Impressions of Thessaloniki

Down by the Dougie

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Last week we had a short break in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, in the north of the country in the province of Macedonia. I had a particular reason for wanting to go there, it’s been on my bucket list for a while, and this was our first ever trip to Greece. I don’t think it will be our last!

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The city, formerly known as Salonica, has a fascinating history – founded by the ancient Macedonians (although after the death of Alexander the Great) it’s been ruled by the Romans, the Byzantine Empire, the Ottomans and, finally the modern Greek State. Under the Ottomans it became a cosmopolitan city, populated by Christians, Muslims and Jews, the latter emigrating here when exiled from Spain and Portugal and becoming the largest ethnic group until they were deported and murdered by the Nazis.

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Flying out from Manchester we spent 4 days in the…

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The Plaque- A Short Story by Kate Whitehead

                   The Plaque.

 

Aileen stands in the wide upstairs window of the holiday home detecting the subtle traces of him: a sharp scent of Old Spice a whiff of musky pipe tobacco. Dazzled by the surprize of yet another days sunshine she peers at the historical tableau below kids jumping from the high stone harbour walls catapulting magically through salty space.

She reaches into the musty wardrobe for a pinned stripe dress belted at the waist, pats her lacquered curls and sprays on the cologne which just like the summer reeks of 1976.

Strapped into her beige high heeled sandals she steps lightly into the midday sun passing familiar faces with a half nod. This unexpected burst of bright blue brilliance only accentuates the loss. Everything is magnified under the harsh distorting glare.

Aileen misses the bracing salt laden spring breezes. The still mid-summer air smells of consumption; over fried fish and suntan lotion. Her brown foundation trickles down her right cheek melting onto the starched white collar of her dress. She considers skulking back into the cool cavern but doggedly continues her weekly constitutional climbing the worn jagged slabs up to the other side. At the top of the steps she rests for a moment breathless, scowls at the discarded detritus tangled in the early brambles. Her frown relaxes into a small self -congratulatory smile as she observes the sleek elegant grey contours of the holiday home sandwiched amidst the granite.

Huddled at the end of the peeling brown bench with the missing slat a blonde woman sits clutching a small black notebook. Her clothes are vaguely scruffy at odds with the thick citrus scent of the Aqua Parma.

“Shall I move?” she asks half smiling half grimacing Aileen can’t be sure.

“No a there’s more than enough room for the two of us.” Aileen replies authoritatively.

The blonde woman’s called Alice . She lives in the village all year round up on the hill.

Aileen half listens to her staccato monologue .She’s diving into a memory, wallowing in its texture. It’s the Aqua Parma that’s set her off .She knows it’s really a special occasion evening perfume, remembers him first giving it to her for Christmas not long after their first meeting wrapped in shiny gold paper. The half empty bottle sits in her bathroom cabinet back home in Ireland. Now and the then she takes it out clutches it longingly to her chest, and strokes the cold glass.

“Oh my goodness where’s the time gone I’m late for my lunch.” Aileen exclaims rising stiffly from the bench.

That’s when she notices it larger, Golder and bolder very recently screwed on above her husband’s modest brown square.

Shocked and enraged at the blatant unbelievable audacity of this thing that’s appeared over night she spits the words at Alice:

“They can’t do this not without my permission .It’s our bench we paid 500 for the plaque …..Because he loved the village so much”

“Oh dear” Alice interjects troubled by the news that there is a dark drama clouding the benign gentleness of her favourite refuge.

“I need to speak to someone who knows about THIS. “  Aileen shouts jabbing a finger at the plaque.

“So you own the bench do you.”  Alice mutters indignantly.

Alice observes Aileen’s cautious descent down the steps and back over to the other side. She rises reluctantly from the bench her daily dose of calm contaminated by the morbid machinations.

Crouched on plastic stool in her porch Aileen unstraps the beige sandals, shuts her eyes and imbibes the cloying scent dusty tomatoes plants mingle with the spicy cinnamon of the purple orchids his daughter gave her.

She can’t decide lunch first, then the stern phone call to the woman at the chapel who knows everything or the other way round.

Suffused with a drowsy contentment after her single glass of Merlot she totters into the bedroom reaches for the tweed arm of the jacket which still has a whiskyish tang , strokes it longingly  wistfully recalling his exuberant warmth and good nature charm.

His words bounce mockingly in her head

“Well what’s  the problem two plaques on the bench? I’m happy to be with the other fella anyway glad of the company.”

Her anger evaporates seeing the matter with his eyes: “ What’s the point of making a fuss  right at the end.” She mutters to herself flipping the fried egg onto the tiny plate.

 

It’s the end of her final solo summer sojourn in the holiday home drifting through the wide rooms, relieved when the massive sun sinks into the sea leaving her shrouded in a comforting twilight blanket. She watches the evening news tut tutting at the relentless stupidity of it all, crochets for her three grandchildren then slides gratefully under the soporific lavender scented sheets.

Alice seeks a new unadorned bench for her morning calm over on the other side .Its slightly concealed by overhanging lilac bushes. Takeaway cartons peep out of the opening of the overflowing litter bin. If she turns her head slightly to the right for a gasp of today’s fresher saltier air she can see the gold yellow outline of her own home on top of the hill. Exultant all of a sudden that there’s a bit more time left she reaches into her bag for the summer sweet strawberries.

Aileen double locks the door of the holiday home for the final time with a brief glance back through the empty windows feeling a mixture of gratitude and sadness. The bulky taxi fills the lane outside waiting to take her to the airport its driver hovers nonchalantly by the open front door.  She sees the girl from yesterday squeezing her way by, acknowledges her with a small wave of farewell , happily reflecting on the hectic autumn distractions that await her back home.

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Es kommt die Zeit…

Das poetische Zimmer

Foto: ©Constanze

„Die Blätter fallen, fallen wie von weit,
als welkten in den Himmeln ferne Gärten…“

(Aus: „Herbst“ von Rainer Maria Rilke)

~ Wenn Blätter fallen… ~

Es kommt die Zeit, wo jeder Baum sich neigt
und müd sich wendet jedes welke Blatt,
weh dem, der dann nichts Lichtes in sich hat
und etwas Leichtes, das ihn sacht erhebt
wie eine Feder, die im Sinken schwebt
aus Flügeln eines Engels, die sanft schwingen
und mächtig rauschen, wenn sie sich entfalten
in einem Überschwang, der stets neu trägt,
und nachts den Schimmer klarer Sterne halten
am weiten Himmel, dem sie still entfallen… –
sieh, diese Hand, die in der Erde gräbt
und in die Tiefen geht, bedächtig schweigt,
sie weiß, dass Lieder trostlos nur verhallen
an feinen Harfen, die zu schwer erklingen,
sie schmückt, in Liebe ewig gottgesandt,
so endlos nah und fern zugleich an Regung
der Schönheit Gärten mit des…

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Paintings of Autumn 1: 1573-1895

A gorgeous selection!

The Eclectic Light Company

For those of us who live beyond the Tropics, I look on autumn/fall as being compensation in advance for what we’re about to suffer in the winter, and Spring as our reward for getting through. In this and the next article, I’d like to celebrate over three centuries of magnificent paintings of the spectacle which we enjoy during the autumn. I will keep my commentary to a minimum, and just let you enjoy these marvellous paintings.

arcimboldoautumn Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526/7–1593), Autumn (1573), oil on canvas, 76 x 64 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Wikimedia Commons.

rubenshetsteenearlymorning Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640), An Autumn Landscape with a View of Het Steen in the Early Morning (c 1636), oil on oak, 131.2 x 229.2 cm, The National Gallery (Sir George Beaumont Gift, 1823/8), London. Courtesy of and © The National Gallery, London.

One of Rubens’ last paintings, made during his ‘retirement’ and probably within five…

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The enduring appeal of Struwwelpeter

I wonder what Melanie Klein would have made of him?

In 1844 a German doctor (and later psychiatrist at a psychiatric hospital in Frankfurt) was looking for a book to give his three year old son for Christmas but couldn’t find anything suitable, considering the books on sale to be too long and moralising. He decided to create something himself instead, being accustomed to sketching pictures to pacify child patients. This was Heinrich Hoffmann and his creation was Struwwelpeter, a short illustrated collection of cautionary tales which graphically demonstrated what would happen to children who misbehaved or disobeyed their parents. His bestselling book is one of the most well-known works for children in Germany, running to more than 700 editions, translated into more than 40 languages and with many imitations and parodies. There is even a museum dedicated to Struwwelpeter and Hoffmann in Frankfurt am Main. In this blog post we explore in more detail the original book and…

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Radical Views: Egon Schiele 2, 1912-13

The Eclectic Light Company

At the start of 1912, Egon Schiele was living with his model Wally Neuzil in the town of Neulengbach, to the west of Vienna. Even there, his lifestyle attracted attention, and local kids started hanging about his studio. In April, this led to an allegation that he had seduced a girl who was under the age of consent, and he was arrested and held in custody during the investigation.

While he was in prison, his studio was searched, and his drawings and paintings of nude figures were discovered, and some confiscated. The charges were therefore extended to include the exhibition of erotic images in a place where children could see them. It was of that, rather than seduction of a minor, for which he was eventually found guilty. He served a further three days in prison as his sentence, and worse still the judge burned one of his drawings in…

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Between Klimt, Mucha, and Hodler: The art of Kolo Moser 2, 1899-1910

The Eclectic Light Company

Between 1897-1907, although primarily trained as a painter, Kolo Moser (1868–1918) was one of the foremost designers in central Europe. He was first a teacher then a professor at the Vienna School of Applied Arts, holding the latter post until his death. His friend, the architect and designer Josef Hoffmann, designed the Jugendstil house that Moser moved into, and Moser himself designed its furniture.

mosertroutfabric1899 Koloman Moser (1868–1918), Trout Swimming (1899), design for fabric, watercolour and pencil on paper, 44 x 38 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

Among the many products which Moser designed were fabrics manufactured by Backhausen, for whom he produced this drawing of Trout Swimming in 1899. This coincided with a phase in Klimt’s work in which fish, air bubbles, and water appeared, for example in his Fish Blood (1898), published in the Secession’s magazine Ver Sacrum, and Mermaids (Silverfish) (c 1899): see this article.

moserloneliness1902 Koloman…

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