Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Things to come

This year London’s celebrating! And we’ve invited the whole world to do it with us. Apart from everything else that’s happening in the capital, there’s also the World Gay Pride 2012! The main street parade is taking place on the 7th of July. I don’t know how different it’s going to be but I assume it’ll be much busier with a greater variety of marchers. That will be my fourth parade in London. I was away on holidays during some of the previous years. JJ’s holidays start the day after so we could party a bit that Saturday night. I’m expected it to be a fun weekend.

Right after that weekend, we leave on holiday. I’m so incredibly excited about it. I can’t wait for some warm sunny weather and to put my feet again in the sand of a beach with crystal clear waters. We couldn’t decide on the destination. JJ got his summer holidays approved very recently and we had to make up our minds on ta destination quickly. The last two summers we’ve been together we went to the Greek islands, Rhodes and Symi the first year and Naxos and Santorini the second. We had both times amazing time, but I thought of going to a different country this time. I don’t want to be the boyfriend that imposes his country of origin as a constant holiday’s destination. There are so many different destinations to choose from, not that JJ really minds. I believe he had a great time in Greece.

So, after rejecting destinations like the Gran Canarias or the south coast of Spain for various reasons, we’ve decided on Italy and specifically the island of Sardinia. It’s a destination we both haven’t visited that combines good Italian food (I expect) and from what we’ve seen nice beaches. We’ve booked a hotel on the south side of the island and a car to take us to places. The island is so big that driving to the northern area is more than 3.5 hours away which is a bit too much for a day trip. So, we’ll stay mostly on the quieter, from what we’ve read, south side. I’ve bought already two guides and I’m circling on the map areas to visit. Cagliari seems very nice to stroll around and the surrounding sandy beaches too good to miss!

I’m counting the days…

Monday, 25 June 2012

Being a tourist and questionable art

Last weekend, I had my cousin visiting us. She's finishing her post graduate degree in the UK and she decided to come to London for a weekend to take a break from writing her thesis. It was her second weekend here, so she's done the most important touristy stuff, but of course not all. There is such a long list of things to do and places to visit in the city.

So, we watched a controversial football match on Friday evening. We lost from the Germans in the quarterfinals (damn). They were playing very well in general and they deserved to win I have to give them that. However that happy grin on Merkel’s face annoyed me at the end. I have to give it to our players though. They scored two goals and left the championship with their head high. Or at least that’s what I think. The Germans did score 4 goals.

Anyway, after all that drama, we got up on Saturday morning and we visited Greenwich. That area there is always a favourite of mine. I love LOVE old maps and everything to do with them. So, visiting the Greenwich observatory is always a favourite activity. Apart from that though we walked a lot around the area and visited the Marinetime museum. These are the pictures from that trip.

The view from Greenwich Observatory of an Olympic stadium and Canary Wharf

From there, we went to Tate Modern, which is another favourite gallery/museum of mine. We had booked tickets and we went to see Damien Hirst exhibition. For those of you who don’t know him, he’s the wealthiest living British artist. He’s done some amazing stuff in the past and some quite questionable works of art. When it comes to installations and modern stuff, I’m a bit sceptical. Let me explain what we saw during that exhibition.

There was a piece called: for the love of god. Damien took a human skull and had it drilled with various holes where he put diamonds in them. It is an actual skull and it is missing a tooth, but it is now very sparkly and ridiculously expensive. We’re talking about real big diamonds that literally cover the whole thing.

For the love of god

There was an installation where he put in a closed big container a chopped cow’s head, a couple of flies (I’m not sure about the number) and above the cow one of these blue electric lights that kill insects. The flies of course multiplied and were flying all over the place eating the cow. A number of them was being electrocuted and remained dead on the floor. So, the viewer saw a rotting cow’s head on the floor with blood around it, a numerous bodies of dead and other buzzing alive flies! It wasn’t a very pretty sight.


In another room, he created the exact opposite environment. Instead of growing flies, he had butterflies. The room was extra warm and very bright. There were bowls filled with fruit and pots with flowers. There were cocoons on the walls, some of which were hatched. So, beautiful, big butterflies of various colours were flying all around or even landing on the amazed guests. It was a very pretty sight.

Damien’s probably has a certain urge to be economic. So, he used the materials he harvested from the previous ‘pieces’ I described. On the next room, he had a massive black round disc that he called ‘dark sun’ or something similar made from dead flies (nice). And there were a number of beautiful colourful paintings made from butterfly wings! He even created art by the extinguished cigarettes and old smoke packages!

Apart from all that there were the dead animals, some of which were cut in pieces and some weren’t. He kept them in big glass containers filled with formaldehyde (I assume). Damien said they reminded him of his child years when he used to watch dead animals all around him. I can’t argue with that. There was however a shark and to be honest I don’t know how many sharks exist in the Leeds area. Impressive were a couple of art pieces with diamonds placed in front of a mirror on small glass shelves….

Overall, I have to say I’m glad I went to the exhibition although I wasn’t fond of all his work. Art is supposed to be provocative and make you feel things, either good or bad. However, I did find some things completely uninteresting…

the entrance of Victoria & Albert museum

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Football vs Politics

It’s been a very interesting weekend for Greece. On Saturday, Greeks managed to beat Russia in the first round of the European Football tournament, Euro 2012. That’s probably soccer for some of you. From our Group, only we and the Czechs managed to pass, leaving behind Poland and the Russians! That means that we have one of the 8 best football teams in Europe! Well, being a bit lucky we had won the championship back in 2004. Football sometimes is something we do right…

Salpigidis, our number 1 scorer

While I never watch national tournaments neither here nor in Greece, international or global tournaments I find very interesting. I also love the general friendly banter between me and my fellow foreign colleagues. Since I am the only Greek in my team, I’m put in the position as the country’s representative anyway. I have to keep track of the changes and news.

On a very different note, with most Greeks really happy about the previous day’s match result, the national elections took place on Sunday! The major candidates were two: New Democracy (aka ND, the conservatives) and Syriza (left wing party).

Syriza is a relatively new player. They present themselves to be against the bailout, they want to renegotiate its terms and see if Greece still needs to be in the common currency. What they were saying appealed to the public and their popularity increased. However, the other side of the coin is that many believed that they were behind lots of protests and maybe riots that happened in Athens the last months. And don’t forget the poor people that got burnt inside a bank some months ago during one of these riots.

ND is an older party that was in power for many years. When they weren’t the government, they were the major opposition for PASOK (the socialists). Changing governments between ND and PASOK has been taking place ever since the mid 70’s. PASOK completely messed up the last couple of years, so ND only remained as a major player. They represent the need for Greece to remain in the Euro zone and they’ve agreed to the austerity measures. They are mostly liked in Europe and even Financial Times suggested in a controversial article for people to vote for them!

Our new Prime Minister

During the last national elections, ND won. They don’t have the absolute majority however and they will form a coalition with PASOK (their old enemy) and another pro-bailout smaller party. My mother’s been very happy with the result and I believe that Europe breathed a sigh of relief. Syriza declined their offer for a coalition since they want to be the opposition. And I don’t blame them. It’s much easier to put yourself out of trouble’s way and only point fingers instead of providing solutions. And I’m not in the new coalition’s side either. They are the ones that brought the whole crisis on the people’s head in the first place. I was reading again about the record unemployment rates and the fact that all civil servants’ salaries were cut by 40% since 2010. One in 5 companies has closed the last 2 years. However, I do agree with my mother that between the two, I prefer the coalition of ND and PASOK than the risk taker Alexis Tsipras who is the leader of Syriza.

The new coalition’s work is very tough though and the coming months challenging. The new government will try to renegotiate some terms of the bailout and cut back in the austerity measures. There will be trouble though. I fear that after summer, there will be a new wave of strikes, marches and even riots. Don’t forget that now the far right wing party of golden dawn (the neo-Nazis) are also in the Parliament. I’m not optimistic any more. The country’s economy is on decline the last 5 years and there is still no light at the end of the tunnel.    

Sunday, 17 June 2012

As nature intended

Sometimes something appears on TV that surprises you...

Wednesday, 13 June 2012


On Sunday I went with JJ to watch ‘Prometheus 3D’ in the cinema. JJ’s a big fun of the Alien(s) series, the first ones. How many are they supposed to be? 6? Including the Alien vs Predators? Anyway, he’s been looking forward to the movie, counting the days, the same way I used to do for the ‘Lord of the Rings’ sequels. The first reviews were really good and the emerged pictures intriguing. So, with high expectations, I bought a huge (diet) cola and some salty (always) popcorn, I went to watch it holding my 3D glasses.

The movie started really good. The photography, direction and casting are immaculate. The main actors are really good, especially the main protagonist. It’s the girl from the Swedish ‘girl with the dragon tattoo’. There’s something about her that I really like. Up to middle, the mystery surrounding the Prometheus’ expedition builds really well. The excitement of exploring the unknown environment built in very well and I couldn’t help but feel interested and involved.

However, the plot and action go downhill through there. I don’t want to give you any spoilers, but I am going to say that I was left a bit disappointed. Twists in the plot are predictable, characters are making really bad judgement calls and things are exaggerated beyond comprehension. JJ liked how Prometheus is linked to the first ‘Alien’ movie. I’m going to remember the nice visual effects of Prometheus but the story at the end was a bit lukewarm to say the least.

What I also wanted to comment was the trailer of the movie: ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’! Why was this make? Who thought of the concept of this movie? Why Abraham Lincoln? The movie’s probably based on a graphic novel or comic book.

You are probably going to hate me for saying this but I despise the movies where the American President is idolised and presented as a hero, a guy that gives these longs speeches on virtue, value and honour or behaves with heroic valour and saves the day! From the top of my head, the examples I’ll give you are ‘Air Force One’ and ‘Independence Day’. I know that from the names only I should expect this kind of things, but look at real life! Take for example George Bush junior. Can you imagine him saving anything?

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Jubilee weekend

So, last week when the whole world's eyes were on London and the Queen's celebrations, we decided with JJ to rent a car and simply leave. It was the first time we had so many days off together in 2012 and we decided to have a road trip! We do love to take a car and simply drive to places. Also, we knew that watching the celebrations on the television would probably be better. The following pictures describe what we did.

Our first stop was the New Forest Wildlife Park. That picture's from the butterfly area.

Otters are so cute... 

The first time I saw a wallaby 

Lovely stickers... Can you see the 'sushi' comment on the bottom? 

Having breakfast in Bournemouth (not fish and chips) 

Playing cricket by the sea in a cold grey day...  

tempted to jump in 

Torquay: the English Riviera...  

We couldn't not have proper English tea with scones, a very camp lemon cake and everything else in old china that day!

Torquay beach when the tide is high 

Increasing my cholesterol tenfold in a Texan restaurant! Amazing food and cocktails... 

Poster in a pub. The picture's a bit blurry. Don't ask me if I had a drink earlier

Thatcher's Rock 

We had amazing time driving around the South West coast of England. I don't regret not staying in London to see the flotilla and the other celebrations live. We managed to see most of it on the television anyway. There are so many nice places to visit and see in the UK. 

Friday, 1 June 2012

Getting ready for the Jubilee weekend

 Apart from the Olympics, there’s another reason for the British to celebrate this year! The Queen celebrates 60 years of reigning, her Diamond Jubilee! 60 years? Imagine that! According to the omnipotent Wikipedia she was born in 1926 and her coronation took place in June the 2nd 1953 following the death of her father, George VI the previous year! She was so young when she became a Queen, only 27! She’s the second longest reigning monarch of the United Kingdom after Victoria. If she keeps this up, and I believe that she will, for a couple more years, she’ll beat Victoria no doubt!

So, London and I assume the rest of the country and maybe parts of the Commonwealth (?) are getting dresses in red, white and blue with Union Jack decorations everywhere. The formal celebrations started earlier this year with the Queen controversially hosting all monarchs of the world, the most exclusive member’s club ever, in a formal luncheon in Buckingham Palace. Various other formal events took place earlier this year.

Lego Queen at the Hamleys

However, this weekend is the public’s turn to celebrate. Normally we have a bank holiday the last Monday of May, however, this was transferred to this Monday and due to the Jubilee, we got Tuesday the 5th as well! So, we have a 4-day long weekend ahead of us! Hooray! During this weekend, there’s a massive boat parade on Sunday on the Thames with the Queen also on a boat waving at the crowds. There are numerous street parties organised around the country and a massive concert with popular names (Kylie, Robbie, Tom Jones, Elton John etc) singing in front of the Buckingham Palace for some lucky ones who received a ticket through a ballot.

1953 - Coronation day

I can’t say I’m a royalist. I grew up in a country that turned its back to Monarchy and told the former King Constantine to simply pack his bags and leave, a decade before I was even born. However, I give them credit when needed. I love getting extra days off work. Last year we had the Royal wedding, this year we have the Jubilee! What’s not to like? To me, they are like posh celebrities. They do cost lots of money to the tax payers but act as proper tourist attractions! PS. Harry’s turned up to be very good looking.

Queen picture from the Silver Jubilee celebration (1977)

The Queen lives a very fascinating life, or at least used to when she was younger. She’s travelled all over the world and must have met the most numerous people than anyone alive from country leaders to artists to everyone! I wouldn’t like to be in her shoes though. She’s constantly under scrutiny, on the spotlight and having to cover up and be reliable for the whole family’s scandals and dirty stories. It also must not be very easy trying to keep some balances. Imagine that she had to deal with Churchill at a very young age or Thatcher later on. There are so many conspiracy theories around her, with the death of Diana being the most famous one.

Anyway, I hope you have a great weekend! See you soon.