Hello welcome to my Blog

Mezze is widely served in the Greek and Middle eastern world. An assortment of little dishes and tasters which accompany a nice ouzo or a glass of wine. So when you read mezze moments you will have tasty snippets of life as I live it, India for four years and now Brisbane Australia, all served up with some Greek fervour and passion.

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Friday, 27 May 2016

Athens Flea Markets

Heading into the area of Monastiraki I came across Athens Flea Markets and some of the tourist markets. Men sit in the sun, soaking it up, others play backgammon and gather a small but interested crowd and languages ricochet from the small alleys in multitudes of dialects and tones. Some of these areas are pedestrianised but somehow it doesn't stop the mad motorcyclists or the provision vans, not to mention the yellow taxis from popping up when you when you least expect it.

 Off the back of a lorry - literally here ...

There may be some wonderful bargains to be found here and some lively Greeks who will enjoy the bartering as an exercise that needs to be won. Some of the bits of furniture I suspect come from old grand houses which have fallen on hard times. There are homeless people and a fair amount begging on street corners. One lady was asking for help saying she had a sick husband. Hours later she was in exactly the same spot, plaintively asking for help. Most ignored her and carried on. I found it hard to listen to and bought her food and drink for her at least to have a break.I noticed there are more dogs - once treasured pets perhaps, who have now been abandoned. 
Nothing however seems to dent that Greek spirit of - lets enjoy the moment. Here are some bouzouki players who were outside the metro station strumming away. 

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Back in the Greek world

Since I last wrote I have come half way across the pond and find myself in Greece, half my homeland. I was curious and excited to be here as on my last visit, the effects of the GFC were very stark. The sun is shining, the Greeks, in their inimitable style blame all their ills on Merkel and life seems to be a little busier, a little brighter and all Greek women are out doing what they love best, buying another pair of shoes while sipping the traditional and ubiquitous Iced Coffee. Summer is almost here and there is no further proof of what it means then this. 

Hammocks and a bit of the flag to make sure we have our priorities in the right place-

Joking aside when you wake up to this view you realise how this city will always survive as it is founded in ancient history and homage is due to all the ancient Greeks who offered the world their view of a democratic country.  

I want to make sure I never lose sight of that view and while it may have permutations and some mutations I would never like to try it differently. Greeks tried it and the military were evicted eventually but sadly Cyprus lost its wholeness in the process. 

The Greek Parliament stands proud and today another Bailout has been granted. The Evzones outside draw the crowds to the Ministry of Silly walks. I need to find out why on earth they do this. 

I wander through Syntagma Square looking nostalgically at the Hotel Grande Bretagne, my father's favourite hotel whenever he stayed in Athens. I take Ermou St, the pedestrianised road full of high street fashion houses and more shoe shops then a nation could ever want, and I realise that while they offer attractive and tasteful items, I have reached an age when another dress, pair of shoes or T shirts hold little appeal. I reach Kapnikarea church and walk all around this 11th Century icon of the Byzantine times and then I head to the flea market but not before buying a kilo of cherries for just Euros 2. 

More about the flea market tomorrow - I leave you today staring at the ground, which you must do if ever you are here. It is not paved with gold but marble, black, white or streaked with grey, worn with the years, soft to the eye, warm to the toes, and witness to the wealth this nation once had. 

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Meeting my first ever certified Blaster

Conquering Mount Maroon was one of the purposes of the day and only partly achieved but sharing this with some wonderful women made it a special day indeed. Today I am singling out one woman in particular who impressed me for the wrong reasons and I am not afraid to acknowledge that.

I met my first ever certified blaster.

Some of you might even have to stop for a moment and ask what is a certified blaster ??

Well the short answer is someone who blows things up - but safely.

I suspect that most of them work in the mining industry and blasting became a faster way of shifting earth and clearing sites for mining minerals and gases.

Small and petite but clearly a bright spark she started off in the mining industry in a clerical role but was soon able to take over supervisory roles and added responsibilities. She then became the first woman certified blaster in her state- what an achievement for a woman I thought, clearly thinking in a stereotypical box. I was certainly impressed but for the wrong reasons which I acknowledged and told her about and we had a good chat about it because of course  there is nothing to say that women can't do these jobs just as well and with as much expertise and know how as the men.

By her own admission she had to prove herself time and time again and that was sadly because she was a woman and they were such rarities in that industry.

Hopefully and because of women like Jan Bowers, that is not so much the case anymore. 

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Prickly Pears

Where I come from we eat these for breakfast.The fruits that is.

I caught sight of this prickly pear on our way to Mount Maroon. We stopped here to get a good look at the mountain we were going to conquer and to enjoy the view.
A Cypriot prickly pear in flower 
Mount Maroon.

I had just read a short article in the Australian National Geographic May- June edition 2016 by Netsuke Penberthy about the Prickly Pear. This was one case where a concerted control programme worked beautifully and it is an interesting story.

Australia seems to be a continent where species are introduced but spiral out of control. There are lots of examples of this starting from the introduction of rabbits by the First Fleet, which devastated crops, to cane toads introduced to eradicate the beetles ravaging the sugar cane crops and now reeking havoc, feral pigs, camels, whose numbers are out of control and rats brought over in the boats. 

The prickly pear arrived with the First Fleet in 1788. They needed red dye for the coats of the British soldiers and the only way they could get this dye was from cochineal bugs which fed on the prickly pear plants. This practice was soon given up in favour of an artificial dye but the prickly pears began to spread and by the 1920s they had become a plague on farms and pastures in Queensland,  the size of the UK.

The government sent experts all over the world to find an answer to this terrible problem. They didn't know at that time that Cypriots would happily eat all the fruit and tame the monster....

In Argentina they found a grey moth called Cactoblastis Cactorum and they were brought back to Australia and released in Queensland and New South Wales in 1926. "By 1932 the cactus infestation had been nibbled into oblivion by millions of moth larvae" says the article. An example of a successful biocontrol programme. 

More about a different kind of blaster in my next blog. 

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Bus stop Conversations

A man with a sun hat and a checkered shirt sat next to me on the bus. He was an older man with sun burnt skin, a white moustache and a pale complexion.

He had on his lap a bag and within a minute of sitting down he pulled out a big picture of an attractive Asian girl and showed it to me.

"Thats my wife when she married me. I wanted to remind her what she looked like when she married me so I found this picture and had it blown up."

"Oh she will like that I am sure", I said ( Why does she need to be reminded what she looked like and I wonder what the poor woman looks like now? )

"She is Philippino. You know they are all bossy them lot. They want to rule the roost".

"So does she?" I asked

No reply but I did notice he was wearing a hearing aid in one ear.

He was very happy talking to me. I dont think he cared one bit what I said.

"Yes", he continued gaily,"she is the fourth wife."

"Good lord" I said "you have been busy".

"Oh yes the Good lord had little to do with it but I am Catholic and so are they. My first wife died. My second wife is 60 now and I would love to see what she looks like. My third wife married me for my passport and left me within a year, she was Philippino so I had to be a bit more careful with this one."

"So I said are you going for the fifth?"

"No I think I will stop here."

You know over there they have a lot of children, but also married men have mistresses. I dont know how they reconcile them with their Catholic religion. I told her we are having only one child and that is it.

"She is 28 years younger than me."

"Let me tell you a couple of jokes"

 One was about the catholic church, one about Italians and one I forget. They were pretty awful but he liked them and we laughed together.

 As I was getting off the bus he said  "Feel free to use them" and waved goodbye.