Tag Archives: Zeus

THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER – ‘BYE!

We’ve had our fair share of typically grey days this winter, but they’ve not been accompanied by as much rain as we usually get. This type of weather rather irritates me as I feel we should at least get something back for putting up with drab and dreary days…some token rainfall at least to justify the lack of sunlight.

Dismal proclamations have been made about this state of weather affairs whenever the topic of rain, or more to the point, the lack thereof has arisen in conversation.

“There’ll be no olive crop at this rate,” is the gloomy prediction.

“The water will run out; the dam will be empty; the springs will dry up.”

All of these prophesies are accompanied by head shaking and heavy sighing, and indeed the lack of rain, the threat of drought are serious matters, and not to be laughed at. Some snow has fallen on Mt Pelion, and the snow melt will contribute to the water table, but it hasn’t been enough.

Zeus, that unreasonable god of the rain, has messed us about all winter long. After a fairly long period of unseasonably warm weather, just as I was beginning to think of putting winter bedding and coats away, just as the fig trees are filling with figlets and the orange and lemon trees are beaming with blooms, so has he decided to make himself felt. And did he ever!

He started quietly on Sunday, no fuss. No thunderbolts. A bit of wind later in the day when he called upon Aeolus to join him in mischief. But at nightfall he let rip, throwing down torrents of water which thrummed and drummed on the hard ground, the roof, the trees. Welcome it was, at first, but soon it became too much of a good thing, and began to concern us. I found it difficult to sleep, fearing that flooding would occur, would lead to landslides, that people would have problems.

Monday morning we awoke to the thick brown river of mud flowing across the Pagasitic, evidence of the downpours on higher ground.

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Snow on the mountain, several major and minor landslides, flooding in Volos city centre, and numerous incidents of damage and difficulty as a result.

It rained heavily all day yesterday, and there’s still more to come according to the weather gurus. And so, it wasn’t all that much of a surprise when our friends ‘phoned from their car this morning with the news: “The bridge over the river has collapsed. We have to turn around and go via the top road.”

The unpaved and unmaintained top road. Four-wheel-drive territory at the best of times. The long way round. A quagmire.

Ah well, never a dull moment, but the damage to the bridge is more than just a nuisance: it will take a long time to repair and will be costly. I wonder if the Ancients felt as furious at Zeus?

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The Main Water Supply Line for the Peninsula

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WELCOME BACK, PERSEPHONE!

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We were still in Austin when Persephone began her journey back from Hades to return to her grieving mother, so we missed the earliest signs celebrating the end of winter on the Pelion.

Winters here are typically mild with very occasional snowfall and rarely any frost, but the rainfall can be heavy and this past winter it certainly was. No complaints at all as we really needed it; many springs had dried up during the previous summer, causing considerable difficulty for those who depend upon them for their water supply.

The ancients would have attributed this generous rainfall to Zeus, god of rain, who reigned supreme on Mt Olympus. Good of him to spare the time from his lusty pursuit of young maidens! His daughter, Persephone, surely appreciated it for the wildflowers have done her proud, happy as we all are to welcome her back.

Greece is renowned for her wildflowers, and deservedly so for they are spectacular, not only in their beauty but also in their variety.
Habitats are many and diverse: sandy coastlines, pastureland and scrub, rocky ravines, wooded highlands and craggy mountains, saltwater, freshwater, well-watered lands and dry, wind-lashed and tightly sheltered, all with their particular plants adapted through the aeons to their conditions.

Man’s influence has inevitably been enormous. The maquis, which might at first glance seem untouched by man’s activities, will almost without exception have been affected in some way by previous populations and their lifestyles, stretching back into antiquity. The mountains of the Pelion region were once dense with native hardwoods; today only comparatively minute forested areas remain. Man is an innovative creature and where there is something – whatever it may be – to his advantage, he will make use of it.

Greece is a paradise for botanists professional and amateur alike, who may be seen, notebook in hand, hiking enthusiastically about as they spot and document plants. Several species are unique, found only in one particular location, such as an island. Many plants are rare, threatened, on the verge of extinction, others have already vanished, identified only in old engravings and drawings, the regrettable result of man’s impact on the environment.

Wildflowers of varying types appear throughout the year; some are tiny, almost invisible, others stand tall. Colour! Colour! Colour! The bees are frantically busy, knowing that warm days will inevitably end, while the beekeepers carefully tend their hives, moving them about to take advantage of the best nectar. Pelion honey, infused with flavour fit for the gods, is much sought after.

Spring and summer flowers retire, their seeds and bulbs lying peacefully dormant until Persephone calls to them again. Autumn arrives, throwing down dense carpets of cyclamen, welcoming the approach of winter, much as local residents roll out their rugs and kilims in preparation for the cool damp days ahead when more time must be spent indoors.

Look closely, remembering that the photos will enlarge when you click on them, and in some of the photos you’ll spot bugs, bees, butterflies  buzzing busily in the abundance! The cycle continues as birds and other wildlife feed, thus ensuring seed dispersal, and preparing the way for Persephone to return in all her ageless beauty.

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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!

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CHEESED OFF

Poseidon's been pouting, Zeus has been raging and now Aeolus, god of the wind, has joined in. They've been trying to outdo each other all weekend. Rain, lightning, thunder and wind. Not your gentle Zeus-snoring breaths, mind you, not fluffy little clouds ruffling the water, but great gusts of violence. Tempests. Squalls. Gales. Call them any name you like.

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Lord Beaufort would have been in his element. Lord Beaufort, who survived being shipwrecked as a lad because someone messed up a chart, and who grew up determined never to have that happen again. Can't say I blame him. I've no desire to make Poseidon's acquaintance either. Anyway, Lord Beaufort went on to do great things after his bad experience, not least of which was becoming a Rear Admiral and a Sir, and generally going up hugely in the world. And while he was achieving all this, he also made time to tinker about with his Wind Force Scale. In use all over the world, it describes the effects varying wind strengths have on smoke, trees, water and so on. It makes for interesting reading, and gives you some idea if you're about to have a really rough go of it.

"Wow, look!" I'll exclaim, gazing out upon a froth of wavelets dancing with little white horses, as I  consult my printout of Beaufort's Scale. "I reckon that's a Beaufort 3. Maybe even a 4."

Not this time though. Not on your life. The Pagasitic Gulf has been battling a Beaufort 7 at least, more like an 8 with distinct notes of a 9 at times. Olives are raining down off the trees, bits of geraniums are flying about. The hairy and furry members of the household have the right idea. This calls for restful calm within the house, with tea and munchies, a book and some knitting. And friend Sally's cheesies are just the thing.

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SALLY's Cheesies

INGREDIENTS
4 oz butter – softened
8 oz grated cheese*
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1-1/2 cups flour – sifted

METHOD
Preheat oven to 350 degF
Mix butter, cheese and seasonings.
Add flour and form into a dough.
Roll out and cut into straws.
Or use a cookie press if you like to get really fancy.
I simply roll the dough into small balls and flatten with a fork.
Bake on a greased cookie sheet for about 25 minutes

*Notes on cheese
Use an Extra Sharp Cheddar cheese if possible.
I don't usually have this available, so I add a good amount of cayenne pepper.
Chili powder works just as well.

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These are very popular at parties.
They keep well and are great with soup.
OK, so I lied, they don't keep long in this household!

 

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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