Saturday, 28 April 2012

Olympian gods

I was thinking that it would be interesting if I stopped being a Christian (as a matter of speech) and devoted myself to the Olympian gods. Out of the 12 playing in the major league (there are hundreds in the minor leagues) I would have to find the One, to whom I would devote my life to. That’s not an easy decision though. I would have to deny myself and my needs and dedicate myself completely to a god or goddess, something like dating (yeah, right). So, which god would I date / surrender to?

Zeus (archaeological museum of Athens, 460BC)

Zeus is the ultimate god who rules them all! It would be cool to be with him. Think of the status! However he’s so full of himself! He’s been screwing everything from males, females to relatives, even animals! His sexual desires are uncontrollable…

Hera is the sister and wife of Zeus. She’s generally portrayed as nice and earnest. Probably because no one wanted to do something to cross her! Her jealousy over Zeus and vengefulness is well known! Simply ask Heracles! The poor boy without any fault of his own was the bastard son of Zeus. Hera wanted so badly to kill him! Or ask her son Hephaestus who suffered at her hands.

Poseidon is the god of the seas and also controls the earthquakes. He’s generally a nice guy and I do love the sea and everything related to it. However, think of the smell! He must stink like dead fish, seaweed and nets all the time!

Demeter is the goddess of harvest and agriculture. She’s generally a nice lady. She hasn’t caused much stir in the past, as far as I know. If you’re into a calm life in a farm or cottage, that’s the girl for you.

Athena is the goddess of wisdom, culture and justice. She helped Athens prosper to an incredible degree back then. That sounds all too nice but I fear that she is miss know-it-all to an infuriating degree! Who wants to associate with someone who believes they are right all the time? And what’s worse? She is right all the time?

Apollo of Belvedere

Apollo is the god of arts, medicine and prophecies. He is handy to have around since he can foretell the future. Homer didn’t really like him and pictured him horribly during the Trojan Wars but that’s probably a personal opinion.

Artemis is the goddess of hunting and birth. I don’t know that much about her, but I think that she’s generally well liked. However, it is believed that she killed her companion Orion which sounds a bit fishy.

Ares is the god of war! A feisty strategist with many scars and tales to tell. He does sound experienced in life and interesting. However, he seems very strong willed and stubborn. He’s not an easy person to deal with.

Venus de Mylo (100 BC)

Aphrodite is the goddess of beauty, love and pleasure. Who wouldn’t like that? She’s generally prone to temptation and she likes to create a stir. She can also be jealous of other women and mean. Look what happened to poor Psyche.

Hephaestus is the god of construction, metallurgy and fire. He is the craftsman of the gods. Unfortunately his appearance is a bit distorted and he looks a bit like the hunchback of Notre Dame. Zeus married him to Aphrodite as a solution to prevent conflicts between the other gods because he didn’t think that highly of him! I generally like him. He’s the geek of the gods.

Dionysus is the god of performing arts, hedonism and wine. He is the centre of the party and knows how to enjoy himself. Celebrations in his name in most cases ended in massive orgies and parties that lasted for days. Although appealing as an idea, I fear it might be much for me.

Hermes with baby Dionysus by Praxiteles (343 BC) 

Hermes is the messenger of the gods, he’s the guide to the underworld and he’s the god of trade and speech among lots of other things. In my opinion, he’s a very interesting and complex character. With all this running around he must also be very fit. Various stories are linked to him. To give you an idea he’s the father of Tyche (Luck) and Hermaphroditus (with Aphrodite) where the word hermaphrodite comes from all these years ago. He is the god I’d probably choose if I had to make a selection.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Online diagnosis and various other thoughts.

Lately I’ve been thinking issues related to my health, wellbeing. Hopefully, this is not related to the fact that I’m getting older! I was actually asked a couple of weeks ago that since now I’m over 30, if I’ve noticed changes to my body or metabolism because of old age!! I ‘grrrr’-ed back and refused to answer.

My burnt hand’s getting better. I poured boiling water over it 10 days ago. For days it was stiff and brown. A few days ago it started peeling, revealing some new pinkish skin and it is much better now. But it is still not completely healed. There are some patches of burnt skin (dark), new skin (red) and the dry areas that are still peeling. I could probably scare a child with it, so I will not share pictures with you. I’m no Freddie Krueger though. Give me a couple of weeks and I’ll be fine.

On a different health topic, I have been noticing on my skin some kind of marks that itched but never lasted long. They look like mosquito bites and they are the same colour as the skin surrounding them. They itch and normally appear in batches around my torso or legs for a very short period of time, like 20 minutes and then disappear. Because they don’t appear every day and they always go away after a small period of time I’ve never actually done anything about them. I have been seeing them for a couple of years though.

JJ’s noticed how I scratch myself sometimes and we laughed how I might be allergic to sex, because these marks appeared or we noticed them while or after sex. It’s easier to see these marks with no clothes on. What I had to do is take some pictures and see a dermatologist. I don’t believe I could ever go to a doctor and by coincidence have them at the same time. However, being a guy that will not easily go to a doctor JJ started looking online of what this skin condition could be.

I don’t generally believe in online diagnosis. If a doctor doesn’t properly poke you, you can’t be sure about what you find online. Yes, there are some legitimate online sources, but still, so many symptoms do look alike. However, what he found online looks accurate enough. I simply get (?) hives in the simplest form that doesn’t last long. I believe that a normal allergic reaction to something whether it was food, soap, detergent, animal or something else would have a more persisting reaction. In any way, I’ll look a bit more into it. At least, checking things online I can exclude more serious skin conditions.

Leaving the slightly disgusting health issues aside, I’m looking forward to going to Greece next week. I fly really early in the morning Thursday to return the following Wednesday afternoon. It will be almost for a whole week of sunshine (it’s 25 degrees there now), food and politics! It’s been raining almost nonstop for the last two weeks in London and it’s getting to a depressing level. Greece will be a nice escape.

By pure coincidence, the weekend I’ll be in Greece, the national elections will take place! These will be the first elections taking place after the major financial crisis occurred. The time is crucial and the outcome of this very important. The people look really divided and none of the major political parties receive more than 20% of the public approval in any polls I’ve read. I believe that a coalition is inevitable. It is unlikely that a government will be formed in the first round of elections, so my vote will not really make a difference. I’m not even sure who to vote!

However, I always enjoy a healthy political debate. It’s in my genes I think.    

Monday, 23 April 2012

Getting in touch in nature

I grew up in a small Greek town by the sea, at the northern part of the country, with population of around 65,000. The size of the city, according to my standards, is perfect. It is small enough to have a neighborhood, safe, environment outside the city centre for the children but also means of escape for the adolescents. It is built amphitheatrically overlooking the sea and a very picturesque older area. However, what it greatly lacks is green areas!

The surrounding mountains of the city, the small availability of land, the lack of proper city planning and people’s greed forced my hometown to rise much higher than other cities of the same size consuming almost every bit of open space. Apart from some conserved (thank god) older structures, most buildings are 5 to 6 floors high, creating a forest of grey with no traces of green. To give you an idea, there is one designated area called ‘the park’ and another called ‘the garden’! That’s it.

What’s generally saves the picture is the sea! Almost any town or city by the sea can be beautiful! There are so many places, small cafes, cosy tavernas or romantic spots in my town overlooking that ever changing blue that makes it one of the loveliest towns of the country. There are also so many amazing beaches in such a close proximity that made my childhood’s summers unforgettable! I’ve spent hundreds of hours every year by the sea swimming, fishing, sun bathing, playing summer sports etc.

When I moved to London all this changed. There is no sea close by with warm blue waters to go swimming. Still, nature’s all beautifully around in my everyday life. Even in such a vast metropolis of about 8 million habitats, there are so many large parks, commons, forests, open spaces, rivers and animals. Every time I go to my local supermarket, I walk next to a small river surrounded by trees with ducks, some swans or the occasional heron. I spot squirrels and foxes on that footpath so frequently that I never thought possible in such a large city! I’m not delusional; I can see the pollution and the garbage. I’m not denying that. However, I choose to ignore it, focus on the green surroundings and try to escape to a large park when no building can be seen or a car heard when possible.

 a heron?

 relaxing ducks

 walking around the river

sleeping in the back garden

Friday, 20 April 2012

Isn't it ironic?

  1. …that England’s officially in drought that might last for months but it’s been raining so much the last few days?
  2. …that France and Germany still put pressure on Greece to keep on buying their expensive military equipment but demand more austerity measures from the public? The biggest market of Germany’s arms exports in Europe is Greece. Interesting read here.
  3. …that Africa is actually sitting on big reserves of water?
  4. …that Samsung Electronics is now the main manufacturer of ipad retina screens?
  5. …that Anders Behring Breivik claims he acted in self-defense and he’s not a racist? (and it’s not even funny)

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Yoga class and Easter weekend

So, last Friday afternoon I left work a bit early to go meet my friends for my very first yoga class. Working in a stupidly male predominant, geeky, antisocial, sexist IT environment, I did hear some comments about that session. Someone even mentioned that I would leave my genitalia in the locker room and start growing a vagina (ha ha)! That was his attempt at being funny! I didn’t even feel like it deserved a reply. This is a big serious discussion I’m not going to comment on now. Some people are simply really ignorantly stupid!

Anyhow, I met my friends and we headed to their ‘health centre’. As I mentioned before, I was going to use a free pass to go with them so that I’d lose my yoga virginity with friends and not alone. Apparently, a ‘health centre’ is the posh way to say gym! I didn’t see any difference between that and my gym. The receptionist was very polite though.

After changing into simple shorts and t-shirt we moved to the class room. There was only one girl already there and I thought that it would be an almost private session. However, other people arrived soon afterwards. Overall, there were around 9 of us excluding the teacher, 4 guys and 5 girls. The majority of people were young and looked like they belonged to the class. Then the yogi (?) came. He was tall, very thin and looked to be in his late 30s. He talked in a soft voice, prolonging all words in calmness. He did say gooooooood many times during the hour that followed. At first I couldn’t make out what he was saying, but then I got used to his soft low voice and we started by telling us to gather helping blocks and belts and by asking who’s new at yoga (me, me!).

At first I felt a bit lost. The yogi wasn’t actually doing everything he wanted us to do as I thought he would at least at the beginning, but he simply gave us instructions. However, for an inexperienced ear like mine, I couldn’t follow him. He was also using yoga terminology that I was completely unaware of. What’s the warrior 1 or warrior 2 position? What’s the fish? Cobra? Huh???? So, I decided to start looking what other people were doing and mimic them. It’s not that simple to observe other people, try to link it with the instructions and keep the difficult positions at the same time. I fought some building frustration and decided to go with the flow.

Soon I was really enjoying it. I sweated a lot which I took as a very good sign. The yogi was walking around us, fixing our posture (which translated in feeling more pain), saying things like ‘gooooooood and ‘breeeeeeathe through the stiffness’. He was generally nice with us, the newcomers. He explained how we could use the blocks or belt to do some exercises better or explained how to add a little bit more difficulty to the experienced yoga goers. Overall, I enjoyed my class a lot. Yoga would be something I’ll gladly try again. As a matter of fact, I’ll try Ashtanga yoga tomorrow. Let’s see how this turns out.


Changing the topic, last weekend was the Christian Orthodox Easter. Apart from talking to family and friends about it on whatsapp and on the phone, I didn’t do remotely anything about it. On Saturday evening I had sushi for dinner, a DVD for company and stayed in, which as you can imagine is not very traditionally Greek. All the people I know in Greece went to church around midnight and had magiritsa (μαγειρίτσα) for dinner afterwards. On Sunday during the day when the whole nation has lamb spit roasts I had healthy vegetable stir fry and I even managed to burn my hand. I poured boiling water over it, a moment I am not very proud of. I don’t even like  μαγειρίτσα (it stinks) and I do feel bored at the family gatherings, but with the pain of my burnt hand I did feel a bit homesick.  My hand’s a bit red still, but hopefully it will heal soon. I’m also going to Greece beginning next month, so I’m fine now. It was just a weak moment that passed.

Friday, 13 April 2012

New things

A couple of weeks ago I was in the pub after work. The weather was brilliant. It was during the time when summer briefly and suddenly hit London. We were sitting outside, in a wharf next to the river, enjoying the sun, drinking our pints and having dinner. Two of my friends that were there mentioned that they joined a health centre and that they started a yoga class!
They explained to the rest of the group things they were doing, or tried to do at the class. We did laugh a lot. Maybe it was the beer or the way they were explaining the difficult positions or exercises included. However, as I had mentioned in the past, I always wanted to try yoga. I believe that it would be very beneficial to me. I’m not very flexible (I can’t even bend to touch my toes) and my balance is very bad. I need to tone my core muscles and get rid of my belly. I believe that yoga will help me in all that. I imagine yoga trained people to be really fit and toned.

So, yesterday, one of these friends called me to tell me that she has an extra pass to the health centre and if I wanted to join them in the yoga class! I immediately said yes! I am a bit apprehensive of what I’ll find there. Unfortunately, I’m still a bit stiff from my PT session on Wednesday (mostly triceps and shoulders) and I fear that I might find it even more difficult than normal and ridicule myself. But that hasn’t stopped me in the past! I don't even know what type of yoga I'll be doing!

I’ll let you know how it went.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Ea(s)ter Weekend.

I hope you all had a nice Easter break (for those of you who had one)! For me it was a nice long weekend, but not Easter. The Greek Orthodox celebrates Easter the following weekend. So, technically, for me, it’s Good Wednesday today, but of course I didn’t mind the days off from work. They were a nice much needed break.

We did organise a small gathering on Sunday to celebrate (don’t ask me what exactly)! We invited 8 people over, mostly Greek. Poor JJ had to put up with that. Unfortunately, he had to work till the afternoon, so the invitation was for early dinner. I spent the morning cleaning the place and cooking. I did food for more people than invited, as the custom commands. JJ prepared a potato salad the night before and I made a tray of red sauce baked meatballs, sausages, 2 chickens and a variety of boiled vegetables, salads, dips etc. When inviting people over for dinner, I can’t help it but cook for at least twice as many.

Now you can see the duckie, now...

The evening went smoothly. We laughed a lot, ate a lot, drank a lot. Among the guests, there was a four year old girl demanding our attention. So, we were taking turns to entertain, play with her. I really don’t know how people do it. Maybe I’m too selfish but I’m not sure I could have a child. For a few hours having one can be a blast. Permanently having one must be so much harder. JJ played with her a lot. The language barrier wasn’t really a problem. She’s learning now how to speak English and will attend a grammar school next September. However, that didn’t mean that she didn’t fell in love with JJ and his games.

I think that the guests liked our food. There was a lot of it left, but that was expected. The house is still full, especially with cakes and chocolates. We had bought some for the guests, but they brought even more. It was bliss though. I spent all day yesterday on the sofa with JJ watching DVDs and munching!

We had an extra reason to celebrate. Earlier last week I gave notice to our guest to leave. He was starting to get into our nerves with his constant whining, dramas and questions. He was by far the most tiring guest I ever had. I did allow him to stay a week more than originally agreed, so my conscience is at ease. He’s now staying at a hotel waiting to get approved to move to a flat he found. So, since last Thursday he’s gone!!! It’s so nice having the house just to ourselves again after three weeks!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Favorite Books

While doing my military service in Greece, I had to learn how to kill time. There are many occasions when there is absolutely nothing to do or allowed to do. After lunch time, each soldier is allocated an evening or night service and till that time comes you just wait. Normal recreational activities are not allowed. You are not in holidays. In addition, it is better to stay out of the way of the superiors because if they catch you slacking, they will order you to do something, just for the sake of it. There is always something that needs cleaning, tidying up or even painting. So, it is better to remain quiet, mostly hidden in parts of the barracks were not many people pass. Even when my service time came, there was some more waiting.

You see, in the army, during peace, at night time what I was mostly ordered to do was guard. I needed to spend 3 shifts of two hours each, outside a military warehouse, barracks or an outpost in the middle of nowhere. There wasn’t a chance that the ‘enemy’ would attack, so to be honest, I only had to wait there and look alert if the night patrol would show up to make sure I wasn’t sleeping. During these times I had to find ways to entertain myself. Especially the 2 – 4 in the morning shift when everything is quiet and still and I felt so sleepy, it was a torture. What I started doing was replaying movies that I recently watched scene by scene in my head, or create Top 10s.

I was thinking top 10 lists of almost everything. My most favourite one is my top 10 list of books I would gladly reread for any reason. I keep updating this list constantly in my head. The books found in it are not what you’d call masterpieces in the classic term, but they are books that made an impact on me for various reasons. Here it is in random order:

  1. Book Thief 
  2. The life of Pi
  3. The Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy
  4. Blink
  5. IT
  6. Me talk Pretty one day
  7. Extremely loud and Incredibly Close
  8. The lovely bones
  9. Magician - Raymond E Feist
  10. 1984

Books that didn’t make the list:
Jonathan Livingston Seagull: A story. I loved it when I read it decades ago. I fear that if I read it now it will lose its magic.

The song of Ice and Fire. That’s amazing storytelling. There are unforgettable moments in these books. However, at times it was dragging soooooo much I wanted to kill myself. If an updated edited version comes along, I might give it another try.