Thursday, December 31, 2009

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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

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

Sunday, December 27, 2009

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

Thursday, December 24, 2009

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

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

Sunday, December 20, 2009

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

Friday, December 18, 2009

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

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

Monday, December 14, 2009

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

Saturday, December 12, 2009

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

Thursday, December 10, 2009

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

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

Sunday, December 6, 2009

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

Friday, December 4, 2009

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

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

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