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Oleander, Jacaranda. Blue and White are Not the Only Colours of Greece.

Oleander
Oleander

On seeing Penelope Lively’s informative book, “Oleander, Jacaranda” mentioned in a magazine, I thought to myself;

”I must read this book again”

Penelope Lively, born and raised in Egypt, just before World War II, writes about her childhood in such a way as to make you feel that you grew up there with her, in the narrow streets and souks of Egypt.

She takes you into another era, another country, you can smell the aroma of herbs and spices wafting in the air; hear the sound of the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer.

You feel the very essence of Egypt.


Oleander, Jacarander Penelope Lively
Oleander, Jacarander
Penelope Lively

At a certain point in the book, Penelope remembers a street, lined with Oleander and Jacaranda trees, here, I pictured Greece, not Egypt, as once, not too long ago, Greece’s streets were awash in a sea of pink, white and purple.


oleander
Oleander in our garden, seen from above.

Sadly, as Greece progresses, building new roads, widening existing ones and tearing down old houses to make way for new apartment blocks, Oleander and Jacaranda are becoming a thing of the past.

Where once there was a profusion of colour, motorways are now lined with conifers; dual carriageways have centre islands with palm trees standing to attention, and along the edges of the town’s pavements are numerous, run of the mill, nondescript trees.

I much preferred the oleander, so much more colourful, so much more Greek, but, for some reason, Greeks don't like oleander.


White oleander
White oleander

I've  asked  Greeks why they don't like oleander but never got a straight answer, they tell me;

 “Because its pathetic” or “It’s not nice”

Not once though, was the reason that Oleander is poisonous, given, maybe this is not so well known by them, well, by the younger ones at least, my son of thirty two didn’t know, until I told him.

They just don’t like it, a friend of mine had rented a beautiful house, here in Greece, the garden though, was very bare, with  tatty fencing, she planted oleander all around the borders, which, when it blossomed, was a delight to behold.

When they left, the owners ordered them to uproot it all before vacating the premises.
That was a job and half, I can tell you!

I have searched and searched the internet, trying to find some old wives tale, or that oleander is unlucky, or cursed, but no, nothing, just that it’s poisonous, mainly to animals, no human fatalities are recorded.

Anyway, I adore it, our garden is filled with it, the pink had seeded itself, but after nurturing countless seedlings, that all turned out to also be pink,I bought a white one, much to the horror of the Greeks, who were shocked that I would pay good, hard-earned money for this monstrosity of a plant.



Oleander
Oleander

One man, when he saw our garden, took one look at the oleander and said;
 “You need to get rid of that”

Oleander
Oleander

Why can’t they see the beauty of it, is it the equivalent of English people cultivating willowherb in their gardens, quite beautiful, but they just wouldn’t would they?


Willowherb
Willowherb

The first thing to greet me every morning, on opening my kitchen door to the world, is a mass of tiny pink flowers, that last the whole summer long, and need no attention whatsoever.


Oleander
Oleander, the first thing I see,
 on opening my kitchen door every morning.


Oleander are quite happy with a good drink of water three or four times a week, and they seem to grow anywhere, a very hardy plant indeed.


Coffee and oleander
Morning coffee in the shade of an oleander tree

Jacaranda, we don’t have in our garden, why I haven’t grown any from seed, I don’t know, I shall have to give it a go.


Jacaranda in Loutraki
Jacaranda in Loutraki

There are a few good specimens of jacaranda in our local park, I had gathered some seeds from one there, and posted them to our good friend Robert, in England, who has grown some excellent bonsai.

Wouldn't a jacaranda bonsai be something?

 His treasured bonsai, over thirty years old, had a slight mishap a couple of years ago and was partially devoured by a snail, happy to say though, it did make a full recovery.

Robert lovingly planted the jacaranda seeds, one of which took off nicely and was going great guns, but come winter, even though he took it indoors, it gave up the ghost.



Jacaranda Loutraki
The jacaranda tree in Loutraki park,
 from where I collected seeds for Robert.

I've enjoyed the jacaranda trees here in Loutraki from early spring, when they first put out their delicate purple blossoms, when I went to take photographs of them yesterday, they were a bit past their prime.

 April is when they can be seen in all their glory.

I only found three in the park, I’m sure there used to be more, or is just that they look so much more profuse when in full bloom?

Jacaranda Athens
Jacaranda in full bloom on an Athens street.
Happily, a spectacular jacaranda, growing in the courtyard of the local Soldier’s club, is still there and looking magnificent.


Jacaranda Loutraki
Jacaranda tree in the soldiers club courtyard, Loutraki.

I have a feeling that maybe the soldiers are not so happy, when I walk past the club, and the tree is in full bloom, there is always a soldier sweeping up the fallen blossoms!

I must make a note to myself to gather up some jacaranda seeds, once they are dropping from the trees, and who knows?

 I could be sitting in my garden, some time in the future, saying to myself, as Penelope Lively did, many years ago in Egypt;

“Oleander, jacaranda, oleander, Jacaranda.
Jacaranda, oleander, jacaranda, oleander”

Read the book to discover why she repeats it the second time in reverse!


Greek Wine, Barrels and Art. Semeli Winery, Nemea, Greece.



Barrel art
Barrel art


Last week, whilst on a trip to nearby Nemea, I had the unexpected opportunity of seeing the most amazing art work.

Nemea, a small, picturesque, typically Greek town, at the heart of the Peloponnese wine country, produces some of Greece’s bes twines, and is home to more than forty excellent Greek wineries.



Nemea
Nemea


On visiting the Semeli winery, named after Semele, the mother of  Dyonysus, God of wine, I was greeted by barrels and barrels of art, literally!


Bacchus (Dyonisus) Caravaggio
Bacchus (Dionysus) Caravaggio


Every year, in the month of March, the Zappeion  Megaron exhibition hall, located in the centre of Athens, hosts Oenorama, Athens’s wine week, Greece’s largest wine fair.





Oenorama  Athens Wine Week.
Oenorama  Athens Wine Week.



This year, for the first time, thirty artists had teamed up with thirty, huge, used, oak wine barrels, to create a spectacular art show, named:

 “Oak Sessions”



Oak wine barrels
Oak wine barrels



The concept was;

 What had these barrels seen?

 Where had they been?

If only they could talk, what would they say?


These thirty talented artists transferred their thoughts, to the thirty wine barrels, in unique art form.



Barrel art at Semeli Winery, Nemea
Barrel art at Semeli Winery, Nemea


As luck would have it, after the wine fair closed in Athens, these wonderful barrels had been brought to Nemea and put on display at the Semeli winery, the very place I was to visit!


Semeli winery & vineyards, Nemea
Semeli winery & vineyards, Nemea



Not only did I take in the breathtaking views of Nemea, acres and acres of vineyards, stretching for as far as the eye could see, but I had the bonus of seeing this incredible barrel art.


View from Semeli Winery
View from Semeli Winery

Not all thirty barrels were on display at Semeli, the ones I didn't get to see, I found in

 “The Oak Sessions”  Catalogue.
You will find a link to the catalogue, towards the end of this post.



Savvas Georgiades
Savvas Georgiades


This barrel, maybe my favourite, together with the olive tree barrel, which you will see in a minute, was painted by Savvas Georgiades, for the Mediterra winery.

 No title.


 Kostas Lavdas
 Kostas Lavdas

This was created by Kostas Lavdas for the Avantis Estate, using different sized barrels.

 "Angel Ksoano"


Olga Goulandri.
Olga Goulandri.

 This one for Hatsimichalis Estate by Olga Goulandri.

 "In Vino Libertas"


Eleutheria Tseiko
Eleutheria Tseiko


Lego has been used here for the Palivou Estate in Nemea, by Eleutheria Tseiko.  

 "Playing with Lego"


 Mary Samouli
 Mary Samouli

 A very fancy one here by Mary Samouli for the Semeli Estate, Nemea, the Estate where I actually saw these astounding barrels.

 " Drops of optimism In Deep Ruby"


Pavlos Habides
Pavlos Habides


By artist Pavlos Habides for Paparuan Estate

 "Saying goodbye to Polyphimo"


Pavlos Habides
Pavlos Habides

Painted by Pavlos Habides  for the Oenoforos Estate

"Σειληνοί"


 Georgia Bliatsou
 Georgia Bliatsou


Lovely spring poppies here painted by Georgia Bliatsou for Boyatzi Estate.

 "Spring Brings....."


Stelios Panagiotopoulos
Stelios Panagiotopoulos


An unusual one painted by Stelios Panagiotopoulos for the Gaia Estate Nemea.

 "Breaking Free"


Daphne Stergidi
Daphne Stergidi 

Stranger still, a lot of fantasy has been put into this barrel created by Daphne Stergidi for the Tour Melas Estate. 

 "Apollo and Daphne"


Vasilis Peros
Vasilis Peros

Vasilis Peros
Vasilis Peros


Here's my other favourite, with the olive tree, it roots bursting through the barrel, I love the tiny swing detail.

Created by Vasilis Peros for Nemeion Estate.

"The Red Swing"


 Athina Hatzi.
 Athina Hatzi.

Here's a more traditional idea, grapes in baskets for the Vasiliou Estate by Athina Hatzi.

 "Bench With Grapes"



Marcos Kabanis & Christina Aktidi
Marcos Kabanis & Christina Aktidi

The barrel on the left was painted by Marcos Kabanis for the Tsandali Estate.

 "Pisces"

 The one on the right, by Christina Aktidi for Estate Mouson.

 "Swallows"


Yiannis Dedes & Panagiotis Beldekos
Yiannis Dedes & Panagiotis Beldekos

On the left here, we have two rows of figures, painted by Yiannis Dedes for the Bairaktari Estate,

 "bhidh" 

 and, on the right, Panagiotis Beldekos, sketched ancient Greek boats onto the barrel for The Estate Wine Art. (Kτήμα Τέχνη Οίνου)

No title


Marios Boutsinos & Harris Pressas,
Marios Boutsinos & Harris Pressas,

In the foreground is the barrel made for Estate Sigali by Marios Boutsinos, a perspex top, decorated with copper vine leaves, please have a look at this in the catalogue, (Link further down the page) the picture is much, much better than my amateur photography!
 AQs they all are actually!

"Wine Pleases The Heart"

The barrel behind, is for the Estate Kokotou ,and is painted by Harris Pressas.

 "The Four Seasons"


Tania Dimitrakopoulou &  Alina Matsa.
Tania Dimitrakopoulou &  Alina Matsa.

At the forefront, sky blue with horses, painted by Tania Dimitrakopoulou for the Aivali Estate, titled, you guessed it:

 "Horses" 

The one behind, showing the hand, is for the Estate Alfa by Alina Matsa.

"This Side Up"

After inspecting these glorious barrels, we said our goodbyes, left Semeli winery, and went on to the

Palivou Winery, where Mr George Palivos (Owner & manager) told us the most interesting things

 about vines,wines and vineyards.

I don't pretend to be a wine buff, but, after speaking with Mr. George, I felt I was!

 Such a nice man.

Palivou Estate.Nemea  Photo by Nemea Press.
Palivou Estate.Nemea
Photo by Nemea Press.


Mr. George Palivos is so passionate about his vineyards, he very kindly piled us into his truck, and took us to see, as he put it;

"The Best View In The World"

He wasn't wrong, it truly was an astonishing thing to see!


View from Palivou Estate.Nemea.
View from Palivou Estate.Nemea.

Before heading  home to Loutraki, we stopped off at The Sofos Restaurant in the centre of Nemea, run by an absolutely delightful couple, George and Eirene, and had a delicious traditional Greek meal.

The perfect end to the perfect day.

If you are ever in Nemea, do go and see George and Eirene Sofos, believe me, if you do, you will become a customer for life, their food is to die for!

All about my mother. For Susie on Mother's Day By Nais Athanasakou

  
GUEST POST, WRITTEN BY NAIS ATHANASAKOU, MY DAUGHTER.

My mum & me
My mum & me

I’m stuck in Ioannina on a business trip.
What to do, what to do?
I've surfed the internet, talked on the phone, texted some friends of mine, and that’s it, I should have brought a book with me.

I’m left with my thoughts, oh, and how strange thoughts can be, when feeling brutally bored.
I’m not going to dwell on those; I’ll keep them to myself.

What I will do however, is talk about my mum, write a little story about her and hopefully she will like it.

Here goes then, a spontaneous outburst of love for Susie. She is married to this Greek guy, MGG (My Greek God), I’m sure you've heard all about him.


Me as a baby with my mum & dad
Me as a baby with my mum & dad

Susie is the oldest of three sisters, Gillian, who, even though she is blonde nowadays, will always be my brunette Aunt, and Jayne,  the youngest, my hippie Aunt!

My mother refers to Jayne with the fab phrase:

 "Whatever Happened to Baby Jayne"

Susan (Left) Jayne (Baby) and Gillian
Susan (Left) Jayne (Baby) and Gillian


Susie is the daughter of Kenneth and Mary, I was lucky to have known my grandpa, an extraordinary world traveler and a unique gentleman.


My grandpa, Kenneth
My grandpa, Kenneth

Unfortunately, I never knew Mary, a beautiful, Coco Chanel lookalike.
I’m certain that she must have been awesome, judging by my mother!


Susie and her mother, Mary.
Susie and her mother, Mary.

She has a son, my brother Yiannis, Me; Nais, and two Pug dogs, Maurice and Hugo, and, of course, her granddaughter, our beautiful little rascal, Melina.


Susie, my brother Yiannis & me
Susie, my brother Yiannis & me


Maurice & Hugo
Maurice & Hugo

Melina, our little rascal
Melina, our little rascal.

My first memory of Sue-Sue, is of her pushing me in my pram, while I relaxed with a bottle of orange juice, what can top that?


Taking it easy!
Taking it easy!

When someone asks me what colour hair she has, I immediately say blonde, but I do remember her having red “artificial” curls, then brown, and then blonde again, a beautiful blonde bob, which later became a perfect “Diana” hairstyle, it made her look immaculate (But made her look a bit older than she was-sorry mum!)


Artificial curls, artificial colour!"
"Artifical curls, artificial colour!"

She has large grey/green eyes and a Cindy Crawford beauty spot, above her top lip.
I once purposely gave myself a scar, in the same place, just to look like her.
My sadness was massive when my skin healed itself!


"Diana" hairstyle
"Diana" hairstyle

To continue with the compliments, she has one of the best figures that I have ever seen, she was a Leeds athlete, back in the day.
(Was it the pentathlon you did mum?)

It is true what they say, our bodies never forget, my mother is a living example of that.

A true lover of light, a hunter of the slightest ray of sun, when my brother and I were small, she took us to the beach every day; we left, only when the sun went down.


A day at the beach
A day at the beach

I vividly remember a pink striped beach towel that she had, with a pillow attached to it.
When we came out of the sea, she would wrap us in our Disney towels, and hug us tight in her arms to keep us warm.


Fun in the sun!
Fun in the sun!



I always picture her driving, she drove us everywhere, always singing along to the radio.

By the age of five, I knew by heart; Sting’s “Englishman in New York”, Toto’s “Africa” and Crosby, Still, Nash & Young’s “Suit Judy Blue Eyes”

I definitely inherited my love of music from her, I will always be grateful for that.


"Driver's seat" One of her favourite songs by the way!
"Driver's seat"
One of her favourite songs by the way!

White shirts, as you may have already read in her blog, are her passion, and, of course, jeans.
“Keep it simple Nais” A phrase I often hear from her, when asked what she thinks about one of my outfits.

Books, oh what can I say about the connection between books and my sweet Sue?
If possible, she would have a book attached to her wrist, she is constantly reading!

Her bedside table is always packed with numerous books, some of them which she has read two or three times.


Susie's books.
Susie's books.

She has an envious collection of “Coffee Table Books” let’s say, most of them art-themed.
Having said that, she is very arty, without actually ever trying to be arty, if you know what I mean, it just comes naturally to her.
She can paint, she is excellent at handcrafts and she dances the best Zeibekiko I've ever seen!


Zorba, Greek dancing.
Zorba, Greek dancing.


I have a beautiful picture that she painted for me, hanging on my sitting room wall, little does she know, but I cried when she gave me it.



Painted for me by Susie.
Painted for me by Susie.

She loves scent, let me tell you, however, that her natural scent is always way better than any cologne, or fried onions, I love, love, love the smell of fried onions!

She never stops talking and she always has a new story to tell.
How is that possible after all these years?
I should know every thing about her by now!

Sorry for being all over the place, but I've decided to write anything that comes to mind, so please, bear with me.

Some say she seems rather snobbish, probably because she doesn't hug and kiss people that she doesn't know well.
Good for you Susie, this characteristic of yours makes your hugs unique, when you give them!

Not to mention that I prefer your sincerity to hypocritical affection.
Others say that she has a heart of gold, perhaps these were the lucky ones, who got to know her better.


Heart of gold. Another of Susie's favourite songs!
Heart of gold. Another of Susie's favourite songs!

My mother would never leave her children, never; she would punch anyone who tried to hurt my brother or myself!


Susie is here...beware!
Susie is here...beware!

Believe me when I say that her face lights up when any member of her family are mentioned.

Confident, strong, well-spoken, she knows her stuff!
I've tried; I've really tried to be like her.

Hopefully, one day, if I have a daughter, she will say the same about me.
That will be my biggest achievement.

Big Greek Mama & her family
Big Greek Mama & her family

Susie's family
Susie's family 

She worries about my well-being, I've attempted to hide many bad moments from her, but she always knows when something is not right, how magical is that?

I've almost made myself choke on the telephone, by holding back my tears, she then comes up with some ridiculous excuse to hang up, so as to avoid making me feel uncomfortable, thank you for that.

Mum, I’ll always be fine, please don’t worry, you taught me well.
Feeling emotional right now, got to go!

I'll leave you with a few pictures of my mum and me.


The day I was born
The day I was born


My mum & me,
My mum & me, when we went to see her idol,
Chatlotte Rampling, in Athens.

With my mum in Paris
With my mum in Paris

Susie & me
Susie & me
My lovely mum & me
My lovely mum & me


In Milan with my mum.
In Milan with my mum.

Your fans will have to wait for my second wave of pride and love for you.

 Happy Mother’s Day, to my lovely, inspiring mentor, my mother.

Love you lots!

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