Saturday 30 September 2006


My friend at polkadots & moonbeams recently got very excited on her blog about the news that Sophie Barlow was returning to The Archers which, for the benefit of out-of-towners and aliens from the Planet Zog is the BBC's legendary, long-running radio soap-opera.

Reading p&m’s posting and the relevant BBC web-page with it’s detailed back-history, made me realise how life in the village of Ambridge has moved on since my parents used to tune in (then at 6.45 pm) as a nightly accompaniment to supper.

In those days - and we listened, religiously, for best part of a decade-and-a-half - it was called “an everyday story of country folk”, invariably included useful agricultural information supplied by the Min of Ag and Fish and featured characters - that today’s younger listeners won’t even have heard of - such as Dan and Doris Archer, Ned Larkin, Tom Forrest, Walter Gabriel and Mrs Perkins or, as Walter always called her, “Mrs P”...

Browsing the BBC’s Archers pages (apart from the puzzling banner which shows a never-ending wheat field that looks as if it rightly belongs in the American mid-west) stirred all kind of happy memories.

In particular the downloadable maps of Ambridge and Borsetshire (and especially the village panorama, below) reminded me of all those place-names that were part of my youthful listening: Lakey Hill, Glebe Cottage, Hollowtree Farm, Grey Gables and, of course, ‘The Bull’…

However, returning to the return of Sophie, I was most perplexed to read the following:

“Sophie is played by the original actor, Moir Leslie, who was heard more recently in The Archers as Rev Janet Fisher.”

Sophie and Janet - for the uninitiated, Sophie is on the left!

My question to the BBC is: should you really be telling us this kind of thing? When I was a listener, the Corporation occasionally published a faux edition of newspaper mentioned in the series, The Borchester Echo, with all the news from Ambridge and photographs - including, if I remember rightly, Phil and Jill Archer outside the village church on their wedding day: posed by the actors, but captioned as if the characters were real people…

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the ‘Rev Janet Fisher’ was a bit of problem in Ambridge? Especially when she became attracted to GP Tim Hathaway following his wife, Siobhan’s adultery…

Might it not, therefore, be best if listeners didn’t know that the actress who played her reverend-self is now back as Sophie? Unless, of course, she is actually the Rev Janet Fisher disguised as Sophie!

If I were into spoiling the magic of radio, I might mention that I’ve worked with my fair share of Archers characters over the years, among them: Marjorie Antrobus and Lynda Snell (shockingly one and the same), Bri Brody, Al Clancy, Alan Fraser, Bert Fry (both Mark II), Joe Grundy (Marks II & III), Shula Hebden, PC Colin Drury and others.

Indeed, my debut radio programme featured Norman Shelley who was the first of two actors to play Colonel Danby and who, years before, was radio’s voice of Winnie-the-Pooh, Dr Watson and (strictly for the Oldies) Captain Brass in Toytown!

Archers aficionados (or, at least, those with any historical knowledge of the village) might also care to know that I encountered several leading locals in Middle-earth when we made the BBC radio dramatization of The Lord of the Rings.

Jack May (Nelson Gabriel and other roles) was King Théoden of Rohan, Hugh Dickson (Guy Pemberton) was Elrond and Saruman - the evil, corrupted wizard - was portrayed by Peter Howell who is still on a retainer contract to play (rather surprisingly in view of his Middle-earth persona) the Right Reverend Cyril Hood, Bishop of Felpersham, whenever a purple cassock is called for - as, indeed, it was when the aforementioned Reverend Janet Fisher was in need of a bit of counseling.

I sincerely hope, with Sophie - or Janet - back on the scene, that Bishop Cyril is still standing (or kneeling) by in case of any new emergencies on Ambridge moral front…

In point of fact, it just occurs to me that the scriptwriters could probably come up with a really cool storyline if the Bishop turned out to be a bit Saruman-like and started a Satanic cult in which a coven Borsetshire women (possibly including Janet/Sophie) indulged in various naked ritules (think The Wickerman) held at the full moon in one of those endless fields of wheat...

Or is that too exciting for The Archers?

While you're thinking that over, the dedicated, hard-line Archers fanatics might care to amuse themselves with these Listeners' Parodies written by other people with too much time on their hands

Friday 29 September 2006


Frankly, I've no idea...

What is the going rate, these days?

The things I pick up in the doctor's waiting room...

Actually - at very real the risk of sounding like a grumpy old git - this is a far cry from the days of my youth when there were no National Heath Service leaflets to tell you What's What and when items of this nature were only obtainable from pharmacies (and if they didn't have a male assistant, you simply had to purchase yet another toothbrush) or from the hairdresser's salon - then called the barber's - where you might possibly be asked if you needed "something for the weekend" - presumably on the basis that sex was an exclusively Friday and/or Saturday night affair!

Run by St Pancras Hospital, the web site -- No! You really don't have to check it out... Oh, you just did! --- is, for a fogy born in the Dark Ages, a somewhat startling experience! A kind of Amazon.condom, it has a cheery sales pitch that is up front and proud of it! For example: "Check out our popular freedoms box, which offers fantastic value for money, and looks pretty damn good too."

Seriously, whilst my mock outrage conceals a deep-seated jealousy that today's generations are so better catered for in the sexual knowledge department and lack most of the hang-ups that hung over those of us of an earlier generation, I fear for them in that the worldwide statistics on the AIDS & HIV epidemic show a rise from 8 million people in 1990 to 38.6 million in 2005 and the figures are still rising.

If only there were a way for those of us who lived through the Reign of Terror - especially those who loved and lost in that era when knowledge was sparse and fear was rife - to explain to today's generation that the price of freedom is always responsibility and, in the case of sex (whatever your particular cup of tea might be) that means a responsibility to health and life...

That said, the NHS and St Pancras Hospital have probably got it right...

Thursday 28 September 2006


It’s two weeks, yesterday, since we left Kalymnos and the tan and, more importantly, the feeling of contentment are already beginning to fade…

But the memories live on and one of them - extremely personal to me, as it happens - is out there for all to see --- on the World Wide Web!

It was Wednesday, 30th August and I came up from a hard day on the beach and ordered a spot of lunch at Artistico...

I decided on a Greek salad, a plate of tzatziki and another of tomato patties and cheese balls. A short while afterwards, a selection of food approximating to my order was brought out on a tray and carried right past me to a table on the other side of the restaurant where it was artfully arranged and then photographed by a young man with a lot of serious camera equipment…

In a London restaurant I would, by now, have been hurtling towards my short-fuse explosive mood, but this is on Kalymnos - in Emporios - at Artistico… With an extreme effort I managed a raised eyebrow and a quizzical look…

Irene Glinatsi hurried over to reassure me: yes, that was, indeed, my lunch she explained, but the young man with the camera furiously clicking away was putting together images for a French web-site on Kalymnos and he wanted a few shots of some typical dishes on the Artistico menu and my lunch, apparently, fitted the bill...

The photographic shoot went on for a few minutes and then the young man relocated and served my food with sufficient aplomb to suggest that, if other work fails, he could reasonably hope to hold down a job in a French restaurant!

He also gave me details of the web site on which my lunch was to make its guest appearance.

Called it is primarily intended for rock climbers (not being one myself I’ve never previously mentioned that Kalymnos is, in fact, an ace climbing resort) but which contains many pretty pictures of this lovely island.

Yesterday in London, it being grey and overcast, I found myself missing the sun, sea and sky of our Greek paradise so much that I decided to go to and visit my lunch…

Do you know, I could almost taste it…

Then, late last evening, we telephoned Artistico in order to wish Nikola Glinatsi a happy 25th birthday - talking to Nikola and Irene and hearing all the news from Emporios only served to confirm my severe pangs of holiday-home-sickness!

Here's a photo of Nikola having just returned from a fishing trip with a particularly impressive haul of local sea urchins * which reminds me of another of those useful Greek sayings: "If you don’t wet your arse - you won’t eat fish!"

* Sea urchins are a much-prized delicacy, but one which I confess to having passed on once I'd discovered that the spiny outer cases continue moving for a quite some while after the creatures have been cut open and had their insides consumed. Call me old-fashioned, if you will, but being a wishy-washy city-dweller, I'm afraid I tend to prefer food that stays still when it's on the plate!

Wednesday 27 September 2006


According to the on-line catalogue of : "Your friends and loved ones will understand exactly how you feel when they see this powerful wreath signifying a broken heart."

Can I just say to any friends and loved ones - by way of advance notice - that when the question of ‘floral tributes’ eventually arises, I’d be most grateful - broken-hearted though you may be at my passing - if you'd avoid anything even vaguely as grotesque as the above...

And if any of the following tacky tributes inspire wild ideas - such a BBC microphone recreated in roses or a likeness of Peter Jackson done in mixed carnations - then I can only beg you: resist the temptation!

Since, when the time comes, you will be (literally) "the last to LET ME DOWN" --- please, don't let me down!

Tuesday 26 September 2006


…is broken! Or, to be specific, my fifth metatarsal is suffering from a stress fracture. My God! What a state I’m in - even my FEET are stressed!

Strange how a bizarre chain of events can lead to five hours sitting in A & E waiting rooms, x-ray waiting rooms, fracture clinic waiting rooms…

There I was, yesterday, on one of those long bendy buses, so beloved by the Mayor of London, on my way to Victoria… We were on the middle of Vauxhall Bridge, when a passenger came down from the far-off distant end of the bus to speak to the driver.

“There’s a man being ill at the back of the bus,” she told him. “Ill?” he asked. “Being sick,” she replied; and then added, graphically, “It’s everywhere and now it’s running down the bus!”

She wasn’t exaggerating. The stench was already all pervasive and the occupants of that end of the bus were rapidly migrating ahead of a veritable river of vomit…

The driver pulled over and, not unreasonably, announced that the bus was being taken out of service. We were all hustled off and in the pushing and shoving I stepped down awkwardly, was conscious of a searing pain in my left foot and felt - and maybe even heard - a CRACK!

So, one man’s nausea is another man’s fracture and that is how I got to spend so many hours at the hospital and, as a prize for endurance, won myself a pair of crutches…

Offered the option of a plaster cast last evening or a wait till this morning in order to have the lighter-weight fibreglass cast, I chose the second option and returned today…

According to the doctor, this particular injury is one usually sustained by young squaddies who’ve done too much marching - not applicable to me, of course! - but is one that also affects people, such as myself, on steroids.

I was, therefore, (if you’ll pardon the pun) bracing myself for four to six weeks in a cast; mercifully, however, the doctor decided that the trauma of coping with a cast and crutches as well as the problems of psoriatic arthritis was probably not worth any possible benefits and that, instead, I should keep it supported and wait for it (hopefully) to heal…

For the moment, I’m retaining the crutches to ease mobility and, if necessary, to brain anyone on a bus who looks as if they might be about to throw up!

Monday 25 September 2006


Christmas comes but once a year, but it starts NOW!!

It's three months today to Christmas Day, but the pressure is already on: the gift catalogues are arriving with every post and the shops are eagerly and excitedly urging us to get buying!

After all, can you afford not to? I mean, just supposing the mince pies should run out before December even arrives...

And, since this year we really are going to 'post early for Christmas' - well then, we might just as well get started!

If we get the cards written and off then and we can not only avoid the December logjams in the British mail system (by creating November or even October logjams) but we can also claw back a bit of extra, valuable, last-minute shopping-time nearer the holiday !

I will, obviously, tell readers when our first Christmas card arrives - it can only be a matter of weeks, probably days - meanwhile, in our house, we are, as you can see, well ahead of the game!

Actually, I bought this card last December to send to a friend with a 'cheeky' sense of humour; but for some reason (which I now can't remember) the intended recipient must have ended up with something rather less interesting - such as a brace of robins on a snowy gate...

So, there it stands on one of our bookshelves: the Last Christmas Card to be Taken Down or the First to Go Up --- depending how (or when) you look at it...

1st Music Hall Comic:

"Tell me, Mac, is anything worn under the kilt?"

2nd Music Hall Comic:

"Nay, laddie, everything's in perfect working order!"

Sunday 24 September 2006


That was Humpty Dumpty's take on language - and why not?

The most interesting authors do it all the time: scattering philosophcal or linguistic puzzles through their work and leaving the rest of us lesser mortals - who get anxious if we encounter anything other than neat-and-tidy expression of thought - to ask senseless questions…

An interviewer once asked Jeanette Winterson the meaning of the line, “What you risk reveals what you value” in her 1988 novel, The Passion.

After a moment's thought, she replied: “It means... it means...'Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper tree'…”

The interviewer - doubtless perplexed - moved swiftly on to his next question…

As some of you may have spotted, Ms Winterson was actually quoting a famous response by the poet T S Eliot to a similarly hopeless interrogation.

The incident, as recalled by fellow poet Stephen Spender, occured, in 1929, shortly after Eliot had published his poem Ash-Wednesday.

An undergraduate at the Oxford Poetry Club decided to ask Eliot to explain one of his more obscure poetic images:

“Please, sir," said the student, "what do you mean by the line, 'Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper tree'?”

A not unreasonable enquiry one might have thought, but Eliot reputedly stared at his questioner for a while before eventually replying:

“I mean... 'Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper tree'...”

Right! Now I've got it!

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, quoted this exchange in one of his sermons, adding: “The obscurity or indeterminacy of a poem at the intellectual level can indeed be a strength, since it becomes free to signify more to the reader… The signification of the words is neither conceptual nor representational; it is the positing of a world in which these words ‘catch’ and establish certain relations or resonances…”

Which… er… means…? No! I won't ask...

On a more popularist level, Don McLean has consistently declined to explain the lyrics of the title-number of his most famous album, American Pie

"You will find many 'interpretations' of my lyrics,” he once said, “but none of them by me... Sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence.”

More amusingly, McLean once replied to the question “What does ‘American Pie’ mean?” with the wittily honest response: “It means I never have to work again!”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master - that's all.”

Saturday 23 September 2006


Oh, how the poets have sung of sleep! Shakespeare, for example, wrote of:
“Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath

Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,

Chief nourisher in life's feast…”
And Ovid observed:
“Sleep, rest of things, O pleasing Deity,
Peace of the soul, which cares dost crucify,

Weary bodies refresh and mollify...”
While D H Lawrence expressed the opinion:
“And if tonight my soul may find her peace
in sleep, and sink in good oblivion,
and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower
hen I have been dipped again in God, and new-created…”
Yes! Well, some - indeed, many - may sleep the sleep of the innocent babe…

Others of us, however (note, please, the time of this posting!), join the ranks of the insomniacs and have the nightly thrill of watching others sleep whilst taking precious little comfort from knowing just how many famous men and women have shared the nightly vigil as the small hours crawl, with snail-like slowness, towards a weary dawn…
"Insomnia is a gross feeder. It will nourish itself on any kind of thinking, including thinking about not thinking..."
- Clifton Fadiman

"It appears that every man's insomnia is as different from his neighbour's as are their daytime hopes and aspirations..."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald

"How do people go to sleep? I'm afraid I've lost the knack. I might try busting myself smartly over the temple with the night-light. I might repeat to myself, slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound; if I can remember any of the damn things..."
- Dorothy Parker

"Sleeplessness is a desert without vegetation or inhabitants..."
- Jessamyn West

"There are twelve hours in the day, and above fifty in the night..."
- Marie de Rabutin-Chantal

"Even thus last night, and two nights more I lay,

And could not win thee, Sleep, by any stealth:

So do not let me wear to-night away.

Without thee what is all the morning's wealth?

Come, blessed barrier between day and day,

Dear mother of fresh thoughts and joyous health!

- William Wordsworth

"Nothing cures insomnia like the realization that it's time to get up..."
- Author Unknown
And, oh, how easy it will be to fall asleep while sitting at the keyboard come ten o'clock in the morning!

Friday 22 September 2006


This is the first in a occasional series devoted to things around our home that make me smile and what better way to start than with something which, itself, actually incorporates a smile - or, at least, a GRIN?

I bought this delightfully eccentric mirror featuring the Cheshire Cat in Walt Disney's film version of Alice in Wonderland from The Animation Art Gallery a few years ago on a sudden, wild (and totally irresponsible) impulse!

I'm ashamed to say that I've now forgotten the name of the artist who created it, but it instantly caught my eye and took my fancy combining as it does my life-long passion for Lewis Carroll's 'Alice' books with what some might consider a surprising degree of affection for Disney's idiosyncratic 1950 film version of them.

The Cheshire Cat is an especially interesting character/creature: like many of the Wonderlanders, he (or, in the book, 'it') has an annoying knack of talking nonsense as if it were perfect sense, combined with an irritating habit of fading away just when difficult questions require answering and an unsettling line in logic:
"...I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.

"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat. "We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."

"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.

"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."
To this, Disney added a spalsh of purple-tinged surrealism and - since Alice encounters the cat in the uneasy setting of the Tulgey Wood - a hint of something menacingly sinister...

For the film, the voice with its fey chuckle was provided by prolific Disney vocal-artist, Sterling Holloway, shown right and below with one of the storyboards for the sequence and Kathryn Beaumont, the voice of Alice.

Sterling Holloway's role-call of memorable Disney voice characterisations included Mr Stork in Dumbo, the adult Flower in Bambi, Kaa the Python in The Jungle Book and - perhaps most famously - the Disney studio's incarnation of Winnie-the-Pooh...

Anyway, at the stage when I weakened and opened my wallet, the frame was completely white having yet to be painted - according to the presecribed Disney colour-chart! By the time that had been done, and then re-done (because the bits reflected in the morror got missed!) and then done a third time because it got damaged in transit from the artist to the gallery, I began to wonder whether I would ever really want to live with it on a daily basis!

However, it now hangs in the hallway and - regardless of how gloomy I'm feeling - I cannot glance in it without (as one would hope and expect of a Cheshire Cat) it leaving me with a grin!
"Well, I've often seen a cat without a grin," thought Alice; "but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!"

[Images of Sterling Holloway and 'Alice' from Don Brockway's site devoted to Kathryn Beaumont]

Thursday 21 September 2006


While in Kalymnos, I picked up several fascinating Greek sayings; one I particularly like is:

“The donkey says the cock-a-doodle is a dickhead! Look who’s talking!”

Which will serve as a suitable prelude to the following ‘Likely Story’…

Everybody knew that the Ass was stubborn - in fact, as stubborn as Hell - but they soon found out that he was also incredibly stupid!

He lived in a damp, dismal, run-down corner of a field that consisted mainly of nettles, thistles and dock leaves as well as quite a lot of stagnant, insect-infested water.

Few of the other animals visited the Ass, not because they were being unsociable, but because the dock leaves, nettles and stagnant water had only a limited appeal.

Every now and again, however, one of them would look by in the hopes of involving the solitary, standoffish Ass in the wider community.

One day, the Cow came by and spoke to the Ass. “How would you like to help me crop some of the grass in the meadow,” she asked in a gentle, lowing voice. “It needs doing and it’s rather a lot of work for one - but the grass is beautifully green and really flavoursome…”

“No way!” snorted the Ass crossly, “You just want to get me out of my little corner so you and others can move in and chew up all my thistles!” Then, because he always had to make some smart-ass reply, he added: “Besides, I know all about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence!”

A few weeks later, the Rabbit and his family hopped by and spoke to the Ass: “We’re getting ready to harvest our carrot-patch and there are far too many even for our large family, so perhaps you’d care to join us? As carrots go, they are really sweet and tender.”

“No way!” snapped the Ass. “You just want to get me out of my little corner so you can invite all your thousands of rabbit friends-and-relations round to rob me of my nettles! Apart from which, I know that there’s no such thing as a carrot without a stick!

Shortly afterwards, the sheep decided to call. “I say,” she began with a nervous bleat, “I’ve got a big field full of choicest clover that makes a really good summer snack. I’d be very happy to share it with you. Sometimes you can even find a four-leaf clover which is lucky as well as tasty!”

“No way!” the Ass grunted without looking up from his thistle. “You just want to get me out of my little corner so that all and sundry can come down here and gobble up my dock leaves! And, anyway, I know perfectly well that no one truly ever lives in clover!”

From then on, nobody bothered about the Ass any more until, one morning after several weeks of continuous rain, his cousin the Horse, galloped down to the field, calling out in a loud urgent voice: “GET OUT! Get out of here while you can! I live up on the hill and I’ve been watching the river! The waters are rising dangerously high and this corner of the field is going to flood. If you don’t go now, you may not escape with your life!

“No way! NO WAY! the Ass brayed. “I’ve had enough of all these attempts to get me to leave my home! Well, you’re wasting your time, because I’m not moving! I’m STAYING - come Hell or high water!”

Seeing it was useless, the Horse turned and galloped away. When he looked down from the top of the hill the next morning he saw that all that was left of the Ass’s stubbornness and stupidity was now floating in the floodwaters.

The Horse gave a whinny: “Ah, well,” he said sadly, “an ass is TRULY an ass who repeatedly looks a gift-horse in the mouth…”

© Brian Sibley 2006
Read more of my Likely Stories.

Wednesday 20 September 2006


Following yesterday's bog-blog, one of my regular comment-leavers, 'Scrooge', wrote:

"One image this piece is missing is a photograph of your own toilet to compare with the inferior models in Greece. I can't believe you haven't stored one in the archive you carry on the laptop. It would be nice for visitors to your house to reminisce about the happy times they spent there, the books they read etc..."

Ever eager to oblige, I seized my camera and rushed to room in question; unfortunately, as you can see, it was occupied...

I guess we must be making up for lost time...

So, I'm afraid Mr Scrooge will just have to join the queue and wait!

Tuesday 19 September 2006


Home again to an empty diary and an empty bank balance...

By Zeus, but it's terribly tempting to re-pack and fly off back to Emporios!

However, it is perhaps time to count one's blessings: after all, there must be something good about being back in the UK...

And, yes, there is!

Now, it's true to say that there are some people - many people I believe - who, as the end of their holiday draws near, find themselves yearning for the homely comfort of their own bed.

Not me! I'm one of those who's simply longing for a loo

If you'll pardon my frankness, I have to say that the most testing thing about holidaying in Greece is a national plumbing system that dictates that soiled toilet paper cannot be disposed off in the customary fashion, but has to be deposited in a bin designated for that purpose…

In the pre-Andrex days when the Romans built the communal latrines that can still be viewed at the Agora in Athens, they cleansed themselves with a sponge on a stick rinsed in a culvert of constantly flowing water that ran in front of the seats…

But for modern-day Greeks, toilet-tissue is a real issue and leads to some interesting attempts to meet the expectations of visitors from those parts of the world where collecting used loo-paper is not a tradition (especially the cleanliness-conscious Americans and Japanese), while at the same time attempting to avoid major disruption of the national sewage system!

Many taverna loos now sport notices announcing sophisticated disinfecting systems alongside those reminding you where to file your paperwork…

In one of the restrooms in the lounge at Athens airport - stylishly upgraded a few years back to welcome Olympic visitors - there is an amazing, self-cleaning loo-seat (or would be if it were fully functional!) adjacent to which stands a loo-paper-container which has, regrettably, long-since lost its tip-up lid…

Oh, well, as they say: "S*** happens!" The important thing is being able to flush afterwards...

[Images (as if you'd want to nick these ones!): © Brian Sibley & David Weeks]

Saturday 16 September 2006


Our last day in Athens and we explore the National Archaeological Museum with its extraordinary hoard of cultural artefacts ranging from curiosities such as the six-thousand-year-old dried figs…

…to a dramatic Minoan bull’s head and a stunningly beautiful Mycenaean gold cup from 15th Century BC.

Walking through this museum requires the visitor to endure an almost-non-stop lightning storm of camera flashes each of which is followed by the thunderclap of attendants yelling: “No flash, please…”

Fortunately, we never offended - but only because we hissed "Flash off?" at one another every time we raised a camera to eye-level!

It might be easier to insist - as do many galleries around the world - that photography is simply not permitted, but then so many of the exhibits simply beg to be photographed - like this celebrated 16th Century BC gold funerary mask from Mycenae - the so-called ‘Agamemnon’ mask - which will evoke memories for every ‘A’ Level English student of a certain era, since it was featured on the cover of the Penguin paperback edition of the Oresteia

Much of the art reflects the importance of the sea in Greek history and culture with powerful images of dolphins, fish and octopi - images which survived through to our own age, often in coarsened form, to decorate the folk-arty souvenirs which tourists carry home from Greece...

And many of the exhibits were, indeed, found in the sea - recovered and reclaimed from Poseidon’s personal treasure trove to amaze our 21st Century eyes, such as this bronze, galloping horse and jockey which was cast in 150 BC and which leaps through the air and across the years with a virile fury of straining sinew and equine energy…

The works displayed in the museum's sculpture galleries trace how the Greeks fashioned the sculptor's art into something totally revolutionary: learning from the Egyptians the skill of creating anatomically accurate, but rigidly formal, human likenesses that were essentially designed to look imposing when viewed head-on...

...and then found the inspiration and imagination to liberate their subjects and create statues that captured the illusion of three-dimensional movement and emotionally engaged the observer. It was a watershed in the history of art...

Again and again, throughout the museum, one is reminded just how uninhibited early cultures were compared even with our seemingly liberated times. And it was the gods and heroes who led the way: refusing to hide decorously behind inessential drapery but, instead, preferring to stand proud and unabashed in their sexuality...

In whatever direction you look you are confronted by Ancient Greeks' not-so-private parts...

Not surprisingly, today’s gallery-goers - feigning artistic curiosity - are unable to avert their eyes: weighing things up, making mental measurements and comparisons...

...and, if they can break away from their tour companions, they inevitably move in for a closer peek...

...or to snap off a few shots of the naturists of Hellas!

One of the most startling - in fact, eye-watering - exhibits in the museum’s collection is this bronze statuette of a prodigiously randy satyr, dating from the 6th Century BC...

One can't help but think what a time Ann Summers would have had back then!

This particular image, I have to admit, is taken from a post-card. David did take a photograph, but for some reason - I can't imagine why - it suffered from camera-shake!

The satyrs and fauns of mythology are a far cry from the decorously civilized Mr Tumnus of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and their lustful larks are part of an essentially earthy heritage that has not been entirely lost in the intervening millennia.

When we on Kalymnos, I was frequently reminded that Greek people - well those of the islands at any rate - can be surprisingly - even shockingly - direct and basic when it comes to questions of sex.

When, for example, I mentioned the fact that my late friend, the actor Peter Bull (who had a summer home on Paxos), had written a book called Life is a Cucumber - the title of which was taken from an old Arab proverb adopted by the Greeks - we were immediately treated to a graphic visual representation from the kitchen…

The white stuff on the end of the cucumber -- I mention it only because you want to know, but will be far too polite or embarrassed to ask! -- is ice cream: an outrageous embellishment by one of the UK contingent who - succumbing the Hellenistic atmosphere of libidinous freedom - momentarily lost his sense of British decorum!

And on the slopes of Mount Olympus, Pan and his goat-footed followers were, doubtless, convulsed with laughter...

Incidentally, for the curious among you, the full version of that proverb runs as follows:

“Life is a cucumber... It is sometimes long, sometimes short; sometimes rough, sometimes smooth; sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet… One minute it’s in your hand --- next minute, it’s UP YOUR ARSE!

But now our sojourn in the sun is over and it’s time to do up all our zips and buttons and head off to that island in the North Sea where, most of the time, temperatures are comparable with our libido ratings!

[Images: © Brian Sibley & David Weeks]