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

Saturday, July 29, 2006


Were I to tell you, and it is true I assure you, that I made no notes at all when we returned from the beach that day and that I have mulled it almost not at all since then then you would not be surprised had I forgotten entirely by now what I had meant to write then. And it is almost true. Almost. But it is not beyond RECALL.

First let me share with you a real RECALL of mine from yesterday or the day before:

"A snippet (clip? video clip, audio clip, memo clip(?)), of memory:

Taking some rubbish along to the bins today I caught the unmistakable scent of figs from a tree growing in an olive grove. Like Proust's madeline it brought back to me a moment one afternoon perhaps 17 years ago: walking up from Vrysses into Kalamitsi one stifling hot afternoon when all of the local villagers were dozing on day beds we rounded a bend and found that a stand of fig trees had apparently dropped their entire crop all at once and that a procession of trucks and lorries had crushed them into the melting tarmac - the smell was sweet and sticky, the day was hot and dry, we were hot and sweaty as we trudged through this sticky scented carpet. Just then a little lady in black beckoned us into her garden where she sat us down and gave us Greek coffee, cold grapes and figs!"

Now let me deconstruct it for you according to my model: the scent of figs is that which triggered the MNEMONIC (the path or route MNEMONIZED), the thing RECALLED (in this case a memo clip rather than a single thing) is the walk into the village and the old lady's kindness and that is the MEMORY. And the reason that I deconstruct it for you is to mention that I can feel a matching pattern between this model and that of semiotics. Is that another MNEMONIC for me?

Well, that did the trick, talking about a theory of memory allowed my background RECALL to operate unconsciously. Exposing the mechanics of memory allowed me not to try to RECALL actively.

My thoughts on the episode of "the day at the beach" were presented to some limited extent, in brief and in overview through Eddie and Shem. Eddie's point that nobody present was enjoying themselves in the way that he and Farmboy did when young was true for the simple reason that he and Farmboy never took joy in being recorded regardless of the fact that it happened only very infrequently. My own, deeper concern was that the act of recording would interpose itself not just in the MEMORY but in the immediate experience itself. As Heisenberg taught us the act of experimenting determines somewhat the outcome of the experiment. I suspected then and fear now that the recent obsession with recording our lives is beginning to get in the way of the quiddity of the moments of our lives and that leads us on to consider whether we the memories we lay down in these times are valid in any traditional sense and this is where Shem's point comes into play and it is at this juncture when the suspicion begins to arise that neither the experiences nor the memories of these three generations will be of the same type or directness as our own. In short, my original concern was for the very real and present danger that intermediating all experiences through the medium of recording (digitally or otherwise) changes the very nature of human experience and so, reality itself.

Marshall McCluhan anyone?

Friday, July 28, 2006

I forgot it

What a piece of work is memory - when I wrote yesterday's piece I did not RECALL that we had agreed to go out to eat tonight. Lindsey of the Lake is buying and we're off to Mesostrato. You will have to wait longer still for my thoughts on the Beach Scene.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Goddess Mnemosyne

What an odd thing is life. I had thought yesterday that I could write today on my take on the original scene for you but I find that I cannot. There is something else that I have to explain before I can expect any of you to comprehend those, my original thoughts. It is daunting but I must try.

I have to sketch out for you my ideas about how memory and recall are arranged in the human organism. I have long been fascinated about this mysterious human faculty - possibly the one human faculty, over and above the faculty for self reflection, that makes us truly human. Shem mentioned both Proust and Russian studies in the 60s into the phenomenon of total recall in his response and in that he was particularly perspicacious. But then he is my twin after all. And he is well aware of my interest in the topic.

Let me begin by splitting what is known as human memory into its constituent parts: the first crucial component of this faculty is what I shall refer to as memory and that is the process we would, in computer terminology, refer to as the write function - the process that writes and records human experience into the wetware of the brain as it happens; the second crucial and obvious component is the recall of those stored memories, what we would, again in computer terminology refer to as the retrieval function. From this point forward in this text I shall capitalise both of these words when they are used in this special sense.

A brief working knowledge of the arrangement and disposition of key human organs suggests that the organisms that have evolved into the human being tend towards building in redundancy (I carefully avoided any sloppy mention of design) and this is reflected in my view of memory and recall.

MEMORY is, in my opinion, perfect. Everything that a human being experiences and perceives is stored in the brain wetware: permanently and ineradicably. It is also stored redundantly, that is it is stored in multiple non-contiguous locations in wetware.

RECALL, on the other hand, is entirely and necessarily, imperfect. The few cases of perfect recall recorded in medical literature are tales of such an overwhelmingly terrifying aberration that it seems clear that it is counter evolutionary: imagine, if you can a trigger - be it a madeline or not - that gives rise to a memory (in it's widest sense) that takes as long or longer to experience as the original experience did, is as detailed in all respects and exercises all of the original senses. Now imagine this happening several hundred times every day. Perfect, total, RECALL would offer no evolutionary advantage - rather the reverse.

Now the fact that perfect, total, RECALL is both possible and documented would suggest, or at least tend to support my opinion that MEMORY itself is perfect and complete - at least in some humans.

Between MEMORY and RECALL is a little understood realm that I suggest we refer to as "MNEMONIZING". This is the process wherein access routes to memories are constructed and stored in wetware. I believe that there are two distinct types of MNEMONIZING: conscious and unconscious. Unconscious MNEMONIZING takes place, as its name suggests, unconsciously. Much of this unconscious MNEMONIZING takes place during sleep time although I suspect that there is the equivalent of a computer background process that runs in human wetware during wakeful time and that deals primarily with constructing and laying down short term memory access maps or routes whereas long term memory maps and access routes are handled during conscious downtime, or sleep.

Any reader old enough to know of rote learning will be familiar with conscious MNEMONIZING, as will any reader who has experimented with "memory enhancement" techniques. Rote learning and "memory enhancement" techniques both exploit the ability of the human brain to multi-task: they both involve laying down the MEMORY in wetware while at the same time imposing and associating an access route (MNEMONIZING) with that particular memory.

Now the observant among you will have noticed that in the first of the preceding two paragraphs I spoke of memory maps and access routes (plural) whereas in the paragraph about conscious MNEMONIZING I used the singular. Unconscious MNEMONIZING in general, and downtime or sleep MNEMONIZING in particular, appear to lay down multiple paths and routes having established associations with a plurality of pre-existing memories and access paths. Thus, the unconscious MNEMONIZING provides a redundant set of RECALL possibilities whereas conscious MNEMONIZING appears to hardwire a preference for a single RECALL path - think how often you will recite a whole mnemonic or a significant part of it in order to get to the particular MEMORY that you are trying to access. How many days in April? See if you don't sub-vocalize "30 days hath September" before you get to April.

It is my contention that conscious MNEMONIZING limits, whereas unconscious MNEMONIZING expands, the possibilities both of the imagination and future RECALL.

Finally I further have a sneaking belief that there is a function of critical mass at play in the overall behaviour of memory, in its broad day to day usage, inasmuch as there seems to be a point beyond which RECALL becomes easier and that this reflects a sufficiently rich and redundant set of access paths having been laid down in wetware. The more you put in to memory the easier it becomes to remember things.

Now that will do for today and I hope you can RECALL all of this when you come back tomorrow for the next installment.


PS Radio 4 are currently running an interesting feature on memory link

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Beach scene considered

We closed yesterday with the following: "We shall discuss the things that are wrong with these pictures later." Well, now it is later and so we'd best get started. I had intended to dominate this post but after yesterday's posting the boys got to talking about it and they reflected a lot of what I would have expected from the general publics o I figured we could use their points as a starter.

First up then is Eddie. Now Eddie is nobody's fool and his response was immediate and strangely nuanced for such a straightforward guy. "Those kids aren't having real fun - their acting. Acting isn't the same thing as having fun - unless your an actor and they aren't. And why isn't the granny joining in instead of filming it? I used to hate having my photo taken when I was a kid and so did Ceddie there aren't many photos of either of us. The dad bloke is just doing his Martin Scorcese thing so he's not having fun either and as for granddad - well I don't know what he's up to. The more I think of it the more it reminds me of that film where the boy's dad keeps waking him up to film him and turns him into a killer with a pointy stick. Are they all trying to make their kids killers? Why don't they just have real fun?"

The film Eddie is referring to is Michael Powell's 1960 classic Peeping Tom. I personally think his reference is interesting.

Next up is Shem. This is typical Shem almost pure Shem in fact: "Your piece is amazingly self referential. It describes, by intermediating, an intermediated set of experiences. In your case your writing is the intermediator - in the referent it is the recording device that is the intermediator. I like that symmetry. The piece points up the distance that people are putting between themselves and their real life by interposing technologies and in this case recording technologies. It is a modern phenomenon and it worries me not a little. Your observation that the "memories" so recorded and later "recalled" are false is quite deep and I shall have to think about it. Maybe you should ask Proust. Or that Russian foundation that was studying complete recall - I remember one of the men who had it describing it as a curse."

That, I feel, will do for now. More tomorrow. My thoughts probably!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Two swathes of blue separated by a perfect horizontal. The lighter blue above, smooth and solid. The darker below, ruffled.

Pull back.

A black woven roof. The brim of my hat. The pale blue stretches on, filling the shot. The dark blue shades to a green blue closer to the lens.

Pull back.

A grandmother stands by the sea's edge out of the waves. A father stands where the small wavelets break. Three children play around him. His children. A grandfather stands slightly off to the right. Almost out of shot - but not quite.

Pull back.

A golden sandy beach dotted with palm topped umbrellas and green beach beds. Some are peopled. Some are not. Here and there a large pebble. One bin formed from plegma.

Pull back.

Feet - well toes at least. Two smoked glass lenses. Behind them - two clear green eyes. Behind them two more lenses. They are attached to a powerful mechanism that brings a lifetime of experience to the scene. And a learned gift for analysis.

Pan left. Focus to the grandmother.

She holds to her eye a video camera.

Pan right. Centre. The father is directing the children.

Pan right.

The grandfather is too.

Centre the scene on the family picture. The children assume their previous positions and the scene unfolds again. Grandmother gives a thumbs up sign to the father. A very young girl from the group peels off and runs up the beach, past grandma, to mum - unnoticed by the camera. She grabs an airbed and rushes back into the wavelets clutching it. Look at me, she is shouting - without words. Is it her grandmother's attention she is courting or is it the camera's gaze? Whichever it is, she gets both. Grandmother stops the camera and stows it in her bag, trudging wearily back up the beach to where mum sits under an umbrella. Another batch of lies committed to digital memory. To be edited and enhanced, titled and soundtracked. False memories stored permanently. To become a part of this family's shared history.

Pull back. The camera pans left and right as it pulls back.

It hovers momentarily on a couple on a beach bed. A pretty girl in a pink bikini and headband poses her husband, white earbuds of an iPod visible, and takes a photo with her mobile phone.

Pull back and lose focus to a blur. The sound of a camera switching off. A hard drive spins down.

What have WE recorded? And HER? And THEM, the family?

We shall discuss the things that are wrong with these pictures later.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Creative dysfunction ?

Since we killed Gilbert the muse has absented herself. We are running on empty in the creative tank. Is it a mourning/grieving process or something else? International affairs proffer much grist but the cynical slaughter of innocents in the middle east to a soundtrack of mealy mouthed posturing from the US and the UK saps all real impetus. Local life is good most of the time (psychotic, pathetic, paranoid women shouting at us out of windows at midnight and peering through binoculars at our eventime activities notwithstanding) and with the youngest daughter staying here the boys around the farm are in the background right now. The lavender harvest continues and Lindsey of the Lake helps out with that whenever she can lever herself out of bed. And so we rest back and recuperate our creative juices but you will, we promise, hear from us again. In the meantime if you are short of some laconic, sardonic, coruscating analysis I suggest you wander across to the Old Git's blog and check that out.

Monday, July 17, 2006

While you were gone ...

OK kids you all know me and I ain't no moaner - right? Yeh right - but that was one helluva long time to hold us guys back wasn't it? To make almost asif'n we weren't even here no more? No disrepect to Shaun at all ifn you follow me - it was a fine ripping tale and all but I can't say as how I followed all of it with its twists and turns and references and such but reading it to young Eddie most nights I'd sometimes think I near nuff understood enough. Eddie loved it of course but he likes anything any story so long as it's got quantum physics in it. And both of us thought the ending was riper as they say down under.

While that tall tale was going on in here life around the farm was going on pretty much as you'd have expected - spring giving way to summer and wild flowers drying back to twigs and dust. Now all that's left are the huge heads of the wild carrot flowers and some gorgeous chicory plants that only show their flowers in the early morning. G's new morning glory (royal purple) plant is ripping away but the roses and the bottlebrush have been quiet for a few weeks now as the real heat sets in. We water most mornings, nigh on drowning them tomatoes these days, and yet the surface crusts and cracks still and the soil fades from brown to cream to white.

And of course it's July now so the lavender harvest is well under way (hip hooray Lindz arrives tomorrow to help out with the last of the first cutting - G will be so pleased to have what she calls real help). Yield from Lav2 is well up but Lav1 seems to have suffered in the wet winter and is not so good this year - have to trench out in autumn I figure. G is picking close on 2000 flowers each day and I wonder sometimes how she keeps it up day in day out. But she's got gumption that girl - don't know about giving up. The type 2s are amazingly fragrant this year by the way and the new drying rack me and Eddie put up for G in her potting shed has already been filled and emptied. And the one in the bathroom! Wardrobes and chests are filling with product already and that unique smell of lavender drying permeates the whole cellar.

Speaking of which D&G had some works done on the cellar this last month that have transformed the old place: a new window (east facing, we didn't have one of those before); a new stable door (much bigger and arched at the top); and shutters all round. I'll tell you it makes a helluva difference - lighter, airier, all round better. And it'll be great come winter too. That lanky Rob did all the carpentry and he brought a few big old boys around to do the grunt work - knocking out and knocking up and the like - nice old boys they were too - took a real shine to Eddie and him to them. (BTW no sign of the institution coming looking for him yet and The Boss acts like he's just like the rest of us these days so I can't seem him turning the boy over ifn they do) (come looking that is). I asked Rob if his grandad had given him the secret of they sweeties he was always advertising but he made like he didn't know what I was talking about! Mum's the word.

Well that'll have to keep you going for now I've got work to do re-fitting the Boss's carage and this ain't getting the baby a new bonnet but I'll catch you up some more another time - till then I'll love you and leave you.

P.S. The Boss got himself a gun recently - there's been reports of a psycho lady on the loose stalking the valley - and he's been doing some target work, looks like he's getting pretty good at it too (me and Eddie aren't allowed near it) so if that ole loony does turn up near here she'd better be careful coz he's as likely to put her eye out as not.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Becoming the object of ones own hatred - but not the victim

Must it not be awful to become that which you fear and despise? To hate and fear persecution and to become a persecutor to "protect" yourself? To come to the point where your propaganda "justifications" begin to sound remarkably like those spewed out by the propaganda minister for the people who once persecuted you? Having been a powerless, stateless people, persecuted by a country with the third strongest armies in the world how does one become a people with the 5th most powerful army in the world and the persecutors of a powerless, stateless people?

As it stands the state of Israel appears to be displaying all of the signs of a classical case of paranoia and the Palestinians are paying the price - along with the Lebanese. If the USA has its way then the Syrians and the Iranians could be brought into the sphere of punishment being meted out in an increasingly vicious nay heartless display of state led terrorism.

Friday, July 14, 2006


All then that remains is for me to relate those closing moments, that final confrontation, that heroic act - and its terrible consequences.

before the full moon had passed over the girls' run the channel opened it was full moon and not two nights before when Gilbert had laid himself down and here he was at once in Papalaz's writing room delivered safely but not from evil for his was the kingdom and the power but no glory he recalled Dick's mention of the mirror and chanced a glance across past the Laz's shoulders as he hunched over the trusty glowing rusty trypewriter seeing in reflect a man not young and yet not yet aged a face made up he thought but mayhap not to look like a coon face surmounted with a wig surely of outrageous goose grease laden curl amok and a mockery. this image that brought his own to mind looked back at him and winked. a cruel knowing wink of no humour. and then he started to rise to get out of the chair Gilbert fingered the gun in his belt but need not have Laz spoke a smile around his mouth not in his eyes though they were asparkle all along "I'm just going upstairs to the toilet Dave it's all yours to make of what you will when I come back we will talk of plots and character and sealing wax and adverbs and we shall put the world of literature back together. I'll enjoy that. And you may too". A tall man with noble posture erect and daunting he moved to the door and passed or seemed to straight through it an illusion? the door swung silently to as he left a waft of stage makeup in his wake coconut oil on his hair? Leichner?

odd Gilbert sitting now in a still warm seat peering myopically at the text half out of the platen he reaches forward and picks up the two boxes the omnium and the nihilum (the quark and anti-quark) with perfect assuredness a strange prestidigitation follows all fingers and elbows angles and twists. and in a whisper like two barn owls passing overhead on a still summer night in the olive groves the pair slide open in perfect synchronicity. no bang just a whisper and Gilbert looks at them unbelieving. where is the clap the crack the thunder?

rocking back in anger and the chair he slaps himself and poises his hands above the once familiar keyboard for a final fateful time and shift to uppercase P and down a p p a he continues until he has typed the thunderword Pappappapparrassannuaragheallachnatullaghmonganmacmacmacwhackfalltherdebblenonthedubblandaddydoodled that will release the power of all texts. what's this? quietly he listens to the quiet and thinks he hears the Laz returning but no - CRUSH, CRACK, CRICK, CRICK - something is tearing he looks at the yellowing A4 in the platen and rolls it up three lines a tiny microscopic almost invisible hole has opened deep deep black so black that is as if he is staring for staring he now is at absolute nothingness the hole grows and the sound of Crush, crack, crick, crick repeats again and again in a rising tempo the boxes glow now the trypewriter too the whole desk is aglow and the room itself is flooded with a light that he recalls from a painting he once saw where? of the burning of Joan of Arc it is becoming hot the words on the page slip across the surface of this old stock paper like wax on water like the frontispieces in old books he recalls fingering in public libraries of his youth and the sound repeats as the words letter by letter slip into the whirlpool that is now the tiny hole but growing. soon the sheet is blank clean once more its virginity reconstructed. the very edges of the desk are curling upward now the corners of the room bending plasticly now he is in a Dali world that has the spine gone from it where everything is finally pliable. he pushes the chair back away from the desk as the four corners rear up like horsemen to be devoured in the maw of the trypewriter that seems now to be sucking with a ferocious maelstrom force at the very fabric of the room his ears are humming from the constant Crush, crack, crick, crick rising in pitch now harpy like. Horror and resignation pass across his face - and satisfaction - this is how it had to be - the books fly down from shelving stacked around the walls and disappear into the machine of obliteration the words sliding out of them as they approach the mighty force the pages ripped from their fine bindings Alexandria Alexandria!

the shelving is next bending twisting curling into the trypewriter the cosmic word machine molten metal pouring down into the furnace the forge of language that this terrible machine has become he smiles and feel a tugging at his hands those too they must pass a fine spray of particles from the walls whistles past him as the Crush, crack, crick, crick reaches a manic chuckle. there are no colours anymore there is no substance only melt everything is liquid or is about to become liquid or has been liquid all form flow flow flow unstoppably into the trypewriter that glows now like the very heart of hell stoked by every writer ever to write the walls rush past him into the gape and he he finally surrenders totally. in this finale of final moments his quarks have joined with the chair and together they make their final trajectory into the glowing pulsing mouth from which no word can ever emerge lest it be on the other side of language. And then the corners of the machine itself give up the struggle having consume everything it is about to devour itself ......................

the rest is silence - a wordless silence - in which no Crush, crack, crick, crick is heard

(NOT to be continued ... )

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


I read those words now and I weep. How could I not? I should have known that the outcome would be ...... awful - I did not know just how awful: how cataclysmic. My eyes burn as I write this, salty tears course down my cheeks, my old wrinkled cheeks. I have seen things with these old rheumy eyes that I would not share with you but this I must share: you are entitled. You have earned this much. You have invested that much.

Did Gilbert himself know what was coming? I suspect that he may have done and if he did then he was a genuinely brave man. A hero for literature. A martyr for modernism and a paragon for postmodernism.

Did Papalazarou (for that , we now know, is (or was?) his full pronomon) know what was coming? We have to assume, from the eventuality, that he did. The evidence points that way. But if he did, then why would he have acted as he did? Bitten by the agenbite of inwit? There is a mystery there but one that we shall not unravel not untangle nor understand.

Could it be the case that both of them knew exactly how it would all turn out and still went ahead? A fatal fatalism? Perhaps it really was ineluctable. A renegade reality running on rails? And only those brutal buffers waiting for them at the terminus?

How prescient now seems Gilbert's recurring use of the word annihilation in recent days. How tragedic. How stoic and Zen-like the laissez faire of the Laz. A match, it was, fit for the sagas and eddas.

Enough though now of introspection and self recrimination. Too much procrastination. Enough prevarication. All that is left is to relate the "facts" as we know them, as they have come through to us as the ripples in time and space abate and the continuum stabilizes.

(to be continued ... )

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Gilbert laid himself out on the futon on the balcony and looked, like Wilde, up at the stars even though one could hardly describe his location as the gutter - the moon would be full in another two days - the sky was clear and the air had cooled. He did not need to be outside but he was readying himself for the showdown. The gun was tucked into his waistband - loaded and cocked. He stared up at the constellations that he could not name nor even distinguish. He would, he had decided, sleep thus until the channel to the Laz opened for him again. He half closed his eyes and left his mind to wander waiting, only on the opening of the portal. Make no mistake he was focussed. Focused as though his very life depended upon it: for all he could tell it might well do. His appointment with literary destiny was coming and he was ready. Omnium and nihilum, he had decided were the keys to the obliteration of Laz from literature.

(to be continued ... )

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Rain stops play

Gilbert sat in silence. It was raining outside -the first rains they had had for weeks now: since Kelly was with them and since then they'd had a veritable heat wave that had peaked on the weekend just past in the high 90s Fahrenheit. The rain was more than welcome. Last night he had heard it start about 12:30 and had woken Abby to tell her: not such a smart move it turned out for the cooler air that had preceded the burst had lulled her off to her first good sleep in a week and she seemed a little resentful at being woken.

They had both slept so well last night. It was 8:30 now and Gibert was letting Abby sleep on for as long as she would. He had the mandatory coffee before him and a cigarette in his left hand. The ashtray was slowly filling and he was deep in thought. The newly installed window and the bigger stable door let much more light into the cellar. So much, that even on an overcast day such as this it was lighter than ever before in there. He breathed deeply between drawing on his cancer stick and siping the hot Guatemalan coffee: it was novel to get lungsfull of cool moist air.

For once Gilbert wasn't thinking about himself, or the mysterious Laz, or Dick Detective or any of those phonies and shysters from the circus of freaks that Laz had recently peopled his world with. He was thinking of his old friend Hubert. He'd written to Hubert recently, hoping to pick up their correspondence of old, but had heard nothing back. He considered how many invitations to converse or correspond went unheeded, fell off of the radar: how many putative dialogues that ended as monologues or soliloquies? How many hands outstretched, for wasn't that what such a gesture signalled, that stayed empty? Offers ignored. Offers silently rejected. In a world where so many complained of loneliness how could so many dialogues be stillborn? So many cheerful, cheering texts go into the circular filing cabinet? Is there an ethereal bin for unreplied-to emails? Unread even. It must be a very big bin indeed. More words he supposed went winging across the ethernet each day than had been captured between boards and published in all literary history: and how any of them went unread? Most, he reasoned. Spam and the filtering thereof had become an industry unto itself: the myriad ways of throwing words and texts away, unopened, unread, and ultimately unnoticed. He imagined to himself one of those famously incontinent pipes that Thames Water used to deliver water wastefully to households throughout the south east of England but this imaginary pipe was sawn off and all of the bits of all of the orphaned digital texts simply dribbling out of the end and puddling sadly at the mouth of this monstrous pipe. Gilbert shuddered and shook off this uncomfortable idea. He would try again. And he must scribble out hose mental notes that he was making - the ones about defeating his nemesis.

Gilbert smiled to himself and intoned to himself, " - sometimes people have to die - sometimes murder has to be".

(to be continued ... )