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Greece: The sun is new each day

The church bells started tolling slowly, at a few minutes before midday on Friday, 11th November here in Ancient Corinth.

At exactly 12 noon they stopped.

Their soulful refrain was not to mark Armistice Day, but the funeral of 90 year-old Dimitrios Kaxro , whose death notice was pinned on electricity poles and trees around the village.

Friday was also the day that we discovered Leonard Cohen had died. His death notice was posted, not on a tree in his beloved Greece, but on Facebook in the early hours of the morning.

“It is with profound sorrow we report that the legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen, has passed away…” the post began.

It has since transpired that Leonard Cohen died last Monday, and his death notice was only posted after his burial in Montreal.

Not for him the public funeral of Mr Kaxro, even though he was a public figure. His death, and funeral, were as private as possible. Just like David Bowie’s.

It has been a week filled with sadness, not least the election of Donald J Trump as the most powerful man on earth.

But also a week filled with life.

We have coffee most mornings in view of the ancient site of Corinth.

Laid out before us are the very foundations of modern Europe.

There is an ancient Greek temple, a 2,000 year-old Roman limestone road and the still intact Roman rostra where St Paul was brought by the elders of Corinth’s synagogue to answer charges of heresy.

The Roman pro-consul found him not guilty and St Paul continued on his mission to spread Christianity in the region, barely fifty years after Christ’s birth.

Greece is littered with ancient remains, buildings that tell the story of a people who gave the world democracy, philosophy, mathematics, and so much more.

There are also the scars of the recent economic collapse which have tested the strength and endurance of the Greek people almost, but not quite, to breaking point.

Bitterly angry graffiti, boarded-up shops and half built apartment blocks tell the story of Greece’s recent economic collapse, just as the Temple of Apollo at Ancient Corinth tells the story of the country’s ancient genius.

But as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The sun is new each day.”

Yesterday we helped Vasilis, the 81 year-old farmer on whose small farm we are camped, to gather in his olives. Today we went with him to the mill for the pressing of the fruit.

The aroma of the freshly pressed oil is indescribable. A rich, pungent perfume that smells of life itself.

Life can be tough, tough beyond words.

The Syrian refugees billeted in the army barracks at Corinthos just down the road know that more than anyone.

We all die, yes even our heroes.

And democracy, that imperfect system of organising ourselves gifted to us by the ancient Greeks, sometimes throws up the wrong people.

But it gave us Obama, just as it has just given the world Trump.

Time for a glass of Vasilis’s “black” wine. Yamas.

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