Thursday, December 31, 2009

Well well well, the last day of, and my last Blog of 2009, and a bright sunshiny morning it is. The year itself has not been so bright and shiny, mainly due to the health problems that came to light, in particular our Douglas being diagnosed with cancer. Hopefully that is now all over. A house requires maintenance especially a big house like this. A garden needs maintenance, especially a big garden, but with Douglas away in England for treatment and me virtually an invalid incapable of doing anything, everything has been left to Chris, a great deal too much at times I fear but, as the Greeks say, ti na kanoume; What can we do? It would be so nice to be able to afford engaging help both in the house and the garden but, alas, currently that is out of the question.
DCG publications are about to come out with my musical version of PETER PAN. Evidently, except for England, it is now out of copywrite. Interesting that on the back cover under “Other Titles Available” there is a list of twenty three theatre works, including five musicals. It would have taken only one of those in the fifty years I have been writing to have been a success and today we might have been in the position of hiring that extra help. Ah, well, it was not to be so there is absolutely no point grieving over it. Be thankful for what we have which, compared to many, is quite a lot.
I sympathise with poor Sofia Tolstoy who it appears was forever in the same boat trying to balance her finances with no help at all, just the reverse in fact, from her husband. My heart goes out to her. Maybe though her husband wasn’t the complete monster she makes him out to be (idiosyncratic perhaps?) and it could be that she was her own worst enemy; but then for most of us I suppose, we are our own worst enemy.
Yesterday evening we watched for the second time that delightful movie “Mrs Henderson Presents” starring Judy Dench in the eponymous role. What a lovely actress she is. If she were Japanese she would be a living treasure. This is the second time we’ve watched her this week having previously watched “Ladies In Lavender” where she shared the spotlight with that other living treasure, Maggie Smith. I remember I first saw Judy Dench many years ago in a production of “Romeo And Juliet” at The Old Vic I seem to recall and, although I didn’t think much to her Romeo, she has always been for me the definitive Juliet.
I didn’t know anything about Mrs Henderson, owner of the old Windmill Theatre in London. When I was still fairly new to London I always thought it was just Vivian van Damne and I always imagined him to be a woman – because of the first name I suppose. Apart from the fact that I don’t think the Windmill was as glamorous as the film made out, rather tacky in fact, it is a lovely movie. Mrs Henderson was evidently another idiosyncratic personality and Miss Dench played her to the full. Chris suggested we send her my play “Red In The Morning” but I don’t think I have the heart anymore. I am just tired of sending out manuscripts only to have them disappear into the wild blue yonder never to be heard of again.
And on that note I will wish all my dozen or so readers a very happy, healthy, prosperous and fulfilling New Year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Today’s Blog is all about death; only because Maria, Eleftheria’s mother died early yesterday morning. No one seemed to know how old she was, the answers varied between 85 and 88. Anyway, last night she looked very peaceful lying in her coffin surrounded by flowers and people all chatting away. Eleftheria as usual was carrying on like a whirlwind. She had evidently already had a row with the priest because she wanted the service to take place in our little church of St. George just a few metres from the house whereas he was insisting it took place in the large church of St. Nicolas further away. We have a new priest, very young and very do it by the book evidently. I don’t know what the outcome was as we didn’t attend the funeral, my having a doctor’s appointment in Souda at the same time. By now Maria will be safely stowed away. They bury the dead very very fast here.
The first death we experienced in our little enclave in Vamos was a lady whose name I don’t remember, who lived just a couple of doors away. She was a Seventh Day Adventist which is somewhat unusual for Greece where 90 percent or more of the populace is Orthodox. She tried to interest us in “The Watchtower” but when we rejected it she didn’t bother us again.
The second death was Agathe’s husband Manolis who had just started to have the most enormous house built and it isn’t finished yet, ten years later, and the third was Manolis number 2, Eleftheria’s father. That was a few years back as well but time moves on and folk age and die. Manolis number 2 was followed by Agathe’s sister, Anna, a delightful old lady who I still occasionally miss. I really loved her. She spent most of her youth in America but couldn’t wait to get back to Crete though she was a bit upset about all the building of new houses that was going on. ‘Why is everyone coming to Crete? She wailed. ‘Soon there will be no more trees, only houses, houses, houses.’ We didn’t know anything about Anna’s death as we were away when it happened and only found out a few days later.
Number 4 was another delightful old lady, the granny from the big house up the road. Never did find out her name but she was always charm itself though sometimes a little forgetful. Meeting in the lane one day when her daughter Varna was walking her and I greeted them she said, ‘Who’s that? To which Varna replied ‘Our nice English neighbour.’ And Granny said, ‘No, our nice Greek neighbour.’ That was a terrific compliment from the old girl.
The next death more recently was Jannis across the road. He died one morning when we were going for a swim. We only knew about it when driving back up the lane a few hours later we passed the gate and saw the coffin lid standing there. Like I said, they move fast. I miss him too with his cheery ‘Glyn!’ whenever he saw me. Our conversation never got beyond health and the weather.
Finally yesterday Maria – and that is quite a lot for half a dozen or so houses. Now the two neighbourhood oldies are Agathe in her eighties and me coming up 79.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Yesterday was Blog day but I simply could not rake up enough enthusiasm to sit down and write it. Maybe because I have been concentrating so much on THE MUSEUM MYSTERIES, coming along quite nicely, my first attempt at a ghost story; but one can spend too much time sitting in front of this screen tapping away, easy though it may be. I am still constantly in awe of early writers who, until the advent of the typewriter, did it all by hand; of someone like Sofia Tolstoy who spent so much time copying her husband’s work. The computer makes life so much easier, being able to alter, to cut and paste, to rewrite time and time again if necessary without the laboriousness of previous years, even with a typewriter. I noticed the other day that the typewriters I used to use before acquiring a computer are still stacked on a shelf in the office next door. I wonder why! They are museum pieces and will never be used again, but in this house it seems the most difficult thing to do is to throw anything away. The last one was an Olivetti, the doyen of typewriters which was sort of half way to being an infant computer but, unlike with earlier typewriters, tapes could not be reused time and time again and were very expensive. The problem now is the speed at which computers also become museum pieces. My first one which I thought was fantastic relied on floppy discs, whatever happened to floppy discs? And even this machine I am informed is now out of date. However as all I want it for is to write words it can last a while longer. It has to last a while longer until we can afford one of its younger brothers or sisters. I talk as though an inanimate object is almost human. That’s as bad as those who used to think animals or inanimate objects involved in sin(?) or accidents, especially those involving death, were as guilty as the sinner(?) or the causer of the accident and had to be destroyed. But there is nothing to stop progress. We are now told that shortly we will no longer be able to buy old fashioned light bulbs so who is going to pay for all the new fittings that will have to be bought? And soon our old television set will have to be changed. How are millions and millions and millions of old TV sets all over the world going to be got rid of? Answers not exceeding ten thousand words on a postcard please. Entries to arrive before 2030, that is if the planet still exists which according to the doom mongers may very well not be the case. I should worry.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Theodore Roosevelt said that Tolstoy was “a sexual moral pervert.” Considering the mores of the time I suppose that was quite an apt description Sofia would agree with. As a writer he may have been a genius but as a man it would appear he was a complete nincompoop.
Five Poles have been arrested for stealing the sign Arbeit Macht Frei over the gate at Auschwitz – why? The body of a Cypriot leader has been stolen – why? People are weird; there are no two ways about it.
A minister in the Uganda government wants to bring in the death penalty for homosexuality. One never ceases to be amazed. There are already laws in place there and it is possible to go to prison for up to fifteen years but, no, nothing will do but the death penalty. Homosexuality is an import from the west, totally alien to Uganda and the clerics all nod their religious heads in agreement; it is against Islam, it is against Christianity, it is against Ugandan traditions. More civilised countries and freedom groups have thrown up their hands in horror. Sweden for example has threatened to withdraw a quite substantial grant if Uganda goes ahead with this and it becomes law. When will these people ever come to their senses? The Ugandans and their like not the Swedes. Alas, I’m afraid the answer is never.
A police woman in New Zealand stopped two nude cyclists and, although their nudity constituted an offence, (they said they just wanted to know what it felt like to have total freedom and I know what they mean – for example swimming nude is a whole lot more enjoyable than having to wear a bathing costume) she told them to put on their crash helmets and go home! What a wonderful sensible girl. Three cheers. “Well it was the middle of the night and no one was around,” she said. It’s a great pity that, from all one hears, the British police have lost that touch of good old fashioned common sense.
And finally, a poncey actor by the name of Chuck Morris has lashed out against Obama’s health reforms saying, “What if mother Mary had Obamacare? As a poor adolescent she would have received help and assistance through family planning in order to stop her pregnancy. Therefore baby Jesus would not have been born … and what then would have been the fate of the world?” Well the answer to that is no worse off than it is now I suppose but where oh where do these people keep their brains? And can he really be serious? Actors of this ilk ought never to open their mouths unless they’re spouting someone else’s words. Note how Jesus is preceded by baby to tug at your heart strings … altogether now ….aaaaah!
And finally finally, going back to the cyclists, were their balls not in danger of being well and truly bruised (Ouch!) if a foot slipped on a pedal or the bike went over a horrendous bump in the road? Poor Douglas is in hospital for Christmas day and he can tell them all about the pain of damaged testicles.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Sofia Tolstoy diaries are not as hard going as I first imagined they would be: quite fascinating in fact although, as I said before, full of that old Russian soul. “My God, how often I long to abandon it all and take my life. I am so tired of struggling and suffering. I can’t do what my husband wants (so he says) without breaking all the practical and emotional chains that have bound me to my family. Day and night I think only of how to leave this house, leave this cruelty, leave all the excessive demands on me. I have grown to love the dark.” Haven’t come across any balalaikas, vodka, or caviar or mention of the Volga but interesting aspects of nineteenth century Russia and the Tolstoy family, particularly himself who seems to have been a bit of a monster with the weirdest of ideas including giving away all his royalties when Sofia desperately needed the money for her children. The fact that the Tolstoys were minor nobility with vast estates did not necessarily mean they were rich or even comfortably off. It was for Sofia quite a struggle looking after nine kids, the estates, and an errant husband who seemed to exist in another country entirely. Interesting too the way the estates were divided up amongst the kids, for two of them by actually tossing a coin as to who would have what! I was also fascinated by her meeting with the Tsar (Alexander 111 not Nicholas) to plead for her husband’s work not to be banned by the censor. He also (Tolstoy not Alexander) came under fire from certain priests who considered him to be quite beyond the pail with his religious dabbling and babbling. I would have thought he should have stuck to fiction but, when you come to think of it, religion is fiction anyway.
Three days to Christmas. It looks as if our poor Douglas will still be in hospital as he is now suffering all the horrid after effects of his treatment. It will really be just another day both for him and us, and all we can hope is that he doesn’t suffer too much pain.
Another soppy letter in The Athens news from Paul Kokoski of Ontario, Canada, full of baby Jesus and the voice of angels. This Kokoski person appears quite often in the letters page of the paper, always ranting on about Christianity. The letter this time is about commercialising Christmas which we all know about anyway. He really is a great proselytiser. A pity his theology and style is so wishy-washy. What a bore.
In Athens the star attraction is the environmentally friendly Christmas tree in Syntagma Square created from 250 natural fir trees which will be watered daily and later transplanted to some of Attica’s fire-ravaged regions.
Finally, here is a Tolstoy Christmas: 24th December 1890. “We had a cheerful dinner and afterwards Lyovochka (Tolstoy) read the Bible, much of which made me laugh. (I wonder what Mister Kokoski would make of that). I cut out cardboard puppets for the children’s play I am putting on – what foolishness.
25th December: Christmas day. Everyone has been in festive mood all day and I have been busy decorating the Christmas tree. Lyova (a son) and Lyovochka started a heated discussion over morning coffee about happiness and the meaning of life. We had a cheerful party around the Christmas tree to which about eighty peasant children came; we gave them a wonderful time, and our children enjoyed themselves too.”

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Oysters on London transport, self-service tills in supermarkets that evidently a great many customers object to, twitters, tweeters, Ipods, Iphones, whatever next? Evidently the king of the twitters, or is it tweeters, has a following of over one and a half million hanging on his every word. Stephen Fry follows up with about a million. I wonder how many people read my Blog. A dozen maybe? I wouldn’t know a twitter from a tweeter and I have never even seen an Ipod let alone owned one. Our mobile phones are antiques now and do not play games, switch on to the internet and perform all the other marvels of which the new ones are capable. Technology is moving much to fast for this Luddite. I simply can’t keep up. Evidently one of the reasons customers object to with the new self-service tills is the lack of human contact. Not all the girls at the checkout counter are a barrel of laughs but there are some who still serve with a smile and a thank you and this lack of contact spreads beyond the supermarket counter. People sit in trains and buses engrossed in their gadgets, fingers tapping merrily away but then what’s new? In olden days the Englishman when travelling and in order to avoid contact hid behind his copy of The Times. Dining at one of our local restaurants one evening I watched a large family at a table nearby, one of whose young sons had a console in which he was engrossed to such an extent he was no longer a part of that family. He ignored his food and his body language was such that he was even half turned away from the table. The rest of the family: laughing, joking, chatting away, contacting with each other, ignored him as much as he was ignoring them and this I found rather sad.
The Greek hunting season has been brought to a close two months earlier because evidently men are still hunting in areas devastated by fires and are taking no notice of the order to desist while nature attempts to re-establish herself. There are thousands of registered hunters in the country and it is of course a multi-million euro industry what with guns, ammunition, magazines, clothing and so forth but really there should be a moratorium for a couple of years or all wild life will cease to exist. Goodness only knows what’s left at the moment, not much I fear. They would do nature a big favour if they played with their Iphones, their Ipods and their computers rather than their shotguns but of course that will never happen.

Friday, December 18, 2009

With Douglas in hospital in England we hadn’t any thought of celebrating Christmas this year. Were quite prepared to just let it all go by but our Norwegian friends have invited us over to their place on Christmas Eve, they have an old house in a little village called Kufi, some eighteen kilometres away at a guess, and Helen and Kristos have invited us for lunch on the day itself. There will just be the four of us as they are having a very quiet Christmas as well.
The last time Douglas and I were in Athens we visited the temporary setup which was opened in advance of the wonderful new museum’s completion, a sort of trailer as it were or starters so people good nibble at the goodies before the main dish. I notice the new museum when it did open came in for some criticism, I can’t imagine why because I feel it is not only a beautiful building but the most wonderful space to show off all those antiquities; a hellava lot better than that awful cucumber in London and its time the British Museum gave balk the Elgin Marbles; but back to the temporary one. We were shown around by an archaeologist lady who attached herself to us as our own special guide. During the course of looking around we came across two objects in a cabinet that were most intriguing. They looked rather like Toby jugs and about the same size give an inch or so between them and, mainly because the faces were very pretty with curly hair peeping out from under a sort of toque. We thought the faces were those of girls; but the good lady said no, they were definitely boys and it was the headdress that gave it away as these were worn only by boys. She couldn’t actually tell us anything about these objects as no one seems to know anything about them. Only two have ever been found in the whole of Greece and it is believed they were something to do with a cult. We left the museum and both agreed that those two objects gave us the creepiest feeling. We decided then and there that there was a story to be written about these boys
Half an hour or so later I had my heart attack.
So now I am writing THE MUSEUM MYSTERIES. Douglas had already started it and written twenty pages so I am filling in, expanding, and will take it on from there. I wondered what I was going to work on after THE CINELLI VASES and now I know.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nine days to Christmas, that season of joy when the shop tills ring merrily on high, everyone overeats or over drinks and for most people the religious meaning of the festivity is forgotten. It is forgotten that it was Mithras’s birthday. Oops! Sorry, Jesus’ birthday as well of course and that it is also a season of peace and goodwill. So consider the peace and goodwill emanating from a Muslim “Religion of Peace” demonstration in London when the homemade banners, placards really I suppose, read the following: “Slay those who insult Islam. Exterminate those who insult Islam. Butcher those who mock Islam. Behead those who mock Islam. Islam will dominate the world. Europe learn some lessons from 9/11. Freedom go to hell. Be prepared for the real holocaust.” Does this say all that needs to be said about this peaceful religion?
Now the sixty four thousand dollar question I ask myself, well there are more than one but let’s start with this one; there are laws in the United Kingdom that specifically deal with incitement to violence and racial hatred, was a single marcher on this day arrested? Somehow I very much doubt it. It would upset the Muslims too much. It would seem of all religions this one is the most sensitive since primary schools are no longer doing nativity plays in case Muslim pupils are upset, and so forth and so forth. In a way it is thanks to the PC brigade that this kind of demonstration can go ahead without let or hindrance. As someone said, can you imagine a Christian demonstration in downtown Baghdad? The second question is why do all these people want to live in Europe, especially Great Britain as she was once called, in the first place? Well the answer to that is quite simple, Britain’ social security is the softest touch in the world for those who quickly learn how to manipulate and live off it.
The pictures have not been shown on American television or in American newspapers. They were taken by a Canadian who felt Christians should be made aware of what is happening. But are Christians the only ones to be made aware? What about the Buddhists, the Hindus, Jews, Shinto, Rastafarians, Taoism and others too numerous to mention?
But to put things in perspective, when one thinks of Islam one usually thinks simply of the Middle East and North Africa and forgets just how widespread Islam is, in the far east, in all the stans that used to be part of the USSR, in countries like Nigeria in little known places like Chechnya, Bosnia, and not all Muslims are fire-eating fanatics.
In Somalia a man is buried up to his shoulders and stoned to death for adultery. Whether or not he deserved to be punished, this was the punishment under Sharia law and in this day and age it is a blot on humankind, being not only primitive, but despicably and horribly cruel.
Rant over for today.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The mother and father of all storms. Such claps of thunder and lightning right above the house plus torrential rain. The modem and the telephone are disconnected so I went to the bookshelves in my study – it sounds very grand but there are bookshelves in two bedrooms, the office, the study, and a library - to find something to occupy myself and for some reason chose The Plays Of Oscar Wilde. I am still less than halfway through the Ellmann biography – my bedside reading a few pages at a time – but I had hoped to look at Wilde’s earlier attempts, ie., The Duchess of Padua and Vera. Alas, they are not there, just the later more famous popular works one is so familiar with. I had never though read Salome so that was something of interest. Previously my only connection with that is the Strauss opera which I have seen a couple of times and listened to on disc many a time. It’s quite amazing really to think Wilde wrote Salome in French. What we have here is the translation by Bosie. I could no more write in a second language than I could fly to the moon. I have not the gift of being a linguist I am afraid. I must admit I did get a bit bored with the number of times the moon is mentioned, important as it is symbolically. White doves come into it quite a bit as well.
I have also started to read Sophia Tolstoy’s diaries and feel this is going to be really heavy going; a book to pick up and drop as the feeling takes one. Talk about angst and Russian soul! The first entries up to the birth of her first child followed by mastitis and very sore nipples(!) No, that is not funny. The poor lady did suffer so especially, even though she wanted to farm the infant out to a wet nurse, Tolstoy insisted she breast feed it herself, sore nipples or not. Anything else in his opinion was perversion. It’s no wonder all the entries are so much the same: bored, miserable, and desperately in love with a man who seemed rather peculiar to say the least. Is this the price of genius? Despite fathering thirteen children, he obviously had no qualms about heterosexuality, it would seem that Tolstoy was basically gay! Oh, no, not another one! Will these revelations never end? His emotional life evidently was geared towards men, peasant men in particular it seems. What was Sophia to him then as at one moment he insisted she was the entire world to him and the next he couldn’t get away from her fast enough? Did he really look upon her simply as a breeder? Well, in those days women were not emancipated and were still chattels. Tolstoy was not the only man cruel to his wife. Somerset Maugham was another one deliberately cruel to the woman he married. At least Oscar never went in for deliberate cruelty unless one can say his long absences from Constance were a form of it. At least she wasn’t stuck out in the hinterland of nineteenth century Russia only coming to life as it were with the birth of each new child. I shall persevere with the book. After all I have only just started on it and there is an awful long way to go.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I said to Chris the other evening that I wondered what had happened to our friend in New York, Lionel Wilson. We hadn’t heard from him in quite a while, probably not since his lifelong lover Paul Glover died. Paul’s death was expected considering he chain smoked and consumed a great deal of alcohol and I don’t think he had worked in a long while which meant he hung around the apartment doing very little with himself. The only exercise he got was to take the dachshund, Anastasia known as Stasi out for the necessary which also involved calling in at the nearest bar. Stasi always got so excited at seeing a visitor she invariably rolled over on her back and pissed herself. We met originally when Paul was the choreographer on the Paris production of the musical SWEET CHARITY in which Chris was a cast member. Paul was assistant to Bob Fosse on the original production hence his involvement; really to reproduce Fosse’s work. Later he and Lionel visited us in London and I remember we took them on a scenic drive through leafy Suffolk, the journey accompanied by oohs and aaahs. They visited an antique shop and bought a pair of Staffordshire poodles. The apartment on E 79th, not over large and fairly dark but very comfortable was always our home from home whenever we were in New York. It was also home to New York’s roaches no matter how many times they got the pest controller in. Lionel said he couldn’t wait to show me Times Square and when he did my reaction was, ‘Is that it?’ Big disappointment. But then one can say the same of Piccadilly Circus really. Unlike Paul who really couldn’t have cared less, Lionel was a health freak indulging in all the dietary peccadilloes of the period: no salt, no eggs, no butter, etcetera. Anyway, out of curiosity if nothing else I went to Google – isn’t Google amazing? Is there anything you can’t ask? – and according to Google Lionel Wilson, writer/actor died at the age of 79 so that would have been a couple of years ago. It also meant we now have no friends left in New York, no home from home as it were. Andy Leech (someone else we haven’t heard from for years) and his lover live in Queens which is the closest to the city. It was inevitable I know with the passing years. I read somewhere once that if, at the age of seventy or more you can still count on half a dozen friends of forty or so years back you can consider yourself very lucky. Well I guess I am lucky because even with all the deaths, some of them far too young (think of AIDS) I can still count up to at least fifteen and possibly more.
So, still on the subject of friends, I do not know what we have done to deserve this but when I was in hospital earlier in the year a friend in Munich insisted on depositing a fairly healthy sum of money in our bank account, medical expenses even with national insurance being what they are. Also a friend in Athens who thrust a fistful of notes into Douglas's protesting hands and refused adamantly to take them back despite Douglas's protestations. Now with Douglas in hospital in England, friends in Melbourne have done the same and yesterday a Christmas card arrived from New England with a cheque for $200. These gifts were never solicited or asked for or expected. I have not mentioned names only because I wouldn’t know if these wonderful friends would want it but in the face of such generosity I can only feel gratitude and very humble.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

400euro for heating oil, 162euro car tax! It’s no sooner in than it’s out. One thing I can say is that, unlike England, where one dreaded the post landing on the mat because it invariably included utility bills one couldn’t pay which meant going into overdraft at the bank, here fortunately we have never been in that situation and, I think I might have said this before, one looks forward to the arrival of the postman and is disappointed if no letters arrive. They are of course getting fewer and fewer with everyone turning to e-mail to send messages and I have to admit it is a much handier option. One can write one line or twenty lines or more and you don’t have to worry about a stamp or the time it will take for the letter to reach its destination or wonder if it will even get there. Postage has just gone up again in Greece. It seems it has gone up by a couple of pennies every year and now stands at 72lepta. Last week we sent off a small package registered and it cost the equivalent of £7! But then everything has been increasing in price. Bottled gas went from 12 to 14 to 16 to 17 euro and now stands at 18. Next time we have to change it what odds it will be 19 or even 20. It is still a bargain though even at that price. I would have hoped that almost on my 79th birthday I would no longer have to worry about household accounts but there you are, that is the situation and I am only thankful to not be nearly as badly off as so many. With the advent of cold weather some of the cooking can be done on top of the wood burning stove in the breakfast room. At this time of the year as the cold sets in we also get the last great flurry of flies before winter kills them off. The fly papers are choc-a-bloc. There is one species of fly though that isn’t tempted to commit suicide on a fly paper. These, and I don’t know what they are but I call them the squadronaires, do nothing but fly around and around, like a dog fight, and never ever seem to land anywhere. They also do their aerobatics fairly high up so are not a nuisance as is the ordinary house fly that buzzes around your ears, lands on your table, and pokes its nose into anything going, and they disappear each evening. The other creature that appears all over the house this time of year, god alone knows why, is the millipede and yes, I know I have discussed this before, and even looked them up on Google though I don’t remember now what I learnt about them. They’re only a nuisance if you accidentally tread on them and make a mess of the floor, otherwise they’re just there.
Yesterday I finished the rewrite of my novel “Angel” only now I decided to give him his full Italian name of Angelo. Again Googling I looked up titles with the word angel in them and there are many many many though, strangely enough, not one with that single word, not one that I could see anyway. So I guess that is my writing for this year. There is nothing else on the cards right now.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

We haven’t had words of wisdom from Seymour Hicks for a while so here is another little snippet, only this one is specifically for actors and show business folk. “And now – above all things else – be DISTINCT in your every utterance. The most unforgivable sin an actor can commit is to be inaudible.” I’ve brought up this subject before I know because of the mumble mumble school of acting and the who cares if dialogue is subordinated to music and sound effects but I am reminded of it as Chris and I recently watched all four episodes of THE DEVIL’S WHORE in which, amongst a very fine cast, at least two of the actors were inaudible or difficult to understand. Unfortunately at times it is not always the actors’ fault. Again I say it, why oh why, must the music be so loud as to virtually wipe out dialogue altogether? The music in this production is fairly mixed, some of it excellent, some of it a dire mistake and at times just too damn loud, particularly at the beginning. The mistake is when at times you’re not sure it is the music you hear or pistol shots. That reminds me of the old thespian’s joke about the actor who had one line, that line being ‘Hark, I hear a pistol shot!’ On the opening night he said, ‘Hark I hear a shostel pit! I mean a shistol pot! Oh shit I’m shot!’ But back to The Devil’s Whore: beautifully shot, masses of production value, fine performances, pity to spoil it with unnecessary music and sound effects. Why modern directors feel they need it I really don’t know. As the production was made near Cape Town the entire Wiercx family were among the extras but we only recognised my sister, Ceri in one nice big profile close-up otherwise they were just part of the crowd and, with so much happening, we missed them.
Douglas went into hospital yesterday for the last week of his treatment. He was beginning to feel the effects of the radiotherapy and it was felt hospital would be for the best thing for him, especially as he now has his second dose of chemo to put up with and is likely to be feeling pretty rotten. Cancer really is no respecter of persons. I still, even after six weeks and more, find it hard to believe this has happened to him. It came as such a shock when the word was first spoken, like not hearing an actor’s dialogue I had to have it repeated, and it still doesn’t seem real.
It’s strange, I couldn’t wait to get out of it at the time but every now and again now I picture the cardiac unit in Heraklion almost with nostalgia. Isn’t that weird?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Chris has bought me the Times Bridge; more comprehensive than the one I had previously on the old hard drive that crashed. I think that one was going a bit doolally anyway. N/S would take a trick and it would be credited to E/W or vice versa and now and again it seemed to get confused when scoring.
Every now and again we get from our friend Ray Peters in London an envelope of press cuttings he thinks will be of interest: items mainly about various people in the art world, what’s happening in London, etcetera. One cutting is headed “Security staff brought in to tame wild West End audiences.” 18th and 19th century theatre audiences might have been boisterous enough but I doubt very much if this happened - “ The cast of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music were stunned to see one man walk over to the side of the stage and relieve himself.” A short while back there was a newspaper photograph of a young student pissing against a war memorial. Is this yet another small indication of the way England has gone in the past few years? At least he was pissing in the open air but in an enclosed theatre in full view of cast and audience? It seems to me that respect including self-respect is no longer to be bothered with.
Some time back we went to the Caravaggio exhibition at the Benaki Museum in Athens. Well, it was billed as the Caravaggio exhibition but there were only half a dozen paintings by him and others by contemporaries. I am reminded of it because in one of the Sunday Times culture sections there is a revue of the book containing the complete paintings illustrated by a repro of the Victorious Cupid. What was absolutely ravishing and astonishing in viewing the original paintings was the way Caravaggio played light on human flesh and it shows to a certain extent in the Cupid. The book is priced at £100.
One could spend a small fortune on books, for example looking at reviews here are just a few samples: The Three Emperors £25. The Pantomime Life of Joseph Grimaldi by Andrew Stott £20. The Greatest Show On earth, Richard Dawkins £25. The Secret Life of Somerset Maugham by Selina Hastings £25. Mad World by Paula Byrne, Evelyn Waugh Secrets of Brideshead £25. Bad Husbands And Toxic Wives £25. Diaghilev - A life £25. Trotsky – A biography by Robert Service £25. And a couple of cheapies, Uncommon Arrangements by Katie Roiphe £9.95 and a book on Henry Irving and Ellen Terry similar price – there you have it. If I had it I would just have spent nearly £300. I haven’t mentioned Sonia Tolstoy’s diaries at £25 which has been bought.
Apropos my mentioning bad behaviour in the theatre, I see in his new novel Sebastian Faulks says “Stupidity and bad behaviour have been a feature of every society.” True but need one put up with it or forgive it?

Friday, December 4, 2009

I really should have Blogged on Tuesday instead of Wednesday so missed a day. In fact all Wednesday I was convinced it was the first of the month instead of the second. The reason Tuesday’s Blog was missed was because most of the day was taken up with a visit into Xania, chiefly to see the optician for an eye test. Everything turned out more or less fine. There is nothing he can do about the occlusion that still exists in the right eye but the left eye thank goodness shows no signs of glaucoma or cataracts. Distance is no problem but a new prescription for glasses to work on the computer. The ones I was using were given to me in New York a thousand years ago by Lionel Wilson and had become all scratched. The new lenses are in that old frame. I was very pleased with the result because what still remains of the occlusion in the right eye is dead centre and prevents me from reading or writing and I don’t believe is going to get any better so, should anything happen to the left, God forbid, I would be in dead shtuck. Then a quick visit to the Hearing Centre to ascertain which way to put in the hearing aid (after all this time?) because I was having some trouble with it and sure enough I had it in wrong! Getting quite doddery in my old age. After this we went to the market to do a wee bit of shopping and I suggested we lunched in the little fish restaurant there which serves up a splendid meal not too expensively and where we’ve eaten a few times.
And so to Giorgis Anastassakis. The space in the restaurant, well more of a café really, is quite cramped and we, having nearly finished our meal, were seated right in a corner when this bearded giant and his little wife came and sat at the next table, literally within touching distance. Small and somewhat mousey with slightly receding hair and wearing ankle boots and white sox, she had brought in their own loaf of brown bread which she proceeded to slice. Obviously the white bread served up in restaurants was not to their liking. They are evidently into healthy eating being vegetarian (except for fish) and insisting you eat fruit half an hour before meals or three hours afterwards so, at the end of the meal, she picked up her mandarins and orange, the café’s extra, and pocketed them to take home. She hardly said a word but sat there munching away on her food, only coming out with a monosyllabic answer if he should ask her to confirm something. He immediately launched into a conversation in English and, although I am usually backwards in coming forward with strangers, I was fascinated enough to start asking questions. It turns out he has had quite a life including serving in the Greek navy, being a prisoner of the Junta and a civil pilot in England, surviving a plane crash. When Chris informed him that I am a writer he informed us that his house is full of books but he doesn’t like fiction and, on hearing I had written my autobiography, he immediately wanted details hence my e-mail the following morning.
So I would be very interested in writing his and as mine if called “No Official Umbrella” I will call his “Temporarily Uncertain.”
At one point n the conversation he looked at me and said ‘You are famous,’ to which I replied, ‘No I’m not.’ ‘Oh, yes,’ he contradicted, ‘you are famous but not as famous as you could be because you don’t want to be. In prison one learns to read people.’ It was virtually the same observation an expatriate Greek made in Virginia some twenty odd years ago.

I forgot to say earlier - Happy 80th birthday Ray Peters.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Overcast with no break in the clouds, the distant roll of thunder and heavy intermittent showers and all because we arranged to have the garden turned over today. The ground will be so wet the rotovator will no doubt get well and truly stuck and no one is going to work in this weather anyway. This is after days and days of no rain. Needless to say the day is also very chilly.
Having finished, for the moment with The Cinelli Vases I was wondering what I would work on next – if anything.
It is now three minutes after one. At ten fifteen this morning just as I had written the above we had to turn off everything electrical as the thunderstorm got closer and closer and there is always the possibility of having your computer, telephone or anything similar well and truly zapped. It’s a case of better safe than sorry when forked lightning is mucking about right over your rooftops.
So where was I? Oh yes, what to write next if anything. I say if anything because I thought The Cinelli Vases might be my swansong. I would love to do a screenplay on Panos Karnezis book “The Maze” and in fact did start on it just for fun as it were. His writing is so vivid it almost lifts itself off the page in moving pictures and it is about a harrowing time for Greece; the defeat of its army by Turkey in the nineteen twenties after a simply stupid decision with, the encouragement of Lloyd George, to invade Anatolia resulting in the sacking and burning of Smyrna, a once splendid cosmopolitan Mediterranean city, the displacement of entire communities, murder, mayhem, and rape that are the accompaniment of so many military campaigns, and the British and Americans who had ships at Smyrna do not come out of it lightly.
Nobody can ever say I don’t try. Months sago I sent my play “Rosemary” to the London management looking for a new play for Daniel Radcliffe for a splendid juv role if he can handle it, and then to Vanessa Redgrave’s agents because I thought she would be simply splendid in the eponymous role. Now a combination of Daniel Radcliffe for the young generation and Vanessa for the older and you have without any doubt a surefire hit on your hands – providing the play is good enough of course and, though I say it myself, I honestly believe it is.
Has there been any response? Like hell there has. One sends out the scripts (at enormous cost!) for them simply to disappear into the wild blue yonder.
So am I going to write something else? Yes, I think so. I believe, if time does not run out on me, I am going to write a biography; not of someone famous, not of someone great, not of some well known historical figure in public life or the arts or the military, but of an unknown Cretan palakari. There is no English translation for this – just think of the most masculine, majestic, noble, man you can think of and that is a palakari. This morning among my e-mails was this – ‘Hello Glyn,
In life you are never lost, you are temporarily uncertain. Giorgis.’
I had already decided that ‘Temporarily Uncertain’ is (was?) to be its title but more of Giorgis next time.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Instead of watching something on the goggle box, an evening of music for a change, well, an evening of Scriabin to be exact. Poem of Ecstasy which is obviously his most well known piece as it seems to appear on recording after recording, followed by his Symphony No.2. What a wonderful work of lush lush orchestration, particularly the final movement with sections almost martial or like a National Anthem. One can easily imagine putting words to it. Finally the Piano Concerto, romantic, lyrical with piano rippling over legato strings. Beautiful. Very like the Rachmaninoff concertos in a way. Scriabin is a composer who certainly believes in big big endings. The music evoked all sorts of images while listening to it and if there is one thing I regret in life (one shouldn’t have regrets but I do have this one) it is that I neglected my music and piano lessons as a kid. I wish so much now that I had kept them up but I was a lazy little sod who had other things to worry about.
Finished writing The Cinelli Vases yesterday, the fourth in the Thornton King series and most probably the last. I hadn’t really expected to finish it until almost Christmas time but somehow the second half of the book simply ran away with me and seemed to write itself. I was saying to Chris at dinner last night what a strange phenomenon it is that the subconscious can take over like that and invent stuff you had no idea you would be using: that characters you invent at the start of a book reappear at the end with some significance you never anticipated, even in dreams which is most amazing. For example, amongst others, I dreamt last night that I sang a complete comic song, and I mean complete, with verses that made sense, with rhymes, and with full piano accompaniment. Now how on earth does the brain in sleep conjure up something as intricate as that? The only problem to begin with was that I was finishing two bars ahead of the pianist and that was something we had to sort out which eventually we did. Although of course I don’t remember a single word of the song the dream itself is still vivid in my mind.
In mentioning the fruit in my last Blog I neglected to say anything about the lemon trees. From the three we have, all still quite young we have enough lemons to last a year or more. And when I think of the price of lemons in England I wonder where the con is. Also I meant to mention another healthy crop of walnuts – more than we can ever use. I think there are still a couple sacks in the pantry from previous years. The olive trees are now five years old but remain small. However two of them do give fruit and Merrill has taken to picking off the lower branches. But if you have ever tasted a raw olive you will know why she then spits them out!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

There is hardly any snow on the mountains. A few weeks back they were white which only goes to show how warm the weather has been. There is a very heavy dew at night which relieves me from the task of watering the garden. Everything seems to survive well enough on that, though the nights now are chilly and necessitate turning on the heating and lighting the zompas. Part of me would love to get out into the garden and do some work. I used to enjoy it so but now it would seem my gardening days are more or less over. The body is just not willing enough. Chris reaped (does one reap fruit?) a terrific crop of quince from the one and only tree. It has produced fruit in abundance year after year that tree. Mandarins and oranges too are ready. The guavas though are still small as are the avocados which are very late this year.
The Sunday Times, I read last night in the culture section, are holding a short story competition for which the prize is … wait for it … £25000! Unfortunately I got the information too late. Entries have to be in by this Monday and in hard copy and there is no way the post is going to move that fast, Greek or British. Without being necessarily pessimistic somehow I doubt very much my story would have won, I have never won anything in competitions, but boy, we sure could do with twenty five nicker right now. Well, anytime really, and I would have liked to have had a go. The weirdest dream last night. I dreamt Chris had printed out and bound a copy of Peter Pan, it was sent to a management who sent it right back complaining the script had no cast list. Or was it Cupid? Or was it Black Maria? Whichever, it was a musical with a very big cast which was why they couldn’t be bothered to read it, not knowing in advance who the characters were. I say the dream was weird because he has in fact just printed and bound a play but one with a very small cast and certainly not a musical.
Sweeny is lying under my desk, one of her favourite places, but I wish she weren’t. To put it bluntly she is a smelly old dog and desperately in need of a bath. Would she survive one I wonder? Also her claws need clipping so badly but because we have for months been expecting her to expire any day and because she hates having them done, they have just grown longer and longer. Any longer and they will have to be done whether she likes it or not.
In Japan a thousand dolphins are killed for meat. They are also killed in Denmark in an absolute blood bath. In India over two hundred head of cattle have been slaughtered en masse with traditional knives in a sacrifice to appease a mythical Hindu goddess. In Alaska seal pups are battered to death with clubs. Human beings are the most despicable species ever to inhabit this earth.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Yesterday Chris collected the results of our blood tests. My two tests, for thyroid and cholesterol, turned out well, as did Chris’s for cholesterol and what he refers to as PSI which is evidently to do with the prostate so that is that for a while.
Up early this morning as, in my half sleep state, I suddenly thought of something I wanted to add to the book but even more important, how to bring all the strands together in the end and I knew if I went back to sleep it might have been forgotten.
In talking of books yet again, a very interest article in one of The Sunday Times’ Culture sections, well, an extract from the biography of William Golding and the publishing story of Lord of The Flies, another one that was turned down by publisher after publisher until it landed at Faber and Faber. Even here it might not have gone any further because their professional reader, a lady by the name of Polly Perkins (Isn’t there a pretty one of Paddington Green?) who also read for a number of other publishes and literary agents wrote “Time, the future. Absurd and uninteresting fantasy about the explosion of an atom bomb on the colonies. A group of children who land in jungle country near New Guinea. Rubbish and dull, Pointless.” This about a runaway literary best seller, praised on all sides and still selling by the thousands all these years later. Fortunately for Mister Golding and for us a junior director of Faber’s read and saw the book’s potential and persuaded the firm to publish it after some rewrites he suggested to the author who took him up on them. Golding was paid an advance of £60. Compare that to the £3000000 Mister Rooney was allegedly paid for a three part autobiography I am not sure has even seen the light of day, at least parts two and three, and part one seems to have sunk without trace. But what interest is there in the life of an eighteen year old footballer (which is what he was at the time) whose talent lies all in his feet? Obviously the publisher believed millions of pounds worth of interest. They could no doubt anticipate hearing the cash registers ringing all over the world.
We know that most publishing today is not about literature or even good writing but is purely about making money hence the plethora of chic-lit, misery memoirs and books purportedly by or about celebs and VIPs – here Mrs Rooney delivered more than her husband, shopping being a never ending subject with some women.
Evidently, according to another article, this time on literary frauds, some of the misery memoirs are pure fantasy anyway and should come under the heading of fiction but, hey, that’s the way the world has gone!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I think pretty soon I might give up blogging. It’s a bit like train spotting; unless you’re fanatic about it, it must eventually get rather boring even though some interesting aspects of modern life raise their heads. For example three of our favourite establishments, two shops and a taverna, in Xania are no more. The first shop was an old-fashioned haberdasher, long and narrow, and when I say old-fashioned I mean it, but it was like a museum full of wonderful stuff some dating back any number of years but still for sale. The second shop was right next door, a coffee shop, not a sit down to drink coffee shop but one selling different teas, coffees etcetera. The taverna was one of those old ones we refer to as “mama’s kitchens” where you went into the kitchen and chose your food from the various dishes of the day all on display. Here the entire building has disappeared to make way for more modern premises and, even though we didn’t use it all that often, it is sadly another favourite place gone. It’s what is called progress I suppose. Anyway, the mama’s kitchens of Greece are fast disappearing or being updated because according to the EU the display of food (though covered) is unhygienic and has been regulated against. Crap! But the reason for the demise of the two shops is something entirely different. The proprietors were tenants of the Orthodox Church and Chris was informed in the haberdashery store that they fought a four year old battle with the Church which, fabulously rich as it is, rather like its sister in Rome, were demanding ten thousand euro a MONTH! in rent. A month! Not a year but a month! For a tiny tiny shop. The mind boggles. Could the good lady have got it wrong? I don’t believe so. Greed knows no bounds and religious organisations are no different from all the others I have derided in these Blogs: the business men, the bankers, the footballers, the politicians and the rest of them.
Our television has gone on the blink. It either needs retuning or in the high winds the aerials have moved and we need to get someone in to look at them. In the meantime it is back to our store of tapes and DVDs. Last night we watched “Topsy Turvy” again, the story of Gilbert and Sullivan, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The night before it was “American Dreamz”. The first time I sat down to watch this I walked out after about ten minutes but this time I stayed with it and enjoyed it. Maybe because having watched Simon Cowell and cohorts and the so called talents of the X Factor it made a lot more sense. The other night Chris watched “The History Boys” which I saw not so long ago so didn’t want to watch again but it must contain one of the best lines in English drama – “I’m Jewish, I’m gay, and I live in Sheffield. I’m fucked!” Alan Bennett at his very best.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Having praised those footballers who have generously tried to make life for others that little bit better I now read of one who lives that champagne lifestyle previously mentioned to such an extent he can’t manage on a salary of £75000 a week, (No, that is not a misprint) is constantly broke and who is being sued by his agents for £300000! It’s all too stupid for words. Where does the man keep his brains? In his feet? There are people who have to live on five times less than that a year let alone a week and some even worse off. I know a footballer’s life is a short one but truly this kind of salary is ridiculous and it’s no wonder tickets to sporting events are so expensive, clubs get into financial difficulties and the prima donnas all have egos inflated out of all proportion, like the one recently jailed for molesting a woman in a bar, his chat up line when she resisted being, “Don’t you know who I am? I’m a millionaire,” and that made him so irresistible she should immediately swoon at his touch.
I’ve written so many Blogs now I am sure I am in danger of repeating myself so if I have already mentioned that we have lost our ancient almond tree I apologise. Don’t know how old the old fellow was. He must have been here with the Turks and maybe even longer but he was nearing the end anyway. Then, with the tumultuous rain we had a couple of weeks back his roots were loosened and over he went. He will be wonderful firewood for next winter when he’s cremated!
My old school, Glenwood High in Durban sends out a bulletin to subscribers (cost nine pence) on the web each week called Falcon Week and this is 47. It is mostly rugby and cricket news this week but also news of Christmas Dinner at Gibson House. As all the houses in existence when I was a pupil seem to have been renamed I presume Gibson House is what we then merely called the hostel.
If it’s week 47 Christmas is almost on us. We haven’t watched Greek television for days, if not weeks now, but the last time I tuned in the commercial breaks we nothing but ads for very expensive toys – transformers, racing cars etcetera for boys and that awful My Pink Pony for girls. What dreadful kitsch. I didn’t notice any for Barbie Doll. Maybe she’s gone out of fashion somewhat.
And a final mention on the topic of sport. The football world is up in arms as France knock out Ireland and go through to the World Cup on a blatant cheat. Maradona’s hand of God manifests itself again this time through one M.Thierry. France will go to South Africa possibly as the most unpopular team ever. It would serve them right if they were booed off the pitch and lost in the first round. Poetic justice. They’re not exactly the most shit-hot team. As for the ref and the linesmen in this match, where were they? They might as well not have been there at all.

Friday, November 20, 2009

What a lousy night. There are nights like that. Could not get to sleep for ages and eventually when I did it was up time and time again to trot to the loo for a pee. Another problem that comes with age. Also the dreams were most bizarre but we won’t go into that. Yet another problem with age is that these last couple of years, come autumn come spring, I have been suffering for the first time in my life from an allergy – to what I know not – that results in itchy eyes, itchy ears, itchy nose and, worst of all, bronchitis that really prevents me from doing anything much physical. So it was a visit to Doctor Elizabeth earlier in the week and another drug addition to keep me going, this one an antihistamine. She looked at recent X-rays of my lungs and found nothing to worry about there so obviously it is the allergic bronchitis that’s the bore.
A con e-mail on this machine this morning, allegedly from Fedex this time, informing me they are holding a parcel for me together with a letter for zillions of dollars! Send £150 and a heap of personal information to ensure I am who I am. I wonder how many people blinded by the promise of those non-existent dollars will be caught in the trap and respond. Not to say we couldn’t do with a windfall but no one I can think of would be sending me that amount of money – delete!
Thinking about Olive Schreiner’s birthplace, was it in the Cape or Basutoland? It’s not surprising those biographers who don’t do their research but rely on previous information by other writers continuously fall into error. It brings to mind all the research Chris has done on George Leybourne who writer after writer before stated quite categorically that he was born in Stourbridge near Birmingham, the Midlands in fact whereas, as his birth certificate clearly shows, he was born in the North at an area near Newcastle called Stourbridge. Virtually every book on Leybourne has it wrong.
I have to reconsider my opinion of overpaid footballers, well some of them anyway. They don‘t all live the champagne life though it still surprises me that as British taxpayers, they manage to amass the fortunes they do. There are obviously exceptions to the live in a palace and own a fleet of cars numbers, exceptions such as Niall Quinn who donated £1.1 million to charity, Didier Drogba whose £3million will go to building an African hospital, Gunner Solskjaer £2million towards African schools, Craig Bellamy, Michael Essien, Gary Kelly, Tony Adams, Rio Ferdinand; all generous in distributing some of their wealth to good causes. How about the rest? And how about the bankers and politicians and African despots and multi millionaire Indians and Arabs? I wonder if their consciences could ever be touched in the same way.
I must be a little dyslectic or just a very bad typist but certain words always have to be corrected, for example ‘are’ is typed as arse, ‘her’ typed as here, and ‘from’ typed as form. Those are the three worst culprits. Starnge isn’t it?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I was evidently wrong about Olive Shreiner being Jewish although there seems to be a Jewish connection somehow. Maybe it is just writing sympathetic to Jewishness. It still appears she was born in two places, the Cape or Basutoland (Lesotho) depending upon which potted biog you read. Have just glanced at a couple of them and evidently her father was a zealous Wesleyan missionary though she gave up her parents’ religion at the age of fifteen. Have finished reading THE STORY OF AN AFRICAN FARM and did enjoy it, for all its Victorian melodrama, religion, and philosophy and, despite the fact that I still do not understand the character of Lyndall and what ailed her so desperately or dictated her behaviour, reading that Schreiner herself was inclined towards depression makes it a little clearer. The book is semi-autobiographical and was first published under the name of Ralph Iron. The second printing saw it published with her own name. It was evidently a big success and it is a good story though she did tend to go over the top at times, for my taste anyway, especially as far as the character of Lyndall is concerned who is really a mouthpiece for the author. For those who will never get around to reading THE STORY OF AN AFRICAN FARM here at random is a sample of Miss Shreiner’s writing. “Little” by the way seems to be Miss Schreiner’s favourite adjective: little hands, little feet, little head, little curls, little hotel!
‘“Power!” Lyndall said suddenly, smiting her little hand upon the rail. “Yes, we have power; and since we are not to expend it in tunnelling mountains, nor healing diseases, nor making laws, nor money, nor on any extraneous object, we extend it on you. You are our goods, our merchandise, our material for operating on; we buy you, we sell you, we make fools of you, we act the wily old Jew with you, we keep six of you crawling to our little feet, and praying only for a touch of our little hand; and they say truly, there was never an ache or a pain or a broken heart but a woman was at the bottom of it. We are not to study law, nor art, nor science; so we study you. There is never a nerve or fibre in your man’s nature but we know it. We keep six of you dancing in the palm of one little hand.’
Does this sound like something a very young girl, barely educated, would say?
This from the boy Waldo who has just suffered a severe whipping –
` ‘Ah, it was going to end at last. Nothing lasts for ever, not even the night. How was it he had never thought of that before? For in all that long dark night he had been very strong, had never been tired, never felt pain, and he had not known it would end. That was a dreadful night. When he clasped his hands frantically and prayed – “Oh, my God, my beautiful God, my sweet God, once, only once let me feel you near me tonight! He could not feel him. He prayed aloud, very loud, and he got no answer; when he listened it was all quite quiet – like when the priests of Baal cried aloud to their god – “Oh, Baal hear us! Oh, Baal hear us!” but Baal was gone a hunting.’
Now I must get on with some hunting, sorry, writing of my own.

Monday, November 16, 2009

It occurred to me just before I went to sleep a couple of nights ago, or maybe it was in the early hours of half asleep, that the guy who wrote the pamphlet (!) for the police on how to ride a bike just has to be a genius. How else to explain the ability to fill ninety three pages? That is half a novelette for goodness sake. God alone knows how many pages it would take learning about anything more complicated.
I am reading a book I have meaning to read for goodness knows how long, right back to my schooldays I think, “The Story Of An African Farm” by Olive Schreiner. (I’ve just looked her up on Google, interesting but what do you make of one site that says she was born in the Cape and another which states she was born in Basutoland?) Evidently the first South African woman on the fictional literary scene how does one describe her writing? I think “cute” or rather “quaint” would be apt. The first part which contains some religious writing, Christian although she was Jewish, is the story of a con man. The farm is owned by a fat old Boer woman with two daughters and a niece and the overseer on the farm is an old German who lives in a one room hut with his son, Waldo who is to put it nicely a little backward in coming forward. Into this ménage walks a stranger who goes by the improbable name of Bonaparte Blenkins, but as he is meant to be Irish that probably explains that. He’s a sort of cross between Uriah Heep and Alfred Jingle. Despite being mistrusted by one of the daughters who susses him out and calls him a liar he wheedles his way into the Boer woman’s confidence, ending up by causing the German to have a heart attack, accusing Waldo of stealing peaches from the loft and whipping him, and generally lording it over all, ostensibly because he and the Boer woman are going to be married. He gets his come uppence when a pretty niece of the Boer woman visits and he pays court to her. (She is also evidently a whole lot wealthier), Unfortunately for him, the Boer woman has gone up into the loft to inspect her supposedly stolen peaches and witnesses all that goes on in the room down below. He gets a barrel of pickled lamb poured over him and has to flee the farm and the Boer woman’s wrath. Justice is served. It’s pretty straightforward story telling. But the second portion of the book is religion with knobs on apart from another would be swooning swain entering the scene to profess undying love and to court a daughter and the third portion headed Lyndall is page after page of feminism. Interesting that that was her mother’s name. Though one might agree completely with her arguments and her summing up of what it is to be a woman (this is 1883) I am afraid there is no way a girl just out of boarding school could possibly voice these thoughts as they are written. At least I don’t believe so. They are Miss Schreiner’s and she has lost her fictional character completely but she must be one of the first writers to argue so forcibly on socialism, labour and feminism and evidently on Judaism though I have not come across that in this particular book, not yet anyway. I have to admit, quaint though the writing is, I am enjoying it and glad I have finally got around to reading it.
Another snippet from Seymour Hicks. ‘The use of obscene words unless absolutely necessary to the text is a thing to be eliminated from every script.’ I wonder what he would think of today’s offerings when every second word is obscene?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Some time ago someone sent us an e-mail regarding the older generation in America, some of whom were complaining of being uneducated as they only reached eighth grade. I can’t find the e-mail now. Maybe I deleted it, but there followed a series of typical examination questions and I am here to tell you I could not answer a single one. So much for no education, and comparing it to today’s it’s no wonder there is now so much ignorance (Adolph Hitler was Germany’s football coach!) and illiteracy about. But who needs education when you have computers and calculators to do it all for you?
Our friend Charmaine mentioned the other day that she was disappointed my autobiography ended where it does and did not continue into the Cretan years. If I had thought of writing this Blog from the very beginning that would have done it. If ever I do get around to a second part, something I very much doubt at this late stage in the game, I decided sometime ago I would call it “Roses In December”. The roses are blooming magnificently at the moment. Mind you, with all the rain we’ve had and despite the weather now turning decidedly chilly I’m not at all surprised and they will go on into December.
When does a boy become a man? Maybe I should say when does a boy become a man in the eyes of the law? Reading about three males arrested for the fireworks through the letterbox incident in which a woman died I see they are ‘a man of eighteen and two youths of seventeen.’ This strikes me as so odd that at virtually the same age they should be so separated. ‘Three youths, one of eighteen and two of seventeen’ would seem to me to make more sense. Do those few months, probably not even a year, mean that the man of eighteen is to receive harsher treatment than the youths of seventeen?
I read also that nurses in the UK are soon going to be required to have a university education and obtain a degree. Very interesting. When I was teaching in America the university (presumably others across the states as well) turned out nurses with degrees and the local hospital was suffering a dire shortage. Why was this? Well, according to local reasoning, the fully trained nurses with their degrees took five minutes to take in the practicalities of vomit, blood, phlegm, piss, shit and pain and fled the scene for more salubrious occupations. There’s nothing like hands-on experience.
Still on the subject of education, a police force in England has just issued for the hedification of its force a booklet (booklet?) of 93 pages on how to ride a bike! It has been received with such howls of mirth it must surely have been withdrawn by now. What with policemen being told to be careful when walking on wet leaves, not to put themselves in any danger, and now 93 pages on how to ride a bike, one can only shake one’s head in utter amazement. Maybe another booklet will be produced teaching them how to use their ‘audible warning instrument’ in a correct manner.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A thoroughly wasted morning. We went into Xania to see our IKA (National Health) doctor only to find a full waiting room and, eventually received the news that IKA patients are seen only until twelve after which it is pay pay time and it was already high noon. Well in that case we’d rather go to Elizabeth here in Vamos. Damn it, I still can’t remember how to save Blogs in a file so will have to ask again, only this time I had better write it down or there really will be hell to pay. Naturally after this piece of unhappy news (going back to the doctor story) a certain person, suffering a bad back made worse by driving a car without power steering, was to put it bluntly a pain in the arse. Moan moan moan, yell yell yell, curse every second driver on the road. The only complaint not made was the cost of wasted petrol. I didn’t think it politic to mention that. And I really do not feel like writing any more today.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Blog 21

I can’t believe I read five handed and fifty pages of Mister Kellerman’s book to arrive at a denouement at which I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Mad scientist, well psychologist, psychiatrist, whatever, tortures lesbian wife with electricity as aversion therapy while her erstwhile kidnapped lover is caged and also wired up close by. Hero of course saves them both. Mad doctor meanwhile guilty of two murders. Do me a favour pu-lease! Somehow I doubt very much that I will be reading any more Mister Kellerman . I suppose tosh would be quite a good word to sum it up.
But what about all the other books I’ve read in the interim? Mary Renault’s “Funeral Games” historical fiction on the death of Alexander the Great and very much up to Renauilt’s standard. I had read virtually all she wrote (I think) with the exception of this one that Douglas spotted in that wonderful underground secondhand bookshop in Monasteraki flea market. Her research is meticulous, her writing quite gripping. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened in the end to that monster, Olympias, Alexander’s mother. Of course murder and mayhem was the order of the day but one had to remember the times and the ambitions of those involved.
“Acting – A Book for Amateurs” by Seymour Hicks, badly foxed, the book not Sir Seymour. Published 1931 and, although written for amateurs, says an awful lot about theatre including some of the things that may be obvious and in which I firmly believe. For example, ‘You must first of all be certain that the art of acting cannot be taught. A man can either act or he can’t – and that’s an end to it.’ But more of the wicked, delightful Seymour another time.
“Old Wild’s! - Being the reminiscences of its chief and last proprietor, Sam Wild”. Every year the Society for Theatre research publish a book for members. I don’t know how long this one had been sitting on the shelf or what made me suddenly take it down (together with Sir Seymour’s) but I’m so glad I did. Apart from being a fascinating read it said so much about Victorian life and theatre, particularly that of strolling players; originally published in 1888 and this edition just over a hundred years later in 1989. It is amazing to think that a travelling company could if necessary put up a large wooden theatre seating hundreds in next to no time complete with stage, pit and gallery or that with prices of a penny, threepence and sixpence old Sam could afford to employ enormous casts including performing animals, acrobats and child entertainers and still make a living. Today heavily subsidised theatre is constantly in debt. Mind you, Sam quite often didn’t have much in the way of opposition so invariably the company played to full houses but even so it is remarkable. I think I mention before that I found the perfect epitaph for me in this book – “Tired, he sleeps – the play is over.” Couldn’t be bettered, could it?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I don’t know why my brother-in-law in South Africa was gobsmacked when he read about the granny in England being charged with assault for poking an abusive teenager in the chest with her finger. This is the way England has gone. One has to admit it is partly the fault of the EU, but not wholly, and the labour government really has a lot to answer for. Gangs of feral youths, hidden under their hoods no doubt, roam estates creating mayhem which in one case has led to the suicide of a mother and her handicapped daughter. I wonder if these yobs have any feelings of remorse that their actions led to this tragedy. Somehow I doubt it. And more recently a firecracker (well it was Guy Fawkes) thrust through a letter box caused a fire that led to the death of an elderly lady. Things have got so bad, so out of control, that on one estate (probably more than one) the residents have clubbed together to hire private security. The measly weasly police reaction, the police who never turn up when called in case they slip on wet leaves and injure themselves, was the private cops can only do what an ordinary citizen can do, not actually arrest people like we can ha ha. In other words if they so much as laid a finger on a miscreant they could in theory like the granny be had for assault. Should the miscreants realise this then that is the end of private security. Hopefully the brains under the hoods are so addled this won’t happen but what’s the bet some smartarse will draw their attention to it? Maybe the Victorians were right, maybe it’s a case of spare the rod spoil the child. Even parents are no longer aloud to do it (a French holiday maker in Scotland slapped his son in public for being naughty, was reported and immediately arrested. The police can be there when they want) and the result is a generation growing up with absolutely no respect for anything. A yob went on the rampage in one town creating thousands of pounds worth of damage including smashing the plate glass window of a small shop. The owner, when it was boarded up, wrote on it the name of the hooligan who did it and was informed by the police that he was infringing the young man’s “human rights”! Meanwhile children like poor little Baby P are tortured to death and it is only when they are dead that the howls go up. Meanwhile a six year old girl, who wouldn’t even know what it is, is accused of racism and a school playground incident is blown out of all proportion. Such is life in Merry England today. Such is Political Correctness gone totally bananas and taken to the most absurd lengths.
Rabbi Sacks has moaned that a lack of religion in Europe is leading to the decrease in population. Maybe, all things considered, that is a good thing.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I wonder how Guy Fawkes night went off in the UK last night. Were there bonfires and fireworks or did Elf and Safety put a complete dampener on it all? Or maybe the rain. I seem to recall it invariably rained on bonfire night. Remember, remember, the fifth of November, gunpowder treason and plot. Is that how the old rhyme goes or have I got it arse about face? I wonder what Elf and Safety would make of our own little ceremony here (nothing to do with Mister Fawkes) when a bonfire is lit in the middle of the road and boys take running jumps over it. A request to Mister Cameron should the Tories win the next election as seems highly likely, not that it affects me these days but could you get rid of most of the qwangos and nearly all the pettifogging rules and regulations that have been brought in under ten years of ‘nosy-pakering interfering in every day lives’ New Labour? It might be just as well if people are going to once more put their trust in politicians, I know, hope springs eternal, to slow down or even put a full stop to the gravy train as well. Pigs at the trough apparently have nothing on this lot.
Books books books, what a lot of reading! At the moment I am almost through ‘Past Imperfect! By Julian Fellowes, kindly given to me by the beautiful Mrs Baxter, and enjoying it. There is no doubt as to where his political allegiance lies or what he thinks of the modern generation. Good on you, sport, as an Aussie might say and I am with you all the way. Am also halfway through ‘Private Eyes’ by Jonathan Kellerman. This was one our friend Diane brought out with her. Whenever she visits she brings books hence my knowledge of Karen Slaughter and now Mr Kellerman who is evidently another bestselling author and married to a best selling author. I wonder if their children are or will be best selling authors. The world is full of best selling authors. Why can’t I be a best-selling author? Slick writing, tending to be a bit on the Mickey Spillane side at times and at 584 pages far far too long. He tends to give the most detailed descriptions of every new location and every new character introduced and after a while it gets rather boring, especially as one doesn’t really form a mental image from his descriptions. Have to hand it to him though, he knows his antiques.
Friday again and Sandra will be bringing me the papers. Whatever happened to the week that was? It seems like only yesterday she was bringing the papers. Every Friday we get The Athens News and The Daily Mail. The Daily Mail is for film, theatre (including opera and dance) and book reviews. It used to be The Sunday Times until we boycotted that publication when the management in its wisdom decided to deprive us of two thirds of the paper or more. I do miss India Knight and especially A.A.Gill whose writing I have always admired and enjoyed, sometimes with a bit of jealousy at his erudition. But there are good journalists on the Mail even though it is getting to be more of a tabloid (in the derogatory sense) day by day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Rain, rain and yet more rain accompanied by a howling gale, and if the weather is like this when your house is being built there will be a delay as the lads are all in the kafenio smoking, drinking their tsigouthias (raki) and probably talking politics. We left it with the foundation setting so in the meantime you are haunting hardware stores busily choosing door furniture, kitchen units, showers, light fittings, tiles, paint etceteras. You will also no doubt visit marble merchants to choose marble for floors, walls if you want, kitchen units if you want. Marble in Greece can range from inexpensive to very expensive depending on your taste and your purse and is used extensively. But time passes and still nothing seems to be happening with your house. One day there is nothing but the footings and then, seemingly as if by magic, a day later you go to inspect and to your delight you see the complete framework of reinforced concrete, pillars and horizontal girders is complete. When they work fast they really do work fast but don’t be fooled, there’s a long way to go yet. There are reinforced floors to lay and stairs to build and then infill of brickwork between all the reinforced concrete. This is interesting because no way can Greek bricks be said to be uniform so you do get some odd configurations, but not to worry, rendering will cover that and no one will be any the wiser. By now a few more months have gone by and on your next visit you will see the roof is finally on. The carpenter though has not finished making your doors and windows if you’re having them in wood and, when they are finally delivered, it is possible someone misread the measurements slightly and they don’t entirely fit. Not to sorry, the gaps can be filled in. The reason for all this reinforced concrete is because of building regulations and the fear of earthquakes. In the old days Cretan houses were built of stone and mud and that was that. Your walls are now plastered and, while we’re still waiting for the doors and windows the painter might as well get busy and, if the plaster is dry, do his bit. He will be called back at a later date when his work has been trashed, as will the plasterer because the electrician has drilled holes in the walls for cables and the plumber likewise for pipes. Sometimes, if they’ve forgotten to put in hoses, parts of the reinforced concrete floors will have to be jack hammered to lay down pipes. It gives every appearance of playing it by ear as they say though I’m sure they believe there is method in their madness. Anyway, a couple of years down the line your house is all ready for you to move in with all your worldly goods, no doubt brought out from England at enormous expense and not without as few breakages and it is winter time again. There is still an enormous amount of builder’s rubble in what is going to be your garden and which the builders have forgotten (!) to clear away but now comes the real test. There is a lovely wood fire burning in the fireplace, the central heating is running smoothly and suddenly the heavens open and you now discover the roof leaks, water runs down walls, comes in under doors and around windows, Cretan windows open inwards not outwards, and it is wet towels, buckets and mopping up time. You shout and scream at the builder, it achieves nothing. You threaten to sue and it still achieves nothing. You discover he has not paid his men’s national insurance (IKA) and you are liable for it. The building inspector is not entirely satisfied with the work or there has been some irregularity that will require a small envelope exchanging hands if he is to agree that everything is passed okay. Without his certificate, if you ever wanted to sell your dream home, you would not be able to. Should you buy your house from one of the developers already to move into you gets what you pay for. You’ve been sold a pup because you have bought cheaply and so you do not have for example central heating. Such luxuries cost extra that you were not made aware of. Your house is not only miserably cold, it is damp. There is no such thing as a damp course here, or at least there hasn’t been until recently when I believe some English entrepreneurs have introduced it. In them there olden days if a Cretan felt cold when he went to bed he merely put on another sweater. And in all this I haven’t mentioned legal pitfalls, electricity, water, telephone, but these are a whole other story. In the meantime enjoy living the dream for a while before you decide to sell up and head back to Blighty as some have done.

Monday, November 2, 2009

I’ve just noticed on a pad on my desk I have written “Gately funeral”. Obviously I meant to talk about it a few days ago and can’t remember whether or not I have. I suppose I could go back over the last few Blogs and find out but instead I will just say the Catholic Church seems to have got its knickers in a right old twist over this. Stephen Gately was gay and by being gay he evidently, so I am informed, excommunicated himself so was not entitled to a Catholic funeral. Defrock the priest! Defrock the priest! The hysterical cry goes up. What a load of nonsense. If by being gay you are automatically excommunicated all I can say is the Catholic Church would lose goodness knows how many thousands of its communicants if they all decided like Mister Gately to come out; and that includes any number of clergy. But put away the soapbox, enough religion bashing for today.
For those expats still wanting to escape Mr Brown’s disunited kingdom to come and live in Greece, “live the dream” as the estate agents say, neglecting to add that sometimes the dream is a nightmare, this is how houses are built on Crete and I expect throughout Greece. Presumably you have bought your plot of land and the lawyer assures you that it is all yours and a Greek in New York or Melbourne who they can’t trace doesn’t have a lien on it or own half a dozen olive trees on it, or even one tree for that matter, you then have to find an architect. If your estate agent is a good one he or she or they will more than likely find one for you as well as finding you a builder. There could be a slight problem with your architect who in fact isn’t an architect at all but a sort of technical draughtsman or something similar so measurements in the end might not be all that accurate and the builders misreading the plans them make them even more so. Having gained planning permission to build, this takes time because don’t forget you are in the land that invented not just democracy but bureaucracy and carries it out to the nth degree, you look forward to moving into your new home in the not too distant future little realising that that future is going to be some time off because the builder has other commitments and can’t start straight away and when he does, he will still have other houses in course of construction so sometimes will not appear on your property for days if not weeks at a time. One thing I will say for Greek builders, no place is impossible to reach. They will build on ten square metres at a cliff face with minimum access if that is what is required, like the buses that go where no self-respecting English bus would dream of going. So first the footings, or foundations if you wish, have to be dug and as the house here in Crete, a very rocky island, is more than likely going to be built on bed rock this requires both an enormous scoop as well as a gigantic hammer to break up the rock and the noise is deafening. However, you will more than likely still be in England dreaming the dream or over here and renting while your house is being built so the noise won’t bother you and if your neighbours are Cretan they’re more than likely used to it anyway. Noise has a different meaning here. Dogs barking in England create hysterical reactions, nervous breakdowns, the Noise Abatement Society and more than likely the police, here the noise is for the most part merely shrugged off. The foundations, now deep enough, a base of steel rods is laid and the start of steel skeletons (can’t think of a better or technical word) for the pillars and Beton, that is reinforced concrete, poured in. This requires a Beton lorry, sometimes going where Cretan buses would go but a British bus wouldn’t and, separately, a giant crane that can be seen from miles away holding a heavy hose through which the Beton is poured when connected to the lorry. In between loads, merry builder lads in gum boots spread and tread down the Beton to eliminate air. The foundations are now hosed down and everyone then disappears until the Beton is set.
To be continued…

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Rain,rain,rain and more rain! Plus now it has turned quite chilly and the zompa is alight in the breakfast room. We call it the breakfast room for those who do not know the Greek word “avli” for courtyard. Originally the house was two separate buildings with an outside loo and no bathroom so it was open to the skies but Douglas covered it over with clear plastic whatever it’s called (can’t think of the name offhand) so that it joined the two together. There is still a courtyard and the first year or so I was here, if it was raining it meant an umbrella and a hop skip and a jump across the courtyard to the loo . It was a water closet but had no cistern so had to be flushed from a bucket and there was no door so it was pretty chilly in winter, but a wonderful view. The older of the two buildings which was what the family used consisted of two stories with a kitchen, now a bedroom, and storerooms down below and two rooms up above reached by an outside staircase, again umbrella time when raining though I shouldn’t think the Cretans bothered with umbrellas much they’re so used to their weather. The two rooms above were originally one but were divided by a reinforced concrete wall. Presumably, as it was not a retaining wall but merely a divider it was reinforced concrete because of possible earthquakes. In the storerooms down below when cleaning out the rubbish I found bottles and bottles of live ammunition of all calibres, oil drums containing goodness what and a box in which to keep snails. Also in knocking the plaster off one wall I unearthed a nest of fifty cockroaches or more. The larger of the storerooms is now a bedroom and the smaller (where the cockroaches lived) a completely marbled bathroom. I never did see anymore roaches but if there are any they certainly can’t eat their way through solid marble.
The second house was newer, built we think some time in the early thirties. This consisted of a large room, now our kitchen, and a goat shed. You entered the goat shed from the avli by way of a small area in which was an old beehive oven, unfortunately in too bad a state to be restored, and then through an arch into the room itself. It was full of junk. Between the first room and the goat shed was a wall cupboard with a reinforced concrete back wall. That was taken down with a great deal of effort, as was the wall upstairs in the first house, to make a doorway between the two rooms so that what was the goat shed is now my bedroom and where the oven was is now my bathroom.
We have been told, though I can’t vouch for the truth of this, that what is now our kitchen was during the war Gestapo headquarters in Vamos.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Kronya Pola Dennis and Ceri Weircx of Somerset West, South Africa. Congratulations on your fiftieth wedding anniversary. May it be a golden day for you. With fondest love from Crete. Glyn, Chris, Douglas.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It has to be admitted that when it comes to modern technology I am the complete Luddite. All yesterday and well into the evening I couldn’t fathom out why, when I switched on Skype, nothing further happened. I kept wondering why that little green arrer wasn’t on the bottom line and why not a single contact was showing a yellow or green symbol. It was only this morning I realised Chris had switched me off-line and I had to switch myself back on. Silly mois. Also I am supposed to save my Blogs in a file and I have already forgotten how to do it. It can wait a few days till he gets back form London. I don’t know why he wants to save them anyway.
After all that rain, clear blue skies this morning but heavy rain is forecast so I suppose it’s only a matter of time before it hits us.
Sex rears its ugly head again, this time in Saudi Arabia where a man appeared in a television programme telling how he seduced a number of women and evidently going into quite graphic detail. For his temerity (and his stupidity I feel) he has been given a lengthy prison sentence and sentenced to 1000 lashes and no that is not a mistake. The questions I have to ask are, how are the lashes administered? Are they at intervals over the length of his sentence or do they happen all at once? Presumably whoever is administering the punishment, when his arm gets tired, hands over to a replacement etc., and how on earth can anyone survive one thousand lashes? It fair boggles the mind. I should think, if he does survive, he fervently wishes he had been born anywhere but in Saudi Arabia or born without the cock that has got him into such a perilous predicament. On the other hand it wasn’t his cock but his own boasting stupidity that landed him in it.
I haven’t talked books for a long time which is neglectful of me considering the number I have been going through but it can wait another day. Must mention though that I have just finished another Karen Slaughter and hugely enjoyed it once again. That girl can really spin a page turning yarn. The only reason I mention it is because I saw only one typo in the whole book and that was “public bone” for “pubic bone”. Easily missed, and the only reason I mention it is because Chris found a huge one in my new book, “The Journeys We Make” despite both Douglas and myself proofing and proofing and proofing. How we missed it I really do not know. At one point (page 124) a character mentions Cockney rhyming slang and talks of “apples and pears” for which I have written “apples and pairs!” Oh, wow, how on earth did we miss that one? The spell-check didn’t pick it up of course because pairs was spelt correctly so why question it? The question now though is: does the next proof get redone for that one horrible mistake or shall we let it pass? I leave the decision to Douglas Foote.
A friend in New York, Lionel Wilson, was mad for Cockney rhyming slang. ‘Come on Glynnie, tell me more, tell me more!’ He would have picked up on that one straight away.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Four people were injured last night in Ommonia Square and two were arrested. The injuries were caused by gunshots and neither of the two arrested men was Greek: one was Italian, the other Palestinian. Hey-ho in the very centre, the Piccadilly Circus, of Athens! Also in a northern suburb a ten year old boy was shot in the leg during a shoot-out between his family and a rival clan. Evidently the adults who started the fracas escaped unscathed. The boy is said to be in a critical condition.
Wet towels, wet towels, wet towels! What a deal of mopping up as the heavens opened and the torrential rain has been hitting us for the last twenty-four hours. The first autumnal storm and, as I write, the thunder is still rolling with hardly a break between rolls. The reason for the wet towels is because they are placed at the foot of exterior doors that tend to flood and of course the dryer would pack up at this time of the year. What did Cretans do before the advent of modern civilisation? Be careful what you wish for, your wishes could come true. Earlier I said to Diane that I hoped it would rain so I didn’t have to bother with watering the garden. What I didn’t wish for was the deluge we’ve received, rather I had hoped for that gentle rain from heaven.
Well, or lipon as the Greeks would say, my visit to the Health Centre was another anti-climax. We got the prescriptions renewed but as far as the breathing difficulties are concerned it was a case of a quick all over with the stethoscope and “see a specialist”. And as for the little lump on my leg, they gave it a couple of thumb presses which made me yell, asked if it hurt when I walked to which the answer was no, and then seemed to lose interest. So four doctors have now seen it and don’t seem to be particularly worried. At some point it will have to be excised but there is evidently no hurry. We have learnt that the little girl Elizabeth a couple of doors down the road who we knew when we first came here is now a fully fledged doctor and is working in the hospital in Heraklion. What is more she is a lung specialist so that is who I will make an appointment to see, and have the leg looked at again at the same time. And, talking of time, the clocks went back an hour last night so the days of sunshine, when we get them again, are going to be shorter.
It was at this point that I had to switch off as the lightning was too close for comfort and too many computers and telephones have crashed in this kind of weather.
But here I am back again. Still hear the thunder but distant now. Last night we watched the film “Maurice” again. I was in Washington DC when I first saw it all of twenty odd years ago but have seen it on telly a couple of times since. Watching it last night I was struck, as I wasn’t particularly before, at just how handsome, beautiful even, young Mr James Wilby was and how small Mister Rupert Graves, though equally as handsome: a beautiful movie with an all-round terrific cast and just as enjoyable as previous viewings. Many many years ago, all of thirty or more, I wanted to write a screenplay based on Mister Forster’s novel and tried to get interest in it from the film world but at that time no one was interested. Timing really is so important in life, n’est ce pas? It was the same with “Lorenzo’s Oil”. When I read the article in the Sunday Times I immediately called Roy Simpson, the only producer I was on first name terms, with but his response was, if the story was that compelling he was quite sure a major studio would snaffle up the rights and so it turned out to be. The resultant film was hardly a box-office breaker but beautiful with the most extraordinary, brilliant performance from the child. Not box-office breaking but certainly heart-breaking.
Would you believe Firefox cannot gain access to Google so this Blog can’t be sent yet? There are two reasons for this; firstly always seems to have trouble at week-ends and secondly, the bloody weather! It is now 11.05. I will try again later. If no success this one will have to be published tomorrow

Friday, October 23, 2009

A quickie this chilly morning as shortly I will be up at the Health Centre to stock up on my drugs for next month, have a word about this breathing problem, and possibly undergo some minor surgery on my shin where there is a nasty little bump the doctor in Heraklion diagnosed as a vein thrombosis. Oh, dear! Growing old is not pretty but then sometimes being young ain’t so good either. Douglas’s phone call last night was not exactly a bundle of laughs. He had been to see the oncologist during the day who gave him the worst possible scenario as to his cancer treatment and possible outcome and it sounds as if the treatment is as bad as the disease. Douglas is only forty-five, half his life ahead of him. I have decided that at my age should something like this happen to me I will refuse treatment and just ask for the pain killers. You feel so helpless witnessing a loved one’s pain, knowing there is not a damn thing you can do about it.
I see in yesterday’s headlines that the Americans have at last got tough on the obscene bonus culture, even to the point of reducing payouts by ninety percent, and high time too. Now why can’t Gordon Brown and his lot do the same? They can’t wait to put their fingers into everybody’s daily business, making laws to run people’s lives from morning to night and vice versa, but when it comes to dealing with something like this they’re all blab and flab. They haven’t lifted a finger to prevent what could be one of the most disastrous bits of industrial action of the last decade – the postal strike. Brown had the nerve in parliament to tell the Tory leader not to bring politics into the equation! What the hell is he if he’s not a politician, a prime minister supposedly there with his party to govern the country? Or are they there merely to fiddle their expenses? What a shower!
Still with the B’s (after bonus) I see also that the Bosnians are still unable to come to an agreement as to the constitution of their country and once again it is still religion that is the great divide, more than ethnicity. As it forever seems to do, trouble looms once more in the Balkans. Hey-ho, what a world!