Wednesday, January 14, 2009

St Swithin’s day isn’t till July but we’ve been having such non-stop rain for so many days now I fully expected it to go on until we reached the legendary forty. However the winds of Crete, something fierce at the moment, seem to have temporarily banished most of the clouds so maybe the wet weather is finally over. Not that it is that important for me because I only have until tomorrow evening before leaving anyway. This means that today’s blog will more than likely be the last until my return in a fortnight’s time.
Wonders will never cease: at last an American movie uncluttered with background music. In fact, apart from a brief blast from a Mexican band actually playing in picture, no music until the end credits roll. How wonderful. How absolutely bloody marvellous, how natural it all seemed. Will other producers and directors take note please? The movie is called “No Country For Old Men” written and directed by the Coen brothers and starring Tommy Lee Jones. Terrific!
Here is another snippet from the newspaper. Newspapers are good for snippets. This is a letter to the editor from someone who has worked in paper recycling he says for forty years and now runs his own company. Evidently there is now a paper mountain, just as there was previously a butter mountain and a wine lake I guess, and it seems to have escaped the experts (experts are everywhere these days. Have recently watched the BBC/Open University series “Coast” and, apart from the experts taking us around the shores of Britain, experts of every kind were constantly picked up on the way) that unless there is a market for all this recycled stuff; paper, glass, plastics, metals, it will all end up rotting in fields or stored in warehouses at enormous costs. He reckons it should all be incinerated to generate electricity but this is something the greens won’t countenance despite the landfill problem and the enormous costs that go on transport and mechanical sorting of waste that no one wants. And here we have been dutifully separating our household rubbish into recyclable and non-recyclable and it would all seem to have been to no purpose. You just can’t win.
A priest in England has taken the figure of Jesus down from the cross in case it frightens the children. Say no more.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I see Sadie Jones with “The Outcast” has won the prize for a first novel in the coffee cup competition (Wot use to be the Whitbread evidently), is now £5000 richer and no doubt sales of her book will take off. Congratulations Sadie. See my previous Blog but one for my reaction to Sadie’s book. Guess she wouldn’t have got my vote but there you are, nobody ever asks me to vote on anything and I am usually the one out of step anyway.
Chris and Douglas up nice and early yesterday on a cold wet and windy winter’s morning, making their way to church for the six month memorial service for our neighbour Jannis of blessed memory. They must cost a pretty penny these memorial services, paying not only for the use of the church and the priest but all the holy bibs and bobs that go with them, and afterwards the participants retiring to the nearest cafĂ© for coffee and cakes. Of course Jannis is already swanning it up in heaven. He got there, according to the church, after forty days and that was when the first memorial was celebrated, but there will be another at the first anniversary of his death and finally one at two years. Phew!
One interesting snippet in the paper this week caught my eye: evidently the British Humanist Association has funded to the tune of £140000 a campaign claiming ‘there’s probably no god,’ this slogan is to be carried on hundreds of buses, and ‘Christian Voice’ is complaining to the Advertising Standards Authority that the ad breaks the code on substantiation and truthfulness. Hang on a minute; methinks there is a slight case of pot and kettle here, at least as far as substantiation is concerned. Well, truthfulness as well if push comes to shove as the humanists are only stating their beliefs and, to be on the safe side, inserting the word ‘probably’, just as a spokesman for ‘Christian Voice’ has said ‘There’s plenty of evidence for god from people’s personal experience, to the interdependence, beauty and design of the natural world. But there is scant evidence on the other side…’
Let us take personal experience for starters: personal experience is no proof of the existence of god. Personal belief is no proof of the existence of god. Saying I believe doesn’t necessarily bring him into existence except for you. Personal hallucinations or LSD trips are no proof of the existence of god; even out of the body experience some people claim to have had is no proof of the existence of god. Being taught from childhood that he exists and believing in Christianity is no proof that he really exists. Wishful thinking and belief in eternal life do not prove the existence of god.
Now let us take the second half of the Christian spokesman’s little speech. I don’t actually know what he means by interdependence so we will pass on to beauty and design, starting with design. If you are a creationist then you believe god designed the world and all that is in it about 6000 years ago but if, as fossil and scientific evidence proves, you believe in evolution then there has been many a trial and error and he still hasn’t got it right because you can sing all things bright and beautiful to your heart’s content and, I do agree, the world IS a beautiful place but unfortunately it is also an extremely ugly one and the list of what is not beautiful is virtually endless. Gaza at the moment is not beautiful; neither is Afghanistan, Iraq or Iran and any number of African states where civil war rages or dictatorship rules. Murderous tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions are not beautiful. Untreatable fevers, AIDS, TB, cancers and venereal diseases are not beautiful.

Greed, unbounded ambition, corruption, political sleaze, sadistic thuggery are not beautiful, cruelty to children and animals is not beautiful, drug addiction, murder and mayhem are not beautiful. The Holocaust and the concentration camps were most certainly not beautiful. Need I go on? All right, the Christians would maintain a lot of this is not down to god but down to sinful man but we are told god made man in his own image did he not? Could he not have done a better job of it?
There are unexplainable phenomena of course like instantaneous combustion (probably wished on me by many a loving Christian) and stigmata but does that prove the existence of god? We know the mind has an enormous influence on the physical body so, even though you and I couldn’t possibly manage it, I am sure those saints who did simply thought their wounds into existence. After all they would look terrific on their CV when approaching St Peter at the pearly gates.
Poor Prince Harry is in deep doodoo again, evidently because in a video made some three years ago he called one of his fellow troopers a Paki and that rag The News of The World went to town in headlines three feet high so everyone jumps on the bandwagon, makes a mountain range out of a molehill and comes out with the most outrageous, ludicrous, and stupefying remarks. Nobody of course has thought to ask the recipient of the remark, one Ahmed what his reactions are. Surely just for the sake of decent honest journalism (does it still exist? Did it ever exist with the Screws?) and a completely rounded story the News Of The World owes it to the prince to interview Ahmed and find out. If he said yes, he was even mildly offended by the remark I would be very much surprised.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Chris and I went into Chania yesterday to visit our IKA (National Health Service) doctor only to find the surgery locked and no doctor to be seen. On the way home we stopped off at the central IKA building in Souda to have our books stamped for 2009 and only just made it in time as they were all on strike from midday, hence the surgery being closed. It would seem hospital staff, health workers, and allied occupations really get the short end of the stick in Greece as they are forever complaining about not being paid, sometimes for months on end so naturally I assumed this was once again the reason for the strike but no … this time it was a gesture of sympathy for the Palestinians in Gaza. Now what good a strike in Greece could do for the Palestinians I have no idea but, as Chris remarked, it did give them all the chance of a long weekend. Farmers on Crete tend to demonstrate quite a bit as well, usually because the olive oil subsidy hasn’t been paid.
In the eleven years since we bought the house in Crete we have seen so many changes in this area, some of which take one completely by surprise. Yesterday something was here, today it’s gone, and tomorrow something else will have taken its place except that, in the current financial climate, it is not going to happen so fast. Vacated premises will stay vacated for a while. Asked to bring home sausages for dinner, as we were standing outside the market in Chania, I suggested we just pop in and purchase them from any one of a dozen butchers in that establishment but Chris said no, let’s get them from our own butcher come greengrocer in Vamos. So back to Vamos we duly drove only to find that our local butcher who was there yesterday is not there today. The shop has been gutted and he has obviously gone down the tubes. On the way back to the parking lot right next to one of three proper restaurants in Vamos who should come walking up the hill but Christos, the restaurateur himself and, after cheery hairy greetings, I ask why his restaurant stands empty and cold. Again it is because of what he termed “the crises” and he is not reopening but staying with the one he opened last year in Kalyves. Well that seemed to do remarkably well during the season catering for the holiday makers but will it do the same in the winter? Who knows? The restaurant in the park the owners decided, though nobody seems to know why, is evidently closed until March which leaves only the one open for the winter. Sad and it will probably get worse.
Here’s a lighten up bit for you, Wolf – In the paper today an article about seven Thai elephants who (unlike chimps who doodle and daub abstracts), paint figuratively using their trunks to hold the paintbrush. The particular elephant photographed was shown together with his finished work of a vase of flowers. Maybe not quite as talented as a human being but hopefully this show of obvious intelligence might make us consider animals with a little more understanding and compassion.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Have just finished reading “The Outcast” by Sadie Jones. Strange that I should finish it because in the beginning I could feel my upper lip curling, as it were, at the paucity of her prose: plain, simple, banal even and the best way I could describe it as seemingly written by a twelve year old for the understanding of a ten year old. This is another of those books nominated for a literary prize and hailed by the critics and the reason why I say strange is because, unlike books I cant get on with in the beginning and therefore don’t bother to finish, “Purple Hibiscus” for example, I found I couldn’t put this one down and, in the end, found it rather moving even though at times I felt Sadie maybe didn’t quite know what she was talking about; that twelve year old pretending to have the wisdom of someone many years her age. I wonder on whom she modelled her characters or were they purely fictional? That, anyway, was the feeling I got but, like I said, I finished it and found ultimately that her style, or lack of it, whatever, was actually dead right for her story. If Sadie or any of her friends ever reads this Blog, they can have a go at me and tell me if I’m wrong.
Meanwhile our friend Wolf Kern in Munich suggests I am too much of an angry old man in my Blogs and need to lighten up a little and talk about pleasant things! Well, can’t think of anything at the moment, Wolf, because even the weather is shitty and has been for a while back and I guess old men tend to get a bit grumpy at times, especially when reading the news and coming to the conclusion that the world is going to hell in a hand basket! Like I was going to talk about the bankers’ epiphany so here it is. “CITIGROUP BOSSES FOREGO BONUSES.” That’s it. Surprise surprise, how magnanimous of them. This particular bank (in line with all the other banks I suppose) is laying off staff, here to the tune of 53,000 to be thrown on the dole. Robert Rubin, since 1999 has banked $115 million dollars, the bank has had to rely on a government bailout to get it out of trouble and he and his fellow directors whose greed and incompetence put it there in the first place now magnanimously decide they won’t dig their greedy snouts any deeper into the trough. Where on earth is the logic in this type of financial shenanigan and, Wolf, you wonder why I am sometimes angry?
At least Madoff, and if the first three letters of his name sum him up, was/is a crook of the very first water and knew it all along. Writing about him in the financial section of The Mail, Rabbi Dovid Roberts says – If all the allegations are true, Madoff will go down in history as a bare-faced thief who has caused untold grief to Jewish charities, individuals and institutions. Rarely will an individual’s actions have been more destructive to Jewish repute.
But, when you come to put two and two together to get minus five in the world of high finance, is he really any worse than the others?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Epiphany – all over Greece watched by the crowds, groups of eager near-naked men and boys will be diving into the freezing waters of sea, river, or lake, each hoping he will be the one to retrieve the crucifix hurled in by the priest. Before leaving the water the winner, holding it aloft, might allow some of the others a brief kiss of the cross for luck before they step out back on to dry land. As a matter of fact not so dry because there is freezing water everywhere, it being a very cold day and raining chair legs, that being the Greek expression for raining cats and dogs which, anyway, is a rather silly expression when you come to think of it. It’s intriguing I suppose as to how these traditions, so many traditions, have come about. It’s intriguing as to why some of them continue but, as Tevye sings in “Fiddler on the Roof”, tradition helps us keep a balance and to know who we are. Ah, there’s the rub. Methinks perhaps there is the beginning of the problem, the assurance of knowing who we are. A recent image from the news that sticks in the mind, a handsome (pretty even) young Israeli soldier on the eve of going into battle his steel helmet replaced with yarmulke, book in hand, bobbing away as he says his prayers. What is he praying for? Is he praying for the souls of those he might be forced to kill? Is he praying for his own in case he is killed? Is he praying for a quick victory and no more fighting? God with us we cannot lose. The soldier doesn’t stop to think his enemy is saying exactly the same thing. His god is their god as well so who is he going to favour this trip? The young Israeli soldier knows exactly who he is but then so does the young Hamas fighter. They are both descendent from a long line of traditionalists. I wonder if god has a conscience or simply washes his hands (metaphorically speaking) over the slaying of the innocents or whether he merely distances himself from the whole disgraceful episode? ‘Nothing to do with me, lad. It was all down to that poncy Herod.’ “God bless you,” spoken so glibly, especially by American presidents, as men go into battle or as the lucky ones retrieves a sunken crucifix from freezing waters and the rest are losers, is traditional but really a totally meaningless phrase.
The epiphony of the Bankers next time.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Israeli troops invade Gaza, Hamas is full of bloodthirsty rhetoric, the Middle East is in ferment and the top BBC story is announcing the eleventh and new Doctor Who. I had, before the story broke, thought they might have chosen a black actor but it was not to be. A pity in a way. Maybe a black actor will be number twelve. This one, number eleven, is the youngest time lord of them all so another youngster finds his whole life about to change. I see also that Mister Davis has been awarded an OBE. I wonder whatever happened to the treatment I submitted for the last series and about which I never heard a word. Ended up in the trash can no doubt, most probably not even read, like the script that came back from Ealing Studios so pristine it obviously hadn’t even been opened. I know nothing about the tenth Doctor Who as we have never watched that last series so have no idea how much it has changed since my own effort fifty years ago when the series was in its very beginning. Watching it on tape today one realises just how primitive television was back then and how modern computer programmes have changed the face of entertainment.
I read also that Daniel Radcliffe and Equus have not been the big hoped for success on Broadway which is a shame although I can see why. Having directed the play once and played in it once as Dysart the psychiatrist I came to the conclusion it is not as good a play as at first it seems. A teeny weensy itsy bit of a con really when you come to analyse it. Still, it seemed to do well in London and audiences aren’t really in the position of being able to say, “Hold on there, is that a big hole I see? Can we just go back and take another look?” but simply suspend disbelieve and go with the flow. Maybe the New Yorkers have moved on a pace theatrically speaking.
Evidently NY is now plastered with posters of Daniel naked from the waist up. Hopefully that will bring in his fans. I’d love to know what he does with himself in the big apple when not actually in the theatre. Being so famous, so well known, so instantly recognisable, does he have a permanent bodyguard to ward off over eager fans? I wonder. The new Doctor Who will soon find himself in the same position.

Friday, January 2, 2009

It is no way to start the New Year; going down with the mother and father of all colds, bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, pleurisy, allergy? Whatever it is I have spent the last couple of days mostly in bed with the wheezes, the snivels and the rheumy eyes. Hope it passes soon.
Tearing up old newspapers the other day with which to light the fire I came across an article from an old ‘Mail on Sunday’ (July 20) I don’t remember reading and wish I had had it to hand when I wrote my Christmas Day blog regarding old Infallible and his message to the faithful. Faith is the only word to describe people of the highest intelligence who can be brain-washed to the degree they are. This article is about a Church of England rector, the Rev Martin Dudley and the big black headlines read – “Rector in gay marriage row stages £1,800 ‘weddings’ for Japanese.”
This is all down evidently to the Japanese having developed a craze for Western style ceremonies so, although couples are already married by Japanese custom , they go through this expensive ritual for the fun of it really, something to boast about to the neighbours? One upmanship? Or should that be one uppeopleship according to PC? Keeping up with the Joneses anyway. Maybe that’s not allowed either in case it upsets the Joneses. It’s all tres confusing. Of course the one thousand eight hundred is a basic fee; there are obviously extras to pay on top of that like travel and accommodation and, would you believe, the photo album? So it is quite an expensive business when you think of it. Evidently only about one percent of Japan’s teeming millions is Christian so what does one make of this phenomenon? Well, as far as the churches that provide it is concerned, although their excuse is that it introduces the Japanese to Christianity, it’s simply about making money. If Tellyevangelicals and fundamentalist universities like Bob Jones can do it, why shouldn’t they? God is an endless seam of gold if you know where and how to mine it and the churches have been doing it for eons.
The main reason though as to why the journalists were spreading the muck is because, as the headline states, the good Rector was previously in a row over gay marriage, not simply because he joined two guys together but because they both happened to be priests. What! Gay priests? Never! I don’t believe it! Heavens to Betsy whatever next? Don’t worry though Your Infallibility, these were not holy Roman clergy but Anglicans, known in the US as Episcopalians, that lot old Henry Eight deprived you of.
Came across another cutting, this time in the bottom of my outbox. Goodness only knows how long it’s been lying there it is so yellow with age. The headline to this one is “Abhor religions – they can warp the mind and make life hell” but we will leave it to another time.