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

Monday, February 27, 2006


It's a funny old discipline this writing jobby. It's a fascinating thing. At present, as my regular readers will know, I'm busy dragging all of my first year's blog entires out of their current home so that I can publish them as a book with Having shuffled them all across to my own disk as html I am now draggng them one by one into a word processing package and re-ordering them in the process.

As they move, cutting and pasting, across I naturally get glimpses of these old entries. Sometimes it's a line or two of the body of the entry - often the opening or the ending of an entry. Every so often a phrase pops out from the middle of the text as it scrolls past and reminds me momentarily of the effort that goes into them. Of course, I see all of the titles and these make me smile - I spend a lot of time on allusive, cryptic titles for the entries and it is surprising how many of them still make me smirk at my own conceit and cleverness.

The images are not going into the book but they likewise remind me of just what a great photographer Gill has become over the past year or so. These lovely images snapshot whole days when they work well - they could stand alone as a chronicle of our time here. Now there's another idea.

Vanity publishing it used to be called. But isn't all publishing an act of vanity? Isn't blogging a vainglorious effort in and of itself? My hope for the book is that those who come to my blog later in its life - and many have found it only recently - can buy a copy to catch up on the very strange beast that has become The Lavender Way. I am an avid reader of traditional books - I love to read on the sofa, I love to read on the beach, I adore and am addicted to reading in bed and none of these is well suited to the base medium of the blog. Online reading is different. It discourages back reference and re-reading sections. It denies the reader some of the basic rights of traditional readers. It denies the reader the sensuality of reading: the smell and the feel and the satisfaction of the heft of a book.

We shal see whether it works out but heck I'm looking forward to being able to have and to hold a concrete copy of my work. Even if it does suck.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Aitch two oh!

On water. You cannot walk on it - unless you are the Christ. When it's in a river you cannot step into the same bit twice. It's good for shaving in - and cooking in. It's great for making tea and coffee with. You can wash yourself and your clothes in it. It's essential to human life - all life in fact. Two thirds of the entire planet is covered in it.

Interesting thing is - there isn't enough of it. Well not the kind we humans need anyway. Last time I looked, the WHO thought that every person on the planet requires 20 liters of it every day. People in the western pretty much take it for granted. People in a majority of countries in the world die from lack of it. People in the west wash their cars in water that people in the developing world would love to be able to drink - and shit in it, and flush the whole mess away with more of it. The average person in the United States uses 200 litres of it every day - drinking quality water.

Wash the dog, flush the bog, water the plants, clean the car, scrub harmless graffiti from the walls, rinse the mud from the cricket balls - it's only water! When the local council forbids you from using it to water your beautiful green lawn - you watch it turn brown and your face forms a frown. Forget that there are people dying all over that world that you do not visit for that last little drop that you used on your own little crop - of tomatoes.

Picture this - four adults are sitting around a table eating a light lunch and discussing the dreadful waste of water in the world. This is in a village that regularly suffers water shortages in the summer. There is a swimming pool outside. When lunch is over the dishes are loaded into a dishwasher. The woman next door is hanging out a small line of washing - two machine loads worth - a dozen white underwear and two pairs of jeans. A woman in Africa cradles the head of her dead child and cries dry tears.

If there is a third world war it will not be fought over oil it will be fought over water.

Friday, February 24, 2006


What very strange lives we online people live nowadays. Our world is so much smaller than that of our parents and of our offline friends and acquaintances. We are closer to each other online than I would, in my youth, have believed possible.

Our external neural networks cover huge territories - intellectual, cultural, and geographical - that we have begun to take for granted our breadth. Last night as we sheltered indoors, friends on Mellaflusia were discussing the white out that they were experiencing - we were huddling away from a massive dust storm with winds of 68 miles per hour. When we rose this morning and before we had ventured too far to discover and repair the damage done we were looking at photos from our northern correspondent Finn McEskimo of a snow covered Finland taken only yesterday. As the temperature rose to 18ยบรง here I was chatting to a HiPhi in Brighton where fine flakes of snow were falling gently. Here the sun was blue and the sky was a sulphurous yellow.

And as we chattered and before I ventured out to cut back broken olives Muddybanks came into the discussion from the Philippines where the president had just declared a state of emergency! And this only a week after the disastrous mudslide that entirely buried a village.

Our broader perspective allows us to be more sanguine than would previously have been the case.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


The scouts have been out and about. This was the seventh fine, rain-free, day in a row and so the entire crew disappeared for half the day checking out their pet projects and potential projects: seeing how things are drying up (and now that we have a chunky southerly wind it's drying quickly); checking out materials; stocking up on potting compost (you know who you are) which involved a trip out to the local hardware store (80 litres - that should keep you going for a while G); and opening up the log pile pit to speed up the drying out.

The Guv'nor has been checking in with Adonis regularly this past month to try and ascertain when Daisy will be back but is still getting precisely nowhere - we all miss her badly. Not having a pick up is a serious disability right here and right now. Not so much of a problem in summer but autumn and winter are times when one needs to be able to collect and transport - anything and everything. He has also been trying to locate an Apple USB modem for when the ADSL line goes down again (it hasn't happened recently, but we saw an OTE van today and if they are out and about there is a fair chance that they'll bugger things up sooner or later and it has been a while) but the Greek Apple store appears to be strictly monolingual as well as being pretty much impenetrably obscure.

And yet, through all of this we all have to stop every once in a while and remind ourselves that it IS only February. Winter's onset may have been premature but that does not make it inevitable that spring will be early too. Were it January then we would simply dismiss this amazingly fine session as being the Halcyon Days but in February? It looks like spring, it feels like spring, the plants and animals think it's spring - why shouldn't it BE Spring despite European roof collapses (is this going to be a recurring tragedy now that snow falls are becoming heavier?) under the weight of snow? We shall all, I think, continue to behave as though it were spring until mother nature disabuses us! Possibly disastrously.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Maps of absence

"We are all haunted," said Shaun leaning conspiratorially over the table and flicking the ash from his cigarette, missing the ashtray entirely and spattering the waxed surface with a liberal grey dust, " and we are all haunted by the same demon." The five men around the table looked each in turn at the others and a slow communal nod followed. "But," said Shem seriously, "we do not talk of it --- our stalker if you will." Another communal nod. All knew whereof the twins spoke and none would articulate the word.

Shaun lit another cigarette and took a mouthful of coffee. Eddie was steepling his hands and staring intently at them. Eddie more than anyone knew. Farmboy gently put his arm on Eddie's shoulder and rocked him. "Do we have to?" he asked quietly, looking The Boss directly in the eye. "We don't have to, of course we don't, but ..." and there The Boss left it hanging ominously over the table. His elbows were on the table and his head was between his hands. "But that film last night ...".

"Does it do any good not to talk of it? Ignoring it will not make it go away nor make it easier to live with and we all have to learn to live more at ease with it. Besides, if it strikes we'll not be able to talk of it. We have to agree to watch each other's backs. We have to develop protocols for the eventuality that it gets one of us." Shaun pushed his chair back from the table and rocked it back, he spread his hands and spoke again, "Well that's how I see it. What do you guys think? We can always drop it if you want."

Nobody stirred. The silence, the restraint, was palpable. A kind of mental static charge continued building until Shem discharged it with "When we were kids, just 6 or so ..." An unspoken group assent was signalled by every head coming up. All were suddenly ready to talk or if not to talk then to listen.

"When we were kids, as I said, we used to go and visit mum's sister once a month. We were only bits of kids. It was a lovely place. Lovely, but scary for a kid. Probably scary for an adult come to that. It was in its own grounds - neatly tended and I remember the sun shining. Inside though, in the wards, in the day rooms, it was a nightmare. Lost people, empty people, sitting, standing in corridors, wandering so clearly aimlessly. Were these really people? They looked like. But they didn't act like. Not scary like to make you run away but ... it just filled us with horror. A horror that, even then, we couldn't speak of. Later we went to visit dad's brother - same deal, different hospital. Barley Lane - known locally as the nuthatch. What was mum thinking of?"

"And," broke in Shaun, "she just told us that Rose had "problems with her nerves". And with the drink. Oh yes, they all had problems with the drink all right. It's a family trait. Every one of them, but one has to wonder whether the drink was a symptom or an escape: a cause or an effect? That was our first exposure. The first we knew of it all. I think we both knew that that could be our fates too and feared that it could be our destiny." As a man they all nodded together. It was, evidently, a common experience. "Our granddad" said Eddie. "My uncle" said The Boss. They had all been to the same place. And this was their first exposure to the demon. Not, I am afraid, the demon drink!

The Boss spoke next, a catch in his voice, a tremor even, "So we have all lived with the possibility of madness overtaking us? The likelihood even?" Nods all round. "And then, as if that weren't bad enough, we all found our friend big A? Or rather had him thrust upon us?" More nods, more vigorous this time.

"Those images of the scans that they showed in the film though, those CAT scans, it's not the same thing at all is it, the big A? It's almost as though it were the exact opposite. Rose lost her mind: Bobby lost his mind. But with Alzheimer's it's as though your mind - or your brain - loses you. Those CAT scans are maps of absence. Black holes where the person used to be. A shell is all that it leaves: a hollowed out thing - not human - not as we know it. Without words, without language, how are we human? Especially those of us who live in words - in thought - in our heads? Without words how are thoughts possible? Rose, I'm sure went inside. Bobby too. But, where was Iris? Gone! Absent. No more."

"Can we drop this? Please? It isn't helping Eddie - as far as I can see we all keep watch on each other ---- and then we decide what to do. Is that OK?"


Monday, February 20, 2006


A butterfly dressed in shades of orange and brown in a tortoiseshell arrangement flutters by. Bees buzz busily attending to the bright yellow blooms of the oxalis, fully open in the glare of a February sun. Lazy lizards sun themselves languorously on stones pre-warmed by this morning's rays: seeming stones themselves but ready at first notice of threat to scuttle way at full tilt.. Above all of us a trio of buzzards circle and corkscrew higher ever higher on the thermals rising from the valley floor until they espy some movement way below them in the olive groves: a tiny sharp nosed shrew perhaps has popped his dainty pink nose out to look for insects. The buzzard drops and 30 feet above the tops of the olives swoops in. He leaves empty taloned and cries that baby like cry to his companions who hover above patiently. They resume their restless aerobatics as though, having nothing more pressing to do, they were playing.

And on this fine February day Gill is pulling thistles and clearing larger weeds in the front garden. Farmboy is dressed today in black and is up on the roof while Eddie in signature red overalls foots the ladders. The boys are cleaning the stove pipe probably for the last time this winter before the stove is decommissioned again. They are bantering over the noise of the brush scraping up and down the stainless steel pipe and discussing plans to rehang the pipe before next winter - working out how they might manage that without the use of scaffolding. The girls are sunbathing on their decking - both of them are in season. A golden, luminous glow suffuses the valley. We are all abuzz with the expectation of Spring but we all know that this is most likely just an isolated kindness of nature and that we could all be caught out: bees and butterflies, lizards and Farmboys and girls, by a swift return of rain and cold. And so we simply make the most of what we have today.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Messages and media

I'm not going to labour this point or even to new labour it. I just want to know who changed the nature of the British legislature. Who changed it, and when did they change it? Who changed it, when did they change it, and did they ask anyone? I mean to say - why they changed it is patently obvious - because they wanted to but the why and the who are mysteries.

Now I used to believe and was actually taught that the job of the government and legislature was to frame, debate, amend and pass laws onto the statute book. And to repeal laws too, when they were no longer relevant. Was I wrong all along?

The reason I ask is that of late all recent legislation in the UK houses of parliament has been to do not with passing legislation for its necessity but in order to "send messages". And so the British parliament sends messages to terrorists, and is very fussy about including a single, poorly defined word (the verb to glorify). They reclassify a particular drug and then worry that this reclassification may have "sent the wrong message". Police chiefs talk of "sending messages" when they want particular legislation passed. The FSA talks not about its own desperate failure to address effectively any of the problems that they were set up to deal with but resorts instead to talking about sending messages.

In order to "send a message" the British parliament passes legislation that is entirely unnecessary (Abu Hamza was prosecuted successfully only a week or so before the "glorification of terrorism" clause was argued back and forth and was convicted under pre-existing legislation) and that would appear to outlaw the advocacy and encouragement of groups of similar colour to the French resistance under the Third Reich: that would have sought to lock up people who supported the ANC in their overthrow of the apartheid government in South Africa; the list is long.

Why is legislation suddenly about sending messages? Could it be that sending messages is easier than doing anything about the underlying issues? From where I'm sitting it surely looks that way.

Friday, February 17, 2006


Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again. But today, when I awoke I recalled that it was not Manderley we were due to visit today but Otranto. Not a grand country house haunted by the lingering presence of the recently dead Mrs DeWinter but the gothic pile of our good friends Mick and Chick situated in the village of Dry Wells up on the Drapanos peninsula that lowers over the Almyros bay.

It was a wonderful day today - one of those sun drenched days that recur through winter here and make it all so worthwhile. We drove sedately through the village of Georgioupolis, almost deserted in the depths of winter, and headed on out over the quaint river bridge and up into the hills of Exopolis with its tiny blue domed white church. The hedgerows are scattered with tiny white and yellow flowers among the bright green grass and weed on the way to the twin villages of Kalamitsi (Amigdali and Alexandrou) and as we passed through and reached the higher altitudes of Vamos the white overwhelmed, crowding out the yellow completely. The sun came out and warmed us through.

Mick and Chick are only here for a week and have, as usual been busy busy busy but today they relaxed and were the perfect hosts. Chick took us on the guided tour of the grounds of Castle Otranto stopping now and then to point out dark blue wild lupins, tiny orchids, ranunculas, and anemones. Spring must be properly on its way. No standing water here up on the roof of the peninsula. She takes such joy in these tiny little gems that grow wild all around her and her pleasure is contagious. A simple peasant lunch of salad, graviera and locally baked bread and an afternoon of idle and constructive chatter rounded off the first day of Gill's holiday. Sadly, Mick and Chick go back to Blighty on Sunday. We do not envy them.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Lavender Lil earns a break

A landmark day today. Sunshine and a light breeze heralded a welcome break from rain and the snow on the mountaintops brightened the mood all round.

Lav2 Panorama

Gill has officially put the 2005 lavender crop to bed. All plants are now pruned. All flower heads have been rubbed. All records are up to date and the harvest is finally finished. Jars and other airtight containers hold marketable lavender product - no raw material remains as raw material. Even the stalks will be used as incense. Ledgers and almanacks record the entire history of the 2005 crop, step by step, day by day, flower by flower.


The bottom line numbers tell almost nothing of the rich and varied story of the crop: just over 6 kilograms of dried flower buds, and 1.4 liters of lavender oil. A couple of hundred bushes: the planting, weeding, irrigation, harvesting and pruning of a couple of hundred bushes produced that yield. Yield per bush is up. Overall yield is up. Oil yield is new. Gill has done an amazing job and is still, as far as we can ascertain the only lavender farmer in Crete - she is certainly the best. All organic and totally chemical free lavender grown in Crete is now available.

Today I also finished the big clear up from the olive harvest - all cuttings and prunings rest in a massive heap between lav2 and the bamboo. A bonfire will be next - when we have a stillish, dry, day.

Time for a rest you might think. Gill has started talking about tidying up the front garden next!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


"Is it", I wondered to myself, settling back into the leather chair, feet off of the ground, suspended as it were in air, "Is it possible for a man or woman who as seen either Marathon Man or The Little Shop of Horrors to feel truly at ease in a dentist's chair"? Not this one - certainly, and I've spent more than my fair share of time in these unhappy seats, thronelike - king of nothing I survey - the subject not the sovereign.

Palpably vulnerable, mouth open, hands uncomfortably grasped in a lap that almost doesn't exist at this semi-supine attitude I submit. Twice every year these days I voluntarily submit to this ordeal. Actively trying to relax I shake the tension out of all my muscles and loose each last tendon - a rag now.

Nikos seats himself beside me after a thorough examination and draws a tray of implements toward him. Nikos, whom I barely know outside of this long white room where a heater battles with a window open to the sleet and hail that are falling alternately outside. Nikos, husband of our osteopath Kristina, who even now is manipulating G's hip hopefully back into alignment two floors beneath us. "First." he says, and pauses ominously,"... we will do a deep clean. an, how do you say it, intense clean". He drops the hideously uncomfortable sucking machine into my mouth, pushes his sleeves back and selects what looks like a military grade crochet hook from the stainless steel tray before him.

And so begins almost an hours of excruciating scraping and chipping. How those teeth do not just pop out of the gum under this treatment is beyond me and when he scrapes out below the gum line shifting deeply seated plaque that he wipes onto the back of his gloved left hand the sound together with the intense pain is eased only when the warm coppery taste of my own blood fills my mouth. Strange how the taste of flowing blood always does that - calms me down, takes the edge off of the tension. Perhaps that's the effect that self harmers get. A kind of release.

It continues. How long do dentists really believe that a person can keep their mouth open? Perhaps they are all free divers in their spare time and judge by their own standards. Nikos finds a couple of additional problems as he circumnavigates my mouth a crown loose here, a bridge unseated there, a piece missing from the splint that holds my two front upper teeth in place. He mentions them almost in passing - and does he wonder why my responses are so perfunctory?

Finally we are finished - or rather he is finished and I am simply done with. The routine rinse and spit takes two full glasses to come clear. My mouth is tender but satisfyingly tender. Next week we will be back together - he shows me the dentist's hammer with which he intends, all going well, to remove three conjoined crowns before replacing them all re-bedded. Let joy be unconfined. A trip to the dentist is a thing of wonder and a joy forever.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Two men of letters

Two very different men of american letters came to us this week courtesy of Radio4 online. What we Brits tend to think of, or at least always thought of. as a national treasure (unless we are licence fee objectors) goes from strength to strength as it adapts to new technologies and the 21st century. Who else in broadcasting would bring you Kurt Vonnegut and P J O'Rourke in one week (and don't tell me Rupert Murdoch would) and throw in a series of programmes dedicated to the imprimatur of Arthur Miller at the same time? And now that we are outside of the UK we understand, in very subjective fashion, that the BBC is more a global or international treasure than our more parochial vista would have had us believe.

The two pieces were fascinating and entertaining although the difference in the way the two men are aging or have aged is illuminating. O'Rourke is or was an acerbic and sometimes flippant observer of life especially his work as a foreign correspondent who has softened and retrenched as he has aged. Vonnegut is an analyst and critic with a brilliant way with words and turn of phrase who has remained staunch. Where O'Rourke has veered further to the right as he has aged, after a brief swerve to the centre mid career, Vonnegut began and will, I suspect after this latest interview, remain a socialist and a humanist to the end. O'Rourke's cozy, family minded, right wing, religious frame of mind contrasts sharply and unfavourably with Vonnegut's tough, fair minded, left of centre approach.

The wonderful BBC did not engineer this "compare and contrast", it was an accident of broad and diverse programme making and it is only such breadth of view that makes these serendipitous juxtapositions possible. And what other broadcaster will do that for us if the BBC is doomed, as so many critics would have it become, to a simple future of ratings based competition with the mediocre?

Both of these programmes are available for listening from . The BBC has an excellent search feature that will help you find the Radio4 programmes referred to in this entry.

Friday, February 10, 2006


I've held off of this for a while but really, the Blasphemy versus Freedom of speech rift that has opened over the Allah cartoons has started to rankle with me and I cannot stay silent.

It was apparent long before these cartoons were published that the two sides of this particular argument held different things dear and that at some point these differences could be used to provoke just such a row as this current one. Governments and to some extent the peoples of the west tend to value freedom of speech, "democracy" (as defined by elected western governments), and an objectively bizarre and subjectively selective set of "freedoms". Islamic governments and a great many followers of Allah. in the far and middle east, as well as within western societies, revere Allah and a set of restrictions surrounding him, adhere to basic tenets based on their religious beliefs and have a less reverential attitude to the kind of freedoms that the west holds dear. Western societies tend to have a firm dissociation of church and state written into their constitutions whether they observe them or not - the UK for example has laws that outlaw and punish blasphemy against the Xtian church. It was thus clear that these differences could easily be blown into a major row without very much effort.

And so, as the western good book would have it, it came to pass. Under the cloak of promoting the freedom of speech value, someone abused the underlying respect that both sides had been exercising in order to attack Islamic values, and thus the Islamic world head on. They did not use Bin Laden to represent the part of Islamic militancy that they wished to disparage - they used, knowing the Islamic taboo on the representation of Muhammad, Muhammad himself. It was as if, instead of representing Ian Paisley to disparage the protestant fanatics in Northern Ireland someone had chosen to portray Christ in the role of a hate mongering supporter of terrorism. Up until this point the two sides could agree to differ so long as they respected each others' values but once the respect was ditched retrenchment was inevitable. Inevitable and sad.

It is not possible, in a world where both sets of views are firmly held, to jettison this respect without bringing these views into direct opposition and it is hard to see how the intention here was anything as noble as to begin an ultimately barren debate about this inherent opposition of tenets. Oh no - I feel the hand and mind of an agent provocateur. Possibly the hand of an Islamophobe. And the fact that there is clearly nothing to be gained form such action other than mutual hatred makes me suspect a premeditated attempt to polarise the worlds of Islam and Judaeo/Christian peoples. A genuinely wicked hand is behind this and it surprised me above all else that this came from Denmark a country that I had always assumed was fairly reasonable and respectful. My reading since this whole mess erupted however has led me to doubt my previous judgement - there have clearly been some rumblings of this kind of intolerance for some years - rumblings I had not heard or had not attended to previously. Mea culpa.

I find it hard to imagine what constructive value can emerge from this intellectual maelstorm and even harder to imagine whether, let alone how, we can move the balance back to the way it was. Polarisation has largely been achieved - and we shall all pay the piper on this new tune.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Shem and Shaun decamp

In our hubristic moods we surmise that you have been missing our presence here in this blogsphere of recent vintage. We may be wrong - it unlikely but possible. If you have, we are desolee,if you are not, then ditto. At last though we are free to reveal the well grounded reason for our absence.

Shaun and I have been exploring a new world. We could not tip our hand previously for the simple reason that it might not have worked out as well as it has. As you would recall, had you been readers for any length of time, the two of us have been participating in an online community for more than a year. Sad to say that particular community has been in gradual disintegration for some time - since August last in point of fact - and the decay continues day by day. In consequence we have been searching for a new community for some several months having already established that we can belong happily in those virtual places. If the ship is sinking we shall abandon ship and look for new passage elsewhere.

We had tried a few alternatives with little what I shall call "stickiness" - that character that makes one stay and contribute in evidence. Recently however, we discovered mellaflusia ( and decided to try it and see how it would suit us. And it does.

Mellaflusia is a small community at present but growing. Its motto is "Inspire Create" and its spirit is one of a supportive community for creatives. Unlike the one we have just jumped ship on this place is all about support and harmony. There is respect and taste, there is a restful graphic design without intrusive and ugly advertising, there are good people and there is interaction and debate rather than ranting. They accept and even welcome suggestions to a point where one quickly feels at home and useful. We think it may become our R&R centre for some time.

If you think creatives are woosy fuzzy types avoid this site - otherwise try it - especially if you think creatively.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Stove - the reality

I do love that man very dearly but sometimes he just does my head in. I mean! That lyrical ode to the bloody stove yesterday! Sheer sentimentality or what? It wasn't him up the ladder most of yesterday. It wasn't him wading around in a half flooded carage sawing, carving and sanding, snipping metal, drilling holes and such. No that was me. Me and Eddie. It wasn't him 3 metres up the ladder in the wind and rain with an electric drill half the day. And Eddie footing the ladder for me down below getting covered in soot. We were putting a new cap end together for the stove pipe bottom and fitting it but the pipe is irregular shaped. It's a recurring issue and one I've still not fixed up to my satisfaction. You see we've got about this stove pipe about 3 metres up an outside wall and ... Never mind that's my problem. I've got some ideas - again. And once we'd got that fettled we had to rehang one of the washing lines that he waxed lyrical about. The Boss doesn't get to deal with the shitty end of some of those things that he loves so much. Ah so what - we love him anyway. Especially so since he still hasn't mentioned Eddie going back to blighty (fingers crossed).

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Stove duties

There is something both satisfying and comforting about running a log burning stove. The heat it produces is comforting in the evenings when we withdraw to the middle floor to relax and recap the day. The incarnadine glow, the dancing of the flame all around, licking the logs before it consumes them, and the hot hot radiant heat. The smell of stove is the smell of winter: the smells of olive logs burning and lavender stalks toasting on the top. These smells permeate the house all winter long and long into the spring: they fix themselves into what soft furnishings we have.

Before the stove where I kneel to clean the grate every morning and build that coming night's fire the grout between the terracotta tiles is darker: there, over by the sofa, it is a dark grey while here it is more nearly black from the soot that daily is scraped from the viewing window cut into the loading door of the dull black stove. Beside it to the right sits the black hammerited log basket full of olives cut from older trees in the annual cleaning of the groves and in front of that another pile, freestanding. To its right is a tall pierced stainless steel bin that holds kindling for the next four days: discarded, worn out shuttering timber, dried through summer and chopped in winter. Between them is a natural, green, and purple, rafia basket filled to almost overflow with ripped up newspapers, wire brushes, gloves, blocks of firelighting material purchased at the local supermarket, a lighter and the scraper that I use to clean our portal to the heart of the fire.

But the stove is just a symptom of the way we live. A signifier. We try as best we can to live in harmony with the world of nature here and to do as little damage as we can and there is a virtuous circle to the wood burning stove. The same though is true of our water usage. A recent poll on an online community that I inhabit asked how often people showered or bathed and my response, among all the 3 times a day north americans, was simply - in winter when we have hot water. Our washing water is heated by the sun and so showering and washing clothes (which Gill does exclusively by hand and which is dried either in the sun or wind, or both, or by the stove) are done when we have hot water. Our drinking water we collect from a natural spring and the once or twice in a year when the car gets a wash it is always done in irrigation water.

We are not, nor have ever been, eco-warriors or tree huggers, we hardly even qualify as card carrying Greens it just seems that living here deep in diurnal touch with nature has adjusted us and our attitudes toward respect and care for that which nurtures and sustains us all.

Friday, February 03, 2006


While it is true that Gill never rests on her laurels the same cannot be said for the self-important members of the scriptorium that produce this ignoble blog. It seems as though that recent CultSpy award has gone to their collective creative head and so they have been trawling through the last week or so's entries looking for plaudits from the readership. It was slim pickings but they have gathered them together beneath this paragraph chiefly to avoid having to write a piece for today.

Eskimo Weekly : Been reading your blog but not knowing what to say exept that I'd yearn to master my own thinking and mother language like you do yours! I'll reread some of your entries next weekend more thoroughly.

Die Shwartzweld: Wow. Seriously, words fail me right now. This is the kind of writing I dream of being able to do... Amazing entry ... such magical words...

The Kentucky Occasional: Your descriptions of life in Crete are more than poetic... they're soul-enriching. :)

Cefiro Daily: Beautiful writing...

We have absolutely no idea which particular, particularly scurrilous member of the yellow press wrote that opening paragraph but we're here to tell you that it isn't strictly true. Under normal circumstances we'd write a full and detailed rebuttal but since we're all feeling really laid back after a bright, dry, still and peaceful day forget it. Just because we like a stroke now and then doesn't make us bad people And anyway, finding those plaudits, and cutting and pasting them, must have taken almost as long as writing a decent piece would have done. C'est la vie. While we're on the subject of vanity Shem had been looking into the possibilities that online, print to order, vanity publishing open up to the Lavender Circus crew but we have to ask ourselves whether we would ever want to know that these ramblings exist in something other than the ether. What sort of creature would "the book of the blog" be?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

As the wolf howls at our door

As the wolf-like wind howls at our door a drape of rain covers the valley like the lank and unkempt hair of a greasy adolescent. Cloud, grey and threatening, obscures the heavens, refusing to move even in this north-east roaring wind. . Between the heavy downpours there are heavy showers and yet more gusts.

Gill stands at the table stripping lavender. I have just brought in the logs for tonight and topped up the kindling. The stove is cleaned and a fire laid in for tonight. We are set fair no matter what the day throws our way. I fancy we shall not be going out today. The temperature is falling rapidly too. I am just waiting for the cold white index finger on my right hand to come back to me. The cold white hand will tingle itself back to life.

The girls make random forays from out their warm dry kennel to check the progress of the day and empty bowels and bladders. Coffee brews. Toast fills the air, mingling with the aroma of lavender that pervades the cellar. Toast and Marmite soon. The light is poor but we resist the urge to switch a light on. Ones eyes become accustomed eventually.

And as I sit and write I think of what we have given up for this: a life of champagne, fine restaurants; a life almost without limit - financially. Our life back there was fast lived and full of things and people (not exactly friends but it seemed so at the time). We sold our minds, ideas, and problem solving skills and were well paid for it. Very well paid indeed. We had it all - money rich and time poor. We hardly even noticed.

Why would you give all this up? Could it not have been wrenched away from us? Yes. Was it ours to keep? No. Perhaps it felt permanent. Perhaps it still does to those who live it today but the illusion is just that. It can all be gone in an instant and nothing you can do about it. It is very 21st century. It is the very price we pay for affluence in the rich world - impermanence. Transitory material glory. And so, we cashed in and shifted down several gears for a life that is time rich and cash poor. A life we live as we want within the disciplines and constraints we have signed up to. A poetic life. Hardly idyllic but certainly poetic. And the concomitant is that we have a freedom - a set of freedoms that we hardly expected. Freedoms from, rather than freedoms to, but freedoms nonetheless and valuable ones at that.

No more whoring our brains. No more at the call of others. No more the treadmill of capitalism. Freedom and integrity. We made the right decision.