Monday, November 30, 2009

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

Saturday, November 28, 2009

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

Thursday, November 26, 2009

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

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

Sunday, November 22, 2009

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

Friday, November 20, 2009

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

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

Monday, November 16, 2009

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

Saturday, November 14, 2009

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

Thursday, November 12, 2009

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Blog 21

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

Sunday, November 8, 2009

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

Friday, November 6, 2009

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

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

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

Monday, November 2, 2009

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