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

Monday, October 31, 2005

Return of the non-native (with no apologies to Peeping Tom)

Our old pal and correspondent - the Curmudgeon - emailed this weekend while we were "off-air" thanks to OTE (the telecommunications company you love to hate). We've had no ADSL since last Sunday afternoon and when we repeatedly chased it with their inappropriately named "help desk" we ended up losing our telephone connection altogether some time on Friday afternoon. These people do not work weekends and you cannot report problems from cell phones and so we were without telecommunications of any description until late this afternoon. And it's not even as though it was cheap t have these clowns running your connexion to the outside world!

The Curmudgeon wrote " As of 13 hours ago, Spymac blogs are back online -- or so they trumpeted when I logged in to collect some mail I haven't yet redirected to Yahoo or Gmail or AIM mail. Amazingly, after weeks off-line, their blog system does not have a search facility, so I could not find yours without laboriously reading through several hundred pages. Unsurprisingly I didn't bother! Fortunately, I've got your Blogger page in my favourites, so I can always read that at the single click of a button.I reckon that all Spymac 4 needs is one of those 'new, improved' stickers that manufacturers and other snake-oil types like to add to packaging when they have found an even cheaper way to manufacure their sub-standard products and foist them on an unsuspecting public. BTW, have Spymac lifted your ban yet, or are you still persona non grata?"

It's so good to have news that the guys at Spymac are finally getting their act together (irony alert) after only 2 months or so on what was supposed to be a 3 day transition! The quality of the new Spymac, however, has yet to produce the dropped jaw that they keep promising me and I suspect that I am not alone and as for the ban well that really is an interesting story.

During my ban I had a personal chat with one of the co-founders who goes by the name of AtariST - not, you understand, to plead my case but simply to ask for some form of justice! Fat chance! Kevin, no, really that's his name, seemed like a nice enough guy but ... But that's about it. He wasn't interested in justice but he was fascinated by what he deemed my negativity! Yeah, I wonder where that came from? Anyway when my ban was about due to be lifted I emailed said Kev and asked him what time base they were using to determine when my ban was due to end. As a site with international users it is odd, but not unsurprising given their other parochial bents, that they can give you a time but not tell you whether that is GMT or some strange Canadian time basis. Very soon thereafter I had an email from the boy telling me that my ban had been lifted! Result!

Well, not quite. I went to try things out and found that my regular userid/password/3 symbol code combination was no longer recognised. Suddenly - as soon as I'm unbanned in fact - Spymac no longer knows who I am! A fascinating co-incidence wouldn't you say? I emailed this information straight back to AtariST and asked for advice. So far, he hasn't responded! As of now I still cannot get into Spymac and a torrent of emails with their wonderfully helpful tech support team doesn't appear to be getting me any closer. Maybe this is some extra punishment that I need to serve for being so negative. Maybe it's more of the incompetence that I have come to expect. Maybe it's fate. Maybe it's divine retribution but to answer the original query - I still appear to be persona non grata.

He also wrote " I have the impression that you live in the hinterlands of Crete, but notwithstanding that you have two rather unpleasant fellow Brits as your immediate, and uncomfortably close, neighbours. If I am correct, were they there first, or yourselves? If them, whatever made you choose to live next door to emigrate from this fair and pleasant land to live next door to a couple of gobshites in the middle of nowhere? Have you joined me in the land of (rapidly) descending senility? My dear Papalaz, you really don't need to emigrate for that -- you can have gobshites for your neighbours here."

Yes, yes, we were here first. No senility - yet - but I'm working on it. Gobshite neighbours (I prefer to call them the people next door simply because the word neighbours has connotations that they could never live up to, slight though those connotations might be) seem to be in ready supply the world over.

Finally, on my piece about Little Britain he wrote: "So, you didn't like Little Britain. Not a patch on that other lot you take your pseudonym from, you say. For me it's the reverse. Don't suppose you liked Rab C. Nesbitt either."

Strangely enough, what I could decipher of Rab C Nesbitt generally made me laugh. I loved his ability to rant and the comedy was actually clever. Subtitles would have helped though. "Chacun a son gout" as they say, but when it comes to LoG you just go and wash your mouth out!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

very little britain

It surprises me even now that things can still take us unawares. For the first time in an absolute age we sat down last evening "en famille" to watch a DVD. All of the usual suspects were present and Eddie was guest of honour so he got to sit on the sofa between D&G. With a pot of freshly brewed coffee, a clean ashtray and the dogs tucked up in their kennels for the night we were ready to enjoy the latest comedy sensation from the UK: Little Britain.

Reports of this new, award winning, comedy programme had reached us here in Kriti from the unlikliest sources: an article in Vogue, a piece in an eschatological Greek sunday magazine, Spymac chatter (back in the days when Spymac had a community) and this year's crop of house guests. We were prepared to be amazed and to laugh long and hard at this "hard-hitting", "no-punches pulled", "thoroughly irreverent comedy show".

We were prepared to laugh but what we had not prepared for was the derivative humour and characters and the seemingly endless repetition of obvious "gags" - as if we were too stupid to get the point first time around, the sight of a "posh lady" vomitting is either funny or it isn't and repeating it 6 or 7 times with her finally vomitting over the vicar will not change my mind as to whether I find it funny (I take that back, it was funny the first time, not funny enough to laugh though, but it wasn't funny the 2nd time nor any of the times thereafter.

We were prepared to be amazed by the clever and socially pointed humour. Some of us were even looking forward to that part. But we were not to be so entertained. What hadn't been cribbed from the League of Gentlemen (characters wholesale, situations likewise) and its ilk was schoolboy humour badly done. Even the plagiarism was done badly. We were reminded time and again of Inge's pointed comment that the thing was "irredeemably vulgar" and her insistence that there was an implicit promise that it would become funny if you watched long enough but that that promise was an empty one.

Shaun walked out after three minutes. Shem left a few minutes later. Eddie laughed once or twice and Farmboy managed to force a chuckle here and there, but more in sympathy with Eddie than genuine amusement. D&G kept looking at each other inquiringly. Embarrassment rather than entertainment was the order of the evening. I would only hope that the perpetrators of this sham are as embarrassed by it as we were but I suspect that that is wishful thinking.

If this is supposed, as we are assured it is, to be a commentary on Blair's modern Britain then all I can say is that we are glad to be out of it. However, it is not a clever critique. It is rather, a rehashing and cold-serving of the values that it purports to send-up. Not one for us then. And not one to be added to my Amazon wish list.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A frolic of her own

Eddie and Ceddie were up at the crack of dawn this morning; as was Gill. Me, I lay stinking in my pit until the day was properly aired. All three of them had the cellar cleaned up, plants watered, and the dogs sorted before the sun pushed its impertinent little face up over the valley's eastern ridge heralding another beautiful day ahead (or so I'm told). By the time I surfaced all the chores were done and the Farm Twins were suitably attired in their signature Sanfor overalls in that familiar fetching shade of pillar box red. I had to pick my way carefully past them for they were painting the edges of the staircase with a white 100% acrylic (no asvesti here). Gill was sitting outside in the sunshine stripping the lavender that she had harvested just before dusk yesterday evening. I sat with her and started my day in the usual fashion - roughly equal measures of caffeine and nicotine partaken as I watched the sun lighting up previously invisible spiders webs rendered gossamer and sparkling like wet silk by the remnants of the early morning dew. They are draped languidly between the olives in the expectation of snaring unsuspecting insects and, judging by this morning's crop, very successful they are too. Further down we could even make out webs amongst the lavender plants.

Gill was the one who had risen first (before 7): the people who live next door are being a royal pain in the arse and doing their best to make everybody's life, like their own sad little empty lives, miserable. Small people - small lives. Well - no dice here. We just refuse to play that game any more. We get angry but we do not get downhearted or miserable. Her next door hanging over her balcony last evening shouting "It'd be nice if you only tried to set light to your own house!", while I'm lighting a nice controlled garden waste burn in the incinerator is but a minor instance of the paranoia that pulses through the otherwise empty space that is her head.

Gill's anger; the very thing that had stopped her sleeping in was soon given vent when she disappeared down into the fields to do some "serious weeding and cleaning up" - her own words. She took her mattock and the curved Opinel knife and the secateurs and gave those weeds and underbrush a good seeing to. Today was going to be a day for implanting new lavender where old plants had tired but first there was energy and spleen to dissipate! By the time she came up for new plants, ready to begin implanting the Farm Twins were painting the front of the house around the front window having finished the stairs and the lip of the garage roof and when a break for frappes at Bellissimo was called the front of the house was finished, the paint was all used up and all of the implants in lav2 were bedded in. Me? I love work - I could watch people doing it all day. Today I did.

This afternoon was another blur of activity as the twins tackled the establishment of a wood pile pit and the removal of the existing pile into the newly lined pit by the front door. The bottom of the pit is lined with the remnants of last year's greenhouse cover and atop that sits a raft of mulberry branches that raise the logs out of any damp. Gill plugged on with implants in lav1 and began tidying and weeding there too. Eddie's services were required to saw up and root out a massive dead lavender but apart from that the boys worked in tandem all day long. By close of play all of the implants were done and lav1 was looking well on its way - now we just need Babbis and co. to turn up and harvest the bloody French. Finally, they took the rakes and, as they have been doing all this week, they took to spreading what used to be lavender hill thinner and thinner on the ground until it is now no more than a few raised inches of fine brown soil.

STOP PRESS: Lindz has got a job - an architect's practice in the Kings Road no less! I'm impressed: 1 interview, 1 job offer, what a great average! Now all it needs to make our week is for OTE to get off of their fat backsides and get our ADSL working again (out since Sunday and strange tales of "maintenance in Iraklion" is the best we can get from their help desk).

AND, we got a letter from Kell (I only vaguely recalled that she could write - that any of them could - but as they've all got degrees (the 3 degrees) I suppose they must be able to) with a DVD enclosed of Little Britain! Will these pleasures never end?

Monday, October 24, 2005


We've been resting up for the last couple of days: hence no blog entries. The sun finally broke through and has been giving us a late taste of summer even though the farm and all its members seem to think that it's spring. The few stragglers of the tourist trade are walking around with bright red faces and shoulders where they have all misjudged the intensity and UV strength of the sun that hangs in the cloud free sky from 9 until about 4. The evenings cool but do not chill and at this time of year the roads are clear, the cafes are empty, the fields are abuzz with people cutting logs and preparing for olive harvest. This is how we love this island. Wherever yo go there is a faint aroma of bonfire in the air and occasionally we will see plumes of grey white smoke drifting up the valley either early in the morning before the day is properly aired or late in the afternoon just before the light begins to fade.

Mick and Chick are back but sans Maggies this time. We met up yesterday for a visit together and wandered over to the lake to see what migratory birds were in (not many). We had intended to take a lunchtime meal there but every taverna was heaving - the fine weather had brought islanders out from as far afield as Xania, Rethymnon, and Iraklion. We even spotted the odd Athens registration plate among the throngs of cars. The Greeks do love to eat out on a Sunday and the babble and the hubub was just too much. Instead we whisked Mick and Chick off up to Kournas village where we ate at Maria and Nikos's taverna it used to be called the Canary but I don't recall the new name) in peace and quiet with spectacular views across down the valleys and out across the Almyros bay - when the sun shines on Kournas village it's a beautiful place, in a traditional way. The old men of the village gather in the back seats close to the grill and drink coffees, and rakis while they catch up on local farming gossip.

Maria and Nikos had some pork and some lamb on the grill and when you put that together with a fresh winter salad (including lettuce, spring onions and pomegranate) and a few fried potatoes and fresh baked bread it is a veritable feast. All eaten beneath a canopy of closely woven mulberry trees. Slake your thirst with a kilo of local wine and a freshly distilled raki or two and then top the whole thing off with a visit to the 12th century Byzantine church that is currently undergoing a painstaking restoration and you have, in our book at least, a fairly perfect October Sunday. "This is the life" - for want of something more fitting to say. Love it.

Friday, October 21, 2005


The following is taken from a news report on the BBC news site yesterday:

"The US House of Representatives has passed a bill aimed at making it harder for people to sue the tobacco industry for causing cancer.

Lawmakers voted 306-120 in favour of the Personal Responsibility in Smoke Consumption Act - or the "ciggy butt bill", as it has been nicknamed.

The bill, which has still to go before the Senate, follows a series of legal actions against tobacco companies.

A spokesman for the firms welcomed the move to outlaw such cases.

Scott Vinson of the National Council of Chain Restaurants praised the House for "denouncing frivolous cancer lawsuits brought by plaintiffs seeking to blame tobacconists for making them cough".

The council represents brands including BAT, Phillip Morris, and J T Reynolds.

The Republican chairman of the House judiciary committee, James Sensenbrenner, said tobacco retailers were not to blame for Americans' over-indulgence.

"It is not the place of the law to protect them from their own excess," he said, adding that anyone suffering from cancer should go to a doctor, not a lawyer.

The bill's opponents included California Democrat Bob Filner, who said the tobacco industry marketed cigarettes to children and should take responsibility.

Other critics said the bill was unnecessary, since such cases were generally thrown out by the courts.

The legislation will not ban cases involving negligence, such as those stemming from tainted tobacco."

OK, I lied, the actual report was as follows:

"The US House of Representatives has passed a bill aimed at making it harder for people to sue the food industry for causing obesity.

Lawmakers voted 306-120 in favour of the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act - or the "cheeseburger bill", as it has been nicknamed.

The bill, which has still to go before the Senate, follows a series of legal actions against fast-food companies.

A spokesman for the firms welcomed the move to outlaw such cases.

Scott Vinson of the National Council of Chain Restaurants praised the House for "denouncing frivolous obesity lawsuits brought by plaintiffs seeking to blame restaurants for making them overweight".

The council represents brands including McDonald's, Burger King, KFC and Pizza Hut.


The Republican chairman of the House judiciary committee, James Sensenbrenner, said fast-food retailers were not to blame for Americans' over-indulgence.

"It is not the place of the law to protect them from their own excess," he said, adding that anyone suffering from obesity should go to a doctor, not a lawyer.

The bill's opponents included California Democrat Bob Filner, who said the fast-food industry marketed fatty food to children and should take responsibility.

Other critics said the bill was unnecessary, since such cases were generally thrown out by the courts.

The legislation will not ban cases involving negligence, such as those stemming from tainted food."

I bet that the tobacco and asbestos industries are wishing that they'd had the same protection all those years back. I bet the insurance industry wishes so too. Why, I wonder aloud, does the fast food industry get such protection? Is it a precursor to giving the oil and petrol industries immunity from law suits claiming that they knowingly damaged the planet? And the health of billions of people. Could be. Stranger things have happened - like America getting exemption for all of its troops from war crimes prosecutions. Like getting exemption from human rights legislation by claiming that your prisoners of war are not prisoners of war per se and that anyway they are not on US soil - being in Cuba.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

it is are also not raining in kuala lumpur

tis great ere me and cedie is getting onreal wel and the others are OK. we allus find summat to do round the farm and that keep me busy so thats good coz the medicos say i shouldnt think too much it do me know good. Like today we was painting the little apartment next door - just outside coz the inside doesn't be finish yet but now it you look from the table all the messy splashy bits is gone its really nics and white even if it do rian tonite we dont kare. we did have to sand it down before we could piant it.

I miss mum alot but slong as I aren't thinking about it to much it doesn't hurt to much - suppose that makes sensible. It make me laugh that noone asks me how I got here from there I no I wootnt tell them even if he did but its a good storey one day for my childers I think. ifn youd seen the look on theyre faces at the ship place youda laughed to. spose i was lucky it weren't cold as now.

Cedie and me look lots like each other specially now I got some of them red overalls what he is alllus wearing - lives and dies in em mum'd say. I dont know whybut this programm keep putting lines under everyhting I be typing it really annoying. But it was good have the Boss to let me do a iblog thing all by myslef with noone loooking over my shouldre an that SHEM SAY HE'LL GIve it a good name and putit up for me. (Don't know where they big lettres came from). Put it up where Im not to sure but seems it do need to be put up somewhere sos you can all red it. This Makintosh thing is different to my Winders machine in the hostipal it supposed be easier but doesn't feel that way too me. Praps it are waterproof (ha ha - a joke)

Ceddie did say this morning that the Olive's might be ready erly this year and we might all do them together - I'd like that all of us working together in the feelds. jill is being like a mum too me - I do love her muchly.

I figger that are enough from me for tooday so Isll just say nighty might to all of you lovely peeple and sing off now.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The lateral thinker in the family?

G came up with the ultimate lateral solution to the stove pipe problem! She didn't know it when she suggested it but there we are - you don't have to know it's lateral to come up with it. And the answer? A longer ladder or, more precisely, a longer set of ladders. Easy when you think about it and spot on. The issue was always about being able to put the cap back on the bottom of the stove pipe once the flue had been swept. Extending the pipe down looked to be the way to go but after yesterdays abortive attempts to do just that it was back to the drawing board.

G's motivation was how dangerous it looked with one of the FarmTwins up the previous ladder twiddling with six inch stainless steel pipes and juggling a mallet and, as she pointed, out a longer ladder would make getting to the join point much safer and easier but of course if it make the access that easy and safe then why bother extending the pipe at all? Answer; you don't.

A beneficial side effect of this master stroke is that we will, in future, as of today, have access to the top of the flue and the bottom of the flue simultaneously while undertaking maintenance and sweeping! Genius. I only wish that we had thought of it sooner! Job jobbed.

We got the ladders today (6 metres at full stretch, aluminium, a tad over 3 metres collapsed), they wobble a bit (I think professionals would call it bounce but it feels like wobble to us amateurs) but do the job admirably. We are now set for winter stove madness - all we need is a delivery of logs. G even sweet talked the miserable guy who owns our local DIY store into delivering them - and he smiled while he did it! Bramah.

Not content with her sterling performances on the ladder front G even got the new rambling rose planted today. It right up by the front wall between the tall nasturtiums and the prickly pear and a main shoot goes in each direction. I suspect that it's going to look pretty special once it gets into its stride.

Mathes and Georgetown this morning: water and post respectively. The post contained two more online purchases: a Belkin surge protection device (ethernet, power supplies, phone, and ADSL) and a book that Lindz alerted us to; 600 Greek verbs fully conjugated in all their tenses. The book will provide hours of winter pleasure and will definitely improve G's Greek. Whether it improves mine depends on whether or not I put in the effort. It is good at last to be proof against power surges and lightning strikes especially as we seem to be in the midst of thunderstorm season right now.

Betty is playing up again but tomorrow is another day.

Oh yes, thought I'd mention that Spymac seem incapable of lifting my ban despite me having served my sentence. So: banned without explanation of what I said; ban not lifted on time; no feedback on when the unbanning might happen. Kafka could have written this script. The exercise of power without accountability is an awesome thing to see.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Intimations of Winter?

I really do think that winter has started early here. Ever since Aunty Pingu left, well since Peter and Lotti left really, we have had rain regularly and the temperatures have fallen with an alarming regularity - we switched to the autumn weight duvet at the week-end. Lat night the temperatures got down to about 57� F. This time last year we were basking in the high 70�s and it was dry. After a long dry summer it looks as though we might be in for a long and wet winter with nothing much resembling autumn at all. Let's hope that it isn't a repeat of the 2002 winter (our first in Crete) which was the wettest that anyone could recall - the pumping station at the lake was under water for great stretches during that winter and life here was tough.

As it stands the weather is not stopping us from doing very much but if the rain continues then the fields will become unworkable in fairly short order and we don't really need that just yet - the French harvest is still in the fields and Babbis isn't expected back from Denmark until the end of October!

We spent the morning in Reth and when we came back Eddie and Ceddie seized upon the stove pipe extension that we had brought with us with undisguised alacrity. The idea is to extend the pipe downward a metre or so to facilitate sweeping and general maintenance. Sadly though, the current pipe is so badly fitted that even the "Farmboy twins" couldn't get the extension pipe attached (hammers, mallets, angle grinders and copious helpings of brute strength and ignorance notwithstanding). The angles are so arranged that the extension needs to angle backwards toward the exterior wall such that the end would be several centimetres inside the wall if the pipes (new and old are to align) - at the top of a 4 metre ladder and at full human extension this is hazardous work - and even then it's impossible! However, in their travails they did clear the stove pipe of birds' nests and sweep the flue! As to the rest it will require some seriously lateral thinking! The straightforward answer would be to reerect the flue from scratch but without some very sophisticated scaffolding that isn't on before spring. Therefore, it isn't on this year.

On a brighter, more optimistic note we did bring back a beautiful white climbing rose that G has planned into the front garden. The downside is that the woman who helped us load it into the car ripped the headlining in her haste. She was mortified and we were fairly cheesed off but what's done is done and there's no point crying over spilt milk and such and so forth .... Let's hope the rose is worth it.

The new drive gate that the boys put up looks fairly spiffy - 5 metres by 1.2 it's a statement of our intent. Luckily we don't need to open it until olives - it takes two people to shift it. Eddie is talking about putting it on runner but as he cannot draw we will have to wait and see what he can accomplish. It sounds as though it might work! The boy is by no means stupid.

We had some interesting feedback on the stink (yesterday's blog) with suggestions as varied as double incontinence and "sheep's heid broth" so it would seem as though some smells do imprint themselves fairly indelibly on the memory mechanism.

Monday, October 17, 2005


Dontcha just love it when the smart people in the world, and that's straightaway excluded me and Eddie, can't answer simple questions? Ever since he turned up here Eddie's been asking so many questions that it sometimes makes my head hurt. Mostly I can answer them because he's new to the place so there's lots he doesn't know but this morning we were sitting outside the carage having just put the brush-cutter together for G and then I had to give her a driving lesson - well anyways we were sitting down when Eddie looked up and took a deep breath. "What, in the name of all that's fucking holy, is that appalling stink?" He wrinkled his nose and feigned sticking two fingers down his throat. he then did a very convincing mime of someone upchucking violently.

"Now bruv, it's funny you should ask that because it happens every Monday and every Monday it turns my guts over and yet I have no idea what it is. The xtractor fan is always going when I notice it so I've always assumed it's something she cooks - but to be truthful I just can't imagine what it is. It is pretty foul though isn't it?".

"You're pulling my plonker right? That ain't food. No way. Nobody in their right mind, and trust me on this I've got the qualifications, would eat anything that smells like that. No bloody way!"

"I've told you that the husband - Ron - can't smell, he's got no sense of smell at all haven't I?"

"But if she's cooking it, she can smell it surely? Can't be. You'd be vomitting into the pan if you were cooking something that smelled like that... and as for eating it - jesus no. There's got to be another explanation - lets ask the boss when he turns up next."

And so, awaiting the return of the boss, we got on with the new drive gate that Eddie designed using plegma and bamboo. Attaching bamboo to plegma involves lots of wire and twisting so by the time the boss turned up we both had cuts all over our hands and sore wrists. Luckily ,the stink was still with us and the xpelair was still running flat out."

"Boss, is she boiling horse hooves, fish heads or something equally hideous in there, 'coz it smells like the old knackers yard in Dagenham that we used to pass on the way to school?"

So, Eddie had been trying to identify the amazing aroma all morning! Well, to cut a long story ... the boss called G up from the bottom of the garden where she was planting out the chestnut tree (she'd finished cutting the lawn and planted out some thyme before the boss shoed up) and we had a "family forum" (it's great that Eddie's invited to these nowadays - makes him feel right at home). So we had the combined brains of D&G&S&S and the upshot is that nobody really knows. D&G seem to think that it's some concoction of bones and chicken's necks and livers that she boils up and feeds to their dogs - god help the poor curs, don't they have it hard enough already living with the living dead? Shem, who's usually so inventive and coruscating, begged to be excused because of the smell and Shaun finally came up with my favourite explanation: "When I was alittle boy, and Shem was a litlle boy too, we used to live in the bogs of Ireland. Now Ireland in those days was a poor country - this was before they discovered how to milk the EC dry and you must remember that we are now, in the beloved Bohumil Hrabal's phrase, advanced of age - and the Kleenex corporation had not set foot on those benighted shore so everyone used proper linen handkerchieves. The constant damp of the emerald isle and the smokey peat fires played havoc with the phlegm and the handkerchieves (what a lovely word that is) became very heavily soiled over time. And so, every housewife had a special saucepan, usually aluminium, and a wooden spoon reserved for just this disgusting job. Every Monday your woman would boil the family's hankies - and boil them - and boil them. And that, my chums, is what I think happens next door every Monday morning!"

Sunday, October 16, 2005

LibraryThing - a thing about book collections

During the past week I've been playing around with a website called (don't worry about typing the URL there's a link to it on the right side of this page just under the "iPower blogger" ad - just click either the "my library" link or the "powered by LibraryThing link to see the full thing) and although it's far from perfect it does offer some fascinating social things involving books - like finding people who share books with you; who has a library like yours and some other stuff like the LibraryThing widget on this blog.

Ostensibly it is supposed to be about cataloguing your book collection but in some ways that is its weakest part. OK, they now have an import feature but it is a very blunt instrument (despite it being touted as the Swiss Army knife of imports) and after my last import I spent damn nigh two days de-duplicating the results. If, like me, you have a lot of books with no ISBNs then getting your collection online is going to take you a while.

Gripes aside (for now anyway) I've managed to get a fair chunk of my collection online ( aboout 790 so less than half more but than a quarter) and I can play with the fun, social, features of LibraryThing that make it so addictive. I can see, for example, which books I have that nobody else has (well nobody on LibraryThing anyway). I can see how widespread the literary canon is among book owners. I can kind of peek into other peoples bookshelves and see books by writers I like that I haven't seen or heard of. I can get self-penned profiles of people who use LibraryThing.

There isn't a real community thing going yet but I expect it to happen - people who have common interests tend to chum up on the internet and book collecting is a pretty consuming habit/passion - and I can imagine active members spending a lot of time on the site. You are allowed to write your own reviews and that alone could take forever.

There's a Zeitgeist page on the site that is host to some statistically based lists that deserve a look:
25 largest libraries - surprisingly this top out at someone with a library of nearly 9,000 books (I guess the haven't ever thrown anything away);
Top 25 books - Harry Potter and Da Vinci Code crap tops this list depressingly, although Catcher In The Rye sneaks in;
Top 25 authors - J K Rowling tops this list - not surprisingly but there are a fair few sci-fi authors too so I suspect that there are a lot of SF fans on LibraryThing.

Currently the total number of books catalogued on LibraryThing runs to 499,939 but that only amounts to 271,030 unique books 271,030 - not too shabby but one wonders whether this is a representative sample.

There's one thing on the site that fascinates me and that I've emailed the owner about: when comparing your collection to find "similar libraries" one of the factors that is taken into account is the "obscurity" of your books! I suspect this may be a raw ratio that has to do with how many of the books in your collection are not owned by anybody else but nonetheless it's an interesting idea.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


It was nice today to see someone standing up to America's roving bully-girl and headmistress. Little Condy got a little more than she was expecting when she went over to Russia to round up those ex-reds to her cause of punishing Iran for having the temerity to want to be energy independent. She was not expecting to be disagreed with. She isn't very good at that. Nobody in the US administration is. It really isn't difficult to see where recent Nobel laureate Harold Pinter is coming from in his comparison of the Bush government with Hitler's Nazi Reich.

On Friday, the US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, accused Iran of spending 18 years of trying to develop nuclear weapons. He told the BBC that Iran wanted nuclear arms to intimidate the rest of the Middle East and possibly supply them to terrorists. Not like Israel then! Now folks, isn't this all beginning to sound like the sort of nonsense that the Bush administration cooked up as an excuse to invade Iraq?

Tehran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only. But then again Iraq did keep insisting until the bitter end that it had no weapons of mass destruction to declare until the US and its tame puppy the UK, without UN backing, invaded their sovereign state, overthrew their government and discovered --- Yes, that's correct - bugger all, is what they found.

Reading between the lines, and it is difficult when everybody is making so much noise and using so little reason, it would seem that what really pisses the Americans (and the Europeans too if it come to that) off is the idea that any nation could be self sufficient in energy and therefore beyond the threats and blandishments of the soi-disant "big boys". Especially one that already has oil and holds threat over the US. The US and the EU bloc both want to make Iran's nuclear energy programme dependent on their good will and Teheran finds this unacceptable. I think that that is understandable. Moreover I think the US understands, and sympathises with, the idea of energy independence. Just not for a bunch of Arabs.

The depletion of the natural oil reserves of the planet were foretold in 1972 and the US has done nothing in the intervening years to reduce its dependency on this energy source despite its own dwindling supplies. Nothing that is except to destabilise the middle east further, invade a country or two to ensure its continuing supply and deny that burning fossil fuels is a threat to the global environment. It is interesting to note that if you do your research carefully that you can find the "research establishments" that young GWB depends on for his views on global warming and, perhaps not surprisingly they seem in the most part to be sponsored by or offshoots of oil companies.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Cop story

The big red Citroen joined the Rethymnon carriageway from a small turn on the right and proceeded at its own pace. The stately, plump, DS sailed along in the inside lane until just before the Episkopi turnoff where it indicated left and turned abruptly into the car park of a beach front taverna.

The occupants could have been Alain Delon and Brigitte Bardot. Both wore dark glasses. Both were strikingly attractive. The driver manouvered the Citroen through a knot of badly parked cars and nudged it in alongside a large blue and white four wheel drive boldly stencilled with the single word "POLICE".

No one got out of the car. The windows - were they smoked or was that just a film of dust? Someone peered anxiously from the bar over to the freshly parked car that was now exactly parallel to the police car. And then, just as the hydro-pneumatic suspension began to nestle down the driver's door opened and a tall man in a black hat emerged. He wore dark glasses and moved elegantly around the rear of the Citroen to the passenger door, picking his way meticulously around a puddle or two that lay there still from the previous day's rain storm. He opened the passenger door and a woman stepped out. Dark glasses and a large brown hat topped a strikingly red, tightly tailored dress. Shorter than the man, but equally upright and poised, she demounted the big limousine in complete control of herself.

His right arm wrapped around her shoulder and suddenly they were closing on the bar. The two policemen, who had watched their entrance entranced, instinctively checked their holsters. Black pistols, matt and snub, peered out from the safety of the tight black leather harnesses. The blonde policeman looked quickly over the tops of his sunglasses at the couple as they closed on him and his colleague. Better safe than sorry was this blue eyed Sfakian man's motto.

His rotund partner swallowed a mouthful of bitter frappe and briefly checked his cigarette in the ashtray. Their eyes met and the slightest of nods passed between them. The couple moved past them in a trice looking sideways and signalling momentarily to the waitress who greeted them with a "Hello" in English. The man nodded his assent to an unasked question and the couple settled themselves into a front row table where they could look out over the white sand into the cerulean bay. The brilliant sunshine dappled their table with a gentle light. There were only a handful of late, desperate, sun worshippers on the beach on this bright October day.

Moments later, the selfsame waitress brought two frappes and two glasses of water to the table. The man had already lit an Assos and seeing this she brought them a clean ashtray. A nod of thank you and they were left in peace.

The policemen drank their frappes and left. The red Citroen was left in her solitary beauty - dominating the car park. The policemen glanced inside as they left.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


I thought that we did well the other day predicting the winner of the Man Booker but today the announcement that Harold Pinter had won the Nobel was literally out of left field. Indeed, so unexpected was it that when G read it out to me I thought she had said Pynchon. Not that I have no regard for Pinter it's just that I rarely consider playwrights for the Nobel: poets and novellists yes, but playwrights no.

The first news item I read about the award threw me for a while because the headline mentioned Pinter as a "controversial writer" and I thought "well maybe in the 60s and the 70s his style was controversial but surely that's all done with now?". On reading the piece it became clear that it was his current political stance that they were referring to. Now Pinter has called Tony Blair a mass murderer for his invasion of Iraq and has compared George W Bush's government to Nazi Germany (Pinter is a jew whose suffering at the hands of anti-semites in his youth helped to form his politics and his work) but surely that is all marginal in the award? Maybe not.

Firstly let me congratulate the artist and the ingenuity of the panellists who chose him. The BBC report acknowledged that Pinter is the UK's finest living playwright and elsewhere he is lauded as one of the greatest playwrights of the twentieth century. The academy however duly noted that "Pinter restored theatre to its basic elements: an enclosed space and unpredictable dialogue, where people are at the mercy of each other and pretence crumbles." and also said that Pinter's work "uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms". I suspect that the academy understands the importance of Pinter more than do British critics. Along with Beckett, Marlowe, and Shakespeare, Pinter is up there with the greats of all time.

Despite this encomium it is not without a hint of politicking that Pinter was chosen. The Swedish Nobel awards panels have been having a sly dig at the USA with this year's awards: first the UN's nuclear watchdogs and now an anti-Iraq war campaigner. I am sadly reminded of all the previous politically motivated Nobels for Literature (Alexandr Solzhenitsyn immediately springs to mind but there are quite a few in the last 30 years). I don't mind people having a pop at the USA's appalling foreign policies but when such political imperatives can be used to impugn the worth of a recipient it's all wrong.

Three cheers then for Pinter (although I still think Thomas Pynchon or Gilbert Sorrentino or Harry Mathews might have been better choices - all Americans though).

Three boos though for the Nobel committee for muddying the man's award.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The big apple event

Somehow the fates conspired to deprive all of you lovely readers of a meaningful blog tonight.

As I sat down to start this evening, hoping to get done before the Apple event got underway Rachel from the Dutchies rang and by the time we'd finished it was time for the Apple event to start. I searched around to find a live feed but everything was buttoned down fairly tight at the venue - they apparently had guys patrolling the floor looking for people blogging!

I finally found a site that was putting out updates and watched, refreshing regularly, or rather had reported to me the gist of what was going on. New G5 iMacs, slimmer and with built in iSight, plus a couple of new iLife apps. That was about the sum total of the computer announcements.

The rest was all about iPods and iTunes - interesting stuff for gadeteers but not really computer stuff at all. It seems to me that Apple is less of a computer company these days and more a gadget/entertainment company. I worry about the company. The demand and success of the iPod line may have diverted them from their primary purpose in life. I can see how SJ would be overwhelmed by finally being a leader in some field but this is not the main business of Apple - or is it?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Pissing absent-mindedly, D peers past the tenaciously ugly pergola that the people next door erected on the front of their house almost as soon as they moved in and have never used. He is looking over toward the Drapanos whence all their weather arrives. The flies of yesterday are still in evidence and he swats pointlessly at one, micturating freehand - "Look Ma, no hands".

The pressure easing on his bladder he recalls several occasions in the recently passed night when he has lain awake listening to the rain beating at the shutters and lashing the balconies and he prepares himself to deal with water ingress when he goes down to the cellar to make the early morning coffee. The sun reveals itself to his intent gaze but the concrete of the garage roof glistens from recently fallen rain. It is too early for this much rain. It has to be an aberration.

Pausing only for a "Good morning" he stumbles into the clothes that he wore yesterday and, still drunk or hungover from yesterdays exertions he hobbles downstairs. His corn is playing up and his arthritis twinges in his back to remind him, lest he should forget, of the ineluctable mortality that he shares with the rest of the world. Mortality yes, but I could really do without being a cripple first.

He recalls smiling how they had trudged mudshod from the fields yesterday, covered in burrs and spattered with the pale clay coloured, almost white, nearly chalky, earth of Felia. Which is it, clay or chalk? I don't know. Exhausted and battered, the sensitive skin on the inner surfaces of his forearms reddened and scratched, he rubbed them gently now in memory and found that they were still irritated, they had sat outside and congratulated themselves on their travails before the rains had come back and driven them, all four, into the house for the evening. A cozy evening in with the dogs and a wholesome meal of ham and potatoes with G's special tomato and onion side dish. The body heat of the dogs warming the air and imparting that strangely homely, farm-like scent of animals to the cooling space.

D checks the balcony and the threshold by the front door; the usual suspects for leakage in such conditions and heaved a relieved sigh as he finds everything dry. Just the north facing window in the cellar to check - and the rain had sounded as though it were coming in from the sout-east. We might have got away with it!

This morning no personalised, individual rain cloud waits for him and he nods gratefully to the skies as he picks his way over snails and past puddles down the cellar stairs. No sign of the girls yet. The must be still in their kennel. Sensible girls. No watering required this morning. He looks up and grey clouds have gathered over the valley while he has been pursuing his reveries. He puts the key in the lock and turns it clockwise pushing open the stable door and then he sees it!

An abstract, patternless as far as he can tell, menagerie of earthworms has arranged itself across the pale grey tiles that cover the floor down here. Obscene in their sheer numbers, some wriggle yet: toward what? Still others, dried and crusting already, lie in self made tombs of mud that they have excreted. How many? Forty or fifty? he stops counting after 20. He has to clear them before G gets down here for she would surely freak at idea let alone the sight of this tableau. He finds them under the bookshelves. Under the desk. Beneath the rug in front of the sofa. Nestling dead and dried under the wine rack. Whenever he thinks he has scraped up the last worm there is another to be found.

A somtimes writhing, Medusa like, pile of worms builds up by the back door where he has cast them. Some incapable and some unwilling to move on they huddle together: the quick and the dead together in a mass that brings to mind the photos of human corpses he saw of Belsen at the liberation. Or was it Dachau? Cambodia certainly. The final insult to his senses comes when he has swept this hideous pile off into the undergrowth and checked the cellar is clear. He lifts the outside doormat and there, under the damp rubber, fleshy, wet and writhing are another 40 or so.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A real ragbag

A real rag bag tonight I'm afraid. Bits and pieces. Ends of roll. Apart from 4 hours when we got out and cleared a load of weeds behind the incinerator area it has rained on and off all day. It started badly when I got up this morning and despite a sunny prospect it rained on me as I left to go downstairs - there was just the one rain cloud in the entire sky: directly above my head - thanks!

In a world that relies on sympathy, philanthropy, and pity, to address disasters and injustice I feel genuinely sorry for the peoples in Guatemala in particular and central america in general who are suffering the devastation left behind by hurricane Stan. Being second on the list of "deserving causes" behind those affected by the earthquake in Asia must be a bit of a bummer.

The earthquake in Pakistan set me wondering about the sort of nuclear ambitions that that country has and how readily it would pursue it's choices if there were real penalties associated - likewise with India, Suppose for just one moment that International Agreements were drafted in such a way that some kind of natural justice were involved. For example: "if you want to have nuclear weapons go ahead - it just means you agree not to be eligible for any disaster relief aid or and food or foreign aid of any description". On second thoughts, there is an inherent injustice in that too because it would be the populace who would suffer while the decision to have nuclear arms would be made by politicians - it would have to be reversible somehow in order to permit the electoral mandate to change things (not a solution in Pakistan though - the don't look likely to get democracy any time soon despite being America's big buddies). I guess Saudi Arabia might be prepared to swallow such a pill to get level with Israel.

The new Rachel Whiteread installation at the Tate Modern looks wonderful. It takes up the entire Turbine Room and if you've ever been there you'll know just what a gargantuan space that is. If you've not seen it check it out (it appears in the BBC News site under Entertainment! is the BBC so politically in thrall to the masses these days that it doesn't discriminate Art and Entertainment?). There's not a lot I miss about London life but Tate Modern is one of them. I often used to catch the 77 bus down to the South Bank and spend a couple of hours in the Rothko room!

In the next week or so we can expect to hear the winners of the Nobel prize for literature and the Man Booker prize. Whispers have it that Joyce Carol Oates and Philip Roth are up for the Nobel - they're both good novellists but the Nobel? Julian Barnes is favourite for the Man Booker and I personally believe his best work is behind him - John Banville might be a better choice.

G has spent most of the day when not helping out with the weeding, killing vast numbers of the flies that have been plaguing the entire area since the rains started - more power to her swatting elbow say I.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


With thunderstorms forecast for today and a glowering sky overhanging us when we rose today the work schedule for Sunday was going to be a challenge for all of us. We've been in such a mood of "can do' since Aunty Pingu left this enchanted isle that the very idea of an enforced lay-off was anathema. Despite aches and pains all round we were all working out the tensions and the muscle spasms within minutes of rising. The diurnal chores provide a great warm-up for tired, and damaged, bodies - and the minds and wills needed no prompting.

The Farmboy twins, as we now refer to Eddie and Ceddie had successfully painted the potting shed ceiling yesterday and had followed that up with a second coat for the exterior thereof. The gravel had been spread in all directions and awaited a real test - thunderstorms might just do the trick.

A new layer of the small gravel covers the path to the girls' run and the gravel inside the run has also been topped up ready for winter. The tomatoes have been trussed and tied in preparation for wind and rain. What more could need doing? Surely today, being a Sunday, should qualify as a day of rest? Not here, not with this cast of atheistic characters. Everyone was raring to go - to defy the elements and carry on. And then the phone rang!

Well, that phone call put a crimp in all our plans - a nice crimp but a crimp nonetheless. The telephone does not ring here often but that it's a wrong number or "lathos". Our number is, but for the final digit, the number of the local hairdresser. Given that it was a Sunday it was unlikely that this call was a "lathos" and so it proved. Voula and Baby Stelios were on their way round for a visit. And so we passed a pleasant hour or so with our close neighbours and friends, catching up on gossip and local developments, exchanging news of family and friends, discussing travel plans (Voula's not ours).

Al this while we sat outside for the day was warm, but still the skies threatened and once Stelios and his mother had been escorted back to the taverna all hand were figuratively put to the pumps. The twins finally lit the bonfire that they had been planning for days. The rubbish and building materials under the olive tree outside Georgi's apartment was cleared away and or tidied into his cellar: weeds were uprooted and fed to the roaring fire to clear the way. The accumulated DIY detritus that had been building in the carage since the moratorium on fires was declared in May went the same way. When the rains eventually arrived everything that could be burned had been burned - the incinerator smouldered on for an hour or so but the big clean up was achieved before the weather closed us down.

Now if tomorrow is fine (or dry at least) there is the area behind the incinerator that needs weeding out, the front garden could do with some weeding and tidying, there's a plant or two that needs potting on, there is more white paint left and much to be painted; the upstairs back shutters need rubbing down and Gorriing .... Is there no end to what needs doing? No. None.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Pearls before swine

There is a remarkably high number of Philistines out there and "I'm agin it". Would you believe that the old boy posted a triptych of well crafted 50 word fictions in the "Creative" thread of a well known, but badly regarded, online community and got zero feedback! Zilch, zip, nada!

The only person to respond at all was our new foreign correspondent whom we have dubbed The Old Scrote: and he spotted the little gems on the blog rather than in the Creative area to which they were originally contributed. And we suspect that his enthusiasm might have been partially motivated by senility and sycophancy. All right, I withdraw that - he isn't that sort of guy.

The reason that I'm cross about this is that the old boy isn't all that gifted literary-wise, as our execrable cousins across the Atlantic would say, and he worked really hard at these things. Not content with the initial constraint of exactly 50 words for the story he added his own constraints to two of them: no Es in the second fiction and only the vowel E in the final piece (that one was really difficult). And then he added another constraint which was to reference within each piece, obliquely admittedly, the Georges Perec text on which each was based (A Void and The Exeter Text respectively).

Now even if they weren't literary masterpieces (and I could certainly have done better) the sheer ingenuity should have raised some commentary. It bothered me for a couple of days until that proverbial light went on in my head (an oddly technological analogy that) - none of the so-called "creatives" had even spotted the artifice! DOLTS! Creative? I think not - these people clearly do not recognise a poetic constraint when their collective nose is pushed into it! Constructive criticism and well judged encouragement is beyond them. Personally I suspect that the "creatives" there use the forum in just the same way as poor talentless poets use vanity publishers. Sad but true I fear.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Late arrivals at the PoMo ball.

The Zoo

This place becomes more and more bizarre as time passes - and that if you recall happens moment by moment. In all the fuss and furore around the leave taking of Inge the artist we completely forgot to tell you (well, those who have been monopolizing this blog of late forgot to tell you) that Frambot's mad brother turned up. Do not ask when. Do not ask how. Do not even ask where he came in from. We simply do not know.

Were I a fan of Startrek I would suggest that he must have tele-ported in. Unfortunately, I am not mentally defective and so his sudden, or rather his gradual, appearance (I shall explain that odd observation momentarily) is more of a mystery than is his personality. Eddie is a really great guy but his centres of rationality and verbal reasoning defy comprehension. Eddie is clearly a law unto himself and he does not seem too ready to explain or justify anything. Almost a primary force in fact. Eddie just is.

And Eddie just appeared here. No fore-warning. No itinerary. Zip. The guv'nor didn't have to collect him from the airport - we do not even know whether he in fact flew here. When I say he just turned up that understates the very oddness of his arrival: nobody saw him arrive; nobody yet knows when he arrived; he was just around; and not suddenly. Personally, I first saw him yesterday and initially I suspected that I was seeing things. I went to check on Frambot's progress with the painting of the potting shed and as I turned past the foot of the stairs to the winter sun terrace I saw not one but two sets of the familiar, signature, red overalls! Four inch brush in hand, he was applying the 100% acrylic paint with a gusto that exceeded even that of the Frambot. No wonder it all got done so quickly.

Shaun apparently spotted him on Wednesday evening but thought so little of it that he didn't think to mention it to anyone else. Farmboy seems to have been the first to notice his presence (I'd so like to use "arrival" but it would be inaccurate and inappropriate) but says he cannot recall when that was. Who knows when he turned up; or how? We have a general agreement that we shall draw a veil over the how of Eddie for the time being and just learn to live with him for now. Since when did primal forces need explaining?

He has fitted in so well this younger, more attractive, stronger, version of Frambot that it's almost spooky. We hardly know he's here. If it weren't for the fact that everything around the farm is getting done in half the usual time we'd scarcely register him. It's only when you see them together, and that's most of the times you see them, that you genuinely apprehend the magnitude of the strange appearance of Eddie.

This afternoon he and the Farmboy spent spreading 3 cubic metres of pea gravel an inch or two thick over the area in front of the carage in preparation for winter. The idea is to mitigate the mud bath that usually accretes there over the wet months. To see the two sets of red overalls dipping and swivelling in unison as they dragged their rakes across this immense heap of gravel was to witness the nobility of labour! They expect to finish tomorrow and if there is enough left over they'll resurface the path to the girls' kennel and fill in some gulleys. And after that there's the front door to paint and another coat of acrylic for the potting shed and then ... Well the list is growing and energy levels are high so we shall see.

As if this blog place were not nutty enough we have picked up another foreign correspondent in the last couple of days. As you all already know we get the odd missive from our northern correspondent, the well respected, Finn McEskimo. Well, the Guv'nor has now taken on a nonagenarian curmudgeon and soak - probably to help out with the moaning and carping. He seems like a nice old geezer (I have to read all his stuff, naturally) and at least it's easier work for me, and more entertaining than screening Eddie the Idiot's stuff used to be. This guy can string English together into real sentences with subjects, object, verbs - the whole schmeer. He comes from a different stratum of society than we do but that shouldn't prejudice us - or you - and he also has a healthy disrespect for authority so that's a few brownie points right there. In his last piece he was going on about these DIY plans that his wife has landed on him that seem to involve re-modelling a mansion and repurposing about six different rooms. So no lack of ambition there then. I think he forgets that he's old - really old, older than the Guv'nor even! Tales of hammering screws and scraping wallpaper (and plaster) gave me a laugh and I hope to edit something up in the next few days (I just realised it's the weekend tomorrow perhaps I'll have something for you by Monday! If not never mind.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


For those of you who have not been paying attention (wake up at the back there - for Gods' sake, a bloody nonagenarian spotted it) we did not fulfill our promise to resume normal service. We have at least worked out what it is and we are gradually coming up to speed on doing it but this time round we dropped the ball. I could say it was all down to unforeseen problems with our fibre channel backbone but I'd just be lying. Or Spymaccing as we now call it in the business. Of course it wasn't fibre channel. No, it was ADSL.

At about eight thirty Felia time yesterday morning our ADSL connection disconnected itself and ... And the rest is history - Forthnet and OTE squabbled about whose fault it might be and we didn't get a resolution until about 3 this PM. We still don't know what happened but we are back online and that's enough for us. Don't even ask how the same entry got posted twice - I don't have a clue and anyway the duplicate has now been removed so if you wanted to gloat - you're too late.

We have been getting the farm back on an even keel though. Washing is all up to date. The new avocado has been potted out. The bean patch has been cleaned of weeds and grasses. The trees by the front door have been topiared (a verb back-formed from topiary - I quite like that). The section beside the stairs down to the cellar have been de-weeded. The potting shed has been painted outside. We got 23 litres of spring water this morning. Post is all up to date. We have a litre of LHM on order from BP for Betty's hydraulics. The nasturtiums and the kalahoy are making strong strides toward returning to their pre-drought flowering states and some of the nasturtiums are actually in flower. Tomatoes. peppers, and runner beans are all cropping again.

We are waiting to hear from Babbis, Janina, and Maria as to when the french lavender can be harvested and distilled - big excitement this one - but suspect we will have to wait for full moon. And, finally the soil is staying moist so morning watering has become a more relaxed and relaxing affair.

See what we can get done when we get round to it? If you add to these energy levels the the fact that I picked up a fortnight's ban at Spymac on Tuesday I suspect things will rip along for a while yet. Weather permitting.

The ban is interesting though - it was imposed for inappropriate language but I have no idea what I said and they don't answer my emails requesting enlightenment. How, I ask, am I going to be able to avoid a repetition if I don't know what I said that was deemed inappropriate? They have this draconian filter on that substitutes innocuous baby words for expletives so I really don't have a clue.

Wait though, it just occurs to me that it might have been when I suggested - in response to yet another cock up - that they try Volume Testing! Yeah, that could be it - I guess.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Normal Service will be resumed - when we work out what it is

We fully expect some semblance of normal service to be resumed in this blog sometime real soon (no that's not a Spymac "soon" - that's the real thing). Aunty Pingu bade us "au revoir" at Xania airport today and suddenly the bandwidth began to clear. We stopped off at Souda for a coffee and sanity break on the way home and we've been chilling ever since. This evening is comparatively so cool it is almost beyond belief.

Normal service - what in the name of all that's righteous does that mean given the disruptions to service that seem to have begun in August? Since Lindz left it feels like everything has conspired against any kind of normality here. Farm and blog DO have levels of normality but getting back to them is going to take while. Shit, even recalling what they might be is going to take quite a while.

Autumn is holding court here right now and while we do not believe for one moment that summer is done we will behave as though it were. Then we can be pleasantly surprised.

Gill's bougainevillea is having a new show and now looks like a real little bush. Not only that, but the gardenia is flowering and looking remarkably healthy on a diet of benign neglect! There are several blooms on the rose that was only a cutting last year at this time.

I suspect that the plant world thinks that it is spring again.

Bonfires and chainsaw noise fills the valley these days. I'm up for a bonfire when the northerlies drop a tad.

Monday, October 03, 2005


Ferreting around on Spymac yesterday I spotted an item in the forum Writer's Block entitled 50 Word Fiction. Necessarily, it piqued my interest. Having an affinity with the Oulipo movement writing within constraints fascinates and challenges me. A challenge like this was not to be ignored.

Needless to say by noon when it was time to take young Inge to the beach for her final dose of ultra-violets I had in mind word sketches of an idea or two. Never one to stint, I composed a fairly straight ahead 50 worder to get my writers muscle toned - something with portent and a sombre tone - and then I struggled for the rest of a sun soaked afternoon with two more in the mode of Perec and with an extra constraint larded on. Eventually, I managed to work the titles, or references to those titles, of the progenitor Perec texts into the bodies of these tiny gems.

And so I present for you here 3 small, polished, 50 word fictions in which I am well pleased:


She lit another cigarette; the ashtray overflowing. She ordered another coffee. She unfolded the crumpled note once again and stared, unbelieving, at it.

"Your husband and his lover were found dead this morning. Both men appear to have taken cyanide".

She cried another silent fistful of those cold hard tears.


A gun in his lap Jack thinks about his past. "Without Anna, it all adds up to nothing - a void. Finish it now. Do it!"

A shadow falls across his glass and his hand grasps firmly, involuntarily, to his salvation.

Swiftly and with a loud bang, his brains fly away.


Even when they were seventeen they were, she knew, perfect. He engendered envy even then. They entered Exeter peerless. They left heedless.

She knew the legend. He knew the legend.

Here they were less well sheltered. Every element seemed extreme. Where here were the meek?

Were these then, the lees?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

One of our blogs is missing

It's been interesting getting feedback recently but ultimately it doesn't help me decide. At the end of the day this gets written for me. My readers matter but they do not determine what goes in here or where this gets posted - it's my dilemma and there may yet be a Solomonic solution.

I do regret not being able to get my blogging history back given that it represents almost a year of my literary creative output. For reasons beyond my control it is as though somebody just burnt my manuscripts and that isn't a good feeling. This has hollowed me out and although I have copies of most of the basic stuff I had hoped that Spymac was the home for the Circus long term. Without it's calendar context, the images, the comments and the original layout it is a very different piece. Thousands of words and hundreds of ideas lie now in some limbo and I do not know if I shall ever have them back in tact. I worry.

I feel cheated and let down and it annoys the holy hell out of all of us that we have been treated in such a cavalier fashion. As if we didn't matter. As if our readers didn't. Were I to let him off the leash Farmboy would be out right now looking for one AtariST with the express intention of doing him some very serious physical harm. The empty blandishments and supposed re-assurances of the owners of Spymac and their incompetent and surly technical staff, sparse though they are, are no substitute for the services and facilities they promised. Do they not care or are they really so pathetically incompetent that they can do nothing to rectify matters short term before bringing the whole shambling monster to birth?

But ... if I were to be totally honest I would have to confess to a career in IT that tomorrow "celebrates" its 38th anniversary and admit that my industry has seldom, save at the very beginning, shown any more respect or understanding than this current debacle. One of the favourite sayings in IT is "IT would be really good fun if only it weren't for the users!". It is usually said as though it were tongue in cheek but believe me these people mean it!

Sad. I am sad. Spymac is sad. Sadness suffuses all of us.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


From our Northern correspondent, Finn McEskimo

Hi Papalaz,
I've been wondering why I read your blogspot column so rarely though, as you know, I value your texts and I'm interested to know how's things down there. Thinking about this I found out a pattern that's common to all blogs - and likely common to many a web surfer, too. I'm not interested in reading magazine columns in the web, so as I still may bookmark some really good one, I soon realize I've forgotten them. Literally, I don't surf twice to a blog of someone I don't know. Then again, there's folks that mean something special to me, those I've grown to know more or less well. With these I might send email and talk in dedicated sites. There's two sites in which I socialize with Finnish people and in Spymac I've learnt to follow and take part into international rumblings. In these contexts I'm interested enough to read blogs frequently. I also pondered whether I'd move my belongings and continue my forgotten blogspot account - but came into a different conclusion than you: as untrustworthy as Spymac would be, I'd either continue there or in some other site where I'd feel like being inside a community. So, I'm still waiting for the blog function to come back.. and to be honest, would like you to join the band as soon as they get the garage ready for us :)

So, what do I think about this? What do the boys and girls here on the farm think? Quite apart from raising my level of anger at the shabby way Spymac has treated us contributors and our audiences it has given me pause. Before Spymac went down the plug-hole I had between 40 and 50 readers daily and by no means were all of them Spymac members. Each and every one of them has been discomfitted and inconvenienced by the Spymac debacle.

I think though, that Finn's got something here. Especially the bit about community. His analysis seems sound and I have no reason to doubt him. I may not like it but I suspect he's right. He is certainly spot on about Spymac's untrustworthiness - and trust is going to be difficult if not impossible to repair.

As to whether we will restore the circus to Spymac - well that was our original intention, blogspot was meant to be a stop gap - who knows whether we will? I suspect we may. As we often say at the circus - we shall see!