Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Always Travelling Home

Always Travelling Home

Home, where you set your compass
Your home is the compass from where you set your course when you begin travelling.

Right now I’m aware that our house and neighbours in Australia offer the model from which we tend to draw comparisons when in Greece. And although we spend 6 months in Greece I have to admit that Australia has become our home country, and the familiar place from which we set our course.

Though, this is not a simple picture for Takis and me. We also have our natal countries that still extend some influence on our ‘sense of home’. For Takis this is about being a Greek in Alexandria in Egypt, for me it is about living in the South of England.


Nowadays Alexandria and Kent are far away, and we have come to love two other countries and what they offer. So while both appreciate the green mountains and tall trees we are about to leave in Australia and we are indeed looking forward to seeing the dry hills and scented shrubs of Greece again.


Home, where your mytholgy lies

Dorothy enjoyed her adventures but she still looked forward to go home

The countries in which Takis I grew up have changed and so we find we cannot altogether feel ‘at home’ there any more. Yet English history still stirs me and Greek history stirs Takis, but perhaps one has to be born in the country you now call home to be willing to adopt its mythology.
Odysseus also went adventuring
But he looked forward to returning to the great hall of his palace in Ithaca

We might be Australians now, but not having been born there the annual Australian celebration of Gallipoli feels rather foreign to us. Takis and I have other and different stories of that last Great War.
We understand that the Gallipoli stories enable new young Australians to find a story with mythic dimensions, about their country’s place in the world.

Greeks also tell stories of their history that we cannot identify with. For while it is true that once Greece once had an important and strategic position in the Great Byzantine Empire it is obvious to us that this is a view that cannot be held today!

Being yourself ‘at home’

I’m sure that when Takis visited England he felt a bit at home. He knew the language, and had watched English TV whodunits! But of course his UK knowledge was not that of living there. It was not what we call ‘second nature’.

Myf Warhurst, and Australian journalist wrote in the Guardian…
‘Growing up somewhere gives you an understanding of place that goes beyond education. When you’re submerged, things somehow creep under the skin. Here, for example, I hear people talk about Europe in ways that the child in me thinks incredibly worldly. For people who grew up in Britain, hopping on a plane and being in an entirely different country in an hour is second nature. Most people here have been doing it since they were kids…I can share a language, I can share a cultural and visual history, yes, but I’m beginning to understand I won’t truly feel part of a place just by living there. It takes more than that, a deeper understanding that only comes when I’m not trying so hard to learn. That’s when I’ll truly be a local.’
Christos Tsiolkas, the author of The Slap and Barracuda writes about being Greek in Australia. Tsiolkas first language was Greek and he has always been concerned about what a genuinely multicultural society might mean. It is something that Australia has struggled with, and is still trying to understand better today.
But Christos does say that, 'I learnt to feel Australian by travelling to Europe'. And he adds that being Greek for him is just another way of being Australian.

When the house is a part-time habitation

In October in Greece and in April in Australia
There are practical aspects of moving away from home, especially if it is going to be 6 months before you return. Having two homes, the same applies twice over - in Lemnos in October and in Australia in April. Many of the things listed below I might have to do anyway, but perhaps not twice a year!
* Clean out the pantry and fridge.
* Prepare outdoor furniture for winter storage
* Cut back garden bushes and make bonfires
* Put latest work on memory sticks to take
* Wash covers and curtains
* Store woolens in plastic bags

Here I go again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Old and New Magic

Old and New Magic

Many Greeks still believe in the Evil Eye

In Greece the most familiar ‘magic’ has to do with the evil eye. You will notice that even today many people try not to show appreciation of another’s beauty, or notice another’s good luck. This is because the evil eye might be attracted to that person and give them a bad time. Rather, they spit at the good thing, in order to trick the evil eye into thinking they did not like it, or envy the other’s good fortune. For instance, people will not say to you, ‘Your child is beautiful,’ rather they will make a spitting noise, ‘tutch, tutch, tutch!’ as if they were spitting at the child.

There are many secret rituals, developed in the past, to get rid of the ‘evil eye’. Fishermen in Greece paint a blue eye on the prow of their boats to ward off the ‘evil eye’, which for fishermen usually means bad storms. Others banish the ‘evil eye’ with secret words and ‘magic’ rituals. I have been told that one way of doing this is to take nine cloves, hold them over a candle, and if one clove fizzes loudly when lit then the spell has been broken. However if none make a fizz the magician will put a water cross on your forehead and cheeks, and then place the cloves in a small cup of water and throw the water over their shoulder. The bad spell will then be broken. A more simple way is to fill a saucer with water and let a drop of oil fall on the surface. If the oil disperses it is not a good sign, so you do another drop until it stays in place on the water.

I once wrote about this to the grandchildren. I wrote,
Maybe you have some stories, or games, that are only shared with a few friends. Maybe you even have a secret code or password that you only use with a couple of friends. In Lemnos there is one very big secret that many people believe, it is about an evil eye. It is such a big a secret that it is hard to get anyone to talk to you about it. But there are some people who may know ways to make sure the eye does not hurt you!’

Magic Spells

'Dear All,
I thought I’d write you a little story today, A Story of Superstitions.

One day as I was leaning out of the window to close the shutters of the bedroom windows when I noticed a neighbour in the street below. I had not seen her for a while so I called out and asked her to come in, if she had time. I went down stairs to meet her in the garden and she said,
‘Kalimera Kiria Julia’. 
‘Kalimera Kiria Vetta’, I replied. 
We were saying ‘Good morning’ to each other in Greek.
‘Ti kanis?’ she then asked me.
‘Kalla efcharisto, kesis?’ I replied.
She was asking me how I was and I was asking if she was OK
We were having some very hot weather and Vetta had seen that my garden was drying up. She knew that I had been worried about my lemon tree as I had shown it to her a few days before. 
‘Poss ine  e lemonia sou?’ 
I laughed and answered in English, 
‘Someone’s put the evil eye on it and it died!’
She looked horrified at my mentioning this word out loud, for then The Eye might hear!
‘It really is my fault. I should not have put fertilizer on the tree in such hot weather. It gave it a big shock. But, in case it was ‘The Eye’, can you tell me if there is something you can do to turn it away?’
‘Let me show you,’ she said in English and led the way into my kitchen. 
She asked me for some cloves and matches. One at a time she picked up a clove with a pin. Then she put a lighted match to the end of each clove in turn. One lit with a spurt of flame. 
‘Kala’, she said,’ all is well. It has gone’
‘Ah,’ I breathed with relief, ‘Now I don’t have to be worried about my orange trees dying too. But you know Vetta that is only a superstition. What we really need is a shower of rain.’
Do you know, that night we had such a shower of rain that it flooded the kitchen, and when I was mopping up all the water I fell over on the slippery floor. The next time I met Vetta I told her the magic had not worked very well, I now had a big bruise on my leg. 
She answered, ‘But, you must thank me for the rain’. 
‘Well, perhaps you did save my orange trees.’ I conceded. ‘Or rather, God’s good rain has.’
However as I limped back into the house I did not feel completely sure that The Eye was not chuckling to itself.

Bye for now. I’ll write again soon. Lots of love. Grandma and Grandpa.’

Medusa’s  evil eye

Of course there is power in a glance. Our eyes fall when someone stares, and even when a loved one looks at us we can only hold that look for a short while. So the idea that looks could kill was an obvious one that many tribes have taken seriously. In northern Greece it was an important concept for the shepherds who lived in the Balkan Mountains. The fact that these people had blue eyes maybe why blue eyes are also associated with the idea of an evil being sent with a glance. The blue eyed person is seen by some to offer a more potent glance of evil. Yet at the same time the blue eye, painted on a boat’s side, or worn as an amulet, can ward off evil.

In Greek mythology the story of the Medusa is one that emphasises a belief in the evil eye. After Athena used the sign on her aegis, it also became a sign painted on a shield to take into war and frighten ones enemies. But most people today see links with envy, that if one owns something precious, and frail, the look of envy by another has the potential to destroy this precious thing.

And I found myself believing in the Kalikantzaros

Kalikantzaroi (Greek: Καλλικάντζαρος; sing. Kallikantzaros) are malevolent goblins in Greek folk tradition. They dwell underground but come to the surface during the twelve days of Christmas, from 25 December to 6 January (from the winter solstice for a fortnight during which time the sun ceases its seasonal movement).
From Wikipedia

The Greeks have a belief that all year the kalikantzaroi (the little devils) work to undo the tree of life. Then at Christmas, at the birth of the Christ child, these devils become so incensed they burst out of Hell and roam the earth. They meet their doom on Epiphany, January the sixth. On this day, at the ceremony of the Blessing of The Waters, enough ‘white power’ is unleashed that they’re once again helpless. This is why at this time holy water is carried from the church and sprinkled around the house with sprigs of basil, to keep away their evil influences. Or you can keep a fire lit all night to drive them away.

‘There is no standard appearance of Kalikantzaroi, there are regional differences on their appearance. Some Greeks have imagined them with some animal parts, like hairy bodies, horse legs, or boar tusks, sometimes enormous, other times diminutive. Others see them as humans of small size smelling horribly. They are predominantly male, often with protruding sex characteristics… Many Greeks have imagined them as tall, black, hairy, with burning red eyes, goats' or donkeys' ears, monkeys' arms, tongues that hang and heads that are huge.  Nonetheless, the most common belief is that they are small, black creatures, humanoid apart from their long black tails. Their shape resembles that of a little, black devil. They are, also, mostly blind, speak with a lisp and love to eat frogs, worms] and other small creatures.’
From Wikipedia

One particularity that sets the Kallikantzaroi apart from all other goblins/creatures of the Underworld is that they appear on Earth for only twelve days out of the whole year. Their short duration on earth, as well as the fact that they were not considered purely malevolent creatures but rather impish and stupid, have led to a number of theories about their creation.

From my Book

As Lisa and I cleaned we noted the big adjustment we had to make to the noise level. It seemed to us that the children, who had now gone back to school, often stood in lines in the school yard having shouting matches. Also we were regularly, and not only on Sundays, woken up by church bells that began tolling at seven in the morning. But what most troubled us were the club-goers who returned home at three in the morning on very noisy motorbikes. We’d discovered Greek islands are not quiet places, and since we were working so hard we really did need a good night’s sleep. My immediate answer was to use earplugs to sleep at nights.’ 

And so I found myself calling the local boys on their motorbikes our Kalikantzaros

In Lemnos pavements aren’t the preserve of walkers; in fact, a new pavement is a siren call to all and sundry to fill it up with many kinds of land flotsam and jetsam. So this year, 2006, I told Takis that I was going to the council to complain. ‘There might be a lot of national pride in Greece, but not much civic pride! I’m tired of having to walk on the roads and keep a continuous look out for an aftokineto (car) bowling around the corner at high speed, or having to jump out of the way when a Lemnian kalikantzaros roars past on his motorcycle.’ 


Sirens are some other mythical creatures you’ll come across in Lemnos. There are some lovely statuettes of sirens in the Lemnos museum.

I love the cheeky grin on the faces of these Lemian sirens.

The Sirens were songsters. They lured people to listen to them, even though to listen meant travelling into some very dangerous places. Many sailors where lured by them and became shipwrecked on rocks. But when Orpheus, who was travelling with the Argonauts, played his harp his music was more beautiful than theirs. Thus it was that the sirens realised they had lost their power, and as a result they were changed into rocks.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

About Blogging

About Blogging

My Motivation

I am an ex-academic now elderly grandmother I enjoy gardening, house decorating, fashion, entertaining, history and a lot of other things. 

One of my pleasures is writing but writing can be a lonely occupation, especially if you do not get published. My writing audience since retirement has tended to be limited to the readers of my occasional articles in newspapers and garden magazines. However through blogging I’ve been able to share ideas and recent experiences with others. These others are all over the world and this has been a great thrill for me.

Yet being a private person there is much I choose not to reveal on my blog, and on the whole I’ve tried to limit the pictures to just those of Takis and me. I’ve no wish to be a celebrity with hundreds of followers and what I have found is that blogging on a single subject has enabled me to reveal as much of myself as I wish.

I am married and live in two countries, and this is a blog about the experiences of my husband and I in Greece with a few references to Australia. However, while it has this limit, within this framework I’ve enlarged the topic to cover many interests.

The Main Subject Matter

The main subject matter is the renovation of a house we own in Greece. But as we have spent six months a year for over ten years in Greece we have been able to get involved in much more than just renovation such as, gardening, cooking, getting to know Takis’ Greek family and learning about our new local neighbourhood – its history and mythology.


One of my passions has always been gardening

And Takis has always loved carpentry

Now we found ourselves still doing that but also  renovating

From Woe to Go!
But an exciting project all the way.

Lemnos is off the Tourist Route


Lemnos is not Santorini!

But while not Well-Known it is an island that has kept its Greek heritage

Setting Up the Blog

When I started I found myself completely bamboozled by computer terminology and Google-speak, so I turned to an expert.

Takis has a daughter who has had a very successful blog. I loved the look of Lisa’s blog and wanted to do something like that. She offered to help and in the first months I often had to turned to her for help.

The Heading

Choosing the title and setting it up was my first difficult. I wanted it so say so much about our Greek Adventure but also be explicit. And I wanted the heading to be as attractive as Lisa’s in her blog, ‘Greek Vegetarian’.

So I chose the words, ‘Returning Home to Greece’ and I asked her how I could set up a heading with picture, a coloured background, and a highlighted name on the top of the picture.

Lisa’s step by step advice:

* Sign in to Blogger (
* The "Julia's blogs" page should come up. Click on the black title, "Travelling Home to Greece".
* You should now be on the "Travelling Home to Greece Overview" page.
* On the left-hand side is a menu: Overview, Posts, Pages etc. Click on "Template".
* You should now be on the "Travelling Home to Greece Template" page.
* Click on the orange button "Customise" under the small preview of your blog page.
* This should take you to the "Blogger Template Designer" page.
* On the left-hand side is a menu: Templates, Background etc. Click on "Advanced".
* In the second column from the left is a list: Body Text, Background, Links etc. Click on "Blog Title".
* You can change the Font and the Text Colour of the title using the options that come up.
*Once you've made your changes, click the "Apply to Blog" orange button at the top right-hand corner of the page.
*Then click "Back to Blogger" which is also at the top of the page, in blue and underlined.
*Then click the Orange button at the top left-hand corner of the page, with the white "B" logo. This will take you back to your "Julia's blogs" page.

Then she added, ‘Hope that helps!!’ and it did, eventually!
I started out composing and then pasting the composition in the blog. Strange things happened! The text would float around the page or change font.
Again I wrote to Lisa.

More Advice from Lisa:
Turn your work into TextEdit format. 

Now my process is that I compose in Times New Roman 14, then I ‘Select All’ and past into TextEdit before selecting ‘Select All’ again and copying and pasting into the blog.

Once in the blog I highlight headings and subheadings.

This was another problem. Now however I usually put all my pictures for one blog in a file down load them together. This has to be done by uploading the images via Blogger using the little icon that looks like a picture. When they are in the blog I make them all small before placing them in the text. Only when they are in place do I choose what size I want them.

Google Readers
One day someone popped up as a follower, and another day a ‘circle’ suddenly appeared on my blog. I wrote to Lisa and she replied.

Regarding your blog, I think I might have mentioned to you I don't really know much about Google circles so I just ignore them.

Seven moths on and so far…

* I have logged 55 blogs

* The blog has had readers over that time from

USA, Australia, Greece, UK, Germany, France, Ukraine, China, Canada, Brazil and other several other countries

* As of April 2014 all time page-views number 3,820

* ‘Dreaming of a Homeland’ and ‘Fruit Trees’ have been two of the most popular posts.

I would like to continue on for a while longer, though blogs on a certain topic probably have a limit. I expect I’ll know when that limit is reached. Meanwhile we both are enjoying our Greek lifestyle and I'm enjoying sharing it with you!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

April 25, Anzac Day

April 25, Anzac Day

From Lemnos to Gallipoli and Back

Lemnos off the coast of Turkey, opposite Troy
In 1915 a battle raged in the rugged peninsula in Turkey called Gallipoli for eight months. Thousands of Australians fought here, alongside soldiers from New Zealand, Britain and France. The Allies wanted to stop the Turks from taking part in World War I. Many of the Turks died defending their land against the invaders. Eventually the Allies withdrew in defeat, but more than 7800 Australians had been killed.

Every year on April 25th, in Australia and on the Gallipoli beach, this loss is commemorated as many Australians flock to Anzac Cover, by the beach where so many of their countrymen died. This year it is expected more than 10,000 Australian and New Zealander pilgrims will travel to the Gallipoli Peninsula to attend the service.

Next year, 2015, will mark the 100th anniversary of the landing of the allies in World War 1, and the numbers wishing to come will exceed this so authorities have imposed a balloted limit of 10,200 pilgrims.

The Commonwealth of Australia was just 13 years old when this occurred. Many Australians felt that Great Britain was still their home country and that they had a duty to help out. It was an ill-conceived plan in the first place, as the army had to scale high cliffs, and land from amphibious boats. They could only bring in reinforcements from the sea in plain sight of the Turkish artillery.

Moudros Harbour, Lemnos

WW1 Cemetery at Moudros

It was a disaster from day one. Not only were many killed but 19, 441 were injured and the field hospitals found they could not deal with the many amputations that were needed.

On the battle-fields there were some doctors and male nurses but a large hospital was set up on Lemnos with doctors and female nurses, but many died on the boats before getting there, and those that made it to the hospitals then had suffered from dysentery and heat.

Moudros Bay is one of the largest Natural harbors of Greece. It was used as the base of the Allied Navy during World War 1 at which time there are said to have been about 400 boats of all sized moored here. When the injured were brought to the island they were placed in tents around the shoreline until they could be taken by boat to better hospitals in Alexandria, Egypt. The lack of clean water and the heat did not help and many died on Lemnos from dysentery. There are two very large military cemeteries on the island for the dead of this campaign, soldiers from England, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries.

The Stuff of Myths

Thousands of Years Ago - The Siege of Troy
According to Homer, in his book the Iliad, the ships of the Greek expeditionary force lined up on the beach near the ancient town of Troy. This town we think is Hissarlik, an ancient settlement near the coast of the Aegean in the northwest corner of Asia Minor. Homer tells us that the armies of Agamemnon and his brother Menelaus encamped in huts beside their ships. With them were other forces whose princes owed allegiance to these more powerful kings. The fighting took place on the rolling plains between these huts and the city walls.

Nurses at War

Australian Memoria at Moudros

From, The Other Anzacs: Nurses at War, 1914-18 by Peter Reese

Chapter 13 The Shabby Sisters
‘On the barren and windswept Aegean island of Lemnos, the guns at Gallipoli could be heard rumbling just sixty kilometers away as a large group of Australian nurses came ashore in August 1915, cheered by men on ships anchored in Moudros harbour. In their grey ankle-length uniforms, they made their way cautiously over a stony field while a bagpiper played them into camp. Aside from hospital ships, Lemnos was the closest location to Gallipoli where nurses could serve. The proximity fired their emotions. Starr Nurse Nellie Pike, from Sydney, ‘could imagine no greater joy than to be working under the canvas so close to the gallant men of Anzac.’

Just five hours away by sea, Lemnos was the perfect location for the Allies’ advance naval and military base. The huge, deepwater Moudros harbour was alive with action as hundreds of battle ships; destroyers, troop transports and hospital ships came and went. Elsie Eglingon, on the transport Ionian, captured the sight as the sun rose over the port.

‘The water was very dark green and the shadows of all these huge battleships was thrown right across the harbour, the reflection of the sky in the water as it kept changing colour was beyond description – one minute it was crimson and the next like a sheet of gold, such vivid colours, quite different to the soft Egyptian skies.’

WW1,  Simpson and his donkey

Jack ‘Murphy’ Simpson was one of the orderlies working tirelessly on the battlefields helping the wounded men. He led his donkey up and down the deadly gullies of the Gallipoli Peninsula, rescuing the wounded and there is a memorial statue to Jack Simpson and his donkey outside the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

And Stories Keep Coming

The film Gallipoli
This film, staring Mel Gibson, Mark Lee and Bill Kerr, traces the journey of two country boys from Australia to join the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. This film helped to keep the old stories alive.

The Turkish Story

Soon young backpackers began including Gallipoli on their world trip itinerary.  And today the local hostels and hotels show this film and there are roads and a memorial with the words of Kemal Ataturk, the first president of the Turkish Republic.
‘Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.’

‘You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well.’ 

A Lucky Cigarette Case

Recently a Melbourne writer, Tony Wright, penned an article in the local paper, The Age, about his grandfather, George Moore.  The article tells how George as a youth of 21 went to Gallipoli and tramped on foot between the beach and the front lines on the cliffs carrying ammunition. He survived, but he told his family the tale of how he was once knocked to the ground by exploding shrapnel, and when he came to he realized that his tin cigarette box had a hole in it and had saved him.

                                 With the Family at Moudros Today