Sunday, October 30, 2011

The religious of various persuasions have been indulging in a few shenanigans and dust-ups recently. A few weeks ago Police in the US state of Ohio were investigating a rare violent feud in the Amish community, in which members have had beards and hair cut off. (Amish men grow beards but not moustaches which they believe have military connotations. Women do not cut their hair). Spiritual differences were said to be behind the attacks on more than half a dozen men and women, according to the police. Amish folk rejected by the mainstream community are suspected of having carried out the attacks. The Amish reluctance to help the police in their enquiries led Sheriff Fred Abdalla to say, ‘You see this crime being committed, and I'm sitting here with my hands tied’. The victims have included a 13-year-old girl and a 74-year-old man. The feud is thought to involve 18 Amish families, most of whom are said to be related, some having broken away to become members of a cult. Violence in an Amish community is extremely rare though, in another incident, if incident it can be called, a man of 32 entered a school and having let the boys leave opened fire on a number of girl pupils, causing deaths and injuries and devastating the community. Nobody can fathom out his motive. Neighbours describe the man and his family as ‘ordinary Christians’.

Several Christian parishes in the Indian state of Kerala have begun offering incentives to couples to have more children; ten thousand rupees for the fifth child as though the world, and India in particular, aren’t already over-populated. Evidently the number of Christians is on the decline but then so are Hindus whereas Islam is growing apace. I really don’t know how you reverse the trend by producing more kids. I suppose it’s like the American fundamentalist sect who believe the more kids they produce (ten or more in some cases) the more future Christians there will be to spread the good word. Just how they guarantee their kids growing up the way they want or expect is something they obviously haven’t considered. Jesus saves and all that.

Still on the subject, a doctor in England has been suspended for bringing Jesus into the consulting room. Evidently it was more than a spatula he rammed down people’s throats. A proselytizer will proselytize wherever he may be.

At least three people in London with HIV have died after they stopped taking life saving drugs on the advice of their Evangelical Christian pastors. The women died after attending churches in London where they were encouraged to stop taking the antiretroviral drugs in the belief that God would heal them.

"I've only seen that once, but it has happened," said Prof Jane Anderson, director of the Centre for the Study of Sexual Health and HIV, in Hackney. "We see patients quite often who will come having expressed the belief that if they pray frequently enough, their HIV will somehow be cured," she added.

HIV prevention charity African Health Policy Network (AHPN) says a growing number of London churches, for example “The Synagogue Church Of All Nations” (I’m surprised it doesn’t end with an Inc.) may be involved in telling people the power of prayer will "cure" their infections. The church is headed by Pastor T B Joshua, Nigeria's third richest clergyman, according to a recent rich list. "HIV-Aids healing" is listed on the church's website among "miracles" it says it can perform. "Cancer healing" and "baby miracles" are also advertised and there is a miracle elixir called ‘anointing water’ which will do the trick if God is deaf to your prayers. Talk about snake-oil. Those carpetbaggers had nothing on this lot. Evidently by using the anointing water "you are positioned for healing". But what’s new? Isn’t there a sect that bans blood transfusions even when it is needed to save life? Could it be Christian Scientists? Could it be Adventists? I don’t remember.

In Tunisia a mob tried to storm and torch a TV station that had the temerity to broadcast a prize winning film because they considered it blasphemous. Evidently it contains a scene that has God talking to a young girl.

In the states the question is ‘will religion harm Mitt Romney’s hopes’? An Evangelical pastor has claimed that Romney is not a Christian and belongs to a cult because he is a Mormon. Hey-ho! There is obviously no chance this in-fighting is ever going to cease.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Someone else who shouldn’t be living in England but it would seem cannot be deported because of the Yuman Rights Act is an ex-Mugabe henchman and torturer of opponents by the name of Phillip Machemedze. Why is he still in England instead of being sent back to Zimbabwe? It’s not because he shouldn’t be in the country at all and has been working illegally for seven years but, despite his horrendous past, his Yuman rights would be violated, that’s why. But what about the human rights of those he tortured so mercilessly at the behest and in the name of Monster Mugabe when he was with the feared Central Intelligence Organisation? It is said he smashed one victim’s jaw with a pair of piers before pulling out one of their teeth. Another was beaten and punched unconscious and a woman victim was taken to an underground cell where she was stripped and whipped and Machemedze admitted rubbing salt in her wounds.

In a small way he was made atonement for past sins in that his work in England, illegal though it was, involved caring for those with learning disabilities and on a unit dealing with drug addicts and alcoholics. He also worked for an organisation called The Milestone trust, a learning disabilities and mental health charity. It wasn’t all altruism though. He did in that period earn £151000 but is now out of a job and guess what – applying for benefits of course.

He arrived in Britain in 2000 on a six month visitor’s visa which banned him from working but, like so many illegal immigrants, he merely went to ground.

There was outrage when an immigration court in May ruled he must be allowed to stay because he would face mistreatment if sent back to Zimbabwe. Now, though he admitted in court, to breaking immigration rules, Judge Julian Lambert deferred sentence and said he would not face jail if he volunteered for just half a day a week at his local Pentecostal church for the next six months! Half a day a week! ‘I require you to work hard with your church to make better the lives of the poor and needy,’ the judge said. How he does that on half a day a week beggars the imagination. Does this man live in the real world? Nevertheless, ‘You should bring letters,’ the learned judge went on, ‘to show the good work you have done. If I see you have done good work when you return and I have your promise that you will continue that good work I shall give you your liberty.’ In the slightly truncated words of William Shakespeare, ‘Oh noble judge … most learned judge…’

Moral of the story? No matter what heinous crimes you have committed in your home country, flee to England where you will be treated with kid gloves, and worry not, you are fully protected by your Human rights.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

THE number of foreign murderers in British jails has almost doubled in the past 10 years. There are 573 non-British nationals behind bars for murder – up 86% from 308 in 2002. An extra 50 foreign murderers were jailed in the past year alone. In 2010, seven were released from their life sentences – but only four were deported, leaving two in the community and the third recalled to prison.

Tory MP Priti Patel said: “The increased numbers of foreign murderers in our jails is alarming. Worse still, having them released back into the ­community is outrageous. Not only could public safety be ­compromised, but why should hard-pressed taxpayers foot the bill for them to live here?” The revelation comes as the Home Office came under increasing pressure after admitting violent foreigners had been wrongly freed without being deported.

In April 2006, then Home Secretary Charles Clarke admitted more than 1,000 ex-convicts were not considered for deportation after their sentences. How many more now five years later? By law, any non-national jailed for more than a year must be ­considered. The Shadow Home Office minister called for the Home Secretary to “come clean” on those not deported.

She said: “If Theresa May is unwilling to admit there is a problem how can anyone have confidence in her ability to put it right?” It costs £23million a year to keep non-British killers in our jail system. There are 11,500 foreign prisoners all told and prisons are supposedly bursting at the seams. Why can’t these criminals be got rid off? Mostly I suppose because they cite the Yuman Rights Act – that is, if sent back to their own country they’re likely to be maltreated, tortured, or even killed. £23million a year is quite hefty sum to keep criminals in what passes these days, apart from very old prisons like Wandsworth, as virtually a four star hotel. All they lose is their freedom.

British immigration is still allowing hundreds of people in who should never even be allowed to leave the airport, including possible terrorists and hate vendors, the latest being the virulent anti-Semitic cleric, Raed Salah. He is naturally fighting his case against deportation, and many more will be coming who will no doubt join the 11,500. Those who do not will happily milk the benefits system of many millions more.

There are child beggars on city streets, some as young as four and something that’s possibly not been known since Victorian times, certainly not in numbers. Are they British kids? No way. They’re the children of Rumanian gypsies and back in their impoverished homeland it would appear their sponsors, gang or family, are living in virtual mansions and driving BMWs. If living in the UK, they claim benefits while their children are out begging. As one Rumanians told a reporter, the British are generous and make it all too easy. In other words, if you an get away with it which seemingly they do, it’s money for old rope and, of course, the more kids you have, the bigger the benefits. Good for some, huh?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Still on the subject of theatre, I wonder if there is a question someone somewhere can answer for me. If it takes approximately an hour to read a full length play, why on submission does it take days, weeks, months, even years to get some kind of response, if a response is forthcoming at all? The latest only took two weeks which must be a record. The record for the longest promised response must surely go to the last of the actor-manager laddies, Charles Vance, who I see on the net is still producing weekly rep together with his wife Imogen. Good grief, I thought weekly rep had died the death a thousand years ago. Charles in the beginning was, I am led to believe, one of the J.Arthur Rank charm school together with people like Dirk Bogarde but, unlike Bogarde, he didn’t make the grade. Never mind, over the years many a young actor, including myself, has had reason to be grateful to Charles; he has given dozens of young actors jobs both touring and in seasons. In fact in those early years it seemed virtually everyone had worked for Charlie at some time or other. At Chelmsford he produced and directed my play, ‘Early One Morning’ which, in the provinces got excellent reviews despite the lady in this production being like a stick of wood which doesn’t help in a two-hander, but in town it was slaughtered, mainly because of piss-poor direction and even worse acting by the lady who took over. After seeing the dress rehearsal I immediately phoned my agent and begged him to stop the play going on. There was no way it wasn’t going to be a total disaster and I was right, but he refused to listen. It couldn’t have been that bad a play, though according to a lady from The Guardian’s woman’s page, Fiona McCarthy it most certainly was. I sold half a dozen options on it. That in fact was the only money I made. Trevor Bannister, later to make his name in ‘Are You Being Served’ and who died just recently played the boy and was excellent but I have always felt if that play had gone on on the Avenue with say Maggie Smith and Albert Finney it would have been a roaring success. But what has brought Charlie to mind now is that over twenty years ago I sent him another play and got a very sweet reply saying among other things, ‘You know how much I admire your work’ and a promise to read it as soon as possible. I am still waiting.

At Chelmsford, after a performance of ‘A View From The Bridge’ I think it must have been, old age makes the memory hazy, I was talking to Charles’s wife, Imogen in a corridor when the actor Barry Howerd came out of the shower stark naked except for a fur around his throat. Barry is not what one might call exactly unequipped and Imogen, faced with this full frontal, let out a gasp at which Barry said, ‘What’s the matter, Imogen? Have you never seen a fox fur before?’ And swept on into the dressing room.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

It would seem American film stars in considerable numbers cannot wait to take the plunge on British stages and not only in the West End. The latest to join the trend is Sharon Gless, now in her sixties, one time star of the popular TV series, ‘Cagney And Lacey’ who is appearing at the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith in a play called ‘A Round-Heeled Woman.’

Whatever happened to quotas? According to the dictates of both English and American Equities there was a time when it was virtually impossible for actors to cross the Atlantic in either direction. It was a wonderful game of tit for tat. We’ll allow so-and-so to appear on Broadway if you will allow so-and-so to appear in London. Have Equity in both countries lost their teeth and how many Brit actors are appearing in America at the moment? There is Daniel Radcliffe of course in ‘How To Succeed In Business’ but then, as the star of Harry Potter, he is a gilt edged investment for putting bums on seats. That is not to denigrate his talent. Looking at exerts of the show he is quite obviously a true performer.

Dominic Cavendish in The Telegraph decrying the trend heads his article ‘When the player, not the play, is the thing’ though he is not against the big guns whatever their nationality treading the boards. He has nothing but praise for the likes of Keira Knightly, Kevin Spacey, Jude Law, Ralph Feines. No, instead of fine actors being used and God knows there is talent in abundance; his objection is to what he calls the tatty names and faces off the telly that managements think are necessary to bring in the dumbed down crowds to see their favourites, especially with the price of theatre tickets what they are. I’m not denying that television is a powerful medium. Why else would advertisers use it to push their products with ‘As Seen On Television.’ Do they still do it I wonder? And of course there are gifted actors appearing on television but there is also a great deal of dross that should never be allowed near a theatre to spoil a good play which is what Cavendish is saying, as is Alan Ayckbourn.

I have suffered the fate. Many years ago a two-hander play I had on in London was slaughtered by the critics mainly because the actress in it, who was known from a popular soap at the time, was dire and simply couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag.

I was once in a dreadful play called ‘Who Goes Bare?’ set in a nudist colony obviously, for a summer season; admittedly not in the West End but in a pretty large seaside town and virtually everyone in the cast was billed as ‘Seen in so-and-so on television.’ I’m quite sure the holiday making audiences would have come to the theatre without that incentive.

I had a star from the soap 'Eastenders' play Captain Hook in a production of my 'Peter Pan' and I might as well have directed a piece of wood. Come to think of it I might have got a better performance out of the wood!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Come sing along with me – “Lumbago, lumbago, that’s my kind of pain,” with apologies to Mister Sinatra, and Al Capone as well, as it definitely was his town for a while. Just in case any of you are not familiar with the song it goes “Chicago Chicago, that’s my kind of town.” And the reason for my singing? Kneeling on the kitchen floor the other day and siphoning off some homemade orange wine I twisted my back. I felt it go and knew immediately I was in dead trouble and so it was. I became incapacitated and dead boring it was, apart from the agony I mean. Is it because we are two-legged animals that the lumbar region is so prone to aches and pains? And all for two bottles of wine, delicious though it may be. And I’ve still got about eight or nine demijohns of various wines to decant. Will have to go more carefully in future.

At last it would seem the season of that nasty little bloodsucker the mosquito is over for this year and the nets are no longer needed. I am informed, I don’t know how true it is, that a mosquito can detect its next meal from a distance of twenty feet and that it is body odour that leads it to its prey. Using an anti mozzie spray or rubbing a lotion on exposed parts might stop them there but the question I would like answered is how do the little buggers get through clothes to bite you where you ‘re not protected and in the most intimate places? Vitamin B12 is evidently off-putting but how much vitamin B12 must a body take to be effective? There are various herbs as well, the scent of which they dislike; lavender, rosemary and, from a tree rather than a herb, eucalyptus. So, as we have both lavender and rosemary in the garden and the trees at the bottom of the lane are eucalyptus, instead of buying expensive commercial anti-mozzie sprays, this summer Chris made up one of our own which did appear to be just as effective, though they still managed to get through to those body parts not sprayed.

In the dryer parts of the island mosquitoes are not a problem but we live in the greenest area and of course the house is surrounded by foliage so the little buggers breed wherever there happens to be a bit of damp. Funnily enough it was only at the end of the summer that they became a real pain but at last I can sleep without the net which means it’s all over till next year. Now that we have had the first rains, and I mean rain, solidly for three days and nights, greenery is shooting up all over in front of your eyes. It seems to grow as you watch.

I’m just grateful we don’t live in South America where they have those really ugly little blood-sucking horrors – the vampire bat. Yuk!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Did you know that the Emperor Justinian banned homosexuality because it causes earthquakes? We’ve had a Mullah recently put a country’s earthquakes down to girls wearing short skirts and now we have that weird creature, the all but in name dictator of Iran, Ahmadinejad (Why not shorten his name to ‘Mad’?) whose election has always been in some doubt, blame the wicked West because the country is suffering a severe drought with its rivers running dry. Boy, western scientist really have entered into the world of futuristic sci-fi that they can produce a drought over an entire country. I wonder how they do it. They have recently discovered Venus has an ozone layer, much thinner than earth’s evidently but there nevertheless so now the belief in the possibility of life elsewhere gets a decided boost. Of course there is life elsewhere. I’m a firm believer in that. It’s not possible that in the unending vastness of the cosmos and far away galaxies there is no life other than our own. Maybe in the discovering of Venus’s ozone layer they have inadvertently caused Iran’s droughts or maybe it’s all down to homosexuality and girls dressing immodestly.

I’ve been thinking, something I still do, despite the mind growing more feeble by the day, what was the point of various countries getting rid of their monarchs when the elected heads of state are kings in all but name and with much more power over their subjects than a constitutional monarch? What is Assad but king of Syria? What is Ahmadinejad but the new Shah of Iran? What was Sadam Hussein? Has a dynasty not been founded in North Korea that looks, unless there is something like a revolution, to continue?

But to carry on our discussion on the madness of our elected masters. The UK is in almost as deep a doodoo as Greece whose government keeps on borrowing more money when they can’t pay back what they’ve already borrowed, but in Britain the chancellor of the exchequer when questioned about foreign aid says he didn’t think Britain should get out of the mire by not helping those in need of help (or words to that effect and whatever happened to God helps those who help themselves?)) and blithely earmarks another billion dollars in foreign aid. Well, so what? He shrugs. It’s not his money. If he wants to play the good Samaritan with someone else’s money who are we to question it? But whatever happened to charity begins at home? It is estimated that in 2012/13 an extra 600000 children and 800000 adults of working age will be living in poverty?

And who are we to question that that venerable old institution the BBC that is fast becoming an anachronism, has been awarded three and a half billion this year to keep its head above water? Are any of the overpaid management likely to make a small sacrifice and possibly reduce their salaries a little? Not bloody likely, not while the TV licence stands at £145.50 and, like the Greek property tax, is something, unless you throw out the television set, unavoidable. And what about those obscene bank bonuses? Is the government ready to tackle the banks? Not bloody likely.

One could go on and on but really why bother?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sometimes I wonder if politicians have their heads screwed on or whether they can’t (or won’t) see the wood for the trees. Apart from selling Greece lock, stock, and barrel and at rock-bottom prices, consider this scenario: I am a Greek civil servant of some years standing. I have a wife and children to support. My salary has been cut as has my pension or I have been made redundant. I now have barely enough to put food on the table as the cost of living has rocketed and one does not even dare mention the price of petrol. Now the government is putting a tax on the house in which we live. Just where, oh, where, do they think the money is going to come from? And, in case anyone thinks they’re not going to have to pay up, the tax is to be added to the electricity bill which has already in the last few years doubled in price.

I am the owner of a small once popular taverna. It was always busy, Greeks love food and dining out, but now people with less to spend, are not eating out that much any more. If it gets worse I will have to close.

I own a small shop that used to do a roaring business but people are tightening the purse strings, business has dropped off alarmingly and I will soon have to put up the shutters. You can see it happening with premises empty all the way down the road and the ‘For Rent’ signs everywhere. These empty shops and work places are earning no money for their owners who might have relied on that rental income so where are they going to find the money to pay for a property tax? There are too many like me and gradually the tax base is being eroded. Also the Greek tax system is so bizarre there simply is no incentive to start a new business.

For example and this is a true story – I am a foreigner who thought it would be a good idea to buy a small hotel and advertise it in my home country and so attract the tourists Greece depends on so badly. Before I have even started the tax authorities are demanding 4000 euros. Why? And there is no arguing or reasoning with the Greek taxman. He is implacable. His word is law even though the system seems to be a shambles.

Meanwhile the fat cats so I am informed, I don’t know how true it is but it wouldn’t surprise me, have like rats deserted the sinking ship and fled elsewhere taking their money with them. A case of ‘I’m all right, Jack and to hell with everybody else.’

And one has to ask oneself, if people’s homes are to be taxed, why is there no tax on luxuries like swish yachts of which there are many? And why, when it is so fabulously rich and the biggest landowner is the church free of the tax burden? God has quite enough to be getting on with thank you very much, He won’t mind his servants giving a few euro all in a good cause.

At lease one Greek has voiced his criticisms. Constantine Michalos, president of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry said, “the mixture of economic policy which is currently being applied to the Greek economy is completely in the wrong direction. It will lead to a further, and even deeper, recession in 2012" Or, as they say, things are going to get worse before they get better.

Friday, October 14, 2011

God is wiser than I thought – he has told Ms Palin not to stand for the US presidency next year. Thank you, God. Sometimes (not very often but sometimes) I guess you do know what you’re doing. I mean for example some time ago you decided to nominate a certain people as your chosen and they’ve been the world’s scapegoats and seen nothing but trouble and strife ever since though, even after all they’ve been through, for some reason best known to themselves, they still think you’re the bee’s knees. I digress but I thought I would just point out that little error to you. So back to the presidential nominations; to put it in her own words, Ms Palin said in a statement that the decision came after much thought, and that she and her husband, Todd, "devote ourselves to God, family and country". (She couldn’t serve her country by being president? Some pretty oddball thinking there.)

And, "After much prayer and serious consideration, I have decided that I will not be seeking the 2012 GOP nomination for President of the United States," Ms Palin wrote in a letter to supporters. “My family comes first and obviously Todd and I put great consideration into family life before making this decision." Does this mean all the many heads of state have shown no consideration for their families?

She’s not above a bit of manipulative blackmail though: the declared Republican candidates for the presidency will have to compete for her blessing and for the support of her loyal followers. Oh, boy! Not God’s blessing, but Ms Palin’s blessing.

The mother-of-five has signed a number of lucrative television deals, published two best-selling books and set up a successful fundraising machine. God is still worth a bob or two to the faithful. That’s fine, as long as, being a God-fearing celebrity making lots of lovely dosh, it keeps her away from that insane desire to be president. Last time a born again was in power the world got into such a mess it’s going to take another ten years to recover, if not more.

There has of course been a positive rash of comments on the receipt of this wonderful piece of news.

“Who cares what her politics are or whether you agree or disagree with what she says. She's far prettier to look at on the TV news than Obama, Bush, Clinton, etc. and you can always turn the sound down!

Miss tea potty has been warned off methinks. She is not the sharpest tool in the political shed; even the yanks are not that stupid? She is the only politician who can make the gang we have put in charge look competent, that is no mean feat.

At least she will have more time to serve her country by keeping an eye on Russia from her back yard.

For once I'm genuinely happy that the idea of God exists as it diverts this insane women away from power.

This is a great pity. She was the perfect follow-on to George Dubya, and the world of satire has lost one of its best targets!”

No news of the other tea-party lady and I suppose in this instance no news is good news. Maybe God had a quiet word with her as well.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I don’t remember if I have ever written a complete list of the fruit trees in our garden. I know I have mentioned them individually now and again so here is the complete list which I am sure will raise a great deal of interest and only goes to show I have very little else to talk about. At the far end of the garden there is an ancient pear tree. Goodness only knows how old it is. The bole is a good two foot or more in diameter. We occasionally get fruit from it if the ants don’t get there first. There are two apricots, one fruiting in the summer and the other autumnal, four walnut trees, nuts dropping like hailstones at the moment, four olive trees, a black mulberry, a quince that has given us masses of fruit every year, an avocado pear, three lemon trees, a nut-peach, a winter fig laden down right now, prickly pear (also masses of fruit at the moment), a yellow plum, a guava and a strawberry bed. Everything needs to be frantically cut back. It never ceases to amaze me how plants flourish on a shallow layer of topsoil over volcanic rock and when the rainy season is so short and the summers so fierce. The prickly pears are sweet and always remind me when a small boy of holidays in Port Elizabeth and my Aunt Marie rubbing butter on my fingers to get rid of the hairs when I was careless enough to handle them. There is also a mature nectarine tree American friends gave us about five or six years ago but, as I think I said before, that is due for the chop as it has never given any fruit and develops peach curl every year. It will be replaced with the loquat I have grown from seed.

In the small lower garden there are two varieties of orange, a loquat, and a white mulberry and in the courtyard a mandarin, a red plum, pomegranate, grapevine and another orange. The oranges will be ready for Christmas.

In the current economic climate it’s good to have all these and a Cretan said the other evening, if you have walnut trees you can live off a diet of nuts bread and salt. It might very well come to that.

The last two years we’ve let the vegetable beds lie fallow (except for the flourishing weeds of course) but before then we had tomatoes, peppers, green beans, peas, zucchini, carrots and pumpkin. I don’t know why the English don’t eat more pumpkin. It really is a delicious vegetable and pumpkin soup is out of this world. Even tried sweet potatoes at one point but that was a failure like the apple tree I planted. Apples, like parsnips, evidently need cold winters and we don’t get them cold enough here.

It’s now fifteen years almost since we came to live on Crete and it, as well as Greece, has changed enormously since those early days. It’s still a beautiful island though and, as Douglas once said; even if everything were to go pear shape it will all have been well worthwhile.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I am on a diet. That is to say I am eating smaller portions, particularly in the evening, and have lost two stone. Went to a birthday dinner the other evening and wore clothes I haven’t been able to get into for fourteen years or so. I want to lose another stone but taking it slowly day by day. Eating less is the only sure-fire way to lose weight. We tried the Doctor Atkins diet once and lost a couple of pounds and that was it. Certainly didn’t feel any healthier for it. Other diets have proved equally inefficacious. I’ve had a weight problem most of my life though why this should be, apart from eating too large portions and having a very sweet tooth, I really don’t know because looking at photographs of myself up to the age of about ten or so I wasn’t exactly skinny but there was no sign of any superfluous weight. I didn’t start the diet deliberately. After my illness it just sort of happened but I’m certainly glad it did.

A number of times I have received e-mails that included photos of truly obese people, mainly American or African and it is never a pretty sight. I don’t know why Africans should be so gross but I can understand the Americans because they simply have no limits to what they shove in their mouths, and not just the multi-calorie fast foods: all you can eat breakfasts for example. In a hotel in Charleston Douglas and I ordered sucking pig for dinner one night thinking we would get what we considered a normal sized portion of meat. What arrived? Half a sucking pig each! In the dining rooms at the university where I taught, students would shovel food onto their plates until they resembled mini-mountains but then, having gorged themselves to a virtual standstill, half of it was left and went to the trash. Such a terrible waste. In my first semester I attended a performance at the college’s dinner theatre and sat next to a lady who had two gigantic servings of the main course before returning for a third. This was accompanied by those soft rolls the Americans call biscuits and was followed by two enormous helpings of dessert. Funny language, American: how can a soft roll be called a biscuit when the word biscuit comes from bis cottes meaning twice baked, that is rusks, originally hard tack for Roman soldiers? And how come the plural mathematics, geometry, algebra, trigonometry, is shortened to the singular math instead of maths? But I digress so back to the subject of food.

Obesity has become a major health problem in both America and Britain and not just with adults but with their kids, including quite a few in Greece. I suppose if you spend your life (apart from going to school where you sit in a classroom anyway) seated in front of the telly or a computer and you consume more calories than are needed the outcome is inevitable – you’re going to get fat. Sad when you think that, although food is so plentiful half the world doesn’t get enough to eat.

As Wilkins McCawber was fond of saying, ‘Income twenty pounds, expenditure nineteen pound nineteen and sixpence, result happiness. Income twenty pounds, expenditure twenty pounds and sixpence, result misery.’

You could apply it to calories; two thousand calories (or however many calories it is reckoned for a daily intake) slim, two thousand five hundred calories, fat. And make no mistake about it.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Watched ET for the umpteenth time and still found it a delightful movie but there is one thing I’ve always wanted to ask Mister Spielberg: the corn field in which Elliot comes across ET, where in the geography of the town is it located? There are panoramic shots, wide-angle shots, and extra long shots but nowhere is there a corn field to be seen. Yes, there is open countryside and forest but a corn field? Elliot walks from his back yard into a corn field? No. I presume it is in the picture simply to provide a somewhat sinister location for Elliot to explore with his torch and to suddenly come across this weird creature. Something else that worries me: Elliot’s brother cycles into the forest to find ET which he does but the alien is sick and virtually unconscious lying half in, half out of a stream. How does the boy, all on his own, get ET, a dead weight, back to the house?

Well, they’re only small points I suppose. The performances are good all round, Drew Barrymore was a perfect little gem and for Elliot Spielberg could not have chosen a more angelic looking child than Henry Thomas who seems to have made the grade from child actor to adult, something that doesn’t always happen, having appeared in a number of movies: Legends Of The Fall, All The Pretty Horses, Gangs Of New York to name but three. Also in that latter film of course was another actor who started his career at a very tender age and made the leap to adulthood and, in his case, stardom, namely Leonardo diCaprio.

An interesting piece I came across; Horace Walpole who wrote amongst other things ‘The castle of Otranto’ reckoned to be the first Gothic novel in the English language, said: ‘I have learnt and practised the humiliating task of comparing myself with great authors; and that comparison has annihilated all the flattery that self-love could suggest. I know how trifling my own writings are and how far below the standard that constitutes excellence … My simple writings have had better fortune than they had any reason to expect; and I fairly believe, in a great degree, because gentlemen-writers are treated with some civility if they do not write absolute nonsense.’

‘My simple writings have had better fortune than they had any reason to expect.’ I wonder, of the thousands of books published every year by hundreds of writers, how many authors today would in all sincerity make a statement like that, even best selling authors. Would Jeffrey Archer whose latest novel is already in the top ten? Would Dan Brown whose writing (what I have read of it) is simply appalling? And what about the writers of romance and so-called chic-lit. Celebrity biogs, mostly ghost written, don’t even come into it. All these people however must have something, are laughing all the way to the bank and back, whereas I, eighty years old, the author of twenty six straight plays, not including television and film, the book and lyrics for seven musicals plus eight other works am still grubbing for every penny. Somewhere down the line I went badly wrong. Like Walpole I have practised the task of comparing myself with great authors and have been found wanting, but after such a lifetime of so much effort and body of work, a little success certainly wouldn’t come amiss.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Despite Greece being in such an unholy mess; due in the main to nepotism, cronyism, corruption, greed, and the short-sightedness of self-serving politicians, I still think our move here was more than worthwhile and a couple of stories out of the UK make me rather glad I don’t live there anymore.

In St. Austell, Cornwall, a lady by the name of Joy Bloor has been keeping tortoises for forty years and now her sanctuary is being threatened with closure after council officials ruled that her 400 tortoises are ‘wild animals.’ Her Tortoise Garden is a popular tourist attraction and admission was free until she was suddenly ordered to pay business rates (on no financial business?) so now has to charge £3 a head to cover costs. It gets even more ridiculous. The council is also insisting the tortoises are tagged with electronic micro-chips. Good God! Are they likely to break out and go savaging around the countryside? More than likely galloping through fields and scaring the cows to death? And just how would you go about micro-chipping them anyway? Dogs yes? Tortoises? I would say a definite no-no. Bailiffs have already visited the sanctuary and issued an enforcement order, the counsel saying they have no alternative but to comply with the Zoo Licensing Act of 1981. Miss Bloor is being threatened with prosecution and the question is why? Why should she have a lifetime’s hard work and devotion ruined by petty bureaucrats? The idea that she is running some kind of zoo is beyond ridiculous and at a time when councils are cutting back on essential public services how much time and money has been wasted while councillors discuss whether tortoises are pets or wild animals?

The man who instigated this nonsense goes by the name of Lance Kennedy who styles himself ‘Cabinet Member Of Cornwall Council’ and ‘Portfolio holder for Community Safety and Protection,’ two previously unheard of positions and to my mind indicating a jumped up nincompoop with an inferiority complex. No, more than that, he just knows he’s inferior.

Talking of safety and protection, there have been complaints that some of the prison sentences handed down after the riots have been too severe and community service would be more beneficial so some young offenders were put to work painting the outside of a community hospital and guess what happened next! You’re quite right. ‘Elf and Safety put a stop to it on the grounds that it was too dangerous to climb ladders! Can you believe it?

Final story for today – with the price of housing reaching astronomical proportions and the dearth of mortgages and people struggling to keep their heads above water. A young coupe decided they could save up for a deposit on a house of their own by living temporarily in their parents’ garden shed. And of course the local council had to step in saying the shed ‘does not provide adequate living conditions’ and creates an ‘undesirable precedent.’ For goodness sake, they were comfortable in the garden shed. They had heat and for toilet facilities and the bathroom they had the parents’ house up the garden path. They have been given nine months (oh generous sympathetic council) to comply by finding other accommodation.

Tell me, is ‘Ripley’s Believe it or not still going strong? Oh, forgot to say, I never thought I would live to see the day when a kilo of lamb chops would cost £15! No wonder sheep rustling is on the increase.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Sorry, Mister Jefferson but just what did you mean by this high-fallutin opinion’? I would have thought it self-evident to Jefferson that all men are not created equal. Interesting that at the time he adopted this wonderful idea he still kept slaves. But, putting that aside, isn’t it perfectly obvious that we are not all born equal? As I don’t believe in karma I don’t believe we have any choice as to where, when, and to whom we are born. Who, for example would want to be born, as what used to be called, an untouchable in India? But apart form the place, time, parentage, and social standing of our birth we are born with a tendency to ill-health or good health, a short life or a long one, not counting accidents of course. We are fat, we are thin we are short, we are tall, we are beautiful or plain or downright ugly and some unfortunately have much worse physical defects. There is also this to consider – some have an innate talent that hopefully during the course of their lives will be nurtured, others do not and not everyone is born with the brains of an Einstein, some are two sandwiches short of a picnic or, as an old comedian had it, if brains were dynamite he wouldn’t have enough to blow his hat off.

Such a one I believe is a rapper who goes by the name of The Game. He has come up with this wonderful theory that closeted gay men are spreading AIDS “fooling” women into having sex with them." On an interview with VladTV (whatever that is) he said he doesn’t have a problem with most gay people – just the ones who are “pretending” not to be gay and sleeping with women.

“The number one issue with that is you could be fooling somebody and you could give them AIDS and they can die and that shit spreads because any girl you might be fooling might leave you and go find another dude who ain’t gay and give him the disease.”

Well, well, well, what an interesting theory. This guy really put what few brain cells he has into high gear or, as they say, got his shit together, to come up with something so totally ridiculous. In the first place he is assuming that every closet gay has the virus and the best thing they can do is come out and be counted, and in the second place why would anyone want to behave in the way he suggests?

The danger of someone like this being allowed to voice his ignorant opinion is that, as a rapper I suppose he has a following, they can be easily manipulated and so homophobia gets a boost – even if just a minor one – a boost nevertheless.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Watched the 1969 made for TV movie of ‘David Copperfield,’ directed by Delbert Mann, written by Jack Pulman, music by Malcolm Arnold. It boasted an absolutely stellar line up, the crème de la crème of British acting talent, starting with Olivier hamming it up unashamedly in the small part of Mister Creakle and, going down the line – Richard Attenborough, Cyril Cusack, Dame Edith Evans, Susan Hampshire, Wendy Hiller, Ron Moody, Michael Redgrave, Ralph Richardson Emlyn Williams, and more. Even the five liners were names. The film evidently won three Emmys plus an award for Outstanding Directional Achievement, plus Outstanding Single Performance by an actor in a leading role - Laurence Olivier! Now, come on, do me a favour pu-lease! His performance as I have said was in my opinion pure ham and, as for it being a leading role, he was on screen for a maximum five minutes. There was also an award for leading actress, Edith Evans.

A reviewer from Chicago on Google has written, ‘Delbert Mann's TV movie of David Copperfield is unique among film adaptations in that it tells the entire story from a series of flashbacks rather than an ongoing narrative. It works extremely well, adds to the emotional punch of the entire story, further illuminates Dickens' wonderful characters and is aided by a haunting musical score by composer Malcolm Arnold.’

Ho-hum…Ho-hum…the movie is a bloody great bore simply because of the way it is written and directed. Why can’t these egoists trust their material and not feel they have to put their indelible stamp on it. Jack Pulman was a well-established writer but then so was Mister Dickens so was it really necessary to try and improve on his work albeit for a different medium? In the opposite camp another reviewer has written, ‘This version of David Copperfield is dreadful from start to finish. I knew we were in for a wasted evening's viewing when a rather silly to the point of embarrassment Attenborough and Olivier camp it up as two baddies. It was all downhill after this. Aunt Betsy was adequate but had none of the eccentric flair she was noted for. The worst of the worst was the producer's choice for Uriah. This was the music hall version of this character, previously and admirably played by Roland Young. And what was all this self-absorbed angst from David? Dickens must have rolled over in his grave to see his favourite child turned into a wimp weeping in his beer.’

The beach the weeping wimp wandered along nursing his painful memories was sinister; littered with its numerous rotten black stumps of wood sticking out of the sand and perfect for moody shots: in close-up, in big close-up, in medium and long shot and shots of only legs and feet, between each one David has one of his flashbacks and each time you’re returned to the beach you want to say, ‘Oh, for god’s sake, Mann, get on with it!’ Early on, at the insistence of aunt Betsy he is joined on the beach by a girl named Agnes who he treats most discourteously. The question at this early stage is who the hell is this Agnes and why should aunt Betsy insist on her travelling all the way up Great Yarmouth to talk to David? We don’t find out until well into the picture.

I stayed with it to the end only because one time friend Nicholas Pennell had the rather nice sympathetic part of Steerforth and David’s friend, Thomas Traddles and I think the film only won its awards because of the impressive cast list.

Nick Pennell came to the public’s notice in The Forsyte Saga and was later for twenty three seasons a leading actor at Stratford, Ontario. I saw him playing the Scottish King when I was there and I am glad to have had the opportunity of seeing him for the last time as he died shortly after and much too young.

The previous evening we watched the spectacular European/Chinese production of Puccini’s opera ‘Turandot’ set in Peking and there is only one word to describe that – Awesome!