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

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Bandwidth Hog

Some house guests are like some websites - bandwidth hogs. Some are modem
level guests - you could get by with a 56k dial up line while others, and
Inge is a notable example, require a full 8mbps SDSL connection or
better. That is not a criticism by any manner or means. People
are just like that - some demand more attention and give more in return:
they are intense, concentrated life forces. Inge is one of them. Her
artistic temperament may have something to do with it although I strongly
suspect that she was like that long before she discovered her artistic
bent. And that was somewhat late in life.

And so, if you were wondering why this blog has been thin to absent in
the last few days there you have it. No excuses - just an explanation. My
mind has been absenting itself from the writing task since it has been
fully occupied elsewhere.

To catch you up with what has happened twixt-times suffice it to say that
the day we had to collect Inge from the airport Betty started perfectly
and ran like a dream all the way into Xania. However, we had made
allowances, fiscal and temporal, for having her fixed by Kyrie
Theodorakis and so we took her in to his shabby workshop in the back of
Gogoni and asked for her to be checked over for problems while we scooted
off to Xania for coffee and a little window shopping (no, for the 10th
time we didn't buy any windows -and that really isn't even mildly amusing
let alone funny so don't use it again - please!). At our leisure we
returned to find that they had changed spark plugs and a couple of HT
leads and replaced the petrol filter! They pronounced her "ready to go"
and off we drove, smooth as silk, confident as a gigolo, and a mere 85
euros lighter of pocket. She has performed beautifully ever since,
picking up effortlesslyt from under 1500 revs even on inclines,
overtaking with bags-full in reserve and generally acting like a spring
lamb full of verve and vigour. She does however have a few odd rattling
noises that were not there before her visit to the man! Nothing is for

We were determined that we would treat Inge's visit as an opportunity for
a holiday for ourselves and so for the past 2 mornings the cellar has
been getting only a lick and a promise as opposed to it's more normal
thoroughgoing scrub and polish. The watering rituals have been curtailed
slightly but that has been in deference to a raised humidity and less
evaporative daytime temperatures. And for 2 days we have been to the
beach where the weather has smiled and the sea has welcomed all comers
with its smooth and gentle and clean caresses. Episkopi beach at this
time of the season is inviting and yet mostly empty. Asteria is yet more
friendly and relaxed now that the main frenzy of the season has passed.
It is impossible not to relax into the late summer lethargy when you are
surrounded by it and we have no intention of trying.

More good news: Inge loves the way we have hung her work and described
the wardrobe that features her screen as exquisite and dramatic - praise
indeed. She even expressed admiration for the John Tierney painting that
we bought last year though she is no great lover of the abstract schools.
Tomorrow promises to be fascinating - we are taking her into Xania (by
bus!) and we plan (among other things too numerous to prefigure) to visit
John's exhibition (the last day we think). Artist meets artist! A recipe
for disaster did I hear you say? I'll let you know how it works out.

Monday, September 26, 2005


We would seem to be into Autumn with the weather - precocious Autumn and not to be trusted to last but we have to treat it as it comes. Mornings are fine but cloudy. afternoons cloud over and threaten. Schedules need adjusting to reflect this.

Wouldn't you just know it? Having sorted out oil and water on Betty I took the opportunity this morning to clean out the back seats - dust about one eighth of an inch thick - in honour of Inge's visit. It was hot as hell in there - even with the windows open - and I sweated like a pig. The clowns who have been clearing bamboo in the field 3 up from us with a JCB dropped a load of crap in the road and on Betty when they left yesterday so I cleared that up too. And then, when it was time to go out for a coffee she started like a dream but seems to be misfiring on one cylinder so she lacks power and sounds a bit rough. Typical of an old woman - you lavish attention on her and she behaves less well than when you neglect her! Looks as though we'll be dropping in on Kyrie Theodorakis on our way to the airport tomorrow - bugger!

I've taken the opportunity that the cooler afternoons have offered to get both the girls up on the stripping table over the last few days and they look so much better for it. They are both very well behaved on the light leash and will stand for an hour or more without complaint nowadays. Molly no longer looks like a teddy bear. She has matured into a very nice looking Irish under all that fluff - a great lay in of neck and shoulders, good deep chest (plenty of heart room) and her back legs are a revelation now that we've lost the cowboy chaps. She looks like a real powerhouse moving away and her head has fined down while her ears have come up a touch. We could show her - I think. Bridey is a different kettle of fish altogether. It only took me a couple of hours to sort her out - her coat is gorgeous and was just ready. She has always looked the part and this time round I left a bit more hair on her ears so that they sit better. Elegant and ladylike she's a real eye-catcher. I suspect that she's too big for the show ring though. She also has the most amazing furniture - hard almost to the point of breaking and just enough of it to really impress.

I also trimmed the palm yesterday and G had her hair done last week so it's only me that looks like a shaggy beast. C'est la vie. And I don't care.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Stormy weather

An afternoon of spitting rain and impending thunderstorms has drained me. For the past two nights we have watched from the upstairs terrace the most spectacular electrical storms running around out to sea. The weather forecast has, however, been consistently upbeat showing only clear warm days ahead. The actual weather has not matched the forecast for several days - humidity is way up and clouds have been regularly obscuring a hot sun. Sweaty days have been followed by clammy nights.

Around six this evening the skies darkened and several minutes thereafter the clouds disgorged their pent up rains. Or at least they began discharging it. On and off since then it has rained in heavy outbursts. The atmosphere is oppressive and tells of more of the same to come throughout the night. We've not had the thunderstorm yet but we expect some action around midnight which is when the last few evenings' entertainment has started.

At least it means we won't have to water the vegetables and pots tomorrow morning! Look on the bright side. The olives should be swelling nicely now. The beans too. And the tomatoes. Plenty of bright sides when you think of it. And the car will get a wash.

Fortunately we got everything that had to be done today finished before the overcast weather set in and the drizzling began: chores, laundry, some painting, the palm tree trimmed, lavender tidied and blooms cut, frappes at Bellissimo. I even got the water and oil topped up in Betty before it all kicked off.

It looks like the girls have forgotten what rain is all about though. Molly stands on the decking looking at it and getting soaked while Bridey goes into the kennel and refuses to get her feet wet at all. They'll relearn the procedures in time but September is early.

Inge arrives on Tuesday and goodness knows what she'll make of it all.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Dog swap - a supra-earthling phenomenon

You know? Sitting here with a fag in one hand (if I use the word fag on Spymac some odd piece of simple minded US-centric technology replaces that word with the word stick - go figure) and a bottle of beer in the other (a small bottle and clearly not constantly in my hand or else I couldn't type) and with a for-once friendly and helpful muse sitting lightly on my left shoulder (heart side) encouraging me, it is indeed difficult to imagine any one thing much better. I love it when it's like this.

Driving back from Rethymnon this morning (see it starts early somedays) I was considering the peculiar nature that is my own - the contradictions and the ways of them. I was being overtaken very slowly by a huge truck moving constantly at a speed somewhere about one half of one kilometer an hour faster than I was and I was turning the grey cells toward a summary of that oddness. Even though I devote 100 percent concentration to driving there is always spare processing power in the background that deals with linguistic and creative stuff and this engine had been motoring all morning. I finally came up with the following: a designer by inclination; an engineer by profession; an artist by volition. I like it muchly and if you can see the juxtaposition lighting the contradictions it is, I think, quite neat and succinct.

Let's get to the matter in hand though: dog swapping. Breathing life into Molly and Bridey is incredibly satisfying and yet there are always back stories piling up, waiting to find their spaces in the non-narrative narrative skein of their tail. It is a matter of no real effort to see where a God character would get his jollies - all that creating and inspiring!

So, for once I decided last night to drop one of the M&B back stories into the other side of the blog just for my own gratification. Like it or lump it.

M&B have a disconcerting trick that they play on earthlings and from the outside - that is subjectively - it looks like this: you look at them and say, for example, they are playing book ends (they often do dog swap when they're doing symmetry). Molly is lying to the left of the kennel (east) facing outward (north), Bridey is to the right (west), also looking north, their poses are identical mirrored copies each of the other. You fix the image, for it is a perfect vignette and visually striking, but you look away briefly and when you look back only fractions of a second later you realise that Molly is now on the right of the kennel and Bridey is to the left. Double take. No, that is how it is! How did that happen? When did they do that? You've just witnessed dog swap. Alternatively Bridey is on the sofa and Molly is under the table - you glance away and when your gaze comes back it is Bridey who is under the table and Molly who is on the sofa - and neither seemed to move. Dog swap.

And that is what it looks like - as if they had teleported into each other's positions. That's not actually what happened though and here I'm going to let you into a secret. Neither actually moves when they do this. D&G had a remarkable insight into this when they noticed that it was just the bodies that changed places - or seemed to: from that point on it would oftentimes seem that Molly behaved like Bridey and Bridey like Molly if their personalities are closely observed. Think on it and I'll tell you how it works another time.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Of companions and familiars and intimates

"At last" sighed Bridey settling down on the south facing sun deck and adjusting her bones and elbows for comfort, "I'd begun to think that we'd never get this tail back online. How pathetic are those clowns over at Spymac? One technical glitch and it's like Armageddon� again. Humans huh?"

"Can we please not get back into that Socratic dialogue thing again? Shem and Shaun do it so much better and anyway I don't like plagiarising�. Not even ancient history. Not even stylistically. So: if you want to do this as a monologue or a soliloquy� that's fine by me. In any case my throat's sore from all that barking last night. Cats! But remember the topic is: companioning - the 3 orders. Let's try and keep some continuity."

"The three orders: companion, familiar and intimate. Half way decent humans can get given to a companion. Witches and wizards, warlocks and wiccans: any human on the losing side of things might, if they are lucky, get given to an intimate. Nearly perfected humans get intimates - without exception. With the nearly perfected human the idea is to get them over the final cusp that humans have so much trouble with. Familiars are supposed to do redemptive duties: drag them back from the brink if you will. Companions are there to nudge perfectibly human beings into something further along the road toward perfection.

Unfortunately, it doesn't always work out according to the grand plan and that's where the fundamental flaw shows through. Most companions get their jobs done - no problem. Intimates, like us, have the hardest job pushing humans over the final hump and run the biggest risk of failure but the selection criteria are rigorous and we get a good success rate. About 42% last time I checked the stats. It's the familiars that let down the figures most often. Personally I've never trusted the training programme for those operatives. The Gods've always said that you really need intimate level training to take on that job but we don't have enough intimate trainees coming through the programme and, of course, we cannot be spared - perfection is the ultimate goal after all. The problem is that so many familiars get completely wasted by the exposure. Take those next door - they were all good specimens; they all did their best; but at the end of the day, they are all going to have to be retrained. Rehabilitated and retrained! And they've all failed. All ten of them! And that is the fundamental flaw at work."

"Very good sis. So you were listening in class! As far as it goes that's very good. And, for our purposes here I think that'll pretty much do for now. And what will become of the humans?"

"I think that they'll probably be left to their own devices. In their own language they have a saying that is a bowdlerized� version of one of our truisms: "The Gods only help those who can help themselves".

Thursday, September 22, 2005


I love Johnny dearly and I happen to think that his Ode to Autumn is a bit of as stunner - odewise - despite having had to do it for O-level but he clearly never did an Autumn here in Greece despite hanging out with the club footed boy.

Autumn here is about sounds and smells. And light!

During the long dry hot summers every prospect that you look at turns into a badly overexposed approximation of what is really there. The human brain, good though it is at image processing, just cannot deal with the light intensity and the phenomenal contrasts that it throws. Everything hazes to indistinct once the sun is in the sky. Look too long and strange motile wiggly cellular structures cloud your sight only to be replaced by heavy black blobs when you eventually look away - as look away you must. Not in Autumn though. In Autumn it is as though some extremely talented optometrist has just fitted you with invisible, imperceptible, lenses of magical clarity. Ground by the gods these new lenses pick out every fine detail, each subtle shade and shadow. Sometimes the intense clarity of Autumn light confuses me into thinking that I have an incipient migraine. I am often reminded here and now of the indescribable optical clarity that accompanies the imbibing of LSD.

And then there are the sounds. As temperatures calm to the workable people start to visit the valley again: with chainsaws and tractors. They come early and often stay until dusk. Acoustics do odd things in this season of sounds. Is that pick-up coming toward us from left or right? Is that JCB coming or going away? And that loud male Greek voice - is he in our fields or beyond the river? The mufflers of summer are off and sounds carry their indistinct and ambiguous messages to us from all directions.

When summer fills the valley with dust and heat only the smells of herbs and insecticides register but in Autumn the olfactory palate is filled with rich and unusual smells. That smell this morning. What was it? Familiar: I know it or knew it. A dew had settled on the irrigation pipes overnight and I brushed it from the taps as I finally registered. That smell. It was the smell of damp earth. Rich, and promising so much fertility, it is a smell I had forgotten but one I will relish in the coming months of a second spring. Make no mistake, Autumn takes the plants by surprise here and fools them into another blooming. Already the nasturtiums are budding. The bottlebrush is full with its wonderful and incandescent red wands. The runner beans are cropping heavily and one can actually begin to see the thinner, weaker branches of the olives begin to bow under the weight of their fruits as the trees drink deep draughts of the rain that fell last week. The wise men of the land have taken their grapes in already. The foolish and the idle procrastinate.

A background, slightly sour, smell too. One that reminds us of jobs to do before winter sets on. The oozing smell of mats of hair holding on to stale soap suds in drains and sinks.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Frambot, or perhaps I should be calling him BambooBot, or even PandaBoy, these days given his apparent obsession with that grass, its products and the uses thereof, was partially disabled today. Before you begin to worry and start bombarding us with comments (to comment on this new blog just click on the 0 Comments text that follows the tail of the blog entry and you'll get a dinky little window to enter your observations or counter arguments in. Click on the little envelope beside it and you get to send us a private email comment!) I should explain that what happened was this: he was deprived of his overalls for a day! Disabling for a boy who lives, sleeps and, may eventually die in them but hardly life threatening.

The signature red Sanfor overalls were beyond grubby but it had proven difficult in the extreme to separate a boy and his best friend so we resorted to subterfuge yesterday! The Guv'nor pretended to need to borrow said overalls in order to test out his new telescopic loppers on the olive in the road outside the house - loppers by the way that PandaBoy, I'm convinced, has his eyes on for trimming up the bamboo hedge at the river's edge - and, having separated man and material he then proceeded to put the stinking, filthy things in soak (ironically the spirtle used to agitate this hideous mess is itself made of the selfsame bamboo that obsesses the boy himself so). Hoorah, for a bit of constructive deception - and for Vanish.

And so they soaked all night, and most of this morning too, until the sun had burnt off the cloud and a light zephyr rummaged through the tops of the heavily laden olives. At this point they were rinsed and hung out on the garden wash line. A stout man with a stick stouter still was required to stand guard until they were dry since the BambooBoy was showing classic withdrawal symptoms by this time and was parading around in a particularly unbecoming set of khaki shorts and looking much like a desperate hombre (he was sporting three day's growth).

Well, the upshot is that boy and breeches are now re-united and we are all able to breathe deeply in their vicinity once more. Sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice the comfort of the individual, albeit temporarily, to effect improvements to the lot and living standards of the majority.

They even came out red again!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Getting back into the swing of this thing has been so easy. Setting aside think time and write time was seldom a problem before the enforced layoff and now the brains are buzzing with unreleased neuronal activity. The combined synaptic energy around here could power a small town on the best of days although admittedly on off days it would have difficulty lighting the proverbial Toc-H lamp.

A little topical stuff to get us off to a gentle start: the death of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal may have been mourned by many but not here in Felia - a vengeful and angry man he did little to promote peace or understanding and kept a flame of retribution burning despite his advancing years, you had to question his motivation! On a similarly topical note, I'm watching, fascinated, the wriggling of the EU as they try to find a way of allowing Turkey to begin formal admission procedures when it stubbornly refuses to recognise one of the member states: shouldn't that, wouldn't that, under any normal circumstances, be a disqualifying behaviour? Isn't it amazing the hoops that "trade" can jump through and still feel itself morally sound? Not a pretty sight and given that the UK government is pushing hard for Turkey, despite its appalling human rights record is scarcely edifying.

I was pleased with the way the backbone upgrades worked but until today there was one remaining niggle - the Powerbook G3 would often lock up and refuse to reboot. Last night it occurred to me that this used to be a common symptom if USB devices were drawing too much power between them. Today I dug out an old Belkin powered USB hub and attached the 802.11G adapter and the Expert Mouse through this device. So far no lock ups! Fingers crossed that this has solved the issue. We do still have issues with Safari and Spymac - Safari crashes quite regularly but this is no ttoo bad as there is little to go there for these days and if we do visit we now use Firefox (the new beta is sound). Besides, Blogger prefers FF anyway.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Farmboy speaks again

Well, beat me with a rolled up and oily copy of the News of the World and call me an inveterate blogger but us guys here have sure missed you all. Didn't think I'd ever say it but ... Somewheres along the route we have all gotten accustomed to having our say now and then to you good guys and ladies out there and when those incompetent apes over at Spymac foisted an unexpected, unwelcome and, so it looks at present, interminable enforced layoff on us we soon started to get the old cold turkey symptoms. We all enjoyed the rest for the first couple of days but soon thereafter it got to be a right royal pain in the chatsby. And, when we realised we had no idea, and what's worse, no say, in when we'd get back online we understood that we were missing blogging.

Some of the old crew kept in touch, a tip of the hat to Liam, but the much vaunted "community" at Spymac crumbled without their infrastructure. The twins suspect that some of those sad little boys over there may have topped themselves in the lay off! So, perhaps it wasn't all bad especially if it was some of the jerk-offs who haunt the Sanctuary and push their bizarre ideas against all reason.

The extra couple of hours freed up by the enforced layoff were rarely put to better use and until we petitioned the Boss for a new place to pitch our tents we spent hours discussing the rank incompetences, technical and otherwise, of the Spymac bunch. Piss up and brewery come to mind!

Enough of that. Let us draw a veil over the episode and proceed in orderly fashion from here on in back along that delightful journey of discovery that the Papalaz Channel had become. Personally I can't wait for the next episode of the Molly and Bridey tail. That and Eddie's arrival. But before Eddie comes we've got Inge coming to stay and she's one tough cookie! P&L leave tomorrow and a week just hasn't been enough time to get to know them properly.

We all had a good night out at Mesostrato yesterday night with Profit and Loss and the raki flowed into the early hours - the first few hours this a.m. were a bit of a write off! It's great to be out with people who know how to enjoy themselves!

Me? I'm fine. A few niggles physically but hey! none of us is getting any younger and times around here aren't too onerous right now so we have some hope of recovering before the onslaught returns. Mind you, the rains have started everything to sprouting around the farm and the brush cutter could be getting an outing real soon. Still, the olives are swelling and the bottle brush tree is a sight for sore eyes so no carping!

Well done to the Boss for finding us all a new site to pitch tents!

Sunday, September 18, 2005



We have arranged a new home for the circus since the place we were last encamped turned out the lights on us and they themselves are currently running on candle power. In the search for a bigger, better, faster user experience they turned our lives into a blind man's nightmare. Technical incompetence and towering hubris on their part left us all feeling, and being, left out in the cold. And still we have had no mea culpa, no apologies - just a constant bleat of "... when it's up you'll love it..". Well, we won't!

This'll have to be quick because we have visitors - yes, more of them. Pete and Lotti turned up this week and we're off out to see them later for a meal and possibly some liquid refreshments too!

Sitreps on the dramatis personae are n order:

G is fine and is having a brief respite from lavender although the French is going bereserk since the rains (it absolutely hissed down all of Friday leaving us with mudslides into the girls' run and some small amount of cleaning up to do). She'll be getting in touch with Maria about harvesting and distilling this week we think.

Farmboy is complaining of aches and pains that few folk die of. He has been a brick clearing the mudslide and cutting new channels to encourage the rains to go elsewhere next time. he has also paintede the outside of the garage which is now all laspied up.

Shem and Shaun: well, you know them; as disputatious as ever and sparking all over the place with their wit and wisdom.

Me? I'm just fine. I replaced our IT backbone in the last weeks so we now run a mixed 802.11b/802.11g wireless network throughout the house and that (mercy be, and, lorks a lummey) connects to an ADSL modem/router that gives everyone access to the world wide websphere at 384/128! Constantly. Like, as in always on! Whoa, lets hear a roar of approval for Forthnet, OTE and the guv'nor (me) who made it all possible and eventually got it all to work (Spymac take note: downtime was agreed and managed properly within time and budget).

More another day and remember - you are all welcome at this circus.

Alternative Blog Home

Having become increasingly disaffected with Spymac and their "service"
(now there's a point where quotes will not convey the depth of the irony
intended) we have found a new and or alternative home for the circus to
pitch the big tent upon.

Stay tuned