Saturday, 30 August 2008

The Stronghold of Evil

In a valley far away was a kingdom whose people once had been happy. But this was before the Evil Queen had come to power. With a gaze that could turn a man into stone, and a voice that could freeze blood into ice, she had turned her people into flickering, fearful shadows. At the court she was feared and despised by everyone. You see, the Queen wasn't only the most wicked of the wicked, she was also the falsest of the false. With a voice as sweet as honey she would crawl around her unsuspecting victim, before she'd suddenly strike and spread her icy venom into the poor soul's veins...

At night those few who dared to approach would see one lit window in her otherwise darkened castle, glowing like a red, evil eye into the night. This was the window of the Queen's study, where she made all her malign plans of how to subjugate her subjects. Under their ruler the once so happy people had become increasingly colder and harder at heart. Their only rescue lay in escaping from the valley, getting out of reach of the evil and falseness of their Queen...

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Active Sunday ®

Sundays can easily become a grey zone: The weekend will soon be over, and you reluctantly start to realize that another week is on its way. But now that I've just started another working year (and at another workplace), I've decided to try to give my Sundays a little bit more substance than before.

Today has been a good start. True, I can't claim that I got up at cockrow. (As always, Saturday night got ridiculously late...) But in the afternoon I went for a nice and long walk in the woods. Afterwards I taught my nice private students for the first time after a long summer break. And in the evening I went to one of the islands and had a refreshing swim while the sun was setting in the fjord. 24 August may very well be my personal swimming record. (When summer lasts as long as it does this year, it would be a shame not to make use of it.) Hopefully all these activities and the fresh sea air will give me a good night's... zzzzzzzz...

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Medical Update

My overall health condition still seems to be pretty good; I haven't been to a hospital for ages (touch wood!). Maybe that's why I got so nervous when my dentist in late winter discovered a mysterious anomaly in my jaw, and - to be on the safe side - sent me to the local hospital, where I went through an exhaustive check-up, including a scanning in one of their scary CT monsters. (Leaving the hospital, I felt ten times worse than when I got there...)

As the doctor had suggested there might be something sinister at large, I naturally wanted to know the results as soon as possible. But winter and spring passed, and I still hadn't heard any more from them. When summer holiday started, I decided to show up in person to stress them about the results. Only to discover they'd actually been ready for months! I'm not sure if this unnecessary mental torment was due to poor information from the hospital or just me being slow in the uptake. Probably both. At any rate, my annoyment soon gave way for the relief about the fact that it turned out to be a totally innocent case of sialolithiasis.

I got an appointment for surgery, and today I've finally got rid of the little bugger. Not a sheer pleasure, I might add... A whole bunch of medics were messing around in my mouth for god knows how long. Finally it all was over, and I could once again walk out into the afternoon sun - a bit dizzy and exhausted - but primarily relieved. No more sialolithiasis for sincerely yours.

Friday, 15 August 2008

A Greek Odyssey

My summer holiday got a bit back-heavy this year, with two visits abroad during the last three weeks. I've already mentioned my trip to Estonia, and last week I returned from a one-week stay in Athens.

There's something magical about this city. It's a unique experience walking in the dry heat among its ancient temple ruins, the air filled with sweet and spicy scents of plants of which I hardly know the names. You can potter around in the old town Plaka's labyrinthine network of alleys and side streets, listening to the café chatter in a language with an unbroken line back to Socrates and Sophocles, the very foundation of the western civilization. And in the evenings: the muffled sound of laughter and bouzouki music under colourful lamps at secluded tavernas, surrounded by the incessant singing of the cicadas. Maybe you'd like to sit down to watch the local beauties, who suddenly look like the daughters of Aphrodite (especially after a few ouzos). And above it all towers a floodlit Acropolis. The ancient gods have never fully abandoned Athens.

I also got time for some excursions outside the Greek capital, including a trip to the Peloponnesian peninsula, with famous buildings like the outdoor theatre at Epidauros (known for its remarkable acoustics) and Agamemnon's ancient citadel in Mycenae. Excursions like this give you a chance to refresh half-forgotten knowledge about the Homeric epics, ancient mythology, linear B and much more.

Greece has always been a nation of navigators, so a visit would not be complete without a trip to the sea. Consequently, I also ventured on a one-day cruise to the isles of Poros, Hydra and Aegina, walking around in picturesque streets among white houses with characteristic blue shutters, and enjoying a refreshing dive into the almost unrealistically blue waves of the Saronic Gulf.

Incidentally, the visit to one of the islands got more dramatic than I'd bargained for. The combination of adventurousness and a lacking sense of direction may have unfortunate consequences. On my way back to embark the ship before its departure, I got totally lost in the local village. After a breathless run up and down cobblestone alleys and dead-end streets (with a gnawing feeling I was running in the wrong direction), I finally found myself by the ferry landing just a couple of minutes before they cast off. I must have been favoured by the gods that day...

All in all, this trip was a great conclusion of my summer holiday, and with the memories of my Greek odyssey I'm now (almost) ready to face autumn and everyday life...