Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Talking about books and bookmen again. A letter in the Mail on Sunday starts it off and I quote – “Celebrity novelists are so boring. Why don’t celebrity obsessed publishers turn to good, real writers? I have never yet been able to finish a novel by a celebrity writer. Publishers would benefit by not having to pay out so much money and maybe people would start enjoying good books again.” The reason I would think why this good lady finds celebrity novels (note: not biographies which are more than likely ghosted anyway and there are always exceptions to the rule, Dirk Bogarde for example) is because although it may be said that everyone has at least one book inside them, writers might be celebrities but celebrities for the most part simply aren’t writers, having neither the talent nor the craft honed by years of hard graft.
Am currently reading and thoroughly enjoying a book written by a real writer. This is the first of his books I have come across but I see he has a number, both fiction and non-fiction, to his credit. The book is titled “The Ghost” and it is by Robert Harris and again I would like to quote if I may – “Of all human activities, writing is the one for which it is easiest to find excuses not to begin – the desk’s too big, the desk’s too small, there’s too much noise, there’s too much quiet, it’s too hot, too cold, too early, too late. I had learned over the years to ignore them all, and simply to start …. A book unwritten is a delightful universe of infinite possibilities. (For me those ten little words are in themselves a beautiful piece of writing. How could anyone better it? But let’s continue) …. In the absence of genius there is always craftsmanship. One can at least try to write something which will arrest the reader’s attention – which will encourage them, after reading the first paragraph, to take a look at the second, and then the third.”
We have all just finished reading Paul O’Grady’s autobiography “At my mother’s knee – and other low joints” (good old panto gag) and, although Mr O’Grady is a celebrity and possibly doesn’t consider himself a writer we not only read the first, second and third paragraphs but could hardly put the book down until the end and then, left dangling from that very high cliff top, will have to wait patiently for more. Let’s hope it won’t be too long a wait
But now we come to the third book I want to talk about. This is a thriller, was written by someone with another fourteen books to his credit, published by a major publisher and with more holes than a colander. It starts with a guy during his stag night being buried, really buried, by four of his mates. They have been on a pub crawl and admittedly he has had a little more to drink than the perpetrators of this practical joke. But now, consider, the man admits to being claustrophobic, would he for one single moment with a bit of liquor inside him allow himself to be placed in a coffin, have the lid screwed down and earth piled on top of it without putting up an almighty hysterical struggle? He would not only have to be slightly pie-eyed, he would have to be blotto, out like a light, dead to the world as the saying has it and, if that were the case, there would always be the danger that, lying on his back and with a skinful of booze, a possible reflux reaction would more than likely have him drown in his vomit. Be that as it may, leaving him lying there in his slightly inebriated state, the four drive off only to meet with a head on collision that kills them all. There should have been a sixth member of the party, the buried man’s partner in a real estate/construction business but a delayed journey meant he missed the fun but of course, though he denied any knowledge of it to the police, he was in on the joke, in fact as prospective best man, instigated it, and remember it was meant to be purely a joke, that in a couple of hours the guys would return to release their victim, no harm done. The third member of the real estate/construction business is the two guys’ secretary, naturally (this being fiction) the most ravishing blonde bombshell who the buried guy is due to marry that very Saturday, but we discover she is having it off with the partner and they are both expecting, hoping, to their mutual benefit, that number one will die in his coffin. But hold on a minute here, this was not the original plan. The original plan was for him to be released unscathed by his ordeal so how come this has suddenly cropped up? And, if there had not been the road accident and he had been released, then what was plan B? In the meantime, number one is having a two-way conversation from mobile phone to walkie-talkie, found at the accident site by a twenty-six year old with the mind of a six year old and a character I simply could not believe in. The reason he is there plot-wise is because a third villain is listening in to these conversations and traces the whereabouts of the coffin in order to kidnap its inhabitant for a spot of blackmailing. In the process he murders the twenty-six years old, an act of violence that is not explained. In case the twenty-six year old should suddenly get his act together and set a rescue in motion? Who knows? The young man’s corpse of course has to be discovered. Now the blackmailer, having amputated one of number one’s fingers to send to the partner as a warning, telephones him to say he wants him to transfer all the money the two men had placed in a Cayman Island bank account to a Panama bank account the number of which he will give. Failure to comply or go to the police, the usual thing, will entail more bits and pieces of recently buried number one leaving his body. Oh, I nearly forgot, he also had his bollocks electrified so he could scream loud and clear down the telephone wire. Now why doesn’t the partner simply sit back and let events take their natural course, i.e., leave number one to die? The prime object would then have been achieved; he would have his beautiful blonde bombshell and also all the money in the Cayman account still intact. Conscience? The amount the blackmailer wants transferred is exact to the last penny in the Cayman account so why didn’t this ring very loud alarm bells in the partner’s mind? There was only one other person who had this knowledge and it didn’t need a detective or a genius to know who. Unfortunately for the partner this lapse in logical thinking led to him being despatched and the beautiful blonde bombshell and her lover were ready for take off. But the police, who have been suspicious of her all the time of course, are now on to her because they discover a receipt showing she spent a four figure sum up in London buying a state of the art scanner to pick up telephone signals. Now what would she want that expensive piece of equipment for does one suppose? Why, so as her blackmailing lover can trace the site of the coffin in which their victim is buried. But hold on just a cotton picking minute here – in the first place how could they possibly foresee the young man was going to recover the walkie-talkie and this two-way conversation was going to take place anyway to give them a fix on the coffin’s location and, more important, she already knows anyway exactly where it is, has known from the beginning and this I am afraid is the biggest hole of them all.
Far be it for me to denigrate someone’s hard work but what are editors paid for in huge publishing houses?
Happy New Year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

My penultimate blog of 2008 and I finally get around to Athens, starting off leaving the ferry at Piraeus at 5.30 a.m. still dark but heavy traffic and hundreds of people about, the metro station surrounds awash with litter. Greeks love their newspapers and periodicals. Goodness only knows how many are published, daily, weekly, monthly. Add to that the fliers and posters everywhere and one can see a goodly portion of the rain forests lying wet and filthy on Greek city streets and old Popie fellow has every right to be worried but not about the extinction of the human race which will no doubt happen eventually and naturally from over-breeding and we will die out in a miasma of shit. It wasn’t until we started recycling in Vamos and separating what could be saved from what had to be thrown that it was brought home to me how truly wasteful our world is and how much landfill is stuffed with recyclable material, mainly packaging of one sort and another: tin, aluminium, glass, plastic, wood, cardboard, paper, cloth. Thinking of how much is produced by this one household alone and then multiplying it millions and millions of times and the resulting conclusion is truly horrifying. All Greece has a problem with waste disposal and it is amazing in Athens just to see the number of overflowing waste bins all over the city that are emptied every night. Add to the purely domestic rubbish the amount of old furniture, old clothes, shit paper and other assorted rubbish that gets cast out and collected, the city waste disposal department does an amazing job, but where does it all go to, thousands and thousands of tons of it nightly? This from a city small in comparison to the major and most heavily populated cities of the world?
Since my previous visit the graffiti bandits seem to have been having a field day (or night rather as none of them ever seem to get caught red handed) and their mindless daubs everywhere really are such an ugly blot on the city. Added to that now are the burnt out or trashed and looted premises from the recent riots when all manner of bugs came crawling out of the woodwork many with a secret agenda of their own to wreck havoc and parts of the centre look like a war zone; were a war zone for a few days I suppose. The ripples spread further than burnt out premises and those people losing their livelihood. As ordinary citizens were fearful of entering the centre, the remaining shops did little pre-Christmas business and theatres even less as patrons just stayed away. The night I went to see “Mister Episkopakis” at the little theatre situated only metres from where the boy was shot, we were seven in the audience and only two were actual paying customers. I presume cinemas and restaurants suffered the same fate. The fifteen year old being shot may have been the spark that brought thousands of protesters onto the streets but, apart from the purely criminal element, their reasons were many and the background; historical, political, social, economical, will just have to wait for another time. The effects of the Junta’s short but brutal reign can still be felt in Greece.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Well, Christmas has come and gone and it will soon be 2009. Let’s hope it turns out to be a better year than this that has been a disaster in so many ways. One’s heart goes out to the people of Zimbabwe suffering under that maniac and his thugs, the families that are going to lose their homes due to the recession, all the animals suffering human cruelty, children suffering under cruel parents. The Somali pirates still seem to be getting away with it but now that China has decided to intervene maybe that curse will come to an end, hopefully before there are disastrous oil spillages. Israel and Palestine are still at each other’s throats and I seriously doubt whether that will change in 2009 though in conjunction with Popie boy I sincerely wish it would. What is al-Qaeda planning for the New Year? What is the Taliban planning in Afghanistan? What is Iran up to? And North Korea? Militant Pakistanis? The world is full of fanatics who could spell disaster. Could it be possible that the fundamentalists, creationists, and other assorted religious fanatics in America might learn to love or at least to be tolerant rather than hating and believing in the vengeful god of the Old Testament? I am led to believe there is a xenophobic neo-fascist element in Greece (which is surprising considering the Nazi atrocities in Greece during World War Two. No, maybe not so surprising, there are neo-fascists all over the place) who are part of the Greek problem and I have been meaning to write about Athens ever since our return to Crete but other subjects keep popping up. Like …
Eartha Kitt, that fantastic sex kitten (!) has died at the age of 81. I first saw her in the film “New Faces” in the early fifties in which she sang the songs for which she would always be known C’est si bon, Just an old-fashioned girl, Monotonous, Santa Baby. I remember I thought the whole movie terrific and years later when I watched it again with friends to whom I had enthused over it, we watched it with rather glum faces and no little embarrassment on my part. Had the same reaction to “M. Hulot’s Holiday” which I think I might already have mentioned. I wonder if I would now find the Japanese film “The Burmese Harp” not nearly as moving as I originally found it. I remember at the time seeing it in a cinema in Hampstead and for a long while afterwards nobody being able to say a word, everyone so wrapped up in the film and the emotions the film had caused.
Harold Pinter, the Nobel Prize winning playwright, doyen and grand old man of the British theatre, has also died, at the age of 78. I’m afraid, although I thought his screenplays terrific, I could never be doing with his theatre work. This despite the fact that I once played Mick in “The Caretaker” when the actors had a ball and the audiences stayed away in droves; and I used a speech of Davies from the same play as part of my audition for the National Theatre, successfully I may add except I couldn’t take up the offered contract because at the time I was a busy busy bee out at Elstree Studios writing The Double Deckers.
A cub scout in England has won all 33, the maximum number, activity badges on offer. It evidently took him two years and he says he enjoyed the adventure badge the most because it taught him how to camp out with his friends.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Watched the final episode of UGLY BETTY and now, having been left dangling on that precipitous cliff, will have to wait for the third series. It really has been an award winning rewarding series, only a couple of episodes I found just a little iffy (the paint ball episode for example) but considering the hours of television involved in the two series that really is some going.
So His Holiness has been opening his mouth and putting his foot in it yet again. He has informed the faithful that homosexuality is not a sin but a homosexual act is. Hey hey hey, come on, guy, talk about having your cake and eating it! And the reason he is against it is because he’s worried about the possible extinction of the human race. What? With the population multiplying at the rate it does year by year? It’s as illogical as the emperor Justinian banning it because he believed it causes earthquakes. If the Pope is that worried that not enough heterosexual hanky panky is going on in the world perhaps he would consider lifting the ban on priestly celibacy so that more breeders can be added to the list, though he would have to have a declaration from the members of the clergy that they are hetero inclined and not in his view sinful as, judging by the recent scandals in the church, many of them are. And why not? They are probably better priests for it, so long of course as they do not actually indulge in any homosexual act but keep it well bottled up. Strange how sex for some people is the be all and end all of what they consider to be sin. Queers are bashed and murdered because god hates fags, so what? Which is the greater sin? The sexual act or the murder? There is absolutely no logic in old Popie boy’s thinking. With the advancement of science, in particular medicine, and with the human population breeding like rabbits, (the heterosexual part, though even some gays have been known to hop over the fence in the right circumstances, and vice versa I may add), if he’s worried about the rain forest and the destruction of the planet’s resources then maybe he should think seriously about lifting the ban on contraception. I wonder if god (I refuse to capitalise it) realised when he ordered “go forth and multiply” needing no prompting, just how successful the human race would be. Even with the terrible massacres that marked the twentieth century the population, Popie, still explodes to use up those world resources at an ever faster and faster rate and as long as there is sperm available, men to actually do the dirty sinful (out of marriage) deed are simply not necessary. Has he never heard of artificial insemination? In vitro fertilisation? And, to really put the latter mockers on it, cloning?
No, the only reason the old guy is frowning, wrinkling his nose, and clucking like an old hen whose feathers have been ruffled is because he just finds the whole subject distasteful. It has absolutely nothing to do with saving the human race or any other part of his god’s creation. Happy Christmas, Popie. Stop worrying, fella. It’s not going to go away so just accept it.
PS: In UGLY BETTY we have two gay guys and one transsexual permanent members of the cast and others come and go. I wonder how that goes down in America’s Bible Belt, Fundamentalists being even more frothing at the mouth than the Pope whose remarks, when you come to think of it, maybe ridiculous but are fairly mild in comparison.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Received a pile of Sunday Times Cultures just before leaving for Athens so only now getting around to looking through them starting with the 2nd November issue. Quite an “insightful” (god, how I hate that Americanism!) article on Rowan Atkinson and an even more insightful review of a book which tells us a lot about modern publishing. But first, an e-mail from a publisher to Douglas, “Regrettably, after a lot of thought, I decided to pass on Marie’s book. Very well written but in the current brutal fiction market I just wasn’t confident that I could publish it successfully. I wish you all the best in placing it elsewhere.” NB: Very well written. Now to the book that has been published and quotes from the reviewer. The publisher is Hutchinson, not exactly a tupenny ha’penny outfit, and this is what the reviewer has to say about this debut novel: “verbal and mental powers are remarkably meagre … Slackly put together sentences meander through thickets of irrelevance … Grammar slips awry (he gives quotes) and tautology distends prose that is painfully prolix … Robotic dialogue goes along with an unfortunate propensity for jargon even at moments of would-be intense emotion … occasionally enlivened by unintended ambiguities … writing is for the most part unwaveringly banal … Perceptions are matchingly trite … etcetera. Need one say more? The book is by a figure well-known, particularly if you are interested in politics and the question is, had it been written by Joe Soap would it ever ever have seen the light of day? The answer is a resounding no. Hutchinson editors are interested only in how many punters are going to want to pay £17.99 for 304 pages of “torpidity” because they recognise the name of the author. Quality and literacy goes out the window. The same I feel applies to Anne Widdicombe’s schoolgirl writing. Have I spelt her name right? The shortest route to being a published author is to have your fifteen minutes of fame in any other field. As far as sports personalities, pop stars and suchlike are concerned a ghost writer has to be paid of course but that must have been par for the course for quite a while and the promise of mega sales are not always fulfilled which is probably why remainder shops appear to do well.
On the very next page of the Kultur section, the same reviewer gives John Updyke’s new book a rave review and I feel this is well worth quoting. Not that it will put to shame the money-grubbing giants of the publishing world but only to show there is still some integrity around. It is not published by Hutchinson. “Running through it is a near-ecstatic enthralment with literary concerns. Often ravishingly written and glowing with intelligence, the book not only pays handsome tribute to the pleasures of reading, but abundantly provides them.” Say no more.
Have just finished yet another Dalziel and Pascoe novel and Mister Hill, in my book at least, ha ha, has come up trumps again with a double plot running beautifully side by side. Also reading A.A.Gill’s TV critique in this same Culture section I continue to really admire this man’s writing. Maybe our political friend, if he should attempt a second novel, could take lessons from him.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

There has been a short Blog hiatus as I have been in Athens for most of this last week. Athens has been in deep trouble for the past fortnight and I doubt the trouble is over yet; perhaps the whole of Greece, like the rest of the world, is in deep trouble. I was involved in a trifling spot of bother myself. There is an old saying, once bitten twice shy, but I have now been bitten twice on the Metro and this time I can blame no one but myself. To put it bluntly – I wuz robbed. Itchy little fingers found their way into the most vulnerable trouser pocket and I have the distinct feeling I was targeted from the beginning, evidently by a gang of four. It was stupidity on my part that my plastic wallet containing a fifty euro note, the loss of which we can ill afford, my driving licence and my resident’s permit, was in that particular pocket. Having been done once on the underground I really did believe I would never let it happen again and the previous day when in town I made absolutely sure my wallet was in an inside breast pocket and out of reach the entire time, so how come yesterday it was back in the wrong pocket and just asking to be lifted?
We were travelling back to Crete, a journey which starts at Victoria station. On the escalator going down Douglas asked me which pocket my money was in and I told him and then, quite incredibly forget all about it because the platform was crowded; there had obviously not been any trains through for some time due to a fault in the system and, because I was worried about getting to Piraeus to catch the boat, I never gave the transference of the wallet to a safer place another thought particularly as the train, when it eventually arrived, was packed, and with one hand holding my bastoonie (walking stick) and the other clinging on to the safety pole for support the wallet was still in the wrong pocket, but not for long. By the time we reached Ommonia, only one station further on, it had gone, and so had the four boys. It was only then that Douglas asked me again where my wallet was and, when I felt the empty pocket … upset is too insipid a word for it, how do you describe a mixture of disbelief, anger, frustration, despair even and a sense of being stupidly careless and a desire in consequence to lash out, but at what? Curses on those thieving bastards. It really is, I’m only too aware, such a small thing, compared to the losses suffered by so many Greeks during the troubles but it still stabs hard. If Gilbert and Sullivan are right and the punishment should fit the crime, all discovered pickpockets should have their fingers removed. Sharia law?
More about Athens next time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Nine days to Christmas; soon we will be in 2009. Where has the year gone to? With advancing age time seems to go faster and faster. So does money come to think of it. I might have mentioned this but I’m not going back to earlier blogs to take a look, Baz Bamigboye in his Friday column wanted to know where all the new musicals are and I see in the latest Daily Mail an ad for Cameron Macintosh’s new production of OLIVER – what? Yet again? He really does pull this one out of the bag at seemingly regular intervals, obviously a sure-fire money spinner, but let’s take a close look at this advertisement. All the prices quoted are per person so, say I was a married man with two kids and living in Leeds which is a far enough journey from London and the bargain rail fares are only from selected mainline stations, and I wanted to take the family to see OLIVER. Tickets in the upper circle, that is as far away from the stage as you can get, and a night in a hotel, cost a hundred and twenty pounds; all put five pence, so that is £480 for starters. The train fare (per person) is another one hundred and forty pounds, minus that five pence which makes £560. Taxi fares to and from the theatre if necessary would add another say £30 (This is an estimate from news I have had of current taxi fares in London.) The hotel that is included, albeit four star, provides breakfast only so there is lunch and dinner to cater for, say another £20 for a snack lunch of sandwiches (£4 a throw) and drinks, and another £90 for dinner, possibly even more and we now have a grand total of £1180 plus, and that is supposed to be a bargain evening at the theatre. It’s only a bargain because the ad states “from” and tickets can be upgraded at a supplement. I guess there must, even in these days of severe recession, be people around who can flaunt that kind of money. Of course if you’re not satisfied with spending just one night in London and really want to push the boat out you and the family can stay extra nights at the same hotel for £60 per person (minus that ubiquitous five pence).
I don’t wish to be killjoy and the theatre was after all my living for a good many years and could still be, but while you are answering this advertisement and thinking of spending your thousand and odd pounds on an evening’s entertainment keep in mind that Christmas is only nine days away, a lunatic thug and his cronies are starving his nation to death, if the people are not dying of cholera and other assorted illnesses due to lack of medicines, and there are other parts of the globe where Christmas and its Christian message is absolutely meaningless. Enjoy the show.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Blog 14

Reading down the list of theatre productions in London there are something like twenty musicals including a number of revivals. With the cost of mounting musicals these days this is really quite surprising. What happened to the minimum cast one set play managements always used to be asking for? I notice “Spamalot” is still there and thought, if Gilbert and Sullivan allegedly wrote a pornographic opera for the edification of their friends, maybe I should write a pornographic musical based on the legendary mythical court of King Arthur and call it “Spermalot.” I’m sure it would be a mega hit! Apart from a lot of symbolism and saucy double entendrĂ©s; lances, body armour, swords, cods, round tables, turrets, crennelations, swoonings, spoonings and moonings it could actually all be terribly innocent and frustrating right until the end when the eleven o’clock number could be off with a bang, off with the chastity belts, and then it’s lions rampant before the final curtain and everyone goes home happy, maybe for a spot of the real thing to the rhythm of the big number that brings down the curtain on act one. It couldn’t be worse than the original “Camelot” which I saw in Richmond, Virginia and hated to the point of embarrassment.
Have just finished reading Paul O’Grady’s autobiography, “At My Mother’s Knee – and other low joints” (an old music hall gag methinks?) and thoroughly enjoyed it. Whipped through it in a couple of days and, at one point, laughed so much I could have done myself a serious injury. As the book ends with the end of his teens and on a cliff-hanging note, I presume, hopefully, there will be more to come.
Stopping at Papyrus in Kalyves yesterday I browsed through their selection of second-hand paperbacks and can verily believe 120000 books in English are published every year. Just how many people are out there scribbling away all over the English speaking world? And what is it about a book that makes one want to buy it? They’re all top of the best seller lists, according to their publishers but although I recognised a number of names and was fairly intrigued by a number of titles there wasn’t one in which there was interest enough for me to make a purchase. I have, anyway, enough reading matter to last me quite a while. Apart from “Half of a Yellow Sun” that I am finding much more interesting than “Purple Hibiscus” which I gave up on, I have five books on loan which are, in no order of preference: “The Wood Beyond” by Reginald Hill, “Dead Simple” by Peter James, “The Outcast” by Sadie Jones, “The Ghost” Robert Harris and “Azincourt” by Bernard Cornwell.
So what have we been watching on TV? Well there has been nothing to speak of from any of the Greek stations so it’s been all DVDs. Still enjoying “Ugly Betty”, the second series, though did not like the episode with Alexis and Daniel doing their paint battle bit. Found this all rather silly, unbelievable, and consequently irritating. But that is the exception. Still don’t know what happened in Mexico to allow Mister Suarez to escape certain death! Did the son shoot his father, shoot himself, or put a hole in the ceiling? Maybe this will be explained in a later episode. Watched ten minutes or so of “Happy Feet” before walking out on that one. Douglas lasted a little longer but we evidently both missed, according to Chris who watched it to the end with the aid of the fast forward, the environmental message in the movie and the homage to various musicians whose music we’re not familiar with anyway. I seem to remember “The Quiet American” wasn’t all that well received by the critics but that one we did enjoy.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Blog 12

The Greeks are mad about football. There are matches shown virtually every night on one or other of the TV channels and, of course, matches are well attended. The noise of chanting and drumming can sometimes be deafening as flags are waved and banners unfurled. Sometimes I wonder what the fans sitting behind the overlarge banners and having their sightlines obscured think of it. Presumably fights don’t break out in these cases as they are all on the same side, separated from their opponents and wearing their team colours to show their allegiance; a whole stand of red, green, orange, or whatever. I wonder if mankind will ever lose the tribal instinct. Sometimes sight can also be obscured by the flares that send clouds of coloured smoke wafting over the field of battle. Naturally hooliganism can be a problem. An Anek ferry was once trashed by Panathaniakos fans and idiots will toss missiles and run on to the pitch if given half a chance. At one match the start was interminably delayed as fans sitting behind one of the goalposts hurled what looked like toilet rolls streaming onto the goal and neighbouring area as ground staff desperately tried to clear it, all the time more streamers descending so that the pitch area was a sea of white. What a waste of paper if nothing else and in aid of what may one ask? Simply delaying the inevitable outcome by twenty or so minutes? Panathaniakos is an Athens club. Their great rivals are Olympiakos based in Piraeus. Olympiakos have won the championship so many years in a row it’s a wonder the other teams even bother to take them on anymore. If the Greeks are mad on football they’re just as crazy for basketball, simply called “basket.” I can appreciate, enjoy, enthuse over most sports but basket is a game, like golf, that I simply cannot enthuse over. I find them both extremely boring but obviously millions don’t. The clubs have their basketball as well as their soccer teams.
I was pleased to discover the Greeks are taking to rugby. There are already a number of teams (well a few) up and down the country and Greece has fielded a national side against other small nations. Hopefully one day they might take on the big boys though Italy has been trying for a long time with not much success. I now read in the Athens News that the venue for the equestrian events at the Olympic Games is to be the new home of Greek CRICKET!! Wonders will never cease.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blog 10

Although I am sure the worst is over (I haven’t seen any news today) I don’t suppose I could let time go by without mentioning the recent riots in various Greek cities. It’s not bad enough that beautiful Athens gets trashed by graffiti vandals and litter louts it has to be truly trashed by mindless rampaging mobs. The Greeks love demonstrations. Teachers, students, trade unionists, they’ll organise a march under banners at the drop of a hat but normally these rallies, no matter how large, seem to pass off more or less peacefully. The kind of mindless outrage seen these last few days is the work of those claiming to be socialist (left wing anyway), communist or, here in Greece I don’t know whether they still exist anywhere else these days, anarchists, or just into it for the hell of causing mayhem and grief. There will always be looters in these situations and bank buildings always seem to be the first to suffer the fury of these idiots but why in heavens’ name destroy the livelihood of small shopkeepers and the like by trashing their premises, in some cases deliberately demolishing buildings with fire? Perhaps pyromaniacs and mobsters have to be included in the list of the numbers rioting. It’s possible the demonstrations could have been peaceful until these latter mentioned set the tone and the sheep thought it rather an adventure to follow suit and terribly brave to mask their faces, throw missiles at police and then run away as fast as their legs could take them, rather like Cretan dogs that will bark at you until you advance in their direction when they turn tail and flee to a safe distance in order to carry on barking but out of harm’s way. Walking down from Syntagma to Panapestimeo once as a student demo was about to take place I noticed a small group of students(?) keeping themselves aloof and virtually out of sight while they got their balaclavas and whatever else ready for the battle they were obviously anticipating. I had no doubts then and still haven’t that they were no more students than I could jet to the moon on a fart and it was no wonder the riot police were already taking up position in various side streets long before the march was due to take place. It seemed to me though in watching the TV coverage of the latest outrages that the police, apart from lobbing tear gas at their assailants were being pretty ineffective but that was just an impression. Who am I to know police procedure and, as their shooting of a fifteen year old started the rot, maybe they were being ultra-cautious so as not to inflame matters further – as though they could! The riots have been followed by a general strike, another favourite occupation in Greece.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Waiting to be published: JUST IN CASE – Second Thornton King adventure.
DEAD ON TARGET – Third Thornton King adventure.
ANGEL – Novel.
Plus at least sixteen plays and a chapter of lyrics from various musicals.
Evidently because of the gaggle of Glyn Joneses on the internet (and I always knew there were far too many in the world at large) from now on I am, at the instigation of my editor/agent, to use my full name of Glyn Idris there being no other Glyn Idris, which I find rather surprising. There is an Idris Glyn but he ain’t me. I think the two Thornton King books will have to omit the Idris as the first one is already published without it but there’s nothing to stop using Idris after that and Amazon are already advertising RIVER OF SAND by Glyn Idris Jones. I still can’t fathom out how they got hold of that. NO OFFICIAL UMBRELLA is already printed without the Idris. That is we are still waiting for the amended proof but any day now, any day now he says hopefully. Mind you, in a recession, is it the right time to even think of publishing? Are people still buying books? Having finished THE VICTORIAN UNDERWORLD I am now half way through VICTORIAN SENSATION by Michael Diamond, a much broader canvas giving quite an insight into the mindset of Victorian England. The chapter on religion and morality (meaning sex of course) was quite fascinating and am now on the following chapter of sexual scandals. Am looking forward to the rest of it. Tried last night to watch THE DA VINCI CODE and gave up after about twenty minutes. Too much for my tired old brain. Am also seriously thinking, after more than seventy thousand words and a few months work of giving up on ENTER ANTHONY. It just isn’t very good. It was a bad play to begin with, only slightly improved but still a bad play when rewritten a year or so ago, and it isn’t doing so well as a novel. I’ll put it aside for a while before coming back to read it and if I still feel the same way I’ll scrap it. It’s a good story but plot isn’t everything and I’m not telling it the way it should be told. After the first half a dozen chapters it starts to fall to pieces.
Trying to clean up the garden now when it isn’t raining or the winds aren’t howling. The last of the quinces and the peppers have been picked. The orange trees are laden with fruit and lemons coming along nicely, some already ripe and at all stages back to the bud. The mandarins are also ripe. It’s been a wonderful year for fruit. The only tree in the garden that still hasn’t produced anything is the six (or is it seven?) year old nectarine. Maybe it will come into its own next year. We did have a lot of trouble with peach curl but having chopped back and sprayed a couple of years ago seem to have cured it. Nevertheless no flowers and consequently no fruit.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

So warm in the garden even a medium weight shirt is too heavy. Considering we’re almost through the first week of December that is quite amazing, not I suppose that it hasn’t happened in previous years but one doesn’t remember it, except I thought if I were to write of our Cretan experiences the title would be “Roses In December”.
Chris is suffering with his back again and walking around like a geriatric which he is far from being – yet!
Douglas’s books on Adobe CS4 (I think I’ve got that right) were finally delivered yesterday so he is immersed in them to such an extent he is virtually incommunicado. Any question or comment is greeted with a grunt or a mumble. Besides which he is still not speaking to me (despite my apology) after the Taurian temper blew yesterday when he pressed the wrong button and a raw nerve caused an Etna like eruption. So I told him to read his stars in Friday’s Mail. We always read the stars even though the weeks go by with little if any noticeable variation and the forecasts are virtually forgotten ten seconds after reading them. With Jonathan Cainer we’re not always too sure what he’s getting at anyway. I think he imagines himself to be astronomer royal to the intelligentsia who, even if they can‘t actually figure out what he’s talking about will pretend they do. Anyway, Friday’s advice for Leo, considering the cataclysmic event of the morning, was spot on so good on you, Mister Cainer. It reads as follows – “Why do some people get on wonderfully well one moment, yet act like sworn enemies the next? Why are relationships complex and difficult to understand? Because as individual beings we are erratic. Inconsistent and idiosyncratic. None of us is normal. So, if you put any two of us together it won’t be long before we reveal our particular quirks and start to annoy one another. It is easy this weekend to intensify an argument. It is much more challenging to deepen trust and create empathy. Give it a go.”
None of us is normal – I like that, Mister Cainer, you never said a truer word.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The winds of Crete have been howling for two days; force six? Force seven? More? Don’t know. I only know the fir trees I see from my window are bending almost double with each gust and there’s a rattling going on on the roof that is quite alarming. Are we to lose some more tiles I wonder? It’s no wonder the old Cretan houses have their roofs held down with heavy stones. At least they are warm winds so must be coming up from the south. Hopefully they won’t bring Gaddaffi’s rain when everything is covered in yellow, almost orange coloured sand.
Yesterday at sparrowfart Douglas drove me to IKA for what hopefully will be the last blood test, in fact a double whammy! The first at eight o’clock after which I had to drink a plastic tumbler full of what could only have been slightly dissolved sugar, so sickeningly sweet I spent the next half hour trying to keep it down. Then after a two hour wait, the second blood test and the results will be known to-day after which we will know whether or not in my old age I have a tendency towards diabetes. Thinking of what Douglas’s dad went through I suppose all this checking up will have been worth it if it nips anything nasty in the bud.
Before correcting it I noticed I spelt tendency as trendency. In the Mail on Fridays they have cod words like Daftodils – stupid Dutch imports, Ginjury – too much of the hard stuff. Very witty, what? So what would trendency be – smartarsing? Americans have, or used to have, their Polack jokes, the English have their Irish jokes (do the Irish have English jokes?) When I was a youngster in South Africa the jokes were levied at the Afrikaner or at the police who were often not all that well educated and reputed to be as thick as two planks. As the police were mostly Afrikaners sometimes the jokes coincided.
Konstable van Niekirk was after making an arrest and cornered what looked like a potential criminal. He looked in his little book and came up with “I’m arresting you for loitering with intent.” ‘Intent to do what?’ the man said. So Konstable van Niekirk, not having an answer to that, went back to his little book and came up with something else. After five or six suggested offences all of which the man denied, Konstable van Niekirk said, “All right. I’m arresting you for arson. You’ve been arsing around far too much now.”
Konstable van Niekirk was on duty at the docks when a man in dire need of a pee hurried up to him and asked for directions to the urinal. Van Niekirk thought for a while and then said, “Has she got one funnel or two?”
All very well but now most of the police are black and John Lewis informs me that in Natal anyway, if not corrupt, they are so shit-scared of going against the witch doctor and his powers it truly bodes ill for law and order.
Some of the Afrikaner jokes are so racist I wouldn’t even dream of writing them down.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I was told once that there are more theatres in Athens than in London (or have I already said this?) Not exactly the houses as in Shaftsbury Avenue or the likes of The Palladium, Prince of Wales, New London, but mostly what in London would be called fringe, or in NY Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway, in other words acting spaces, so when I see in athinorama, the magazine which I suppose is the equivalent of “Time Out” that there are something like 250 events happening in a week: plays, musicals, opera, dance, puppets, children’s theatre, concerts, I can quite believe it. Add to this clubs with cabaret, restaurants of which there are many, some with live music, could Athens be the cultural capital of the world? Not all the events are weekly, some play just two nights a week for example. But add to this the museums and sites of architectural interest and Athens really must be the cultural capital at least of the European world. There are 45 museums and sites and more round and about such as Corinth, Delphi, Epidavros. The rest of Greece, including the islands, doesn’t fall too far behind in the culture stakes which is hardly surprising when one considers hitherto unknown sites being uncovered all the time.
But, despite the number of theatres and the amount of play going, Greek theatre is run in a very strange fashion, that is, production seems to progress in the most haphazard fashion and, if it is felt a play is not ready by its advertised opening night they simply put it off until it is. This seems to occur with some frequency. Stage management is almost unheard of, finance is not always forthcoming (but what’s new there?) and quite often producers it would seem don’t really know their arses from their elbows and this in the land that gave us the great plays of classical Greece, but then a performance that takes place in daylight in an open air theatre and not requiring scenery does not present the problems to be solved in a space so many metres by so many metres with an acting area the size of a matchbox, especially as Greeks never seem to think things out logically, again rather weird considering their past. For example a little open air auditorium has been built in the park here in Vamos and instead of building it so the audience would sit with their backs to the road close by, they have built it totally the wrong way round and have had to put up a screen to try and rectify their mistake. It’s not all like that though, there are magnificent buildings for music, there are good theatre buildings and the new Acropolis museum I’ve mentioned previously is an absolute architectural masterpiece worth visiting for the building alone let alone what is going to be in it.