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

Sunday, April 30, 2006

I could never be lonely without a husband

Hearing him go in upstairs she realised that he had gone for his daily dump. Following his lead she took a leak and changed into her gardening clothes. She had been meaning to trim those bushes by the front door ever since the red rain of last week had left them looking shabby. If she cleaned out the dogs' run and changed their water then he would have gone and she wouldn't be disturbed for a good couple of hours. She wanted some solitude - some time to herself - and topiary was such a therapeutic pursuit. It would be ideal. The accounts for the month could wait. There would be plenty of time today and if she cleared her mind then the accounts would become less onerous. At least there were only the 5 accounts to balance nowadays - a gross simplification that she had wrought on their move here. She pulled on her gloves and went to the potting shed to get her secateurs - she'd do the dogs on her way but there was no need to come back inside for a while. She had the water bottle and everything else she needed was stored in the run. She fussed them down and stroked them as she went about the clean up. Finally, with the kennel swept, faeces cleared, and urine washed away, she swept the disturbed gravel back where it belonged and sat down on the decking with them. They climbed all over her and because she had on her gardening clothes that were proof enough against brambles and thistles she let them. They really were a joy. Uncomplicated and loving without reserve. She shared a goodly while with them this morning - they were cool in the breeze and not yet looking for shade.

Up at the front door she looked at the bushes and bethought herself, "I wish I knew what they were. Doesn't matter. Who cares anyway? I do. I'll ask Babbis next time. Goblet or bowl? Bowl I think. Goodness they're lopsided. And look at all that leafburn from the south wind. Not content with dumping half the Sahara on us it burns their leaves too. Such is life. The price we pay." and she laughed at herself, "I'm becoming quite sanguine and philosophical these last years. Who the hell is this Sue Graffi Gilbert was talking about? Not one of his previous lovers - I'm sure of that. I know I don't know them all - even he doesn't recall all of them but no she cannot be. Someone we knew? Someone who's got it in for him? Why? I know there are lots of untidy ends left over from the previous fabrics of his lives. But no. He'd have said. No, he didn't know - really didn't know. But if someone's resurrected Dick who else might be running around out there? Please not let one of them be that hideously talentless Lamont please. I genuinely hated that weak willed man - really. I must stop saying really all the time it makes me sound stupid. Even Gilbert hasn't thought of reusing him and he can be too assiduous about such economies for his own good sometimes. If it's only Defective Dick we'll be OK. Probably. He was a meddlesome, nosey, interfering little shit but there wasn't much harm in him really. There I go again stop it. His inner life is going to overwhelm us one day be sure of it. If all of that crap comes bubbling out at once we'll drown in it and that's for sure. That language centre seeding idea that he'd mentioned was worth thinking about though - possibly pre-Babel? Maybe that was the "confusion" they meant - losing that ability, clarity, unambiguousness. That bit's always bothered me about xtianity - I mean how can you have a loving god who reveals his plan in an hermeneutic text? Why would such a being do that? More - why use a purposely ambiguous mechanism? Language was built for lying not communicating after all. But Babel could explain it. What if before Babel language really was plain and communicative? Then that would mean that the word was originally perfectly accessible and its meaning obvious and beyond argument. o the xitian god sort of shot himself in the foot when he confused language turning his own text into a morass of hermeneutics. Could be. Makes a kind of sense I guess. I'll talk to Gilbert about it when he gets back. What time is it?" But instead of checking her watch she hunkered down to the topiary at hand. It was later when she heard the car draw up behind her - just as she was finishing up the second of the two bushes. She stepped back, admired her own handiwork and looked around for him. And there he was, coming through the bamboo gate. She stepped up and carelessly kissed him, "Everything go alright? What do you think?", sweeping her hand bushward. "Not well", come on let's make some tea and I'll tell you about it. And yes, I think they look absolutely spiffy. Much better. Tidy but not manicured - just like we like things".

And over a pot of Assam he explained how Adonis had not turned up. How he had been drunk the night before - his birthday - and had fallen heavily - he was "nearly dead" he had explained on the phone. But he had coerced Kostas into doing the service on Betty. What was worse was that while there he had checked on Daisy and despite all of the positive news that Adonis had been delivering for the past week she looked the same as before - she still needed welding and she didn't look like she'd be moving anywhere anytime soon. Gilbert was, he felt, righteously pissed off. And then she noticed - not only was he clearly angry but he was somehow looking older than he had when he left. She had noticed a little limp when he came down the path. She checked his eyes - the wrinkles were back. She checked his hands - so were the liver spots. There was the beginnings of a five o'clock shadow on his cheek.

(to be continued ... )

Saturday, April 29, 2006


The fresh coffee steamed. Two cigarettes smoked themselves in the ashtray. The prodigal wasp had returned and was carefully examining the spines of the books in the European Literature section just above Gilbert's head like a browser in a second-hand book emporium. Gilbert stroked his cheek ("how soft," he thought to himself, "even the whiskers seem softer") and picked up his cigarette.

"Do you recall Dick?" Abby looked toward him quizzically. "Dick Detective," he mouthed. "Of course, of course, in The Stew! How could I forget him? And he turned up a couple of more times after that didn't he? Helped make our retirement fund - meagre as it is - that much I do know. What about him? He's dead isn't he?". "I thought so too - until last night that is." "You saw him? In your dreamscape?" "Not exactly - not saw him - not as such. He was there inside my head. I couldn't see him - visually - but that's no big surprise given my "normal" dreams, is it? I'm not even sure that I was asleep. No, rewind that, erase, I think I was asleep but I'm pretty certain that I wasn't dreaming. It didn't feel like a dream at the time, nor afterwards. It was closer to the front of things than that slight distance that dreams happily exhibit. I definitely wasn't dreaming. I don't know - an apparition maybe? A mirage." He lapsed into silence and closed his eyes - a sign that he was thinking hard. "It was," he resumed, as if ten blank minutes of forward time motion hadn't passed them. The coffee steamed no more. "It was more like an acid flash than a dream - not visual --------- nor properly auditory. But it was right up in front of everything. Kind of how I used to imagine Moses' burning bush experience. Real only more so. I could "hear" him but in pure words and ideas somewhere inside. The same place that my own voices live. But he wasn't one of mine anymore. He was an alien voice. His accent was slightly off and his constructions were more complex than when we knew him then. But he was younger. Much younger. I just knew it. He felt younger. I don't know - it's hard to explain ... He was Dick, but not, together, at the same time. Oh shit. I need another smoke".

"So: he was Dick but he wasn't; he was Dick but younger - younger than when you first knew him?; he was there but not visible; he was not a dream but he was more than real? Is that it? So what did he have to say for himself? I assume he had something to say. He surely didn't turn up after all this time - dead and all as he was - for fun. Did he?"

"Fun, what a strange word to choose, no, it wasn't for fun and even now I can't for the life of me work out whether he was warning me or whether he was gloating or whether he was taunting me. Maybe. Maybe he was having fun - I sure as Shannon wasn't. But one thing I do know - he isn't dead. Not anymore he isn't. And I know why. Or I think I do. It has just come back to me - he told me. When I say he told me I need to explain how we "talked" - well mostly he "talked". He "talked' without talking. All right, I know, that's not really very helpful. It was like he just put the phrases into my head. Clauses, sub-clauses, whole sentences, paragraphs. I suddenly just had them. Like seeds that he had planted inside my language centre that grew. I don't even know whether I've heard it all yet - that stuff he planted. I just can't tell. Fragments come back now and then. Like when I was getting the coffee: I "remembered" the last thing he said - 'Sue Graffi' or something like that. I've no idea. Not a one. But it was important I know that. What does that mean?"

"I do know that somebody else is writing him now. That's why he's not dead anymore. Who? I don't know. Or maybe I do. Perhaps I do. I need to think - to try to recall it". He furrowed his brow. "I must. I must." He steepled his fingers and threw back the last of his coffee - cold now. He ground the last of his latest cigarette into the ashtray and stood. There was no pain evident in his movement, not an ache even. "OK, time's up. I don't know what you think and I sure as Shannon don't know what I think. It's all confused. Perhaps - maybe - we'll talk about it some more when I get back. If you don't mind that is. For now I have to go take Betty for that service. Adonis will be waiting. Kelly arrives Tuesday. I might even get to see how Daisy's going on. Who knows?" He moved around behind her chair and massaged her neck and shoulders slightly more than peremptorily. "I'll finish that off when I get back". He stooped. Kissed her and then he was gone. Leaving her thinking. But before he drove off he called in at the top floor and exercised his morning bowel movement. An easy movement, not at all like his struggles in the past. A regular diet, regular hours and regular exercise had alleviated the constant battle with his now aged haemorrhoids. Two or three minutes each morning - as regular as his his mother had always wanted him to be - had done the trick and now he had only to deal with the vestiges of damage done much earlier in his life. Much like many of his problems these days his piles were left-overs from previous lives of his.

(to be continued ... )

Friday, April 28, 2006


Gilbert sipped his coffee, letting the steam rise. Lighting another cigarette he looked up and out of the kitchen window. The sky was a clear blue and glaring. An amazing light, clear and strong, picked out every single frond on the small mimosa tree outside and cast a pin-sharp shadow onto the wall of the potting shed. The potting shed glowed as the light bounced in and around the terracotta walls. He sniffed.

"How are you feeling this morning - aches and pains?" Her query interrupted a profound and fascinating interior monologue and he just caught the gist of it.

"Strangely well - no aches, no pains. Not a thing."

"Nothing? Are you sure? Wrist? Elbow? Ankles? Back? Nothing? Nothing at all?"

"Literally - not a thing. It is odd indeed, but there we are."

The silence re-established itself as they both sipped their coffees. A fly came in through the stable door and circled around pointlessly. A wasp followed it and perused the spines of the books and the paintings on the walls. And left as suddenly as it had entered. The fly continued circling noiselessly. Gilbert turned his head over his right shoulder and watched the wasp go. For once he didn't hear that slight gritty sound that usually accompanied such a manouevre.

"And you?"

"Oh you know, the usual. Neck and shoulders. Aches and pains that few folks die of. You look good this morning. Somehow younger. You sleep well?"

"Mmmm, yes and no. I had an odd night but I feel really fresh this morning. Lively, you know? Younger almost. Certainly the best I've felt in ages - physically." He stretched his hand over to caress hers as it rested there and looked at it. So did she. They looked at each other quizzically.

"Your hand." She pointed and then stroked it. "Where have those big moles gone? And the wrinkles? It's so soft."

"The liver spots? No idea. Odd."

"... and your crows feet! They've gone too. What's happened? Stay still - let me look". She got up out of the chair and leaned across just as another, or was it the same, wasp flew in. His head swivelled quickly to check the wayward insect and just as swiftly it swivelled back. She was examining his face closely - in detail, lovingly. Her fingers traced around his eyes gently. "It's amazing. Truly. Look for yourself", and she held up the mirror in her cigarette case for him. He scrutinised his own face, a face he had shaved only last evening and sure enough, it was different. Younger looking. There was no doubt about it. Quite radically changed. And, he observed wistfully, the hair in his nostrils was gone. Completely. The wasp left. perhaps for a second time. "That's spooky", she said, laughing, "have you been taking monkey glands?"

"I'll put the kettle on for another pot - shall I? And then I'll tell you something very very strange. But only if you promise not to laugh". As good as his word, he sprang up, filled the kettle and flicked the switch to the on position. He sat back down, kicked of his shoes and tucked his feet under him in the chair. He lit another cigarette and held her eyes. Drawing deeply, he blew a smoke ring (she noticed, just then, that the smoker's lines at the corners of his mouth had disappeared) and began, "You remember I said I'd had an odd night? Well it might just be relevant. Let me explain ..."

(to be continued ... )

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Strange Talent

What do you make of a guy who takes 11 years to make an album - at the age of 63? Or a guy who starts out as a succesful pop balladeer fronting up a schmaltzy pop trio and goes solo to record Jacques Brel as his jumping off point? A guy who is almost reclusive these days? A guy who makes albums (not many admittedly) that defy categorization and that treat the voice, his voice, as a musical instrument? What do you call a guy who fulfills all of these criteria?

You call him Scott Walker and you are ineffably happy when you read that his new album is due for worldwide release on May the 8th 2006. And then you call him an artist who used to be a pop star. And then you thank Turing that pop-music (an essentially artless medium) is capable of producing such dynamic and logic defying art. And then you slowly count on your fingers the roll call of such talents: Syd Barrett, Tim Buckley, Scott Walker, Joni Mitchell. Finally you ask yourself who's next?

A review of the new album is available:,,1756929,00.html

A review of the previous album - Tilt - is available here:

One day I shall share with you all the names of those few artists that are filed under the heading "Wierd Shit" - not today but one day.


Having dropped G off at the hairdresser the morning I waved to Sophocles who was getting into his pick-up truck outside the offices of the Demos. At home I rang Adonis who will be servicing the car this weekend and when we went for a coffee we got a lovely warm greeting from Elektra who works the till in the I N K A supermarket next door. If only Kalliope or Olympia or Aphrodite had turned up. Ever feel that you might be living in different times? We do.

Monday, April 24, 2006


Ask anyone who knows me. I am not a linguistic revisionist. I am very happy with the way our language constantly bends and adjusts. I think the French academy idea is pointless and ridiculous. Moreover it is damaging/has damaged the French language - possibly beyond repair.

One of the amazing things about the English language is the manner in which it has ever been pleased even eager to adopt from other languages. This alone has helped to make it the language in which it is possible to express more things than any other. It has also given us a set of spellings that are the wonderment of the world. English spellings indicate more often than not the route that a particular word or phrase has taken to worm itself into the vocabulary and given the sheer number of languages that it has borrowed from it ensures a set of spellings that would boggle the mind.

Often times it is possible to take a fairly accurate stab at the meaning of an unknown word if only you can figure out its components. This is particularly true if the root language of the original was Greek or Latin. Sometimes you will be able to identify a word that has come from for example Greek via French by a change in spelling. There is almost an archaeological element to some of our words.

OK, so, having said all of that there is one word that is really annoying me. It has had its meaning twisted so far out of kilter by lawyers and social workers and trick cyclists that I would like to suggest that we the laity of language users should claim it back. It's a good Greek word - paedophile.

Etymologically it ought to mean, it signals to a user, a lover of children. In current usage it means just about the opposite of that. It almost dignifies the undignified and corrupting behaviour of adults who are sexually attracted to children. Pederast maybe. Paedophile surely not. Where is the philos? The love? Remember that the average paedophile blames the child for coming on to them! Love?

So, what do we do about it? Firstly let's decide what we are going to call there people. When I was a child these people were there but they were known as and called child-molesters. Seems good enough to me. We could use that. But just as an experiment I asked a couple of Greeks what they call these sorts of people and amazingly they all came back at me with a Middle English word - monster. How very appropriate. Whatever it is we call these people let's not call them "lovers of children". And let me suggest that our way of taking this beautiful word back from these very ugly people is to stop and correct anyone who uses the P word to describe them. Write to or email newspapers or other media that use the P word and correct them. Correct everyone. Call them as they are: child molesters; monsters; both.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


I recall from my days in the north that unexpected and beguiling sensation of waking and rising to find the whole world dusted with snow. Every surface touched. A layer of spotless, untouched whiteness gracing each living thing out there beyond the pane. Virginal veil.

It happens only rarely here where we live now but we have its evil twin. Re-imagine your surprise when everything, on your rising, is seen through a haze of red dust that clings to the windows. You go outside and each plant has red leaves. Every surface lies shrouded beneath a layer of incredibly fine dust almost the colour of terracotta. No dream this but nightmare territory. Touch it and it smears your fingers and that touched. You brush against something and your clothes are red and dusty. A damp cloth produces a red mud that clings like the proverbial shit to a blanket. A broom raises a cloud of lung choking micro-particles.

This, my friends, is the aftermath of the red rain. And this is how we find our lives today.

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Long Night's Journey into Farming

So the question that vexed our perfect couples' minds for the next while was much along the lines of "how does one become a farmer?" It's not a question that I imagine many of you have pondered. Just starting a farm might make you a farmer in fact but would not in and of itself convince the bureaucracy loving trolls - there was they rightly assumed little chance of dragging a busload of trolls to a newly founded farm and then convincing them that this made G a farmer and so fully qualified to own pick-up. They asked a few people - some of them, like Pantelis, farmers themselves but not one of them had ever "become" a farmer save by starting to work a farm and that usually as a child. Ominously the all muttered darkly about a forbidding castle in Xania that was the home of the equivalent of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MinAgFish as was). They all knew of it but only one had ever journeyed out that way into the shadow of the castle ramparts and that only when he had failed through illness to register his olive trees locally when the travelling caravan of olive tree registration came around. There was no option. They would have to trek out to the castle of the "Diefthinsi Georgia" - more dark winter days in Xania were to come their way.

It was a dark day indeed when they set out to find this gothic modernist castle, Cold it was, Raining it was - pouring. And a wind blew in from the north - cold and cutting. When they came within screaming distance of the ramparts deep long shadows engulfed them. A shudder ran down their backs - the hair on their necks stood on end. The wind came screaming down the narrow road that led them tauntingly on toward the castle.

Inside this concrete bunker stood on its side there seemed to be only a large staircase in soiled marble. Grey-brown, tobacco stained walls and now and then a scuttling troll hurried past - never looking up from their shoes. Were they invisible? Could nobody see them at all? What to do? "Next one that goes past - we stop them! Agreed?". "Agreed". They stood, dripping on the marble and waited. And waited, The troll traffic seemed to have stopped.

And then from the left, from a door they had not noticed before, a squat woman with grey hair emerged. She was looking up and not down. Under her arm she carried a sheaf of papers tied in red tape! In her right hand a lit cigarette. "Signomi?", ventured G. "Yes, can I help you?". She speaks English! "Explain to me what you want. This is a place for farmers you know?" "Yes, I want to become a farmer". Their new-found acquaintance looked troubled, she seemed to examine the walls all around them, "You want to become a farmer? You had better come with me, to my office."

And so they went to her office that looked like nothing more than an extension to the corridor cut off by a door. A shabby desk, just like those at the teloneion, dominated a tiny space and on it a shrouded, probably unused computer. A listing swivel chair sat behind the desk and a row of mismatched shabby chairs lined what little wall space remained. The lady, who had introduced herself on the trip up three flights of slippery marble stairs as Evanthia plopped down in this rickety chair and motioned the pair to draw up chairs. G accepted and drew a raffia seated chair close to the desk. D demurred and remained standing.

The conversation started badly. Evanthia was certain that the only way to become a farmer was to be born a farmer. She had no experience of any other way. G maintained that that could not be possible and, at length, great length, she somehow she convinced Evanthia. It became clear that D&G were not going anywhere until the answer became other than no and that seemed to add to the weight of argument. D stood, blocking the doorway in a full length black coat, yet dripping rain, a black hat, and folded arms - an avenging angel of the olive groves - a matrix dweller. That helped too. Evanthia summoned a minor troll or two who proved to be of no use. They struggled past D in the doorway, eyes always cast downward, and left, to a man shamefaced.

Daylight was fading when G had again explained the situation and once more asked what could be done. As if inspired, she added to the end of her entreaty "... to fulfill my dream; of being a lavender farmer". Daylight mat have been fading but of a sudden the lights went on in Evanthia's face and just as suddenly she picked up the phone and asked to be connected to Athens. She covered the mouthpiece and confided to our couple, "I shall speak to Athens". She gestured to her notepad and said "Write your telephone number there and I will telephone you when I have an answer. An answer that you want." And she smiled. A beaming smile that further lit the room. "We shall make you a peasant - you have my word. If it can be done, We shall make you a peasant." She extended her hand and added, " ... and I will visit your farm - it is near to the village of my birth. I will come and see your farm".

Two weeks and two phone calls later, on a bright and warm day, they travelled happily back to the castle and were ceremoniously handed a certificate that testified to G's new status as a bona fide farmer. It has no end date. G had become a farmer - or a peasant if you will.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Myth of the Way

People often ask about how we ended up living on a lavender farm. People wonder why a lavender farm in Crete. Some people even question the fiscal viability of such a venture. All of which prompts me to respond - people are bloody nosey aren't they?

Today I want to tell you about not how we ended up living on a lavender farm but why we ended up having a lavender farm in the first place. The how follows the why: clearly once we had a lavender farm and given that our house was pretty much smack in the middle of it we would quite naturally end up living on a lavender farm.

Once upon a long long time ago two hard working but congenitally indolent devils threw the bath water out and kept the baby. Sick of working on a treadmill they planned and plotted for ten years so that they could exit stage left laughing and disappear to a beautiful island set in a wine dark sea of antiquity. Lucky them.

They arrived on their magical island and settled into their little house set in a sylvan olive grove. But trouble stalked the land in those days and trouble was looking for our pair. They had driven down through Europe you see and they already had one beautiful car locked away in the customs house of this windy little island. Luckily foe them they were not married and since each of them was theoretically allowed to import a car they thought, unwisely, that that is what they would do.

Sadly, their new found freedoms had gone to their heads and they had not reckoned on the inbuilt intransigence and meddlesomeness of all government departments. The customs house at Souda was run by a strange tribe of bureaucracy loving trolls. A loopy lair, in fact, of customs men intent on nothing more or less than stopping all car imports and their machinations would ensure that our beloved couple would spend several days of every week for the ensuing month deep in that lair. Interminable paperwork, letters to and from embassies in London and car manufacturing plants in France, began to flow. Calculations of import duties sky-rocketted to 365%. Revenue departments became involved. Vehicle registration departments. Engineering tests were posited. Matters were to become worse though. Soon after they had begun visiting the lair regularly for one of the customs men discovered that one of the cars that these two was trying to import was a pick-up truck! And this was the start of a new an grisly chapter that they came to believe might never end.

As if there were not enough hurdles and obstacles barring the way to normal car imports it soon became apparent that pick-ups were a very special class of problem. For a start only certain classes of people were allowed to own pick-ups at all - and retired professionals from England was not such a class. By now it was late January and these were destined to be the darkest of days.

As the problems started to mount on the import of the pick-up it seemed, purely by contrast I assure you, that light was beginning to glimmer at the end of the tunnel for the saloon car. And then something truly magical happened. As in all of the best fairy stories and as only occasionally happens in myth a prince appeared on the scene. A veritable prince of a man of Greek parents but of Russian birth. Our couple was introduced to the capo di tuttie i capi of the teloneion at Souda. Now it turned out that Petros Petrov, for that was his name, was a man of culture and sensitivity as well as being a customs ogre of some repute. And once the magic couple had explained their plight and their dreams to him he smiled upon them. He became their friend. The three of them would leave the trolls working away on papers, and bills of lading, and faxes from France, and retire to a nearby cafe to discuss poetry and theatre and to drink coffee and small spirits while looking out across the marina.

And, almost before they knew it the paperwork for the saloon car was ready. Monies changed hands between our couple and the revenue and visits to the vehicle registration centre began ... but little headway was being made on the pick-up front. Until, one day, sipping coffee and smoking, Petros Petrov mused, almost to himself, that " ... if only one of you were a farmer we could get you your pick-up imported ... and at a massive discount". Glances were exchanged swiftly between our heroes and G announced, firmly and definitively "If that's what it takes, then I shall become a farmer! And that is an end of it."

Later that evening, cuddled up together on their solitary sofa, the subject, as you might have suspected, turned to farming. "What," wondered G aloud, "shall I farm if I am to be a farmer?" and quick as a flash D came back with "Lavender, of course!". And so began a secong and parallel journey into another, deeper, morass of meaningless bureaucracy - A Long Night's Journey into Farming...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

DORO (241 or a freebie)

While we're in the mood answer me this one. The people who live next door - we never use the N word - and there are, or were at last count 2 of them (Myra and Ian) although we see them so infrequently since they began barricading themselves in behind tin windows and batty trellis use their washing machine every day well she does he doesn't do anything around the apartment apart from the hoovering when they have guests coming for a dinner party how is it I ask you that we never see underwear on the drying lines that they have strung around their balconies? Bed linen - a complete change twice a week. Beach towels twice a day in summer. But underwear? Never. 3 options spring to mind: one, they don't wear any (extremely unlikely given their obsession and repulsion at the very existence of bodily fluids; two, they are so anally retentive that their nether regions digest their underwear; and three, they cannot bear the idea of anybody seeing their underwear so they dry them indoors. Whatever the real answer I find it very peculiar.

Just like Lemmings

There are a couple of things I like about Cliff Richard: first, he has never bred and so we do not have the prospect of more of that ilk; and second, he either doesn't record anymore or else I don't hear him if he does. But when I read this ( link to BBC) this morning it fair made my blood boil over with the distaste I always had for him as a performer when he was alive.

Is it not enough that these no-talent performers are paid vast sums of money to do what they do so badly while they are working? And that they continue to reap financial benefits of those appalling performances for 50 years thereafter? Clearly not! No way. THis superannuated creep wants that extended to life plus 70 years. That's right life plus 70 years. In point of fact he, and a lot like him, want to be treated as if they were artists - like the people who wrote the songs that he made all of his huge piles of money from originally and many of whom probably died in penury. Artist my arse. Most genuine artists have a limited ability to produce the works of art for which they are paid - and usually they are badly paid at that. But this clown and others like him can go on churning their crap out for years while there remains a gullible market for it.

One of the justifications that he cites is his "pension" - well I'm sorry but I don't know of many jobs where your pension is paid for 70 years after you die. If I did I'd take one. It gets worse though, the god bothering Cliff opines - "Sometimes I'm absolutely fed up with singing Living Doll, but I have sung it constantly since '59 because every time I sing it live that generates sales of the original record and that brings royalties to me and the writer", note the order of precedence of the beneficiaries - are we supposed to believe that he sings it to keep the writer in beer money? Are we supposed to pity him having to sing a song that he's fed up with - join the world and get a job Cliff - that's what work is about for a lot of people. My heart bleeds.

Sanctimonious, greedy gutted, git. Copyright is a veritable con that has for too long been extended to people that it was never meant to protect and brings them in frightening amount of unearned wealth. It is time that this particular loophole - rather than being widened and extended for more lazy, useless sods to crawl through - was drawn tight around the chicken skin necks of these ungrateful, idle sods.

Just as a footnote Cliff, if you're fed up with Living Doll how do you think the rest of us feel?

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Age of wire and dobbers

More sunshine today. More CSS tweaking. More more.

Aunty Pingu rang last week to furnish propitious dates for planting and transplanting and all is now fit for G to take advantage of the advantage.

The boys in red were out today - and the girl in the brown hat. Farmboy is proving to be a dabber hand with the paintbrush this spring than he was last autumn - fast, accurate, tidy and ambidextrous to boot. Eddie is an exceedingly able pair of hands with a light touch on the irrigation works. He was working with Gill today to test out the new irrigation system for the extensions to Lav2 that D designed. G was pegging out the pipe (Eddie made the metal pegs that hold the pipe in place) and marking in the new plant positions. After that she drilled the pipe and fitted the "dobbers" that will feed the individual plants with H2O when things dry and heat up. And then they were ready to wet run (dry run would be more usual usage but since this is tested with real water ...) the irrigation extension system - it has its own stopcock. So, Eddie was dispatched down the lane to the main irrigation supply feed tap where the water meter is permanently broken to initiate the "burn sequence". By the time he got back, having opened the cock no more than a third (pressures this time of year are ferocious) G had heard the water coming and had herself opened the main farm cock. So far so good - no leaks - no waste. They both then trooped off down to Lav 2 where they opened the new cock and G verified that all new "dobbers" were indeed operational. But before calling it a day they tested, well G tested and Eddie stood around looking far from decorative, the pre-existing irrigation for Lav2 (it's called regression testing when you test to make sure that what you have added or changed has not altered the operation of what was already there - IT people are supposed to do it but rarely do). Result - everything works - "Felia we have lift off! All systems are go!". Then and only then were all cocks closed in reverse order all the way back to the main feed down the lane. All is readiness for the Lav2 extension.

Apart from painting up some bamboo fence like panels in the terracotta used in the potting shed (what Shaun called unnatural bamboo) Frambot took another stab at stripping out the girls. Bridey had been getting a tad sullen of late noticing that Moll had been spruced up and that she had herself been neglected and so it was Bridey who was up on the table this afternoon - and she loved it. She's really an attention whore at heart. Frambot is proving to be a worthy successor to the Guv'nor himself at the stripping (it helps that Bridey's coat is so manageable but he's pretty handy nonetheless and learning all the time). Bridget is well pleased with herself and looking much more cheerful. So is Frambot. The Guv'nor, if his forearm improves, will re-attend to Moll toward the end of the week (she needs tidying up already) so if Frambot finishes B off this week then both the girls will be spick, span and Bristol fashion for when Kell turns up in a fortnight! Two weeks tomorrow! Maybe even when Chick turns up next week! Just a week? Unbelievable.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Bugger testing

Today has been a beautiful one weatherwise so what do you think Muggins was doing for a part of the day? Fiddling around with bloody CSS would you believe? That's right - 77ºF outside, brilliant sunshine, light breeze - and I'm sitting in here staring at an admittedly gorgeous 20 inch iMac G5 trying to understand someone else's style sheet. And for why?

Having wittered on about the Pru secure mail system I got around to thinking about the usability of my blogs. And that reminded me that G has been complaining about stripes before the eyes after finishing long posts on the Blogger version. Until recently I'd parked it as an issue but since Liam (Another Old Git's Blog) has become profligate with his verbiage and since he uses the same layout as I was using I have been getting venetian blind vision too. Plus the fact that I know some of my readers are none to young made me consider (you all know who you are). Finally, when our northern correspondent's wife hinted that there was a problem then that was that final straw.

I've always had a soft spot for black background sites and you have to adit that they look stylish but when there's a lot of text to be read - and let's face it there's not much else in my blog entries, then the style over functionality argument gets thin/specious. The die was cast. A rejig it was that was called for.

Now switching styles in blogger is fairly painless but the problem is that when you do that you lose all of your customisations (links, ads, you know - the stuff that makes it yours). So, carefully taking a copy of my previous stye sheet I took the plunge and swapped the base style. Well that went OK. Well, OKish - all of my bits and pieces had vanished but it didn't take long with the old cut and paste buttons to get most of that stuff back. No, the thing was that I didn't like the typefaces that this new stylesheet was using. OK, change them. Done. AND, while we're at it I wasn't too keen on the allocation of space. An hour of fiddling and it was all done to my satisfaction.

Gill came back in from the garden and I showed her my magnificent work. "That's great", she said . "... much better", she said, "I like it". I took my customary bow and was polishing my knuckles and slapping myself on the back when she added, "Let's see what it looks like on my machine ..." I'd tried it out on Safari and Firefox and even Camino and everything worked well but when she mentioned her Special Edition iBook with the 800x600 screen my heart sank. (I remembered the settings that I had used to rearrange the screen real estate and I just KNEW it wouldn't render properly for her. What looks great on a 20 inch screen doesn't look so hot on a 12 inch! Obvious really. And when she brought it up and I saw the text bleeding off into the left margin and the dread horizontal scroll bar appear it only confimed my worst suspicions. And I always tell people to test, test and test again! Hoist by ... Serves me bloody well right.

Back to fiddling with CSS for another half hour until I was satisfied with the way it looked oin her machine and mine. A compromise - of course - so much of life and design is about compromise. However, seeing as some thieving little creep has kept my Sony Vaio I cannot test it out on Windows and I leave that to you guys and gals (if you have problems let me know). And then I was cruising the 'flue when some elderly geyser from over there commented favourably on the change - result. You certainly cannot please all of the people all of the time but you can try.

Clearly the blogger version of this will make immediate sense while the Opera and Spymacv versions will not. Here (the blogger version) is a link to the version in question and no matter where you view this blog please let me know what you think of the new design.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


What is a writer - for? Who knows. What are worms - for? What is anything - for? Nothing - that's what. They just are. Maybe some of these things serve a purpose but that is not the same as being "for" that purpose. Perhaps only man made things are "for" something. In which case writers ought to be "for" something - even if they are writers by volition they are man made, and so they might be "for" something. But what?

Being an incredibly and irredeemably indolent bugger - like all writers - we work hard but we are lazy at the same time - I thought I'd see if anybody had said anything meaningful and vaguely sympathetic to my own views on the topic. Remember: "Mediocre writers borrow; great writers steal." - this quote has been attributed to T. S. Eliot and Vladimir Nabokov - just who said it I know not and care less - I've just stolen it . So, off I trotted to the Dalkey Archive - den of modern literati - fully intending to look up a few author interviews. Bingo! My first try was Gilbert Sorrentino - and I turned up the following nuggets.

On whether a writer writes for an audience:

"I never think of an audience, really. I think of my own pleasure, my own fun, if you will. When I read over what I have written and see something that strikes me as being marvelously subtle or beautifully structured, I think of friends of mine who might read it and see it. I get pleasure in thinking that they might see it. But to think of somebody in a bookstore, somebody I don't know getting it, is beyond me. I imagine it happens. People read my work and get something from it, are pleased by it, or are moved to laugh or cry or get sick. Some guy wrote me after reading "The Sky Changes" and said that after he had finished it he went and threw up. Terrific criticism."

On what fiction is - and isn't:

" idea of what fiction should be; it doesn't seem to me that fiction should take the place of reality. The idea of the mirror being held up to life is a very remote one as far as my fictional thinking goes. The point of art is literally the making of something that is beautiful, the making of something that works, if you will forgive me, in a "machinelike" way."

On the act itself:

"An artist is someone who makes something; he does not necessarily express himself in any way whatsoever. He can be utterly remote from what he is creating. He can create very coldly. A beautiful passage, a tragic passage, a comic passage can be written out of states of mind that are totally remote from those passages' import. The most salient example of this might be Joyce, who wrote the greatest comic masterpiece of this century, "Finnegans Wake," over a seventeen-year period of his life in which his personal affairs simply went from bad to worse. His economic problems, the problems of his daughter's mental illness, his own near blindness, his gastro-intestinal difficulty--he was not having a particularly comic time. And yet "Finnegans Wake" is a comic masterpiece."

I know writers who do not know any longer where they begin and end: things they have heard, or been told, or imagined, or plotted are the same stuff as their real lives and experiences. They subsume everything that happens to them and the people they come across and the things that have happened to the people they come across into themselves. It is all that they have to write from. There is no bottomless pit of experience ready-made: the writer trawls constantly for the stuff of his or her writing. And, at the end of the day, at the beginning of the day, and at all times in between, the writer is an autophage. The writer eats himself and regurgitates it as his work. Write now or right now I've puked up enough of myself - for my tastes anyway.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Nature loves a trier or he who dares wins, Rooney.

Today it rained. It rained for most of the day so it was just as well that we had, as ever, made the most of yesterday. Mind you the rain didn't drive us indoors until G had cleared all around Lav1 of thistles (she borrowed Farmboy's work gloves to "grasp the thistle" and to tug it, by main force, root and all from the ground dampened by the early morning showers that later gave way to torrential and sporadic downpours). D managed to get the bigger of the two avocado trees that he has grown from stones planted by the garage - it's the best part of 5 feet tall now although presently all but entirely bare of leaf (the dreaded and damaging south wind burned all its leaves to dust). Stabbing G's second best mid-sized mattock deep into a clay lined hole kneeling. He also managed, with help, largely muscle, from Eddie he also knocked up a new set of irrigation pegs (roughly u-shaped they are battered into the ground to hold irrigation pipe in place against the sometimes ferocious water pressure that comes through the farmwater feed. The rain was welcome and remarkably well-timed - for the farm at least. It cost the girls an outing in the fields (too muddy for us not them) but we were in all grateful.

Yesterday was a great day though - productive and beautiful. The red suited ones finally got their fondest wish and woke to a dry day with just the lightest of breezes (and from the north). It has been dry for a few weeks now and this was the kind of a day that they had been waiting for. The very day for burning the olive grove prunings that have languished down by the river since early December. The bigger logs are in the log-pit but huge quantities of smaller mass cuttings pile up as the trees are trimmed and pruned into shape for the following year. Farmboy is good with fire but Eddie is, we all agree, a pyromaniac genius. Eddie could get water to burn. Eddie's rejig of the pile took about half an hour, another ten minutes setting two core fires into the two metre high pile, and then two matches later the thing was begun. Inside of 5 minutes the blaze was caught and the red sits were retiring from the heat. Flames leapt. Cracks crackled. A satisfying and warming sight. Two and a half hours later and the bulk of the pile has reduced to a meltingly hot core no more than four foot around and one high. And almost no smoke.

And while all this was going on G was guiding the Husqvarna, recently serviced, around the perimeter of Lav2 opening up two new arcs that will soon be the home of her best cuttings from last year and some new plants raised from Californian seed sent over by the Mermaid. Lovingly nurtured and tended they are now fit to begin fending for themselves. D was raking the burr clover back as she came arcing around and dragging it to the glowing bonfire. Huge mounds of matted growth, green and moist soon had the previously smoke free fire billowing massive clouds of grey white signals over to the native americans in Kastellos to the south. And then 70 metres of irrigation pipe, robbed from the olive irrigation system of two years ago, was laid into the two new rows - the baby plants will be selected and planted in the next month we think. Lav2 is transformed and the end of the transformation was witness to a scene the A E houseman might have visioned up - Gill walking up and down the new trenches broadcasting by hand a fine mixture of wood ash (from winter's warmers) and depleted compost.

The red suited boys were red faced and red armed too by close of play - a sunnier day than they had reckoned on had turned their flesh crimson. That and the heat blast from the bonfire but luckily they were not lastingly damaged and a day off (rain stopped play today remember) will have seen things calming down. The rain meanwhile has washed the potash into the new rows for us and bedded the avocado tree into its new home.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


So there I was at the Prudential's website (Prudential UK that is) and I'm looking under the navigation menus and I can not find what I'm looking for. Time, I thought, to send an exploratory email or somesuch. Click on the Contact Us button. Whoa what is this? "We have implemented a secure email system for your protection". Excellent - good business sense - I'll sign up for that - click. "You are not using a browser we support - most people use Microsoft Internet Explorer - why don't you go HERE and get a copy?"

OK - rewind. These people have implemented a secure email system for my protection and then they built it in such a way that I can only use it if I am prepared to use the most security compromised browser on the planet! Not so clever after all. Yes - most people do use Internet Explorer but I run Macintoshes and Microsoft terminated support for Internet Explorer on the Mac some time back - so no security fixes are available! Ah, but what is this?

I just then spotted a menu item about Accessibility - click that! Ah - no - that's about access for disabled users. Maybe they think Mac users are disabled? Read it. No. Right. What next? Oh look - a link to comment on the website and its design - great I can tell them and maybe get some advice that doesn't require me to use that crock IE.. Click. Interesting - this one takes me into a screen that seems to set me up an ID on the secure email system that these guys have been telling me about. A trapdoor? Ah, sadly the layout is all over the place in my standards compliant browser. Shame, but that's life. So - I'm not going to be able to email them then.

Click Contact Us again and look for some telephone numbers. Yes. But no! They are all 0845 numbers - cheap calls but not available to people not in the UK. Bummer. Looks very much as though The Prudential has locked me out of all communications with them.

Much against my professional better judgement I fire up an old Powerbook that I know has Internet Explorer installed. OK here we go. Into the secure mail system setup. It is happy with my choice of browser now even though I'm not. Fill in a couple of pages of stuff - password (twice) - userid (twice) - mum's maiden name, date of birth - telephone number - stuff like that. Check all my input and click. And wait. "We are sorry but we are experiencing problems and cannot issue new userids for the secure email system at this time - error 503". Thank guys!

And to think - I used to work for these guys. Two months short of 20 years in fact. In the IT department. Sheesh. Oh well, what the hell - I'll write them a letter. Really high tech. One last click - this time on the built in dictionary on the Mac - type Prudential - "involving or showing care and forethought, typically in business". Yes - that's what I thought too!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Ruff jobs

That brother of myne do make me laugh sometime. Ooppsw sorry big boss said I could do todays. Ta Boss. ANywa Ceddie got this odd habit of singing when he working but he first alway sing old songs like mum did sing and next he messes up the words. He do it on prupose I'm sure but it always make me laugh and the twins too. This morning he was putting some more paint varnish stuff Gorri on the oputside table and he was singing an old Abba song even though Shem said its Coal Porter and Shaun says is Nowall Coward and he sang this "Dressed up like a million dollar trouper - Trying hard to look like Gladys Cooper (super duper)". Well Shaun feel off the step laughing an I nearly wet meself. WE did all agree that it was very funny and Shem offered to put pictures of the two of them together sos you could see why it was so funny:

After that we had to toss up for a rotten job. Youd think wouldnt you that there are enuff blokes round here tht no job would find take no takers or vollunteers at least but thisll prove you wrong. I'd never done this one but Ceddie'd already tolt me all about it just after I got here and so far nobodys had to do it but it went up on the borad last week and eveyones been avoiding it. G cleans up dog vomit and the like - Ceddie'll clear any amount of dog crap and stuff, and I do slugs and scorpions and stuff but nobody wanted this one. BIg Boss said it had to be done today and was gonna do it hisself but we said we'd draw lots for it. He looked kinda relieved. And Eddie got the short strawer. So he had to cleanout the waste trap for the shower tray and I got to watch. Gross, slimy hair and soap and greeny black and stinking crap all over it. NO wonder nobody wants that job.

Tuerns out it was a German that wrote it after all (link curtsey of Shaun):

Putting on the Ritz

Monday, April 10, 2006


First up's the link that I failed to give you yesterday - for Jill Walker's thesis : Jill's thesis. The link is courtesy of our home counties correspondent. Speaking of whom he has been extremely active in his blogging activity of late and is covering a very broad gamut - recommended reading -
Old Git's blog . Prove for yourself that, for some at least, wisdom can come with age.

Quick update from the farm.

Shutters have been removed, sanded, Gorried, and rehung. The recently strimmered lawn has been raked. Eddie has re-engineered the girls' heat wave shower curtain. Frambot has overhauled and serviced the Husqvarna cultivator - tines sharpened, mud removed, greased up, oil change, air filter cleaned, petrol changed, bodywork polished. The table has been sanded and Gorried - two coats. The last of last year's mulberry has been sawn into logs and added to the seasoning pile. Irrigation feed to the farm has been checked out - our irrigation will be checked anon. G has new shelves to two walls in her potting shed - terracotta to match the walls - they were parts of someone's bed last week - salvaged from a wheelybin on Friday. Of the seeds G planted two weeks ago the nasturtiums, and tomatoes are through - asters and lavender awaited. The raspberry is thriving. Two of the cherry trees are in bloom. There is a wild poppy blooming like mad in one of the front garden beds.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Interactive thesis

Our old mucker McEskimo sometimes drops us a link or two and the ones that aren't in Finnish are usually interesting - who knows the ones in Finnish may well be even more interesting we are in no position to judge - a recent example was a link to a thesis escaping from the University of Bergen - the department of Humanistic Informatics - by one Jill Walker and its title and ostensible topic was Fiction and Interaction. No, really - it's true. Come on - even Shaun couldn't make that up. It's a dryish read but not unrewarding. 189 pages of PDF - tough on the eyes if you read it onscreen but, like I said, not uninteresting. Now I don't want to spoil it for you but I had a few problems with the very foundations of her central thesis - you may not have, see for yourself. For openers, she describes in some first person detail her experience of reading (in a how it feels to her to read, what she does in response to the text, etcetera - the process of reading as it is to her) and to be honest it's hard for me to imagine a textual experience more different to my own. Does she read like that because she's a reader and not a writer? Do I read the way I do because I am a writer? Do more people read her way than mine? Does everybody read differently? How can we know the quiddity of such a deeply subjective, interior, personal experience as experienced by another? Is the experience itself even tellable? I cannot know the answers to any of those questions but that divergence immediately undermines everything that follows and is based upon it. Unfortunately she compounds my initial skepticism for her thesis treatment by demonstrating a terrifyingly narrow literary experience - she seems hardly to have heard of the modernists, the British experimentalists, the american and french oulipians, or any of the other genuinely interesting exponents of the text in the last 100 years. She seems wedded to that tranche of literature - the most tedious and hidebound of literature's span - that succeeded Sterne and Rabelais and ended up with early Hardy. How can I take someone seriously on the topic of fiction who has not experienced great fiction? Who has no love of it? Who doesn't know how modern fiction and great fiction work? Her ostensible interest is in the topic of textual interactivity but she seem not to have interacted with books like Finnegans Wake. She knows Calvino but not Alina Reyes. She namechecks Sterne briefly but ignores Sorrentino completely. I beg to differ with her from this fundamental frame of reference. That is not to say that the thesis has no merit - it does in fact point to a few interesting interactive works online but their own very substances are wafer thin and exploitative at best and perhaps for that we should praise her work - it might just be signposting where online interactivity is bound.

Here are the two links worth checking from her thesis

David Still
Online Caroline

I'd give you a link to her thesis but I cannot look it up on Finn's blog (SpymacV problem) - another time perhaps

Friday, April 07, 2006

The wind is in from Africa - AGAIN

There is a hard, a merciless, desiccating wind blowing out side. It carries parts of Africa on its mantle and wears an alien sulphurous cloak wrapped about itself. It is ripping at the young olive blossom and tearing the blooms from the immature cherry trees we had hoped would fruit this season. It's a wind that makes men mad and women depressed. It's a fighting wind: it with you as you try to move and you with everyone else thereafter. It is a deafening screecher and it drags cries of pain from all it touches. The cowl atop the stove pipe whinnies. A howl escapes the shutters. The glass in the kitchen windows knocks and groans wishing only for escape. And us, we say, where is our escape?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Actual Qualities of Imaginative Things

Those of you, and there are, I know, a lot of you, will be perfectly well aware that, as a bunch, we do not get out much - understatement. And so taking the whole caboodle and kin out on a "family trip" yesterday was some tense time. Family - is that what we are? Really? Turing help us all! It wasn't just the regular motley either, we had Gilbert and Keith along too. Keith took so long doing his makeup that we were very nearly late and then at the last minute he insisted on taking his red plastic carrier bag with him and of course he couldn't find it anywhere (turned out later that Eddie had purloined said article because he thought Keith was being "spooky").

Enough preamble - stop it - and do not even mention the journey. OK - I won't.

We turned up at Finn's place (see - I didn't mention the journey - well only the beautiful rock lined pathway to their front door) mob handed and looking like a band of vagabond gypsies (no surprise there then) but the ever gracious Fiber and Alfapet received us as though we were not just expected, but genuinely welcome. Their large single story timber building dominates the plot that was yesterday looking spick, span, and spruce. The plot was looking as though it was getting sick and tired of waiting for spring but that's northern climes for you. In the back of the house there is a small cottage like structure that houses the sauna and fun rooms and we had wondered whether the party would be held there but no, we were ushered into a family living room where we all spent time getting each to know the other again. And then the party proper got under way!

It is odd to mix imaginative and actual things and person in a real and fictive and location. I even caught sight of a copy of Papalaz's new blook - looks quite stylish although it was filed alphabetically - something we don't do at the farm. Gilbert wandered off and spent most of the time searching through the copious bookshelves looking for english titles even though I had specifically told him that I wanted to introduce him the Finn. Gill got on like a house on fire with Alfapet who was radiant and a perfect hostess and they spent hours looking through photographs and talking horticulture. The farmtwins were spotted chopping logs out by the sauna and sawing timber - it's hard for them to disappear when they wear the signature clothing! Keith spent most of his time talking to married ladies and checking out their wedding rings. Shem? Shaun? Who knows?

When I tackled them today about where they had been they averred that they had spent most of the time in the sauna with a girl called Helmi. Now, we had purposely not taken M&B along because of Helmi. Helmi is a cat for Shannon's sake so what they had been drinking I do not know - there was a potent local brew available, perhaps that was it.

I rounded everyone up at around 12:30 after I noticed that Esko had taken himself off to bed and we got back here knackered and happy and fell into our beds. What a great way to spend a day. Thanx Finn, thanx Esko, thanx Alfapet.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

When Finn McEskimo gets here everybody's gonna wanna ...

Today's blog is to be found in myriad fragments over at the home of our Northern correspondent Finn McEskimo. Today is his birthday and we're all having a party at his place. Feel very free to drop in and join in the fun. You'll need to view the comments to get all of the very best out of it but all of your favourites are over there already and have been for most of the day! Beware - can so much fun possibly be good for you? Find out.

click me to go to the party

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


As promised a quick update but I will keep it brief. More than 48 hours offline in 72 or was it more than 72 in 9 has left me feeling kind of semi-detached and with a fair amount of stuff to catch up on.

We are well - all of us - despite Georgi being back from Germany bearing extremely alien germs. Fingers crossed that it stays that way. He has a lot to do but then so do we.

Despite a dodgy day today with cloud and the odd shower the weather has started to feel like spring stroke early summer on a regular basis.

Some of our regular cafes have reopened in the past week - a sure sign that we are into a new era.

OTE continues to disappoint.

The "racist slur" incident has come to a reasonable conclusion and I hope that we can all learn from it.

The days and hours offline have allowed me to retrieve the text, the notes, the background and the structural diagrams for the novel. It is maybe 5/7ths done but on re-reading it I am not yet convinced that I can finish it - I'm a different write that the one that started the novel. I am not unhappy with it but it is a very different beast, and I would not rewrite it.

The blook has racked up 4 sales so far! A successful writer!

words may sometimes hurt me

I have to preface this entry because although it is Tuesday today this is actually Sunday's blog. Ten minutes before I was about to post Radio4 suddenly choked and eventually stopped. ADSL had fallen over - again. This time it turns out that OTE (the old Greek PTT) had somehow managed to take ADSL down for our entire prefecture - no explanations available since they don't work weekends and no forewarnings of course - 24 hours later most of the prefecture came back online but not us! Half past eleven Tuesday morning ours came back up - no explanation and no apology - wonderful service. So this is late and maybe anachronistic but here it is anyways. Updates on all fronts later (there's a 65mb update to OSX downloading right now).

I have become used to being called an anti-semite. I am becoming inured to the epithet Islamofascist. Well, online I have, or am. In face to face discussions they might elicit a different response but online, and most especially on Spymac I mentally shrug and move on. Online communities tend to be stacked out with young, hormone imbalanced, american youth and one makes allowances. To enter into a "political discussion" online in one of these communities is to invite such brickbats. I have been, of late, accused of being a Croat, a Serb, and even a member of Al Qaeda. And, to be frank, they are like water off of a duck's back. The people hurling these "insults" count for nothing and are so predictable in their responses as to be laughable. They even manage to disarm or at least to discount the insults that they use if they are not already the political or social equivalent of dud ammunition already.

There is an interesting article here ( that discusses the use of the accusation "anti-semite" as a weapon of oppression that made me smile. It gels very nicely with my own recent musings upon the idea of "taking offence" as a recently minted political weapon - maybe not such a recent vintage then.

But I will, I suspect, never get used to, nor shrug off, the very real, enduringly potent, and deeply insulting "racist". Do not expect me to. I'll let you in on a secret - I was once accused of racism - officially accused that is. At the time I was working for a very large high class IT consulting company based in London. We had a west indian receptionist - let's call her Claire - a lovely and intelligent girl from St Kitts. Now one day, a colleague (I'll not use the word friend) was passing by reception and heard us bantering in Jamaican patois. That same afternoon I was called to the personnel department or human resources as it was then fashionably known and informed that an official complaint of racism had been lodged. I was not told by whom. A hearing would, I was told, be arranged for later that week where I could defend myself. I was then informed that this was a very serious matter and that should the charge be uphold I could be summarily dismissed. Being a stubborn and reasonable person I made it perfectly clear that I had no intention of defending myself against such a ludicrous charge and that as far as I was concerned the onus was on them to prove such a blatantly ridiculous charge. In the event I did have a defence. An extremely articulate and lucid Claire stood in my behalf having heard of the charge through the internal grapevine. I shall not rehearse everything that was said but I do recall very clearly Claire standing in front of this "jury" and asking them to ask themselves why all of the receptionists in this company were black and none of the secretaries were. Why her own line manager had a white secretary with less qualifications than she had. Why there were only 3 black consultants on the entire workforce. The crunch though came when she looked around the room and said to the assembled worthies "Every one of you came when I bought drinks for my birthday didn't you? Do you know why the accused didn't? Do you? No, you don't. He didn't come because he was invited to the party that I had at home for my friends. Most of you are civil enough to me. One or two of you are pleasant. He is a genuine friend and, as for his accuser, well he has difficulty even being civil, most times he tries not to catch my eye as he passes through reception so that he won't have to speak to me. You just don't seem to understand the difference between racism and the symbolism of racism - you think that if you get rid of the symbols then the thing will disappear of its own accord. Well it won't. Don't ban marmelade jars on my account, don't rewrite Enid Blyton it makes no difference. Start treating me as an equal - that's what he does and that's the only way to end racism."

More from the "racist slur" front: 2 members of the community in question have written expressing their opprobrium of the behaviour of the culprit. Good news indeed.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


Just so this doesn't get completely out of hand I'm going to be taking a point or two of what's bugging me a day.

There's an amusing amazing characteristic of the British press, I almost said gutter press but it is not, if ever it were, confined to the gutter, that I refer to in shorthand as "The 1/72A-5/6R". I'll explain:

One the front page of their paper(1) they make an outlandish accusation(A) in 72pt type(72) - almost invariably against a high-profile individual. This is the 1/72A part of the formula.

The accused either sues or, threatens to sue, or the article is referred to the press complaints commission. Unable to substantiate the accusation the paper prints a retraction and apology or sometimes, the PCC judgement against them. Unlike the original accusation the retraction and apology (R) are printed on page 5 (5) - and usually at the foot of a column - in 6 point type.

Clever huh? Well it is a trick that has started to turn up online too - and with an interesting twist.

Something similar happened to me this week on one of the internet "community" sites that I frequent. In a public forum we were having a very interesting and informative discussion about the differences in racist symbolism in different cultures. After a while one of the guys decided he wasn't winning the argument - we wouldn't simply bow to his cultural hegemony - and distressingly, he took to figuratively waving the terms and conditions of the site about. Given that he was clearly losing it we withdrew. Not long afterwards however, a couple of us were having another discussion when he referred to both of us, in open forum, as racists. There is your 1/72/A.

I left immediately but Liam, my very close friend, stayed. What happened next I do not know because at that point my telephone line went down and so my internet connection disappeared - for 27 hours as it transpired. When I eventually returned to "internet connected" status I found "an apology" in my private messages from the accuser and a couple of e-mails from Liam explaining that he had withdrawn all of his posts from the community and left! What a very sad outcome.

And this my friends is what the apology said - this is the R:

"I was way out fo line calling you a racist yesterday, and I am sorry for that. It isn't a term to be tossed about lightly and I should have known better.My emotions got the better of me and I behaved poorly. I really am sorry".

Note that this is a private message and not a public one (5/6). So there you have the 5/6(R) term.

You'll have spotted by now that whilst this IS an apology it is NOT a retraction - not a hint of it. And there you have the internet twist on the old 1/72A-5/6R trick.

I'll miss Liam and so will the rest of the community. I can understand why he's left and I respect his decision. He is older even than I am and feels he has no time left to waste on wasters - I feel I can afford to be a little more lax.