Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rereading my previous blog I wonder how I could have started it with a sentence so long, so unwieldy and one that barely made sense without going back over it and doing a bit of a rewrite. Maybe I should go on a refresher course, one of those “creative writing” doodahs that are continually being advertised at various universities etc. Typing should come first. Why is it I always type “form” when I mean to type “from”? Am I ever so slightly dyslexic maybe? I seem to be in the habit also of typing arse for are. Anal retentive maybe? Did Luther always write arse for are and have to cross out the s?
A recent survey evidently has come up with the startling conclusion that Brits on holiday drink eight times more than they should. I don’t know why this should be so startling when you consider that Brits at home drink far more than they should and most certainly ex-pat Brits spend far too much time in kafenios knocking back the hard stuff. Maybe it’s because it isn’t as expensive as back home and maybe because they’ve nothing better to do with themselves and are bored out of their minds. Paradise has its drawbacks. It is quite disgusting though in holiday hotspots to have Brits puking their guts up all over the place. Young Britain on holiday really behaves very badly and it’s not just the drinking. Watching their antics on Greek TV news when the Greeks want to have a justifiable moan about it is like watching a bunch of unintelligent apes showing off for the camera – if apes could do that sort of thing of course. Mind you some of the Greek bar and cafĂ© owners have only themselves to blame. So long as they’re raking in the readies it seems anything goes.
My bridge partner has done it again. I have 8 spades to the king and call spades. The computer replies with 4 hearts (hearts again!) and of course we go down. Would still have gone down if I had called 4 spades. I have to get another bridge game sometime.
Saturday evening we watched Mr Attenborough’s film GHANDI again. Quite a long time since we originally viewed it; a remarkably broad canvas with virtually every known or fairly well known British actor in it. A very small quibble in so large an undertaking - why did Louis Mountbatten give an American salute, that is palm downwards, rather than a British one, that is palm out front? Was that genuine? Did he actually salute like that? Maybe Mr Attenborough can enlighten me. Seems strange to quibble over so small a detail but it did worry me. Also as the part hardly entailed much in the way of acting I could have wished a better lookalike had been found. After all even today Lord Louis’ face is still so familiar one can even visualise it with ones eyes shut.
The assassination of Ghandi is yet another proof as to how pernicious religion can be in the hands of fanatics of whatever persuasion.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Still working on Thornton King number four. The nice thing about there being time, after all, if and when its finished (35000 words at the moment) it isn’t going to go anywhere until at least the final quarter of 2010 or the Spring of 2011, and as in my current state of health I’m not fit for much else is that, if I run out of steam as it were, I can stop and have a game of spider solitaire or bridge or even pinball if I feel like it until I collect my thoughts or discover how to proceed. How's that for a long sentence? The only trouble with the bloody bridge programme I have is that my partner, that is this computer of course, has the weirdest ideas about bidding that drive me up the wall. For example, and if there is any bridge expert out there, like Omar Sherif for example, maybe he/she can explain it to me. East calls 1 club. I (south) am sitting on a nice little row of 7 clubs so I double. My partner then goes 3 hearts. Three hearts! And what does he have? Four measly hearts up to the ten and a string of diamonds to the ace and I have only two hearts, neither of them trick worthy and so go down a bundle. So why wasn’t the call 2 or 3 diamonds? Is there some kind of convention here like Backwoods with the 3 hearts call? I think maybe I’m going to have to get another partner. The computer probably feels the same way, ha ha.
Well, all things being equal and unless there is a catastrophe of seismic proportions it looks as though Chris and Douglas will be gainfully employed in very responsible categories, for the next twelve months on a 26 part television series some of which will be shot right here in Vamos.
Started to watch THE DEVIL’S WHORE yesterday evening but after twenty minutes of not having a clue as to what was going on, switched off and watched a Scorsese film instead with the fabulous Jack Nicholson, my favourite movie actor. A very gory piece but then what else do you expect from Scorsese? And at least for once you could hear every word of the dialogue. Going back to THE DEVIL’S WHORE, the reason for our not understanding was (a) a very boring young lady in the lead who has caught the American mumbles and couldn’t speak, (and she wasn’t the only one unfortunately), that is we couldn’t catch a single word of her dialogue from the very beginning and (b) why oh why, someone please tell me why does the music have to be twice the volume of the dialogue? Why will these people do this? It’s not as if the music on its own was all that memorable to begin with. I hope when the film industry is up and running in the new studios being built in Cape Town that the film makers employ some sound engineers and editors who know what they’re about. On the plus side the film is beautifully dressed, beautifully photographed and atmospheric and as far as I could tell a stickler for period detail. But we would have liked to have known what was happening, especially as all the members of the Wiercx family in the Cape are in it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The proof of THE JOURNEYS WE MAKE is on its way from the UK to Crete and Chris left Crete yesterday for the UK. He has a heavy three week schedule ahead of him, buying glass for the Newbury’s windows and doing some more research into George Leybourne though when he’s going to find time now to get that book finished is anyone’s guess. These last couple of weeks both he and Douglas have been working like Trojans (almost like an audition) on the possibility of being selected as part of the film unit for Mega TV’s lengthy serial. So far so good but there is still one more hurdle to overcome so say no more. Also the windows commission is huge and will take at least six months to complete. Will he have time to design a new set for Prosceneium as requested? I doubt it.
Tuesday’s blog was delayed by an electricity blackout of four and a half hours. On the whole we have been lucky this summer, there have only been two or three very short ones. This was the first of any length. I’ve also been fairly lucky with those pestilential little critters the mosquitoes, not suffering nearly as many bites as in summers past. Now, as we approach the end of August there is a definite coolness in the air at night and early mornings. Have picked the first half dozen nut peaches. Picked ‘em still green and will let them ripen indoors. If left too long the birds and the insects get at them. The prickly pears are ripening and there are masses of them. That bush really has to be chopped back sometime. It is growing far too large; and it’s babies rooted up as well, growing out of a concrete wall would you believe. When Douglas and I came back from Italy, was it two or three years ago? We brought him a bottle of prickly pear liquor which has never been opened. I’m tempted to try it myself and if good maybe Douglas can make a prickly pear raki though he (Douglas) doesn’t like the fruit itself. Says it’s like eating baby food. How would he know?
Have I mentioned our big problem with the rats? Can’t remember if I have. They’re nesting in the roof of the upstairs guest bedroom and goodness only knows what they’re doing in there the amount of noise they make scampering around and scrabbling away. Unfortunately those creatures can get in anywhere whereas we can’t get at them so it is a problem because who knows what damage they’re causing. They are quite amazing in their agility. I’ve watched one running down a perfectly smooth vertical plastic drainpipe next door, a surface you would think impossible to cling on to. Once one decided he would take a walk along the horizontal section of chimney pipe and jumped onto it from the roof. Unfortunately for him there was a fire going at the time and with little squeaks he went hopping along as far as he could go before leaping into the orange tree in the courtyard, I should think with very sore paws. These are quite pretty creatures being country rats and not city dwellers.
Yesterday evening watch the film of THE HISTORY BOYS and don’t know quite what to think of it. The play won countless awards, played thousands of performances all over he world and received universal acclaim but … I’m a great admirer of Mr Bennett’s writing but for me he might have missed the boat with this one as, even though there was so much that was good in it, I found myself at times thinking ‘I’m bored with this,’ and that despite wonderful performances. Maybe it was just a wee bit too wordy for a movie or am I out of step yet again, or just growing older?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sunday the 23rd was Douglas’s birthday. He decided he didn’t want to celebrate it but we were invited to the Baxter’s for a barbecue supper, the penultimate evening of their holiday, they leave for London this morning, and had a delightful evening (and a delicious one – no one does roast potatoes like James). We tried to view a very bright star through his telescope but he couldn’t get it to work and, no wonder, yesterday morning Douglas said with sudden revelation, ‘There was no lens in it!’ With less light pollution here than there is in the UK more stars are visible although with the amount of new building that has been going it might soon be the same as the UK. I remember walking through the bush in Liberia with zero light pollution looking up at the night sky and feeling totally overawed by the, not thousands, but I’m sure millions of visible stars. That is when you realise just how vast the universe must be. And, talking of stars, is it in the stars that we have had such a shitty year so far, particularly as far as health goes and not just the humans, but the animals? Betty the cat had to go back to the vet yesterday for yet a third very expensive injection in an attempt to stop the little raw sores breaking out on her head and tummy. Chris has been putting aloe vera on them but even though that dries one out, another one starts. Now Merrill the dog has to go to the vet to have her claws clipped and I think she has snagged one and almost pulled it out. I hadn’t noticed it until I saw her eating her breakfast standing on three legs.
I noticed for the first time the Baxters have a mango tree growing in their garden. It is still small, about four feet high, and has one green fruit hanging there but I warned James mango trees grow very large indeed. Still I think where it is there is room for it. Despite being a tropical fruit I don’t see why mangoes can’t be grown here. Our winters aren’t that cold and avocados do extremely well. Which reminds me; I must go out and see how ours are doing, and the nut peaches.
I read that in Mali, a law has been proposed giving women greater freedom but would you believe, it’s women who are opposing it? One spokesperson said, ‘It’s only intellectuals and people like that who want the law changed. We ordinary people don’t want it. A wife should obey her husband and a husband should protect his wife. That is Sharia law.’ Meanwhile the Lutheran church in America is making waves by voting to admit gay clergy (providing they are in a lifelong monogamous relationship!) and causing yet another schism with the traditionalists threatening to break away and form a Lutheran church all of their own. Religion is truly weird.
The Italian lotto has been won at last after 18 draws and a Sicilian villager has won 146.9 million euro. His life most certainly will never be the same again. Evidently he paid 2 euro for his ticket. Now the villagers are all trying to find out who it is, but of course! And when they find out he had better move house.
Yet once again during a hot hot summer, fires have broken out on the mainland and one or two islands. This year has been devastating with over seventy fires to try and control; houses, churches, vehicles have gone up in smoke and Athens was virtually surrounded by fire. Evidently, so they say, the worst is over but what an ecological disaster, what a catastrophe. Fortunately there has been no loss of life.
And finally, England won back the Ashes beating Australia by 197 runs. Australia was set an impossible task by being required to make 546 runs in their second innings, a feat never before achieved. Well, the Brits didn’t muck it up after all and they didn’t even need a final day.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What did Mozart really look like? I was only set to wondering because I have seen at least six pictures of him not one of which looks like any other. Does it really matter? I suppose not as long as we have his music to enjoy but I still can’t help wondering.
Going through my e-mails and getting rid of as many of the 3750 items in my in-box as being no longer wanted, I came across one sent me a long while back all about the “Stella Awards”. These fictitious laurels are for the stupidest gigantic pay-outs in American legal history when juries award plaintiffs huge amounts of damages when it is too painfully obvious their cases should never even have been allowed to come to court. For example the woman who sued a furniture store because she tripped over a toddler when the said toddler was her own child. The woman who drove with a cup of MacDonald’s coffee between her legs and when it spilled sued MacDonald’s and got away with a whole heap of money in damages. A woman who sued a bar because she slipped on a spilled drink, forgetting the fact that the spillage was caused only a few moments before when she threw her glass at her boy friend during a quarrel. The woman who sued Winnebago because she put her vehicle on automatic and went back to make herself a cup of coffee. She said she didn’t know any better because she wasn’t warned in the instruction manual that automatic didn’t mean the car drove itself. Winnebago, would you believe, in order never to be sued again, actually then included this warning in the manual? The man who sued his neighbour for running over his fingers when moving his car, neglecting the fact that he was stealing his neighbour’s hub caps at the time. And, as Jiminy Cricket would say, there’s more. Unfortunately this American compensation culture spilled over and the Brits are now so scared of anything that could conceivably lead to a law suit have gone overboard in trying to protect themselves, especially town councils who have brought in all sorts of by-laws in order to prevent any possible accident. Because of the Health and Safety fascists, I think living in the UK must now be as restrictive as it will ever get. Famous last words? I still can’t believe that in “Peter Pan” the kids have to wear crash helmets when flying! Surely that is a joke.
So it looks like the Poms will bang the Assies well and truly and regain The Ashes, that is unless they mess it all up on the last day, something they have a tendency to do, even though the Ausies have a mountain to climb. For those unaware of what I am talking about – cricket!

Friday, August 21, 2009

After our two days of cooler weather it’s back to the heat of high summer. It’s also the fig season and Douglas has made a delicious rum, raisin and fig ice-cream! The raisins have been soaking in rum overnight. The figs did not come from our tree but from our neighbour Eleftheria whose tree is more mature and always supplies an abundance of fruit. Greeks from the mainland come to Crete for their holidays at this time of the year partly I believe to enjoy the figs and I read somewhere that when the Turks were in Crete prisoners rations were cut in half during the fig season which must have led to a lot of squittering.
The ancestral home (doesn’t that sound grand?) of my mother’s family in Italy was known as the “Casa Mutilati” and, at the moment that is what this house is. We haven’t actually had any limbs amputated but are all walking around in various levels of pain and discomfort, Chris and I both having somehow put our backs out and Douglas now suffering from that annoyance that gave Kenneth Williams so much trouble in his lifetime, farmer Giles. At least it’s not a repeat of the abscess which is something to be thankful for. The strange thing about the back pain is that on getting up from a sitting position it’s excruciating but after walking a few steps it totally wears off and one would think there is nothing wrong, until one sits down again of course.
It’s quite possible that Chris and Douglas will be offered a rather handsome job that will take up all their time over the next however many months but, because it’s a theatrical superstition until something promising is definitely in the bag I won’t mention what it is. “The Journeys We Make” has gone to the printers and I am currently proof reading Thornton King number 3 – “Dead On Target”. It’s not due for publication until at least March next year but because of the possibility of C and D being totally occupied, we thought it best to get it ready now. Lets hope this time all mistakes, typos and other, will be eradicated. It hasn’t even got its IBSM number yet. In fact my musical version of “Peter Pan” comes first. It’s all go innit?
Watched a quite delightful little film called “Greedy” staring Michael J, Fox and Kirk Douglas all about a very rich old man trying to find out who was worthy of inheriting his millions. Not exactly new. Did Ben Johnson in 1606 not write something similar with “Volpone”? and I have a feeling Moliere did the same later, variations on a theme, though I can’t bring to mind which play it was. Still there is nothing new under the sun is there? and history repeats itself. I see the greedy bankers are already back on the bonus gravy train despite government’s so called protests and despite what their greed did recently to the world. They’ll never learn,

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blog 6

Back to one of the boils on the face of the planet. Not Afghanistan or Iran this time but that pestilential hole known as Iraq. Apart from Shias versus Sunnis and bombs set off ostensibly to frighten off voters in the forthcoming election, the world needs to take note of the following to realise where religious bigotry can take one. I don’t know whether or not it is copyright material but I am posting it edited anyway.

Iraq ‘killing campaign’ targets gay men
Graffiti in a Najaf neighborhood says, “Death to the People of Lot”, using a derogatory term in Arabic for men who engage in homosexual conduct, derived from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.
“A killing campaign moved across Iraq in the early months of 2009,” Human Rights Watch writes in a report released today. It’s a campaign that aims to kill, torture, and terrorize men suspected of being gay or of not being sufficiently “masculine”.
HRW says the executions appear to be part of a coordinated campaign throughout the county, and that Iraq’s government has done little to stop them.
“This report… documents a campaign of violence against men in Iraq who are suspected of being gay or who simply don't act masculine enough in the eyes of their killers,” said Scott Long, director of HRW's LGBT Rights Program.
In the report, entitled “They want us exterminated: Murder, Torture, Sexual Orientation and Gender in Iraq”, HRW researchers said it is almost impossible to calculate how many men have been killed, but estimated the figure in the hundreds.
The report says:
[T]he sharp spike in killings this year points to lethal failures that persist, despite the Iraqi government’s and coalition authorities’ self-congratulation on their supposed pacification of society. In Iraq, armed groups still are free to persecute and kill based on prejudice and hatred; the state still greets their depredations with impunity.
Associated Press talked to “an Iraqi Interior Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity” who acknowledged there has been a sharp escalation in attacks against gay men this year by suspected Shiite extremists, but the official told the news service he wasn’t authorized to discuss the issue with the media,
“What we found is disturbing,” said HRW researcher Rasha Moumneh. “We heard stories of murder, extra-judicial executions, brutal torture, abductions, extortions, detainees and threats.
Although the current wave of violence began in the Sadr City stronghold of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia in Baghdad, it has spread to other parts of Iraq, HRW’s researchers found:
At this writing, in July 2009, the campaign remains at its most intense in Baghdad, but it has left bloody tracks in other cities as well; men have been targeted, threatened or tortured in Kirkuk, Najaf, Basra. Murders are committed with impunity, admonitory in intent, with corpses dumped in garbage or hung as warnings on the street. The killers invade the privacy of homes, abducting sons or brothers, leaving their mutilated bodies in the neighborhood the next day. They interrogate and brutalize men to extract names of other people suspected of homosexual conduct. They specialize in grotesque and appalling tortures: several doctors told Human Rights Watch about men executed by injecting glue up their anuses. (and then force feeding them laxatives)
Little known militias with names like Ahl al Haq (the “People of Truth”) have claimed responsibility for some of the executions, but HRW says members of the Mehdi Army militia group are thought to be spearheading the campaign.
Several people speculated to us that the Mahdi Army, striving to rebuild its reputation after a prolonged absence, sought to rehabilitate itself by appearing as an agent of social cleansing. It exploited morality for opportunistic purposes; it aimed at popularity by targeting people few in Iraq would venture to defend.
Police are also accused of participating in the terror campaign - even though homosexuality is legal. In some cases, Human Rights Watch says it was told, Iraqi security forces had actually “colluded and joined in the killing”
Both the media and sermons in mosques warn of a wave of effeminacy among Iraqi men, and execrate the “third sex.” Panic that some people have turned decadent or “soft” amid social change and foreign occupation seems to motivate much of the violence.
A May 2009 article in an Iraqi magazine acknowledged that “kidnappers” were targeting mithliyeen or homosexuals, but the article blamed not the murderers but the “puppies” – men who do not act like men.
The article approvingly talks of those who join a battle against what it calls “deviant phenomena”:
Bilal, a 27-year-old from the Baghdad neighborhood of Karada told HRW researchers that a friend had been killed three months ago. Bilal told HRW: He was very public, everybody knew he was gay. His family said his killers made a CD of how he was killed—they filmed it. They slaughtered him; they cut his throat. His family did not want to talk about it. And now they are killing people right and left in Shaab and al-Thawra. We heard 11 men were burned alive in al-Thawra. Everyone is talking about the numbers of people killed. And they just keep rising.
The next day, after my boyfriend was murdered, they came for me. They came into my house and they saw my mother, and one of them said: “Where’s your faggot son?” There were five men. Their faces were covered. Fortunately I wasn’t there but my mother called me after they left, in tears. From then on, I hid in a cheap hotel for two weeks. I can’t face my family—they would reject me. I can’t go home.
The Iraqi state must desist from silence, and fully and immediately investigate the murder and torture of people targeted because they do not correspond to norms of “masculinity,” or are suspected of homosexual conduct. It must appropriately punish those found responsible. It must take effective steps to restrain militia violence consistent with its own human rights obligations. It should dismiss any police or criminal justice officials who are found responsible for human rights abuses or who have been linked in the past to death squads or militia forces. …
The US and the US-led multinational forces in Iraq should assist the Iraqi government wherever possible in investigating these crimes.
What chance?

Monday, August 17, 2009

The atheists and the religious are having a rematch according to the Daily Mail. It all started evidently by one of the religious team accusing the atheist team of forever proselytising and doing it in a belligerent fashion, conveniently forgetting the fact that the religious have been proselytising since the year dot, at one time or other to the extent of putting a body to the torture and the fire in the belief that that would save the soul from eternal damnation. Something that has always got me wondering about the fires of hell; if one’s body is lying and decaying in the hard cold earth or has already been consumed in an earthy oven by being cremated, what is there left to be tortured by fire in the nether regions? Answers on a postcard please, not more than a thousand words! Well, one of the atheist team decided to reply to this missive by saying he didn’t proselytize and, if the aforementioned member of the religious team cared to give him just one small proof of the existence of god he would happily change sides. This prompted the Daily Mail in their letters page to headline ‘Is There Proof That God Exists?’ In the letters for and against that follow the atheists are definitely in the lead as they have nothing to prove whereas the religious team are floundering badly, not having come up with the requested proof, no matter how miniscule, they have fallen back on the old faith, belief, and it’s comforting and makes me feel good syndrome. Marvellous isn’t it?
Overcast this morning with quite heavy cloud and a distinct chill to remind us that it will soon be autumn. Supposedly the old washing machines will be picked up and carted away today for recycling. Will they be or will they just be dumped? Douglas managed to drag one up to the road by taking out its concrete ballast but it was still a hell of a job so he called our friend Robert who is coming around this morning to give a helping hand. I did offer and was told not to be stupid. Chris had previously asked our neighbour Eleftheria where he could contact an Albanian or two to do the job only to be told they’ve all gone home for the holidays.
A fairly high ranking police officer in the UK talking about crowd control after an anti-BNP really referred to intervention only for sporadic behaviour. Now what kind of behaviour could be called sporadic I wonder? ‘Men, the behaviour is getting a wee bit sporadic here, tear gas and tasers at the ready.’ Why can’t people today say what they really mean in so many words, ie that the behaviour is getting out of hand or running to violence, sporadically violent of course. Then there is the Chief constable of North Wales who refers to a motor horn as an audible warning instrument. Give him the biscuit for pretentious rubbish though he would probably in mitigation say it was only a sporadic remark.
Further to my previous thoughts on Afghanistan I now read that husbands in that benighted country can by law starve their wives to death if said wives aren’t giving them enough sex. Who would want to be a woman in a Muslim country? The tyranny of the bhurka.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Despite my pile of available reading, for some reason I took Richard Ellman’s biography of Oscar Wilde from the bookcase in my bedroom and started to reread it. It is fascinating and I see that Oscar kept what was called a “Commonplace Book”, not a diary as such but something which I presume was the Victorian equivalent of today’s Blog. So on with the Blog.
Yesterday the new washing machine was delivered. The men were supposed to take away the old machines but, after a lengthy discussion, left empty handed, arranging for them to be picked up Monday if we have managed to get them to the top of the stairs. It was the stairs that caused the hiccup. This is the problem of having such a difficult access. They were quite happy to tackle them once they were on the road but, no sir, not lugging them up a flight of garden stairs. We had the same difficult access problem at Hollings Farm which was at the bottom of a steep track and in autumn and winter very slippery with wet leaves. Many a vehicle got caught in that trap, starting with the removal vans when we first moved in, it being December.
Last night was also the first night of the annual panegyrie (there is no way of spelling that word in English, not according to my spell check anyway) at Litsarda, village about three or four kilometres away. We usually go to it and Chris desperately wanted to go again last night but both Douglas and I were too fagged so this year it was given a miss. Every year it seems to have become more famous and grown so that last year cars lined the road in both directions for more than half mile down either side and at midnight, we don’t usually stay much after that although it goes on for a few hours yet, people will still be standing around hoping for a table. The Greeks can eat into the early hours. The food is basic Cretan, lots of meat, pilafi and salads. The band is very loud. What did the Greeks do before the advent of the mike and amplification? About eleven the dancing starts – Greek dancing of course. Money made is for the use of the village. Sad to give it a miss but there’s always next year – hopefully!
This evening we have invited our Italian holidaymaker friends from Milan around for drinks. Maurizio, Mikki, and two kids, Vanya and Janice, only this year there is an extra boy, presumably a friend of Vanya’s. The family have given Crete a miss the last two or three years and it is amazing what those years can do to a kid growing up. If I had passed Vanya in the street I simply wouldn’t have recognised him.
Today is also the feast of the Dormition, a religious festival going back as far as the year 600 and, as Mary’s ascent into heaven is celebrated, churches throughout Greece will be packed and everywhere else deserted. It is a most important feast day in the Orthodox Church.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Victoria and Albert

What is it about the Mona Lisa that she attracts violent attacks from weirdos? The latest evidently is some Russian woman who threw a cup at her and was immediately pounced upon and whisked off to an asylum. Previously the painting had been stoned and on another occasion had acid thrown over her but fortunately she is well protected behind her bullet proof glass. My first thought on seeing the Mona Lisa many years ago was that she was so much smaller than I had imagined from illustrations. Many many years ago also a man evidently threatened to attack paintings by Picasso at an exhibition in the Victoria and Albert but that was probably because Picasso was a new and strange phenomenon that simply deranged his already deranged mind a bit further. Or maybe he came to the conclusion there was an obscene hidden message somewhere that needed to be eradicated. Who knows? He was ejected pretty promptly of course, umbrella and all, but wasn’t sent to an asylum. The English obviously have more sang froid than their French counterparts. I’m rather surprised someone didn’t try to muck up Tracey’s bed when it was on display but then that was such a mess anyway who would want to touch it, not even with an umbrella? What really excited me in the Louvre was the Venus de Milo, even without arms she is beautiful, and the winged Nike, so impressive.
There must be something atavistic about this desire in some people to destroy. Travelling from Kalami to Xania yesterday morning I noticed even more of the huge road signs have been senselessly defaced by what is obviously political graffiti with its symbols and letters 13 and 7. As no one else can understand the meaning of these hieroglyphics what is the point? What goes through the minds(?) of people who, presumably under cover of darkness, pull up at the side of a highway just to spray black paint over expensive signs that sooner or later will have to be replaced; probably only to be sprayed on again?
Attempting to destroy paintings or spraying arcane symbols about the place though are as nothing compared to the destructive power of brain washed mindless mobs. Brain washed is not a good description. Brain destroyed is more apt. Evidently in a corner of Pakistan a Muslim mob went on the rampage attacking members of the minority Christian community because there was a rumour that the Christians at a wedding had torn up pages of the Koran. Evidently they had torn up pieces of paper as pretend money but it was not pages of the Koran. The result, apart from the physical attacks, destruction and, of course the looting, was six members of a family deliberately burnt alive in their house.
Where was Allah the all merciful when this was going on? And it will go on going on while there are Mullahs and Ayatollahs and priests and preachers and evangelists preaching hatred in the name of their ridiculous god beliefs, perverting and inflaming impressionable minds.
Will the Taliban ever be defeated? Somehow I don’t think so. For every Taliban leader killed by an American drone, another will take his place. Will Afghanistan ever be anything other than a lawless country? Somehow I don‘t think so. These are tribal people who still think as tribal people. They are not mentally part of the twenty first century and European nations have no right or reason to be there as the Russians and, in the nineteenth century, the British, learnt to their cost. It will just cost more lives, more money, and more terrorism and go on for years. What is the point?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Books, books, books – How many books are available on Amazon? Well there’s my three for starters tee-hee-hee. Chris and Douglas went over to the Unwin’s a couple of days ago and Douglas borrowed three books for me – THE BRUTAL ART by Jesse Kellerman, THE LUMINOUS LIFE OF LILLY APHRODITE by Beatrice Colin (sounds interesting!) and THE SIEGE BY Helen Dunmore. Jenny’s as good as a public library. On top of that, the Baxters came for drinks Sunday evening and Ursula brought me PAST IMPERFECT BY Julian Fellowes, another 500 pages, and I am only half way through John Ghrisham’s KING OF TORT so there is plenty of reading to hand. Oh, I also started on Gore Vidal’s CREATION but that is truly massive and a pick it up now and again book I think. I didn’t know what “Tort” was until starting in on Grisham’s book and he, being a lawyer, I have to presume knows exactly what he is talking about and it is an incredible insight into the workings of tort lawyers in America. What a bizarre world! It’s a whole other planet. And Katie Price aka Jordan has brought out another book of chic-lit (ghost written?) pornography (so I am informed – I haven’t read it but like disgusted of East Cheam or Tunbridge Wells or wherever am putting in my pennyworth) which evidently will fly off the bookshop shelves, make her even richer and titillate a million or more tiny minds.
At the same time I read that British novelist Stanley Middleton dies at 89 having in his lifetime written 44 books. FORTY-FOUR BOOKS! That is a hell of a lot of writing, not one have I read and in fact, until I saw this obit in The Athens News, I had never even heard of Stanley Middleton. I should think, someone correct me if I’m wrong, that Mister Middleton’s combined output never made the money that just one of Katie Price’s books has made. It certainly is a bizarre world.
Apart from all the books mentioned I have been requested to read the English translations of the Greek scripts for the proposed television series of Victoria Hislop’s THE ISLAND and comment on them (!) so will do that before I even finish learning all about American lawyers suing large corporations for billions.
As this seems to be all about reading one last piece of news. Many years ago, I hate to think how many, I wrote a musical, book and lyrics, called BLACK MARIA and it has been languishing in the script cupboard ever since, but the other day I took it out and reread it and it just has to be the ‘feel good’ musical of all time. Okay, so it is an old-fashioned book show but old-fashioned book shows are being constantly revived these days and not everyone is a rock fan. And, okay, it is a simplistic plot (one of the eight) boy gets girls, boy loses girl, boys gets girl, but it is an unusual setting and does have, as all good musicals should,a sub-plot. Reading it again I couldn’t believe, pardon me while I blow my own trumpet, that I was so young when I wrote it. Anyway, to cut a long story short as they say I was so taken with it I have spent the last three or four days typing it into this machine with a little polishing as I went along. Now, the question is, what do I do with it? Getting a new musical produced as I know, I’ve written six, takes an act of God in convocation with all His archangels.
We mailed my play ROSEMARY to Vanessa Redgrave’s agent last week but I’m not too sure it wasn’t yet more waste of postage. They won’t have got the script yet, I think, because there has been a postal strike but anyway, Ms Redgrave is in Italy filming and Eileen Atkins is trying to persuade her to go into a play with her. It’s all happening as they say.
Anyone want to premiere a smash hit musical?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

It’s a strange and the saddest feeling watching a beloved (and that is not too strong a word) pet slowly dying. It’s almost a year since we thought Sweeney had had it but she is still with us only now it seems she can’t stay upright for more than a minute or two or, apart from eating, spending her time tottering from one sleeping place to another and the position in which she lies you have to look really close to make sure she’s still breathing and hasn’t gone. She likes lying under my desk where she is right now and has a snuggle in the breakfast room and at night she sleeps with Douglas. This means he has to get up very early as, being incontinent , she wants to go out and, being incontinent, she wears pampers at night just in case and they have to come off. In the heat of summer she will sometimes lie on the tiled kitchen floor or try to find another cool place which isn’t easy. She smells and Douglas shaved off her hind feathers as she tended sometimes to foul them with urine. She’s well over fifteen years old now and you expect her to go not in a day or an hour but in a minute. My sister, Ceri, is right, you get a pup and somewhere down the years you’re buying heartache. She was bought from the Halifax RSPCA as a birthday present for Douglas all those years ago and is our last link with Yorkshire and Hollings Farm. I think I might have said all this in an earlier blog. I know she won’t be the first pet over which I’ve howled my eyes out at the end but it doesn’t make it any easier. Fortunately she doesn’t seem to be in any pain and Michael, the vet said just to leave it be and let it take its natural course. I don’t think any of us realised how long that natural course would be. She is virtually blind, deaf, and sometimes when you wake her up totally disorientated so that she doesn’t know in which direction to walk and has to be guided and prodded every step of he way. I am really surprised she hasn’t bumped into obstacles more often. She still knows though when favourite people come to visit. I presume as she can’t really see them that she recognises their scent. I always thought that, after our first dog we had in London, by the name of Natalie, that no other would ever equal her but I reckon Sweeney is on a par. I wonder what goes through her mind. Is she aware of what is happening or just upset that she is so weak these days? She has certainly given us many years of happiness and it is so sad now to see her so frail. Well, guess it comes to all of us sooner or later.
Yesterday, to talk about something as mundane as the weather, was overcast which certainly cooled things down after weeks of searing hot weather, sweaty days and sweaty nights to put it crudely. It is not supposed to rain in August at all but it would be nice if it did. One year it did rain in August. That was when Douglas took the roof off the main building to renew it and it rained chair legs as the Greeks say. Talk about flooding? It certainly took days of mopping up and drying out. Of course it was deliberately timed to happen before he could get the new roof on! Sod’s law!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Blog 27

I can’t leave the hospital without mentioning Douglas’s claim to fame. In order to help pass the time sitting on a hard plastic chair he decided to knit himself another sweater. This created quite a stir, firstly among the nurses and then any number of Cretan ladies from other wards who all came to inspect, nod their approval and go away to tut-tut and nod among themselves; never before had the Cretans seen a man who knitted. Males just do not do that sort of thing. One lady did criticise his technique saying one needle should be held under his armpit but he pointed out that with the length of his arms he would require needles a yard long. He learnt to knit from his father who passed his time at sea with it and he has any number of sweaters that attract approving noises when worn. It’s a pity so many man hours are involved with each hand knitted garment and he has used the knitting machine I inherited from Rex Rainer a couple of times. I don’t think he actually approves of it though.
Doctor Kostas passing by expressed a wish for Douglas to knit him a sweater so Douglas said. ‘Make Glyn well and I’ll knit you one,’ to which Kostas replied ‘Knit me a sweater and I’ll make Glyn well.’
Kostas’ constant answer to any question he couldn’t immediately answer was ‘Be patient.’ I forbore to say I was already a patient, that would have been too obvious. Later, when impatient to leave, the ‘be patient’ turned to ‘be happy.’
With about 3000 people passing in and out of the hospital daily one would imagine more thought would have been given to catering. There is a dining room with a notice on the door reading it is for the sole use of doctors. There is a tiny snack bar and even tinier shop in the basement and a couple of kantinas outside the gates, a bakery further down the road and that is it. If someone could open a proper eatery close by they’d make a fortune. The food served to patients is simply awful (I lost half a stone, about 7 pounds from simply throwing most of it away), the same complaint, my one and only complaint really, that I had when I was hospitalised in Xania. I hope it isn’t the same food that’s served up in the doctors' dining room. The only hot drink of the day was a plastic cup of boiling hot milk with the two tiny slices of commercially packed breakfast toast and jam and that milk really tasted so good. Fortunately I had Douglas to bring me of an evening the occasional hot tea from either the snack bar or from outside – that being the tastiest and never was tea more appreciated.
I did enjoy the four o’clock custard every day though, and I do think that must surely be enough about the hospital.
The stitches (staples rather) came out at the Vamos Health Centre four days ago and they certainly seem an improvement on old-fashioned sutures. Just a “click” as they were snipped and I didn’t feel a thing. The good lady doctor assured me, “You will feel no pain and I have very sensitive hands.” I can vouch for both.
Marie Smith informs me that her husband, Brian went to Heraklion last week to have his pacemaker checked and the surgeon asked if he knew a writer in Vamos, Glyn Idris Jones and when Brian said he did, the surgeon said, ‘I’ve just done his pacemaker,’ and added ‘a wonderful man.’ What I did to warrant such an encomium I will never know. This Glyn Idris bit is fairly recent and is only because there are so many who go by the name of Glyn Jones we needed something to differentiate me from the rest (including the dry cleaners) and there is no other Glyn Idris. On book covers it will still be just plain ordinary old Glyn Jones to keep it the same as has been but inside now it will be my full name, as it is on Amazon etc

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

‘There’s nothing that can’t be corrected,’ Doctor Maria had said as she stood at the foot of my bed. Could anyone have said more welcoming words? I only hope she’s right and that eventually, after October, this breathlessness will be a thing of the past. At the moment it is so frustrating as I am virtually an invalid, not being able to move more than a dozen steps before anapnea. Now isn’t coincidence strange? Anapnea is the Greek word for breath and I learnt it so that I could tell everyone, anyone Greek that is, when asked how I was, ‘then boro na anapnea kala.’ I can’t breathe well. So here I am, my nose deep in yet another Karin Slaughter book, TRIPTYCH – well what else can I do but read or sit at this machine which is developing megrims all of its own, it has a habit of switching itself off whenever it feels like it so I have to save save save as quickly as possible before I am taken by surprise and lose everything, and now when I go to e-mail and put the cursor on SEND AND RECEIVE it goes to DELETED ITEMS instead. It will probably think up some other annoying habit soon – and I come across the word anapnea, a word I had never heard in English before, and no reason why I should as it is obviously used as a medical term.
To matters domestic. I have just for the first time in well over a month, walked around the garden. Somehow I wish I hadn’t, it depressed me so. It is a mess and all I can see is ten years of nurture going wild as plants desperately need cutting back, weeds and wild grasses take over and go to seed and unwanted plants that will soon be large and difficult to get rid of take root. This includes any number of walnut saplings beneath the trees and the brambles are enough to surround Sleeping Beauty’s castle! It couldn’t be helped. I was head gardener until I became incapacitated like from the beginning of this year; returning from England with the chest infection followed by this heart trouble. When we bought the house eleven and a half years ago I was 67. I didn’t think that in so many years time I would be well into my seventies and maybe gardening would no longer be feasible, much as I have enjoyed it. Hopefully when this is all over I might be able to enjoy it again. At the moment who knows? Douglas has too much on his plate at the moment, as does Chris to even think of gardening, apart from making sure plants are kept watered in this searing hot summer.
Well, the wild unwanted things might have flourished but damn me, the vegetable garden has been a big disappointment this year. We’ve had a few cucumbers, a handful of beans, a pound or two of tomatoes and a couple of courgettes but nothing like last year’s bumper crop. Many plants have simply refused to grow and the grapes have withered on the vine. It’s been a year! The avocado is doing well with about fifteen or more fruits and the nut peaches are still there. The fridge-freezer in the kitchen has packed up. Fortunately we have back-up but it’s a long schlep from the pantry to the kitchen, and now the washing machine has given up the ghost. Whatever next?
Next is something to look forward to at least – publication date has been set for my novel THE JOURNEYS WE MAKE – end of October, so it will join the three books already on Amazon. The more the merrier. It’s not a Thornton King. Number three of that series is ready for publication but not yet and I am still working on number four and my South African novel ANGEL is waiting patiently in line.
I wrote all the above a few days ago, since when the man came to repair the freezer only to tell us at a cost of 50euro that there is nothing wrong with it except, like me, it’s suffering from old age! The stitches came out Monday, sorry, staples rather, and yesterday there was a false alarm but more of that another time maybe. Douglas has been up every morning at six to work in the garden until too hot to be outside and has done some wonderful clearing. Hopefully I will be able to add my weight soon. I’m a third of the way through THE CINELLI VASES (Thornton King number 4) and quite like what I’ve written. Can’t get Holly into the picture yet but will find a way. Must find a way.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Manolis number one was a different figure altogether to Manousis. Short and stocky, muscular and black bearded, at first glance one thought, hey I’d hate to tangle with this one, as he swaggered about punching the air, punching the palm of his hand. He didn’t actually go so far as shadow boxing and you realised it was a bit of an act when you saw the grin and twinkle in his eye and realised he was a bit of a joker as well as being what the Greeks call a palakari. We can’t really think of what the English equivalent would be for palakari but maybe the closest definition would be “hero”. His wife, Roula, a little brown hen with thick ankles, losing her hair and a voice like a corncrake - actually I don’t believe I’ve ever seen or heard a corncrake, I just liked that expression - fussed over him like a real mother hen with her chicks. She fetched and carried and to start with, carefully laid out a cloth on top of his locker on which she placed an icon of Madonna and child which looked strangely out of place surrounded by water bottles and fruit juice cartons. Another embroidered cloth was placed on the lower shelf to hold the special goodies she had brought and his pillow supplied with a pretty floral pillowslip. Roula was another chatterbox and I don’t think Manolis heard half of what she said. He would give me a look which meant, what can you do? She slept on the bed with him and hospital beds are not all that wide but it’s something couples do. I gathered he was in for an angiogram but after two days he was suddenly discharged so we had more air punching, much shaking of hands, smiles from Roula and off they went, home to Rethymno. Douglas slept on the middle bed for a couple of nights before moving to his shared room in the hostel.
Manousis meanwhile had made friends, or found an admirer rather, with a visitor from next door, a small rather clown like figure we never saw without his flat cap so that is what we called him, flat cap. He was looking after his sour-faced wife but obviously couldn’t or didn’t intend sharing her bed which meant he would have been sleeping on a chair. So Manousis at two in the morning invited him to take the bed vacated by both Manolis and Douglas. He didn’t stretch out for long though because less than an hour later, nurses arrived with clean linen, chivvied him off, made up the bed and Manolis number two was wheeled in and hooked up to his drip and the oxygen. There’s nothing to say about Manolis number two that I haven’t already said.
The first day I was there a cheery lady came around with a set of steps and took down all the curtains, never to be seen again except laundered, folded, and lying in a storeroom so there was no privacy in the ward for any intimate bodily function. At one point independent Manolis got shakily out of bed, lifted a bottle in a plastic carrier bag and stood facing my bed to urinate. I dutifully closed my eyes but couldn’t resist a peek to see how he was doing. He kept everything well and truly hidden inside the plastic bag. At one point in the night a doctor arrived at his bedside, turned him on his side and, liberally covering his gloved hand with lubricating jelly, shoved two fingers fairly forcibly up uncomplaining Manolis’s bum before covering him up again.. Why, do you suppose, as nothing else seemed to take place?
And talking of doctors, I have to mention young Doctor Kostas who seemed to be here, there and everywhere, at everyone’s beck and call at all hours of the day and night. One night he responded to a call form Manousis at about midnight, having been seen around all day, and nine o’clock the following morning there he was again.
‘Kostas,’ as he passed my bed, ‘don’t you ever go home?’
A couple of minutes later on his way back (to Manousis’ bed of course) ‘Kostas, do you have a home to go to?’
A short while later he stopped by to say he was leaving for two weeks holiday and then, rather shyly I thought, informed me he was getting married. He was quite chuffed at my enthusiastic congratulations. Chris and Douglas had suggested we give him a copy of NO OFFICIAL UMBRELLA and he was even more chuffed about that. He went straight down to the desk to log on the internet and find out all about me, coming back to the ward with the print-outs. ‘Is that you? Is that you?’
Yep – that’s me. Phone numbers were exchanged. I wonder if we will ever use them.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

I suppose while I am still incapacitated now is as good a time as any to carry on with writing Thornton number four. The problem is I’m not very good at researching on Google and I need to know a lot more about the territory where I have placed the story, particularly the road between Pisa and Geneva.
So let’s go back to hospital and my brief companions. The corridors of the cardiac unit are decorated with prints of impressionist paintings, chiefly Monet, but the wards have no decoration except for a small, six by six inch icon in a candle holder of St George slaying his dragon and below it a notice in Greek reminding you to pick up your IKA book before you leave.
Manousis, the ex-policeman, who I presume had a history of heart problems otherwise why would he be in the unit? also evidently had kidney problems and looked nine months pregnant due to the retention of fluid, lying on his back with his swollen water melon belly. Sometimes he had the most harrowing cough that went off like a gun being fired and was most distressing, accompanied by gasping for breath and the bringing up of phlegm. Sitting up and wearing the oxygen mask usually quietened it down. In the early hours of my last night there I was woken by an explosion like the shattering of a sheet of glass and looked across the ward to see Manousis standing with parts of the oxygen mask in either hand. He had obviously turned the oxygen up instead of down with the mask still on his face and that was the result. This is presumption on my part but would explain what happened. He looked like a startled bunny anyway, which was hardly surprising.
Manousis was used to ordering people around, including doctors, (who didn’t put up with it for long), his family when they came to visit, other visitors, like Chris, ordered to leave my bedside and cross over to open the outside door. Douglas on more than one occasion ordered to set the television to rights, and I when up was not excluded from this aspect of his character. Shut the door, open the door, turn off the light, call the nurse, the air-conditioning is too cold. One occasion I didn’t leap to obey his bidding fast enough or hadn’t understood the command, the Cretan dialect can be so thick, and was rewarded with “Malaka!” He obviously thought that as my Greek is pretty limited I wouldn’t know the word – wanker. For the next couple of days I totally ignored him which I could see infuriated him and anyway, with my limited Greek, I was hardly the brightest of conversationalist to begin with so, when able, he would schlep over to the balcony door or the corridor to find someone to yak with. If there had been a real emergency I would have responded.
Now he was walking about. The blue silk pyjamas were changed for silvery-grey ones the trousers of which worried me to death as they were far too long for him and dragged horribly on the floor as he trod on them .As the hacking cough seemed to be somewhat on the wane, except possibly to draw attention – Manousis, you would have gathered by now had to be continually the centre of attention – he suddenly developed symptoms elsewhere. For example, with hideous moan he suddenly collapsed onto a chair clutching his back, one hand quivering supposedly uncontrollably, evidently in dire agony. Nurses rushed in to assist him back to bed where he continued to make a fuss. Doctor Kostas gave him an aspirin after which the symptoms subsided. On the mobile phone he was a different person to different callers and Douglas (whose Greek is miles better than mine) said he had developed so many symptoms he was no longer sure what he had said and to whom. If Manolis number one had visitors and Manousis hadn’t he made sure he entered the conversation at the earliest opportunity and as always it seemed he had an awful lot to say. He also garnered assistants from neighbouring wards. When doctors did their rounds, two or three minutes went to the middle bed, two or three minutes went to me and thirty minutes went to Manousis, Their frustration with him was obvious but then, as the Greeks say, ti na kanoume – what can we do?