Friday, October 31, 2008

Reading a revue of Tony Curtis’s autobiography “American Prince” I am amazed to see he says being Jewish was a constant barrier to his success. What? With the number of films he has made including at least two forever classics, “Spartacus” and “Some Like It Hot” he is not a success? Do me a favour. And I certainly cannot believe that being Jewish contributed to barriers being put up. You have only to read the credits for any Hollywood movie, any American TV show, any theatre event to know that the majority of names you see are Jewish. American show business is dominated by Jews so come on, Bernie Schwarz, what are you talking about? The few friends I have in NY are in show bizz and all are Jewish. Yes, I know, some of my best friends are Jewish. Am I anti-Semitic making that crack? Not at all. I don’t go for Judaism but then I don’t go for any religion but that is an entirely different kettle of gefilte fish. My sister has sent me an e-mail attachment regarding an eight year old boy in Iran caught stealing bread in a market whose Islamic punishment has been to have his left arm rendered totally useless for the rest of his life by being run over with a car. I presume under Sharia law he should have had his hand chopped off and this was a judge’s way of showing mercy. Could it be that? Whatever, the sentence was barbaric, the photographs are horrible. The world is full of shitty people, we know that, and religious bigots and fanatics are the shittiest of the lot.
Global warming with a vengeance. Here we are moving into November and daytime temperatures are back to summer time at 30 degrees so it’s sweatsville or back to summer clothing. But winter can’t be that far off. Spotted my first robin today, a really handsome fellow, perched on the bougainvillea outside my study.
Finished the third Reginald Hill. He was at it again – amongst others, moraine, stylite, neither word did I know and had to look them up. (My spell check doesn’t even give stylite, I’ve had to add it to dictionary.)The first is geological referring if memory serves me to a craggy cliff fall (I’m not going to look it up again) and, as for the second, why on earth should I know about 5th century hermits in Syria and like places? The other thing I forget to mention last time is that in “Arms And The Women” he quotes ‘Needs must when the devil drives.’ Now I had always heard it as ‘Needs must when the devil rides,’ so who is right? Anyway, my film script on William Palmer (the recent rejection) is ‘When The Devil Rides.’ I think it sounds better and I ain’t changing it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Noticed a few typos in the last Blog so in future had better be a bit more careful with my proof reading. Don’t know why the spell-checker didn’t pick up the obvious. When I spot typos in published works now, instead of being all censorious I tend to be a bit ‘what the hell’ about it as I have discovered through experience that spotting mistakes is a difficult business. You can go over a passage half a dozen times and still miss the obvious. Proof reading is an art. Well a discipline anyway that requires not only a keen eye but infinite patience. Having read NO OFFICIAL UMBRELLA and sent Douglas a list of all the mistakes I found he has already spotted one I missed in the first sixty pages. No doubt there will be more.
Sweeny for just over a week has been at death’s door. She wouldn’t eat, if she lay or fell down she could hardly get up, her back legs were almost useless and it really seemed as if doggie heaven’s portals were opening for her. One evening while I was watering the garden she somehow slipped out of the house and I eventually found her sitting right at the bottom of the garden, a long way for a virtual cripple to travel, and all I saw was this little black figure with her back to me sitting beside the hole we had already dug some weeks ago just in case. It brought to mind the little old bread seller in Genoa who saved up her pennies to pay for a marble monument carved in her likeness, bread and all, and the story has it she would visit the cemetery to sit and look at it, presumably on her days off when she wasn’t still selling her bread. It really broke me up to see her sitting there and she wouldn’t move. A bit too heavy for me to carry the length of the garden in my old age I took a coupe of blankets out and some plastic in case it rained and put her to bed, snug as a bug in a rug as my mother used to say, fully expecting next morning to find her gone. She had, but only a few yards off to sit somewhere else. I made a fuss of her and left her sitting there. Later in the day she returned to the house. Having put me through a week of tearful expectation now she has rallied like one wouldn’t believe: eating again and the back legs seemingly regaining some of their strength, walking fairly steadily instead of wobbling and weaving all over the place. She still spends her time going from one sleeping place to another but it seems she is also not quite so doolally.
Have finished two of the three Reginald Hill books. Problem is, once I get my nose into one, it’s very difficult to get it out again. The last one was ARMS AND THE WOMEN (with apologies to GBS?) and did I think he went just a teensy-weensy-weensy-weensy bit over the top with this one? He himself referred at one point to it being a bit Tarantino cum Ken Russell and we know how over the top he got. Also, now I take just a tiny cudgellette to Mr Hill without diminishing my admiration for his writing but, dear Mr Hill, it is pretty obvious that you are (a) an extremely intelligent man, (b) a highly educated one both classical and modern and (c) you have a great sense of humour and you are a truly terrific writer so there is really no need to use words that require the likes of myself to reach for the dictionary to prove all the above. In fact it detracts slightly from (c). For example, was it necessary to use the word ‘cetacean,’ a word I had never come across, when you could just as easily have written ‘whale like’ and my reading would not have been interrupted. ‘Oenophilic’ didn’t bother me because I just happen to know that oenos is the ancient Greek for wine but to use it in reference to a couple of dogs sniffing each other’s backsides, was that really a good choice do you think? There, I said it would be a tiny cudgellette because once again Mr Hill provided me with a great read. I look forward now to dipping my snout into number three. Hope theer arfe no typos in this one.

Monday, October 27, 2008

So the Poles, having migrated to the UK to find that crock of gold, are leaving in droves, things being financially that much better in Poland. There’s a turn up for the books. I don’t suppose one can blame every disaster on New Labour but one can certainly think of a few they’ve been responsible for in the last ten years. Is it ten? Something like that. I’m sure there are many more who would like to migrate but now if their homes are in negative equity and the housing market has slumped, they can no longer contemplate living the dream as all the Cretan estate agents say in their blurb. I hate that. For a lot of people conned into buying a jerry built house because it was cheap and not being able to sell it, the dream has turned into a nightmare. Even some who bought a beautiful house in a quiet village have had to run from the mass of housing estate building that has gone up around them, have found their house unsaleable and their dream in ruins. So much of the Apokoronas (this area of Crete) has been ruined in the last five years by greedy speculators but at last, hopefully the bubble has burst before they can ruin anymore. Or is that wishful thinking? It’s not been a good year for the holiday industry and next year I fear is going to be worse. Everyone, hoteliers taxi drivers, restaurants, have been complaining about the situation. Greece unfortunately is no longer el cheapo. It was getting more expensive even before th4e priced of oil shot through the roof and it has accelerated since then. Have just had a new bottle of gas delivered. When we first ordered this it was 12 euro. At the last delivery it had gone up to 15. This evening it was
You can still eat out fairly reasonably though. A tatty old bar in Kalyves has been upgraded to a number one looking restaurant, proper linen tablecloths, serviettes, the lot. No keeping your cutlery for the next course and everything served beautifully. The food was excellent (though the service was a little on the slow side, the Greeks believing one waiter can handle forty tables) and they must have spent a small fortune on the transformation. The meal for three with wine came to 25euro.There was only one problem with the evening. Greeks don’t usually eat until well on in the evening but we were eating early the restaurant was being quite well patronised but unfortunately by Brits at their worst; loud, brash, demanding, arrogant ignorant and ugly. These are the people who have been buying the dream. I really am surprised there hasn’t been some sort of backlash from the Cretans. Maybe while they’re still making money out of the Brits that would seem like biting off noses to spoil faces, a pointless exercise.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

When I started on these Blogs some months back I thought I would run out of ideas within a couple of weeks at the latest but there are still some things I wanted to write about months ago, weeks ago, days ago that remain in the outbox, as new ideas and new events like queue jumpers slip in instead.
It says a great deal for someone’s writing when you reach the end of a book with a sigh of disappointment, a regret that that is it, there is nothing more to come. I finished The Archivist’s Story some days ago (there you are, have only just got around to mentioning it) and that was exactly the feeling I had as I realised I was on the last page. How do you express your feelings about a story which can hardly be called enjoyable yet which you thoroughly enjoyed? It’s like saying you enjoy going to a funeral. Well, it’s a remarkable novel and whoever left it here I’m glad they did. Now I’m back to enjoying Dalzeil and Pascoe.
Started to watch yet another movie and gave up. This one was called Premonition and starred Sandra Bullock. After twenty minutes or so of not knowing what was real and what was unreal, what was supposed to be a dream and what wasn’t, it was such a mess (or am I as thick as two planks?) I thought there was simply no point in staying with it so switched to Vouli and watched a documentary on Bernard Montgomery.
Yet another rejection slip – No, rejection slips are passé, now it’s electronic rejection, rejection by e-mail. This one was from Evan Leighton Davis regarding DEAD ON TIME and WHEN THE DEVIL RIDES submitted to Barnaby Thomson at Ealing Studios “While there is undoubted potential in both projects, I’m afraid we didn’t fall in love with either enough for us to be taking them further. Thanks for sending them to us though and good luck in finding a home for them.” I wonder if we ever shall. Who’s interested in the civil war as the film mogul said when presented with Gone With The Wind. I had the same reaction many years ago from Granada TV when I submitted my play THE RIVER OF SAND. Who’s interested in South Africa? It wasn’t too long after that the whole world was interested in South Africa. Were I ten years younger I would give my eye teeth (as the saying goes) to direct WHEN THE DEVIL RIDES, but there you are, I’m not ten years younger and a terrific script, even though I am forced to say it myself, is going begging.
Why is it that every year at this time the house is suddenly inundated with flies? Is it the falling pomegranates, nature’s grenades, that explode on contact with hard concrete, scattering seed and juice everywhere and creating the stickiest ever mess? Oranges are dropping now as well, too small and too early, and the quinces need to be picked before the bugs get to them.. They are enormous and again it’s a big crop.That single tree has really done us proud but, like the walnuts, we put them aside, eventually they go off and then they’re wasted.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Forgot to say last time that before I went out I had to get our dogs back in from the garden. Merrill came around the corner with a sort of knowing smile on her face and, when I went around tofind out why, there was Sweeny pinned down beneath the stranger who was trying to have his wicked way with her. Sweeny certainly wasn’t resisting but I don’t believe she would have had the strength anyway. I wonder what was going through her mind. Was this the experience of her life? Were all her fourteen birthdays being repeated and coming at once? Whatever, she was taking no chances and her twat was placed firmly on the ground. I tried to get him off her with a singular lack of success and eventually managed it by thrusting the end of my bastoonie into his throat and pushing him off. Now he did show his teeth for the first time but anyone being so rudely objected to coitus interruptus would be bound to get a bit narky. Eventually a sharp rap on the head saw him off and Sweeney was rescued from a fate worth than death and swept into the house.
The big question is not where this hound might have come from. Greece is full of stray dogs. The big question is how on earth did he manage to get into our garden? It is surrounded by a high stone wall topped with cast iron railings. We had it erected at E-Nor-Mous expense to keep our own animals in. There is a spot right next to the house where my bedroom roof is quite close to the road. Perhaps that was his means of entry. (He couldn’t get out that way though when he attempted it). Anyway, I decided I would go and have my siesta and if he was still around when I got up I would turn the hose on him. The agricultural water has quite a strong jet. He was there. I opened the garden gate, opened the hose and directed it straight at him as he sat by the garden door. He fled around the corner, I followed, He leapt a six foot high embankment, ran along beside the wall and out the gate. I shut it and also the doors to the wood shed so that he couldn’t get back into the courtyard if he should return, though I thought that was the last I would see of him. Wro-ong! I posted off yesterday’s blog and was reading it to see if was okay when I happened to glance over my shoulder and who should be sitting right outside my study door, not four feet away and gazing at me with mournful eyes but that damned dog It is now coming up to five o’clock and, shower or no shower, he was determined this was going to be his home. Now how on earth did he get into the courtyard when both woodshed doors were firmly closed? This dog was an escapologist. There was only one thing for it, give him another dose of the same medicine. I didn’t enjoy what I had to do. I hate to see any animal cringing but there is no room in this house for a fully mature male dog and he had to be made certain in no uncertain terms that he was not wanted. In England I would probably have called the RSPCA and had him removed but Crete is not England. So out into the courtyard I go and turn on that hose. The first jet hit him and he was off, down into the lower garden and cowering against the far wall. I kept the hose on him until, in desperation, (he held out for quite a while) he jumped onto a huge boulder that lies there and was up and over another six foot high wall. Not only an escapologist but an Olympic athlete yet. Maybe that was the way he got in. He hasn’t been seen to-day and hopefully that is the end of this shaggy dog story or, as the Princess Spitzkaya would have said, shabby dog story. Shame, he looked pretty shabby too, soaked to the skin but, as the Greeks say, ti na kanoume?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Have you ever had one of those days? Yes? No? Well today was probably it, at least the first half but let me deal with yesterday first. It didn’t rain. Once again by midday the sky was an endless blue and today it appears is to be the same. So I watered half the garden and will do the rest today (that which hasn’t been done after having hosed down the dog!). At last I’ve broken through the 50000 word barrier with the new work. It’s only taken about five months or more which is tortoise pace really but maybe it will quicken up now. Considering I already have a template for it there is really no excuse for being such a slug. So had an evening of telly starting with Mr Attenborough’s programme on snakes which was terrifying and, although I didn’t get to see that venomous bugger the tiger snake whilst I was in Australia I now know what he looks like, and why he’s called a tiger snake when there doesn’t seem to be a stripe on his body is beyond me. He just looks a dirty brown. Maybe this one had been rolling in mud. Then came a movie with Gene Hackman – The Heist which was fun - another gold bullion story with a double cross and a double double cross and a double double double cross and a double double double double cross and may be even a fifth double cross but I lost count and lovable Gene baby being the biggest double crosser of them all ended up with all the gold. This was followed immediately by a film called Fracture with Anthony Hopkins doing his full Hannibal the cannibal acting and doing it very well. I have to admit in the first few minutes I was tempted to switch off but I’m glad I stayed with it because in the end it turned out to be a pretty good movie. So it wasn’t to bed till two and today I wanted to drive down to Souda to send Douglas the book via the ferry. So, today … First of all I woke up with the screaming slithering squitters! Now what have I eaten that could have caused that? Nothing I can think of so maybe it’s a follow on to the sore throat that only lasted a day. It is that time of the year I suppose with the change in the weather. You know it’s getting colder when the cats don’t want to stay out all night. Okay, so I am going to chance driving to Souda and, having fed the animals, I disappear into my bedroom to get ready. Merrill is suddenly kicking up the most fearful racket barking non-stop so eventually I decide I had better go and find out what all the fuss was about. I walk into the breakfast room and stop dead when confronted by a rather large ginger dog at which Merrill was doing all her barking and virtually hopping up and down with excitement. The dog seemed placid enough (though you never can tell) and for a while we just stood looking at each other, then I gave it a pat. It didn’t seem to mind that, in fact might even have hoped for it, but no encouragement was going to get it to move so I wrapped a large towel around it and carried it to the garden door. It weighed a ton but I deposited it on the doorstep and slammed the door before it could re-enter, hoping it would just go away. No way. Back in the breakfast room I saw Roussell the cat outside, her back arched, every hair standing on end and hissing for all she was worth. No way was she going to have this stranger in her garden. I tried to call her in but she hared off around the corner in hot pursuit of the interloper. I later found her on a garden wall still doing her best in persuading the stranger to leave. Keppel on the other hand nearly had the screaming squitters as well and disappeared down the stairs into the library because that damned dog was back and now in the courtyard, paws up on the doors, looking through the glass. Of Betty there was no sign. Anyway, I couldn’t hang around. I wanted to go to the bank before moving on to Souda. The dog was back at the garden door and sitting there waiting to be let in. Fat chance. I gathered my bits and pieces and set off. Clipped the offside mirror against the wall but otherwise reached Kalyves without further mishap only to see a dozen cars outside the bank and knowing it would be crowded I moved on. But wait, could something else have gone wrong with the morning? It had. I felt in my trouser pocket. Empty. I hadn’t picked up my plastic wallet with taftotita, (resident’s permit) driving licence and, most important, money, in it. I couldn’t send the parcel if I couldn’t pay for it. There was nothing for it but to either (a) go home and pick it up (it was so stupid in the first place because the car key was on top of it) or go back to the bank so back to the bank I went. The cashiers had reached number 69 (a goodly number) and my ticket was 84 so it was sit and wait time. Although there were two cashiers only one was attending to the waiting customers, the other was catching up on whatever business she thought or felt needed catching up with and no matter how many entered the bank to be served she was not going to be distracted come hell or high water. Typically Greek. Anyway, eventually number 84 was lit up and I got my 200 euro at a good exchange rate. It cost only £160.28. So on to Souda. More cars than ten municipal car parks so eventually I parked in the supermarket car park. I was going to shop there for animal food anyway. Walked back to the Anek office and my left hip started to hurt like hell, something it hasn’t done since I can’t remember. Then down to the ship, the latest in the line. She is HUmungeous! With her car deck empty you could really appreciate her size, as long as a football pitch I warrant. Back to the supermarket. Man strimming the verge on the harbour side of the road creating a huge dust cloud so I walk on the other side and he decides that’s where he will now strim. Move on covered in dust. At the supermarket not a trolley to be found. Goodness only knows where they were because there certainly weren’t enough customers to be using them all. So it was a hand basket which anyway was probably just as well as I would have to carry it when I got home and I didn’t want it to be too heavy (as it was it nearly killed me walking up the steno!) Attendant at the cheese counter doing a similar trick to the cashier in the bank. She had much more important business to attend to than take care of customers. At the checkout another long long queue. Bought a Snickers to give me a sugar high and some instant energy before I faded out. Driving home clipped someone’s car with offside mirror and fled at 120 k’s. He didn’t follow me. Either he wasn’t prepared to drive at that speed or the damage was so negligible it really didn’t matter. No sooner got in when, luck this time, the deadly squitteroodys struck again. And had the doggie gone? Had it hell! It was still sitting at the courtyard door waiting patiently to be let in. And I think I had better finish this blog on that very minor cliff hanger.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Watched an episode of Mr Bean and found it both pathetic and, despite the studio audience’s laughter, or was it canned? desperately unfunny. It has not worn well and all Mister Atkinson’s gurning hardly raised a smile, not from me anyway. Some of it was just too downright silly for words. Am I getting too old for this sort of thing? I wonder whether, if I see it again, Black Adder will prove as wonderful as when I first saw it. Also watched the film Diehard 3 starring Bruce Willis who is always worth watching and Jeremy Irons, also always worth watching. The film itself was the most ridiculous, over the top, unbelievable, impossible piece of nonsense ever scripted and shot but a billion dollars worth of production value from the opening explosion to the explosion in the subway and so on right to the end by which time Mr Willis should really have been dead but was covered in blood just to show what he had been through. He should also have broken every bone in his body but of course you don’t see that. Unfortunately there was an enormous hole right at the beginning when his character was ordered by our baddy (Mr Irons with the faintest of German accents) to go to Harlem like a sandwich board man with I HATE NIGGERS scrawled on his board. And he was saved from certain death by a local black shop keeper who then became his sidekick for the rest of the film. Now the whole object of Mr Irons making this particular policeman do this was to start a chain of events leading up to the threat of his having placed a bomb in one of New York’s 1400 schools so that every policeman in the place was sent searching. With no police around this left Mr Irons and his army of mercenaries with a clear passage to bulldoze and tunnel their way into the vault of a bank that stored gold bullion from every country who wants gold bullion stored, billions of dollars worth which gives Mr irons the cue to say something about them being an army without a country now what country should they buy? Of course in the end they are thwarted by our hero but the hole at the beginning is this – had he been killed by a gang of irate African-Americans in Harlem, which evidently is what Mr Irons thought might or could or would happen, what happens to the rest of the well laid plan? Down the old tubes, baby, no story, no film. I did enjoy it for the hokum it was including the most amazing action sequences.
It’s been threatening to rain all week. At the moment the skies are grey again but still no rain and, if it doesn’t happen,. I’ll have to get the old hosepipe out and do a spot of watering. Glad the weather was so good for Beryl’s one week break but she leaves to day so rain, please rain, and save me having to water.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday – a beautiful day, the weather perfect so off to the lake with Beryl for lunch. No, I don’t mean I had Beryl for lunch I mean I took Beryl to the lake for lunch which was a good idea because it had been a long time since she was last there. We stopped off at our usual taverna, the one all on its own at the near end, used mainly by Greeks and away from the cluster of tourist tavernas at the far end. There were a few Greek families there when we arrived. No sign of Elvis so he must have gone back to or been sent back to Albania or Rumania or Bulgaria or wherever it was he came from. The lake showed how hot the summer has been and what little rain we’ve had this year. I have never seen it so low, about two thirds its normal size. It was in two distinct colours, palest bluey-green close to us and dark grey the far side beneath the mountain which crated an extraordinary optical illusion as that bit when you glanced at it quickly looked vertical like a high wall. What are those things doing on that high wall? Oh, they’re canoes and it isn’t a wall, it’s just the deepest part of the lake in the shadow of the mountain. It was busy though with pedaloes and canoeists going hell for leather and creating lengthy wakes and a few swimmers bobbing about. I mentioned to Beryl that there was salt cod and garlic potato on the menu and she thought, having never tried it, she’d have a go. Fortunately she liked it which was just as well as the portions were enormous and I have to admit very tasty. That and a village salad was plenty. When we left we went the long way round and the tourist tavernas were jam packed and more busloads of holiday-makers walking down the hill to join them. The conversation over lunch was all about theatre experiences and our neighbours must have wondered what the jokes were there was so much laughter at our table. Beryl seemed very surprised to discover that I can read Greek. The problem I have with Greek is trying to understand it when spoken. On the way back I told Beryl about the sheep eating water melon and she screamed with laughter. Back home we discovered our neighbours Nikos and Maria were having a party and there were enough cars round and about to fill a municipal car park. I wonder if it was somebody’s name day. Anyway, over tea we spent an enjoyable half hour or so going through Xanthippi attachments before it was time for her to get her taxi. It was a lovely day. When she arrived in the morning she came with two portions of boureki cooked by her landlady Anna and half a dozen new laid eggs also courtesy of Anna, at least courtesy of Anna’s chickens.
Now must get back to reading “No Official Umbrella”. Yes, finally picked it up Friday morning and have been going through it for mistakes before passing it on to Douglas. It looks a very handsome volume and he’s dying to see it but he will have to hold himself in patience for a few days as he’s not going to get it until at least Thursday. Why, may one ask? Well firstly because I’ve got to finish reading it (and I might say enjoying it despite having written it and read it a number of times before) and (b) because in their inimitable way the Greeks have called a general strike for Tuesday so there is no point in getting it to the boat until Wednesday which means his getting it Thursday. Sorry Douglas.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Three Dalziel and Pascoe books that will keep me happy and well occupied and I already have my nose buried in the first and chuckling at Mr Hill’s felicitous phrasing. So “The Lost Gospel” is, after only three chapters put aside; maybe put aside for the nonce, for good more than likely as I think I would have to be pretty desperate to want to pick it up again. As for “No Official Umbrella” it seems to have travelled halfway around Greece before ending up yesterday, where I suggest ed to the lady phoning on behalf of UPS it be delivered, in Georgia’s shop from where I picked it up this morning. It looks most impressive but then looks aren’t everything, as I seem to have said before, and I wonder if, now in a deep depression, is the time to produce a quite expensive hardback book. Well, we can only wait and see.
Looked up Sally Potter on Google to discover she is quite a famous film director with a number of films and numerous awards to her credit. Unfortunately(?) I haven’t seen any of the movies mentioned: “Yes” “Thriller” “The Tango Lesson” “The Man Who Cried” and she's got one currently in post production for 2009 called “Rage”. There’s something very strange going on with modern movie making. Tried watching a film last night with Charleze Theron but as seems to be a regular habit these days gave up before the end. The phenomenon I refer to is hardly ever letting a scene last more than thirty seconds of a modern audience’s attention span, sometimes even shorter, a big close up say of an eye (very meaningful but a certain Spanish director many years ago did it so much better) and cut cut cut as fast as you can. Is this so that the audience won’t be aware of all the holes? because it struck me that this particular film had as many as a fishing net. And isn’t it so boring now to see nubile young actresses and their stand-ins and CGI flying through the air for improbable distances (all starting with Hidden Tiger?) and performing innumerable back flips in quick succession to end up kicking some poor guy where it hurts most? Seems not only entirely unnatural but a terrible waste of energy.
Also looked up millipedes that have hundreds of entries to themselves there being any number of millipede cousins. Started off with one from Virginia, quite a cute looking fellow, all bright yellow and brown but evidently with the most vomit making BO imaginable. Don’t think I’ll bother to go any further.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Whoops! End of chapter two and yet another face is aflame with excitement. These guys need to be careful. One of them could expire from instantaneous combustion. The other problem with this book, as it is sometimes with plays, is that in order to keep us informed, in this instance about history, religion, archaeology etc., characters keep telling each other things they already know and they know that they know so it just doesn’t sound natural. Okay so the facts might be very interesting but surely there is a better way of putting them? Isn’t there?
The gales of Crete have blown a thousand dead bougainvillea flowers into the lobby (slight exaggeration) and the garden rubbish should be dry enough now to start burning again. The cotton sheets are off the bed and the flannel ones take their place together with a blanket for the first time, the nights are definitely getting cooler.
Songololo (Zulu, I think though most probably misspelt), sarandapotharoosa (Greek), millipede (English), what strange little creatures they are, trolling along, their little lergs going twenty to the dozen. I know nothing about them except that the pets all stray clear. Cats usually investigate anything that moves but they studiously ignore them. What do millipedes eat? How long do they live? What brings them into the house? Is it a sense of exploration? Last night I discovered, not for the first time, one in my bathroom. Now my bathroom from a door through which the creature must have entered the house is about a mile or more in millipede distance, there are a number of stairs to climb to reach it and there’s no way out but back, but there he was, wandering around the floor of the shower. I should have thrown him back into the garden but left him there and went to bed and this morning he was curled up against the wall, stone cold dead in the market, or in the shower anyway so I flushed him down the loo instead. Maybe I’ll look up Google and find out more about them. If I were a Buddhist I would be thoroughly ashamed of myself.
Watched part of a film called “Orlando”, written and directed by one Sally Potter and with Quentin Crisp as Elizabeth the first. Beautifully costumed, beautifully photographed but eventually rather boring, an art house picture for those who like that sort of thing. Orlando played by a beautiful woman. Surely Miss Potter and her casting director could have found a beautiful boy? These days of course they would. And who is Miss Potter that she could raise the finance for a film for a minority audience? I certainly cannot see Ford Mondeo man forking out his cash at the box office. Maybe I’ll look up Miss Potter on Google as well.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Crete is wet, windy, and decidedly chilly. Winter has come early but, with the price of heating oil being what it is, let’s hope it doesn’t last too long. Firewood too has been upped in price, yet again, that’s three years running. I wonder what it feels like to have your multi-billion dollar fortune halved because of the recession. Is it painful to lose so much money or does one merely shrug it off? After all one has quite a few million left. For we poor mortals in the lowest middle section of fortune’s favours, a cash flow problem is serious business. The Greeks do love money, they love playing with it and I am still surprised they gave up their beloved drachma so easily because there was much much more to play with, bundles and bundles of the stuff. I remember when I bought the Skoda ten years ago I laid a carrier bag full of drachmas on the dealer’s desk and he immediately started to count it, flipping it expertly through his fingers. ‘What are you counting it for? It’s just come straight from the bank?’ ‘Don’t trust banks.’ Fortunately they can also be very generous and, as with our friendly garage owner, Haralambos, are inclined, once they know you, to grant you credit until you’re in a position to pay. ‘Pay me when you’ve got it.’ Of course credit is what has brought us to this pretty pass or, as I understand it, the greed of bankers in allowing credit to unworthy borrowers in order to increase their profits – they hoped – and look where their greed has got them. The unfortunate thing (apart from all those unfortunates who have lost their smallish amounts in comparison and those who lose their homes and are in dire financial trouble) is that the guilty moguls will go unpunished and probably rake in another fortune. In a way it’s fortunate not to have money to lose in the first place.
Still on the subject of money, and what follows is only my humble opinion Mr Copperfield, thinking of the writers who have become multi-millionaires from their work, I reckon JKR deserves hers because at least the “Harry Potter” books are an enjoyable read and well written whereas Dan Brown(e) can’t write for toffee and Jeffrey Archer is even worse and yet they run laughing all the way to their various banks. Have just started a book, don’t know where it came from, called “The Last Gospel” and am not too sure I’ll finish it. It’s another gigantic tome of 560 pages and on the inside of the front cover the author, pictured, tell us the books he writes are “fast paced adventure thrillers” and “full of the thrill and adrenaline and danger I’ve experienced myself around the world.” Well that’s a pretty self-congratulatory puff if ever I’ve heard one. The question is, does he live up to it? Well I have to admit I’m only on chapter two but in chapter one if Costas and our hero had grinned at each other just one more time, together with eyes aflame and face aflame I think I would have given up then and there. Having got on a bit further though I come across this line, “He gasped and whispered in his native German, ‘Mein Gott!’ Does that bring a smile to your face? Then a bit further on when this archaeologist has been joined underground by a colleague named Maria, she says, ‘Dios mia, oh my God!’ obviously in her native Spanish though it’s not stated as such. A little further on I came across a passage sounding like an academic lecture from an old buffer of a professor. I can’t quote at length because of copyright but there’s one thing a playwright or screen writer should dread above all else and that is the unintentional laugh and maybe the novelist should feel the same way because here, instead of taking it seriously, I’m afraid I laughed. However I will persevere a little more in the expectation of thrills and spills to come with less grinning and ‘my god’ in various languages..
Meanwhile my bedside book is “The Archivist’s Story” by Travis Holland. Again no one seems to know how it got here but I’m glad it did. Mister Holland does not blow his own trumpet but it is a gripping story well written and in which one really cares about the characters.
Dining at Nick and Jenny’s there’s always talk of books and writers and the opportunity to borrow. Had a choice of three last time and naturally plumped for the new Shardlake – “Revelation.” Fabulous! The Shardlake series is up there with my Russian detective, my Venetian detective and, of course, that very English detective, Thornton King. Ha ha ha! His next adventure hopefully coming out early next year.
Meanwhile we await the proof copy of “No Official Umbrella” which was posted a week ago today and still hasn’t arrived.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Our friend Xanthippi who is constantly e-mailing us the most amazing photographs, cartoons, and items of interest has sent one called “How small we are” showing the relative sizes of planets starting with the smallest Pluto, followed by Mercury, then Mars, and Earth three times bigger than Mars followed by Venus, bigger than Earth but not by all that much. Jupiter is enormous compared to earth but is completely dwarfed by our sun which is gigantic, but it doesn’t end there. Sirius is eight times or more larger than the sun but smaller than Pollux which is three times larger but completely overshadowed by Arcturus which is proportionately the size of a football as opposed to Pollux like a cricket ball. Moving up even further Arcturus which was previously the size of a football is now the size of a walnut in comparison to Rigel slightly bigger than a golf ball in comparison to the walnut and Aldabaran a bit bigger than Rigel. But now comes Betelgeuse the size of a melon and, to top them all, Antares about a third or more larger again, the 15th brightest star in the sky and 1000 light years away. Printed out this way only gives an indication of this giant. To see it in picture form truly shows how very very small our little earth is. I wonder where god is in all this.
On Vouli (the government station) last night was a BBCTV programme “The Story of God” skirting over the three monotheistic religions. Judaism, Christianity and Islam, starting with Abraham of course whose tomb Muslims can see from one side, Jews from the other, just in case blood flows should they view it together, and the line (I probably paraphrase here) I remember most from the programme was one in which I wholeheartedly concur, “Considering the suffering caused by the religious in the name of their god, maybe it would be better if god didn’t exist.” Here I’m on my soapbox again beating my drum, blowing my tin trumpet because “If god didn’t exist man would have to invent him” I change to “AS god doesn’t exist man has had to invent him.” Here endeth the lesson
Finished the week’s film watching with one I thought was going to be rubbish and which I would hate but it turned out to be completely the opposite. Titled “Replicant”, In the first place it starred Jean Claude Van Damme in the duel role of killer/clone who not only ran the gamut of emotion from A to B but went a whole lot further, possibly even as far as P and Q. Basically a thriller about a serial killer, with a bit of science fiction thrown in with the introduction of his clone – set a thief to catch a thief only in this case set a clone to catch a killer. No big star cast, (unless you rate Van Damme in that category) no multi-billion dollar budget but a better film than the biggies I watched (or tried to watch) earlier in the week Not an award winner but gripping nevertheless and why did I keep on thinking of Frankenstein?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Thought I’d watch “Ocean’s Thirteen” and lasted one hour forty before switching off. A more pretentious, almost impossible to follow, ridiculous and irritating film it would be hard to find. I’ll never know the outcome and couldn’t care less. A stellar cast of big names adding up in the end to sweet f.a.. I’m surprised I had the patience to last one hour forty and didn’t turn off sooner. Whoever said of a certain actress that she ran the whole gamut of emotions from A to B could very well say the same of Mr Clooney, possibly the most vapid actor ever to disgrace the silver screen. Guess the female fans all go for his soft charm and looks but, as the old saying has it, looks ain’t everything.
Friday again already. Friday’s we get the Athens News and The Daily Mail. Ever since, after forty odd years of readership, we decided to boycott The Sunday Times that gave less and less in the overseas editions for the same price; the straw wot broke the camel’s back was withdrawal of the culture section, I get the Mail on Fridays for the film, theatre, and book reviews. Unfortunately last week I missed out on Friday’s paper and took Saturday’s instead. Goodness gracious me as Peter Sellers might have said, talk about purple prose! Full pages on the return of Peter Mandelson to the labour cabinet and a seat in the Lords at the invitation of Gordon Brown. Enormous headline on the front page – ARISE LORD SLEAZE and referred to as “disgraced Prince of Darkness!” On pages 6 and 7 another huge headline MANDELSON BACK IN TRIUMPH (PART 3). I presume the Mail’s legal advisors didn‘t think the appellations awarded Mr Mandelson as libellous but, if I said of someone that they were malignant, malevolent, mendacious, an odious discredited creep and a cancer on British life I would more’n likely be issued with a writ. There is another full page on 9 giving a history as to why Mr Mandelson has been called all these names. Actually he should sue for hurt feelings, isn’t that what everyone does these days? And he could be awarded millions then he wouldn’t have to cheat and lie about his finances in order to buy another multi-million pound home.
With the enormous headlines the Mail is sprouting it is heading closer and closer to The Sun. Someone aught to tell the editor that we can read.
Discovered a chirpy journalist by the name of Deborah Ross (styled the non domestic goddess – that sounds like a title the old music hall performers used to use – “the comic singer and grotesque dancer”) whose column “The real truth about all the stars I’ve never met” was great fun. But this week, sorry Deborah, it’s back to Friday’s paper.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Blog 7

The pomegranates are ripe and falling attracting the wasps so we are well into autumn now and the drop in temperature confirms it. It’s a pity they’re such messy things to eat as I am led to believe they’re very good for you. They make a mess when they hit the concrete as well and split open.. Jenny Gore has been known to sit in the courtyard with a basin, a pile of pomegranates and stained fingers peeling them and making juice which is delicious but is it worth the time and effort? Guess it’s time to start reaping the quince as well, the oranges are ripening and the ground beneath the walnut trees is covered in nuts. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness just missing the mist.
Had actor’s nightmare last night. As I haven’t acted in many a moon why should I still be having actor’s nightmare? Just an anxiety dream I suppose though whenever I think of my times as an understudy I get the cold shivers as, being the lazy bugger that I am, I was never really prepared to go on and fortunately never had to. Anyway, it was ridiculous, if I had to go on for Alistair Sim half the audience would have walked out and demanded their money back. Every actor I’ve ever spoken to about it has experienced this dream when you are standing in the wings and about to walk out on stage and you don’t know a line, sometimes you don’t even know what play you’re supposed to be in. It’s quite distressing really as the dreams are always vivid. You wonder if you can wing it, if you can play a scene, scurry off to swot up your lines and then play the next .One actor’s nightmare I had involved not one, not two but three plays, the third of which I hadn’t even read let alone studied and it was due to open. Remember a revue I saw in London way back, must have been the fifties with Hugh Paddick, and was it Fenella Fielding? Anyway, the sketch was supposed to be about them performing Romeo & Juliet in rep and the actor playing Romeo enters below the balcony to hear Juliet say the immortal line, “I have given suck!” with much emphasis on the “suck” to which he hisses in response, ‘You give suck on Thursdays, dear!’ Of course everyone knows the suck line comes from The Scottish King.
Accidentally saw most of a film on ET1 (missed the beginning) which I really enjoyed. I say accidentally for two reasons, one I had no intention of watching tv at that time of the day but thought it would accompany lunch and two because it was a substitute programme (again? Yes again) because ET1 ET3 and NET were suffering yet another strike and scheduled programmes between 10 and 3 were off. Anyway, the play starred Meryl Streep and was set in Ireland and I kept on wondering what it could be until the end when the penny finally dropped and I thought – Dancing At Lughnasa! I checked on Google because I never saw Brian Friel’s play and sure enough that is what it was. Lovely performances from all and beautifully shot in wonderful country.
Now I really really really must go and start that burning! Perfect overcast day for it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I really must get this desk cleaned up. It hasn’t been done for months. It is littered with pieces of paper, notes, cuttings, reference books, scripts, and dust, and no matter what Mister Quentin Crisp might have said about it, the dust simply has to go, especially as now that the summer is over and their time is up dead flies are going to be dropping all over the place. Maybe tomorrow. I’m still trying to rake up the will to go into garden and start burning. The thought of all the trees that need pruning and I’m ready to go back to bed. Picked and froze 32 mixed peppers yesterday. The veggie garden has done well this year thanks to all that good horseshit.
Going back to the world of PC, had dinner the other evening with Nick and Jenny Urwin, both of whom are (were) teachers of long experience who loved what they did. They were telling me that now you cannot touch a child without first asking the child for permission. So the child has fallen over and is lying on the ground. ‘Excuse me, child, do I have your permission to lift you to your feet and ascertain you are not hurt in any way? And if you think my lifting you to your feet (with your permission of course) might be just a tad too intimate, would you accuse me of sexual harassment?”
“Excuse me, child, but I couldn’t help but notice you have grazed your knee rather badly. It will need an application of antiseptic and possibly a very large band-aid; do I have your permission to send you to the first aid room? And, if not, and your knee turns really septic and you have to go to hospital for a goodly spell, my child, will your dear parents sue me for negligence?”
“Excuse me, you two… Boys! Boys! Listen to me! Please! Stop fighting! Boys! Oh, I see you’re not boys, you’re girls. The boots are misleading. Well whatever you are you’ve had too much alcopop and you’re beating the shit out of each other and there’s nothing I can do about it except plead with you to stop because, if you don’t and someone is really badly hurt, your parents will only blame me.’
“Fuck off, Miss.”
“And please don’t use that kind of language in the playground or I will have to report you to the headmaster.”
“He can fuck off as well and, if he doesn’t, I’ll set my mates on him.”
“And you others, pleases stop taking photos on your cell phones. I know you want to put them out on the internet and then my name really will be mud, my career over. I can only hope your phones will be stolen before you can do that, which in all events is quite likely to happen the second you step out the school gates anyway.”
Is it true that a five year old boy (or was he four?) in America was charged with sexual harassment because he kissed a little girl in kindergarten? Anything is possible in America. I wonder what Jonathan Swift would make of that country if he were writing today. A Texas woman was awarded $80000 against a furniture store when she was tripped up by a roaming toddler who just happened to be her own son. A Philadelphia restaurant shelled out $113500 to a woman who slipped on a spilt drink and broke her tail bone. Thirty seconds before in a blazing row she had thrown the drink at her boyfriend. Another woman bought a Winnebago, set it to cruise control while driving and went back to make herself a sandwich. She said it should have been in the manual that she couldn’t do that and was awarded over a million dollars … And would you believe Winnebago have put it in their manual? Oh, well, and you say the world hasn’t gone stark raving mad?

Monday, October 6, 2008

In 1973 I bought a house in Richmond Road, Dalston, in the socialist borough of Hackney, East London, for which I paid the magnificent sum of £6500. (Six thousand five hundred pounds). People tried to warn us off, saying that Hackney Council had designs on the pretty area of Victorian houses known as Mapledene and indeed they did have, intending to bulldoze it en bloc, maybe two hundred properties if not more and replace the houses with council flats, but we formed the Mapledene Residents Association and fought them off. You will never win against a council, people said, councils always win, but in this instance they didn’t and Mapledene still exists, I should think much to the horror of the socialist borough of Hackney who wanted to take it over and build council flats because, to the left-wing mindset, gentrification was setting in with the middle classes like us buying property there. Of course one has to ask if they did their sums proper like with this grandiose scheme which would have included (a) compulsory purchase, (b) demolition, and (c) building, at what cost? Well I see that the house we paid £6500 for thirty-five years ago is today back on the market at £899,950 (I won’t even bother putting that in words) because, if this isn’t cloud-cuckoo land I wonder what is! When Jeremy Nightingale, following our example, bought his house in Eleanor Road, Hackney for £139000 we thought he was totally out of his mind. Presumably that house is now worth somewhere in the region of £650-700000.
Talking of the left-wing mindset I remember when we approached Hackney Council to possibly sponsor us in putting on Champagne Charlie in the borough, possibly for old people’s homes – whoops! elderly facilities – etc., and Chris, talking to some girl on the telephone said the show was professional and excellent, the reply he got was “We don’t believe in excellence, excellence is elitist.” End of call. It’s really hard to credit but then political correctness started to go stark raving mad some time ago so there it is. Our friend Ray Peters who lives in Richmond Road and who must by now be sitting on a small fortune retired early from teaching because PC had come thundering into Islington (another socialist borough) school at such a rate he couldn’t take it any longer. GBS and The Fabians must be turning in their graves to think of what it has all become. Thank that mythical old god George W. is always in communication with that it hasn’t come to Greece – yet. But don’t count your chickens.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Betty has escaped from Alcatraz, from Colditz, from the Gulags, from wherever that was supposed to be escape proof. She was going absolutely stir crazy and literally climbing the walls, only in this instance it was the kitchen window from the top of which she squeezed out through the narrow ornamental bars of the fanlight and dropped a fair distance down on the outside. Houdini could not have done it better. I have no doubt we won’t see her for a while. She’s not going to want to come back to be incarcerated again.
Have reread a play "A Corner For Dreams" I wrote in 1957 while I was acting in Julius Caesar at The Library Theatre in Manchester. I have always been of the opinion it is not a very good play and had delegated it to the darkest corner of the script cupboard all these years but I have now changed my mind and decided, with a little bit of work, I think it might very well do. I don’t suppose it is at all relevant to any of today’s issues but interesting as a period piece and period seems to be coming back into fashion.
I have just been informed the escapee has returned and is at the moment polishing off her breakfast.
The above was written yesterday and this won’t be posted till tomorrow but just to say the escapee has disappeared again so the fanlight window is about to be replaced. It needs to be anyway as the cooler weather settles in.
Have finished the Ustinov book and enjoyed it to the end. Going back to the upcoming presidential elections here is a quote when reminiscing about presidents, politicians and statesmen of the past who he has known, and later comparisons: “It seems to be the habit to elect presidents for their lack of evident vices instead of their possession of evident virtues. The existence of vices is allowed to become apparent during the incumbency.” Oh, perspicacious Mr Ustinov! I wonder what he would have thought about Clinton, George W, Bush, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Not much I warrant.
Started to watch Howerds End but got bored and gave up. The usual fine attention to period detail one came to expect but everyone appeared to be just that little bit too frenetic in order to liven up what seemed a rather drab script, and failed. The headmaster’s note on the end of term report would read “Merchant Ivory has done. better.”

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Watched a film called King Arthur, because this is what was written in the Athens News television listings – “US adventure (2004) directed by Antoine Fugua. The Roman Empire is stretched across many nations, including Britain. In their conquest for more land, the Romans went into Sarmatia(!) where they fought the very brave Sarmatian cavalery.”(sic)
Cast: Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffudd
Whoops! Just been into Google and Sarmatia actually existed. We learn something new each day but I am a bit confused already because in the movie the Sarmatian cavalery (I presume) were informed they had to go to Britain on Rome’s behalf and their leader, I think, was Arthur. Does this mean he was of Iranian origin which the Sarmatians originally were evidently?
So what made me want to watch this particular movie? The answer is the fact that it is set in Roman times which is when the real Arthur lived and, at last, or so I thought, we get away from the sword in the stone, round table (oho there was a round table in the movie, quite a posh one too!), Holy Grail, lady of the lake, Mordred, Camelot, the once and future king whimsy.
Now there are two aspects of Greek television, no three if you count the inordinate length of commercial breaks; not only time to put the kettle on, but time to make and consume quite a hefty snack or even take a shower, and the two aforementioned are a total disregard for time and an uncanny knack of changing listed programmes just when you’re in the mood to watch something only to find a different programme being broadcast in which you have absolutely no interest whatsoever.
Well the film was scheduled to start on ET1 at 10 but by the time we’d got to twenty five past I was impatiently beginning to thumb the remote and so missed the opening title and credits. I caught it just as a date came up on the screen which I seem to remember was 427AD. First mistake, out by about 370 years if Arthur was around in the time of Claudius.
What I am going to write now is from memory of my research when I did the poster for Abydos Publishing and that was like a thousand years ago so I might at times be slightly off beam, but my research led me to believe this about the legendary king – Arthur, Welsh name Arivagu, Roman name Caractacus, was the son of Cunobelinus (Cymbeline), grandson of King Llyr (Lear). Together with his brother, Togodumnus, they defeated “the great boar of Caledon” so what exactly was this “great boar”? Caledonia at that time was near where Chichester is today and when Claudius’s legions landed they were met by Arthur’s Britains and roundly thrashed. So where does the boar come in? Well Claudius was an Etruscan and his household symbol which would possibly have been on his legions’ shields was a boar’s head. This episode definitely gives the time of Arthur’s existence as a British chieftain, that of the Catuvellauni, but not yet a king. Eventually our hero is captured and taken to Rome where, because of his bearing and courage, he is feted to such an extent, instead of being executed or sent into slavery, a villa is placed at his disposal, the Villa Arthur which, I am led to believe exits to this day. But the Romans never let the grass grow and the Brits were giving them such an almighty headache they persuaded Arthur to go back and this time, as King under the aegis of Rome, try to subdue the tribes, unite them and stop the nonsense. This all worked for a while until Arthur, sickened by Roman atrocities, which weren’t atrocities in Roman eyes, merely a means of governing, turned against them and once more became Rome’s enemy. Eventually he was betrayed and fought his last battle from his hill fort in Wales. This then is the true King Arthur. Now what about the film? Well they got right the whole bit about his fighting for Rome, but when he met Guinevere in the strangest of circumstances too complicated to go into here and a complete load of old codswallop, “I’m Guinevere” she says, rather like “Me Tarzan, you Jane” and starts to berate him about being nasty to his own people for the benefit of Rome and putting him on the right track, that’s where I gave up, so I have no idea how the film ends. If I were to give it a pitch it would be Seven Samurai comes to Roman Britain.
So I turned to Alter and saw the remainder of a Hannibal Lecter film but as I missed those credits as well and the film, being a substitution, wasn’t listed, I don’t know what it was. It kept me going till 1.30 anyway so it wasn’t a totally wasted evening.
Footnote, Lancelot du Lac was the son of a Roman governor of Gaul, hence his being known as the French knight. He had a split personality. Did he go for temporal satisfaction, his love for Guinevere? Or did he go for the spiritual, his quest for the grail? An interesting character who plumped for a bird in the hand as it were, rather than pie in the sky. In the film he was played by Mr Gruffudd but why oh why do the Americans have go over the top the way they do? Was there any reason why Lancelot had to have two long handled swords at his back, sticking up behind his head? Made the talented Mr Gruffudd look a right Burk.
One last observation, the Arthurian legends did not start in Britain, but in Italy, carried over to France by the troubadours, possibly even further north to Germany and Holland and finally across the water to England. One day someone might make a film that gets it right.