It’s All Greek To Me

I travelled into Manchester on a warm and stuffy bus, the heat only adding to my lethargy. I’d had only four hours sleep due to the late arrival of the student due to stay with us. (Don’t ask. No really- don’t ask! My WordPress word count couldn’t take it.)

After delivering him safely to the academy I called for a quick early lunch at the food court in the Arndale Centre. Sporting different stalls offering food from many different countries, I opted for a  halloumi pitta from Zorba’s.

Don’t worry this isn’t a food post, I’m not that kind of blogger.

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I took a table and began to eat while reading the book I was currently in the middle of, maybe not a good idea whilst making a mess of myself with yoghurt sauce. A voice reached me from a neighbouring table: “Do you like Greek writers?”

I looked across to him whilst frantically dabbing at my chin with a napkin. He did indeed look Greek, but I don’t think he was one of Zorba’s workers. Perhaps an expat with a craving for home cooking.

Emboldened by the name of the food stall, I replied “I’ve read most things by Nikos Kazantzakis.”

“He is Cretan.”

I conceded that he was, and that I’d actually seen the author’s grave in Heraklion.

“Crete is not Greece,” my neighbour said firmly. And then he glanced down at my plastic tray. “And halloumi is not meat.”
You had to hand it to the guy, he certainly knew his stuff. Again I conceded the point, and briefly considered asking him for both author recommendations and favoured meat dishes but decided to cut and run. For no doubt English would not be Greek and my wife’s cooking would not be his Mother’s.

I packed both my book and lunch into my backpack and said a hasty goodbye, bus to catch and all that, making  my escape through the adjacent indoor fish market. As usual with the fish market it is your sense of smell that registers before your sense of sight, but then Conga eels, live mussels and all types of fish parts catch your eye, including, at the end of the display, a sign for Cod Flaps.

Cod flaps? What part of a fish could that be?

Surely not?

 

When In Crete: The Author’s Tomb

A timely photo maybe, with today being Good Friday, but this isn’t a religious site-rather it’s the tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis, author of works such as Zorba The Greek and The Last Temptation. When we were in Crete in 2008 I travelled to Heraklion to seek it out. I have most of his books and I do like to make personal connections. Fortunately I have a very understanding wife.

Although deeply spiritual, his books often reflected his struggle to find truth in religion and spirituality. Many Orthodox Church clergy condemned Kazantzakis’ work and a campaign was started to excommunicate him. His reply was: “You gave me a curse, Holy fathers, I give you a blessing: may your conscience be as clear as mine and may you be as moral and religious as I” 

The tomb is quite plain, made of stone marked with a wooden cross. The epitaph, taken from one of his works, reads:

 ‘I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free’.

At The Cretan Writer’s Grave

A timely photo maybe, but this wasn’t taken at a religious site-rather it’s the grave of Nikos Kazantzakis, author of such novels as Zorba The Greek, The Last Temptation and, my favourite: Christ Recrucified.  I visited it when we were in Crete in 2008.

The epitaph, taken from one of his works, reads:

 ‘I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free’.

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The Grave Of Kazantzakis

This photograph was taken at the grave of the writer Nikos Kazantzakis, in Heraklion, Crete.

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The epitaph, taken from one of his books, reads “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.”

I have read most of his books. Although his style may be a little dated now, I enjoy in them their universal themes of existential and spiritual struggle, and the creative tension this creates. His most famous works, with help from the media of film, are Zorba The Greek, (remember the Anthony Quinn dance?), and The Last Temptation. That last one was made into the Martin Scorsese film The Last Temptation Of Christ, which was condemned by the Church Of Greece. His reply was:

“You gave me a curse, Holy fathers, I give you a blessing: may your conscience be as clear as mine and may you be as moral and religious as I.”

I posted this today as I thought it an appropriate photograph to share.

Happy Easter to you all. Go easy on the chocolate.

Looking Back-Crete 2008

This was the villa that we stayed in, up on a hillside in Chania. The day that we arrived the woman who was waiting to hand us the keys was helping a goat deliver its kid by the roadside. A lovely introduction to the rural life of Crete.

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In the guest book, among the usual platitudes, were two comments that stood out.

‘Every morning at 4.00am a blackbird woke us up, tapping at the window.’

It did the same to us as well. Not just tapping either, but rapping. Knocking hard. At 4.00am-did I mention that part? Every morning on the dot. I couldn’t fathom out why. There were no insects on the pane that he could have been trying to gobble up. And he couldn’t have been attracted due to being fed by guests in the past as the window was on the landing and did not open. Poe, anyone?

Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.

The other comment was:

‘What is the creature in the roof?

What a great premise for a story. I still haven’t written it.

Trying to eat as healthy as the locals do. When in Rome. Or rather Chania. That black and white cow cuddly toy does not belong to me, honestly.

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When tasting the air of Rethymnon, who can fail to be inspired? Strolling along the Venetian harbour at sunset we were all transformed into poets and artists, as the locals tried to sell to us their own created arts and crafts.

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We went to the ruined 6th century church of St.Titus, but did not cater for the idea of siesta time. It was closed, but we could view the still standing apse from the rear.

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Returning back to the villa we stumbled upon the war cemetery of Souda Bay. Our stay on the island coincided with the anniversary of the Battle of Crete in World War Two, and there had been an earlier ceremony there, many graves festooned with wreaths and flowers. The one that remains in my mind was a British one with a bouquet left before it, a card explaining that these flowers were from a woman who was making the visit on behalf of her Mum who had never been able to. Then, the touching line:

To the Dad I never met but have never stopped loving.

From one grave to another: standing at the grave of Nikos Kazantzakis, in Heraklion.

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He was the author perhaps best known for Zorba The Greek and The Last Temptation. Although his writing style has dated, I like his books and have read several, my favourite one being known to us as Christ Recrucified. The Last Temptation was made by Scorsese into the film The Last Temptation Of Christ which was condemned by both the Vatican and the Church of Greece. Kazantzakis responded:

You gave me a curse, Holy fathers, I give you a blessing: may your conscience be as clear as mine and may you be as moral and religious as I.”

A good comeback, I think. The inscription on his grave reads:

I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.

The villa at night.

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Despite family screams caused by hand-sized, zebra striped spiders, it was great to sit outside beneath the stars. That place remains the best viewing place of the heavens that I have found myself in.

My daughter and I-our last day on Cretan soil.

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One of the many brown eyed local women gave us a charm bracelet for her on account of her bright, blue eyes. “Those blue eyes. We call them crazy eyes!” I got the impression, although they were smiling and appeared friendly, the bracelet was actually some kind of talisman for warding off the evil eye. The magic wasn’t particularly strong-It broke on the flight home.

Pariah

Well today is Good Friday.

I am called to be St.Peter.

Really.

Big sandals to fill. Although personally I think the pressure is on Jesus.

Have you ever read Christ Recrucified by Nikos Kazantzakis? Well the role of Judas has not been cast yet. (An uneasy shuffling in the pews.) The community of Langley prepares to select this year’s social outcast.

It’s all gonna end in tears.