The PoMo Circus in Crete. The Lavender Way in Felia
An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Wednesday, November 07, 2012
Posted by Derek W Pearce at 3:33:00 pm
Tuesday, November 06, 2012
Posted by Derek W Pearce at 11:03:00 pm
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Reading a bitstream book on an e-reader is a very different experience to reading a cellulose based book. First up let me admit that most of my novel reading is done in bed last thing at night and the Sony e-reader is both lighter and easier to hold than a medium sized paperback. It's a lot lighter and easier to handle than a 4 or 5 hundred page hardback! The screen is clear and crisp and the page turning is simplicity itself. I love the fact that when I switch it on it goes straight to where I left off reading. It is good that it switches itself off if I fall asleep and do not turn a page for half an hour - that has been known to happen.
I love cellulose books and have done since before I could read. I think I first fell in love with the smell of books - old books don't smell like new books; hardbacks don't smell like paperbacks. Dust jackets are wonderful - almost as good as old LP covers. The heft, the feel, the texture: every cellulose book is different whereas I suspect that every bitstream book is the same in sensory terms.
The thing I wasn't expecting to miss with a bitstream book was the thing that I had clearly absorbed so deeply about cellulose books that I didn't consciously know it was there - so I suppose I couldn't reasonably have expected it to shock me but the very first time I settled down and got past the title page, the dedications and the fluff I felt a massive sense of loss. Architecture!
A cellulose book has an architecture of that has a lot to do with the layout of the text and a lot to do with the physical form of the artefact itself. Most strikingly missing from a bitstream book is the right page: when you read a cellulose book you have two pages visible at one time; if you are reading the left page you can see what is coming ( a full page, a chapter end, a set of endnotes, whatever); if you are one the right page you can see where you came from. Moreover you can with a cellulose book, and at any time, know how much you have read and how much more there is to read. The e-reader tells you your current page number and how many pages the book has but as a measuring device it is like making a comparison between a watch with a face and a watch with a digital display - the quality of the imparting of the requisite information is simply more satisfying and profound with the analogue version.
I recall, as a youngster the introduction of the CD and remember hearing that the length of a CD had been determined by making sure it could hold a complete performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Now this may or may not be true - apocryphal tales abound but I sure as hell wish that the makers of e-readers had decided that any device would, with fully charged batteries, see the average reader through the full length of a long novel - say "Infinite Jest" - but mine needed recharging 200 pages into my chosen novel and you could hardly call 279 page a long novel!!!
Cellulose and bitstream reading are different. Cellulose books have limitations imposed by the physical architecture but many people will never realise it. Bitstream books have limitations imposed by current implementations and "standards" and many of them can easily be removed but many of the implementors don't even know they have problems. Don't even talk to me about pagination on e-readers - it just sucks.
I'll carry on with both - probably for the rest of my reading life but we shall see how the comparison.contrast stacks up in a few years time.
Posted by Derek W Pearce at 10:11:00 pm
Monday, January 24, 2011
Grandma Alice was beautiful baby, a beautiful child, a gorgeous teenager and now she is a radiant old woman. Though her skin is that strange translucent shade that we associate with extreme old age and she gives every impression that a strong wind could blow her away her inner beauty shines through her pale green eyes. Grandma Alice is Cousin Mary's mother though I suspect that Grandma Alice would rather that Cousin Mary were not her only surviving child. Three dead sons, one dead daughter, 2 still births and a living daughter have, over the years, leeched iron into Grandma Alice's soul. She loves Cousin Mary but she does not like her one little bit.
Let me explain some relationships - Grandma Alice is not my grandmother. She is in fact the baby sister of my mother's mother. She was born a year after my mother as I was born a year after Cousin Mary. Uncle Theo is my mother's baby brother so he genuinely is my uncle and he is also a government scientist of some description.
My mother? My mother is, like Grandma Alice, an old woman now but she is spry and but for her eyesight dimming of late she would be cheerfully old but she fears not being able to read and she detests the idea of no longer being able to drive. She cherishes her autonomy and worries a lot about becoming dependent. My mother, like Grandma Alice has the genes for thinnness. Not so Uncle Theo.
Uncle Theo is a rotund, orotund joker. His baritone voice is strong and clear and so his numerous jests and puns boom out above any amount of modern background din. In these days of commonplace obesity he is more cuddly than fat or gross. You could say that I favour my uncle in terms of body shape and in some ways I favour his demeanour too. I am happy with almost everything apart from my body shape and I do not, I fear have his wicked way with words. Last Xmas, over Xmas dinner in fact, Uncle Theo dubbed Grandma Alice's family as "the auto-destructive end of the gene pool" where my father's side of the family, coming as they originally did from a tiny, remote hamlet in the countryside he described as "the shallow end of the gene pool".
All three of Cousin Mary's brothers, in point of fact all four of her live born siblings committed suicide before they reached thirty. John, the first born, laid his head on a railway track when he was just in his majority. Paul overdosed on morphine in a London squat - a hyperdermic syringe hung from his groin. Tommy, little Tommy, slit his wrists with an old fashioned single sided razor blade in a warm bath in his mother's upstairs bathroom - a large glass of whiskey, a full ashtray, 4 unsmoked Gauloises in a crumpled pack. and a copy of Joannes Zonaras' Compendium of History laid face down and open at page 284 were found with him. He was 18. Alice, named for her mother and the first born daughter starved herself to death at 15.
Grandma Alice's house is laid out on three floors: a cellar where wine and provisions are stored; the ground floor where Cousin Mary rules with a rod of pure titanium wheeling around in her chair from the library where she sleeps to the kitchen where she interferes with the cooking and provisioning of the house and picks constantly at snacks and biscuits. Cousin Mary does not have the thinness gene. The drawing room features on her circuit too but only in order that she can assure herself that it remains locked at all times. Grandma Alice has her bedroom on the top floor in the same room that she and her husband shared. He is long gone. He may be dead. We cannot be sure. He left the year after Cousin Mary's suicide attempt saying that he would not be dictated to by his own daughter. Grandma Alice was not sad to see him go. Grandma Alice's house is permanently silent. A funeral parlour atmosphere lives in this house. Cousin Mary has had a bathroom installed in part of what was the library before her father left. There is a hoist that serves both to get her in and out of the bath and also in and out of her bed. Uncle Theo once told me in confidence that Cousin Mary's quarters reminded him of Catherine the Great's bedchamber but he smiled, tapped the side of his nose and refused to explain why when I asked why.
Grandma Alice has a piano. Actually, Grandma Alice has two pianos. As a child she showed precocious talent as a pianist and composer and her parents encouraged her by employing a tutor. Grandma Alice lived for the piano. The family, close and distant, would gather at holidays and the high point would always be a recital by Grandma Alice, sometimes solo and sometimes with a local boy who played violin passably well. Her talent blossomed and the tutor believed she had a concert pianist under her tutelage but made a terminal mistake by entreating Grandma Alice's parents to enter her at the Conservatoire Frederic Chopin in Paris. He had badly misjudged her parents who had no intention of allowing their youngest daughter a career. The tutor was peremptorily dismissed and within the year Grandma Alice had been married off to an eligible bachelor notary in the nearby town. He was 12 years older than Grandma Alice when they married; that is why we now assume he is dead.
Grandma Alice's day to day piano is invisible to all but Grandma Alice. Perhaps not entirely invisible - there are traces to be detected. In the middle of the kitchen is the huge farmhouse table, a pitch pine rural monstrosity, that serves as a food preparation area, a desk, a work bench and a reading station. Grandma Alice always sits with her back to the south facing window over the stone sink and if you were to look very closely, forensically closely, you would or you might find evenly spaced fingerprints along the edge and if you closed your eyes and visualized the pattern of those fingerprints then like a Polaroid photograph developing in your hand you would or could. if you tried really hard, perceive a piano keyboard. Mother tells me that in the early days Grandma Alice used to spread tea towels that mother had bought for her printed with piano keyboards along this surface and play silently for hours - the tea towels wore out in time and Grandma Alice never replaced them. I suspect that she never needed them - the real keyboard is inside her head and her hands.
Grandma Alice's other piano is a Steinway grand. The very same Steinway on which she practiced in her youth. The Steinway that replaced the old upright that she learned on as a child. It has not been tuned in years. Grandma Alice has not seen it in years. It lives, or perhaps it rests, in the drawing room. The drawing room is always locked and Cousin Mary has the key to the room. She wears it on a chain around her neck.
Posted by Derek W Pearce at 10:15:00 pm
Monday, August 23, 2010
! 2010 IS A DISASTER !
Yes, you read that right 2010 is officially a disaster. It's the last half of August and the first angustifolia harvest should be done and distilled but instead we have a single table of dried flowers and a thin dribble still coming. No purple haze this year.
It's more or less the last week of August and the spica harvest should be well under way but instead great chunks of the bushes are dying or dying back . That's right - dying back big time: a drought tolerant lavender is dying in parts. In all areas of the farm lavender is dying back and we have been irrigating since April.
The olive trees that have had a set, and those that haven't too, are spotted with yellow leaves. Olives are wrinkling and dropping from the lower branches even while the trees put on ridiculous thin top growth.
The ground is like concrete. The wild carrot that dominated the fennel this year is dead. There is scarcely a wild flower or grass in sight.
The plants are exhausted. The soil is exhausted. We are exhausted.
Autumn 2009 was warm and unusually dry. Winter 2009 was warm and unusually dry. The olives did not swell fully. Our olive harvest was one of the few in our valley - most people didn't even bother. Spring 2010 was short, hot and dry. By the end of April 2010 we had started to irrigate the lavender weekly - the stress was showing. Summer 2010 started early and has been consistently hot - the daytime temperatures have been over 30º for months. It has not rained since March. The UV readings have been over 11 on a regular basis and there has not been a dew for longer than I can remember. Night temperatures have been in the mid to high 20s save only when they too have been in the 30s. We have had heatwaves too, with 40+ temperatures for a week or so at a time every few weeks. And almost no breeze. No wind.
Weird shit has been happening all throughout 2010. Hindsight is amazing but we did notice all of this weird shit as it happened it just wasn't possible to predict what it all presaged.
Some of our olive trees flowered in January - and set. In january one of our dogs was attacked by ticks and fleas that should have died in the winter. At the end of January our avocado tree - the one we had nurtured from a stone some years ago - turned brown and died in only 3 days.
The rest of our olives refused to flower. The walnut tree failed to put on leaf and I took it for dead. Months after they were due both sprang into some simulacrum of life but the olive blossom was sporadic and sparse and the walnut lacked any real conviction. By this time we had noticed a scarcity of both pollinators and wild flowers. The main crop olive trees had a small set eventually and the walnut finally took on a lightweight coat of paler green leaves but none of it was terribly convincing.
The mulberry trees produced almost no fruit and so did not carpet the ground with mushy fruit and buzzing bees. And so it has continued: some things are months early and some months late. All is spindly and weak and the weather refuses to vary. And now the cumulative effects are killing things off.
I was really hoping that I wouldn't have to write this. I've been, we've been, denying it for weeks but now it's written it's time to move on. We are fundamentally optimists. At heart we try to find the positive in life's buffetings but this really has us scratching our heads and looking at what looks dangerously like a glass that's more than half empty.
There's a lesson sure enough and that is that you should never assume you have mother nature's number - she always has a curve ball left but we knew that already!
And there we are - digging to the very bottom of that half full glass there is a possible upside: any plants that make it through will be ideal for propagating as the only stock that is fit for prolonged drought conditions. It isn't much but it'll have to do for now and we shall have some sort of olive harvest albeit much reduced.
! 2010 IS A TRAGEDY !
Posted by Derek W Pearce at 6:31:00 pm
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Kate sits beside him in the passenger seat. She has the sheer drop on her side and refuses to look that way. She peers past Luke myopically at the gouged out rock face. Kate does not herself drive. She gradually becomes aware that Luke is checking his rear-view mirror more often than is strictly necessary - there are no cars behind them and there have been none for the last 20 km or so. Not since they left the little mountain village where they stopped for coffees.
Aunty Maureen is in the back seat, positioned to obscure the driver's rear view perspective. Aunty Maureen has never been to the Greek Islands before and stares fixedly through the windscreen. Looking neither left nor right she sits forward in the seat, almost breathing down Luke's neck.
It is hot in the car and sweat beads down Luke's cheek. Kate leans over and dabs at it with a tissue that comes away sodden. Luke turns up the aircon and shifts in his seat - haemorrhoids draw in the heat.. The aircon seems to make no noticeable difference and Kate passes him the cold water when they reach a straight section. Slugging back a mouthful of once frozen water he hand it back and again glances up at the rearview mirror. Kate feels Aunty Maureen lean forward and feels her breath. She hands the bottle back and concentrates on Luke who is by now checking his rearview mirror every few seconds.
Luke is aware that his concentration is slipping and shakes his head. His mouth is still dry, he shakes his head to clear it and a solitary drop of sweat from his forehead splats onto the windscreen. Not thinking, he switches on the wipers and curses under his breath. He switches them off as they scrape back to park in the layer of dust. He simply cannot believe what he is witnessing.
Aunty Maureen is turning green as he watches her assiduously. He nods archly and raises a damp eyebrow to Kate who he knows is watching him, and asks solicitously, "Are you feeling OK in the back there Maureen?".
"I'm fine, pet - I could do with a comfort break - I'm a bit hot but - no I'm fine thank you". Aunty Maureen is now a shade of green somewhere between olive which is very appropriate as they descend through olive groves and khaki. And, finally, Kate looks round, looks directly at Maureen, and cottons on to what Luke has been hinting at. She swivels back to Luke and nods knowingly, "Can we stop at the next taverna Luke? I could do with a break too. And we need to check some things on the map".
Luke drives on. The road has straightened now and the driving is easier but the sun has strengthened. HIs T-shirt is firmly stuck to him and he shifts in his seat again but without achieving any relief. A sign appears for a taverna in 1000 meters and he relaxes. He checks the rearview mirror and gulps. He slips into the forecourt of a traditional blue and white painted taverna and parks up under a mulberry tree. He slips the car out of gear and pulls on the handbrake in welcome shade as a scream escapes Maureen in the back. Kate and Luke, seatbelts now released, turn round swiftly.
Luke is sitting looking down to the Libyan sea and drinking a frappe - black with a little sugar. The girls are in the toilet. It is a pleasant enough little taverna and the frappe is fine, strong but good and cold. The girls have been in the toilet for some time now. Maureen was near hysterical and sobbing as Kate led her off but the taverna owner had scarcely appeared to notice as he shuffled from behind the till to take Luke's order. Luke had ordered only for himself - who knows how long this would take and in this heat ice melts quickly. He motions the owner over, orders a small beer, lights a cigarette and continues to wait.
Halfway down his beer Kate appears. Aunty Maureen is dogging her footfalls. Kate smiles wanly, unconvincingly. Maureen has paler streaks down her cheeks where her tears have flowed. They sit resignedly and Kate orders two glasses of raki - Maureen does not normally partake of alcohol but has decided to make an exception today - under the circumstances. Maureen is still green - a muddy pond bottom green. Not just her face, but pretty much all over.
Kate leans forward and in stage whisper describes how Aunty Maureen has been using a fake tanning foam since she arrived and how, on hearing of the clouds of mosquitoes common on the south coast had decided at the last moment, just before leaving the house, to slather almost half a tube of mosquito repellent on every exposed inch of herself. The green colour was clearly the result of a chemical reaction of some description, perhaps accelerated by the sun and the heat. Luke laughed. Kate scowled. Maureen burst into tears again.
Posted by Derek W Pearce at 10:50:00 pm