Saturday, 19 January 2013

Ghosts of an Olympic summer ...

On September 28th I wrote a posting about the Olympic aftermath on Blackheath and in Greenwich Park. There were still lots of leftovers then! I quoted my short description of after the Games in The Boy with Two Heads, to point up the differences between the ancient Games in Olympia and our London 2012.

On January 15th, I went again to see how the clear up had progressed. I walked across the Heath and into the Park. The bridge over the busy A2 ...

... is long gone, but its footprint is still visible. 

The Heath outside the Park walls now shows no sign at all of the tents and fences used by the competitors and, later, by the de-struction teams that dismantled the bridge and the stadium.

(from the official London 2012 website
... took a while to disappear altogether. Its footprint ...  
... is now shrinking. The year has turned and soon the grass will grow back.

But I'll never forget the roar of the crowd and the thrill of the Games. What a summer it was!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Stalked by the Shades of Ancient Athens?

You can't see them. I can't see them. But with a little imagination, I could feel the Shades of the Ancients on this visit to Athens ...

I dropped by the New Acropolis Museum, and there they were, in their ancient houses under the glass floor at the entrance. (The restaurant is wonderful - check it out on the website!)

I visited friends in Egaleo, a municipality west of the centre. At the metro station I found the Sacred Way (Iera Odos). It ran from the great gates of the Acropolis (the Propylaea) to the religious sanctuary of Elefsis. It runs parallel to the present street of the same name. I could almost see the ghosts walking into the shadows under the station forecourt.

And as I shopped I felt I was being watched ... by myriad naked gods and heroes. (And Michaelangelo's David! I'm not sure why he was there. Perhaps the modern creator of these copies enjoys making a sculpture with no missing arms or legs.)

And of course, I couldn't escape Hadrian. No one can escape the Roman Emperor who was so taken with Athens that he made many modern additions, including finishing a huge temple to Zeus, building a library, reservoirs, and his new gate to the city ... He visited Athens many times from AD 124 to 130 or so. 
He's near my home in the north of England, too, with his great Wall, the most northerly extent of the Roman Empire in his time.

The one time I went looking for Shades was to see if I could find again the place I remembered where the music teacher's house is in The Boy with Two Heads:
   The city was full of builders and people and wagons, hurrying along the streets.
   The music teacher’s house was quite small, and near enough to the Akropolis to hear the rumble of the wagons and the hammering and creaking of the builders and their machinery.
   ‘The Great Gates are only half-finished,’ Frog told Themis ...

And here it is! But I was aware of no Shades, ancient or modern, just the warm sunshine and distant midday buzz of traffic. Mind you, if the mighty bronze Athena were still standing in front of the Parthenon, she would have been able to wink at me ...

I'm back in UK now and snow is forecast for Friday. But I went out looking for a different set of ghosts yesterday in Greenwich Park - more in next posting.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Snow in Athens!

Hello again, and Happy 2013!

With my deadline met, I spent a few days in Athens, visiting family and friends. And usually, the weather is also an attraction. 

But on January 8th in the morning, it snowed! People were back at work after the festival of Ta Fota (The Lights, or Epiphany).
We watched the snow falling on the roof tops...

...and in the streets. It didn't lie and made everything feel cold and damp, although many residents were excited by it. 

The sky was dark and threatening ... but misty sunlight began to make it through the clouds from time to time.
The Acropolis of Athens and the Hill of Lykavitos not long after sunrise.
This wonderful picture, taken on another snowy day some time ago, reminds me of the passage in The Boy with Two Heads, near the beginning, when the priestess and Themis' family are waiting for the god of the sun, Apollo, to answer their prayers:

As Chloe looked, a flock of doves circled, white against that dark sky, tousled and tumbling in the wind. 
A bright beam of sunlight slipped through the seething clouds. Was this Apollo coming? Chloe looked up at the priestess as they sang.
The old lady’s eyes were wide open, fixed on the sunbeam. The lines on her face had disappeared. She was standing as straight as a spear. The sunbeam was still at first, flooding the Akropolis with light and igniting Athena’s gold. Then it began to move towards them. 

By afternoon on January 8th, the sun had broken through and Lykavitos Hill stood against a clear sky once more.
Everyone cheered up a bit. Maybe no one has enough money, rows of shops are empty, grimy, and covered in graffiti, and everything feels very insecure just now, but at least the sun can usually be relied on to make an appearance, even in mid-winter.