Friday Fictioneers – Sunset, Nafplio

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

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PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Sunset, Nafplio

I sit at peace, gazing over the sea to the mountains opposite, an ouzo on the table and my beloved beside me. Second by second the colours change, as the sun descends in golden fire behind the peaks. The valleys recede into grey, the foreground tinged with violet and sage.

The small boats moored near us cast shadows, darkening the water slapping against the quay. A waiter places an oil lamp on the table and my red sunhat glows in its warm light.

The palette of my life’s colours is nearly spent.

I sit at peace, my beloved beside me.

Inlinkz – click here to join the fun

Two Friends Meet

This short story is a little over 300 words long, and is more or less true…

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Two friends meet

We were waiting for the concert to begin. It was an open-air recital of music performed by an ensemble of violinist, cellist, flautist and pianist. A faint savour of cooking permeated the air from the nearby tavernas. Swifts swooped and shrilled their thin song, accompanied by the obsessive rattle of cicadas.

Although it was past the advertised starting time, half the seats were still empty and there was no sign of the performers. We laughed, quietly; late starts seemed to be a feature of Greek performances. “People watching” is a very Greek thing to do, so, like the other eighty or so people making up the audience, we looked around.

There was a woman in a green dress sitting in the row in front of us. Her skin resembled a peach that had dried just a little, losing moisture until fine wrinkles had appeared. The wrinkles spoke of smiles, laughter, and love, and the set of her eyes and mouth confirmed them.

Her hair, unambiguously grey without hint of white, was short, straight, and beautifully cut. She sat upright, making the most of her height, projecting confidence. She was on her own but seemed completely untroubled by this. Nevertheless, had my Greek been adequate to sustain a conversation I would have greeted her; there was a warmth about her that invited friendship.

As the remainder of the audience straggled in, the woman looked around. She glanced to her right and her eyes widened. Her face glowed with delight. She reached out with both arms to embrace a woman who was threading her way between the seats. The two women hugged, exchanged greetings and sat down side by side.

They didn’t chatter; occasionally one would make a comment to the other, who would nod, or say something brief in reply. They just sat, relaxed, companionable, enjoying the occasion together, plainly friends of many years standing.

Shortly afterwards the musicians entered, and chased away the sounds of swifts and cicadas with the music of Smetana.


I’m on holiday!

For the next two weeks I am on holiday in Greece.

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I’m afraid that means I won’t be reading all the Friday Fictioneers stories, or the What Pegman Saw stories. I may post stories for both of them (I’m addicted, okay, I know that!) but if your reason for reading is purely reciprocation then apologies but I may not read your story.

Neither will I be posting about my progress on ‘The Dove on the Pergola’. I’ll be thinking about it, of course, but writing very little, so there won’t be much I can tell you! The next update will be on Monday 16th July, I hope.

If I blog anything beyond FF and WPS, it is likely to be a record of my holiday. Do feel free to join me if you wish!

The Sirens

I don’t often attempt to write poetry, and this piece was originally intended as an exercise in descriptive prose. However, a rhythm gradually infiltrated the writing, so I tried laying it out as a poem and worked on it in that form. Whether that makes it a poem, I leave for you to judge! BTW It helps if you know the story of Odysseus and the Sirens.

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The Sirens

A nightingale that heard them sing

Would blush for shame.

The lines of melody intertwine,

The words blend, rhyme.

Oh, to be whole, free from the pain of loss!

So many heroes dead, friends hewn by sword,

Skewered by spear, or crushed by rocks.

Now peace. The voices offer peace.

“Helmsman, steer to shore!” I beg,

But wax-stopped ears are deaf.

I struggle with my bonds.

My vessel’s oarsmen beat the waves to froth and past we go,

Past surf that breaks on rocks like knives,

And on the rocks the Sirens feast

On rotting flesh and broken lives.  

What Pegman Saw – “Life and Spirit Free”

“What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. Using the location provided, you must write a piece of flash fiction of no more than 150 words. You can read the rules here. You can find today’s location on this page,  from where you can also get the Inlinkz code. This week’s prompt is Athens, Greece.

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WPS - Storming the Polytechnic 171111

Genre: Historical fiction – 17 November 1973

Word count – 150

Life and Spirit Free

The night’s blackness is beaten back by the soldiers’ arc lights.

Stinking exhaust from a tank blows across the road towards us as we cling to the gates of the Polytechnic. Somebody has a radio. My Giorgios is still broadcasting from the heart of our struggle.

“Polytechnic here! People of Greece, the Polytechnic is the flag bearer of our struggle and your struggle, our common struggle against the dictatorship and for democracy!”

Giorgios, I love you!

The tank’s engine revs.

It creeps across the road. Surely it’s not going to crash the gates? There are a dozen of us hanging on to them!

Alex, next to me, yells at the soldiers massing behind the tank.

“Brothers in arms! Disobey your orders! Support us in the struggle for liberty!

‘From the Greeks of old whose dying

brought to life and spirit free…’”

I join in.

The tank is coming.

Aagh! That hur….

Historical Note

From 1967 – 1974 Greece was ruled by a military junta. They used all the techniques of a totalitarian state including arbitrary arrest and torture. Students were at the forefront of the resistance, and in November 1973 they occupied Athens Polytechnic, and improvised a radio station using laboratory equipment.

On the night of 17 November 1973 the army stormed the Polytechnic, using a tank to break down the gates, to which students were clinging. No lives were lost during the assault – although there were many injuries. However, later in the day soldiers shot dead several people outside the campus, including 17-year-old Diomidis Komninos shot through the heart by a sniper.

I have quoted a translation of part of the Greek national anthem, which students were singing as the tank attacked.

Greek National Anthem

I shall always recognize you

by the dreadful sword you hold,

as the Earth with searching vision

you survey with spirit bold.

From the Greeks of old whose dying

brought to life and spirit free,

now with ancient valour rising

let us hail you, oh Liberty


Wild Dogs

I wrote this story in response to the success of the far right in winning seats in the German Bundestag. It’s about 1000 words and will take about ten minutes to read.


Wild Dogs

Her way to the archaeological site was blocked by a large dog, with alsatian in its recent ancestry. Its coat was unkempt. It was restless, raising its head, occasionally snarling; the snarls were, oddly, silent.

Alice was always wary of stray dogs, particularly here in the Balkans where rabies was still endemic. She crossed the road. The dog watched her as she passed.

“Good day,” the attendant at the entrance greeted her. She smiled, and her apprehension about the animal receded.

The dog was there again the following day, this time with a companion which yapped. As she passed them, the smaller dog stood up, took a pace or two in her direction, snuffled the air as though to catch and remember her scent. Alice shivered.

Her heart sank when she came out of the site that evening, and saw the two dogs. As soon as they saw her, they rose to their feet. The larger dog growled as she went past. Still, they made no move to approach her. She told herself it was silly to be frightened. “They’re only dogs, for goodness sake!”

Nevertheless, she mentioned it to the manager of the pension where she was living. He smiled.

“Don’t worry, Professor. I will have a word with the mayor tonight. He will sort out the problem.”

“Please don’t put yourself to any trouble,” exclaimed Alice. “I’m sure I’m worrying unnecessarily.”

“It is no trouble, no trouble at all.” He spread his hands, thought a moment, and then added, “Will you do me the honour of drinking a glass of ouzo on the terrace?”

They sat in the evening sun, sipped their drinks and nibbled small savoury snacks.

“I hope you don’t mind my speaking,” began Spiros, “but I feel I need to give you a word of advice.”

Alice concealed a grin. “I shall be most grateful,” she said.

“I read your letter in the daily newspaper – you write very good Greek, such good Greek, it’s better than mine – but your message might have been misunderstood. It’s a very sensitive time.”

“You mean with Turkey making warlike noises over Cyprus again?”

“Well, yes, partly that.”

He hesitated, and Alice interrupted, “I don’t see how my letter causes offence. I don’t mention Cyprus. I’m merely saying that it is now more important than ever that opposite sides of the political debate listen and try to understand one another.”

“That is not a message that the generals want to hear. To them, if you give anything less than enthusiastic support they look on it as opposition. And you said that Greece should stay in the European Union.”

“Well, so it should! It’s madness to leave!”

“Ssh!” Spiros looked so upset that Alice fell silent.

“Well, I can see what you’re saying,” she agreed at last, and the two of them sat quietly for a few moments.

“This view is so beautiful,” said Alice. “I love Greece – and the Greeks.”

The sun setting behind the mountain turned her grey hair gold, as it had been in her youth.

Spiros gazed at her, this strange foreigner, who spoke Greek almost like a native, who was so clever, so learned and yet so naïve.

“I will walk to the site with you tomorrow, and make sure everything is okay.”

“Thank you. I appreciate that.”

Talk at the taverna that evening was all about Cyprus. Would there be war? One boy had received his call-up papers that day. His family were celebrating, proud of him. The town’s priest sat at the table near the entrance.

“Love of country is the highest virtue,” he intoned, over and over again. The townsfolk nodded.

“Greece for the Greeks,” said one. There was a cheer.

“Cyprus for the Greeks!” said another. The cheer was louder.

Alice sat with friends, eating and thinking. Perhaps she should take a break, go back to the UK for a few weeks? She’d been working on the site without a break for six months, after all. Perhaps Spiros was right; her lack of sympathy for the regime might be costly. They might send her out of the country for good.

Next day, Spiros was as good as his word. In the morning he walked the mile to the site with Alice. There were no dogs.

“The mayor worked fast! Thank you, Spiros. I’m fine now.”

Safely on the site, Alice thought no more about a holiday. The present phase of the study would be complete in five or six weeks. Time enough to think about holidays then.

She worked late that night, and the sun had set. She toyed with the idea of a taxi, but there were street lights, and she’d probably have to wait thirty minutes before the driver arrived.

She walked briskly, thinking of the work they’d done today, planning the tasks for tomorrow. The street lights were dim and widely spaced. It was only when you were close to one that its light hid the stars. Between them the sky was like velvet, decorated with a thousand sparkling points of light.

There was growl behind her. She quickened her pace.

“It’s a dog. That’s all.”

The pointed muzzle of an Alsatian emerged from a gap in the fence beside her, as the stray pushed its way into her path. It snarled; she heard the sound very clearly this time. Her breath came quickly, and her heart pounded.

“Go away!” She spoke with as much firmness as she could.

The dog squatted on its haunches and growled. Alice felt in her handbag for her mobile phone. Who should she ring? Spiros would probably be quickest – but only if he answered.

As she dialled, the dog howled. There were answering howls from behind her. Then the dog sprang, knocking the phone from her hand.

Alice barged past it, and ran, ran as she hadn’t run since she was a teenager. And when running was no longer any use, she fought…



A Writer’s Perspective

Here is another piece of flash fiction. Again, it’s a ‘Drabble’ being 100 words long and having a beginning, middle and end. It was inspired by a scene I saw on holiday, but it’s completely fictional. Rather entertainingly, we subsequently met some of the performers – including the two lads – in a taverna and were able to express our enjoyment of the concert.


A writer’s perspective

Those who were to perform in the Festival concert were in the front rows of the audience. Two young men sat side by side. The compere introduced a piece for solo piano, and both boys stood up. One went to the piano, the other stood at the side, recording a video of the performance.

Were they a gay couple, I wondered? The youth turned, looked at me; I smiled back.

Afterwards, he asked me why I had stared at him, rather than watch his friend performing.

“I am a writer. I have to look where other people are not looking.”

The Angel of Epirus

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story with a beginning, middle and end in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz (the blue frog) on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

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Photoprompt (c) J Hardy Carroll

The Angel of Epirus

They met in the fragrance of pine trees and the harsh smell of shattered dwellings. Hans should have killed her, but he was sick of violence. Magdalena should have screamed for the partisans; but Hans looked like her brother, dead twelve months. He looked despairing.

Shuddering, terrified, she removed her dowry necklace, pressed it into his hands.

She hissed hated German words. “Walk! Three days!” She pointed west. “Find boat. Pay man. Italy.”

Now the new buildings after the war are themselves old and in disrepair. Magdalena still feels the scars of her whipping. She still hears the whisper “Krautfucker!”

A Chance Encounter

A Drabble is a piece of flash fiction that is 100 words long. The subject of this Drabble came to me as I was enjoying lunch in Café Kentrikon in Syntagma Square, Nafplion. Full of beer and tuna sandwich, I knew that all was well with the world. Life was good. Don’t read too much into the story, though; it is fiction, after all!


The warm breeze caressed me like a lover. I settled comfortably into my cushioned seat at the café under the plane tree, and gazed across the marble square. I thought of my grandchildren playing there sometime soon.

He was tall and instantly recognisable, despite grey hair; my former boss, the man who had fired me. It had not been an amicable parting.

I waved. He squinted at me, did a double-take.


“Adrian! How are you? How’s Joy?”

He shrugged.

“She wanted kids. I didn’t.”

“You made it up the corporate ladder though?”

He shrugged again.

“For what it’s worth.”

Kapodistrias – two nations and a pile of potatoes

As those who follow my blog probably know, I’m currently on holiday in Nauplio, which is in Greece. Nauplio was once the capital city of modern Greece, and Kapodistrias was one of the heroes of that time. There are statues to him, and a street and a hotel named after him. He built two nations by diplomacy and not by war. Wholly admirable, I think you’ll agree!


Kapodistrias was born in Corfu, and educated in medicine and law. He initially practised as a physician. As a nobleman, he was invited to help govern a newly-formed federation of seven islands, which included Corfu, the Septinsular Republic.

There was strenuous opposition to the new Republic; vested interests were threatened. Kapodistrias won them over with his diplomatic skills, and his personal courage. He became Chief Minister of State, introducing a more liberal constitution, and invigorating the public sector, especially education.

The French took over the Septinsular Republic, and replaced the Senate. Kapodistrias eventually went to Russia and made a career in their diplomatic service. After four years he was sent as the unofficial Russian Ambassador to Switzerland. The Swiss Cantons were on the verge of civil war. Kapodistrias immersed himself in diplomacy, preparing draft constitutions, and negotiating with the Great Powers to guarantee Switzerland’s constitution and neutrality. In a very real way, he was the founder of modern Switzerland!

There was then a period when he served as joint Foreign Minister of Russia. He was repeatedly approached by groups promoting the cause of Greek independence, and he was forthright in his rejection of the idea. He repeatedly declined his support. When asked by the Tsar whether Russia should support the movement for Greek independence, he expressed support for the idea in theory, but advised against it in practical terms.

His hand was forced, though, when Prince Alexander Ypsilantis invaded Moldavia, with a view to provoking a revolt against the Ottomans throughout the Balkans. A contemporary account records that Kapodistrias was thunderstruck.

The revolution slowly succeeded in Greece, until they had a defensible territory. Despite his opposition to revolution, Kapodistrias was far and away the most illustrious Greek politician in Europe, and he was invited to become the first Governor of Greece. He was pessimistic about the chances of success, and said “Providence will decide, and it will be for the best.”


The building with the domed roof was the original Parliament of the Greeks.

Nevertheless, he travelled to Nauplio, the first capital city of modern Greece, and threw himself into the task. He established a currency, used his international prestige to raise loans for the nation, reformed agriculture, established educational institutions, all the time working sixteen or seventeen hours a day every day. It was as though he knew that his time was limited.

And, sure enough, on October 9th 1831, as he went to church, two assassins attacked him. The first bullet missed, and struck the wall of the church where the hole can be seen to this day. The second shot put a bullet through his head, and the other killer thrust a dagger into his heart. The assassins? Greek ‘war heroes’, whose vested interests had been compromised. Kapodistrias had known throughout his life the dangers of these interests. Personally I believe he knew it was only a matter of time before he was murdered, and had been working to his very limit to try and establish the Greek state.


The bullet hole in the wall of the Church of Saint Spirydon

And he succeeded. Greece stands, and is a part of the liberal European vision, which had always been Kapodistrias’s ideal.

Now, despite the astonishing achievement of founding two states that have survived to the present day, the murder of Kapodistrias feels rather downbeat as an ending for this post. I shall, instead, finish with a legend that exemplifies the way Kapodistrias worked.

He believed that the introduction of potatoes to Greece would raise the living standards of the poorest Greeks, and tried to hand them out to the local population. However, people were suspicious, and wouldn’t accept the potatoes. Kapodistrias then had the entire shipment unloaded onto the dock on public display, with soldiers guarding them. It wasn’t long before people started stealing the potatoes, with the guards turning a blind eye. Soon, the entire pile had been ‘stolen’ and the potato introduced into cultivation in Greece!