Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Spring is Bustin' Out in Emerald

Spring is Bustin’ Out in Emerald

It’s a joy to walk, when the weather is perfect, with my camera, thinking about the composition of the picture I’m taking, its colours and contrasts.


These short walks are also a time to be alone with my thoughts, and I agree with Christina Rossetti about the need for these quiet times.


Spring Quiet

Christina Rossetti

Gone were but the Winter,
Come were but the Spring,
I would go to a covert
Where the birds sing;
Where in the whitehorn
Singeth a thrush,
And a robin sings
In the holly-bush.
Full of fresh scents
Are the budding bows
Arching high over
A cool green house;

Full of sweet scents,
And whispering air
Which sayeth softly:
‘We spread no snare;
Here dwell in safety,
Here dwell alone,
With a clear stream
And a mossy stone.
Here the sun shineth
Most shadily:
Here is heard an echo
Of the far sea,
Though far off it be.’

While the Eucalyptus continue to give an even green covering,
The Emerald street trees are beginning to be covered with blossom.

 On my most recent walk I became very aware that ‘spring was bustin’ out all over,’ and when not concentrating on the pictures I almost burst out in song.

This song is one that is easy to conjure up at this time of year – though 'October is Bustin' Out All Over' doesn't scan as well, so better 'Spring' that is busting out in Australia!



(Rodgers / Hammerstein)

June is bustin' out all over 
All over the meader and the hill 
Flowers bustin' out on bushes 
And the roughen river pushes 
Ev'ry little wheel that wheels beside the mill 
June is bustin' out all over

Spring Blossoms from my Garden

Saturday, 26 September 2015

A Political Roundabout!

The Political Roundabout!

This is not my favourite topic to write about, although Takis and I have friends who we like to talk with about politics – often quite vigourously. However I feel like I must write something in this Greek/Australian blog and as in both Greece and Australia there has been something going on that has similarities, there has been a restructuring of the political scene that, funnily, has been a resumption of what was there before in both countries!

What goes round comes around again.


In Greece there has been yet another election and from what we hear from friends and family, folk are so weary about all the political shenanigans in that country they just did not bother to vote. And so, with a very poor turn out at the polling booths, in Greece the Syriza party is back again, with the same leader, Alexis Tsipras.
In Australia there has been a growing disillusionment of the leader of the present government, and more than that an almost air of unbelief about some of his declarations. And so, to pull the party back into the possibility of holding government there was a coup. (In Australia voting is compulsory and elections are very organized and expensive and don't happen as often as in Greece. But internal political coups are common!) The new leader of the country was once before leader of his party, when they were in opposition

Making Deals with the Devil

What I find strange, even weird is that Alexis, whose Syriza party is very left wing, is now declaring that he has a mandate to form government after an election when probably only 50% of the population voted. And while he has now got rid of some very extreme left wing members of his party he only makes goverment by joining with a right wing party. Can’t imagine where that will lead!

Will he be able to…?
Cut wage and pension costs again, but less than in previous five years (2% increase in workers' pension contributions, 2% increase in pensioners' national insurance contributions)?
Reform early retirement: Decide which categories will qualify for it (and revamp whole pension system before January)? Etc. etc.


And, in Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, though a true liberal at heart, has had to make deals with some very conservative members of the Liberal Party to maintain some of the ‘less than liberal’ stances constructed by the previous prime minister. 

So, similarly, I can’t imagine where this will end up!
As one media analyst says, he is now having to defend many of the policies of the previous leader that he once criticized. And, as she suggests, any stop-gap schemes made to please the far right conservatives will surely come unstuck.

Meanwhile in the Media Confusion reigns

Oh dear, what will journalist do? All is no longer Black and White! The BBC and other outlets made much of the bravery of Alexis, challenging the EU. They could come up with wonderful headlines like ‘Greek Defiance’, ‘No end to Greek Drama,’ ‘Greece goes down the wire,’ 'Last chance summit,’ but suddenly they have to change focus, from full on praise for Alexis' (George and the Dragon style!) youthful vigour in defying international creditors, to a milder credit for ‘transforming’ the left wing parties to a ruling party. They now can't avoid needing to direct their journalistic fervor at that the crush of immigrants arriving on the shores of Europe, Greece included, and now they leave Alexis to make his own headlines.

In Australia too the media has been flummoxed too by the changes in government.  Malcolm Turnbull’s coup against Tony Abbott has “set off a civil war within News Corp”, is how Murdock media company’s popular columnist Andrew Bolt put it.  The Murdock Press (owning 70% of all national papers) had been firm supporters of the ex Prime Minister – as had the shock jocks – now? What can they say? They’ve got the Liberal Party that they wanted running the country, but this guy as their leader? He sounds too liberal. (And definitely not black and white, perhaps he's grey?). Hard for them to rage against, and hard for them to support. 

Hope Springs Eternal!

Lets hope Alexis means it when he says ‘The mandate we received can be summed up in one word: Work. Without selfishness. With a collective spirit.’

And I do hope that he does not return to the need ‘To restore Greek pride’. A dodgy concept at best!

And in Australia? We have a man who believes Australia should become a republic, that we should do more for global warming, and many other policies, but who has to find a way to accommodate the old timers in his new cabinet, and yet find ways to bring Australia into the 21C.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

A Supermarket, A Girl, And Venice

A Supermarket, A Girl, And Venice

 Historical Connections

It is intriguing to think of the web of connections between small villages and famous and far off places, for instance the connection between the name of our local island supermarket, and 15C Venice. The connection was obviously important enough to be remembered.

I’m still reading Jan Morris’ Venice. (I must see if I can find a copy, as this one has to go back to the library this week.) In this book I have been following with interest the status of women in the 15C, as our supermarket is called Marula, after a famous 15C Lemnian heroine.

15th Century Lemnos


This was the time when the Venetians were very busy in the Aegean. They had arrived there with the Crusaders, and remained afterwards as more than traders. The Admirals of the Venetian navy built forts and took over islands, to protect their boats and cargos. The big and safe ports offered security to the Venetian and Byzantine navies. The island was positioned as first stopping off point after their boats had left the Hellespont.  At that time there would have been shipyards in these bays where boats could dock for repairs.

This relationship between Constantinople, the Greek islands and Venice went on for at least 250 years, though at times uneasy. It was a relationship that benefited the island as having these powerful players in the neighborhood kept the pirates at bay. These pirates and brigands, often a mixture of Arabs, Greeks, and others, would take control of an island or whole areas of the mainland. However after 1479, when the Venetians conceded Lemnos to the Turks, the Turks took up that sole duty for the next 500 years (as well as that of charging great taxes). Though, as often happens, as their power waned in the 19 Century the brigands and pirates began to appear again.  It took the First World War and the arrival of the Allies to finally drive them out.

It was during the time the Venetians were in Lemnos, 1475, when the Turks attacked the village of Kotsinas. During the fighting a girl saw her father struck down and she picked up his sword to led the fighters. They defeated the Turks and turned away the invaders. There is still statue of her on the hill in Kotsinas. The Venetians were very  pleased. As a reward (as I read in one guide book about Lemnos) Marula was given the right to married a Venetian.  

My cousin and Marula! 

Now this might seem strange, but I’ve just read in Jan Moris that, only three years before, one of the most prominent Venetian women of ancient times, Caterina Cornaro, was married the Kind of Cyprus in 1475. It was probably a way smoothing the way for a Venetian take over of that Greek island. So marriage between leaders of islands and Venetians was not so unusual in that era.


                                        Some 15th Century Venetian Beauties

Jan Morris writes of a 15 Century wedding in Venice, and I wonder if Marula had such a wedding. If she did it would have been a very great reward for a girl from a small Greek island, even a very courageous one.

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Venetian brides were celebrated through Europe for the magnificence of their clothes and the display of their weddings. They wore their hair long to the altar, cascading down their backs interwoven with thread of cold. On their heads were exquisite jeweled coronets. Their shoulders were bare, and their gorgeous full-skirted dresses were made of silk damask and gold brocade.’ 

Jan Morris Venice pg 147

Venice Today

Tourist Ships and Celebrity Weddings

A Celebrity Wedding. Guess whose?

A Monster Cruise Ship Leaving Venice

Visiting Venice (before taking up the house reno. in Lemnos)

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Gardening in a Greek Village

Gardening in a Greek Village
 Mediterranean Gardening

I have needed to learn about Mediterranean gardening in a couple of previous gardens and with global warming arriving fast even my garden in Melbourne started drying up. I’ve found Mediterranean plants useful Adelaide, and in Lock Sport (a holiday home built on a sand spit). And I came across Trevor Nottle’s book, Gardening in the Sun and Jaqueline Tyrwhitt’s book Making a Garden on a Greek Hillside.

Dream Med. Gardens

There are many books about ‘Dream Med. Gardens’, in France and in Italy. These gardens are often started by British expats, with money, around large houses. There are some who do something similar in Greece. Today for instance the landscape gardener Thomas Dociadis, builds modern stone houses surrounded by the local landscape.

My Med. Garden

It was a dream of mine to have a Med. Garden, and I’ve written before about how my husband and I ‘retired’ and took up the project to renovate his grandfather’s old summer holiday house In Lemnos.

We only have a block of 1200 square meters (300 used by house and outbuildings) When we arrived the land was empty, with a collapsing 100yr old family house in one corner and two ruined outbuildings.

I was much helped by joining the Med. Garden Society and reading their journals, and by obtaining and reading Heidi Gildemeister book about Mediterranean Gardens, including ‘home gardens’.

Hopes and Limits

I wanted to make a practical (and beautiful) garden, within the limits by the island, and the village around us.

What I want to emphasize is that all gardens are different, in situation and location, in climate and soil, and style, even when each is in the Med.

Situation Lemnos

The island of Lemnos is in the Aegean. Our house is a village house; two roads surround it, with other houses behind us and looking down on us, and other houses in front and beside us.

The island is in the same latitude as Rome and Barcelona
It is an old volcanic island and the 8th largest Greek island. It has few tourists, (Jason’s 1st stopover, and where the Anzaca gathered)

Winter winds come from Russia, and include snow; summer winds come from Egypt and are dry. There can be 4 months with no rain
Many centuries of surviving this weather plus fires, goats and sheep have result in typical Mediterranean Maquis  - Survival Vegetation

The hill tops are bare and a few trees in the valleys, e.g. Holm oaks, old mulberry, albizia,
On the hills there is plenty of thyme and oregano, and along roadsides, euphorbia, daisies, hemlock

Planted in my Garden

Found on site
Olive, almond, bitter orange, fig,

Collected from roadsides
Euphorbia, hemlock, daffodil lilies, oleander

Given by neighbours
Honeysuckle, rosemary, bay, Iris, cannas, pampas grass, jasmine, basil, pittosporum, Virginia creeper, lilac, pelargonium, grapes,

Fennel, marigolds, pokeweek, zinnias, nasturtiums, alyssum, chamomile, bindweed,

Pomegranate, pine, box, rose, bougainvillea, citrus, agapanthus, bottlebrush, lantana, gaura, wisteria, yucca, fan palm, agave,

But Basically a Practical Village Garden

We always harvest beans, onions, garlic, zucchini, peppers, tomoatoes.

Plus a variety of herbs.
And from the fruit trees, oranges, lemons, apricots, figs, and pear, with just a few apples. (I’m encouraging another plum tree, and a mulberry)

Takis makes marmalade from the bitter oranges and I make a lemon and fig jam, plus when we harvest buckets full of peppers and tomatoes and onions I make jars and jars of sauce. All very useful to feed our many guests.


Losing plants because of heat, and cold.
Plus sudden unexplained losses.
Working with Anestis using sign language!
Not being there full time in time to sow seeds or to care for the newly planted.