Monday, June 27, 2005


OK, there are 3 ladies sitting across the road drawing our house. Of all the houses they could have picked in The Wood...
Or on this Terrace...

Well...We are the only ones with flowers in the boxes (nice red geraniums). And we do have an attractive urn in the front garden which 9 out of 10 people turn to look at as they walk by. That could be it.

But number 26 has the most beautiful front door I have ever seen in my life. I want to take a picture of it...I want to put a note through their letter box asking permission and promising them a copy if they wanted...
Is that too formal or should I just lean over the gate and snap the picture???


I went into town today. Lots of mileage. Was looking for a crispy white shirt to wear for the graduation ceremony. I was on my feet for nearly 8 hours, and had to pick up some food at the Green Park M&S on the way home.
I approached the queue with an armful of produce - and the nice suited man who was last in line grabbed a basket and held it while I put my food in. His kind deed had me feeling all fuzzy for 5 whole minutes :)


Oooh, my mother just texted me to say she's just been bumped up to Business Class. I'm going to tease her when she arrives.


The sketching ladies are still there...

Sunday, June 26, 2005

This Graduate!

This is how obscure I really am:

Do a Google for "fenderstick" and watch what happens.

My brain is a repository for interesting and useless information. [But what a relief, I've discovered I'm not the only one.]


How remiss of me - I have just realised that no one, not even my best friends, know that I will graduate on Friday! Loads of them have told me off for giving them short notice.

It has taken two years to earn my M.Phil in the History of Art & Connoisseurship at Christie's Education, London. The first year I spent studying European Art & Antiquities for the PG.Dip., awarded by Cambridge University.
However, the Master's course is accredited by Glasgow University in
Scotland, one of Europe's oldest medieval universities (1451). So that is where we have the ceremony.

My parents are coming to the UK and we will head up to Glasgow for a few days. So, starting on Tuesday (when they arrive) I might disappear for a week or so. Don't stop visiting me though, and when I return I'll be sure to share pictures!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Friday Five and other things

I was so proud of my answer to a question on the site of a blogger named Jackal that I've copied them here:

I wonder if it is better to expect the worst and be proved right or to expect the best and be proved wrong?

Somewhere between expecting the best (optimism) and the worst (pessimism) is the balance called realism. If you're realistic, then if the worst happens you won't be too disappointed. If it turns out to be the best, then you can revel in the positive outcome.


I checked Jordan's blog today and the first sentence had me in stitches:

23 June 2005 at 01:12
Vanessa's dog walks wrong

I've just been watching it, sitting here in her dad's house. It moves both legs on one side at the same time instead of alternating like normal quadrupeds.

[Olivia's note: V's dog is called Dimanche. That's French for Sunday, but she is the unsaintliest canine I've ever met.]


Watched tennis today. Wimbledon is LOUD this year....No wonder - the Australians are there in full force, with beer and face paint. Talk about dragging down the neighbourhood...

Hewitt (AUS) vs Gimelstob (USA) - very interesting game. They keep up some amazingly long volleys, but I have never seen a player like Gimelstob. He doesn't run for the ball so much as launch himself at it. It's all a bit Mission Impossible. There are all these slow shots of him flying through the air, mouth open. This means that he hits the ground (and bounces) when he lands. I think he is inventing a new sport.


Friday Five: Childhood Revisited

1) What things did you enjoy as a child that you no longer do?
2) What things did you enjoy as a child that you still do today?
3) What things do you do now, that the child you were never thought you'd like?
4) If you could go back to one age and stay there for a while, what would it be?
5) If you could fast forward to an age (you do get to come back!) for a while, what would it be?

1) Playing badminton, saving insects from drowning in the bird bath, eating ice lollies.
2) Feeding my imagination.
3) Eat food.
4) My early 20s - a return to an age of innocence, before 9/11, before my family changed, before I left home. Then, I was surrounded by loving friends every day at university.
5) 50 years old. I'm curious about my children and where I live, and who I married. I also want to know what sort of career I've had.


Thursday, June 23, 2005

Guys and Dolls

I went with a friend to see Guys and Dolls last night. It was great: We were on the 3rd row. We were THIS close to Ewan MacGregor. (That's not the main reason I went, it was a bonus.) I just love a good toe-tapping, rip-roaring American musical from the golden days of Broadway.

I can't leave out Jane Krakowski. She played Elaine in Ally McBeal. She's a really bright actress. To see her and Ewan sing and dance (not together), was a real treat.

The temperature in the auditorium soared when the men did their numbers and they got the loudest applause. There is nothing like a man doing a dance, specially if he's in a classy outfit and a fedora.

What is it today with getting stared at??? I was on the Tube to London Bridge station and for half of it there, once he'd caught sight of me around the standing guy, was a scary man with piercing dark eyes staring holes through me. I didn't know where to look.

Then, on the way home another guy kept looking at me too, despite the fact that I was sitting beside two more lively girls. He gave up after a while, and kept us slightly amused by making a very nice knot on the tie he took out of his bag. Then one more look to see if I was impressed by the handiwork.

Alright, as someone who cannot help but gather data, it tends to happen when I am feeling chipper (to steal an American phrase). When I go around looking dour or extra-pensive, I get left alone. So which should I do??? No, styoopid question - why pretend to be down when you're not?

Now here's a mistake I seldom make: at the end of the evening, I got on the Tube going the wrong way from Westminster (The delightful company and I had walked along a lot of river). I was sure I followed the westbound Jubilee for SJW. I sat down, and it wasn't till we'd pulled out of London Bridge that I realised I was heading into the hinterlands. I got out and changed all the way out at Bermondsey!

And as if that's not enough, I got to SJW and had to pick my way through the drunken cricket crowds. There were so many of them at the Duke of York on the corner, that they'd taken over the corner across the road, too.

Halfway down the terrace to my house, I bumped into a rather large moth and stifled a scream. I'm sure I spooked the ladies I was just passing.

My quote of the day: "Hungry. No appetite. Love to faint. Can't think straight."

It's what I said to my landlady when she asked how I was feeling today. (It was 34C/93F in London today. Not a spot of A/C to be found anywhere.)

Yes, Olivia is babbling but no, Olivia is not tipsy...Not this time...

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Stretching the comedic legs a bit

For all you new Moon-dwellers:
A Visit to the Moon, from Stories of Other Worlds, written in 1900

Some weird and funny photos from a Florida ABC-affiliate station:

Shopping Caveman
Yea but men didn't shop back then, did they?

Trust Dubai to do it first...
Eeny meeny miny moe

I Jumped (of course)
...You know me...

Would You?
If you can't see it do you still feel embarrassed? (but it pays!)

Silly was not paying attention
I ask you!!!

I was a bit bigger than this
One scoop please!

Would you go on something that disappears...
...into the mists of time?

Even sillier than the first silly one:
Many more times so

iTotally want one!
Got to love the 21st century

*gag* But they do a good cream soda...
if I remember correctly

New twist on the phrase "Shut up!"
OR on the word "skinny"!

Lost for words on this one...
I think you need to blow your nose...

Bet she forgot some
No airports for you lady

They should have sent a sumo wrestler instead
Totally unfair that

Oi, get off my tail

Discovered I suppose by a Mr Frank Press, poor guy

Leaning Tower of P....

This is so nano-cool
See? How can you not love this century?

They're gonna take over the world!
A bit Planet of the Apes-ish

Eeeeewwwwww II
I bet they call him "Matt"

Laugh at the Canadians for once...
Yes, it's SHEAR foolishness, hehe

Eeeeewwwwww III or Bring Back Tracy Emin
Geez, I can't even think of a subtitle for this one...

Hehe, Yeah
"Les yeux de la tête" for you francophones

Please Pull Over
Or I will arrest you?

Whew. I'm done for the day. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

From "Shakespeare's Heroines"

Olivia, Edmund Blair Leighton, 1888 Posted by Hello

Monday, June 20, 2005


This weekend I read some great tips for HONEY:

A sore throat

Honey has powerful antimicrobial properties, which can soothe your raw tissues. Pour a teaspoon of honey into a large serving spoon and then top off the spoon with lemon juice. Swallow the concoction (without water) every few hours until symptoms clear up. Some people add a pinch of black or red pepper to increase blood circulation to the throat.

A sluggish colon

If you're constipated, try stirring 2 teaspoons of honey into a large glass of warm water. Drink the potion on an empty stomach and you should have relief in about half an hour.

A sports drink

Honey contains a number of natural sugars that can quickly give you a boost of energy and help you recover faster from strenuous exercise.

Mix a tablespoonful into a glass of water a half an hour or so before your next workout, and drink up.


I just noticed the connection there - Steliano taught his readers the meanings of their names the other day. My middle name is Melissa and there was a small discussion about it.

So here goes. In Greek mythology, Melissa was a nymph who rescued the infant Zeus from his father, and fed him with honey that she gathered every day.
When Zeus became the king of the gods, something unfavourable happened, and someone turned Melissa into a silly insect. Zeus took pity on her and changed her into a bee. (Oh like that's better - what about turning her back into a nymph?? So did that make her the first ever bee, or the Bee of all bees?)

In Greek, meli is honey; melissa is bee, which in Latin becomes honey or sweetness.

Melissa officinalis is also known as lemon or bee balm, a relative of mint. It is used for soothing the interior or exterior of the body. (Why would such a remedy be named after an insect with an annoying sting?)

Parenthetical notes aside, pair those calming qualities with my first name Olivia, which comes of course from the olive tree, the worldwide symbol of peace....

...And you've got a whole lot of peace and sweetness and harmony going on! All together now:



[OK taise-toi, Liv.]
Here is something more down to earth:

The Guide to All Things Chic

Sorry I haven't come across anything side-splittingly funny lately. In the course of last week, what with the myths and historical posts and theories, Steliano the Daydreamer and I have been dubbed professors!!! Not that I was complaining...
Will try to remedy that soon ;-)

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Afternoon in the Park

This afternoon I took my book, camera, a bottle of water, put on my sun hat and went off to Regent's Park. It's just around the corner but usually the weather isn't hot enough to sit on a bench and read...or think.

I wished I had a dog to walk today but out of the thousands of people who were there, I only remember seeing 3 dogs. Paris would be quite another story!

It's funny that I chose to read Virginia Woolf because we were both very stream-of-consciousness today. It was the details about people and life that stood out for me. I would watch, write, and read at regular intervals and each action mirrored the last.
I sat on a bench under some trees and looked out at a large pond full of all sorts of water birds. As I read, I would see things out of the corner of my eye as people walked past...and I'd hear things...I really only ended up reading 3 pages in an hour...My senses were too occupied with the world around me...

  • Japanese tourists with brown hats, bags, shoes, jackets
  • The thread hanging from the bottom of an African lady's shawl
  • A man with keys jingling in his pocket as he walked
  • Snippets of conversation: "The lady always says yes." "The fish is salted and dried for months." "We ended up with a headache." "I will end up in the sea. I'm going to the sea."
  • The soft feather rolling across the surface of the water like tumbleweed in a desert
  • Children's voices wafting from the other side of the pond
  • The hint of roses on the breeze from the garden nearby
  • Pigeons cooing in the trees behind me
  • The duck opposite that would not stop preening
  • The photography class that wandered by, studied same duck, by which time he'd tired of preening and was starting to doze off
  • The daddy who crept up on his little daughter as she leaned over the water watching the fish, went BOO! and tickled her into the grass
  • The entwined lovers I stumbled upon around corners
All in all, an interesting day. I went to the store on my way home and bought Viennetta ice cream to replace my after-dinner pot of tea.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Discovery of the Nightingale

The kitchen maid showing the nightingale to the lord-in-waiting. (Original illustration by Edmund Dulac.) Posted by Hello

The Emperor and the Nightingale

Condensed (slightly) from the fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen

A long time ago, the Emperor of China lived in the most beautiful palace in the whole world. It was made of fine porcelain, so everyone had to be very careful.
In the garden, the flowers were hung with tiny silver bells which whispered in the breeze. The Emperor's gardens were so extensive that no one, not even the gardener, knew where it ended.

I can tell you that it backed onto a mighty forest that ended at the sea; from there you could see the great ships as they sailed by.
In one of the trees in this forest lived a nightingale who sang so beautifully that the poor fishermen would stop to listen to her as they spread their nets in the moonlight.
Travellers from afar would visit the Emperor to admire his palace and gardens, but the only thing that touched their hearts was the lovely song of the nightingale. Authors who wrote books about the wonders they had seen never forgot to mention the nightingale; even poets composed verses in her honour.

The Emperor sat in his golden chair and was pleased to read about the high praise bestowed on his land. He knew nothing of the nightingale, and was suprised to hear her named the most beautiful thing in his kingdom. He could not understand why he did not know anything about this bird, so he summoned one of his lords-in-waiting to ask why he had not been informed.

The lord-in-waiting hurried all over the palace, inquiring of everyone he met if they knew of the nightingale. But no one in the palace had heard of her, so he returned to the Emperor and reported that perhaps she was a work of fiction, and that one cannot believe everything one reads in books.

The Emperor replied, "But this book here was sent to me by the Emperor of Japan; it cannot possibly contain a falsehood!" He insisted that the nightingale be brought to him that night so that he could listen to her sing.

The lord-in-waiting and half the court ran about in a panic, for if the nightingale did not appear, they would be punished. Finally they met a little girl in the kitchen who knew. She said that every night she was allowed to take table scraps for her sick mother, who lived at the end of the forest, and that the nightingale sang to her while she rested on her way back to the palace kitchen.

The lord-in-waiting gave the maid permission to see the king eating dinner, if only she would bring the nightingale to the palace that evening. So she went out to the forest, with half the court following behind. When they saw the plain grey bird sitting on a branch, the lord-in-waiting exclaimed that pretty songs couldn't possibly come from such a modest bird, and that it must have turned pale at the sight of so many grand people.

The kitchen maid called, "Little nightingale, our most gracious emperor wishes you to sing before him."
"With all my pleasure," the nightingale replied, and lifted up her voice in song (thinking that the lord-in-waiting was the Emperor).

The lord-in-waiting said, "It sounds like tiny glass bells, and see how her tiny throat works!" He proclaimed she would be a success at court, and invited her to gain the imperial favour.

That evening, the palace glittered in the light of a thousand lamps, and flowers had been moved into the halls so that there was the constant tinkling of those little silver bells. All the court and staff were present, including the little kitchen maid who stood in a corner. Every eye was turned towards a golden perch in the centre of the great hall, upon which was perched the little grey nightingale.

The Emperor let her begin, and she sang so sweetly that tears rolled down his cheeks, and the notes went straight to the hearts of everyone who listened.

When she finished, the Emperor was so pleased that he wished to honour her by hanging his golden slipper about her neck, but she refused, saying, "I have seen tears in the Emperor's eyes. That is reward enough for me." And she sang again, more enchantingly than before.

In all, the little grey bird was such a success at court that she was ordered to stay there. She had her own gilded cage and was allowed to go out twice a day and once at night. She had twelve attendants who held her with a silk string fastened to each leg. And her fame spread throughout the land, but it was a golden captivity wasn't it?

One day the Emperor received a large package inscribed with the words, "The Nightingale". In awe, he unwrapped a marvellous golden casket containing an artificial nightingale encrusted with diamonds, rubies and other precious gems. As soon as it was wound up, it sang just like the real one, and moved its sparkling tail up and down. Around its neck hung a little card which said, "The Emperor of China's nightingale is poor compared with the Emperor of Japan's."

Every member of the court agreed that it was very beautiful, and the courtier who had brought it was entitled Imperial Nightingale-Bringer-in-Chief.
It was decided the real and the artificial birds must sing a duet, but it really was a disaster, for the real nightingale had her unique song, and the artificial one only sang waltzes.

So the real nightingale was forgotten while the court was absorbed in the artificial one, which was like jewellery to look at and could sing the same song many times over without tiring.
Eventually the Emperor said the real nightingale ought to sing something, but when they looked around for her, she had flown away, back to the freedom of the green woods. The courtiers blamed her and called her an ungrateful creature.

Then they were content that they had the best bird after all, thus the real nightingale was banished from the kingdom and the artificial one placed on a silk cushion by the left side of the Emperor's bed (as that is the same side as his heart and therefore the most noble).

By the end of a year, all the courtiers and everyone in the street could sing or whistle all the notes of the artificial nightingale's song. One night, however, when it had been wound up and the Emperor was lying in bed listening to it, there was a whizz and a crack, something went amiss, and the nightingale stopped singing. The Emperor immediately called for his physician who could do nothing for a machine. Then he sent for a watchmaker, who managed a little repair but suggested it should be used with great care as the wheels were worn and could not be replaced for fear of damaging the song.

Five years passed and now we find the Emperor lying in his bed, deathly ill. The Chinese loved their ruler and the country was plunged into grief. Even soft cloths were laid in the hallways of the porcelain palace so that not a footstep could be heard.
One night, the poor Emperor lay alone in his bed, struggling to breathe, bathed in the moonlight streaming through the open window. When he opened his eyes, he saw Death sitting on his chest.

While the Emperor listened, Death and his many cohorts reminded him of everything that had happened during his lifetime - his good and bad deeds, and all of his words.

In desperation the Emperor cried out for music to drown out the voices, but they would not be silenced. And the jewelled nightingale would not sing, for there was no one to wind it up. When all was given up, and the room returned to stillnes, Death was still sitting with the Emperor.

Suddenly the room was filled with the sound of sweet music coming through the open window. It was the real nightingale, who when she had heard of her emperor's illness, had come to sing to him of hope. As she sang, the shadows grew lighter, the blood flowed faster through the emperor's veins, and even Death stopped to listen.

The nightingale sang and sang and sang, until Death wafted out through the window like a cold white mist.

The Emperor praised the nightingale for banishing Death and asked how he could possibly reward her.
She replied that he had rewarded her the first time with his tears, the jewels that rejoice a singer's heart. Then she urged him to rest and regain his strength, and she sang him to sleep.

In the morning when the sun shone through the window, not one person ventured into the Emperor's chamber, believing him dead. The Emperor awoke refreshed, and again the nightingale sang for him. He said to her, " Stay with me; you shall sing whenever you wish, and I will break the artificial bird into a thousand pieces."

The nightingale wisely urged him not to, as it had served its purpose well and was indeed pretty to behold. She preferred to live in her forest and visit him in the evenings, when she would sit outside his window and sing him tales of whatever she had seen in the day. On one condition:

"What is that?" asked the Emperor, now dressed in Imperial robes with his sword at his side.

"Let no one know that you have a little bird who tells you everything." And she flew away to gather her songs across the kingdom.

When the servants tiptoed in to look at their dead Emperor and they stood there in astonishment to see the living one, he turned to them and said, "Good morning!"

A dream

Last night, I dreamt I was in a house on a hill or a high point. I was with some people, and we climbed up a staircase and emerged into the sunlight, perhaps at the top of the building.
From there the view took our breath away, for although we were in London, the city was not there. Just endless green, rolling hills, trees and calm meadows...

Thursday, June 16, 2005

A little bird told me...

I went to the Olympia Art & Antiques Fair today with a friend. How refreshing it was to once again feast my eyes on things of beauty, crafted with care and great skill by the hand of man.

The most enchanting objet d'art we encountered was a little singing bird box. These were invented in 1780 (surprisingly, after the Revolution!) by the Jacquet-Droz brothers. We all know about the music boxes in which tunes are generated by a comb and a patterned cylinder. The singing bird is a true masterpiece in that it generates its surprisingly life-like melody through a complex mangle of springs, levers and pipes housed in a sumptuously decorated box (about the size of an iPod). Smaller than a girl's thumb, this jewel-like automaton turns his little head, flaps his little wings, bobs his little tail, and when he's done, quick as a blink! He pops back inside, under his golden lid!
As I didn't get to peep under the lid, it's all Greek to me. But he sure had me entranced!

I guarantee you a smile if you go to the British Clockmaker site and scroll down to the bottom of the page. Press Play and prepare to be thoroughly charmed!

Speaking of Greeks, the ancient ones were early masters of automata. They were obsessed with creating the ultimate mechanical human! So advanced were they that they were able to create "robots", machines and musical instruments powered by steam, water (hydraulics), or wind (pneumatic). In fact, the Greeks also had singing birds motivated by these hydraulics.
Greeks RULE.
The word automatos comes from the Greek meaning "self-moving".
Robota is a Czech word meaning "compulsory labour".

The word hydraulic actually comes from the water-powered organ of ancient Greece: hydra (water) and aulos (wind).
The word pneumatic comes from the Greek pneuma (spirit, breath, air).

Like I said, Greeks rule...!

If you really like the birdie, would you like me to tell you the Chinese legend of The Nightingale???

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Flood stories

This may be the worst time to write my post. I love it when my landlord, M, offers me wine. He usually does if he's pouring out for his and S's dinner, and I happen to be in the kitchen preparing a dinner that will go well with wine. Right now I've just had a glass of Chilean Merlot with my salmon and pasta. At first I used to refuse, saying I had my own red wine, but then it really is best to accept when someone is kind enough to offer you something.


I went for a walk after the sun came out today. Everyone else was out too. SJW is all about café culture. There are about 6 of them on and around the high street. Right, I am ready to post about the flood stories now.

Gilgamesh vs Noah

Follow-on from Steliano's Gilgamesh epic, I'm adding a comparison between the Hebrew and Babylonian flood stories. I wrote an essay on it in high school.

The two are essentially the same:
  • a giant compartmented vessel sealed with pitch
  • containing pairs of creatures,
  • the family boarded the boat
  • a deluge of water as high as the mountains
  • ran aground on a mountain-top
  • 3 birds released to find land

Major differences:

NOAH: Was told directly by Yahweh to build a boat according to certain specifications / UTNAPISHTIM: Was warned in a dream by Ea that Enlil was sending a flood
N: Yahweh regretted creating man who had become so sinful / U: No reason other than caprice for destroying man.
N: Warned his neighbours of the coming flood but they wouldn't believe him / U: Lied to his neighbours so they would help him build the boat for himself
N: Yahweh was in control of the flood / U: The gods scrambled to avoid the rising waters
N: The wooden ship's specifications are seaworthy / U: An unseaworthy cube made of slate
N: Only his family in the boat / U: Family and crew
N: 40 days of rain, 1 year of flood / U: 6 days of rain, 3 weeks of flood
N: Released 2 doves and a raven to find land / U: Released a dove, swallow and raven
N: Ordered to repopulate the earth / U: Granted immortality by Enlil

My favourite two comparisons are in the ending.
1) Noah built an altar and made a burnt offering to Yhwh. Utnapishtim did likewise for his gods, who gathered around like flies.
2) Yahweh the Hebrew God promised with a rainbow that he would never cause a worldwide flood again. After an initial squabble among the gods, Ishtar lifted up her bejewelled necklace (parallel to the rainbow?) and promised to remember this day.

Scholars agree that, whereas the Gilgamesh story is more of an impracticable myth, the Genesis account is a logical and mostly plausible account.

Apparently other cultures in the region share similar flood stories. Indeed, scientists have proven that there was a catastrophic regional flood a few thousands years ago.

But why are the versions so similar? Almost like Chinese whispers, a game in which a phrase is passed around a circle until it reaches the beginning again, completely altered. It is said that there was an original version. I posit, rather controversially, that it existed in the early days when language was scattered from the Tower of Babel. People took the legend with them as they migrated, and over the generations after the diaspora, as cultures diverged and new religions formed, the structure of the event remained the same but the characters and various elements were corrupted or embellished, however you choose to see it.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Le Conseguenze dell'Amore

Yesterday afternoon was delightful. I went to see an arty film, not delightful in itself; I refer rather to the company ;-)

If you have access to an independent cinema, then I highly recommend The Consequences of Love. (Of Cannes 2004 pedigree.) Like most things Italian, it is very highly crafted. Impeccable cinematography, smooth edgy music. I admit, there were a few unexplained details but no production is perfect. It is essentially about watching and being watched.
The art historian in me appreciated the crisply-handled detail shots and repeated motifs but it was not an atmospheric work so I can't extract more.
It mostly appealed to the psychologist in me. I totally loved the little things that only you as an observer will understand: eye contact, facial expressions or lack thereof, unspoken thoughts behind the eyes, and closeups at critical moments when everything becomes slow, magnified, silent.

There was one funny scene, one startle scene, and quite a lot of tension in between mingled with an intense sense of loss. I give it two thumbs up.

And that's all I will say about this film, no spoilers here for once.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Since you all know what Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" looks like, here is a Roman fresco of Aphrodite, Ares and little Eros. Known to the Romans as Venus, Mars and Cupid, respectively.
Moment of insight while looking at the trio: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus; it is a little Love which unites us and maintains a balance of peace. Posted by Hello

Aphrodite on Cyprus

This is a blog I sent to Steliano for publication on his page, part of a world culture and mythology series he's working on. (Efharisto, Steliano!)
Cyprus is the island of my grandfather, Panayiotis Stavrou Klonaris.
I'm publishing it here for the rest of you.


Look, look why shine
Those floating bubbles with such light divine?
They break, and from their mist a lily form
Rises from out the wave, in beauty warm.
The wave is by the blue-veined feet scarce press'd,
Her silky ringlets float about her breast,
Veiling its fairy loveliness, while her eye
Is soft and deep as the heaven is high.
The Beautiful is born; sea and earth
May well revere the hour of that mysterious birth.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

She emerged from the cresting foam at
Petra tou Romiou, a boulder that still stands majestically to this day.

The name Aphrodite actually means “foam-born”: Cronos cut off his brother Uranus’ genitals and threw them into the sea, which began to foam. Thus, daughter of an ancient Titan and Thalassa (the sea), she is the oldest goddess in the Olympian Pantheon, older even than Zeus the son of Cronos. Her other name is Kypris, a synonym for the island.

She is not the goddess of noble romantic love; rather, she embodies physical love or lust, that irrational human weakness.

Once Zeus became king of the gods, he arranged her marriage to the ugly blacksmithing god Hephaistos. Although he made her beautiful jewellery in his fiery forge, she did not love him. Rather ironically, he also made her the cestus, a girdle that made her even more irresistible to men.


Aphrodite sought solace in the arms of more pleasing deities such as Hermes the messenger god, but most frequently Ares, the god of war.

Eros was Aphrodite’s son by Ares. One day he accidentally shot her bosom with one of his true love-arrows. To recover from the agony of her wound, she escaped to a mineral pool on the Akama Peninsula of Cyprus. These Baths of Aphrodite or Aphrodite Acidalia, were dubbed the Fontana Amorosa by the Italian poet Arioste. Even today, love may arise from one sip of these sacred waters.

It is here our Aphrodite first set eyes on Adonis and embarked on the one, most tragic romance of her life…

She fell in love with the beautiful Adonis, whose mother Myrrhis was turned into the eponymous tree from which he sprang. Aphrodite’s heart was won by his sweetness. So the jealous and bellicose Ares, disguised as a boar, killed him while he was out hunting – goring him with his mighty tusks.

Aphrodite heard his cries and sped down from the heavens in her swan-drawn chariot to minister to him and to hear his last breath. She called on the nymph Menthe to pour her cooling nectar on his wounds. From the mixture of mint and blood sprang the red anemone flower still so abundant on the island. The blood-red petals are scattered by the same wind (anemos) which opens their blossoms every spring.

She also had an affair with Anchises, by whom she bore Aeneas the Trojan hero. His sons Romulus and Remus founded Rome, which later adopted her as Venus.

As we all know, Aphrodite won the golden apple in the Judgement of Paris for being the most beautiful goddess. Athena, the goddess of wisdom, offered him military skill. Hera, the queen of the gods, offered him an earthly kingdom. But being a man, he disdained them to choose Aphrodite’s bribe of the most beautiful woman on earth – Helen of Troy. Thus the Trojan War was started by vanity and the lust engendered by the goddess of the same.



Aphrodite’s allure made her a popular goddess with a large cult following. In the 12th century B.C., a sanctuary was built in her honour at Palaia Paphos (present-day Kouklia).

(It is not too far from the Syrian coast where Ishtar/Astarte, the counterpart Babylonian goddess of desire, was worshipped.)

Twelve other shrines to their patroness arose on Cyprus and she presided over the annual festival known as Aphrodisiac. Many ceremonial bowls and amphorae survive today in the museum at Lefkosia (Nicosia), covered with depictions of exquisitely-dressed priestesses and erotic scenes which would have taken place in the sacred temple gardens.

The historian Herodotus, often prone to exaggeration, stated that every girl had to make a pilgrimage to the temple. It is not clear whether the process was viewed as a ritual sacrifice of virginity, or sacred prostitution.

But each maiden would sit wearing a crown of rope until chosen by a passing stranger. The man would throw an offering at the feet of his chosen pilgrim, saying, “I invoke the goddess upon you.” She would then be required to consummate the sacred act.

When Cyprus became the first island to convert to Christianity, worship of the goddess was outlawed in about 390 A.D.



As you travel around Cyprus you will see how it is touched by the spirit of Aphrodite - a spirit of gentleness, beauty and love. The lissome wings of a dove, a silky poppy, pungent myrtle and fragrant rose: these are all sacred to the goddess. The apple, the dolphin, the lime tree, the shell, and the swan...and the planet Venus, the mystical powers of which reach their peak in that loveliest of months, May.

High ranking

I discovered the coolest thing today. When you Google for Alexander Spencer Churchill and Marlborough, my blog comes up 4th in the list - from when I mentioned him and his grandfather at the Christie's Stowe banquet. Oh, and now he's on here twice...

I watched the Trooping of the Colour this morning on TV. I was going to the NPG but changed my mind when I thought of all the people-jams around central London.
No wonder this morning I heard some horses marching purposefully past my window. Wish I'd gotten up to look. It would have been the Royal Horse Artillery on the way to St James's Park.

So there was a bit of "neigh"bourhood pride (sorry!) when they entered the square at a sitting trot...

I also like the part where the Shire-type drum horses lead in the mounted band. Those drums are solid silver, and the riders' uniforms are rather solidly embroidered too. Heavy load. Commentator said that the horses were called Spartacus and Constantine (whose stable name is ... Eric). And when they pass the Royal dais, the drummers hold their crossed batons aloft.

Anyway, in the Queen's 50 year+ reign, she has missed her birthday parade only once, when a rail strike forced its cancellation. She really has been a faithful, consistent, enduring, and record-breaking monarch.
Spectators were treated to Camilla's first appearance in the Trooping as Duchess of Cornwall (where was Charles?).
Prince Philip has just turned 84 and the poor man had to wear a big busby on his head.

Which reminds me of an odd dream I had a couple of nights ago: Queen Elizabeth was crowning him her co-ruler, i.e. King Philip. Bit late for that, isn't it? Weirder still, I handed her the crown...

Friday, June 10, 2005

Vanessa on the Greek Isles...

I have been extra-active today on the blogging front, as you all may have noticed. I have errands to run today, but I can't go out until this splitting headache goes away...I think it will soon with the tablets, so I'll publish this and then out of the front door go I.

Yesterday a fascinating envelope arrived from Greece, sent by my "lil sis" Vanessa who was on holiday there with her boyfriend JP. The pair have spent the last year teaching English and Scuba diving in Thailand (Phuket Island - they were there for the tsunami - all OK but lost the dive shop) and are finally looking for other opportunities. It's a matter of travel in the blood and many of you may understand.
I admire Vanessa for teaching English: her first language is French, but now her English is much better than her French because she left when she was quite young. We were roommates at university (in Houston) and we were officially the two little peas in a pod. She literally does look like my sister. I think residence life assigned us together on purpose.

She came to see me two summers ago in London and we miss each other very much.

There were 5 Postcards and a piece of paper, every available surface covered with writing. I have asked her if she spent the entire week absorbing experiences and writing them down for me!

Bless her heart, she kept saying that my input on language, culture and history would have been invaluable. We are hoping to go there together one day, and she has reserved some experiences for that day, whenever it may be.
She was full of descriptions of narrow, whitewashed streets, sunsets, coastlines, mountains, food, churches...

Here are some lovely and amusing quotes from Vanessa's postcards:

The ferry from Athens to Santorini is really long - 9 hours. We were too jet lagged (Jordan said I could use jetlag as an we took the 7pm [ferry] and arrived at 4am. I watched the sunrise, then napped till noon.
With our late lunch we drank 375 ml red wine -- we learned not to do that again in the middle of the day. Between jetlag and a bottle of wine, we needed another nap. So we spent day 1, sleeping. Before sunset we rented a bike and rode around the island...During most of the riding we had a nice panoramic view of the volcano and Thirassia.

Paros: "same same but different" (The Thai say this a lot). Santorini had more cliffs which made it more impressive. Paros (4.5 hrs north of Santorini) reminded us a bit of the south of France.
The scenery in Mykonos is similar to Paros and going to any beaches is a long, steep ride down the mountain...we went to Delos island to see the sanctuary of Apollo. Impressive, ancient and beautiful...
My favorite part of Paros was wandering around the little town of Perikia. It felt like a labyrinth.

It's so much fun to walk through its small, narrow streets; get lost and find your way again. It feels like walking through a massive house with narrow hallways.

And the good...delicious yum yum! Cheese, olives, pastries.....

Je te remercie Vanessa, ma cherie - tu es comme un petit joyau, et un de ces jours, nous nous rencontrerons. Bisous.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Heavens to Betsy...

...I can't find Windows Paint...!

All done...exhausted...

Well, today was my last day at the photo library. Elbie brought a special goodbye treat, so I am full up to here ^^^ of cake...And I brought the whopping great box back home with me.

I had my last lunch at the nearby Thai restaurant where I got to know them pretty well. He gave me a free dessert, but what with the pre-lunch cake, and my extra effort to empty my plate, I had no room whatsoever for an ice cream tart.

Don't need any dinner tonight. *<~>*


I was stopped 3 times today by people asking for directions. Do I look like I know the way?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I am officially climbing The Hill...

...because when I went for a haircut yesterday I could see two grey hairs in the mirror from where I was sitting.

I've had one intermittent grey since high school. I developed a permanent second after my parents split up, and another while I was writing my thesis last year. But now they're out with a vengeance. This week they seem to have at least doubled to 6, and that's just where I can see.

The hairdresser guessed I was 30 - for the first time in my 28 years someone realises I am over 21! I feel so grown up! But then, she's the only other person who has counted my greys...


Tomorrow is my last day, and I was given the most difficult task yet: filling out copyright forms for the photographers represented by Lebrecht. It all felt so wrong. If I had more hair I would have pulled it out. (Hey, maybe the grey ones?)
Don't ask me why filling out forms is harder than labelling a picture or preparing an invoice, it just is...[pout]


Some of you will enjoy Isfahan, a 3-D movie inspired by Persian architecture, by a multi-talented Spanish artist. (Thanks Mich.)

P.S. I've been well and truly honoured on Steliano's site for winning the "Why?' competition. *blush*

P.P.S. That's it. No More Cars. For now.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

One of you - you know who you are - will certainly know what this is. Like the colour? Posted by Hello

Sunday, June 05, 2005

A 1954 Jaguar XK 120. Isn't she just charming? Picture Grace Kelly and Cary Grant buzzing along the Monaco coast in her. Posted by Hello

1933 Duesenberg disappearing top. Picture it without the top. Stunningly sexy! (Pun optional.) And oh-so-classy. What do you want to bet that's where the phrase, "Ain't she a duesy?" came from? Posted by Hello

Hello People :-)

To all those people I have never met, but who continue to leave me wonderful messages:

Thank you * Merci * Grazie * Danke schön * Efharisto

To all my friends and family, except two of you: Don't be strangers! Please leave me messages too! This blog is for ALL of you =)

Friday, June 03, 2005

Texas rain and Missa Solemnis

Woohoo! Did you see the driving rain and lightning today? It was like being in Texas, only colder.
I got home just as the clouds came rolling around.

If you liked hearing about Artemisia yesterday, here is another beautifully-named female Renaissance artist: Sofonisba Anguissola
She preceded Artemisia Gentileschi by at least 30 years! She left Italy to become portraitist to the Spanish court and married in her 30s. Unheard of in those days.

If you really want to be swept away on a wave of goosebumps, I highly recommend listening to Beethoven's Missa Solemnis with headphones. Oooooooooooohhhhhhhh...
Yes, yes, you all know by now I am an incurable romantic. And you still visit my page.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Artemisia and Existentialisme

I am watching an atmospheric movie about Artemisia Gentileschi, a female painter of the 16th century, daughter of the famous Orazio Gentileschi. She was a true artist and loved the human form, colour, lines, seeing everything through an artist's eyes. La jeune fille qui peint. She would burn the midnight oil to draw, to release her frustrations. But to be a woman painter back then spelled disaster - she and her tutor Tassi - well, history says he took advantage of her but in any case it went to trial. It is Artemisia who painted scenes of women taking revenge on men, such as Judith beheading Holofernes...
And do you know why history says he violated her? Because the judge took it out of the courtoom into his cabinet. They tortured her in front of Tassi by tying her hands together and tightening the wires every time she swore her love, until her hands bled. It was Tassi who saved her artistic hands by "confessing" to his "crime".

Because it is in French, I nearly started this blog en francais! A good exercise: I read the subtitles and then re-translate back into French for myself, approximating what I heard them say. English has so many more synonyms than French and requires more creative translation.

Also, and don't laugh...At first I was confused to hear Italian characters speaking French. So there you go. It must be strange for people of any nationality to hear their stories acted out in English: Joan of Arc, Gladiator...So kudos to The Passion for being in Latin and Aramaic.


Who hasn't heard about Paris Hilton's engagement to Paris Latsis? Match made in heaven if they both have cotton wool between their ears.
The match itself puts me in mind of the joining of merchant houses in old Florence, but I doubt the she-Paris would agree to anything that serious: American hotel heiress marries Greek shipping heir. Ooh la la. All they have to do is live together and spend, spend, spend.
(But just watch it fall apart in the next few months, knowing her. He-Paris says he feels lucky to be marrying the most beautiful woman in the world, but I doubt there are many more positive attributes anyone can think of.)

Then I got thinking. I would hate to have too much money. It's more exciting to be comfortable and disciplined, to know you can do almost anything you want, but don't because you have respect - for yourself and the money. To have deep pockets but not bottomless ones. There is a thrill in that.
Imagine them, isolated and pampered in their luxurious, echoing palaces of boredom. Posing in front of endless cameras, thinking the whole world is in love with them. Fill the time with pretence and masquerade but soon even that rings hollow. There has to be substance and meaning to life.

It is always very exhilarating to meet someone who makes you think, regarding various things: Hey, I'm not the only one!

This Gets me Every Time (scary car) - it really is a good one! I'm almost afraid to watch it again, but last time no one heard me scream (I asked).