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, February 20, 2007

Absent Friends

There is an eery silence round here. Birds are chirping and a breeze is rustling though the olives but something is missing. A familiar sound is absent.

There is a visual absence too. Walking up and down the stairs that join the main house to cellar brings it home to you. A familiar visible element or two - gone. We do not see them and they do not see us.

But more importantly there is a spiritual, an existential, absence. Two spirits, bright and cheerful. Two spirits happy and friendly. Our two best friends are off on holiday. Who will come in to sit with us this evening? Who will sit beside us and lift our hearts with their unconditional love?

The girls are away at kennels. We miss them desperately but I doubt that they are missing us. They have new friends to get acquainted with. They have a new environment to familiarise themselves with. I am sure that they will enjoy their holiday. But without them this place just isn't the same.

Monday, February 19, 2007

First They Came for the smokers

First they came for the smokers
and I did not speak out
because I was not a smoker.
Then they came for the motorists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a motorist.
Then they came for the pensioners
and I did not speak out
because I was not a pensioner.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


It is February

mid February

and today I saw:

bees flocking around our koukia, and

a wild almond tree in Mathes dressed in a cluster of pink blossom

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dead lock locked

I love full mortise dead locks. With the lock itself safely tucked into the body of the door and the tongue locked firmly into the jamb, they are so secure. They are really difficult to tamper with. Aye, there's the rub. Really difficult to tamper with.

Last night we adjourned to the lounge for the latter part of the evening as usual. It was about 10:30. As we were going to be in for the rest of the night I turned off the outside light and double locked the door behind us The redoubtable mortise lock clicked into place. Something clicked in my mind. That didn't sound right. Along with the reassuring clunk there was another, alien, sound.

Just to make sure I put the key back in the lock and opened the door. Or rather that is what I tried to do ... but the lock was stuck firm. The key would not turn . The tongue would not withdraw. I checked that I was using the right key. I was. I tried again. No luck. No change. G came along to find out what I was doing wrong and had no better luck than had I.

This floor has no back door save a balcony two and a half metres above the garden at basement level and no internal staircase to the lower level. The now permanently locked door is the only usable entrance. Tomorrow.

We settled down with a DVD after lighting the stove. We drank our tea and relaxed as best we could knowing that we were firmly locked in.

This morning we left by the front window and roused Farmboy to deal with the problem. Six hours later the door was re-instated with a new mortise lock. I'm not exactly sure how he did it but I did see the following tools and supplies going upstairs and through the window: screwdrivers various; chisels various; mallet large; mallet small; tenon saw; angle grinder; files various; electric drill; drill bits, wood and steel, various; new mortise lock; new lock cylinder; door handles cast iron; sandpaper grades various. It is by no means an invisible repair but it works - for now.

Thanks Farmboy.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


It's gone 3 in the morning. It must be - we're waiting for the other crew to come back from their first break. We're working a night shift. One week of nights in three. That's the deal. A shift made up of maybe 13 guys. Only guys, no females. 13 testosterone charged young guys. Maybe the shift leader, Pete, is past his early twenties but none other. We're talking teens and early twenties. No marrieds - well Pete perhaps. Yeah Pete definitely - a father figure for all the boys. Pete is running the other half of the crew - he's on break. Ian's running this half - Ian acts as though he's married and old but it's just an act. Ian's just boring. And acting old and responsible. One day he'll grow into the reality of his pretence. One day soon in fact but that's hindsight speaking.

The computer that we are all slaves to surrounds us. The arithmetic logic unit runs for probably 20 feet behind us. Parallel to it and maybe 12 feet away s the run of cabinets that house the processing unit and the core storage unit - the main primary memory of the machine. At the far end, furthest from me, and between them, closing off the third side of an odd rectangle is the double fronted drum unit. Secondary storage for the machine lives on a pair of massive magnetic drums, each with it's own cabinet. Each of these cabinets stands seven feet tall. Each cabinet was manufactured by Mulliner of Park Ward, the guys who then made Rolls Royce bodywork. Each in two shades of grey. Many tens of coats of paint layered onto each one. Cabinets whose doors close with a whisper on high class hinges that never squeak. A small grey haired man whose face has collapsed where his teeth have been removed or have been lost hangs on for dear life to a mechanised floor scrubber that is almost as tall as he is. This is Charley. HIs pal and oppo, Bill, is over by the two banks of one inch tape drives that rock in action beyond the ALU as records are retrieved to keep the company running. The tape units have clear perspex fronts and the huge reels of tape move rhythmically, mesmerically, on all ten drive units. Each drive is cleaned thoroughly as one tape is dismounted an another takes its place. This bank of tape drives is served by three operators. Three highly sexed young men who will run back and forth and clean and mount and dismount hundreds of 7 pound aluminium hubbed tapes onto and from these monsters in shifts all night until 8:30 tomorrow morning. Heavily built metal trolleys full of these tapes stand waiting.

In front of the parallel rows of cabinets sits the command console, L shaped. At the corner of the L is the teletype machine from which the beast is monitored and managed. The rest of the console is a massive array of lights that flicker on and off as the machine crunches through its work and beneath this impressive array of little lights is a set of hand key switches that are used to power this thing into life every day. An operator uses these switches repeatedly to enter a tiny machine code program into the main memory. Once complete the operator commands the machine to jump to the beginning of the program and begin executing it. The tiny program reads in the bootstrap code from a paper tape reader that nestles at the end of the long arm of the L. The program now in the memory of the beast is complex enough to read the rest of the operating system from the first of the tape units and prepare for itself for its daily load.Now though the beast is in full flow and at the teletype sits an operator monitoring and controlling it.

He is a short almost plump youth of maybe 20 years. His hair is thin and bouffanted - strawberry blonde verging on pale ginger. His name is Smallbone and he wears the regulation operator's jacket, much like the linen jackets that you might see old men wearing on the bowling green. This is a climate and dirt controlled environment. The whole vast space that the beast occupies is a clean room. Even the viewing bay beyond the control console is clean. Parties of visiting dignitaries and stock brokers are ushered into this cathedral of technology with the sole aim of impressing them. They have their own place - the viewing bay. But not now. Not in the middle of the night. For now only the lower order of the priesthood tend the machine and satisfy its needs. To the right of Smallbone are ranks of job trays piled high with work yet to be done. Wire mesh or grey plastic trays depending on whether they are production or development jobs.

Smallbone is a well known wag amongst the priesthood. In many ways more mature than his years and yet in other ways a man with a child's sense of fun. HIs place in the annals of the priesthood is assured already. There are several oft repeated amusing stories of his antics but the guarantee of his immortality lies in the story of "When Smallbone stuck his prick in Pound's ear". Another, an earlier, night shift. Perhaps a year or two ago, just after they started the third shift. Pound was on duty at the control teletype and Smallbone had come into work slightly inebriated and very tired. He had turned up an hour late. He had been out at club before work. He wanted Pound to give way and let him take a stint at the teletype to take the weight off. Pound ignored his every treaty, feigning deafness. Pound was in reality a little deaf and he played it up when it suited him. Smallbone stood beside Pound and announced in a shout that if Pound didn't give up the seat he would stick his prick in Pound's deaf ear. Pound continued with his deaf and dumb show and Smallbone made good on his threat.

This night though Smallbone is rightfully at the teletype and several long jobs are running. The panel of lights flickers, tapes turn on all ten decks. The beast is working hard and Smallbone is relaxing in the lull. He is mellow and smiling. With the pen in his hand he beats a rhythm on the control console desk and accompanies himself on voice. He repeats the opening bars over three times and then all hell breaks loose as he improvises in a strange and hypnotic way. Smallbone is playing jazz. Smallbone is playing Ole by John Coltrane - on pen and voice he is playing Coltrane. Above the drone of the beast; amid the bustle of a working shift, Smallbone has just introduced me to John Coltrane.

Thank you.

Friday, February 09, 2007


I could read when I started school. I think now that all of my siblings could. I have no idea how I learnt to read. Maybe it was a genetic thing. It certainly wasn't a nurture thing - ours was not an upbringing surrounded by books and reading. I cannot remember a time when I could not read.

Throughout my life there have been moments of literary epiphany. Moments when I discovered things not about words - words are meaningless sub-fragments in the same way as individual notes are in music - but about literature itself. About what language is capable of when written.

What images and music are to others is what literature is to me. It is my bedrock, my building block. I have no visual imagination (my surviving sister "suffers" the same "sensory deficit") - I think, dream, and imagine, in language. My life is language and language is my life.

My first? My first literary epiphany? I think I was eleven, maybe twelve, no older. I had read every book in my school libraries. I had been given a library card at 6 or 7. I had graduated from the junior to the adult library precociously. I recall it well.

I had read something - a book perhaps, an article maybe, could have been a review of a reprint -  it doesn't matter, it isn't relevant.  It stickes with me to this day, millions of destroyed brain cells later, hundreds, possibly thousands of books later: not the article but the book. Anyway, the piece talked about The Dead. The finest short story of all time it said. An Irishman, a rebel and an exile had written this story and it was included in a book called Dubliners - no article definite or otherwise.

I  rushed down to the library and took the book, almost pristine I remember now, (not much call for James Joyce in Dagenham), down from the wooden shelving. I sat at one of their desks in a silence that was near impossible to replicate anywhere else in my life - a refuge that would become ever more significant in my formative years and I read The Dead. And then I read Araby. And then I read The Sisters. I sat and read in total silence until the head librarian ushered me out at closing time and stamped the book for return in 2 weeks time.

I had always loved reading but my encounter with Dubliners taught me something that has stayed with me to this day. Language is abstract. Plot is not that important. Language can shine, and resonate. A tale is but a tale. Perfect language lives in the memory for the rest of your life. A perfect story is a linguistic achievement. The form backgrounds the content.

Most important of all - maybe - to me at least - language is itself paramount.  And language can be perfected. Joyce had done it. Had anyone else?  I had a quest that would last my living life.  To search and to find perfect literature.