Saturday, February 28, 2009

Blog 4c

Watched “Death In Venice” again, after a long long absence and still fell under its spell. As with Colin Farrell, Dirk Bogarde has lengthy shots of “just looking” except in Bogarde’s case he was such a consummate actor you knew exactly every little changing thought and feeling behind the looks. Another movie on TV switched off as soon as one realised it was going to be rubbish. This one was called “The Knight’s Tale.” With Heath Ledger who was actually audible. This must have been before his Hollywood less is more mumble mumble days.
In yesterday’s Mail, Chris Tookey critiquing three movies “New In Town”, “The Unborn” and “Push” gives all three the turkey. Direction and performances might have been slagged off but basically the fault with all three according to Mister Tookey are the dire screenplays. Once many years ago when I was in a “Play For Today” for the BBC, the actor David Kossoff, when we were talking about my writing ambitions, said “Just keep on writing, dear boy. One day when you write a big hit you will then be able to write shit on the lavatory wall and they’ll knock the wall down and buy it.”
Well I haven’t yet had that big hit but it would seem producers in the film business have been knocking down a lot of lavatory walls of late. But then what is new?
After a few hours of glorious sunshine yesterday, albeit with chilly winds blowing down from the mountains, hardly surprising because I have never seen them blanketed with quite so much snow, right down to the foothills; the rain was back last night and now the forecast is sunshine and showers which doesn’t bode well for the carnival parades, but then it seems to be that way every year.
Ford Prior writing in The Breeze, the student paper at James Madison University has given me a colourful write-up for the autobiography. Thanks Ford.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A British novelist has had her latest book banned by the Dubai Literary Festival because it “mentions” homosexuality. Goodness alone knows what they would think of the books I have just read or am reading at the moment. Not only do they mention homosexuality, they’re all about or by homosexuals! Heavens to Betsy! That dreadful word again? The BBC documentary the other night was all about a homosexual writer, the Japanese Mishima, a strange character indeed. To please his traditional family he married and produced two children, just like Oscar Wilde, eventually at quite a young age committing hara-kiri. Mishima, not Oscar.
Chris bought the new Walt Disney DVD edition of “Sleeping Beauty” and one of the extras was purportedly a potted biography of Tchaikovsky, ho ho ho! Poor Tchaik to have lived in conservative Tzarist Russia. Did he too commit suicide? Did he know the glass of water he drank was cholera contaminated and would kill him? The Disney studios could hardly inform millions of gullible Americans (and others) that this world famous and most popular composer, who wrote some of the world’s most beautiful romantic music, cruised the streets of Moscow at night in search of rough trade. But back to the books: firstly, having read Paul O’Grady’s autobiography, “At My Mother’s Knee” taking us up to his late teens, and thoroughly enjoying that one, we got the biography written by …. oh, whatsisname? Never mind. Not very well written I’m afraid, rather dull in fact. Finished reading it though because it is about a truly remarkable character and here is the strange thing, the great British public, many of whom are still homophobic to a degree and knowing that he’s gay, simply adore him. And this applies to other show business personalities as well, so many of whom have “come out”. Then there is the Bruce Chatwin book Ray gave me, also about a homosexual, also a married one and, finally, “My Lives” by the American writer, Edmund White. Strange that I should be reading these two books in tandem as evidently Chatwin and White knew each other in the Biblical sense in New York. The White autobiography pulls no punches and with calling a spade a spade would have the organisers of the Dubai Festival dropping like so many wilting violets. And, talking about a wilting violet, what about the gay security guard who has been awarded £62500 in damages because a lady wobbled her tits at him virtually causing a mental and emotional breakdown? Oh, come on now! Has the world gone completely crazy? If she’d flashed her pussy at him would the amount have been doubled? If she’d wobbled her titties and flashed her pussy simultaneously, having completely traumatised him, would he have been quids in for three times the amount?
The American anti-gay preacher, the Reverend (?) Fred (god hates fags) Phelps from Kansas and his anti-gay (god hates fags) preacher daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, have been barred from entering the UK to stop him from spreading ‘extremism and hatred.’ He evidently wanted to picket a play dramatising the murder of a gay man in 1998. Was that the one where this young student was pistol whipped by two of his contempories? Evidently the play depicts the Phelps’s in a not too flattering light which is hardly surprising. Peter Tatchell thought they should be allowed to visit in order to “discredit themselves, they are odious homophobic bigots. They give Christianity a bad name.” Unfortunately they’re not the only ones who give Christianity a bad name. In some Islamic states homosexuality is still punishable by death.
Fan the merkin! This can’t be Kansas, Toto!
An interesting observation by Mr White in his book, if I may quote – “The more preposterous a theory the more likely it is to appeal to an intellectual, since only what defies common sense can be entertained for long by anyone but a thinker. To believe in the unbelievable, I suppose, is proof of the power of the mind.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The number of films I can’t be doing with and walk out on grows nightly. This one was called “The New World” and seemed to consist mainly of Colin Farrell giving long brooding looks at a Native American princess while she makes Native American gestures towards the sky or over a smoky fire. Before they get together however so that their romance can blossom, how’s this for a sequence of events? Firstly our hero and about eight or more men in a fairly large boat are rowing up the river (this is Virginia). Cut to: a sort of dugout containing four men rowing up the river, one of whom is Mr Farrell alias John Smith. Cut to: John Smith, now in full armour including helm, is all on his own standing knee deep in a swamp looking around in rather vague fashion, for what, may one ask? And how did he get there may one ask? And where were the rest of his men may one ask? Actually the reason he is there is so he can be attacked and, after putting up some resistance, taken prisoner and presumably the writer/director thought he could get some amazing action in a swamp. There was some beautiful photography but a film needs more than beautiful photography, this kind of adventure flick needs a rollicking good story and here, up until the moment I left, there was practically nothing, hence the long brooding looks and the gestures towards the sky. Also I was not taken by the music. I am a Wagner fan and Mozart piano concertos are lovely but somehow they don’t seem to go with seventeenth century Virginia.
Here we are nearly into March and Spring and it would seem the winter has kept the worst of the weather until the last couple of weeks. I have the distinct impression it hasn’t stopped raining for days, sometimes a mere drizzle, sometimes very heavy, and the night before last, my god did we not have one helluva hailstorm! It thundered down in deafening fashion on the breakfast room roof and I hate to think, even though the pellets were small, what it has done to some of the garden plants. Parts of Kalyves, Xania, Souda and other low lying areas of the island are bound to be flooded as usual when we have this amount of rain. Roll on summer.
Yes, John Lewis, I had a sort of memory that I had nicked the nature saying from Goethe. The other one of his I am particularly taken with is “How can you call anything in nature unnatural?” and only religious beliefs (here I go again) stop you from being that wise.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Although today, Friday 20th, is Blog day and I am sitting here starting this, there will be a Blogging hiatus as, due to a fault by OTE, the Greek telephone company, now owned by Germans I believe, we cannot get on line so I can’t publish it. ‘We’ll have it fixed in a couple of days!’ was the response to an enquiring phone call. As we are now into the weekend and this is Greece I wonder how many days constitute a couple. Could it be due to the weather? It has been pretty chilly with rain and howling winds although the forecast snow thank goodness hasn’t appeared and the night temperature hasn’t gone below 5 degrees. Yesterday was the equivalent of Shrove Tuesday only in Greece it happens to fall on a Thursday. Carnival is nearly upon us and the Greeks really love their carnival. The shops have been displaying costumes for hire for ages now. It’s a weird phenomenon but the men, usually very hairy, camping themselves silly on floats in the parades love getting into drag; nurses uniforms are a great favourite, and small boys have a penchant for Zorro. (I thought that was spelt with one r but the spell check reckons it’s two so we’ll leave it at that).
The almond trees have been in bloom for weeks and spring flowers are appearing despite the chill. There is one particular plant in the garden, low to the ground with shiny waxy leaves and bright yellow flowers that I am particularly fond of although, not being a botanist, I don’t know what it is. As we have books on Greece’s flora and fauna I suppose I could look it up. They seem to be more in abundance this year than ever before. There are orchids too and the wild gladioli are appearing everywhere. It’s a pity though that the garden has had to be so neglected for such a long while. Mowgli would be in his element.
Saturday – Still off-line. After three consecutive nights of Almodóvar we went back to Greek television and a film called ‘V for Vengeance’ which was a total load of crap. I only lasted five minutes but the others sat it out and informed me afterwards that it was a total load of crap to which my reply was, why did they think I walked out after five minutes? So last night there was a choice of three movies on TV. We started off with ‘Caravaggio’ but, although it looked as if it was going to be good, as it was in Italian we gave up on it and moved to the second. Gave up on that and moved to the third. Gave up on that and put on one of the old all-time favourites not played for a while, ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ and enjoyed it once more.
Sunday – Cold and wet. Have already lit the fire in the breakfast room. Will spend the rest of the day racking and bottling wines. There are twelve demi-johns waiting, some have been waiting for a couple of years or more. Twelve demi-johns mean 12x6 = 72x.75 litre bottles. Actually, if they haven’t improved since the last racking, a couple of them are so poisonous, if I emptied them down the sink they would kill the noonoos in the cesspit. Maybe I could use them for weed killers! Another film last night to walk out on after a few minutes. Another one the others stayed with. They have a lot more patience than I.
Monday – Last night selected six tapes out of our vast collection from which to choose one to watch. This turned out to be (is it les or la?) ‘Soufflé au Coeur’, one of those French films of a certain period that, like ‘The Four Hundred Blows’ is a gentle delight. Also on the tape but unmarked was the BBC documentary on the Japanese writer Mishima and part two of ‘The House Of Elliot.’ Whoever thought this would make for riveting television and commissioned it should have had their head examined.
Someone from OTE phoned at eight this morning to ask if we had a problem and assured us it would be fixed. We are now back on line.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I’m about to bash the bishops again, that is, have another go at religion. I know it must be very boring for some, my worrying this subject like a terrier with a bone, but I do firmly believe that if religion didn’t exist, without the myth of paradise or, in Christian theology, heaven. hell and purgatory, the world would be a saner, safer, more salubrious place. If only humans could accept the fact that dead means just that – dead. All right, so religion brings a deal of comfort to many a grieving soul, many who are ill, many who suffer the thousand and one shocks that flesh is heir to, but one has to ask the sixty-four thousand dollar question, has religion made the world a better place? The answer has to be a resounding no. Letters to the newspapers can be very revealing. There is a gentleman in Ontario, Canada, Paul Kokoski, who is obviously a faithful reader of the Athens News and who has had a number of letters on religious subjects published therein, for example: “Archaic Ideologies” – ‘Islamic domination and Jewish Zionism which mark the ideologies behind the conflict in the Middle East, are archaic and outdated. With the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, God is no longer tied to a specific area. God’s kingdom is a universal kingdom today. All the people of the earth are the people of God. God is not a real-estate agent.’ Well, with regard to the conflict in Gaza, I’m not too sure what Mister Kokoski’s getting at here but, that apart, as Christianity predates Islam, surely it’s the Christian ideology that’s outdated.
In another letter Mister Kokoski states unequivocally that all abortion is murder as life starts at conception and life, of course, despite all evidence to the contrary, is sacred. Interestingly this letter is answered by a Thomas Reimitz who writes, “…notion that abortion equals murder very hypocritical indeed, as he uses pseudo-scientific arguments (beginning of life) to justify his narrow view … he calls people who do not agree with him perverts and evil. Medieval Inquisition had similar ideas towards “truth”. Another letter, this time from a Doctor William Mallison ostensibly has a go at the PC brigade but is in fact nothing more or less than a homophobic diatribe, which brings me to the bishops. I see on the news that 4000 Roman Catholic clergy in the states have been accused of sexual misdemeanours against minors and the church has paid out an enormous sum in compensation. I am quite sure that some of these cases have been brought by the unscrupulous, cashing in in this compensation culture but 4000 whichever way you look at it is a pretty high figure. But surprising? Chastity is a highly unnatural state so it isn’t in the least surprising. To quote a Glyn Jones line, “chase out nature and she comes back at the double.” Or did I nick that from someone else? Which brings me to one particular bishop – Richard Williamson, once excommunicated but now welcomed back into the fold, a man with the most peculiar views. He denies the Holocaust, saying the gas chambers didn’t exist (having seen them for myself at Dachau I can put him straight on that one) and that only 300000 Jews died under the Nazis. For my money that is 300000 too many. He also believes that women wearing trousers is an assault upon womanhood and that feminism is connected to witchcraft and Satanism. The film “The Sound of Music” he describes as pornographic soul-rotting slush. There is no denying this is a highly intelligent man and that he firmly believes the rubbish he espouses but what can account for it? Was it because his mother was a Christian Scientist, another bizarre and totally ridiculous sect believing Mary Baker Eddy’s nonsense, and his father a protestant that caused him to leap into the arms of Catholicism but with his own peculiar brand?
It is said of him that, “He’s so appallingly vain … he’s always so tremendously elegant and polished, and often surrounded by clean-cut youths who worship him. He adores being the centre of attention.” Another opinion states, “I have long suspected he has issues with his sexuality because he spews forth camp poison whenever the issue of homosexuality is raised. He’s absolutely obsessed with sexual deviancy of any sort.” And this man preaches to his flock about God?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

It’s no wonder the last couple of days have been the coldest of the winter. Heavy snow on the mountains and with no sunshine the breeze blowing down has lowered the temperature considerably. Heating turned on a couple of hours earlier than usual. A little sunshine trying to peep through this morning but I don’t think it will be successful. Comes and goes.
Eleven years ago, when I first arrived in Crete, I tried to interest British ex-pats in matters theatrical, advertising through an organisation called the Cretan International Community that I would like to produce a play (of mine naturally) and got absolutely no response. I realised it might be difficult to attract males so chose a play with an all women cast but it made no difference. The events organised by the CIC, apart from their Christmas bazaar, consisted mainly of walks (not interested) and dinners which were not much use to me as they were invariably held late in the Greek fashion and I don’t like to eat late at night for fear of a reflux reaction which has at times has been most distressing. Douglas attended one CIC dinner but, as nobody spoke to him and he had smoke blown in his face all evening, that was his one and only and who can blame him? Too many expats seem to spend a great deal of their time in the tavernas and kafenios but I digress. Back to theatricals. Yesterday afternoon we had a visit from a charming lady who now wants to put things theatrical in motion. When I mentioned not having had a response all those years ago, Douglas pointed out that at that time there were perhaps a couple of hundred Brits on the island; now there are simply hundreds more. The last few years have seen them simply swarming in though I shouldn’t think there are too many who would be interested in things theatrical. Over tea we let the good lady pick our brains for an hour or two and gave her our opinions on feasibility and how she should go about things and she went away with some ideas, but how much we would now be willing to be involved is another matter. Choice of plays, if a play is what they want to do, is limited as none of the expats is under forty and most considerably older than that. They did after all come out here in retirement. I for one, after my experiences in England with them, am chary of having anything to do with amateur theatricals and the egos that go with them. Also, various “happenings!” that have taken place here that I’ve seen have been a definite turn-off. Apart from anything else, the good lady also wants to perform a five minute monologue and needs help with it and I have offered to coach her. That will most possibly be as far as my contribution goes. Famous last words!
After our Skype session, more questions from Ford at “The Breeze,” the James Madison student newspaper, regarding the autobiography. Will be very interested in seeing the finished article.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Weather turned wet and decidedly more chilly. Decided before going to the UK to make a couple of gallons of orange wine, the last lot being so delicious – medium sweet and very fruity - the trees being laden once again with fruit, but if I don’t get around to it soon it will be too late. Douglas cleared up the courtyard a couple of days ago as it was littered with dropped and rotting oranges but there is still time though I am not going out picking fruit in this weather. The garden is a jungle anyway as the weeds have really taken advantage of our weeks, nay months of neglect.
There being nothing of particular interest on any of the Greek television channels last night we watched again Pedro Almodóvar’s “Bad Education”. He really is a remarkable film maker and for once I don’t take exception to the egotistic credit. Talking of education naturally brings me to the expulsion of the two girls from a Christian school in California allegedly for being lesbian. The Californian courts upheld the school’s right to expel them and a lawyer for the Lutheran school said it was because the school had to uphold Christian principles. Strange but I don’t recollect anywhere in the Gospels Joshua bar Joseph evincing an opinion on lesbianism and, although I am far from being a Bible scholar, I don’t think there is any mention of it in the Old testament either, or is there? So where did these Christian principles spring from?
Which beings me to Prime Minster Kevin Rudd of Australia who said recently “Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law were told on Wednesday to get out of Australia , as the government targeted radicals in a bid to head off potential terror attacks..

Separately, Rudd angered some Australian Muslims on Wednesday by saying he supported spy agencies monitoring the nation's mosques. Quote:
'IMMIGRANTS, NOT AUSTRALIANS, MUST ADAPT. Take It Or Leave It. I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on Bali , we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Australians. '

'This culture has been developed over two centuries of struggles, trials and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom'

'We speak mainly ENGLISH, not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society learn the language!'

'Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian, right wing, political push, but a fact, because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, (he doesn’t mention lesbians) founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture.' (Mind you, so is Allah who is merely another manifestation of this thing called God)

'We will accept your beliefs, and will not question why. All we ask is that you accept ours, and live in harmony and peaceful enjoyment with us.'

'This is OUR COUNTRY, OUR LAND, and OUR LIFESTYLE, and we will allow you every opportunity to enjoy all this. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about Our Flag, Our Pledge, Our Christian beliefs, or Our Way of Life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great Australian freedom, 'THE RIGHT TO LEAVE'.'

'If you aren't happy here then LEAVE. We didn't force you to come here. You asked to be here. So accept the country YOU accepted.”
A pity there isn’t an English politician with the guts to say the same though I am sure a multitude of the PC multiculturist brigade will be foaming at the mouth.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Watched a DVD of Charlie Chaplin’s THE GREAT DICTATOR. Very interesting to see it after all these years and can’t help wondering if Charlie’s last speech is as relevant to-day as it was back then. An interesting reissue with lots of extras one of which is an extract from Monsieur Verdoux and that was rather startling with newspaper headlines showing banks crashing in the great depression. Is there nothing new under the sun and is history merely repeating itself because humans simply never learn from it? The punishment in hell for greed is to be boiled in oil. Maybe the world needn’t go that far with the bankers but why oh why are they still being allowed to propose huge bonuses for themselves when people are losing their jobs, their homes, and everything is on the slide? The whole thing is totally illogical and ridiculous, obscene is not too harsh a word. Do they really honestly believe they deserve those bonuses? Odium is all they deserve.
A new(?) revolutionary, that is, terrorist group has reared its ugly head in Greece. ‘Revolutionary Sect’ - another band of brothers who believe they’re going to change the world by shooting a few coppers, spraying police stations with machine gun fire and torching banks and car dealerships; a truly profound political strategy. They’ve obviously never taken history to heart either. They’ve never heard of The Red Brigade? Baader-Meinhof? N17? Black Panthers? Or any of the other groups starting off with the same idiotic ideas and ending in abject failure and death? Revolutionary Sect left its absurd proclamation on the grave of the fifteen year old shot by police last year, that incident giving everyone who wanted it the excuse to riot, loot, and generally cause mayhem. Greece is certainly not an easy country to govern, what with these terrorist groups, anarchists, bolshie students, Cretan farmers, Thessaly cotton growers defying everyone and everything and draining the water table dry. It would seem appeasement is the government’s only answer to violence, blackmail, extortion, and ransom demands. Give them the money, Mabel, in enormous amounts. Anything for a peaceful life – and votes of course when it come to an election. The police themselves seem to be another matter entirely, apparently acting when and how they feel like it or at least that is the appearance they give.
The Roman Catholic Church has evidently updated the seven deadly sins with seven (actually from the list in front of me, nine) new ones fit for the times. Murder. Well there’s nothing new about that. It has been stated quite categorically thou shalt not kill but killing goes on regardless and probably always will. Contraception. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! When will dear old Popie and the Vatican gang step into the twenty first century and realise that even if ultra-large families are good for the Catholic Church they are not, as the population grows at an alarming pace, good for the world? Ruining the environment comes next, so what have I just said about the world’s population and contraception? Abortion. Is this across the board, no exceptions for medical reasons maybe? Perjury. Hmn, what is the punishment in an overcrowded hell for that one? Now come two rather nebulous ones open to all sorts of interpretations. Like the Bible itself you can make of them what you will. They are ‘carrying out morally debatable scientific experiments’ and ‘allowing genetic manipulations which alter DNA.’ Then comes taking or dealing in drugs. Does this include the use of tobacco, alcohol and caffeine or is it restricted to the really heavy stuff? Now comes a real beaut! ‘Social injustice which causes poverty or the excessive accumulation of wealth by the few’ (Bankers away to hell with you!) and would you and I consider the Roman Catholic church in need of a bob or two? Instead of stretching out the hand to rake in more would it not be a wonderful gesture to stretch out the hand and alleviate some of the world suffering they’re obviously so worried about instead of leaving it to the Mother Teresa’s of this world?
The Christians (Anglicans mainly)) in England are whining they are now being persecuted in this politically correct age because of their beliefs. What England needs is a leader such as the Prime Minister of Australia. Good for you, mate, tell ‘em like it is, even if members of the PC brigade are committing you to hellfires; but more of that next time. A piece too about lesbians and a Christian school in California but who is ever surprised by California?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The BBC is employing child labour. Only kidding. But looking at those attending the reception desk at Television Centre I was hard put to wondering if any of them were past school leaving age.
The girls who wandered into the recording suite at various times, either out of curiosity or to find out if all was going well, seemed hardly to be that much older, as where the personnel I noticed as I peeked into various offices walking by in this maze of a building. Mind you, there was ample proof of the existence of yoof elsewhere. They do say you know you are growing old when all policemen look as though they’re sixteen. Leaving the underground at Northfields Station I noticed two policemen standing in the concourse, the taller of the two looking as though he was about to celebrate his fifteenth birthday and as rosy cheeked pretty as one of Cardinal Pirelli’s choirboys. ‘Hello,’ he said, quite chummily, which rather set me aback, although I think I did manage a smile in return. Out of earshot I asked Douglas why he thought the child had greeted me in so friendly a fashion. ‘Because you were staring at him,’ was the answer. Twice whilst trying to manoeuvre a suitcase on a station escalator a young girl smilingly offered assistance and this again I find quite remarkable because up till now it is only in Athens that young girls have offered to give up their seat for me in train or bus. So what has changed in London since I was last there? Well, apart from the preponderance of youth – Ian Dean took us to a very fine dinner at his club, ‘Blacks’ in Soho, and again I noticed that, our table apart, not just the staff but the clubbers were all young – where previously London seemed all grouch and growl, now it is courteous, helpful and smiling from staff in the underground to people on the street, so what has brought about this change? I can’t remember exactly how long it is since I was last in the big smoke, maybe eleven, twelve years? I think it must have been when acting in my very last telly, playing a murderous paedophile in a ‘Crimewatch File’ for the Beeb. That was when you gave your name at the gate and walked or drove up to telly centre set a fair distance back from the road. The whole complex is now so enormous you walk into a large reception area straight from the road and the old building I once knew so well is completely hidden. Well, the tv centre might have been built up but I also noticed large sections of central London have been razed. I was told this was to make room for new shops etc., for the Olympics. Whoops! We’re in a recession and the games have evidently already cost a fortune so who needs this? Who is going to pay for all this is more to the point? London, England, must surely be the most expensive city/country in the world. It is just as well we have good friends who are prepared to put us up so we are saved the necessity of looking at inflated hotel bills but the price of transport even for the shortest journey is simply horrendous and as for snacks etc., do folk not baulk at having to pay just under £3 for a croissant or a slice of very ordinary cake? £3 an hour for parking? £8 congestion charge? Taxi fares in the stratosphere? £7 entry fee to visit a cathedral? Money disappears like water down a drain.
So, although the company put £500 towards travel expenses, I reckon the jaunt set us back three to four hundred pounds which, when you come to look at it and thanks to lovely friends, was not much to spend on what was really considered a holiday albeit a wet and freezing cold one that left us both with colds, flu, chest infections or whatever I don’t even want to talk about. Back in Athens I never left the flat for six days and hardly had the energy to read more than a couple of pages of a book before putting it down. I wonder if we passed on our germs to fellow passengers or to all those customs men busily searching our baggage. God, I really do hate flying!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Is 2009 to be Glyn Jones rediscovery year? Out of the blue a school as requested permission to put on OH BROTHER, a play that hasn’t seen the light of day in over forty years and now I discover an e-mail from another school wanting to do my version of PETER PAN, last performed ten years ago. THRILLER OF THE YEAR has just had another airing in Germany and the reason for the visit to London was the resurrection of my early DOCTOR WHO - THE SPACE MUSEUM which is now to be reissued on DVD, and I was asked to take part in a commentary together with two original members of the cast, William Russell and Maureen O’Brian. The round table was chaired by Peter Purvis who was terrific. He had done his research diligently, had his notes both on paper and computer and, under his guidance, the session never seemed to flag. What was there to say about four episodes of truly primitive television? William Russell didn’t seem to have much input but Maureen had a right old go at the director, one Mervyn Pinfield, and quite rightly too. If he could have had his four principals stand in a straight line one more time for a medium group shot I have no doubt he would have done so and he had absolutely no idea of pace; the whole thing is so slow both in dialogue and action. I didn’t know this but evidently when he was due to direct another, the cast rebelled and refused to work with him. THE SPACE MUSEUM has for some time been considered something of a classic and I still get the occasional fan mail but, looking at it now, one can only sigh and wish it could be done again with modern digital technology. The sets and models are basic (and wobbly); the costumes and make-up awful. There are some good effects but others not attempted as being too difficult. The whole thing was produced on a shoestring, just over two thousand pounds, and now we come to my really serious complaint which has been common knowledge for years – the then script editor Dennis Spooner. I’ve always complained that Spooner cut out virtually all the humour. It’s not nice to speak ill of the dead but in both cases, Pinfield and Spooner, it can’t be helped and Peter Purvis summed it up with “So many great ideas simply wasted.” What Peter didn’t know was there were great ideas that received the red pencil to such an extent some aspects simply didn’t make sense if one stopped to analyse what was going on. In fact I had my original scripts with me and, when we got to the last few minutes, at the request of the others, I read out what was in my script as opposed to what we were seeing and hearing on screen and there were gasps of astonishment all round that Potter had simply ignored an integral and exciting ending that made sense of all that had gone before. Ah, well, we’re talking ancient history here but antiques can be fascinating, no? And writers are forever beefing about how their scripts get mauled. In this case the mauling does happen to be very true.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I must confess it has been most pleasurable getting back to blue skies and temperatures around 20. When we left Athens for London (Stansted) we left on a sunny day with the temperature at 15 degrees and arrived in the dark and wet at -3! At least that is what Roger Beeching’s swish Jaguar, a car that does everything except give you sensual massage, told us: outside temperature -3.There was an interesting incident in Athens before leaving (no, not more riots) and another on arriving back (no, not more riots though they were now happening in Patras) but on our first night in the flat at about four in the morning someone torched a car a few yards up and on the opposite side of the road. The noise woke Douglas who went out onto the balcony to see what was happening and I soon followed. It was quite a spectacle of fierce flames, three or four dull thuds of something exploding and a billowing tower of dense black smoke. Someone was already there trying to put out the fire with a small extinguisher that was having no effect whatsoever. Soon there were half a dozen police cars and finally a couple of fire wagons and the fire was fairly quickly put out. What surprised me was the fact that so few people came out onto their balconies or leaned out of windows to witness the conflagration considering the noise that was being made. Maybe Athenians merely ignore this sort of thing. When we stopped by the car the following morning we saw it was nothing but a metal skeleton though, surprisingly it appeared the tyres were untouched, and the white car parked in front of it and only six inches away seemed to have suffered little damage, a slight discolouration of a small patch of paint and a broken tail light. Three weeks later the wreck is still sitting there. I wonder what all that was about?
Our return journey started off uneventful enough. Stansted doesn’t appear to be the busiest airport in the world and we were fairly early checking in so we wandered around W.H.Smith’s for a while but not for long. There was just too many books, so many paperbacks to choose from it was almost bewildering, books on shelves, books on tables, books on the desk, buy two get one free or half price and I gave up almost before I started, more chick-lit than is good for one. Our last evening in London staying with our friend Ray Peters, we held a dinner party for fourteen – Ray loves doing this and a dinner party always ends with everyone receiving an assortment of presents. Among mine was a book, a biography of a writer I had never heard of. Seeing all those books displayed at Smith’s is it surprising? Andrew Harvey, a reviewer, wrote of him, “He was a writer no one who cares about literature can afford not to read.” The writer in question (and I am now half way through this fascinating biography by Nicholas Shakespeare) was Bruce Chatwin. It seems a great shame that this dedicated work, considering the amount of research required let alone the writing of it, should have been picked up at £2.99 off the remainder table. Ray never did remove a price tag. Chatwin died young off AIDS related illnesses and is buried, having converted to the Orthodox church, in an unmarked grave in Greece. He wanted to retire to Crete. I will now have to read some of his work. Anyway, getting back to our return flight, all was peaceful until we left the immigration and customs area at Athens airport when the second unusual incident happened. Douglas, me following behind as usual, was suddenly confronted by three youngish guys the first of whom flashed an identity card and asked if we carrying anything illegal, did we pack our bags ourselves, which bag was his, which bag was mine, did we mix things up etc., and then they would like to search our suitcases. We were marched away and told to sit on a couple of chairs an area away form the madding crowd. Another grey nomad (well white-haired) was already ensconced on a chair opposite and looking a wee bit nervous, or that’s what the smile he gave us conveyed as he obviously waited his turn.
The guy, in his mid-thirties or thereabouts I would say, who had flashed his identity now stood over us and said something to the effect that he believed we were carrying something and if there was anything in our cases it would be better for us if we admitted it then and there rather than wait for the contraband to be discovered. He was almost gloating and there was little doubt he believed he had a couple of drug smugglers bang to rights and our arrest was imminent. I was growing more and more irritated at being kept there by having to continually deny there was anything in the suitcase, Douglas was growing more and more nervous. Confronted by any authority he tends to plead guilty even before the charges are read out. A young Oriental guy came smiling out of the search room and the grey nomad opposite was ushered in. Then it was our turn. Cases were lifted on to two different tables and Douglas, now beetroot red and all fingers and thumbs couldn’t remember the combination on his lock. He knew it was to do with his birthday but he couldn’t remember in what order the numbers came. Eventually though it was sorted out. In the meantime my case was opened and it seemed this was the one they were particularly interested in. I sat watching all this and complaining loudly to quite a sweet girl who was inspecting passports and asking the usual Greek bureaucratic questions. Douglas was silently wishing me to shut up. Having, to their obvious disappointment, discovered nothing and the cases having been repacked and closed, off we went into the night and to catch the train into Athens. It was only when we had settled down that Douglas suddenly said, ‘It was the tea!’ It hadn’t occurred to us before but, when my case was scanned, obviously some very suspicious packages, eight in all, each about eight inches in length and uniform, came to light. They could quite easily have held hash or even something more sinister. Word was flashed to Athens and they were waiting for us.
The minute they saw Douglas lift the red suitcase off the carousel and pass it to me we were targeted. When the guy searching my bag saw a carrier bag from the Drury Tea Company and packets labelled Lapsang, Earl Grey, Darjeeling etc., he didn’t even bother to open one up. That could have been a mistake. What if the tea labelling had been a cover up and the packets really had contained drugs? We would have got away with it.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Tom, Harrison, Mark Wiercx and anyone else who might have missed my blog and said as much; here I am again after my two weeks absence, an interesting two weeks I have to say, so no doubt it will take up a fair amount of comment
Arrived back in Crete on the ferry, Elyros at five a.m., the only bit of the trip I dislike, being woken at that distinctly ungodly hour. Notice how we use the name of god even when we don’t believe in him. Interesting. I saw in London, unlike in Italy where furious Catholics evidently won the day and had it banned, the humanists have put their £140,000 campaign into action and the sides of some buses bear the slogan “There is possibly no God so relax and enjoy yourselves.” Note the word ‘possibly’. Nothing like being on the safe side even if it does mean being a wee bit mealy mouthed. However I do like the admonition to relax and enjoy yourselves which evidently is something too many of our religious brethren are simply unable to do, particularly when it comes to sex, and even more particularly when it comes to what is considered to be abnormal sex. Now as far as my admittedly limited biological and psychological life experience is concerned it is my belief that the only normal thing about sex is the urge for orgasm. How orgasm is actually achieved, all the extra frilly bits, all the fetishes, all the deviations, all the imagination, the fantasy, etc., is gilding on the gingerbread but no, for some normal sex is for no other purpose than that of procreation, should never be indulged in for pleasure, should not deviate from the missionary position and should be over and done with as quickly as possible. What has brought on this subject yet once again, though I am sure it won’t be for the last time was, while in Athens, watching Larry King on CNN interviewing a fundamentalist preacher, the Rev. Ted Haggard, married for so many years and father of five, confessing and repenting his dalliance with a male prostitute. His agony was only too obvious as he admitted that yes, he still had thoughts about men. Heavens to Betsy, perish the thought! The question is would he be squirming quite so much had he not been found out? His wife, bless her, was standing by her man despite his departure from the straight and narrow but, Ted, you are not the first reverend to have this secret desire and you most certainly won’t be the last. I’m glad for your sake that your family and, hopefully, the faggot haters amongst your congregation are with you all the way. Perhaps your downfall might open their eyes to a fact of nature they would rather not acknowledge. In the meantime the therapy you are undergoing, no doubt extremely expensive, I hate to tell you will do you absolutely no good at all. Accept that, even if you never again succumb to temptation, you will always have these urges and just relax and enjoy yourself. Your god who possibly doesn’t exist, will forgive you. You have my personal assurance.