Sunday, 30 November 2014

Living with Trees

Living with Trees
When walking along the roads near were we now are living, in the Hills above Melbourne, I took these pictures of giant trees. Various particular giant trees grown in these mountains, and other trees, grown all over the world, also grow to huge heights here.

Fear of Trees

Hylophobia, also known as xylophobia, ylophobia, and dendrophobia, is a psychological disorder defined by a fear of wood, forest and trees.

 We probably all have felt it at some time.
Is it just a fear of wild things living there?
Or that the trees will pull up their roots and chase you?
See Birnam Wood in Shakespeare’s Macbeth
Or the walking trees in Lord of the Rings
But, like most fears we can do something about them. 
You can be amazed by the glory of these giants, fantasise about them, write a poem about them, or just sand still and let your senses take it all in. 
While you stand there you can hear sounds and smell the natural scents, sounds, or you can go close and feel the bark and leaves. 

Trees and Creativity


Margaret Doubler, 'Dance a Creative Art Experience

Life’s experience comes from the interaction between man and nature- man and his social world, man and himself. In this interaction human energy is gathered and released, resulting in experiences that exalt us and depress us. There are rhythmic pulsations that run the emotional gamut from achievement to failure, from hope to despair, each with its own defining characteristics of tension and movement.

John Paynter, Sound and Silence
When we look closely at nature and are filled with wonder by its intricacies, we are often moved and must find a way of expressing our feelings, it is from here that the arts spring, as do all aspects of language and the need to communicate ideas and emotions.

One response might be to write a poem.  

(This is a very well known poem that I recited when a child at a church concert and it still resonates with me. )
Trees by Joyce Kilmer
 I think that I shall never see
 A poem lovely as a tree.
 A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
 Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
 A tree that looks at God all day,
 And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
 A tree that may in Summer wear
 A nest of robins in her hair;
 Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
 Who intimately lives with rain.
 Poems are made by fools like me,
 But only God can make a tree.

Another Response might be to Plant a Tree

They may eventually become larger than you expected

Even though when you plant a tree you  know you will probably never see it when it reaches its full beauty, meanwhile you can  watch it gradually change as it grows, and it can please you to know that someone else might benefit. At present I want to grow some more large trees. I desperately want a copper beech and a couple of forest pansies, plus a golden pencil pine. The aim is to add colour in front of the green mass of forest trees that form the background of this garden in the mountains behind Melbourne.

My Dogwood is out flower right now
In the right climate even a silver birch with become a giant, eventually.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Travellers All: short term and stayers

Travellers All: short term and stayers

A  Short Well-Earned Holiday

From my point of view, living in Greece, tourists are a nusisance, but I know I’m being grandly restrictive, from the point of view of taverna owners tourists are their bread and butter, they are a necessesity. Is not that I think Greece should only be available to people like us and others should not travel to Greece, but I’d rather folk did not just go as sun-and-beach tourists. There is so much more you can explore and so many other kinds of tours you can make in Greece.

But the cultural norms remain and most planning a holiday to Greece think of doing is ‘tanning on a Greek beach ’ and ‘Eating Greek salads at a taverna’. They expect white houses with blue shutters and are disapointed if they do not find them. So certain islands and certain tourist activities remain about the only thing most seek. In fact there is an exculsivity about these tourists. However it is an easy way to advertise Greece, and the locals seem to want to keep it that way.

This way of advertising saves the tourist operator the trouble of thinking of anything outside of the norm and for the Greeks it can be used as a way to control newcomers, keeping foreigns busy and not interfering with local concerns.

Cook’s Tours and Tourist Information

Cook's idea to offer excursions came to him while walking from Market Harborough to Leicester to attend a meeting of the Temperance Society. With the opening of the extended Midland Counties Railway, he arranged to take a group of 540 temerance campaigners to a rally in a town eleven miles away. On 5 July 1841, Thomas Cook arranged for the rail company to charge one shilling per persont that included rail tickets and food for this train journey and he was paid a share of the fares actually charged to the passengers. This was the first privately chartered excursion to be advertised to the general public.
In 1872, he formed a partnership with his son, John A. Mason Cook, and renamed the travel agency as  Thomas Cook and Sons. They acquired business premises in London. By this time, Cook had stopped personal tours and became an agent for foreign or domestic travel. The office also contained a shop which sold essential travel accessories, including guide books, luggage, telescopes and footwear.
The firm's growth was consolidated by John Mason Cook and his two sons, especially by its involvement with military transport and postal services during the 1880s, when Cook began organising tours to the Middle East. By 1888, the company had established offices around the world, including three in Australia and one in Auckland, New Zealand.

Doing Something Different, B&B’s?

We have often stayed in in European B&B’s and if run by the family who own the house they have provided some of our best holidays. However changing the cultural norm of a week in a modern seafront hotel is difficult for tourists, who only get a weeks leave, and for local Greeks who are not used to running B&B’s. There are just one or two in the country and you may find those running them are not familiar with this kind of business. We did think about it for our house and realised the problems. It would require good supervision to keep up a standard, and we are not there year round, and also some kind of joint enterprise between owners, supervisors, tourist operators - and joint-enterprises are something that even Greeks  admit they are not good at.

Lesbos, like Lemnos, is different.

On the one time we looked for B&B’s in Greece we found much lacking in the one we picked. It was badly organised, (you had to climb across the bed to get to the other side), no one was there to greet us though we’d booked ahead (and we had to pay an old grandmother when we left). It was  up in the mountains and cold we weren’t allowed to turn on the heater, and we practically had to beg for breakfast. The family had obviously got an EU grant to add onto their farm house to provide for tourists, but they really did not want the worry of making strangers feel welcome.

Doing Something Different, an Ahondikio

A Small Hotel on Lesbos
Stay in an Ahondikio (previously a wealthy person’s home) What I’m proposing here is to ‘get to know the country’ by staying where people have previously lived. We stayed in a lovely place on Lesbos once, previously the home of a weathy sea merchant.

Or Stay in a Convent

One place I’d like to go back to on Lesbos is the Monastery of Agiou Raphael in Thermi. People come from all over Greece to the shrine of the Newly Sanctified Martyrs of Raphael, Nikolas, and the young Irene, all three of whom died as martyrs at the hands of the Turks in 1463. This monastery is constantly visited year-round by pilgrims searching for a miracle. The complex has rooms for overnight stays. There is a celebration here on the Tuesday after Easter, which is perhaps when you should not go, it would be booked out.

Another Option?

What is hitting the newspapers is something out of my league that I cannot comment on. That is the sale of whole islands!

More pratical though, and perhaps the other alternative is to buy a holiday home in Greece. But do so with caution. 

Though there are a lot of empty houses in Greece for sale at the moment, and many owners wanting to sell second homes there are difficulties. If our experience is anything to go on this is not an easy thing to manage and took us over five years to finally buy our house. And many other’s have had the same experience. You will find that either the owner has an inflated idea of what the property is worth on today’s market, or, more likely, that there are simply too many owners of one property, and probably no legal titles, so negotiating a sale can become very difficult. Maybe the climate is changing and this will become easier as there are clients out there as many in Europe would love to own a house in Greece, and there are without doubt many empty houses in Greece.

And yet Another Option: Go Exploring Your own Country

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Looking Over my Shoulder: Lemnos from Melbourned

Looking Over my Shoulder:

Lemnos from Melbourne

The Differences

These do not immediately hit us as we are coping with jet lag, and begining life back in Australia is easy. Once we are sleeping OK we slot back quickly; here the car usually starts immediately, the water flows and the shops are nearby. Lemnos receedes, but after a while we start to make comparisons, and laugh as we remember at some of our Lemnian troubles, and we might grumble about some of the things that are not as good in Melbourne.

Road Rules

We will have quickly noticed that folk in Melbourne park their cars correctly, they do not block your way and they give clear directions as to where they are going and when they are turning. I know some people in Melbourne will say, ‘Not always’, but the thing is in Lemnos these things are almost never done! (Perhaps its the steep fine you’ll get in Melbourne makes the difference.)
Walking malls that scooters regularly zip down
Large tourist busses getting through small streets


There is one largish supermarket in Myrina and several small ones, and many more micro ones. We now find we can buy most of the things we want in Lemnos, but ten years ago when we began visiting Lemnos this was not so. At that time even breakfast cereals were not available, and I made up my own museli. Now you can buy a good selection of most things, though the Lemnian children are adicted to very sweet cereals. I still have to scan the shelves to find something that does not contain chocolate. But here in Melbourne we miss the thyme honey, and local cheeses, these are things we stock up on as soon as we arrive on the island.

Garden Fresh Vegetables

And the Mediterranean vegetables are very much missed here in Australia! The tomatoes from my garden, sweet and red, cannot be found. Fruit and vegetables are picked too soon and then frozen, shipped to some holding center, and from there all round the country. The big supermarkets are too intent on making fruit and vegetables available all year round, whereas in Lemnos they tend to be more seasonal and the fruit, when in season, is fresh and sweet whether apricots, cherries, strawberries or peaches. There are a few local markets however where you can buy locally grown vegetables. But

Melbourne from Lemnos

The Differences

These immediately hit us as we begin life back in Lemnos again. We have to drive out to buy food and immediately and we usually find that to get the car up and running, and getting the washing machine and all the pumps working takes us a week. Living here requires more attention. It may be simple and slower but there are more things that can go wrong. However though it may be more work to get ajusted it is still exciting. As for thinking about Melbourne it takes about a month or two to settle in before we really begin to miss things about Melbourne.

Road Rules

Takis is used to cars not being driven correctly on the island but he still yells at drivers, swears at ladies who park anyhow in front of the supermarket. I tell him to rememver that many of these folk are still getting used to having a supermarket car park. I think it has become a game for him and each time he drives out he comes back to tell me how many infringements he’s seen. Melbourne traffic is seen as a dream of perfection from Lemnos.


Well, we are from Melbourne the coffee capital of the world! And we have in various places of residance various types of coffee machines. We like Lavazza beans but try out other brands now and then. Takis is a good barister, and our favourite cup is a Café Latte, made with a double shot of expresso. Now on the island everyone is addicted to Nescafe, and what they call a ‘frappe’, cold water, ice and Nescafe wizzed up together. It is a concoction that we look down our noses at, but evidently it hits the spot in hot weather. However the people lining up on our terrace for an expresso at eleven o’clock each morning tells me that they know a good coffee when they get it!

A Greek Cold Frappe
A Melbourne Expresso

Papers, Cinemas and TV

One can buy English German and French papers in summer from one outlet. I choose the Herald Tribune which is the New York Times International. It is a good paper, and even has, in English, a Greek insert call Kathermirini. This gives me some insights into what is going on in Greece as I don’t get too much information from the Greek TV news. That is my fault entirely, as I don’t read or speak Greek. But even Takis finds the Greek news hard to follow, the news readers rattle off the news as fast as a shot gun, or they have long winded discussions with five or six people. There is a local news station, which is a very valuable resource for the islanders, or else information is posted on telephone poles.
So when I get back to Melbourne I lap up the media, loving the local ‘Age’ paper, quickly try to catch up on what is now playing on TV and in the Cinemas.

From the space Between

I’ve made these comments from a ‘space between’, a place and time where I am the observer. And to the degree I'm comparing Lemnos to Melbourne I realise it is not quite fair. I should be comparing Melbourne to Athens, or Myrina to our local Australian village. However the lifestyle from the big cities is to a degree repeated in the smaller towns.

What I have come to realise about moving from home to home is that it is not long before the place where we are currently living soon becomes the base from which I veiw the world!

 Right now I’m once again getting used again to becoming annoyed by Australian politics, but not long ago, in Lemnos, I was more involved with what was going on in Europe, and very pleased to have left all that Australian backbiting gossip behind. 
Summer in Australia

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Visiting Public Gardens: here and there

Visiting Public Gardens: here and there

While in England groups and individuals like to visit the historic sites. Here in Australia there are some historic houses, but very few. 

To find out more about the history of Australia it would be better to go to a museum, but another place is the Botanic Gardens. Here you find out about the longer history of the country. In Cranbourne for instance you can see plants that existed back when the country was part of Gondwanaland, long before the arrival of humans.


There is a park along the seafront in Myrina. This area, and lots of smaller bits of public land have this year been returfed. It does make the town look greener for the tourists. I noticed that the locals also liked to go there to sit on the grass as these sorts of open places for the public to enjoy (other than tavernas) are few and far between. This is because Lemian horticulture today is still mainly centered around plantings for practical purposes. In most Greek towns most houses do not have gardens as a house is usually set right on the roadway and close to the next house. The men tend vegetables but outside the town in their allotments, and the women grow flowers but with their herbs at home in pots on their balconies.
Here too there are not as many individually owned gardens, as there are in Australia and England. Some of the larger homes have gardens but, as in Athens, Greece, many live in apartments. However there are some wonderful large public gardens. I often visit the older garden and admire its orchid areas. Recently they have built some large green houses, similar to the Eden Project in England, and the large glass houses in Kew. In these building the temperatures and watering provide a habitat similar to some other places around the world. So I have been in a ‘Mediterranean Garden’ in Kew, in Singapore, and here in Australia.



There are many public gardens in Melbourne; the two main botanic gardens are in the city and outside the city in Cranbourne. To find out more go to <>

Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne
This garden covers 38 hectares and displays more than 50,000 plants representing over 10,000 different species from every part of the world.

Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne
This garden was established much later, in 1970. It covers 15 hectares and showcases Australian flora. There are more than 170,000 native plants representing more than 1,700 plant species.
When the Mediterranean Garden Society had its AGM in Australia last year a group came and visited this garden.
A kindergarten group looking a the example of plants from the 'Red Center'
I have just been for the first time to Cranbourne and was amazed at the combination of native plants, art installations and provisions for children and the disabled. Here though it is definitely a botanic aesthetics is important, and often flowers are used almost like paintings.


It is a late spring showing and the kangaroo paws were marvelous, as were the Grevilleas. I was particularly interested in the novel ways the gardeners here were displaying some of the creeping Grevilleas, training them as standards. It certainly displayed the flowers beautifully. 
Kangaroo Paw
Dwarf Bottlebrush