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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Two scarecrows, two swans, two chimneys.

Three of my own photos.

I am reminded of the lyrics of the great Blind Lemon Jefferson song, "See that my grave is kept clean":

"Lord, it's two white horses in a line (x 3)
Going take me to my buryin' ground."

Porta Riala, another destroyed Corfu monument...

This was Konstantinos Theotokis' poetic lament on the 1893 destruction of Porta Riala by "barbarians".

Lorentzos Mavilis also wrote a strong poem on the subject, which finishes with a curse on the Corfiots who destroyed Porta Riala. He wants his verse to live on, both as a reminder of the destruction they caused, but also in the hope that the island's despoilers will burn for their sins!

It was the British who'd destroyed the Porta Remunda (Raimonda) gate, in 1837. All in a good cause, of open up the seafront (Strada Marina) road down to Garitsa.

The Fate of Corfu's Municipal Theatre

Watch the moving YouTube elegy about the fate of Corfu's demolished Municipal Theatre, and about the building that replaced it.

It could have been restored, it's often said, in spite of the devastating effect of the German incendiary bombs dropped on Corfu after midnight on 13 September 1943 (until around 4am on 14 September) and the destructive fires that started. The Ionian Parliament and Ionian Academy buildings were eventually restored.

Corfu had no John Betjeman at the time.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Felice Beato, Corfiot photographer (1833/4-c. 1907)

I've just discovered the work of an important Corfiot photographer, Felice Beato.

This photograph of the Belvedere of the God of Literature at the Summer Palace (destroyed by the British) near Beijing, China, was taken in October 1860.

I've visited the ruins of the Summer Palace. A very moving experience.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Antonios Eparchos, Corfiot Poet ( 1491- 1571)

One thing leads to another. I was walking around Porta Remunda recently, wondering about the origin of some of the street names, like Eparchos street.

A little research lead me the poem, published in Venice in 1544, by Antonios Eparchos (1491-1571) “Gentilhomme de Corfu” , called “Eis tin Ellados katastrofin thrinos", or "Lament for the Fall (or Destruction) of Greece". A few brief extracts in English translation appear in “Hellenic Temples and Christian Churches: A Concise History of the Religious Cultures of Greece from Antiquity to the Present” by Vasilios N. Makrides (p. 248-249).

The original (very difficult to understand) Greek version can be found on

A fascinating poem by a Corfiot, lamenting the misfortunes of Greece.

In Makrides' translation, a few lines about the cruel fate of Greece:

"Give to its inhabitants the wisdom of the heart,
Which is the most precious possession of mortals,
and dispel from Greece the night that darkens it."

As Makrides points out, Modern Greek identity seems to have taken on "a more robust identity" at that time.

If anyone can translate more of the poem into English, they deserve a prize. I'm not even sure if it's written in Ancient or Modern Greek! Something intermediate, or his own post-Byzantine literary idiolect?

A challenge to all you linguists and scholars.

Maria Farandouri, Mikis Theodorakis, London 1970-1971; Maria Farantouri

Maria Farandouri: Memories of three London Concerts, 1970-1971

1970, 13 April: Theodorakis landed in Paris, a free man.

1970, 26 April: Royal Albert Hall, “Eleftheria, An Evening of Free Greek Music and Drama”, directed by Minos Volonakis, sponsored by The Greek Committee Against Dictatorship. First performance of Theodorakis's work (based on Sikelianos' poem) “The March of the Spirit”, with Maria Farandouri, conducted by Evdoros Demetriou. The second part of the evening, “For the Attention of the Censor”, was devoted mostly to banned Greek drama and the absurd preventive (and pre-publication) censorship. Even the ‘subversive’ plays of Ancient Greek authors were liable to be censored or banned, although Alexis Minotis, director of the National Theatre, would claim that it was not the texts of the tragedies that lead to their cancellation in 1967, but the music by Theodorakis. The evening featured Ian McKellen, John Neville, Janet Suzman, Patrick Wymark, Alan Bates, Mai Zetterling, Joss Ackland, Glenda Jackson and Nyree Dawn Porter. There was a message (in the programme) from Theodorakis in Oropos Prison, sent before his release on 13 April, “I call on the untamable Greek youth to become inspired by the words of our national poet and turn into action his patriotic command ‘Let us raise the sun over Greece’.”

1970, 29 June: Royal Albert Hall, the official premiere of Theodorakis’ oratorio, “March of the Spirit”, conducted by Mikis Theodorakis; the concert was dedicated to the poet Yannis Ritsos, “still in the hands of the Junta”.

1971, 11 June: Maria Farandouri sings Theodorakis, at the Overseas Students Centre, London.

The programme note stated that “Following the military coup d’état in 1967 and the subsequent banning of Theodorakis’ music, Maria left Greece and, to the cultural movement to promote Greek music she has added an inseparable political dimension.”

Songs included, “Ena to Helidoni” and “Tis agapis aimata” from “To Axion Esti”, “I Kalogria i Tsiggana” (from Lorca’s ‘Romancero Gitano’), “Silva”, “Kleise to Parathiro” (from “Ta Tragoudia tou Agona”/“Songs of Strife”), “Oi Evchai” The Vows” (Sixth Ode of Andreas Kalvos), “To Yelasto Paidi” (from “The Hostage” and later “The Theme from Z”), “Rodostomo” (from “Archipelagos”), the English folk song “The trees, they grow so high” (‘My bonny boy is young, but he’s growing’) and “Zavarakatranemia”, the anti-Dictatorship protest song (with largely nonsense words aimed to bypass censorship) by Yannis Markopoulos, who had first gone to Britain in 1967, after the Coup, to study modern music under Elizabeth Lutyens.

Of the Kalvos poems he’d set to music, Theodorakis wrote, when in exile in Zatouna, that “his call to arms must strike a chord in sensitive Greek hearts” and “I am happy to have set Kalvos to music. This poet’s speech is like a torrent of lava which will submerge the Greeks and burn its mark into their skin….In my mind’s eye I saw the great multitude of young Greeks storming the streets of Athens and Salonika and chasing out the tyrants” (“Journals of Resistance”).

While held in Oropos Camp, Theodorakis composed some of the “Songs of Strife” (Polydor, 1971) like “Kleis’ to Parathiro” (an ironical kantada-style song, of the type that prisoners sang under their breath in cells or during transportation, set to a lyric by Manos Eleftheriou, about the horrors of torture by electric shock in the notorious No.18 Bouboulinas Street HQ of the Greek Security Police (Asphalia). Originally recorded in London, January, 1971.

“To Yelasto Paidi”, a free translation of the song “The Laughing Boy”, from Brendan Behan’s play, “The Hostage”, became associated with the murder in Thessaloniki (May 22, 1963) of the MP Gregory Lambrakis, and the theme of the political thriller “Z”. Behan’s lyrics were written in the manner of an Irish freedom-struggle song, but the song had become a very Greek anti-Fascist anthem by the time of the Dictatorship. Theodorakis (“Journal of Resistance”): “Our people had associated it with the memory of the deputy from Piraeus after his assassination.” Theodorakis had dedicated the song to Lambrakis; it became the song of the Lambrakis Youth Movement.

These are some of the lyrics (by Manos Eleftheriou; my translation) of “Kleis’ to Parathiro” (‘Shut the Window’):

“Tonight don’t talk about poems
Nor of the pain which pierces your kidneys.
The prisoner in the next cell can’t hear the taps-
I can’t make out the messages, because of the rain.
Shut the window, the water gets in.

The corridor reeks of iodine
And the one over there was carted in.
From dusk they’d take him to the basement;
The wire they shoved on his tight-clenched mouth
Must have been electrified.”

The programme notes had the following to say about this song and some of the others:

Kleis’ to parathiro: The words establish an atmosphere of fear and insecurity. Everybody hears and sees things happening and each thinks that perhaps he will be next. The light music and la, la, la’s imply that people know what’s going on- they won’t be terrified because they’ve been through it before and will endure it.

Ena to Helidoni: Freedom requires sacrifice and blood must be shed before the sun and springtime can arise.

Tis agapis aimata: A man has a vivid memory of a love while involved in an armed struggle.

Silva: A love song, which Theodorakis wrote about a woman...when they were both in hiding with the underground following the 1967 coup.

(NB: the sleeve notes on “Songs and Guitar Pieces by Theodorakis”, John Williams and Maria Farandouri, stated that “Silva” was written in his cell in Bouboulinas Street police station in September-October 1967. “Silva is a woman’s name. She was imprisoned in another cell and tortured for her participation in the resistance”. The song finishes: “Kangala, kangala, kangala, Silva, Silva”- “Bars, prison bars, Silva, Silva”).

Zavara: the few lyrics mix ancient words and nonsense syllables, which essentially poke fun at language, and at the language of politics in particular.

The just-released “Songs of Strife” LP (Polydor, 1971) on sale at the Students’ Centre that night also included Theodorakis’ London settings of some of Alexandros Panagoulis’ poems such as, “The First of the Dead” (“Lefterias lipasma oi protoi nekroi”, “Freedom’s fertiliser, the first of the dead”), and “In Greece Today” (“Pne(v)ma kai alithea stis filakes”, “spirit and truth, locked up in prisons”).

Panagoulis’s group failed in an attempt to assassinate (by blowing up) the dictator George Papadopoulos on 13 August, 1968. Elected to Parliament in 1974, he was killed on May 1st, 1976, in a mysterious car accident in Athens. Alekos’ poem or battle-hymn, “The first of the dead”, was published in English in “Greek Report, 1”, (‘a Monthly Publication of Uncensored Information about Greek Affairs’), ed. P. Lambrias, London, February 1969:

“Shed no more tears
For Freedom is nourished
By earth that enfolds them-
The first of the Dead”

The other LP on sale that night was “In a State of Siege”, with Farandouri and Kaloyannis).

See also, The Laughing Boy:

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Plava grobnica (Blue Graveyard), Milutin Bojic

Does anyone know where I can find an English translation of the Serbian poem "Plava grobnica" (Blue Graveyard, or Blue Tomb) by Milutin Bojic?

It's about the tragic fate of many soldiers of the Serbian army who died on the island of Vido (Corfu) after their retreat through Albania, the terrible long march and evacuation to Corfu in 1916. Their bodies were buried at sea. I've read Flora Sandes' account of their bravery and suffering ("An English Woman-Sergeant in the Serbian Army", 1916), and watched two moving readings of the poem on YouTube. It seems to be a poem that should be available in English.


Stojte, galije carske! Sputajte moćne krme,
Gazite tihim hodom!
Opelo neko šapćem u podne puno srme
Istopljene nad vodom...

I have a copy of the booklet, "Pilgrimage to Corfu" by Ljubomir Saramandic (Belgrade 2004), which contains an English version of "Departure" by Milutin Bojic:

"Through winter midnight where despair is falling,
Through whirlwind, ravines, snowdrifts and waters...

Golgotha is awaiting...!

Monday, 25 January 2010


It's always a thrill to see and feel the first copy of a new book.

I finally received an advance copy of my "Ionian Islands and Epirus" at Corfu post office today. It's been a long wait. It should be available in about a month from now. For those who may be interested, it's probably best to order it from Amazon.

Cycladic Blues

Is that an Epiphone harp?

Sunday, 24 January 2010

West Bay, Bridport, Dorset

Three images of West Bay (Bridport Harbour). They take me back. The black and white photograph is from the 1890s, a little before my time. The Turner is one of my favourites. It's sometimes difficult to choose between Corfu and Dorset. I'm lucky to have had the best of both worlds.

From Bridport Harbour, by William Barnes

Hill-warded haven, creek well found
To sailors on thy stormy shore,
When 'midst the waters deaf'ning roar,
They step on this thy peaceful ground,
As blest with happy homes, at hand,
Or strangers on a foreign land....

How many untold years have run
Since those two now half hills were whole,
And man beheld thy waters rolls
Where they sank, grassy to the sun,
Long ere the sea had cast the sand
And far-borne pebbles on this strand.

A later poet, Michael Norman, in his poem "West Bay" described the port as

"The smallest ever seen,
Fashioned like a Chianti bottle.
Twin moles jut out to sea..."

  Two paintings by Walter Tyndale:

John Craxton, 1922-2009

John Craxton died, aged 87, on 17 November, 2009. He first visited Greece in 1946.

The two paintings ilustrated come from the website

Greek Sailors Dancing (reminds me a little of works by Yannis Tsarouchis, 1910-1989) and Greek Boy with a Sheep, reveal his attachment to Greece (and to Crete, in particular).

More images of John Craxton's work

Retrospective at Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

More on John Craxton, Fitzwilliam Museum

Thursday, 21 January 2010


Such things still happen, even in Mandouki....

This is an illustration by Markos Zavitsianos of the scene in Theotokis' novella "I Timi kai to Chrima" (Honour and Money, set in Mandouki).

I refer to this scene in my article on Mandouki in the current issue of The Corfiot. Not long ago a similar event took place. Take care.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

A useful website with information (in Greek) about what's on in Corfu:

Angelos Giallinas, Watercolour Artist of Corfu

I recommend, on YouTube, "The Aquarelles of Angelos Giallinas".

Also this video

It's a disgrace that his house is in such a bad state of repair. Not only is the house (and roof) in a serious state, but his paintings are also at risk. He had wanted it to become a museum.

I understand that the Ministry of Culture has been lobbied for several years to formally approve the necessary repair work to the roof. The funding is apparently available in Corfu to get the work done.

Friday, 15 January 2010

SUN STUDIOS, Memphis, at SIXTY; A Boy from Tupelo, Short Film

The greatest record label in the history of rock 'n' roll and rockabilly music?

Sun Studios, Memphis.

Sun Studios at sixty

Scotty Moore talks

Sun EP Records

Update, 2017 - A Boy from Tupelo, A Short Film

New CD, Aliki Kayaloglou

Aliki Kayaloglou, one of my favourite Greek singers, has just released a new (double) CD, "Alice's Myths". It was recorded live at the Herodes Atticus Theatre in Athens.

I have many of her albums, classic recordings she made with Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis. She also interprets Fado and Latin American music with great sensitivity.

She has a website in Greek and English:

Do have a look and a listen.

Watch this inspiring performance - Aliki accompanied by Kostas Grigoreas on guitar

Photo taken at concert at the British Council. "Dromoi palioi"