endless supply of good-looking mistresses" to Corfu town. Fat Foni, the only such mistress we meet, has managed to save travel expenses by finding herself a man in town. At the local church, actually. And it is telling that her man, handsome Father Anthony, is the only person in the village who really detests Mamee the cat, and behaves don't worry, Mamee is not so prudish that she exacts retribution for a bit of ordinary philandering, however hypocritical it is for the father to go directly from prayer to paramour. His crimes, we will discover, run much deeper than that.
Central to the world Strani-Potts has imagined is ten-year-old Louisa. She lost her mother when she was six, and arrives in Portovecchio four years later with her father Tony and her new stepmother, the far-from-blossomy Blossom. It is not a happy family. Nobody is participating in this union because they really want to be there. Tony has taken his new wife for her money, Blossom has been pushed into the match by a scheming sister-in-law and Louisa is caught helplessly in the middle. She misses her real mother, dislikes her stepmother and has no friends. It is a decidedly unpromising start. And that means there is plenty of room for improvement.
Sure enough, Louisa is soon making friends, not just with Mamee, but also with the other children in the neighbourhood. Blossom's enthusiasm for cooking provides something of an introduction to a community obsessed by the kitchen, and even snobbish Tony ends up doing a bit of socialising with people he considers beneath him. An omniscient narrative voice reassures us, from time to time, that there is a bright future in store for one or other character, but within these tales themselves only Mamee seems to achieve much lasting control over her life, and happiness ahead that might endure.
This is a quirky book. Strani-Potts was born in Corfu (in the same year as her character Louisa) and she is presumably drawing on childhood memories in her evocation of the island in those postwar years. She does this very well. Portovecchio itself is fictional, but the rhythm of life, the evocation of place and period details (the presence of the royal family in summer, the treatment of communists) give it an authentic feel. There are plenty of humorous ways in which cooking is so central to the life of the community, and hence the book. Over twenty recipes (including ones for religious ceremonies), that range from trahana soup to yiaprakia, a meat-and-rice concoction wrapped in cabbage leaves, are described fully enough for a reader to have a go himself.
It is right that a book with a cat at its centre, who tracks wrongdoing and metes out punishment, should have a touch of the fabulous to it.
And The Cat of Portovecchio does….Strani-Potts has created a vivid world in Portovecchio, full of interest and conflict and detail, and Mamee pulls off enough tricks to leave herself, and us, grinning like that fictional forebear of hers, the Cheshire-Cat.
* The Cat of Portovecchio: Corfu Tales by Maria Strani-Potts (276pp) is published by Brandl and Schlesinger via www.brandl.com.au


Madonna Magazine (Jesuit Publication), May/June 2007:

Mamee, the abandoned cat, is an unspeaking observer of the lives of people in Portovecchio. We see her in people’s homes and in the streets. At one moment she leads a religious procession as if the most important character in town; at another she creeps through the shrubbery to comfort a woman who herself feels abandoned years after her husband’s execution.
Just as nothing happens without Mamee, nothing happens without food. The tastes and smells of sikomaida, bourdeto and loukoumades waft through the pages as ingredients are listed and methods explained. Not everyone is a good cook however as indicated by this title chapter: ‘The cat steals, eats and sleeps well, while Joy cooks an inedible pastitsada.’
But this is more than a bit of tourist-style nostalgia about life, cats and food in an old fishing village. Maria Strani-Potts, a native of Corfu, writes with an insider’s honesty and clear-sightedness.
When launching The Cat of Portovecchio in November 2007, David Malouf described it as a ‘genuinely charming book’ whose writer allows for ‘all sorts of ordinary human follies and indiscretions, for bad humour as well as good, but with a sense that what all this makes up is a picture of the way we are.’ All this also makes for a very satisfying read!


A Novel Way of Looking at Corfu”, by Angela Papageorgiou and Hilary Paipeti,The Corfiot, January 2009:
In ‘The Cat of Portovecchi’, an enthralling depiction of life in a seaside suburb of Corfu Town, Maria Strani-Potts brings us her own experiences of the mores and
customs of the early 1950s. With caustic wit, she spares no-one, from Camilla, an interfering English animal lover who wants to 'save the entire Hellenic animal kingdom', to glamorous Joy, who 'drew long, curvy lines above her dark brown eyes where her eye-brows had been before she plucked them out.' In each chapter, one of the characters cooks, and the recipe becomes part of the motivation or the plot; for example, Father Antony's Savouro is the reason why Mamee, the cat of the title, always follows him - which has repercussions in the very last paragraph of the book.



Extracts

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Friday, 20 May 2011

IKEA, Ioannina (Sweden in Greece)

Leaving Zagori (Epirus) a few days ago, I stopped to visit the new IKEA store outside Ioannina.

It was good to wander round this treasure-house of affordable Swedish design and the sparklingly clean in-store restaurant offering the customary range of IKEA fare.

I couldn't miss the opportunity to buy several jars of pickled herrings.

I was surprised that the store was almost empty on a Tuesday morning. A sign of the recession? Anxiety about  ECB/IMF unwillingness to sign off the next tranche of bail-out money until further privatisation of state assets is implemented?

Maybe people haven't got used to Scandinavian styles, lines and light colours- or flat pack assembly instructions?

For me it was a pleasure driving from IKEA down the equally empty Egnatia highway to Igoumenitsa and the Corfu ferryboat.

How long before the Egnatia highway is privatised or equipped with toll gates? It might be more profitable to the state coffers to have a small IKEA restaurant every 30 km! But it looks as if the Greek government plans to sell 100% of the Egnatia Highway in 2012. The private owners may find that people will start using the old road once again.What's the point of owning stretches of empty highway?

In the meantime a Corfu tour company is apparently already organising coach day-trips from Corfu to IKEA, with a meal thrown in.

For me, it was three worlds in one day:

Epirus and traditional Balkan stone architectural influences

Sweden- at least a touch of Sweden and good contemporary design

Ionian Island- Corfu and its Venetian atmosphere.

Monday, 16 May 2011

SUNTOUCHED, by Theresa Nicholas: A Review



Theresa Nicholas’ “Suntouched, A Dark Comedy on a Greek Island” makes for a truly compulsive read, and this is the third time I have read it, the first time as a published book (Pen Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1-907499-84-5).

Ever since I read an unedited version five years ago, I strongly believed that it should be published and that it would prove a great success.

Theresa Nicholas will celebrate her eightieth birthday this summer, and the publication of “Suntouched” is the perfect way to celebrate her creativity and long connections with the island of Corfu, where she has lived since the early 1960s.

From her sketches and paintings in “Corfu Sketches: A Thirty Year Journey", John Waller and Theresa Nicholas, Yiannis Books, 2008, one can recognise many aspects of the island as it used to be, and the simple, colourful life style with which she fell in love, an island that only really began to change and modernise in the 1970s.

Her novel, although not explicitly set on Corfu, reveals most of its locations without too much detective work.

Corfu was not all wonderful in those years, and the establishment of a casino in the Achilleion Palace proved a curse to many, including Tassos, the novel’s main fictional creation, who is a real tour de force.

The book is certainly about the natural beauty of an unspoilt Greek island in the 60s and 70s (the descriptions of nature are beautifully observed and written), but the prime focus of the narrative is the obsessive love affair between an English woman, who has escaped a typical English fate, and an older Greek man, an unselfconscious existentialist, who exhibits many of the larger-than-life characteristics of Kazantzakis’ hero Zorba (as played by Anthony Quinn), plus some. Tassos is an attractive life force and symbol of Greece to many foreign women who fall for his paintings, his dancing and his manly vitality.

Theresa portrays her English heroine and her lover vividly (albeit through non-Greek eyes, with a measure of romantic projection and some naïve but often comic phantasising) with all his faults and attractions, including his penchant for drinking and gambling, and her use of broken English dialogue works wonderfully in bringing to life Tasso’s humour, his rebellious attitudes and changing moods. He can be violent when he has been drinking, but the novel’s long-suffering heroine stays with him, in spite of the fact that he is a married man with children, and a string of other summer-season admirers. He's not a kamaki: he simply wants to sell his paintings to supplement his income and to have a good time.

The internal feelings and thoughts of an intelligent, talented and resilient English woman who accepts the fate she has chosen and who is portrayed as having blazed a trail that many others were to follow after her (and which some lived to regret in real life) provide authentic psychological insights which make “Suntouched” an essential read.

I knew Corfu for much of the period that Theresa describes, and I was living and working on the island during the first year of the Military Coup.

I never once set foot in the casino, and my experience of the same Greek island was very different. Theresa Nicholas describes some of the eccentric expatriates to whom her subjugated heroine is occasionally allowed to talk by her jealous and occasionally brutal Greek lover.

The book is a dark comedy indeed, and ends in tragedy, but that indomitable Greek life force and joie de vivre survives beyond the grave, and this fine work of fiction is testimony to that.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Monday, 9 May 2011

Corfu Blues Gig in Summer Festival

Here's some official information (with a few minor amendments)


Live music, classical, folk, blues:  Duo Armande from the UK,  Blues musicians from Corfu,  and an Art Exhibition with demonstrations! 


2 - 4 June 2011

Location:
All events are at the English Holy Trinity Church, at the rear of the Ionian Parliament building. From mid way along the Spianada, 4 side streets before the Ionian Academy, walk up the side street to the top of the hill and you are there!

PROGRAMME
Summer Festival

Thursday 2nd June 20:00 to 22:30 - An evening of classical and folk music performed by 'Duo Armande'

Friday 3rd June 20:00 to 23:00 - An evening of contemporary and classic blues music performed live.

Saturday 4th June 20:00 to 23:00 - An evening of contemporary and classical Greek music performed live.

June 3rd & 4th 11:30 to 15:00 - Bazaar & Art Exhibition and Demonstrations -
Various stalls including Organic Produce, Plants, Home Produce, Crafts and Refreshments


Admission for the above events is by tickets only. 
Tickets are 15€ each, price includes food and a glass of wine. 

Tickets and information available from Rob Sherratt -
Email:
rob.sherratt at gmail.com
Tel. 6936873776 


Thursday June 2nd features Duo Armande.

Duo Armande enjoy exploring the repertoire for the unusual combination of both clarinet and violin and clarinet and viola.
Their discoveries into this repertoire have led them to a variety of works ranging from Bruch's wellknown and beautiful Clarinet and Viola Concerto to the delightful but lesser known music of Busch, Jacob, Hindemith and Rebecca Clarke. The repertoire also includes arrangements of works by better-known composers such as Mozart's Sonata and Beethoven's 3 Duos originally for Clarinet and Bassoon. Claire and Shulah also have an eclectic selection of popular classics and folksongs. The Duo are actively involved with education and outreach work, and are committed
to making music accessible to the community. Their programme for the evening will feature music from around the world, popular classics and folk music.

See also 
duoarmande.co.uk

On Friday June 3rd,

Come and immerse yourselves in the blues music and vocals of Jim Potts with Raoul Scacchi on Bass. 
Jim Potts is well known on the island, and is esteemed author of "The Ionian Islands and Epirus, A Cultural History". Jim and Raoul will perform a selection of classical and contemporary blues and Gospel Blues music including many of Jim's compositions. Some traditional blues here:

Jim and Raoul have played in the past with other musicians in Corfu including Rob Sherratt and Christopher Holmes

Saturday June 4th

sees the return of friends from the Department of Music academy at the Ionian University, including teachers and star pupils performing Greek and classical music from the Ionian repertoire in Corfu. 
Our event at Holy Trinity Church falls within the "Ionian Concerts of 2011" for the Ionian University. The first part of the evening features cello and violin pieces, and the second part of the evening features piano and flute pieces.
  
Admission to each of these events is by ticket only, costing 15 Euros per evening. Included in the price is a plate of delicious food , and a glass of wine.

Source: Holy Trinity Church

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Greece, New Talks

The Sunday Telegraph reports

How some Tories see it

George Osborne

Update

Keep Talking Greece

New York Times

Charlemagne (The Economist)

If you really want the inside story, or a comprehensive summary from many perspectives, you need to register with EuroIntelligence (a highly recommended source of information, interpretation and comments):


09.05.2011



THE CONSEQUENCES OF A NOT SO SECRET MEETING




It was always our contention that crisis resolution would consist of permanent rollover. When faced with the question of whether to allow Greece to default, or agree yet another (unrealistic) programme, European finance ministers accepted the latter.
At a secret meeting in Luxembourg, the finance ministers of a subset of eurozone countries met to discuss the future of Greece, and, according to the FT,  reached a consensus that they want to seek a whole new package, as the current Greek programme, which foresees a return to the markets in 2012, is not realistic.
Greece needs to raise €25bn-€30bn next year. The FT reports that the EFSF might buy up Greek debt in primary markets, complemented by a voluntary restructuring to roll over debt that falls due in 2012. Officials seem to have firmly ruled out any involuntary debt restructuring, which would create more problems than it would solve. The Greek finance minister was invited to the meeting so that officials could impress on him the importance of more austerity, and privatisation.
On Friday night, Der Spiegel reported that Greece had considered an exit from the eurozone, and revealed that such a meeting would take place, with Wolfgang Schäuble having a study in his briefcase on why a Greek exit would come at a prohibitive cost – for Greece, but also the eurozone itself. The story gave rise to frenzied denials by EU officials, and caused a further rout of the euro, which decline from a peak of $1.49 to $1.43 in two days. EU officials first tried to deny that such a meeting was taking place at all, but when that became impossible to uphold, they merely denied that the ministers discussed a restructuring of debt, let alone an exit.
Wolfgang Münchau writes in his FT column that the failure to be able to organise a secret meeting is symbolic of the difficulty in running a monetary union (and especially a debt rollover programme) with such a diverse group of executive decision makers. He said he no longer believes in any official pronouncements from any EU official. He said the absurd comments by Jose Socrates that he got a better deal than the Greeks and the Irish are also very typical for the eurozone’s collective action programme. He sees there more and more evidence for a bifurcation – a situation a few years down the road where eurozone member states will have to decide whether to jump into a political union, or to jump out of a monetary union.  
Juan Ignacio Crespo writes in El Pais that an exit from the eurozone would be tantamount to another global financial crisis. If Greece were to quit, the country’s banking system would collapse, and the country would face an economic and social implosion. And the crisis would immediately spread to the next eurozone country. Europe would at this point suspend both the internal market and the Schengen agreement.
The major German newspapers are divided on the merits of a second rescue package for Greece. While the economic dailies Financial Times Deutschland and Handelsblatt grudgingly endorse the idea Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Bild are in open revolt. FAZ’sHolger Steltzner points out that the EU and the IMF don’t have any means to put pressure on Greece as long as they exclude restructuring the Greek debt and Greece’s exit from the eurozone. Bild columnist Hugo Müller-Vogg argues that while the euro is indispensable for Europe, Greece is not. Should Greece wish to leave the currency zone nobody should stop it. “That would be expensive for the European taxpayer”, he argues. “But an expensive end is better than expensive rescue packages without end.”





Remember John Jackson

John Jackson (1924-2002), singer-guitarist and occasional bluesman from Virginia: I loved his wide repertoire and subtle finger-picking acoustic guitar style ("That Will Never Happen No More").

Take a listen to this Rag in C also.

Book recommendations from Paxos and Corfu

Thanks to Travel a la Carte for the book recommendations!

And to Villa Owners Corfu

&  Greek Island Holidays

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Preaching the Blues

A pity Son House isn't with us any longer (he died in 1988). We could have invited him to be our guest at our Corfu gig (Church Summer Festival) next month.

I saw him perform live in London's 100 Club in 1970. Simply the most dramatic and moving blues performance I've ever seen. Never forgotten.

Here he is with Preaching the Blues in 1967.

Grinnin' in your face (live in London, 1970)

Another favourite was Mississippi Fred McDowell (died 1972; I saw him in a magnificent performance in Bristol, England, in 1969); here he is with "When I lay my burden down"
(that's an electric guitar version)

Some may prefer this acoustic guitar version

We finish with a sermon by Jimmy Smith (died 2005) on Hammond organ and with the majestic Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting by Charlie Mingus (died 1979).

No more to be said.

Census in Greece

Keep Talking Greece on the forthcoming census in Greece this month

Al Jazeera on AV- Referendum Day

Here's a good explanation, in case your'e confused. Al Jazeera explains AV.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Blues Records

I've been looking for a poem by J.C.Ashby, called "Please Don't Laugh", which was published in "The Penguin Poets, The Mid Century: English Poetry 1940-1960" (1965).

I thought the book was in Dorset, but in fact I've just found it in Corfu. Here's one verse:

My mother thought the world was growing rotten,
That God would take His loved ones for His own
Perhaps that's why I sometimes feel so lonely
Playing blues records on the gramophone.

CHARLES STREET, DORCHESTER, LOCAL ELECTION ISSUE on 5 MAY: Size of financial penalty if Charles Street development is cancelled following local elections on 5th May.

Having made a Freedom of Information request to West Dorset District Council on 19 April, I have received this reply to my enquiry about this important issue which is central to the Local Elections tomorrow:

On 19 April 2011, I requested this information:

Dear West Dorset District Council,

It is a matter of considerable importance to be informed of the
financial consequences and penalties if the Charles Street
Development in Dorchester should be cancelled or renegotiated in
whole or part (ie new Council Offices and library) should the local
election give the majority to another party which claims to be
opposed to the development. This information needs to be in the
public domain well before the election on May 5 (ie well before the
end of April), in order for voters to make up their minds about
this absolutely central policy issue which divides the
Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. To keep the size of the
potential penalty secret means that voters have no way of judging
the reality of the claims of competing party candidates.


(signed)
I have just received this reply (this is the relevant paragraph), from David Wignall, West Dorset District Council, dated 4 May 2011:

I have passed on your enquiry to the Technical Services Manager who has informed me that there is no provision in the contract with Simons to cancel the project. In this event WDDC would be in breach of contract and would be liable for several million pounds of compensation for loss of earnings etc.

I hope this concludes your enquiry to your satisfaction. If you have any concerns in respect of our response to your information request, please contact me again.

Yours sincerely

David Wignall
Freedom of information officer
West Dorset District Council
Legal Services Division

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I wonder where this leaves the issue. Would there be a Dorset-wide referendum on the issue, in the event of a change in the balance of power in WDDC?

Voters have (or had) a democratic right to unambiguous answers on policies, the feasibility and affordability of their implementation.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Charles Street Development, West Dorset District Council Office, Candidates' Positions

A useful survey from the Western Gazette, prior to the local elections on May 5.

Mount Athos



Edward Lear, Mount Athos, watercolour

Friends of Mount Athos might enjoy this CBS documentary, in two parts

Part 1

Part 2

I've only managed to get there twice, in the 1980s.

I have also posted my own film on Ethiopia and Lalibela on YouTube

About Mount Athos

SUNTOUCHED



I'm still reading Theresa Nicholas' "Suntouched":

"It is the vibrant 1960s, and a young woman, desperate to escape the suffocation of her middle-class English life, flees back to Greece and the arms of her older, married lover, Tasso. But their scandalous relationship becomes increasingly explosive, overshadowed by Tasso's volatile nature and the military coup that stuns Greece - culminating in a tragedy of almost Greek proportions - With its insightful yet often comic exploration of obsessive love, Suntouched is a compulsive tale that powerfully evokes a fiercely male-dominated society that lives by its own rules".




The Ionian Islands and Epirus (again)

Trying to get the hang of Amazon Associates! I seem to have got all my Amazon passwords and the ".co.uk" ".com" confused. Will somebody please try the link below? Thanks!






In Association with Amazon.co.uk

"Greece One Year On"

The Financial Times carries a lengthy but balanced analysis of the Greek economy in today's print edition (May 2, 2011).  You can go straight to the online article by googling "Greece: Hard to hold the line".

Written by Ralph Atkins and Kerin Hope, two disconcerting passages stand out:

"Beyond Greece, fears are intensifying that the socialist government of George Papandreou...will fail to modernise the country's sclerotic economy or even bring it close to rivalling European peers."

They quote a Greek business leader joking that "The best thing that could happen would be to put the administration of Greece in the hands of Brussels or Berlin."

Will the newly announced privatisation programme and a good tourist season help to save the situation?

What Mr Papandreou had to say. (Athens News)

This Spiegel article is causing a storm

Is it true that the Mayor of Thessaloniki has announced that he has ordered a monument in memory of Osama Bin Laden?  Probably a spoof.

It certainly seems unlikely. Maybe the blogger picked up this item.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Polluted Beaches

The Sunday Times (today, 1st May) carries two articles about polluted beaches in England and Wales, and about the outcome of its campaign to warn bathers "when they face the risk of swimming in waters polluted with sewage", usually caused by storm overflow pipes. Beaches such as Bournemouth, Swanage and Sandbanks, Poole, will be monitored, but the scheme will apparently cover less than 50 beaches in England and Wales.

There is concern about the quality of bathing water at Church beach, Lyme Regis.

Charles Clover calls his article "The stench of a cover-up on our soiled beaches" (page 27).

Following a visit to Lyme Regis last week, he cites reports that "Lyme's councillors are thinking of scrapping the designation of 'bathing beach' for one of the beaches we were looking because it consistently fails European standards for bathing water....It is scandalous that one of the regular failures should be Lyme Regis, one of the tourist honeypots of the south coast. The culprit apparently, is the River Lyme, which discharges into the bay via Church beach."

It is an important article, especially as children have already started swimming, as a result of the warm weather.

I hope the local councillors will take the matter seriously and take action to ensure real improvements, not just in order to avoid bad publicity.

Charles Clover makes a strong case for freedom of information.

Mayday

John Clare's May

From johnclare.blogspot.com


May Morning in Oxford

Mayday at Cerne Abbas (from www.darkdorset.co.uk)


"Every May Day morning at dawn, The Wessex Morris Men climb up to the top of Giant Hill, above the famous chalk figure and fertility symbol 'The Cerne Abbas Giant', to welcome in the coming of Summer with a set of traditional morris dances. This is also the one time of year when the horned Dorset Ooser is brought out from the Dorset County Museum to make its annual appearance. The magical Dorset Ooser is a representation of a bull or Wild Man which by tradition was believed to be a potent source of fertility.

The Wessex Morris Men will perform their annual ritual dance at the Trendle or Giant's Enclosure, above the Cerne Abbas Giant. At sunrise (approx 5.15am) on the site of an ancient maypole high on the hill above the village. They will then process into the village to dance in the square outside the Red Lion at around 7.30pm"


And in Corfu...

Be there soon!