28 February 2009

a very merry Christmas indeed...

I was planning on spending Christmas 2008 quietly. By quietly I mean packing for my Athens trip the next day, drinking some wine and watching 'Meet me  in St. Louis' which I have decided is going to be part of my new Christmas tradition (along with making my own recyclable tree and decorations every year out of paper and other crafty odd and perhaps even edible things!)

It did not happen like that exactly....I walked over to Camden Road where Miss Aly cooked a wonderful Xmas meal and after eating and drinking and laughing and dancing around her kitchen I stumbled back home in the wee hours and packed tipsily for Athens and spoke to Chrysi on skype. At that point, with only a few hours to go until I had to leave for the airport that morning I decided not to go to sleep at all. 

But tonight, I have this song in my head, so here it is...because we all know what it's like to spy a cute guy on some mode of public transport. It happens more often in London, by the way...

Best NYE, ever.

Wed 31st December:
We wake up late...a running joke. Chrysi tries her best to get me up most mornings and only succeeds when she addresses me tersely and whilst holding a gleaming cup of Greek coffee in her hands...true love.  

I have taken to wearing Sofia's fur coat around the house...sliding out of bed rumpled in my pyjamas yawning and into the warm embrace of the coat I feel like I still have a duvet wrapped around me as I settle in for my coffee and toasted sandwhich, lovingly prepared by C. I could get used to this. I decide the coat must be bear. It looks like a bear. It is actually the same brown-black as my hair. Am I a bear? sometimes.

After a lazy few hours we dance around to 'rock the casbah' our unofficial anthem for this holiday and walk to Syntagma square around 6pm-ish. Athens is not like Sydney or London where everyone is out on the street from as early as possible in preparation for the crazy night ahead...and so we have all of Athens to ourselves.

Near Monastiraki we buy two crepes, one sweet and one savoury and wonder what to do to until midnight. We peer longingly into the window of a jewellery store on Adrianou street that specialises in old-school recreations of greek jewellery and after a few minutes, the door opens and a man peers out at us and starts on a most delightful chatty rant. I can't say I meet people that often who are so scruffily charismatic and talk so fast. We talk to him for a while and perhaps to appease the owners, or perhaps to keep talking to us, he brings out the very bracelet my eyes have been glued to since we found the store, a 14k gold bangle with two lion's heads banked by lapis lazuli at either side...a cool 245 euro. More than my entire budget for this trip.

After speaking more with Rian, this delightful stranger, we learn he is Palestinian, born in Jordan and has never been to Bethlehem where his family is from. His eyes grow dark as he says this so we don't speak of it any more. Little did I know in a month's time I would be going to Bethlehem. I wonder if I will ever get the chance to tell him what I saw there...

He is perceptive enough to discern that although we are both Australian, I sound more English (!) and I confess I've been living in London the last 18 months or so. People stop to ask him for directions and he responds in fluent Greek which shocks me even further. Mental note, at some point we must go back and have a coffee with Rian!  

Tearing ourselves away we head through Psyrri and Thiseio around to the foot of the Acropolis, it is so dark and quiet. The stray dogs rustle around the bushes and freak me out but then I look up at the glowing Parthenon and my whole body tingles with gratitude for being here right now. 
We walk up to the Roman Theatre, not a soul to be seen and C wants to jump the very small gate into the theatre...I just can't be that rebellious even though my mind tells me we wouldn't get caught, we settle for walking around and climbing up the marble stacked lazily around, who knows how old it is?  

I look at the apartments across the road from the Acropolis and swoon with envy. We realise we should have brought some alcohol with us to help ring in the new year...no matter.
After wandering around the Plaka and seeing some amazing crumbling buildings that could tell you so many stories of 1920's-1930's Athens, we find the most amazing shop called the 'Pandopoleon' (literally 'the shop that sells everything') it lived up to it's name and after the owner kindly let us sample different wines we buy two small bottles and some chocolate with mastic to help us ring in the new year, Greek style.

I'm keeping the exact location of our NYE a secret, but it is a small marble park/square lined with trees and flowers. We sit on one of the marble benches and have olive trees above our heads and all of Athens at our feet below. The Acropolis glows golden behind us and occasionally a few stray cats will wander past two strange girls giggling and grateful.
As I rummage around to pour the first drink I look at Mt. Lykavittos in front of us and wonder where the fireworks will be...

Two wines:
Rakomelo (raki with honey and spices, usually served warm)
Euoi Bakxe (the nectar of the gods! with honey and pomegranate)

Five minutes to midnight and the city starts stirring, car horns start...and we just don't know what to expect, alone in this park..in the dark! not having seen anyone for so long.  
C sets her alarm so we know what time it is and says to me 'you know, it's ok if we don't see fireworks, I don't care this night is already so perfect' and she barely finishes her sentence when bam...up they start, right in front of us.
When we pick up our jaws off the floor we watch the flowers of fire jumping around in front of Mt. Lykavittos and hug each other, grinning like maniacs.  What are the odds that we would unknowingly stumble upon the best place to view not only the fireworks, but the city? 

Athens is now awake, cheering, buzzing, so much noise in contrast to the stillness only ten minutes prior. Now, and only now...do people come out of their houses. Leaving their familial duties behind it is now time to party until the first sunrise of the new year.

We head back to Monastiraki for some sustenance to Thanassis, our first yeeros for the new year. The yeeros is sublime, the greek salad is a symphony, with greeny-gold oil at the bottom of the bowl and the chips are laced with crack I'm sure of it!

Walking back up towards Syntagma and now the city is teeming with people, I'm glad we had a chance to experience the before and after...I doubt we will get a taxi on this night so we start walking back towards Zografou but C spies an empty taxi and hails it. What luck!

After hearing us chattering away to each other about our adventures, the taxi driver turns and asks us where we are from...to his suprise (and ours) he is from Sydney too, he has been in Athens for the last 30 years and grew up in Kensington. So our ride home is full of comparing Sydney with Greek life and bemoaning the bureaucracy and the good and bad points of Greek nature.   He drops us off on Oulaf Palmer after generously adding that as a fellow Aussie he will not rip us off with the cab fare, a lovely ending to an odd and serendipitous night! 

Athens did not let us down and truly showed us her best assets. 

27 February 2009

good things

Dec 2008-Feb 2009

-za'taar + olive oil + good fresh bread
-virginia slims: winter collection mock-croc pack
-bed, being in it
-dark chocolate with almonds/hazlenuts
-Cillian Murphy being funny, not just serious
-red lipstick around the house
-licorice rizlas
-sesame seeds
-happy couples
-sweet shisha smoke
-Unskinny Bop...edge of seventeen!
-the Jerusalem hotel's restaurant 
-paper cranes in the mail (thank you Luke)
-my Elsa Peretti lighter (again...thank you!)

-big hair
-asking for directions in Ramallah
-a BLT and a good ale
-taxi rides with Chrysi
-arabic, greek & turkish coffee
-walking on rooftops
-dreaming of Samarkand & Morocco
-the reality of London-Paris-Venice by train
-the Flask and dogs in the Flask
-bleached sun on the Mount of Olives
-Manchester Uni's student occupation in support of Gaza
-rooibos tea 
-Jono's podcasts
-my finally assembled dodo
-inner strength
-greatest NYE ever, Athens 
-Neruda's 'ode to an artichoke'
-Samer's sense of humour
-beards + guitars
-True Blood
-bunny-tail scarf
-Vera & Caitlin's outfits in 'the edge of love'
-knee high or higher (!) socks
-Venice c/o Palestine at the Biennale 2009 
-olive trees
-looking beyond just your own needs
-Byzantine icons

Athens diary...Dec 08 (Part One)

Friday 28th:      Non-space
Chrysi meets me at the airport, I have not seen my best friend since September 2007 so this is an occasion we mark by sitting in an airport cafe drinking frappe and marvelling at being able to smoke indoors once more. Being in such a non-space makes it hard for me to process that we are both in Athens...after four years of dreaming and talking about it, we are here together! but could just as easily still be in Bondi Junction; and so the absurdity begins...

Off the Metro and walking down Damassipou, the air is cold like London was that same morning but the streets and atmosphere are welcoming and familiar...I am indeed in Athens!
I inhale my first Greek yeeros in six months (the first of many, many) at dinner later on that night and we hit Briki, a tiny pulsating bar filled to capacity (about 30 people) where we are hit on by much older Greek men until we finally stumble home in the wee hours thinking of Grenglish words to amuse ourselves. We stay up talking until 7am which means neither of us has slept for about 40 hours. This makes perfect sense.

Saturday 27th:     Taxi
We wake up at around 4-5pm and I spend the evening drinking Amaretto with Chrysi's aunt Sofia who shows me old photos and makes me laugh like nobody's business. Chrysi comes by to pick me up in a cab around 2am and this starts the first of what will be many hilarious encounters with taxi drivers in Athens.
Chrysi and our driver talk Palestine and politics, while I am more concerned with the Hall & Oates song playing on the radio (Baby come back!). Laughter bounces around inside like the rain on the roof and he plays us his full Enrique Iglesias ringtone to see if we like it (of course we say yes!) It's the end of his shift so we get dropped off in seedy Omonia where he waits until we get into another taxi (and later rings Chrysi to make sure we got home ok....ti service eh?)

Home but not home-time yet...we hit the local kafenio (Munchies) where we stay put until 5am. The owner George is so lovely and friendly and we meet the cook, Yian who is from China and mistook me for an 'Americano' when I spoke to him in English: he actually can't speak English, but he speaks beautiful Greek!

At the end of day two, still have not seen Athens in the daylight...opa!

Sunday 28th:   Jackets
We find some of Sofia's jackets in the cupboard and decide to go out for dinner in Monastiraki dressed to the nines...me in a LBD, black stockings and converse sneakers and a fur coat...Chrysi in a houndstooth pattern jacket that is at least 10 sizes too big; we artfully wrap it around her and fasten with a skinny red belt so it's a modern kimono and she looks brilliant.

At Monastiraki station I do the only thing you should do as you exit, turn your head to the right and be shocked and excited like a silly school girl at my beloved Acropolis, sitting perched above Athens. This never gets tiring, and she looks amazing at night!
After finding a 'ouzomezothopoleio' our cheeky waiter sagely advises me that I should not be embarrassed to speak Greek (my embarrassment comes at my distinct lack of the native accent) because he is not embarassed at his accent when he speaks English. Point taken, still not convinced though!
After a dubious chicken dish and hearing some of our favourite old-school Greek songs playing we head home so Chrysi can find out more about the situation in Gaza which erupted just before I landed. In a surreal moment at the internet cafe, I peruse my email and facebook, while C watches footage of the devastation and reads news reports as young Greek boys play shooting games online and shout at each other when one of them dies. Irony much?

Monday 29th:   Protest
At a shopping centre while out for coffee with Sofia that morn we get handed a flier for a protest that night in support of Palestine.  I see Athens in the daylight finally. Syntagma square is lit up and festive as you like...slightly confused by the people dressed as Native American Indians busking on the street, in Athens. Wished I took a photo of one of them talking on their mobile phone...it gave me so much absurd joy. Sigh.

That night we get dressed warmly and sombre for the protest. Those of you who know me know that I don't 'do' protests, I felt a little out of my depth as there was so much I didn't know and felt silly going when I wasn't particularly informed. C spent most of the protest giving me the details in plain english, and really, what other topic would you talk about? Britney's hairdo? hardly.
We start at the Greek War Memorial near Zografou and walk up past the US Embassy. I am not chuffed that it is being organised by the KKE (Greek Communist Party) but they are the only ones who have made an effort so we must get bundled in with them. Communist flags hit me in the face as I lean in and try to listen to C speaking quietly about the senseless violence and stupid reasonings behind the atrocities. I have nightmares of my parents watching cable telly and seeing me and C marching side by side with communist flags...it's kind of funny though.

Am dissapointed that most of their chants revolve around anti-American/capatalist sentiments with only one chant actually addressing Palestine.  There is an ocean of people here and it takes us two hours to reach the final point, the Israeli embassy.

People start to disperse, and the ocean breaks up everyone going their seperate ways. There is dust in the air which I ignore until a funny sensation overcomes me and I start coughing violently, my face and nostrils feeling like they are on fire. Mmm...tasty tasty tear gas, supplied to Greece by the Israeli army. 
It takes about 20 minutes for the just-snorted-wasabi sensation to subside...people are angry, I am mortified that small children in the crowd were also choked up by the tear gas. Consenting adults in a peaceful march is one thing, tear gassing small children is just diabolical.

Perhaps it was not a good idea to march for two hours on an empty stomach. The end of the protest aged me about 10 years and the ironic fact that I, as a privileged western woman could go to a protest, get served up some tear gas and then go for a yeeros and a beer afterwards while helpless civilians were losing their lives in Palestine did not escape me. We both ate quietly and walked home, our bones weary and heavy with unease and the winter chill.

26 February 2009

the kitschy kitchen

I blame working in the Science Library this past year for getting me all geeky about things that are way beyond me that I'll never be able to understand...this is probably half of the attraction.

Oh yes, and of course Cillian Murphy playing perhaps the most attractive physicist ever to fly into the sun... thank you Danny Boyle, thank you!

So here 'tis...some geeky items for my dream kitschy kitchen (again, i've been dreaming of this kitchen since I was in highschool...I think my biggest influence was the kitchen in 'The Wonder Years' just more streamlined and with a simpler palette)  and of course, it goes without saying that the floor will be shiny and glorious black and white tiles...linoleum or otherwise!

Science Geek-ness:

happy sigh. 
(yes I know pepper is made up! but still, it's the thought people!)

you can ponder the solar system or
the table of elements, all over the morning's coffee. Brill.

this Alice in Wonderland teatowel taken from the original etchings is perrrrrfect!

vintage pyrex and all manner of storage containers 
with lovely patterns are most welcome

after carefully considering the dozen or so colours the KitchenAid comes in,
this light green one is my favourite.
or maybe the pale yellow one...

This of course is the crowning glory in my dream kitchen. 
For well over a decade I have dreamed of the Smeg fridge...in any colour, I don't mind.
Cherry-red of course, is my natural instinct but the lovely 
pastel shades (mint green, baby blue, pale yellow or cream) are stunning too. 
(maybe not the union-jack print eh?)

and look! a Smeg dishwasher? have mercy!

more retro fun with a polka-dot mixing bowl...

and a great serving platter with architectural plans on it
..this one is for a penthouse;

I'll end my dreaming here for now with 
the most aesthetically pleasing pitcher I've seen!

on Direction and Time...

The irony of being off work the last 2 months is that I have so much time on my hands.

Time you'd think I'd spend doing all the things I can't when working during the week right?
Er, not exactly...I haven't even written anything about my Athens trip, one of the happiest times ever. Egad. Will do it, absolutely. Now I also have another trip to write about...Jerusalem and Palestine in the first week of February. After the first day there it became apparent that one week is not enough time for Jerusalem, let alone visits to Palestinian cities. So we will be back! One thing that you pray for when walking around the Old City after getting lost, knowing that the street you need is so close, but impossible to find in the labyrinth....is a compass.

So, the following objects are inspired by mine and Chrysi's Holy Land adventure...and of course, the ticking of time, something that I cannot escape as I wait for my Greek passport. sigh.

so sweet and ladylike, unlike myself!
I can imagine this pinned to the lapel of my jacket or coat. 

the next time I see Chrysi, I will have something in the form of a compass for her! this would be perfect for us to have one each...a pain to use though!

Jerusalem has made me love pomegranates even more. I miss my pomegranate tree in my backyard in Sydney. They were everywhere in the Old City, enormous, firm, waiting with ruby seeds inside...I have vowed to start collecting pomegranate-y things. I already have a sterling silver pomegranate from Athens, and now a silver handmade brooch from Jerusalem. 
These earrings are next on my list.


These magnets are amazing, taken from an old map of historical Palestine. You can specify which cities you want. 

I've wanted a fob-watch since I can remember! This one mixes the old and the new
...and a bit of filagree never hurt anyone either.

This is a bedside clock, a giant fob-watch bedside clock!
Isn't it grand? 

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