Turquoise

…like sapphires in colour, only that it is paler and more closely resembles the tint of the water near the sea-shore in appearance.

(Pliny the Elder: Natural History, XXXVII.56)

It is found in the countries that lie at the back of India, among the Phycari, namely, who inhabit Mount Caucasus, the Sacæ, and the Dahæ. It is remarkable for its size, but is covered with holes and full of extraneous matter; that, however, which is found in Carmania is of a finer quality, and far superior. In both cases, however, it is only amid frozen and inaccessible rocks that it is found, protruding from the surface, like an eye in appearance, and slightly adhering to the rock; not as though it formed an integral part of it, but with all the appearance of having been attached to it. People so habituated as they are to riding on horseback, cannot find the energy and dexterity requisite for climbing the rocks to obtain the stones, while, at the same time, they are quite terrified at the danger of doing so. Hence it is, that they attack the stones with slings from a distance, and so bring them down, moss and all. It is with this stone that the people pay their tribute, and this the rich look upon as their most graceful ornament for the neck. This constitutes the whole of their wealth, with some, and it is their chief glory to recount how many of these stones they have brought down from the mountain heights since the days of their childhood. Their success, however, is extremely variable; for while some, at the very first throw, have brought down remarkably fine specimens, many have arrived at old age without obtaining any.

Such is the method of procuring these stones; their form being given them by cutting, a thing that is easily effected. The best of them have just the colour of smaragdus, a thing that proves that the most pleasing property in them is one that belongs of right to another stone. Their beauty is heightened by setting them in gold, and there is no stone to which the contrast of the gold is more becoming. The finest of them lose their colour by coming in contact with oil, unguents, or undiluted wine even; whereas those of a poorer quality preserve their colour better. There is no stone, too, that is more easily counterfeited in glass. Some writers say, that this stone is to be found in Arabia also, in the nest of the bird known as the “melancoryphus.”

(Pliny the Elder: Natural History XXXVII.33)

In response to Ailsa's travel theme: Turquoise.

Last Year’s Best Reads? (Or Self-hosted vs Hosted)

In the past week I’ve been engaged in looking at my statistics… And since the blog moved from being self-hosted to wordpress.com during the year, I had to collate the statistics manually, a task during which I found myself evaluating the pros and cons of…

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New Horizon

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whhheeeeᴇᴇᴇᴇᴇᴇᴇᴇEEEEEEEE! The scream of jet engines rises to a crescendo on the runways of the world. Every second, somewhere or other, a plane touches down, with a puff of smoke from scorched tyre rubber, or rises in the air, leaving a smear of black fumes dissolving in its wake. From space, the earth might look to a fanciful eye like a huge carousel, with planes instead of horses spinning round its circumference, up and down, up and down. Whhheeeeeeeeeee!

Small World by David Lodge

In response to the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: New Horizon.

Mediterranean Vote

Stuck indoors with Young Friend of the Elephants, who is engaged in the fifth labour of Hercules (cleaning the Augean Stables, aka her bedroom) so I thought I’ll take a look at the results of the Mediterranean Mondays vote: it was dismal. (Scroll down to see the results.) Political apathy I could understand but this apolitical apathy?

So I made you a slideshow:

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Click Here to Vote

The results so far:

Travel photos: 2
Bits of history: 2
Holiday destinations: 1 (the second one was me testing the poll)
Travel anecdotes: 1
Bits of poetry: 1

(A politician would have presented this in percentages to hide the fact that hardly any of you bothered to vote but I’m not a politician.)

Mediterranean Mondays

Much as I love the Mediterranean, in the past few months I found that I could do better things with my Sunday than writing blog posts. 🙂 This morning’s sunshine finally gave me the push to make up my mind that Sunday’s Miscellany will be moved to Mondays, when regardless of the weather, I’ll be stuck in an office all day anyhow and will want to cheer myself up with thoughts of sea and sun…

So I suppose we herewith rename the miscellany, to mark the change.

And while I’m making changes, I thought I’d invite your thoughts on what would you like to see more of in this feature about the Mediterranean? As it’s the only feature of the blog in which I’m committed to a publishing schedule, I still intend to keep it reasonably short but I think I might as well do away with the self-imposed 300 word limit (which I often failed to stay within anyhow).

You’re invited to vote on which of the topics we had in the last year you’d like to have more of – or let me know if there’s something new you’d like me to include – Spanish pop songs anybody? 🙂

In the meantime I’m off to enjoy the weather; you’ll get a dose of Mediterranean sunshine tomorrow. 🙂

Sea, Sailing, Sunset…

Okay, so it was a very hard week at work, in the evenings I was both tired & busy and I’ve done almost no blogging at all (although I did make some progress on a bilingual post with my first ever author interview)…

…I think it’s time to chill.

So that’s Malta over there on the starboard, people – taken from a sailing ship last autumn. If you consider this poor fare for a Sunday, more Malta stuff here, including a good book on Maltese history. 🙂 Happy Sunday!

IMG_1638.jpg

Sailing Into History

There are authors who captivate you. With their choice of words, their temperament, their ideas, their life story, their way of looking at the world, their… spirit. It’s been a long time since I last had been so captivated as I’ve been this winter; and it’s a good thing that my husband doesn’t read this blog for I’m positively in love. (With a man who’s been dead for some thirty years. Ouch!)

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Polyglot Good Morning

Buenos días • Bongu • Bon jour • Dobro jutro • Καλημέρα (kalimera)  • Bon giorno

 

Images:

  1. Sunrise over Barcelona – Photo by Andrew E. Larsen via Flickr
  2. The military band en route to the changing of the guard in Valletta
  3. Sailing boat leaving the harbour of Marseille – Photo by blandineschillinger via Pixabay
  4. Sunbathers on the Adriatic coast near Trogir – Photo by Mária Dobi
  5. Table laid for breakfast in St Thomas B&B, Athens – Photo by St Thomas B&B
  6. Tourists on their way to St Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican, Rome – Photo by Mária Dobi

With thanks to the Facebook page of jotdown.es for the idea of a photographic Good Morning.

Following Ulysses with Ernle Bradford

Recently I wrote about how a young Royal Navy sailor in 1941 sauntered into a Greek bar in Alexandria and came out with his head full of the Odyssey. Well, those of you who haven’t read that piece, go and read it now, but I’m willing to remind the rest who have merely forgotten who this sailor was: Ernle Bradford.

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Mediterranean Miscellany

I love the Mediterranean. Why is anybody’s guess, although sun, sea and history have all got to do with it. And languages.

And so here I’m introducing a short & lightweight Sunday feature that mostly will have very little to do with books: a collection of odds and ends, a miscellany of the Mediterranean. From travel photos to anecdotes to recipes  – I’ll be sharing anything and everything that evokes the Mediterranean landscape, people and their history. In no more than 300 words (a welcome relief to everyone).

So here's to those unforgettable sunny days in the Med.
So here’s to those unforgettable sunny days in the Med.

 

Final Verdict (The Great Sea)

Last week I finally managed to finish The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean by David Abulafia. I had no time to announce this earth shattering fact (it took me nearly a full year to read this book) to the world immediately because I was too busy blogging about Herodotus at the time.

My final verdict can be expressed in two words:

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The Horrors of Ibiza 1400 AD

Yesterday I revised my views on David Abulafia’s book, The Great Sea. I’m not saying that it’s not boringly written, mind. But having completed nearly 400 pages of the 650, I begin to get used to the relentless crunching out of dates, names and trade goods. If nothing else, some of the more exotic sounding trade goods imported by the Merchant of Prato around 1400 had me busy googling; zedoary and galingale, anybody?

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