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

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The plot thickens ...

For two or three years now there has been a bitter race for circulation among the weekend newspapers in Greece. Free CDs followed by free DVDs followed by DVD's plus magazines - escalation by the quarter. Some of the low end publications were - until very recently - offering 4 or 5 DVDs with their Sunday rag - and all for 2 euros. As might have been predicted things got slightly out of hand and the yellow press red tops escalated from grubby 'B' movies, to soft core porno movies, and most recently all the way down to hard core porno. At the last bank holiday weekend local police siezed 2 tons of hard core pornographic DVDs due for circulation with that weekend's newsprint.

Having reached this impasse - which saw us collect a six volume Best of Buster Keaton collection and a set of D W Griffiths silent classics - one of the up-market papers has made a surprise move. Last weekend I noticed that one of our regular Saturday papers carried a copy of Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose. The move from grubby DVD to classy canonical literature was confirmed this weekend when they announced their forthcoming offerings -

I shall be interested to see how this lateral and literal sidestep will serve them. I wonder also whether any of the UK rags wil follow suit. It would be nice to think that in this week of the Hay festival some British newspaper might put its faith in the taste of the British public. Maybe not.

There's a good game to be had here - check out the spines and see how many of the well known works you can identify - let me know in the comments section here.

Full size image here for the game -

Blogged with Flock

Sunday, May 20, 2007


So it's Sunday morning and the rain has stopped after two days. A long lazy wind blew in from the northwest on Thursday and brought a mackerel sky with it. The clouds continued to pile up through the evening and by Friday rain was inevitable. Friday night brought an amazing son et lumiere of thunderstorm and howling rain. Rain that we needed. Usable rain. Rain that didn't for once run off but that saoked itself instead into the ready wetted soil.

So it's Sunday morning and I'm lollygagging while G washes out the week's dirty wash - no more rain showing on the forecast until Tuesday - I'm surfing, reading my niece's new blog, and listening with half an ear to Radio 4. There's some supercilious pratt on the radio lecturing me about my carbon footprint. He's having a pop at common people taking foreign holidays and talking capitalist nonsense about paying his nice green company to offset the carbon debt of my flights.

That's rich, I'm thinking, no mention of all that buiness travel - most of it air travel - that somehow manages to smuggle itself under the green radar. I used to do business travel and trust me most if it was not necesary but it was a nice perk - but isn't all junketting? Suddenly I lose contact with Radio4 - there's a flight of 4 military jets going supersonic over our peaceful tranquil valley and I can no longer hear myself think. They zoom off toward the mountains and then they bank and turn back down the valley - deafening us all over again, as I shout at the pompous prick on the radio - what about their carbon fucking footprint smug bollocks? But by the time they finish up and bugger off so has our man on his hobbyhorse and the eco bandwagon.

So tell me - what was the carbon footprint of the Afghan invasion? And the invasion of Iraq? What is the carbon footprint of all this military exercise crap? How to find out? Any ideas anyone? I think we should be told - come on Greenpeace - live up to the peace part of your name.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


I mentioned en passant the other day the charity shop in Xania where I sourced our sixties pulp fiction. Another charity shop has recently opened in nearby Rethymnon. Now second hand shops seem strangely alien in Greece where the new found consumer obsession emphasises the new and shiny. It is likewise true that charitable enterprises have a much lower public profile here than they do in the UK where most high streets sport several varieties of charity shop - Oxfam (upmarket now), Romanian Orphans, Battered Wives, Cancer Research, Mencap (or whatever else it is these days). In fact the charity shop may be more of a hallmark of the high street now than even the buildng society and the optician.

My own remembrance of charity shops is coloured and textured by the wonderful example discovered in Royston Vasey which boasted Reenie Calver and Vinnie Wythenshaw, two garrulous bigoted ladies as regular staffers along with the roundly denigrated and never seen Merrill who does Thursdays. The book, the bags, the crack spined paperbacks and the sweet slightly acrid smell of used clothing - every charity shop, everywhere. Walk blindfolded into one and you will know without doubt what sort of establishment you have entered.

How these oddly English shops have made their way to Crete is a mystery - how they will fare more so. Unless Greek consumer preferences change rapidly they are likely to remain dependent upon ex-pat Brits and indigent east europeans for their customers. I applaud difference and I will continue to frequent these little eccentricities while they last. I just hope that neither of these outposts is gullible enough to employ Keith Drop if he dares show his heavily made-up face there looking to help out.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Xrysos Asteria

Andreas has made still more improvements to his expanded beach empire this spring and now more than ever it feels just like a rather select private country club with its own beach. In May it is wonderfully almost empty but fully staffed.

May 17th is early in the year for Greeks to visit the beach and none would think of going into the sea just yet - August is early enough for most. It's early for us too but since the brother and the borther's family left we have had unseasonably warm and dry weather - and it's been sunny too so we drifted down there this afternoon ostensibly for a mid-session frappe. Mind you we popped the beach bag into the boot - just in case.

Andreas and Mrs Andreas were their usual charming and welcoming selves - as were the rest of the charming and friendly staff - most back for a third or fourth season. We worked it out while lounging and supping a frappe - it is our tenth year using XA as our preferred beach venue and in those years we have seen the daughters - theirs and ours - grow from sweet if spunky girl children into young ladies.

The combination of sunshine, solitude, cerulean sea, and clean sand drew us down to the sun beds where we consumed a pair of dodgy sixties British pulp novels sourced from the CIC secondhand shop in Xania for 40 lepta a piece.

This, my friends and readers, is bliss.

There is a description of how Asteria used to be here:

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Lightening the load

My life was improved recently by an old friend. While discussing a particularly inane thread on one of the many ex-pat bulletin boards he remarked that I was wasting myself taking any part in such nonsense. The proverbial light bulb went on and I realised just how correct he was. I immediately resolved to post no more on such trivial locations and over the next few days I weaned myself from even lurking there.

I've been clean for a couple of days now and I have to doff my cap to the old feller. Life is so much more enjoyable without the negative, carping, self-satisfied, self-aggrandizing behaviour and atmosphere of those places. Clean is a very apt description of how I now feel. Clean and happy.

No 12 point plan for me - simple self discipline does for me. However, my time hanging around these places has given me some grist and for that I am grateful. Was it worth getting that grubby for? Probably not. Mark it down to experience. I have.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Slavery by any other name

Whilst it is possible that the tragic British toddler Madeleine McCann may be laying dead and defiled somewhere in Portugal this horrid case brings to light once more the spectre of an often unreported and disgusting trade that thrives in the 21st century. I sincerely hope that she is safe and unharmed but to be honest I am not sure which of the other possible outcomes turns my stomach most.

The trade of which I speak is sometimes called child trafficking, sometimes abduct-to-order adoption, but it is nothing more complex nor less foul than slavery. Child slavery exists across the globe: camel jockeys are sourced by abduction, young children are sold into lifetime bonded child labour (often by their desperately poor parents, the "reasons" and the "rewards" are legion (check Wikipedia if you doubt me). The sad Madeleine McCann case raises, not for the first time in continental europe, the trade in illicit international adoption.

Imagine a wealthy married couple in Sweden, or America, or the UK: they have been unable to have children naturally; they have poured thousands or tens of thousands of euros, dollars or pounds into the gaping maw of the IVF charlatans and snake oil salesmen. They desperately want a child. They want a child that is theirs. Failing that they want a child that looks like them - that could be their natural child or could be taken for their natural child. They want a child not much more than a baby - to shape and mould. They want an undamaged child. They have money to spare but no child.

Step forward the international adoption agency. Pricey, but results are guaranteed. Don't ask too many questions . Fork across the cash and take a baby home in a year or so.  No defects. No colour mismatches. No qualms.

When big money is in play there are no serious limits on what people can be persuaded to do.

Madonna and Ritchie, Jolie and Pitt and their celebrity ilk have "legitimised" the idea of buying babies. Why not our wealthy married couple? Many western countries have legalised this side of the trade. The US has smiled on the buying and selling of babies for years. Why not our wealthy married couple? Why not indeed?

BECAUSE IT IS SLAVERY - and we are currently celebrating the anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade - that is why not.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Why children deserve better parents

My very good friend The Merchant of Menace posted a emarkably perspicacious piece on the abduction of the British toddler Madeleine McCann in Portugal - - wherein he lays culpability squarely on the heads of her professional, affluent parents. He expects to draw some flak for this and I can see why but I am behind him 100 percent on this.

Of course he will draw flak. In this world that seeks to shift blame anywhere but on the culprit.  Where everything is somebody else's fault. Of course he will draw flak. In a world where childrens' needs and desires are supposed to be paramount but where abandonment of children is both commonplace and routine.  Abandon the kids to the televison. Abandon the kids to computer games and internet sites. Abandon the kids to a child minder. Anything but take responsibilty.

If children are so precious why do westerners regularly, as a matter of course, refuse to take responsibilty for anything other than their material well-being? As if that was all that really mattered. Why do western governments, and here I'm thinking particularly of the UK government, encourage and even coerce parents to abandon their children - actively penalising them if they refuse to go out to work and abandon their children?

We have achieved a breathtaking, a vertiginous, zenith of hypocrisy with respect (sic) to our children. Publicly, children are sacrosanct. Their interests override all others. Privately, they are little more than life-style accessories to be off loaded when they inconvenience our lives. Which seems more and more to mean most of the time. Why else would it be the case, as Wikipedia states - "According to a recent UNICEF report on child well-being [2] the United States and the United Kingdom ranked lowest among rich nations with respect to the well being of their children" - ?

The British press has already begun to shift the blame for this incident squarely onto the Portugese police investigation with never a mention of the appalling act of abandonment that led to it.  Breathtaking hypocrisy. Shame on them and on the parents. And on all who try to absolve the parents from their culpability.

I hope only that this child can be found and that when found she will be placed in the care of someone who actually cares for her. And that she can somehow recver from this trauma. I doubt it though.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Ain't life wonderful?

Do you ever wake up with a tune or a snatch of a tune running in your head? Well it doesn't matter whether you do or not because I do and this morning was just such a day. And the maddening thing was that unlike most times when this happens I had no idea what the tune was. I rehearsed that snatch over and over in my head for the next hour. Coffee, cigarettes, and a bus ride and I was still at it. The piece I had by now was longer maybe 4 whole bars longer than the snatch I'd woken with. a haunting piano solo that I knew, just knew instinctively, would lead me on to a genuinely great song. So far though - no lyrics. And not a clue as to who the performer, and or composer might be.

A session with our accountant and a longer session with my dentist (bad news - don't ask) and I've got half a line of lyrics. It's 3 o'clock now and we're boarding the bus back to Kavros. How much further forward was I? Not very. Was this going to take all day? Could be. Halfway home and I completed the line. Now I could hear the voice. I played that voice, that single line over and over until we were sitting drinking coffee and the whole thing came to me.

Stevie Wonder - They won't go when I go. I looked up the album when we got home - Fullfillingness' first Finale. How apt.

And what did you do with your day?