Friday, December 31, 2010

Georgos and his wife Natalie opened a taverna in Litsarda and after only a few months it has closed. This is the third business Georgos has opened and closed that we know of. In Vamos he ran an obelisterio (fast food) in the square and lost it, I don’t know the whys and wherefores of that. Then he opened a butchery and greengrocers close by and that was doing very well. We patronised it a lot because his produce was first class. Then suddenly one day it was no more. The shop was stripped and empty. It seemed that his father who runs one of the two small supermarkets in Vamos objected to this enterprise as it was taking custom away from him so he literally, son or no son, put the kybosh on it and Georgos was out. We first knew Georgos when he actually worked for his dad as a butcher in the supermarket. Then the old pizzeria in Litsarda was no more. Eleni and her family had decided the rental had become exorbitant and as they had a piece of land opposite they built themselves a new pizzeria, twice the size and with two flats above and a wonderful view to the mountains. The Litsarda pizzeria as I have mentioned before is famous. People come from miles away to patronise it. The village itself is very small so imagine our surprise when Georgos and Natalie took over the old building to open their pizzeria/taverna. We really did shake our heads in disbelief. The food was good, the prices moderate but it didn’t take a genius to know the enterprise would fail. A great shame really but obvious from the beginning. I don’t know how much money was lost with the rental at 600euro and very little custom. Georgos is now gainfully employed in a factory so at least they have an income. Maybe he should just stick to it. He is no entrepreneur, leastways in his choice of businesses. I feel so sorry for them as they are truly a very nice couple who don’t deserve that kind of luck.
But it has been a bad time for a great many and next year is going to be worse by all the forecasts. Kython TV, the company Chris and Douglas worked fort for a while, has laid off virtually its entire staff and the studio is running at an absolute minimum.
I have at last finished reading “Ginger Rogers – My Story” and it has taken longer to read than the writing took of Thornton King number five, twice as long in fact. Admittedly it was bedside reading so only a few pages at a time thank you – any more would have been impossible. It was like wading through treacle and almost as sickly but I was determined to stick it out. I don’t know how someone who lived such a varied and what most people would consider a truly exciting life could write about it in so boring a fashion. Her tendency to push God, her prayers and her Christian Science at every opportunity didn’t help. Christian Science got rid of a hundred warts overnight and even lanced and drained boils in the same time slot. Her men seemed to be an unhealthy lot so bully for C.S. I’m surprised though that if she was that close to God He didn’t give a helping hand in the writing of her book.
The making of the stained glass windows for Roger and Jane has been a saga to end all sagas. First of all, despite constant badgering, Chris had to wait literally for months before he was given accurate measurements and could start work. Then there was the small matter of the lead from Athens. That held fire for a couple of months and eventually he was informed they couldn’t supply the size he needed so lead had to be ordered from England. It arrived (the carriage cost twice the price of the lead) so he was ready to use it as during the wait he had cut the glass for every window and stored it ready for assembly. The finished window lying on his workbench at the moment looks absolutely super but guess what – night before last he took a nasty tumble and has fractured his right wrist!
That hand is completely out of action (he’ll have to use his left ha ha!) and the doctor reckons it could take up to eight weeks to heal. Poor Douglas, as though he didn’t have enough to do, with both of us out of action everything is on his shoulders. And poor Roger and Jane; they have been so patient waiting for their windows but (a) this is Greece and (b)…man proposes, God disposes. Let’s hope He disposes well in 2011 and in case I don’t get another opportunity, from me a wish to you for a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

This is purely a tester to see if my Blog page is linked to My Amazon Authors page.
Has the world’s weather gone totally doolally or what? After terrible droughts parts of Australia are now flooded causing chaos and millions of dollars worth of damage. Violent storms hit the eastern seaboard of the United States but there maybe nothing new in that. What is news is that there has been torrential rain in southern California. Earthquakes, heatwaves, floods, volcanoes, typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts killing a quarter of a million people, that has been 2010. In a tiny little town in France the population from the mayor down are in fear and trembling expecting to be swamped as members of a cult believing the world is about to end and the town is the only safe place to be will descend in droves and the townsfolk have no way of coping with the influx.
Communism might have failed in Russia and the bloc, in North Korea it is evidently a disaster and Cuba ain’t so hot, but China seems to be busting out all over capitalist-wise, offering to come to the rescue to the tune of billions of euro of debt ridden European countries, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Greece. What would China want in return do you suppose? China is evidently already well entrenched in parts of Africa. Mind you that can’t be too much of a bad thing if their presence manages to keep various warlords and warring factions in control.
Living these days in the shadow of Big Brother you really do have to be ultra-cautious in your behaviour, especially where school children are concerned. In my boarding school days we had a housemaster who invariably took his shower with the boys and I doubt anyone thought badly of it, maybe it was just a wee bit eccentric that is all, but fairly recently in Wales a teacher shared the shower with teenage girls before a school musical and has been struck off for four years. She denied inappropriate relationships with girls, aged 13 to 16. The General Teaching Council of Wales said no sexual activity took place but the ban reflected the case's "seriousness." Her union said her actions were unwise but not sordid. Chairman John Collins ruled it was "inappropriate behaviour" for her to have showered, wearing a bikini, with girls before a school show. So there, she wasn’t even naked, she was wearing a bikini but that does make it all rather odd and was it made even odder because it happened before a school show? He said: "Although no sexual activity took place, this was inappropriate involvement with pupils who were using the showers. This is not a teacher seen as being incompetent. She was very enthusiastic and hard-working but her conduct was fundamentally incompatible with continuing to be a registered teacher.” Evidently the normal prohibition period is for two years but it was doubled because "of the seriousness of the case." She has been branded a paedophilic lesbian - the consequences for her and her family have been appalling."
The hearing was told of text messages from the teacher saying: "I love you" and "I love you lots" to the two girls. This together with other messages sealed her fate.
Mrs Lloyd-Jones, who is currently working as a freelance musician, denied behaving unacceptably - but admitted sending two girls messages with "inappropriate content, language or context".
In a published statement on the Oakdale comprehensive school website, the head teacher commented: "I would like to reassure all parents that at no point did the school shy away from its responsibilities to protect and care for its pupils. I assure you that if an issue of this nature ever occurs again, which I am glad to say is very rare, we as a school will not hesitate, as in this case, to take swift action in the interests of our pupils and the whole school community."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Day was warm and sunny and as usual we all ate far too much, especially as Helen had made a real Christmas pudding and, as we hadn’t tasted one of those for quite a while, I suppose we could be forgiven our over-indulgence. I remember all the Christmas puddings of my childhood that contained sixpenny pieces to be discovered, wiped clean and kept. By three o’clock I felt like a python or boa constrictor and was nodding off in my chair. Douglas’s rice pudding with pina colada ice cream centre was a hoot as he had it in a Victorian pottery jelly mould and had kept it in the freezer overnight which meant it was rock solid and virtually impossible to remove. When eventually it was it was now virtually impossible to spoon but, I am informed, it tasted okay. Didn’t try any myself as I was stuffed with Helen’s pudding but it was certainly a hysterical talking point.
An Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani hosted a lavish house-warming for his new 27-storey residence, believed to be the world's most expensive home. About 80 people attended the party and one guest described the house as "the Taj Mahal of the 21st Century". She described "what has got to be the biggest, glitziest ballroom in India - the Palace of Versailles is a poor cousin. There is a lot of marble; there is a lot of mother of pearl. There are areas and gardens and lotus pools and an absolutely beautiful Krishna temple. There is art, there's sculpture, there is a huge bar, there is a swimming pool.” She said the house was built to the personal taste of Mr Ambani, and that people should not "grudge him his indulgencies. He generates a great amount of employment for those very poor and contributes to the economy," she added.
The house, which has a temple on the ground floor and a library on the top, was designed she said according to Vaastu principles, an Indian tradition similar to Chinese feng shui.
Looking at a photograph I would describe it as without doubt an eyesore and the ugliest home ever built. Reports suggest the residence is worth more than $1bn (£630m).The skyscraper in Mumbai (Bombay), which overlooks sprawling slums, is said to have a cinema, swimming pools and a helicopter pad, and is named "Antilia" after a mythical Atlantic island. Local newspapers said the house would require 600 members of staff to maintain it, and the first electricity bill, for September is costing Mr Ambani 7m rupees (£98,000).The house has sparked some controversy, with anti-poverty campaigners underlining the contrast between the luxury of the house and the plight of those who live in Mumbai's slums, which house about half of the city's 18 million people. Ambani is one of the world’s richest men, with an estimated fortune of £17bn.
Krishna certainly favours some. I wonder if he’s happy; if not at least he’s happy in comfort.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Roya was the cutest little dog of a rare Norwegian breed. She was the pet of our friends Joe and Bryn. They were out walkies in their little village of Kufi when they saw her gobble up something in the road and it was gone before they could stop her. Minutes later she was frothing at the mouth and going into heavy spasm and shortly afterwards she died. It makes one so so so very angry. There is little if any respect for animals in Greece and although it is against the law people will still put down poison, ignoring the fact that the animal might be someone’s much loved pet, because that is an alien concept to them. The strange thing in this particular case is the fact that the poisonous bait, a cheese pie evidently, was lying in the middle of the road with children playing around. Normally (if that’s the right word) it is placed where children can’t get at it; on top of a high wall or beneath a municipal rubbish bin for example, but the day will surely come when a child will get to it. The villagers probably know who the culprit is but are maintaining a strict silence. So it is not a very happy Christmas for Joe and Bryn and we know how they must be feeling having lost two animals ourselves, a dog and a cat, to poison. Cats, being natural roamers and spending so much time out of one’s control are in the most danger.

Continuing the discussion regarding the young killers in Trafalgar Square, it was noted that the attack took place in front of “horrified onlookers.” Another question I have to ask then is, how would I have reacted if I had been there at the time? Would I have intervened or would I not? And was there no one in the crowd of horrified onlookers who could have stopped, or attempted to stop, it? Members of the public are usually exhorted not to intervene but still one wonders. There was the case fairly recently when they did intervene resulting in the apprehension of a jewel thief. And continuing to think about sentencing I read that in the US a mother and grandmother have each been sentenced to nine years for attempting to steal an old lady’s purse in a supermarket. NINE YEARS!
NINE YEARS? It beggars belief. A life is valued at two years, a purse at nine. One can only shake one’s head in wonder at this crazy world. That sentence is barbaric to say the least.

Part of Quentin Letts’ Christmas wish list in The Mail.
“Better language in the theatre, particularly on the London stage. The effing and blinding has reached wearisomely high levels. The more they use coarse words, the less dramatic effect those words have.” What did I say in a previous Blog? I’m so glad someone agrees with me.
“Confirmation that the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony will include Morris dancing, Gilbert sand Sullivan and a performance by Sir Patrick Moore on his xylophone” Well at least we agree on the Morris dancing.

And still on games, the Greeks are wailing that if they don’t get the Mediterranean Games next year they will lose face. With the state of the economy and remembering the Olympics I’m surprised they’re even thinking of it.

And before I wish everyone season’s greetings, a joke: Three MPs were asked what they wanted for Christmas. The Labour man said ‘Justice for the poor.’ The Lib Dem asked for ‘World peace’. The conservative said, ‘How kind, a box of Milk Tray please.’
Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

It is always so very sad when one has to have a much loved pet put down but two days ago it had to happen and, alas, our miracle cat Rousell is no more. Watching her wasting away was just as distressing as having to put an end to it and it all seemed to happen so fast. One day she was a bonny bouncing little cat and suddenly she could no longer eat, a cortisone injection and force feeding her on special invalid food couldn’t help. In a few days she was skin and bone and wobbling about on rickety legs when she had the energy to move at all though she still, just the day before her death, went outside to sit in the sun. We will miss her funny ways, rolling on the carpet or out in the courtyard wanted her back scratched or her tummy rubbed, nestling in the crook of my arm and purring away as I sat at the table reading. We called her our miracle cast because by rights she shouldn’t have even been alive, having suffered such a traumatic accident as a tiny kitten. As it is she was only nine and should have had a good few years ahead of her. She was called Roussell because at our friends Russell and Margaret’s son’s wedding she was under our table scrounging away, Douglas picked her up, fell in love, and was given permission to take her. We could hardly call her Russell so as the other cats were Bridget and Hortense, she became Frenchified as Roussell. On Tuesday when Chris and Douglas took her to Michael he said he felt she wouldn’t have lasted the day anyway.
So our menagerie of eight has been reduced to three; cats Keppel and Betty, Roussell’s kittens, and dog Merrill. She is getting on a bit now and suffering from rheumatism so I think she might be the next one to go. We have buried so many animals in the past thirteen years, dogs and cats; the bottom of the garden is a regular pet’s cemetery.
While on the subject of death I read in a letter to The Athens News that in Greece you have by law to have a priest at a funeral though, at dinner the other evening, this was hotly disputed. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was true, the church being so much a part of Greek life, but what if you are Jewish or Muslim? Maybe you have one of your own persuasion instead.
As this has been all about Roussell, I still find it hard to believe she has gone, I don’t feel I want to add anything more today.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Two titbits of information about the Olympic Games sent to me in an e-mail by our friend Ian Dean.
“The charity orchestra I run has a bid in to record all 209 national anthems! A quote from the tender that you might enjoy: 'Bidders who are interested in this opportunity should understand the gravitas and honour which the Orchestra will acquire in relation to these Games.' Somehow one is supposed to achieve this gravitas with only 30 musicians.
The second amusement is that on calling the Olympics offices I was informed they have a 'no names' policy. So you aren't allowed to know who is in charge of what, or who it is you are talking to on the phone. Very Orwellian!”
He wanted to put this as a comment on my Blog but was informed that only “team members” can make a comment. I’ve had this before from others so what on earth is a team member? Maybe if there is a team member among my readers he/she will make a comment and inform me. I’ve often wondered why for a long time I’ve received no comments.
Douglas, the computer whiz kid, read this and has put matters to right. Evidently now anyone can make a comment. I really do not have a clue as far as modern technology is concerned as I think I’ve probably said before. I wouldn’t know an Ipod from a Blackberry (is it a Blackberry or some other kind of berry?) and, quite frankly I find the amount of information and more particularly the amount of trash one can find on the internet rather disturbing. I’m not sure we’re wired up to take in so much information. Of course the internet is wonderful for research but take a look at some of the home videos on Yahoo and tell me they’re not a complete waste.
Further to my remarks about sentencing for murder when writing about the two Müllers; in 2003 a forty five year old man named Richard Thomas convicted of manslaughter for stabbing a taxi driver 28 times was sentenced to two years in prison, that’s 26 days for each stabbing. That is manslaughter? Give me a break, that is quite simply murder and a two year sentence is laughable, pitiful. According to the court that’s all a man’s life was worth?
Now seven years later his daughter Ruby is in court after she and her boy friend in a homophobic attack kicked a man to death in Trafalgar Square. Evidently he was seen to be holding hands with his friend and so with cries of ‘fucking faggot’ the two of them literally set out to attack him resulting in his death as they stomped on him on the ground, kicking him time and time again, before running away laughing. Later she made ‘funny’ remarks about it on Facebook ha ha! At the age of fifteen she was given a conviction for carrying a knife and assaulting a bus driver, and in 2007 she assaulted an Asian man spitting at him and then kicking him. And now she has killed.
What kind of punishment do you think she deserves now? Will the court give her more than a slap on the wrist and tell her not to be such a naughty girl in future? I await the verdict with interest.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Goodness only knows I’m no prude and I don’t believe in censorship unless it is self censorship and that seems to have gone out the window. I am talking about good taste and bad taste and the latter seems to predominate in our modern world - anything goes. We have a prince who thinks it’s a hoot to dress up in a Nazi uniform. What would Cole Porter* think if he could see and hear what is presented on the stage, on television in advertising and in film these days and the question I do have to ask is, is it really necessary or are we just intent on dumbing down as far as we can go. Ever since Kenneth Tynan used the f-word on television for the first time, ground-breaking moment huh? It has been and is so over-used you wonder why people even bother to use it any more.
There has to be something to be said for the old Lord Chamberlain’s office though he did tend to be a wee bit too pernickety at times.
What does one make of an ice-cream manufacturer whose idea of advertising is to use a pregnant woman lapping up an ice cream cone? Nothing wrong with that. No reason why pregnant women shouldn’t lap up ice creams. The difference here though was that the woman was a nun and the hoardings, if the company hadn’t been persuaded to remove them, would have been directly on the route old Popey took to Westminster Cathedral and he couldn’t fail to see them. Insensitive might one say? Or what?
Spanish politicians have criticized a video by the Young Socialists in Catalonia in which a woman simulates an orgasm while casting her vote. Both Socialist and opposition politicians have attacked the campaign video. In the video the young woman gets increasingly excited as she votes for the Socialist Party in this month's regional elections in Catalonia. It concludes with the phrase, "Voting is a pleasure", after she puts her voting slip in the ballot box. The leader of the conservative opposition Popular Party of Catalonia, Alicia Sanchez-Camacho, said the video was an "attack on the dignity of women". The health minister who is a Socialist called on all parties to show respect for women and to act responsibly. The Socialist equality minister said of the video: "If it was true, electoral participation would go up greatly, but I think we are dealing with a misleading advert. But the Socialist Party of Catalonia 's leader, Jose Montilla, who is standing for re-election, said, "If it encourages people to vote, it's a good thing".
The leader of the Green coalition in Catalonia, Joan Herrera, said it would be "very difficult to reach orgasm voting for any of the candidates, myself included". A nice sense of humour.
The latest outrage is a pub in Wales that advertised a cocktail called ‘Suicide Bomber.’ They said they didn’t mean to cause offence or upset anyone. My my my, there’s sensitivity look you.
*‘In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking now heaven knows, anything goes.’

Friday, December 17, 2010

And so to the Olympic Game: the requirements and the do’s and don’ts of the IOC: if you know all this don’t bother to read any further. If you’re intrigued, okay. If not, then again, don’t bother.
According to contract London is required to provide 40000 room bookings for the entire games. These are for the IOC committee, staff and officials. The committee of course demand five star accommodation, only the very best for them. These best rooms number 1800. No accommodation is reserved for spectators of course. They would be lucky to find a hotel with vacancies within a fifty mile radius of the games.
An entire village is built for the participants at a cost of £325million. This will include a flower and gift shop and a dance cafe where the athletes can relax.
500 air-conditioned limousines are required whose drivers must wear uniforms and hats and the IOC is to have 250 miles of so-called ‘Zil Lanes’ traffic free passage. They will stretch from London to Weymouth where the sailing games are to be held.
There are evidently pages and pages about the employment of housekeepers for the athletes and these edicts are called the ‘Olympic technical manuals.’
During the games normal London life must be subordinated to the edicts of the IOC. The IOC is paranoid about what it calls ‘ambush marketing.’ That is for any product for which no enormous amount of money has been or will be paid to the IOC. Candidate cities must obtain control of all billboard advertising, city transport, airport advertising etc., for the duration of the games and one month before. Customs officers and police must ‘co-operate’ in taking action against unapproved Olympics advertising and the confiscation of non-official goods! (As though the police wouldn’t have enough to do and is this really legal?).
Spectators at the games must not wear clothing or accessories with commercial messages and no athlete or other participant can wear any clothing on which the manufacturer’s name takes up more than ten percent of the surface area or 12 square centimetres. There is even a half-hearted attempt to control the skies and ‘Brand protection teams will conduct surveillance and will attempt to confiscate any infringing ambush material both inside and outside the venue so woe betide any poor shopkeeper who is inadvertently advertising something outside his shop. Some of the teams will be accompanied by an attorney in case it is necessary to serve any court documents! And they must have a police officer within the team in case it is necessary to enforce an order. Hey hey hey! Is this petty dictatorship or what? All signs must be in both English and French.
For every ceremony the Olympic flag must be more prominent than the union flag and the Queen will have to acquiesce to the IOC’s demands for an Olympic ceremony and royal reception the day before the games officially open. It is a matter of course that IOC members are introduced to the head of state after which they will all watch ‘an artistic programme reflecting local traditions or culture.’ In the case of the United kingdom, I suggest a football match complete with hooligans, a darts match, a curry house competition, bingo, Morris dancing and teenage girls getting sloshed out of their minds and puking all over the venue. Why, oh why didn’t they let the French have it? If Paris had got it would signs be in French and English? Or just French?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Blog 222

Inflation is nothing new but is really a very strange phenomenon and I do wonder that there seems no way of controlling it. What has made me think of it is looking at the current price of theatre tickets in London. I know The Royal Opera House has always had sky-high prices but ordinary west end theatres now seem to be as exorbitant. For example the top price for ‘Dirty Dancing’ is £65. So a couple going to see this show will fork out £130 just for the tickets. God forbid they should take a taxi to the theatre and home again because if they did, even living fairly central, they could reckon to fork out another thirty to forty pounds. Drinks in the interval could add another ten at least and if they should they want to make it a real night out and have a meal that would add another eighty or even a whole lot more. So the grand total would be a minimum of £250! Four visits to the theatre and you’ve spent a thousand quid. Question – is it worth it?
And I worried that the price of my autobiography was too high.
I don’t know why England is bemoaning the loss of the world football to Russia when they have the Olympic Games to look forward to ha ha ha! I have just been reading what the International Olympic Committee requires of a host country and the mind simply boggles. It is no wonder Greece is still trying to recover six years later. England would have done much better I feel to have let Paris take on the burden because, celebration though it may be, burden it certainly is, despite worldwide television coverage and mega-millions of sponsorship and advertising. In fact the list of requirements and do’s and don’ts is so long I think I’ll leave it for now and give it a whole Blog to itself. Though even that might not be enough.
I think the storm we experienced a couple of nights ago, bad as it seemed, must have been on the periphery of the much more violent manifestation further east. At least 18 people have died in accidents caused by storms in Egypt, dozens more were injured in road accidents and when buildings collapsed after being battered by sandstorms and rain. Fierce winds, heavy rains and snow have lashed eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries for several days. The storms have sunk a ship off the Israeli coast, closed ports and disrupted shipping in the Suez Canal.rescue workers pulled the bodies of six workers out of the debris of a factory building that had collapsed in the northern city of Alexandria on Sunday. The state-owned al-Ahram newspaper said the heavy rains had damaged the structure of the factory. The paper reported that several other buildings had collapsed across Egypt, causing more deaths. The storms have ended a long drought in Lebanon, Syria and Israel and came just a week after more than 40 people died in a forest fire near Israel's northern port of Haifa.. Waves of up to 10m (33ft) battered coasts, damaging fishing boats in Lebanon. In Syria, snow blanketed the streets of the capital, Damascus, and closed roads.
And all we had to put up with was a blackout and a little bit of flooding, and freezing temperatures of course.

Monday, December 13, 2010

How often does one pick up a book that grips you from the very first page and simply won’t let you go until reluctantly you reach the end? I have just finished reading such a one. To hell with your ‘Da Vinci Codes,’ this is a real thriller, brilliant in fact, and it is all about… a book. Yes, that’s it. A rare, beautiful and very special book but a book nevertheless. I have to thank our guest from Tasmania, Ray Bluett for leaving this book here as I had never heard of the Australian author, Geraldine Brooks. What a discovery! I’m not surprised she is a Pulitzer Prize winner. Her writing is beautiful and what a story! I know in the postscript she gives thanks to a lot of people for their assistance but even so her erudition is something to wonder at. How come not very good writing (no names) can fly off the shelves by the millions and genuine writing like this, as far as I am aware, doesn’t seem to be such a big seller when it damn well ought to be. I know it says on the cover ‘the international best seller’ but publishers tend to put that anyway. I hope it has and will continue to have a really terrific readership. My word, I am so envious, in then nicest possible way.
It would seem the Indian summer is over: howling gales, torrential rain, thunder and lightning, hail, sleet and a distinct drop in temperature – we’ve had them all in the last forty-eight hours, even a smattering of snow, not enough to talk about really. It’s a few years since we last saw snow but it really has got very cold. The animals lie around the wood stove and move only to eat or use their box. Poor Merrill has to go outside but she’s back in a flash. Naturally with thunder and lightning virtually over the rooftops just before going to bed there was a power cut that lasted till the early morning. Power came back on about six o’clock and until then it was blackout and use a torch time when necessary.
What does one make of the student riots in London protesting the rise in university fees? The Labour government has a lot to answer for and you can add this to the list. They’re the ones who made out it is everybody’s right to have a university education when it so obviously is not so. In the first place, despite the upgrading of technical colleges etcetera to university status there simply aren’t enough places and especially, in order to garner higher fees, the universities encourage foreign students to apply for places. Secondly not everyone is material for higher education and indeed there evidently appears to be many a drop-out. I have personal experience of that from teaching in America where at least two if not more in my classes were simply not up to it and were only there so the university could fill its ethnic quota. Unfair on those students really. I’m a good one to talk considering I flunked exams two years running.
Of course there’s nothing new about student demonstrations turning into riots: they’ve done it in Paris, in Athens of course, I am sure in other cities and now in London. The fact that the demonstration is going to turn into a riot goes without saying. Student leaders simply cannot ban or control the vandals, the hooligans, the thugs for taking the opportunity of joining in. Is it possible that an ordinary student, no matter how strongly he or she feels would launch an attack on the Prince of Wales and his wife in their car? I don’t think so. At least I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt. Just how stupid can you get?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

There being not very much worth watching on Greek TV recently we’ve been resurrecting some of our oldies. Watched ‘Topsy Turvy’, a few nights ago, the film on Gilbert and Sullivan and ever since the songs from the Mikado have been going round and around in my head so think we had better play another musical to get rid of them. Well they were displaced briefly by Prokofief’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’ but they now seem to be vieing with each other. ‘How potent cheap music is’, Noel Coward is reputed to have said but how potent good music is as well. And siesta time a couple of days ago I had the most amazing dream: I wrote a complete musical specifically for David Harwell and went over to the states to play it for him, there having been a recording already made, words and music. He sat there drinking a cup of tea and nodding approval with each number. I remember they were all pretty upbeat but that’s all I remember. When is some mad scientist going to invent a sort of decoder that fits to your head whilst you’re asleep and that will faithfully record your dreams for playback? Too late for me obviously but I had a hit musical there for a short while.
‘Fawlty Towers’ has also come out of mothballs, one episode anyway, and just as funny as it originally was. We also watched a twenty minute ballet from the Nederland’s Dans Theater called ‘The submerged Cathedral’ which did absolutely nothing for me I’m afraid and once again we watched the film ‘Fairy Tale’, based on the little girls in Yorkshire who took photographs of fairies at the bottom of the garden: a quite entrancing movie with two beautiful little girls which was quite delightful. Peter O’Toole played Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who was a great one evidently for spiritualism and quite prepared to believe in fairies. Paul McGann, who I directed at RADA all those years go, and told the staff they underestimated his talent and he would definitely make it big, played the girls’ father.
On another subject completely; two cigarette manufacturers in India ceased production for a couple of days (resulting in millions of rupees lost in tax) when the Indian government wanted new warnings to appear on cigarette packets. This consisted mainly of an extremely ugly photograph of a mouth with cancer caused, it said, by smoking. The manufacturers said they didn’t know how to proceed hence the closing down! Now the government have back-pedalled and decided to leave the status quo for another year. Indians, like Greeks are evidently heavy smokers and it is estimated a million people a year die from the habit but, although the government has brought in a ban on smoking in indoor places, as with Greece it is evidently almost a total flop.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Ars Gratias Artis – art for art’s sake? What price art?
A painting of a nude by Amedeo Modigliani created around 1917 has sold for more than $68.9m (£42.7m) at an auction in New York - a record for the artist's work. The painting, part of a series of nudes was purchased by an anonymous buyer. Modigliani's previous auction record was 43.2m euros (£35.8m), set earlier this year in Paris. Another painting by the artist - Jeanne Hebuterne (au chapeau) - one of the first portraits he painted of his lover, sold for $19.1m (£11.8m), high above its estimate of $9-12m (£5.6-7.4m).The artist, who lived from 1884 to 1920, originally focused on sculpture but switched to painting in part because of health problems. Modigliani sold no paintings in his short lifetime, sometimes giving them away in exchange for meals, but the moment he died they went like hot cakes.
An ex-art student in Manchester who worked alongside artist Tracey Emin for two weeks admitted 10 counts of fraud and has been jailed for 16 months for forging Emin’s work. The artist said her art came from the heart (?) and she was "upset and distressed" that people had been conned. The fakes, valued at more than £25,000, included sketches on fabric and a pencil drawing on calico, sold on the eBay website. Well well well, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Admittedly he has been a very naughty boy but the fakes were probably not too difficult to make and were every inch as good as any original and Miss Emin hasn’t done too badly out of her art that ‘Comes from the heart.’ He did not sell his own Emin collection because of his "acute" interest in her work and the "joy" it gave him.
A statement from Emin said: "My artwork is deeply personal and comes from my heart. It hurts and distresses me to see these fakes and forgeries that have no regard, respect or understanding of what I do.” Should I have regard, respect or understanding for a grotty unmade bed do you suppose?
A Damien Hirst artwork created entirely from thousands of butterfly wings has been auctioned in London for £2.2m.I am Become Death, Shatterer of Worlds - previously owned by the city's Gagosian Gallery - had been expected to fetch between £2.5m and £3.5m. A two-day auction of art by Damien Hirst set a new record for a sale dedicated to one artist in 2008.The sale, which featured more than 200 lots, fetched £111m at Sotheby's London branch. Poor destitute Modigliani should be alive to day, earning millions; though maybe his paintings still wouldn’t rate highly among the cognoscenti. I don’t think it’s talent that’s rewarded these days; I think it’s what you can get away with.
Big question – where did all those butterfly wings come from? And don’t say from butterflies! It’s a serious question.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Boots, boots, boots! These boots were meant for walking, well some of them anyway. Others looked highly dangerous, possibly resulting in sprained ankles, twisted knees or misaligned vertebrae. Last week after my monthly appointment with the pulmonologist in Souda I was waiting for Douglas who was in another office queuing up to get a refund for something else. It took all of two hours during which time I sat outside and watched the people coming and going, especially the women, ladies of all ages, all wearing boots. There were ankle length boots, calf length, thigh length. There were Cossack boots, cowboy boots, swashbuckling boots; boots in grey, beige, brown, red and black, leather boots and rubber boots, boots with zips, boots with thongs, boots that laced up: boots with six inch heels and boots with no heels at all. Is it the onset of winter or simply that boots are in fashion? I didn’t notice any jackboots.
There is a wailing and a gnashing of teeth in the land, England that is, lost out to Russia for the 2018 soccer world cup. The screams of agony are accompanied by cries of ‘It’s a stitch up!’ and ‘It’s not about football, it all about oil and money!’ or ‘They lied. They promised us votes and then didn’t come through!’
Evidently the English presentation was pretty terrific, spot on in every aspect; nevertheless they were knocked out in the first round with only two votes, one of which of course was their own. One theory goes that they were too full of jutzpah and it was a come-uppence for giving the appearance of certainty and arrogance.
In retaliation the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has rescinded for members of FIFA the offer of free accommodation at the Dorchester during the Olympics. So jolly well sucks boo to you!
There was a time when people believed in something called “free will” but the deeper science delves into our natures the less likelihood it is that the theory carries any weight. It becomes less credible with every new discovery and scientists are always making new discoveries of course, particularly when it comes to genes. They will find a gene for this, that, and everything else, the latest being a gene that makes a man horny and behaving like a Bonobo monkey ie., sex sex sex, and yet more sex, infidelity and one night stands the norm. One in four are born to be unfaithful say the scientists. They claim that when a man or woman has what they have termed the ‘love rat gene’ having an affair or even a one-night stand creates a chemical rush like a gambler finding his luck has changed or an alcoholic savouring a drink. Evidently all down to the brain chemical called dopamine.
The great lovers of history, romance and myth tend to lose their magic when this sort of information is available.
And still on the subject of genes, looking at the latest photograph of Prince William it would seem he is losing his mother’s beautiful looks and the Windsor genes are kicking in. I wonder what it is about this family that the kids are always beautiful only to grow up as plain as all get out. Weird.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Who is Ricky Gervaise and from under what rock did the BBC discover him? Evidently when in London Douglas in conversation with our friend Philip Clive came out with the fact that he couldn’t stand Ricky Gervaise and Philip couldn’t understand his aversion because, in his words, this man has changed the whole style of the sit-com. So, in order to change Douglas’s mind he very generously sent us the complete ‘The Office’ on DVD and we started to watch it a couple of evenings ago. I say started because both Douglas and I lasted a full fifteen minutes; Chris lasted a bit longer. I am informed that this programme has been a universal hit and no doubt Philip meant it kindly but I am afraid he wasted his money. Mister Gervaise just has to be the most obnoxious unbearable person ever to appear on television anywhere and God knows there have been some pretty obnoxious persons before him. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if it was humorous? Witty? Slightly amusing even, but as the fifteen minutes didn’t raise even a smile let alone a laugh I guess as a ‘sit-com’ in my opinion and despite its amazing popularity it is, oh, who cares what it is? I have read a number of complaints recently in letters to the paper about modern stand-up comedians who think repetitive use of the f-word and the c-word and the s-word or cruel jests (it’s only in fun innit?) are the height of wit which only shows the paucity of their humour, the way the world of entertainment has gone with the geeks all thinking they are hilarious. Fifty years ago and more Max Miller was considered the height of vulgarity but his jesting was as kindergarten stuff compared to today’s hi-tech crap. Like Dane Edna, I don’t care who calls me old-fashioned but I am simply not with it. Dame Edna was witty enough and so is something like ‘Yes, Minster/ Yes, Prime Minster, brilliant in every aspect, that has kept us laughing like drains the last few nights.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness… well fruitfulness anyway. Everywhere farmers and the owners of olive trees are thwacking away at the branches, their nets spread on the ground to catch the falling fruit. The mills are working probably twenty-four hours a day. After the rains of a couple of weeks ago the olives must have plumped out nicely and now the weather is perfect for reaping them. We’ve had no rain for days. Strange to think how warm and sunny it is, an Indian summer? When north of here Europe is thickly blanketed with snow and suffering freezing conditions. Apart from the olives the citrus trees are flourishing and Douglas has made fifty pounds of marmalade! with fruit from our trees, lemon, orange, mandarin.
The weather is so warm roses are blooming and oleander that flowers in the summer is having a second lease of life. All the way down the highway on either side it’s a blaze of pink and white. Has nature gone completely bananas?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Here we are into December, the first decade of the millennium almost over; what will 2011 bring I wonder. A couple of days ago we heard of the death of yet another friend of many many years, Andy Moore who we first met back in the sixties. I am beginning to lose count of the number of my peers, or younger, some much younger, who have passed on. It’s inevitable of course with the passing years but still sad when it happens. Andy was only 66. As they say in the obituaries he leaves a wife, two sons and a brace of grandchildren.
Thornton King #5 is finished. It took six weeks. When I read of authors who have forty books or more to their credit I reckon that is the speed with which they must have written. Still haven’t come up with a title for it. Any ideas? I might have mentioned this before but I wanted to call it ‘Film Noir’ as it is all about murders in a film studio (and more of course) until Douglas had me look it up on the internet only to find dozens and dozens of books with that title. He suggested something like ‘The Movieland Murders’ which I absolutely hate.
Had the most amazing dream last night, a true reality programme dream and for once an actor’s dream that was not a nightmare. If you’re not au fait with the phenomenon known as actor’s nightmare and, it would seem virtually everyone, if not every performer in the theatre gets it at some time or other, it consists of standing in the wings about to go on stage and not knowing a line, sometimes not even knowing what play one is supposed to be in or standing on stage and drying in the middle of a song, any disaster that can happen in fact, enough to make your blood run cold. Well, in this dream I was approached by a television director who informed me he had a project coming up in the summer and I was dead right for one of the parts. (I think it must have been influenced by Rupert Everett’s book) and so the audition process began until he gleefully said it was down to the last three, then down to the last two of which naturally I was one. But he needed to hear me sing so in a huge open air arena I sat on the stage and sang a song called ‘Get In Touch With Him Now’ with a fantastic drawn out a capella ending until the final pp orchestral cord and the audience (of which there were thousands of course) went totally apeshit, screaming and yelling and applauding fit to bust. But then I turned the offer down because at eighty years of age I decided I was too old for it and would never last the course. Still it was nice to have been made the offer and to hear that audience’s applause.
I only wish I could remember the lyrics to that song.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I was right in my assumption some time back that the new anti-smoking laws in Greece wouldn’t add up to a can of beans and so it seems. I never thought the Greeks would give up their smoking easily and evidently hardly anyone is taking any notice. Tavernas, restaurants and clubs have on the whole ignored it and no one as yet has been charged with breaking the law. In interviews in The Athens News one café owner said he tried to implement it but, when trade started to diminish quite drastically as his patrons disappeared, he did a U turn. Another withdrew the ashtrays but told his customers to use wet paper napkins and if the police happened to call they could roll them, up, evidence hidden. Obviously no one had thought of how they intended to explain a room thick with smoke. I remember as a schoolboy smoking in an empty classroom and when the word ‘Cave!’ was heard desperately trying to wave the smoke out the open windows. I don’t recall if the ruse was successful or not. Must have been I suppose because I don't remember ever being punished.
The weather these last few days, and nights, has been unusually warm which is a good thing as there is still no sign of heating oil.
Bedtime reading at the moment is Ginger Rogers’ autobiography and breakfast room reading is Rupert Everett’s autobiography – chalk to cheese. The first is all sweetness, light and Christian Science, the second tells it as it was. Ginger’s book reveals no warts except for those she had on her hands as a child and which Christian Science got rid of overnight. Poof! She woke up and they had just disappeared. Just like that. She does tend to blow her trumpet somewhat as she maintains there was nothing she didn’t excel at from a very early age but then, being a film star, I suppose blowing one’s trumpet is a necessity of life. The book is so saccharine to begin with I didn’t think I would travel very far with it but it does get better further along, because of “show biz” interest and names! How’s this for some names in the pit band for the musical Girl Crazy in 1930? – Gene Krupa on drums, Roger Edens on piano, Benny Goodman on clarinet, Jimmy Dorsey on saxophone, Glenn Miller and Jack Teagarden both on trombone. Occasionally Gershwin himself was on piano.
Everett on the other hand tells it as it is, reveals warts from the very beginning and his book is fascinating not just for that, but because it reveals so much of the business of which I was totally ignorant despite being a part of it for fifty years. It is also beautifully written. He has made the closest observation to the experience as I have ever read. “It’s difficult to describe a theatrical production. It exists for the moment it is on the stage and, even then, it is different for everyone who sees it. As the curtain falls the final tableau dissolves into the ether. A few pictures might remain to jog the memory, but photographs are performances of their own. And so the magic of theatre is its life, also its death. Both are contained and celebrated in the moment of applause. The curtain goes up again. The actors take their bows. It’s over.”
My one and only small complaint: I got a bit tired of the adoration; I adored him, I adored her, I adored them, I adored it, we adored each other! No wonder the press sometimes refer to actors as luvvies!