Travel Journal: Little Miracles

Athens ThriftLook how beautiful this Greek antique/vintage/junk shop is! I spotted the shop front down a side street whilst we were strolling along eating frozen yoghurt. The  little wooden sign informed me it was called ‘Little Miracles’, and knowing  it wasn’t to be missed I went for a poke around.

Vintage Horn

Vintage Umbrella Stand

Vintage Grammaphone

Spilling out onto the street were; pots and pans; candlesticks; vases; an umbrella stand; a tricycle, bed warmers; and numerous brass instruments.

Inside was just as chaotic, with items pinned from wall to wall and trinkets crammed into every nook and cranny.

vintage cameras

Vintage Perfume

Perfume bottles are always so pretty, and make such a pleasing dressing table. I love vintage bottles, particularly those with atomisers, instant glamour.

I’d never heard of ‘Crepe De Chine’ before but I’ve found a lovely review online:

“Crepe de Chine is a stunning, world class perfume. The scent has a clean, fresh entry with a gorgeous full bodied greenfloral accord at its heart, all over creamy, dreamy exotic woods. Crepe de Chine envelopes you with beauty beyond compare.” [1] 

One look at that Art Deco bottle and I’m picturing flapper dresses, classic cars, and cigarettes in long thin holders being smoked by ladies with red lipstick.

Vintage TeacupsI was brought crashing back to reality when the shop owner told me these china teacups were €27! Maybe she knows something I don’t about the floral motif, but you could thrift something similar much closer to home. Our charity shops are always full of tiny treasures at bargain prices.

Little Miracles antiques was a detour on the way to the Acropolis museum which was our main plan for the day. However, no photographs are allowed in the museum. This doesn’t make for a very fun blog post so instead I’ll show you our quick visit to the Panathenaic stadium later that day.

We’d spotted the stadium from our open top bus tour on the first day and thought it looked quite impressive. Although marble is everywhere in Athens, the stadium really stands out from its’ surroundings due to the solid shape forming a huge block of colour. Panathenaic Stadium

That tiny figure on the steps is me, I’ve gone trundling down the steps because I’ve spotted something worth investigating.

These are the throne’s where the Greek King and Queen sat during the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. These days the stadium is used for Olympic events and other concerts and festivals.Close up: lion paws hold up either end of the throne’s.Ready, set, go! It wouldn’t be right to leave without a quick once around the track. Enough fun and games for one post, I’ll leave you with a selection of my favourite details from Olympic posters around the stadium.Vintage Olympic Posters

L-R: St Louis 1904; London 1908; Paris 1924; Paris 1924; Berlin 1936; London 1948; Rome 1960; Mexico 1968; Athens 1896.


Olympic roundup

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing an Olympic blog post recently, but wasn’t sure where to start. There’s almost too much to say, too much for one post, too much for one person. But the Olympics have saturated daily life for me, and probably the rest of Britain, so it seemed rude not to.

It’s been a very un-British couple of weeks. Far from the status quo of cynicism and misery, we’ve been celebrating. Celebrating! And the exact turning point was the opening ceremony.

Four years ago I was lucky enough to go to Beijing, which was a real milestone in my life. I got the chance to watch a rehearsal of their opening ceremony in the Birds Nest, and watched the real thing with my friends, and seemingly half of Beijing, on a big screen in Beihai park.

It’s fair to say I was slightly apprehensive about the home leg, but I needn’t have worried.

I’m not going to review the opening ceremony, you’ve all seen it, but I am going to reiterate just how good it was.

Team GB had a tentative start, but our nerves were soon put to rest. We’ve been treated to 29 gold, 17 silver, and 19 bronze medals. It became the norm to wake up and think, “What are we going to win today?”

As spectators, we often have our hopes raised and expectations built up, only to be followed by that familiar feeling of disappointment.  It’s a British characteristic to root for the underdog so it’s no surprise that we’re seldom celebrating.

During the build up there was a lot of promise, but a lot of expectation, and for Team GB to surpass that has been a joy to watch. I didn’t know long distance running could be so captivating, and I had no idea the cycling sprint was so bizarre.

I didn’t make it to London, but I did catch some Olympic football closer to home, at the City of Coventry stadium (aka Ricoh Arena). I’m not a football fan, but any excuse for a Mexican wave.

These Japanese fans deserve a special mention. I went as a neutral spectator but they did a good job of turning me, and the rest of the stand into Japan fans!
Olympic Tickets


Netball at London 2012?

I loved PE at school. I loved it despite not actually being very good at it. That was despite the fact lessons were only one hour long, most of which was taken up by complaining girls who had forgotten their kit, were ill (again) or who refused to play without their best friend on their team.

This was the only lesson where mucking about was allowed. You didn’t have to read or write anything, just remember to bring your kit.

Occasionally, you might get to do trampolining, or even better, play tennis with the boys.

I loved PE, except when we had to play netball.

Six hundred thousand of you obviously feel otherwise. That’s how many people have signed up in support of a campaign to get netball into the 2012 Olympics.

Right from scrambling for a bib, the letters of which determined just how bearable the next hour would be, I knew netball was not for me. I could only hope and pray the other girls didn’t get there before me and leave me with “GK” – Goal Keeper, the worst position of the lot.

My dislike of the sport probably wasn’t helped by the fact I could never remember where I was allowed to be.

Even if I managed to steal myself a bib that got me into the goal circle, most of my classmates were taller than me. And, of course, on that day when I was allowed to shoot, the goalkeeper turned out to be tallest girl in the whole school. I couldn’t see the hoop, never mind throw a ball through it.

For those of you who don’t share my pain, this campaign, like so many things, began on Facebook.

Since Team Bath goalkeeper Eboni Beckford-Chambers started a group on the social networking site last year, the campaign has made it into the media spotlight.

Famous faces signed up so far include Dame Kelly Holmes, Bryan Robson and Cherie Blair.

According to the website even Gordon Brown wants netball in the Olympics.

Played by over a million women and girls a week in the UK, there seems to be the demand to see women compete at the highest level.

Backing the bid, Holmes was surprised the sport was not already included in the Olympics:

“Netball is one of the most popular team games for women in the world, and is already a core part of the Commonwealth Games”, she said.

By encouraging women to play sport and giving them role models to aspire to, Holmes suggested including netball “would have a huge impact on women everywhere.”

This, I think, is a bit ambitious. However, any opportunity for women to demonstrate their sporting ability and take a step out of the shadow of men’s sport has got to be a good thing.

So do I support the campaign? Yes. Anything which could get people playing sport has to be applauded.

But, should the campaign succeed, will I be watching? Probably not.

Marathon Madness

September 2008 – Edited out of this version is an interview I did with serial streaker Mark Roberts. He had some interesting opinions which I included in my final draft, but for here, I’ll just stick with the story.
It’s been four years since defrocked Irish priest Cornelius Horan famously crashed into the Athens Olympics.
Horan charged onto the course and barged Brazilian marathon leader Vanderlei de Lima into the crowd. He was just four miles from Gold.

In a flash, de Lima lost his 45 second lead and finished with a bronze medal instead of the gold he was almost certain to have won. All because Horan was trying to tell the world about our apparent impending doom.

But what has happened since then? What became of Horan and the victim of his ill-fated stunt?


Entering the stadium in Athens, de Lima was greeted to a hero’s welcome, with the crowd cheering his hard fought bronze medal.

With his arms outstretched he soared towards the finish line. Throwing kisses and waving to the crowd, de Lima’s Olympic spirit shone through. After all, he was the first, and so far only Brazilian to have medaled in this event.

De Lima’s sportsmanship was later recognized when he was awarded the Pierre de Coubertin Medal for “exceptional demonstration of fair play and Olympic values”.  A nice gesture from the International Olympic Committee, but hardly a gold medal.

The appreciation for de Lima was repeated in his homeland and he became a Brazilian celebrity.

The press was eager to tell the story of the Brazilian farm boy who from humble roots grew into the country’s most famous marathon runner and the national athlete of the year in 2004.

In one television interview, Brazilian beach volleyball champion, Emanuel Rego placed the gold medal he had won in Athens around de Lima’s neck, making a gesture that spoke for all athletes who keep going in the face of adversity.

Although finishing third, Vanderlei de Lima was treated like a champion in Brazil. He received $66,000 from a supermarket chain who had promised the prize to any Brazilian who won gold in Athens.

Despite a subsequent appeal by the Brazilian Olympic Committee for a duplicate gold medal to be awarded, the result was not changed.

Undeterred, de Lima started his preparations for the 2008 Beijing Games.

In May of this year, just two months before the start of the Beijing Olympics, de Lima announced he would not compete.
An injury to his left thigh had forced him to drop out of the qualifiers and left him unable to defend his medal.

At 39 years of age, it looks as though this was his last chance at Olympic gold. Perhaps though, Vanderlei de Lima will overcome difficulty once again and be back in 2012, running the marathon in London.

And what of Cornelius Horan? For his role in this drama he was given a 12 month suspended prison sentence by a Greek court and fined 3,000 Euros.

Horan had previously spent two months in prison for aggravated trespass after bursting onto the track at the British Grand Prix.

The publicity-seeking priest would appear in the press again after being charged with indecent assault against a seven year old girl. He was later acquitted and celebrated by performing an Irish jig outside court.

Horan was defrocked by the Catholic Church in January 2005.

Despite saying he would not disrupt anymore sporting events, Horan was arrested by German police before the 2006 World Cup final after planning a stunt outside the venue.
Calling it a ‘peace jig’ he had planned to carry posters in support of Adolf Hitler.

Since then, he received an ASBO banning him from entering certain London boroughs to keep him away from last year’s London marathon.


Since Horan’s stunt in Athens four years ago, the end of the world has not arrived. What has, one hopes, ended is Horan’s crusade of gatecrashing sporting events.

The rest of us, however, look to athletes like Vanderlei de Lima for inspiration and a lesson in sportsmanship and fair play.