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November 30, 2021


For every Star Trek nerd, and I imagine for our mutual friend Jane also, it makes us think of Omicron Ceti 3, the planet that makes Spock become emotional and Jim Kirk ready to abandon his ship.

"I'm not going back, Jim!"

Only that I love your handwriting in Greek. Such a lineage in those tracings.

I feel the same about Hebrew.
I began studying the alphabet after a business trip to Tel Aviv when I returned home laden with books on Judaism, Israeli history and politics, and wanted to leave my then-life to live on a kibbutz.
I once saw a front page of some magazine or other, whose headline was: When Israel was a child I loved him", now that Israel has grown up I'm not so enamoured...
Anyway, I've been with you for fifteen years, since I first fled to France as a mouse. I'm back again as a cancer survivor.
late-night ramblings... apologies

I always felt that British Hellenophiles were showing off. Greek's a foreign language with a double difficulty: got to learn the alphabet first. Then there are the myths with their many sickening methods of putting people to death. Plus the huge gulf between modern and ancient Greek (says he, coveniently forgetting the impenetrability of Beowulf). And the fact that modern Greece plays only a modest role in the aspirations of the EU; do I have to understand its politics? British Hellenophiles, though not rich, all seemed "comfortable" (an undefinable adjective that nevertheless plays the role of mortar in the brick-built structure that is the British middle class). If it hadn't been for James Joyce and, to a lesser degreee, Richard Strauss, I'd know even less about Ελλάς than I do. It just wasn't my intellectual homestead

Familiarity with a foreign language in an increasingly monoglot world seemed essential. Proof that one had been prepared to put in the hours towards a sense of community, however fractional. In 1972 the publishing company I worked for offered free language tuition during the working day and you can guess what decision I made. But it would represent steps taken towards Marguerite Duras not Racine, Jacques Chirac not Charlemagne, understanding the threat from the New Right rather than the Albigensian Heresy.

The magazine I edited was sold and the new location was an hour's drive away. Because I liked to get in early my working day more closely corresponded with that of France, an hour ahead. Each morning I listened to France Inter's morning news magazine on the car radio.

And discovered a terrible risk. French politicians (and especially those of the Right - this was the heyday of Jean-Marie le Pen) did not speak like the man selling cerises in the street market at Clermont l'Hérault. Two-hundred words per minute became 60 wpm. The syntax, though still complex, was less idiomatic. The sentiments less extreme, more humane. The vocabulary almost shrunken. As a debutante in French-language-speaking I found myself loving this new and unexpected clarity. Revelling in it to the point where I came perilously close to accepting what was said was the truth. So beware. Greece is a real rag-tag and bobtail of political beliefs; remember The Colonels in Z. That clear speech may well be the language of the demagogue.

I fear I got off the point. Envy was probably the reason.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.