Saturday, 22 October 2022

She’s A Hundred But She’s Wearing Something Tight

 

She’s A Hundred But She’s Wearing Something Tight

(Leonard Cohen: “Closing Time” 1992)

 

 
Entrance to Kusadasi Harbour - Adrienne Higham

On board the MS Monet at Kusadasi, Turkey September 2022

 On the opposite side of the quay from our modestly sized ship was a giant cruise liner. While we were waiting to depart for a trip to Ephesus the never-ending line of tourists leaving the cruise ship gave me an opportunity for people watching. 

Somewhat apart from the general run of people walking along the quay was an elderly lady. She was lavishly made-up and dressed in an immaculately pressed white shorts-suit. I imagined her to be the widow of a successful American automobile dealer, at whose demise, her hair had turned quite gold with grief. (Thanks for the line, Mr Wilde). She toddled along the jetty, her back bent, towing a wheelie suitcase. I was intrigued but thought no more of her until much later in the day when she and we returned to our ships at the same time.  There she was, transformed. She had a new hair band that matched a royal blue chiffon ballgown all in flounces and frills. It was now clear that her suitcase had contained this change of clothes.

This time, she was in a wheelchair pushed by a muscular young gentleman dressed in the livery of a porter of some grand hotel. She stood up and parted from her new friend with a fulsome and tearful embrace.  I feel sure she had spent her time ashore well but exactly how she did must remain a mystery.

Thursday, 20 October 2022

The Power of Myth

 


“His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;” Revelation 1:14

 In about 95 AD in a cave on the Greek island of Patmos, St. John, the beloved disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, by then an old man saw a revelation sent to him through a three-legged crack in the rock ceiling of the cave that was his home. He dictated what he saw to his servant, who wrote down what is now the last book in the Christian Bible, the Book of Revelation. In September 2022, I was standing in that very cave.

Everything in that paragraph is untrue.

It was in the 11th Century that the cave in which I was standing was discovered and identified as the cave in which the revelation of St John occurred.  The 11th Century was not a time noted for the forensic rigour of its archaeology. The Book of Revelation does of course exist.  It was the last chapter to be added to the canon of Christian literature and not until the 4th Century AD, reflecting some doubts about its authenticity held by the early church bishops.  The Book of Revelation does identify “John” as its author but no one knows which John.  There is nothing to suggest that the vision reached the Saint through a three-pronged crack in the ceiling. So, while I was standing in a cave, any cave would have done.

Nor can anyone demonstrate that the vision was sent to the old saint by God rather than being a chimera emanating from the mind of a senile old man.

Standing in the chapel that has been set up in the cave, I could see the famous fissure in the ceiling and see the rock, on which, it is claimed, John laid his head.

My left brain was hard at work; it’s all rubbish, I thought.

But then …

I had arrived early. Embarrassingly, I walked into the tiny chapel while a Greek Orthodox mass was coming to its end. The light of a few candles, reflected from the burnished gold of ancient icons, cast the cave into amber light and dark shadows.  I breathed in air infused with incense. The deep baritone voice of a priest, chanting in Greek, and echoing from every bend in the rock, filled the air with ethereal sound. The priest, himself, was dressed in long white robes and a wide gold belt, over which he wore a surplice of white cotton, soft as gauze and decorated with tiny, brightly coloured embroidered flowers.  When he turned, he revealed fiery eyes and a long beard, white like wool, as white as snow.

‘That’s what God must look like,” came the awed whisper from my wife. She really is the World’s least convincing atheist.

My right brain asserted itself.  I was in a place that had been the object of sincere faith and veneration for more than a thousand years. That can get to you and it did. I had not been convinced but I had been profoundly moved.

Note:  Picture credit  ARCHELAOS - Etsy UK

Saturday, 15 October 2022

A Lost Empire on the Island of Folegandros

September 2022

 


The tiny town square of Chora, capital of the Greek Island Folegandros is everything it should be.  White houses with blue, almost indigo, doors and windows surround the square. In the centre are the chairs and tables of a café under the shade of fig and hibiscus trees.  Cutlery clinks: people chatter.

It is the feast day of the Holy Cross and the church that takes up one side of the square is flying two flags, bright against an azure sky.  One, the Greek flag, reflects in its stripes, the blue and white of the houses.  The other flag has an intricate design in maroon and yellow.  It is the flag of the Byzantine Empire.  What a model for taking a long and optimistic view of history.  The Byzantine Empire fell over half a millennium ago. Sultan Mehmed II, leading the forces of the Ottoman Empire sacked Constantinople after a 53-day siege on 29th May 1453.

Still, hope springs eternal…, I guess.


Photo by Adrienne Higham