Sunday, January 30, 2011

A number of Blogs ago I mentioned our friend in London, Ray Peters, sending us newspaper clippings etc., things he feels would be of interest to us and that, because of the cost of postage, I didn’t believe he would continue much longer. Last week we received a package with the following note – ‘I’m sorry to say my clippings will be less and less from now on. Postage is already too high and will rise again April 1st I believe.’ So there you are, the post office loses another customer, small maybe, but multiply it by any number of thousands and small becomes large. Talk about cutting your own throat! The next thing you know as the volume of post diminishes another few hundred workers will be laid off. Governments as well can behave rather stupidly (so what’s new?). The price of petrol has rocketed to such an extent there has been a decided drop in sales at the pumps with the result I suppose that all that extra tax the government hoped to rake in just isn’t forthcoming. We know how the British motorist feels as the cost of petrol here has got to the stage when we use the car only when necessary. No more exploring, no more adventures. No more fun roundabouts. We were only grateful that the price of heating oil hadn’t gone up as much as was expected though it is still pretty expensive.
Baroness Warsi, a conservative MP and herself a Muslim is decrying what she terms Islamophobia in Britain. She gives as examples - In the factory where they have just hired a Muslim worker, the boss says “not to worry, he’s only fairly Muslim.” In the school the kids say “The family next door are Muslim but they’re not too bad.”
‘It has seeped into our society,’ she says, ‘where it is acceptable around dinner to have conversations where anti-Muslim hatred is openly discussed.’ There has evidently been a backlash to her speech and, of course hot denials all round but I’m afraid the good baroness is only too right. I note by the way that despite being a Muslim she does not wear the bhurka of even cover her head but that’s by the by and it’s more than likely because she is “only fairly Muslim.” Now, having just read all about her speech, I turn to the news to see a video of what are called ‘pop-up tea rooms.’ So-called 'pop-up' tearooms are being used to fill shops left empty by the economic downturn. The temporary cafes have been set up with money from the previous government, and are one of a number of projects across England aimed at reducing the number of boarded up shop fronts on our high streets. In Handsworth, Birmingham, ‘Pop in for a free cup of tea’ is chalked on the window and what do we find inside? Virtually everyone who had popped in is either African, Asian, or Middle Eastern including what looked suspiciously like an imam complete with turban. I think I saw two European faces. Would I be correct in thinking that the venerable imam might just have been doing a spot of proselytizing while socializing and sipping his tea? The baroness is right not only because of crime and the work of extremists but because in some towns in the UK the Muslim population is now so large the people who have lived there all their lives do feel threatened. The Brits have been lauding the multi-cultural society but unfortunately, as Mrs. Merkel in Germany has frankly admitted, it just hasn’t worked, not when immigrants are so entrenched in their own beliefs and customs they refuse to be integrated or even acknowledge the customs and rights of others. So official forms and signs will still have to be produced in half a dozen languages because the speakers of those languages refuse pointblank to learn English. Henry Ford recognized how important language is when he started English schools for his workforce and, if immigrants can’t or won’t learn the language of their adopted country, there will always be suspicion and, yes, Baroness, I wish I didn’t have to say it – hatred; but then hatred of the foreigner, xenophobia, is hardly a new phenomenon.
On the other hand the Prime Minister of Australia has made it very clear what they think of the situation downunder. If you don’t like it then go. No one asked you to come here, you came of your own free accord so kindly stop whining and make an effort to fit in or leave.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A couple of years ago I had a pacemaker fitted since when I have had to take a drug called Sintrom which apparently is the same as rat poison only I presume in smaller doses! It thins the blood so there is no danger of a clot forming and my goodness it certainly works; hands and forearms show, sometimes for apparently no reason, what look like bruises that come and go and are rather unsightly. Actually a little bump or the slightest pressure will bring one up. Also a miniscule cut and I bleed like a stuck pig which is not so good. Once a year I have to go over to Heraklion to the university Hospital where I was treated to have the pacemaker checked.
I am sure I have told this story before so, if I have, forgive the repetition. On the day of my discharge after the operation, Chris, Douglas and I were standing by reception in the cardiac unit waiting for some papers when Doctor Goldentummy and another doctor approached. Goldentummy was the surgeon who put in the pacemaker and he now informed me that I had a hole in my heart that needed seeing to and, pointing to the other doctor, informed us this was the surgeon who would be performing the operation. Evidently the blood was going round and around like the music in that old song and the hole needed to be sealed by cauterisation. ‘You won’t feel a thing,’ Goldentummy assured me, and Chris and Douglas went off with the other surgeon to make an appointment for a couple of months time.
The day arrived and Chris drove me over to Heraklion. I was fully prepared to be admitted and all psyched up for the coming op but, as we were sitting waiting to be seen, a nurse passed by and Chris asked her how long she thought it would take to which she replied, ‘about ten minutes.’ This was hardly the expected answer and, when we went in to see the good Doctor Goldentummy it turned out we were there merely to have the pacemaker checked. ‘But what about the hole in the heart?’ I asked. ‘What hole in the heart?’ Goldentummy asked. Now maybe if I had been on my own I could have dreamt up the whole scenario but three of us? All three remember Goldentummy’s words exactly so whatever happened to the mysterious missing hole in my heart? Well, rightly or wrongly I have come to the following conclusion Doctor Watson – I believe it is possible that for a brief moment in time my notes were mixed up with those of another patient and it was he who had the hole in the heart. Could easily have happened. Doctors are not infallible and mistakes are made, in this case thank goodness without untoward consequences. The pacemaker is working perfectly and there has been no sign of any other condition so my thanks to the good doctors at the University Hospital, Heraklion. I wonder if they ever did sort it out – the missing hole I mean.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It is estimated that the musical “Spiderman” on Broadway will have to attract full houses for seven years before it covers its costs and anyone makes any money out of it, the backers that is. Four performers have been injured so far and with technical difficulties the opening has been put back once gain; the producers say for the last time. Musical theatre and opera are the most costly to produce and too many lose their all but somehow this seems to me to really go way over the top. Seven years of full houses? What happens if the east coast suffers more raging storms such as it recently has, New York is blanketed in snow for a week or more and people can’t get to the theatre? Do the seven years get extended by a year or two or, with inflation, will tickets simply become so prohibitively expensive people won’t want to go to the theatre anyway, not that seat prices haven’t been heading that way for some time? Just think what it costs to attend a performance at Covent Garden. But hey! Who cares about money? It’s only money and this is show biz, man! As long as everyone is getting their jollies that’s all that really matters. Isn’t it?
But talking of storms what IS happening to the world’s weather and just as important, why? What have we humans been doing now to degrade our beautiful planet?
We’ve been having some pretty heavy rain here in Vamos but why is half the world flooded, and I mean flooded, I don’t mean a mere six inches or so of water? The floods in Australia have been devastating but then so have those in Sri Lanka, China, Brazil, Germany, Pakistan, parts of America, and now South Africa. The amount of water rushing down the streets of towns in Queensland is something I have never seen before and I doubt many people have. It has been like a veritable inland tsunami. And it has spread to Victoria where it is described as an inland sea.

Bees are dying by the million and the global cost of replacing insect pollination is around $190bn every year. You don't have to be an environmentalist to care about protecting the Earth's wildlife. Chinese fruit farmers now have to pay people to pollinate apple trees because there are no longer enough bees to do the job for free. And it's not just the number of bees that is dwindling rapidly - as a direct result of human activity, species are becoming extinct at a rate 1,000 times greater than the natural average. The Earth's natural environment is also suffering. In the past few decades alone, 20% of the oceans' coral reefs have been destroyed, with a further 20% badly degraded or under serious threat of collapse, while tropical forests equivalent in size to the UK are cut down every two years. For the first time in history, we can now begin to quantify just how expensive degradation of nature really is. A recent, two-year study for the United Nations Environment Programme, entitled The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity put the damage done to the natural world by human activity in 2008 at between $2tn (£1.3tn) and $4.5tn. A second study, for the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment puts the figure at 11% of global economic output.
Of course these figures are just estimates - there is no exact science to measuring human impact on the natural world - but they show that the risks to the global economy of large-scale environmental destruction are huge. The reason the world is waking up to the real cost of the degradation of the Earth's wildlife and resources - commonly referred to as biodiversity loss - is because, until now, no one has had to pay for it. The fact is increased flooding is partly due to land conversion by humans.
Frightening is it not? Especially as it is estimated that within twenty years hunger will become virtually universal.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Watched “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince,” and if the play we watched the other night “And Evermore Shall be so” was convoluted and unintelligible this was even more so though of course on a much much much grander scale. If ever there was an inane screenplay this one surely takes the biscuit. Scene followed scene seemingly with little or no reference to what went before and after about twenty minutes I said, ‘Does anyone know what’s going on?’ To which the reply from both was a definite no. In consequence the whole thing became one long bore and I am surprised we stuck it to the end. Had I been on my own I most probably would not have. There were some wonderful effects of course and a lovely music score but apart from that one out of ten.
Having last time mounted my hobby horse, sex; I mount its companion, religion. There is little if any doubt that were I to live in a Muslim country or had I been alive in former times (particularly in Spain) I would have been in grave danger of hideous torture and certain death so I make no apologies to any who have a religious bent for my view of something I believe is pernicious and which mankind should have jettisoned a long time ago but, alas, never will. God’s name is spelt p-a-i-n and therefore as pain, like the poor, is always with us so He will always be with us in some form or another. It’s unfortunate but obvious I suppose that religion and all the dodgy, devious, dreadful, deleterious, didactic and yes, oft times deadly hokum it is imbued with has been responsible for a great deal of that pain and still is. (Thought I would dabble deftly in a bit of Mrs McK.Ros there). Murder and mayhem and permissible, encouraged, and lauded cruelty are not exactly unknown to the religiously minded of whatever persuasion. Neither of course are smaller matters, especially when it comes to doctrine and bigotry. At Westminster Cathedral, because they do not agree with the ordination of women, three former Anglican bishops are to be ordained as Catholic priests: Keith Newton, Andrew Burnham, and John Broadhurst will take up roles in the section known as the Ordinariate. Other traditionalist Anglican clergy have spoken of their sadness and anger about the bishops' conversion. Mr. Burnham, along with fellow bishops, Mr. Newton and Mr. Broadhurst, had all formerly supervised Church of England parishes that had opted out of contact with women priests. The ordination of former Anglican bishops as Roman Catholic priests could fundamentally change the Church they leave behind. ”Mr. Newton has estimated that about 50 more Anglican clergy might join the Roman Catholic church in the coming months - along with members of their congregations. Like some other traditionalist clergy on the Catholic wing of the Church of England, they opposed the introduction of women bishops, and do not believe sufficient provision was being made for traditionalists to avoid coming under the jurisdiction of women. Note that word – jurisdiction - If that isn’t male chauvinism I would like to know what is. The Vatican will allow them to maintain a distinct religious identity and spiritual heritage within the Ordinariate. How nice, how convenient, how generous. Other Anglican traditionalists have warned that the bishops' departure will jeopardise the future of the Church of England as a broad Church able to balance its Protestant and Catholic traditions. I have a question or two – if the bishops had gone over to the Muslim or Jewish faith and the other fifty who it is reckoned will follow and, if they have not already been, would they be willing to be circumcised? It is important you know. You can’t be a fully paid up member of the club if you’re not. And if they are already married will they be willing to divorce and jettison their families for the sake of being Roman Catholic priests? Or will they be excused? What does Holy Writ and His Infallibility have to say about that?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

It’s back to that old subject of shhh you know what… s-x! An aspect of nature with which mankind through religious injunction, fear, taboo and myth seem totally unable to come to terms with.
Out of the anarchy of 15 years of warlords in Somalia there has grown a vicious, religiously motivated militia, al-Shabab, whose control now extends over large swaths of southern and central Somalia and most of its capital. In a district controlled by the Islamist group, men and women have been banned from shaking hands. Under the ban imposed in the southern town of Jowhar, men and women who are not related are also barred from walking together or chatting in public. It is the first time such social restrictions (for social reads sexual, for sexual read religious) have been introduced. The al-Shabab administration said those who disobeyed the new rules would be punished according to Sharia law. That primitive barbaric Sharia law again! Not barbaric? The penalty would probably be a public flogging. The militant group has already banned music in areas that it controls, which include most of central and southern Somalia. Somalia has not had a stable government since 1991. A letter, typed out in English by a refugee, tells of a little known horror she and others endure in the tragedy that is Somalia's ongoing civil war: The rape, forced marriage and even beheading of women at the hands of the Islamist militiamen who have overrun much of their country. "This year we have been hearing a lot about forced marriages and rapes," says a member of an aid agency working on the ground with newly arrived Somali refugees in Yemen. Like most who spoke about the actions of the hardline Islamist al-Shabab and other militias in Somalia, he refused to have his name published, fearing reprisals against his family still living in Somalia. The head office of the aid agency also requested their name not be published for fear of attacks on their staff members in the country. "Women cannot move or sit outside. They can't even walk with their brother," says the aid worker. "Unmarried women are forced to marry and if she refuses they say she's a non-Muslim. Many parents choose to send their girls away with relatives and friends so as not to be forced into marriage or raped. If a woman refuses a forced marriage, we have reports of them being beheaded and their head sent to their father." It would appear the enforcement of Sharia law is not just about sex as such but the wielding of power in sexual matters, but more of that another time. On to a storm in a teacup: a small article in the paper headed ‘Dames Go To War' – Why does Chris Bryant accuse the Chancellor George Osborne of “homophobia” for describing him as a “panto dame” in the House of Commons? Barry Cryer, the comic, resents the former minister’s implication that it is a derogatory term and that such characters are always played by homosexual actors. “Thinking of some of the greatest dames, I don’t see sexual orientation has been a factor one way or the other,” he says ‘If I had no sense of humour, as one of a number of men who has played dame and who happens to be heterosexual I could ask him for an apology.” Storm in a teacup.Why bother?
And finally to the myth that homosexuals are all paedophiles, are hell bent on seducing young boys and that society has to be constantly aware of the danger. There are obviously men attracted to young boys though very much in the minority and it would seem with paedophiles the sex of the child is immaterial and girls are just as vulnerable. Consider this - each year hundreds of children call the ChildLine helpline every year to say they have been sexually abused by a woman, the NSPCC has said. Research also shows that many reported victims are extremely young. The charity said that last year about 1,000 victims of sex offences reported to police in England and Wales were under five, and 3,000 were younger than 10. Not all abused by women of course but so much for all paedophiles being homosexual men.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A nice mention of ‘A King’s Story’ in the Daily Mail in a long article on films about the Royal Family – “The first film in which any members of the British Royal, family took part came in 1965 (goodness me, was it as long ago as that?) when American documentary film maker Jack le Vien (of blessed memory) produced A King’s Story in which the exiled Duke and Duchess of Windsor were allowed to recount, with a commentary by Orson Welles, the saga of ‘the love story of the (20th) Century, the Duke’s abdication to marry Wallis Simpson - the woman I love.’ The royal couple attended a premiere in London (It was at the Festival Hall and I bought myself an evening suit for the occasion, the one and only time I ever wore it. Should have hired one from Moss bros, would have been much cheaper.) Although their version of events has since been contradicted by the subsequent release of official documents the film itself passed without controversy. However it marked a watershed in the relationship of the royals with the public.”
At least the duke was gracious enough to thank me for the writing which was more than Jack le Vien ever did!
I read also that “Judi Dench tops a list of the best ever stage actors!” Best ever? There’s a conceit for you. Ever? American actors? Russian actors? German? French? Victorian actors? Georgian actors? Restoration actors? Elizabethan actors? Roman actors? Greek? Ever is a very big word forsooth. Well, of late twentieth century/ twenty first century actors anyway, according to Charles Spence of The Telegraph Miss Dench tops the list of ten and I am not in the least surprised. She is wonderful, a national treasure, and on top of her talent a woman with no side to her at all. I only met her once; the result being that here facing me on my desk is a beautiful glass paperweight inside of which is a white stone with flecks of silver in it. It happened when I wrote a pilot for a possible TV series (another one that was never done) and she did the commentary. When we finished for the day we went shopping, that is Judi asked me to go shopping with her and one of the stops we made for was The Scotch Shop just off St Martin’s Lane as she wanted to buy a woollen sweater. I waited for her outside and when she came out she handed me a present – the paperweight. I think the gesture was typical of her. I don’t hesitate to say I think she is my favourite actress and it started oh so many years ago. I remember attending a performance of Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet at the Old Vic and she was for me the definitive Juliet. What a performance and none that I have seen since has ever equalled her.
Unfortunately I couldn’t say the same of her Romeo, I seem to remember it was John Stride and, despite the fact that the critics gave him good notices, for me he was a big disappointment. If jumping up and down like a puppet on a string denotes passion well then I suppose he had it but, for me, he was an actor jumping up and down like a puppet on a string.
Laurence Olivier by the way comes fifth in the list, Gielgud seventh, Ralph Richardson tenth. So much for the giants of British theatre.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this, getting more and more absentminded with the passing years. Couldn’t even remember the word ‘amnesia’ in a crossword puzzle. Had to sleep on it. The local Papas (village priest) has been around and blest our house, every room, with holy water, holy basil, and holy crucifix. No incense though which is a pity as I am particularly fond of the scent of incense. I missed it all as it was siesta time when he came and I was fast asleep so my bedroom missed out as well. Evidently he was doing the other three houses up our lane and asked Chris if he would like ours done to which Chris said yes. I wonder where he got fresh basil from this time of year.
Talking of age and the passing years, twice now I have had a form from the Department of Pensions and Social Security to be filled in and witnessed to the fact that I am still alive. According to statistics a third of Japanese over 65 now live alone. Many also die alone - a modern phenomenon that has inspired the word kodokushi, or lonely death. It was on a hot summer's day that police in Japan found the mummified corpse of a man - still lying in the bed where he had died 30 years earlier. At 111 years old, he was believed to be Japan's oldest man. His 81-year-old daughter had hidden his death and pocketed more than 9m yen ($106,000; £68,000) in pension payments, police said. Suspicions aroused, local governments sent out teams to check on their elderly residents. When officials visited the home of Tokyo's reputed oldest woman, Fusa Furuya, aged 113, they discovered that she had not been seen by her daughter since the 1980s. Japan's media has delivered a day-by-day count of the missing, prompting much national hand-wringing. One woman who - if alive - would be 125 years old, was found to have been registered as living in a park in Kobe city. The register in Yamaguchi prefecture indicated one of its residents was alive and kicking at 186 years old. The nationwide hunt culminated with the Justice Ministry reporting more than 230,000 "missing" centenarians - a revelation that sent the country, which traditionally venerates its elderly, into collective shock.
The Justice Ministry said some of those unaccounted for might have died as long ago as World War II, with their deaths going unreported amid the post-war turmoil. Others might have emigrated without reporting their status to the local authorities, or relatives might simply not have reported their deaths. The resident registry, which is based on census data and information on pensions and other welfare benefits, gives a far more accurate picture. Those figures, released last week by the Health Ministry, recorded 44,449 living citizens aged 100 or more. It was unable to account for about 400 people - a troubling figure for a society that prides itself on its commitment to its most senior citizens.
"The situation shows the existence of lonely people who have no family to turn to and whose ties with those around them have been severed," a newspaper said. The case of the missing centenarians indicates a breakdown in social cohesion - in the family and the wider community, says analyst Jeff Kingston. It used to be that parents would live with their children and grandchildren but the three-generation family is becoming an anachronism. Japan is growing older as its population declines. It now has the world's highest proportion of elderly with more than 20% of the population aged over 65. By 2050 this figure will be close to 40%. It’s happening worldwide of course.

There are huge waiting lists for public care homes, but many would rather live a solitary life than be institutionalised. This social exclusion has driven up suicide rates and crime among the elderly. Petty crimes such as shoplifting have soared in the last decade - out of economic necessity for some; in other cases as a means of seeking attention - albeit negative. But perhaps the most surprising element of this story is some families deliberately hiding the deaths of elderly relatives in order to claim their pensions. Japan's health minister has suggested face-to-face meetings with all citizens over 110 years old to verify their vitality. As I approach my 80th birthday I wonder how soon it will be before I receive another form from the UK wanting to verify I am still in the land of the living.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Went to the theatre a few days back; that is we went to the local school hall the amateurs are using for their productions. They call themselves the Toneel Drama Group and, if my memory of Afrikaans serves me right, toneel is Dutch for play or scene. However they soon became known as the toenail group so it was a strange name to choose to begin with. I have no doubt there was a reason for it. It shows how many ex-pats have settled in this part of Crete that they could fill the house for four performances.
As for the play itself, the most proficient, experienced, talented professionals would not be able to make a silk purse out of this pig’s ear. The play is a mystery/thriller titled “And Evermore Shall Be So.” by a man named Norman Robbins (“green grow the rushes ho, one is one and all alone and evermore shall be so.” The assumption is that everyone will know this song; not a wise assumption to make) and I think it is more mystery than thriller because even now I’m not too sure of what went on, the plot was so convoluted with reams of reported speech in which the characters told other characters what was happening or had happened, usually the latter, but left me for one in the dark and, after a number of people had been bumped off, in one instance at least a case of mistaken identity, the deus ex machina was cancer in both a husband and wife. She killed him (I think) because she said she couldn’t bear to see him in such pain and now she believes God is punishing her by giving her ovarian cancer. As a book it might have been fascinating, as a play it simply is not on, a truly doleful piece of theatrical writing. When a play opens with the telephone ringing and the char coming on (clich├ęd comedy part) to answer it with a long monologue I know from then on it’s downhill all the way and so it proved and when it finally comes to two people actually dying on stage…well… death scenes are always difficult and these were, to put it bluntly, hilarious and the audience responded accordingly. Again it wasn’t necessarily the actors who were at fault but a fault in the writing.
I was told the committee read ten plays of which they decided this was the best. In which case God alone knows what the others were like though they could have been rejected for practical reasons. The problems they have, so I was informed, are firstly they believe because the stage is so small they are limited to one set plays which of course is not necessarily true. It’s amazing what can be achieved in a small space. Secondly they have to choose plays in which the cast are mostly elderly and this is understandable though again I am sure there must be younger members of the community who would like to take part. Needless to say one of the ten plays rejected was mine –“Little Footstep On The Petals” the reason for the rejection evidently being they felt ex-pats other than English would not understand the northern sense of humour. And it is not sour grapes when I criticise Mister Robbins work. Now I have recently written a comedy called “Marry Go Round” set in Greece that I could send them but is it worthwhile? It requires two sets, one for each act, and they might feel this is beyond their capabilities. Douglas says it’s down to lack of imagination. It’s also I think down to inexperience but good on them anyway for trying. When we first came to Crete I tried to raise an interest in theatre and failed lamentably. At lease they have got off the ground and hopefully can only improve.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Truth is definitely stranger than fiction. The plot of ‘The Cinelli Vases’ (which went off to the printers a few days ago and came back yesterday to be proof read) revolves around the invention of a super recreational drug discovered by a Swiss scientist and potentially worth a fortune that everyone naturally wants to get their hands on.
Now I read an American scientist is complaining about the misuse of scientific research to create designer drugs! Writing in the journal ‘Nature,’ Professor David Nichols of Purdue University, Indiana, says he is "haunted" by deaths linked to a drug based on his own research. MTA or "flatliners" used a blueprint published by the professor and was sold as a "legal high", drugs which mimic the effects of illegal substances. It has since been banned as a class-A drug in the UK. Back in the 1990s, Professor Nichols and colleagues were experimenting with chemicals similar to the one used in the drug ecstasy. The hope was their research might lead to new drugs to treat depression. He published three papers on the effects on rats of one chemical called 4-methylthioamphetamine or MTA. It later emerged the work had been used to create pills dubbed "flatliners", which were linked with at least six deaths. But it is only recently that the professor has become fully aware of how the designer drugs industry has been systematically mining his work for recipes.
Professor Nichols says MTA, and other chemicals he has developed, can be created in a kitchen laboratory.
"It is something that someone with a PhD, if they're really determined to do it, could probably set up in a laboratory in their kitchen. If they could get the necessary chemicals, they could make some of these things, but these drugs are being made on a much larger scale than just the occasional chemist with the curiosity. It sounds like these things have really become a small industry."
The professor is by no means the only scientist to have his work plundered by the drug makers. He says several synthetic drugs which mimic the effects of cannabis have been developed using data from publicly available scientific literature. The British authorities have moved to ban a host of "legal highs" in recent years. So my plot ain’t that far-fetched at all. Similarly I was a bit worried about the deaths of my Yakusa and my Triad; the one shooting the other and simultaneously having his head taken off, but it IS possible. I read of the governor in the Philippines who recently was shot dead and who, taking a photograph of his family, simultaneously and accidentally photographed his killer who was standing behind and to one side of them. So there you are, truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It is really amazing how easily my name is continuously misspelt. You would think that Glyn is a pretty easy moniker to write or remember but no, it comes in all shapes. My nephew Tony’s wife, Leigh still spells it with a double n as does Douglas’s sister in law, Susan, and the other day a friend in England e-mailed us with the news that she had got “one of Glen’s books.” Surely on the cover of the book the name Glyn is printed quite clearly for all to see. This has happened all my life and I probably make a big deal of it in the autobiography. I have also recently used it elsewhere, that is in Thornton King number five where the character of Ernest J. Bloomberg, budding script writer and film director is incensed by people constantly calling him Bloomfield. He is not the first and shan’t be the last to have his name misspelt. The Jones bit is pretty easy as well but that too has been misspelt and it is most annoying if it hinges on some aspect of one’s profession. For example on a record sleeve my songs are attributed to one Glyn Johns. Great! At least it’s not Glynn Johns pr Glen Johns.

Mister Ratty and family are still inhabiting roof space and I do believe there must be a mouse or mice who come out in the kitchen at night as a piece of bread I left in Merrill’s dish on the butcher’s block was found nibbled on the floor in the morning. But our problem is as nothing compared to the rat infestation in a part of India. The local farmers call it a flood, an inundation that happens every fifty years. Others believe it is an act of God, an inevitability. (Of course it is an act of God – everything is an act of God whether you believe in Him/Her/It or not)). A gigantic plague of rats that ruins crops and leaves people starving, a rat army so big, so mythical, that until now scientist refused to believe it and evidently it is all down to bamboo dying and seeding before it goes, leaving eighty tons of seed per hectare on the ground to feed the rats. It is an event that only occurs every half century. The rats can produce a litter every three weeks and the babies reach sexual maturity in just 50 to 60 days. There are people who weren’t alive when the last explosion took place and some farmers evidently, accepting what they consider to be inevitable, don’t even bother to plant their rice as it is bound to be eaten. Evidently all the methods of pest control have failed. More than two million six hundred rats were collected in 2009. Female rats can mate again as soon as they have given birth so a female can be nursing one litter while pregnant with the next. Rats need to eat 10% to 15% of their body weight each day just to maintain that weight. The old world rat and mouse family has more species in it than any other mammal family and a new species of giant rat was discovered last year in the jungle of Papua New Guinea.

So there you are, all you need to know about rats. Brrr!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Some further gems from the pen of Mrs Amanda McKittrick Ros – “Hope sinks a world of imagination. It in almost every instance never fails to arm the opponents of justice with weapons of friendly defence, and gains their final fight with peaceful submission. Life is too often stripped of its pleasantness by the steps of false assumption, marring the true path of life-long happiness which should be pebbled with principle, piety, purity, and peace.” Wow! (She left out poetry or poesy). This lady really was the Florence Foster Jenkins of the literary world. I am amazed it was deemed fit to publish her. Maybe it was vanity publishing.
‘Swayed society’s circle with the sceptre of nobleness’ –‘ insult and poverty, the thoughts of pleasant days piled themselves with parched power’ – ‘the man she brought with head of bowed and battered bruises and blasted untruths,’ etcetera.
I can’t leave it though without finally forcing you to feel the fierce, fearful, and frightful final finger of fate as, kneeling beside the grave of her late husband, her handsome upstanding and son of noble mien approaches and on discovering who she is…
“Mighty Heavens!” exclaimed Sir Hugh Dunfern, “are you the vagrant who ruined the very existence of him whom you now profess to have loved? You, the wretch of wicked and wilful treachery, and formally the wife of him before whose very bones you falsely kneel! Are you the confirmed traitoress of the trust reposed in you by my late lamented, dearest and most noble of fathers? Are you aware of the hypocrisy you manifested once has been handed down to me as an heirloom of polluted possession, and stored within this breast of mine, an indelible stain for life, or, I might say, during your known and hated existence! False woman! Wicked wife! Detested mother! Bereft widow! How darest thou set foot on the premises your chastity should have protected and secured! What kind of transparent touch must have blown its blasts of boldest bravery around your poisoned person and guided you within miles of the mansion I proudly own? What spirit but that of evil used its influence upon you to dare to bend footsteps of foreign tread towards the door through which they once stole unknown? Ah woman of sin and stray companion of tutorism* arise, I demand you, and strike across the grassy centre as quickly as you can, and never more make your hated face appear within these mighty walls; I cannot extend the assistance your poor, poverty-stricken attire of false don(?) silently requests; I can never call you mother; neither can I ever meet you on this side of the grave before which you so pityingly kneel.”
What pathos, what melodrama! If it was a play and the actor playing Sir Hugh, instead of ranting, said these lines very quietly, can you just imagine the violin playing? The audiences weeping into their handkerchiefs.

*She left her husband to run off with her tutor who she was madly in love with and bigamously married in America. She just had to come to a sticky end and, as we come to the last few words, morality is deemed to be satisfied.

The author has also forgotten they’re out in the cemetery not ‘within these mighty walls!’ Poetic license no doubt.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The actor Peter Postlethwaite has died age 64. I didn’t know him well. Years in the business and you work with hundreds of people most of whom with the passage of time are forgotten but Peter was one I have always remembered. We worked together at The Mermaid Theatre in London many many years ago and I don’t believe I ever saw him again after that but I remember him not only as an extremely talented actor but a lovely man. Who else was in the cast of that particular production? I don’t remember. See what I mean?
I simply cannot get my mind around why Republican thinking in the United States is so anti a health service. I remember when I was teaching at JMU the Dean of the faculty saying how much he and his wife dreaded falling really ill as, despite private insurance, a long illness would wipe them out. Now this was from fairly well off middle class America, imagine what it is like for those not so fortunate. And my insurance company every month deleted s couple more ailments the policy no longer covered though the premiums of course remained the same.
When I was rushed by ambulance into A&E in Athens a few years ago with a suspected heart attack, after an ingestion of drugs and being well seen to by three or four doctors, I was having a cup of tea in the waiting room, sitting there with Douglas and noticed this woman weeping pathetically and, when I asked Douglas what the matter could be, it turned out she had been informed she needed an operation but as a foreigner without insurance she was being turned away.
Chris and I are both entitled to treatment through the Greek health system and what a blessing it has been. As one grows older and the body begins to disintegrate it requires more and more looking after and the health system here has been doing it wonderfully well. Chris has had medicines, x-rays, scans, treatment for his back, a laser operation for a hole in a retina and now has a broken arm. Again it was diagnosed, x-rayed and he was supplied with a splint almost immediately, no hanging about. I have been in hospital twice, firstly with pneumonia, secondly for a heart pace maker. Those two sessions in hospital and the operation alone would have cost a great deal of money we simply could not have afforded with the follow-up bonus of drugs for which we pay either 20% or 10% and modern drugs are extremely expensive. The hospital treatment in both cases was simply spendid, my only complaint being hospital food! Nurses in Greek hospitals are there simply for the basics – to administer medicine, take temperatures, blood pressure, take blood, collect samples, fix drips, etcetera. Comfort nursing as I will call it, that is all the extras, is expected from family. They supply all the supplementary nursing that’s needed. Consequently there are no such things as visiting hours. It isn’t unusual even for husbands and wives to share beds if one is looking after the other and it is possible. I mustn’t forget my bout of pneumonia (and years of smoking of course) left me with decidedly dodgy lungs and I have been seeing a specialist once a month for almost a year. There are those with private insurance, there are private clinics, private doctors and medical establishments and the public and private sectors work side by side. Our IKA doctor in Xania sees IKA patients all morning but after one o’clock consultations are private and paid for. The system works well and would save the British National Health a lot of money. The Greek system would save money by cutting the paperwork in half or more and bringing methods up to date.
Douglas is not qualified for IKA so it was just as well, thank the lord, that he could be treated in England for his cancer. Treatment for that here, good as it is I believe, costs a small fortune – unless of course you are in IKA.
The system though, wonderful as it is for those in need of treatment is, like the rest of Greece, heavily in debt, I believe to the tune of 300million euro to the suppliers of drugs and medical equipment. But, like I said, modern medicine is extremely expensive. Maybe this is partly what the Republicans are worried about.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

“Sympathise with me indeed! Ah, no! Cast your sympathy on the chill waves of troubled waters; fling it on the oasis of futurity; dash it against the rock of gossip; or better still allow it to remain within the false and faithless bosom of buried scorn. Sympathy can wound the breast of trodden patience – it hath no rival to insure the feelings we possess, save that of sorrow.”
Once again I have taken down a book that’s been on the shelf for many a year. This one is called ‘A Cupful of Tears – Sixteen Victorian Novelettes,’ and the above are the opening lines of the first, “Irene Iddesleigh” by Mrs Amanda McKittrick Ros, and with a name like that it’s no wonder she writes as she does; meaningless florid sentences each a mile long and a positively perfect penchant for alliteration; at least one example of which, if not more, can be found in every short chapter. See above - false, faithless. bosom, buried, breast. And for example, “the dashing waves of Atlantic waters were raising themselves to a considerable height before the eyes of the fugitives, who nervously paced the deck of danger in despair and deepest thought…” Isn’t it wonderful? I have to admit though that, rubbish that it is, seeing through the veritable varied verbose, one might almost say vintage verbiage I’m rather enjoying it.
An article in last week’s paper was bemoaning the fact that people don’t write lengthy letters or keep diaries these days because the great diarists of the past (Samuel Pepys of course) by jotting down their everyday experiences give us a fairly full (there I go again) picture of what life was like in them there bygone days. Web logs are evidently no substitute. But short messages by e-mail are so much more convenient and with the cost of postage for snail mail what it is it is hardly surprising that people no longer want to use it unless absolutely necessary. I don’t know how long Ray, who is after all a pensioner, can keep up with sending us news cuttings, reviews, and tit-bits when you consider the price of postage these days. For a letter up to 40g it is 88p, then there is a catch as there is no price for 50g but with 40 to 60 the cost goes up to £1.14. 100g and it’s up to £1.65, 120 - £1.92, 140 - £2.19! As he tells us, a friend no longer sends him ‘Opera News’ as it now costs more in postage than the magazine itself.
We get catalogues from various booksellers(by e-mail now as opposed to printed) who specialise in theatrical stuff and sometimes when there is a book we would consider buying we know the price after postage is going to be pretty hefty so in many instances are simply put off by that fact. Sorry for the bookseller but that’s the way it is. It’s no wonder business corporations in the UK prefer to use continental postal services for bulk sending.
The days of the penny post are long since gone. It wouldn’t be surprising if the days of the post office are numbered.

PS: What on earth is “the oasis of futurity”?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Oranges, oranges, oranges: as though our trees aren’t giving us enough, Eleftheria has sent over a carrier bag full and another of mandarins. Goodness knows how many kilos Douglas has picked and, looking out my window, I see there is still masses of fruit on one of the trees. So I have started an orange wine, two gallons. Waste not, want not though there have been six demi-johns of wine in a corner of the kitchen waiting for yonks to be bottled. I brewed some orange wine a while back and it turned out a treat so hopefully this one will be just as good. As for marmalade, I think there is enough in the jam cupboard now to last me the rest of my life, and there is a continuous huge jug of fresh juice in the fridge so we’re getting plenty of vitamin C. The question of bottling though is a slight conundrum at the moment. In the old days in London or Yorkshire when making wine it was racked (or should that be wracked?) into glass bottles complete with corks and labels but since making wine in Crete it has gone into plastic which it seems is what everyone here who makes the local stuff does. Underneath the stairs there are a hundred unused glass bottles and Douglas has decided, if they’re never going to be used, to get rid of them. The conundrum though is I don’t have enough plastic to take about fifty bottles of wine and, even if I did decant it all where in the hell could I keep fifty bottles? The wine rack in the pantry is already full. I notice there is one last bottle of rhubarb wine, 1981. I had meant to open it for New Year but forgot all about it. It will be imbibed very soon I’m sure.

Have just finished going over and polishing ‘The Movieland Murders.’ Nobody has yet come up with a better title. I thought of calling it ‘Working Title’ but that has been shot down in flames because I am told the great unwashed wouldn’t know the expression. In the meantime Douglas has been busy proof reading ‘The Cinelli Vases’ and has designed a beautiful cover for it. Although they could still be described as comedy thrillers I feel these last two have much more of the novel about them which I am quite pleased about.

Snake oil salesmen still exist only on a much bigger scale. As I mentioned in a Blog sometime ago, our friend Ray Peters in London sends us newspaper cuttings and odds and sods he thinks we will be interested in, enjoy, be amused by, and amongst the latest is a real beaut as an Australian might say. “MAXIMUS penis enlargement pills”… what? Excuse me while I suppress a desire to laugh. “Gain up to 3 full inches in length. Increase your girth by 20%. Stop premature ejaculation. Produce stronger rock hard erections. 100% safe to take with no side effects. Doctor approved and recommended. No pumps, no surgery, no exercise. 100% money back guarantee.” This evidently is a massive breakthrough in Herbal Science. 20 specialised doctors have created a pill designed specifically for Male Penis Enlargement. Excuse me, but who or what apart from males boasts a penis? Here’s a bit more sales guff, “You will be absolutely amazed when you see your penis gradually becoming LARGER and LARGER right before your eyes! ( you sit there watching it I suppose, like paint drying) NOTHING compares to the feeling of having a larger penis.” You can have a 30 day supply for £34.90 (reduced from £49.90) up to a year’s for £295 (reduced from £598.90) postage, packing, and insurance £4.95. If you need a whole year’s supply can it really be that good?
This would appear to me to be on a par with the Nigerian scam asking for your help in recovering millions and offering you a share of the proceeds but it needs a certain amount of cash from you to get the ball rolling as it were.
Also in to-day’s package is an advertisement for “Remote controlled vibrating knickers!” And a butterfly cockring for twenty quid. What IS the world coming to? Peel me a grape, Beulah and order me one of each and, while you’re at it, a year’s supply of MAXIMUS!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

First of all many congratulations to Roger Beeching for being awarded an MBE in the New Year honours list. Well deserved I feel sure. And, as he is a Justice of the Peace I am sure he will appreciate the following. I know I am mounting my hobby horse again which I seem to do with some frequency but I couldn’t let this little titbit of information pass me by. I recollect saying once before that prison is no punishment but is more of a holiday camp and the following more or less proves it.
The headline is “Prison? It’s just like a holiday camp” and continues with “Animal rights terrorists gloat on website about ‘fantastically easy, blissful life behind bars.” Now I am anti-vivisection but I couldn’t in a month of Sundays terrorise people who work in that field as these have done and for which they have been imprisoned. A Prison Service spokesman said: “Ministers are clear that prisons should be places of hard work and are determined to ensure that the culture in prisons reflects this.” So far so good. No one is suggesting bringing back the treadmill or oakum picking but consider these extracts from letters sent by these prisoners. From Dan Amos: ‘It’s an easy life here at Guys Marsh, where I have a Single cell, and en suite shower, and access to the gym seven times a week.’ From Heather Nicholson, Foston hall Prison, Derby: I’m stuffing my face with Plamil (dairy free chocolate) and almonds as I watch Friends. It’s not a bad life, eh? Ha ha! My studies are going really well and I have now started my equine psychology course which I absolutely love.’ All well and good but here comes the cruncher: ‘I may be in prison but I wouldn’t swap places with anyone else in the world!’ From Gerrah Selby, HMP Downview in Sutton, Surrey: ‘Everything here is great. I’ve kept busy while in prison at the gym, doing art and pottery and gaining a Btec qualification in media production. I feel like I’m in school! It’s true that time really does fly by in prison. Of course I long for my family, my friends, and my freedom but being in prison is no hardship.’ Natasha Avery, Send Prison in Woking: ‘I’ve got some great friends here, in for all sorts of crimes from fraud to armed robbery to murder: They are wonderful, funny feisty women with loads going for them and we all look after each other and really do laugh all day long.’
I’m glad education is part of it. It would appear from the graffiti on a victim’s house one of them can’t even spell: ‘I burn youre house down.’
No matter how cushy their life in prison may be, the downside of course is that these kids will always have a record. Maybe it’s time for another behind bars television series bearing all this in mind.