Skyscrapers and String

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Randomness category.

Divided loyalties…

Whilst on the most leisurely of holidays, the mind wanders off the usual diversions of glamorous dinners, drinking too much, long afternoon naps, feeding fish whilst eating lunch and watching billionaire boats zoom in and out of harbour.

From afar, British politics seems quite ridiculous and if it wasn’t for the enormous stakes being played for it would be quite easy just to tune it all out and let the cards fall as they will.

In my current book, the Iliad, written here in the heart of Greece, back in the Bronze Age, the mortals face the same dilemmas between remaining true to themselves and what they know is right, and what they must do to obey their leaders, and what the Gods demand.

Nothing has changed.

And in the smaller, domestic world of friends and family, how does someone decide to navigate drama caused by the falling out of people they like and love?

At work, the most delightful jobs can turn quickly to poison and your day can be spoilt by spite and backstabbing over literally nothing.

The Iliad is coloured throughout by the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon, his King.

Agamemnon spites Achilles because he speaks out of turn and reveals the message sent from the Gods as he tries to halt the plague sent by Apollo who is angered by Agamemnon and which ravages the troops camped outside Troy’s invincible citadel.

Looking back at my own life, I have been spitefully treated over things I’ve done in the name of duty and conscience and being lied about for any reason isn’t funny.

Many times I’ve wondered how things would have turned out if I had no comprehension of right and wrong and if I had gone along nodding and smiling.

In one of my favourite agony columns Ask A Manager the first topic chapter deals with solutions to the question “my boss is a jerk.”

Readers can offer comments and advice and the breadth of the madness encountered at work by hapless souls trying to earn a crust is truly funny. But sad at the same time.

One person, for medical reasons, has to eat a certain strict diet and prepares food for lunch and her boss daily eats whatever he finds in the fridge.

Another person goes to the toilet and her manager follows and proceeds to fire work questions throughout her time in the cubicle.

There’s such a diverse range of bizarre behaviour which appears to be fine with the person inflicting their madness that you wonder what they think to themselves, how they rationalise it all.

The advice given to everyone who writes in on that topic is “get a new job.”

Which makes perfect sense!

But what do you do when your brother falls out with your dad or the photography club you belong to welcomes a racist who spouts unpleasant filth?

You can’t always quit your family and you might find no one else in your club finds a problem with a bigot in their midst.

Indeed, finding a replacement job is not the work of an instant and the grinding days leave people exhausted and unable to muster the strength to review job websites and so on in the evening.

Do you quit your hobby and miss out on activities you like because you don’t have any support from your friends for your convictions?

And what about being in the public eye, like the warrior Achilles or a Cabinet Minister?

How do you reconcile your duties to your followers who led you to power, and your destiny, and your sense of right and wrong?

How will history judge you?

How well do you sleep at night?

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

What are the consequences of your actions? What happens if you stay and try to work things out?

I’m not sure I have the answer.

It’s a timeless situation, that’s for sure.

Here you can see the boat I would buy if I had the time and money to spend on one. So pretty.


Dreaming of Ithaca…

Here, in the total silence of dawn, I’m awake and the rest of the world is asleep.

I’m sitting in our apartment in Ithaca and for the first time, looking out the window, the sea, the yachts and all the world outside is utterly still.

The water, with it’s dark blue gorgeousness, looks like it has been ironed flat.

I’m in a contemplative mood, coming on holiday so soon after losing my Mum.

Stopping everything completely and coming to a standstill after working flat out for so many months.

Somewhat reluctantly, I knew that this trip would be coloured by my head which was full of big dramas from the past and I’d have to work through them here instead of just goofing off; and that these subconscious things would present themselves to me, as unbidden memories and vivid dreams, and that has proven to be the case.

There’s a scented candle burning on the beautiful wooden coffee table and it’s gradually turning lighter outside.

The sky is such a pale shade of blue it’s almost white.

I’m covered in ink, (my fountain pen always wants to give something back to me) and I have been sitting here writing lists.

Lists of things to do that I have wanted to do but never put into words.

The power of writing things down has never ceased to amaze me.

Also, when I get home, I need to find practical ways to free up my headspace for the deep work I know is needed.

I came here to Ithaca to look inside myself and have now rested and restored myself and I’m starting to look outwards.

Funny how you only see your path when you start to look properly at the things around you isn’t it?

After a lavish brunch yesterday we were admiring the giant schooner “Artemis” which was parked in the harbour.

When we looked it up online it is run by a travel company that takes people by sea from here to Troy.

Looks like fate is guiding me onwards in my journey.

What will I find in Troy when I finally get there?

Following in the footsteps of the heroes of legend – the wily Odysseus, brave Achilles and brutal Agamemnon, I’ve been to all their places – so let’s not stop here and forget the lovers Paris and Helen, and the next scene in Homer’s tale.

It’s only right I should follow it to the end isn’t it?

But let’s not forget, Aeneas then flees the burning city after the long seige and the wooden horse.

Following the fall of Troy he goes to Carthage, and then he founds Rome, so it’s not going to be a short journey.

You’re not the end of the story, Ithaca, you’ve given me back peace and eased my heart and you’re leading me onwards.

Ithaca Folk Museum, knitted, crocheted and embroidered loveliness…

For those who love ancient things and local history, folk museums on Greek Islands are always fascinating.

Today we visited the folk history museum on Ithaca and it was no disappointment!

Crammed with ephemera from the past up to the 1930’s it truly was like stepping back in time.

There were old brass instruments from the town band, a beautiful ‘Hurdy Gurdy’ which played music when the handle was turned that would have played in the town square.

Naval equipment including a beautiful hand painted poster showing naval flags, uniforms, old furniture with islamic writing and pearl inlay sat in the same treasure palace as ancient farming implements of all kinds, leather goat skin sacks and wine jugs, wine presses, flour making mill stones and everything in between.

At the foot of the stairs was a display of ancient lace making equipment and examples of work including the original pricked cardboard templates used for making lace with cherubs and other designs.

Upstairs was the best bit!

Such a brilliant display of old embroidery, rugs, spinning wheels, weaving looms, knitting and sewing equipment and best of all, loads of hand made objects from over a hundred years ago in some cases.

It took me ages to go round!

Here is an old crib with a crocheted blanket.

Those who know me know I am obsessed with vintage bed jacket knitting patterns and here was a real live one with a name tape!

I loved the nightdress case! My bed is old and I have never seen anything like this before!

Below is one of several patchwork rugs, again, new to me but obviously very much in vogue here in the 1920’s.

A colourful crochet granny rug:

An enormous spinning wool winder

The knitted and crocheted items were made with yarn that was very fine and usually extremely scratchy.

The scratchier the blanket, the less wear and tear it showed.

Some of the things even had labels saying who made the items and whose flock the yarn came from.

Absolutely inspiring!

Open early and only on weekdays.

Behind the bakers, Vathy, Ithaca.

Things you need to know about Ithaca…

Ithaca is the most relaxing place in the world.

The streets are clean, the sea is blue and clear and if you have a bit of a breeze it takes the heat down a notch.

If you’re thinking of packing for a holiday here hold off with lots of fancy tops and silly shoes.

No one wears anything like that. Even at dinner.

One statement necklace is enough and bring plenty of lipbalm.

If you have long hair bring something to keep it off your face as well as a cute baseball cap to stop your nose burning.

Flip flops are fine for the beach but you’re going to end up climbing ladders getting on and off boats so bring something with a bit of grip that you can get wet without stressing out.

Most people wear tshirts and shorts and noone wears false eyelashes or weird black eyebrows. Thank god.

Bring Lush Ro’s Argan shower cream as it will stop your skin from flaking and it’s soothing.

Don’t bother with perfume as you’ll grow to love the smell of insect repellent. Bring anti itch stuff as well.

A reusable bag for shopping is a must, they have carrier bag charges here as well.

There’s more things to do than you can fit into a holiday so if you want to just relax and swim and sleep do it.

I’m loving the slow pace and the absence of domestic chores, my sole cooking this week was tipping out the foil tray with remains of last night’s huge greek salad onto a plate for lunch in the hotel room. With crisps.

Oh, and if you order stifado, it’s wrapped in paper, not filo pastry, so don’t try to eat it.

And, be warned, there’s no hummus anywhere!

Spying on Ithaca…

Sitting outside our hotel room and from various waterfront vantage points with nothing to do but watch life pass by I have started to feel like James Bond on stake out at the beginning of “The Living Daylights.”

Every boat that passes, every van that serves the restaurants and hotels shoves past us, and we know John drives the water supply wagon and the draught beer is carried about on a van with a red tarpaulin top.

There’s an elderly man who looks like Catweazel in a red and white top who rides about on a pink bike ostensibly selling paper windmills from a basket on the front.

Jupiter Ascending and her family are our room cleaners and Jon is taming his faithful ant for further reconnaissance missions.

The water taxi heading out of the harbour at odd hours is a conversation point as are the endless procession of gorgeous mega-yachts and schooners.

I know people who are fervent train spotters but watching billion pound boats is a bewitching occupation.

The shadowy occupants of these hulking beauties fire my imagination and become Blofelds and international mega villains and we have binoculars and can study at length and look at the names of the boats and find out where they’re from.

There’s websites galore for geeking about enormous yachts.

This morning for instance, moored in the bay of the harbour our room was another huge three story yacht. This one was the Zarina, sleek and modern, three storeys with ten bedrooms, flying a Maltese flag, and based in Valletta, as are most of the best boats.

A grey haired man was having a cigarette on the deck, then he went back inside to finish his plans for world domination.

As Valletta has the biggest and best boats and none of the awesome ones are available to charter it’s obviously the place to go to find a sugar daddy.

I can’t imagine anything worse than a megalomaniac elderly rich idiot but I’d definitely go there to boat-watch!

Knitting and sunbathing…

Here on a Greek Island there’s water everywhere.

And, being in a harbour, there’s always a nice breeze.

Which makes taking one’s knitting about a bit hazardous.

So, with knitting confined to quarters as an activity, with so much to do and see, I haven’t got much knitting done at all!

Until today.

Yesterday I did everything.

Walked for miles, swam, ate in different places, looked at amazing and luxe yachts like the Happy T and drank cocktails under the stars.

Today, I’m like, I want to read. I want to loaf about. I want to knit.

So I have!

Although the lace edging on the shawl I brought with me to finish is very enjoyable knitting with a lovely rhythm, I did bring other things to start working on and one row of the lace is about 20 minutes it’s slow going.

Finally I am about half way through.

I finished the space pirate book and it was a splendid read.

Finally I feel like I am having a holiday and less like I’m zooming around seeing and doing things.

It’s all been manic at home this year, starting work, dealing with different dramas and unpleasant things, the pace has been punishing.

All I wanted to do was head to a nice place and knit and read and eat and drink and swim and nap a lot.

It’s lovely here and finally I’m getting the hang of things.

Here you can see the view from the bench en route to our favourite water side restaurant which is really very near to where we’re staying.

Deep blue everything…

I’m not sure what I was expecting of yesterday.

You go on holiday and even the transfer from the bigger island of Kephalonia to Ithaca was a breathtaking experience.

It takes a couple of days to unpack and adjust and then you find yourself on another boat, well, to be truthful it’s exactly the same boat, but this time it’s a water taxi heading to Gidaki.

Gidaki is here:

The journey is about 30 minutes and the boat is crewed by an extra 4 or 5 young guys and it’s buzzing.

The boat comes right round the headland into the cove with the beach and the guys get off after helping the passengers with their bags and they hurtle down to what looks like some kind of shack.

I’m in the water swimming and bobbing about and after a bit, Spiro comes over and says the food is ready.

Now this beach is full of large pebbles, it’s a world of work to stay upright and it’s a thousand degrees outside in the sun.

So despite the most inelegant procession across the beach soon enough I reach the shack.

Up the gangplank it’s an oasis of coolness and shade.

The hip gang of guys are running the show, some great music is playing and the shack roof is made of palm fronds.

The smell off the barbecue is delicious and we order iced coffee and sit back and absorb the chilled vibes.

The boat’s dog, Poochie, sits on my feet.

A foot long green lizard runs across the cliff wall which the shack is propped up against, causing a mini landslide of pebbles to cascade down.

People from the gorgeous yachts also moored off the beach sit looking cool and relaxed on either side of us.

The music is pumping and the guys are storming the restaurant game.

I’m feeling like I’m in Hawaii and can’t believe my luck.

Don’t ask me about the food it was amazing. Perfectly ordinary greek food but done perfectly.

And the setting. Yellow green turquoise blue silver water.

I’m in love.

Yachts and sunshine…

Here in Ithaca, there’s a never ending procession of yachts in and out of the harbour.

Some have a vintage feel, with two large masts, almost like pirate ships and others are smooth, luxe, ultra modern vessels which look like they have sailed in from a Bond movie.

Everything here is very smart and it feels like Belgravia.

I bought some smashing local soap for the bathroom here and it’s lovely. I’m going to get some to bring home.

All the local cats are well looked after, one of the houses has a shiny metal cat biscuit dispenser which is very popular with the local Kittehs and we saw a kitten there eating happily.

In fact the wildlife here is very interesting and varied, we have seen many beehives and the local bees are longer than the usual kind back home.

From our room we can hear goats and donkeys and the goats run wild by the side of the roads in the hills.

Yesterday we met a preying mantis and the butterflies here are white and look like feathers.

The fish here are the main scavengers and if you sit in a restaurant by the harbour side and toss in a piece of bread you can be endlessly entertained by at least six different kinds of fish of all shapes and sizes. The bread lasts no more than two seconds, it’s like watching piranha.

Not content with bringing home the only preying mantis on the island, his Lordship has also made friends with a rather oversized ant outside our room.

I’m happy sitting about, trying to make sense of all the things that have happened lately, knitting and eating and drinking nice things.

Jon is dangling his legs over the harbour wall and we’re off on a boat trip shortly.

I’m going to put my knitting back in the room, I don’t fancy getting it wet on the boat.

Here you can see my knitting and the water and some boats. It’s great here.

Not your usual…

Hello all,

I hope you had a smashing weekend.

I’m sat outside my luxe apartment on the even more luxurious island of Ithaca.

The moon is in front of me even though it’s daytime, it looks nearly full, but it’s pale, like it’s had too much Rabolo last night.

The church bells go off about 8am each day so there’s no chance of sleeping through.

Thinking about my knitting.

I’m using some spotted yarn I bought at YAK in Brighton and I’m ready to start the hem in some wonderful yarn dyed by Nimu in millennial pink.

The thing is, I’m still left with quite a lot of the spotted yarn and I have the right number of stitches for the edging.

I can carry on using the yarn but then I will need to do math to work out how to do the edging when I use all the spotted yarn up.

The pattern is called “Simplicity Triangle Shawl” and the lace edging is delightful.

The other nice feature is the panel of moss stitch that makes the edging across the top, it’s really attractive in the spotted yarn.

And I’m after drinking wine last night and I think I’m incapable of math at this point, frankly.

So I’m weighing up the pros and cons and I think I’m gonna use the remainder of the spotted wool to make heels and toes on some socks.

Here you can see my knitting, displayed on the low wall outside my apartment, with boats and green hills in the background.

Summer is here…

Everything is flowering here at Kitten Towers.

The front garden is awash with roses and the window boxes have miniature roses and geraniums.

The huge hydrangea in the back garden is gently starting to turn pink.

I’m happier than I’ve ever been and it feels like the warmth of summer and even the rays of the sun have entered my heart.

I’m hyper busy and contented and enjoying everything.

I’m looking forward to having a day off tomorrow where I can gently putter around and go to the library and sit in the shed.

Oddly enough, this year I have realised that the thing I wanted most was to have peace at home.

Sweeping my garden path. Picking up fallen leaves, tending to the flowers and using my fabulous turquoise watering can.

Reading a few pages of a book. Looking at poetry. Writing.

Before, I knew I needed order and keeping the house straight seemed like work.

Now, creating a happy home that’s clean and neat feels like a gift to myself.

I used to grumble about why I was washing the front door or whatever, and in my head I would imagine writing a list of things to do to give to someone else.

Then I realised that it’s probably quicker just to do it myself.

Now I have found a steady rhythm in my day, both at work and in my own time and I putter when I see something needs doing and I sit and do nothing when I’m ready for some peace.

The garden is flowering and so am I.