Thursday, June 27, 2013


This will be a sort of hodge-bodge Blog; just random thoughts as they enter my head. Summer is really with us now. The days are blazing hot and the nights very warm so, not having air conditioning up here, the fans have come into play. Yes, I am still “up here” but my nine/ten weeks of exile (I don’t remember exactly how long it’s been) is almost over. It’s a good time of year and a not so good time of year. Allergies are still around; people sometimes find it difficult to breathe in this heat and, of course, the fucking mozzies are in full war-cry as soon as it starts to get dark! They are kamikaze vampires and repellent doesn’t always work because if you leave a spot untouched (Achilles’ heel?) you can bet your life one will find it. As if itchy mozzie bites aren’t enough, today I have been suffering itchy eyelids. Goodness me but god really didn’t know what he was doing in those six long days of creation. And, talking of creation, I must be very unpopular with “Right to life, Australia” for not backing up their campaign. The whole subject of abortion is not my bag and really I suppose has nothing to do with me but looking at it as an outsider let’s put emotion aside for a while and be practical about this. Today, anyone who feels they have a god given right to have enormous families is just being self-indulgent and selfish with no or little thought for the morrow and what the world will be like for them when those kids grow up. God might have said go forth and multiply but I don’t think he realised just how fearsomely potent the sex drive would be. In earlier days when child mortality was at its peak one could understand multiple births. Out of eleven or more kids, with luck two or three might survive those deadly childhood ailments. Thanks to modern medicine that no longer applies. The Catholic Church that has always insisted on no birth control has a lot to answer for. And, when one considers the existing population of the world and how fast it is growing, it’s no wonder there is the phenomenon known as global warming. Anti-abortionists always quote the story of the foetus that had so much wrong with it it really should have been aborted and, if it had, the world would have been deprived of Beethoven. I hate to bring up the subject yet again but it must be said, and is something for the ignorant bigots to ponder on: homosexuality in some minds is obviously the cause of earthquakes, erupting volcanoes, shooting massacres in American schools, (yes that has been mentioned by some pastor or other – Baptist probably, together of course with lack of prayer) storms, tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis, and any other natural phenomenon but the one thing it can’t be accused of is over-populating the planet so, whenever I read of some Christian bemoaning the fact that homosexuals can’t reproduce I always feel he/she should be grateful for the fact. It allows them the freedom to breed. If sexual gratification can only be achieved by insertion of penis in vagina (unprotected of course) the population would have exploded a couple of thousand years ago or more.
Anyway, this is not want I was going to write about when I started this Blog but I stopped for a cuppa and while taking five switched on Facebook for a while, so back to my exile and the reason for it coming to an end. The new Cretan motorway from the top of the lane down to the garden doors is done and, in fact, I have taken my first ride up it. So no more will one have to face those stairs we have climbed all these years, and this applies to visitors like our dear Vicky who is on a par with me as far as age is concerned and even last year was finding them difficult. As for me they have simply become impossible. They are in fact my Everest but I shall no longer endeavour to conquer them. I have already reached an over-ripe age but the others are not getting any younger and it will make carrying  shopping into the house so much easier let alone the delivery of firewood come the Autumn, Also the plumber has finished his work and the new bedroom waits to have the furniture installed. The shower is in grey marble (marble believe it or not is cheaper than tiles) and the floor throughout is granite (granite is even cheaper than marble), and it really looks
magnificent. The bedroom area is huge; big enough to be a queen’s boudoir! The whole thing has cost of course but our Douglas (is there nothing this man can’t successfully turn his hand to?) has juggled finances like a world-class magician, and this is not how I envisaged this Blog turning out so random thoughts maybe next time and I feel sure sex will rear it’s ugly head and enter the equation somewhere.

Monday, June 24, 2013

William & Arthur

The enigma that is William Shakespeare:  as with the legendary King Arthur we’ve been down this road before, more than once, so if you’re bored with it don’t read any further. However, if you are unacquainted with my meandering thoughts you might be interested. If you are not so inclined then read no further. As far as King Arthur is concerned I know exactly who he is, he arrogantly asserts. (See my autobiography NO OFFICIAL UMBRELLA which explains all) but the false information never seems to stop coming. Admittedly it is a fascinating subject and the latest piece of whimsy comes from Croatia where a Roman villa has recently been unearthed said to have belonged to King Arthur whose father was a Roman and who had a Croatian mother. It has evidently, as could be expected, done wonders for the tourist trade. If an English king by the name of Arthur actually existed how come his name is not in any list or history of English monarchs? Or is the list incomplete being devoid of one name? The medieval tome by Geoffrey of Monmouth which popularized the story of King Arthur is now thought to have been written in a lost Oxford chapel. Researchers now believe The History of the Kings of Britain was penned at St George's chapel, before it was demolished to make way for Oxford Castle. Deeds from the time have revealed the Welsh scholar was serving canon there when writing the chronicle in 1136.
The mythical figure of Arthur as a 5th Century military commander, leading the Britons into battle against the invading Saxons, has proved impossible for historians to verify. (Because it’s false)
The only contemporary source, The Ruin and Conquest of Britain by the British monk and historian Gildas (c.500-70), does not mention Arthur at all.
Some scholars have suggested Ambrosius Aurelianus, a Romano-British war hero described by the 6th Century historian Gildas, may have been the real Arthur.  (False)
Others say Lucius Artorius Castus, a 2nd or 3rd Century Roman military commander, may have formed the basis of the Arthurian myth. (This is the Roman Croatians say was Arthur’s daddy.)
All that is left of the building where Geoffrey is thought to have written The History of the Kings of Britain is the Saxon stone-built St George's Tower and the ancient crypt.
Michael Speight, general manager of Oxford Castle Unlocked (!) "We are so excited to have discovered that it is the site where the legends of King Arthur were written."  He’s as arrogant as I am in his certainty. It’s just as possible the good canon took a year’s sabbatical and went off to write in the Hebrides. Who’s to say?
But back to Willy Shagspaw. The reasons for my return to this subject are two recently published books, “William Shakespeare Beyond Doubt” and “Thirty Great Myths About Shakespeare” by Laurie Maguire and Emma Smith (Yet more books on Shakespeare and do they tell us anything new?)  Probably not. They are more than likely yet again a rehash of everything on Shakespeare that has gone before in the various biographies full of ‘we think’ and ‘Perhaps ‘and ‘Maybe’ and ‘It’s likely that’ and ‘possibly’, and ‘it could be that’, etcetera. For example both books insist that Shakespeare had an extensive education. This from the Laurie Maguire/Emma Smith book, “Shakespeare in fact would have benefited from the intensely rigorous education of the Elizabethan grammar school, 6a.m. to 6p.m. every day, with higher classes conducted entirely in Latin. He never went to university, true, but we can tell from the sources of his plays that he remained a voracious reader all his life.’ If that is true how come not a single book or play is mentioned in his will and how come for someone who loved books so much (as Prospero says in ‘The Tempest’) he allowed his favourite daughter to remain illiterate? Maybe he was just too busy becoming a gentleman, acquiring property and dishing out lawsuits.
And from the other book, ‘A lot of it is due to ignorance, especially of the Elizabethan educational background, of the sort a boy in Stratford could have got at the local grammar school. "It was rather limited, but a very intense classical education, in rhetoric and oratory, speaking Latin from the time they were eight years old, having to speak it in the classroom and the playground."
But why is there absolutely no record of a William Shakespeare attending Stratford school? And we mustn’t forget, despite Ben Johnson’s encomium, Shakespeare idolatry didn’t really take off until the nineteenth century. No, there is still far too much mystery and uncertainty as, for instance a question no one seems able to answer. In an early engraving of Shakespeare in the perish church he is shown as having his hands on a woolsack, betokening a merchant. This was later changed to his hold a quill. Interesting, huh? I’m still pleased to have written my Marlowe play; ‘The Muses Darling’ because there is as much going for that as there is for Shakespeare being the sole author of the plays attributed to him. It could easily have been the joint effort of a number of writers with Shakespeare at the head of the table. Today he would be known as a “script editor.”

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Continuing with the ever quickening pace of science affecting our simple lives, looking at the angle poise lamp on my desk in which there is one of the new neon type energy saving bulbs I think back to holidays in Port Elizabeth and visits to the home of my Uncle Vincent, Aunt Sally and my cousin Tony. The house was located a fair distance outside the city and was not connected to electricity so was lit by candle, paraffin and carbide lamps; hurricane lamps for outdoors. I can still remember the smell of paraffin and the brilliant white light the carbide lamp gave off. I seem to remember it had a small wire mesh fitting that when heated produced the light. You can still get carbide lamps evidently, used by miners and cavers. When I first arrived in England, 1953, I remember, together with my cousin Bert, visiting a family in Hampshire I think it was and they still were not connected to the grid. Until there is an outage (I think that is an Americanism. Can’t use B…kout any more, politically incorrect) we don’t realise just how reliant we are on electricity, not just for lighting of course but cooking and heating, the central heating might be oil-fired but it can’t work without electricity, the computer, ironing, television so, as far as lighting is concerned, we revert of course to oil lamps and candles and one feels just a little put out at the frustration of not being able to watch TV or use the computer. It’s like having mild withdrawal symptoms. Suddenly, as the lights go, the screen goes dead amid howls of anguish. Well, if not anguish, irritation anyway. Looking at night photographs from space one can’t help but be slightly awestruck at the amount of light emanating from cities like London, New York, etcetera, cities with major conurbations.
Like the new television needed because of going digital, I believe the old fashioned filament light bulb, bayonet or Edison screw, is now out and will no longer be manufactured; its place being taken by the new energy savers. All well and good but it means the replacement of fittings. In this room alone I count nine; who is going to pay for it? Up to now we’ve been buying bulbs wherever and whenever we see them but the supply won’t last for ever. The sad fact is there are some who simply will not be able to afford the change over. What happens to them when they can no longer get the old bulbs? They go back to oil lamps? It’s not only the cost of the fittings but the cost of an electrician that has to be considered.
Then there is LED (‘Light emitting diode’ I believe) and among other uses a little round torch no more than a couple of inches in diameter can do the work or outshine one of those foot long four heavy batteries old Scout Master torches and  no need to suddenly have to change bulbs or batteries.
There have of course also been amazing advances in medical science. The pace-maker is a good example and had it been available in 1960 when my father died I am sure his life would have been extended, as I am sure mine has. In 1960 it would be another seven years before Doctor Barnard performed the first heart transplant in Cape Town, never mind a procedure like a triple by-pass.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Times change.

As I sit here writing this the wind is blowing once more at gale force rattling doors and windows and bending tree branches almost horizontal. The noise is like something conjured up during a theatrical melodrama and the poor old rooster weathervane in a neighbour’s garden across the way revolves almost continuously not knowing which way the wind is blowing. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was fierce enough to strip a few tiles off the roof. When we first came to Crete we wondered why there were heavy rocks laid even on tiled roofs and we soon found out. Any ex-pat who has had a house built on a high exposed place realises why Greeks never built there in the first place. We also wondered why so many houses boasted a water tank
but soon found out the reason when the first stoppage occurred. The cry of “water’s off!” used to be fairly frequent but the situation has improved over the years.
There don’t seem to be many General Practitioners in Greece. Most doctors specialise: ear, nose and throat, lung. heart, digestive system, etcetera but we are really fortunate here in having a really fantastic GP in our Doctor Elizabeth. There is also ‘The Health Centre’ staffed mainly it would seem by young doctors almost fresh from training with more  senior doctors just to make sure I suppose they don’t make mistakes. Anyway, on our way home from visiting Doctor Elizabeth we stopped off at the new caff for a frappĂ© (iced coffee) and noticed wonderful old palm trees are being decimated, no not decimated, destroyed by the awful bug that has come from North Africa and about which it seems nothing can be done. There are beaches on Crete noted particularly for their palms of which the most famous I suppose is Vai that has a veritable palm forest going right down to a broad sandy beach. These particular palms are endemic but will that save them from the bug? Vai attracts busloads of tourists and holiday makers because of its palms. It would be a sad sad day if they were to disappear.
I love Westerns and thanks to Youtube I can indulge in Westerns going right back to my boyhood: Gene Autry, the first singing cowboy, Tom mix, super star, Tex Ritter, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, John Wayne, The Lone Ranger. When they were serialised it meant a weekly visit to Durban’s fleapit (you got a drink or an ice with your ticket and shows were continuous so it didn’t matter when you came in) to see how they got out of the previous episode’s cliff-hanger. Looking at some of them now, it seems most of them open the same way, a cowboy or boys, or traps or wagons riding across the desert or through scrub or across rocky terrain wile the credits roll and ending up in town where the action starts, usually in a saloon, maybe outside the sheriff’s office, maybe the railway station. Trains are always good mileage in Westerns. There might be more but basically there seem to be two basic plots with variations. Firstly there is the honest intrepid lawman who takes on a whole bunch of trouble in the shape of an ultra-rich powerful crooked family. There is usually a wayward troublemaking yobbo of a son, or maybe two, who the lawman has to kill so that daddy can ride into town with his hired hands to seek revenge but the lawman of course wins out in the end. The second plot consists of wayward troublemaking yobbos raping, abducting or killing innocents out in their isolated farmhouse and then being pursued by an avenger as they ride away. He will have to kill five or more one by one which he successfully does by various means. Variations include crooked lawmen, business men, cavalry, Indians, etcetera.
Greece goes digital which means either a new television or a decoder. With all the money being spent on house alterations a TV is one luxury we can’t afford so the decoder it is. Evidently a lot of people are in the same boat as Spiros, our local hardware merchant’s shop, is choc-a-bloc with decoders.
Evidently (or so I am told) with digitalisation the new television sets can do everything except cook breakfast and a billion new bits of irrelevant information will be available to cloud and befuddle the brain. Maybe evolution’s next step is to make the brain big enough to cope or anxiety as to what to watch/listen to will drive us crazy.
How the world has changed in my lifetime. When I was a boarder in junior school and my parents wanted to phone me they had to book an appointment to make a call fifty miles away as the crow flies via an operator and on a party line. Today there are smart phones that, like the new television, have a capacity for information that is simply mind-boggling, that will allow you to take and make instantaneous calls all over the world, send texts, E-mails, log on to the internet and even take photographs. They are ubiquitous and I read somewhere that they are as addictive as cocaine, something I can readily believe.
Why has everything got so complicated? Once upon a time when you wanted to buy a new toothbrush you had a choice of soft, medium, and hard. Today they come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and credited with a variety of amazing qualities and you might as well say eeny-meeny-miny-mo and just take one. Once upon a time travelling by train you bought a ticket single or return and that was it unless you wanted to reserve a seat. Today there is such a variety of times, prices, rules and regulations, specific trains and fines for making a mistake it really is quite bewildering. Air travel now follows the railways’ example. Many years ago I went to the King’s Theatre in Glasgow to book a seat for a show and instead of the usual three minutes it used to take as the girl ticked off the seat on a plan and handed you your ticket in exchange for your money, it now took ten times as long because it had become computerised. Even more years ago probably I was commissioned to write a documentary on computers for Ranks; me who knew absolutely nothing about computers. I gave it a cute title though, ‘A Hard Look At Software,’ and it all went pretty well I think. At least I presume it did. I never saw the finished film. I was taken to this building, in Putney I seem to remember, where on a floor half the size of a football pitch one wall was entirely taken up floor to ceiling by this computer. What that giant could do then was probably less than a smart phone does today. That’s how it goes.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Cutest couple

Putin’s Russia, following the example of Nigeria, Uganda, and other African and Middle Eastern countries clamps down hard on homosexuality and simultaneously representing a truly amazing change, for the first time a same-sex couple instead of being threatened with hatred and baseball bats has been allowed to run in the category of cutest couple at Carmel High School in Carmel, New York let alone the first time a same sex couple has won it. After fellow classmate Chelsea Blaney posted a picture of Brad Taylor and Dylan Meehan announcing their win, the couple received an outpouring of support. To date, her post has been liked or reblogged more than 100,000 times. “Two of my best friends won cutest couple of our senior class. First time in my school history a same-sex couple has even been able to run for this category, not to mention winning it. So proud of them, and my school,” she wrote. Taylor and Meehan, who started dating a year ago, were surprised by all the attention, but were grateful they could serve as a source of inspiration. “This whole thing has been a bit surreal for us because we have been raised to believe that love is love. We never realized that our happiness and openness would inspire so many individuals,” they wrote in an email. “The support we have received from our family, friends and even strangers have led us to believe that our affection for each other is normal.” After so many stories of LGBT discrimination, it’s nice to finally see one that ends happily. In Iran the boys would be hanged. I note the support they have received from their families, unlike the parents of the sixteen year old daughter who, furious at their affair, had her eighteen year old lesbian lover arrested and likely to be charged, if that hasn’t already happened. They obviously do not believe that love is love. Life being what it is of course the idyll will end as so many first love affairs do but hopefully Brad and Dylan will remain friends even when that happens.
Have finally, with some effort, finished reading ‘The Philanderer’ and really don’t have anything positive to say about it. Contrived? Well, let’ see. Our friend, Russell, a man who seemingly has everything is madly in love with his wife, Madeline, a failing actress, and certainly not wanting to lose her, but can’t help straying. Nothing new in that, the majority of men I reckon stray some time or other and yes, in some cases it is compulsive behaviour. As the novel opens, Russell is having it off with a sort of bimbo named Suzie who he doesn’t really like much but who’s a great lay and when she ends the relationship he is furious. Even though he’s getting a bit tired of the affair himself he feels if it is going to end it is up to him to end it. So he moves on to have it off with his boss’s wife, Clare. As the two couples socialise: they go on holiday together, they play bridge; this is really a dodgy situation. Madeline, is away acting her socks off out in the sticks and he swears  to Clare that it is indeed love he feels for her and not just sex and it is only because of  this “love” much against her better instincts but believing him completely that she has allowed the relationship to develop. Re-enter Suzie who wants to take up again where they left off and of course Russell can’t resist so now we have the old telephone give away phenomenon to further the plot. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating," as Emma Coats (writing and directing films) said but I’m not sure I agree with this. In fact just the reverse, in this instance anyway.  It just so happens time wise that Suzie is in the bathroom when a phone call from Clare comes through and Russell is busy saying how much he loves her, how much he is missing her, how sorry they couldn’t be together at this moment when Suzie comes out of the bathroom, trips over the wire, loudly apologises, the phone goes dead at the other end and that is the end of this affair. Clare naturally, much to the concern of her husband, Perry, goes down with an attack of the megrims and he can’t understand why, but Russell takes fright and, in case the affair comes to light decides to leave New York and take up an offer of a job a friend (they have long discussions/arguments on morality) has been urging him to take in Washington where, at his very first interview, who should he lunch with but his new boss’s secretary who just happens to be way up his alley and who makes no bones about it that she finds him attractive. And this coincidence is where we came in. Perhaps, had it been better writing, I might have accepted it. I’m sure there are those who consider me to be one but as far as this particular novel is concerned it is definitely in a box labelled HACK.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Who ought to be called in, a psychiatrist or the fraud squad? It was inevitable that sooner or later I would get onto the subject of religion so why not now? Once again there is the beginnings of a cult, not in Guyana this time in which 900 followers of the charismatic if unbalanced Jim Jones, calling himself Christ and claiming to be God, committed collective suicide; or Waco Texas that saw the religious group, The Branch Davidians, besieged for 51 days by FBI and Texas National Guard resulting in the death of their leader David Koresh as well as 82 other Branch Davidian men, women, and children, and four ATF agents. The Branch Davidians originated from a schism in the Davidian Seventh Day Adventists already an offshoot from the Seventh Day Adventist church from which they were disfellowshipped. (Isn’t that the most wonderful word? Disfellowshipped. I love it. I love it! I couldn’t have thought up a word like that in a thousand years.) There are literally hundreds of cults, The Westboro Baptist Church for example must be included fairly near the top of the list, most of which have membership of less than a hundred and many quite honestly that are just so ridiculous you wonder how anyone can be taken in by them. Christianity started off as a cult but I can’t see any of today’s cults taking off in the same fashion, though you never know. How would one describe somebody who is totally taken in by some charismatic personality? Deluded? Brain-washed? Weak? Sad? Stupid? Pathetic? Unhappy? Lost? Are they any worse than the hysterical congregations filling the mega churches of America with their ranting pastors and faith healers? Hallelujah! Jesus saves! When I was teaching in Virginia I spent a whole Sunday morning in front of the telly watching these charlatans at work and I have to hand it to them, snake oil salesman aren’t a patch on these guys. The young actor Angus T. Jones, the half of the television comedy “Two And A half Men” shot himself in the foot by falling under the influence of just such a powerful religious personality and lost out when he stupidly sent shock waves across the ether by saying the show was fifth and he wished as a God fearing Christian he wasn’t in it (after nine series) and please not to watch it. Well it would seem he got his wish and his part for the new series has been severely reduced despite his grovelling apology to his fellow thesps. Obviously when he made that God-fearing statement his brain was out of gear or he would have known what the inevitable result would be. Now that was downright stupid. Still if God is pleased with his confession who am I to argue?
But what has brought this on is now in Australia causing some concern we have a new cult springing up. It is Jesus’ second coming so long anticipated and what a damp squib it’s turning out to be; not that it isn’t attracting followers. A charlatan by the name of Alan John Miller, or AJ as he prefers to be known, from his home near the small town of Kingaroy in the state of Queensland heads a movement known as the “Divine Truth.” There have been, are rather, so many churches that use the words divine and truth on their billboards what’s one more?  Miller claims not only is he Jesus, but his partner, Australian Mary Luck, is in fact Mary Magdalene, who according to the Bible was present at the crucifixion. Does she believe she’s Mary Magdalene or is she just going along for the ride? AJ told Sky News: "I have very clear memories of the crucifixion, but it wasn't as harrowing for me as it was for others like Mary who was present. When you are one with God you are not in a state of fear, and you have quite good control over your body's sensations and the level of pain that you absorb from your body." Why then, I ask myself, why did he cry out “My God, my God! Why hast thou forsaken me?”  Which, as he was God incarnate, was a bit like admonishing himself really.
Anyway, instead of slogging around old Palestine preaching, Mr. Miller aka Jesus Christ, holds seminars near his home and also travels around the world teaching people how to have a personal relationship with God, often by delving deep into their emotions (?) After his crucifixion he claims he entered the spirit world where he met Plato, Socrates, popes and presidents. How come he didn’t meet Mahomet for a quick get together? He also says he remembers performing miracles. He said: "I did resurrect quite a number of people (?) ... including a friend of mine, Lazarus, who most people know is mentioned in the Bible." What a load of tosh. The big question now is what is he doing back on earth and will he be performing more miracles? Will he raise more people from the dead? And shouldn’t he be showing signs of the stigmata?
Whilst critics sensibly dismiss his claims the seminars attract large groups of people, up to 150 a time. Dozens of his followers are understood to have bought properties in the area to be closer to him. (The real estate agents are obviously not complaining.) British woman, Louise Faver, 39, a former neuroscientist who has given up her career to be closer to the couple said, "It's just nice, instead of being surrounded by people who think you are nuts, to be surrounded by people who understand what you are going through and the difficulties of trying to deal with all the emotional stuff." How true, how true, nevertheless a neuroscientist nutty as a fruitcake I would say.  Modestly AJ has said donations are not obligatory or required but it would be a nice gesture if you were to put your hand in your pocket. After all, even Jesus needs shekels to survive in this modern world. As Ron.L.Hubbard said, “If you want to get rich start a religion” and it certainly worked for him.
AJ wouldn’t know it of course but I have written a version of his story in “An Alternative Christmas Carol” to be found in “The Museum Mysteries & Other Short Stories.” If there is a bookseller in Kingaroy maybe he can get it or failing that from Amazon.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Winds of Crete

The Winds of Crete - this is the title of a book written by someone many years ago when Crete was still pretty primitive, when the only visitors were hippies, what passed as roads were hazardous, some still donkey tracks really, and there was no such luxury as central heating. If a Cretan felt the cold he merely put on another sweater. The book is somewhere on a shelf. I might read it again sometime. Having lived here for so many years now it would be interesting to read it again. Meanwhile, as I sit here, the winds of Crete are gusting and howling at gale force and have been doing so for the last four or five days. I’ve lost count. Fortunately this time it’s not coming from the south because when that happens we get what has been known as Gaddafi’s rain. Will we now have to change the name now that the crazy dictator is dead? I think not. It will forever be known as Gaddafi’s rain: if it’s rain that is; if not then it’s Gaddafi’s dust as the sands of Libya sweep over the island speckling or coating everything yellow: windows, walls, plants, cars. Unfortunately one gust was so strong it blew open the back glass doors not properly fastened which in turn caused the front ones to slam so violently there was the sound of shattering glass and one beautiful Edwardian door brought out from England lost most of its stained glass. Fortunately the small blue corner pieces etched with flowers remained intact but most of the irreplaceable Victorian red had gone. It’s quite a restoration job Chris has been landed with.
It’s that time of the year once more when fruit trees are bearing. Despite the heavy windfall there is a positive glut of apricots. We have two varieties of apricots, one that bears fruits at this time of the year and the other later. Unfortunately as the house at the moment is in such disarray there is no time to do any preserving with this first lot. There is also a good crop of yellow plums and the pomegranate is covered in blossom and developing fruit. I notice it’s going to be a good year for walnuts as well (there are four walnut trees) as normally they hang singly or in pairs but this year the nuts are in clusters of four, five, even the occasional six. Most unusual.
Now that the M1, or the Ethnic Highway, from the lane to the back doors has bisected the garden, a monstruvious digger cutting quite a swathe through it, it has been decided not to bother with vegetables any more that need so much attention day by day but rather to plant a few more fruit trees instead. None were lost in making the new access, but we did lose a row of lavender, some French lavender, an enormous rosemary, one ornamental tree, a beautiful red oleander I grew from a cutting and a scarlet bougainvillea. Fortunately no fruit trees were lost and there is still a magnificent cerise bougainvillea at the side of the lane, a giant bush rather than a climber, and all the holiday makers who walk by stop to gawp and take photos. Not surprising considering what a blaze of colour it is and at the moment attracting a great many butterflies. There are also half a dozen olive trees, various varieties.
So what fruit trees shall we plant? Well it’s a bit late in life to plant a mango although mangoes I have discovered do thrive here. I wish I had known that years ago. We already have, right at the bottom of the garden, a truly ancient pear. Goodness only knows how old it is. It does bare fruit but the ants usually get to it first. There are three lemon trees, an avocado, a winter fig, loquat, quince, guava, purple mulberry, prickly pear and of course the walnuts and the plum. We had two failures, an apple that simply died and a nectarine that produced nothing but leaf curl which it passed on to the nut-peach, also now dead unfortunately. No matter what one did to eradicate it the leaf curl simply kept reappearing so, although it was a gift, the nectarine was cut down. It would have been in the way of the new access anyway. I was told the apple was a failure because the winters are not cold enough. We had an apple tree in London that was absolutely delicious, not one you would find these days in any greengrocer or supermarket more’s the pity – it was called a Blenheim Orange and for sweetness and flavour was simply out of this world.
In the courtyard there is an orange, the pomegranate, a red plum, mandarin, and a grape vine and in the garden at the side of the house another orange, a Seville orange, another loquat and a white mulberry.
So what fruit trees shall we plant? Well I guess another pear would be most efficacious leaving the ancient to the ants, and a cherry. And there would still be room for more.

Monday, June 3, 2013


Was it Bette Davis who said growing old is not for cissies? Well, whoever it was they couldn’t have said a truer word. My handwriting has been deteriorating for some time and has now become virtually illegible. It’s a scribble I can’t even read myself. So hoorah for a keyboard! Except that now my fingers are so stiff as I sit here I am finding it even difficult to type. If I lose that ability completely, well… let’s not even think about it. This stiffness is a strange turn-up for the books because up to now my hands have been so shaky (hence the illegible writing) that holding a cup of tea without spilling any is not easy. And because of the rat poison blood thinner I take every day (Sintrom) the skin on the back of my hands has turned black and I have leopard spots all the way up my arms. It’s not helped either by the skin being like tissue paper and should one of Wagner’s claws when playing accidentally get me that means a scab – once the blood has stopped flowing - and there are a number of them. Pretty isn’t it? Pretty it is not.
Health! Now suddenly I have developed edema and it is not only the feet that are horribly swollen and ugly but the legs have doubled in size with the amount of fluid. This is not good news. I have also reached that time in life when I can suddenly lose balance and go toppling over and once you start to topple there’s no stopping it. It’s like dropping a bottle of milk and watching it in slow motion as it descends to shatter on the floor and there is nothing you could have done about it. And the worst aspect of it is that once down it is almost impossible to get up unless there is something, like a peace of furniture for example, against which one can use the strength in the arms to hoist yourself up because there is no strength in the legs and one is floundering like one of those beetles on it’s back unable to turn over. Some years ago an ex-pat, Arthur, originally from Yorkshire, (spoke Greek with a Yorkshire accent) was telling us he was reluctantly leaving Crete and going back to the UK because his wife had died and he had reached the falling over stage, Eleftheria’s late mum, Maria had a couple if falls which meant a broken pelvis and after being discharged from the hospital she was still in terrible agony. Chris and Douglas used to go over to help Eleftheria put her to bed: siga, siga; slowly slowly, every little movement so painful. Once she was in and settled that was it for the night, there would be no more movement. When Maria died we went over to the house for what I suppose one could call a sit-in. Coffee, wine, tsigouthia, biscuits, etcetera were available and there were a number of ladies seated around the open coffin and every now and again one of them would talk to the corpse as if she really could hear her. That was the first time and we have attended others since. In Crete once you’ve gone you are put away pretty quick, no hanging about. Then according to the Orthodox Church you start your long forty day journey to meet your maker. In our little corner of the world there have been six deaths which is not surprising considering they were all in their eighties. Agathe just down the road is hanging in there at 96. Her sister, Anna, one of my very very very favourite ladies of all time also had a fall that proved fatal. Unfortunately we were in Athens at the time and by the time we got back Anna was already gone. Hers was a corpse I could have talked to without feeling foolish. I still miss her dreadfully. Growing old is eventually a problem for most ex-pats because most come over here already at retirement age singly or as a couple and when one of them dies what happens to the one who is left? Especially if they have failed to integrate into Cretan society. I am not in the least bit religious. To be honest I am an atheist plain and simple; when you’re dead you’re dead, but that doesn’t stop us from taking part in certain aspects of Cretan life which usually involves the church in some way or other. Jesus is everywhere on this island. It never ceased to surprise me while I was still mobile enough to get to the church that at Easter, the most sacred time in the Greek calendar, we have been the only ex-pats at the midnight service year after year. Christ is risen. He is truly risen. Kiss kiss. And we carefully walk home with our candle lit by the holy flame all the way from Jerusalem (?) and mark the sign of the cross on the door lintel. We tie a bunch of wild flowers on the handle of the front door every first of March. And if the young papas wants to bless our house with a sprig of basil and holy water, even though he knows we’re not orthodox, why not? It’s not hypocrisy if it gives him some satisfaction.
We have two lesbian friends, beautiful people and I don’t necessarily mean physically, who have been together for 45 years. They have had this big house built with swimming pool and a beautiful garden the size of a small park and the time is coming when they will have to think on what happens when one of them goes. They want me to write something in ‘No Official Umbrella’ but if they leave it much longer it won’t happen. As it is I would have to get someone else to write the dedication and scribble my signature beneath. I am extremely fortunate in that I have not one but two who watch over me with love, diligence and a great deal of patience. They cannot be thanked enough. I am also thankful that whatever ailments I suffer at the moment none involves pain.
Talking of books, monthly returns from the printers both in the UK and the states informs me that ‘Celluloid & Tinsel,’ the penultimate Thornton King adventure has hardly left the ground. A round robin was sent to all friends, acquaintances, and associates but it seems they’re not exactly in any rush to get their hands on a copy. What does one do if even friends can‘t be bothered? Am now polishing number six which will be the last in the series, but six is a nice round number.