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

Friday, August 31, 2007

A novel use of a novel

I loved it when Katherine Hamnett and Viv Westwood plastered slogan on t-shirts. I own that I preferred the ones with apposite quotations from well known works. I once owned a great one witha Kazantzakis quote on the front - which in translation would say “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.” I own, even now, two huge t-shirts that feature full frontal reproductions of early Penguin titles (green covers) - Dangerous Curves by Peter Cheney and The Thin Man by Dashiel Hammet (nearly there Katie H). But of all of these my favourite is the t-shirt I wore today and that I made myself. Rather than a book cover or a memorable quotation it has an entire novel on the front. In 6 point DIN Mittelschrift the entire text of Samuel Beckett's wonderful late novel, Imagination Dead Imagine is reproduced. It is readable only if you get close and have your reading spectacles with you but it is readable. Now that is novel. "You've read the book, you've seen the film of the book, you've been to the musical of the film of the book, now get the t-shirt of the book - is that a cool marketing slogan?

The full text of Imagination Dead Imagine is available online here

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Black 2.2

at 101 the boy pauses and talks to David Walker who is leaning on the gate ... there is no stret light here ... David is tall for his age which is a whole year younger and a compulsive footballer ... on another night he would be kicking a ball relentlessly and tediously against his garden gate but not tonight .. not in the fog or smog ... your magazine came in this morning, should be with you tomorrow ... Mel Charles on the front cover ... the magazine in question is Charles Buchan's Football Monthly - the only one that the boy delivers on two paper rounds ... the boy hangs around a while hoping to see David's sister Doreen despite David being poor at conversation ... are you Catholic in your house Dave? ... oh yes, fish on Friday, mass on Sunday, we're Catholic, aren't you? ... see you ... he strolls off ... I'm off to the library.

this far down the road he knows very few people on this side and fewer or none on the other side ... the evens are a mystery apart from Gordon who lives next to the transformer station ... the houses on that side don't have bathrooms ... Gordon rides with the Wheelers ... he passes the banjo ... the Gardens ... Janice, the girl of his wet dreams lives there ... the first girl he ever kissed ... he stops and blows his nose again ... filthy ... past the Gardens he nods a yes at David Long's house, definitely Catholics, he's seen a Virgin Mary in there ... and across the road at Gordon's ... another yes ... amazing how many there were when you counted them ...

how come he's counting Catholics? ... Bertha had taken him completely off balance ... with her honesty ... Bernie is dying ... he has lung cancer ... I know you go to the ibarary, and that you have adult access ... would you get him books when you go next? ... I'm going now ... what does he want? ... go in the front room and ask him, we moved the bed in there, it's easier that way ... are you alright with that?

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Black 2

Four books under his arm and three new library tickets in his back pocket he walks out into the dark. The air is thick with a November fog ... blinding him ... deafening him too ... a blanket on all his senses save his olfactory ... sulphur and coal dust ... but he knows where he's going ... he could find his way to the public library in the dark ... he's going to have to... half an hour ago he had finished up his homework ... (what he hadn't done on the bus) ... and here he was walking down the street of almost identical terraced houses marking in his mind those where Catholics lived ... going to get not 4 but 7 books.

He was just packing his rough book away ... and his trig book ... the ballpen with 7 different coloured refills that his form teacher hated ... ballpoint pens ruin your handwriting boy - don't you know that? ... and his log book ... when his mum had shouted up ... before you go out go and knock next door, Mrs Noakes wants to see you - wants you to do her a favour .... but mum, I'm just going to the library ... that's what she wants to talk to you about ... but mum ... the library will still be there in an hour - she'll not keep you long - don't argue just do it - she's a neighbour and she's got a lot on her plate right now so do it will you? Now!

127 - the Sullivans - Catholic? - No, at least I don't think so ...

126 - over the road - the Hawkes - yes ... and both sides - the Disses and the Bartletts ... but not the fishmonger ...

123 - Mrs Hill, no

121 old man Gladden - no just a miserable old bloke with a wooden leg - and he spits in the street - dirty old sod ...

119 the Coxeds, on the corner, yes ...

120 - over the road again - Mrs Hard and her sharpfaced hairdresser daughter Pat - could be but lets say no

118 - the Coxes, next to the iron bridge, definitely, despite his drinking and gambling and him taking bets too and if rumours were to be believed beating her too and having a fancy piece, that Maltese one ...

he pauses at the corner and blow his nose into a big white hanky ... a slight burning in his nose ... he pulls out his tobacco and rolls a fag, lights it with a Swan Vesta and saunters on ... no hurry ... he is beneath the lamp post with its thin white light ... a light so puny that it cannot penetrate the fog as far as the damp pavement ... he spots a droplet encrusted web in the immaculately clipped privet hedge ... privet is everywhere but only Ernie keeps his this tidy ... his old mum likes it that way and Ernie will do anything for his mum ... checks for traffic (looking and listening) and crosses over ...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

White 1

This room is white... pure,powerful light radiates all around ... I know that it is white before I even open my eyes ... it is a large room ... it is 20 metres by 20 metres ... the ceiling is 3 metres above my head right now... above the mosquito net that is above me ... the room it is furnished with a few elegant sticks of white furniture ... it is decorated sparsely with white fabrics ... if and when I open my eyes the reality of the room will simply confirm what I already know ... white, white and more white.

There is nothing to say ... yet ... With eyes closed I shall simply luxuriate in the unseen light ... the hot August Mediterranean light ... I know it is flooding in from all around... but what if I opened my eyes and it were not so? ... if it were that small black room that I left myself in? If I were that small boy again? It could happen ... I could do that ... not now though.

Light ... white light ... and warmth ... and white light

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Black 1

Well Bernie ... here we are ... I told you back then that only one of us would get out alive ... it wasn't you was it ... what say Bernie ... nothing ... silence ... I did tell you ... you've got the rest of the night ... I can wait ...

It is black ... lightless ... there is a dead body and a live body ... they are in a small room ... I know this only because I put them there ... the boy is an approximation of me when I was much younger ... as close as I can get with this much distance between who I was and who I am now ... the corpse was easier to conjure up ... as far as I know now he doesn't have a speaking part ... maybe he will have but not for now ...

I know it's a little like a Pinter opening and that is probably not entirely accidental ... nothing after all is entirely accidental ... least of all human memory ... and that's what this is ... isn't it?

Nothing to say yet Bernie? Silence? Let's at least have some light ... a couple of candles perhaps ... that wouldn't be out of place would it? Four candles ungutter into a dim glow that refuses to light the room ... throwing now real light it traces planes on the boy's face ... I realise that I have stripped some of his pubescent podginess in my simulacrum of him ... good bones but not that good at that age ...plump him a little ... such an obvious mistake and it took me half of this morning to put him together ... fallible ... I told you it would be a learning exerience Bernie ... I've learned a lot ... and you?

An occasional glint lights furntiure in the room ... utility furniture ... they were bombed out during the doodlebug festival at the end of the war ... Pynchon would love it ... their lives went forward but their furniture stayed the same ... a sideboard ... evreyone had a sideboard back then ... four simple stick back chairs ... in light oak and stamped underneath with the utility mark ... they 're holding up a simple coffin ... also light pine but with brass? ... this is where Bernie is resting ... not resting as in sleeping ... resting in the gravitational sense ... resting in peace as it were ... in his own terminology ... dead in ours

Silence ... and darkness ... half of a conversation made for two ...

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Friday, August 10, 2007

A Lavender Cylindrical Makura and the Art of Powernapping

Since the first heatwave of the year back in June I have been taking a powernap in the afternoons. Not the full siesta that is so popular here in Crete but the 20 minute offically apporved powernap. I wash up and retire to the dark and cool of the middle floor, I wedge the shutters on the balcony slightly apart so as to catch any passing breeze, I lay my sunglasses and dorkeys on the table beside the sofa and stretch myself out, I do a small routine of exercise to loosen a tight tendon in my left leg and then I position my magic makura under the nape of my neck and drift away for 20 minutes.

I wake fully refreshed, revitalised, and ready to get on with whatever is next. No yawning. No eye rubbing drowsiness that lingers over from the slumber. No nagging wish that I had slept longer or for less time. No filthy mouth. No downside at all. A perect recharge.

The secret is, I truly believe, my magic makura. A traditional makura or Japanese pillow is filled with buckwheat husk: mine is filled with lavender flowers. 600 grammes of pure lavender flowers - no leaf, no stalk, no nosense.  Nowadays, makuras tend to be rectangular but mine is cylindrical in the old style. It becomes, within moments, a part of me the angle that the makura eases my head into opens my airways completely. The relaxing and soothing scent of lavender does the rest.

Gill made the magic cylindrical makura and I'm tring to talk her into marketing a few of them every year. They would be prohibitively expensive but I am sure that others would buy them if only they knew what joy is to be had from 20 minutes of total peace and relaxation in the day.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

98% - are you sure?

Sitting in the post office in Rethymnon the other day - Gill was at the counter sending off our UK IRS self assessment tax returns for the year - I noticed that the guy sitting in front of me waiting for his number to come up was reading a copy of Daniel Dennet's Breaking The Spell - what's more he was reading the english version - and he was clearly a Greek - not a Cretan - a Greek - I leaned forward and across and gestured to the book - "how are you enjoying it?" - he looked delighted - his face lit up and a huge smile crosed his entire face - "It's great ... - "I'm reading  The God Delusion myself" - "Ah yes Dawkins - it is very good, well argued and well written - it has given me plenty of ammunition ..." - " ... but why are you reading it in English?" - "... because when I have finished it I must pass it on to someone else - and it attracts less attention " - "So how does atheism go down here in Greece then? " - he laughed - "not well, it is difficult to speak of these things outside of university, my parents would not like it, nobody would like it" - "But there are many atheists here in Greece?" - "Among the young and educated yes, Dawkins and Pinker and Dennett have done a lot of good here" - "Have you read Christopher Hitchens?" - "No - please write the name down for me" - he handed me a pen and paper and I wrote Hitchens - God is not Good - he thanked me and put the paper away safely - "We have problems here with religion - did you know that the ministries of religion and education are the same here?" - "is that so?" - "yes and if you speak then your chances of getting a job are damaged - but these writers are helping us all ..." and at that point we had to separate, his number was called - he thanked me for the talk and we separated. I have thought of him several times since then and wonder will we meet again?   I hope so.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Whistle down the Wind

This is how they clean the insulators on the pylons here in Crete but they always seem to choose a very windy day on which to do it - every year. Perhaps it has to be windy for the blowers to work properly?