Friday, April 28, 2006

Prespa est magna divisa in partes tres

As part of easter holiday excursions, we visited the Greek side of Prespa. In easter period 2004 we had visited the northern side as well as Ochrid with K. Just the Albanian side left now for easter 2008!

Had a run in with another blood-sucking arthropod while up north. This time of the suck and go type, rather than the suck and stick around with your head in the host's body type. On the back of my neck. Been dousing the swelling with extracts of natural stuff as packaged and sold by Korres.

Going to the country again tonight. I am so behind on my trip reports that it really is not funny any more. The peppers have become edible, they have ripened and reddened and swelled, and I have done a whole bunch of travelling, but said nothing about it at all outsdie. This whole blogging stuff is a lot tougher than the writing I used to do in my diary as an angst-ridden hormone-driven adolescant public-schoolboy.

Oh well.

Still writing up the final chapter to Ravenna and keep getting stumped by the Goths. Don't want to write stuff which ain't right (as if anyone would notice, anyway) but finding it hard to remember things off the top of my head and finding it harder to be arsed to go look things up. I feel, though, that it must be written. I am so looking forward to knowing that somewhere, out there in cyberspace, some sola-scriptura "christian" of one of the American denominations will come across the description of the arian heresy I have prepared for my piece on the baptisteries in ravenna and will sit and think, and maybe, just maybe, a lightbulb will go off above their head which will lead to better things.

When Ravenna part II is published, the piece will be dedicated to that lightbulb chap or lassie.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

V for vendetta

Yeah, so we went to watch it and it was a very well made film and thought provoking in all the right places.

The big and nagging question remains - in a similar situation, how would I react?

I figure I would probably sit there in my conservative (literal, not political) mindset, acting and arguing in favour of the status quo so as to cause as few ripples as possible while at the same time giving in to my aquarian revolutionary urges and keeping illicit stashes of contraband, much like both of the characters who help Evey during the film, because dammit, it is the right thing to do.

The right thing to do, of course, is like acorns: horses love them, but they are not palatable to most people.

I am so glad they never show us his face. That would have been a big mistake.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Ixodes Ricinus, come on in, your time is up

The worst thing about pulling a blood sucking parasitic arthropod off your dick is not really being able to brag about it that much. I mean - come on, who wants to brag about having an eight-legged little fucker hanging by its proboscis off his cock?

Ah - the wonders of the internet and the anonymity it brings. So while I may not have the sang froid to sit and write to friends about this most enriching of experiences, the existence of a blog allows one to talk of such things with impunity.

Things I have learnt today, include:

  • Girls will tend to get upset at the idea that there is a parasite stuck to your todger - avoid telling them if at all possible, especially when they are half asleep at half past seven in the morning.
  • The little fuckers will come off if you pull them by hand - all this bollocks in the literature about using tweezers is crap, you cannot get a decent grip on the fuckers with tweezers.
  • Ticks are arachnids, making them descendents of some of the very first land dwelling animals. Ever.
  • Most ticks are sexually dimorphic - the male and female look different.
  • Lyme disease is not very prevalent in Greece, although the main carrier, Ixodes Ricinus is.
  • Top tip - don't go camping in a place where large mammals (cows) have been roaming around.
  • It's like totally mind-blowing to feel that you have become part of one of these parasite life cycle diagrams showing many hosts and carriers and knowing that you were the human host in all this, man.

The whole experience this morning, well, part of it, brought back one of my most vivid memories of my brief but colourful military service. While I was serving in a guard house in the middle of nowhere, somewhere where I am not allowed to talk about, one of things I would do to pass the time when not reading translations of ancient poetry, would be to sit and record the markings on the turtles which lived within the confines of the barracks. They say that no two turtles have the same markings, and having a teenage head stuffed to the brim with Victorian idiocy I set about to record what we had onsite, in an effort to see whether any pattern would emerge potentially proving them wrong.

None did.

I still have the drawings, done in biro on the back of spent Gitanes packets. I remember being very pleased with them at the time, although I have no idea what I would think of them now. I think I know where they are, though.

Anyway - to the point - as payback for the poor turtles who would sit for maybe an hour at a time and model for me, I would flip them over and take out the ticks stuck to their legs and neck, poor hapless bastards. I am not sure I did not imagine it, but more than once, I think I heard the turtles sigh appreciatively as I would pull a tick from their exposed skin. These of course were ugly huge red ticks - not at all like the small black one I had found this morning - but the gasp of satisfaction I remember hearing coming from the turtles stayed with me. I too almost gasped in the same manner this morning, such was my own feeling of relief at being free from the tick. There had been no real pain or discomfort attached to my experience. The whole thing was more psychological than physical, but still, at that moment I had connected once more with my reptilian friend from fourteen years ago.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Kastelorizo Total Solar Eclipse - Part I

Well, let me tell you about the eclipse...

We got to Kastelorizo on Monday morning, having traveled on the "Dodekanesos Pride" from Rhodes in all of two and a bit hours. I had slept for nearly the whole journey as we had woken up that morning in the school building of Afentou (very kindly donated by the municipality) before dawn. Bleary-eyed and unsure of our footing we descended to the bus stop for Rhodes, treated to a stunning display in the eastern sky of the heavily waning moon together with a very bright Venus. See you again in about 60 hours I thought to myself as the bus pulled up and we argued with the driver over where to put the ridiculous amount of crap we were carrying.

Crap. Defined in this context as: Tents, sleeping bags, clothes and food for seven overnights in a free camping environment, cameras, tripods, personal SRT kit, caving ropes and anchors, in short: crap. Oh, and a bicycle.

On board the "Pride" there was only so much time for people watching before sleep overtook each of us in turn. There was just enough time to notice that there were an extraordinary number of geeks on board with film (rather than digital) cameras around their necks which made me want to paraphrase Obi-Wan: "Dodekanesos Pride: You will never find a more wretched hive of nerds and geekery. We must be cautious." They were amateur astronomers fer chrissake! Real life accountants and engineers, probably.

And after sleeping, we arrived.

And there was Kastelorizo, Megiste, laid out around the harbour in the sun. We met up with the Mayor, he gave us the help we had asked for in our letter. Before we had had a chance to sit and order a frappe we were heading off to the first pot hole of the week - but this is a slightly different story for the caving pages, later.

So there we were, with George the guy who runs the Beautiful Megisti Restaurant and drives the island's only taxi, taking Kostas and myself up past the airport with a fishing boat captain called Kykkos and Tassos, the guard of the island's archaeological collection who was going to show us a hole where he had lost a goat about forty years previously.

The car left us half way between the airport and the rubbish dump. There on a curve in the road was a man sitting in a fenced area containing a tent, three telescopes and link to a diesel power generator for the telescopes' tracking drives. He was called Kostas and was looking a little worse for wear after only two nights in the wild. He was there with a group from Thessaloniki who had been to the 1999 eclipse in Bulgaria and were looking for a better shot at totality here. He explained to us that where he was he would get some seven or eight seconds more totality than those in town and started telling us stuff he had translated from the Espenak bible. I let him know we were not completely uninformed and we set off to look for our hole, but not before we had spotted a nice hill slightly to the SW of Kostas where we would get the same view as him, but slightly better - a view with a clear horizon on three sides.

Within the first hour of arriving, we had found an unexplored pothole and found the place from which we were going to observe the eclipse.

Things were looking good.

To be continued...