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Saturday, 29 June 2013

From Homer to the Club Med

Ewald Osers, Poet and Translator

From Radio Praha (2011)

I'm catching up with old news from Radio Prague, a great resource.

Ewald Osers made a fine translation of Jaroslav Seifert’s The Plague Column (London, 1979).

Guardian obituary (2011)

The Prague Post

Here are some short extracts from Ewald Osers’ own poems about Prague, which he gave me to read and to use on the soundtrack of a film I once planned about Prague.

From Prague Revisited (I) by Ewald Osers


An ageing beauty waking from her sleep,

The make-up gone, or smudged:

The peeling colourwash from the old houses

With here and there a blemish more than skin-deep…



She seduces you.


Her flaunted breast,

Saint Nicholas,

her melting whisper

below the old weir-

the old courtesan

has forgotten nothing.


Is it because she was old

Forty years ago

That she seems no older


When I have put a life

Between then and now?

From Prague Revisited (II)

And still this city grips me by the throat.

No, not the famous sights, the postcard views,

The places where the tour buses unload

Their cargo of sightseers. No, I choose

The quiet crooked streets that I remember

From childhood, though their plaster may be peeling,

Raw brick-wounds festering in the distemper,

The gilded emblems dull……


From Prague 1971
For George Theiner

Down this square

Once rang laughter of students, euphoria

Of a waking dream after a waking nightmare…..

And then the human torch,

That exclamation mark after

The passage of tanks…..

Behind padlocked gates

The wrought-iron privacy of once-noble gardens,

Weeping willows behind lichen-covered puttos,

Their marble smiles crumbling

From the neglect of an equalitarian society

Of equalised disenchantment…"

Edwin Muir in Prague; Czechoslovakia; Willa Muir, The Usurpers (unpublished novel)

Edwin Muir in Prague

From Radio Prague, David Vaughan.

A Poetic Guidebook to Prague

Willa Muir also wrote about Prague, in her diaries and in her important but still unpublished 379-page novel "The Usurpers", which I have now read in the original typed manuscript (as by Alexander Croy).

Declassified classification from my own StB files:
My Czechoslovak journals (3 volumes)

Here's a poem I wrote back in the 1980s, well before the Velvet Revolution. It's from my (as yet unpublished) book, "Czechoslovakia: Secret Journals of the Poets’ Revolution":

November Cloud
For Peter Butter, On the Occasion of the Edwin Muir Centenary Lecture, Prague

On the way to the Writers' House -
Bohemia in mid-November -
Professor Butter, Muir's biographer,
Sat beside me in the car.
We talked of the poem called The Cloud,
Of what Muir meant, of what he'd seen.
The Dobříš Mansion had hardly altered
Since its use had changed in '45
From residence of Reich's Protector
To haven for the harrassed writer,
Reserved these days for the Party-favoured -
Those writers blessed by the Union-Reich,
The loyal-elect, the Committee-chosen,
With three books to their names at least,
Sound authors of the State's persuasion,
Rewarded by a stay at Dobříš
With stipend and a stately room;
The privilege of elegance
For the price of a cribbed, diminished soul.
Today the seminar's behind closed doors;
Young eager writers have been assembled,
They're being shown the prizes and rewards
To be won for staying in line and silent.
For the Mansion of Comfort is not twenty miles
From the cancerous mines of uranium towns,
Where dissenting scribblers were sent for correction,
Příbram, seat of the Dissidents' Mines.
But we were given the royal treatment,
In Dobříš' fine reception halls.
We were glad to see the guest-book there,
The first they'd had, from forty-five.
Aragon and Eluard, their signatures were all too clear: -
Near theirs we found it, Edwin Muir's!
In '46 and '47, Edwin Muir and Willa too.
Who'd come later? Dylan Thomas, and then the usual crew,
Ritsos and Hikmet, Neruda et al
(Kundera's cursed archangels all,
Whose lyres psalmed death, praised freedom's end).
Who here remembers Edwin Muir ?
Perhaps a man in a cloud of dust ?
We presented two books to the lady custodian,
They were gladly accepted by the Keeper of Keys:-
Muir's poems, and prose of life in Prague.
I wonder what they'll make of them,
The comrades in their graceful suites,
Looking for honest inspiration,
Unguilded themes which suit the times,
But which won't offend the Party chiefs?
Let them read The Good Town and The Cloud.
As they stroll French Garden or English Park,
Casting backward looks and sideways glances,
As they search for the wire in the antique vase,
In rococo mirror, baroque writing-desk.
Let them remember, as they shred each draft:

The labyrinth begins right here.

Glastonbury Girl, The Stones in Somerset

Nick Bryant, On Leaving Australia

A hard place to leave.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Soft Power, Culture and Influence

New report

The report in full, pdf, Influence and attraction, Culture and the race for soft power in the 21st century

Soft Power debate

Soft Power, Hard Concept

Update: House of Commons Committee Video, Witnesses, discussion (21 October, 2013)

Soft Power and the UK's Influence


Dr Rudolf Adam, Chargé d'Affaires, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany; His Excellency Mr. Keiichi Hayashi, Ambassador of Japan; His Excellency Mr. Roberto Jaguaribe, Ambassador of Brazil and His Excellency Mr Kim Traavik, Ambassador of Norway

The Committee on Soft Power and the UK's Influence

Update 23 February 2014:

Writing in The Sunday Times, Adrian Wooldridge, on the topic of Ukraine and Russia :

"Soft power does not come only in a liberal package: countries can expand their footprint by rallying the forces of cultural conservatism just as easily as by rallying the forces of cultural liberalism".

"Tanks should be constructed in the mind such tanks would really avail the human race - religion, poetry, philosophy - these things only are of use". Llewelyn Powys, letter to  T.F. Powys, June 11, 1918

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Greece, Constantine Manos Exhibition


Benaki Museum


A Greek Portfolio

"More than 200 prints from “A Greek Portfolio” are currently on display at the Benaki Museum’s headquarters in Kolonaki, central Athens, paying tribute to the photographer and his landmark Greek project. “Constantine Manos: A Greek Portfolio 50 Years Later” runs through August 25."

Magnum Portfolio

Presentation on Manos at Durrell School Seminar, Corfu

The unknown Greek photographs, free with TA NEA newspaper, 6-7 July 2013

The Pappas Post

Greece, Troika Progress Demands


John Psaropoulos writes

Tax returns

Mouzakis, The Prodigal Greek, on Greek debt rollover

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Wiltshire Jazz Festival 2013

In spite of the variable weather, I spent a highly enjoyable day at the Wiltshire Jazz Festival in Dinton, Wiltshire.

I didn't catch all the acts, but highlights included:

Kairos 4tet

Nicola Farnon band (with the amazing Piero Tucci on sax and piano)

Charles Alexander and Andy Robinson, guitar duo

Gabby Young and Other Animals

Amy Roberts Quintet (with the outstanding John Hallam also on sax)- superb Creole Love Call and Lester Leaps In

Brilliant musicians all. Sadly my ongoing ankle problem meant I had to leave before the end of the evening.

What I missed...Gwyneth Herbert (and another Sea Cabinet), and several other major acts such as Martin Taylor and Alan Barnes.

Mark Allen certainly knows his jazz and how to make people feel welcome and really at home. A great MC! Mark's publishing company owns Wiltshire Life and Jazzwise Magazine, amongst many other titles.

Congratulations to all involved. The "Glyndebourne of Jazz" Festival they call it. A major contribution to jazz lovers everywhere and to the local Wiltshire community.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Robert Macfarlane, Ancient Tracks, Old Paths, Wayfarers, Walking

BBC Radio 4, IPlayer
Ramblings, In Search of the Old Ways.

Walking as a special way of seeing. Listen in particular to the section from 0740 - 0828, on English identity, on the old English wayfaring brigade, often 'unattractive bigots' who thought they could walk their way back into an authentic Englishness, according to Robert Macfarlane.

"Clare Balding walks with the celebrated author and academic, Robert Macfarlane who takes her from his home in Cambridge out onto the Icknield Way. For a man known to love mountains, Robert explains how he's slowly come to love the tame lowlands of Cambridgeshire and how he now relies on climbing trees to give him height and views. While Clare is not tempted to join him at the top of an accommodating beech tree, she's happy to admire the graffiti left on the bark. Walking out in the summer sunshine Robert shares his fascination for the ancient tracks, drove-roads and sea paths that criss-cross the British Countryside".

Holloway and South Dorset holloways

Robert Macfarlane, Common Ground 2005 Guardian articles

The Pilgrimage Revival

From The Wild Places

Gilbert White

P J Harvey, MBE

BBC News

Let England Shake

Uncut article

James Russell blog

Friday, 14 June 2013

Some Landscapes, Plinius' Blog Index

A valuable resource for those interested in landscape.

To quote from Plinius, or Andrew Ray, the author of the blog Some Landscapes:

"This selective index for Some Landscapes mainly covers the creators of landscapes in art, literature, music etc., rather than all the critics, commentators and historians that I've quoted.

I've written this as a huge list on one page so that you can search it using Ctrl F. In addition to searching for individuals

You can look for nationalities: 'Argentinian', 'Belgian', 'Chinese' etc. Of course it is impossible to be totally accurate in this: some of these people didn't really have nationalities as such, some were residents of specific cities rather than what we'd now consider countries, many have simply moved around a lot. Rather than use 'British' I've tried to refer to the specific country, although in some cases this doesn't really work - Eileen Agar for example was born in Argentina and lived mainly in Paris. Sometimes nationality is disputed so I'm happy to be corrected (Seamus Heaney is down as Irish but I may have got it wrong in other cases...)

You can also do a search for 'poet', 'painter', 'photographer', 'composer' and so on. I also use the more generic 'writer' and 'artist'.

And you can look for dates. I've colour-coded the entries so that it is easy to see at a glance approximately when each person was active. The youngest are in light green (those born since 1950), then there's mid green for those born between 1850 and 1949, a brown for those born between 1650 and 1849, a light brown for those born between 1350 and 1649, a salmon pink for those born between 500 and 1349 and a red for those born before 500".

More information from Plinius, about his blog, Some Landscapes:

"This site is about landscapes and the arts. It highlights ways in which landscape has been evoked, depicted or transformed in painting, photography, literature, music and film. I've also sometimes discussed the creation or alteration of landscapes by architects, artists and garden designers. There is an index above listing the artists of all kinds that have been mentioned here. In naming this site 'Some Landscapes' I had it in mind that eventually the list of entries would amount to a kind of cultural gazetteer. For the first year I did several short entries each week; since then I have reduced the frequency but am still recording thoughts and observations when they occur to me. I started writing it using the name 'Plinius' (a little tribute to the younger and older Plinys) and am now rather attached to this as a nom de blog"... Andrew Ray.

House Price Falls in Greece and Spain

The Telegraph

"Prices in Greece, where the economy has been crippled by the weight of government debt and by austerity measures, fell by 11.8pc in the year to the end of March, according to estate agency Knight Frank. The rate of decline worsened from 9.8pc a year earlier".

See just how much is for sale on Corfu (CPA website). Prices still seem high.

No Peace for Thomas Hardy - or his statue

If it wasn't enough that his burial was a botched job (his heart in St Michael's churchyard, Stinsford, his ashes in Westminster Abbey), I read in Dorchester Voice that his statue "currently situated near the Top o'Town roundabout" (watch unveiling), will be moved to a spot in front of the planned Brewery Square Hardy Theatre (The Maltings Arts, to be ready in about four years, subject to around six million pounds funding being found).

Wouldn't it be possible to make a second cast, or, even better, to commission an entirely new statue for the Brewery Square Theatre site? Why remove a significant historical landmark?

The Maltings Arts, Brewery Square (pdf).

Romania, Videos and Photos, Max Milligan

Some wonderful images of Romania

In Athens, Down and Out

Photographic sequence by Yannis Behrakis - 23 telling photographs

43 portraits from 2012, Greece In Crisis

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Jurassic Coast National Park?

Exciting campaign development

Greece, Reduction in VAT?

After the failed privatisation of DEPA (Greek Gas), the sudden closing down of ERT (National Broadcaster), the strategic negotiation with  the Troika for a reduction in VAT (FPA)!

The general outlook (Reuters)

Best Garden Sheds?

The Telegraph, Ten Best in Pictures

Caroline Davies, The Guardian, The Year's Best Sheds

Some of the sheds entered, from garden office to workshop/studio

See Strindberg's Ultimate Writing Hut

Update, April, 2017, The Guardian:

Downing Street to garden retreat: David Cameron spends £25,000 on luxury hut

David Cameron's £16k shed battle with his children, The Telegraph

Hardy's Love Poems, A Reading of the "Emma Poems"

The Dorset County Museum - a beautiful reading of the twenty one poems in the 1912-1913 group, with musical interludes.

Furse Swann and Sue Theobald presented a celebration of Hardy’s love poems.

"One of the treasured manuscripts to be found at Dorset County Museum is that of Satires of Circumstance, Thomas Hardy’s fourth book of verse. At its centre are ‘The Poems of 1912-13’, a collection of poems about his first wife, Emma, who died in November 1912.

Overcome with remorse and an upwelling of love for the young Emma he had first met in Cornwall in 1870, Hardy wrote these elegiac poems – almost certainly the closest to his heart.

To celebrate the centenary of the writing of ‘Poems of 1912-13’, Furse Swann and Sue Theobald read the twenty-one poems that make up the sequence, with the performance of some of the tunes from the Hardy music books, played on fiddles by Lorraine Tillbrook and Elspeth Gracie".

‘O the opal and the sapphire of that wandering western sea,
And the woman riding high above with bright hair flapping free –
The woman whom I loved so, and who loyally loved me.’


On a different note: I read this short Hardy poem, which made me think of events in Syria-

'Peace upon earth!' was said. We sing it,
And pay a million priests to bring it.
After two thousand years of mass
We've got as far as poison-gas.

African-American GIs in Dorset Exhibition

From the Dorset Echo

Don Sparling, Brno, Czech Republic

Pleased to find a piece- and a broadcast-Part One- about an old friend, Don Sparling. Radio Praha.

Part Two

I often visited Masaryk University (and the English Club) between 1986 and 1989.

Friday, 7 June 2013

On Cyber Security, Snooping and Privacy

President Obama

The Guardian

UN Human Rights Council report

Tim Berners-Lee

"Unwarranted government surveillance is an intrusion on basic human rights that threatens the very foundations of a democratic society".

"Forces trying to take control"

Tim Berners-Lee website

The Telegraph

The Times

Edward Snowden, The Telegraph

The whistle-blower, The Guardian

EU Alarm (BBC)

Microsoft Data Requests (The Guardian)

David Omand, on the ethics of surveillance

The Economist

John Le Carre, The Guardian

David Potts, Australian Photographer

I wasn't previously aware of David Potts' work (no relation).

Photograph: Nicosia, Cyprus, 1953

The Rabbit Trapper, 1947

Potts also produced more abstract images:

Piccadilly Circus

Colour Work

Hardy Country, Just Launched

Hardy Country website

National Trust page

Wessex, Thomas Hardy Society

Also launched, Thomas Hardy, The World of His Novels, by J. B. Bullen

Some good lectures and talks at the Dorset County Museum last night, about Thomas Hardy and his first wife Emma. An opportunity to admire some of the sculptures and paintings on display, including this work by William Delamotte

Broken Ankle Rehabilitation (and Tamata)

Yesterday I would have jumped for joy, if I could have done so, as my fibreglass leg and ankle cast was removed (with the help of a small vibrating circular saw). Liberation Day! I felt as if I had been released from a ball and chain.

Although the X-Ray assistant seemed to have some doubts, the specialist assured me that my ankle bone had healed. No more crutches!

But no leaflet or manual of physio or exercises to do either?

I searched the internet and found this video on YouTube, which I am posting here for my own reference.

Other items of information I found online:

"It takes about four to eight weeks for a broken ankle to heal, and it may be several months before you regain full movement of the lower leg and foot".

From a Diary (Saga)

"I can drive. I can push a trolley round a supermarket and walk around town centre with a stick.

I have exercises that involve balancing on a wobble board, raising myself up on tiptoe, and stretching.

I can balance on the bad leg. I can jump up spontaneously and be impetuous! I can hurry downstairs to answer the door".

Physio advice (pdf)


It looks like I may need a resistance band...or a visit to the miraculous shrine of St. Wite (St. Candida) in Whitchurch Canonicorum?

Vesica-shaped limb-hole,
where cures are sought

Tamata as Art, National Gallery of Greece, Corfu Branch

Tamata, Saint Paraskevi

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Beaminster (Dorset) Tunnel Delay

The impact on business in Beaminster (BBC)

Ethiopia, Making a Difference (Women, Water, Wells)


Acclaimed photographer Sybil Steele joined her husband Taylor on a short film project in Ethiopia, documenting the daily lives of the women who walk for hours each day collecting clean water for the village.

Greece, Real Estate, Property Tax Confusion

To Vima

The taxation of real estate is starting to be come ridiculous. It appears that they have found a magical solution for everything, however over-taxation threatens their “holy cow”. Every now and again the people are bombarded with rumors and speculation about the new unified real estate tax which will replace the emergency tax in 2014, causing confusion to people who do not even know if they have a tomorrow".

On Greece and the new IMF Report, Multiple Viewpoints

All sides of the argument here. Take your pick:

Paul Krugman comments.


EnetEnglish (2)

Kathimerini (Greek)

Kathimerini (English)

To Vima (Greek)

The Telegraph

Kathimerini, Greek reaction

Kathimerini, EU defends policies

EC, "A learning process", EnetEnglish

Simon Johnson, Bloomberg

The Telegraph again

Kathimerini, Rehn jibe

The controversial Nigel Farage

Prime Minister Samaras


"If you thought that the IMF’s Mea Culpa on Greece has any practical significance, you could not be more wrong. The strategy for Greece – if you want to call it that – will continue. As for the historic assessment, Poul Thomsen had this to say: "If we were in the same situation, with the same information at that time, we would probably do the same again." Not only is he not sorry, he would do it all over".

IMF Report on Greece, May 20, 2013

Read here (pdf)

"Greece: Ex Post Evaluation of Exceptional Access under the 2010 Stand-By Arrangement"

The IMF admits Greek bailout mistakes.


"There were notable successes during the SBA-supported program (May 2010–March 2012). Strong fiscal consolidation was achieved and the pension system was put on a viable footing. Greece remained in the euro area, which was its stated political preference. Spillovers that might have had a severe effect on the global economy were relatively well-contained, aided by multilateral efforts to build firewalls.

However, there were also notable failures. Market confidence was not restored, the banking system lost 30 percent of its deposits, and the economy encountered a much deeper-than-expected recession with exceptionally high unemployment. Public debt remained too high and eventually had to be restructured, with collateral damage for bank balance sheets that were also weakened by the recession. Competitiveness improved somewhat on the back of falling wages, but structural reforms stalled and productivity gains proved elusive.

Given the danger of contagion, the report judges the program to have been a necessity, even though the Fund had misgivings about debt sustainability. There was, however, a tension between the need to support Greece and the concern that debt was not sustainable with high probability (a condition for exceptional access). In response, the exceptional access criterion was amended to lower the bar for debt sustainability in systemic cases. The baseline still showed debt to be sustainable, as is required for all Fund programs. In the event, macro outcomes were far below the baseline and while some of this was due to exogenous factors, the baseline macro projections can also be criticized for being too optimistic".

Kenya Uprising, Compensation, Settlement

The Guardian reports

The Telegraph

KTN, Kenya (YouTube)

Posting, last July

Update, Torture Victims, BBC


William Hague, Parliamentary Statement

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Pindar's Blues, Man's Life Is a Day

From Pindar's Pythian 8:

Man's life is a day. What is he?
What is he not? A shadow in a dream
Is man: but when God shines a brightness,
Shining light is on earth
And life is sweet as honey.

tr. C.M. Bowra


Empedocles on Painting

Painting as Mimesis?

"As when painters are preparing elaborate votive offerings - men well taught by wisdom in their art - they take many-coloured pigments to work with, and blend together harmoniously more of one and less of another till they produce likenesses of all things..."

Unclaimed Premium Bonds

BBC report

Are you owed a  pay-out?

Greek Island Airport Arrivals Soaring

A huge increase from last year

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Corfu, Castello Mimbelli ("Bibelli") Property Sale Teaser

See photos and description

For sale or just a tease?

Multiculturalism in Britain

From Eurozine magazine : Understanding multiculturalism, Tariq Modood, Varun Uberoi

"Has multiculturalism in Britain retreated?
The emergence of a culturally diverse citizenry, a vision for the nation or an ideology: multiculturalism may mean any of these and more. That it has received anything but a good press of late prompts Varun Uberoi and Tariq Modood to clarify why multiculturalism is in fact flourishing in Britain".

Corfu, Hydroplane Airport, Seaplane Services

Hydroplane airport planned for the Ionian Islands, to be based in Corfu (To Vima).

I hope Paxos will be one of the early destinations to benefit from a much-needed sea-plane service.

Greece: Optimistic Talk of Recovery Premature? And VAT issues

The Guardian, Aditya Chakrabortty

On VAT issues, Keep Talking Greece

Tax system "not fit for purpose", The Telegraph

Kathimerini on TROIKA's dissatisfaction with foot-dragging and lack of progress 

To Vima on VAT (FPA)

The auctioning of foreclosed real estate (To Vima, Greek)

Ban on auctions to remain? (Kathimerini)

Attitude of banks

UK, Food and Energy Inflation

OECD findings

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Coronation Day, 2 June 1953

For many years I have been wondering whether or not I was only dreaming that I had been in London on 2 June, 1953 (60 years ago today), watching the Coronation Day procession from a balcony in Central London.

Did I dream it? Did I perhaps watch it on TV?

My brother has reminded me of the facts: we were indeed in London, watching the procession from a balcony overlooking the route.

We had been invited to stay overnight by a friend of my father's.

That was most probably my first ever visit to London.

Child's portrait, Cattistock Church, Dorset

Coronation Year in Colour (ITV Player)

The People's Coronation (BBC)

Back at school in Somerset, we were encouraged to read The Young Elizabethan.

In our history lessons we learnt about King Alfred burning the cakes.

In the UK, we had to endure another year of food rationing.

Winifred Atwell, Coronation Rag

Meanwhile, in the USA, 1953, things were hotting up:

Bill Haley, Crazy Man, Crazy

Elvis Presley, My Happiness

Big Joe Turner, Honey Hush

Clyde McPhatter and The Drifters, Money Honey

Ray Charles, Mess Around

Meanwhile, in Kenya and then Cyprus....

Greece: Electronic Identity Tags For All Real Estate Property?

Within ten years...

Jimmy the Tiger

A famous Greek short film from 1966, by Pantelis Voulgaris (YouTube)

Love those black and white movies!

Weymouth Harbour Wall, Costs Increase

From the Dorset Echo, rising costs, a race against time

Update, BBC