Tuesday 29 April 2014

Greek Odyssey

It is many, many years since we last visited Greece. We used to fly in regularly when H was the UN's Maritime Affairs Expert; part of his responsibilities involved international laws governing the oceans including pollution and shipping regulations. Greece is a maritime nation by tradition, and shipping has always been a key element of the Greek economy since ancient times. On our last visit George Livanos, billionaire shipping magnate - now deceased, but a great supporter of marine environmental causes, privately took a small group of us on one of his hydrofoils to the island of Paros. He was a pioneer in the use of hydrofoils, which have significantly reduced the travel times to Greece's many islands. We visited the Temple of Panaya before being given a tour of the island. In a restaurant perched by the Aegean, we dined on locally caught fish, whilst watching the dying reflections of the evening sun rippling over the water. Arriving back at the hydrofoil for our return trip to Piraeus, Athens, each one of us discovered that a very large hemp bag full of pistachio nuts had been left for us on our seats - a memory triggered by our recent visit.
We stayed in northern Greece - Greek Macedonia, and arrived home in the middle of the night. Here is a quick snapshot of some colours and images which give a flavour of Greece. 
Carpobrotus glaucescens - also known as Angular Pigface grows in abundance along the sands edging the coast. They are a plant native to South Africa, but there are also several species in Australia. I too might have some growing here soon!
Thank you for all the very kind comments and wishes left on my previous post. Once I have sorted myself out I will visit your blogs.

Friday 18 April 2014


Πυθαγόρας, ο Περικλής, ο Πλάτων, Πέρσες, ο Ποσειδώνας, ο Παρθενώνας, αέτωμα, ο Προμηθέας, ο Παρνασσός ..........
Pythagoras, Pericles, Plato, Perses, Poseidon, ParthenonPediment, Prometheus, Parnassus..........

Erythronium 'Pagoda' 
Dicentra spectabilis - Bleeding heart
Επιστροφή σύντομα

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now - A.E. Housman from a Shropshire Lad, 1896

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
wearing white for Eastertide.
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.
Is my imagination playing tricks on me or is the blossom better, and even more bountiful this spring? Following the wet but very mild winter the trees seem to have out performed themselves with their showy splendour. Some of the blossom is from our garden but it was all shot locally during our evening walk yesterday. 
A E Housman reminds us of how few springs we will enjoy during our lifetime, each one deserves to be cherished

Saturday 12 April 2014

Knightshayes Court, Devon

Run fox run,  
Quick as you can,
Those hounds,
Are right behind you
In our garden we have spheres, cones, circles and an octagonal parterre made from Buxus semperviren - common box, but what a unique vision has been used here to create a scene in Yew hedging of hound dogs chasing a fox in the gardens of Knightshayes Court, Devon thus capturing the owner's passion for countryside sports.
William Burges - Architect & Medievalist
"He was the most dazzling exponent of the High Victorian Dream. Pugin conceived that dream; Rossetti and Burne-Jones painted it; Tennyson sang its glories; Ruskin and Morris formulated its philosophy; but only Burges built it."
extract from the High Victorian Dream - Cook
Knightshayes Court was designed by William Burges for Sir John Heathcote-Amory in 1867. Burges was a Victorian architect who re-established the architectural and social values of a utopian medieval England. He stands within the great tradition of Gothic Revival, his work echoing those of the Pre-Raphaelites and heralding those of the Arts and Crafts movement. Apart from architecture he designed metalwork, sculpture, jewellery, furniture, and stained glass. He was left a large legacy by his father which enabled him to devote his life to the study and practice of architecture without requiring that he actually earn a living.
The vista from the south terraces across the parkland to Tiverton where the Heathcote Amory's lace factory was situated.
A beautiful clump of Pulsatilla vulgaris (Pasqueflower) flowering profusely
Entrance door screen
A typical Burges touch for the exterior porch light.
Sadly Burges's elaborate interiors for Knightshayes Court were never fully realised; he had a rocky relationship with Sir John who objected to many of his designs on the grounds of cost and style. Burges was eventually sacked and replaced by John Dibblee Crace who toned down many of the existing and extravagant Burges designs.
No photos allowed showing any Burgess furniture - many of the pieces in the house are on loan from museums or private individuals.
The Burges coach house and stable block now houses a restaurant, a shop, and a wonderful plant centre.
The Kitchen Garden - more of Burges's ubiquitous medieval turrets, and even a little area with a duck pond and some hens for fresh eggs.
A monster brassica, 7 ft tall - Taunton Deane Cottagers kale, you can get a better idea of the height by looking at the wall on the previous photo.
"If we keep our eyes tightly closed, do you think he'll go away?"

Wednesday 9 April 2014

A birds-eye view

Modern day hot air balloon baskets are normally divided into sections similar to large wine crates to prevent passengers wandering around. Can you imagine what would happen if everyone present ended up gravitating to the same side of the basket!!!
However, it does restrict photographic opportunities because the sun may be facing in your direction, or you are on the wrong side of the basket.
That was the case with the photo above. The sun was shining straight into my face so I literally pointed the camera, tried to avoid other people in the basket, and trusted to 'pot luck'. Not a perfect photo but our home just about makes it into the edge of the picture - X marks the spot.
Following a comment from "Parnassus" here is an extra photo of the basket which clearly shows the divisions. Our basket was made by Cameron, the largest manufacturer of hot air balloons in the world. The company is just down the road from us in Bristol. It was a Cameron balloon that made the longest flight, to date, when Per Lindstrand and Richard Branson flew from Japan to Northern Canada.
Bristol has held a 4 day Balloon Festival for almost 40 years 
Look how long the balloon is when it is laid out on the ground. Initially it is filled with air by a large wind fan, which eventually lifts the balloon over the basket.
View inside one of the standing areas. Hold on to a pair of rope handles for takeoff, back rested firmly against the padded side of the basket, knees bent - within seconds, relax, and surprisingly there you are, way up in the sky and high above the treetops. The same procedure applies when landing.
Can you see the sheep in the meadow? - the balloonist explained that they have a quiet gas burner for use when flying above livestock to help prevent frightening them.
The same balloon that we flew in photographed above our garden last year.
The flight lasted nearly 1½ hours - would I take a balloon flight again? Emphatically, the answer is yes.