Monday, June 17, 2013

Times change.

As I sit here writing this the wind is blowing once more at gale force rattling doors and windows and bending tree branches almost horizontal. The noise is like something conjured up during a theatrical melodrama and the poor old rooster weathervane in a neighbour’s garden across the way revolves almost continuously not knowing which way the wind is blowing. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was fierce enough to strip a few tiles off the roof. When we first came to Crete we wondered why there were heavy rocks laid even on tiled roofs and we soon found out. Any ex-pat who has had a house built on a high exposed place realises why Greeks never built there in the first place. We also wondered why so many houses boasted a water tank
but soon found out the reason when the first stoppage occurred. The cry of “water’s off!” used to be fairly frequent but the situation has improved over the years.
There don’t seem to be many General Practitioners in Greece. Most doctors specialise: ear, nose and throat, lung. heart, digestive system, etcetera but we are really fortunate here in having a really fantastic GP in our Doctor Elizabeth. There is also ‘The Health Centre’ staffed mainly it would seem by young doctors almost fresh from training with more  senior doctors just to make sure I suppose they don’t make mistakes. Anyway, on our way home from visiting Doctor Elizabeth we stopped off at the new caff for a frappĂ© (iced coffee) and noticed wonderful old palm trees are being decimated, no not decimated, destroyed by the awful bug that has come from North Africa and about which it seems nothing can be done. There are beaches on Crete noted particularly for their palms of which the most famous I suppose is Vai that has a veritable palm forest going right down to a broad sandy beach. These particular palms are endemic but will that save them from the bug? Vai attracts busloads of tourists and holiday makers because of its palms. It would be a sad sad day if they were to disappear.
I love Westerns and thanks to Youtube I can indulge in Westerns going right back to my boyhood: Gene Autry, the first singing cowboy, Tom mix, super star, Tex Ritter, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, John Wayne, The Lone Ranger. When they were serialised it meant a weekly visit to Durban’s fleapit (you got a drink or an ice with your ticket and shows were continuous so it didn’t matter when you came in) to see how they got out of the previous episode’s cliff-hanger. Looking at some of them now, it seems most of them open the same way, a cowboy or boys, or traps or wagons riding across the desert or through scrub or across rocky terrain wile the credits roll and ending up in town where the action starts, usually in a saloon, maybe outside the sheriff’s office, maybe the railway station. Trains are always good mileage in Westerns. There might be more but basically there seem to be two basic plots with variations. Firstly there is the honest intrepid lawman who takes on a whole bunch of trouble in the shape of an ultra-rich powerful crooked family. There is usually a wayward troublemaking yobbo of a son, or maybe two, who the lawman has to kill so that daddy can ride into town with his hired hands to seek revenge but the lawman of course wins out in the end. The second plot consists of wayward troublemaking yobbos raping, abducting or killing innocents out in their isolated farmhouse and then being pursued by an avenger as they ride away. He will have to kill five or more one by one which he successfully does by various means. Variations include crooked lawmen, business men, cavalry, Indians, etcetera.
Greece goes digital which means either a new television or a decoder. With all the money being spent on house alterations a TV is one luxury we can’t afford so the decoder it is. Evidently a lot of people are in the same boat as Spiros, our local hardware merchant’s shop, is choc-a-bloc with decoders.
Evidently (or so I am told) with digitalisation the new television sets can do everything except cook breakfast and a billion new bits of irrelevant information will be available to cloud and befuddle the brain. Maybe evolution’s next step is to make the brain big enough to cope or anxiety as to what to watch/listen to will drive us crazy.
How the world has changed in my lifetime. When I was a boarder in junior school and my parents wanted to phone me they had to book an appointment to make a call fifty miles away as the crow flies via an operator and on a party line. Today there are smart phones that, like the new television, have a capacity for information that is simply mind-boggling, that will allow you to take and make instantaneous calls all over the world, send texts, E-mails, log on to the internet and even take photographs. They are ubiquitous and I read somewhere that they are as addictive as cocaine, something I can readily believe.
Why has everything got so complicated? Once upon a time when you wanted to buy a new toothbrush you had a choice of soft, medium, and hard. Today they come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and credited with a variety of amazing qualities and you might as well say eeny-meeny-miny-mo and just take one. Once upon a time travelling by train you bought a ticket single or return and that was it unless you wanted to reserve a seat. Today there is such a variety of times, prices, rules and regulations, specific trains and fines for making a mistake it really is quite bewildering. Air travel now follows the railways’ example. Many years ago I went to the King’s Theatre in Glasgow to book a seat for a show and instead of the usual three minutes it used to take as the girl ticked off the seat on a plan and handed you your ticket in exchange for your money, it now took ten times as long because it had become computerised. Even more years ago probably I was commissioned to write a documentary on computers for Ranks; me who knew absolutely nothing about computers. I gave it a cute title though, ‘A Hard Look At Software,’ and it all went pretty well I think. At least I presume it did. I never saw the finished film. I was taken to this building, in Putney I seem to remember, where on a floor half the size of a football pitch one wall was entirely taken up floor to ceiling by this computer. What that giant could do then was probably less than a smart phone does today. That’s how it goes.

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