Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I see an advertisement in a newspaper for the new musical I presume must be based on Wedekind’s “Spring Awakening” and learn that this show in America garnered eight Tonys including best musical. This ad is a photograph of a young man holding aloft an enormous microphone. He is in period costume, knickerbockers, and this anachronism of the mike (is it meant to be a phallic symbol?), small thing that it is, has really put me off wanting to see the show. Although the original play didn’t receive its first production until early in the twentieth century it was actually written late nineteenth and, looking at the costume, I presume this production is set in the correct period, so why the mike? It is so off-putting.
Wedekind’s play that he had published at his own expense, although it was found to be so shocking at the time, almost causing the earth to tremble – baby out of wedlock, homosexuality, mutual masturbation, suicide, abortion was, I am sure, written with the most serious intent although I do find his adolescent dialogue way off the mark, arguments propounded by an adult playwright who has put his words into the mouths of fourteen year olds. Perhaps this is the fault of the translation though maybe not. Considering sexual thinking when the play was first produced was still at the level of “A Boy At Fifteen” and “Eric Or Little By Little” (Blast! – Oh, Eric, I have never heard you swear before) the reaction to the play wasn’t in the least surprising. I can’t help thinking also that now as a musical it must be fairly difficult to cast. The boy in the photograph certainly looks a lot older than fourteen. If he is still ignorant about sex he’s retarded.
Having written the above I decided to look on Google for reviews, both from critics and from members of audiences and have come to the conclusion that my first reaction was the right one. This is not a show I would be interested in. In the first place it is a rock musical and I simply cannot see how rock could add anything to Mr Wedekind’s work. I am sure American audiences gave it a nightly standing ovation but then, and all my American friends I don’t mean to be rude here, Americans love standing ovations. They leap out of their seats at the drop of a hat. They seem to think it’s THE thing to do and I have seen them give a standing ovation to the most puerile of offerings.
But, talking of standing ovations, our friend Xanthippi sent us a YouTube video of an act on “Britain Has Talent”, a Scots lady by the name of Susan Boyle. She opened her mouth to sing and, I have no shame in admitting it, I burst into tears and sobbed uncontrollably through the entire song. A few hours later I played the video again and had exactly the same reaction. Admittedly the song she sang “I Dreamt a Dream” from Les Miserables leans towards being a tear-jerker, but what a voice! What a voice! It was reminiscent of my reaction to Barbara Cook, or Ileana Cotrubas in “La Traviata” at The Royal Opera House, literally spine chilling, or Joyce Barker singing the Liebestod from “Tristan & Isolde”. The audience too, from that very first note, was with Susan Boyle all the way, applauding and literarily roaring their approval, not the kind of hysterical shrieks of the pre-pubescent bratettes for a pop idol but the most wonderful sound, almost overwhelming and, yes … a well deserved standing ovation. English audiences used to be very much on the quiet side but it would seem they’ve learned a lesson from our American cousins. The little ten year old, Holly Steel, singing “I could Have Danced All Night” also got a standing ovation and that too was well deserved. I think if any of the panel of judges had given a no vote to either of these contestants they would have been lynched then and there. I do hope good things happen for Susan Boyle, at 47, having never had a chance to prove herself, she deserves it. When talent like that shines out it is too fantastic.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Clichés though they may be it is true that (a) there is nothing new under the sun and (b) history repeats itself. I was fascinated to read in the Kenneth Williams diaries, April 5th 1976, in the middle of a disastrous financial crisis for the country, Harold Wilson resigned and handed power over to Callaghan – “this mediocre man” Williams calls him. Thirty years later what happens? Tony Blair resigns and hands power over to another mediocre man, one Gordon Brown, and what is the situation in the country? Financial crises of an even greater magnitude than in 1976.
I have decided there is no great kudos in being a writer. Writers are two a penny and, as the population of the world expands, it stands to reason so does the writing population, especially with all the courses available in “creative writing!” In this Friday’s Daily Mail no fewer than twenty four books are reviewed. How many are reviewed in other publications? If there are supposedly about 22000 playwrights trying to earn a living how many plays are written every year? And if 120000 books in English are published every year, how many books are published worldwide? Half the Brazilian rain forest disappears into the printing presses of the publishing world. There are good writers, bad writers, hack writers, ghost writers, script writers, writers of comedy, playwrights, writers of misery memoirs, romantic novelists, historical novelists, journalists, columnists, poets, essay writers, writers of chic-lit, celebrity writers, technical writers, editorial writers (though I suppose these could come under the generic title of journalist) lyricists, crime writers. Then there are the thousands of factual subjects that can be written about. It’s no wonder there is so much frustration from unpublished authors, especially when one reads books published by major houses that should never have seen the light of day in the first place, and I have no doubt there are some who feel my books could be placed in that unwelcome category. The remainder tables await! Only metaphorically now as these days one is published print on demand and there are not thousands of unsold volumes waiting to be got rid of.
Ah, well, plough on regardless and, as Stanley Miller, once flavour of the month with the television companies, said to me many years ago, the time to carry on writing is when everyone else is giving up. It is said that, like the eight notes of music, there are only eight basic stories and everything is a variation thereof. If that is true it is quite amazing how much variety can be wrung from those eight basis plots.
Kenneth Williams again – “It’s incredible how much correction one’s writing needs, I go wrong in delineation as well as with punctuation and it is amazing how often I repeat myself, forgetting I’ve already used a particular phrase. There is a point in all work when you should commit and leave well alone.” Quite right too. I will now leave this well alone.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A beautiful sunny morning. After days of sunshine the last two saw a complete change in the weather. Thursday morning I managed to get a fair amount of weeding done and then decided to take Merrill for a walk but we only managed a hundred yards or so before it started to spit so turned and went back inside. That was fortunate because seconds later the heavens opened and it bucketed down and it went on bucketing down for the rest of the day. Yesterday it continued to rain so all April’s showers came in one go. It also turned a mite chilly, enough to light the zompa and in the evening turn on the central heating.
Coincidence is a strange phenomenon. I read in Kenneth Williams diaries of an actor named Scott Hylands and couldn’t think I had ever seen him in anything so went to the internet to find out. His impressive list of credits right up to the present day is so long I didn’t bother to read them and I didn’t recognise him from his photograph, an old man now of course, but that same evening we watched again a two part TV special called “To Catch A Killer” with that marvellous actor Brian Dennehy giving a simply superb performance as a homosexual serial killer (evidently based on a true story) and who should be featured “As Paxton” but Scott Hylands? Last night we watched again “The Elephant Man” made in 1980 and showing its age a little but still fascinating for the most part. I could have done without the fantasy elephant sequences and the ending and I’m not too sure I actually believe the theatre scene; did that really happen? Some of it is reminiscent of early German cinema. There are performers who have received honours, knighthoods and so forth and I can’t really see why but I would dearly like to know why John Hurt hasn’t been honoured, one of the finest actors Britain has produced. Just think of his performance in “The naked Civil Servant” for a start.
I have enough reading to last me the entire summer if not beyond. Having finished Joe Orton’s I am now half way through the Kenneth Williams diaries, both of which I would like to come back to, our friend Wolf Kern sent me a hefty thriller called “City of Ice”, I started on Sebastian Faulks’ “On Green Dolphin Street” and gave up on page 90. It’s not that the writing is bad, it was just that I had absolutely no sympathy with any of the characters in consequence of which I found it rather boring, the kind of book that once you put it down you’re reluctant to pick up again hence my giving up altogether on page 90. Now I am engrossed in his “Human Traces” a weighty tome of 615 pages and which gripped me from the very first page so that will be bedtime reading for some time to come. I also have the Erast Fandorin, my favourite detective, number 6 and Chris tells me he has ordered number 7 from Amazon. Number 6 came courtesy of William and Susan Foote as a birthday present. Yes, next time I sit down to write this blog it will be on my seventy-eighth birthday.
On Friday’s we usually get “The Athens News” and “The Daily Mail”, the latter for the film, theatre, and book reviews. Chris and Douglas both went into town yesterdays and both forgot to get the papers, one because he thought it was Saturday, the other because he simply forgot. There’s harebrained for you.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Still with Easter; Sunday we were invited by our neighbours across the way to join them for the traditional Easter lunch and it turned out to be quite a gathering, about thirty or more, young and old, strangely no children, unusual for a Greek gathering. Two long tables were set out in front of the large stone oven beneath the olive trees at the back of the house. Evidently the way the oven works is that it is lit the previous day and when the time comes for cooking the meat, the ashes are cleared out. The stone is now hot enough on its own to cook the meat on grape vine cuttings in metal trays. In many villages were people do not have an oven large enough evidently the local baker will oblige with the use of his. Jannis and Vana greeted us, Vana wondering if I was warm enough (poor old man) and offering the loan of a sweater and Jannis informing me that he had a wonderful Retsina. Unfortunately I am allergic to pine so had to refuse that but fortunately he also had a very potable local wine. I discovered my allergy some years back in Hollings Farm. One time I had a cold and was sipping away on my favourite cough syrup while watching cricket on the television. I suddenly developed an itchy back that grew worse and worse until it became unbearable and, ripping off my shirt, I discovered I was covered in a hideous red rash. I dashed down at full speed to the Hebden Bridge Health Centre and asked to see the doctor. Of course, the way things work in England, that meant making an appointment for a few days ahead to which I told the receptionist that this was an emergency and I needed to see Doctor Elizabeth this very minute if not this very second. I eventually managed to be persuasive enough for her to say all right, I could see the nurse and if the nurse thought it necessary then I could see the doctor. Needless to say the nurse took one look and fled, returning immediately with the good Doctor Elizabeth who exclaimed loudly, “Jesus!” and immediately gave me a shot of cortisone. The rash and the itch subsided and, under instruction, we went through everything that could have caused this allergic reaction. Finally I got around to the bottle of cough medicine to find among the ingredients “pine!” and that was it. But I have digressed. Back to Easter Sunday, first of all there were the traditional cheese pies and kokkaretsi – that is lamb’s entrails roasted on the spit. This was eventually followed by the lamb itself together with xorta, (previously mentioned) potatoes roasted in olive oil, beans, lettuce salad. The meal finished with ices and two different gateaux. I staggered home. The Greeks love their food and they expect you to eat as much as they do so keep piling it on your plate no matter how much you might object. “Arketa!” I said “Arketa!” Enough, enough. “Fooskasa ime,” I’m bloated, so there was no misunderstanding. Three whole sheep were cooked. (Easter is for sheep and lambs what Christmas is for Turkeys). Jannis must have his own source because had he bought them at market prices they would have cost over 600 euro.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fabulous weather it was for Easter and still is though the middle of the day a bit too hot for working out of doors. Yesterday evening had to water the entire garden, the first time this year. Nights are still one blanket affairs. Although the minimum temperature seems to hover around 11 degrees it does feel a little on the chilly side. Have not as yet had to drop the mosquito nets though have caught a few of the little horrors hovering about.
The weeds have now achieved tremendous proportions and, even if I manage to get rid of them, where do I get rid of the uprooted corpses there is so much? and still some waiting to be burnt from last year. Unfortunately there is no burning after April for fear of fire so one is left wondering what the priorities are, clear up or burn? There are only so many hours in the day. The Greeks say don’t bother to weed, they will all die in the summer anyway but the trouble with that is, they will have seeded and, in growing to such an extent they will most definitely be a fire hazard. The Greeks call them wild weeds as opposed to just weeds (xorta) which are edible. In restaurants xorta on the menu is usually translated as “mountain greens” as the word weeds would no doubt be definitely off-putting to holiday makers and tourists. There are any number of edible weeds (think of nettles for a start) and Chris loves them but, food for free notwithstanding, I find most too bitter for my taste.
Unfortunately it is due to our neglect that the garden has got into such a state and it is a very large garden. It does look beautiful in parts with shrubs and ground cover flowering but what with the visit to the UK, the periods in Athens and illness taking its toll, the clock has beaten us.
It would seem my lungs have finally cleared up but, as one grows older, minor (minor?) ailments are sent to plague the aging body and I do believe in my old age I have become allergic to something, I know not what, and to hay fever mainly, at the moment, affecting the eyes. It’s interesting that the Cretan grandmothers swear that a cup of mountain tea a day keeps the coughs and colds away and we have started to take their advice this last week or more. Maybe it is that that has cleared up the lung trouble. I just wish it would also clear up the hay fever or the allergy or whatever the hell it is. Douglas’s sister in law, Susan, said there is a theory that taking local honey helps, the bees having utilised the local pollen to make it so the honey acts a bit like a preventative jab. I’ve started to take that in my mountain tea so we will see if it works. Mind you, by the time the eyes stop itching and running, the pollen season may well be over and we will never know anyway. Next winter start drinking the tea early. Actually it is not at all unpleasant so might drink a cup a day all year round.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


You may very well think this to be a tall tale from Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and I would sympathise with you wholeheartedly as, for myself, I still find it difficult, almost impossible, to believe, but there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of as Mister William Shakespeare said.
It was a dark and stormy night. Isn’t that the most famous opening line in fiction? I had just enough small change to pay for a coffee from the hotdog stand across the street (I could have done with a hotdog as well, with lashings of mustard, but my finances didn’t stretch to that) and had laid my cardboard down in the shelter of a deeply recessed shop doorway when he appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, because the street had been quite deserted a moment before and only the attendant stood at the hotdog stall, waiting for custom.
He eased himself down opposite me onto the cold concrete, obviously never having learnt, or so I thought, that a good sheet of cardboard and newspaper are excellent as insulation against the cold, and introduced himself quite politely.
‘Good evening,’ he said. ‘I am God.’
He could see my raised eyebrows over the rim of the polystyrene cup I was holding, warming my hands a little and the steam from the coffee warming my nostrils a lot. Oh, Lord! I thought. We’ve got a right one here.
‘Jesus!’ was what I said out loud.
‘No, that was two thousand and odd years ago,’ was his response. ‘After that little debacle I returned to being just me.’
I pondered this for a moment, took a sip of coffee, almost scalding my tongue, and held out the cup in his direction.
‘Playing the Good Samaritan are we?’ There was just the hint of a smile.
Was there also just the hint of a sneer accompanying that remark, that smile? Suit yourself, I thought and withdrew the offer.
‘So, God,’ I said, feeling just the faintest bit foolish at addressing a down and out as the Almighty but feeling I had best humour him, ‘what is it you’re doing sitting in a shop doorway on a dark and stormy night with another down and out and refusing, I may add, to accept his hospitality?’
‘Talking to him,’ he said.
‘That sounds logical,’ I pursed my lips and nodded in acquiescence.
‘Did you know Thomas Aquinas tried to prove my existence by means of logic?’
‘Did he now?’ I said this with amazement in my voice. ‘No, I never knew that.’
‘Failed dismally of course,’
‘Of course.’
There was silence for a while. Either he had, for the moment, given up the idea of being God or he was gazing into the middle distance seeking inspiration.
‘I take it …’ I felt I had to choose my words carefully here. I am a pacifist at heart, well a total coward if the truth were known, and I wouldn’t have liked it if this madman was to suddenly up and lunge at me. For all I knew he had a weapon secreted somewhere about his person, probably a flick-knife … ‘I take it you are flesh and blood.’
‘No. Like I said, that was two thousand and odd years ago.’
I resisted the temptation to stretch out my hand or give him a good kick to affirm the solidity or otherwise of his corporeal existence. I couldn’t see through him to the shop window behind so I presumed he was lying through his teeth. He was as corporeal as I am. Though how come, considering the lightness of the summery type garb he wore, he wasn’t shivering fit to bust or turning blue with the cold? How come his teeth weren’t chattering and his knees knocking together as his legs trembled? The weather was still chilly. I gave an involuntary shiver and reached in the pocket of my raggedy greatcoat for the hipflask size bottle of scotch I kept there, only for emergencies you understand. I unscrewed the cap and, even though he had refused my offer of coffee, I thought as a gentleman of the road he would accept a swig of the old brew but, to my astonishment, he declined with a shake of his head so I went ahead and took a good hard slug as he watched.
‘Do you think that was a good invention of mine?’ he asked.
‘What?’ I asked when I got my breath back.
‘We…ell … yes … and … no. It has its pros and cons if you get my meaning.’
‘In other words it was a mistake.’
‘No-o, I didn’t say that. Now don’t you start putting words in my mouth.’
He sat ruminating for a while. A couple of times he opened his mouth as if to say something but closed it again before anything other than a cloud of steam came out with his breath. This made me think again of his corporeal existence. A supernatural being like God would not necessarily have breath, least of all with steam in it, not like a flesh and blood animal such as we are. Eventually, as it turned out, he decided on a means of continuing the debate by saying,
‘You asked the reason for my being here. Well, I thought I’d mosey along and find out how … ’
Here he stopped and let off more steam before continuing with,
‘I tell you what, as one of my creations, why don’t you …? What’s your name by the way?
Aha! I thought. Gotcha! If you’re God and you know everything there is to know, you wouldn’t have to ask me that. You would be able to tell me.
‘John, isn’t it?’
Amazement on my eyebrow sat, as Shakespeare would have said. I took another slug of whisky.
‘How did you know that?’ I squeaked as if I had taken a lungful of helium.
‘Well, John, as you are fully aware, I have the reputation of knowing everything. I am after all, Alpha and Omega. Your name is John and when in three years four months and two days time at exactly eleven thirty of the p.m. you die in the gutter of cirrhosis of the liver and various other nasty ailments, all your own fault you understand, nothing to do with me, nothing whatsoever, you will be collected in a body bag and a label will be affixed to your big toe with John Doe written on it as you are carted off to the city morgue to be buried in an unmarked grave. Got the picture?’
I nodded, open-mouthed. To say I was speechless would be too obvious for words. I wondered he didn’t mention the seconds.
‘So, John, come to my assistance and tell me where I went wrong? Inform me of my various mistakes. Put me on the right track as it were.’
I have to confess at this point, in the words of any writer of consequence recording these details, I gulped quite hard. God expected me to criticise him and all his works? Come off it. A lightning bolt could zap down at any moment burning me to a crisp and sending shards of plate glass flying in all directions. I could even be decapitated. I decided on delaying tactics by changing the conversation.
‘Tell me,’ I said, ‘as a matter of interest, do angels have …?’ Here I stopped, wondering what I was getting into. Was this the kind of conversation to be having with God?
‘Ye-es?’ He smiled again, somewhat indulgently this time.
‘Do angels have …?
‘Well, come on, John. Spit it out, man. No need to be shy. After all I did invent it.’
‘Yes, well … ’
‘By your hesitation I must presume you consider it to be one of my mistakes. Now why would that be? Hmn? Elucidate.’
‘You’re putting words in my mouth again. I was only going to ask, do angels have sex?’
‘How did I know that would be the very first question you would ask? Why on earth, I mean why in heaven, would angels want to have sex?’
‘Fun? Fun! They spend their eternity worshipping, adoring me, and singing my praises, what more fun could they possibly ask for?’
‘None I suppose, if you put it that way.’
‘That’s the way I put it. And why would you suggest sex is one of my mistakes? Did you never enjoy having it?’
‘We … ell, yes … yes of course I did, when I was a young lusty lad full of life’s promise.’
‘And sperm.’
‘And what? Oh, yes … and that. And of course your injunction to go forth and multiply.’
He seemed to ponder on this for a while and then frowning mightily and in a slow drawl, said, ‘Yes … now that was definitely a mistake. Had I realised in the beginning while there was still dark upon the waters just how passionately you lot would embrace it and how potent my invention was I might have diluted it somewhat. As it is, and has always been, you’re worse than rabbits and only I know how bad they are. Breed breed breed as though this planet can support all the breeding you’re capable of despite the various little stratagems I’ve put in the way to try and slow you all down.’
‘Such as.’
‘STD’s? Imaginative diversions, deviations, aberrations and perversions? Various plagues and other diseases when considered necessary to reduce the population, but that was in bygone days before you cottoned on and increased your medical knowledge so undoing a great deal of my good work. Why did I bother? After all I gave you free will and if you want to overpopulate your planet so be it. No more will I stick my oar in as the saying goes. Fortunately I’ve never had to bother myself too much with wars, ethnic cleansing, that sort of thing, as you’re all too eager to have a go and you’re fairly good at that. But tell me, what went wrong with you personally? You and sex I mean.’
‘Infidelity, jealousy, heartbreak, harrowing tears, sleepless nights, anxiety, neurosis, in some cases psychosis and finally impotence. It’s been a long long time.’
‘All good things come to an end or they wouldn’t be all good things.’
‘And it’s messy.’ He was not going to get the better of me. I was going to have the last of this little exchange.
‘Body fluids, bodily functions, stuff like that. Smelly and messy and painful, very painful, for the woman that is, giving birth. Very painful. Very messy.’
‘Yes, well I am supposed to have put the onus for that on the mother of you all when I kicked those two reprobates out of the Garden of Eden. They shouldn’t have started the ball, or balls, rolling in the first place.’ Here he gave a little chuckle.
‘You mean it really existed? The Garden of Eden?’
‘Of course it didn’t. It’s myth. Don’t you know what a myth is?’
‘A lady with a lisp?’
God frowned.
‘Only joking. Anyway I am totally relieved to hear from your very own lips that that story is definitely a myth otherwise we would all be descendent from an act of incest and that is not a thought worth thinking about.’
‘You’re dead to rights on that one, John boy, but myths can be jolly useful for pulling the wool over gullible people’s eyes. So tell me, what’s the alternative to copulation? The stork? The gooseberry bush? Any bright ideas?
‘Not really.’ I shrugged.
‘Well, I hate to admit this but I’m afraid I do tend to agree with you that sex was a humongous blunder on my part. Oh, not for the reasons you’ve come up with but because, rather than rejoice in the gift I have given them, it has caused all sorts of rather nasty people with the most horrendous personal problems, inhibitions and repressions to believe they have a reason, an excuse rather, to make life hell on earth for others, and all in my name naturally. But this is beginning to depress me. Let’s move on to another topic shall we?’
I really didn’t know what topic to move on to so, in the lacuna created by God’s depression, I took a half-smoked butt from my breast pocket and proceeded to light it with my last remaining match. He watched dolefully as I took a good lungful and exhaled with lips like a chimpanzee. A cigarette really goes well with a cup of coffee, especially that first drag.
‘To that aforementioned cirrhosis,’ he said, ‘add emphysema.’
I smiled. ‘It’s not the cough that carries you off it’s the coffin they carry you off in.’
He didn’t seem to find that amusing.
‘Well … ’ I mused, being philosophical and that, ‘we all have to go sometime to that bourn from which no traveller returns as Shakespeare had it, except that there was Hamlet on the battlements at Elsinore on a dark and stormy night … ’
‘Elsinore doesn’t have battlements.’
‘According to Willy it has and there he is, Hamlet, faced with his poor old dad who has returned against all the odds from that very same bourn to fill Hamlet in with his tale of woe. Still, even the greatest of playwrights can make the occasional booboo, can they not? And you did it didn’t you?’
‘I was never a playwright.’
‘No, I meant, you came back, after three days, and showed yourself to all and sundry, and there was old doubting Thomas wouldn’t believe it until he’d stuck a grubby finger in your side. Must’ve given him quite a turn.’
‘Of all the hare-brained schemes I ever dreamed up it was ridiculous that I even thought of it in the first place. This was the one that had absolutely no chance of working, not in a month of Sundays, or Saturdays, or Fridays. Hey, John! You could belong to all three religions and give yourself long weekends. And why not? In the end they’re all supposed to point in my direction. Chance would be a fine thing,’ he added, a tinge of bitterness in his voice. ‘Not only are they constantly at each other’s throats, they’re constantly at throats within their own lot. And again they keep on and on about it all being in my name. You see now, why I consider it a total failure.’
‘Not really.’
‘Meaning you don’t see or not a total failure?’
‘I don’t see.’
‘Well let me give you the whole low-down, from the very beginning.’
‘No, not Genesis. Forget all that. I should never have given those ancients carte blanche to write all that stuff. In the first place none of them had taken a creative writing course such as you can get nowadays at any good university. In the second place they were all human, warts and all, aches and pains, good opinions and bad, pride and prejudices, sense and nonsense, hang-ups and hang-downs but, whatever entered their heads it was, of course, written down as holy writ, altogether now, ta-ra! … in my name! And the things they said about me! How I am a jealous god, am angry, vindictive, vengeful, absolutely frightening in fact.’
‘Well you did come up with some rather strange, one might even say, macabre manifestations.’
‘For example.’
‘Sending Moses up the mountain to collect the commandments and keeping him there an inordinate length of time knowing full well that the minute his back was turned the hoi polloi down below would get up to mischief with the golden calf. Ever heard of the cat and the mice? I mean, what was the point of that?’
‘I was testing them.’
‘Seems to me in those days you did an awful lot of testing. What about Abraham being told to sacrifice his son? What was that all about? Testing again?’
He shrugged. ‘I stopped him from actually doing it, didn’t I? It was more of a practical joke really.’
‘A what?!’ I could hardly believe my ears. ‘If that’s the case all the things they said about you are true. Talk about a twisted sense of humour. And what about Job? Same thing? Jonah? Hmn?’
‘I did do some good things as well you know but we’re getting away from what I was going to tell you.’
‘Oh, fire away, but it’s getting awfully late and I’m beginning to grow sleepy. The rosy-fingered dawn …’ He cut me off sharpish.
‘All right already! I’ll be brief. Well, nobody ever seemed to take any notice of what I told them. For example, having put to the torch and laid waste the cities of the plain I then had to turn Lot’s missus into a pillar of salt for disobeying me and turning around for a look-see. I had expressly forbidden that.’
‘Yes, Why?’
‘Because I had, that’s why. Do I need a reason?’
‘I suppose not. Maybe you took as your precedent what happened previously
in an earlier religion, Orpheus’s girl, Eurydice was told not to look back and …’
‘Please! Please don’t bring up the Greek myths, or any other old pagan rubbish, but let’s stick to the matter in hand or we’ll be here all night.’
‘I hate to point this out to you but I am here all night.’
‘As I was saying, injunction by voice alone bellowing down from a mountain top being insufficient – you will notice it hasn’t happened for a very long time - I decided I would have to make a personal appearance and, in order to do that, it would be necessary for me to become as one of you disobedient lot and this is where some of the trouble started. You personally, with your obviously extensive knowledge of theology, will no doubt be aware that Lucifer, most beautiful of the archangels, bringer of light, darling boykin, was my firstborn and, in filial devotion, he offered to come down to earth and single-handed sort you all out but I had already decided I was going to do it myself. If you want something done well, do it yourself and, no, Shakespeare didn’t say that. At least I don’t think he did. What I didn’t tell Lucifer unfortunately was that I was going to do it in disguise as my second born, Joshua, me actually being Joshua if you get my meaning. Clear so far? Well, naturally Lucy, we called him that as a term of endearment you understand, it had no other connotation, was extremely disappointed. Disappointed? He stamped his beautiful foot and stormed off before I even had a chance to tell him, if that was the way he felt, to go to hell, and so the Bringer of Light became the Prince of Darkness.
‘Jealousy again.’
‘Right.’ He pointed a stiff index finger at me, thumb raised. ‘In the meantime I scouted around for a suitable couple to parent me as it were and settled on Joseph and Mary which was kosher as it was among my chosen people. – Chosen people? Little did I realise what I was letting them in for over the centuries, as though they hadn’t suffered enough, what with Pharaoh and all - but that is how I became Joshua bar Joseph. Jesus, as you are no doubt fully aware, is Greek but raising alleluias to Joshua doesn’t sound quite so noble, poetic and holy does it now? It was round about the time of the year that I was actually born.’
‘Yes, the decorations go up months ahead these days.. The big sell is getting so I wonder they even bother to take them down.’
So what’s the first thing that happened to celebrate my birth?’
‘Three wise men come out of the east bearing wonderful gifts.’
‘No. Herod orders the slaughter of all those poor little innocents hoping I would be among them. Great start, wouldn’t you say? Anyway, Herod was too late and I grew up to fulfil my destiny, the purpose I had set myself. I gathered my disciples and I walked Judea and Galilee teaching, sometimes uplifting, sometimes gently reproving, sometimes letting off steam like that time in the temple … ’
‘Sometimes performing miracles.’
He looked at me as though I had said something extremely distasteful.
‘Yes. You know, water into wine? That sort of thing.’
‘Cheap parlour tricks. Any competent magician can do it.’
‘Raising Lazarus from the dead.’
‘Lazarus wasn’t dead, he was suffering from narcolepsy.’
‘Anyway, to continue, it was hard work I can tell you, hell on the feet if nothing else, schlepping across burning deserts. It was bliss sometimes to wriggle one’s toes in the Sea of Galilee. I mistimed it though, didn’t I? I should have waited another two thousand and odd years. After all, what is time to me? If I had left it till now I could have had my own website and spread my word on the Internet. Would have saved a lot of agony. And what was all that agony in aid of? Did my sacrifice improve man’s behaviour? Did it hell?! If anything it’s worse than ever. Man is still greedy, vicious, cruel, unprincipled, unenlightened, avaricious, murderous, deceitful, a lying conniving thieving tripe hound.’
‘Okay! No more. I got the picture.’
‘And that, my friend, is why I say it was a failure, a complete fiasco. Do you not agree?’
There was now a look of infinite sadness on his face and I was on the point of stretching out my hand to touch and comfort him when his attention was drawn to something happening across the street.
‘Hello! What’s happening there?’
I turned to look and saw a gaggle of young girls in mini-skirts, high heels and low-cut angora type sweaters, five or six, I don’t remember exactly how many, around the hotdog stand. They had obviously ordered food because they spat their chewing gum out on the pavement and, hotdogs in hand, started eating, none too delicately I might add. I wondered if it reminded God of the loaves and fishes and had just decided not to mention it when things started to turn nasty. The hotdog man wanted payment. The girls obviously were not going to pay and it now became evident to me that they were every one as drunk as skunks. One of them hurled the remains of her hotdog in the young man’s face and that started the riot as, with much unseemly and unmaidenly cursing and shrieking, like Bacchantes or harpies they attacked the stall and the poor guy trying desperately to protect it. God got to his feet.’
‘Where are you going?’ I yelled in some alarm.
‘To intervene,’ he said.
‘No! You mustn’t do that. These days girls are even more feral than boys. They’ll kill you!’
‘No they won’t. I’ll reason with them.’
‘After what you’ve just been saying, you’ll try reasoning with them? Are you crazy?’
But he was already half way across the road. I took a swig of my whisky, polished it off in fact and hurriedly lay down, pulling my coat collar up well over my ears. I didn’t want to know any more. Like I said before I am basically a coward, so I closed my eyes and went to sleep. I think later I heard sirens wailing but I couldn’t be too sure about that.
When I opened my eyes again, it was early dawn. If there had been a cock around it would no doubt have crowed. I looked across the street. There was no sign that anything untoward had occurred, no sign of the hotdog stand, no girls, no God, nothing more than a bit of a mess in the road.
For some reason I kept on hearing a voice in my head, ‘This was my second coming,’ it said, ‘my second coming, my second coming.’
Well, if that’s the case, I thought, the world has missed it.
And, damn it, I forgot to ask him the sixty four thousand dollar question – did someone else write the works attributed to William Shakespeare?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Blog 12.

Watched “Spartacus”, still a movie well worth watching, especially for the cast: Laughton, Ustinov, Olivier, Curtis, Simmons, quite a classic in its way. Being Holy Week the television stations, apart from broadcasting many a religious service morning, noon, and night have, as is their wont at this most precious time to the Orthodox church, put out religious series and programmes ad nauseum. The only channel refusing point-blank to alter its schedules and staying with ancient US soaps and half hour comedies is Makedonia. But with the others, for example, this week we have had, apart from Spartacus, Jesus of Nazareth (nightly), Peter and Paul, a dreadful bore of a movie with Anthony Hopkins playing Saint Paul, The Creation, The Bible: Esther, The Bible: Moses The Passion (series), Mary Mother of Jesus, The Bible: Jeremiah, The Bible: Abraham, , The Bible: Jacob, The Shroud of Turin, The Robe, The Nativity Story, The Passion of the Christ (Mel Gibson), Judas, Salome, The Bible: Genesis, Close To Jesus, The Bible: David, The Lost Tomb of Jesus, The Fall of the Roman Empire, Barabbas, Esther and the King, Noah’s Ark, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Solomon and Sheba, The Bible: Paul of Tarsus, Bible Mysteries, The Bible (1966 directed by John Huston, covers Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Isaac), Ben Hur (we always get Ben Hur, Ben Hur is an absolute must), The Bible: Jesus (obviously been building up to this one.)
I might have missed a couple but that gives a pretty good picture. I have not included Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion. On another subject, I also note in this week’s schedules that one of the stations is broadcasting “Lorenzo’s Oil”. When I first read about this many years ago in The Sunday Times I rushed around to the one and only film producer I knew, Roy Simpson, and enquired if he could get the rights as I would have really liked to have written a screenplay but Roy’s response was, if the subject caused me so much excitement you could bet your bottom dollar the majors would be on it in a flash and so it turned out to be. I did watch the movie when it first came out and, if I remember correctly, was most impressed with it, particularly the child actor whose performance was mind-blowing.
I am not going to say anything anti-religion today. Saturday night/Sunday morning I shall light my candle in church when the bells ring out and Judas is burnt on the bonfire and agree with all my Greek neighbours that Christ is risen, he is truly risen, and will end this by wishing everyone a Happy Easter, Kala Paska.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In various magazines I have seen advertisements offering tuition in proof-reading. Maybe I should have responded. I now appreciate what a difficult job proof reading is. Both Roger Beeching and John Lewis have criticised the autobiography, NO OFFICIAL UMBRELLA for the number of typos therein; according to Roger 10 before page 350 but with John it is grammatical mistakes as well. My grammar has never been five star. I wouldn’t know a gerund from a saucer of sardines and, as far as these mistakes are concerned, I can only say mea culpa. As for the typos which John says make the book look slapdash, despite it being a jolly good read, that is very disappointing because slapdash is the last thing it should be. Both Douglas and I went over and over and over the ms eliminating every mistake we saw but how come we missed so many? In the light of readers’ responses so far, which have been universally positive and enthusiastic, I am sick with remorse, particularly as I am very quick to pick up any mistake in other people’s books, especially those from major publishing houses that have resources and should be better served.
But on to a book in which I found no mistakes, not as far as typos and grammar are concerned. I have just finished reading “The Lodger – Shakespeare on Silver Street” by Charles Nicholl, a quite fascinating read but woe, woe, and thrice times woe, it really adds very little biographical detail to the life of that elusive person. Once again someone has tried to make a silk purse out of that old sow’s ear and, as far as I am concerned failed, as is always the case. I have a shelf full of books on the life of Shakespeare, Schöenbaum and Sir Sydney Lee managed quite impressive volumes and in a fairly recent biography I made notes which I am going to regale you with further down because, with the exception of “The Lodger” every biography contains “Perhaps”, “It may be that”, “We believe”, “Possibly”, etc. Tell me, John, with inverted commas, does the comma come after the ”, thus? Or before ,” thus? And (never start a sentence with “and”) after a ? Does the next sentence start with a capital or not? My spell-check will always change my lower case after a question mark. On with the Blog. (Fragment. Consider revising)
Of “The Lodger” Jonathan Bate in the Sunday Telegraph writes ‘The most absorbing work of Shakespearean biography I have ever read … he reanimates his subject’s world with a vividness and intensity that is almost impossible to achieve.’ Now here I agree one hundred percent with Mr Bates. I learnt an awful lot about Jacobean London but what did I learn about William Shakespeare apart from the fact that he lodged in this particular house for a few years, was instrumental in forwarding the marriage of a young couple and later testified in court when the husband sued his father in law for not paying up what was offered dowry wise.
Perhaps if I list the illustrations the percentage of Shakespeare biography to the story becomes apparent.
1) The deposition. Shakespeare’s statement at the Court of Requests, 11th May 1612.
2) Plaintiff and defendant in a scene from a Jacobean law-court.
3) Witness list for the first session of the Belott- Mountjoy suit, including ‘Willm Shakespeare gent.’ (This tells us nothing new as we have already had his deposition.)
4) Signatures of (a) Daniel Nicholas, (b) William Eaton (c) Noel Mountjoy (d) Humphrey Fludd.
5) Hulda and Charles William Wallace, discovers of the Belott-Mountjoy papers, at the Public Records Office, 1909.
6) The house on the corner. Detail from the ‘Agas’ map showing Silver Street and Muggle (or Monkwell) Street.
7) The Cooper’s Arms, on the site of the Mountjoy’s house, from a photograph of 1910.
8) St Giles, Cripplegate with bombed out buildings of Silver Street in the foreground. Drawing by Dennis Flanders, 1941.
9) Commemorative stone on the site of St Olave’s, Silver Street.
10) The surgeon of Silver Street, John Banister anatomizing a corpse at barber-Surgeons’ Hall 1580.
11) The author in bed. Title-page illustration from Thomas Dekker his Dreame (1620)
12) Le Couturier. A Huguenot tailor at work, c.1600.
13) Subsidy roll for Aldersgate ward 1582 listing Christopher ‘Mongey’ and his wife as tax-payers.
14) ‘Mrs Monjoyes childe’. Burial entry in the St Olave’s register, 27 February 1596.
15) Marie Mountjoy consults Dr Forman about missing valuables 22 November 1597.

So far Shakespeare 1 - other 13, ignoring 3.

In the second selection of illustrations taking us up to number 36, Shakespeare name is mentioned in connection with a public house so, in 36 illustrations Shakespeare’s appears twice, (still ignoring 3) the second time telling us nothing but that John Lowin ran ‘The Three Pigeons’ at Brentford and that he was a colleague of William Shakespeare’s.
And so to the promised treat of ifs and buts –


The Holy Bible – facing page 3 – there is no record of Shakespeare ever being a schoolboy. Not saying he wasn’t but not saying he was.

Page 4: “It is likely”, ‘May have been”, “Perhaps”, “Must have been”, all assumption.

Page 6: Guy of Warwick “imbibed by Shakespeare in his infancy." No proof, and since when were infants capable of imbibing legends?!

Page 7: “Came so instinctively to Shakespeare” – supposition.

Page 20: “Mornings to school” – supposition.

Page 23: Was Shakespeare from a literate or illiterate family? Note his father making his “mark.” And where is this supposed document now?

Page 26: Who inherited Henry’s wealth? - not William.

Page 27: The Ardens – “What can be asserted or suggested is more important than that which can be proved”!!! Wow! One way of getting out of it I suppose.

Page 27: Male actors in their earliest years identify with the mother – where on earth does he get this piece of nonsense from?

Page 29: “It has been surmised”, “It is also possible, indeed plausible”, more supposition.

Page 31: Warwickshire dialect – this at least is convincing.

Page 37: Why did Nicholas Lane lend money to both John and Henry Shakespeare if they were supposedly so wealthy?

Page 38: “Shakespeare’s schoolteachers.” No names given, no proofs. Later we hear of Thomas Jenkins? John Cottam? Walter Roche? Simon Hunt? Who knows?

Page 41: Dialogue in Henry lV Part 2 is convincing but was Shakespeare the only Warwickshire man with this knowledge? See below: Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke.

Page 44: “No doubt he devoured books.” Presumption.

Page 48: “It is also likely” and “we can infer,” more of the same.

Page 51: School again!

Pages53/4: Still maintaining Shakespeare’s schooling – “Enrolled in the register”? No evidence.

I haven’t made a note of the page number for this one – but a Hackney carriage in Elizabethan London? Oh boy, this is as bad as infants imbibing legends.

Page 115: "Shakespeare noted for the quickness of his repartee." Most of the writings dealing with Shakespeare’s character where penned after his death, sometimes a good while after his death, for example Nicholas Rowe 1709 Page 116.

Page 136: More assumption regarding Shakespeare’s character, “He had too great a respect for his own genius.” Really? Who said that? Then later we learn that he was “this apparently UNEDUCATED young actor from the provinces.” This after all the previous talk about schooling. And, if his contemporaries thought him uneducated, where does that leave us now?

Page 182: “Ample scope for contemplation”! As an actor? Only if he’s continually out of work. This is as bold a statement as “male actors bonding with their mothers.” Where does he get his facts from?

Page 186: Shakespeare the exception to collaboration – why? Later on he writes about the collaboration with Fletcher etc. (and in “The Lodger" evidently Shakespeare collaborated with Wilkins on Pericles)

Page 241: “On an earlier occasion he was reading Arthur Golding’s translation pf Ovid.” How can he make statements as bold as this? (Together with all the other books Shakespeare was supposed to have read, ‘on an earlier occasion’ no doubt.) This is how I imagine it by a contemporary of the great man, “I went to relieve myself and discovered Master Shakespeare already at stool and engaged between farts in perusing the Arthur Golding translation of Ovid and obviously deep in thought.”

Page 291: “This is not necessarily William Shakespeare; it is William Shakespeare as poet.” This statement is total nonsense. William Shakespeare and William Shakespeare poet are one and the same.

Page 359: What evidence? He makes statements like this without elaborating or giving reasons.

Page 373: John Shakespeare’s burial. “His son was undoubtedly present.” Who says so? It’s possible his son was present. It’s also possible he was not.There is no record of those present.

Page 383: “It is likely Shakespeare had some knowledge of Italian.” Why? If the play was translated into English why didn’t he just read it in English? That’s presuming he read it at all. (Page 404 we learn he preferred translations anyway). And here we have a further list of books he read – note, not might have read but read. Statement of fact.

PS: Fulke Greville referred to himself as Shakespeare’s master. Could this possibly be a sly way of saying he was the true author of the plays? Looking at his poetry it isn’t beyond the bounds of speculation, as much anyway as anything else we or this particular author knows.

Isn’t it time to give up trying to unravel the mystery that is William Shakespeare?

Monday, April 13, 2009

My sister Ceri in South Africa tells me one of her grand-daughters, Jessie, found two Schnauzers mooching about and invited them to spend the night evidently much to the chagrin of her mother who is busy trying to pack up prior to the family’s departure for Singapore, and the two dogs who own the place had their noses put out of joint. This love of animals and collecting of strays must run in the family. As a kid I was forever driving my mother potty rescuing or trying to rescue them and my father wasn’t much better. It reached a climax one night when I brought home a stray human being.
As Ceri very wisely says, ‘when you buy a pup you’re buying heartache somewhere down the line.’ I remember my first heartache was when my dog Casey (Casey Jones, get it?) died of distemper, a particularly horrible death. We found him lying in the cool underneath the house and there was a wailing and gnashing of teeth, a rendering of youthful robes and, if we’d had ashes, I’d have gone the full Biblical hog as it were. Actually I don’t remember any rendering either but the wailing and gnashing is certainly true. Since then a great number of pets have departed this earthly coil and made it to pethaven. There are a number of graves at the bottom of the garden and last year we lost three; two cats, one dog. Cat Hortense simply died of old age. Cat Wilson (this was really heartbreak time) was poisoned and dog Puccini aka Pooch died of liver cancer. Well they were all heartbreak time really are still missed.
We brought four animals out with us from England, two cats of which Hortense was one and two dogs. Candide died a couple of years back also from cancer, this time leukaemia and now, this is without being morbid, merely stating a fact, we have been waiting for the last six months or so for the last of the English animals, Sweeny, to go the way of all flesh. She has probably been an ultra-favourite, rescued from the RSPCA home in Halifax as a birthday present for Douglas nearly sixteen years ago. There was a time when she would race after a ball or her favourite ring until ready to drop and then one day last year quite out of the blue she did drop it. I had known for a while she was getting a bit short-sighted as one day she mistook a tree for me and stood waiting for he tree to throw the ball for her and more and more she was finding the toy more by smell. This day I threw the ring, she never moved until she turned and went into the house and never looked back. It was so sudden and it upset me so much I have to admit to bursting into tears. Since then 95 percent of her time is spent sleeping and the rest is spent walking from one sleeping place to another and eating breakfast and dinner. She is deaf, virtually blind and incontinent but appears to be quite accepting of her changed circumstances. Could we all grow old so gracefully? At the moment she’s fast asleep on the chair behind me and one has to look very close to make sure she’s still breathing. We were so sure of her demise last year that back in August/September sometime Douglas actually dug her grave before going over to Athens and one night I found her sitting beside it, couldn’t get her to come in so took out a blanket and made a plastic tent and she camped out for the night. I fully expected the following morning to find her dead but no, she was sitting there quite happily and later came into the house of her own accord. We think she must have had a minor stroke at the time.
The winds of Crete are fierce today and the Foote family sail back to Athens tonight. Let’s hope it’s not an uncomfortable voyage.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Many years ago, how long ago I wonder? I think we were still living in London so that was more’n twenty years, I thought of an evening’s entertainment called “Say What Shall My Song Be Tonight?” I’m not sure if it was before or after “Champagne Charlie” but at that time a number of small companies were performing Victorian Music Hall in various venues. Chris became well known and very popular on the circuit performing a George Leybourne number, “Oh The Fairies” at the end of which he was transformed costume wise into one, a fairy that is, plus other songs such as “Oh That Gorgonzola Cheese,” which was performed with a surprise puppet maggot that came out of the cheese dish at the end, “Music Mad,” another Leybourne song, “Sweet Isabella,” “Anchored” about a sailor boy whose ship is caught and goes down in a violent storm whilst he dreams of being safe in his father’s home. At the end of the final chorus Chris sprouted a pair of wings and flew up to - well a bourrée across the stage did for the flying – to be ‘safe in his father’s home at last.’ Very Victorian sentiments. ‘Paree, that’s the place for me, just across the sea from Dover,’ was another, “Gilbert The Filbert” and quite a few more. Chris, being ever the perfectionist, every number was costumed, propped, rehearsed and performed to get the most out of it and they invariably went down a storm. One bloomer was made when he chose (in the socialist borough of Hackney of all places) to perform a number he discovered called “Why Don’t We Nationalise The Ladies?” and we were verbally and almost physically set upon by a bunch of very butch ladies who objected to it. No amount of explanation as to history, period piece, etc., could sway them from their opinion IT WAS ANTI-FEMINIST AND THAT WAS THAT. We did manage to escape unscathed except for the verbal battering.
It really was a great shame he was never invited to perform at the old Players Theatre, late Gatti’s underneath the arches; a venue with so much atmosphere we used to thoroughly enjoy the many many evenings we spent there. Unfortunately the bills were invariably performed by the small clique of Player’s artistes and there never seemed room for a newcomer, no matter how talented. The company then, due to development, were forced to move from late Gatti’s to further up the road, into a modern building and all the wonderful ‘old tyme’ atmosphere was lost, so much so that I seem to remember we visited it only once and were so disappointed we never went again.
But back to “Say What Shall My Song Be Tonight,” a very pretty Victorian number with a quite haunting melody, I was reminded of it when the other evening I came across the folder in which I had started to make notes. The idea was to use three or four singers, bass/baritone, tenor, soprano, contralto, and a pianist and the songs would be interspersed with bits and pieces of chat, not necessarily all period, mostly one hopes, humorous. I momentarily wondered if I should revive the idea as something to do with ex-pats here on Crete but decided no, I don’t think I have the will anymore to put up with the kind of egos that would be involved. Somehow I nostalgically wish I had followed it through all those years ago back in London but no regrets as Piaf would say.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I read somewhere a while back; I can’t remember where, that if one was born in 1931 one should consider oneself very lucky, as those born in that year tend towards having a long life. Why this should be I have no idea but I suppose if you’re into longevity that’s pretty good news. Perhaps those born in the forties are not quite so lucky. I received my PRS magazine today and looking at the obituary pages, tributes for some, a mention only for lesser mortals in the world of music of which there are many recently deceased, in the tribute section of nine obits six are in the forties: 1948/43/40/45/46/46.
To quote yet another George Leybourne song, “It’s the same thing over again, the same thing over again.” In other words nothing really changes. In 1596 Queen Elizabeth told her Privy Council, “There are lately divers blackamoors brought into this realme, of which kinde of people there are already here too manie.” Where did I get this interesting piece of information? I am reading “The Lodger – Shakespeare on Silver Street” by Charles Nicholl, a birthday present from Christopher and very interesting it is too. In the same period there was many a moan about London growing too big, too noisy, too smelly, too dirty, too dangerous, too crime ridden and that was when the population was less than a million. So there really is nothing new under the sun. It was not an influx of dark skinned people only that was causing ructions then but the French and Dutch refugees who were (I paraphrase here) taking over people’s houses and jobs. Does that ring a bell or does it not? Way back in the swinging sixties you could play a game in Leicester Square called spot the Englishman and you would be hard put to it to find a dozen or more. (Slight exaggeration but it makes the point.) Only in this instance it’s Poles and Hungarians as well as all the illegals who have managed to finally make it to Britain. The Middle Eastern and North African smugglers might not be as brutal as their Mexican brothers who evidently, once they’ve deposited someone in America, suddenly up the price and if their demands aren’t met the result can be very nasty indeed. People running is truly a major problem and an impending disaster of major proportions as literarily thousands of seekers after a better life put their lives in the hands of the smugglers to whom they have paid, in their terms, a small fortune for a trip across the Med in a rotten sometimes totally unseaworthy boat. Nobody knows how many have drowned in making the attempt but what happens to those who do land in Spain, in Italy, in Greece? Just how many can Europe take? Already thee are shanty towns on the outskirts of cities that are described as health hazards where refugees with nothing to do, nowhere to go, nothing positive to look forward to stagnate because nobody knows what to do with these people. The xenophobia of the Elizabethans and the Jacobeans (we will slit your throats) a threat which caused many of the Huguenots to flee the country will be as nothing compared to what could happen if Europeans begin to really feel they are being swamped. “They live off welfare. They get everything done for them. They take our houses and our jobs. It’s our taxes that pay for their upkeep.” No, there really is nothing new under the sun but what, if there is one, is the answer?’ A certain conservative politician many years ago made a speech in which he mentioned “rivers of blood” which brought down the wrath of all right thinking people on his head. But what if he was right? We can only pray it doesn’t come about.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Easter approaches, the major festival in the Greek calendar and TV channels are broadcasting many a religious service as is their wont at this time of the year. Christmas we get all the Biblical epics that Hollywood has produced over the last fifty odd years. Easter candles are for sale but these are not just ordinary candles. They are highly decorated and have presents attached: like Barbie Doll for girls and Action Man for boys; that sort of thing, and VERY expensive. There are more than likely ones with presents for grown ups too but I haven’t been to the shops lately so I wouldn’t know about that. There are also gigantic chocolate eggs in the most elaborate cellophane type packaging filled with little toys, also VERY expensive. Television advertising for days now has consisted a great deal of presents for spoilt kids, presents costing from a negligible 29euro say (negligible?) to 99,99euro. I thought transformers had gone out of fashion but no they are still with us; with the kids anyway. There are also racing car games, jet fighters, dungeons and dragons, battles of various descriptions to be fought, monsters, Spidermen, Supermen and Batmen to play with. Somewhere along the line I suppose there is a religious core but really it is commercially as bad as Christmas. Maybe in my dotage I’m just an Ebenezer Scrooge but I do ask myself, is your child’s present really necessary and how long will it be before it loses interest in it and how much of the world's resources are wasted on rubbish like this?
Over the centuries cats have come in for some terrible treatment from mankind and here is the latest, not as bad but bad enough. A friend has sent us photographs of painted cats. Only in America could this phenomenon arise and, evidently some of the painting costs about three thousand dollars and has to be reworked three times a year as, of course, the cat’s fur grows out. Well, I suppose if you’ve got 9000 dollars a year to waste on painting your cat, no matter how artistic or in some cases humorous the outcome, like the Charlie Chaplin cat with its arsehole as Charlie’s moustache, your life must be pretty flat dull and unprofitable (cut that last word, it’s only a quote of sorts) and have you ever wondered what the paint does to the animal’s fur? The animal’s skin? Do you believe the animal is proud of its new identity that you so fondly show off to other idiots like you? You’re all fucking crazy.
PS: I've just had another look at the painted cats. The figure quoted is not 3000 dollars but 15000 and the cat's arsehole is not Charlie's moustache but his tie.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

After our brief flirtation with spring it isn’t April showers, it’s April solid rain and April unfortunately can sometimes get you like that, so it puts an end to my gardening for a while. The first time Douglas and Chris came to Crete on holiday it was early in the year and it rained solidly for the first week. You hear of rather silly holiday makers who complain to the tourist operators about the rain. ‘Nobody told us it rains in Crete.’ Quite aerated they get about it as well as though it were all the holiday company’s fault. Then in the height of summer they come out, take absolutely no notice of warnings, walk around hatless, spend the first day or two lying in the sun and the rest of the holiday is spoilt in an agony of sunburn or even sunstroke. Anyway, no chance of that today, today it is back to switching on the central heating and keeping the fire in the breakfast room going. I thought I would light it by getting rid of a whole lot of waste paper. To quote a George Leybourne song, that’s where I made my mistake. All I succeeded for the first ten minutes or so was produce so much smoke, doors had to be opened to the outside world which defeated the object of the exercise. Had to think a while there whether or not to add “of the exercise” but object standing by itself somehow just didn’t look right.
It is nine months since Janis Maradakis, our neighbour from across the way, died, and this morning it is his memorial service of the period. Had the weather been clement I would have gone but as it is we decided I stay at home and keep the animals happy! I have to admit I didn’t need too much persuasion, no persuasion at all in fact.
Last night watched H.P. and the Philosopher’s Stone, there being nothing else worth looking at on Greek television, and noticed a big bloomer near the start of the movie. When Bumbledore places Harry on the doorstep at Privet Drive he is a babe in arms, three months? Four? More? Or Less? Whatever, he already bears his distinctive scar. When in flashback we come to the death of his parents, he is a frightened toddler, one year? More? And has no scar. Whoops! What happened to the infant? What happened to the scar?
When I came to Crete I didn’t think I would ever be putting on my coaching/teaching/directing cap again but one of our ex-pats wishes to perform a monologue in an ex-pats meeting in May and has asked me to coach her. She has had one session and I reckon one more should last her a while. There’s talk of my taking workshops with the group but I really am not too sure about that.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Cast ne’er a clout till may be out and the may is out with a vengeance, a mass of white blossom so the solution to the old question of is it the month of May or the plant itself is – it’s definitely the plant, on Crete anyway.
Yesterday a cloudless sky and the sun as hot as a June day. Managed to do a fair amount in the garden although I am afraid the energy level has dropped considerably since last year and I somehow doubt I will ever do as much as before. There is so much to do! I have to clear the vegetable beds as the seeds Douglas planted, pumpkin, zucchini, beans, tomato, are coming up in front of your very eyes.
The garden is a riot of colour. The nectarine, almond and nut peach are in full bloom; a mass of pink and pinky white and the Pride of Madeira, that now has a spread of about ten feet (will I ever talk about metres and centimetres? I doubt it somehow), adds a mass of vibrant blue. The oranges too are in blossom again and the courtyard is scented with it.
Chris has cut back the grape vines, just in time as they are budding.
Today sees a complete change. Overcast and cool but not cold and still good for gardening so a lot more is being done. Naturally the mozzies have put in an appearance but fortunately the stuff Sandra gave me seems to keep them at bay.
I don’t know if I have ever mentioned the nut-peach before. I have written so many blogs I can only hope I don’t repeat myself. Chris and I discovered the nut-peace while on holiday in Sicily, in Taormina in fact. It was our last evening so I decided to hell with the expense we would go to a posh restaurant and splash out using the faithful credit card. As a matter of fact we had a delicious meal that did not cost an arm and a leg and at the end of which a bowl of fruit which included nut-peaches was placed on the table. For those who have never come across this particular fruit, it is half the size of a regular peach, has the consistency of a nectarine and is sweeter than both. In fact it is a taste treat par excellence. Our waiter informed us that this miracle fruit grew only on Sicily and nowhere else in the whole wide world, so when we discovered a tree for sale in a garden centre here on Crete, we snaffled it up. It was quite expensive but worth every drachma (as it was then) and every year it has given us an abundance of fruit. I don’t know if it is a dwarf variety or if that is the actually size of the tree but in six years it has not grown above about three and a half feet. If you want to work that out in metres go ahead - you’re welcome!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Some time ago I wrote a letter to the editor of the Equity magazine. It was in response to articles lamenting the lack of work for actresses of a more mature nature. Naturally the letter has not been published in the latest issue which arrived today. Reading it again it’s a bit of a puff for me so maybe that is not surprising so here it is in its entirety …

The Editor
Equity magazine.

“for publication”

In the last two magazines I have read of the plight of the older actress, the paucity of jobs and roles, and I notice that, apart from producers and casting directors etcetera, writers are also at fault. Many years an actor and with firsthand knowledge of the vicissitudes of the profession I do sympathise, but I am also a playwright so I can see this problem from a different angle. Unfortunately I am not a management that can offer employment to elderly actresses and I cannot force managements to accept my plays but I would like to point out that, even when parts are written for the more mature lady, she more often than not baulks at it. It all started many many years ago with my very first play. I thought Flora Robson perfect for the lead and offered it to her. Her reply was. “What would my fans say if I played a part like that?” To this day I can’t fathom out what her objection was. I sent a play to Beryl Reid who, in a BBC canteen, told everyone, “This is Glyn Jones and he’s written this simply marvellous play I’m not going to do.” I can name any number of actresses, well known and not so well known who have thurnbed their noses despite the fact that I have written any number of parts for the mature artiste including three full length stage plays with all women casts, one of which is continuously done by amateurs all over the world and professionals in Europe but not in the UK, one of which has been produced twice in the USA, and another play produced over there in which the lead is a woman in her eighties has been published by French’s, New York. Another in which there are two parts for mature women, one in her eighties, I sent to Jessica Tandy when I was in the States. This one too came back but with a charming note saying ‘a little too close to home I’m afraid.’ I even sent one play to ‘Women In Film’ in the States and it was yet another script that like so many disappeared into the blue with no response. I am sure there are other writers in the same position as myself. My latest work, written here in Crete, is a musical and again there is a leading part for a mature actress. Mature? This character in the end is ninety-three! So I really do think I have done my bit as far as actresses are concerned. If you want the full story, read my autobiography, NO OFFICIAL UMBRELLA, published late last year.


Vamos 73008
Crete, Greece.