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, March 27, 2007


Robbo breezed in - the weight of his stumpy little body bouncing on the balls of his feet - Charlie, his older brother, had taught him to bounce like a plastic gangster - it seemed to work - people respected the bounce - were in awe of the front - there didn't need to be anything behind it so long as nobody challenged it. And few people did. Not since grammar school where almost every other kid had exposed him.

His hands were plunged deep into the pockets of his cheap little windcheater. His keys were in one hand and his lighter in the other. He glimpsed Keith moving toward the toilets. Shit - he had meant to look up Rhode Island last night and instead had collapsed in the kitchen when he got home - he'd even left his Shredded Wheat. It was hard looking after yourself when you were living on you own. That cow - she'd run off leaving him alone - and she'd run off with a woman!

He'd known Keith for a few months now and he felt close to him - as close as he'd felt to Charlie before he went off to Canada - even  Charlie couldn't live with their father's demands. He'd even given Keith his redundancy money to keep the bar afloat. There had been that boy at school - they'd been very close - too close maybe - it worried him even to remember it - and his feelings for Keith were closer than that  - closer than he'd been to his wife even.

He was bouncing across the bar now - acting like he owned the place - going to join the boss - who knows, maybe he did right now - Keith had been a bit evasive about what he'd get for his contribution. And then he spotted mad Liz - oh no - please don't let her talk to me - he turned his head, checking out the bland artwork on the walls - anything rather than catch her glance. Bizzare flliers for the upcoming Mexican menu - commissioned from some cheapo art student. He stepped up his pace and was past her in a moment. Safe.

He pulled out the chair, winked at the waiter, and sat himself down at Keith's table just as Keith emerged from the toilet.

Friday, March 16, 2007


Keith surreptitiously glimpsed over at her table ... he didn't want her to see him looking ... he didn't need his ear bending tonight ... Robbo would be coming in soon and he wanted to spend some quality time with him ... Robbo was a local jack the lad ... a proper scouse scally ... Keith was fascinated by him ... that accent ... that empty swagger ... all that vapid posturing ... Keith knew in his heart it was empty but still it drew him in ... or was it those muscled shoulders and that squat little body ... the weather beaten face and the balding head ... no ... that was nowhere he wanted to go.

Liz gave him the creeps big time. She was ordering another drink ... not looking his way ... one more and she'd have to hit the tab again ... these sad old dames creeped him out ... if she told him about her abusive father and downtrodden mother once more he'd have to think seriously about hightailing it back to the US. This was what passed for a social worker in this country ... third world ... seriously fucked up. She aways ended up crying or ranting ... she seemed only to have two modes ... and he didn't like either of them but ... but she was a regular ... and he was the owner ... how was it the Brits called it ... noblesse oblige ... something like that ... what you have to do in his job.

Robbo was a diamond though ... last time he'd been close to bankruptcy he'd helped out ... shelled over his latest redundancy payment ... that had kept the wolves away for just long enough ... OK so he drank too much ... didn't all the regulars ... what else was there in their lives ... the place was a toilet ... what was he doing here ... he'd left before the guys got after him and he still didn't know what was waiting for him if he ever went back ... fingers crossed that wouldn't be necessary ... those people have long memories ... look at the trouble Polanski was still in ... and that at least was a girl ... and Polanski was pretty kosher everywhere else in the world.

He was watching the door in the mirror behind the bar and he saw Mad LIz looking his way ... please no ... don't let her ... the barman brought her drink and Keith took the opportunity to slip off to the head unnoticed.  He stood pissing ... wondered how much longer Robbo would be ... he was he thought like a young girl waiting for a date to turn up ... no, don't even think it ...  stay straight ... shaking off he reminded himself to check the cleaning roster ... he nodded the state of the bathroom through ... Malcolm - an hour and a half ago ... Wayne due in half an hour ... the waft of deodorant caught in his throat and as he opened the outer door the smell of burgers ... next week the mexican menu comes on line ... hope that picks business up a bit ... should get the later passing trade ... he hoped ... margins were still dangerously slim ... wafer thin ... thank God for the regulars ... he stepped out and saw Robbo swagger in ...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Mad old witch

Her head cast down she stares into the remains of another vodka tonic. Around her eyes the skin is palegrey and papery ... like paper that has been stored too long ... dead paper ... dry paper ... paper delicate and prone to tear. And wrinkled ... her sad long years and post-menopausal condition writ large ... etched even onto a skin never truly young. The hooded eyes themselves palegrey too. Palegrey and watery ... as though about to cry ... always, as though she is about to cry. She seldom cries though .. she is too distant from her emotions now to cry ... except from pure anger and frustrated desires. Alcohol, age, and anger have supplanted life itself in her daily being ... don't call it a life ... have drained the vitality from her ... she is dry outside and dead inside. Sad Liz they call her in this sad bar. Mad old witch, the local children call after her in the street.

Her hair is grey too ... greypale and lifeless ... a dulled pewter helmet ... cut short when he reached 40 all those years ago ... cut short as her mother's hair had been ... cut and not styled. There is something about her that reminds the casual onlooker of the institution ... and then they look away ... the living do not look comfortably or for long upon the dead ... and the spark is not in her ... just pain ... and self-loathing ... and undirected hatred. The slice of lemon that has sunk to the bottom of her glass looks back at her ... mocks her ... derides her ... or so she thinks.

Her mouth turns down at the corners ... habitually, inexorably down ...  her father always maintained that she had never smiled in her life ... not even as a baby gurgling in her cot had she ever smiled ... her eyes, he swore, might glint but that downturned thin lipped slit in the bottom half of her face had never smiled. Over the long sad years she had learned to turn the corners up under duress ... to mimic a smile ... to try to pass for normal ... but it would not convince. It was hard work and since her latest boyfriend had walked out she had not mustered that much effort.

Her father. Her boyfriend. The stories she had. The stories she could tell ... if only there were someone to listen. Someone who would even pretend ... it didn't have to be real ... pretence had always been enough ... it would be enough for now. For all time in fact. She pushed her fingertip, lightly yellowed and deeply ridged, through a pool of spillage on the tabletop and wondered. Another drink? Yes, but when? She knew to within a penny how much she had in her purse ... her mother's purse as was ... not just today ... not just now but at all times on all days ... another of her obsessions ... she had enough for three more drinks ... more if she forewent food ... the cod and chips on the way home to her empty house ... not her house really ... not yet but she would have it ... it would be hers ... he couldn't walk out like that and leave her dry ... drier. He would pay ... they all paid one way or another. She nodded to the passing waiter ... another drink appeared ... they knew her here ... how could they not ... despite the alarming turnover of staff ... young, pretty things ... mostly antipodeans ... she spent more time here than most of the staff ... all of the staff ... well, except for Keith.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


I suspect that I may have taken a blow to the head. Some time in the past week or ten days. Perhaps when we were in Como? Or just after we got back.

We have had rain - quite a lot of it in fact. Yesterday and most of the night before, and the evening before that, it rained. The bottlebrush is set with more than 20 or 30 flowers in waiting - when the sun shines they will blossom into fiery brands. The first few olive trees have begun to bud into flower - the ones near the house are always first. And today I noticed that the plum or coramilo in the front garden is now coming into leaf - tiny buds are opening into showers of leaflets.  OK, so the grasses are overblown, the thistles are coming along strongly and the burr clover had started to crowd out the oxalis - everything has a downside.  But all in all the results are welcomed.

Closer to home - OK actually indoors -  my outputs have all been directing themselves to Tabblo and flickr. The blog lies somewhat neglected. Bulletin boards likewise. And this is why I suspect a blow to the head. Most of my creative output, as you all know too well, goes into words and this momentary aberraation that leans my mind to images is most uncomfortable but you and I shall just have to bear with it. It's just the way it's leaning right now.

If it wasn't a blow to the head maybe it's the effect of spring? We shall see.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Although today has been overcast and cooler than its predecessors Spring has been the thing this last few days and Spring means activity around here. The farm comes out of a strange almost hibernation. The first olive blossom is in view - from the kitchen window, the wild almonds are pinking daily - thrusting themselves into view on our regular trips to shop for fresh food, pale blue and orange red vetches are pushing their way through the oxalis and the burgeoning burr clover attempts to take over every spot not already taken.

G has been busy with a selective weeding program, tidying and yet not manicuring the periphery of the house. Farmboy has been moving plants - the rosemary sits now beside the front gate for luck, and taking cuttings - mulberry this week, truncheon cuttings in hopeful pots and squirrelled away elsewhere. Eddie, under guidance from Shem, completed work only today on the small olive wood mallet that has been under way for months, fashioning the handle from a piece of old balustrade.

G has cleared the perimeter of the girls' run of oxalis - the silly things insist on eating the seductive yellow flowers that promptly poison them! Sheep in large flocks have become a daily staple now that the valley is in green.  The sounds of chainsaws pruning olives likewise.

We are all looking forward as the days lengthen and the light intensifies. Birdsong fills our ears day long - their nesting activities are properly underway - while the grooming table beckons for the terrible twins, their winter coats sprouting into an odd hairy broccoli look.

And it's Cruft's this weekend so we are tracking Terrier results as they are posted online today.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


A few days before we were due to go off to Como an old online friend of longstanding - one Nightshade    from the 'flue tagged me in his blog (despite the fact that he doesn't carry a link to mine). He wanted 5 reasons why I blog. Now we're back and I can respond. It may not be 5 reasons - who knows but here goes:

1 - I have so many opinions that I have to tell someone who won't obviously be bored by them - the web does that for me

2 - I have, since adolescence, wanted to be a writer - my blog allows that

3 - I never wanted to have to earn a living by writing - no chance of that with a blog

4 - I want to be able to address any subject at any time

5 - I demand total creative freedom vis a vis style - the oonline format forces me to innovate (I use it as a set of formal or poetic constraints)

6 - I love the feedback no matter how infrequently it might come my way

7 - I have a regular readership built up over the past few years

8 - I'm an egomaniac

Well -  I think that covers about as much as I'm prepared to let on.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Fear and loathing of flying

We have been 40 minutes in Italy. I have already seen more black faces than in the past 5 years in Crete. It is comforting in is way. I have missed that. I have not, you can imagine, missed the filth that goes with all cities. Cities are so dirty. I have not missed the dinning: the constant intrusive "ambient" noise of cities. Does the din ever quiet enough to hear birdsong?

I realised while sitting in Athens airport departure lounge as the expected departure time of our flight slid further - and yet further - away "due to the late arrival of the incoming service" that airports remind me of nothing so much as my old working life - tarnished reams indeed.

Air travel is an odd contradiction. Such a speedy form of travel and yet each journey is much longer, drags on so long, much longer than it should be. No destination airport is closer than a one hour trip to wherever you want to go. Unless. of course you inspect airports for a living. Your own local airport is never closer than an hour's trip from where you live. Unless you live in a departure lounge. So, before you begin your journey will take 2 hours. Plus flight time. Plus that dead time that every air journey gives you - or takes away from you - 2 hours for international travel - 1 for domestic - that hideous "check in" time while fascist animals treat you like a criminal - when they are not ignoring you altogether that is and leaving you to the ministrations of international capital courtesy of MacDonalds, Tie Rack, franchised perfumeries, and all their familiar and grisly cohorts. Baggage? You have baggage? OK give me another half hour - minimum. On the outward leg - at the beginning of your journey - add another twenty thirty minutes minimum loitering beside a grubby carousel at the other end. Unless your carrier loses your baggage of course! And then it is more - much much more.

The nightmare that is air travel is behind us. Delays - unscheduled and inbuilt - over. We are in Milan. We are 40 minutes into Milan. A wait for the shuttle bus was usefully spent getting nicotine levels up to normal. Functional once more, we ignored the siren calls of taxi drivers licensed and unlicensed - it is not hard to see how seductive a swift getaway from the ennui of air travel makes good business for these guys. Milan Centrale station is undergoing cleaning. It needs it. Beautiful mosaic floors - grubby walls - filthy skylights. A chance for another cigarette and then we're off on the fast and timely train to Como.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Still life with nicotine

It's half past five on a February afternoon. The light has begun to fade, It has been raining on and off all day. The temperature has hovered around 5ÂșC all day and is now falling. I am sitting beneath a balcony outside a cafe in Como. Beside me two elderly ladies in fur coats are deep in conversation around another table chainsmoking. Beyond them a solitary middle aged man sits sipping a cappuccino - fingerless gloves - he grasps a cigarette and draws heavily - his wife and young child sit inside the cafe in the warmth - the only customers inside the cavernous cafe. They have a young male employee who mans the till as their only company - the rest of the staff are out here with us - the smokers. They too are grabbing a quick smoke. The rains continues to fall. The temperature continues to fall. A mist rolls in from the lake. The smokers persist - taking their outlawed pleasure where they might while they can. Across the way in an open air annex to the Duomo the homeless crouch together for warmth - they are smoking too.

Thanks for crapping on my life

I'm not quite sure who this is addressed to but ... Thanks for ruining a great portion of my life outside of home. I've always valued quality over quantity and never more so than when it comes to life itself. People have long lectured me about losing 20 years of my life to cigarettes. I would reply that the 20 years that the cigarettes were getting were crap anyway: years of dependence, incontinence, illness and pain ~ great, take them ~ I'll take 60 enjoyable and self sufficient years and cash in the 20 crap ones for the sake of those cigarettes. The cigarette with my first coffee in the morning at that warm little cafe on the corner as I gaze out of the window as the day develops. The one over the rich port at the end of a fine meal in good company. The cigarette after sex, good, bad, or just plain indifferent. Some body of jerks has taken steps to take them all away from me - well two of them so far but I don't doubt that the mean spirited intolerance they have shown so far will not stay their hand from the last one in time.

A week's stay in Italy was less enjoyable, and less enjoyed, than it could have been because of those jerks. Standing outside cafes and restaurants in February: foregoing coffee after dinner so that I can get out and get my cigarette put a serious crimp in my fun; drinking coffee in the rain with gloves on likewise. And you know what? The anti smoking jerks, those self righteous naysayers, really couldn't give a tinker's cuss, a flying fuck, a twopenny damn. They don't care whether I ever enjoy breakfast, or dinner, or sex again because they'd rather hand me back those 20 discarded years (yeah sure, it's all motivated by a concern for my longevity). Those 20 shitty years that I don't want and that, thanks to our jerks, will be yet more miserable and unbearable than even I had anticipated. Thanks a bunch.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Fragments from a honeymoon in progress

Woke this morning back in my own bed ... birdsong outside the bathroom window ... how to portray our week ... impressions of the past week ... wrote only two full pieces while away ... another is brewing ... but first some fragments ... Milan central station and I've seen more black faces already than in the last 5 years in Crete ... people, many ethnic minorities are living at the margins ... city shit ... the train leaving MIlan passes a shanty settlement made of packing cases and polythene sheeting ... beaten looking men huddle beside fires in open drums ... Milan is dirty in an industrial way ... much of the everyday architecture is brutally ugly ... nowhere I would want to live ... mobile fucking phones ... the trains run on time just like in Il Duce's day ... and they are clean ... the sun comes out on the way into Como ... a clearly affluent town ... very pleased with itself ... well tended and scrubbed clean ... the people too ... less thigh ... less buttock ... less bosom too ... a surprising lack of obesity ... fat is not fashionable - clearly ... though the people are ... save for the men ... there is a virus running amok here that disables mens' aesthetic sense - ORANGE corduroy trousers? ... please ... ORANGE ... the lesser infected men affect banana yellow corduroys! .. what is it with corduroy? ... Italy has reignited my fashion fascism ... only Jim Morrison looked good in leather trousers - nobody looks good in orange corduroy trousers ... trust me on that ... seaplanes crossing the sky of the old town make a musical sound and cut the sky with an anachronistic design ... love that sound ... the lake is pretty impressive too ... I tend to go with Huysmans on nature and stuff ... the mediaeval city is where we are to stay ... fascinating and elegant ... the apartment is beautiful ... Italian style courtesy of an inhabitant of SF, Hawaii, and Como but ... but the black country is in her ... peering between closely packed houses in narrow streets - a funicular .. we shall be going up there to look back down on Como ... a hydrofoil rises and glides across the lake ... we have arrived safely ... now for some expeditions .. maybe ... we shall see ...