Sunday, 31 August 2008


There is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.

In or out of 'em, it doesn't matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that's the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you've done it there's always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you'd much better not.
It's never been a passion that I've shared: that enthusiasm for boats about which the Water Rat in The Wind in the Willows spoke with such evident delight. But you can't stay on a small island for long and not be aware of the importance of the boat.

So, although I'm not desperately keen about being in them, I do quite like looking at them - especially those almost-Lilliputian-scale fishing boats that are moored at the old jetty in Emporios...

Along the necessarily attendant chains...

And rusting anchors...

And then there's that little red row-boat that I seem to photograph every year as if I can ever possibly hope to take a better picture of it than the one I took last year...

Images: Brian Sibley & David Weeks © 2006-7

Friday, 29 August 2008


We're in Greece, but Elsewhere...

My good friend SHARON was walking along the old road between Dornie and Inverinate in the Scottish Highlands when she spotted what she claims was an unusual scarecrow...


Personally, I'd have sent for MULDER and SCULLY!

Image: Sharon Mail © 2008

Wednesday, 27 August 2008


Shortly before we left for Greece we spotted this vehicle...

MORE THAN JUST POULTRY... Meaning what? Baby-changing facilities provided...?

Let's at least hope their birds are well and truly pampered!

Meanwhile, here on Kalymnos, transportation of birds is a rather more lively affair...

Monday, 25 August 2008


More or less every day, when we are at home, I make David an early morning cup of coffee. I open the container of ground coffee and am immediately transported back to my childhood: shopping with my Mum in Bromley High Street and lingering outside the bakery and coffee shop (the name of which I have forgotten) caught in a state of olfactory inebriation by the smell of the roasting coffee beans...

I read that "the aroma of roasted coffee contains as many as 1,000 volatile compounds".


To my mind, it is without question one of the most potent fragrances in the world and yet, for some reason, coffee never tastes -- to me, at least -- quite a fantastic as something that gloriously perfumed ought to taste!

I've recently (and belatedly) been reading Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies and came across a similar thought being expressed by the hero, Adam Fenwick-Symes, triggered by the scent of -- a kipper...
No kipper, he reflected, is ever as good as it smells; how this too earthly contact with flesh and bone spoiled the first happy exhilaration; if only one could live, as Jehovah was said to have done, on the savour of burnt offerings.

He lay back for a little in his bed thinking about the smells of food, of the greasy horror of fried fish and the deeply moving smell that came from it; of the intoxicating breath of bakeries and the dullness of buns...
For some fascinating insights into the aromatic powers of the coffee bean, read 'Simulating the Coffee Drinker’s Nose' on Neuromarketing: Where Brain Science and Marketing Meet.

And after all that talk of coffee, I think it's probably time for an iced frappuccino which, for the uninitiated is a blend of frappé - the Greek term for milkshake - and cappuccino.

And I think I'll drink it on the beach...

For those not able to sample the delights of a Kalymnian frappucino, here's Mr Waugh's book and an appropriate, accompanying coffee mug...

Saturday, 23 August 2008


There probably isn't a fruit in the world with a more complex symbolic character than the POMEGRANATE.

The pomegranate was brought to the Agean, from Iran in the earliest days of sea travel and exploration.

Today it is found all over Greece - on trees and market stalls and in symbolic representations signifying fertility and good fortune.

The pomegranate - now the source of a popular packaged fruit juice - also features in the Greek myth of Persephone. There are various, slightly differing versions, of the story but here's the basics: Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and carried off to live in the underworld as his wife.

Persephone's mother, Demeter, went into mourning for her lost daughter and being the goddess of the Harvest, everything stopped growing. Anxious to prevent the world from dying, Zeus, the supreme god, ordered Hades to return Persephone.

There was one problem: the Fates had ruled that anyone who took any food or drink in the Underworld was doomed to remain there for eternity. Hades cunningly tricked Persephone into eating four pomegranate seeds - in some versions, six or seven seeds - as a result of which she was condemned to spend four months in Hades company every year.

During Persephone's annual vacation in the Underworld - surely the holiday from Hell! - Demeter mourns and the earth ceases to be fertile. Thus the seasons of the year were satisfactorily explained for the benefit of Greek agriculturalists.

The Qur'an instructs that pomegranates are grown in the gardens of paradise; while, in Jewish tradition, the pomegranate symbolizes righteousness since it is alleged to contain 613 seeds, corresponding to the 613 mitzvot (or commandments) of the Torah. Like Persephone's seeds, the actual number found in any one fruit varies considerably - as can be testified by anyone who has brought a pot of them from Marks & Spencer's over-priced, luxury, power-food counter!

Not to be outdone, the early Christians latched onto the pomegranate as a symbol of the fullness of Christ's suffering and resurrection - which inspired many classical painters such as Sandro Botticelli (right) to show the Virgin Mary and/or the Infant Jesus holding a fruit that is bursting open.

Today, in Greece, the Orthodox Church keeps the pomegranate's symbolism alive and shops sell pomegranate knick-knacks such as key-chain fobs. The fruit is also featured in the menus served on the religious feast days as well as at funerals and at weddings where a pomegranate is often broken on the ground.

When visiting a new home it is customary to take, as a first gift, a pomegranate that will be hung up on the wall to express a hope for an abundance of happiness and prosperity.

Goodness! I do hope you appreciate the fact that - even when I'm on holiday - I'm passing on valuable knowledge to my loyal blog-readers!

Images: Pomegranates on Telendos Island, Kalymnos, © Brian Sibley 2008; 'Madonna of the Pomegranate' by Sandro Botticelli (detail), 1487, exhibited in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

Thursday, 21 August 2008



We may be on a remote Greek Island, but the spam in still pouring into our e-mail boxes.

The lengths those spamsters will go to to get us to read their e-mails for Viagra or fake Rolexes!

Here are just a few recent subject headings that almost prevented me from hitting the 'Junk' button...

David Beckham seen in LA nightclub
with Kirsten Dunst

Miss America slept with judge

Michael Jordan caught with fraud

Hugh Hefner releases summer orgy pics

Michael J Fox found dead in apartment

Earthquake in California destroys
Schwarzenegger house

And by far the best of the bunch:

Ancient remains of Egyptian mummies
found in Florida


Elton John dies in rocket ship

Tuesday, 19 August 2008


I've always wanted to live by the sea and for the last four years - for a few weeks at least - I've been able to do that.

Despite my love of the seaside I'm a self-conscious bather and, here on Kalymnos, tend to go in the sea before others are around to see me immersing my lumbering bulk!

But I am also a shocking voyeur of other - less inhibited - souls who besport themselves on the beach or can't wait to be in the swim, as will be seen from the following selection of archive shots, which concludes with the iridescent Irene, the acrobatic Themelis and the divine David who also took the first of these snaps...

Images: Brian Sibley & David Weeks © 2006-8

Sunday, 17 August 2008


We're in Greece, but Elsewhere life goes on...



Friday, 15 August 2008


Well, as feared - if not predicted - accessing the internet, collecting mail and approving comments to the blog has proved - how can I put it? - not entirely straightforward.

If your remarks and observations take a little time to find their way into print, be patient: it takes time for the lad in sandles, short skirt and laurel wreath to carry the instructions from Kalymnos to Blogland!

And if I don't reply with the usual courtesy and efficiency that readers have come to expect, it's just because, if push comes to shove, grappling with internet technology doesn't quite compete with sitting on the beach eating watermelon!


Back on Kalymnos...

Today is the Assumption Feast of the Panagia.

Panagia is a Greek word (Παναγία) meaning 'All-holy' and is one of the titles used by the Orthodox Christian churches of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

The Feast of the Assumption, celebrated on August 15, commemorates the Catholic doctrine that Mary "having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory."

On the same day, the Eastern Orthodox church celebrates what is referred to as The Dormition of the Theotokos or 'The Falling Asleep of the Mother of God'.

The theology is slightly different here, Orthodox Christians believe that Mary died a natural death, that her soul was received by Christ, but that on the third day after her death her body was resurrected and taken up into heaven in anticipation of the general resurrection scheduled for all believers at the Second Coming of Christ.

Here on Kalymnos, as on all the Greek islands, Panagia is one of great religious feasts of the Christian year preceded by a 14-day fast during which no red meat, poultry, meat or dairy products, fish, oil, or wine are permitted. This fast is still strictly observed by much of the population, including the Glinatisi family at Artistico with whom we are staying - despite the fact that they are having to cook and cater for guests and visitors who eat at their taverna.

The traditional Panagia meal is roast goat and is a reminder of the historical and economic significance of this animal within Greek culture. The animals that clamber and scramble about among the rocky mountain slopes above Emporios - the sharp clanking of their bells is often the first sound one hears on waking in the early morning - were once the staple (and are still the symbolic) source of sustaining life...

As with all 'new' religions it is interesting to reflect on how they overlap with the old, pagan beliefs which they supplanted. The goats of Greece are the only traceable decedents of Pan (Πάν) the goat-horned, goat-bearded, goat-footed god of ancient myth...

Pan was the mythic deity associated with shepherds and their flocks and of mountains, fields and woods and, therefore, with spring -- and fertility: the symbolism of a being that is half man and half goat is one that does not require the services of a Freud to decipher!

This particular statue, exhibited in the National Museum in Athens, depicts Pan attempting to embrace Aphrodite (the Goddess of Love, beauty and fertility) who has removed her left sandal with which she teasingly threatens to strike him.

Above this ill-assorted pair of would-be/wouldn't-be lovers is hovering the mischievous Eros who, one suspects, is actually egging-on the lecherous old goat.

The sculpture was found on the island of Delos (famous as the alleged birthplace of the god Apollo) and dates from around 100 BCE.

Some of you will have seen this photo before, but I make no excuse for republishing it because, for me, it captures something about the mystery of the Greek islands where - despite the people's obvious Christian devotion - one of Pan's satyrs might, perhaps, still be glimpsed in the shadows...

Images: Brian Sibley and David Weeks © 2005/2007.

Thursday, 14 August 2008


Being in Greece - the birthplace of democracy - set me thinking about people who have sought to challenge (and change) our perception of collective human responsibility.

Shortly before the assassination, in 1948, of India's one-time spiritual and political leader, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the old man gave the his grandson, Arun Gandhi, a piece of paper on which he had written down what he considered the Seven Blunders of the World:

Wealth without work

Pleasure without conscience

Knowledge without character

Commerce without morality

Science without humanity

Worship without sacrifice

Politics without principle

Arun Gandhi later added an eighth blunder to his grandfather's list:

Rights without responsibilities

Sixty years on, it seems, many of those blunders are still being made...

Tuesday, 12 August 2008


It's probably a gross simplification, but I think there are basically two kinds of holiday: the kind where You Have to Do Things and the kind where You Don't!

Every time we visit Venice we know that there are churches we've never got around to visiting (featuring Tiepolos we've never looked at it) or Palazzi where exhibitions are being held that one really ought to see or This or That or Whatever.

On Kalymnos, however, there is nothing that has to be seen or done that we haven't seen or done at least once before. There is the monastery - well, there are several, naturally, but most are inaccessibly perched on precipitous mountain tops beyond the reach of anything other than goats or, presumably, monks...

There is the ruined castle...

A batch of abandoned, sail-less windmills...

And the scant remains of the Early Christian Baths (seen here being visited by a tourist)...

There is, of course, the hustling-bustling port of Pothia with its Cathedral, Diving Museum and Sponge Factory (the kind you wash with not the Victoria Jam variety)...

But any later than 10.00 am and the place is hotter than Tophet so, after a coffee in the Kafennia (watching senior Kalymnians playing chess) and a quick visit to the local bakers for some home made bread and biscuits, it is time to escape from rather than explore...

One is left, therefore, with the other strenuous option of passing the time here in Emporios...

You wake leisurely to the gentle sound of the sea lapping on the shore beneath the bedroom window; enjoy a leisurely coffee and a slice of fresh watermelon for breakfast; take a leisurely stroll the exhausting ten yards (!) to the beach and make the tiring decision about which tamarisk tree to sit under; read a page or two of a book; doze; have another coffee; listen to the ever-busy cicadas; doze again; read half a page; doze once more; maybe take a short stroll (it's really not obligatory) to the bougainvillea-surrounded church...

...then have a Greek salad for lunch, followed by the requiste siesta; wake up in time for a nice leisurely cup of tea and a Kalymnian biscuit (or three); toying - possibly, but only if one really feels like it - with thinking about writing something; have an early evening drink; leisurely contemplate what maight be nice for dinner; read a paragraph or two; have a chat; have another drink; have supper; listen to George Glinati playing the guitar; watch David doing magic for the patrons of the Artistico; have a final drink and - somewhere about 1.00 am or, maybe, 2.30 it really doesn't matter - toddle up to bed and fall asleep to the gentle sound of the sea lapping on the shore...

So, you seen, absolutely no pressure!

Sunday, 10 August 2008


Well, it's that time of the year again and we are off to the Greek island of Kalymnos in the Dodecanese.

This means that, for a few weeks - whilst blogging will most certainly continue - the posting of your comments may at times be a bit erratic! If so, this will be due to a phenomenon (known to anyone who's ever visited Greece) as GREEK TIME!

As it happens, the Greeks have two words for TIME...


Chronos is quantity of time: chronological or sequential time, time in progress - hence our everyday words chronicle, chronology and chronic.

Kairos is quality of time: significant rather than dimensional time, the fleeting moment of now; impossible to measure other than in terms of its significance or specialness - a time, you might say, between times...

Chronos will undoubtedly march relentlessly on over the next few weeks, but I hope that Kairos will provide a few memorable moments...

You can read about Kalymnos - and, in particular, the village of Emporios where we stay - in my website essay Heaven on Earth!

Image: David Weeks © 2007

Friday, 8 August 2008


Today sees the opening of the Beijing Olympics - the ceremony taking place at 8 o'clock this evening, the 8th day of the 8th month in the year 2008.

Coincidence? Not really. In China the number 8 is considered especially lucky! May it be so for whichever athletes deserve to come first!

Anyway, that's enough on the subject of sport - a topic about which I have limited knowledge and in which I have even less interest - but talking about China - and prompted by my postings about the so-called El Caminito del Rey walkway (ha!) in Spain, and the film Man on Wire - both Jen and Suzanne have kindly sent me a set of photos of what is allegedly a Chinese restaurant where the food is FREE...

...providing you survive the incredibly perilous climb to get there!

How perilous?


As it happens, I've received several e-mails containing these images over the past year or so - as, indeed, you may also have done - but, this time, I was prompted to try and find out a bit more about this dangerous alternative to popping out to your local Chinese take-away...

I quickly discovered that the 'restaurant' is actually a temple situated on Mount Hua (0r Huà Shān), one of the Five Sacred Mountains of China, located in the Shaanxi Province, about 100 kilometres east of the city of Xi'an.

Historically, Hua was the location of several influential Taoist temples, and was known as a centre for the practice of traditional Chinese martial arts.

The photos circulating are of the south peak route to the top and are, I find, the subject of much suspect or misleading information on the web largely originating from a website The Deadly Huashan Hiking Trail, containing - in addition to a lot of sensational photographs culled from the www - a breathless (but suspiciously anonymous) account of how one couple - Frank and Laura - made the scarifying ascent. The 'story', says the website, is 'written by Rick Archer', though it is not clear whether, in this context, 'story' means the report or the Frankandlaura narrative which seems to describe two people with a declared fear of heights absurdly making this ludicrously unsafe journey...

The Huashan Letters also appearing on this website question much of what is reported, but will also lead you - after almost as much scrambling as is involved in climbing Mount Hua - to two unquestionably authentic accounts: one by ANDRE HYCENKO, shown here putting on a teeth-grittingly brave face...

The question that immediately comes to my mind is who erected this path - and, more pertinently, HOW? Needless to say, that's the one useful bit of info you can't find on the internet!

Anyway, another graphic account is provided by ROBIN ESROCK - self-styled 'Modern Gonzo' - who, while in China, decided to go in search of the location of those vertiginous e-mail images and gives a step by step account of the route which led, eventually, to that far from mythical pathway in the sky...

Mad fool that he is, Robin Esrock also recorded his expedition on video!

In passing this little film onto you, I suggest that those of a nervous disposition might care to close their eyes; and would point out to anyone setting out to follow Robin's hike that - due to height-induced panic - he does, occasionally, give vent to a mild expletive!

So, hang on --- and watch your step....

A final thought: most of the people who climb the south peak of Mount Hua are doing it for (believe it or not) FUN! But, as Robin Esrock discovered, the local delivery men also use the same route...

Somehow, I can't see the local Ocado chap coping with that!

Wednesday, 6 August 2008


After those various mint selections offered by The Unemployed Philosophers Guild (see here, here and here), I have now discovered - from a different source - some extreme oddities, such as...


"Revolutionize your breath just like Lenin and the Bolsheviks revolutionized Mother Russia!"


"Each gothicly-styled tin contains one hundred mints guaranteed to give you the kind of garlic breath that will send vampires scurrying back to their coffins. Warning: consistent use of Garlic Mints may have a negative impact on your social life."


"Keep a tin of these Bite the Bullet Mints in your holster and you’ll have the freshest breath in the West!"


"Each collectible, coffin-shaped tin contains one hundred potent mints that will leave you with fresh breath to die for!"

MONKEY [Banana-Flavoured] MINTS

"If the simple grin on this monkey tin isn't enough to cheer you up, the delicious banana mints inside should do the trick. Whether you're monkeying around at home, or going bananas at work, a smiling tin of Monkey Mints will surely turn that frown upside down."


"Each one of these mints tastes like a delicious slice of crispy bacon with just a hint of mint flavor to give it that extra punch!"

After which you may wish to avail yourself of some...


"Whether you yearn to eliminate unsightly debris from those hard-to-reach spaces between your teeth or you crave a splash of bacon zest to spice up a boring oral hygiene routine, these bacon-flavored toothpicks are for you. Arm yourself with invigorating pig freshness and the confidence that you can take on the world. The next time you pig out, you'll be glad you have these flavorful slender sticks of wood by your side."

And for something altogether different...


"Satisfy your oral fixation with these classic Bubble Gum Cigarettes. We're pretty sure that the Surgeon General will have no problem with you chewing a pack a day!"


"Once you get over the initial reluctance to put a human head in your mouth, you'll find that the subtle contours and cherry flavor of these Marie Antoinette Head Lollipops are worth the strange looks you'll get as you suck them."

"Let then suck lollipops!" I say.

And seriously YUCK...


"Express your deep love and devotion in a creepy and disturbing way with a Gummy Heart. Each 4" tall, 80 gram piece of strawberry flavored gummy candy is realistically detailed to look just like a human heart! The package features a charming little rhyme: 'My love is pure, my love is true, you can have my heart and eat it too!'"

All these - and unbelievably more! - are available from Archie McPhee, 'Horrifying the World for Twenty-Five Years'.

Lastly, my personal favourite...

...because, of course, Nihilists don’t believe in flavour!