Thursday 30 June 2011

Athens police - the real trouble makers?

We have been in Greece for three days now and I wanted to join the Indignants in Syntagma Square, but I knew that because of the impending vote on the austerity measures the police would use tear gas and as an asthmatic, this is no go for me.

The situation was much worse than we feared however, with the police overacting to a small group of  alleged troublemakers and a larger crowd of protesters who wanted to voice their grievances forcefully but peacefully.

Fires, tear gas, chemical warfare, stun grenades, stones and sheer brute force was the scene in Syntagma Square and adjoining streets for the last two days.

The metro station in Syntagma was turned into a makeshift hospital where doctors and paramedics tried to treat the people who had been injured and those who were affected by the tear gas and the other chemicals that the police had been using. Isn't chemical warfare prohibited by the Geneva Convention? Or is that just in times of war? Is it allowed in peace time?  And why are the Greek police so tear gas-happy?

This image shows a kiosk worker who has to wear a gas mask to do his job!

Sheer brute force was used indiscriminately. This was reported in the Guardian from kindersurprise: "one teargas cannister was deployed in the middle of a group of people having a calm debate, which was totally uncalled for.

The police were pretty disgraceful, throwing rocks at groups of protesters (not 'anarchists' but people of all ages) and generally lashing out and trying to kettle protesters into smaller side streets so that they could then throw tear gas at them. Their 'orders' were clear".

Two eye witness accounts reported on Alter Channel were really shocking.

The first account was by a lawyer whose office is on Ermou Street. She left her office and  went to the cafe which is on the ground floor of the same building to have a break and a coffee. Suddenly, officers burst in and released a tear gas cannister inside the coffee shop - no provocation, just people sitting in there having coffee and pastries.

The second account was by a man who was eating in the open air area of  a restaurant. Out of control riot police came on their motor bikes, and again, for no apparent reason started  indiscriminately beating all the people who were eating there. Several other eye witnesses came forward during that report to verify this account. The reporter interviewing could not understand why this happened as the restaurant was in Monastiraki, a prime location for tourists and quite a distance from Syntagma Square where the protests were occuring.

Amnesty International issued a press release: 'video footage and witness testimony points to the repeated use of excessive force by the police, including the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of tear gas and other chemicals against largely peaceful protesters'.

There is a stunned feeling of disbelief amongst Greeks today - disbelief that in times as difficult as these, the Greek government is allowing its police to treat its citizens in this way.....

Tuesday 28 June 2011


Jacaranda is my favourite tree. I love the blue flowers it produces in early summer and I always longed to have one in my garden. After numerous questions to numerous florists in Greece, I managed to make myself understood and found out the name of this sensational flowering tree.

When our apartment building was completed and we started thinking about the garden I asked if we could have a jacaranda in the front garden.

And here it is, in all its blue glory!

Sunday 26 June 2011


Yews and blooms


more pink





Thursday 16 June 2011

Impartial BBC?

'Rioters clashed with police in Athens earlier today...'. This is how the BBC News at 10 report started last night and it continued in that vein.

Nothing about the Indignant who have been assembling at Syntagma Square for the last 22 days, their numbers reaching 100,000 at times; nothing about the general strike that paralyzed the country; nothing about the 80,000 people who yesterday demonstrated peacefully in the streets of Athens. The only mention was of  'rioters',  thus giving a really skewed impression of what happened in Greece yesterday.

Protesters run away from tear gas canister and a burning barricade during clashes with riot police in Athens' central Syntagma (Constitution) Square, 15 June 2011

This is the picture from the BBC website this morning (with a reluctant mention of a general strike).

Greek anti-austerity protests in Athens

They could have shown this instead....

What really happened is very different and a summary was posted in this blog yesterday. This is an update:

The demonstrations in Athens yesterday were peaceful until a small group of  'hoodies' started attacking the police and violent clashes ensued. By late afternoon things had calmed down. By early evening, despite the oppressive atmosphere created by the tear gas which was still lingering in the air, thousands of people re-assembled at Syntagma Square to continue with the peaceful protest that has been the norm in the last 22 days  - standing and confronting the Parliament opposite.

They are indignant about the impoverishment and pauperising of the majority of Greek people and the loss of sovereignty that has put the country at the mercy of the banks. The demand is still the same: that the corrupt ruling elites who have brought the country to the brink of collapse, should go.

And finally, a picture of the Acropolis (nowhere near where the clashes occured) in a fog of teargas.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Resistance in Athens

Protests in Greece

Today is the 22nd day that the Indignant have been taking over Syntagma (Constitution) Square in Athens.

It is also a general strike in Greece: public transport, shops, services, banks - everything is closed and people have joined the Indignant to demonstrate against the new measures being proposed by the PASOK government.

Thousands of police have been mobilised to deal with the demonstrators

The demonstrators were determined not to allow MPs to enter Parliament to prevent them discussing the midterm fiscal plan that would introduce new austerity measures and for that purpose a plexiglas wall was erected in front of the Parliament building.

Τα ΜΑΤ γύρισαν τις ασπίδες ανάποδα! Δεν είναι με την κυβέρνηση!

The MPs got in with the help of the riot police who then turned their shields towards the Parliament building. The message was clear: you have asked us to do a job, we have done it, but we do not support you.

Demonstrators clashed with police later who responded with tear gas.

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Around Wiltshire

On our way back from Roche Court we saw a sign for Figsbury Ring and we just had to go and explore.

Figsbury Ring was a hill fort of the Iron Age, dating around 400 B.C., consisting of a bank and outer ditch enclosing about 15 acres with two entrances.

Excavations showed that the camp was not extensively occupied

it probably served as a place of refuge for farming communities in times of emergency.

Stonehenge was magnificent. Our first view as we were driving towards it took my breath away. It is unfortunate that I could not take a photograph of that sighting but there was a lot of traffic and nowhere to stop.

This ancient stone circle is an exceptional survival from a culture now lost to us

it evolved between 3,000 and 1,600 B.C.

it is aligned with the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset

its exact purpose remains a mystery: was it a sacrificial temple, a calendar, or just a show of power?

We managed to see three of the Wiltshire White Horses, some dating back 250 years. Eight still remain on view.

This one is near Pewsey, dating from 1937.

On our way to Avebury we stopped to look at Silbury Hill, Europe's largest human-made prehistoric mound,

constructed over a short period between 2400 and 2300 B.C.  It was not conceived and built in a single campaign but grew lager over several generations.

We do not know the purpose or meaning it held for neolithic people - some suggest that the construction of it was a way of bringing people together.

On our last day we visited Old Sarum, a massive Iron Age hill fort that was re-used by the Romans, Saxons and Normans

before growing into one of the most flourishing settlements in medieval England.

You can see the ruins of a castle, a royal palace and a cathedral (before it was moved to Salisbury)

as well as enjoying views of the stunning Wiltshire countryside.

Monday 13 June 2011

Wivenhoe, Essex

A friend from my University days sent me these pictures last week.

In this photograph, my friend Ruth who I was sharing a house with, my sister Liz who was visiting and myself are in my room at Clifton Terrace in Wivenhoe. Four of us lived in that house while we were undergraduates.

Ruth and Pete (who lived in West Street), Ken (who lived in Anglesea Rd.) and I are sitting on the step in the back garden of Clifton Terrace here. There was a railway line at the bottom of our garden and even though some people hated the sound of the trains going by or the fact that the needle jumped on the turntable when we listened to music, or the fact that the whole house shook, I loved it.

Ken, Ruth, myself and Liz in this one. The garden of Clifton Terrace again, under the pear tree. Pete, who sent me the photographs, must be the one who took this photograph. I can't remember who owned the camera but it was a rare thing for us in those days - we were impoverished students and owning a camera  and particularly the processing costs were beyond our means.

Looking at these has brought up so many memories....

Those were the days, my friend
we thought they'd never end
we'd sing and dance for ever and a day
we'd live the life we'd choose
we'd fight and never lose
for we were young and sure to have our way...

I used to love this song in those days, but could obviously not comprehend the resonance it would have today.


It rained yesterday

raindrops sitting on the leaves


everything clean and fresh.


Saturday 11 June 2011


At the centre of a prehistoric complex in the Marlborough Downs stands the World Hesitage Site of Avebury, the largest stone circle in the world.

It dates from around 4,500 years ago and many of the stones were re-erected in the 1930s.

The circles and henge enclose part of the village.

Now we are in the village itself and this is the dovecote dating from the early 1600s (if I remember right). It is in the middle of the village on the side of a clearing with a pond in the middle, an old barn on one side which is a museum now as well as the National Trust restaurant which is the only NT restaurant serving vegetarian food and where we had lunch.

At the other end of the clearing is Avebury Manor

The gardens were restored twice in the 20th century. We start with the Monk's Garden

The East entrance to the Manor and the East Garden

the pet cemetary on our left as we move on towards

the Topiary Garden

and another view

walking along the Half Moon Garden which is bordered with lavender on one side

leading on to the Kitchen Garden

with its wonderful pond

more lillies, white this time

and more topiary

on to the Italian Walk

then through this doorway

finally, some rest on a bench in the Half Moon garden.