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

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Reading and re-reading

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


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

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

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

Monday, November 28, 2005

Who plays piano on Nina Simone tracks?

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 27, 2005


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it does.

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

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

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

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

I'll try.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Radio! Radio!

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

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

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

Friday, November 25, 2005

Mystery intruder identified

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

This is the link Chick sent me to resolve the matter

and this is the Wikipedia entry for the moth.

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 24, 2005

What is that?

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


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

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

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Reckless child abandonment

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 21, 2005

Not Till the Red Fog Rises

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 20, 2005


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

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

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

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

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

Great day all round thanx for asking!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Drowned Rats to Warm Bunnies

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 18, 2005

Listing to starboard

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

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

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

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


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

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

Thursday, November 17, 2005


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

... and now, for something completely different

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Skype me!

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 12, 2005


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

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

The Observer's 100 greatest novels of all time list

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Little luxuries

That's four days running now that I've been out in the car while Gill stays at the farm and does useful stuff. Today it was a trip to Lidls to pick up shopping that we couldn't do on Tuesday. Two trips to Xania, and two to Rethymnon. Tomorrow we're off to Xania (3 in one week?) but this time we're taking the bus. Halleluah! A day off.

As you ask, the car service went off with only a minor drama or two. I won't go into detail. Betty should be fine for the beginnings of winter now. Speaking of winter we've been lighting the stove in the evenings for the last few days - not you understand because it's so cold but simply because it's a sensuous and comforting experience. I light it when we go up with coffee around 11 and we sit on our huge sofa with the stove going, dissect the day, maybe watch a DVD, and luxuriate in the sheer wrap around warmth and scent of the wood burning. It also turns out that the ashes are a great free fertiliser and slug repellent and now that we've got the ashcan that the Farm twins made they will be put to proper use. At the end of a session with the stove we get off to sleep easily after a brief (sometimjes too brief) session with our books. Soon, no doubt, the stove will become an essential but for now it is pure luxury. Indulgence if you will.

We had mail today from Aunty Pingu who was here a while back and she included some great photographs of her stay. It is not often that we get photographs of the two of us together (one of us is always taking the shot - usually Gill). Some nice profile shots - you can tell she's an artist just by the composition and framing - maybe not a photographer but she knows the human form.

That's two real, old fashioned, letters we've had in as many weeks. What a wonderful form it is. So, if anyone is thinking of writing to us in pen, on paper, in an envelope, please do!

It just occurred to me that tomorrow is the last weekday of this week and I'll have been out every single day! More importantly I've been out on my own every day. That will not serve as a model for the future. We spend our time together.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Threat of the Threat of Terror

When a war-monger sticks a Poppy of remembrance in his lapel, a smug "this lady's not for turning" look on his face and in his voice and proceeds to lecture me about the overwhelming need to undermine my human rights and subvert my unwritten constitution you must forgive me but I a remain unconvinced. No, strike that, I remain firmly opposed.

After The Falklands War the sight of Margaret Thatcher at the Cenotaph used to make me sick. Blair is going to provoke the same gag reflex but Blair's hypocrisy is, if anything, more barefaced than was the Iron Lady's.

It seems to me that the threat of the threat of terror is now the most terrifying force in the world. Sadly, this is exactly what I predicted on the day of the New York bombing of the Twin Towers. It certainly strikes terror into my heart every time I see one of the proponents of "anti-terror" legislation rise to his feet (it's almost always a man - Condoleeza Rice excepted) and call upon democratically elected governments to limit the democracy and liberty and human rights that they were put there to uphold and protect.

We live now in a world less free than it was. We live now under a barrage of news about torture in American run prisoner of war camps, America's secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe, their use of hi-tech napalm on civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq. Blair is complicit in all of this monstrous behaviour - and the justification? It's the only one in town these days: protecting ourselves against this threat of terror. The threat of the threat of terror.

Australia this week passed extremely restrictive legislation only this week using the threat of the threat of terror and this just days after we had been told that several major terrorist attacks had been averted using pre-existing legislation and techniques. If what was there already stopped all of this terrorist activity why do they need more restrictive legislation? The threat of the threat of terror.

This very day Blair will address the mother of parliaments and demand the power to hold suspects for 90 days without charge. His reason for these new powers? The threat of the threat of terror.

Now I probably believe that all 3 leaders are convinced of the need for these actions but it is worth noting that all 3 of them were also convinced that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction or at least that they were prepared to say that they did. And they were ALL wrong: even though none of them is happy to admit it. Why believe them now? Why let them have their way destroying or at least weakening out rights and liberties? The threat of the threat of terror.

Rights and liberties hard won over many years should not be lightly discarded. They are easier to remove than to re-instate. Perhaps you can see why the threat of the threat of terror frightens me so much.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

CAUGHT! Again.

By the time we read the signs it was too late. The sun was bright and the interior of the car was warming as we drove toward Rethymnon to shop today. The road was surprisingly clear, to our left the sea was playful and rollers came shoreward without hesitation. Near to our beach, we passed a police stop point and laughed when we saw that they had pulled a fire engine over. The mood in the car was bright and gay. Early winter days here can be so cheering.

The kombos (interchange) at Rethymnon was deserted and that was out first indication that all was not well. As we drove into the town proper we noticed that kafeneions and zakaroplasteia (pastry and cake shops) were the only ships open. Soon we picked up knots of people - usually a couple of women with a bunch of small children - each child clutching a balloon. The streets were empty. The traffic ridiculously light. To all intents and purposes Rethymnon was shut!

When we were finally confronted with an empty car park, bereft of any staff it was obvious. It was a holiday or feast day! But which one? We had had heavy plant outside the house this morning clearing hedgerows and that was demos (local council) work. Council staff do not work on holidays. Everything in Kavros had been "business as usual". Gill pulled out the Greek diary that has every nameday and holiday noted and consulted it before we left the car. Still nothing obvious. OK, so it was SS Michael and Gabriel's day but even so ... Families with balloons was incontrovertible proof though! Reth was closed!

Of the litany of things that we had wanted to do we managed only to buy some good Guatemalan coffee and enjoy a long relaxing frappe in the dappled sunlight inside at the Figaro cafe. There was no indication of what was happening. No posters. No announcement placards. Nothing. Dribbles of small family parties passed us but outside of that nothing.

Despite our ambition having been thwarted we drove home two very happy campers and finally everything was explained. We dropped in at the supermarket Ariadne where Maria explained that it was a special feast day in Rethymnon, and only Rethymnon. The celebration of the destruction of the Arkadi monastery. Byzantine history we discovered, and an episode of enormous heroics by a Cretan.

What chances a trouble free service tomorrow? So far, this week is refusing to go to plan. Never mind.

Monday, November 07, 2005


All contributors to this blog have been officially warned today. There will be no more open faced disclosure of the cryptic titles to blogs. Individual queries will be dealt with on a case by case basis but revealing the mysteries is now officially frowned upon - it might even become a sackable offence. All staff at the Felia offices have signed what we laughingly refer to as the Non-Disclosure Agreement(NDA): they agree not to disclose the existence of nor the solutions to their own or anyone else's puzzles and I agree to let them keep posting. It's a bit one-sided I know but then again this is my blog first and foremost and I get to write the rules.

Diatribe done: external contributors warned. We can now get on with a swift farm update a les Archers (oh those were the days - when one could tune in to Ambridge twice a day and for an hour and a half on Sunday mornings).

This week got off to a stinker of a start: up at seven to be out by eight to get Betty to Adonis by 9 to have her serviced and returned by 1. Well that was the plan. Somehow, well planned Mondays here turn into shambles, ashes in the mouth, debacles, call them what you will - something or everything goes horribly wrong and threatens to ruin your week before it's even started. I drove all the way to Kosta's workshop in Xrysopigi only to find that Adonis wasn't there. That he had to work at this other job today. That he hadn't told Kostas I was coming. That Kostas was fully booked. And, that there is no chance that the service will be done before Wednesday! I left and drove back home furiously, furious.

I could have let it wreck the day and sour the week but why? Shit happens. Here, it happens a lot. Especially if you try to plan things. Instead I picked up a paintbrush and a can of Hammerite and got cracking on that front door that's been crying out for a fresh lick of paint for months. Well, right after I had been on the phone to Adonis I did! So, I'll probably end up going to Xania 3 times this week and Reth once - so what? It's not as if I had anything planned to do with my week is it now?

And Wednesday for the service? We shall see.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Florence Nightingale

"You gonna sit there all night guv? Coz if you are I'd ask you politely to take that bobble at off. I like to be able to see what's occurring in ere and that headpiece is kind of in my way if you catch my drift?"

"Thanks pal, much appreciated. I ought to warn you though that if'n you continue sitting there then you're likely to be earwigging my life story before I get round to falling off this stool some time around closing....................... You OK with that? Good. Not that it's very interesting like, its just what I do. A few of these inside me and I talk, I talk a lot unless I'm in a mood and I'm not tonight so your safe."

"Yeah I know I'm not actually sitting on the stool - it's a figure a speech thing: falling of me stool means getting blotto, rat-arsed, Brahms, legless: pissed. You don't actually have to be on a stool to fall off if you see what I mean. No, as it appens I don't sit on bar stools. I prefer to have me feet firmly on the ground. Feet under the rail, elbow on the bar that's ow I spend a lot of time. Always ave, ope to God, always will."

"I wootnt say no, That's very kind of you. Mines a Ram & Special John. You don't mind if I call you John do you. I'm not so good with new names anymore and John's easy to remember."
"My name? John, actually. John Johnson same as me dad - parents never had much imagination. Still, it's easy to remember - even pissed. The coppers always appreciate it if you can remember yer own name. Less likely to run yer in. Or so they say."

"Cheers then John. The Special's always good. Clear and golden, like liquid nectar. Bert keeps a good cellar - always as. You wanna try a Ram in that when you get half ways down. Adds a bit a bite if you know what I mean?"

"Yeah I could tell you weren't local. Not a trace a cockernese about you. Talk quite posh if you don't mind me saying. Not stuck up or plummy or anything just posh. Good family? Grammar school that lot?"

"No, not me, lived round ere most a me life. Work just round the corner -well about ten minutes walk. Twenny if you're staggering - and most nights I am. But that's another story. So you could say this is my local boozer - not that it's local as in the nearest, no I walk past half a duz boozers to get ere. Just drinkers really. No character. Not like this place. Old Watneys places most of em. Cant get a decent pint for love."

"Great Ormond Street - for sick little kiddies - quite famous it is."

"Yeah, well, you would've, woottnt you? Like I said it's famous, ennit? World over let alone England................ Scotland? What, you're a jock? I wootnt a guessed it. That's what a posh schooling can do for you! Amazing. Bloody amazing."

"I was? Character, you say? ...............Oh this place, you mean? Yeah, Yeah, Right. Gotcha. Like I always say, it's got character and it's got characters if you know what I mean. Its old and whatnot and what wiv the beams and all the little bars and the bare boards and all it's got character yeah? Right, course it as. Oodles of it. This bar was the old spit and sawdust when I first came in here. Tell the truth, they only got rid a few years back. Yeah, I got one a the old spittoons back home - pewter it is - it'll see me out. But the characters well they're a different kettle if you get my drift ........."
"Looks like you could do with that Ram now. No this one's mine. No, put yer money away. I'm not some old moocher. Never let it be said."

"Bert! Bert! Can we ave some service over ere? There's a coupla blokes wiv their tongues anging out over ere for want of a bitta service. Thanks Bert, yes, and a bottla Ram for my mate John ere. See ow e likes the ouse specialty. ............................. Delivery this morning Bert? Yeah lazy sods - nine o'clock? Time was, the old dray'd get ere by seven thirty, five an twenny up at the latest. Well, its just a job to these new blokes ennit?......... Cheers Bert."

"Cheers John. Waddya think? Yeah, it does doesn't it? Makes it go down smoother somehow too. ........................................................."

"What? Sorry mate I was away wi the mixer there for a bit wasn't I? Appens sometimes. Last few years I just been finding meself drifting off. The doc says its the drink but I don't know, Maybe its just me age. Characters, you say?"

"Well, just look over into the snug. No don't turn round! In the looking glass - se the bloke wi the empty sleeve? Black jacket, beret, gray tash. Gottim? See the crutch beside im? That's John that is"

"No I hadn't, but now you mention it he does look like Stanley Olloway, or even Boris Karloff on a good day, not one them mummy flicks, I spose. Anyways, John's a bona fide war cripple. Goes up the Cenotaph every November. Medals, ribbons, best bib and tucker. The works. Met the QueenMum one time too. Says she went to shake his and and didn't notice that it werent there till it was all a bit embarrassing. Not for im - es used to it. She flushed up though. Or so e says. No, I don't know what war. Tell you the truth I ardly ever listen these days. Galipoli - something like that. Lost is right arm and is left leg! Makes it a bitch to get a decent suit as e says. You gotta laugh. If you go over and buy im a run e'll tell you all about it. If you've got a few ours."

"Wass the time? No, it's behind me, yer whelk. Oh yeah looking glass, right. Just after five an twenny past nine yeah? Rose'll be in in a few minutes. Now Rose is a a real character. Bit of an alky if you ask me. Eart of gold though. Her old man used to be a painter. Not decorating painting. No, the artistic sort. Ad a studio just off Grays Inn, she still lives there. No, e popped is clogs a good 15 year back. Exhibited at the Academy, showed in Cork street when it wasn't full of all this abstract crap. Joel Goldsmith was his agent, skinny little Jew boy. Always knew what e was doing mind. Old John made some good money off Joel e did. Rose lives off it yet. Shes got some tucked away - no doubt about that. Left er well provided for if you get my drift."

"Why not! Goes down a treat don't it? A good pint on a winter's evening I say"

"Thanks Bert, ave one for yourself! Sorry John, is that OK by you? Cheers. Gold watch, Bert? Drink up I knew yer mother. You're a scholar John. Sorry about that I was out of order - forgot it was your round. Well. no harm done."

"OK now lissen up. In about a minute you'll hear a bicycle bell ring outside this door here. One of them old fashioned ones with the green clover enamelled on the top. That'll be Rose arriving. When he hears the bell Bert'll start to pull up a half pint of Barley wine. By the time she's locked her bike up and got to the bar, about six foot down from you as it appens, she always stands in the same place, it'll be in front of her. She still rides old John's bike, crossbar or no crossbar. She'll lift the glass, hold it to the light behind the bar, smack her lips and put it down in one swallow. Then .... she'll bang the empty glass on the bar and cough. Bert'll come and pull another one and they'll chat a while about nothing like they always do. She might talk about John and Bert'll talk about his missus Dotty. Dotty's been dead these last ten years and if you ask me she wasn't all there when she was here if you know what I mean. Anyway she was a nice old bird and she and Rose used to chinwag now and then. While they're talking, Rose'll finish her second and Bert'll pull her third. Then and only then, she'll nod to me and smile and I'll nod back, and then I'll nod to Bert to say I'm buying the next one for her."

"Old up, ere she is - regular as clockwork. Just watch and listen - see if it aint just as I told yer..."

"Evening Rose, parky out? Now, d'you see that sign behind the bar? No. not the one about the darts outing, the one about the Barley Wine? OK right. It says no more than 3 pints to any one customer yeah? That includes Rose. Every winter, last week in October the brewery starts producing this draught Barley Wine - and believe me it's lethal. Three pints and you'd be falling over, trust me - big Scotsman though you are. If you're not used to it it'll take you down quickly and if you are used to it it'll take you down anyway. The rule is - ,3 pints - no more - and no exceptions. Rose loves the stuff. My old dad always said it was a ladies drink, Barley Wine, on account how sweet it is. Well that's as maybe. but it hits you like a hammer and I've seen grown men wet their trousers drinking it and not even know it, before the 3 pint rule that was. Fearful stuff is the Barley Wine. See the bag she's got beside her? The scrunched up string bag? Just took it out of her pocket. Well outside on her bike she's got a carrier at the back and on that carrier she's got a plastic flagon - the kind you used to get vinegar in. Never mind it doesn't matter - you'll see. "

"One from me Bert? OK, and top these up when you get a chance yeah? Cheers Rose, my pleasure. Remember me to John tonight? Allright? ........................ She reckons she talks to old John at night - I don't know - I just umour er - she might do - I don't know. No my place if you get my drift?"

"Right now are you counting? That's three halves she's done now. By ten she'll just be smacking her lips around her sixth and then she'll toddle off outside, straight as a die and bring the flagon back in. Did you used to have a vinegar man? No? Used to be common in this part of London. Some old geyser, usually with a face full of fungus and a voice like ed been gargling with gravel for a lifetime, and e'd ave a pram wiv a barrel innit that e sold the vinegar out of. No, well never mind. This neck o the woods we ad all sorts a travelling people. Tinkers, knife grinders, the lot. The traffic put the kibosh on most of em. ........"

"...... sorry, did I go off again? Right, sorry, woah, old up here she goes. I must've been gone a while there eh? See? Brown plastic - holds exactly alf a gallon. No more no less. Now Bert'll fill that and ....... No thanks Rose, we're fine here. You have a nice evening all right? And remember me to ... Yeah OK Rose. You drive safe - you hear me?"

"Now if we were to go outside, which we aren't going to on account we are gentlemen. We would see Rose cycling straight down the middle of Lamb's Conduit, wiv the flagon in the bag on her handlebars, and then she'll turn left into the traffic on Gray's Inn road whether the lights are green or red or yellow. When she gets to the Yorkshire Grey she'll park the bike up and disappear round the back - and that's where she lives. By eleven she'll be wiv her John. Now that's a character!"

"Bert! Bert! Bring us a nother couple over here will you?"

Note: Shem pre-announced this item yesterday and so I have kept his title. What I whispered into his shell-like was that I was going to write a short story about "the lady in the Lamb". What he heard, and he does have a terrible head cold right now, was obviously something about the lady with the lamp! Such are the delicate and humorous misunderstandings that language and culture are heir to.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


The guv'nor left a few hanging threads last night and I'd like to clear them up before we get to the meat of this post.

First off, his titles for the piece all referenced a certain Mr. Napier and, judging by the size of our postbag this morning, none of you could see the link. OK, suffice to say that the man's brain is almost completely full of almost completely useless information and given his advanced years then there is an electro-chemical tendency for bizarre and rococo misfires to occur in his cerebral cortex. Synapses fire as they will, and, because they are all packed so tightly they set off strange (in the quantum sense) chains of association. To be Frank (and who really wants to be a cheap, second hand car dealer in a third rate soap opera?) I'm surprised that more people haven't complained before! I suspect that it's because most of his more abstruse title are based in esoteric literary land and fly straight over the heads of all our readers - for which they will be grateful: it will, however, keep the scholars in work for the next century.

To get to the point (yes, we all wish that you would) the reference was to one John Napier who invented logarithms! Get it? The schoolboy's abbreviation of logarithms is logs therefore a piece about a log delivery can quite clearly be titled Napier. And everyone will understand! It can for the guv'nor anyway.

The other point that he left unexplained, or more precisely under-explained, was the reference to raki as a local alcoholic drink -a delectable home brew, in fact. Those of you who have holidayed in that den of human rights abuses - Turkey - will have misunderstood what we were drinking last night. The accurate name for the tipple that we were all tippling last night is Tsikourdia (a transliteration I'm afraid and all the worse for that - don't you hate it when alternative alphabets make you do that?). It is distilled from the left overs from the winemaking process - stalks, skins, pips - you know the stuff - and if you're lucky it's double distilled. it's ready for drinking 21 days after distilling and it is an amazing drink in winter. Hell - it's an amazing drink in summer. Not so good first thing in the morning but outside of that it's a very acceptable drop. Discursions aside, the important thing, for the purposes of this explanation at least, is that it does not taste of aniseed as does its Turkish cousin. It tastes of ... Well, I guess it tastes of alcohol! A fine tsikourdia tastes of raisins, whereas a rough tsikourdia tastes of nothing so much as paraffin. And Esso Blue at that. Anywhere in between is perfectly palatable. Even though it might occasionally take your breath away (quite literally) a glass of tsikourdia/raki is almost always welcome.

Quite why it is known locally and colloquially as raki is lost in the mists of time and we suspect it has more than a little to do with the heel of the Ottoman but we cannot substantiate that. One small addittional piece of information free and gratis: raki is seldom drunk as a singleton here, there is a local saying that is used when one offers a second glass of raki (the first is usually swallowed in one gulp) that translates very approximately to "I came with two legs - so yes, I'll have the other raki.

I am amazed. We never did get to the meat of this post and to be perfectly Peggy I can no longer remember what it was going to be anyway. Never mind. Tomorrow, if the whispers in my ear are true, we shall be hearing from Shaun regarding Florence Nightingale (don't ask). Until then fili mas we will bid you kalo vradi.

Friday, November 04, 2005

NAPIER - Scotsman and Gent

I've just spent the last half an hour calf deep in olive wood logs. Standing in the back of a lorry unloading half a metric tonne of olive logs is a strangely sensuous experience. There were three of us there actually: Gill, Marinos who had delivered the logs, and me. The scent and texture of olive logs is so revenant of winter that it quite takes ones breath away.

Marinos didn't turn up until it was dark and we were, just before he arrived, running around like headless chickens upstairs turning on lights in the house and opening shutters in order to try and illuminate our soon to be work area. As I had suspected he arrived in a tipper lorry ( avery nice late 70s Japanese jobby as you ask) and was expecting simply to dump the load onto the appropriate spot but it doesn't work like that here in Felia - the logs are stacked upstairs behind the wall and there is only lorry access to the cellar level!

We have always helped our log men with unloading simply because we realise that ours is a non-standard delivery, and we quite enjoy it: standing calf deep in logs in the back of a lorry hefting logs over the front wall two or three at a time whilst knowing that tomorrow we will be moving and stacking them all over again. The satisfaction of having a goodly supply of logs in is a wonderful feeling and somehow makes winter a less fearsome prospect. It's as if you can say "Well, come on, do your worst. We're ready!"

By the end my back was aching and my right leg was numb (the osteo-arthritis) but we were all warmed up with the exercise and we slipped down to the cellar for a swift raki before Marinos had to beetle off again. Occasions like this can be sociable little events if only you know how. Oddly enough, the raki we served was some we had bought from Marinos a couple of winters back and it was top notch stuff with the aroma and taste of raisins on it still. He enjoyed the raki and regaled us with the tale of how he has just finished renovating his still room in time for this years crop. We even got an invitation to drop by one evening and make up a small party there! Now there's an offer I'm unlikely to pass up!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Fixers

The boys in red overalls have been confined to quarters for most of today as have the dogs: most but not all. It started raining sometime during the night: G heard it tapping on the canopy over the bathroom window and got up to close the window but it was so dark that she couldn't read the clock. I slept through the initial downpours and when I got up it had clearly been raining heavily for some time (the ashtray on the outside table was full past overflowing - and with rainwater for once) and so it continued with only few let ups throughout the day.

We, Gill and I, capitalised on one such respite when we shot off up to Mathes and replenished our drinking water supplies from the spring. On the way back we picked up post from the taverna and provisions from Ariadne's. Georgi seemed not to be at home and so rather than bumming a frappe there we swung by Bellissimo on the way home. Th strip was more or less under water - submarine and boat access only! And there are still a few tourists about - I do not envy them a cold, damp, hotel room with the rain torrenting down outside.

The enforced rest clearly didn't agree with the boys in overalls because when we got back they had disappeared out to the carage and were busy sawing the back off of a dishwasher that they started gutting yesterday. The carage is littered with cables and pumps and motors and they are concentrating solely on the carcass of the thing. The idea, so I am informed, is to turn it into a small wall cupboard! Go figure! This kind of madness is their own. It is comparable to turning a discarded indirect water heater into a garden roller and an ash can - nutty but quite useful. We are thinking of entering them for the Scrapheap Challenge as they seem incapable of allowing any appliance to find a final rest. I hope I die after them for I fear what they might repurpose my corpse for.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Thru the glass darkly

I've started to mirror this blog over at its old home on Spymac but if any of you are thinking of moseying over there to check it out (or, Lindz, just swinging by there) I'd warn against it. Somehow during their migration to the all new improved formula Spymac 4 they seem to have had a taste bypass - probably a triple bypass! That thing is shockingly ugly! It's been hit with the ugly stick - correction it's been beaten to within an inch of its life with the ugly stick - and then they hung this groteque blue banner over the whole thing. It's fussy, crowded and ugly - that's 3 out of 3 - so definitely a triple bypass.
How do you like the experiment with justification? I once, in the early days of the web, had a web-site that I had designed that catered for lefties and orthodox types and the lefty version had all the text right justified. I found it fascinating but then I'm a southpaw.
There was no blog yesterday because we were having major altercations with out ISP/PTT combination - in other words our telecommunications infrastructure was buggered. After phone calls by the bucket full and complaints in the high decibels range we got a connexion but at that point I just couldn't be arsed. Even today the internet connexion has been up and down like a whore's drawers all day!
Enough already with the meta blog, lets get some meat and potatoes cooking around here!

You might not believe this but we've had a complaint about this blog -and not from the technoSM fascists either. No, this one was from, not only a loyal, if misguided, regular reader but actually from one of our own! That miserable old Scotsman who doubles as one of our correspondents wrote the following:

I want to complain about your blog, since it is so exquisitely ironic , inculcates such delicious schadenfreude, and uproarious laughter, that it severly endangers the health of very old people like myself who are unfortunate enough to read it.

If we continue to get complaints like that one I for one will be a very happy bunny. On a more serious note we also had feedbvack on the very selfsame day from our Northern correspondent Finn McEskimo who was responding to my blog about Spymac not being much snuff these days with the following:

Where could the blogging flock head to? We need either a new hobbyist-based site like Spymac used to be ...

Well, I'm actively looking around for possible new territories for disgruntled ex-Spymaccers to set up brand new homesteads and communitites. So far the community thing that Opera have set up looks the most promising inasmuch as we could set up a group or a community within that community. Strange really, and gorgeously serendipitous, that Opera is a Swedish company and our Northern correspondent is a Finn (both ways). More northerly than a miserable old Scotsman? Who knows?

The FarmTwins have been like whirling dervished since the weather broke back to dry (no, they haven't been dancing themselves into trances - it was a figure of speeech to indicate that they had been very busy - take it or leave it ,but do not pick holes in it please). The new ashcan, fabricated from an old indirect hot water tank is all but finished, the stove flue now has a creosote drain fitted (I've been meaning to do that for 3 years), the cowl from the stove flue has been removed, cleaned, and the bearing greased in readiness for winter and now turns (silently might I add) in the slightest breeze. There is talk of a delivery of a lorry load of logs at the weekend and so a fire is not out of the question in the near fututre. If they keep this up then all of the pre-winter chores will be complete before winter settles its cold damp cloak around our shoulders - and what will cock-robin do then? BTW I saw the robin this week - he returns every year at about this time and is a welcome visitor - worry not I keep a keen eye out for next doors' cats when he is about and always have a large rock handy to discourage any evil intent that they might harbour.