Choosing new homelands
Omar's situation made us wonder: if we had to live in a single country for the rest of our lives, where would it be? Our obvious first choice would be New Zealand, because of friends and family and memories here, but what if this country were ruled out, and we had to find a new homeland?
In The Tamarind Seed, Omar Sharif's character turned down the offer of Britain as a permanent abode, and instead picked Canada. I think this was a sound choice: Canada is a bit more spacious than old Blighty, which could quickly get claustrophobic, especially for a Russian used to the endless steppe.
I love Tonga, and am excited about living there for most of next year, but I think I would get cabin fever if I were to spend every day of the the rest of my life in a country the size of Lake Taupo with a population of one hundred thousand.
weird and wonderful literary tradition about which I know far too little, and a broad, sophisticated political left. I think we could live in Brazil and treat the country as a microcosm of the wider world.
Skyler was undecided, but thought we might have a good time in Sweden, which she considers the most civilised country in the world. I love Swedish poetry, and Stockholm sounds like an improved version of Auckland, with its harbour setting, picturesque wooden architecture, and efficient public transport system, but I couldn't tolerate the cold.
Ted Jenner is a man who adopted a new homeland decades before he ever set foot outside New Zealand. When I interviewed him several years ago, in the lead-up to the publication of a major selection of his writings, the classicist and poet explained that he'd developed a fascination with Greece while growing up in Dunedin back in the fifties. Inspired by Homer and Aristophanes, the young Jenner would lie awake at night listening to waves wreck themselves on the dunes of St Kilda, and imagine that they belonged to the wine-dark Mediterranean of the Odyssey, rather than the cold green Southern Ocean.
James K Baxter, Charles Brasch and Denis Glover like handsome gangsters.
Ted Jenner has published versions of many ancient Greek poems over the years, and he's currently travelling through his adopted homeland researching a new set of translations. Modern Greece has become sadly dependent on its tourist industry, but over the past six months the sunbathers and snorkellers have been augmented by journalists and aid workers, as the country's economy has gone into freefall and its people have taken to the streets. Recent parliamentary elections saw an explosion in support for the radical left-wing Syriza coalition and, more worryingly, for the Golden Dawn, a collection of shaven-headed, beer-bellied, seig heiling thugs who absurdly claim to represent the spirit of ancient Greece.
'Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius' who, seeing the world in tumult around him, busies himself with a translation of an obscure text by the seventeenth century writer and antiquarian Thomas Browne. If anyone questioned his priorities, Ted might plausibly argue that his translations help keep the spirit of ancient Greece alive, at a time when that spirit is being misrepresented by the sinister Golden Dawn, and forgotten by generations who have grown up, in New Zealand and elsewhere, with little education in the classics.
will have to go without food today - am caught up in a general strike in Thebes of all places! Oh, and to add to my day, the museum is closed for months until restorations and extensions are completed. This will give you a little taste of what hardships a traveler in Greece occasionally encounters but I must say it has been very pleasant so far. The weather has been so kind to me, never below 25 degrees at midday.
Thebes is a natural citadel, a broad easily defended acropolis and one can trace the entry points the chariots must have made into what became known as the Kadmeia, i.e. the ancient citadel. Where the entry into the city spirals - and there are several of these - you can guess that the modern road follows the twists and turns of the ancient road up to one of the seven gates that defended Thebes.
The Thebans still like to be known as Boiotians - after all these are the people that destroyed the Spartan army almost for good at the Battle of Leuctra in 371 B.C.
You can blame the Macedonians for the fact that there isn't much to see in the modern city that is ancient - Phillip II levelled Thebes after the Battle of Chaeronea leaving only Pindar's house standing. The main road in today's Kadmeia is called the Odos Pindarou. Other streets celebrate the names of famous figures from Theban myth, history and legend, e.g. the Odos Oidipodos, the Odos Antigones etc.
You will enjoy the mod. Greek for 'private property': KHOROS IDIOTIKOS!!
Don't see so many Greek men wielding their worry beads this time round - there's an accursed modern invention that is replacing the beads: the cellphone!!
I think that Greece is still Ted's adopted homeland. What country would you pick as a permanent abode, if you were forced to make the choice?
[Posted by Maps/Scott]