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

Tuesday, January 31, 2006



Keith was supine on the sofa. He was listening to a new album - Tub Jug Washboard Bands. The volume was way up but still he heard the knocker rapping. When and only when it became clear that mum was not going to answer it did he bestir himself.

Straight away eh could see that it was Jimmy. "Come in Jimmy - you're early - anything up?" "No, no probs - quite the reverse old scrote". As they went into the lounge mum popped her head out of the scullery - "Hello little Jimmy - would you like some tea? - how's your mum? - cheese sandwich?". "Yes please Keith's mum - nice cuppa would go down well right now but no to the sarnie - mums fine you know apart from her veins - whatyt can you do?". "OK dear - give her my best - tea coming up".

Keith slumped back onto the sofa and Jimmy skirted dad's chair (nobody but dad sits there) and sat by the window. He lit up a fag and offered the pack to Keith. "I'll smoke my own thanks Jimmy, those Sobranies give me a sore throat - you flush then?" "Oh yes, loaded you might say" He reached into his back pocket and pushed a small roll of scabby pound notes held by an elastic band across the coffee table. "So are you, now". Keith stuffed the roll in his shirt pocket as mum came in with a tray: two mugs and an enamel teapot. I've milked yours already Jimmy and his lordship here has given up milk it seems". She turned to leave but as she did she nudged the tray to one side and put an ashtray on the coffee table. "There's one on the cinderwill for you Jimmy".

Keith was sitting up now and checking the roll of notes. he leaned forward, almost conspiratorially. "How come?". "You remember when we did Johnson's last week? Remember the locked cabinet that Stu wrenched of the wall? Well, that was a really good move. When we opened it up in Dave's shed it was full of ... ampoules!" "Bingo - and we got plenty of blues for us too. Lucky us - who bought them?" "Stu's mate took all of them - fact is Stu's mate was very very pleased".

Their eyes, wrinkling at the corners, locked and they smacked hands over the enamel tea pot. Jimmy poured and they sat back - smug. The record finished and Keith got up and swapped it for a Robert "Pete' Williams album. "Well, what's on for tonight then? It is Friday you know, and like they say on telly - the weekend starts here" "I told you Stu's mate was pleased didn't I? Well - Stu's mate, Winston's his name - was one very happy boy." "Yeah I can see and ...?" ".. and the and is - we're off to a party later - just outside Brixton - Stu's picking us up - a pipe party!" "Your having me on right?" "No, really - the real thing - Winston was very pleased indeed." Robert Williams disappeared beneath hoots of laughter and self congratulation. They were laughing so hard they were crying. Mum's head appeared around the door - "You boys OK? What's the joke?" "Sorry Keith's mum - is he still in bed?" "No Jimmy you're alright - he's out fishing - over the pit" "It's alright mum we were just talking about Stu" "You shouldn't laugh at him - he can't help it" And she was gone. Back to the scullery to carry on doing whatever it was that she did there. No one really knew what that was.

Jimmy looked at Keith - "What can't he help?" "Oh it's OK - mum just thinks he's got some sort of nerve problem" "Oh, because of the shakes?" "Yeah, and she thinks he's got something wrong with his eyes coz he's blinking all the time!" And soon they were both in tears again.


The teapot has been refilled. The ashtray is nearly full. our two heroes are sitting, eyes closed, listening to a Cream album. Jack Bruce singing like a black man. Or so he thinks. "Oh Keith, why do you have to smoke those horrid herbal roll-ups? - they stink - look - have one of mine if you're short - good job your father can't smell". It's dark outside now and the only light is coming from a standard lamp in the corner by the stereogram. "Move yourself Jimmy - let me close those curtains. Looks like your father's called in at the pub". And then she was gone again. And they sat on: the stereogram now silent. Neither could be bothered to move. Until the door knocker went again.


The three of them are in the front of Stu's Hillman Minx - it had a bench seat in the front and a column shift - as it rolled on down the A13 towards the Rotherhithe tunnel and the dreaded south. "Put some lights on Stu - this is crazy - we'll get pulled and with what I'm carrying I can do without it - come on play the white man will you?" "Play the white man? - that's good - given where we're going" "Where are we going Stu?" "Stockwell Park boys - heart of darkness country!" "What country?" "Conrad, you jerk". And then they passed the turn for the Woolwich ferry: where Keith had had his first perfunctory grope of a real, grown-up, girl".

Jimmy was sticking two Rizlas together as they passed the turn off for the Blackwall tunnel and Keith was crumbling some resin in preparation. As they turned into the Rotherhithe the torpedo was alight and smoking the whole car out. "Open a window for gods sake". "Open the one on your side - mine's jammed". "Where did you get this cake Stu?" "Winston, my man" "My man Winston?" "My Winston Man" "Wiin - stuhn"

In darkest Deptford they were lost. Shadwell. Bermondsey. "Goddit!" The A to Z open in his lap - the Ronson flame dying back. Worm mounds of pale grey ash everywhere. Silver paper crumpled fills the ashtray. "Goddit". And they are off again - rolling down the blacktop tarmac - three on a spree. "Bloody south London - it all looks the same to me - I always get lost this side of the river"


"Yare all late boys - where you been? We all started wiyout yaz" "Winston my man! How ya doing? We got lost again - it's all the same over here - north London radar don't work down here - these're my buddies - we OK leaving the car here?" "Yeah boy - kids know you're with me you'll be OK - don't spect you to be driving tonight though" Winston was a big, very dark boy, long boned and reminiscent, to Keith at least of Mme Bovary's son. He seemed though to suck in light. Under yellow street lights he looked quite worrying but when he smiled, as he did frequently, he changed. "Kid .." he called to a young brown-skinned boy under the opposite light " you make sure these boys' car is here and safe for the night OK?" "No sweat Winston" and he flipped him a salute.

"Come on in boys - we got a party here - and we got cake!" His arms around Jummy and Keith he sheperded them in through the green flaking front door of a terraced council house. Not pebble dashed like Keith's mum and dad's but bare red brick - and Crittal windows too. A crazy paving path - more cobbled looking than Billingsgate.

A warm evening in early summer and there is smoke and fug coming out at them as they enter. The air is literally blue as they move on into the kitchen. And in the kitchen on a plate ... "This is Asfet, " says Winston slapping a small guy on the back "- Asfet's cousin just got in this week and he brought us a present from Kabul - look". A slab, or rather, what seems to be an ingot of pale red cake sits on a big meat plate. It draws the eye as though it were magnetic. "So we all having a party and this be the cake and you're all invited. That cake is pure home grown opium - you had opium before boys? Stu? Keith? Nobody? Well you have got a rare treat coming. Winston took a knife from his pocket and shaved a small curl from this ingot. Soft - like butter - thought Keith.

Asfet's brother is next to Jimmy. Jimmy is next to Asfet. Asfet is next to Winston and Winston is next to Keith. Stu and some other guy who nobody has introduced make up the circle. They've been passing the pipe in silence for some time now. How long none can recall. Not that anybody cares. A peace that surpasses their understanding has descended. Keith pries his eyes open by act of will and gazes on the rich elaborate furnishings that only moments earlier were neither rich nor elaborate. Crimplene curtains and Cyril Lloyd carpet in reality. Is that Ravi Shankar? Does it matter? Does anything? And off he drifts again. They nod and smile and dream. The pipe goes out. Smoke drifts around the room and into their heads. Stu slumps silently into the unknown, unnamed guy beside him dribbling. The first to go. Asfet's sister materializes and puts a cushion under every head wherever they fall.


The sun is pouring in through the open windows of the Hillman Minx. Stu is the only one fully awake. They have eaten, vast quantities of fried food: bacon, sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes and beans. Keith had chips too - and made an ad hoc sandwich with his fried slice. Jimmy's chin still smeared with grease. He lolls in the back seat - still half comatose, his eyes closed mostly. Only the air pushing in from outside keeps Stu from nodding off again - that and his constant chatter. And then he starts to tell his dream ... He describes the big country house with the gravel drive. And suddenly, Keith describes the door knocker in perfect detail. Jimmy's eyes open and he leans over the front seat, his head resting on Keith's shoulder. Stu is talking now about the wall hangings in the library and the books, leather bound in green and describes his scuffing steps across the thick Chinese carpet. The carpet with the dragon motif that Keith paints for them. And moving over to the shelves by the big marble fireplace where a book is calling to him - calling to all of them it seems. He can feel the leather in his hand. "There is no name on the spine" says Jimmy, "no title nor no author". They look at each other - Stu taking his eyes from the road momentarily. The book is open before them now and Keith reads the inscription beneath the ex libris sticker in the top left corner of the facing page -slightly skewed while the other two move their lips in imitation - "A dream of a book for a dream of a girl - from Algie - 1917". And suddenly they know.


Not yet the end of January and these writings have garnered their first award already. The people who are responsible for the CultSpy series of awards over at Spymac awarded us the gong left. Now the CultSpy awards are one of the very best things about Spymac, always have been. The whole initiative is a community thing. One guy who cares for the community instigated them and keeps them running: they are awards by the community for the community and that is why they are so special. We are very proud of this award.

The citation reads: " Thank you for the time, thought, and effort you put into your blog.

The poesy of your prose is at times breathtaking.

The diversity of your subject matter displays a refreshing awareness of the world outside your hearth.

Your writing skills are masterful while you provoke our thoughts, paint pictures with your words, educate us, enchant us, and, yes, entertain us.

You have what all writers want most, not awards, but the ability to improve the world one word at a time."

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Hand of a God

Blessed Phoebus Apollo, son of Zeus, twin brother of Artemis, goddess of fertility, lit his lamp this morning for all of us here. He raised his shining, gentle, hand and laid it warmly on the valley in godlike benediction as if to say "I have not forgotten you - I shall return in time".

And so, in the depths of winter we are reminded that spring and summer are ineluctable. After a week or more of solid rain, grey skies, and damp, cold, air it seems a divine blessing indeed. Suddenly we have solar heated water again in which to bathe and wash our clothes. Hot water issues from taps that recently gave forth only icy clear streams of this staple and foundation of life: colder even than the spring we collect our drinking water from and which, this week, is full in flood - forcing us into galoshes to get close enough to the source to fill our four containers, its clean, fresh, bounty tumbling on past us down the road and into olive groves about us.

Lighter patches of concrete surface on the terraces, long buried in the dark dampness of the new year. The log pile pit lies uncovered, the logs drying off the condensation that has accumulated, becoming ready for the stove that soon is to consume them. Farmboy hones his axe and swings it rhythmically producing kindling by the bundle: kindling that will prime the fire that heats the stove until it becomes hot enough to burn the logs. Eddie fetches and carries: scrap timber and smaller logs to the chopping block; kindling back to the trunk under the front window where he spreads the bundles to dry in the sun.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Today the valley is filled with sounds: the sound of birdsong - sparrows crowd on the walnut tree behind the dogs' run and sing their tiny hearts out; the river growls and shushes its way over the gravelled, pebbled bed towards; a sea that roars its presence in a silent world. Behind all this, if you listen carefully, assiduously, you can hear the pools of rainwater seeping, soaking, into the saturated ground as it leeches its load into the river too. It has stopped raining.

Buckets and bins, overflowing yesterday, are stable now. Still full but no longer filling; no longer flowing. All is somehow still on the surface but all of the action is happening beneath that surface now. Doors have swollen in their jambs making closing them difficult and noisy, jerky and imperfect. A world swollen not with fruitfulness but rain. Too much rain, everything too wet and no wind to help dry it. No sun to warm it.

The sky, for the first time in days has changed from solid white or grey to a streaked promising, pregnant, augury. Hearts, ours and not just those of the little sparrows, have risen. Humour and optimism are once more possible. The future is on its way.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Of Puddles and Lakes and Oceans

Yesterday's puddles are today's lakes. Sheets of water, pure and clean, sit on vast areas of gravel. The garage floor is covered. As is that in the potting shed. There is a sheet of water in the dog's run and inch deep in the middle and 8 feet wide. The paint on the run, covered in dust last week shines brightly green despite the grey white sky that hangs above us, cowing everything. The rope that hangs from a cross member and that the girls exercise on drips permanently today.

Rain, incessant, constant, continual, unabating, interminable, endless, unending, never-ending, everlasting, eternal, perpetual, continuous, nonstop, around/round-the-clock, uninterrupted, unbroken, unremitting, persistent, relentless, unrelenting, unrelieved, overwhelming, overpowering, compelling, compulsive, irrepressible, ungovernable, besetting; unavoidable, inexorable, unpreventable, inescapable, driving, potent, forceful, urgent, imperative; obsessive.

Everything is saturated now. Nothing outside can absorb any more rain water. Not the soil. Not the woodwork. Nothing. The rain has even begun to creep indoors, under doors. There is a puddle just inside the front door. The front door that sits halfway down the slope of the valley. The valley that pushes or drags the rainwater that would runs past us if it could and into the river at the bottom of the garden. But now, it tries to run through us.

In summer it is the heat and sun that punishes. In winter the rain. The weather can be barbarous. It has a majesty: like the mountains behind us and the sea before us. Nature will not be tamed. Cannot be ignored. We must respect and sometimes fear it. We are puny in the face of it. It gives us a magnificent sense of our own insignificance.

But, this rain will end, as does the blistering heat in summer, and between them they are what makes this place what it is.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Rain, rain, rain

It has been coming down more or less vertically since ten this morning. It looks like the Republic of Ireland out there. It looks like we're sitting in a cloud. It has been like this all day pretty much. The valley is green when you can see past that curtain of rain: past that veil of mist.

An hour or so ago I got so fed up with looking at it through the stable door that I closed it. And then the light failed completely. It is dark but still I can hear the incessant, unremitting, fall. Rainwater has puddled everywhere, so much has fallen. Puddles and small lakes that show every sign of expanding as the rain continues. The damp is bringing the temperature down too.

G has been stripping type 1 lavender all day and has finally finished the entire type 1 harvest so there is only the type 2 and the withered, that has just been recovered from behind the girls' sofa where it has languished for a couple of months, to do now. The type 2 is still in the wardrobe upstairs. And only 8 more plants to prune too! What a worker she is.

The rainy days are when catch up gets done in the house: when we do things that you wouldn't fancy on days that are pleasant enough to go outside. On days like this we bring the girls indoors earlier than usual and we all kind of huddle together against the weather. We drink more coffee an tea than is the norm and, of course, we all eat more than usual. There is no danger of any of us becoming overweight and so we can indulge ourselves without fear or guilt.

Me? Us? The boys? Well we've been surfing around a whole lot more and chatting online as we sit in a haze of lavender scent. We also run the errands that require going out in the foul weather - dumping rubbish, getting provisions in, cleaning the run, stove works, log chopping - that sort of stuff. Fortunately we have the Drizabone - probably the finest foul weather garment ever designed and crafted and so it bothers us not one jot.

Here, for your delectation are a couple of links that the boys took a fancy to:

Did the US and Britain deliberately arrange the partition Cyprus?

The ultimate foul weather coats here

New and brighter outlook for Cuba

Great chat show moments

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Halikonides? Maybe.

Never being one to rest on her laurels (or lavender fronds come to that), G, having "done" oil distilling, is now out in the fields on every fine day, and we have had a couple these last days, pruning the remaining unpruned plants in Lav1. Swift and svelte she squats on a small stool. In her grey and black machine knit hat and her bright red windcheater, her sunglasses seemingly incongruous, she crouches forward over each plant selecting and trimming to particular growth points before decisively snipping with her secateurs, trimming and shaping at the same time. She turns each pant into a perfect little football looking grey green ball among the oxalis and clover carpet surrounding it.

The Farmboy twins by contrast lumber around the olive grove like bears just woken prematurely for their hibernation. Farmboy himself drags a huge bag that once contained plaster or sand or some other granular building material in bulk and that now fills and empties regularly with olive prunings discarded and abandoned after the live harvest. A bonfire pile at the bottom of the field down by the river, now in flow, grows hourly. Eddie stumbles about gathering, snapping, stripping and tossing. Gathering the discards together into piles. Stripping ungainly protruberant twigs that will not fit the bag without problem. Folding and breaking the handull size bunches in half before tossing them into his brother's builder's bag. Using his arms and knees all the olive detritus begins to disappear into the maw of this gaping grab before Farmboy trundles off again heading riverward, to unload again, to trudge back up the incline again, step after laborious step.

The air remains cool but the sun shines brightly. There is no wind, not even a breeze. Only tiny, whispy, threads of pure white cloud streak the perfect blue sky above them. We love work, Shaun and I, we could sit in the warmth of the cellar all day watching it!

Friday, January 20, 2006


We've been talking recently about food - here and online. Winter is a time when food assumes a higher rung on our comfort tree. A couple of really good Greek friends are professional cooks and I remembered recently that I wrote an article on Cretan diet a year or so back for an English magazine for the elderly so I have decided to reprint it here for you, my regular readers.

The grapes are in. The proto raki is ready. The olives are clearly visible on the trees, their leaves showing silver in the autumn breezes. Georgi Nikolarakis leans back on his chair and smiles, his eyes light up. Here is a man about to mount a hobby horse. The Cretans like little better than holding forth: unless it is eating. Of course this inevitably means that they have learned to combine the two. Given that the topic here is food then we have a pretty perfect discourse coming.
Georgi, an avuncular man with a full beard and a weather beaten complexion, opened his taverna back before Georgioupolis was a tourist destination, when only independent travellers and beleagured hippies turned up at this end of the 11 mile beach that is the Gulf of Almyros.

"Why," I have asked him "do Cretans live so long?"

"Maybe they do and maybe they don't. The last generation lived longer than my generation and as for the kids today --- who knows: they eat so much rubbish! When I was a child my mother would give me stakka for my breakfast: spread on a slice of black bread. Only rich people had white bread. (Stakka is the solidified cream from sheeps milk and is something like condensed milk but stronger in flavour. All brown breads in Crete are called black.). If I was lucky I'd have honey spread on top. My aunty used to live in Xania (the nearest city) and sometimes she would bring white bread for us, it was a special treat but Mikhaili's mother, Mikhaili from Creta Corner, used to bake a bread from rye that had lots of hard bits in it and all the kids would smell it from far away and come and beg for it. Bread is at the centre of every Cretan meal. Bread and olives. And salad. Fresh salad from the garden."

The garden in a Cretan village home is always given over to herbs, vegetables, fruits. and salad crops. The flowers are grown in tubs, pots, old tins. The soil is reserved for things you can eat: and that includes chickens and maybe even a pig. The flowers are extraordinarily well cared for, dazzlingly beautiful, and ingeniously grown but the garden is strictly reserved for edibles.

"The workers in the villages," Georgi continues, "often started the day with no more than a hunk of bread, some olives and a glass of malotiras (mountain tea). And then they would go off to work with maybe a piece of cheese and another hunk of bread in their pockets. You remember Pavlos? Pavlos the drinker. He was a big drinker. He was always in Tito's: always drinking wine but he always had bread and some cheese in his pocket that he would eat while he was drinking. When he was eighty some he was knocked down by a car; they said he was drunk but when wasn't he? When he died they cut him up and the doctors said he had the liver of an eighteen year old. Even my granny who was 106 and a teetotaller had a glass of wine with her breakfast: fresh juices and a glass of wine. She married my grandfather when he was 82 and she was 28 and they had 5 children - all healthy. The stakka, is good for the potency. So are artichokes; you just pull off the spiky leaves and eat the artichoke raw with lemon and salt. They turn your lips and tongue brown and they make you windy but they are good for the heart and the potency."

What about meat? Does meat play a big part in Cretan diet? Lamb is eaten everywhere in tavernas but what of the village people? Do they eat much meat?

"Mountain people have always eaten meat once a week and fish once a week. And snails. Snails are good for cancer: it's the calcium. Do snails count as meat? Most families would have a cow or two and some chickens and maybe a pig. And when you kill an animal you eat everything. You don't waste anything and you don't feed bits of the dead animal to the other animals like they did in England. Look what that got them. Now, with the common market, it's become more difficult. Rules about who can kill animals makes it difficult. I would never eat the liver and spleen from a butcher shop animal. I don't know what it's been eating. When your neighbour killed out a pig or a goat you knew it was clean. The same with the chickens. Why are chickens in supermarkets all the same size? Why am I not allowed to buy eggs from my neighbour? I know his chickens are happy and properly free range. It makes me angry, you know, when English people say Greek food is greasy. Look at all the dead animal fat they put into their gravy for the Sunday roast. Here in Crete we have the best olive oil in the whole world and that's what we cook with."

So what do they eat when they aren't eating meat? The Italians have their pasta, the Indians their rice, and the Irish have their potatoes. What are the staples of the Cretan diet?

"We still have seasonal eating here you see. Soups and pulses in the winter and fruits and vegetables in the summer. When things are in season you eat them. People forget how many soups we eat. In the winter we have bean soups (such as fassoulatha made with harricot beans), chick pea soups, lentil soup (fakes) , potato and leek soup. In summer we might have tomato or chicken with rice and lemon, - not so heavy. Once, some years ago there was a monk here from a Russian monastery. He had pure white hair and a big white beard like your Santa Claus. Here in the taverna. He was over a hundred and was on his first holiday. He had a translator with him. He asked for soup and I told him we didn't have soup today. "Nonsense," he said "do you have onions? Courgettes? Potatoes? Garlic?" Of course I had all of them. "Well then", he announced, "you have soup. Twenty minutes is all it takes!" And so he had his soup and I ate with him and we drank a little raki together. He was a really interesting man. He had lived most of his life in a monastery but he knew about life".

This fascination with other peoples' lives and this willingness to sit and eat and drink with them while they tell their tales and put the world to rights is another central rite of the Cretan eating experience and one that Georgi is sure contributes to the well being and long life of the Cretans. A good meal with Cretans will take hours and sometimes drifts into the early hours without you noticing.

"It's not good for you, you know, all this sitting for five minutes in front of the television and wolfing food down. How can you enjoy it? If you do one thing then do it properly. If you are going to eat you sit down together and you eat what you need and you drink a little wine and you talk and then you have company and you feel good and if you feel good you live longer and you enjoy your life. Even the old people here feel useful and wanted. They have stories and they have wisdom. They know all of the herbs and fruits and potions that keep you healthy. They are always welcome to eat with you. They don't rush off for antibiotics when they don't feel so good. They'll make some tea with special herbs, maybe chamomile or wild marjoram or oregano or dikti , or they'll take some fish soup, or perhaps have a massage with the lamp oil or proto-raki. Petrol is best for the massage but dangerous...

As if to demonstrate, and in that magical mode of serendipity that seems to go with the langourous life in Crete, there is a shout from outside the taverna. Georgi's dad Pavlos has just walked down the mountain from his home in Mathes, maybe 6 or 7 kilometers, and asks if Georgi wants bread from the baker. Pavlos will buy a 2 kilo loaf and walk back home. Pavlos is 86. Of course, his friend Jiannis could have got the bread. He cycles up and down to Mathes every day on an old sit up beg bicyle with Sturmey Archer gears, but Pavlos doesn't like to take advantage. "He's an old man after all" - Jiannis is 88. At this point we finish our chat because Georgi is going to get some food for Pavlos to take back with him. A yiouvetsi, (lamb cooked with greek noodles) some lentil soup and a bowl of xorta, another of the magic ingredients of the Cretan diet. Xorta is a dish prepared from mountain greens: often cooked from 3 types of wild plant that grow freely on the mountainside and in the olive groves it is served with olive oil, lemon and oftentimes potatoes. "Since my mother died", says Georgi "my father doesn't bother much cooking for himself. I don't know what we'll do when he gets old".

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Making a dream come true

I'm sitting here alone - well I've got the girls indoors with me: they are tucked up on the sofa like the left-hand side of a set of quotation marks. The day has closed - a gorgeous clear sunny day - and the light has gone. What has been warm dry day has faded into a cool early evening. Under normal circumstances I would be less than overjoyed about our solitude but not tonight. Not tonight: because tonight, this afternoon and tonight to be accurate, a dream is coming true. I've just turned the gas fire on and it is popping gently in the background slowly removing the chill that has crept in during the last hour or so.

Three years ago, more or less (you'd have to ask Gill for the precise dates - I just do not register these things), we had a dream, Gill and I. Gill wanted to become a farmer and I had suggested lavender as a crop. And, at about this time of year three years back Gill got her first stock of 50 plants. Her foundation stock. A mixed bag of "French", "English" and "canonical" lavender plants. A mixed bag indeed. Her dream, looking at these somewhat sorry looking foundation stock, was to produce lavender oil.

She has tended these plants with loving care. She has propagated more than 200 new plants from from them. She has reared 2 new varieties from seed. She has classified her stock and taught herself about each variety: their idiosyncrasies, their aromas, their preferred habitats. In three years she has become the Lavender Lady. On top of all of this, she has found outlets for her crop. Her crop that has grown every year. The lavender has made her a wide circle of colleagues and friends. But so far it has not made her any of the elusive, mythical oil. Until now. Until today.

While I sit here Gill is in Modi making lavender oil. There are (or so I understand via the latest update) two 600 litre stills boiling away in Modi stuffed to the gunnels with biomass from 24 of the original "French" stock. Lavender plants take three years to mature and the first stock is now mature. What can I say that expresses how overjoyed I am for her? Her dream is coming true and there really couldn't be anybody who deserves it more or who has worked more to make a dream come true. I say it's her dream, but it's not a selfish dream - there are several of us who have shared the dream and we've all done what we can and we are all tremendously excited about today (the distiller included - he has never distilled French lavender before) but Gill has made it happen.

Congratulations darling - you are now a bona fide lavender farmer and oil producer! All our best wishes go out to you.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


The wife of our northern correspondent Finn McEskimo has wondered aloud whether we might take another view on this other species and cites a volume entitled Emotional Intelligence by one Daniel Goleman. I have read the work and have read widely on the topic of emotional intelligence which was very popular some several years ago. I choose to take a different view but I do understand why she should want to point me in that direction. She is herself a very sensitive and empathic person and therefore has a natural aversion to such a harsh view as I propose here. Her concern is, if you like, absolutely predictable for anybody with a well developed empathy: it is almost impossible for her to imagine another "human" entirely bereft of it and it is this mistaking these things for human that deceives so many of us.

I have to re-iterate here, these are not humans who feel all of the things that we feel but some to a much lesser degree: they do not feel some of the things we feel: they are incapable of feeling those things: they are not equipped. They are thus not human in the way that we define it or understand it because any definition that we humans can come up with presupposes empathy even if it never mentions it. Intellectualise it - do not try to imagine it or feel it.

An-empaths typically display, when not under intense scrutiny, only a handful of the regular gamut of human emotions. The ones you will see most often have to do with frustration and anger. Pique at not getting what they want or things not running in their favour will often result in displays of frustration and it is this not getting their own way that is their chief motivator because, of course, if you have no empathy then you will be much more self centred than someone with empathy - other people just don't count. An-empaths will talk almost exclusively about themselves. They will open conversations without any social niceties: they will not ask how you are (they don't care). Should you ever talk about your feelings their usual response will be either a glassy blank or with "well, how do you think I feel?" thus putting themselves back in centre frame where, as far as they are concerned, they belong because, again, you do not count. Watch for smiles, not the sly self congratulating smiles but the honest, happy to be alive smile or, the happy for you to be happy smile. They will often have human that they keep close for the simple reason that this person is in some way "worse off" than they are - an-empaths have a highly developed sense of schadenfreude although they will be regularly be bemoaning how hard done by they themselves are.

(to be continued) .

Monday, January 16, 2006

A review of the B S Johnson Omnibus by Picador

No sociopaths - no an-empaths today. I'm having a rest from the wierdoes.

The publication of the Omnibus edition of B S Johnson marks yet another attempt to revive the fortunes of one of the finest English novelists of the 20th century. Since his death by suicide in 1973 Johnson has been out of print for longer than in. Acknowledged but unread. Admired but unread. The fate, I fear, of too many really brilliant modern novelists.

Johnson was part of a movement in the UK that produced a crop of novelists all of whom understood what Joyce and Beckett had done to the novel: its form and matter and attempted to pick up the challenge that these two wonders handed down to writers and readers alike: not in some cold academic way but in an almost experimental manner. In some literary criticism they are actually known as "the experimentalists". And while not all of their playful yet earnest pushings of the envelope of the novel were, in and of themselves, entirely successful all of those works have influenced literature thereafter.

The Omnibus contains three of Johnson's novels: Trawl; Albert Angelo and; House Mother Normal. They are probably not the three that I would have chosen but it is possible that Picador do not have rights to all of Johnson's work and stuck with these three for that reason. I might have nominated the novels Travelling People and Christie Malry's Own Double Entry but if there is ever a volume 2 ... His poems and Essays would make a good companion volume, so possibly a 3 volume set? Please Picador! None of Johnson's work should ever be out of print again.

Starting with Trawl we have here a novel, or is it, written by a writer sailing as a "pleasure tripper" on a working North Sea trawler. The Trawl of the title? - is it the Trawl that the boat is on and the constant interruption that the act of trawling imposes on the structure of the writer's work in progress? or the Trawl of his own that the writer is attempting casting deep into his memory for the reasons for his current situation and hoping to pull up enough catch to identify his futute? Is it the verb Trawl or the noun Trawl? Johnson is not a scholar of Joyce for nothing! Is the Trawl a trawl into Beckett's existential abyss? All of these questions are implicit in the first rough chapter. Thereafter we follow the progress of the personal Trawl set alongside, and paralleling, the fishing Trawl, within which it is set. We work the nets with Johnson and his writer and examine and gut his catch with him, consigning great chunks of his sad and cold history to the liver boiler and the ice in his holds, while the writer can only watch the crew of the real trawler work. Or are we also only onlookers? Does Johnson deny us our participation in the work?

Trawl is the last of Johnson's novels that Beckett leaks out of. Listen closely and you can hear Sam here at times whispering in Johnson's writer's ear ventriloquially at times. Trawl is where Johnson finds his own voice and by the end it is a strong, individual voice. Perhaps, among these gobbets of childhood and wartime evacuation, among these regurgitations of adolescent fumblings and perceived betrayals by girls that he thinks of as women, perhaps in net after net of deep dwelling creatures this is what he was trawling for all along? His own voice. His muse.

Albert Angelo is another novel of awakening for Johnson the writer but not one set in the deep seas. Unless East End school yards can be drawn as deep seas to a trained architect working as a supply teacher. This is the basic conceit of the majority of this novel: an architect is working as a supply teacher in the rough East End of London among the bombed ruins. An architectural aesthetic moves among the rubble of fine buildings. An intelligent and educated professional moves among the husks of children from varied ethnic backgrounds and families, children who do not wish to learn, or rather who would prefer to choose what they learn. They learn on their own terms: frustrating and yet still drawing admiration from this would be fount of knowledge; this teacher manque who wishes to teach what he knows.

The grind of teaching, the sheer, exhausting effort of it, drains our hero so far that even in his holidays when his drawing board calls him he has nothing left. He drifts around the East End and the grisly suburbs to the west of London looking at buildings - the bad as well as the good, with his friend who, like him has been betrayed by a woman. They commiserate in Greek and West Indian cafes.

Johnson draws us delicately into his webs of fiction in this work, crafting characters and narrative lines that remain long after the true shock of Albert Angelo has worn off. His writing is tight and beautiful with not a word wasted, not an idea irrelevant. And then Johnson drops his bombshell and his authorial mask. At what would for any other author be the end of the novel the writer behind the writing steps forward and reveals the sham: Our hero is not an architect - he is a poet. He is not a character he is a puppet. It seems that Johnson has lost faith in what he now seems to see as a deception. Johnson the wirter steps forward and argues against the deception, examines the points at which his "fiction" is untrue. It is clearly here that Johnson had his "Saul of Tarsus" moment if not in fact then certainly in the novel. From here on Johnson;s mantra was to be that fiction has to be true and that "telling stories is telling lies". This obsession, as it became, with "truth in fiction" is probably what eventually led him to slit his wrists in a warm bath. He had. I think run out of truth; of experience, and so he had nothing left that he could honestly write. With amazing presence of mind however, after this astounding revelation, Johnson goes back into the novel and finishes it off as Albert Angelo (or is it Angelo Albert? it is never made clear).

Albert Angelo is the first (I think but cannot be bothered to check) of Johnson's novels where his experimentation with things typographical surfaces (there are holes cut in some of the pages for example to allow a forward glimpse into the novel). This typographical exactitude is one of the reasons that Johnson sometimes drops out of print now and then and again and again. It is a striking and well crafted novel that deserves a place in the modern canon as much for its extreme economy and beautiful writing as for its formal innovations.

Finally we come to House Mother Normal which is in terms of form Johnson's most extreme and most successful novels witht the arguable exception of Xtie Malry's Own Double Entry. House Mother Normal is a novel that does not really bear review for the simple reason that any review would expose too much of the work. It is not exposure of the narrative that would spoil the work but the exposure of the form. Suffice to say that House Mother Normal displays multiple subjective views of a set of events in an old peoples' home. All of the points of view are defective. We know in advance that they are defective and in what way they are defective. There is no objective description of the events. The form is stunning and novel. The content is unusual and fascinating. How what is examined in this novel is examined is as fascinating and finely wrought as is that examined. A beautiful and intellectually tough work where form and content are treated with the same exacting sense of perfection that Johnson became renowned for in his short and bright career.

The rest is silence.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


This extended fragmented piece is beginning to get some traction. A couple of comments have appeared on the Spymac version that I may yet have to incorporate into these other versions. It is gratifying that we are now in the process of generating a genuine palimpsest. To summarise, the comments take a canonical approach to the issue of psycopathy and sociopathy. They suggest that the arrow of causality belongs with social conditioning producing, or not, empathy in the individual whereas, of course, what we are suggesting here is exactly the flip side of that coin. We argue that, in accordance with so much fashionably modern problem solving, there is a genetically determined causality at work. In short, we want to suggest that there is a genetic mechanism that makes empathy possible at all and that sociopaths and psychopaths (or an-empaths as we shall henceforth refer to them) are simply lacking this mechanism and are therefore incapable of developing empathy at all, ever.

Thus, rather than it being the case that cities and suburbia generate sociopathic behaviour as our two correspondents propose it is instead true that a growing population of these an-empaths is crowding into these conurbations for cover. Now we are not denying, of course, that poor socialisation will impede the full onward development of empathy and this, in and of itself, makes conurbations all the more attractive to an-empaths for somebody with severely underdeveloped empathy will be less likely to detect an-empaths or even to find them alien and an an-empath paired with a normal human is more likely to pass as human itself.

So there you have the nub of our argument: sociopaths and psycopaths are not humans who have failed to develop empathy properly, they are a species that has no capacity for empathy and it is this inability to develop empathy that makes them a separate species.

(to be continued)

Saturday, January 14, 2006


Now, let us consider how somebody entirely without empathy would appear to somebody with empathy? Although most sociopaths and psychopaths learn very quickly to simulate some of the social etiquette that normally flows from empathy they are very more often than not detected on any close contact with truly empathic beings. And how do they come across? "Cold fish", "Snake like", "Reptilian" are all phrases used most often when asked to describe such beings after the event. Alien, in fact, not quite human. Maybe a bit like a vampire? Or a creature from another planet? Like humans but not. No sense of guilt. No conscience. No real regard for the feelings of others. "Other".

How could such a creature avoid detection? By keeping a very remote existence from normal empathic beings. Like Count Dracula up in his castle. Where could such a being pass, most easily, as human if the remote, aristocratic, castle were not available? Why, in a modern city, of course, where close social contact is rare and frowned upon. Where aloof is fine. Where each man's home can reasonably be his castle. And so they are nowadays represented as city dwellers, these "other". These "other" who walk among us. And so it is.

Villagers sniff them out very quickly if they have nowhere to hide. The closeness of village life hones the empathic side of people in a way that city living dulls it. Living cheek by jowl with others and having to rely on their empathy, sharpens the "other" detector in humans. And, as in the early Frankenstein and Dracula movies, these "other" are usually driven out of the community: even in this day and age. This kind of treatment may be difficult to understand from outside, from a city perspective, but, from the perspective of any villager it is both understandable and justifiable. Apart from death, it is the only answer that protects the community.

(to be continued)

Friday, January 13, 2006


It is universally the case that studies of psychopaths and sociopaths are undertaken by, and written up by, non-sociopaths. And here is our problem. That, and the fact that the types under investigation are notoriously reticent. Because the interviewers have empathy it is not possible for them to imagine what it would be like not to have empathy - they could project and imagine having very little empathy but they cannot imagine not having empathy. They likewise cannot understand that they are unable to empathise with people entirely without empathy. The reason that this is the key to our problem is because these people do not have an underactive empathy, which might be imaginable, but because they do not have the facility at all.

Empathy is one of the defining features of mankind as we who empathise define humankind. It is simply, intellectually, practically, impossible for a creature with a facility to imagine being without it. The thing itself is part of the apparatus required to reason about the feature. They might be able to be able to imagine losing the facility but that would not be the same thing at all as never having had that facility. It is not, for example possible for someone who has had sight to imagine what they would be had they never had that facility. Memory and experience of the feature (a concrete example of geometry, a knowledge of colour and light and shade for example) will have become immanent to the creature attempting to imagine itself without it.

Consider the following definitions culled from the built-in Apple computer dictionary:

empathy |ˈempəθē| noun the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

psychopath |ˈsīkəˌpaθ| noun a person suffering from chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behavior.

sociopath |ˈsōsēōˌpaθ| noun a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience.

And now try to think how those definitions would have been written by a creature that had no empathy.

The first, the definition of empathy, would not and could not have been written by a non-empathic human. It would not only mean nothing to them it would not even occur to them. Unless, of course, they had had it explained to them by an empathic human.

The second and third definitions would likewise be impossible for a human lacking empathy to arrive at because they both refer to social behaviour and that, of course, would make no sense to them. Social behaviour requires, in an empathic human, empathy to exist. If you like, social behaviour, as required to define sociopathy or psychopathy as we have above, that is, by reference to antisocial behaviour is only definable by and to empathic beings.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


There is a recurring theme that runs through folklore and oral history that has as its focus the idea that there are aliens among us or if not aliens plural then an alien species. Vampires, werewolves, reptiles - all feature as possible alien species. The thing that they all share, all these supposed aliens? A lack of guilt. That, and the fact that they pose a genuine threat to normal, run of the mill human beings: almost the entire human species is under threat from their very existence.

For reasons not entirely clear due to an excess of accreted personal history, and others that are questionable at best, we have, in this household, a deep knowledge of the literature of mass murder, mass criminal murder rather than the wartime kind. We have long been avid readers of the biographies and case studies of serial killers: British serial killers in particular. Of great interest has been the emphasis, in recent studies, of how these murderers share a singular absence. They all display a notable lack of empathy - the ability to put themselves in the place of others. And this seems to be the case too in European and American mass murderers or serial killers.

How do these two paragraphs mesh you might ask? And if you. like most criminologists and socioligists, were to believe that this lack of empathy is a symptom or indicator of psychopathic or sociopathic individuals then I understand your question. If, like us, however, you were to believe that psycopathic or sociopathic individuals were defined by this lack of empathy, or rather resulted from this very lack of empathy, were created by it, then I suspect that you may begin to see the light.

(to be continued)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Catch up

ADSL is back at last - we spent plenty of time on the phone chasing the PTT and the ISP and when I got up- this morning at about eight everything was working perfectly. My own suspicions confirmed I think - something was left disconnected or switched off when last OTE were at the exchange. That, I'm almost sure, is the case whenever we get cut off. The average technician doesn't know what the DSLAM or routers are for so they just unplug them, and to exacerbate the situation once the error has been reported the procedures are sloppy and full of holes that we all too often fall through. A string vest of a process!

We're getting a cold snap right now - temperatures (adjusted for wind chill - a northerly wind gusting up to 30 kph) around 4ºC. Not cold by Finnish standards but pretty chilly for these parts. We've been getting sleet and hailstones on and off for the past day or so but the girls have been enjoying it all immensely. Ears up, staring into the wind, and noses twitching on the merest hint of a scent wafting in on these ferocious gusts. Peering into oxalis and clover ground cover that could be hiding a shrew, or a hedgehog, or a cat, or anything else at all that could be interesting - could be dinner. In recent weeks they have caught and killed a bird and what was either a shrew or a mouse. They are on the tip-toe of anticipation most of their waking hours in these clean days.

The English lavender in Lav2 is all pruned now and coincidentally it was all finished on exactly the same day as it was completed last year despite the plants all being much bigger. Gill has worked assiduously and as often as the weather has allowed and then more ... The correct clothing helps - of course - but would mean naught were she not so determined and dedicated to her crop. This is truly a labour of love for her. Would you go out into the near freezing cold and drizzle in order to sit among clover wielding secatuers rather than sit inside in the warm? Would you? This is love. Just the English in Lav1 to finish up so that she might rest up for a little. The French is due for collection this weekend now that it has been dried, oil may be forthcoming soon thereafter. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


Despite the lack of a reasonable connection (ADSL absent - again and still) I just had to post today to let you all know that we are all OK here.

We were down at the supermarket early this afternoon when the walls began to shake and the emergency lighting fell down. The shelving units began to tremble and the floor beneath us shook, or rather swelled. The girl on the till began to cry and a shout went up "Seismos!". In moments we, all the staff and customers, were outside under a clear sky and the ground beneath us continued to tremble, feeling more like a liquid than a solid. The floor to ceiling plate glass windows of the Zakaroplastia (cake shop) opposite visibly wavered and the assistants and owner were soon beside us. As a man, everybody reached out their mobile phones and rang their loved ones. The till girl was phoning to find out about her two children - she cried and shook as she phoned and received reassurances - Gill's arm around her comforting.

Some, nearly all, of the men and boys were soon making light of it all but their faces were grey and their cheer too strained to pass for genuine. The women at least were honest about their fear and trepidation. This machismo must be deeply seated but it doesn't make the womenfolk feel any better. Perhaps it is only another coping mechanism.

After the ground stopped moving and we had all collected ourselves as best we could we went back inside: signs above the aisles swayed back and forth - a mesmeric reminder of what had so recently passed us by. Packets of dry good littered the floor - a metric of the force - but there was no major damage - no structural harm done. The INKA supermarket around the corner however had lost all of its wine and spirit shelving. Bottles, can and broken glass covered the floors like a chaotic mosaic and the alcohol fumes greeted you at the entrance where the owner stood: serving but allowing nobody inside. When pressed about his losses he looked nonplussed - "that is only things - so long as no person was hurt what does it matter?"

Saturday, January 07, 2006


We're kind of incommunicado right now since ADSL switched off on us about Wednesday - Friday was a bank holiday and now we're into the W/E - xpect us back some time around the start of next week! We shall see.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Billy Liar

Mr Phrazer, you have come to this court for justice, is that correct?


How did you get here today Mr Phrazer? Did you come by car?


And did you come along the National Road?

Yes - I did.

Mr Phrazer, do you know how the court system is funded in Greece? And the National road system?

No, I don't think I do.

Well, Mr Phrazer, it should not come as a great surprise that both systems are funded by taxes - the taxes that we all pay.

No, I'm not surprised.

When did you last make a tax return that reflected all of your earnings for the year Mr Phrazer?

And when you had all of this work done on the house in question, were all the taxes paid on those works? The IKA? The VAT?

I think so, yes.

The people that you employed were all tradesmen, who, to the best of your knowledge, were paying their taxes and IKA? Is that so?

I think so yes.

And how many tradesmen would that have been Mr Phrazer?

I don't recall.

Wasn't it just the one in fact? And him not actually a tradesman at all? Just a friend of yours? One Mr Joseph K, who does not, from his tax return, appear to have declared any of the 50 euros a day that you paid him for the work.

No, we had a carpenter too!

You work here in Crete Mr Phrazer. You have worked here most of the 5 years you have been here - building work, metal work - isn't that so? Do you not currently work 3 days every week for a man in Kournas?

I help him out - that's all.

And you do not get paid for that?

No, I just help him out.

So when you told Mr Pees and Ms Lionheart that you got "40 euros a day - cash in hand", you were lying then?

I never said that.

I think, Mr Phrazer that you knew the Mr Joseph K was not paying taxes. I think that you are not paying taxes. I think that you believe, as you once told Mr Pees that "people who pay all their taxes are stupid". But I think it goes further than mere tax evasion Mr Phrazer. I understand that you and your wife are under investigation in the UK for conspiracy to defraud her pensions fund - that you tried, without success, to get Mr Pees involved in this fraud.

No, that's not true.

I will bring witnesses to prove that it is true Mr Phrazer, be careful - you are under oath. Let me sum up then, you came here today on roads that you do not pay for: you come to a justice system that you will not pay for - to ask us to award you a house and land that you have not paid Mr Nicholas for. This seems to be something of a habit with you, Mr Phrazer, this "something for nothing" approach to life - that, and your cavalier attitude to the truth.

You knew that Mr Nicholas could not and was not selling you the land didn't you? You knew that the land was rented out for at least 5 years to Ms Lionheart. You also knew that he was not selling you the entire house, but just the top two floors and that is we\hy you signed the private contract with him on that basis. You knew exactly what you were paying for Mr Phrazer - did you not?

I was confused, no , I didn't know.

Was it not your original intention to rent the top two floors of Mr Nicholas's house? Is that not, in point of fact, the basis on which Ms Lionheart approached Mr Nicholas on your behalf? A long term rental for the rest of your lives for a single up-front payment? That is what I have witnesses to.


I will bring testimony to that effect and to the fact that you later changed your mind and decided that you wanted to buy those same two floors: that rather than approach Mr Nikolorakis and tell him about your change of mind you once more asked Ms Lionheart to be your go-between. Is that not so?


So, Ms Lionheart didn't intercede for you at any point? So the initial meetings to discuss the rental or sale of those two floors were not held in Ms Lionheart and Mr Pees's house? And in their presence?


I have a different set of information Mr Phrazer. My understanding is that Ms Lionheart served very much as the go-between in these matters until such time as she became unhappy with your conduct in the proceedings. And the reason that Ms Lionheart and Mr Pees were involved was partly because they wanted to help you, as friends, and partly because Mr Nicholas refused to rent or sell to you unless she, Ms Lionheart, was happy with the agreement. Isn't that so? Wasn't the whole basis of the agreement that you and Mrs Phrazer would become members of a kind of community there in Felia sharing the land and the work on it? Junior members but members nonetheless? That you would be allowed much more than you had paid for on this understanding of a communality? Mr Phrazer?


I suggest that this was the only way that you would have been allowed to participate in Felia at all. It was after all, and you were told this many times, a shared dream between Ms Lionheart, Mr Pees and Mr Nikolorakis that you were attempting to join. And now Mr Phrazer, I put it to you that this is where the deception began: but it was not Mr Nicholas who was deceiving you: rather it was the case that you and Mrs Phrazer engaged in a deception of Ms Lionheart and Mr Pees and finally Mr Nicholas. You readily agreed to the terms of community that were outlined at these first few meetings: that all changes would be jointly agreed; that any building works would be jointly agreed, that electricity and water would be shared; in short that you would join this community. You agreed to all of this but without any intention of ever making good on your promises. Is that not the case Mr Phrazer?


There are echoes here of the fraud that you are accused of perpetrating on your wife's pension fund, I think. In that case you allegedly began signing important legal documents instead of her some years ago so that if she dies before you you will be able to continue signing them and thus pretend that she is still alive and entitled to a full pension rather than the half share that you as a widowed spouse would legally be entitled to. Another long term fraud carefully conceived. However, in the case of the Felia fraud you became impatient very quickly. Your wife did not like the idea of anyone controlling what she did with what she considered to be her property. You also came up against a problem when you employed Mr Joseph K who was, at the time, also a friend to Ms Lionheart and Mr Pees. Didn't you Mr Phrazer?


When Mr Pees came to remonstrate with you over the works you were carrying out prior to moving in he discovered that you had not in fact told Mr Joseph K the real nature of your agreement didn't he? He discovered that you had led Mr Joseph K to believe that you had a simple purchase agreement, didn't he? You told Ms Lionheart that you couldn't tell Mr Joseph K "the truth" because he would think you "stupid" isn't that true Mr Phrazer? Just as your American friend Keith had dubbed you stupid when you discussed with him the lifetime rental that you had been planning to arrange in the first place?

No, it wasn't like that.

And, since you would not tell Mr Joseph K the true nature of your agreement he and Mr Pees fell out to the point where Mr Joseph K no longer speaks to Mr Pees - to this day - isn't that so Mr Phrazer?

They don't speak but that's not the reason.

So what IS the reason Mr Phrazer? Or rather, what was the reason?

Mr Pees was being unreasonable and he swore at Aris - Mr Joseph K - that's what it was about.

So, you are asking us to believe that a friendship of several years: one that pre-dated your friendship with Mr Joseph K by some years, was thrown away because Mr Pees swore at him? As I have it, Mr Pees and Ms Lionheart were allowing you to use electricity from their house - and water from their house, while you were working on your own house. And they were being unreasonable? How so? Do tell us.

They complained about us working late into the evening with power tools.

And did they cut off your access to their electricity and water? Did they remove their electricity to stop you and Mr Joseph K using your power tools? No, they did not. They asked Mr Joseph K, as a friend, not to work so late with the power tools. They asked him to plan his works to avoid using power tools after dark, isn't that so? And if he couldn't do that, then to start work earlier in the day? Before 2 o'clock in the afternoon? Isn't that actually what happened?

Sort of.

I see, how very unreasonable of them to require some peace and quiet after a hard day working in Ms Lionheart's farm - and we know that you knew it was Ms Lionheart's farm.. But still, they didn't actually cut off your access to water and electricity did they? And they could have. Did they not, in fact continue to supply you with electricity for almost a year after you moved in? And water? For about eighteen months as I understand it. Isn't that so Mr Phrazer?

Kind of.

Let me bring you back to the agreement or contract that you signed with Mr Nicholas. The one that you say you were confused about. You were told, weren't you, that because of the location of the property the agreement would have to be a private agreement; that because the property was not in a town that he could not officially sell you an apartment? And you agreed to this private agreement. You also declined an offer to have the contract translated didn't you? You stated at that time that you didn't want any land other than the plot in front of your two floors. That you wouldn't want to leave the property to anyone. Didn't your wife say that since you do not have children, either of you, that she would bequeath the property back to Mr Nicholas on your deaths?

She never said that.

I have witnesses who will testify that all of this was so. I think that your so called witnesses have only your own unreliable word on which to base their testimony - their "recollection" of events at which they were never present.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Lavender blue, lavender green
When we are king,
Gilly Gilly you will be queen

I been singing this song most of today I have. It's a great one from wayback by a group called Milleniumn and the lead singer was called Cod (or so Ceddie tells me). Don't no where I picked it up but it fitted so I changed it. I kno it was written for a girl called Dilly but I redid the versey bits so's its for Gill now - and she desreves it. She and the Bossman gave us all the best Krissmas we ever did have since we was kids together. Thanx Gill. Thanx Bossman.

We bin bonnying al day since the jew started to dry up as bit. I think I'm pressed the BossMan. I lit the first fire up this morning and even got the second one going in the lite rain that we got this afternoon. All told we must've burnt maybe three quaters of the olive prunings so the farm is looking much neeter now. As we were going backwoods and forwoods to the bonny, dragging the prunings large and small we kept going past Gill where she was sitting in Lav2 pruning the english lavenders. Everytime we went past she'd give us a heads up and flash us that lovely smile of hers. Bossman was a bit slower than me and Ceddie because his leg was playing up again but he did good anyway. At he finish he was limping like old man Gladden up the road from us but he didn't give up. His house had mushrooms groweing on the walls when he died.

Thinking about Gladden, he had a wooden leg from the war he did, reminded me and Ceddie of Sonny Hesketh and we had a good laugh about that episode together round the bonny. Canvey bleeding Island! A shit hole under water. Like a dirty Holland crouching under a huge sea wall. Later on the miserable ole sod from next door came out and started ranting about the bonnies and chucking his weight around like a big ole bully. He live on a farm for God sake what he expect? I was all for going up an lumping him one when he start to threaten the Boss but everyone say no so I didn't. I got to forget it they say. Tell you what though he threaten me I going to teach him some effing manners like Joe used say.

Footnote1 (FarmBoy): The story Ediie is talking about is when we were kids and mum was hard up. She wanted to give us a holiday but she didn't have any money. And then she saw an advert in the small ads of the local paper where some geyser was offering holidays in the country to boys who would help do his garden. Well, the countryside turned out to be Canvey Island and anyway because we were used to gardening we were packed off to him for a fortnight in the school holidays - bed and board and ten bob a week for us! Alarm bells went off when he met us off the bus - he was a bit grubby and a bit creepy. When we get back to his place it's like a shed in a jungle. The weeds in the front garden are like head high on us. And the back garden - don't even ask! Inside the place smelt of piss and mildew - even with he windows open. The karzie was filthy and the bath was black. To cut a long .... turns out the old boy is a pederast and it took me about 3 hours to work that one out. Scummy little creep is looking for a catamite but me and Eddie ain't up for that. We did some work in the wilderness while I was working out how to light out of there but by the next day I had our plan. So, when he goes out to the shops I rummage through the drawers and tins looking for cash while Eddie packs and hangs around outside - bags packed and ready for action. He's keeping cavey and I'm ransacking the place looking for our bus fares home and a little compensation - if you know what I mean. Anyways, I uncover some cash and we're away. Free and clear. We get to the gate - a ramshackle affair with a broken hasp - and Eddie asks for a fag. I hand him the baccy and the matches and before I know what's occurring he's off up the path like a rat up a drain pipe, a burning book of matches in his hand, he gets to the front porch and slings it. And then he's back on his way to as fast or faster than he went and he's waving me away. The place went up like tinder! Serve the dirty ole pervert right. Never told anyone that - until now.

Footnote2 (Bossman): What Eddie can do with a single match and a cube of fire lighter is almost beyond belief. Did I not know better I would suspect that he had, at some, stage been a professional fire lighter or else a gifted amateur arsonist (FarmBoy assures me that this is not so although the tale about Mr Hesketh tends me to opine otherwise). Aren't all arsonists amateur? The way he can move the centre or heart of a conflagration is an art all in itself and I have nothing but admiration for his pyromaniacal skills.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Didn't we have a luvverly time the day we went to Koufi?

At about ten to eleven we get into the car. The black leather seats have been warmed by early sun. The windscreen is covered in dust that G cleans off for us. Betty starts second time - I must get that detached choke cable replaced - and she comes luxuriously up on her suspension, and the red light goes off (this time - but not always so). Slip her into reverse (column change), click off the handbrake (applied by foot but released by hand), head over right shoulder, reverse out down the straight of the road and swing round the hard right hander to stop by the bins (full to overflow) and then off we go.

It is a new day in a new month in a new year and we are off to see Maria and Marinos. By the time we get to Dramia , and the first real rise, the engine has warmed up nicely and she is running smoothly - cruising in chauffeur driving luxury. The hedgerows, such as they are at this time of year, are covered with clover and oxalis, as are the fields about that haven't had sheep in them of late. Small, beautiful, birds flit back and forth, some grazing insects on the wing while high above, on the rise up toward Patima, the village emptied by a blood feud, soar the gerakia. Thermals are spiralling up into the clear cerulean - the only mackerel cloud is at about 2,500 ft.

The road to Episkopi curls up like the spiralling thermals, helping us up. A smile as we pass the first, and only road sign that announces a bend; with fifteen already behind us! On past Filaki, and one more, two more, three more bends, before the twin blue towers of the big church at Episkopi loom and the solid blue wall of the farmers' union building jumps out at us from the right hand side - too much blue - too blue! One more and we reach the village of Episkopi: one narrow road with pickups, farming land up here, parked on either side, forcing us all to make impromptu passing spots - beside the periptera, opposite the agricultural merchants store (closed now on Sunday New Year's Day).

Out of the village taking the left fork, not the right to Argirouplois and ancient Lappa that lends its name to this demos. Koufi at last. A magical first journey to start the newly minted year. From here we can look across to the White Mountains caped now in deep snow, and over the massive bay where water lays limpid, calmer even than the lake on days like this like a looking glass laid down beyond the landfall.

Where else would we ever want to be? A time to enjoy and appreciate where we are and where we live as well as how we live.