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Wednesday, 30 June 2010

A Taste of Greece?

Given the need for Greece to become more competitive, and to export more of its excellent produce, it is depressing how difficult it is to find any Greek wine in the wine-stores or supermarkets in the UK, at least outside London.

I am trying to plan an event in cooperation with a local enterprise that does in fact import Greek olives, olive oil, dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) and feta cheese.

I can't find a source for any Greek wines in this part of the country, certainly not at a competitive price, although Boutari wines can be supplied on special order. One big store stocked a single Greek wine when Greece was hosting the Olympic Games; alas no longer. I'd really like to order some Cephalonian or Zitsa wines.

An up-market wine-store offered to obtain me a bottle of No 12 Greek ouzo for £19.00 a bottle.

I wonder how British beer is faring in South Africa.

Since posting the above I have discovered that Waitrose can supply four Greek wines.

A wider variety can be ordered from Yamas Wines

I'm also hoping to obtain some of the excellent Glinavos Wines from Zitsa, Epirus.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

A man who looks on glass

A man who looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye,
Or if he pleaseth through it pass,
And then the heavens espy.

George Herbert
Teach Me My God and King

Engraved glass windows at St. Nicholas, Moreton.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Jim Potts: New Demos and Old Blues

Highway 61!

I've just discovered a site called "The Sixty One" (NB - Sadly NOW DEFUNCT - better go to MrHighway49 - my YouTube Channel), and I've been able to upload some samples of my songs.

You can sample some of my songs and compositions as arranged by the multi-talented Corfu-based composer/arranger/musician Raul Scacchi.

They're all very different.Why not start with "Where's that Good Samaritan gone?"

There's also my own interpretation and arrangement of "Fixin' to Die", a song that Bukka White recorded in the 1930s and I've also uploaded two old country/hillbilly blues from the 1930s, "Hello Stranger" a Carter Family song which I recorded in Nairobi in the 1970s as a duet with my old Aussie friend Tony Troughear (it's him finger-picking one guitar, I'm on bottleneck), and a great favourite, "Deep Elem Blues" which I recorded in Corfu. It was first recorded by the Lone Star Cowboys, the Prairie Ramblers and others. For Deep Elem, read Mandouki!

You can also listen and watch a selection on YouTube: go to MrHighway49 

Take a listen to our version of "Hello Stranger"

Here's the original Carter Family version of "Hello Stranger":

The following two photos I took myself.

Welcome to Dorchester and Poundbury (Highlights)

"The Prince sees it as essential that in twenty-five years time 
we do not look down from Maiden Castle and see a jigsaw which does not fit" (1989).

David Landale, Secretary of the Duchy of Cornwall, quoting HRH The Prince of Wales.
Dorchester, The Official Guide, Dorchester Town Council, 1989.

It's almost 25 years since then; although Poundbury is far from complete, the view from Maiden Castle is still inspiring. For me, the jigsaw does fit, harmoniously. The plan to install a "temporary" park-and-drive for the 2012 Sailing Olympics, in the field between Maiden Castle and Poundbury, is an alarming prospect.

Blues Gig, Brooks Williams

Brooks Williams can certainly play the guitar!

He gave his own distinctive interpretation of blues standards associated with Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins, Blind Boy Fuller, Snooks Eaglin and others, as well as singing his own compositions.

The last Bluesnight of the season.

Congratulations to Tom Hopkins for organising these amazing concerts.

Who needs London?

Midsummer Eve in Sweden

I would love to be in Sweden for Midsummer Eve (Midsommarafton) and Midsummer's Day (Midsommardagen).

Not that you would catch me dancing round a maypole. I'd stick with the pickled herrings and wild strawberries.

The photos were taken in Visby, Gotland, one of my favourite islands.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Homecoming and Carnival

The first two pictures were taken at the Homecoming Parade of officers and soldiers of A Company 4th Battalion Rifles, as they marched through Dorchester from Poundbury barracks. The people of Dorchester remembered those killed in action in Afghanistan. The parade consisted of 150 uniformed men. Exactly half the number of British soldiers who have died in Afghanistan.

The second two pictures of the parade of tanks and army vehicles were taken at Dorchester Carnival Parade. The World War II tanks took apart in cooperation with Maiden Newton at War.

I am reminded of William Barnes' poem "Dorset Rifle Corps' Song"- but it doesn't seem appropriate in connection with Afghanistan:

"Come, lads, shall men of Dorset lag
Behind old England's onward flag?
Or fear to take a true-man's ground,
Where England's trumpet-call shall sound?
...No, no, my lads, fall in, fall in-
Now don't let Dorset ranks be thin.
For Dorset: Hip, Hurrah!"

For an alternative point of view, see

Or read John Cowper Powys' poem, "The Recruit".

"Apples be ripe" he sang to them;
"And nuts be brown" they answered him.

A song that speaks to me most powerfully on the subject of a soldier's homecoming from war is Tom Waits' "Day After Tomorrow" (on the "Real Gone" CD).

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Greek Banks and Hospitals

The news from Greece doesn't get any better.

On banks:

The reduced credit ratings of Greek banks has resulted from the lowering of Moody's credit rating of Greece from A3 down to Ba1.

On hospitals:

"Hospitals near meltdown
Doctors warn of deaths due to shortages caused by dispute with suppliers

"Doctors warned yesterday that hospital patients will begin to die soon unless the government can resolve an impasse with suppliers over more than 5 billion euros in debts".

For full Kathimerini English edition article, see

Apparently an "agreement in principle" has now been reached to pay off the debt.

Personally, I have great faith in the hospitals in Ioannina (although even there I am hearing reports of funding and supply difficluties and of postponed operations). Corfu has its own problems.

Greece: Image Problems and Tourism Blues

Interesting item (filmed on Rhodes) by Barnaby Phillips on Al Jazeera, The Europe Blog.

Tom Roberts of Dorchester

Has there ever been an exhibition or retrospective of the paintings of Tom Roberts in Dorchester?

If not, it's high time there was!

Tom Roberts, whose father (d. 1868) was a newspaper editor, was born in Dorchester on 9 March 1856. He was thirteen when he emigrated to Australia in 1869, with his widowed mother, brother and sister. Mrs. Roberts had relatives in Melbourne, according to Virginia Spate ("Tom Roberts", 1978) and Jane Clark and Bridget Whitelaw ("Golden Summers, Heidelberg and Beyond", 1986).

He studied for three years at the Royal Academy Schools in London from 1881-1884 (he was twenty-five when he left for Europe in 1881), and he assisted at a hospital in England during World War I

He was considered the father of Australian landscape painting and a great portraitist.

The paintings illustrated are "Coming South", "A Break away!", "Shearing the Rams", "Holiday Sketch at Coogee", "Slumbering Sea, Mentone", "Mentone" and "Mosman's Bay".

The following very useful information is taken from

"Thomas William Roberts was born in Dorchester on March 9th, 1856, the son of a printer and reporter, Richard Roberts, then a sub-editor of the Dorset County Chronicle. Richard had married Tom’s mother, a Londoner named Matilda Agnes Cela Evans, in Shrewsbury early in 1851, and the census of that year showed that at that time he was still living with his parents, Thomas Roberts (50), described as a Brass Founder and his wife Hannah (48) both born in Shrewsbury. By 1861 however, Richard and Matilda had moved to Dorchester, having taken up residence in house in Fordington High Street. Their household consisted of Thomas, then 5, a one-year-old daughter, Alice Matilda, and an 11-year-old housemaid named Mary Wills.

Tom attended Dorchester Grammar School (until 1869) where he received a thorough grounding in the classics, learning quotations in Latin he was able to recall years later. During these schooldays his greatest accolade was winning a prize for scripture he later explained, “not by answering the question directly but by imaginatively writing on a related subject.”

On 30th December 1868, when Thomas was about 13 his father who was then editor of the Dorchester newspaper died aged only 41 at Wollaston Villas, All Saints Dorchester, leaving the family impoverished. His widow Hannah then courageously resolved that she and her children should leave to seek a new life in the then developing colony of Australia. A married sister of Hannah’s had herself emigrated to there some years before, so that the sisters could be re-united. Tom Roberts’ first home in his adopted country was a modest one in Dight Street, Collingwood, a suburb of Melbourne."

Virginia Spate notes that Roberts "went to London in early 1903...and remained there until 1919 when he visited Australia for a year...He left England for the last time in early 1923 and remained in Australia until his death in 1931...nearly half of his seventy-five years of life was spent in England...
In 1909 Roberts and his family moved to a house and studio about a mile north of Golders Green, an area which was still close to the country...
Roberts visited Italy again in 1914 but his stay was interrupted by the outbreak of war and he had an adventurous journey back to England. He painted relatively little during the next four years because at the age of fifty-eight he volunteered for duty in the R.A.M.C. and spent the war in the Third London Military Hospital...
His last stay in the English countryside was in Dorset where he had been born."

The Third London General Hospital was in Wandsworth.

It is interesting to note that one of his paintings in an 1889 Exhibition was based on Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd.

For a challenging view on Aboriginal Art and Interventionism (in relation to "Shearing the Rams") , see this comment

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Two Thoughts of Lao Tzu (from the Tao te Ching)

Lao Tzu:

Mould clay into a vessel; the space it encloses makes it useful.

Truly, the greatest carver does the least cutting.

Useful advice for a sculptor, but of more general relevance!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Dorset Art Weeks Open Studios, 29 May - 13 June

Congratulations to Terry O'Rourke and Jem Main, all the organisers and the 800 participating artists involved in the extraordinarily successful Dorset Art Weeks Open Studios.

Apparently it's the 10th biennial event, and the biggest Open Studios Event in the country. "The UK's greatest free festival of Visual Art". It's no exaggeration.

I only visited a fraction of the 300 studios, galleries and spaces, but every one was an inspiration. The hospitality and friendly welcome at every venue was also an important and unforgettable part of the experience.

The substantial catalogue in itself was a work of art.

The photograph I've selected is of a contemporary wall-hanging by textile artist Kate Dowty.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

The Many Uses of Stone

A fairly random collection of photographs from Ethiopia (Lalibela), Sweden, Greece, China (The Great Wall) and Dorset.

The stone altar is at the little church or chapel of St Bartholomew, near Corton Farm, Coryates.

The Shrine of St. Wite, with the three oval openings for the healing of the sick (early 13th century) beneath the stone coffin with a Purbeck marble top, which contains the relics of St. Wite, is at the Church of St. Candida (St. Wite) and Holy Cross, Whitchurch Canonicorum. According to Canon Syer's little guidebook, "no other parish church in England has the relics of its patron saint in a shrine within its walls."

The grave-stones are at Holy Trinity Church, Bradpole and at Whitcombe Church. The font is at Whitcombe Church.

The staddle stone (in situ) was photographed at Coryates.

It was sad to see other old staddle stones waiting to be put under the auctioneer's hammer.

According to Wikipedia:

"Staddle stones were originally used as supporting bases for granaries, hayricks, game larders, etc. The staddle stones lifted the granaries above the ground thereby protecting the stored grain from vermin and water seepage. In Middle English staddle or stadle is stathel, from Old English stathol, a foundation, support or trunk of a tree".

That's something I didn't know.