Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Back in England

Quiz Question:

Switzerland is famous for:

(A) watches and clocks
(B) banks
(C) chocolate


All of the above, but who cares about anything but (C)?

We flew back to England via SwissAir, and it was quite possibly the best flight we've ever had. The seats were comfortable and relatively roomy. The on-board entertainment, with which we ordinarily don't bother, was excellent; it was a series of short clips, wordless, showing absolutely hilarious and harmless practical jokes.

For example, Demetrios' favorite was the one in a clothing store. There were three empty seats outside the women's fitting room, and as soon as a woman would enter, three men would come and take those seats. When the woman would come out to inspect the outfit in the mirror, each man would hold up a placard scoring the item from 1-10. Of course, the scores were totally inconsistent, making them meaningless.

My favorite clip was of a pretty young woman who would stand on a street corner, and as soon as some man would appear, she would wave and beckon to him. As she was quite pretty, and as there was obviously a hug on offer, the man would smile and head toward her as soon as the traffic light turned. But just as he was about to reach her, another man would sprint ahead of him, whom the woman would enthusiastically embrace. Anyway, we laughed until we had tears running down our cheeks.

And YES, the flight attendants did hand out Swiss chocolates, both at the beginning and then again at the end of the flight.

We are glad to be back in England, where everything is clean and tidy and where the weater is cool and breezy. Our mood has lightened considerably. Demetrios sang in the shower yesterday for the first time since Kostas died, and he went back to working on his book, too.

Here at the library in Ormskirk, I've even (apparently!) found a way to access my blog after all.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Quotes to Ponder, 02

"The technetronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieval by the authorities." - Zbigniew Brezinski, Between Two Ages, America's Role in the Technotronic Era, 1970

"In the next century, nations as we know it will be obsolete; all states will recognize a single, global authority. National sovereignty wasn't such a great idea after all." - Strobe Talbot, President Clinton's Deputy Secretary of State, as quoted in Time, July 20th, 1992.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Quotes to Ponder

"Today, America would be outraged if U.N. troops entered Los Angeles to restore order [referring to the 1991 LA Riot]. Tomorrow they will be grateful! This is especially true if they were told that there were an outside threat from beyond [i.e., an "extraterrestrial" invasion], whether real or promulgated, that threatened our very existence. It is then that all peoples of the world will plead to deliver them from this evil. The one thing every man fears is the unknown. When presented with this scenario, individual rights will be willingly relinquished for the guarantee of their well-being granted to them by the World Government."

- Dr. Henry Kissinger, Bilderberger Conference, Evians, France, 1991

"We are grateful to The Washington Post, The New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years. It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subject to the bright lights of publicity during those years. But, the work is now much more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national autodetermination practiced in past centuries."

- David Rockefeller, founder of the Trilateral Commission, in an address to a meeting of The Trilateral Commission, in June, 1991.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Sad Visit to Greece

We came to be with Mena, newly widowed, and (originally) to see whether Demetrios might be able to help save Kostas. That latter was not to be, but we have spent most of our time with Mena. Please pray for her, as she is having a difficult time. She finds that the words of faith she is accustomed to say to others in their bereavements are of no comfort to her. She cannot, for the time being, beieve in Resurrection and paradise.

We've been to Kostas' grave three times, the latest last night, when Mena went to tend the flowers, throwing out those that had wilted, and to light the oil lantern, and to wipe or sweep away imaginary dust on the marble marker. She hopes somehow her care will help Kostas, as if he needed helping. What it will do, of course, is bring him even greater joy, since it is an expession of her love.

As Mena points out, Kostas was much more to her than a husband. He was also to her a first cousin - or so she thought until a few years ago when she found out she had been adopted. (Kostas knew all along; he remembers when his mother and her sister brought Mena home from the orphange.) He was also Mena's childhood friend. He was also a kind of teacher to her as to everyone around him, sharing, as another friend said, his simple but profound wisdom without sophistry. He was a great example to one and all, and a kind of anchor in this troubled world. He was closer to all of us than a blood relative, much more to Mena than just a husband.

In short, if Kostas is not with his Lord, then frankly, it's hard to think there's any hope for the rest of us.

We spent several days with Mena at her country home. Her new air-conditioner, Demetrios' gift in tribute to his closest boyhood friend, was finally installed on Tuesday evening, and by Thursday morning (our last day there) we had finally learned how to operate it, thanks to George and Pelagia, who stopped by on their way to their vacation home in Hakidiki. Never again will we spend a sleepless night cooking in our own sweat. The new inverter cools the whole house very nicely.

Not that we will ever come to Greece again this time of year if we can help it. The temperatures have been around 110 most days, and the days when it was less, it was still in the 90s. Demetrios is tan; I am red and freckled and my hair is a couple of shades lighter. We look forward to the cool weather in England, even if it is rainy!

There has been some joy, too, of course. Leonidas and Ianna invited us on Sunday to the baptism of their granddaughter, Natalia, who is 11 months old. She didn't cry through the whole baptism until they were ready to dress her, when she obviously felt she'd had enough stuff done to her for the time being. Once laid on the dressing table, she returned to her usual good cheer, clapping her hands as if in deight. Then she never fussed through the chrismation and tonsure and all the rest. Even though she was teething, she smiled all the way through to the end of the reception.

While visiting Mena in the country, we had two swims in the beautiful, clear, warm sea and although I wasn't quite in the right mood, it didn't escape me how lucky I am to be able to do that. Mena and I both found it therapeutic, emotionally. There is something very soothing about the wide open water and being submerged in nature and the sunshine and lying on your back and being gently rocked by the undulations that, in the Aegean, pass for waves.

Demetrios managed to strike up a good friendship with 13-month-old Aexis, one of Mena's grandsons, while I resumed an already warm friendship with his older sister, Christina. We read a story and played Monster and put curlers in her hair and drew pictures; Demetrios says I learned more Greek from her than any other way. She's very patient with my stumbling language, although seemingly puzzed by it.

Manolis and Vasilea invited us, together with another couple, to their house for dinner one night, where we sat out beside their gorgeous pool and watched the bats skimming over the water to catch insectss. That was an evening of mixed emotions. It felt good to be with them again. We shared our grief over Kostas; we didn't sing after supper the way we always have in the past; we hadn't the heart. The other couple were another Demetrios and his wife Maria, who has Altzheimer's. It was sad to see her husband having to cut up her food for her and hand her the fork from time to time. It was heartening to see how he did it, with so little apparent concern, not making any fuss about it, displaying no grief, as if it were normal and a matter of course and not in any way making Maria feel uncomfortable.

Besides the death itself, Mena has all the aftermath to deal with. One complicating factor is that Kostas left no will. Imagine that, a lawyer with a heart condition, not having a will. He was in the process of drafting one, but was conflicted about who should get some of the furniture. It's been 20 years since I've seen the upstairs of his apartment, but the downstairs has little, if any, furniture his children will want. Neither has his house in the country, with he possible exception of an enormous antique dining table. In the absence of a will, says Mena, Greek Law gives the widow 25% of the estate and the rest goes to the children.

Demetrios is spending today in Katerini visiting his brother, Christos, whose emphysema has progressed to a horrible degree. He can't climb two stairs, or walk 10 yards, without stopping for breath and he finds driving difficult. Demetrios had a confeence with Christos' doctor, who wants to hospitalize Christos for a couple of days to run tests and see if it's time for him to have extra oxygen. Christos has agreed to do this, although whether he actually will isn't clear. The oxygen will only make him feel more comfortable, no more.

Greece is dying. There is no possible way, now, for her to be an independent, sovereign nation in the foreseeable future, barring divine intervention. (And if you are thinking to yourself, "Thank God it's not my country," you are being far too naive; this is a warning fo all of us.)

Every other shop is closed. Pensions are being further cut. Taxes are still rising. And the same old government that has betrayed Greece is still in control. Well, they aren't, but their backers are. The Church, because she is speaking out, will be targeted soon. Much courage will be called for, and much prayer.

Hints from Helen:

If you want to have Christian faith but find you cannot, start today doing all you can to find God; and be assured that if you persist, He will find you.

If you have no Last Will and Testament, make one today or tomorrow. Don't put it off. Don't do that to your loved ones. You never know.

If you smoke, stop. Now.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Ninth Day

There was a Trisagion Prayer service at Kostas' grave today, as is customary on the 9th day after death. We lit some of those very thin candles and stuck them in the ground, where they almost immediately bent over double in the direct sunlight. (Temps today still near 100.) We laid the rest flat on the ground, lit.

We poured red wine over the grave; anybody know the symbolism of that? I don't, and neither did any of our friends. Blood of Christ?

We scattered a bit of koliva (boiled wheat) over the grave, too. At least I know what that means; it symbolizes the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection, for Christ said that unless a grain of wheat fall to the ground and "die" it cannot grow into a new wheat plant.

Greek graves are different from ours. One reason is that the bones are usually dug up after 3 years, cleaned, and stored in an ossuary. This makes space for another burial, the available land being in short supply.

So Greek graves have a headstone, which apparently stays there no matter who is currently occupying the plot; to this is affixed a marble plaque with the name of the reposed person carved into it, along with the dates.

At the foot of the grave is something like a narrow marble cabinet. It may contain a glassed-in frame, built in, for displaying a photo of the deceased. It may have another place for an icon, an attached vase, an attached oil lantern, a locked comartment for storing candles, matches, incense, oil. It is also carved with the name, birthdate and death date of the deceased.

All these are already in place at Kostas' grave.

How can a person be here one day and so completely gone the next? Ths sad, brutal truth that hit me as I looked around at our friends is, we are all going to bury one another, unless we go first. (Demetrios says I shouldn't say that, so I didn't, in company; instead, I write it here.) I miss his sly grin when he was about to tell a joke, and his giggles afterward. He was the only man I ever knew who giggled - except of course for his best friend, Demetrios. He giggles, too. I miss his resounding bass voice, so dramatic when passion crept into his arguments; how I wish I could have heard him in court, arguing a case!

We spent the weekend with Mena, his widow, at her country house. The temperatures ranged between 100 - 110, and she had no air conditioning. So it was misrable, made more so by mosquitoes and cigarette smoke, as several our our friends are smokers.

She has invited us again for Monday, with promises of swims in the Meditteranean, but I intend to beg off unless she has her new air conditioner installed by then.

Monday, July 9, 2012


We had plans to visit Cambridge last weekend, and a friend from church had also invited us to Dublin for next weekend. All our plans, however, have been thrown into disarray with the untimely death of Demetrios' dearest friend since their boyhood. Our dear Kostas reposed in the Lord on Wednesday morning. Demetrios flew to Greece a few days before, in a frantic effort to save him, and I came Friday. Kostas had had a cardiac arrest a month ago. He was standing outside a pharmacy when his heart stopped, and inside the pharmacy was an emergency room doctor, who promptly resuscitated him, so we thought that rather a miracle and said to ourselves it obviously wasn't Kostas' time yet. But then he was subjected to the malpractice (and I mean that literally) of a Greek hospital, and that sealed his fate. It's hot here; 40 degrees, centigrade, which is 104, Fahrenheit. We are are used to English temps more like 15 - 16 centigrade, which is somewhere in the sixties, Fahrenheit. And that's the HIGH temp! Much colder at night. We've (obviously) been spending all our time with the newly-widowed Mena. Today we are going to catch up on things like unpacking. Returning to England before long, to finish out the "summer" there, such summer as they have there. Hard to believe, the last thing I did before leaving there was turn off the radiators! More another day; I don't feel much like writing today; we are still trying to process the absence of Kostas. So, so strange, that someone should so entirely disappear that in some moments, as Demetrios said, it seems he must never have been here at all. And yet he was... didn't Emily Dickinson write a poem that ends, "And oh, the difference to me!"? Kostas made a huge and wonderful difference.