An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Friday, December 30, 2005


I awake from a walking dream. I walk out of a waking dream. I dream my way out of a walk. I am back in this bloody bookshop again. Who does it belong to? Where, exactly, is it? I'm in the back room behind the back room - the rear end of the rear end. The lights are on but they serve only to make the room darker than the watery sunshine outside would allow in unencumbered. I stumble forward. Where is the assistant? Where is stately plump Buck? The stag at bay? Landseer where are you when I need you? The q to s shelf. Queneau to Roubaud to Svevo. Wonderful publishing houses are here - Sun and Moon - Quartet - Faber and Faber. Did Quartet ever publish Queneau? Trigram Press and Carcanet. Abacus and BloodAxe even.

Hark! I hear not an herald angel but a contralto voice. Rich and warm with just a tiny quaver in the uppermost register. A mature woman's voice. A buxom, generous, woman I think. With a lust for lust. A voice that belongs, or comes from, beneath a moorish wall where she will only yes. The voice of a dirty angel with a clean face. Lying abed I think while her young daughter plays in the red papered room. How do I know all this? Because, some how I know that this bookshop is Shakespeare and Company in Paris. I smell jam, and joy. I smell faeces and liver.

A rolling, lolling hour strolling among the texts and palimpsests - sheer luxury, unadulterated (unlike her upstairs). Innocent, like her child (until the age of fifteen). Knowing, and knowledgeable (like her little man). Then, out khaki into a snotgreen sky - now where's that wood that my goodly squire Umberto left me in? The post modern picaresque persists. The wormwood moon follows the honeymoon as ever.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Two walks in fictional landscapes

JOURNEY NUMBER ONE: Head on northward out of Tobruk and travel until you reach the coast where the African continent meets the Mediterranean but before the place where the African tectonic plate rides over the European plate. You are in the Gulf of Bamba. Now travel east hugging the coast until you are near to Jabbanat Abu al Hamam. Stand on the beach as the waves of the Med trickle in and look northward. To your back - some many miles behind you - is the magnificent emptiness of the Sahara; more sand there than on this beach you stand upon. Peer ahead, and on a clear, clear, day you can see this house. Across the sea, past the south coast of Crete and on. Through shadowed gorges in the mountain range your eye will light on a bright lit valley. Five miles before you reach the northern coast stop and stare. There. On the left hand side of the valley - a tall, thin white house: ours.

Your eye may not be capable of this feat. You may never stand on that beach. But there is one visitor that makes that journey regularly. The mad south wind that curls itself off of the dunes of the Sahara lifting a veneer of fine red dust with it comes that way to us. It comes ripping from another continent, shouting and screaming as it tears its way through the gorges gathering speed in that natural funnel and bursts upon us often unannounced.

JOURNEY NUMBER TWO: Walking today through the fictional woods, wandering and wondering, it occurred to me to divert and visit a notional bookshop that I sometimes frequent. This bookshop sells only the "impossible" in books: books no longer in print. Looking for a volume by Fyodor Sologub - The Petty Demon - for a friend of mine up north. Gogol meets Bulgakov but funnier than both and m ore subtle yet than Goncharov. I have a copy but sought another notionally. I opened the door and passed through the front area where the paperbound books are arrayed, down a dark corridor to the back room where the rarest, longest out of print, sit haughtily on their hardwood shelves in their hardcovers. Snuggling down and hoping to be adopted. Aloof and aloft.

No joy. No pleasure of the text for me today. The shelves are groaning but not with my tune. This piper cannot call the tune this day. Turning on my heel I pass Buck Mulligan, the bearded shop assistant somewhere in his mid-fifties, somewhere in the dark corridor and we nod each to the other. "No joy", I mutter. The front door back of me closes shut and the bell inside rings muffled in my ear. Head up, I Cretan gaze to the far side of the asphalt strand and think I see young Finn McEskimo and he thinks he sees me. I cross the road. He crosses the road. And then we realise, in perfect synchrony, that it is neither of us. He was a Swede and I was a Turnip. How did he intrude into this journey of mine? How did both of them?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

routed not routed

Trust me to draw the short straw. The guv'nor was looking around this morning for someone to write today's entry and nobody was stepping forward for that. This holiday period has sucked all things creative from all of us. And so: and I'm totally serious about this we played "... one potato, two potato.." for it! (Five adults standing around chanting nonsense in unison, some with their arms behind them - picture it if you will). Yeah, and I lost! I'm convinced he cheated, but I couldn't prove it, and I'm not sure how he did it, so I've had to keep schtum: but I know what I know. He didn't get where he is today, Reggie, by playing with an entirely straight bat!

The reason you didn't get an entry yesterday was because it was the guv's birthday - him and Marlene Deitrich. D&G started on the old shampoo in the afternoon and by the time he got around to remembering the blog he was partly cut, and then his brother rang and well ... By the time that was done it was way too late so instead he just wandered around other people's blogs, tutting and laughing and posting encouraging comments now and then.

We all crowded round to read the latest entries from our Northern correspondent who has taken to branching out of late. We're all rooting for him to pull it off and keeping fingers crossed.

Now there's an interesting one for you to chew on: router (pronounced rooter) - the box on the end of the desk that connects our machines to the internet; router (pronounced row - ter) - the woodworking toy that the guv'nor for his birthday that cuts odd shapes into timber; rooting (pronounced rooting) - actively supporting. Go figure. The English language in all its rococo splendour. Here on the farm we all love it and revel in it. We battle linguistic homogeneity daily and we've not been routed yet!

Monday, December 26, 2005


Last year, it was the biography of B S Johnson. This year, it's the B S Johnson Omnibus (Picador, paperback, ISBN 0-330-35332-2). My kids are doing me proud in years of late.

It's good to see Johnson back in print. When first I heard of him only one novel of his was in print. The amazing Bloodaxe books brought him, one of the finest experimental British novelists of the 20th century, to my attention and for that I owe them a great debt. To Johnson, I owe a greater debt: he revitalised my faith in the modern novel form; he provided me with a list of authors working within and without the novel form (Aren't You Rather Young To Be Writing Your Memoirs?LINK); he showed me the way. Johnson is not the Einstein of the novel (as he himself described Joyce - not a parallel I would choose but then the regard that that world that time had for Einstein was not ours or mine) but his experiments are pointers to where the novel could go. They are styistic tours de force and experiments that illuminate a different post modern agenda.I recommend the omnibus to anybody who can read English and is interested in the novel form.

I look forward to re-reading Albert Angelo, and Trawl. House Mother Normal I am now so familiar with, that I need no re-acquaniting. I passed authors to several friends this Xmas as presents and BSJ was one. I offer him to all of you as one of your new authors for 2006. The Omnibus is great introductory book for all of you.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Xmas Pre-prandial

Whiskies, one scotch and one bourbon
lie cheek by jowl and
not a yard away a vodka

The bottles distinguishable only
by their distinctive shapes
Johhny Walker
Jack Daniels and
Smirnoff - Nikolai?

Discarded and empty
labels washed away by tides
tops that were thrown away
long ago are nowhere to be seen

Four by fours and
four by twos huddle
atop each other

timber from beach side constructions
huts and deck chair parlours
bars and bar fronts
cast adrift by winter storms
the white paint leaking through the blue

Gobs of polystyrene with
drifts of phenol snow
blowing on the wind

Beside them globs of
thick black crude oil
rinsed from tankers returning
through the Med
and dead seagulls washed up
crucified for Xmas
by the season

ropes and olive nets
bleached by the deep
lay disarrayed along the tide line
discarded or lost?

the sun skirts
just above the mountains
to our backs and lights the tops
of the wavelets smacking on the strand

it warms our backs
and heads
and our hearts
it lights the sand dunes
picking out the twitches of grass and
empty never rotting plastic water bottles
a summer's worth of waste

the girls run freely
on long ropes snaking out
from our hands
snapping sharply taut now and then
ropes found here
washed up detached from bouys and nets that
litter the beach further along
by the river
where the girls pause briefly to drink
of the sweet cold water
trickling down from the mountains

and every few metres
another palm frond or
an olive trunk or
branch or
plane tree leaf and
cuttle fish skeleton

they all cast up here
disfiguring the pristine beaches so
beloved by the tourists
making them ours again
in all their tawdry beauty

the hotels and
the beach bars
all closed
just us
our dogs
xmas day

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A time of goodwill - to ourselves.

The solstice has passed and the days will now lengthen and so we move into the religious festival of Xmas. I do wonder though how this farrago is religious - in what sense? It would be an alien with amazing insight who could, on observing the earthly observation of the Xmas festivities, determine a religious core to this wild spending spree, this orgy of self indulgence.

Our notional alien, assuming he could comprehend the purpose of religion in the first place, and assuming that he could unpick enough of the conflicting theologies that comprise a "Xtian" mindset would surely marvel at the amount of self that the festival engenders. Was it ever otherwise?

The Jews, who gave the world The Christ and deny him now and for all time control his birthplace with a ten metre fence and, in this eason of goodwill to all men (including Arabs and Gentiles) open a small gate in that fence for a few days to let believers glimse Bethlehem. Jerusalem, where the young Christ taught is a city divided and fought over by religious sects. More than 2 thousand years after the coming of the "saviour" how much closer to salvation is mankind? Closer this year than last?

If our alien were to measure by results methinks he would judge the whole religious experiment a failure past salvation. We are our own salvation and looking elsewhere is an historically proven error. Look not to Xmas to make the world a better place for mankind. Look only to yourself. You are the only one who can make a difference.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Those of you reading this on blogger will see, if you look carefully, 2 new links to the right - one to our book collection and one to our music collection. These have taken up a lot of time recently and should satisfy the voyeuristic, eavesdropping, tendencies of our readers.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Winter beach litter

More cold weather today but brighter - eventually. We took the girls to the beach and walked until my leg gave up on me. Such a pain - in both senses. Mind you - they loved it. There are dead seagulls washed up among the half ton of flotsam and jetsam that litters the beaches at this time of the year, and Bridey and Molly find all of it worth investigating - usually with their noses! They are all over the place - this is interesting, oh no, that looks fascinating over there, wow, what IS that?

We brought a huge piece of washed up olive trunk back and it's now sitting on the trunk that holds the kindling, balancing up the one on the other side of the front door. It's gnarled and smooth all at the same time: organic and weathered to a tee. It fits perfectly with the essentially naturalistic tenor of the place.

The girls settled down for a quiet afternoon of relaxation but managed only a brief respite before Stumpy, Bruno and the sheep that they guard moved into the field next their run for a few hours mowing of the undergrowth. When they moved out just before dusk it was looking neat and tidy and almost manicured.

As for us, we had a typical rural winter day: Gill cooking up some lentil soup ad a mess of beef tavas while I whiled the afternoon away fixing up parts of a big html file that contains a comprehensive but not exhaustive list of our books. We listened to Radio 4, which is not, thankfully, over Xmassy, as the afternoon cruised past us and the night closed in on this the shortest day of the year.

We've been getting some great feedback over the last couple of days from our online life. Gill's photos garnered much praise and even an award while my Xmas present idea for online friends (an introduction to a new author) has gone down really well - all recipients bar one have shown genuine appreciation of the thought (and it is the thought that counts) and I seem to have found authors for all of them that they were unaware of. Once they get down to reading though we shall see how well I judged things.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A cold spell - C-O-L-D!

We had sleet yesterday. And hailstones. The temperature plummeted once we got past 1100 hours as a huge purple cloud moved in from the Akrotiri. The morning, prior to then, had been bright and sunny although the skies were peppered with fluffy high cloud.

The result of all this weather here was transient: puddles in the drive and a passing carpet of hailstones on the balconies but in the higher grounds the effects are more lasting. This morning, as day broke on a snowy covering on our closest mountains, the stove that we lit last evening finally breathed its last glowy gasps. The panoramas on 3 sides of the house show snow - excepting only the sea views to the north.

Today has been bright but chill and promised enough that we were tempted out to Rethymnon to stock up on meat and vegetables, wines and beer, cakes and biscuits, (we already have logs and dog food enough for a few weeks yet and at a pinch we can tear up old newspapers for toilet paper as we did when I was a kid) in an effort to build a contingency against a possible snow-in later this week. No stocking up on toilet paper and bread for us - not your run of the mill survivalist tendencies here.

The poorer weather has forced us indoors more than we would normally like but it has allowed me to get going on some of the computer related tasks that have come with a new machine and an old web host. We've had time to download (and upload to Flickr) some recent images which, by the way, look pretty stunning on the new 20 inch screen. All Xmas cards and presents have been dispatched although some may not make it to their ultimate recipients in time for the big day. We shall see.

Here are the flowers we promised you earlier:

Monday, December 19, 2005


One of the little secrets of the Macintosh experience is, I think, key to the way this machine is perceived. It is one of those things that will go unremarked by most users although it will seldom be missed. One will know that it is there even though not quite being able to put one's finger on it. It is key to the very humanity of the Macintosh experience as opposed to the industrial feel of competing personal computers.

The radiused rectangle is what I am referring to here and it was the fact that the external structure of the iMac mirrors these radiused rectangles that drew my mind back to a fact that I had known and filed away in the recesses of my memory some years ago. The outside corners of the huge screen on the iMac are elegantly radiused so that there are no sharp edges to be seen. The inner corners that snugly enclose the screen itself are also rounded but with a tighter radius: almost as though the designers wanted to draw ones attention to the radiuses themselves. Inside that containing rectangle, look closely and one will notice consciously that every window, every containing rectangle that the Macintosh presents to us has beautifully, elegantly, humanely rounded outer corners and more tightly radiused internal corners.

The radiused rectangle is a very deep, an immanent, part of the Macintosh. It's origins are contemporary with the Mac interface. It is a design coup de theatre, and like all brilliant design strokes it is mostly invisible. There is about a rectangle with rounded corners something that invites the touch: that does not stimulate that edgy tension that sharp corners evoke with their implicit warning of danger; that, in short, comforts; something intrinsically human friendly. It shapes our relationship with our machine with its resonance of forms organic, making it more a natural entity and less a manufactured object. It allows us the illusion that the Mac itself could be a very part of us. It is an invitational signifier.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

the felia transition

We've been off-air for a couple of days - as the regulars will already have perceived. No telecomms problems for a change. No hardware or software issues unless you count the transition to the new hardware/software setup.

It's been a long while since a new machine, as opposed to a new peripheral, came into our hands - long before we came here to Crete. The Powerbook G3/400 was our last purchase I think. Unless it was Gill's Special Edition Graphite iBook. Well, that's not counting the eMate300, but that was second hand anyway.

Opening Apple hardware is always such a joy. The packaging itself is sumptuous and extremely well made and designed. What comes out of the box/boxes is itself often breathtaking! And so it was this time.

And so. I opened the boxes: found some batteries that I put into the mouse and the keyboard; put the kit onto the desk; plugged in the single power cable and then I opened the Getting Started manual. Effectively it said - you've probably done all this - and yes I had. Next step switch it on and follow the setup procedure.

There is a neat little on button at the back of the screen - press it. A subtle light begins to glow. The machine springs into life and the familiar Mac interface starts to appear. From here on in it really is like falling off a log. The machine detects the mouse and the keyboard and the wireless network router and configures itself accordingly.

Within ten or fifteen minutes the machine has become my machine and has integrated itself into our computing environment. No drivers to locate and load. No IRQs or jumpers to set. Seamless. This is how it should be for all computer users.

Next up it's time to transfer all of the stuff from the old Powerbook to the new machine and even that would have been simple had the Powerbook been so old as to not have native Firewire - there were options offered to bring everything over.

And that is what has been happening for the past couple of days here on the farm as the rain fell serendipitously. Great chunks of software, tens of gig gobs of music and photos, multi-megabytes of documents - an entire history to relocate.

Sweet! We are getting there but already we are fully operational. We will find software that we use only occasionally that needs to come over. We will be pulling in things from other machines on the network to centralize things. What a wonderful early Xmas present!

Thursday, December 15, 2005


The boys are clubbing together to save money this winter. We've all given up shaving thus saving money on razor blades (have you seen the price of those things recently?) and making the limited quantities of Somerset's Oil (the best shaving oil/cream/foam of all time). We won't be saving on after shave since nobody actually uses it after shaving. That King Gillette was some serious dude - almost give away the razors and make all your money on the disposable bits - how very different from an old-fashioned cut-throat! Maybe we'll get the boys a strop and an open razor apiece for Xmas. (What a good job they don't shave armpits and legs).

It will be interesting to see which of them gets the fullest, bushiest beard and who gets there fastest. Everyone is now at the itch/scratch reflex stage and the sound of nails on whiskers is becoming a commonplace around here. At least one of the competitors appears to be trying to grow his neck hair down into his T-shirt!

Speaking of T-shirts, they were all out this morning (the boys that is) in jeans and T-shirts - so warm was it. The valley was covered in a mist but it was warm, and occasionally the sun broke through. Later on in the afternoon however, the temperatures began to fall and a solid heavy rain rained freely down making puddles and lakes all around.

Tomorrow we're off to Vrisses where it always seem to be raining in winter and where we went yesterday only to find the post office closed because of a countrywide strike - we have post to sign for - and Georgi is off to Germany.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Behind us - in front of me?

You hearing now from one very happy bunny. We did just finish olives a few days back and I don't think I did ever have so moch fun in all my life well not with my clothes on as they say! I was started for real in the valley but no we did it all the old way like when all the way back before Jesus like forever. Sticks, we used sticks. We just hit the trees with sticks and the olives all fell off. Loads of them. And the more we hit them the more olives did fall of into the nets and onto the mats. Green ones, red ones, even black ones, big ones, small ones they just rained down on us good job we had hats and specs on! The leaves came down and the little branches and it all had to be sorted out before they could go into the huge sacks. And sometimes there was a birds nest or a rats nest. Once I did have to crouch over a lavendar plant to protect it while they put the mat over me and beat the tree in the front garden - it was hot - and the olives coming down was like having a massage by the fruits.

The lady that was helping us was called Maria and her husband called Pandylees was the man with the chain-saw. Maria was so quick at picking all the crap out and so cheery. As for Pandylees he was absolute magic with the chain saw, juggling it up in the trees and cutting everything so neat and clean and tidy. He did all the big cutting and cut all the big trunks and branches up into logs for the stove later. But he did let me saw up some of the littler bits - not so small by English standards but ... Bloody hell them Japanese saws are just bloody brilliant! We had a big one and a small one but Pandylees had a very big one that was hooked on his belt all the time like a gun in its holster. He's a little bloke (well not so little for a Greek I guess) with a beard and dressed all in black. He's only got about 4 teeth and when he eats his face kinda collapses. I couldn't credit that he was younger than the Boss but I spose he's had a hard life but he was up and down in the trees like a monkey on a stick.

Second day near killed me. First day was great but long and I spect we didn't pace our sleeves too well. Second day my back was killing me and my shoulders were aching all day. My wrist and forearm was near dropping off and hour in and I was fit to drop but we just carry on. And on till we were done. The field looked wonderful with all the trees trimmed and neat and the bags standing around and the prunings everywhere - the views all transfromed.

That night we went out to drink and eat with everyone who worked on the harvest in a taverna what his bro does run. He's one of 11 children so he's got a big family an I think we must've met most of them that night sept the ones that live in Australia and they was all nice people and they liked us too.

And the following evening as the dark was coming on two other Greek blokes turned up to collect the sacks but the Boss has talked about that already and I had to help the big old bloke lift all the sacks into the pickup because his back is crocked and then it was all over but we had had so much fun all working together that I'd wanted it to go on and on. I coulda cried but I didn't want people to see.

But it's finished now and the Boss still hasn't talked about me going back so I'm keeping quiet. We going to be resting up for a few days now.

Monday, December 12, 2005


Make no mistake - if you cut logs or prune trees or shrubs then you need one of these.. This is cutting edge technollogy for real. This elegant, well-mannered beast goes through olive trunks like a knife through butter. I have never used anything like these ARS saws. Often I'll eschew getting the chainsaw out just for the pleasure of ripping through logs with this baby. It leaves an edge that you could polish and makes such light work of its task that it is a joy to use. I once thought that Sheffield was the home of fine blades, or Toledo, but now I figure it has to be Japan. I could amputate a leg with the 24cm version (I also have an 18cm version for up inthe trees) in under 60 seconds. Not mine I hope!

So, all olive logging is now done. G has begun clearing up the prunings - dragging it all off to two huge piles, one at the bottom by the river and one up top near the rhubarb patch. We will be having two (possibly simultaneous) massive bonfires soon if the rain holds off. I'm looking for 30 or 40 foot flames at least. Boys and fires just go so well together.

We made firm friends with the couple who helped out with the olives this year - Pantelis and Maria. It's an intense and communal thing where only the camaraderie stops you from feeling tired and going slightly mad. Bonds forged in the olive groves seem somehow to be unbreakable. We went out for a meal and some wine a couple of hours after the end of the second day and actually have an invitation to spend Xmas day with them and their family. We were also given an Ox bridle, a shep belll, some sheep shears and several cuttings from Maria's rosemary bush. Oh yes, and a wonderful bunch of roses (I'll try and get a shot of them posted later this week).

Sitting out in Classico this afternoon - the weather has not broken yet - Mamalaz gave us some lettuce and cabbage plants to grow on for our "winter salads". The generosity of the locals is just breathtaking sometimes.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

and Bluto too ...

The rain fell thru the night and had ceased by morn. Olive picking continued - a little delayed, but by 9 all was under way again. We finished up at about 4 again - in time for Pantelis to get back to his sheep. At that point there was more than a metric tonne of olives bagged and ready for the presses scattered around the fields. The trees have nearly all been pruned and the views have all opened out again as the tops of overgrown olives have disappeared. Prunings lay all about. There is a pile of logs newly ready for the stove. This evening at 6 two men from Fones in a grey and scabby pickup came to collect the olives and take them off for pressing. The driver had his arm in plaster and a sling. His helper was 67 year olds with heavy recent scarring to his forehead. I helped him lift the massive sacks onto his broad back and tip them into the back of the pickup. I saw them off and closed the drive gate on another olive harvest.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Popeye and ....?

This is not a blog entry. There is no blog entry today because today we began olive harvest. After a day doing olives nobody is fit to blog. Just fit to drop. And that is what we're going to do just as soon as we've eaten. Light the stove, sit on the sofa and chill - then bed. If it isn't raining tomorrow we continue the olive harvest - otherwise we rest. The sacks are bigger this year 60kg each and we have filled 12 today. 12 sacks is possibly 90 kilos of oil if the yield is OK. Maybe, if we are lucky, we are half way through. My back aches, my wrists ache, my shoulders ache, my legs ache what else could ache? I hear rain!

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Our ADSL went down again yesterday while we were in Rethymnon. It took me 4 hours to get through to the tech support at Forthnet (our ISP) who eventually promised to get onto OTE (the PTT) and get things fixed but not until we had once again checked all of my settings and had had the usual conversation about them not supporting my modem (a Belkin combined ethernet hub, 802.11g router and ADSL modem - don't support it? - they've never even heard of Belkin for Turing's sake).

Up until recently OTE have taken a couple of days to fix these problems that seem to occur whenever any of their technicians even looks at the local exchange (last time they had switched of the router that should have forwarded ADSL traffic!). However, today everything was back up and working properly by 10 am.

And so it seems that while the ADSL service itself is not becoming any more reliable they have at least worked out how to fix problems more quickly (just as long as it isn't actually the w/e that is). We must, I suppose, be grateful for any improvement not mind how lateral a solution it might be.

OTE's "process improvement" approach brought to mind other IT solutions equally as lateral and in particular one incident in the early days of Windows NT. The asset management company I was working with at the time had an impressive set of DEC Alpha servers running VMS (64 bit even then) that ran their entire global business and they were taking a punt on NT for a small system on the strength that Dave Cutler who had architected VMS was also responsible for the design of NT. The Alpha servers ran 24/365 with downtime required only to re-org the Oracle databases occasionally. The NT servers on the other hand were up and down like a whore's drawers and so the IT director had a serious word with the head of Microsoft in the UK.

To cut a long story ... the MS honcho returned some weeks later with the latest fix from Redmond which was duly installed on all the NT servers but reliability did not improve the NT servers were still falling over twice or three times a day. At their next meeting the IT director pointed this out to the MS honcho who smoothly asked him to look at the uptime figures. Lo, and behold uptime had improved!

Later, the IT director bearded his head of IT services and demanded an explanation. How could it be that the servers were still falling over with the same frequency and regularity but uptime was up? And, as you have probably guessed, the answer was terribly lateral: Microsoft's solution to the problem had been to reduce the time it took for NT to re-boot! Holy Ada Lovelace, Batman! How smart was that?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

subjective - objective

So! In the last two days you have been told two different stories. Or! Are they the same story?

Different points of view on the same facts? On the same actual, objective realities? The same incidents.

Is one of them true? Is either of them true? In any real sense? Are both of them true?

Rather than being a trick of narrative what you have is a trick of subjectivity. Which is true for you? And for me? And for Gill? And for Annie? And for any and all of the "participants"?

If there actually exists an objective reality how would it be possible for a human being to access it since any language based access to it is intermediated? If an objective reality existed no human could access it. For even our perceptions and memories are intermediated by language. A direct apprehension of objective events, should it be possible, would be intermediated on recall or retelling.

If an objective reality exists then it is useless to us as humans and might just as well not exist for we clearly do not have the right kind of intelligence to perceive it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Yesterday's story - as told by me to you - as told to me by Gill - as told to Gill by Annie reminded me of another story told to us by the people who live next door.

When first we encountered these people, we were introduced by somebody who was then a mutual friend, they took great comfort from telling this story to as many ex-pats as they could find to listen.

Three years after they had moved lock stock and barrel to Crete they were contacted out of the blue by a vague acquaintance of the wife's from work. This woman, one C, was, she said, thinking of moving to Crete and wondered whether they knew of anywhere that she and her husband could rent. Luckily for her they did indeed know of just such a place - the apartment next to the one they were themselves about to move into was currently free. Inside a week this C and her husband, whom neither had ever met flew over to look at the apartment, pronounced it ideal for their purposes and, following an introduction to the landlord that they arranged took a lease on the place there and then.

Imagine their amazement when only 2 short months later C rang them to say that her husband had died suddenly and that she didn't know what to do for the best. They encouraged her to carry on with her plans, there was, they said, nothing to keep her in England now and it would be good to have neighbours. Even her inability to drive did not matter, they said for they could ferry her about at least until she learned to drive. And so C became their neighbour in a remote mountain village.

Almost as soon as she moved in however, C began to take liberties. Borrowing electrical equipment until her own arrived. Asking to be taken to town for shopping trips. Moaning when they smoked in her apartment. Complaining about their cats. Moreover she, C, was not taking driving lessons yet, preferring instead to make friends with the locals. Relations became tense and to cut a long story short they soon felt put upon - mightily.

The crunch came when C had had to return to England for a week ostensibly to see about her disability pension (although neither of them actually believed she was in any way disabled). She left he key to her apartment with them and asked them to air the place out every other day - it was winter and the damp had set in. The wife would take up the story at this point and tell in hushed tones how ashamed she was of herself for what she had done but ... And what she had done was to read C's diary and mail. C had said rather unflattering things about them in her diary. Within weeks of arriving. C had written to friends in England and had mentioned that they seemed a little grudging.

Without revealing what she had done the wife had a scene with C and announced that they could not be friends any longer. C had worn out her welcome! And so, without too much animosity they had slipped into simply being what they described as civil - avoiding her when they could and having nothing to do with her friends. Their own friends who visited often remarked on the "witch" next door and soon it became a standing joke amongst their coterie. Finally C had moved out one day when they were out shopping and they had never seen her again. Much to their relief.

L&R, for it was they who told us this story, latched onto us like limpets and some time later when the lease was up on their apartment we helped to find them somewhere to new to live. They moved in next to us on condition that they helped to look after the land and the olives and we explained to them how this farm - this life - was our dream. They said that they would like to share that dream and make it come true. All was well for a month perhaps. Not much help around the farm was forthcoming though and soon we noticed that despite living next door they seemed to be avoiding us - avoiding even eye contact - unless they were coming to eat. I shall leave to your imaginations what happened. Suffice to recall that we now refer to them as the people who live next door and not as neighbours. And remember that we did not hear Annie's story until this week-end.

Monday, December 05, 2005


While at the bazaar this week end Gill was told a very sad story. A French friend of Maria's who is a shiatsu practitioner was explaining how one of her friends, and elderly Englishwoman, had gone back to the UK, ostensibly for Xmas, and would, in all probability not be coming back to Crete.

Her story started when she was befriended while working in the UK by a court worker who seemed to share her love of Crete. Let us call the elderly Englishwoman C and the new best friend L. C had had a recent history of heart trouble and was thinking, she confided to L, of going to live in Crete where the climate and diet would be much better for her health.

L and her then boyfriend and later husband, let us call him R, a metal worker and sometime semi-pro musician, were themselves soon to move to Crete having had enough of England. L became C's "best friend" and when she and R moved to Crete she kept in touch by post. C would later discover that she was one of the few people that L&R kept in touch with.

Time passed and C had another minor heart attack. She now qualified for a disability pension and besides which her boyfriend was also just settling down in Crete. L and R had been living in Crete for 3 years now and C asked if they could help her find somewhere to live. She had decided to move out to Crete at last. Her boyfriend came back to the UK and they married. L wrote to say that she had just the thing in mind for C. She and R were moving to a beautiful apartment in a small mountain village having exhausted what the city that they had been living in for the past 3 years had to offer, and lo and behold, the apartment next door was vacant. She was sure that C would love it and they could then be assured of wonderful neighbours.

C and her new husband visited the following month and were impressed by the little apartment. He had some doubts about the L&R couple but it would be a good place to start he thought. Back in the UK they decided to go ahead with the move and set about selling up C's house and the thousand and one other things that had to be sorted out before they could live in Greece.

And then, quite unexpectedly, C's new husband had a massive heart attack and he did not survive. Heartbroken, she decided that there was nothing to hold her in England: her son had been awkward about her re-marrying; the house was under offer; the only real friends she had seemed to be L&R and they were in Crete. There was, however, a problem: C did not drive and the mountain village was quite isolated and, in common with most remote Cretan villages, was not well served by public transport.

Not to worry, assured L&R, we'll drive you any where you need to go until you learn to drive. That's what friends are for. Rest assured we'll look after you. Touched and grateful she carrie don with the move. The die was cast.

When Annie, the French shiatsu practitioner, had met C she was living in a small apartment in a predominantly British occupied seaside village. She was taking Greek lessons and was finding it hard making ends meet. Life, she explained, had been much cheaper in the mountains. And the villagers there had been much friendlier too! Annie was flummoxed. Why had she, C, left her mountain eyrie then to live among ex-pats whom she clearly had no great love for?

Things, she explained, had been good in the mountains for the first few months. She had made friends with some shop keepers, and a taverna owner's wife (she had become a kind of unofficial aunty to their youngest child) and also the young owner of the ceramics factory but things with L&R had begun to go wrong.

Soon after moving in she had sensed that L was becoming withdrawn. She seldom ventured out alone and seemed to resent C's growing friendships in the village. R was working part time in the black economy nowadays and village gossip had it that he only did that to get away from L. The villagers could not understand her aloofness and resented the fact that she made no attempt to speak Greek to them. A odd mixture of shy and surly.

More and more R was not able to take her, C, to the shops. He often, nowadays, made a very big deal out of giving her a lift anywhere. And both of them were, she sensed, avoiding her. She tried to reduce her reliance on them: tagging along but once a week when they went to shop; fitting around their schedule and trying to "bother" them less. But the rift was cut and it continued to widen. Soon L would turn away if she saw C, even if she were only on her balcony. R darted to the car and drove off in a rush if he thought she saw him. Occasionally she would try to raise the subject of the growing estrangement in the car on their weekly shopping outing but they would always reply that there was nothing wrong and that they were just a little busy. And so C carried on trying to make her new home in the tiny mountain village.

Until, one day, in high dudgeon, L had knocked at her door early in the morning just after R had driven off to work throwing a happy smile and a cheerful wave to C as he left. Red in the face and literally shaking, L had unceremoniously announced that they could no longer be friends because, as she explained it, C had taken advantage of their, L&R's, good nature. She, C, was, simply using them while she gathered around her a network of Greek friends with whom, L was sure, she talked about them behind their backs! From here on in it was all downhill for C. Trapped in the village, for R no longer spoke to her let alone proffered lifts, C was thrown back on her own resources. She discovered a bus that ran twice a week to the nearby city: it left her village at 7 in the morning and returned at four in the afternoon, long after the shops had closed. She took to using this bus as her lifeline. She would cope.

Winter came and winter went. She managed. She survived. Her friendships in the village grew in warmth and her Greek improved marginally. Her adopted niece's English improved. The bus service did not improve, but she learned to live with it as the locals did. The relationship with L&R likewise did not improve - if anything it deteriorated. She learned to live with that too.

When a short and glorious spring gave way to the heat and drought of summer things turned again. L&R had visitors. The visitors ignored her cheery Hellos. She, C, had visitors. R&L ignored their cherry Hellos. The atmosphere was thick with hostility but where this hostility had come from she didn't know. They seemed, next door, to have perfected ways of coming and going that made them perfectly invisible to her. Only her visitors occasionally reported a grey haired, miserable looking, grey woman staring at them with thinly disguised hatred. And then she would "huff!" loudly as she turned and disappeared back indoors.

Strong though she had become she was finding this constant war of hostility wearing her down. Even the deathly silences grated at her nerves. They never spoke now. She rarely encountered anything but traces of them - a puff of exhaust smoke as they took their Thursday shopping trip - a door slamming as she opened her front door to water her plants. She saw, if truth be told, more of their coterie of cats than she did of them, and the cats were always leaving unwelcome presents in her bedding borders. She knew better than to burden her new-found Greek friends with her troubles and eventually decided to move to somewhere more accessible. It meant saying goodbye to her friends but the attrition was playing havoc with her nerves. And at least this new little apartment was well served by buses. What little money she had left at the end of the week was now going on Greek lessons rather than driving lessons. She would make new friends. In her new village most people spoke English -they were English after all!

But it was not to be. The British in her new village were unwelcoming. She missed the peace and quiet of her mountain village and the warmth of the Greek welcomes. She missed little Eleni. Suddenly she found herself missing her husband again. And finally, she began to long for the psychic comfort of English life. She would, no matter how hard, go back to England and make up with her son. Her dream now lay in her hands like so much broken crockery in the ceramics shop where she had recently spent afternoons talking with the young owner in his halting English, and the taste of ashes filled her mouth every moment of the day. Something was badly damaged and she knew that it could not be mended. Time, with heavy heart, to move on again.

(to be continued ....)

Friday, December 02, 2005


OK people, so now it is official - the weather has gone completely berserk. After the mad south winds finally subsided this morning the sun came through and by mid-day it had got up to 29�C (that's 85�F to you people still counting in � Shillings and Pence) and there it stayed all afternoon. Drinking frappes down at Cafe Classico we had to sit in the shade so fierce was the sun! I had to check that it really was the 2nd of December. Madness!

The girls enjoyed being able to lay about on their decking without being blown about and getting wet bellies. We ourselves enjoyed being out and about getting fresh air into our lungs and clearing the catarrh form our heads. It also gave us a good chance to blow the house through - it's beautifully freshened now although you can still catch the scent of lavender here and there.

Speaking of lavender (or writing about it in point of fact) Gill is off in Xania this evening setting up stall for tomorrow's bazaar. She's meeting up with Maria from Botanica whose stall she is sharing and will hopefully work out the details of how they'll share the duties. She's only been gone an hour and I'm missing her already. We spend so much time together that any separation feels weird. So it's just me and the girls (and Radio 4) - and they won't settle properly until she's back.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Believe it or Not

What a very odd couple of days we've had. First off the weather has been going crazy. Then our researches have turned up some very strange stuff. And finally, I've been talking to the radio again.

In no particular order - well obviously in some order but not the order in which I listed them nor in reverse order - the weather. The wind had finally died away and the evening temperatures were falling away gradually. We had repaired all the wind damage. The FarmTwins had pruned all of the mature fruit trees in the front garden: apricot and plum as well as the Jacaranda (that isn't) and the spiny acacia (sounds like spiny Norman). They left the young cherry trees that we brought over from UK to see what winter does - they can always be pruned in Spring if needs be. They had re-arranged the log pit and its cover. They had even fastened the taller of the Yucca plants to the wall, proofing it, they hoped, against future southerlies. And then last night we had just settled down to watch Time Bandits on DVD (free with last week's Sunday paper), the stove was drawing nicely (just for comfort you understand), when we heard kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk and then hoooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwl. The south wind came back - from out of the blue - no warning -no time to prepare. It ripped the bottom out of the stove pipe and, in a moment all of our updraft was gone; the stove started belching wood smoke into the room and the washing line began terpsichorean manouevres in the dark. Panic stations! High alert. Plan 9 required! We damped the stove as far as we could. We retrieved the washing from the upstairs line and decided to leave the downstairs line to the mercy of mother nature. And still the stove belched. It was a full hour before some semblance of normality returned, although even then the view into the room must have looked like the prospect into a London betting shop.

This morning the south wind was still howling but the skies were clear and the temperatures were up. They crested today at 26º C and that on the 1st of December! Craziness indeed. The lounge still smells of wood smoke. The washing dried inside an hour when rehung. Outside, right now, the southerly wind is rushing past: gusting and roaring. The stove pipe end had been replaced but with the temperature as it is there will be no call on the stove this evening. Perhaps we will re-screen Time Bandits.

As for talking to the radio - what can I say? In London I worked much of the time from my own office where Radio 4 was my constant companion. I would talk to the broadcast signal regularly - it is after all a spoken word station. Since the re-entry of Radio 4 into our lives I've started doing it again but this time Gill hears it. Where previously it was a private eccentricity it has now become a public commonplace - the girls glance up occasionally when things get heated - Gill looks askance now and then. I am not embarrassed. Talking to, and arguing with, reasonable, intelligent, articulate, people speaking English and discussing moral and socially pertinent issues holds no shame for a lifelong debater. How refreshing to hear and take part in civilised, robust argumentation where nobody whines on and on about how they have been offended or upset by what the previous speaker said: where people address the issues raised: where, in a word, debate occurs. How very unlike the emotionally and intellectually immature spaces that pass for debating arenas in cyberspace. I fully intend to renew my friendships with the Radio 4 intelligentsia. I also intend to keep right on talking to the radio.

In defence of the internet I come at last to my third item. Having taken part in some fruitless and worthless debates online lately about religion and morals, and creationism versus evolution I was trying to find out whether it was possible to believe in both creationism and evolution at the same time or rather whether anyone did. I was also trolling around trying to get a bearing on Hitler's religious orientation - it had never occurred to me before to enquire - when suddenly bingo! What's that old saying about 2 birds? No, not At Swim Two Birds! The other one. A double whammy on Herr Schickelgruber!

It transpires that our Adolf believed in creationism and evolution. He believed that the Aryan race were the result of creation - God, Adam and Jesus were all Aryans and had, as a race been created by God. More specifically than race in fact, as a species they had been created by God. Other races (or species) had evolved a la Darwin! Young Adolf had apparently been brought up as a strict Catholic and had toyed with the notion of becoming a priest. The mature Adolf, inspired by the christian teachings of the Viennese Christian Social movement and inspired by Martin Luther, used his religious beliefs to inveigh against inter-marriage on the grounds that a union between an Aryan (created) and any other race/species (evolved) could only produce hybrids and that these hybrids could not then be "made in God's image" - an insult to God himself. So there you have it, a Christian justification for racism in general and anti-semitism in particular (despite the fact that he himself was seldom that particular) all in one powerful, if flawed, argument. Hitler the christian. Hitler the Darwinist. Hitler the Creationist. Was there no end to this mans ingenuity? The site that I discovered that contains all this material is here (Hitler page ) - it is worth a good look around.

And, with 3 oddities dispensed, we shall leave you for now.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Reading and re-reading

It doesn't happen very often. It has never been a very common occurrence. In all my long reading life it is yet a rarity. I just read a book that I know I will read again. There are many books that I might read again, that are worth reading again - those are the books that populate our bookshelves. I only keep books that I have read and that I might re-read. There are books that I have promised myself to read again and maybe I shall. The number of books that I have ever read and immediately known that I would read again is very small. Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, Murphy, Imagination Dead Imagine, At Swim Two Birds all spring to mind.

I've just "finished" reading Poundemonium by Julian Rios and I apostrophise "finished" because it is a book I am convinced that I shall be coming back to for years. It is a classic of post-modern fiction and is the second part of a projected 5 novel set. Part 1 of the set is called A Midsummer Night's Babel and I have read it twice already. Poundemonium prompts me to read it a third time.

The projected set is called Larva and its author, Julian Rios, is a Spaniard who also co-writes with Octavio Paz. Reading Poundemonium is like reading Finnegans Wake - layers of voices and meanings are larded one atop another, melding together language in its richest sense, multi lingual puns and erudition: it is a genuine joy. One's mind and one's ear work in harmony with one's font of knowledge to decipher the many "meanings" woven into this spare text. It is an eminently lisable text.

Poundemonium is immensely, enjoyabl,y rich and referential. It is a comic playground for words and wonderment. It is a masterpiece! Please read it. It is what novels can be. It is what novels should be.

You can find out more about Rios here at the ever enlightening Dalkey Archive

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


After our cri de couer recently for some "proper" weather we have been rewarded with some good days this week. Night time temperatures that haven't sunk below 13�C and day time temperatures nudging 18 and 19�C has made for a beautiful couple of days where we have been able, at last, to get out and tidy our own small world up after the depredations wrought by the evil southerly winds and rains. More importantly we have been able to relieve the incipient claustrophobia that had begun to set in. Just being able to get out into the open air and move about in some comfort has been one of the most welcome reliefs. The skies have been opening up early in the morning these days revealing what my mother used to refer to as "enough blue to make a Dutchman's trousers".

Today, for example, we got out to Rethymnon (the last time we were there we came back like drowned rats) in sunshine. No jackets, no umbrellas, no soaking, no misery. No rivers running through it. We were free to wander and to window shop although now that many of the shops are decked out in the gaudy tat of Xmas there was not much of real interest to see. Greece has ramped up the whole commercial nonsense of Xmas in the years we have been here and very depressing it is to witness.

We bought a new toy for the Farmboy Twins while we were there - a tool for pulling tree stumps and the like. The boys are aiming to shift some the very large stones that still litter the farmland - bigger even than they can lift between them and this "two ton puller" appears to be exactly what they wanted - and all for 10 euros! It doesn't take much to make them happy boys. We also picked up a spare blade for Ceddie's tree saw - that gives each of them a "new" Japanese turbo-cut saw in time for olive harvest - whenever that happens. We are ready and fully prepared, we await Georgi's starting gun!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Who plays piano on Nina Simone tracks?

I came across the following link while cruising around some bizarre ant-scientific threads today and, to be honest, the figures quoted in it really brought me up short. I mean....! I knew there was a religious anti-scientific element on US society but ...! It is patently ridiculous that in the 21st century only 25% of the population of a science led western "civilisation" believe in evolution. That nearly half of them believe that God created the world in 6 days a few thousand years ago is crazy. That their President believes this crap is almost, but not quite, beyond belief. And these people run the planet? Gove me a break! Please!

How does such nonsense become so widespread? Who is pulling the strings of ignorance and bliss? The highly articulate ,and intelligent ,President of the most powerful nation the world has ever seen says "I mean, after all, religion has been around a lot longer than Darwinism ... I believe God did create the world. And I think we're finding out more and more and more as to how it actually happened." and nobody laughed him offstage? Incredible. Incredible and frightening. I wonder - what is Tony Bliar's takeon it?

Is the western world in the grip of a "Back to the dark ages" movement similar to Phil Spector's "Back to mono" one? Is it a response to muslim fundamentalism? As in, "... those guys can do really wierd, supid ideas - we can do that too?" I don't think so. Is real life too scary for these people? Show me where, in the Old Testament (remember the Americans aren't too NT friendly), it tells me about gravity, and escape velocities, and predicts man's "conquest" of outer space and I might not be so cynical but, as it stands, a country that uses science where it chooses and ignores it where it conflicts with what they would like to believe (pro life prolonging surgery and drugs but against stem cell research) strikes me as a deeply divided and hypocritical nation.

The idea that, odd, religious zealots like this are actually running the world fills me with fear and horror! And they think that Islamic fundamentalism is a problem but not Zionist fundamentalism? Give me a break. But the problme remains. How do we change this awful situation? Any ideas?

Sunday, November 27, 2005


So sis, what do you make of the last week then? All that freak weather and then that freaky worm thing. Strange week all around - wouldn't you agree?

I hate the rain more than anything. As you well know I really dislike having dirty feet and that is almost unavoidable when it's hissing down all the time. Just popping outside for a wee gets your feet filthy. Not that pa hasn't done his best with the run but it still gets mucky out there. And when the wind is blowing the rain right up your chuff it's no fun squatting out there.

You should get under the palm leaf shade he put up - that stays dry longer than any other part of the run. For me it's when the wind lifts my ears up and blows into them. I know your ears are heavier and you don't get that but it's sooooo annoying! Wet inside your ears is horrid.

So it has been what, 3 days of wind and storm force winds followed by one day of rain and no wind and then 1 day of wind and no rain? Weird week indeed but it was nice that the kids were around all week and we did get to go in the house a lot more and sit with them - on the sofa!

Oh yes I love that all those unexpected trips indoors. And, because it was so wet he couldn't hang our blankets out on the line and get rid of our smells. Although he did do a lot of rearranging while mum was in Xania. That was the day after we found the death's head hawk moth caterpillar in the run.

You mean that monster alien turd that turned up in the run? Gross, wasn't it? Good job we protected mummy from it though. We know our jobs don't we? She was worried by it but at least she didn't scream and run. I'll tell you what though, this weather has given me a real appetite of late.

Yes, I had noticed, you've finished my dinner the last 3 nights. Just because you're bigger doesn't mean you can eat my food.

But it does.

Why don't you fill up on olives like I do during the day? Since pa showed us how to unpack walnuts I've been trying it on lots of things and it works. And what with the wind there are loads of olives being blown into the run. And the darkest ones are really nice. You should try them.

Maybe I will but they're a bit bitter aren't they? Or is that just the little pale ones?

Yes I think those ones aren't quite ripe yet but if you stick with the big dark ones they're really tasty - nostimos even. Do you think we'll get out on the chain again soon?

If the rain holds off I suspect we shall. Lets keep our paws crossed. See if you can't get Shem to post those drawings of us that Lindz did with this.

I'll try.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Radio! Radio!

Another photo from Gill's loving lens today. No need for identification though, we know what this one is. We get them all the time. This one was waiting in the outside sink that I was cleaning out this morning before the rain settled back in this afternoon. It was dead - probably drowned over the last rainy week. Although the dreadful southerly wind has abated, rain is till with us. But as I've said we managed to get out and about this morning tidying up, checking out, and cleaning up (the wind dropped a fair amount of Saharan sand on outdoor surfaces necessitating a trip to the roof to clean and polish solar collection panels soon). Oh, when will Phoebus revisit us?

On checking the multiple copies of this blog today it transpires that Chick was not our only entomological Sherlock Holmes and that alfapet, the lovely wife of our very own northern correspondent also solved our very public mystery. And so, the two people that we thought might be most likely to unriddle our riddle did indeed unriddle it. Well done that woman!

G was off to Xania on the bus yesterday visiting a little boutique that specialises in packaging materials to select satin sachets for her stand at the Xmas bazaar. Despite the awful weather. And while she was there I reorganised all of the audio equipment in the cellar so that the Macs can now connect readily to the Sony speaker system. The Sony system supports two input audio streams and even allows us, should we so desire, to mix the two streams together. After the reorg we now have one set of inputs hooked up to the mp3 player and the other to one of the laptops. Since we have had ADSL, however spasmodic it may be, we have had the potential to stream BBC's Radio 4 output reliably and now we are actually doing it. We listened to Saturday's afternoon play this afternoon as the light began to fade and the rain began to close in. It was a remarkably warm and comforting experience and one we shall be repeating throughout winter. We have another plank installed in the raft that we sail through winter on!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Mystery intruder identified

Mystery solved courtesy of Chick of Mick,Chick and the Maggies: it is a Death's Head Hawkmoth caterpillar.

This is the link Chick sent me to resolve the matter

and this is the Wikipedia entry for the moth.

Chick solving the bug mystery (and in 30 seconds apparently) and being able to enlighten us all really got me praising the internet all over again. I believe that the internet has been a significant advance for mankind (well those connected anyway) in terms of making knowledge available to a wider audience than ever before in human history. I have believed this since its very inception.

Until yesterday, however it hadn't struck me that outside of the knowledge that is published (statically) on the internet there is another knowledge resource that the internet gives us access to and that is the knowledge of other connected people. Our friends and our networked acquaintances. I suspected that the information that I needed was out there on the web somewhere and both G and I had had a good scout round looking for it but in this case Chick acted as our librarian (and I mean that in the most professional way possible) - she knew the information AND where to look online for it.

The appeal that I put out through the blog was in fact a request for assistance in classification and we were lucky to find someone in our web of internet bodies who responded. Imagine though, if nobody in our web had known where to look. They might have been sufficiently intrigued, or sufficiently helpful, to email a friend of theirs who had speciality knowledge in the field (entomology in this case). Suddenly you can apply extra leverage to problems - other peoples' brains and knowledge. This is awesome if you have the right friends who have the right friends. This is like Archimedes' fulcrum.

We consider ourselves very lucky in our network of connected friends. Thank you all.

As an aside, Duranfan mentioned Silence of the Lambs in her response and that gave me an hour's fun looking up trivia on the film. Did you know that Jeremy Irons turned down the Hannibal Lecter part? I think he would have made a superlative Lecter. Mind you, I thought Brian Cox (a vastly under-rated actor) was better than Anthony Hopkins (check out Manhunt if you get a chance).

Thursday, November 24, 2005

What is that?

OK, it's payback time. We entertain you and now you do a bit of work for us. Gill was grossed out by the following bug or grub or maggot or whatever that she found in the girls' run his morning. Poked with a stick it curled up. Uncurled it was about 4-5 inches (10-12cm) long. It was faintly irridescent. It left the run some time later - possibly pushed out by the dogs. So, what was it?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


It's getting dark now outside. I'm looking through the kitchen window at a fully laden olive tree blowing in the storm force winds. The grey undersides of the leaves are showing. Many of the trees will have been virtually stripped of fruit by the southerly winds but this one just by the mimosa is hanging on to its fruit relentlessly. The stake that was holding the mimosa dangled limply this morning, snapped at its base, but the mimosa itself is in tact. In the same window there is a reflection of one of our bookcases - lots of Penguin classics on the top row and so very orange. Behind me Gill is playing Monk on the electric piano (Sweet and Lovely). The dogs are curled up on the sofa beside her like two apostrophes. Bridey occasionally cranes her neck to watch Gill's fingers on the keyboard, sighs, and settles back down. Molly is curled tight and sleeps peacefully. I'm sitting at the partners desk in front of the Powerbook typing into PathFinder. To my left and behind me an LPG heater glows red and sighs.

It has been raining now for 26 hours - mostly on. In the off periods (maybe an hour in total) we have repaired last night's storm damage around the farm and cleared the dogs' run of olives, walnut cases and leaves. During a ten minute window this morning we emptied the stove of ash and restocked on logs for tonight. The fire is laid. The roses have been secured against tonight's onslaught to come and the second mimosa has a new stake. The avocado was removed to Gill's potting shed for avocados hate wind. We are ready.

And now the light has gone. It is dark outside - properly dark. The lights in the run and on the potting shed are, from here, the only lights in the valley. If I peer hard I can read the titles of some of the books reflected in the kitchen window. Gill is tackling the solo again and again, teaching her hands the shapes.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Reckless child abandonment

Remember a few week back we went to Rethymnon and it was closed? Well hold on to your hats because yesterday we went to Xania - and it was closed! We went by bus as we habitually do and when we got there the church bells were ringing and almost all of the shops were shut tight. It was, we later ascertained, a festival day - not a public holiday (the post office was open - and mercifully empty for once) just a local closing down for religious observances. November 21st is celebrated as the Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary. It commemorates the day on which her parents gave her to the temple (she was apparently about 3 years old). Now call me a lilly livered liberal but that just seems like a very strange thing to do. Sure, I've known people who would gladly give their kids away but this one was supposed to be really well behaved! Perfect even. That's more than selfless - that's downright stupid. Didn't they have one with ADHD where they could have got the temple to pick up the tab for the huge doses of Ritalin?

Once we had discovered that Xania was closed "(it's okay the", woman in the post office told us, "it's only Xania, and it's only for today" - well lady, we've only come to Xania and we've only come for today so that's fine) an odd incident that happened on the bus going in started to make sense; an oldish man started trying to get the conductor to refund his money as he had decided not to go to Xania. He had no success needless to say and when he got off at Vamos muttering and cursing he gave his tickets to a woman who was just then boarding. We guess he suddenly remembered about the festival and decided going to Xania was pointless.

It wasn't pointless for us - we got a few things done, took in an exhibition of frescoes from Mount Athos (the centre piece was a triptych depicting the life of the Virgin Mary and had a nice panel depicting The Presentation - no coincidence I suspect), and had a good wander round the harbour where they have started to restore the lighthouse.

My word it was chilly though. We are currently in the grip of a cold snap and a severe cold snap at that. Temperatures at night are dropping to around 3 to 5º C and the wind has such a bite on it that we've dug out thermal underwear. Yesterday, waiting for the bus we noticed the first snow on the mountains and that is early. Average temperatures have dropped 10 to 12º in a matter of days! It might well be that we are in for a hard winter.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Not Till the Red Fog Rises

There's a book on The Boss's shelves called "Not Till the Red Fog Rises" and that's how I been feeling since I got here, it's like a veil is lifting. No, more like seven veils like in the fairy stories. Every week things have been getting clearer like somebody changes my mental glasses every week. Ceddie says its the healthy living an he's prolly right but Shem says its the lack of drugs that they was forever dosing me up on in the hostipal an he's prolly right two. It's just that things make more senses now as I can see properly - not see with my eyes if you know what I mean just see like with my head.

Working outside in the fresh air and not having people on at me all the times helped I'm sure. Being with Ceddie all day is good two like when we were kids before they took me away first time. And the others, Shem is always splaining things to me and Shaun reads to me at night and I'm learning to read and write properly again. It's like it's all coming back slowly. Gill is just as good to me as mum was but prettier and when I see mum I'm going to tell her so - she'll be glad Ceddie has someone to look after him and cook up great grub and stuff and wash his my overalls. The girls are always warm and they smell like proper dogs when I nuzzle my face in their necks not housedogs and they just nuzzle back and groan sometimes and it makes me feel loved.

And the Boss? I think the Boss knows you know. About it not all being quite kosher and stuff. But he doesn't let on and he doesn't seem to have grassed me up. When people ask when I'm going back he just smiles and puts his arm round my shoulder and kinda hugs me and says "We shall see. But Eddie's so useful and such a good boy. Why would we let him go?" And then he sorta winks at me. So far I'm pencilled in for helping do olive harvest and that's a week away at least. Like the Boss says "We shall see!"

Hitchen was a good idea it turns out coz nobody's got no record of me travelling so theres no way to tell where I am less they find the letters but I think I got all of them. Still, I'm almost sure someone there mustve knowticed by now. Praps its easier to let sleeping dogs lie than tell the truth. Leastwise no police have turned up here yet luckily. They carry guns here and that worries me a bit - wouldn't want trouble at the farm. I'd just leg it down to the river and head on up into the mountains from there if they do arrive one day. But like the Boss sometimes says people have better things to do most of the time than look for lost peoples. Some lost peoples just stay lost. Mebbe I'll be one of them permanently lost people.

Till I came here I wouldntve beleived that winter could be so beautiful but the clouds and the sunshine and the thunderstorms and the rain just would take your breath away. It's green now. It was dust coloured mostly when I got here. It's a thousnad shades of green - so many it hurts when I try and count them. Sometimes I could just stand and look forever. I see stuff here most of the others miss coz I look so long and hard. I see the little shrews and I see the buzzards that eat them. I see the owl at night and I hear him cry out as he drops onto a rat. And I see the martens and the hedgehogs and once I think I saw me a badger but I'm not two sure cos it was white and black not black and white if you know what I mean but I'm pretty sure it was. A badger I mean, praps they're different here. And I see the slow worms, and the snails that the bloke round the corner comes looking for after the rains. And its all just wonderful and I want to stay here forever and never have to go back. And mebbe I can. Praps I'll be lucky.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


Me and Eddie were outdoors most of today despite it being a bit parky. There's been this cold north east wind blowing most of the day and it's got a real bite on it. Next time that Lidls does a line on the thermal undies I'm going to be in there like Flynn. The red overalls are warm but it'd be nice to have some extra heat sometimes. Still, the new work gloves that the Boss got us from Lidls are really good and tough, and warm too.

This morning we were re-stacking the log pile so's the bulk of the logs are closest to the opening in the tarp and that way when we need to top up the logs in the house it's a nice easy job with not too much time outside. Today was bright so it was a perfect time to do it. While we were at it Eddie suggested that we chop some more kindling - he's aware that he isn't gonna be here all winter and wants to get as much done as he can before he has to go - not that we were particularly short (the kindling trunk was still at least half full). Great exercise chopping wood. An old Greek lady once told me or us that a wood fire keeps you warm two ways - once when you light it and once when you chop the wood for it! Come to think on it that was Georgi's aunty Calliope told us that and she's about 80. Still shops her own wood. Still hones her own axe! Game old bird.

Anyway, when we'd finished log stuff we stopped and watched the buzzards riding the hot air over the valley before we cleaned out the stove, emptied last nights ahes into the spiffy new ash can that the Boss designed, and laid in tonight's fire - all very satisfying - we weren't sweating but we had a good glow on. Then we went down to the strip with the rest of the Felia crew for shopping and a coffee. Bugger me if the cafe wasn't closed again! Still, we got a few DVDs free with the papers (Gill reads them but for me they're just for helping start the stove and we store them in the converted dishwasher that lives in the carage).

So, no coffee. Cutting our losses me and Eddie got back to clearing up outside the front wall. last week some blokes from the local council came round and cut back all the trees and bushes and shrubs that were hanging over the road outside and to bulldoze the encroaching mud and rocks back to the sides. The road was suddenly twice its normal width! Mostly it was olives they trimmed since the entire valley is mostly given over to olive groves. We gave them a couple of days but yesterday it became clear that they weren't coming back to clear all the cuttings so that's what we were clearing. That and the bamboo that the bloke up the valley dropped off of his truck when he cleared his olive grove a few weeks back. We collected 4 big bags (and I do mean big - it's one of those bags that builders deliver sand and gravel, or asvesti in - about a cubic metre's worth) full of assorted bio-crap and started a new bonfire pile down where the last one was with it.

After that we took the girls out of their run and put them on the big chain between the house so they could have a good wander and while they were running around we hand weeded a big chunk of the gravel forecourt. G was indoors all this time cooking up that smashing winter grub that she does - pork with celery and leeks, beef with mushroom and potatoes, and, for tonight, a lovely chicken jal frezi (Eddies all time favourite). The smells alone were enough to keep us going.

Great day all round thanx for asking!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Drowned Rats to Warm Bunnies

People forget that it rains here. Not just rains - it absolutely pours when it gets going. And I'm not talking about tourists and visitors: I'm talking about the locals. We left home this morning in bright sunshine but while we were in Reth clouds poured in from the sea, thunder rolled around and, sure enough, the heavens opened and dropped a week's worth of winter rain in a matter of moments. Odd, because it was really warm.

Roads, ill paved and badly maintained, turned into rivers of rain that flowed heedlessly over ones feet soaking shoes and socks alike. Girls with those drooping jeans so favoured by the young had water wicking up the backs of their legs. Drivers rushed through puddles at 50 kph oblivious of pedestrians running for cover from the tidal waves that they were pushing up onto the pavements. Rivers ran in the gutters and lakes formed everywhere. Storm drains are an unknown here. As I said, people forget that it rains - especially the local authorities.

We had taken refuge in Figaro and were enjoying a frappe when it began to rain indoors! The clear roof panels above the enclosed garden were leaking where they abut the walls. Water streamed down the stairs to the upstairs toilets. The tree above Gill was dropping leaves onto our table. The staff occasionally wiped down the tables and once someone came and placed a rainwater receptacle beside our table. So that'll be alright then!

We bought an umbrella and carried on with our business as if nothing were amiss despite the fact that I could feel the steam rising from my shirt. Everybody did likewise. Shops selling umbrellas must have had a windfall today. We just carried on and finished up what we had come for ignoring the inclemency - once you are wet it makes little difference how much wetter you get and after a while you really aren't going to get any wetter!

Back home we unpacked the car during a brief respite and then changed into dry clothing: the wet stuff is hanging yet in the bathroom. Fortunately we had had the foresight to bring in yesterday's washing before we left. The girls had had the sense to stay inside their kennel and were dry and warm when we brought them indoors. As for us, well we dried fairly quickly and a good hot meal later on will complete the transformation from drowned rats to warm bunnies.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Listing to starboard

Lists are addictive, we have discovered somewhat to our cost. The past few days have been full of listing activity and by that I do not mean that we are suddenly like some seagoing vessel leaking oil that leans dangerously to one side. No, it's that 100 great writers list that has been occupying us (we're at about 69 agreed entries currently) and while the process has been enjoyable and tough it's the ability of lists to spawn other lists that is the biggest revelation. None of us outside of G is naturally a list maker and this ability to sprout new lists from incomplete lists is new to all of us.

Let me explain by example if I may: reading some comments on an online thread about such lists we came across come one berating all lists for being ethnocentric - the comment was from a Canadian - and so we all thought, almost simultaneously, of a list of great writers country by country. And so we started such a list: one writer per country. Almost at once we were confronted with problems: do Scotland and Wales get an entry since Ireland has to have one?; do we allow two entries so that we can have a male and a female representative so that we aren't accused of gender bias?; what about writers from one place who write in the language of another?

Well, as you can imagine the discussion descended into anarchy fairly quickly with every man and his dog riding particular hobby horses across the field of play, churning up the bridle path and throwing clods of mud in all directions. Not a pretty sight/site. By this time this list had no more than 7 entries anyway! It was at this point that it became clear that everyone was interested in adjusting the criteria in such a way that they could get their own favourites onto the list. If you change the criteria slightly you can have a different list - preferably one that allows space for your own hobby horse and rider/s.

We all became aware of the potential to create lists that are just subtly different in their inclusions and exclusions to make our own points. To push our predilections if you will. The rest of the week had given rise to hundreds of potential lists and the furore is not over yet - not by a long chalk I suspect. It has been a useful insight, though, into how such lists are probably constructed. We are back on track at present with our original list (and I'm whipping the defaulters back into shape daily) but I have decided to show you a partial list that we came up with that demonstrates nicely how the sublist idea works:


English: James Joyce
US English: Gilbert Sorrentino
Canadian English; Elizabeth Smart
Australian English: Christine Brooke-Rose
Scottish: James Kellman
Japanese: Yukio Mishima
Czech: Bohumil Hrabal
German: Franz Kafka (although from Prague Kafka wrote in German)
Norwegian: Knut Hamsun
Polish: Ryszard Kapuscinski
French: Samuel Beckett (we cannot have a great writers list without Sam)
Portuguese: Jose Saramago
Spanish: Miguel Cervantes
Basque: Bernardo Atxaga
Russian: Fyodor Dostoevsky
Gaelic: Flann O'Brien

I think that that makes my/our point and so I will leave it here for you to think about.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Some days are just dominated by weather. They are here in Felia: in a way that days seldom were in London. Today was one such. We rose to find the sundial in the front garden, the yuccas overturned in their huge terracotta pots, and the outside chairs for the kitchen terrace table somewhere amidships in the quad, overturned and abandoned. The wind was in from Africa.

Southerlies blow in here now and then. Most southerlies are destructive and all southerlies are apocryphally from Libya. Although this one was carrying no sand it was unseasonally warm and phenomenally strong, blowing steadily one moment, dropping away suddenly, and then gusting and roaring around in small whirlwinds as it caught the concealed courtyards around the house and whipped up vortices of homegrown dust, recently shed leaves and carelessly discarded dog ends.

The wind had started last evening around midnight - the wind chimes warned us only moments before a shutter banged closed and a door slammed open. To be honest, we were pleased that the wind was coming: the past weeks have been overcast and still and we have been waiting for something to shift the dull grey blanket hanging over us - even if it meant rain. The south wind often brings rain and since it was full moon we fully expected a change in the prevailing weather pattern.

All last night the wind battered around us shaking shutters and rattling the stove pipe cowl. By this morning it had brought no rain and thankfully no sand but as soon as we had tidied all vulnerable pots and plants away and stowed chairs in the potting shed we settled to the task of getting everything done before the rains arrived. The sky was clear to the north - far out to sea we could see brilliant sun shafts arcing down to the horizon. To the south, above and beyond the mountains, it glowered and threatened - "... not now", it said to us, "but later, definitely later". Spending 3 years on this plot, and most of our time out of doors, we have taught ourselves to read the weather like some latter day Old Moores. (Gill actually keeps a lavender almanac!)

We had finished all necessary and some discretionary outside work by one and adjourned to Cafe Classico for a pair of frappes. Bellissimmo has been very unpredictable in its opening hours of late and Classico faces south so we could watch the front moving across and in in comfort from there. Classico was our regular winter cafe a couple of winters back and since we have resumed using it it is as if we had never been away. We get biscuits, home made, with our frappes and we also get to practice our Greek since the daughter-in-law who serves there during the day speaks no English.

Classico is a family run business. There are several sons - all with wives, and many with children. Georgos, the eldest, has a spotless car body repair shop out back. One of the other sons runs the taxi business. The youngest boy, who plays the music in his noisy little car so loud that I fear for his hearing, runs the local periptero (a kiosk where traditionally cigarettes and newspapers are for sale) that belongs to his one armed father. Peripteroes once had a monopoly on the sale of tobacco goods in Greece and licenses for them were granted to disabled men and men with very large families - father qualifies on both counts - to prevent them falling on the state as dependents. Other sons are in the farming and building trades. And Mum?

Well mum is a real character. Small and round and loud and incredibly jolly, mum is the brains and the force behind this family. You have, if you have ever been to a travelling fair, met mum or glanced her at least. Mum was running the roll a penny stall or the coconut shy. Mum was seen clumping dangerous looking young men twice her size and half her age, with long fuzzy sideburns and slicked back Elvis hair, around the head and chiding them none too gently. Mum kept all of the money safe and doled it out to the rest of the extended family. Mum may be of Roma stock. Mum is a diamond. Mum would, in Royston Vasey, abduct Papaplazarou and make wild passionate love to him in the tiger's cage. Fortunately, mum thinks we're "good people" and that gets us carte blanche and superlative service. Quite why mum thinks that we're "good people" we're not sure but we certainly aren't going to dispute with her! Would you?

After frappes we got back to the farm just as the rain started and so we settled indoors. It has been raining on and off ever since. Gill settled down to stripping lavender while I worked on a design project. Gill has been talked into sharing a stall with Maria from Botanica at the annual Xmas fair in Xania in early December and will be selling some sachets of her lavender there. Lavender stripping is more usually a deep winter project but needs must when deadlines drive and she needs 500 grammes of flower heads to make up the sachets. Meantimes, I was working on the design for her card for the stall. By close of play she had 130 grammes stripped and I had two prototype designs!

Oh yes - and our ADSL has been off air for 36 hours now!

STOP PRESS: we now have a spectacular thunderstorm raging outside - thunder, lightning - the works. The valley is lit like bonfire night in Dagenham.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

... and now, for something completely different

I've been spending far too much time and energy on lost causes and pointless crusades and I have vowed to stop it and dedicate more time to you, my wonderful readers. It is amazing to me that even now, at my advanced time in life, certain injustices and random acts of unpleasantness can rile me so. I have always spoken out against that which I abhor and it has cost me. Over the years I have spent a lot of my time righting and trying to right wrongs. It has cost me emotionally and it continues so to do. Do not misunderstand I am not talking about curbing that behaviour. It's the pointless quests that I'm dropping. Or at least the ones that I can see today as pointless. Too often this flavour of mission becomes a downward spiral much like a maelstrom that sucks me in: time and energy devoted to fighting an inexorable current. I emerge exhausted and without having made a single iota of difference save for having my voice heard and although that is important it profiteth me not. And so I'm saving my efforts from now on for genuinely worthy causes. I'll need to be more selective and perhaps more circumspect.

After the mess that was last week we are concentrating on the farm this week with no deadlines to meet, and nowhere we have to go, and nobody we have to see, and no thing we have to do. A week for the land and the crops. And ultimately a week for us.

The plants all seem to believe that it is spring and are putting spurts of growth on that defy sense. Clover and oxalis are calf high already. Roses are putting on new wood and freshening their blooms. The mimosas are spreading their branches wide while all around them the fruit trees are preparing to shed their leaves and show their winter skeletons. Olives distinguish themselves at last from the leaves and show out: some green; others dark grey and slowly blackening. This month I think, this month. The first stalks of koukia beans are showing among the long grasses between the lavender patches. The bamboo is 5 and 6 metres long in places, waving its fronds far above lav1.

We humans are not fooled by nature's untimely seasonality, we porepare for winter for winter is surely next. Gill excavates drainage trenches around the lavender patches and runs the Husqvarna around and between the circles. The Farmboys burn 9 cubic metres of biomass remaindered from the autumn clean up in a phenomenal bonfire too late for Guy Fawkes but timely enough - before olive and lavender prunings swell the farm litter heaps to Gargantuan proportions as they always do this time of year. I am working on a bamboo sculpture that we discussed with Lindz in the summer and struggle with wire and pliers while eyeing its perspex prototype on the bench and the rough panel drawings above them - I may have to order more bamboo to be cut - I'm sure I shall. The girls make the most of every little ray of sunshine, and heaven knows there has been precious little of it lately, by laying on their very own winter decking and luxuriating in the unexpected warmth that percolates down through their thickening winter coats.

If I am a blogger for writing this does that make you bloggees for reading it? Whatever your title I am grateful for your ears and eyes and apologise for neglecting you of late.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Skype me!

We did our first free phone call last night courtesy of those nice guys at Skype. I've been trying to persuade someone to Skype with me for about 18 months now and finally Lindz comes through. We chatted for about 40 minutes and it didn't cost either of us a penny. Technology wins - at last.

The voice quality was good although there was a little echo on the line just like there used to be with transatlantic calls in the 70s. There was no time lag however and that made the whole experience much better than I had imagined. Lindz was using a Wintel setup and her b/f Stu was fiddling with settings most of the time she was on the call while at this end our Powerbook G3 just worked. We had her voice coming through the internal speakers and we just spoke at the machine - I cannot even remember where the mic is situated. And everything worked perfectly.

Gill was cooking but could hear what was going on and just popped over to put in her twopennorth at will - just like an old fashioned conference call. Admittedly it is strange talking to a computer but no worse than talking to an answerphone machine and you do get proper feedback! If anyone else wants to Skype us, feel free.

Today was the first day for a week when we had no "must dos", no deadlines, no imperatives of any kind. We breathed out and congratulated ourselves on what we managed to accomplish in a week. A day of doing just what we pleased and, more importantly, doing nothing that we didn't want to do was immensely satisfying. We did take the girls for a wander around the garden - seeing them both up past their elbows in clover and oxalis was a hoot and despite the extensive grooming required after the event they seemed to enjoy it. As did we.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Our literary attentions have been turned this week to the existence of lists of novels. They are strange beasts these lists but people seem fascinated and horrified by them in equal measure. Perhaps I should step aside here and give you a couple of links to the sort of thing that we've been discussing.

The Time list - from 1923 onward - novels written in English

The Observer's 100 greatest novels of all time list

As I said, people love and hate these lists in equal measure and everybody who reads such a list will readily identify books that they would have put on such a list that have been omitted and, if they are brave, and the list is ranked, then they will sometimes suggest re-ordering the list - "The Great Gatsby (ranked 38) is a much better novel than Gulliver's Travels (ranked 5)". Very few of these brave and opinionated souls would, of course, care to put in the effort to compile such a list nor submit it to widespread public ridicule, but that is by the by.

Here on the farm we enjoy such lists immensely. Trying to imagine the why's and wherefores of the selctor's criteria is a source of great fun. "Q: Why 1923 as the start date? A: That's whenTime started publication". Commentary on them is fun also - "Is The Great Gatsby a novel or a long novella?" or "Is Fear and Loathing... omitted because it's journalism rather than a novel? If it weren't would it justify a place on he list? " The educational, argumentative, and frankly flippant opportunities such lists and their bastard offspirng give us reason to thank their intrepid producers. Just take alook through this little bunch of comments on the Observer's list if you need convincing that there is sport to be had here.

Because we are all incredibly opinionated when it comes to literature - if you've been reaading this blog for any length of time this will come as no surprise - we've been trying to come up with a way whereby we could produce our own list. And, because we are not cowards but full of our own importance we want to publish it to public ridicule when it is complete. We wouldn't want to spoil other peoples' fun.

In order to get the thing off the ground we have had to come up with a set of inclusion and exclusion rules that are every bit as contrived as anybody else's but which suit our purposes and this has become a major undertaking of itself - see we told you it isn't easy!

So far we have agreed that rather than a list of novels or books it will be a list of writers. It is, we always think, a shame that writers like Raymond Carver cannot make it to these lists because he had the sense to stay away from the novel and stick to his last with the short story. A list of writers then. Prose writers that is, because we, with one exception, aren't big poetry buffs here in Felia. Making it a list of writers rather than particular works allows us to include great writers who have never managed, or have not yet managed, to produce a really great novel. It also obviate the head banging that would go on here about which of a writer's works was his or her best. Choosing Ulysses over Finnegans Wake would not be possible and neither would the obverse decision. So we'll go with the kind of categorisation that the Nobel uses - no one work singled out.

We're sticking with the magic 100 number though. Variously, we have decided that there are 200 great novels or that there are no more than 30 but ... If we go with "A List of 100 Great Writers" we can manage. Please note the use of the indefinite article. As for timescale: well we have finally agreed to go for ALL TIME simply because it has immediate appeal to the avid consumers of such lists. Although, I do have to tell you there is a late vote for "until 2004" as a closing date on the list to ensure that the list is forever in its context. This late vote comes from me and so is very likely to be accepted!

"What about language?", I hear you ask. If it's been translated then it has a chance no matter what language it was written in. Now, that may disadvantage certain tongues, but that's life I'm afraid. If we can have read a book written in Basque it's not a condition that necessarilys exclude stoo many great writers.

So there you have it. We are all butting heads, shouting at the tops of our voices, and dragging volumes from the library to convince other memebrs of the panel (the idea of us as a panel is more than faintly ridiculous). We'll let you know when we finish "A list of 100 great writers who have appeared in the English language up until 2004" (working title).