Saturday, 10 February 2018

On and On and On with The Durrells

The Durrell family arrived in Corfu in 1935.
In an earlier post I suggested that The Durrells, which will broadcast its third series this spring, might run for five series in all.  This is because the Durrells arrived in Corfu in 1935, the new third series is set in 1937, and the family did not leave the island until the outbreak of the Second World War two years later in 1939 - therefore a series per year.

But now further publicity is hinting that The Durrells could continue beyond Corfu and well into the war and maybe well beyond that.

In fact Callum Woodhouse who plays Leslie says he sees no reason why The Durrells cannot 'carry on forever, really'.

'On and on and on and on', says Callum Woodhouse, who plays Leslie.

The whole story before, during and after Corfu.

Monday, 5 February 2018

The Alexandria Quartet: 'most beautiful prose of the twentieth century'

View across the Eastern Harbour by Michael Haag.

Irish novelist and Man Booker prize winner John Banville counts the Alexandria Quartet among the best books of the twentieth century.

'As fiction, these four novels — Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, and Clea — are post-Romantic piffle, but as a celebration of a city and a distillation of the "spirit of place" they are without peer, with some of the richest, most beautiful prose written in the 20th century.'

Click here for more.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Bitter Lemons: A Good Read

A good read.

The position of the acropolis is admirably chosen, standing as it does above the road at the very point where it turns inland from the sea. Priest and soldier alike would be satisfied by it. From the summit the eye can travel along the kindlier green of a coast tricked out in vineyards and fading away towards the Cape of Cats and Curium. 

 - Lawrence Durrell, Bitter Lemons

Thursday, 18 January 2018

The Durrells: Third Season

A romantic moment between Louisa and Spiro.
ITV has begun promoting Season 3 of The Durrells. The broadcast date is not yet announced but on form its six episodes will start in late April, early May 2018 in Britain and autumn 2018 in America.

Intriguingly the link says ‘The Durrells writer Simon Nye has promised “some exotic new animals” in the upcoming third season, which will be set in 1937’.  But the Durrell family continued to live in Corfu throughout 1938 and well into 1939, so does this mean we can expect a fourth series and maybe even a fifth?

Friday, 12 January 2018

Mary Magdalene: Her Story Will Be Told

The film Mary Magdalene will be released in March this year, the advance poster announcing that 'Her story will be told'.  It is one of the great stories and I will be interested to see how it is told in the film.

Meanwhile I have told her story in my book The Quest for Mary Magdalene.

Here is the official trailer for the film.

And here is a review of my book in The Times.

The Quest for Mary Magdalene is published by Profile Books.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Life After Corfu: Whatever Happened to Margo?

Whatever Happened to Margo?, Margo Durrell's account of her life in Bournemouth after Corfu, will be published by Penguin on 26 April 2018.

Penguin blurb:

In 1947, returning to the UK with two young children to support, Margaret Durrell starts a boarding house in Bournemouth. But any hopes of respectability are dashed as the tenants reveal themselves to be a host of eccentrics: from a painter of nudes to a pair of glamorous young nurses whose late-night shifts combined with an ever-revolving roster of gentleman callers leading to a neighbourhood rumour that Margo is running a brothel. Margo's own two sons, Gerry and Nicholas, prove to be every bit as mischievous as their famous Uncle Gerald - and he himself returns periodically with weird and wonderful animals, from marmosets to monkeys, that are quite unsuitable for life in a Bournemouth garden.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Orthodox Christmas 2018

Coptic worshippers at Orthodox Christmas midnight mass last night
at the Cathedral of Christ's Nativity east of Cairo.
Last night the Orthodox Church round the world, in Greece, in Russia, Ethiopia, Egypt and elsewhere celebrated midnight mass on the eve of Christmas Day 7 January 2018.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

New Year's Eve Along the Jurassic Coast

New Year's Eve 2017 at Sidmouth along England's Jurassic Coast.

Monday, 25 December 2017

Christmas Eve London

 Walking home after midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

Sunday, 24 December 2017


From The Quest for Mary Magdalene by Michael Haag:
Mary the mother of Jesus appears primarily in chapters 1 and 2 of the gospels of Matthew and Luke which tell the story of the nativity and the infancy of Jesus – the virgin birth in a Bethlehem manger, the shepherds in the field, the star in the east, the worshipping magi – a story entirely ignored by the gospels of Mark and John which begin with the baptism of Jesus the man by John the Baptist.

Various scholars, among them Geza Vermes, a leading authority on Jesus, consider the birth narratives as legendary and say they were added to Luke and Matthew at a later date.  These nativity stories, which in any case contradict one another (for example Matthew has the Holy Family, fearful for Jesus’ life, fleeing Bethlehem to Egypt, while Luke has them returning to Nazareth after spending forty days peacefully in Bethlehem and Jerusalem), are unsupported by the other two gospels.  Mark and John say Jesus came ‘out of Galilee’; Mark makes no mention of Bethlehem while John does not contradict the assertion of the pharisees that Jesus was born in Galilee, not Bethlehem (John 7:41-42).  Apart from these birth and infancy chapters of Matthew and Luke, Mary appears in the gospels only seven times, five of those times described as the mother of Jesus but otherwise unnamed, and once in Acts. 
Three of the references to Jesus’ unnamed mother relate to one event which is described in Mark 3:31-35, Matthew 12:46-50 and Luke 8:19-21.  Jesus has been healing and preaching and driving out devils and has attracted crowds of people up and down Galilee, but his friends and family fear that he is deranged and possessed by Beelzebub and they come for him.  Instead he dismissively waves his mother and brothers away, saying his true mother and brothers are those who do the will of God. 
The fourth time when the mother of Jesus is mentioned but not named is at the marriage of Cana where again she makes a nuisance of herself and Jesus turns on her and says, ‘Woman, what have I to do with thee?’ (John 2:4).  For other reasons the marriage at Cana (whose marriage is it?) is an important event and will be mentioned later. 
When she appears at the crucifixion in John 19:25 she is likewise not named, only identified as the mother of Jesus.  John is the only gospel which has Mary at the crucifixion of Jesus; she is not at the burial or the resurrection at all.
Mary the mother of Jesus is however named in the gospels of Mark and Matthew when villagers in Galilee are irate that Jesus should be preaching at their synagogue.  They believe him to be a carpenter, or the son of a carpenter, from Nazareth and do not realise that he is a rabbi: ‘Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us?’ (Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55 also mentions Mary and her sons by name but makes no mention of her daughters.) 
And finally Mary the mother of Jesus is mentioned by name in Acts 1:14 at Pentecost where after the resurrection the Holy Spirit descends upon those in the Upper Room. 
Mary has the distinction of being the mother of Jesus, but there is nothing in their relationship to suggest that she had any understanding of what he was about.  In the end there was a reconciliation of sorts when according to the gospel of John, though no one else, Mary came to see Jesus hanging on the cross and he acknowledged her with his dying breath, saying ‘Woman, behold thy son!’ (John 19:26). 
In contrast, Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ constant companion throughout his ministry in Galilee and helped organise and finance the scores of people involved in his mission to heal and bring salvation to the sick and the poor (Luke 8:1-3).  She came with Jesus to Jerusalem, witnessed his crucifixion (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; John 20:1), watched to see where his body was laid (Matthew 27:61; Mark 15:47), returned to anoint him on the third day and witnessed his resurrection from the dead (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1, 16:9; Luke24:1; John 20:1, 20:11, 20:16, 20:18) – fourteen mentions of Mary Magdalene by name, as well as other mentions, as when she is included among ‘the women from Galilee’. 
Readers will be familiar with the notions of Mary the mother of Jesus as a perpetual virgin, the perfect mother and the Theotokos, ‘the mother of God’, of having been conceived immaculately, of ascending into heaven, of being an intercessor between God and man, the one who knows the deepest human suffering, the woman always gentle and obedient to God’s will.  But nothing of this model of the ‘perfect’ woman is found in the Bible where she is a somewhat irritating woman who has no comprehension of what her son is about; instead she is an invention who belongs entirely to later centuries, a relatively minor Biblical figure who was transformed into a major cult – while Mary Magdalene, the woman who knew Jesus, was turned into a whore.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Fortnum and Mason's Christmas Windows 2017

The Advent calendar.

As I do at this time of year I passed by Fortnum and Mason which has been decorating its windows at Christmas for over three hundred years and continues to present the most imaginative windows in London.  The theme in 2017 is ‘Together We’re Merrier’.

To illustrate this message, Fortnum’s has brought together a cast of fanciful characters starring in a narrative of Christmas moments across the eight windows of its Piccadilly facade, from the opening of an advent calendar to the dressing of the tree and the popping of the champagne cork.  

Animals and inanimate objects come to life,
all working together to make Christmas happen. 

The wolf regales the sheep with song.

The endless feast.

The popping of the cork.

A cosy tale by the fireside.

An elephant, a lion and an ostrich deliver hampers
via rocket ship to the ends of the earth.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Lawrence Durrell's Diary and Rough Notes Cyprus 1955

Durrell's daughter Sappho features prominently.

Sold at Sotheby's, London, today at well above the estimate.  I wonder who got it.

The Penelope in Sotheby's description is not Durrell's daughter
who was only 15 at the time and not in Cyprus.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Friday, 1 December 2017

The Durrells and Corfu Tourist Services

Spiro takes Margo, Gerry and Louisa for a spin in his Dodge.
Corfu Tourist Services was founded by Michalis Chalikiopoulos, the son of Spiro 'Americanos', famous as the taxi driver, mentor, protector and friend of the Durrell family when they came to live in Corfu in 1935. Still family-run today, Corfu Tourist Services is the outfit to contact if you require knowledgeable assistance when planning a visit to Corfu, and also their website provides an interesting account of the relationship between the Chalikiopoulos and Durrell families - illustrated by their own delightful collection of photographs.

Fun with a gun: Pat Evans, Larry Durrell, Spiro Chalikiopoulos
and Leslie Durrell. Pat (called Peter in My Family and Other Animals)
was Gerry's tutor for a while and had a broken romance with Margo.  

The story of the Durrells and Spiro is told in my book The Durrells of Corfu.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Durrell's Alexandria Dissolves

The Times 25 November 2017.

Today The Times, in an article written by Richard Spencer, its Middle East correspondent, roused itself to publish some old news, first reported in this blog over two months ago.

‘Time is memory, they say; the art however is to revive it and yet avoid remembering. You speak of Alexandria. I can no longer even imagine it. It has dissolved.’ 
   - Balthazar speaking at the end of Clea

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Inspired by Greece

The Durrells of Corfu, published earlier this year by Profile Books in London, will be published in Greek translation by Patakis in Athens in 2018.

Patakis will also be launching next year my Alexandria: City of Memory, first published by Yale University Press in London and New Haven in 2004.  It was published in Greek by Oceanida in Athens in 2005; now Patakis are making a fresh translation and are issuing the book as a trade paperback.

These two books, The Durrells of Corfu and Alexandria: City of Memory, are closely associated with one another and with my curiosity about the Durrells as I explain in this Waterstones blog post. It pleases me immensely to see them published in Greece, the country that inspired the remarkable Durrell family and such friends of theirs as Henry Miller.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Hallowe'en Here and There

Friends have sent me photographs of the season. These skulls and bones 
were stumbled upon in a garden in Providence, Rhode Island. 
A café in Main Street, Walnut Creek, California.
Service at a London fruit and vegetable shop. 
Orange and ghostly pumpkins in London.
Pret-a-porter graveyard in Lafayette, California.
Blue-green pumpkin in Providence.
Autumn at Rogers Lake, Connecticut.

London sky.