Greece’s age-old obsession with fire

Patmos While green Rhodes and greener Corfu burn away, arid Patmos remains fireproof because rock and soil do not a bonfire make. The Almighty granted some islands plenty of water, and other ones no H2O whatsoever. Most of the Cycladic isles lug in drinking water from the mainland, and make do with treated unsalted seawater for planting. The Ionian isles have springs and rivers and also fires, some of them started by firebugs who hope to gain – I have never figured this one out – from the blaze. It’s all very confusing, especially as the temperatures are rising and the energy to party diminishes by the hour. Everything was

Why I chose virtue over vice

Patmos A funny thing happened on my way to this beautiful place, an island without druggies, nightclub creeps, clip joints or hookers. I stopped in Athens for about five hours in order to look over old haunts and just walk around places I’d known as a youth, when I noticed something incredible: none of the youngsters I encountered were texting, nor were they glued to their mobiles and bumping into people. Sure, some were on their phones, but the majority of them were talking and gesticulating like normal humans used to do before the technology curse rained down on us. Well, as they say, nothing lasts for ever, and once

The curse of the jet-ski

An F. Scott Fitzgerald biographer by the name of David S. Brown refers to America’s promotion of deviancy (my words) as ‘the great post-Appomattox launch toward materialism’. I liked that line and was thinking about it as I left the boat in the early morning and walked into an almost perfect Greek village square for a coffee. There were some French people blabbing away with their usual hand gestures, Greeks discussing politics at high volume, and then an American couple, both quite attractive, each with a Mac in front of them and absolutely impervious to anyone or anything in their immediate surroundings. Talk about a launch towards materialism. The two

An elegy on yachting

Patmos A very long time ago I wrote in these here pages that spending a summer on the Riviera or the Greek isles without a boat was as useless as a eunuch in a cathouse. That was then and this, alas, is now. The French and Greek seas are the same, if a little bit more crowded, but the people with boats are very, very different. Back then one knew almost everyone worth knowing — that is, everyone with a smart sailing boat, and a few with gin palaces that were graceful. These modern horrors that look like refrigerators on steroids, with top-heavy superstructures from bow to stern, helicopters, jet

In praise of Patmos

Patmos I’m in Patmos with four grandchildren, two children, and a wife. I know, I know, it sounds very lower–middle-class and only Bournemouth and some sunbeds are missing, but who cares. Children have friends, and grandchildren even younger friends, so it’s not all gloom and doom. The princely Schwarzenbergs are here — the mother is Greek — and so is half of Vienna, not to mention Florence, Venice and Rome. At dinner the other night up at the piazza, which holds about 40 tables, there was not a single Philip Green-type among the guests, and looking back I cannot remember having had a more pleasant dinner setting ever, other than