Friday, December 31, 2010

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

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

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

Monday, December 27, 2010

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


Saturday, December 25, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 23, 2010

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

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

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

Sunday, December 19, 2010

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

Friday, December 17, 2010

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

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Blog 222

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

Monday, December 13, 2010

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

Saturday, December 11, 2010

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

Thursday, December 9, 2010

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

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

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

Sunday, December 5, 2010

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

Friday, December 3, 2010

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

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

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

Monday, November 29, 2010

“The northern lights were flashing overhead, shooting long lines of roseate glory towards the zenith, as if some unseen angel’s hand were (sic!) stringing heaven’s own harp. But the full chord which flowed beneath its touch was light instead of music.”
This rather florid piece of writing is from a book called ‘Lost In The Wilds Of Canada’ the author being a lady by the name of Eleanor Stredder. It must have been in the bookshelf a good many years because there is a card inside the cover informing me it came from the Border Bookshop of Todmorden, Lancs. The reason why Chris bought it is as follows – when a lonely little homesick boy of eight at boarding school I read a book called ‘Lost On The Prairie’, it went straight to the heart and I have been looking for that book ever since with absolutely no luck. Chris wondered if I may have been mistaken and ‘Lost In The Wilds Of Canada’ was what I was looking for. Anyway, I finally got around to reading it last week. It is not the book I have been searching for and the writing throughout is as florid as the quote above, though I did actually enjoy it. So who was Eleanor Stredder, a lady I had never heard of (not unusual, there being a million or more writers unheard of) and I imagined her thus: an elderly spinster, possibly a teacher at a girls’ school because she knew nothing at all about boys of fifteen. Her two boys, one English, one French, are so unlike any boys of fifteen I’ve ever known they were simply figments of her imagination, as she thought boys should be. The dialogue she has given them is totally unbelievable. She was Canadian I decided because her knowledge of Canada at the end of the nineteenth century is quite remarkable, including customs and words of the Cree and Blackfoot dialects which I have to accept as being genuine. How did she acquire all this intimate knowledge if she wasn’t Canadian? She didn’t have the internet at her command to look up anything she wanted but I suppose she could have ploughed her way through a number of encyclopaedias. My curiosity aroused I looked up Eleanor Stredder on Google and discovered she was no more Canadian than I am Chinese.
Born on 16 February 1823, in Royston, England, Eleanor Stredder was the daughter of Edward Stredder, an upholsterer, and Mary Stredder (née Abbott).She had one brother William (1822-?), also an upholsterer; and four sisters: Mary, Ann (1827-1895), a schoolmistress, Sarah (1829-1910), an authoress, and Harriet (1837-?). British census records list Eleanor as an upholsterer in 1861, and as an authoress in 1871 and 1881. The same records have her living in Royston until, in 1891, she is listed as living in Hammersmith, London. In 1901 she is listed as living in Whitstable, Kent.
Eleanor was the author of a number of books for children (mainly boys!) and her imagination took her far and wide: ‘Jack And His Ostrich (Africa), Alive In The Jungle (India), The Hermit Princess, A Tale Of Adventure In Japan, Archie’s Find (Australia), Doing And Daring (New Zealand), and of course the Canadian adventure. Her works are still available it seems from specialist bookshops.
How many encyclopaedias could she have looked up I wonder.
Sister Sarah didn’t do things by half either. Of the two novels I’ve come across each is in three volumes!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Jesus had AIDS! If any statement was likely to stir up a hornet’s nest, surely this was it. In a recent Sunday service, Pastor Xola Skosana stunned his congregation in Khayelitsha Township by saying “Today I will start on a three-part sermon, Jesus was HIV positive. Tongues were set wagging in churches throughout South Africa and Christians everywhere were outraged saying he implied Jesus was sexually promiscuous. However, as Pastor Skosana told those gathered in the modest Luhlaza High School hall for his weekly services, in many parts of the Bible Jesus put himself in the position of the destitute, the sick and the marginalised. "Wherever you open the scriptures Jesus puts himself in the shoes of people who experience brokenness. Isaiah 53, for example, clearly paints a picture of Jesus who takes upon himself the infirmities and the brokenness of humanity," he told the BBC. He is also quick to emphasise that he is using the metaphor to highlight the danger of the HIV/Aids pandemic, which still carries a stigma in South Africa's townships. "Of course, there's no scientific evidence that Jesus had the HIV virus in his bloodstream," says the pastor, whose non-denominational Hope for Life Ministry is part of a growing charismatic movement in South Africa. "The best gift we can give to people who are HIV-positive is to help de-stigmatise Aids and create an environment where they know God is not against them, he's not ashamed of them. “Pastor Skosana has certainly got the country talking. He has been in the ministry for 24 years and has lost two sisters to Aids. He argues that religious leaders have to play a much bigger role in combating the spread of the pandemic in South Africa where more than 5.7 million people live with the virus - more than in any other country. And he concluded the last of his three-part sermon by taking an HIV test in front of the congregation - after which 100 churchgoers followed his example. Amid the controversy, Reverend Siyabulela Gidi, the director of South African Council of Churches in the Western Cape, has come out in support of Pastor Skosana, saying his standpoint is theologically correct. Outside religious circles, Pastor Skosana has also received support from Aids activists. "The pastor's sermon takes away the stigma that HIV is a sin and that it's God's punishment," says Vuyiseka Dubula, general secretary of the powerful Aids lobby group Treatment Action Campaign. “To associate Jesus with HIV is powerful, particularly for those who go to church. Now people are starting to think: 'If Jesus could be HIV-positive who am I not to have it even if I go to church?’ The more we talk about it in our pulpits, the more we ask people to test voluntarily in the church the better. One of the most powerful things we can do as a church right now is to say Jesus was and is HIV-positive."
Is it possible that the pastor’s words have got through to the Vatican when at last the Pope is admitting that in certain circumstances the use of condoms is permissible to prevent the spread of AIDS. At least it’s a step in the right direction however guarded the comment might be. The door of common sense has been slightly opened.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sad news. It would seem we don’t have our old cat Rousell with us very much longer. For some days now she hasn’t been eating properly; picks at the food for a couple of mouthfuls and then gives up so, as something was definitely wrong and it wasn’t teeth because she could chew on a biscuit, she was taken to the vet a couple of days ago and diagnosed with the feline equivalent of AIDS! Or at least that is how Michael put it. The glands in her neck are swollen which is why she hasn’t been eating as, after the first few mouthfuls, it becomes too painful. Anyway, he has given her a cortisone/antibiotic injection but no one really knows how long it will last before it all starts up again. She has always taken an inordinately long time to eat but at least she did eat before now. After the accident with Sweeney when she was a kitten no bigger than a handful we really should have lost her then but, as she survived and we think of her as our miracle cat, it will be very sad to lose her now. At the moment she is absolutely starving. Follows you around begging silently for food but whatever you put down for her she sniffs and turns away. I’ve tried everything I can think of.
Having mentioned the stripping of olive groves and the French vineyards here is a humdinger. Police in Iraklieo have reported ten tonnes of cheese have been taken from a three story building. The thieves evidently got in through the basement. Ten tonnes! A few questions spring to mind like who thought of it in the first place? How many men were involved? How long did it take? What kind of vehicle or vehicles did they have to transport that amount of cheese? Above all where do they expect to unload that amount without creating suspicion and before it all starts to go off?
The very last piece about the William/Kate saga: headed “A very British Royal
Wedding… and the bride wore a burka” Littlejohn in The Mail has written a complete full page send-up encapsulating most of what is wrong with Britain today. I thought, by the way, that burka was spelt with an H, thus - bhurka but never mind. “The couple rejected the idea of marrying in Westminster Abbey and opted instead for the Finsbury Park Mosque. Sheik Abu Hamsa, dangling the wedding ring from his diamond encrusted left hook, pronounced the infidel couple ‘man and chattel’ and prayed for jihad. The couple sold exclusive rights to Hello Magazine for a reputed £200million. ‘The star-spangled guest list included Lord and Lady Beckham, Sir Steven Fry … Mister Wayne Rooney and two prostitutes he picked up in the bar of the Marriot Hotel.’ Then follows a lengthy list of celebs, VIPs, fifteen minute wonders and wannabes, the list ending with Robert Mugabe. Sarah Palin turned up at London, Ontario by mistake. Street parties and fireworks were cancelled on ‘elf and safety grounds as was the twenty-one gun salute and the fly by by the Royal Air Force as they didn’t actually have any aircraft.
The full article is far too long but I wonder, if anyone is interest in reading it, whether it is on the internet – The Daily Mail, Friday November 19.
I should think the Mail’s lawyers had to do a complete vetting job.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Continuing the William/Kate saga – can one use the word saga for a future event? A senior Labour councillor from Bury, Manchester, by the name of Mike Connolly on Facebook said he hoped these multi-millionaire parasites were paying for their own wedding. Hmn… At the same time William was in a helicopter helping to rescue a stranded walker on Mount Snowdon, hardly the trait of a parasite but never mind, some people’s tongues run away with them before they put their mind in gear. The good councillor immediately apologised for his remark so why make it in the first place? One must accept the fact that the Windsors in many quarters are not all that popular, not in the way George Vl and the Queen Mother were or even the current queen. I wonder what she makes of all this? Haven’t read any comments from her. She’s probably so fed up with her eldest son, the disastrous marriage of the golf playing one, and the night club cavorting of William’s younger brother, I wouldn’t be surprised if she just locked herself away somewhere and threw away the key. It has been a long and illustrious reign, a pity that the new generations have come along to tarnish it.
Neither have I read any interviews with the descendant of the line of Durham miners but in all this brouhaha I can’t help but think of what this must be like for her. Is it a dream come true or is it a nightmare? Like someone winning an enormous amount of lottery money, not knowing what to do with it, and finding their whole lives are changed but very much for the worse. To suddenly live with the idea that her daughter might one day be England’s queen, from being an ordinary university student to a player on the world’s main stage? It beggars belief, so much so I wonder if mother isn’t black and blue from pinching herself to make sure she’s awake. Life can never ever be the same. How does she address her future son-in-law? Is it Your Royal Highness or just plain William?
As for the 10000 blue bloods in Burke’s Peerage who’ve missed out, is it going to be absolutely too galling to have to bend the knee to a commoner? And what about Kate herself? Remembering the beautiful Diana’s short unhappy life is she really going to fit in and be happy in what Jan Moir refers to as ‘this dysfunctional family’?
‘In her day of days as the camera flashes exploded around her she looked like a sacrificial Snow White served up to the Windsor family on a platter. Will they eat her heart? Or will she yet prosper and thrive?’ One can only hope the latter.’ This could easily have been written all those years ago about the smiling Princess Diana on her day of days.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

No Digby. Friday Chris and Douglas went down to the beach taking Merrill with them to see how the dogs would get along, (quite well evidently) but discovered The Doberman had disappeared leaving Digby alone with the second dog. As the two of them seem to have bonded they thought it would be unfair to take Digby away leaving the dog on his own so, having fed them, they came home. All a bit like “The Lady and The Tramp” really.
So a fairy tale comes true: Cinderella, Beauty, and all the other poor common or garden heroines in fiction who pined after a prince would be happy to know that Kate Middleton has cornered her man and the future queen of England, to be known as Catharine, is ever so common, couldn’t be more so. Yes, Prince William is marrying a commoner, his girl friend of a number of years and his churlish father when asked for his opinion said ‘well they’ve had enough practice.’ Oh, boy! It is an unusual event to say the least and Charles Mosley, a previous editor of Burke’s Peerage, is evidently not in the least bit amused. ‘She is not in Burke’s Peerage,’ he huffed. ‘Her mother comes from a long line of Durham County miners’ so he doesn’t think it is at all suitable. ‘There are a 120000 people in Burke’s. If you take out the men, the married, or the too old that would still leave 10000 for Prince William to choose from.’ Of course there could have been a precedent. Had Wallace not been a divorcee she might very well have been queen but the Church of England would not have it, it was strictly against the rules. Now a divorced man (soon to be king?) marries a divorced woman (soon to be queen?) and nobody thinks too much of it though there is evidently some talk about the legitimacy of the marriage. Oh, boy! In fact already the cry goes out for Charles to step aside and let William inherit the glory though no longer the power. It’s been many a year since a monarch could chop people’s heads off with impunity. These days that is up to dictators and religious fanatics.
Naturally the media is awash with matrimonial stories, some of them so trivial as to make one wince and the whole country, the whole world it would seem is simply agog with it all. There is breathless speculation as to who is to design the bride’s dress, David Cameron is going to make the wedding day a public holiday and I should think the commemorative plates, mugs and tea towels are being churned out by the thousands. All that is still needed at this moment in time as the saying goes is the actual date.
I am not an anti-royalist but I am beginning to think the whole concept of kings and queens a much outmoded fashion. Quite fascinating to read the vast amounts of rent Charles receives for buildings on any of his land. If I had a penny for every pound I would be as rich as Croesus.

Friday, November 19, 2010

I am positive with each passing year time accelerates. Yesterday evening saw the end of Ron’s visit when Chris and Douglas took him to the airport and it seemed as though he had hardly been here at all. Admittedly his visit was only five days but it was gone in a flash. What a journey! Xania to Athens, Athens to Singapore, Singapore to Melbourne and he doesn’t arrive there until tomorrow night.
I thought by today we might have had a new puppy. I know we agreed not to take on any more animals but on Monday the guys took Ron to Georgopolous and there were three stray dogs on the beach. The first two, both dogs were quite large although obviously still in the puppy stage. The first one was sort of a Doberman cross, the second not quite as large but the third was a bitch and small. Douglas immediately took her to heart, so much to that I said okay to fetch her home but so far there hasn’t really been an opportunity. Maybe today. He even gave her a name – Digby! Digby? That’s a girl’s name? Somehow I think it might suit her. Anyway, if she is to be rescued it will have to be soon, before she comes into season for the first time otherwise there will be more unwanted puppies on the beach. We have received the following e-mail you might like to take notice of –

Can you circulate this around especially as Xmas is fast approaching - it has been confirmed by Royal Mail. The Trading Standards Office are making people aware of the following scam:
A card is posted through your door from a company called PDS (Parcel Delivery Service) suggesting that they were unable to deliver a parcel and that you need to contact them on 0906 6611911 (a Premium rate number).

DO NOT call this number, as this is a mail scam originating from Belize.

If you call the number and you start to hear a recorded message you will already have been billed £315 for the phone call. If you do receive a card with these details, then please contact Royal Mail Fraud on 020 7239 6655.

For more information, see the Crime Stoppers website:

Who would be a school teacher in the UK? There has been big moans that there is a dearth of male teachers so in consequence no role models for small boys, but who can blame them for not wanting to put up with the complete lack of discipline, the possibility of false accusations against them, the threat of being sued for some supposed misdemeanour, even the possibility of physical attack and the rules and regulations that must surely be making teachers’ lives hell? Chris’s cousin, Jenny, has recently retired from a lifetime of teaching and, dedicated though she was, even she was complaining of conditions: the fact that if she wanted to take kids on an outing for example there were so many questions on health and safety to answer and forms to sign it was a complete disincentive. Also the ‘no touch’ rule. Teachers are afraid of touching a pupil in case it is considered assault, sexual or otherwise. So two kids could be knocking the living daylights out of each other and the teacher can’t intervene. A kid needs comforting for some reason or other and the teacher can’t physically do anything about it. But now I read that the no touch rule is seemingly a myth according to the new education secretary. Teachers would be given some anonymity when faced with allegations from pupils. The National Union of Teachers has welcomed his comments saying teachers need clear rules on how to handle classroom indiscipline. But, oh lord, here we go again! The Children’s Rights Alliance for England said giving school staff more powers could breach human rights and child protection laws. But teachers are worried that if they assert a degree of discipline one maverick pupil will say, ‘I know my rights.’
The secretary, Mr Gove, said ‘At the moment if you want to become au fait with what the department thinks on how to keep order in the classroom you have to read the equivalent of War and Peace. There are over 500 pages of guidance on discipline and another 500 on bullying. Like I said, who would want to be a teacher?


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Still on the subject of elections, in the recent Swedish elections thousands of people staged a protest in the capital, Stockholm, against the election to parliament of 20 members of a far-right party. They waved banners and shouted slogans criticising the Sweden Democrats, who oppose immigration and have been accused of racism and intolerance. A crowd of about 6,000 protesters, according to local police, took part in the demonstration shouting "No to racism!" There was another, smaller demonstration in Gothenburg. The protests started within hours of the news that the Sweden Democrats, had won 20 seats.
On the Monday morning, a few hundred people gathered in front of government buildings in the city to express their disgust that what they describe as a racist political party now sits in parliament By the evening, thousands had joined them, filling entire blocks of the city centre.
"It is very important to show that the big majority of the Swedish population is against the right-wing extremists like the Sweden Democrats," one of the participants, Per Branevige said. (6000 people are a majority of the Swedish population?) Reports say the spontaneous demonstration was organized mainly through social networking sites such as Facebook and by word of mouth. If it was organized it could hardly be spontaneous.
The Sweden Democrats seem to have appeared to have tapped into voter dissatisfaction over immigration with the result undermining the image of Sweden as a tolerant and open-minded country.
The spontaneous organised demonstration can hardly be called tolerant and open-minded. Democracy is obviously what you make of it. If you don’t like somebody’s politics even though they have been democratically elected, demonstrate your disapproval. In Greece the demonstration too often results in a riot usually blamed on a few trouble makers.
There have been times of course when those who have been democratically elected should not have been but that’s the way it goes.
Newspapers seemed surprised by the fact that a populist/anti-immigration party made it into parliament. Every politician has, in some way, expressed his or her feelings of shock. This is despite the fact that everyone saw it coming. The parties have undoubtedly been calculating on the event, even as they refused to answer questions on which coalitions could be formed if the Sweden Democrats were to enter the Riksdag. For decades, the Sweden Democrats have been on the rise in the polls. No-one has taken this threat seriously - the only response has been to "demonise", not only the party, but more importantly the people who consider voting for them.

There has been lots of talk about challenging the Sweden Democrats and their views. But in reality these actions have never taken the form of intelligent debate - just finger-pointing. The SD was handed the underdog position, and has used it to its advantage in every way. Being marginalized for decades has worked in its favour, compared to other populist parties, which usually rise and fall again quickly. Twenty seats though hardly seems the end of the world for Sweden and with the flood of immigrants into Europe the tolerance pendulum was bound to swing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A welcome piece of news from the states – students of the Theatre Fraternity (Alpha Psi Omega) at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, have decided to do a reading of my play ‘Third Drawer From The Top.’ This was the second play I wrote when working in America and I call it my Neil Simon play as it is really an outrageous comedy, almost a farce.
It came about because of a visit I made to a small Presbyterian university in the mid-west and the cast consists mainly of students with two older characters so in a way it is ideal for students. Will they see themselves in it? I wonder. It is the fourth play of mine to be produced in the states.
Our visitor Ron arrived from Australia and after some days of beautiful weather he has arrived with the rain, or the rain has arrived with him. It has rained non-stop for two days now. It is raining as I type.
Yesterday was voting day but, because of the weather, cold and very wet, I didn’t go. The others did however and my little vote wasn’t missed as you can see.

Good Morning Everyone!
We Won!
Scenes of jubilation, dancing, Hugging, fireworks, ( err and the usual gunfire...) on the streets last night - I have never seen anything like it - (Not even when Greece won the European football!)
Thank you everyone who voted for us,
Thank you those of you that helped us get our message out.
We fought a clean campaign, we have an excellent team and a leader with vision.
We are here for all of you whether you voted for us or not.
Now the work really begins!!
We will get details out to you of the voting and the make up of the new council as soon as we can.
Thank you all again Helen, Sifi, Nikos, Vangelis, Stamatis, and all the team across Apokoronas,

Congratulations Helen et all.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A phone call from Reyna, our neighbour in Athens. Oh, dear, a problem? No. She just wanted to tell us that she is once more taking over looking after the block of flats. When Chris first bought the flat and for a long while after she was sort of house mother as it were but then she got a bit tired of it so the maintenance was farmed out to a commercial company who will not be doing it anymore. It is not that they did anything wrong but obviously with the recession everyone is pulling in horns and it has been decided the expense can’t be sustained. I wonder how many other blocks of flats have decided to save on the expense and exactly how much of an adverse effect it will have on the company. Driving into Souda last Friday two things struck me; I’ve probably mentioned this before but all the road signs are defaced with meaningless political slogans, meaningless that is except to the idiots who belong to whatever terrorist group is responsible. Some have been so covered in black spray paint they are almost illegible. This graffiti is sheer vandalism. The second thing that struck me is the number of shops and businesses that have closed in the month since we last drove along the Souda Road and the premises left empty. The ‘To Let’ signs are everywhere. Another sign of the recession. There is an exception – yet another Chinese shop has opened opposite the two mega ones already in existence and the one in Kalyves makes it four.
Talking of graffiti The Athens News has done a whole article on it and evidently much of the major stuff is not down to a single individual but is a team effort. The problem is these guys are seldom caught and where a blank wall say is covered in what can only be called a work of art, well that is fine. It’s the mindless scribblings that deface surfaces everywhere that are so ugly.
For example, there is a wall in Athens that is decorated in black and white with enormous portraits of Laurel and Hardy that is really beautifully done and is something to look at with admiration. Unfortunately people have already started to deface it with their initials. Yes, I am fully aware that graffiti has always been with us but, like the New York subway, zero tolerance is required here.
In New York once I saw someone had written words to the effect of ‘down with graphiti’ and someone had added, ‘if you don’t like graffiti learn to spell it properly.’
What Athens needs, and I presume other Greek cities, is someone to paint pictures on squashed chewing gum. Yes, indeedy, Athens streets are covered in the stuff and there is a guy in England who carries his large box of paints round the streets of London, find a piece of squashed chewing gum he likes, lies down and paints a picture on it. Well, it sure takes all kinds, doesn’t it? I wonder what could have given him the idea in the first place.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Looking at the amount of paper used in the elections and thinking of how much must have been used nationally both in sheets and envelopes, I wonder how many trees had to bite the dust to provide it. People’s ideas on economics seem to be very strange. Greece is billions and billions of Euro in debt but Athens is to get a new metro line at the cost of more billions that surely must add to the debt and I wonder just how much these elections cost. When the Euro came into being it was decided it would have no plural, just Euro and Euro, not Euros and it always sounds strange. I suppose the reason was that as it is the currency of so many countries and the grammar of each country is different, there would be no universal plural anyway. Sounds logical. What would it be in Greek? Well first of all it has to be decided if the Euro is masculine, feminine, or neuter What would its plural be in Greek Eurea? (not very nice sounding) Eures? Ah well, I suppose life goes on its merry merry unfathomable way. Evidently next Sunday the voting will be much simpler: just two pieces of paper this time and you don’t even have to put a mark on them. You decide which party you want to vote for and simply put their sheet in the envelope. It was the communist party, the KKE that got knocked out. I have to hand it to them, they do try hard even if they never get anywhere, and if they did get anywhere would they know what to do when they got there? That is a big question.
Evidently there were already some nasty goings on and chicanery last Sunday, in Almerida and Plaka, two areas inundated with Brits and other assorted Europeans who were either intimidated or locked out of their respective polling stations for a while, so I am told. I don’t know how true this is but one has to ask, is Greece a third rate country? It’s the kind of thing one hears about in Africa for example, Iran, Afghanistan, the Balkans, but Greece? As far as the quality of life is concerned, according to the United Nations Human Development Index (there’s a mouthful look you as a Welshman might say) Greece is listed at 22, the UK at 26. Norway heads the list so why doesn’t everybody want to go and live in Norway? Norwegians in fact are coming to Greece, so are the Russians.
Wax mats! Have you heard of wax mats? They are little squares of irresistible something or other for rats and they contain poison. You put them under the roof. Douglas and Chris discovered them while out shopping the other day. Again perhaps a nasty way to go but at least our consciences are clear with the failure of the glue pads.
Also discovered was a special insect spray. We were at our wits end with the plague of flies, all due to the weather we’re informed. Ordinary fly spray is fine if you can use it where there is no food or surfaces on which food is prepared. This one evidently you spray on walls and floors. After only a few days a new fly paper went up and within minutes caught its first victims.
The first mandarin of the year- being windfall not quite ripe so not as sweet as it could be. The tree is doing so well, the biggest crop of mandarins ever. The wind has been so fierce I’m rather surprised there haven’t been more on the ground.

PS: Because of the number of Brits living in Plaka, the Baxter kids renamed it “Upper Plaka Garden City”. I’m so glad we didn’t buy there.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It would seem there are even more theatre revivals in London’s West End. They’re being brought out of mothballs because West End managements seem totally unwilling these days to try out new works. New plays are presented only at theatres like The National or The Royal Court. Apart from the musicals, Chicago, Sweet Charity, Little Shop of Horrors etc., we have a spate of old plays from J.B.Priestly, Clifford Odetts, Lillian Hellmann, Ira Levin. Good plays admittedly but why so many revivals? One expects continuous revivals of Coward or Wilde, these plays are perennial classics but somehow it seems tragic that new work is being ignored in favour of so many oldies. And what guarantee is there that today’s audience is going to be any more interested in these than in new works?
For weeks now in Greece it has been nothing but elections. Our friend Helen, who is standing as a candidate, has been sending out daily bulletins by e-mail and on Sunday we duly went up to the school, our polling station, to cast our votes. The elections are for regional positions and municipal, 13 governors and 325 mayors and the procedure is the most complicated, and not very democratic you could come across.
There were three parties standing (one has been knocked out) and you were allowed five votes so, after you’ve been registered, you’re handed four sheets of paper. I say sheets because on the one we voted for there were 55 names!!! The others were almost as long except for the fourth which is blank. Now the reason for this is, if you don’t wish to cast a vote for anyone, you can slip the blank paper in the envelope provided because, if you don’t, it will be presumed your votes will go to the party that has the majority. Work that one out. We voted for Helen and Manolis our local taxi driver as the only two people we knew. We would have voted for the up to now mayor of Vamos, Leonardis, but here is the rub: having voted for the first two who are both in the same party we weren’t allowed to vote for Leonardis who is standing for the second party and we couldn’t vote for anyone in the third party. In other words we were not voting in individuals but voting for parties.
The reason for these elections is a new idea that has been formulated. You can’t fault the Greeks when it comes to new ideas; it’s like the law, you think you know what it is only to find that yesterday it was changed. This new idea is keep the mayors and councils of every piddling little village, and there are many, but have regional governors in overall charge, in our case for the whole of Apokoronas. I don’t know exactly how big Apokoronas is but it must be about the size of West Yorkshire or maybe a bit bigger.
Up to now Vamos has been the capital of the area but, if this election goes the way some want it to, that honour will be transferred to Vrysses, a town about ten kilometres away. God alone knows why when Vamos has all the machinery for local government.
Before voting we asked out friend Georgia who she thought we should vote for but she was scathing enough to say nobody. She has been a councillor in Vamos since the last election and completely disillusioned with politicians and, as far as she is concerned, whoever gets in now, this new lot will be just as bad as the old. I have no doubt a few of them see it as an opportunity of lining their own pockets.
We saw a number of old friends at the polling station and, when we questioned the Greeks, they seemed to be of the same opinion as Georgia. As our friend Menues pointed out he didn’t even know most of the people on the lists so who was it best to vote for?
As it turns out, two parties are neck to neck (I think the communists were knocked out from the first round) so we are expected to vote again this Sunday which I am sure we will do, exactly the same as last Sunday no doubt.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Have just finished reading a thriller by a writer I didn’t know, ‘Cause For Alarm’ by Erica Spindler who has evidently written a number of the same genre. It’s one of those books left behind by holiday makers. Not as good a writer as Karen Slaughter, if I had read one more time of ‘eyebrows knitted together’ or hearts ‘thundering’ I think I would have screamed, but she can certainly spin a good yarn. Had me hooked from the very first page but more important I really empathised with the characters and though I was dying to know how it would end was never tempted to cheat, so maybe that is a sign of good writing. I still say though if the same phrase is repeated over and over and over again, that’s bad. Surely if she didn’t notice it herself, her editor should have.
The America language is weird. The past tense of dive is dove. I could put up with that as Miss Spindler is American but when Val McDermid used the American past tense for fit – that is still fit, instead of fitted, it drove me up the wall.
Howard Jacobson at the age of 68 has won the Man Booker Prize with his latest and eleventh novel ‘The Finkler Question’. Evidently his mother didn’t believe it would win because it might be a bit too Jewish. Why she should think that heaven alone knows. Jacobson has never been anything other than Jewish. He didn’t believe it would win because he’s got close enough twice before and never made the finishing line.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph I thought Jacobson had some pretty interesting and pertinent remarks to make, in particular, evidently the prize matters to him most of all because he feels the book is worthy of it and it is an award for good writing at a time when schools have stopped teaching literature and the celebrity memoir/novel has corrupted the coinage. ‘It’s not a prize for effort. It’s not a prize for youth, it’s not a consolation prize for me. It’s a prize for bloody writing. We desperately need it because fewer and fewer people know what writing is. They are not taught it anymore. They are not taught to read. We have a disinherited population. Kids are given books about their own lives. Nothing that pushes them or extends them. It is disgusting and insulting.’
There is one comment he makes though with which I disagree. To the question did he feel a worm of jealousy in earlier years he replied, ‘Yes. You are not meant to admit it but writers are naturally jealous of one another’s success, partly because it is so hard to get heard, so hard to get readers; to get noticed for what you do. It would be a lie to pretend otherwise. You try to fight it. We are thin skinned people; otherwise we would not be in this game. It is very important not to give in to the meaner emotions.’
The fragment I am at odds with is ‘writers are naturally jealous of one another’s success.’ Not always true, Mister Jacobson. If I read something which truly excites me by the talent it displays I couldn’t wish the author more success and I am not in the least bit jealous of it.
So congratulations for winning the Man Booker, Mister Jacobson, and I hope the handbag you buy your wife out of the £50000 is a real beauty!

Friday, November 5, 2010

The spate of burglaries has continued but two burglars I am informed have been caught and guess what – they’re British! Now who would have credited that?
I know I said I was going to lay off the crime and criminal bit but having started with that story, here is one I would love to pass on in case you haven’t heard of it. It is not unknown for someone on Crete to lose their olive crop, especially if their grove is a long way from their house which is often the case. They go out one day to reap their olives only to find that someone has got there ahead of them and the trees are bare. It’s on a par with sheep stealing really as it means someone’s livelihood or a large part of it has disappeared. Reaping olives is a time-consuming back-breaking job that, after a day, leaves you totally exhausted. I know because we’ve helped out friends so it might have taken more than a day to rob the grove. But this is what I am getting to – in France an entire vineyard has been stolen! Thieves broke into a vineyard in Villeneuve-les-Beziers and stole an entire crop of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, taking advantage of a full moon and using a harvesting machine to seize 30 tonnes of the crop.
Farmer Roland Cavaille said similar crimes had taken place before in the Languedoc-Roussillon, one of France's best-known wine growing regions. He said the theft amounted to a year's work and about 15,000 euro (£12,900).
"They used a harvesting machine to gather grapes. This means there was no need to have lots of people, two people would have been enough," Mr Cavaille told Le Parisien newspaper.
"The area was quite isolated, it is a a few kilometres from the village and near a river. So the thieves were able to work safely. One witness reported hearing engine noises in the early hours of the morning and police have been examining footprints left at the scene, said the newspaper. But Mr Cavaille said the thieves were clearly professionals who could easily sell on the grapes. He said there had been a similar grape theft had been reported in the area four years ago and that another complaint had also been filed this year.
While his vineyard was insured, it did not cover the loss of the grapes themselves.
Mr Cavaille told Europe1 news he had no idea who had taken the grapes but that he was angered and surprised by the theft, as he believed there was a "degree of solidarity" between winemakers.
How about that then for a bit of chutzpa? 30 tonnes in one go!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Goodness gracious me, this is Blog 200 of this series! However did I get so chatty in my old age?
Lipon (Greek for ‘well’). The day started off at sparrowfart and I was never an early riser. Up anytime before eight/eight thirty and I’m kaput for the rest of the day. However it had to be if we were to be in Heraklion for ten so it was up at six-thirty.
First of all a slight detour to Haralambos’s garage for petrol and to check the tyres. Douglas put 30euro worth of petrol in the tank and it didn’t even fill it. Also it was all the money we had on us except for 5euro I had in change and 5euro he had. He intended to stop at the bank at the top of the hill and get money from the machine. Fat chance. The bank is virtually opposite the school, it was time for pupils to arrive and you have never seen so many cars and buses in Vamos. There was no way he was going to be able to park and get to the bank and it took a good few minutes to thread our way through the traffic and to drive on. The journey itself was unadventurous, cloudy sky and the sea grey and like lead. The Greeks say like oil (lathi poo lene) but as we approached the hospital we hit our second bit of road chaos. You have never seen so many cars there. They were double, in some cases triple, parked a mile down the road and half a mile in the other direction. I don’t know if the car park was full. As we only had that 10euro we weren’t going to try it. Douglas dropped me off at the right entrance, said ‘See you in half an hour’ and drove off to park. Now the chaos really began. The foyer was packed. I don’t know how many people were there but there were two different sets of grills: one to make future appointments, the other, which we didn’t know at the time, to pay (3euro) and register for the day’s appointments. This was a new piece of Greek red tape. They keep on thinking up these things, obviously to keep civil servants occupied. Being Greece the noise was horrendous, every one of a hundred and fifty people all speaking at once, some of them very loudly. When we left the hospital two hours later the first number of tickets had reached 946, the second 450!
Anyway, here is Douglas back and we wend our way to the heart clinic, up the first corridor, packed, every plastic chair sat upon, into our corridor, more than packed, people sitting, people standing, including us until a middle age lady got up and insisted I take her chair. No sign of any activity in Doctor Goldentummy’s little room. An hour later Douglas has gone back to reception to collect a ticket, having been informed by now that we needed it and I have changed seats to sit around the corner out of the sun but, on returning to our corridor, what do we see? The list is up on the good doctor’s door and my name is the first on it – and we’ve missed it! Not to worry, I was seen five minutes later and given the all clear. So my next appointment for a check up is the 10th November, 2011. I’m just pleased it isn’t once more on the first of the month.
On the way out, still heaving with humanity, Douglas stopped to validate our being there, there now being only eight numbers ahead of his so worth waiting. By now I am starving so he trotted downstairs to the shop and between us we demolished a packet of chocolate orange biscuits.
Earlier in the day while we still standing waiting, before the good lady offered me her seat, I said to Douglas, ‘Isn’t human vanity amazing?’ and he knew exactly what I was talking about. Seated opposite was an old gel missing quite a few upper teeth to the right and a few lower ones to the left which must have made chewing rather difficult but what really grabbed the attention were her legs. She didn’t have very cross veins, she had veins so screamingly angry they stood out in great knots like pebbles beneath the skin, so ugly, and yet, and yet, she had painted her ragged toenails, silver!

Monday, November 1, 2010

We have a plague of flies, and it isn’t just us. Every year at this time as soon as the weather turns chilly and the mozzies disappear the house becomes inundated with flies and there is not all that much you can do about it. Maybe they come into the warm. Douglas put up a new flypaper in the breakfast room a couple of days ago and already it is black with them though there are plenty more still around. You can’t spray when they’re near food and they really are a nuisance. Fortunately I don’t think the plague will last very long as they die off.
Haven’t’ solved the rat problem either. Put down the glue pads most reluctantly only to find Mister Ratty tap dancing his way to the middle for the titbit and tap dancing his way off again. Keppel caught a monster one the other day so that’s one less to worry about. Wish he would do it more often. The other two cats seem to be totally useless as far as rats are concerned, but lizards and birds make easy prey. Rousell, the mother cat has been behaving most oddly for a few days, turning up her nose at everything we put down for her. We even tried fish, she nibbled a bit of that, and scrambled egg, she nibbled a bit of that, but most of it was left. So Douglas bought some expensive stuff which she has been walloping down. Obviously el cheapo is no longer good enough for her though the others eat it quite happily and seem to thrive on it.
Had an e-mail from our last but one visitor, Michael, with photographs of his visit, some really beautiful atmospheric shots of the Cretan countryside, and it got me to thinking that, with the advent of the digital camera, you would have to be a complete klutz not to be able to take good pictures. The camera will do it all and any amount of improvements can then be made on the computer. Gone are the days of film when you had to focus and worry about light, when you had to have a darkroom and all those chemicals and an enlarger to produce the final print I have two 35mm single reflex cameras, one a Pentax which was much sought after in its day, the other a Russian camera, and one Rolleicord 120 which used to take good pictures but they are now all museum pieces and will never be used again. All told photography in the old days was an expensive business.
Having never been asked to write anything for newspapers and not having, with the excepting of The Athens News, letters to the editor published, I rather enjoy these Blogs, But to-day’s finishes here as we are about to set off for Heraklion, a two hour drive, for my pacemaker check-up. More next time.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The wood stove in the breakfast room lit for the first time as winter approaches and it really has turned chilly, plus the fact that there have been more thunderous tropical downpours. Fortunately with Chris and Douglas back from their week in London it wasn’t up to me this time to dash about with mop, towels, and bowls. Also fortunately they were back to take care of a mini-disaster which, if it had happened when I was on my tod would probably have sunk me in doo-doo up to my neck. There I was in my bathroom late at night happily cleaning my teeth prior to bed when there was a loud bang just above my head followed immediately by a shower of water and seconds later total blackout as everything electrical fused. The others were already in bed but I groped my way to my bedroom door and yelled for Douglas to switch off the water at the mains then, with torches, he and Chris came to inspect the damage. To supply my bathroom with hot water I have (or rather had) this little electrical device, I don’t think it can be called a geyser, high up on the wall that switched itself on whenever the hot water tap was opened and it was this that for some reason suddenly exploded with that loud bang and turned my bathroom into a lake. Except for a couple of sodden books no harm done of course because the water merely hit tiles and porcelain. Douglas managed to get the lights on again and turn off the tap leading to this device. (I really don’t know what to call it) then it was a matter of mopping up and since then I’ve been more or less camping out as everything from the bathroom; towel rail, bamboo table with toiletries, bathmat, etc., has been moved to the bedroom and won’t be put back until a new water heater (that’s what I’ll call it, simple really when you come to think of it, a water heater) is repaired or replaced. The latter I hope because I will now always be nervous of the wretched thing giving a repeat performance and at the most inconvenient time, that is at night when the result is blackout.
Their week in London seems to have been successful. They caught up with a number of old friends and Chris did what he went for which was to have a meeting with Moet and Chandon trying to persuade them to sponsor the launch of his book next year. Evidently it was a congenial meeting and there is a possibility they will come up with the goods – a hundred and twenty bottles of champagne which is nothing when you think of the publicity they could get as the launch is to take place at Wilton’s Music Hall, the last remaining music hall in London and fast becoming a much desired venue. Currently closed for a month or so as it is being used as a film location.
Douglas too had very important meetings and what a dramatic saga that is turning out to be! It really is a case of David and Goliath when you think he is threatening to sue one of the biggest film corporations in the world worth billions. Can you credit that? Not I have to say something to lightly embark on, but more of that at a future date. In the meantime everyone please cross fingers as he has only fired his first slingshot which has caused the opposition to stagger somewhat but there is more to come.