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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Secular Ethics?

The Dalai Lama expresses his views on Secular Ethics 

He seems to be more broad-minded than many people in New South Wales, Australia, where Secular Ethics classes have been offered as an alternative to religious education in schools (what's wrong with the word "Ethics" on its own?)

A rather more interesting topic than the controversies about Creationism and Intelligent Design?

Self-portrait


I used this on the cover of a blues CD.

Lichens on Stone, Zagori Abstracts


In Memoriam, Lazaretto Island, Corfu





Since nature’s works be good, and death doth serve
As nature’s work, why should we fear to die?

Fear is more pain than is the pain it fears….

 Sir Philip Sidney




For further information, 
see the book Filakes Kerkyras- Lazaretto 1947-1949

Published by the Lazaretto Society, Athens 1996

Corfu Earth Festival

Whatever happened to the Corfu Earth Festival?
The dancers were tremendous.

"O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?"
W.B. Yeats


Corfu Kadoi, Green and Blue

From an exhibition of photographs at Triklino


No comment

Writing on the Sand



Edmund Spenser (c. 1552-1599):

One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
But came the waves and washed it away:
Again I wrote it with a second hand,
But came the tide, and made my pains his prey.

George Seferis (1900-1971):

On the golden sand
We wrote her name;
But the sea-breeze blew
And the writing vanished.


(tr. E.Keeley and P. Sherrard)

Monday, 27 September 2010

Mandouki Bicycle Tour For All Ages

The very active Mandouki "Adelfotis" Society organised the third annual Bicycle Tour around Mandouki on Sunday 26 September. Congratulations to Nikoletta Kavvadia and Anna Gousi, and all the other organisers, and a big thank you to the police.






Accompanied by at least three police motorbikes, which stopped the traffic to let us ride safely along the main roads, a motley group of all ages completed the 5km course and gathered in Mandouki's square for photographs and repeated airings of  Kostas Makedonas' catchy song "To Podylato Mou".

It would be great if bicycles could take over the streets of Corfu every day! So let's all join in the song (and don't forget to buy the record):

Το ποδήλατο


Παίρνω ένα ποδήλατο και φεύγω για τ' αδύνατο
κρατάω στο χέρι το κλειδί
πιάνω το τιμόνι ο σφυγμός μου δυναμώνει
το έργο κάπου το 'χω ξαναδεί

Ήμουν μικρό παιδάκι με καθαρή καρδιά
είχα τ'ονειρό μου, το ποδήλατό μου
κι όλα έμοιαζαν σωστά
έγινα δεκάξι, κι όλα ήταν εντάξει
είχα μια ζωή μπροστά

Το ποδήλατό μου, ήταν πάντοτε δικό μου
και με πήγαινε πολύ μακρυά
μέσα στη Σαχάρα, σαν την πιο βαθιά λαχτάρα
μ'οδηγούσε πέρα απ'τη χαρά

Και τώρα στον αγώνα, ξανά απ'την αρχή
Φόρτσα στο πεντάλι, να 'ρθουνε κι οι άλλοι
πάμε για ορθοπεταλιές
τα ποδήλατά μας, όπως τα όνειρά μας
ξέρουν από ανηφοριές


Στίχοι: Άρης Δαβαράκης
Μουσική: Χρήστος Νικολόπουλος
Πρώτη εκτέλεση: Κώστας Μακεδόνας

Nomadic People



Fetch me my old wooden pillow!



Fetch me my old thumb piano!


Why do my thoughts go back to the Sami artist, Nils Nilsson Skum (1872-1951), whose work I saw and admired in Umeå, Sweden? Maybe because there have been nomadic or semi-nomadic peoples in many of the countries in which I have lived (eg in Ethiopia, Kenya, Australia, Greece and Sweden)? Maybe it's just that old feeling of restlessness, the desire to be on the road? Here's an old song of mine called "The Nomad" (in a new arrangement by Raul Scacchi).

I hope I'm not in any danger of romanticising the nomadic way of life, as some have said about Bruce Chatwin ("The Songlines"). I have no illusions!






Swedish Vision

A reindeer drive
On the river ice.
Fifteen hundred, with their herders.


Fulani Flautist

(Nomad versus World Bank Agricultural Development Project,

Gombe, Nigeria, September 1978)



At the edge of the forest reserve


We stopped to stretch our legs.


The road gangs had not reached this far.


The jungle cats had yet to come


To claw up trees and undergrowth.


No bulldozers, graders or scrapers,


No pipeline crews; only our Landrover


Had so far disturbed the peace.


Out of the forest the faint sound of a flute;


A mirage of silver-white cows.


I watched the herd materialise;


The sound of the flute grew louder.


Long-horned cattle, groomed like stallions,


Sleek-skinned, clean and cared-for.


The Fulani flautist emerged from the trees:


Standing before us with a welcoming smile.


He stopped to play, acknowledged our interest,


And them ambled away with his herd.


I would have followed the Fulani herdsman,


But I could hear less soothing sounds.


The big yellow cats were coming,


Rumbling through the forest reserve.


The ground was beginning to tremble.


And the fragile flute of the nomad


Would soon be crushed beneath caterpillar tracks;


And the cattle would soon have to graze


On whatever might be left


Between the asphalt and acres of maize.





Vitsa Nomad 
 


I’m a new kind of nomad


Without any sheep: I’m changing


The manner of migration.


Four months in the mountains,


Five months by the sea,


The rest of the time in some city.




For half the year


Nomads lived and died round here;


They bred their livestock


And wove their wool


For almost thirty centuries.


Three thousand years, so little changed.




Half my life I’ve lived


Like some kind of wanderer,


Like a Sarakatsan


Or Zagorian man,


A man on the move,


Self-exiled, xenitemenos.



(Vitsa Nomad, from my book "Corfu Blues")


Afar Song:


To have been included in my unpublished book project
"The Ethiopian Anthology"





Sunday, 26 September 2010

Satori in Zagori (in the Valley of the Vikos Gorge)


"Annihilating all that's made
To a green Thought in a green Shade."


Jim Potts, The Ionian Islands and Epirus, A Cultural History


The Ionian Islands and Epirus, A Cultural History is now available in a hardback edition from Oxford University Press, USA.

NB Don't miss the presentations at PLOUS Bookshop, Corfu, on 29 September (see poster above)!

Extracts from some reviews to date:


ATHENS NEWS 
2/4/2010

Getting the feel for a place: The Ionian Islands and Epirus: A Cultural History

Damian Mac Con Eladh


IF EVIDENCE is required that Greece can enchant, enthral and engage, then Briton Jim Potts’ book is just that.

The Ionian Islands and Epirus takes a refreshing look at the islands and mountains of western Greece. 

What he produces over the course of 280 pages is a wonderful and inspiring miscellany of all things Ionian and Epirot. Potts exposes the reader - who ideally is planning or undertaking a holiday or has taken up residence in the regions - to their rich corpus of poetry, prose and travel writing, be they of Greek or foreign hand.

This is a guide book in many ways, but one with a difference. Unlike the conventional kind, it doesn’t signpost readers to the best eateries or cliched tourist attractions. Rather, it makes accessible a rich cultural repository to the discerning and cultured tourist - and resident - who otherwise don’t have the resources, linguistic or temporal, to explore the written word of and on the regions.

The author doesn’t just bring the reader on a near-physical journey through the region’s geography, but on a literary tour of its written past. 

But this is not just a compendium of what has been written on the Ionian Islands and Epirus, in this latest publication in UK publisher Signal Books’ series “Landscapes of the Imagination”. Rather, the author has made judicious use of these writings, weaving it into a narrative that he skilfully directs. 

Indeed, one of its most attractive aspects is its discursive style. Potts takes the reader through many of the questions - religious, cultural and historical among others - that he has found himself confronted with through his on-and-off presence in Corfu and the wider region - a journey that began in 1967, the first year of the military dictatorship in Greece. 

Potts is keenly aware that one’s imagination greatly influences how one perceives a place, and in one chapter examines how different people in different eras were attracted to the Ionian Islands, all for their own reasons. 

“Do we all see the same views and perceive the same landscapes when we stand on the same spot under similar conditions?” he asks, before explaining that this is rarely the case. 

Nor is it a beautified, touristic account. Potts deals with his subject warts and all. He levels criticism where it is due, such as the crass commercialisation of tourism in Corfu, expressed in the erection of concrete hotels in some of the most picturesque parts of the island, which in many parts is treated as a rubbish tip by inhabitants. 

This little gem of a book will provide the discerning traveller with something grossly lacking from other tourist guides: a real cultural history with which he or she can contextualise the wonderful experience that is the Ionian Islands and Epirus. 



ISLAND Magazine, Summer 2010,
Issue 12

Chris Holmes

Jim Potts’ homage to the Eptanisos and Epirus is an absolute charmer and the spells with which he binds us extend beyond the myths and legends he brings to life with his understated prose. This is writing of a very high calibre …Let Jim’s writing sweep you along in its own wondrous colour and light, befitting the regions he describes.

Everything is covered…a remarkable book- a sort of Kindle unplugged- everything in a single volume, made charming by an author who carries his immense learning lightly and whose gentle donnish voice is everywhere. A joy and a treasure and a valuable long-lasting addition to the literature of our region.



THE CORFIOT
April 2010


“This is possibly the most important book about our region to be published in recent years”.



July/August 2010

Mike Sweet


A new book by Corfu resident Jim Potts reveals the cultural legacy of the Ionian Islands region and its people, but also asks deeper questions about the nature of Hellenic identity and the Greek experience itself…

It is this region, and that contribution, that inspired former British Council Director, Jim Potts, to write what is the latest title in the ground-breaking LANDSCAPES OF THE IMAGINATION SERIES, produced by UK publisher Signal Books. The series, which has created something of a new genre, sets out to explore through their history, literature and art, the world’s great landscapes – real, mythic and imagined…
The author takes the reader on a remarkable journey, ‘accompanied’ by a host of artists and writers, inspired through the ages, by the islands and the nearby Pindus Mountains - from Homer to Byron, Edward Lear to the Durrells, Louis de Bernieres to Nicholas Gage. The perceptions of these fellow travelers through time, is at the heart of the Potts’ writing, and Pott’s story interweaves their portrayals of the region through the centuries, with the author’s own sensitive and revealing reflections.

As Potts himself suggests, the book, researched and written over three years “does not pretend to reveal the ‘hidden history’ of the two regions, but rather…throw the spotlight on aspects of history that have been whitewashed or re-imagined, and on overly-nationalistic or revisionist accounts.”

Fastiduously researched, the book reveals Potts’ immense knowledge and love of the subject. This kaleidoscope of ideas and imagery, of real and imagined stories, conceived over centuries, gives a profound insight into the history the islands and Epirot mainland, and the cultural legacy that remains. It is a work which goes far beyond the fare of any conventional tourist guide. This important book is a ‘must read’ for any discerning explorer of this beautiful, distinctive part of Greece.



THE ANGLO-HELLENIC REVIEW

No 42, Autumn 2010.

Paul Watkins

"…The impact of the 50-year protectorate on the Ionians and the parallel Epirot coastline is one of the many aspects of their history explored by Jim Potts in his wide-ranging dossier…

Jim Potts has produced a worthy addition to Signal Books’ excellent ‘Landscapes of the Imagination’ series."


PS
Just received the published Insider Athens review:

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Solomos' Best Line?



How about some nominations for the best line written by Greece's "National Poet", Dionysios Solomos?

Here's one suggestion (from a lover of Greek threshing-floors):

The Sieges of Missolonghi




With memories of  the death of Lord Byron, and of Solomos hearing the sound of the Missolonghi cannonfire, and writing The Hymn to Liberty on the Hill of Strani and being inspired to write the first draft of The Free Besieged in the garden of a mansion on the Akrotiri, Zakynthos, it is fascinating to study the painting of various sieges of Missolonghi, as interpreted by General Makriyannis' artist.

Solomos could apparently hear the noise of the battle and feel the trembling of the earth caused by the Turkish cannonades. He mentions it at the beginning of the third section of The Woman of Zakynthos. He never forgot the experience, and recollected it often when living in Corfu, and  as he worked on different drafts of The Free Besieged.

The painting brings it all to life, as does Yannis Markopoulos' popular liturgy, a dramatic setting and arrangement of parts of the poem.

To Hollywood (California Blues)


San Francisco airport dialogue:

"Would you like a lift to Hollywood?"

"Thanks for your kind offer, but unfortunately I've got a plane to catch".

Photograph: Demetrius Toteras.

Big Sur



Greek Design (4)

Friday, 24 September 2010

Zagori Steps: The Path down to the Vikos Gorge


Skala tis Vitsas, two seasons

Gavin Hewitt on Ireland, "the next Greece"...

Gavin Hewitt compares the economic situation in Ireland and Greece, see his 24 September blog "Ireland: the next Greece?"

Dodoni or Dodona?


(Above) Toteras and Chan perform at Dodoni, Easter 1968


I've always loved the photograph below (National Tourist Organisation?) of Dodoni, about which I write in some length in "The Ionian Islands and Epirus" (the search for Dodona, and its eventual identification and excavation). The ancient oracle has never been very forthcoming. One gets used to ambiguity.

Corfu's Two Fortresses and the extent of British Demolitions, 1864

Apart from the demolition of fortifications on the island of Vido, how much did the British actually demolish on the Old Fortress  and New Fortress when they left the Ionian Islands in 1864 (the demolitions allegedly at the insistence of the Austrians and the Great Powers, in the interests of neutralisation)? Richard Pine recently consulted me about this, but I still don't know the full answer.

Gerasimos Markoras, in his poem "Ta Kastra Mas" suggests that the demolitions were on a major scale, but Arthur Foss implies that the Old Fortress was spared. Prints of the period tend to support this view.





Markoras implies that the explosions that took place were like an earthquake that caused even the stars to shake, that fire, smoke, rocks and stones belched forth from the two enormous fortresses, that England, a "law-loving" country, offloaded and dumped its armoury and practised a "scorched earth" policy before departing, leaving the blackened land "like a desert".

A touch of rhetoric and hyperbole? Kirkwall paints a grim and mortifying picture of the explosions and demolitions on Vido, and of the genuine dismay of the Corfiots. Can anyone describe in detail what buildings and fortifications were lost on the two fortresses, if any?

(first page of Markoras' poem).





UK Quango Cuts?

It's hard to believe this news item

I trust it's just Daily Telegraph scare-mongering...it won't happen if William Hague has anything to do with it.

OUTCOME  (PRESS RELEASE, 20 OCTOBER 2010)

Alekos and Elli, Zitsa meets Vitsa


Kyrios Alekos Alexiou and Kyria Elli Alexiou, our first friends in the Zagori.

Greek Design (3)

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Ioannina, Two Photographs by Fred. Boissonas (c. 1913)



From "Epirus" (Geneva, 1915) by Fred Boissonas.

1913 was the year that Ioannina was liberated, and became part of Greece. 

One more historic photo: Toteras, Potts and Amalia, Ioannina, Easter 1968 (photo Chester Chan). My head being the top centre cannonball...