|photo by David Emery (see comments below!)|
Opposite the British Museum, on the corner of Great Russell Street and Bury Place, is a fabulous shop called It’s All Greek where you can purchase replicas of objects from ancient Greece. Artefacts inspire my writing so I often go to press my nose against the window, admiring the treasures within: busts, statues, helmets, jewellery, figurines and crateloads of pottery. There is even a replica of a kylix – a kind of cup with a very shallow bowl – that featured in my book, The Pirates of Pompeii.
Me: You used to teach Latin, Greek and Classical Civilisation at Queen's Gate School in London. After that you ran a teaching business called Locus Classicus. What was that?
Elinor: After sixteen years or so in mainstream teaching, I decided it would be fun to teach a greater variety of ages and needs, so I set up Locus Classicus in a dedicated room at home. I taught Latin, Greek and Classical Civilisation to individuals and small groups. One day it could be a twelve–year old who had moved school and needed to catch up with a year's Latin, the next it would be a revision class for a small group of A level Class Civ students…
|Elinor Wynne Lloyd in her shop It's All Greek|
I also went out and about, teaching in a small specialist London school for children with special needs. They loved Latin, and I used to take in the occasional Greek pot, bronze figurine, owl or oil lamp collected on trips to Greece over the years. Just having these things to handle, draw and talk about made a huge difference to lessons. It meant we could do a bit of work on mythology and Greek and Latin roots in our languages.
Me: Do you miss anything about teaching?
Elinor: There are many things I miss but perhaps the most lasting memory is of taking trips to Greece. It was an amazing experience for me to see the girls' reactions to the places and works of art that they had studied at school. Gasping in disbelief after climbing the steps on the Acropolis to look up and see the Parthenon for the first time; traipsing up to the stadium in Delphi, eyes on the ground, then to turn round and see that incredible view over the site and the theatre and right down in the distance to the sea; awestruck silence at seeing a full size bronze statue…. Each time, I relived my own reactions on that formative first trip to Greece when I was 12 years old and of the passion that grew from those experiences.
Me: In what ways do you feel you are still a teacher?
Elinor: It’s All Greek is more than just commerce. Next to each artefact nestles a little ‘information card’. If a customer wants to know more, we are thrilled to oblige! My triad of staff at the moment consists of a former pupil, a Classics graduate and a third-year Classics student!
Me: Handling replica artefacts can give insight into what it would have been like to use the original ones. Can you share anything that has particularly struck you?
|large bronze tripod|
Me: Have you ever sipped wine from a kylix? What was it like?
Elinor: A potter I met in Olympia some years back was a maker of functional vases. On one occasion he handed me a shiny black replica kylix with a band of decoration around the rim and a small circle in the tondo, within which was a gorgoneion with protruding tongue. Within moments, the open bottle of Santorini Assyrtiko was being gently poured into the kylix (enough to obscure the gorgoneion) and proffered. I closed my eyes and took a sip: a little one. I knew there was an art to drinking from a kylix, a skill acquired by the Greek upper classes, so I concentrated intently on balancing the cup so as not to tip and dribble. I opened my eyes to a grin of delight from my observer. Dignity had been maintained but, what's more, during that split second, I had been there amidst the chatter and the hilarity and the imminent kottabos... [a dinner-party drinking game played by flicking the dregs of wine in the bottom of one's cup at various targets.]
Me: Do you read historical fiction? If so, can you share some of your favourite books?
Elinor: I remember my parents doing a bit of their own nurturing of my new-found passion for Greece when we returned from that first trip. They made sure that I had Mary Renault's The King Must Die and The Bull from the Sea after going to Crete and Santorini for the first time.
Me: Snap! My parents gave me Mary Renault's book The Last of the Wine when I was eighteen! It sparked my interest in Classics and determined the whole course of my life. (I have blogged about it here). We've got to go now, but I have one last question: What is your current favourite piece in the shop?
Elinor: It's so hard to choose! When people ask where is my favourite place in Greece, I suffer from the same problem. If I'm in Delphi, it's Delphi, Olympia, Olympia and so forth. The silent Kerameikos with its rustling turtles is a favourite.
|terracotta turtle and other artefacts|
|Caroline Lawrence with replica "Eye Kylix" at It's All Greek|
Caroline Lawrence writes history-mystery books for children set in Ancient Rome and the Wild West. Her motivation is the same as Elinor's: to bring history alive! This post was first published at The History Girls blog.