The idea one conceived from their description was that Athens was a city of beautiful women whose main idea in life was to rush strangers (particularly sailors) off their feet and immediately satisfy their biological urges. I saw a lot of people – a lot of beautiful girls – but no one rushed me off to bed and sent me back in the latest thing in automobiles with a pocket full of money. Women whose object in life is to fulfil man’s desires are cheap here as in other places but I saw none walking the streets. There were touts in plenty – there are houses of ill fame but you can find those places in any city of the world if you seek them. There is poverty in hovels but there is also beauty in their poverty.
Looking down from the Acropolis the houses with their multi coloured tiled roofs made a mosaic of beauty as they jostled and encroached upon the Temple of the Winds, the Stadium, Jupiter’s Temple, Hadrian’s Arch. These little houses were not over awed by the ponderous majesty or historical associations of their classical neighbours. They sprang up like cheeky wildflowers against ancient trees, challenging their greatness. They seemed to be of the soil itself deriving life from it. They seem to live as the people who dwelt therein lived. Streets straggled in all directions through them as if they were arteries carrying lifeblood. The road of the Marathon stretched out afar and finally vanished over the mountains. I lagged behind much to the annoyance of the guide. I wondered at all the history of this place and the achievements of that humble creature ‘man’. How has it happened that his solitude has been destroyed, his godliness destroyed and herded into a hideous riot of murder and destruction. These people have suffered down through the ages – they have been invaded time and again by the Romans, Turks and others who have left marks on these ancient ruins, ravaged and destroyed, yet the Greeks have given much to the world in all of the arts. They have suffered and made history. Maybe Socrates looked down on this scene which I saw – perhaps he philosophised Athenian youth. The earth, sky, sea, mountains were the same then –maybe the rooftops were different. It was like seeing anew some familiar scenes and I did not feel in the least strange to it all. We walked back to the city through the thronged masses of markets etc. even though it was a Sunday. I spent three happy days in Athens and sincerely hope before we leave the Mediterranean to see some more of it.
We sailed for Suda Bay at 1600 on January 6th where we were sighted by planes almost as soon as we arrived. Suicide Bay they call it now – depend upon “Jack” to find an apt name. We joined up with the 7th [Cruiser] Squadron and put to sea again for [a] sweep of the Med. On the eighth of January we met the Eastern Med Battle Squadron, Warspite, Valiant, Illustrious [aircraft carrier], destroyers and cruisers. More air attacks but they did not venture within striking distance. In no time the Illustrious had her aircraft buzzing around like bees. The Sydney and Stuart joined us (Sat 9th) but did not stay long. Sydney is homeward bound. We picked up convoys, left them and picked up fresh ones finally meeting the Western Med Battle Fleet on the Western side of Malta. We had seen few aircraft but Saturday 11th the news came through that Southhampton and Gloucester had been bombed about a hundred miles from our position.