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

Tuesday, May 30, 2006



From: Institute of Consulting Textual & Narrative Engineers.

To: Authors, Plagiarists, Solipsists & General Raconteurs Everywhere.

It has come to our attention that one who calls himself "JR" from the firm "JR Associates" has been passing himself off as a member of our Professional Association and providing 'advice' of a highly dubious nature to all and sundry.

If you have been contacted by this person and advised to cease your creative activities please do not do so until you have received qualified advice from an accredited member of our profession.

Signed: Seamus T. O'Flaherty, FICTNE.

JR Associates - Consulting Textual and Narrative Structural Engineers

Re: The work in progress (known tentatively as I Arrest You)

Dear Sir,

we are so pleased that you have acted upon our Appendix B recommendations. We continue to monitor the structure and so far things are looking very much in line with our projections, Manoeuvring a new node (the so-called index node) between the two secondary texts was, we are aware, no small task but we are pleased to inform you that it seems to be working admirably and brings the added benefit that we can now monitor both branches (secondary texts) from this new node. Balance between the nodes should not be a problem. If your future references use this index node as their pointer then we are confident that the structure will hold. We would recommend that if you can make time then going back and re-pointing previous references to this new node will ensure that only previous readers with cached or local references to the original unsupported cantilevers would be likely to stress the structure unduly and these we believe are a tiny minority of overall narrative traffic.

All that remains outstanding from our Appendix B recommendations is the construction of the parallel trunk text that we spoke of. It is our understanding that whilst this imposes certain time limitations on your project the re-assurance that it offers more than outweighs those limitations and represents good practice. It may be possible to forego this extra strengthening (the physics is unclear and ambiguous) but we would advise once again in favour of the establishment of this parallel trunk text even if you do not intend to bifurcate or cantilever again within the structure.

We shall report back at the end of the next chapter and in the meantime remain,
your obedient engineers

JR Associates

JR (Principal)

Sunday, May 28, 2006




(to be continued ... )


JR Associates - Consulting Textual and Narrative Structural Engineers

Re: The work in progress (known tentatively as I Arrest You)

Dear Sir,

you MUST stop writing this blogella IMMEDIATELY.

WARNING: We know your predilection for bricolage technique, despite having engaged us as consulting structural engineers for this project, and we are also respectful of your ardent desire to remain silent within the text itself, however we would wish to make you immediately aware that if you do intend to use this text within your own text then you MUST put it in the trunk of the structure. A catastrophe will almost certainly ensue should you ignore this warning.

The reason for the alarming/alarmist nature of our opening two paragraphs of this missive (and the emergency level IM we sent earlier today) is the possible collapse of the textual structure on which you are presently engaged (TWIP). As you know we have been monitoring the sensitive instrumentation installed in the physical deployment structure of your new work on a daily basis and as of Friday we have been seeing some strange tremors rippling through the entire textuality. On close examination of the readings we can confirm that the structure itself is close to collapse. (If you have installed this text within the main trunk text as requested then you have strengthened the structure already).

If you will recall our final presentation to yourself before you began work on the foundation struts of the main text we were very concerned about your intention to cantilever two separate texts from the main trunk and in particular your wish to delay the cantilevering until quite late in the development of that main trunk. We suggested (para 3 of our final pre-start report) that you should: a)begin the cantilever from a lower point in the narrative and b) cantilever the two new texts at 180 degrees each to the other.

We contacted you on the 16th of May this year when you accomplished the cantilever and expressed our deep misgiving that you had left the cantilever so late AND that you had placed both new texts on the same branch. You were, at this point, in unknown territory in engineering terms. Despite your assertion that these two new texts are not narratives we can only tell you that our instrumentation readings indicate that each of them is exerting the same load characteristics as a canonical narrative.

On that day we began a close watch on the monitor points but unfortunately and entirely because of your insistence on placing both new texts on the same branch we are, even now, unable to measure them separately. Their combined load began producing eccentric behaviour in the main trunk text on the 17th when you added to both secondary texts simultaneously and added only trivial strength to the trunk text. You will doubtless have noticed that your trunk text started weakening from that time on and unless you stop now and act upon our advice we will regretfully have to formally relinquish responsibility for the entire structure - in legal, literary, and professional spheres.

We have attached a full report (Appendix A) that outlines all of the possibilities within traditional engineering disciplines and knowledge open to us/you to stabilise the structure. However, some of our most recent clients who have been experimenting in certain leading edge textual arenas have provided provisional data that indicate (and I must stress that they only indicate, they do not guarantee) a new structural avenue that is worthy of consideration to an artist of your intellectual strength and bravery (Appendix B). I would once again stress that Appendix B offers potentiality rather than the certitudes offered by Appendix A but knowing you as I do and admiring as I do your creative dynamic I suspect that you will opt for the Appendix B option. In this case we should meet at your earliest convenience to discuss the ramifications of this course of action and its physical implementation.

Let me close on a personal note (you noticed, no doubt, that I lapsed into first person singular in the ultimate paragraph) I admire your "textuality" to date and am eager to assist in any way possible to shore it up and where necessary to underpin it so that you might continue to add to it with some certain knowledge that the newly modified structure can support your creative thrust and breadth. Please help us to help you. Please desist for now. I am ready to meet with you momentarily to resolve this immediate problem.

We remain,
your obedient engineers

JR Associates

I remain,
your devoted reader

JR (Principal)

(to be continued ... )

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Let sleeping dogs lie

Gilbert was on his second Fix of the next day. He was leaning back from the iMac and "writing" in
his online notebook. His head was awash with questions. Solving one problem - the typewriter - just gave rise to more: like cutting off a head of the hydra. His notebook kept filling with questions. Besides which he had been up until 6 this morning rooting around at the Laz's place and he had got up at 8:15 to give Abby a lie-in. He wasn't sleeping well these days irrespective of nocturnal visitations. At least he didn't have too much truck with Dick these nights. Laz was making Dick yet more moronic than he had himself: and tht was saying something - nosey and moronic - yowza yowza (where did that come from?). He wondered what this writer had in store for him - personally. Did he actually harbour evil intent? Dick had intimated as much but then Dick was no Einstein nor even an Eisenstein. He hadn't ever made a film let alone a theory.

Abby was out in the garden - not the farm, the garden - cutting back wild flowers that had died and withered - pulling browned burr clover into piles with her trusty mattock. Radio 4 was playing in the background. Bouboura's, the big black bees that inhabited the farm at this time of year, buzzed in and out of the open windows. The dogs were sleeping in the shade of the palm leaves that Gilbert had arranged on the roof of their run to keep out the rain in winter: in summer they kept out the worst heat of the day. They knew now how to seek out and savour the shade on these hot days now that they were approaching maturity and most days now they simply relaxed and followed the shade.

Gilbert shuffled over to the fridge and found no more Fix. He determined to go back that night and to investigate those chinese boxes - see if he could decipher those worn inscriptions. To see if he could open one. No matter that he was short of sleep. For the rest of the evening he would see if he couldn't work out the relevance of Dave, and Trellis: he knew that the answers were close but ... being on the tip of the tongue does not make it possible to articulate. It suddenly struck him that he needed consolidation time - maybe he should rest tonight.

(to be continued ... )

Thursday, May 25, 2006

It's history - but is it bunk?

Gilbert sipped on an ice cold beer, watching the condensation dribble down the sides of the Fix glass. 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, beat down from a punishing sun. He sniffed. It was unbearably hot. Unseasonably hot. The heat had been building for more than a week now but the past two or three days were hotter yet. Too hot for May. He turned the phrase "pathetic fallacy" in his mind and pondered. Was it possible? Could he? Could Laz actually be influencing the weather here by what he was writing? Could their days be defined by what Laz did at night? If it worked with him - and he was convinced it did - then why not with the weather? A simple enough matter to describe blazing hot days behind his narrative and mayhap thereby to visit a punishment or admonition for his intrusion? This heat was certainly punishing and relentless. Who knew? No news back from Finn but then he expected none. Jill's silence was less easily dismissed. Was she genuinely not interested? Surely not.

In the morning Abby had been weeding and watering while he had made abortive efforts to fix the front door which had, days ago, given up closing properly. This heat and this lack of humidity played havoc with wood, especially unseasoned or kiln seasoned wood. The frame had swollen, the horizontal stiles in the door had dropped (damned carpenter hadn't brought them all the way through), the hinges had moved. How many variables were there in this puzzle? Abby had been finishing up trimming the shrubs by the door when he had eventually fitted a new and subtly different lock and face plate (sufficiently different to require recourse to chisels and an angle grinder), to no avail, and announced a coffee break.

And after coffee they had come back to a cool cellar where he had spent the late afternoon and early evening riffling through his memories of the last visit he had paid to the Laz. He was looking out for details of the memories of the typewriter history he had glimpsed - written by a private detective no less! Now he sipped his Amstel knowing that a big bottle of Fix waited for him in the fridge - it was cooling as he raised his own emotional temperature by musing.

So, what did he have? Taking it in reverse chronological order there was:

one) a receipt from a private detective company "Method Discovery" for a fully authenticated provenance for one typewriter - green - initialled DD

two) an invoice stamped "PAID IN FULL" from a company called "Object Instantiation" (who appeared to share the exact same address as Method Discovery") for "recovery and delivery of one typewriter - green -which is attested to have been the same machine upon which the novel Stew was typed"

three) an affidavit swearing to the authenticity of the typewriter (as referred and cross referenced by two) - notarised and signed

four) a sworn statement from a pawnbroker in Trellis St. EC12NH London(!!!!!) stating that the typewriter (identified by manufacturer's serial number) that he sold some several years ago to a now well known writer was obtained from the estate of the late Brian O'Nolan and that he had been reliably informed that it was the machine on which both At Swim Two Birds and The Third Policeman were produced.

five) an affidavit (dated April 1966) swearing to the authenticity of the typewriter (as referred and cross referenced by two) - notarised and signed by the executor of the will and testament of Brian O'Nolan - late of Dublin

six) a receipt made out to one George Knowall for a typewriter (green - serial number appended) from an indecipherable Paris address stating that said machine was lately the property of one Miss S Bleach - an acquaintance and typist to James A Joyce (recently deceased)

All of the documents were clearly marked as copies and each contained a reference to a certain safe-keeping organisation in Chancery Lane as the location of the originals.

He rubbed at his temples gently and continued the movements across to his nape. The incipient headache that he had woken to this morning refused to develop into anything meaningful or treatable. It nagged away at him like a barren and frigid shrew without being prepared to face him down properly. The hot, dry air that he could not take lungsfull of without wishing to cough and the restless slumbers, the blocked sinuses and the itchy eyes were wearing him down slowly. Surely and slowly. He downed the rest of the Amstel and shuffled over to the fridge in search of his Fix.

(to be continued ... )

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Gilbert sent mail

Gilbert sat down at the Mac. Coffee was over for the morning. Anna had left the night before. He decided to email Finn an explanation of how he had tricked the Laz into typing the letter X.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Gilbert put the book aside. They were back at the beach - all three of them. Another magnificent day had beckoned them thither. This time he put the book aside finally.

"OK", said Gilbert to himself, "on reflection it is not a bad book. There are, after all, very few really bad books. There are just so many mediocre books. Books that never actually cried out to be either written or read. And there are so many good books waiting that reading a mediocre book seems an heretical act against writing itself." The book though, no matter how mediocre, had flushed his own creative system and he felt ready to draft his reply to Finn. And anyway, Chick would like it - he'd put it to one side for her next visit. She'd enjoy the parts about the Iranian family at least and their tensions as incomers. Kell had enjoyed it too.

It was a Saturday and Xrysos Asteria was heaving. The sea had been cool, and invigorating. A good swim had helped clear his mind. It was a beautiful view - out across the bay and over to the mountains that retained only wispy hints of snow today. And still it was only May! They had been forecasting a summer two degrees cooler than last year in the local papers and they both relished the idea of a summer without the customary heat wave. Only tourists actually liked the very hot weather - the rest of them - the locals - simply suffered it - quite literally suffered. But then the tourists liked a lot of things that the locals could barely stand: other things that they suffered for the sake of tourism. And the money that it brought in of course - let's not forget that little fact.

They packed gritty damp towels into grubby dry canvas bags and made their way back to the car which was parked under a tree for shade - delicious cool shade. The black leather was cool although the air inside was dry and dust laden. They drove home in quiet contentment and pottered around hanging out rinsed costumes and towels that would crust a s they dried in the late afternoon sunshine. They would eat out tonight and so Gilbert settled himself in at the iMac to write to Finn. He could tell Finn about the typewriter - he'd understand!

(to be continued ... ) but read what Gilbert wrote to Finn

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Pleasure of the Text

Gilbert put the book aside. They were back at the beach - all three of them. Another magnificent day had beckoned them thither.

"If", said Gilbert to the author, "if you are going to manipulate your characters in the same way as that first chapter attempted to manipulate me then I sense a) that they will have a very easy ride but no lives of their own and b) that we may not have long together". He caught himself and wondered whether this was a professional judgement or a purely aesthetic one. Was he actually capable of a purely aesthetic judgement any more when it came to literature? He doubted it. He cast back to the days when he was discovering literature: when he read voraciously; making lists of books to read; authors that he must try; genres under explored: all of this when his tastes were maturing and learning. And then those heady days when he discovered for himself authors that he had never heard of, that nobody he knew had heard of: the thrill of the modern and the post modern. Oh such days! Days past: never to be regained. Froth as it were on a daydream. Days when he held off the urge to write himself: years of holding off (days when nobody could write him). Blessed days. Peaceful days. How long he had struggled to find his voice. The interminable struggle with what to write - that was one of his daily struggles. And still people just sit down and write any old thing. Some thinly disguised polemic. Some vague romance. Without care for style and structure, form and constraint. Heedless of the needs of their characters. As if Joyce and Beckett and all their honourable heirs had never put words on paper. And without wit or humour. Pushing their characters (unlikable, unknowable and under-developed) through plots (calculated, contrived and comically inept) designed only to get them from A to B with the maximum verbiage and maximal authorial effect.

He picked the book back up - he would persevere with it after all. Perhaps his purpose was to use it to purge his own system. The last two nights had been tumultuous. Nights of travelling and earwicking. He was glad at least that this Laz was a good writer. He had proof of that first hand. He had stood behind him as he crouched over the old typewriter (the typewriter he knew he knew) reading the words one at a time as they oozed onto the blank pages. But why so vindictive? Why so cruel? He had, this Laz, a grand economy, Gilbert must admit to that. And economy in a writer was one of those things he admired. His own next should be mercifully brief. Hrabal should be his guide. How long was "Too Loud A Solitude" after all? He ran upstairs to check. 98 pages. Shorter even than "A Close Watch on the Trains" or was it "Closely Observed Trains"? One was the film and the other the book. Which was which? And, Imagination, Dead, Imagine? A mere 14. No hold on it doesn't start until page 7 ---- 8 sides of text for a novel - masterful. His next must be less than 100 pages. He could not aspire to 8.

And when it came time to leave, as the sun began to lose some of its heat and the light reached its apex of clarity, when every fold and bush on every mountain between them and Exopolis was clearly delineated he found to his surprise that he had read perhaps 150 pages without getting too annoyed. He had just drifted along with its relentless tide being pushed hither and yon by this most bossy of writers. She would say what she wanted to say and she would make you sympathise with the characters she liked and to rankle at those of them she had disliked enough to scarcely more than sketch - cyphers merely. He felt cleansed.

They headed home sun drenched and happy. He knew just what he would be looking for tonight!

(to be continued ... )

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Hat. Swim. Two Birds.

Gilbert got his hat. A black straw fedora. He brushed dust from the brim and creased the fold. Abby had mended it last year - like so many things that they had brought with them it was wearing but she was determined to patch and mend those much loved items until they could be mended no more. She was doing pretty well on that front, he admitted to himself. Coffee was done and now they were headed out to the beach. This would be the first outing for his hat this year and their first beach day. They had, of course been to the beach before today but they had not yet had a beach day. He might even swim. Swimming was another one of those mindless pursuits that helped him to think: swim, breathe,swim, breathe - think, turn things over, think them through. Perhaps he would swim if the water were not too cold. It would be too cold for most of the locals. The sea was always too cold until August at the earliest - the scrotum tightening Mediterranean sea. He pulled the door shut behind them and locked it.

Abby put the lock on the girls' run (to keep dognappers, out and not to keep them, in) and wandered up to the car. Gilbert was already in the driving seat and Anna was in the back seat. She settled back into the warm black leather seats - within a month they would become the insufferable kidney boilers and Gilbert would be constantly on the look-out for shady places to park. For now the warmth was relaxing. Soothing. She relaxed and, for the first time for a day or two she thought of herself. When they had guests it was always Abby who considered their needs and wishes - Gilbert carried on pretty much the same, no matter what - it was simply the way she was: Abby wanted people to enjoy themselves and she took it upon herself to ensure that they did. She had always been capable of putting others first. Even Gilbert's daughters who were quite similar to him in temperament. But now she was looking forward to a restful day by the sea, reading a trashy novel, and soaking up some more of those relaxing rays and those dangerous UVs (12 out of 16 the weather site had said). She patted the beach bag that had hung on the chair in their bedroom since October to ensure that the sun lotion was packed. Loaded and ready. In the back Anna was relaxed almost fit to sleep.

They drew up at the beach that cousin Rachel had once described as their private country club - but with beach and sea. He'd have to check out the AR-G description of the beach that he had written last year and check how much it had changed in year ( READ IT HERE it's the entry for 30th April 2005 and trust me the place has changed a lot ) - later though - this evening. Andreas, the owner, greeted them, Gilbert raised his hat in salute, and they sought out a table half in and half out of the sun. Anna and Abby sat in the sun while Gilbert took the shade. Frappes came swiftly from the friendly Polish girl who worked the beds and bar in summer and a cafe in winter. They chewed some fat and surveyed the cerulean sea until the beach beckoned to the girls leaving Gilbert alone with the dregs of his frappe. As soon as the girls had gone Andreas sidled over as Gilbert had known he would. "Very good looking girl. Is she living at your house? You always have pretty girls with you. You're a very lucky man, Dave". "Yes," he replied "very lucky indeed!" And he meant it.

(to be continued ... )

Wednesday, May 17, 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, striking and vibrant blue - and it was glaring. The air was warm already. It was only eight o'clock. 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. The olive blossom was heavy this morning.

He re-read the email from Finn. His response had worked. Mr Nylon was in fact Finn - as he had suspected. Finn seemed not however to have understood or possibly noticed the reference to Flann's theory and had take the somewhat desperate query as a purely textual issue. It was good to have had a response but he would need to clarify and expand his hypothesis in his own response. He needed to make some notes. He switched over to his new and secret site. (see the side bar, or the previous entry for a link).

They would all three be zipping off to Rethymnon later and he hoped against hope that he would have time to formulate some cogent response to Finn before the others came down for breakfast. He sketched out some ideas but before he could construct a response everyone arrived. Maybe later. Maybe not.

Not, as it transpired. They spent the day in Rethymnon and, as planned Rob Werther the carpenter turned up at the back end of the afternoon bringing a couple of hairy arsed buliders to quote for the new door and window that they wanted in the cellar. The day wasted away on him and he was no closer to a serious response. They had had a good day but he was still disappointed. He had this nagging suspicion that his grasp was slipping on the issues. Things were going well, and yet ...

(to be continued ... )

Monday, May 15, 2006

Discretion beIng the better part of valour

Suddenly it was Monday, and another workaday week had begun for them although workaday held a different significance for these two than for most folk. An episode of Hercule Poirot on a DVD free with the Sunday paper was the single discriminating feature of their weekend. Abby prepared the house for the guest incoming while Gilbert knuckled down to writing - as he had promised he would. But first he took some precautions to save some of his thoughts and all of his communications from prying eyes. He would not take chances again. He set up a new email address ( and a new site (Just Another ShoeBox) where he could store and share, with a select, trusted few, both emails pertaining to the mystery and his soon to be started notebook wherein he would attempt to unravel more of the mystery. And all the while he felt the presence of an unknown surveillant. Now and then the hairs on the back of his neck, his hackles, rose and fell. Once, a shudder ran the length of his spine. He had convinced himself that somebody - or perhaps Nobodaddy - was watching, listening: nay, earwicking him. An image kept popping into his head that he could not focus. It haunted him as he assembled the bits and pieces of these new, "safe" locations that he had set up. It faded in and out as he set up the categories on his new location. The next week would prove troublesome vis a vis the demystification: guests, though welcome and enjoyable, had this habit of interfering with detailed introspection.

As he finished up for the day the image that had haunted him came into clear perspective:

(to be continued ... )

Sunday, May 14, 2006


"I had a very strange email from some guy signing himself as Mr Nylon today that had already been intercepted. It may have been a disguised or coded mail from Finn - I'm not sure. I may be getting paranoid. I'm thinking of implementing some sort of structural diversionary tactic. I cannot know, with any certainty, who is reading what and that has become an issue. I have to think of a way of keeping prying eyes if not blind then at least blinkered. He may be watching and reading all of this. Enough. Enough. Lets go and do some mindless stuff in the fields - raking, weeding, something distracting. Then I can think in peace." And so they did just that. Weeding, raking, trimming the front garden, coffees out. Anything where their inner thoughts were not on display for all to see. And the garden looked better for it. And they calmed down a little. And soon the weekend was over.

(to be continued ... )

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Dick is redundant

"It's not good enough Gilbert - just not good enough. It's what you do - you write - if you don't write what are you - what are you now - some pathetic character in someone else's detective story? What? You're an indolent bastard at the best of times - you always have been - but if you're not writing you're bloodily, insufferably idle. You have to write. I'm a farmer - I farm. You're a writer - so bloody well get on with it and write."

Gilbert looked genuinely chastened. He shot his eyes to his bare feet. "I know - you're right - I must - I will - I promise. You're so accurate - I am pathologically lazy - I'm just using this latest thing as an excuse - the Laz thing --- and the 7100 too I suppose - I do know it - I just keep denying it to myself. Lying. I'll get back to the writing today - I promise I will - tonight. I've a few ideas that I need to sketch out. I will - promise". At last he looked up. He looked her in the eye and refreshed his promise. She believed him.

She went to speak but he preempted her "I've worked out how to dispense with Dick. I did it last night. And it worked. I fathomed it over the past few days. This guy - the Laz - only writes at night - it's only when he's writing Dick that Dick can "visit" - and then only if he's writing both of us at the same time - but, and here's the interesting bit that I worked out yesterday, if he's writing me I can travel both his narrative and his narrator's position - I can look over his shoulder as it were while he's working. And I don't need Dick. Those nights free of Dick were days he wasn't writing at all - or wasn't writing both of us. All I did was to doze last night - to doze and to wait. His writing has an almost physical effect on me. If I'm just dozing it rouses me when he begins writing me. If I'm asleep he gets away scott free - but if I'm waiting for it I can follow his creative thread backwards. I can act in the narrative and I can get all the way back to him - where he's writing - when he's writing. It's amazing. It's just like a trip but ... But it's so real. It is real! And the fascinating thing is that he's got me back to when I first started thinking about the Stew - that's why I feel so young in the mornings after - he's taken me back. And that's why Dick is younger too."

Abby felt as though she had lost the power to speak: perhaps had lost the power even to think. It was all so far fetched. And yet it seemed to make sense in a very literary way. It had a certain post modern logic to it. Of a very sudden she recalled something else that threw everything into a peculiar, skewed, perspective. "I just remembered," she said haltingly, "that guy's sig. That Laz guy. It's too weird." "What what - what was it then? Tell me!". He was insistent and ----- and anxious, one might say.

"The solipsist on the web".

A silence so heavy, so profound that it was palpable, dropped like a gladiators net over them. And ran for several minutes while they digested this new morsel.

He broke it, "Schmidt! or was it Schmitz? Arno or Ettore?"

"I think," she broke in, "we are talking Nobodaddy and not Zeno. No paradoxes."

"By the way", he closed, "on the email thing. I suspect that someone is intercepting my mail".

(to be continued ... )

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Green Green Grass of Home Farm

Gilbert gave a wry smile: wryness was not a habit with him but on this occasion he managed it with aplomb. He had already seated himself at the kitchen table and poured a mug of coffee. Next he lit a cigarette. Abby sat opposite him and noticed that the primulas behind him were particularly beautiful this morning and that the little pot of chives was telling her that it was almost time for another potato salad. She told him all. His face did not drop as she had expected. Instead he did the wry smile thing again. She looked at him. Since he had shaved his beard off he looked younger still - this morning he looked almost boyish - younger even than when she had met him all those wonderful years ago.

"I am not altogether sure that I need confirmation any more. They are clearly very busy people and ... well, it probably isn't as important to them as it was to me at the time". "So you aren't disappointed then? Not even a little bit? Oh I am glad! I thought that it would really upset you". "One has, I have learned, to be both patient and sanguine in matters that require the input of others. But, as I implied earlier, I am almost positive that the hypothesis that I outlined to them is correct - more so since last night".

"So, tell me what did Dick have to "say" last night? Oh hold on a mo, before you tell me, there's something else I have to tell you. I worked out the Sue Graffo thing. It's not Sue Graffo or Sue Graffy. It's not even a name. ........................ It's greek. Sou graffei. It's a present continuous: Sou - you. Graffie - he is writing. ------------ HE IS WRITING YOU!"

HIs face lit up with wonder and awe. Theatrically, he slapped his own forehead with his right palm. "Of course you clever thing of course it does - it all fits - just like a chinese box - like one of that Laz's lacquered chinese boxes - it all slides together seamlessly". He jumped up and kissed her noisily. "You're just so clever - well done you - and no, Dick didn't come last night - I went there!".

They both looked up suddenly as the dogs began barking wildly. An approaching tractor had caught their attention but it seemed somehow much closer than it should be. There was a dust cloud passing the stable door as they rose and went to investigate. A cheery, chubby, bearded man waved frantically from his bright orange tractor - Kyrie Gazonprasinakis. Abby dashed off down to where he was parking up next to the number one lavender patch, pulling on her wellies as she went. Gilbert went over to calm the dogs down and to check that Molly still had her aloe vera poultice on the leg she had been chewing for the past two days.

Later, when the fields were all ploughed and the dust was settling, when the tractor operative had been given frappe and Abby and Kyrie Gazonprasinakis had exchanged tidbits of information about farming and horticulture Abby bearded him about what he had meant earlier about "going there". She waved aside one clumsy attempt to change the subject. "Now you sit there. And you tell me what you meant by that bloody cryptic remark. And while you're at it you can tell me why you're tinkering with that bloody old computer all the time instead of writing. You are a writer you know. Or had you forgotten? Just slipped your mind did it?"

"I shall answer those questions in reverse order if I may." he jested. But then he became more serious, "As time has aged me I find that I have more to say and less desire to say it. I move inexorably toward silence and ... death. Let them all stay ignorant". He paused for several beats and continued "And, as I grow younger, I find I just cannot be arsed with the hoi polloi." And he stopped, lit a cigarette and gazed lovingly at her.

(to be continued ... )

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

You have mail!

Abby sipped her coffee, letting the steam rise. She had yet to light her first cigarette of the day. She 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. Abby does not sniff despite being marginally sensitive to olive blossom.

It was unusual for her to be up and about first but something was bothering her since she had discovered the "identity", such as it was, of the other writer. She knew that Gilbert was getting upset at not having heard back from Finn and the Jill woman. He had even sent a message to Finn's wife yesterday asking if he was OK. The silence was eating at him and that was eating at her. She knew that now Kelly had gone back there would be nothing to distract him from the silence. Even the kiosk project that he was working on wouldn't be enough.

She had woken with the sun and the sound of sparrows courting on the bathroom window sill had foiled all her efforts to get back to sleep and so she had wandered down and checked out all of the plants on the way. Those that had needed it had now had water. Time for her coffee. And, on the off-chance she decided to check email and personal messages before she got stuck into planting out some more lavender - the cuttings that she had taken last autumn and nurtured into small, hardy, plants.

What a surprise she had when she spotted messages from both Finn and Mrs. Finn. The first that she checked was from Mrs. Finn and it was a pleasant, chatty missive:

Hi you talented writer!

About me: May being the busiest month in school life and me being a fool who has taken too many extra duties, my days are an endless row of diffrent tasks to do. I completed my Tikas-studies today so now I'm officially a Tikas-trainee's educator, did my four ECDL-tests also today, will start soundscape studies in Tampere on Saturday, will continue to work with Roland's workstation on Sunday, will travel to Estonia with my pupils for three days next week...

I've felt that I don't want to give just a quick glance to your blog, it deserves more! Therefore I've not read it for some days but instead I've been waiting for an evening when I can unwind and do something special, you know, like a special treat which you can enjoy after you've finished your ordinary duties. When the time comes your blog is my treat

Finn just arrived home. He's had some extra activities with his politics, don't know excatly what he's up to - we haven't had time to talk lately. I told him about your note and he was both so excited and a little bit embarrassed becaused he too has been focused only on his own blog and activities. He has to rethink what is really essential and focus also on things he enjoys! You'll hear from him.

May your May be merry and your lavender growing well!


Mrs. Finn

So - she had passed on the reminder and things sounded promising. "What busy lives they both live", she thought to herself, "they make me feel positively indolent. They are so busy that they cannot even make time to read Gilbert's blog. No wonder he hasn't responded!" But when she read Finn's message her heart sank. He apologised profusely but, it seemed to her, held out little hope for a speedy response to the original. "Oh dear, Gilbert will not be happy" she mused and as she did he appeared: looking the very picture of health and smiling broadly. "Bad news I'm afraid", she said, "Sit yourself down and I'll tell all. Dick was back last night wasn't he?"

(to be continued ... )

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


They had just dropped Kelly off at the airport and were enjoying a quiet glass of wine when Abby suddenly remarked that she had found an odd thing with regards the case of the nocturnal visits of Dick Detective. "You know you were convinced that this other writers name was Lez or Liz or Laz ? Well, something rang a bell in all that. Like we should know this guy or that we've met him or something similar. So, this morning, when you were at the shops getting the provisions in I went trawling through address books and the like. I even went back through your blog entries. Nothing. Not a thing. But yet I was convinced and so I ended up ploughing back through old emails and ... bingo! I found out why his "name" was familiar." Gilbert gulped, he had been convinced that he was the only one capable of computer forensics, how she had managed not only to search such huge amounts of information unaided but that she had turned up something useful shocked him in the same way as one of the dogs actually coming when called always managed to shock him. "Do you remember," she resumed, having observed his discomfiture, "a year or more back when we got that odd email about someone accusing you of having stolen their idea for a novel? December 2004 it turns out it was: the 19th in fact. Well, I went back and I found the email - it was from Brian your then head of department - and there was a link in there to the blog entry where this crazy guy in black face was claiming that you had stolen his novel or "eaten his lunch" as he also put it. Guess what his name was?". "Brian? O'Nolan of course, you remember Brian." "No, lemon, not Brian - the loon in black face - the complainant? It was Papalaz but I went on, reading more of his blog, and I have to tell you the guy seems more than a tad unhinged even if he is talented, well anyway it turns out that he sometimes refers to himself as "The Laz" - now is that interesting or what?" "You my dear sweet thing are one very clever girl," he enthused. "And you", she responded quickly, "are a very lucky man Dave".

(to be continued ... )

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Schrodinger's Cheshire Cat

Gilbert sipped his coffee through a straw, no steam rose. Lighting another cigarette in the diurnal merry go round of smoking he looked up and across the millpond expanse of Lake Kournas, out across Georgioupolis to the Gulf of Almiros. The sky was cerulean. The sea was turquoise and flat. The light, clear and strong. Th weather had finally turned. He felt good and bad both at the same time. Physically he was a young man again but that meant that he had had another disturbed night. Dick Detective had come looking for him last night. This morning he did not sniff. The three of them had come up to the Empire cafe to warm their bones through in the sunshine and to gaze mindlessly at the reflections on the sweetwater of the lake. It was too early for the pedaloes to be out - the trippers would arrive soon enough but for now they simply sat. They had met Voula and her family as they arrived but now they sat apart. His head was abuzz.

He despised Dick and detested his visits but ... But the aftereffects were good and the mysteries were gradually unravelling themselves. He knew now that Dick meant him no good but he was not afraid. Dick's obvious pleasure in his plight bothered him not - it was, if you like, to be expected. predictable, ineluctable: a force of fictional nature in fact. He had been very careful not to let on to Dick that he had begun to fathom things: that Dick's disclosures delighted him. And so, as Kelly talked of her siblings and her work and her flatmate and her new boyfriend and her mother (Gilbert's first wife who had recently followed their own example and moved abroad effectively orphaning the three daughters) he was busy piecing together bits and pieces of Dick's narratives in some background partition of his whirling grey (and we must assume white) matter.

It niggled him that neither the Jill woman nor Finn had responded to his emails. It was, he admitted to himself. the weekend and surely most people had better things to do with their weekends than answer weird emails but still it niggled. Could they not appreciate the urgency of his pleas? What urgency? There was no real rush was there? His head was a little muzzy from lack of restful sleep but he was on top of things and was enjoying this time with his daughter - probably the longest stretch that they had spent alone together in her life. There had always been the other girls around until now. And twinship, he acknowledged, was an awkward and a heavy cross to bear as well as being a blessing. Never to be truly alone. Scarcely within his imagination.

Meantimes the sun had warmed Abby's bones through and she was chatting happily with Kelly while her own background processor was engaged in similar unravellings to his. She had less to work with but she had seen the emails go out and so she had a good idea of what was going on or at least of what he thought might be going on. She found his "working hypothesis" absurd. Absurd but not impossible. She too had followed some of his online bookmarks to the sites about quantum mechanical theories of texts and had even checked back through his online postings to determine whether he had adopted his new signature (a googolplex of quarks without a single lepton) before or after he had started those investigations. Before: it transpired. As Alice would have said - curiouser and curiouser - or was that the cat? No matter. The Cheshire cat or the one beloved of Schrodinger? Did it matter or did it anti-matter? That indeed might be the key question. And what the hell was Hamlet doing in here with that ridiculous parody of a cigar? Nice try but no cigar? Where did that come from? Where was it going? might be the better part of the question. For valour? A VC?

He drove them home up by going up into the mountains and down again like a well trained chauffeur. Enjoying the poppies and the chamomile that lined the edges of the road. Ignoring the thistles while he could.

(to be continued ... )

Friday, May 05, 2006


Gilbert sipped his coffee, letting the steam rise. Lighting another cigarette he looked up and out of the kitchen window. Grey grey grey. This was the third consecutive badly starred morning and he was getting fed up with it. This morning he was alone at the table. Yesterday's planned excursion to Rethymnon had been foiled by a plot by the local bus company and tourists. The weather had been grey again and those tourists who had been unable to hire cars had all decided to catch the bus into Reht - damn their eyes. When the bus driver had spotted just how many people were waiting at the Kavros stop he had accelerated past shrugging his shoulders and indicating with a nod of his head over a shrugged shoulder that his bus was all but full already. The three of them had settled for a coffee and a pizza but had resolved to try again today and to aim for an earlier bus. His internal clock had woken him way too early and so now he sat with his coffee and waited for Abby and Kelly to arrive. No rush.

As well as being the third awful day weatherwise it had been his third consecutively Dick-free night and he felt so much better. Three nights of dreamless, apparition-free, rest. His head was clearer now than for some time - ever since Dick's first visit in fact. Admittedly he now had all his wrinkles and crow's feet back but that seems a small price to pay for the extra lucidity. He'd had 3 days of increasing clarity of mind in which to consider these visitations - 3 days in which to dredge his memories and assemble a more complete idea of what was going on. And he had made significant progress. He had 3 of the vignettes that Dick had seeded pretty much fleshed out now. Moreover he also had a working hypothesis about what was going on worked out. How to verify it though?

He drained the coffee pot and rolled a cigarette. Then it came to him. "Of course, Finn! And maybe that other woman. Jill was it? They might be able to help.Surely?" He picked up his mug and an ashtray and wandered over to his Mac. First he looked up the other woman by searching thru Finn's old blog entries. There she was on the seventh page he scanned (no search engine still) Jill Walker - that was her. No immediate sign of an email address though. He clicked around for a while and came up with what looked like her email address and figured he'd give that a go and just for luck he'd ask Finn to pass a copy of his on to her if he knew her email address. Belt and braces.

Gilbert finished the dregs of the coffee in one swig and got down to composing a suitable email. Not too leading but sufficiently suggestive would be the right tone. If he could pull it off. At last it was done - not to his entire satisfaction but well enough done for the purpose. He checked the addressees and punted it off into the ether(net). "Cyber-fingers crossed" he intoned to himself while gently, subliminally invoking Saint Alan Turing - patron saint of the worldwideweb.

And still there was no sign of the girls. It was early even now. No rush. He shuffled over to the sink, filled the kettle and emptied the coffee press. Back at the iMac he opened a new document and began to type up the latest vignette that he had reconstructed - Dick's voice whispered to him as he typed. Nudging and niggling.

You are looking into a room that is as near to square as makes no nevermind. It is dark. It is night time. It is a large room. In all probability it is 4 by 4 metres. The ceiling is high. Perhaps 2 metres 90. Plumb in the centre of the room is a large black partners desk. The drawers have brass handles and the writing surface is covered in a tooled and figured tan leather inset into a black surround of perhaps 3 inches breadth. The piece is clearly old but in very good condition and may have been sensitively restored anytime in the past 30 years. There is only one chair drawn up to the desk. A leather high back office chair complete with arm rests and wheels. Very recent vintage this piece. In the chair sits the Laz but of him we shall say nothing for now. His chair faces magnetic north. The wall to his left is furnished with metal shelving, custom made and completely filled with books. It is not possible, no matter how long you stare at the books, to determine the order in which they are filed - though filed they are. And very precisely too. There is light source within the room but it is not possible to determine where it is - a simple white light dimly suffuses the room without managing to actually light any thing. To reconstruct as best we can it is necessarily true that you are standing behind the Laz. He is unaware of your presence. You, however, feel his presence intensely. It is malevolently creative - you know this. On the desk before him there are three boxes aligned north south and one that is oriented east west and that touches them. Two of the north south boxes are shoe boxes. The other two boxes - at right angles each to the other - appear, at first glance, to be identical. One of the shoe boxes is a Nike box and bears the legend Air Rift, Silver, Size 42. The other is rather a boot box than a shoe box and is marked Camper, Olive, 37. The design name is obscured by a scuff to the label. These two boxes touch each other. Peer closely, being careful not to alert the Laz to your propinquity, the remaining, near identical boxes, are lacquer work or enamel. Tortoiseshell? There seems no way of opening either box. Don't you wish you could touch them? No seams. No corners. But each has a label let into the lacquer or enamel - brass? Bronze? Eastern? The light is better on the east west box - screw up your eyes - what does the label say? Antiquaks? And the other? No - it is too worn. You cannot read it but you sense that is says everything without saying anything. You know this box - you have seen it or read of it before. It's very familiarity is uncanny: unsettling. A cold shudder runs through the hair on your neck - this is a key - can you make out the first letter? An O or a Q - definitely one of them. But which? To the left of the boxes is a pile of books not neatly arranged just haphazardly stacked and atop this pile is a thumbed, almost distraught, copy of the Stew - the dust jacket is ripped and spindled, worn smooth and scribbled on in an ugly blue biro. Beside this pile there is an unopened ream of A4 paper - Panacopia reads the label - this side up points the label skyward. A spun aluminium ashtray -full of tipped butts. An open packet of Assos 25 cigarettes and a small cheap disposable lighter fitted into a peanut shaped rubber structure - black. Beyond, another pile of book - a Pristine copy of The Lavender Way on top. Your eyes move right - you have finally discovered the source of the light in the room. To the right of the box sculpture - for that is suddenly how it strikes you on looking again at it - sits, no "sits" is too trivial a verb for something so majestic - imposes a Remington portable typewriter of indeterminate vintage. It glows. And seems to throb.

And at this point Abby and Kelly appeared at the stable door and broke the reverie. A blind fell heavily over the scene and it was gone - like a magicians magic trick. Gilbert saved the file and made more coffee. The kettle had not been used.

(to be continued ... )

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Interlude in muted colours

Somehow the following days passed without further Detective incident and their life together settled back into its commonplace - no wrinkles disappearing, no untoward spring in his gait and no nocturnal interruptions. In this period they drove out to the airport and collected one his daughters. One of the twins that they had not seen for 4 years and so although things were normal inasmuch as there was no seepage from his fiction they were far from normal normal. All of the catching up distracted them from the absence of fictive kin by presenting them with instead the presence of real kin. Latenight bedtimes preceded by evenings in tavernas eating and drinking, talking and laughing, reminiscing and projecting, meant late risings for all of them. Late risings that unveiled dull overcast mornings that bled damply into even duller, damp afternoons and evenings. If Kell had come for sun and a tan then she would have been disappointed but she had not. She had come to see them and so although fine weather would have been preferred by all of them they were not much discommoded or discomfited by the dull days. The cooler evenings and nights were, however, less pleasant.

And although their days and evenings were full they still kept on top of farmwork: raking cut grasses and patching up holes that the dogs had been digging in heir run. Washing got done, The house was kept clean - and yet through all these days Gilbert's head was abuzz - in background mode he was slowly re-assembling the texts that Dick had left him - had seeded him with. And it was not a pretty story that he was uncovering from the strange coded snippets that he was busily patching together in his head. Less like a jigsaw and more like a tapestry the fabric of these bizarre visitations was richly textured, garishly decorated and, in places, incredibly detailed.

(to be continued ... )

Monday, May 01, 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 dull blue nearly grey. And yet the 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. This morning he did not sniff.

"How are you feeling this morning - aches and pains?"

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

"Nothing? Again? But last night ... "

"Literally - not an ache - not a pain. Just like yesterday."

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.

"And you?"

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

"I think so. Not really sure. That bastard Dick came back. An odd night but I feel really fresh this morning. Lively - and yes, younger. Again. This is getting to be a habit - I hope - or do I? He stretched his hand over to caress hers as it rested there and looked at it. So did she. They looked at each other.

"The liver spots? Gone again! Are these things connected? The Dick appearances and the - the you know ... How could they be?"

"What did Dick have to say for himself this time?"

"There was sense of deja vu about the whole thing - he started the same way and the last thing was that "Sue Graffy" person. I still don't get it. I've never known or even met anyone called Sue Graffy. I wracked my brains all yesterday and I have never met anyone called Sue Graffy. It wasn't someone you worked with was it? I was wondering all day whether it might be a hint of his about who this other writer is. But last night he let slip that it's a guy who's got him - and a few of the others - now. A Greek guy by the sounds of it. Can't think of it now. I just can't bring it to mind. Bugger. Anyway, you know how Dick was always rooting through my notes for the Stew well he's up to his old tricks with the new guy. He reckons it looks like the guy is putting notes together and writing the odd scene here and there but Dick thinks he's working on a parody of the Stew."

"Why would anyone do that? And a Greek at that? Is he writing it in Greek? How could Dick read Greek?"

"No, no, apparently it's all in English. English English too - not American English. I think Dick told me a lot of things last night that didn't appear to make much sense at the time but I'll work on them. Come on lets get the chores done, Chick'll be here soon."

They had finished the first pot of coffee and so Gilbert put the kettle on for another. The idea of facing the day proper without two pots of Guatemalan coffee horrified him. They cleaned the cellar with the precision and grace of an ice dance couple - perfectly in sync and elegant in motion. Gilbert rolled the rugs while Abby swept. He brushed the sofa cover clean of dog hair while she dusted. He cleaned the bathroom surfaces as she put the rugs back down. She cleaned the doormat while he pushed the carpet sweeper back and forth over the rugs - thinking. The paused for a sip of the new coffee and disappeared outside to sort out the kennels and run and to fuss the dogs. Because it was the first of the month the routine was extended by the application of tick medication to Molly and Bridey. They sat down again at the kitchen table when they were done and drank more coffee and smoked more cigarettes. They separated briefly to take leave of yesterdays waste products - he upstairs and she in the cellar bathroom. He stopped at the middle floor on the way back to empty the ashtray and wash and dry the mugs that had held last nights tea. He opened a couple of more shutters now that the sun was coming through.

"When's Chick due", he asked absently, "ten?" "So she said. I'll just get a few things together". "Take a jumper - it'll be cooler up in the mountains - and don't forget the camera. For all those wild flowers and orchids". "Will you please stop fussing?" she responded almost tetchily "I can organise myself you know. I ought to be able to. I organise you most of the time. Are you going to be OK? What'll you be up to? While I'm gone?". "Oh, I don't know. But I'll be fine - you enjoy yourself. I have to do some research and there's the blog to write and - oh you know - stuff! I'll just potter around. Don't worry about me. It's not like I haven't got plenty to think about". Molly and Bridey suddenly started barking - insistently - in warning mode. "That'll be Chick". And so it proved to be. And off they went.

He pottered. It rained on and off. The skies cleared and clouded by turn. Cutting some marble waste that he had found by a bin days before he almost recalled the name of the writer. Almost. But the more he tried the less likely it seemed that he would ever get it. He needed to do something fairly mindless and let his brain get on with it in background mode if active recall wouldn't work. His impressions were intense but badly out of focus. He took the brush-cutter/general purpose strimmer down from the wall in the garage and filled it with two-stroke. "That should do it!" And he moved out into the jungle that surrounded Georgi's apartment, hemming it in, making it all but impossible to get into. The noise rose to near 100 decibels as he dropped his goggles and revved the little engine. "Let battle commence!" he shouted to nobody in particular.

He had stopped to refill the spool when it came to him. He had been cursing himself and his lack of a visual imagination when it suddenly floated up to the top - Dick had given him a picture - a picture in words. He dashed indoors and grabbed a notepad and a 2B pencil and then he sat down next to the cooling brush-cutter and began to jot down fragments as they came floating back to him ... what the hell if it didn't cohere? It must be worth capturing.

An hour or so later he had scribbled the following:

4 boxes, shoeboxes, desk, partner desk, ashtray, old mug with pens in, scalpel, ream paper, Teradata?, book pile, laptop (Mac?), pads (yellow?), cough drops in a tin (?), rolodex, another pile of books (diary?) Bacon?, cigarettes (Greek brand - 25?), black, lamp with green shade (library lamp?), typewriter (are you sure?)

Arrows pointed all over this scrawl. Some items were circled together. Question marks and exclamation marks were everywhere - it looked like some bizarre venn diagram crossed with the illegitimate offspring of a mind map. A mess. Head in hands he wracked his recall paths - something else there. What? He picked up the pencil and, almost automatically he sketched without thought. "No, damn it - it just won't come". But when he looked again he found he had written Lez in a broad italic script that leaned precariously backward - - - but there was something badly wrong with the zed. And the e was squashed.

He decided to call it a day with the brush-cutter and proceeded to clean it all up and put it all away again. He surveyed his work and shook his head sadly. The way was now open to Georgi's cellar that was true: but what was it that he had on the notepad? And Lez - who was Lez? Where had that come from? And a typewriter??

Soon afterwards Abby came back from her day in the mountains, Chick didn't hang around, not wanting to eat with them, and they talked of her day and her adventures. They downloaded the photos and Abby posted a few up to her account at Flickr. He didn't mention the notes that he had made nor did he reveal something else that had surfaced during his afternoon. He knew for certain now - Dick was not warning him - he was threatening him!

(to be continued ... )