Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In Little Limassol

Just got back from a wonderful week-end in London staying with some of my Cypriot friends who live in an area of "Nawf Lahndin" known locally as "Little Limassol. Loadsa Greek cafes and plenty of chance to try out my newly-learnt Greek. It's improving. I can just about string a sentence together now rather than simply quote the phrase book, though I still need to keep it handy(!)
I said in the last posting I need to get out more. Well, I guess this counts, Friday the bus ride with National Express.
Now there's a surprise! They've thrown some money at the Digbeth Road bus station. It doesn't have that "Soviet" look about it any more. But to have the bus stands and queueing in the open air!??! Er, haven't the architects taken the Brummie climate into account. Its only marginally drier than Lancashire. Anyway, back to my tale...
Saturday saw me at the British Museum looking at the real Greek sculptures. If you go to the Parthenon in Athens you'll find the statues are still there but are made of concrete. The originals were shipped to Blighty during Queen Victoria's time.
Sunday it was a car drive to Cambridge and a look at the Fitzwilliam collection. That was a pleasant surprise. The place is chock full of good Renaissance art; Rubens, Titian, Carravagio, Anabale Carrachi.... I could go on. We had tea at a lovely old fashioned tea room. I half expected Miss Marple to walk in at any time.
Monday, the National Gallery in London where I got totally "arted out" then the next day, today, the bus ride home.
In the evenings we just ate and drank and ate and drank and.... Proper Cypriot evenings with old Cypriot friends.
Now I am home, tired, bus lagged and happy.
Its been plain bl***y marvellous!!!!!!!!!!!1

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I need to get out more

Went visiting in-laws today at their house near Keswick in the Lakes. After the last posting moaning about the dirty grey skies etc., here I was sat in the passenger seat of my wife's car heading up the M6. It has been a day of blustery showers of rain sleet and snow. But what a show! Shafts if sunlight poked through the ragged clouds and illuminated patches of pristine white Howgill Fells. As we went over Shap summit the moorland skies were subtly shades of grey, some dark, some light. A large canvas with abstract patterns of Payne's grey mixed with titanium white would have expressed it well. I started to mentally paint this large canvas until I was told to stop waving my arms about. Oops, sorry! Then again, after we left the M6 at Penrith and headed west along the A66 I could see cloud capped Blencathra swathed in veils of pale grey merging with white and making boundaries indistinct. Then a weak sun shone the a hole in the clouds and briefly picked out a jagged snow plastered ridge, it looked like a gigantic piece of royal icing.

I definitely should get out (of the city) more.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Abroad Thoughts from Home

England has settled into its regular cold and wet winter routine. A bit like last summer but colder. It seems, as I make my way across town to the studio that there has always been a deep puddle at the traffic lights on Dalton Square through which the traffic goes spreading its bow wave of grimy water over waiting pedestrians. It seems, there has always been a horizontal sheet of rain blowing in directly from Morecambe Bay. Always it seems the lights from passing vehicles are reflected on the shiny wet road. Always it seems, the sky is grey.

But it cannot always be so.

Beyond that thick blanket of grey sky the sun is constantly shining. There have been days, indeed many days, when the skies have been clear, the roads dry and that ubiquitous puddle at the traffic lights has gone. But of course at this time of the year that means it is freezing hard.

At this time of the year I catch myself looking forward to a long hot summer. I don't mean two warm days and a thunderstorm, or if there is no thunderstorm, a hosepipe ban. ("It hasn't rained for two whole days"). But this looking forward is really just wishing your life away. The summer will come. It will get warmer. Lets just get through this winter.

I must admit all this wingeing is a bit tongue in cheek. Yes it is raining a lot here. But when I think of Cyprus, - that's the abroad thought from home, - they are having the most acute water shortage since the time of Constantine the Great, that's the Roman one I mean, circa 350 AD. Cypriot resevoirs are running at 3% full at the moment. They have not had a decent bit of rainfall for the last three years. They would give for our rainfall what we would give for their sunshine.
I remember sitting in a kafenion last time I was was there, a Cypriot I was talking to said something along the lines of, "Eh, Kyrie, if we Cypriots all move to England and you English all move to Cyprus then maybe it make everybody happy, huh? You get the sun and we get the rain!"

Never mind, next week-end I wil be in London meeting up with some ex-pat Cypriots and we plan the next trip or two.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It doesn't affect me......

.... so why get upset about it?

A question I often ask myself when walking across the town. I gave up driving some seven years ago and usually get around by public transport or walk or (not so much these days), cycle. As a non-driver I get to notice more how drivers behave. Most are very courteous. I come to a road intersection and wait to cross. Many drivers slow down and wave me across. I always acknowledge this. Its nice when people are like this.

Others totally ignore me but that is their affair. Its the little things that niggle me. Things like seeing a car parked on a double yellow line or drivers who mount the pavement or those who park on the pavement. All of this is illegal. But it doesn't directly affect me.

Yet I get annoyed by it.

Usually in a rather Victor Meldrew-ish sort of way. When I realise that particular mindset has kicked in I suppress the urge to act on it, which is probably just as well as it would be a quick way to make enemies. Good Zen training I suppose.

It is interesting how the mind latches on to popular misconceptions though. Take the aforementioned traffic violations, for example. If it is done by the driver of a 4WD/SUV it is all too easy to say, "Typical". But if it is an ordinary vehicle involved it doesn't seem so high profile. We see the 4WD/SUV as the big bully of the road or public enemy number one.

It wasn't always like that.

In my motorcycling days it was big Volvos that were the villains. There wasn't the profusion of big 4WDs then. A Land Rover was really a tin shed on wheels then and only driven by farmers and suchlike.

So to get back to the beginning, why do I get upset about minor traffic violations that really don't have anything to do with me? Strangely enough, this only bothers me here in Britain. In Cyprus they are far worse but when I'm there it really doesn't matter. There's some good teaching in there somewhere.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Battle of the Titans.

Some politician once said, "Its the economy, stupid."

Well, that does set me wondering what is going on? I mean here we are in the "Credit Crunch" and jobs are disappearing like snow in a heatwave. Were I still working I'd be worried, - very worried. But I am retired and living on a modest pension, no fortune by any measure, but it is enough to stay alive. When I retired I used my lump sum to get rid of the mortgage and pay off all my credit cards and subsequently tear them up.

When I listen to the news on good ol' Radio4 I here about struggling banks and about unimaginable billions of pounds being pumped into them by the Government. Maybe they need to do this, I don't know. I can't say the language of high finance is all Greek to me because I can just about manage that. I mean think about it, a hundred billion pounds. Let's look at it as an unabbrieviated figure.

£100,000,000,000.00

My weekly pension is a billionth of that.

Surely these magnates of finance could see all this coming? They were dishing out credit to all and sundry regardless of whether or not the borrowers could afford to pay it back. It had to end in tears.

Now the mighty captains of finance fight among themselves for survival. They remind me of a picture of two giants fighting, I think it was by Goya but at their feet there is a small figure scuttling away for cover. At the moment, I and quite a few others I am sure, feel like someone crouching at the dyke back* waiting for the storm to abate and hoping it doesn't get to them.
Many's the time in my younger days I've been out on the fells when a storm broke and the only shelter was to crouch in the lee of a drystone wall until there was a sufficient break to enable me to bolt for home. Let's hope none of us get too wet.

* A dyke back is a Northumbrian term meaning behind a drystone wall.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy New Year!

It was a cold New Year's Day in Lancaster. But here we are into the new year of 2009. Aphrodite's Island is ready. I hang the show on Monday. My contribution to the Lunesiders Show at the Edge gallery is just about ready. I have bought my National Express bus ticket to London where I meet up with my Cypriot friends on Jan 26. Everything is in place.

Happy New Year everyone.