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, September 30, 2006


Some months back my curmudgeonly old pal Liam sent me some papers, academic papers that is, that an ex-colleague of his from university days, had written on the socio-anthropological aspects of British ex-pats in Crete. Despite being a work shamefully thin on genuine insights or revelations it did pique my interest in the topic. I looked out other works on similar topics but was again disappointed.

By this time I had a great deal of experience of online communities under my belt, having immersed myself in online communities for more than two years and the dynamic of such communities fascinated me too. Truth to tell, it was in fact on one of these communities that I met Liam - a community that we both watched deteriorate rapidly.

Some friends of ours who live here part-time had told us of an online ex-pat Brit community that they had come across and a couple of jigsaw pieces suddenly dropped into place. I had a new project. But I couldn't tell anyone. Stealth would be key. I would undertake an ethno-socio-anthroplogical study of British ex-pats in Crete and their interaction online. (OK all the jargon is there for fun - who knows what is really was or is?). This way, I figured, I would not have to meet them in the flesh and spend face to face time with them: something I had studiously avoided so far. My knowledge of things Cretan and British should provide as much or as little cover as necessary to observe undetected and my writer's skills would complete any necessary or desirable deception required, likewise undetected.

The initial online community helped me to discover another online community and, since they (the other community) had set themselves up as an ostensible opposite to the initial site, provided a broader spectrum than I could have hoped for - or so I thought. I spent several months learning the ways and mores of these communities before designing and inserting characters into the forum sections there.

And now the experiment is coming to an end. I have a third and final character running in one of the communities of whom I expect little save confirmation of some existing findings. Over the next weeks and months I shall share with you all of my findings as I write them up. It may not be academically valid research but I hope it will be more than simply entertaining.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


A four legged three lettered animal
comes into our farm every day
and shits

A four legged three lettered animal
comes into our farm every day
and annoys our livestock

A four legged three lettered animal
comes into our farm every day
and digs among the crops

A four legged three lettered animal
comes into our farm every day
and breaks down the tender seedlings

That's four four legged three lettered animals
in all -
if not more

A two legged five lettered animal
encourages the entry
of these four legged three lettered animals
into our farm every day

A two legged five lettered animal
silently and smugly applauds the entry
of these four legged three lettered animals
into our farm every day

That's four four legged three lettered animals
and two two legged five lettered animals
in all
that are pissing me off
on a daily basis

The locals say:
shoot them
and I shake my head and demur

For now!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I wish I'd said that ...

The internet is a wonderful thing.

Gill picked this up from Newsnight:

Jeremy has been talking to the scientist Richard Dawkins - whose new
book "The God Delusion" is set to be as controversial as his previous

Here's a taster: "I am not attacking any particular version of God or
gods. I am attacking Gods, all gods, anything and everything
supernatural, wherever and whenever they have been or will be

A quick Google found this: Dawkins speaks to Salon

My how I wish that I had said that!!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Today's blog is made possible by the genius of the man on the left.For those not familiar with his photo this is Richard Buckminster Fuller. The real thing. You might want to take a glance aside at his Wiki entry before you continue here. Bucky invented or dicovered or designed the buckyball and in doing so he made possible the goedesic dome which he spent a lot of time refining.

Well, our two intrepid men in red have been building a geodesic dome, or buckydome as they prefer to call it, over the past 3 days. It was Shem's idea but needless to say when it came to hands getting dirty he enlisted the willing boys: Eddie and Ceddie. Under Shem's watchful eye the boys have been cutting bamboo into lengths and wiring 5 and 6 way joints together never knowing what came next or how the whole thing was supposed to work. My own opinion is that Shem rather than keeping them in the dark didn't know himself how it all worked. Shaun now and then popped out to hypervise and picked up the odd error that had to be corrected. Shaun can "do" multidimensional imagining but I suspect that Shem cannot.

It must have been unsettling for the people next door to see the work progressing and not to know what to expect. Nowhere near as entertaining as were the trellis sagas for us but then where their bizzare behaviour regularly attains the Everestian heights of strange ours wanders constantly around in the foothills of the odd. And the killer is that the final stages of assembly were carried out beyond the gaze even of their binoculars. Far from prying eyes. The completed dome now sits proudly and happily down by the mulberry trees where G intends to use it as a meditation and recueration centre.

How wonderful to see the glint of joy come into G's eye as she mentally traced the buckydome from its humble founding pentagon to the point where she pleaded to have the completed thing for herself. A genuine pleasure to oblige. She has become like a child with a new and much anticipated toy. She is happy and we applaud that joy and happiness. Aching backs and blistered hands are a bagatelle by comparison.

Note for Mick and Chick - it's OK I didn't let them use your bamboo - that is safely stored to one side!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Silence is poison

Dateline: September 9th 2009 - Athens

Today at twenty minutes past midnight the world fell silent. In a phenomenon believed to be unprecedented in human history nobody has now spoken for almost 6 hours. Some had predicted this silence, most notably the organisation known as Freethinkers and Rational Scientists (FARS) but most people had poo poohed the idea.

At midnight GMT new human rights legislation came into force worldwide and the biggest database ever built was opened for business. The Global Offence Database was receiving 20 or 30 registrations per second within 2 seconds from internet connexions all over the globe. Within 3 minutes the transaction rate to GOD had ramped up to hundreds and then thousands per second. By the time the database system collapsed 7 and a half million notifications of offence taken (NOTs) had ben permanently registered on the database. A fail over clustered database system came online immediately at the United Nations and while the UN is saying nothing we are led to believe that close to a billion NOTs are now registered and transaction rates have steadied to 3 thousand per second.

And while all of this computer activity was underway a concerted police presence worldwide was arresting thousands of people in city centres around the globe. Prisons and police cells are widely believed to be full in all major capitals and metropolitan centres.

The new human right bestowed upon the world's citizens by this particular legislation can be simply stated: "The right not to be offended by anything that any other human might speak, write, or signal by whatever means." Railroaded through the UN by religious bodies and minority rights organisations it was widely understood that this new human right would produce a climate of peace and harmony - only FARS predicted a deafening silence.

As far as we can tell this text is the only language based output from the planet for close to 6 hours. We will not be silenced. We expect the knock at the door any moment but we repeat our message of the last year "Your rights are my gags". Stay tuned - we may be back.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


OK kids help me out here I know I'm not the brightest star in the heavens but this latest thing has got me all flummoxed.

So, the way I read it there's this old guy who used to be a member of the Hitler Youth but who now spends his entire life peddling superstition and dread and lecturing on those subjects makes another one of his ridiculous speeches and in this one he quotes from some other old guy who 7 centuries ago subscribed to the same superstitious nonsense as this one does. I don't know maybe 7 centuries ago believing that sort of rot was normal. Anyways this 14th century guy said something pretty unpleasant about a bunch of differently superstitious people and the new guy quoted him. Well it turns out that those differently superstitious guys are still around in a similar form (so that's two bunches of superstitious peoples in the 21st century - where is all this progress I keep reading about?)) and they suddenly get all upset and go off crying to the teacher with - "Miss, Miss he said something nasty about us! Tell him off Miss. Make him apologise!" So Miss says "I cannot make him apologise (and I wouldn't if I could because I believe he's right)" and the second bunch of differently superstitious guys start rioting!!

You are putting me on - surely? In the 21st century? After all that "progress"? We still have so many people who not only believe this tosh but actually get upset about it to the point of rioting? Perrrrr- lease! Like I said up front - I'm not Eisenstein but this is stupid.

a) If these people are allowed to believe this nonsense and talk about it openly why does another bunch of people get so upset about it?
b) what's it got to do with the rest of us who use our minds that it should get air time?
c) are we heading back into the bloody dark ages?

That's my two penn'orth

Friday, September 15, 2006

Apricot, dead, imagine

There is an apricot shaped hole in the garden tonight•

Those of you who have followed the progress around here over the years will be familiar with photographs of the apricot tree in blossom/ of the fruits of the tree• Tonight there is only a desiccated trunk - a stump of a skeleton of a tree•

For the past two seasons - 2004 and 2005 this beautiful tree has graced us with magnificent shows of blossom and huge crops of sweet fruits tasting of early sunshine• The first of the fruit trees to wear the mantle of spring/ she has signalled the end of winter for us• This spring though the cherry trees heralded spring for us - she was late/// we thought• The wild plum came into blossom - pink and fulsome - and still she showed us nothing - no buds / no leaf. Still// I had pruned her hard last October and so we waited. In vain it transpired/// no leaf bud// no flower blossom// no suckers even. Our hearts sank but still we waited on.

And all through summer we waited for signs of life that never came. She became more brittle, creaking in any wind• She began to rock in her root• Insects invaded her bark/// small boring things took up residence• And all the while she dried•

Today I took the saw to her/// carefully sawing through one of her three main boughs• Sawdust• No moisture.• No sap• Nothing to cling to the blade and hold it back from its fearsome duty• Dead• And now gone•

We shall miss her spring gown• We do not know what killed her• Perhaps she died of old age•

Unless someone wants some of her dried wood for turning she will feed our stove this winter• And her final legacy will be the wonderful scent of fruit wood burning• Earth to earth and ashes to ashes• The ashes will feed next years tomatoes and the circle will close•

There is an apricot shaped hole in our hearts tonight•

Thursday, September 14, 2006


French harvest began today• G started by picking type 1s and 2s and then progressed to the french harvest. E&C erected the big drying rack over the past couple of days and it now hangs suspended in the carage• Decked out in a shroud of autumnal smelling sacking it now also hosts the first pass trim of the lavender known as "sofa" and is completely covered• How long the french harvest will take we know not yet but this year the drying will be accomplished more quickly than last what with the new drying technology and the earlier start• We shall see•

Shem and Shaun have meanwhile been doing their creative best and playing with / their latest toy. Trawling back through the digital archive of digital photographs Gill has taken here they have selected wildlife and nature shots and offer you the following: Cretan flora and Fauna • They have also been working on the LibraryThing catalogue (Beckett today) - tracking down books and tagging entries to create order from the chaos// pushing back the entropy day by day// book by book• A long job. Scanning spines continues and may go on even longer than the french harvest.

The french harvest will yield oil/// the toils of Shem and Shaun will yield only order. Both will yield beauty.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Two for one special offer - today only•


a washing machine - you have the time to wash by hand - it isn't a fashion parade - you clothes last longer - most things dry the same day

an iron and ironing board - see above - it's too hot anyway and life is way too short

a dishwasher - come on you didn't ever really need one

central heating - the sun warms the water free of charge - a wood burning stove works when there is no electricity - chopping wood is good exercise and warms you up in the winter - who wants to look at boring radiators?

a big fridge-freezer - you can shop every day - and you get fresh produce and seasonality back in your life - 5 portions of fruit and veg is easy to achieve

laxatives - see above - with 5 portions you're kidding right?

a hoover - tiles and rugs prefer a Ewbank - it's good exercise and it works without electricity

broadcast TV reception - a TV for watching the free DVDs from the weekend newspapers yes - broadcast TV, forget it, life's too full and if it isn't you aren't doing it right - if you must watch sport go to the taverna/bar and socialise - this way you don't get one of those hideous satellite dishes on your roof (bonus)

all those grisly pharmaceuticals that are prescribed to help you sustain a life in he fast lane that you hate - you are in the crawler lane now - let them all overtake you, you don't care

all those nice non-prescribed pharmaceuticals that help you relax or ratchet up or sleep or hallucinate - life here is good enough not to need chemical assistance - alcohol and nicotine are allowed

the daily lie sheets they call newspapers - an ADSL connection can put you in charge of your own news gathering and propagandizing - cut Murdoch and Black adrift, you never needed either of them

insurance - go with the flow and accept what happens instead of fearing the future - you haven't got that much to lose anyway - remember the car insurance though, they do insist

Drop it a cog and give it some throttle•

Downshift |ˈdounˌ sh ift|
verb [ intrans. ]

change to a lower gear in a motor vehicle or bicycle.

• slow down; slacken off : well before the country slipped into recession, business was downshifting.

• change a financially rewarding but stressful career or lifestyle for a less pressured and less highly paid but more fulfilling one : they want to downshift from full-time work.

Alexei was talking about the first definition but I'm talking here about the last definition• It's what we did and so/ I suppose/ we must be downshifted now• After all this time // who knows? Perhaps we are in bottom gear? Or/ neutral?

I'll agree to the "less highly paid"/// shite/ we aren't paid at all! I'll certainly concur with the "more fulfilling"/// but career? No• Lifestyle? Yes! We used both to have "stressful careers"• We used both to have "stressful lifestyles"• Now/ though/ we have lives and carers. I care for G and she cares for me and everyone else around us cares about us two too• We have lives that we live rather than the lifestyles we had and that ran us• And ran us ragged at that•

But it is a full-time thing• It takes up all of our hours• And isn't that the difference? That/ and the fact that we do it from choice? Day in and day out? From choice• And with nobody telling us what to do. And with nobody checking up on us/ or setting deadlines for us?

Culture shock


the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.

And/ do we or did we suffer culture shock? Not a bit of it• But then we had been dry-running the life and the place for 3 months of every year for ten years before we finally dropped the cog - or two - or three• That's not to say there were no surprises. Had there been no surprises I would have been surprised• Most of them pleasant/// some frustrating/ but now that we are rich in time and poor in cash being in a place where money will not speed things up and patience is the only thing that saves ones sanity it all makes eminent sense• Suddenly/ and unsurprisingly/ it all fits like a glove.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Using a second hand scanner donated to the cause by a stranger I have been scanning spines on this overcast and cool day• The feel of books/ the scent of books/ evoke memories• Memories flood back/ the book in my hands tingles• A patina of dust and tobacco smoke sticks to the pads of my fingers• A fine dust lingers in my nostrils. A smell I have known for most of my life• And loved•

I know these books intimately. Some of them have been with me since I was a callow youth - like the ones in the picture here• A nice little run of Faber paperbacks/ humble bindings that hold precious work/ from the late 1960s• Faded and scuffed now they sit with the same pride on their shelf as they did when first I bought them with precious pennies in the days before ISBNs and the decimal pound•

I keep them because I shall re-read them at my leisure• I show the spines because they are the face I see most often/// that I am most intimately familiar with• The spines even show the wear and tear and love that these fine volumes have received• And yet, they are/ in some odd way and like myself/ orphans• For they have no ISBN and without an ISBN a book scarcely exist these days• Search engines for books and book sites prefer/ or offer exclusively/ ISBN access• And that is a shame• Many books are extant from pre-ISBN days but they seem to slip further and further from public gaze• Hence my reference to orphans• Many of my beloved volumes are orphans destined to invisibility•

Will/ one day/ pre-WWW and pre-ISBN/ or LCC or any other coding structure/ artefacts simply disappear from view? I hope not• I would not wish to become an antiquarian guardian for 20th century artefacts. These things are contemporaneous with me• Am I destined to become an antique in my own lifetime as opposed to a legend in my own lifetime?

Thursday, September 07, 2006


If a man has to hand:
a good woman;
a good book, and;
a good dog;
then he has everything necessary to perfect happiness
he might be a good man

If a woman has to hand:
a good man;
a good book, and;
a good dog;
then she has everything necessary to perfect happiness
she will be a good woman

Sunday, September 03, 2006


The relentless slog of summer appears to have relented/ if only temporarily• It has been hot and dry for months now but this week we saw/or at least heard/ it was nighttime/ rain. Blessed rain• And with the rain came a gradual easing of the blanket of excessive heat that has enveloped us for the past weeks• Mornings are now bearable and sleep/ so recently a rare commodity/ plentiful• Or at least it would have been• Could have been•

Here though we have other drivers and they have ensured that the dearth of slumber continued• As many of you are all too aware/ yes I know we go on about it a lot/ we are chasing paperwork at present and that has meant a flurry of trips to cities and post offices, lawyer's office and consulate• Relying on the buses is none too sensible but since the Betty has been temperamental/ flashing odd warning lights at the driver at odd times/ of late we have been thrown onto the none too tender mercies of KTEL• Suffice to say that we have spent long sessions at bus shelters - almost as many hours/ we suspect/ as in those offices where rare and precious stamps are issued and where legal formalities are transacted and affadavits are sworn•

Mind you/ do not for one moment imagine that the farm has suffered from our neglect• Oh my word no. The demons in red have been busying themselves with all manner of tasks/ and G has been industriousness itself• Eddie and Ceddie have cleared the brambles from behind M&B's run and would/ were this live TV/ be only too happy to display their scars and scratches despite wearing full prophylactic clothing• They have also extended the thatching on M&B's run in preparedness for winter and are/ as I write/ filling drainage runs with gravel. G has weeded out all of her dead cuttings and continues to take the 2nd harvest - slowly• We now have samples of her lavender oil and very fine and invigorating it is too• We hope for more this year and perhaps some relaxing oil too from the type 1 flower heads• We shall see• Shem and Shaun redesigned last year's drying rack to suit an earlier drying session and the red devils executed the new design with some aplomb• I now have a semi permanent drying rack suspended not 15 centimetres from my carage roof/and thus out of my way in the normal course of events/ and/ when required/ it lets down to hang at waist/working height• Another triumph of recycling for the Felia crew• Needless to say the red brigade picked up a few extra scars during this exercise but they are nothing daunted/// they wear their war wounds with an insouciant pride.

Friday, September 01, 2006

A Mouthful of Air

The book itself

I am currently reading /or should it be mining/ an amazing treasure trove bequeathed to us by the late lamented/ hugely talented/ Anthony Bugess• In it he introduces/// a smattering of grammar// a mouthful of phonetics// and a whole host of his own ideas about linguistics• Published in 1993/ his commentary on Chomsky's generative grammar is insightful• His views on the monoglot propensities of the English speaking peoples is amusing• His critique of language learning books and tapes is corruscating• His inquiries into the orthography of the English language is spellbinding•

We could all (monoglots especially) benefit from a better (or even a superficial and initial) understanding of how language works• Our own especially• And a smattering of phonetic knowledge would certainly help with the acquisition of a foreign language• A full knowledge of phonetics would be a significant helper in such a project•

Burgess's work is aimed at the amateur but is by no means an easy read• It is/ however/ a particularly rewarding one• I recommend it unreservedly•

And so/ this winter/ I shall be teaching myself/ or learning/ the international phonetic alphabet• After I have that firmly under my linguistic belt I shall be resuming my study of demotic Greek with renewed vigour•

Now/ I ask you all/ how many TV programmes or films could have done that for me? None/ I suspect• Long live literature• Long live the book•