Tag Archives: Hera

SHADES OF ROALD DAHL

Several years ago Costa arrived at the house late one afternoon with a happy grin on his face.

“I’ve something for you. Will you give me a beer?”

Biera. That’s possibly one of Costa’s favourite words. Fond of his beer is Costa, and we make sure to have a supply on hand. He drops in when he’s working in the area, and we have our little ritual of beer for Costa and tea for me. He’s the most cheerful man, loving to crack jokes, especially about being a Muslim.

“Yes,” he’ll laugh, “I’m a very good Muslim – I drink beer and I eat pork.” (It’s worth noting here that over 50% of Albanians are secular Muslims; the country was under harsh Ottoman rule for five centuries and then Communism for decades.)

“Are you both well?” he continued, as I made ready to fetch him a beer.

“Sit! Sit!” He led me to a garden bench. “I’ve brought something you will like.”

He darted off up the driveway towards the gate. Puzzled, I waited. Hiding something away to surprise me with is a little game of his.

“What is it?” he’ll tease. “What do you think I’ve got?”

Could be anything. If it’s a plant or bunch of flowers he’ll keep it behind his back until he’s satisfied I’m sufficiently curious, then he’ll produce it with a flourish. He’s a great showman, is Costa, and a most kind and generous person.

He came trotting back down the drive carrying a typical round Greek terrace table. You see these classic little tables everywhere in Greece. Simple and practical they’re the stuff of picture postcards, often painted blue, set amid pots of bright red geraniums, and with an inviting jug of wine or cup of coffee atop them.

They’re iconic, instantly recognizable as Greek, speaking of lazy summer days. Mind you, I’m not sure if the days of the staff who serve customers in tavernas and coffee shops are all that lazy – they run themselves ragged taking care of their customers.

But the table Costa was holding aloft was not new. Its top was quite battered, what little paint left on it flaking off in a mishmash of grayish green, mixed with plenty of rust. It was charming. I loved it instantly. It reflected a great deal of age, hand wrought of thick steel and still perfectly sturdy.

“Costa!” I exclaimed. “Where did you get it?”

“What do you care?” came his standard reply. “I got it and it’s for you. That’s all you need to know.”

Bless him, he knows I appreciate the old, the unusual and most especially the handmade.

We put it in a corner of the terrace where it stood proudly for several years facing Mt Pelion, often graced by a red geranium in an old ceramic pot. The winds can be very fierce across this terrace. Aelos, god of the wind and chosen by Zeus himself, doesn’t always tease gently off the sea. At times he hurls himself savagely onto the land, particularly when Zeus is having a right old spat with his wife Hera and has demanded that Aeolos do his bidding.

The original geranium has been replaced many times, so vicious can Aeolos be when he decides to release the winds under his command, but the pot and the table have never yielded to him, and the table became even more weathered and dignified in its old age.

“You need to let me paint that,” Costa would assert, frequently, over the years. “It’s old and people will think you are very poor and can’t afford to buy a new one.” Appearances matter to Costa.

“No, you can’t”, I would reply. “I love it like that. It’s beautiful. It has a history. Who knows where it’s been, and how many tales it can tell us? Just you leave it alone, there’s no need to paint it.”

Costa would merely sniff, but one day, after a couple of beers, he did reveal he’d found it dumped in a gully with a pile of builder’s rubble. It could have come from anywhere, but it certainly has had a long life.

As you know, we were gone almost all of last year. Costa and Freddie were absolute stars, taking it in turns to come down from Albania to look after our numerous pets and keeping everything going here. Costa isn’t usually in Kalamos during the summer because there’s not much work. The winter months are his busy ones as it’s then that the olives are harvested, the trees pruned and the lands tidied up. So he had lots of time on his hands, and he used it well, doing all kinds of little chores about the property.

Have you read Roald Dahl’s wonderful story “The Parson’s Pleasure”? If not, you’ve missed out on one of his typical pieces of black humour. This tale involves the destruction of a genuine Chippendale commode, and yes, you’ve guessed right. Costa channeled Dahl, of whom he’s never heard although Dahl’s delicious stories must surely have been translated into Albanian.

No, Costa didn’t saw the legs off my beautifully distressed table, my gorgeous piece of shabby chic, but he did finally get his way. He painted it.

He went to all the trouble of having someone buy him the paint, and he painted it. Bright green yet. Rather a startling bright, glossy green. He couldn’t wait to show it to me when we returned.

I confess I gasped. I was stunned, but Costa was thrilled, assuming I was delighted. Oh dear. No way could I have hurt his feelings. Never could I do that. So I told him it was perfect, absolutely perfect, I praised him for his thoughtfulness.

And Costa beamed. He’s so proud of it. He’s overjoyed to have made me happy. And yes, it’s absolutely not what I wanted, not at all, but you know what? It is perfect. Absolutely perfect.

 

CHASING APOLLO

Apollo’s mother, Leto, became pregnant by Zeus, which of course greatly infuriated Hera, although the myths tell us that Leto was already in the family way when Zeus and Hera tied the knot. Zeus was rather fond of Leto, while Hera was anything but. No surprise there. She threw a spectacular hissy fit and one can just imagine the glee with which this tale was told and retold by the ancients as the myths took shape; soap operas are nothing new. Husbands with a wandering eye, betrayed womenfolk, children born outside a formal relationship – these have been well understood from time immemorial, and are the endlessly fascinating stuff of stories in every genre.

It didn’t take Hera long to get rid of Leto. As I’ve already mentioned
(Apple SlapDash; Stormy Relationships) she wasn’t one to tolerate her husband’s straying under any circumstances, nor was she going to give lodging to Leto on Mt Olympus. Out! Leave! Banished! So Leto wandered about until Zeus had his fellow god, Boreas of the North Wind, carry Leto out over the sea until she wound up on Delos. Heavy with child, as they say, on this rocky island did the heart wrenching operatic saga continue. Fascinating stuff indeed, but my point is that Apollo was born here.

I guess today we’d call Apollo a Renaissance man as he was heavily involved in quite a few things, including music, medicine and minding other people’s business through his role as the god of prophecy in Delphi. His large portfolio included being god of the sun and light, duties performed by Helios in earlier versions of the myths, so one might say Apollo’s was a hostile takeover, although Helios continued to be known as god of the sun, alongside Apollo.

No question Apollo took his obligations as sun god very seriously for he never failed to drive his chariot of fire across the world to bring the light. From East to West in regular rhythm did he travel, and we chased him across the sky last week as we flew back to Texas from Greece.

MAGIC BALL KNITTING

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Leftover scraps and remnants of various materials have been used throughout the centuries by diverse cultures in all corners of the globe; manufactured goods such as clothing, for example, have been re-purposed in countless imaginative ways. So varied are the techniques, and so decorative and/or practical the results that many a book is devoted to the subject.

Knotting and tying short lengths of yarns into a longer, more useful yarn is by no means a new idea, and is a thrifty way to knit a garment. I have seen wonderfully vibrant kiddie clothes made like this in Africa, but unfortunately have no photographs. Where economic considerations aren’t an issue, beautiful multi-coloured yarns can be created by cutting lengths from yarns in one’s stash and joining them into what is now called a ‘magic ball’. I don’t know who first came up with this very apt name for such an exciting ball of yarn; Kaffe Fasset uses the technique to spectacular effect in some of his stunning garments, but as far as I’m aware, he didn’t coin the term. If anyone knows who did, I’d love to hear from you.

For those knitters not familiar with Magic Ball knitting, there’s a great deal of info on the Internet. Clara Parkes of Knitter’s Review has written a very clear description.

The Magic Balls, knitted hats and handwarmer I’m showing here were all made from leftover bits and pieces as I was knitting, and in particular from my always too generous length of yarn pulled out for a longtail cast on. I live in terror of running out before all the stitches are on the needle! I toss the scraps into a ziplock bag and wind them into balls every now and then, having several balls on the go so that I can vary the colours in them. So far I’ve knotted all the bits together, but there are many ways of joining the yarns so that no knots show at all. If that’s your look, turn to our old friend, Google.

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Woven, knitted

Beauty and utility

Simplicity in scraps

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It’s interesting that the rug, handwoven from cotton fabric scraps in India, produces the same effect.

The beret has the knots featured on the right side.
Fun! The hat’s knots are on the wrong side.

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I began by knitting a 3inch brim which was turned to the inside.

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The handwarmer is lined in mohair which both hides the knots and makes it reversible, as well as doubly warm.

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Raki, who can sleep through anything, including earth tremors and all that Hera, Zeus, Poseidon and the crew can hurl at us, was totally unaware that he was standing in for Jason.

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Catatonic

My adorable little models, Nellie and Michael, pictured here with their mother in their home in Volos, were very patient and obliging. Thank you, Lena and Sotiris.

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Nellie’s ready to go out, and she loves the handwarmer!

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Michael’s a sporty fellow

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Warmly snuggled

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I’ll wear it the other side out, shall I?

I think it’s pure magic that you can take knitting needles and yarn, a little knowledge and two basic stitches, and create almost anything at all. And if you’re not pleased with the result then you can simply unravel your work and hey presto – you have your yarn back! Very few handcrafted goods can be returned to their original materials; unfired clay can be reworked, but cut cloth can’t be restored to the original yardage, though the pieces can of course be used in a different way.

Whatever my yarn, whatever the project, for me the knitting magic will never end.

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Enough already – let me mess with this!

Apple SlapDash

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Starking apples

Such an abundance of apples! Hera would have loved winter here in Pelion when the apple trees are laden with fruit, but the gods only came during the summer to disport themselves on the beaches and relax in the cool shady forests of Mount Pelion. Zeus of the ever-roving eye must have had a grand old time chasing nymphs through the glades, while Hera seethed and sulked. She was probably only too glad to get him back to Mount Olympus for the winter, though by all accounts that didn’t cramp his style.

The sweet, red Starking apples are my favourite. Freshly picked and with a little cheese, they’re a treat worthy of the gods; did Hera ever try them like this? I often buy too many, but apples are so easy to prepare in all manner of ways that there’s no need for any to go wasted.

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Topped with flaked almonds

My apple cake is very quick and easy – it has to be for I’m not known for my culinary skills – and came about one day when friends called, asking if they could drop in later for coffee. I needed to rustle up something sweet, but what? I had apples a-plenty, didn’t feel inclined to make pastry, so decided to fall back on my Mother’s 2-4-6-8 standby cake, and hope for the best. The results were better than I’d expected, so here’s what I do if you’d like to try it.

2 eggs, 4 oz butter, 6 oz sugar, 8 oz self-raising flour.
That’s it, and very useful has this basic mix been to me over the years. You can add some cocoa, vanilla essence, almond essence, etc. to the mixture. This is truly a very basic recipe you can fling together in a hurry, and liven up as you choose.

For this cake, you need apples, obviously, which you either cook yourself or use canned apples.

To prepare the apples:
Core and quarter the apples, peeled or unpeeled as you prefer; I no longer peel mine. – the skins are good for you.
Place in a pot, cover with water and add sugar to taste.
Bring to the boil for a few minutes – you don’t want them too soft.
Drain and spoon into a greased baking dish or pan.
I like to use a square or rectangular one as I find it easier to cut even pieces.
Preheat your oven to 375 degF while you mix the cake.

To prepare the basic 2-4-6-8 cake topping:
Cream 4 oz butter and 6 oz sugar
Beat in 2 eggs and mix well
Gradually beat in the flour
Add a little vanilla essence
Stir in some milk if the mixture seems too stiff

To complete the cake:
Toss some raisins or sultanas over the apples if desired
Sprinkle with cinnamon
Spread the cake mixture evenly over the apples
Sprinkle flaked almonds over the top
Bake at 375 degF until nicely browned (about 30 mins)

This is very tasty served as is, hot or cold.
Ice cream or cream makes it really yummy!

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Quite delicious!

I was once asked what this apple cake is called.
“Oh, it’s really a very slapdash thing,” I replied, and that’s what we call it.

 

GOLDEN APPLES?

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Apples feature in several of the Greek myths, as they do in the mythologies of many cultures.

Hera was given a wedding gift of apple trees from the Earth Mother, Gaia, when she married Zeus. Theirs was what you might call a tricky courtship for Zeus deceived her into marrying him.

The wedding planner did them proud and although the occasion was a most splendid affair, quite over the top, with gods and goddesses in attendance, lavish gifts, out-of-this-world food, including streams of ambrosia bubbling about, the relationship went rapidly downhill from there. Truly the stuff of tabloids and trashy TV.

Hera, who had a pretty good background of her own and was quite the career woman, became the goddess of marriage once their unhappy union was sealed. The Greek myths tell of Hera’s jealous rages, for Zeus was not the poster boy for fidelity, and their thundering rows on Mt Olympus struck fear into many a trembling mortal, so one wonders if brides of the time were all that eager to have her blessing?

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Sweet, juicy, organically grown

Hera’s golden apples grew in a garden guarded by a dragon, together with nymphs who flitted about day and night on patrol, for the fruits were much prized. Hercules was charged with obtaining these apples as one of his twelve labours; much mayhem ensued as a result of his efforts.

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An apple a day? Not me!

Frankly, I am in awe of the ancient storytellers whose wondrous imaginations gave us these tales. How on earth did they remember all the minute details of each myth?

I’m hard pressed to recall who are the Twelve Gods, never mind all the demi-gods and various other hangers on, whose exploits are so varied and enthralling. Got to hand it to those who first dreamed up the gods and made them mortal in their foibles.

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Oranges, or golden apples?

The Greek myths have held people spellbound for centuries. They’ve been told and retold in countless versions, discussed, debated and dissected in every conceivable forum, with even the apples coming under scholarly scrutiny. Were these apples, described as golden, in fact oranges?

Were they not apples at all, as believed today by some classicists? Others disagree, arguing that oranges came from the East and were not known in Ancient Greece. The dispute continues enthusiastically among those for whom the fascination of these fables never fades.

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Do I want an orange? No thanks!

Jason steadfastly refuses to comment.

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TEMPER! TEMPER!

I have mentioned before that various Greek gods of mythology were said to be responsible for bad weather, and last night they outdid themselves. An almighty storm blew up out of nowhere as we were reading ourselves to sleep. It raced across the Pagasitic from Volos where torrential rain caused such flooding that news reports likened the streets of Volos to the canals of Venice, and had us scrambling out of bed, scattering indignant cats in our wake, as we rushed to secure the shutters. And did it rain! The water slammed against the shutters and the windows and thundered down on the roof, battering the garden as though driven by some fury of envy at the early autumn loveliness. The gods were certainly enraged. All of them were in on the act, but whose tantrum started it? Zeus flung his thunderbolts about in a frenzy, fuming at Aeolus to release the storm winds. Poseidon, not one to be outdone, shot up from the depths to make his menacing entrance. Talk about a tempest!

The rampage was shortlived, no damage, but a quick inspection this morning revealed that the Sternbergia had suffered. The delicate yellow flowers which are such a delight as winter approaches, were no match for the arrogant actors in this latest drama. P1230286 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768] P1230289 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768] P1230295 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768] P1230299 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

Stormy Relationships

The ancient Greeks sought to explain thunderstorms as resulting from the temper tantrums of Zeus who liked to hurl thunderbolts around when enraged. Not known for fidelity to Hera, his wife, the mighty god was rather fond of larking about with nubile nymphs, causing Hera considerable grief. Tempestuous were the rows which resulted. We seldom experience a thunderstorm in Summer, whereas now, as we move ever so slowly into Winter, we have had some spectacular ones, with more expected; maybe Zeus and Hera are regaining their energy in the cooler weather.

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Mt Olympus Home of the Twelve Gods


Zeus rumbled and grumbled all night long, stumbling about from North to South, from West to East in an ever-changing pattern. Just as we seemed assured of a heavy downpour, the great mass of cloud shifted its attentions across the Gulf from us and a massive hailstorm destroyed almost all the almond crop in Farsala.

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Here on the Peninsula we know better than to trust the weather reports completely, and a common response when one asks about the weather forecast is: “Look out of the window.” The Pelion Peninsula is rugged and rocky. Gorges and gullies abound. Rivers and streams flow from the mountain’s ravines, particularly during the Winter rainy season when many a summer-dry river bed can turn instantly into a raging torrent, bringing floods and landslides in its wake. The area has so many mini weather patterns that it’s probably a meteorologist’s dream, or more likely his/her nightmare but it’s always interesting.

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Zeus and Hera have clearly not resolved their differences this morning. Ominous black clouds sulk in the North, and though we can’t see Mt Olympus from here, I imagine the atmosphere’s pretty bad up there.

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