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, September 19, 2008

Another world record tumbles to the Brits

Forget Usain Bolt, forget Roger Federer's not unsurprising return to magisterial form, instead think Joe Calzhage dumping Bernard Hopkins, think Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins rule of the Olympic Velodrome. The Brits are back on top.

After a long and gruelling day and a tough evening at 0120 local time this morning The Lavender Way's 2008 spica harvest broke, no smashed, no demolished the long standing Modi single still yield world record.36 kilos of The Lavender Way's finest spica produced more than 1500 ml of essential lavender oil of the highest grade surpassing by a very large amount the previous single still record for any herb at any time of year.

To put this into perspective consider that no single still distillation in the 17 year history of this exceptional distillery has ever broken the 1 litre or 1000 ml mark. Modi features two 600 litre stills and few double still sessions produce more than the magical litre of essential oil so for a single still session to go through that barrier (think 9.6 seconds for the hundred metres, think 3 minutes for the 1500 metres) and just keep going had every witness to this amazing performance holding their breath as the seemingly impossible mark approached and shouting and cheering wildly as it slipped further and further into the past. At 1500 ml the cheers turned to gasps and even the master distiller, a man of immense experience who has seen more distillations than most, sat slumped in his chair, mouth agape and eyes wide - speechless like the rest of us. We knew that we had seen history made but until the official calibrations have been made and entered intothe record book we will not know the exact magnitude of this performance. All we know is that the world is a different place today. The Lavender Way spica harvest of 2008 has rewritten the record book. The bar has been raised.

And what of the woman who masterminded this amazing performance? Lavender Mistress extraordinary Gill S wiped a joyful tear from her eye and announced that she would be back next year and that "... it won't be easy, but I think we can surpass this". When I asked how much of a surprise this had been she lowered her eyes and calmly stated "I knew in July that the crop was in good shape ... the summer conditions were just about perfect and the plants did what they had been selected for ... at the end of August my drier said this record was up for us and from then on we just went for it." She and her drier slipped away from the victory celebrations at about 0200 -no doubt they had 2009 on their minds - and some lavender to look after.

Related items: The 2007 distilling - here The 2008 distiling - here

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Book Review: Suttree by Cormac McCarthy

When I took Suttree by Cormac McCarthy down from the shelves recently it was immediately apparent that I had had this book for some considerable time and yet it remained unread: the spine was pristine; the cover foxed and; the price - 5.99 from Picador. Why still unread I wondered? It is widely regarded as an American great and I had clearly been impressed, at some stage (probably during 1979), to acquire a copy.

Well, the first few pages explained all. Suttree is one of those works, and they are mercifully rare though Oblomov, The Precipice and The Petty Demon recall themselves, that manages to repel me in the opening pages to the point where I close the book and yet intrigues me enough to keep it on the shelves rather than dispose of it - what I call a "maybe later - maybe one day" book. As I ploughed through those early pages again (and I remembered the viscid prose vividly) remembered attempts at this tome came back to me.

The blurb on the now aged cover had promised me Faulkner and Twain but the text seemed to offer me very little save repeated detailed and frankly tedious descriptions of the river - especially its smells - and the odd glimpse of one Cornelius Suttree, our hero-to-be who had little to commend him. But, like the river itself that is the central figure of this novel (shades of Finnegans Wake anyone), I ploughed on. Riverun slowly, very slowly, sticky prose passage follows sticky prose passage as the river runs more and more languorously. Like the mighty em eye double ess eye double ess eye double pee eye the prose slows as the plot, such as it is, widens. There are promises of freshwater pearls among the mud and the one certainty is the inexxorable nature of the river itself.

McCarthy takes Suttree and his readers away from the middle of the river into the rock pools and eddies, the slack water and the weed banks of life beside the river where flotsam and jetsam of humanity have washed up. Damaged and grubby as they are they provide added interest to the tale and at points, like the river itself, the narrative and the plot come into unexpected flood and one finds oneself rushed along for pages at a time until the pace slackens again and once more we drift along.

We drift along through the narrative as readers and Suttree drifts along through pools of minor human adventure until we all are washed up onto the wide and muddy delta at the mouth of the river and ultimately, into not being.

And so I reached the sea shore and left Cornelius Suttree as he washed out to eternity. Finally I had finished Suttree. It is lavishly written this novel, too lavishly perhaps, and the episodes feel not contrived but not contiguous. It is an honest book and it is an achievement. In the end I think I enjoyed it. At all events I think it is probably an important book and I now feel I may come back to it one day.


Saturday, September 06, 2008

Write in choice for US president - Michael Albert - remember that name

It is possible, in US presidential elections, for voters to write in a candidate not previously declared and to vote for them. The currently declared republican and democratic candidates fail to impress and both take flight to the last refuge of a scoundrel by declaring their patriotism above all other qualifications. Today I read an address that one Michael Albert made to a conference on the Crisis of Capitalism this weekend and since no presidential candidate has the candour and integrity to say such things I should like to commend this man as a write-in candidate for the presidency. Here are his opening words from that address:

My country, the U.S. is the world's leader in violent crime per capita.

It leads in the gap between richest and poorest.

It leads in means of communication, but also in levels of ignorance and deceit.

It leads in the manufacture, dissemination, and use of weapons of mass destruction, and of weapons generally...

My country leads as well in interventions abroad, in violent
coercion, in arrogant export of commercial and often vapid culture, and
of course in virtually unlimited hypocrisy.

My country, its core institutions and the commitments they impose on
leaders and led alike, is an enemy of every person on this planet
seeking a better life.

And yet, my country, like all others, also has potential to change.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Obituary - So long Ken and thanks for all the laughs

One of the true greats of British theatre has gone. As an actor Ken Campbell gave me more pleasure than De Niro, Jack Nicholson and Pacino rolled into one. Ken was a master. He believed in theatre. He was an innovator and possibly a genius. A moment's silence please - we'll not see his like for a while.

Obituary here