Saturday 22 March 2008


“The difference between school and life? In school, you're taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson.” – Tom Bodett

My mother talks of her school days now and then, and the stories she recounts are sometimes amusing, sometimes unbelievable, sometimes scary, sometimes sad, but always enjoyable to listen to. She used to go to a girls’ school and things then were very strict, but she also says that they had a good time of it. School uniforms, lots of homework, girlish pranks, secret loves, dreams and illusions, sighs and scrap books full of poetry and flowers.

A couple of times a year they used to be taken on excursions and that was the highlight of their year. Laughter and music, giggling and high jinks, covert glances at the cute young teacher that used to be every girl’s dream lover. No wonder when a Greek film of 1959, starring the fresh young face of Aliki Vouyouklaki that was destined to become Greece’s national star, came out it was an instant success. It is called “Το Ξύλο Βγήκε Απ΄Τον Παράδεισο” (Spare the rod and spoil the child) and it concerned a high school senior who falls in love with her teacher.

When I first saw the film, it was just like my mother’s school stories. A fresh and sparkling comedy with witty dialogue, an innocent script and two young good-looking actors who were to become a real life couple. Here is a song from the film, where on a school excursion, the young Aliki Vouyouklaki sings of her love for her teacher, Dimitris Papamichael.

I Have a Secret

I have a secret that shines in my glance,
The plains know it, the mountain has guessed it.
The nightingales sing of it on the tree boughs,
And the swallows have written it in the sky.
I have a secret that makes everything beautiful
And for the first time I am inundated with happiness.

I have a secret that has become tangled in my lips
Even though it is a single little word, just one.
When night the enchantress falls, the stars will write the word
And the jasmines will say it in their flowerpot.
I have a secret that has changed my life
But I have no intention of telling you what it is.

Έχω ένα Μυστικό

Έχω ένα μυστικό που στη ματιά μου μέσα λάμπει
Το ξέρουνε οι κάμποι το ΄χει μάθει το βουνό.
Το τραγουδούν τη νύχτα στα κλώνια όλα τ΄αηδόνια
Και το ΄χουν γράψει τα χελιδόνια στον ουρανό.
Έχω ένα μυστικό που όλα τα ομορφαίνει
Και πρώτη μου φορά με πλημμυρίζει η χαρά.

Έχω ένα μυστικό που μες στα χείλια μου έχει μπλέξει
Κι είναι μια λέξη μόνο μια λεξούλα μόνο μια.
Σαν έρθει η νύχτα η ξελογιάστρα τη γράφουν τ΄άστρα
Κι όλο τη λένε μες στη γλάστρα τα γιασεμιά.
Έχω ένα μυστικό που τη ζωή μου έχει αλλάξει
Μα δεν το ΄χω σκοπό ποτέ μου να σας το πω.

Friday 21 March 2008


“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” - Luke 23:46

Today is Good Friday for the Western churches (Orthodox Good Friday is on the 25th April this year). The name of the holiday may be derived from “God's Friday” in the same way that “good-bye” is derived from “God be with ye”. Some people maintain it is derived directly from “good” because the barrier of sin was broken and hence this day is good for our soul. The Anglo-Saxon name for Good Friday was Long Friday, due to the long fast imposed upon this day.

Good Friday is the Friday before Easter Sunday and on this day, Christians remember the day when Jesus was crucified on a cross. The date of Good Friday changes every year because it is related to the phases of the moon and the Spring equinox. The date of the original Good Friday is not definitively known, but many scholars believe that the event took place on April 7th, 30 AD. If they are right our calendar is wrong, by three years.

On Good Friday, Jesus was arrested and tried, in a mock trial. He was handed over to the Roman soldiers to be beaten and flogged with whips. A crown of long, sharp thorns was thrust upon his head. Jesus was forced to carry his own cross outside the city to Skull Hill. He was so weak after the beating that a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was pulled from the crowd and forced to carry Jesus' cross the rest of the way. Jesus was nailed to the cross. Two other criminals were crucified with him, their crosses on either side of him. A sign above Jesus read "Jesus Nazarene, King of the Jews."

According to the Bible, on the third hour of the day, Jesus was nailed to the cross. (9:00 am). On the Sixth Hour of the day, darkness covered the land (12:00 noon). On the ninth hour of the day, the darkness dissipated, and the Lord died (3:00 pm). The hours in the scriptures are calculated from the first hour of the day, this being 6:00 in the morning. Christians believe that Jesus stood in our place in an ultimate sacrifice in order to liberate us from sin. His death paid the penalty not for his own wrong doings but for ours.

Since the early nineteenth century, before the introduction of bank holidays, Good Friday and Christmas Day were the only two days of leisure which were almost universally granted to working people. Good Friday today is still a public holiday in much of the Western world. This means that many businesses are closed on this day. Some Christians fast on Good Friday. This helps them remember the sacrifice Jesus made for them on the day of crucifixion. If people do not fast, it is traditional to eat fish on Good Friday instead of meat.

Many churches hold a special service. This may be a communion service in the evening or a time of prayer during the day, especially around 3 o'clock as that is about the time of day when Jesus died. Some Churches hold services lasting three hours or more. They may celebrate the Stations of the Cross, or take part in Passion plays and dramatic readings. Some Christians take part in a procession of witness, carrying a cross through the streets and then into church. Churches are not decorated on Good Friday. In some churches, pictures and statues are covered over. It is seen as a time of mourning.

It is traditional to eat warm “hot cross buns” on Good Friday. Hot Cross Buns with their combination of spicy, sweet and fruity flavours have long been an Easter tradition. The pastry cross on top of the buns symbolises and reminds Christians of the cross that Jesus was killed on. The buns were traditionally eaten at breakfast time, hot from the oven. They were once sold by street vendors who sang a little song about them.

“Hot cross buns, Hot cross buns, One a penny, two a penny, Hot cross buns.”

At the London Pub, The Widow's Son, a Hot Cross Bun Ceremony takes place each Good Friday. In the early 19th century, a widow who lived on the site was expecting her sailor son back home for Easter, and placed a hot cross bun ready for him on Good Friday. The son never returned, but undaunted the widow left the bun waiting for him and added a new bun each year. Successive landlords have kept the tradition going after the pub was opened.

There are a number of superstitions relating to Good Friday. Traditionally Good Friday was the day when everything was cleaned and whitewashed in preparation for Easter Sunday.

From the reign of Edward III to that of Mary Tudor, monarchs used to bless a plateful of gold and silver rings every Good Friday at the Chapel Royal. By rubbing the rings between their fingers, the royal touch was believed to cure cramp and epilepsy. The custom was abolished during the reign of Elizabeth I.

• A child born on Good Friday and baptised on Easter Sunday has the gift of healing.
• Many fishermen will not set out for catch on Good Friday.
• Bread or cakes baked on this day will not go mouldy.
• Eggs laid on Good Friday will never go bad.
• The planting of crops is not advised on this day, as an old belief says that no iron should enter the ground (i.e. spade, pitchfork etc.).
• Hot cross buns baked on Good Friday were supposed to have magical powers. It is said that you could keep a hot cross bun which had been made on Good Friday for at least a year and it wouldn't go mouldy.
• Hardened old hot cross buns are supposed to protect the house from fire
• Sailors took hot cross buns to sea with them to prevent shipwreck.
• A bun baked on Good Friday and left to get hard could be grated up and put in some warm milk to stop an upset tummy.
• Having a hair cut on Good Friday will prevent toothaches the rest of the year.

Hot Cross Buns
(recipe makes 24) Ingredients
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp yeast
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
4 eggs
5 cup flour
1 1/3 cup currants or raisins
1 egg white

1 1/3 cup confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped lemon zest
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
1-2 Tbsp milk

In a small saucepan, heat milk to very warm, but not hot. Pour warm milk in a bowl and sprinkle yeast over it. Mix to dissolve and let sit for 5 minutes. Stirring constantly, add sugar, salt, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and eggs. Gradually mix in flour, dough will be wet and sticky. Continue kneading until smooth, about 5 minutes. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough "rest" for 30-45 minutes.

Knead again until smooth and elastic, for about 3 more minutes. Add currants or raisins and knead until well mixed. At this point, dough will still be fairly wet and sticky. Shape dough in a ball, place in a buttered dish, cover with plastic wrap and let rise overnight in the refrigerator. Excess moisture will be absorbed by the morning.

Let dough sit at room temperature for about a half-hour. Line a large baking pan (or pans) with parchment paper (you could also lightly grease a baking pan, but parchment works better). Divide dough into 24 equal pieces (in half, half again, etc., etc.). Shape each portion into a ball and place on baking sheet, about 2 centimetres apart. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

In the meantime, pre-heat oven to 200° C.

When buns have risen, take a sharp or serrated knife and carefully slash buns with a cross. Brush them with egg white and place in oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350° F, then bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack. Whisk together glaze ingredients, and spoon over buns in a cross pattern. Serve warm, if possible.

Stories abound about the origins of the Hot Cross Bun. Yet, the common thread throughout is the symbolism of the "cross" of icing which adorns the bun itself. Some say that the origin of Hot Cross Buns dates back to the 12th century, when an Angelican monk was said to have placed the sign of the cross on the buns, to honor Good Friday, a Christian holiday also known as the Day of the Cross. Supposedly, this pastry was the only thing permitted to enter the mouths of the faithful on this holy day.

Other accounts talk of an English widow, whose son went off to sea. She vowed to bake him a bun every Good Friday. When he didn't return she continued to bake a hot cross bun for him each year and hung it in the bakery window in good faith that he would some day return to her. The English people kept the tradition for her even after she passed away.

Others say that Hot Cross Buns have pagan roots as part of spring festivals and that the monks simply added the cross to convert people to Christianity.

Thursday 20 March 2008


“I don't believe in astrology; I'm a Sagittarius and we're skeptical.” - Arthur C. Clarke

Do you believe in Astrology? I am interested it in simply because it seems to have so many adherents in the population. It is an interesting psychosociological phenomenon, if nothing else. Believing very strongly in something as tenuous as that, can make it true. Then again, “astrology” is the word that describes the rubbish that people read in their daily horoscopes in the newspaper and the same word “astrology” is used to describe the mystical, self searching exploration that many people embark on when they have their horoscope cast by an experienced astrologer, who uses their art in order to help the person begin a voyage of self-discovery.

I glance at the daily astrology column in the newspaper and have a chuckle. One twelfth of the population is meant to experience the same day that I am going to experience. Can you imagine it, there are twelve sets of occurrences that all of the people on earth are experiencing at the same time each day, as their horoscopes predict:
“You have hopes and dreams that you know you have to work hard to make come true. But you're also going to wish you could have more fun. For some, a child,/creative project/romance will be demanding your attention when you know you really ought to be doing what you can to achieve your aims. Also this coming month, you could find that your wider social circle takes a back seat, as you focus on one person - most likely a romantic partner or prospect. Depending on your personal cycles, a creative project could be planted now - or come to fruition.”

Is this double-talk, speak-slippery, generalised, all purpose hogwash or isn’t it? The sort of thing you read and forget immediately you read it? And yet it’s so popular! Most people would gravitate to the horoscope section in the newspaper and read their star sign (or maybe even their partner’s)!

However, When one’s horoscope is cast, there some interesting concordances that seem to be too close to one’s character to be pure coincidence. For example, here is what my cast horoscope said (amongst other things about me – a friend cast it for me a long time ago at University):
“You like plenty of variety in your everyday activities, in your friends, and even in your diet. Your interests are many and diverse--almost anything will attract your attention if only for a brief time. Truly, this is the sign of the jack-of-all-trades. As the story goes, you may find that unless you can develop your powers of perseverance, you may be the master of none. Your varied interests can result in a tendency for you to spread yourself too thin, sometimes failing to follow through on projects you've begun.”

That was the sun-sign. The moon sign description observes:
“You can be overly optimistic, sometimes looking at the world through "rose colored glasses." Emotionally naive, you continually overlook other people's shortcomings and deficiencies. You are essentially so romantic that you may rarely see life as it really is. You are tremendously unselfish, trusting and open-handed. Sometimes you can be a little too generous, especially with your boundless sympathy. Highly sensitive, you connect with others on an unconscious, emotional level. You actually feel what they feel. Thus, you have a most sympathetic and compassionate nature, and these fine instincts can be invaluable to you in the everyday world. In many situations, you can be too giving and overly-idealistic.”

Apparently, Mercury is in Gemini, my sun-sign:
“Gemini is the natural home for Mercury, and the placement produces pure logical reasoning of the highest order. This Mercury denotes a lightning quick thinker. Your concern is with fact and unbiased understanding, rather than personal preference. Communication is easy, rapid, accurate and often eloquent. You are an interesting and incessant conversationalist. Mercury is at its quickest and best when it resides in Gemini. If given proper training, you excel in mathematics as well as in language. You are very logical, and your mind moves very quickly. You love logic, a fact making you an excellent teacher or reporter. When engaged in arguments, you may miss a basic premise, but you are clever enough to win anyway. The opponent is convinced by your rational remarks. You have a great variety of interests, and your mind may flit from one idea to the next, never digging in very deeply. You have an intense curiosity leading you to want to know a little about nearly everything. This makes you a very interesting person, but rarely an expert in any particular field.”

Venus in Taurus creates an interesting mixture:
“Venus in Taurus produces a practical, stable, and constant persona. Your approach to love and romance is simple and direct. Your sincerity is attractive and often irresistible. You take love seriously and with careful consideration. Yet, you can be so much fun to be around. You are rarely too serious-acting, moody or unhappy. You know how to have a good time and to help others to do the same. You are easygoing and cheerful most of the time. There is an attraction to the luxuries of life, and often a tendency to overindulge in sensual pleasures. You may have a weakness for good food, good wine, fine furnishings and clothes, and many more objects and activities that delight the senses. The best of everything will be yours if you can figure a way to afford it all. This large appetite extends to love-making and romantic involvement. This sign produces the most earthy sex drive. When you fall in love, it is usually permanent and dependable. Your nature is faithful and permanent. You require a deep commitment from your partner and you are willing to give the same in return. You are loyal and a one-love person. But your demands on that one lover can be great. If you feel insecure, you may become jealous and overbearing with your mate. Just as you are loyal and dependable, you are very possessive and jealous if your emotional security is threatened.”

Hmmmm, so the word of the day:

horoscope |ˈhôrəˌskōp; ˈhärə-| noun
Astrology: A forecast of a person's future, typically including a delineation of character and circumstances, based on the relative positions of the stars and planets at the time of that person's birth.
• a short forecast for people born under a particular sign, esp. as published in a newspaper or magazine.
• a birth chart. See chart .
horoscopic |ˌhôrəˈskäpik| adjective
horoscopy |həˈräskəpē| noun
ORIGIN Old English: via Latin from Greek hōroskopos, from hōra ‘time’ + skopos ‘observer.’

So you’ve read my blogs, now what do you think of my cast horoscope, is it accurate…?

Wednesday 19 March 2008


“Home is where the heart is.” - Pliny the Elder (Caius Plinius Secundus)

How welcome a sight one’s home is after one has been away. No matter how enjoyable travel may be, no matter how exciting the distant destinations and no matter how good a time one has while away, the home hearth is where the heart feels most comfortable. Like the migratory bird that returns to its nest year after year, the traveller will come home and settle in, content in familiar surroundings.

But there is also another kind of return… The return of the traveller who having spent many years in foreign lands one day returns to the place of his origin. How expectant is that return! Nostalgia has made of memory a sacred shrine. Remembrance has eradicated all unpleasantness and time has conspired with distance to idealise the lost homeland. How disappointing that return is when all one sees is a poor parody of what the expectant heart wishes to find… All is changed, all has progressed, all is well nigh unrecognizable. Here is the foreign land now, this place which one called home before, is now but a travesty of that sacred place that one had so carefully preserved in one’s innermost secret chambers of the heart.

The Return

My heart searches to slake its thirst
In heady wine of the return, so ruby-red.
Vermillion poppies are sweet draughts
In emerald chalice of unripened corn.

My heart searches to revivify itself
With life-giving blood and godly breath.
Anemones like drops of blood on hillsides
And in the azure of sky a breath of god.

My heart searches for a familiar word to hear,
A smiling friendly face to warm itself.
In every boat of the Aegean I see a letter writing “welcome”
While ancient statues smile at me like next of kin.

My heart searches far and wide for honey, balsam,
A therapy for all its wounds so that it love again.
Violet-coloured, scented evenings in islands white
And fragrances are medicine enough in nights so sweet.

My heart searches for all of these and more,
But time inexorably flows, it passes, destroys all.
Time conquers all that I knew and fondly recalled,
Return is poison, soured wine and bitter gall.

Tuesday 18 March 2008


“Travel and change of place impart new vigour to the mind.” - Seneca

Brisbane is a thriving, modern, metropolitan centre and capital of the state of Queensland. It is Australia's third-largest city and although it looks like a big-city there are no pretensions and the locals are down-to-earth and remind one of the smaller town from which it initially arose. The city centre sits within a tropical landscape through which flows the undulating Brisbane River, and it boasts a pleasant climate for most of the year. It has been pleasantly cool (25-27˚C) while I have been here and there is the occasional shower keeping the gardens lush. This is certainly a contrast from the South, with Melbourne and Adelaide roasting in the over 40˚C heatwave.

Although I am here for work, there has been opportunity to visit friends and also do a bit of sightseeing. The restaurants have been largely very good too. Last night we had dinner at the Pier Nine Restaurant right by the Brisbane River. This is an excellent seafood restaurant and somewhat of a Brisbane icon. It offers great views, fantastic service and the food is wonderful, with the freshest of fish, shellfish and steaks served simply but imaginatively. The location right on the Eagle St pier affords great views and it is just the place for celebrating a special occasion.

It was a rather full day today and much was done at work. Tomorrow is my last day here in Brisbane and then I fly home for Easter. Or the first Easter, I should say, because Greek Easter is on the 27th of April. Always an annoying state of affairs, these two Easters. Why the powers that be from all religions don’t get together to agree to have Easter at the same time is beyond me. Much better would be the situation of agreeing to have Easter on the same date every year. Say the third Sunday in April, wouldn’t that be sensible?

I haven’t had much time to read while I’ve been away. Too busy and too tired. At night I manage to have a look at the morning paper and then all I want to do is flop down into bed and sleep. I think being away from home for three days is OK, but anything above that starts to get a bit tiring. Just as well I don’t get to do it for more than three days all that often.

Monday 17 March 2008


“It is in justice that the ordering of society is centered.” - Aristotle

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Saint Patrick’s Day is a predominantly Irish holiday honouring the missionary credited with converting the Irish to Christianity in the 5th century AD. He was born around 373 AD in either Scotland (near the town of Dumbarton) or in Roman Britain (the Romans left Britain in 410 AD). His real name is believed to be Maewyn Succat. He was kidnapped at the age of 16 by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. During his 6-year captivity, while he worked as a shepherd, he began to have religious visions, and found strength in his faith. He finally escaped, going to France, where he became a priest, taking on the name of Patrick.

When he was about 60 years old, St. Patrick travelled to Ireland to spread the Christian word. Reputedly, Patrick had a winning personality, which helped him to convert the fun-loving Irish to Christianity. He used the shamrock, which resembles a three-leafed clover, as a metaphor to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity. Saint Patrick allegedly drove all snakes out of Ireland. This may be an allegory, as the snake was one of the revered pagan symbols.

Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated all around the world in countries with a large Irish migrant population (e.g. Australia and the USA). In these countries people of Irish sympathy wear green and party. Green is associated with Saint Patrick’s Day because it is the colour of spring, Ireland, and the shamrock.

For Movie Monday today, I have a film I saw a while ago, which features a scene with a St Patrick’s Day parade in Chicago. I really enjoyed this film, because it brought back memories of watching TV when I was a child in the 60s. I remember watching raptly the adventures of “The Fugitive” with David Janssen. The stories of poor Dr Kimble on the run, after being falsely accused of a crime he did not commit (and sentenced to die for it) were quite amazing for my young eyes. It was a great TV show and I hope to watch some episodes again if I can get hold of them.

In 1993, Andrew Davis made “The Fugitive” into a movie inspired by the series, casting Harrison Ford as the ill-fated Dr Kimble. The film works for me and I think it is one of the few movies that have followed a TV series and have done so successfully. Tommy Lee Jones in his Oscar-winning role as Marshal Sam Gerard, plays excellent foil to Harrison Ford’s performance. It is shades of Javert and Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables”, as two acutely intellectual opponents pitch their wits and dogged persistence against each other. The psychological thriller that results is good entertainment.

There is a good mix of action, mystery, suspense and thrills-and-spills, all pinned on a story with enough substance to keep the intelligent viewer interested. The relationship that builds between the hunter and his prey is interesting on a psychological level, and what starts out as a mindless chase of an escaped convict ends up as a mutual respect between two men, who gradually understand that they are on the same side of the law.

“The Fugitive” is an intelligent movie, full of rich characterisation, enough thrills to entice even the action-movie junkie, and performances that shine forth. Good movie, go out to your DVD shop and borrow it to watch if you haven’t seen it!