Monday, November 29, 2010

“The northern lights were flashing overhead, shooting long lines of roseate glory towards the zenith, as if some unseen angel’s hand were (sic!) stringing heaven’s own harp. But the full chord which flowed beneath its touch was light instead of music.”
This rather florid piece of writing is from a book called ‘Lost In The Wilds Of Canada’ the author being a lady by the name of Eleanor Stredder. It must have been in the bookshelf a good many years because there is a card inside the cover informing me it came from the Border Bookshop of Todmorden, Lancs. The reason why Chris bought it is as follows – when a lonely little homesick boy of eight at boarding school I read a book called ‘Lost On The Prairie’, it went straight to the heart and I have been looking for that book ever since with absolutely no luck. Chris wondered if I may have been mistaken and ‘Lost In The Wilds Of Canada’ was what I was looking for. Anyway, I finally got around to reading it last week. It is not the book I have been searching for and the writing throughout is as florid as the quote above, though I did actually enjoy it. So who was Eleanor Stredder, a lady I had never heard of (not unusual, there being a million or more writers unheard of) and I imagined her thus: an elderly spinster, possibly a teacher at a girls’ school because she knew nothing at all about boys of fifteen. Her two boys, one English, one French, are so unlike any boys of fifteen I’ve ever known they were simply figments of her imagination, as she thought boys should be. The dialogue she has given them is totally unbelievable. She was Canadian I decided because her knowledge of Canada at the end of the nineteenth century is quite remarkable, including customs and words of the Cree and Blackfoot dialects which I have to accept as being genuine. How did she acquire all this intimate knowledge if she wasn’t Canadian? She didn’t have the internet at her command to look up anything she wanted but I suppose she could have ploughed her way through a number of encyclopaedias. My curiosity aroused I looked up Eleanor Stredder on Google and discovered she was no more Canadian than I am Chinese.
Born on 16 February 1823, in Royston, England, Eleanor Stredder was the daughter of Edward Stredder, an upholsterer, and Mary Stredder (née Abbott).She had one brother William (1822-?), also an upholsterer; and four sisters: Mary, Ann (1827-1895), a schoolmistress, Sarah (1829-1910), an authoress, and Harriet (1837-?). British census records list Eleanor as an upholsterer in 1861, and as an authoress in 1871 and 1881. The same records have her living in Royston until, in 1891, she is listed as living in Hammersmith, London. In 1901 she is listed as living in Whitstable, Kent.
Eleanor was the author of a number of books for children (mainly boys!) and her imagination took her far and wide: ‘Jack And His Ostrich (Africa), Alive In The Jungle (India), The Hermit Princess, A Tale Of Adventure In Japan, Archie’s Find (Australia), Doing And Daring (New Zealand), and of course the Canadian adventure. Her works are still available it seems from specialist bookshops.
How many encyclopaedias could she have looked up I wonder.
Sister Sarah didn’t do things by half either. Of the two novels I’ve come across each is in three volumes!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Jesus had AIDS! If any statement was likely to stir up a hornet’s nest, surely this was it. In a recent Sunday service, Pastor Xola Skosana stunned his congregation in Khayelitsha Township by saying “Today I will start on a three-part sermon, Jesus was HIV positive. Tongues were set wagging in churches throughout South Africa and Christians everywhere were outraged saying he implied Jesus was sexually promiscuous. However, as Pastor Skosana told those gathered in the modest Luhlaza High School hall for his weekly services, in many parts of the Bible Jesus put himself in the position of the destitute, the sick and the marginalised. "Wherever you open the scriptures Jesus puts himself in the shoes of people who experience brokenness. Isaiah 53, for example, clearly paints a picture of Jesus who takes upon himself the infirmities and the brokenness of humanity," he told the BBC. He is also quick to emphasise that he is using the metaphor to highlight the danger of the HIV/Aids pandemic, which still carries a stigma in South Africa's townships. "Of course, there's no scientific evidence that Jesus had the HIV virus in his bloodstream," says the pastor, whose non-denominational Hope for Life Ministry is part of a growing charismatic movement in South Africa. "The best gift we can give to people who are HIV-positive is to help de-stigmatise Aids and create an environment where they know God is not against them, he's not ashamed of them. “Pastor Skosana has certainly got the country talking. He has been in the ministry for 24 years and has lost two sisters to Aids. He argues that religious leaders have to play a much bigger role in combating the spread of the pandemic in South Africa where more than 5.7 million people live with the virus - more than in any other country. And he concluded the last of his three-part sermon by taking an HIV test in front of the congregation - after which 100 churchgoers followed his example. Amid the controversy, Reverend Siyabulela Gidi, the director of South African Council of Churches in the Western Cape, has come out in support of Pastor Skosana, saying his standpoint is theologically correct. Outside religious circles, Pastor Skosana has also received support from Aids activists. "The pastor's sermon takes away the stigma that HIV is a sin and that it's God's punishment," says Vuyiseka Dubula, general secretary of the powerful Aids lobby group Treatment Action Campaign. “To associate Jesus with HIV is powerful, particularly for those who go to church. Now people are starting to think: 'If Jesus could be HIV-positive who am I not to have it even if I go to church?’ The more we talk about it in our pulpits, the more we ask people to test voluntarily in the church the better. One of the most powerful things we can do as a church right now is to say Jesus was and is HIV-positive."
Is it possible that the pastor’s words have got through to the Vatican when at last the Pope is admitting that in certain circumstances the use of condoms is permissible to prevent the spread of AIDS. At least it’s a step in the right direction however guarded the comment might be. The door of common sense has been slightly opened.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sad news. It would seem we don’t have our old cat Rousell with us very much longer. For some days now she hasn’t been eating properly; picks at the food for a couple of mouthfuls and then gives up so, as something was definitely wrong and it wasn’t teeth because she could chew on a biscuit, she was taken to the vet a couple of days ago and diagnosed with the feline equivalent of AIDS! Or at least that is how Michael put it. The glands in her neck are swollen which is why she hasn’t been eating as, after the first few mouthfuls, it becomes too painful. Anyway, he has given her a cortisone/antibiotic injection but no one really knows how long it will last before it all starts up again. She has always taken an inordinately long time to eat but at least she did eat before now. After the accident with Sweeney when she was a kitten no bigger than a handful we really should have lost her then but, as she survived and we think of her as our miracle cat, it will be very sad to lose her now. At the moment she is absolutely starving. Follows you around begging silently for food but whatever you put down for her she sniffs and turns away. I’ve tried everything I can think of.
Having mentioned the stripping of olive groves and the French vineyards here is a humdinger. Police in Iraklieo have reported ten tonnes of cheese have been taken from a three story building. The thieves evidently got in through the basement. Ten tonnes! A few questions spring to mind like who thought of it in the first place? How many men were involved? How long did it take? What kind of vehicle or vehicles did they have to transport that amount of cheese? Above all where do they expect to unload that amount without creating suspicion and before it all starts to go off?
The very last piece about the William/Kate saga: headed “A very British Royal
Wedding… and the bride wore a burka” Littlejohn in The Mail has written a complete full page send-up encapsulating most of what is wrong with Britain today. I thought, by the way, that burka was spelt with an H, thus - bhurka but never mind. “The couple rejected the idea of marrying in Westminster Abbey and opted instead for the Finsbury Park Mosque. Sheik Abu Hamsa, dangling the wedding ring from his diamond encrusted left hook, pronounced the infidel couple ‘man and chattel’ and prayed for jihad. The couple sold exclusive rights to Hello Magazine for a reputed £200million. ‘The star-spangled guest list included Lord and Lady Beckham, Sir Steven Fry … Mister Wayne Rooney and two prostitutes he picked up in the bar of the Marriot Hotel.’ Then follows a lengthy list of celebs, VIPs, fifteen minute wonders and wannabes, the list ending with Robert Mugabe. Sarah Palin turned up at London, Ontario by mistake. Street parties and fireworks were cancelled on ‘elf and safety grounds as was the twenty-one gun salute and the fly by by the Royal Air Force as they didn’t actually have any aircraft.
The full article is far too long but I wonder, if anyone is interest in reading it, whether it is on the internet – The Daily Mail, Friday November 19.
I should think the Mail’s lawyers had to do a complete vetting job.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Continuing the William/Kate saga – can one use the word saga for a future event? A senior Labour councillor from Bury, Manchester, by the name of Mike Connolly on Facebook said he hoped these multi-millionaire parasites were paying for their own wedding. Hmn… At the same time William was in a helicopter helping to rescue a stranded walker on Mount Snowdon, hardly the trait of a parasite but never mind, some people’s tongues run away with them before they put their mind in gear. The good councillor immediately apologised for his remark so why make it in the first place? One must accept the fact that the Windsors in many quarters are not all that popular, not in the way George Vl and the Queen Mother were or even the current queen. I wonder what she makes of all this? Haven’t read any comments from her. She’s probably so fed up with her eldest son, the disastrous marriage of the golf playing one, and the night club cavorting of William’s younger brother, I wouldn’t be surprised if she just locked herself away somewhere and threw away the key. It has been a long and illustrious reign, a pity that the new generations have come along to tarnish it.
Neither have I read any interviews with the descendant of the line of Durham miners but in all this brouhaha I can’t help but think of what this must be like for her. Is it a dream come true or is it a nightmare? Like someone winning an enormous amount of lottery money, not knowing what to do with it, and finding their whole lives are changed but very much for the worse. To suddenly live with the idea that her daughter might one day be England’s queen, from being an ordinary university student to a player on the world’s main stage? It beggars belief, so much so I wonder if mother isn’t black and blue from pinching herself to make sure she’s awake. Life can never ever be the same. How does she address her future son-in-law? Is it Your Royal Highness or just plain William?
As for the 10000 blue bloods in Burke’s Peerage who’ve missed out, is it going to be absolutely too galling to have to bend the knee to a commoner? And what about Kate herself? Remembering the beautiful Diana’s short unhappy life is she really going to fit in and be happy in what Jan Moir refers to as ‘this dysfunctional family’?
‘In her day of days as the camera flashes exploded around her she looked like a sacrificial Snow White served up to the Windsor family on a platter. Will they eat her heart? Or will she yet prosper and thrive?’ One can only hope the latter.’ This could easily have been written all those years ago about the smiling Princess Diana on her day of days.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

No Digby. Friday Chris and Douglas went down to the beach taking Merrill with them to see how the dogs would get along, (quite well evidently) but discovered The Doberman had disappeared leaving Digby alone with the second dog. As the two of them seem to have bonded they thought it would be unfair to take Digby away leaving the dog on his own so, having fed them, they came home. All a bit like “The Lady and The Tramp” really.
So a fairy tale comes true: Cinderella, Beauty, and all the other poor common or garden heroines in fiction who pined after a prince would be happy to know that Kate Middleton has cornered her man and the future queen of England, to be known as Catharine, is ever so common, couldn’t be more so. Yes, Prince William is marrying a commoner, his girl friend of a number of years and his churlish father when asked for his opinion said ‘well they’ve had enough practice.’ Oh, boy! It is an unusual event to say the least and Charles Mosley, a previous editor of Burke’s Peerage, is evidently not in the least bit amused. ‘She is not in Burke’s Peerage,’ he huffed. ‘Her mother comes from a long line of Durham County miners’ so he doesn’t think it is at all suitable. ‘There are a 120000 people in Burke’s. If you take out the men, the married, or the too old that would still leave 10000 for Prince William to choose from.’ Of course there could have been a precedent. Had Wallace not been a divorcee she might very well have been queen but the Church of England would not have it, it was strictly against the rules. Now a divorced man (soon to be king?) marries a divorced woman (soon to be queen?) and nobody thinks too much of it though there is evidently some talk about the legitimacy of the marriage. Oh, boy! In fact already the cry goes out for Charles to step aside and let William inherit the glory though no longer the power. It’s been many a year since a monarch could chop people’s heads off with impunity. These days that is up to dictators and religious fanatics.
Naturally the media is awash with matrimonial stories, some of them so trivial as to make one wince and the whole country, the whole world it would seem is simply agog with it all. There is breathless speculation as to who is to design the bride’s dress, David Cameron is going to make the wedding day a public holiday and I should think the commemorative plates, mugs and tea towels are being churned out by the thousands. All that is still needed at this moment in time as the saying goes is the actual date.
I am not an anti-royalist but I am beginning to think the whole concept of kings and queens a much outmoded fashion. Quite fascinating to read the vast amounts of rent Charles receives for buildings on any of his land. If I had a penny for every pound I would be as rich as Croesus.

Friday, November 19, 2010

I am positive with each passing year time accelerates. Yesterday evening saw the end of Ron’s visit when Chris and Douglas took him to the airport and it seemed as though he had hardly been here at all. Admittedly his visit was only five days but it was gone in a flash. What a journey! Xania to Athens, Athens to Singapore, Singapore to Melbourne and he doesn’t arrive there until tomorrow night.
I thought by today we might have had a new puppy. I know we agreed not to take on any more animals but on Monday the guys took Ron to Georgopolous and there were three stray dogs on the beach. The first two, both dogs were quite large although obviously still in the puppy stage. The first one was sort of a Doberman cross, the second not quite as large but the third was a bitch and small. Douglas immediately took her to heart, so much to that I said okay to fetch her home but so far there hasn’t really been an opportunity. Maybe today. He even gave her a name – Digby! Digby? That’s a girl’s name? Somehow I think it might suit her. Anyway, if she is to be rescued it will have to be soon, before she comes into season for the first time otherwise there will be more unwanted puppies on the beach. We have received the following e-mail you might like to take notice of –

Can you circulate this around especially as Xmas is fast approaching - it has been confirmed by Royal Mail. The Trading Standards Office are making people aware of the following scam:
A card is posted through your door from a company called PDS (Parcel Delivery Service) suggesting that they were unable to deliver a parcel and that you need to contact them on 0906 6611911 (a Premium rate number).

DO NOT call this number, as this is a mail scam originating from Belize.

If you call the number and you start to hear a recorded message you will already have been billed £315 for the phone call. If you do receive a card with these details, then please contact Royal Mail Fraud on 020 7239 6655.

For more information, see the Crime Stoppers website:

Who would be a school teacher in the UK? There has been big moans that there is a dearth of male teachers so in consequence no role models for small boys, but who can blame them for not wanting to put up with the complete lack of discipline, the possibility of false accusations against them, the threat of being sued for some supposed misdemeanour, even the possibility of physical attack and the rules and regulations that must surely be making teachers’ lives hell? Chris’s cousin, Jenny, has recently retired from a lifetime of teaching and, dedicated though she was, even she was complaining of conditions: the fact that if she wanted to take kids on an outing for example there were so many questions on health and safety to answer and forms to sign it was a complete disincentive. Also the ‘no touch’ rule. Teachers are afraid of touching a pupil in case it is considered assault, sexual or otherwise. So two kids could be knocking the living daylights out of each other and the teacher can’t intervene. A kid needs comforting for some reason or other and the teacher can’t physically do anything about it. But now I read that the no touch rule is seemingly a myth according to the new education secretary. Teachers would be given some anonymity when faced with allegations from pupils. The National Union of Teachers has welcomed his comments saying teachers need clear rules on how to handle classroom indiscipline. But, oh lord, here we go again! The Children’s Rights Alliance for England said giving school staff more powers could breach human rights and child protection laws. But teachers are worried that if they assert a degree of discipline one maverick pupil will say, ‘I know my rights.’
The secretary, Mr Gove, said ‘At the moment if you want to become au fait with what the department thinks on how to keep order in the classroom you have to read the equivalent of War and Peace. There are over 500 pages of guidance on discipline and another 500 on bullying. Like I said, who would want to be a teacher?


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Still on the subject of elections, in the recent Swedish elections thousands of people staged a protest in the capital, Stockholm, against the election to parliament of 20 members of a far-right party. They waved banners and shouted slogans criticising the Sweden Democrats, who oppose immigration and have been accused of racism and intolerance. A crowd of about 6,000 protesters, according to local police, took part in the demonstration shouting "No to racism!" There was another, smaller demonstration in Gothenburg. The protests started within hours of the news that the Sweden Democrats, had won 20 seats.
On the Monday morning, a few hundred people gathered in front of government buildings in the city to express their disgust that what they describe as a racist political party now sits in parliament By the evening, thousands had joined them, filling entire blocks of the city centre.
"It is very important to show that the big majority of the Swedish population is against the right-wing extremists like the Sweden Democrats," one of the participants, Per Branevige said. (6000 people are a majority of the Swedish population?) Reports say the spontaneous demonstration was organized mainly through social networking sites such as Facebook and by word of mouth. If it was organized it could hardly be spontaneous.
The Sweden Democrats seem to have appeared to have tapped into voter dissatisfaction over immigration with the result undermining the image of Sweden as a tolerant and open-minded country.
The spontaneous organised demonstration can hardly be called tolerant and open-minded. Democracy is obviously what you make of it. If you don’t like somebody’s politics even though they have been democratically elected, demonstrate your disapproval. In Greece the demonstration too often results in a riot usually blamed on a few trouble makers.
There have been times of course when those who have been democratically elected should not have been but that’s the way it goes.
Newspapers seemed surprised by the fact that a populist/anti-immigration party made it into parliament. Every politician has, in some way, expressed his or her feelings of shock. This is despite the fact that everyone saw it coming. The parties have undoubtedly been calculating on the event, even as they refused to answer questions on which coalitions could be formed if the Sweden Democrats were to enter the Riksdag. For decades, the Sweden Democrats have been on the rise in the polls. No-one has taken this threat seriously - the only response has been to "demonise", not only the party, but more importantly the people who consider voting for them.

There has been lots of talk about challenging the Sweden Democrats and their views. But in reality these actions have never taken the form of intelligent debate - just finger-pointing. The SD was handed the underdog position, and has used it to its advantage in every way. Being marginalized for decades has worked in its favour, compared to other populist parties, which usually rise and fall again quickly. Twenty seats though hardly seems the end of the world for Sweden and with the flood of immigrants into Europe the tolerance pendulum was bound to swing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A welcome piece of news from the states – students of the Theatre Fraternity (Alpha Psi Omega) at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, have decided to do a reading of my play ‘Third Drawer From The Top.’ This was the second play I wrote when working in America and I call it my Neil Simon play as it is really an outrageous comedy, almost a farce.
It came about because of a visit I made to a small Presbyterian university in the mid-west and the cast consists mainly of students with two older characters so in a way it is ideal for students. Will they see themselves in it? I wonder. It is the fourth play of mine to be produced in the states.
Our visitor Ron arrived from Australia and after some days of beautiful weather he has arrived with the rain, or the rain has arrived with him. It has rained non-stop for two days now. It is raining as I type.
Yesterday was voting day but, because of the weather, cold and very wet, I didn’t go. The others did however and my little vote wasn’t missed as you can see.

Good Morning Everyone!
We Won!
Scenes of jubilation, dancing, Hugging, fireworks, ( err and the usual gunfire...) on the streets last night - I have never seen anything like it - (Not even when Greece won the European football!)
Thank you everyone who voted for us,
Thank you those of you that helped us get our message out.
We fought a clean campaign, we have an excellent team and a leader with vision.
We are here for all of you whether you voted for us or not.
Now the work really begins!!
We will get details out to you of the voting and the make up of the new council as soon as we can.
Thank you all again Helen, Sifi, Nikos, Vangelis, Stamatis, and all the team across Apokoronas,

Congratulations Helen et all.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A phone call from Reyna, our neighbour in Athens. Oh, dear, a problem? No. She just wanted to tell us that she is once more taking over looking after the block of flats. When Chris first bought the flat and for a long while after she was sort of house mother as it were but then she got a bit tired of it so the maintenance was farmed out to a commercial company who will not be doing it anymore. It is not that they did anything wrong but obviously with the recession everyone is pulling in horns and it has been decided the expense can’t be sustained. I wonder how many other blocks of flats have decided to save on the expense and exactly how much of an adverse effect it will have on the company. Driving into Souda last Friday two things struck me; I’ve probably mentioned this before but all the road signs are defaced with meaningless political slogans, meaningless that is except to the idiots who belong to whatever terrorist group is responsible. Some have been so covered in black spray paint they are almost illegible. This graffiti is sheer vandalism. The second thing that struck me is the number of shops and businesses that have closed in the month since we last drove along the Souda Road and the premises left empty. The ‘To Let’ signs are everywhere. Another sign of the recession. There is an exception – yet another Chinese shop has opened opposite the two mega ones already in existence and the one in Kalyves makes it four.
Talking of graffiti The Athens News has done a whole article on it and evidently much of the major stuff is not down to a single individual but is a team effort. The problem is these guys are seldom caught and where a blank wall say is covered in what can only be called a work of art, well that is fine. It’s the mindless scribblings that deface surfaces everywhere that are so ugly.
For example, there is a wall in Athens that is decorated in black and white with enormous portraits of Laurel and Hardy that is really beautifully done and is something to look at with admiration. Unfortunately people have already started to deface it with their initials. Yes, I am fully aware that graffiti has always been with us but, like the New York subway, zero tolerance is required here.
In New York once I saw someone had written words to the effect of ‘down with graphiti’ and someone had added, ‘if you don’t like graffiti learn to spell it properly.’
What Athens needs, and I presume other Greek cities, is someone to paint pictures on squashed chewing gum. Yes, indeedy, Athens streets are covered in the stuff and there is a guy in England who carries his large box of paints round the streets of London, find a piece of squashed chewing gum he likes, lies down and paints a picture on it. Well, it sure takes all kinds, doesn’t it? I wonder what could have given him the idea in the first place.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Looking at the amount of paper used in the elections and thinking of how much must have been used nationally both in sheets and envelopes, I wonder how many trees had to bite the dust to provide it. People’s ideas on economics seem to be very strange. Greece is billions and billions of Euro in debt but Athens is to get a new metro line at the cost of more billions that surely must add to the debt and I wonder just how much these elections cost. When the Euro came into being it was decided it would have no plural, just Euro and Euro, not Euros and it always sounds strange. I suppose the reason was that as it is the currency of so many countries and the grammar of each country is different, there would be no universal plural anyway. Sounds logical. What would it be in Greek? Well first of all it has to be decided if the Euro is masculine, feminine, or neuter What would its plural be in Greek Eurea? (not very nice sounding) Eures? Ah well, I suppose life goes on its merry merry unfathomable way. Evidently next Sunday the voting will be much simpler: just two pieces of paper this time and you don’t even have to put a mark on them. You decide which party you want to vote for and simply put their sheet in the envelope. It was the communist party, the KKE that got knocked out. I have to hand it to them, they do try hard even if they never get anywhere, and if they did get anywhere would they know what to do when they got there? That is a big question.
Evidently there were already some nasty goings on and chicanery last Sunday, in Almerida and Plaka, two areas inundated with Brits and other assorted Europeans who were either intimidated or locked out of their respective polling stations for a while, so I am told. I don’t know how true this is but one has to ask, is Greece a third rate country? It’s the kind of thing one hears about in Africa for example, Iran, Afghanistan, the Balkans, but Greece? As far as the quality of life is concerned, according to the United Nations Human Development Index (there’s a mouthful look you as a Welshman might say) Greece is listed at 22, the UK at 26. Norway heads the list so why doesn’t everybody want to go and live in Norway? Norwegians in fact are coming to Greece, so are the Russians.
Wax mats! Have you heard of wax mats? They are little squares of irresistible something or other for rats and they contain poison. You put them under the roof. Douglas and Chris discovered them while out shopping the other day. Again perhaps a nasty way to go but at least our consciences are clear with the failure of the glue pads.
Also discovered was a special insect spray. We were at our wits end with the plague of flies, all due to the weather we’re informed. Ordinary fly spray is fine if you can use it where there is no food or surfaces on which food is prepared. This one evidently you spray on walls and floors. After only a few days a new fly paper went up and within minutes caught its first victims.
The first mandarin of the year- being windfall not quite ripe so not as sweet as it could be. The tree is doing so well, the biggest crop of mandarins ever. The wind has been so fierce I’m rather surprised there haven’t been more on the ground.

PS: Because of the number of Brits living in Plaka, the Baxter kids renamed it “Upper Plaka Garden City”. I’m so glad we didn’t buy there.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It would seem there are even more theatre revivals in London’s West End. They’re being brought out of mothballs because West End managements seem totally unwilling these days to try out new works. New plays are presented only at theatres like The National or The Royal Court. Apart from the musicals, Chicago, Sweet Charity, Little Shop of Horrors etc., we have a spate of old plays from J.B.Priestly, Clifford Odetts, Lillian Hellmann, Ira Levin. Good plays admittedly but why so many revivals? One expects continuous revivals of Coward or Wilde, these plays are perennial classics but somehow it seems tragic that new work is being ignored in favour of so many oldies. And what guarantee is there that today’s audience is going to be any more interested in these than in new works?
For weeks now in Greece it has been nothing but elections. Our friend Helen, who is standing as a candidate, has been sending out daily bulletins by e-mail and on Sunday we duly went up to the school, our polling station, to cast our votes. The elections are for regional positions and municipal, 13 governors and 325 mayors and the procedure is the most complicated, and not very democratic you could come across.
There were three parties standing (one has been knocked out) and you were allowed five votes so, after you’ve been registered, you’re handed four sheets of paper. I say sheets because on the one we voted for there were 55 names!!! The others were almost as long except for the fourth which is blank. Now the reason for this is, if you don’t wish to cast a vote for anyone, you can slip the blank paper in the envelope provided because, if you don’t, it will be presumed your votes will go to the party that has the majority. Work that one out. We voted for Helen and Manolis our local taxi driver as the only two people we knew. We would have voted for the up to now mayor of Vamos, Leonardis, but here is the rub: having voted for the first two who are both in the same party we weren’t allowed to vote for Leonardis who is standing for the second party and we couldn’t vote for anyone in the third party. In other words we were not voting in individuals but voting for parties.
The reason for these elections is a new idea that has been formulated. You can’t fault the Greeks when it comes to new ideas; it’s like the law, you think you know what it is only to find that yesterday it was changed. This new idea is keep the mayors and councils of every piddling little village, and there are many, but have regional governors in overall charge, in our case for the whole of Apokoronas. I don’t know exactly how big Apokoronas is but it must be about the size of West Yorkshire or maybe a bit bigger.
Up to now Vamos has been the capital of the area but, if this election goes the way some want it to, that honour will be transferred to Vrysses, a town about ten kilometres away. God alone knows why when Vamos has all the machinery for local government.
Before voting we asked out friend Georgia who she thought we should vote for but she was scathing enough to say nobody. She has been a councillor in Vamos since the last election and completely disillusioned with politicians and, as far as she is concerned, whoever gets in now, this new lot will be just as bad as the old. I have no doubt a few of them see it as an opportunity of lining their own pockets.
We saw a number of old friends at the polling station and, when we questioned the Greeks, they seemed to be of the same opinion as Georgia. As our friend Menues pointed out he didn’t even know most of the people on the lists so who was it best to vote for?
As it turns out, two parties are neck to neck (I think the communists were knocked out from the first round) so we are expected to vote again this Sunday which I am sure we will do, exactly the same as last Sunday no doubt.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Have just finished reading a thriller by a writer I didn’t know, ‘Cause For Alarm’ by Erica Spindler who has evidently written a number of the same genre. It’s one of those books left behind by holiday makers. Not as good a writer as Karen Slaughter, if I had read one more time of ‘eyebrows knitted together’ or hearts ‘thundering’ I think I would have screamed, but she can certainly spin a good yarn. Had me hooked from the very first page but more important I really empathised with the characters and though I was dying to know how it would end was never tempted to cheat, so maybe that is a sign of good writing. I still say though if the same phrase is repeated over and over and over again, that’s bad. Surely if she didn’t notice it herself, her editor should have.
The America language is weird. The past tense of dive is dove. I could put up with that as Miss Spindler is American but when Val McDermid used the American past tense for fit – that is still fit, instead of fitted, it drove me up the wall.
Howard Jacobson at the age of 68 has won the Man Booker Prize with his latest and eleventh novel ‘The Finkler Question’. Evidently his mother didn’t believe it would win because it might be a bit too Jewish. Why she should think that heaven alone knows. Jacobson has never been anything other than Jewish. He didn’t believe it would win because he’s got close enough twice before and never made the finishing line.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph I thought Jacobson had some pretty interesting and pertinent remarks to make, in particular, evidently the prize matters to him most of all because he feels the book is worthy of it and it is an award for good writing at a time when schools have stopped teaching literature and the celebrity memoir/novel has corrupted the coinage. ‘It’s not a prize for effort. It’s not a prize for youth, it’s not a consolation prize for me. It’s a prize for bloody writing. We desperately need it because fewer and fewer people know what writing is. They are not taught it anymore. They are not taught to read. We have a disinherited population. Kids are given books about their own lives. Nothing that pushes them or extends them. It is disgusting and insulting.’
There is one comment he makes though with which I disagree. To the question did he feel a worm of jealousy in earlier years he replied, ‘Yes. You are not meant to admit it but writers are naturally jealous of one another’s success, partly because it is so hard to get heard, so hard to get readers; to get noticed for what you do. It would be a lie to pretend otherwise. You try to fight it. We are thin skinned people; otherwise we would not be in this game. It is very important not to give in to the meaner emotions.’
The fragment I am at odds with is ‘writers are naturally jealous of one another’s success.’ Not always true, Mister Jacobson. If I read something which truly excites me by the talent it displays I couldn’t wish the author more success and I am not in the least bit jealous of it.
So congratulations for winning the Man Booker, Mister Jacobson, and I hope the handbag you buy your wife out of the £50000 is a real beauty!

Friday, November 5, 2010

The spate of burglaries has continued but two burglars I am informed have been caught and guess what – they’re British! Now who would have credited that?
I know I said I was going to lay off the crime and criminal bit but having started with that story, here is one I would love to pass on in case you haven’t heard of it. It is not unknown for someone on Crete to lose their olive crop, especially if their grove is a long way from their house which is often the case. They go out one day to reap their olives only to find that someone has got there ahead of them and the trees are bare. It’s on a par with sheep stealing really as it means someone’s livelihood or a large part of it has disappeared. Reaping olives is a time-consuming back-breaking job that, after a day, leaves you totally exhausted. I know because we’ve helped out friends so it might have taken more than a day to rob the grove. But this is what I am getting to – in France an entire vineyard has been stolen! Thieves broke into a vineyard in Villeneuve-les-Beziers and stole an entire crop of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, taking advantage of a full moon and using a harvesting machine to seize 30 tonnes of the crop.
Farmer Roland Cavaille said similar crimes had taken place before in the Languedoc-Roussillon, one of France's best-known wine growing regions. He said the theft amounted to a year's work and about 15,000 euro (£12,900).
"They used a harvesting machine to gather grapes. This means there was no need to have lots of people, two people would have been enough," Mr Cavaille told Le Parisien newspaper.
"The area was quite isolated, it is a a few kilometres from the village and near a river. So the thieves were able to work safely. One witness reported hearing engine noises in the early hours of the morning and police have been examining footprints left at the scene, said the newspaper. But Mr Cavaille said the thieves were clearly professionals who could easily sell on the grapes. He said there had been a similar grape theft had been reported in the area four years ago and that another complaint had also been filed this year.
While his vineyard was insured, it did not cover the loss of the grapes themselves.
Mr Cavaille told Europe1 news he had no idea who had taken the grapes but that he was angered and surprised by the theft, as he believed there was a "degree of solidarity" between winemakers.
How about that then for a bit of chutzpa? 30 tonnes in one go!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Goodness gracious me, this is Blog 200 of this series! However did I get so chatty in my old age?
Lipon (Greek for ‘well’). The day started off at sparrowfart and I was never an early riser. Up anytime before eight/eight thirty and I’m kaput for the rest of the day. However it had to be if we were to be in Heraklion for ten so it was up at six-thirty.
First of all a slight detour to Haralambos’s garage for petrol and to check the tyres. Douglas put 30euro worth of petrol in the tank and it didn’t even fill it. Also it was all the money we had on us except for 5euro I had in change and 5euro he had. He intended to stop at the bank at the top of the hill and get money from the machine. Fat chance. The bank is virtually opposite the school, it was time for pupils to arrive and you have never seen so many cars and buses in Vamos. There was no way he was going to be able to park and get to the bank and it took a good few minutes to thread our way through the traffic and to drive on. The journey itself was unadventurous, cloudy sky and the sea grey and like lead. The Greeks say like oil (lathi poo lene) but as we approached the hospital we hit our second bit of road chaos. You have never seen so many cars there. They were double, in some cases triple, parked a mile down the road and half a mile in the other direction. I don’t know if the car park was full. As we only had that 10euro we weren’t going to try it. Douglas dropped me off at the right entrance, said ‘See you in half an hour’ and drove off to park. Now the chaos really began. The foyer was packed. I don’t know how many people were there but there were two different sets of grills: one to make future appointments, the other, which we didn’t know at the time, to pay (3euro) and register for the day’s appointments. This was a new piece of Greek red tape. They keep on thinking up these things, obviously to keep civil servants occupied. Being Greece the noise was horrendous, every one of a hundred and fifty people all speaking at once, some of them very loudly. When we left the hospital two hours later the first number of tickets had reached 946, the second 450!
Anyway, here is Douglas back and we wend our way to the heart clinic, up the first corridor, packed, every plastic chair sat upon, into our corridor, more than packed, people sitting, people standing, including us until a middle age lady got up and insisted I take her chair. No sign of any activity in Doctor Goldentummy’s little room. An hour later Douglas has gone back to reception to collect a ticket, having been informed by now that we needed it and I have changed seats to sit around the corner out of the sun but, on returning to our corridor, what do we see? The list is up on the good doctor’s door and my name is the first on it – and we’ve missed it! Not to worry, I was seen five minutes later and given the all clear. So my next appointment for a check up is the 10th November, 2011. I’m just pleased it isn’t once more on the first of the month.
On the way out, still heaving with humanity, Douglas stopped to validate our being there, there now being only eight numbers ahead of his so worth waiting. By now I am starving so he trotted downstairs to the shop and between us we demolished a packet of chocolate orange biscuits.
Earlier in the day while we still standing waiting, before the good lady offered me her seat, I said to Douglas, ‘Isn’t human vanity amazing?’ and he knew exactly what I was talking about. Seated opposite was an old gel missing quite a few upper teeth to the right and a few lower ones to the left which must have made chewing rather difficult but what really grabbed the attention were her legs. She didn’t have very cross veins, she had veins so screamingly angry they stood out in great knots like pebbles beneath the skin, so ugly, and yet, and yet, she had painted her ragged toenails, silver!

Monday, November 1, 2010

We have a plague of flies, and it isn’t just us. Every year at this time as soon as the weather turns chilly and the mozzies disappear the house becomes inundated with flies and there is not all that much you can do about it. Maybe they come into the warm. Douglas put up a new flypaper in the breakfast room a couple of days ago and already it is black with them though there are plenty more still around. You can’t spray when they’re near food and they really are a nuisance. Fortunately I don’t think the plague will last very long as they die off.
Haven’t’ solved the rat problem either. Put down the glue pads most reluctantly only to find Mister Ratty tap dancing his way to the middle for the titbit and tap dancing his way off again. Keppel caught a monster one the other day so that’s one less to worry about. Wish he would do it more often. The other two cats seem to be totally useless as far as rats are concerned, but lizards and birds make easy prey. Rousell, the mother cat has been behaving most oddly for a few days, turning up her nose at everything we put down for her. We even tried fish, she nibbled a bit of that, and scrambled egg, she nibbled a bit of that, but most of it was left. So Douglas bought some expensive stuff which she has been walloping down. Obviously el cheapo is no longer good enough for her though the others eat it quite happily and seem to thrive on it.
Had an e-mail from our last but one visitor, Michael, with photographs of his visit, some really beautiful atmospheric shots of the Cretan countryside, and it got me to thinking that, with the advent of the digital camera, you would have to be a complete klutz not to be able to take good pictures. The camera will do it all and any amount of improvements can then be made on the computer. Gone are the days of film when you had to focus and worry about light, when you had to have a darkroom and all those chemicals and an enlarger to produce the final print I have two 35mm single reflex cameras, one a Pentax which was much sought after in its day, the other a Russian camera, and one Rolleicord 120 which used to take good pictures but they are now all museum pieces and will never be used again. All told photography in the old days was an expensive business.
Having never been asked to write anything for newspapers and not having, with the excepting of The Athens News, letters to the editor published, I rather enjoy these Blogs, But to-day’s finishes here as we are about to set off for Heraklion, a two hour drive, for my pacemaker check-up. More next time.