30 May 2006

Dali online

The complete Salvador Dali oeuvre on the Web.

A true labour of love.

28 May 2006

No Kennedy

Requiescat In Pace  Lloyd Millard Bentsen Jr.

  • 11 Feb 1921 - 23 May 2006
  • Texas congressman
  • 1988 Democratic nominee for VP
  • Overnight national figure following a vice presidential debate when whippersnapper Dan Quayle unwisely observed that he had "as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency."

    "Senator," thundered Bentsen, "I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine.

    Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."

    thus guaranteeing himself a place in the pantheon of quotable quotes.

  • 27 May 2006


    I've done some cosseting in my time so I'm firmly of the school that the workplace would be so-oo much easier without "customers":

  • Publishers would have an easier time without drat authors
  • Pubs and restaurants would certainly operate more efficiently if it wasn't for bloody troughers and sluicers shambling in at all hours disrupting carefully organised stock-taking
  • I've no doubt doctors and nurses would be about their duties in more efficient and orderly fashion if it wasn't for pathetic malingerers rolling up with all manner of sordid ailments - I mean, eeuww.
  • And what about chisel-jawed, gleaming-fanged dentists called Roy with fragrant hygienists called Phoebe? Much more time to get to know each other without nightmare British molars intruding for their quarter-century checkup and query about that "sort of ache at the back, where the loose tooth is."

    So I'm delighted to read that Britain's discredited ex-Home Secretary is keeping up the tradition, blaming the shambles he left his successor not on Ministers or officials - oh no - it's the effing 'dysfunctional customers', innit?

    I kid you not: JS has diagnosed the "fundamental problem of the Home Office as not quality of staff but the nature of individuals it has to deal with (my itals).

    And who are these customers? In Straw's own words, "mostly asylum seekers and criminals ... people who do not wish to be subject to social control".

    Wow. Who'd be an Escalation Rep on *that* shift?

  • newly hatched sparrows

    Hirondelles Nouvelles

    Mum and I are just like new grandparents with the arrival of the first vintage of - what? - five, six expectant swallow families?

    Very well behaved lot they are, too, no twittering, which bodes well.
    nestsParents flying back and forth with fodder etc and swanking to the others whose brood have yet to make an appearance.
    nestsThey ain't no altruists, are those swallows: one year a nest of 5 babes was for some reason deserted by the parentios.

    Tweeting and bleating with beaks agape, they were, as the other parents flapped by loaded with nosh for *their* young.

    Slowly the tweets got softer. Then one morning there were just 5 little heads sagging forlornly over the nest's edge and we had to get Theodoros to climb up and lift the little bodies out and give 'em a decent Orthodox burial. Posted by Picasa

    May Fair ~ 31st May

    Oyez oyez!

    It's that time of year again.

    Holy Trinity Church Corfu's amazing bargain-chocked May Fair, the biggest fundraising event of the year.

  • When: Wednesday 31st May, 1000 - 1300
  • How much: Entry only 1 euro
  • Wazzup: Stalls * Games * Refreshments

    And for all y'all offended ex-pats out there who've written in wanting to punch me in the nose and generally deliver upstart come-uppance, yours truly will be there manning the stands and serving the cuppas and generally being my usual urbane self.

    You'll spot me by my Gary Glitter t-shirt and bouffant coiffure (which I expect to be thoroughly tousled by the end of the festivities)

    Bring loadsa money to spend - it's all for a good cause and Jesus does  want you for a sunbeam.

  • Dress Code

    My Greek language lessons advance apace and I'm startled how the old killer tenacity has leapt raging and fully muscled from these 40 years' hibernation: the hunger to acquire vocabulary and grammatical precision; the absolute intolerance of faulty memory that sends me back for a word or phrase I'd thought mastered.

    Mnemonics galore and every type of trick to get it right first time.

    With the lingo comes, of course, the desire to distance myself from the grockle tourist population, now beginning to crowd the bars and hinder smooth passageway along the pedestrian thoroughfares.

    Professor Vanity: If the simple desire for knowledge isn't enough, my burning need to play Flash Harry keeps everyone amused and armed with goads and mockery which only enrages me further.

    But back to the text books and a glorious phrase that stopped me in my tracks:

    One of the exercises is reading the Greek and writing out the translation rather just thinking it and then looking up the answers in the key. In fact, the book specifically asks me not to:

    Don't look at the Key and say to yourself, "Yes, well, that's roughly the idea I had in mind.

    Lay not that flattering unction to your soul." [My colouring]

    Say what? (And I do intend to nail that in the Greek). I check the copyright page: 1989. Flattering unction to my soul? Now *that's* what I call a Mission Statement for Life.

    Big leg woman: So I'm in the fruiterers collecting fresh stuff for the healthy diet I'm on and I take it up to Tassia for weighing and she asks me something in Greek that catches my deaf ear so she says it again in English - "Where you find it?" - and I still don't understand. She seems to be asking about the tomato and which box I got it, the costly box or the cheapo. I didn't notice there *were* two, hence the confusion.

    Behind me is this large lady who I take to be a village hag who's hrrmphing at this dumb foreigner holding up the queue.

    "Where'dja get it?" she booms in a stentorian rasp straight from the Yorkshire Dales.

    Oh, the cheap one, I say (in English) to Tassia. Sorry. I don't look at the tank of a fellow countrywoman but I am burning at being corrected.

    "Beg pardon (this time in Greek). Not seen was two boxes." Tassia, totting, "Then birazzi" No worries. But I need more: "Such shame. (Still in haltering Greek). Corrected by countryman English lady." Tassia smiles and gives that totally Greek twirly gesture whose meaning would require demolition of the world's forests to even start to convey.

    "Another Angliki resident in this district?" I press on. Shake of head. Touristi. Never seen her before.

    "Alethea? Really? (I *must nail that "Say what" in vernacular demotic) I am corrected by a *tourist*?? Many shame!"

    Another twirl of the hand and that gleaming smile. The water in Corfu is such that the local have amazing American-standard teeth.

    She's totalled it and I go for broke - for gawd's sake, Holmes, remember yer numerals:

    En Grecque: "So ... like ... how much? Er, four euros?"

    "Three euros, 20."

    "OK ... so there is three and I have change, let me find." I make it exact and bid her goodbye, no glanced at the tank.

    But I exit kicking myself.

    Stages of dress:

  • Arrive Corfu with only touristy gear, such as proclaiming one devotee of New York models.
  • Acquire smattering of lingo and enter phase of wanting to look "local". Beg borrow steal swap cool t-shirts off Albanian laborers announcing oneself as employee of Prifti Plasterers or Vassinopoulos Supermarket or Ote's Patras Call Centre.

    Puzzled Albanian artisan: "Let me get this straight, you want this ragged old garment in exchange for pressed and ironed Lux-washed t-shirts of Amazon.com and Seahawks? What's the catch, b'wana?"

  • Get more fluent, a decent tan, and it's suddenly back to ultra naff touristy gear in which to roll up on the Kawasaki, lean it where the tourists are told to leave clear ("Oi, mate! We tried that and they'll move you on"). Withering son-of-Homer look as one strides by, greeting the staff with oozy fluency - "Yo Costa, howzit it goin', pal? Pericles - you a dad yet? Must be any day now. Love to Miranda when you see her. Varvara, babe, lookin' good! Taki, OK if I nick a bottle of ouzo and pay you later? Totally skint. Cheers."

    You like to think as you walk out and gun up the cyclette that the grockles turn to each other with a "Who was  that masked vaquero?" but it's more likely a grumbled, "Asshole."

    Supermarket trolleys: They're chained together and you release them by putting a euro piece in the gizmo on the handle. When you return it, you shove the chain in from the trolley in front and that pops the euro back out to live again another day.

    Sometimes there aren't any avail and you have to wait til someone comes out and returns theirs. Or do you?

    First time it happened to me, I was waiting and waiting but none came my way. There is an obvious logical trick that the locals play and which I have added to my repertoire.

    I would have liked to have worked it on the Tank but had to make to do with some Londoners.

    Instead of waiting by the trolley stack for one to be returned and the previous shopper's coin retrieved, you meet them as they walk back from loading their car and simply hand them a euro coin in exchange for their trolley. Bingo, they're saved the trek back you got yer trolley.

    Mr and Mrs London were there waiting when I pulled in. Parked and strolling towards the shop I saw the look of expectation in their eyes as they saw the lady next to me returning her empty trolley.

    In Greek: "Kyria, may I give you this euro?"

    "Ne! Efaristo!"

    "My pleasure"

    Mrs London: 'ere Bob, we was here first ... that bloke just got our trolley."

    "Yeh. Excuse me mate but I think we was here first. I think that one belongs to us."

    In Greek with beaming smile: "Yassas! This weather! So early so hot. I have had a haircut. Not too short on the sides. Do you have spare bones for my dog? I made an error, these batteries do not fit my torch, may I exchange for that pack in the blue?"

    Mr London to missus: "Typical! Bloody Greeks. Same everywhere."

    Reader, the temptation - the temptation - to pause and exchange murmured conspiratorial advice in my best Oxonian tones, "Steady on, old chap - some of them *do* have a smattering of the lingo and can cut up rough if they sense a certain, ah, hostility."

    On your marks ...: Greek drivers are dab hands at hooting at you a split second after the lights have gone green. The funny thing is that they themselves are THE slowest off the mark. In fact, they are inveterate jumpers of red lights, so if one took the cue from the impatient car behind, you'd be bound for certain death. Perhaps that's the aim.

    The other afternoon I really *was* slow off the mark, fiddling with the CD player to swap 'Sketches of Spain' for Jason Whitton.

    I waved an apology and chugged off and then we reached the next light. Chummy behind me, spotting me for a laggard, chose to pull up behind the car in the next lane which only had me hair-triggering the pedal for the green.

    Off i zoomed at the first blink of verdant and as I read the mirror the other car took forEVAH to pull away.

    Homework: Took the car in for various fixings and was ready to stay til it was fixed, armed with my Greek grammar book.

    Nissan Corfu give good auto, the boss is the best engineer, his model wife is the most efficient book-keeper, and the ladies behind the counter are stunners.

    I told them I was ready to sit it out and showed my book: "Could be maybe three, maybe four hours. You don't mind?"

    I show my book, Brian Church's inestimable "Learning Greek in 25 years". I have some time, I tell her. Three hours should be just fine to master her language." Laughter. A few minutes later, "Mr Holmes. We make your study more hard. Is ready in 2 hours."

    "Oh," I pout, "only time to translate all Aristophanes." More laughter and approving looks.

    Grease monkey Theo is there and he's the one who gave the 2 hour forecast. He gets a translation and leaves with a mysterious look, returning minutes later with a furled mag and a rumbled chuckling message to the girls, something about Kyrios Prifti being able to wait. The women shriek with laughter and abuse him and Leni calls me over for Theo's formal loan of the Greek equivalent of Hustlin' Playboy.

    "Is now one hour he make your car ready and you have new school book for study and make good translation."

    Everyone is laughing and the ladies are scolding and I tell Theo that in that case, take 25 years. They show him the book's title and he looks appalled: 25 years? By that time - gesture to the nether regions followed by drooping finger and jab at Miss Missonghi on the cover - no use to man or beast (très Greek, that).

    Eruption of laughter loud enough to bring the boss out from his office.

    "No need translate *that*!" I say, at which Theo clasps me to him before turning and clapping his hands to his team, "Oopah! This dude's car. One hour."

  • 25 May 2006

    Somalicence to Kill

    Britain's Horn of Plenty hoodslums must be rocked to the rafters with laughter at our beckoning asylum policy and red carpet treatment of Somali crims:

    1. Most recent and poignant: stabbing by "youth of Somali origin" of golden boy Kiyan Prince when he tried to break up a fight.
    2. Mustafa Jama (25) - alongside his brother, already in custody - wanted for the murder of Police constable Sharon Beshenivsky
    3. Somalian Yassin Hassan Omar, one of the four up for trial of the July 21 attempted London Underground bombings.
    4. The undeported Abdulrahman Osman: raped a 40-yr old soon after his release from a 3-yr sentence for robbery.
    5. January this year: 19-yr old Somali stabbed at a bus stop by other Somalis from a different part of town.
    6. Past 6 months: Somali youths reckoned to have been behind a string of west London street robberies, and aggro between Somalis and Afro-Carib types not making the pavements of *sarf* Lon'on none to safe to sashay dahn neither.
    7. Ayaan Hirsi Ali: I risk castration and casting into the fires of incorrectitude for this one, but I've always sensed something bogus about sexy lithe "Muslim atheist" Somali-born AHA who rose to member of the Dutch parliament and talks a great game about Islam/West co-existence, even unto dissing her former religion and earning herself the ultimate accolade of death threats.

      Now it seems that media probings have uncovered cracks in the cracking story she arrived with as a Somali political refugee and her enemies are testing other aspects of her life and general credibility.

    8. Asylum: The whole thing has gone haywire. It seems like we've already got 100,000 of the seekers in Britain as it is, and predictions for up to 6,000 a year ongoing.
    Just crazy, and of course it'll get worse and we'll all bend over backwards (those of us who can manage it with a dusky blade sticking out our back hampering the maneuver) to shower money, accommodation and jobs on them even as we shove our own folks aside.

    And don't forget the crawling and simpering to "understand" their culture and ways, the better to dump on our own and grovel lower as we raise theirs to the pedestal.

    Rivers of blood, indeed ... Enoch is seeing his grisly prediction more than fulfilled.

    24 May 2006



    I wrote a short while back about winning a school ensemble (needs scrolling waayy down) with the tune 'Yellow Bird'. Well, stap me vittles if I don't uncover a shot of the heros, all the way from circa 1963.

    Me, 2nd from left, the fresh-faced darling.

    futurama guitar

    Fender bender

    I also wrote of strapping on a stout Stratocaster and finally  jingle-jangling on the good bits in "Like a Rolling Stone".

    Et voila, from the archives comes a shot of Yrs Truly back in school, wielding the first solid electric anyone had seen:

    Futurama was the make and it may not have rivaled the Fender axes wielded by Hank, Buddy or the Ventures, but it was the first anyone had seen up close.

    Thanks to putting my academia prison time to good use, I could dance apace about the frets sufficient to get that dreamy look in the eyes of junior matron.

    23 May 2006

    Siesta Molester

    There should be a separate Hell for those who intrude on the sacred siesta "hour" of 2:30 - 5pm, reverenced by all mankind.

    Even a certain sane dog and mad Englishman know that it is absolutely verboten to make phone calls during that time.

    Certainly, no Greek would *think* of breaking this rule.

    But, there are certain folks on this isle who, despite having lived here enough long enough to know better, continue their crass ways.

    If there isn't already, I'm opening a website to deal with such ignorami, and commissioning Eric to write me a script that will intercept phone calls during this period and relay name and address to a team of beefy lads in designer shades and belted raincoats who will visit the offender, wreak certain adjustments to their body clock, before manhandling them to the state line for instant ejection.

    Naturally, if the call is justified, a simple phone call to the 'victim' will confirm the culprit's bona fides and all will be well ....

    Hang about - Eric's 'system' doesn't permit calls during siesta time. It'll bounce back to the goons who will start all over again.

    Hey ho, Catch-Ikosi thio.

    Oh well...

    Dog Licks

    In reply to rewells' good comment on "Mr Juicy" - on closer/larger examination, I see that it is the discoloration of the left half of my jeans that makes it look like some canine is lapping at my lightnin' fretting.

    mona lisa

    Da Vinci Code

    Not even Prospero's Cell escapes the film of *that* book about the Holy Grail being the body of Mary Magdalene, news of whose marriage to Jesus the Church has suppressed these ages.

    I have wasted words on this subject before, when I first took up the book.

    Funny bad: Actually, the cinematic treatment is rather a boon to good literature: such rambling rubbish in an hilarious way that no right-minded person on Corfu is even contemplating reading the actual book.

    sir ian mckellenSir Teabags: There is one improvement in the movie treatment: the casting of the brilliant Sir Ian McKellen to play the villain, 'British Royal historian' Sir Leigh Teabing.

    Sir Ian, as they say, chews up the scenery and I love the bit where he faces his pursuers with a throwaway, "If you must shoot someone, start with *him*", pointing at his manservant.

    Highbrow thick: At least he ignores Brown's stage directions in the book where he has Sir Leigh speaking sometimes in a "thick English accent", at others in "highbrow British". It makes one wonder if Brown has ever talked to any thick highbrows. I'd have been delighted to entertain him to tea and chatter away in my fluting highbrow Oxford burr.

    Oh, O! (Anag.). The code that needs cracking is

    'O, draconian devil! Oh, lame saint!'

    which turns out to be an anagram of

    'Leonardo da Vinci! The Mona Lisa!'
    In my opinion, that cheats in that it requires one to spell 'O' both ways.

    Privileged membership: Back to Leigh Teabing (ridiculously unlikely name, Teabing, but I suppose Brown thought its closeness to 'teabag' would ring more authentically in American readers' ears): Brown has clearly never met a Knight of the Realm (or a widow or wastrel elder son of one) because he comes up with some extraordinary scenarios

  • When Teabing flies sexy Gauloise Sophie to Britain, he gets her thru Immigration thanks to his knighthood ('Membership has its privileges'). Actually, mamzel's owed a few privileges of her own, purportedly being the latest in a line of children descended from Christ's "membership" with Mary Magdalene.

    As for Sir Teabing traipsing thru on a mere K, in today's emasculated Britain of multi-cultural eggshell tiptoeing and cloying inclusive racial correctitude, it's best to keep one's gongs pretty damn'd quiet lest the bureaucracy yobs and illiterate illegal aliens at their 'puter screens decide to put one through various equal rights hoops just to show they're every bit as good as you.

  • Poshpartout : He has 'an embossed card identifying him as a Knight of the Realm' and which he just has to show to have security guards fawning and forelock tugging and waving him thru.
  • Parks butters and shoots: He instructs his driver to park in Horse Guards Parade, where he causes his demise with peanut butter before gliding over to Westminster Abbey to shoot Tom Hanks.

    Where in God's name did Brown do his homework? I can understand flubbing the arcane trivia of British ennoblement, but his notion of basic London parking is crazy.

    You'd have thought Sir Ian would have put them right ... on the other hand, I guess not: he'd have spotted it as a lost (but lucrative) cause and just lain back and thought of England.

    A crumb of comfort is the possibility that a blip of a per centage of Brown's readers might visit the UK and use his research for the gospel truth it for which it has been so loudly hailed the length and breadth of academe.

    Can't you see it?

    Ted: "Goddam country. I thought the Brits were meant to have got this right-"

    Julie: "There's a space - there. Quick. Oh, darn."

    Ted: "Goddam country. What's with all these freakin' cars anyway? I thought they were supposed to go round in those horse and carriages like in Sherlock Holmes - same to you, fellah - I mean *look* at all these cars ... "

    Julie (brainwave): "Ted! Hang a left - there, where the sign's pointing to Horseguard's Parade."

    Ted: "A-riigghhtt! This is more like it. This is what I call parking. No danger of dings here."

    Julie: "I suddenly remembered it from the Da Vinci Code."

    Ted: "Nice one, hon'. Man, that Dan Brown is one smart cookie."

    the divine Sophie Marceau Sophie's the choice: Speaking of 'flying Sophie', the feisty française is played by the delightful Audrey Tautou who so beguiled us as Amélie, but I'm flattered to see that my own suggestion from yonks back of Sophie Marceau is supported by others.

    Tautou is cute enough and the perfect gel to take back to mum or simper her way thru Immigration, but even Brown's inability to add an ounce of flesh to his characters made clear that Mr Hanks' con-soeur was a ballsy broad.

    sophie marceauAnyway, excellent excuse to run a pic of MlleMarceau.

    Craig Brown: Last word has to go to my old mucker, the brilliant parodist Craig Brown whose Daily Telegraph piece nails the Fifteen things you didn't know about The Da Vinci Code

  • 20 May 2006

    Spinning Pencils

    Cantonese students grow up knowing how to twirl a pencil round their thumb.

    When I worked out there alongside Hong Kong's finest, I'd get complaints from visiting Brits that they'd been mesmerised into signing a contract without fully checking it in detail, hypnotised by the other side's spinning pen-ware.

    Here's your chance to even the score.

    fender backing

    Mr. Lonely juiced in it

    A nothing strum for Guitarkind, but a major gig for *this* ageing plunker.

    Down by the marina entrance is the 'Bucket of Beer' bar where the resident band is a British combo of off-duty jolly jack tars.

    fender backingThere's only four of them and about 10 guitars *and* they trot out Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" on a regular basis.

    All my life I've wanted to stand on stage with a decent electrified axe and pump out those jangly bridges that come just:

  • rolling stoneBefore the bit about Mr Lonely going to the finest schools
  • After the singer asks "Do you want to make a de-eal ?"
  • And the BIG ONE - the one any lead picker worth the cucumber down his jeans milks for all its worth - where

    "He took from you everything he could ste-a-al ..."

    Busker at 17 with his Futurama 'lectric geetarJingle jangle twangg  ...

    "How does it feeel?"

    Well, I managed it tonight and it felt good.

    Every guitarist and Dylan fan will know my euphoria.
  • 19 May 2006

    Professor Ridiculous ~ Unsubscribe

    I still haven't managed to rid myself of this accursèd humorless mailing, nor even understand how one is meant to do it, but it is a real bane.

    It seems to emanate from Australia, so God rot the innards of any Aussie relatives who signed me up in some misguided ocker sense of fun.

    By way of a sort of public service, here is what I've found out to date about loosing oneself from this appalling mailing.

    1. Go here and note the Subject Line from any next or past issue of this pesky mailing.
    2. Temporarily kill the popup blocker for Professor Ridiculous and look for where to place a comment.
    3. Place the subject line from the mailing in the comment
      section along with the e-mail address you wish to unsubscribe

    I have no idea if this works because I've yet to see the mailings dry up, but I wouldn't want anyone else to go thru the same excruciatingly unfunny experience as me.


    All Along the Watchtower

    Another day in Paradise.

    To lunch with my favourite hostess at her stunning villa overlooking Kommeno Bay.

    One ascends via impossibly windy paths until, suddenly, there it is - the long and stately drive and the house itself framed in that wonderful arch that I vow to dig up one dark night and transport back to *our* side of the island.

    The house used to be a watch tower during the Venetian occupation and as I stand on the ramparts, I imagine the look-outs patrolling under the hot sun, now and then straining their eyes to the horizon to check for glimpses of marauding sail.

    verandah view
    Shortly, pesky seaplanes will start their zooming overhead and landing in the bay to transport people to Paxos and other islands.

    With this deafening cacophony, the official start of summer is announced.

    palmtree view
    The planes begin their descent by also flying over our own place, swooping so low over the valley it can be only a matter of time before one of the pilots misjudges and catches a wheel in the trees.

    I shall be ready to snap the conflagration to sell to the TV evening news - but worry not: It will be up on the blog before the MSM get their grubby hands on such a gem.

    marco and garden
    Our hostess is of aristocratic bearing, one of those instinctively gracious ladies from days of yore whose ranks are thinning, alas.

    Conversation is usually muted and respectful over lunch but I suddenly find myself blurting out,

    "So, Philippa - what's the latest Kommeno gossip?

    What are you hearing on the street?"

    An almost audible gasp rises from the others and a fellow guest darts me a warning look.

    Sans pause, and with nary a glance at me, madame lays her napkin down (or is it serviette?):

    "Well - Anton has sold another stremata of land to the Russians *and* I hear that Lady T will not be coming out with her usual entourage this summer."

    Arch of impeccably penciled brow.

    "What do you think of that, now?"

    Impeccable day.

    18 May 2006

    McCartney Split

    Anything but bending over a weedpatch or wielding some fauna-catory instrument of futility.

    Am taking refuge in matters of import, i.e. reading about Paul and Heather's split and Paul's touching messages to his fanbase via his distinctly weird and creepy website.

    15 May 2006

    gardening collage


    What with my stalwart 85-year-old mum being panicked last month by atrial fibrillation, and subsequently recommended for open-heart surgery for a valve replacement, we've naturally been nosing around sites such as the Thoratic Surgeons' helpful patient information.

    Just as naturally, I'm gobbling up articles such as The Times's discovery of "cyberchondria":

    "A condition causing great concern to General Practitioners as increasing numbers of us have the temerity to research our own ailments on the internet. Thus armed with information, we then clog up doctors’ surgeries by arrogantly assuming that they might be the remotest bit interested in listening to it."

    As a result, we're thinking of gratefully and respectfully - but firmly - declining the offer to put mum under the knife and going for postponement of the dreaded op in favour of keeping her on her various medications and seeing how we go from there.

    I am Keeper and Pusher of the Pills and, tho' I say it myself, doing rather a good job about lining them up each morning, noon and eve and seeing that Herself downs them.

    One of the instructions from her would-be surgeon in Athens was that she put on 5 kilos and generally protein up in prep for the suggested slicing in a fortnight's time.

    Mama is - comment dire? - on the petite side and eats like a swallow so I wasn't too sure of success on that front.

    Stap me but she's already added *four* since her return last Saturday the 6th.

    alice peacock

    Alice Peacock

    Friendly heads-up to my old Bainbridge strummer pals from the Bageleria, Pegasus and Seabold:

    Those strolling past 400 Winslow Way East around June 13 might like to pop yer noggins into Glass Onion (CD & Tapeworks to the gentry) and ask the guv'nor to play you Alice Peacock's latest, Who I Am.

    Alice who?

    Get that nice Amazon.com to play you samples of the lady's chansonnerie.


    How depressing that the New York Times Book Review survey plumped for something by worthy-but-dull Toni Morrison as best work of American fiction in the last 25 years.

    Honestly, you'd think that these slave-to-correctitude choices could be better camouflaged after all these years of trotting this sort of rubbish out.

    And Belovèd??

    Beyond sneering.

    Also-rans appear to have included

  • Phil Roth’s “American Pastoral"
  • DeLillo's “Underworld”
  • Cormac McCarthy's “Blood Meridian"
  • Updike's "Rabbit Angstrom"

    so perhaps the whole affair was askew from the off.

  • Cabbie Confused with Net music maestro

    My kind of story. Hilarious.

    Cab driver mistaken for world expert on the internet music business interviewed by the Beeb's News 24 channel.

    Seconds ticking down to a studio discussion about this brouhaha over Apple Computer and The Beatles' record label, a floor manager had run to reception and grabbed the hapless chappie, thinking he was the famed editor of Newswireless.net, a specialist internet publication.

    Naturally, the video has gone viral.

    Clip round the ear

    Bravo Pc Sean Mullaney for giving two yobs a deserved wallop round the lug hole.

    Bravo Hizzoner Adrian Lyon ruling in his favour and overturning the idiot cowardly suspension.

    We need more fuzz like Sean getting back to basics and acting "in the best traditions of the police" like in the old days.

    Two news items I remember from way back that gave me pleasure reading of hoodlums and thugs getting their come-uppance:

    Running and Hiding: Some (presumably) agile youths grabbed an old biddie's handbag and belted for it. A passer-by set off in casual pursuit.

    Being an Olympic long-distance runner, he simply let them set the pace and loped along behind until, cornered and exhausted, he retrieved the handbag and stood around til the fuzz arrived. I'm not sure if he smacked them around a bit to discourage any escape but they were probably too exhausted to do much more than lie around vomiting into the grass.

    Oldie Power: I got this next one from the sensei of a West Hampstead shoto-kan dojo.

    Frail old gent taking money out of an ATM was set upon by some thugs who demanded his cash and his card and his PIN for the extraction of further loot.

    Alas for them, aforesaid geriatric was a venerable practitioner of the art who proceeded to kick and leap and apply knife-hands and generally turn the tables.

    It apparently only came to light because the parents of one of the would-be thugs took it to the police on a charge of racism and totally unfair behaviour, the attacker being in possession of a dangerous weapon, to whit a half-century of training in the killer arts.

    The old man hailing from Hunan and the attackers being blacks, the police were unwilling to test it in the courts.

    The old man himself had said nothing, not even to his family, who merely put his slight lateness in returning home to the number 16 bus running behind schedule that night.

    14 May 2006

      Posted by Picasa

    Greece'd Enlightening

    Britain's deputy prime minister John Prescott may have achieved the seemingly impossible and replaced Bush over here in the contempt stakes, but Dubya still features:

  • Phone privacy revelations.
  • Meanwhile, on the *major* news front - and the real reason of course why I skipped the country: to be on the spot for that bastion of good taste, our hosting of May 20's Eurovision Song fest.

    I know - I'm the hated most envied man under your pale sun.

  • swallow at twilight, greece

    Making a summer

    Surrounded by wildlife - birds, dogs, poultry, horrid tree rats, etc - I'm developing city slicker theories.

    We have *five* swallow's nests under our eaves and a right mess they make with their crap on the patio, and what a lot of twittering, especially when one has company and is trying to murmur sweet nothings.

    They are of course amazing in their swooping and diving and there are times when I wonder how they don't just crash into each other or, indeed, us, diving as they do ensemble under the eaves and past our heads.

    But as soon as I bring out the camera to capture these aviatricks, they seem to vanish and I reckon they sense being aimed at, albeit by a camera, and shun it.

    Even when I leave the camera alone in movie mode, they still stay clear.

    Do they sense the metal or the opening of the lens, or what? Answers please.

    We end our summers with around 11 or 12 nests, most of which we clear but always leave 1 or 2. Otherwise they don't come back.

    Famous tale told here of a rich Brit lady, came out, bought a place that she called Villa of the Swallows. They duly came, made their mess, and at the end of the summer the lady told her staff to remove them all.

    No, they said, you can't do that.

    She wanted them all gone. Too messy.

    That was many years ago and the place has changed several hands: not a single swallow has returned.

    They are charming, above all when the parents are fluttering around the nest encouraging their young to test their wings with a "Like this, darling". Meanwhile, jeunes are cheeping even more loudly:

    "Duude, no way. Have you seen that drop. Besides, I kinda liked the arrangement of me opening my gob and you just popping the nosh in there. Like, those worms from the east end of the garden - yumm.

    You with me, sis? Yah, flying's for the birds.

    Mom, dad? We're cool here in the crib. Y'all get out there and enjoy yerselves, we's fine."

    Wildlifery: my Black Sambo dog is usually silent as the grave. Most of the traffic that passes below travels on, but now and then we have a visitor and Sambo is like Radar in "Mash". He'll raise his head and growl and sure enough, 25 secs later, a passing car does NOT pass but turns in. We reckon he's getting the signal from the *start* of the dirt track where they turn off the main sub-drag.

    He is also an appalling chaperone and flirt: walk a lady down to the Krystina bench, having ditched the hound with a bone and taken all the sneaky passages, and next thing, he's got his head on her lap and it's all "Aaah ... isn't he cute."

    Massa: "Yo, Sambo - I'd sorta mapped out that lap for *my* snuffling. This canine gooseberry stuff keeps up, we need talk about your bone quota .. and that 'lectric collar momma bought way back? Yeh?"

    Rats: We have tree rats that eat the fruit. Big as small cats, yukk.

    Tar is the answer: tar-soaked rags at the base or, as I've cleverly devised, daubing key branches.

    I feel like the angel of the Lord at Passover, swabbing where they need to move on.

    Where get tar around here? Ships' chandler.

    13 May 2006

    Ring dem bells

    The Kondokoli bells are tolling for a death in the village.

    More and more it is someone young, victim to their bright new cancerous way of life:

  • Crop sprays
  • Harley Davidsons
  • Chlorine and chemicals in the wash
  • Genetically modified nosh.

    In the old days when Soula worked for my family, she would rush to the phone at the first chime to ask For Whom.

    Now we wait for me to go down to the tobacco kiosk.

    Even then it depends on a suitably solemn expression and how doleful my Greek.

  • City Slacker

    The Grauniad good on 'deadwood floaters',

    "The new breed of urban professional who understands that the rules of business have changed and that to survive and prosper, you don't have to do your job well, you just need to look like you're doing it well. Your success depends upon how good you are at pulling off this performance and demands that you take every opportunity you can to be seen that you are doing the job."

    70% of the UK workers think that some of their colleagues aren't pulling their weight. They are dead right. As anyone with any commercial experience will testify, the deadwood floats.

    Modern businesses appear to have been set up with the city slacker in mind, providing an environment in which they can thrive. The move from corporate hierarchical structures to more flexible project teams, and outsourcing services to third parties, has brought with it ambiguity.

    Audit any medium-sized organisation today, and you will quickly find a surprising number of people who command a great deal of authority, but have no genuine accountability for anything."


    It's dawning on me how lucky I was in the US with phone and internet billing. Here in Greece with the monopoly OTE phone company, it's easy to see why Greece is bottom of the European charts for 'net usage.

    Exchange Rate: €1 to US$1.29 / €1 to UK£0.69

    First a comparison with our Freedom Frying frères over in la belle France:

  • 25 euros a month signs you with an ISP for ISDN all year, 24-hour coverage - *and* no additional connection charges each time online.
  • To boot, ISDN line rental is the same €15 a month regardless of 64 or 125kb.
  • Ergo, 24-hr coverage @ 128kb works out at €180.00 for line rental plus €300 per annum for 24-hr ISP coverage. Grand total: €480 for the year/US$619/£331.20.


  • ISDN 64kb line rental: €28 per month + charge for every connection (2 charges if you go for 128kb)
  • Plus ISP rental
  • Over the year, line rental at €336; 24-hr connection (just on 64kb) @ €0.073 per minute = €4.38 per hour, €104.12 per day, €38,368.80 for the year.
  • Literally grand total with OTE for the year: €38,704.80 /US$49929.19 /£26,706.31 (less ISP rental).

    One hardly credits those sums with even approaching correct calculation.

  • 12 May 2006

    from san luca patio, gouvia greece

    Both Sides Now

    I've always been a cloud fan in a lonely sort of wandering way, just not very clued up on the fancy details:

  • Sure, I can bandy the usual - cumulus, nimbus, cirrus - with the best of them.
  • I can even plunk away at "Nuages" on the old Fender Stratus-caster (dread pun!) - that's until Django does his trademark hammer/claw triplet and he and Steph whisk the tune into hot gear.

    from italian supermarket, gouvia
    Now come astute Sceptre Books and the clever and marvelously named Gavin Proctor-Pinney with his Cloudspotter's Guide.

    Suddenly, I'm every enochlophobe's nightmare - no, wait, that's fear of crowds. Sorry.

    Hmm, I wonder if the press ever made mileage on that when the prophet Powell was chanting his Rivers of Blood caveat?

    clouds and black sambo, sunday siesta timeI now have enough useless information to enter any bar in the land and win bets galore while boring for England.

    My range of topics is terrifying. Just thank gawd Ashley isn't around to step in with some terrifying "I like clouds better than you #23" coup de théâtre, of which he is perfectly capable.

    san luca clouds

  • Clouds by height and shape
  • Genus of cloud *and* its species
  • The different habits of clouds according to wind speed, topography, air temp and don't forget the height of the troposphere.
  • The rôle of clouds in The Arts.

    As if that's not enough, the stalwart P-P has set up his own Cloud Appreciation Society complete with cloud of the month.

    Dept of Great Minds Reviewing Alike: I've just spotted in the feisty Daily Mail of May 12 a 'Critic's choice' write-up of the Pinney by none other than the paper's former book reviews editor, Peter Lewis. Perhaps he is still *is* Lit Ed; so hard to tell these days with the by-lines and how they lay the columns out. What *isn't* unclear is the accompanying pic of Lewis: goodness, the scribbler's changed almost as little as yours truly over the past 30 years.

    Nor has his reviewer's nib lost its cunning. Some juicy observations that should shift a few copies with readers:

    "The whiter-than-white brilliance of a gentle, lazy cumulus is due to the ten billion tiny water droplets per cubic metre inside it defusing light in all directions.

    By the time it grows to medium size, wafting its cauliflowery billows aloft (Eee, there's imagery for you - CH) on thermal currents, the water in it weighs as much as 80 elephants.

    A cumulonimbus towering taller than Mount Everest contains as much energy as ten Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs."

  • Fab fotos

    A scurry-don't-sidle site.

    Hasselblad-hefting lens lady Kris Carroll with her own portfolio at last.

    While yer abaht it, top up with some java at the linked Fstop Caff.

    All good stuff. Lots to leica.


    Is everyone savouring and giggling over the triumph of
    Steve Colbert

    Not just because I'm over in Greece and hence in mood philhellenic, but the sharp Kyria Huffington gets the whole romp totally bang to rights.

    New Republic diarist James Wood also good, albeit his piece needing registration, dammit.

    Luckily, the excellent Andrew Sullivan, from whom came this pointer, needs no such hassle. And I agree with AS: Wood should be blogging.

    NYT backs down: glad to see back-pedaling the concession from the NYT that just maybe it ought to have given Colbert some ink ...

    Which neatly segues into buffoonish Bill O'Reilly's canonisation as 'Worst Person in the World' for May 16's loose ravings that The Times and "many far-left thinkers believe the white power structure that controls America is bad, so a drastic change is needed."

    That's as may be, but I still hold that one of the saddest experiences is to look back at early pics of the chiseled O'Reilly and then compare them with the porcine bloat whose dyspeptic grizzle barks out at us today.

    Copying Text from Website

    Old hat to smartie pants readers in the US, but I am impressing the dickens out of less wired Corfiot ex-pats by naughtily passing off as my own this month's invaluable tip from The Oldie's ever-savvy Webster, whose Superbyw@ys column never ceases to inform and amuse.

    (Hush, but I even hear tell of plans to beef up the actual Oldie website, so phooey to their fakeroo smokescreen of fogeydom.) LOL.

    Right, ready?

    To copy text from a site without all that messy coding:

  • Highlight and copy (Ctrl-C)
  • Click 'Edit'
  • 'Paste Special'
  • ' Unformatted Text'
  • 'OK'
  • Eh voilà!

    Maestro Webster is always pleased to hear from readers here, so send him your best shots.

    Speaking of the non-pareil Oldie, on CNN the other night nattered Larry King and clever Judge Judy, whose court cases I used to watch hypnotised.

    Both on great form but what made me sit up was the Judgette's talk of setting up a mag for the discerning and moneyed over-50s market scorned by those 16-year-olds on Madison Avenue.

    Her proposal didn't sound a million miles off what The Oldie so effortlessly achieves over in Blighty.

    JJ needs backing, natch, so it won't actually see the light of day.

    When King asked the proposed title, she said that her PR advisor was toying with "Now", which is a bit feeble but not bad for over there, I suppose.

    Certainly, the youth-obsessed US market would run a mile from anything suggesting actual *age* - just as "Now" would bomb in the UK for its gutter reminder of the loathsome NoW.

    Repeater Meter

    You know what?

    When someone's determined to tell their tale, it doesn't matter *what* coding you've agreed on to ward off deviation, hesitation, or simply trotting it out for the umpteenth time. They will simply charge ahead.

    Had an old friend visit who was au fait  with all latest sagas, but it still went something like,

    "I know what I meant to tell you. It seems that Mary acquired a dinky little lamb"

    "Ah yes - the one with the white coat."

    The very same. Anyway, its fleece was a marvelous snow white.

    "As I recall, they even traveled together-"

    Exactly. Too kinky. Apparently , everywhere Mary went, the wretched lamb just tagged along.

    Goodness how boring - and didn't you say the Headmistress was dragged in at some point?

    Well yes - that's the whole point. La petite mouton followed Mary to school one day-

    Yes, I love that bit, and didn't you tell me that it contravened some silly lambist regulation?

    I knoww  utterly against the rules ever since that ram from Mount Parnassus ... anyway, you can imagine what fun the children had ...

    Absolute chaos, no doubt. Hilarity and japes all round.

    Exactly. I mean, a lamb at school? Can't you just picture it?

    I'm trying.

    At such moments, I've taken to reaching for the hip-flask and Sobranie and walking Alcinous down to the Judas tree for a lads-together brood and puff.

    11 May 2006

    hair today ~ goon tomorrow

    On April 7 I vowed to get my hair cut before I looked any sillier, before even booking my flight to Greece.

    April 12: fly out of Gatwick, still unshorn.

    March 11: Wake and vow that before the day is out, I *will* have my hair cut or I will take the kitchen scissors to the thatch and massacre it myself.

    As punishment 4 dilly dallying on so vital a matter, I weed the steepest path.

    March 11, 6pm: walk down to Gouvia, plonk self in hairdresser n await shearing.

    Magnificent place. Don't understand a word being said but I read the room:

    One lady doing the hair, 3 ladies in the chairs in various states of coiffurie; cig smoke clouds the room; coffee, vino galore.

    All my Greek deserts me, which I bitterly regret because they keep saying what I discern to be, "Thank goodness the English bloke doesn't understand."

    This is clearly the Gouvia village pump: they are ravaging reputations, dissecting dalliances, having a whale of a time.

    Suited fellow comes in. I fear he has a booking before me but he is rep selling hair coloring. Cutter attends to him, places order and they send him out with ribald laughter.

    Cool gent looks in with a "So what's the gossip?" Laughter and he too is sent packing.

    I read the Greek glossies - excellent practice for learning the Greek alphabet:

    B is V and real B is combi of NP. D is TH and real D is NT.

    So Brad is NPrad and don't get me started on what Angelina is - just squiggles.

    Lady 1 is real thug with massive jaw and wrestler bod. Her hair is in silver paper.

    Lady 2 is in curlers; #3 is red-head looking to dry.

    I never see how #1 ends up; #2 turns out to be a humdinger blonde with cool quiffs; and #3 ends up with those seductive just-washed curly locks that reveal her to be totally hot.

    Such a transformation that I give involuntary gasp and thumbs-up. Laughter and smiles and what I dimly discern from the ribald chatter to hint that, once her old man sees her, she'll need another makeover.

    Suddenly it is me and I produce my US Alien card to show how short n tidy I want it.

    Everyone cops a look and gurgles and holds the card up to check the watermark.

    The cutter shows me the menu and points to Wash n Cut and I nod, at which point I am led to the basin chair, everyone rearranges and i am given a head massage/wash such as would even brand the Kama Sutra as a Little Golden Book.

    One day when I win the lottery, i shall have my own hairdresser and ask her to take a full 90 mins n the washing followed by a further 90 on slow snipping and alla rest they do. Finger dry finale and that'd be *my* sex quota for the week and no need to have even dropped my drawers.

    I drive home and mum comments on the extreme *brevity* of my locks. I say it's exactly as I like it and recount the happy gossipy ambiance.

    "You should write about it."

    "Good idea. An article for "The Corfiot".

    "No, just write about it and keep it on file. Keep a diary."

    "That's an idea," I say.

    Chamber Music

    Super evening with fellow Aussie and dynamo concert organiser VP, with whose planned concerts in Butrint I hope to be involved.

    We are invited around for drinks during which I ask to see V's state-of-the-art puter set-up, crafted by the impossibly suave and savvy Alex, about whom more anon.

    V is the mistressmind behind Chamber Music Holidays of which no music lover should be unaware.

    Anyone heading this way, email info avail here.

    V has heard mum's medical tales and at one point delivers what I would reckon to be the killer abbreviator of,

    "Yes, wonderful, isn't that where you ...."

    It is and was but it doesn't halt maternal repeating. V and I exchange glances of fond understanding.

    Savvy Alex: young tall taut of abs puissant of pecs, designer shades at precise angle on noble brow. Massively qualified in puter sciences from Cardiff and some north England town.

    Whilst zapping to Command prompt to run checks on why my laptop wasn't recognising mum's printer, he asked me what I "did", to which I mumbled that I had once been on the payroll of the saintèd Jeffrey of Bezosia.

    Instant recognition.

    In fact, Amazon.com had been one of his class's core study subjects - GUI, how many clicks to this or that; the whole deal.

    We discussed when and how Amazon finally hit a profit and he explained why it took us so long to reach a plus sign: Amazon's purchase of "multiple stock departments" were of *existing* warehouses, unsuited to the demands of e-trade and swift distribution.

    The numbers only took a turn for the better when we "got it" and latched onto the Tesco business model, after which the moolah flowed.

    Knows his stuff, does our A: according to him, my crony-Aroni bro had talked to him about a brand-name desktop for mama. No, I said, you build her one - she ain't a gamer, not into heavy CD burning - just a basic middle of the garden patch puter.

    Wish I'd had my buddy Erik Prohibida here to do his casual balls busting thang.

    All I could burble was,

  • Installed memory (RAM) 512MB to 1GB
  • Processor, along lines of my old 2.8-GHz Pentium 4 2.6-GHz
  • Monitor 17-inch LCD
  • Hard drive: 40GB to 80GB
  • DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive
  • One or two USB ports
  • 102-key PS/2 keyboard and USB mouse

    Still time for me to get Erik's advice, but he's rewriting the kama sutra with his lady down somewhere in Silicon Valley - or am I thinking of her chest?

  • Chat Brat

    Warrior mum back from Athens: *five* rather than three days' tests, poor thing.

    Naturally a little frail after almost a week in bed and no appetite for hospital food.

    She is unloaded from the plane in a wheelchair which adds to the drama.

    We drive straight to the restaurant during which I am regaled with the week's dramas; once seated and with large whiskeys before us, I am regaled again, after which I hear the same stories told for the first time to the restaurant staff and pals who happen to be there.

    I can't critique because I am always repeating myself, and The Spitfire got all too used to growling out "Dad! You said that!".

    In fact, no tales of note or amusement worth sharing here, although Mum's surgeon seems to have a deadpan way with words:

    Describing mum's end-of-May heart operation, Dr Aroni demonstrated the precise route and length of incision, solemnly pointing where even a millimetre over length would mean "Eenstant demise." Gulp.

    The Dottore is reckoned among the top 10 heart cutters in the *world*, so I am confident, "demise" point notwithstanding.

    Anyway, Mum highly impressed and full of praise and I have emailed details and contact numbers to my demanding and critical brother for whom not only is no one good enough but whatever they propose is almost certainly wrong etc etc.

    On P's side, they pack a battery of medics and advisors to whom he passes details and bios for checking and approving.

    Poor Dr Aroni, MD, FACS, FACC, FCCP - Cornell qualifications notwithstanding: she has been careless enough to hail from Ericousa, thus branding her in bro's eyes as an obvious recipient of nepotism who would never have got near mama were it not for local Corfu pals tipping her the wink.

    Pain in the derrière and time consuming to shout down, but I am comforted to find that everyone else here just rolls their eyes at such grizzlings and dismisses them with a fond and very large doling of salt. Sanity is preserved.

    Back to the subject of repeating oneself, there really should be an accepted 'code' of responses.

    I find myself in the position of being the first audience of Mum's new hospital saga and can hence monitor further tellings.

    My own responses have been along the lines of:

    First hearing - interest and enthusiasm:

  • Wow. Interesting
  • Gosh!
  • How funny/awful/dramatic/frightening

    Second hearing - wary but still polite:

  • Yes indeed
  • So you said
  • I remember it well

    Third hearing - beginning to wane:

  • "Yes indeed - this if I'm not mistaken is the one where ... [swift summary]
  • Vigorous nod. "And I like the bit where ... [swift summary]

    Fourth Hearing - leetle impatient, flicker of testiness:

  • Curt nod, eyes averted lest eye-contact inspire wordiness.
  • Gaze silently into drink.

    Further tellings: Rise, pat pockets for baccy and lighter and, with charming smile, explain that this particular telling is too familiar to risk causing offence by my reaction.

  • Water on Stone

    Wake gasping from nightmare of being grilled by my housemaster, 'correct' answers to which will free me early from my prison d'acadème.

    Even in my semi-wakefulness, I am panicked that I woke too early and my incomplete answers will keep me classroom'd for the full duration.

    Later that day I randomly pluck from the bookshelves John le Carré's 1979 Smiley's People, handed to me for review the day before I flew out for that summer's holiday:

    "This latest novel is slower and more relentless than anything he has done before. The complexities are extreme ... fascinating and absorbing though it nearly all is, "Smiley's" is not quite the brilliant success it promises to be ... almost certainly, a less self-indulgent writer would have lost a hundred pages on the way. Mr le Carré loves minutiae, handles them wonderfully, but enough is enough."

    Lawks, blush, cringe. One has to be very young and very much more self-indulgent than the aforesaid brilliant Mr le C to trot out that rubbish.

    But that's not my drift: I came across this on page 12, capturing totally the English private school experience:

    "With bitter experience he had learned the other lessons of interrogation, too. A part of him was rehearsing them at this minute, and they appeared to him now as bright as yesterday and as vital:

    Never to match rudeness with rudeness, never to be provoked, never to score, never to be witty or superior or intellectual, never to be deflected by fury, or despair, or the surge of sudden hope that an occasional question might arouse.

    To match dullness with dullness and routine with routine, and only deep, deep down to preserve the two secrets that made all these humiliations bearable: his hatred of them; and his hope that one day, after endless drops of water on the stone, he would wear them down, and by a reluctant miracle of their own elephantine processes, obtain from them the freedom they were denying him.

    And later on page 79 - and I *never* scribble in books - the underlined passage,

    "We men who cook for ourselves are half-creatures ... Anywhere else in the house - even in bed - you can cut yourself off, read your books, deceive yourself that solitude is best. But in the kitchen the signs of incompleteness are too strident."

    In the margin, "Me" and, inexplicably, my signature initials.

    07 May 2006

    Silly Name Change

    Since my working days are spent devising schemes NOT to go down to the woods today, I thought the blog name might as well reflect my daily fears.

    Awful unwieldy name, Botanopobe, but at least it should deter casual visitors.

    I was thinking that any surfing idiot could be thinking of visiting the Phaeacians' Isle, key in my old blog name, and there I'd be, nestling at a healthy #1004 in the charts.

    What I'm not sure about is if "-phobe" also conveys vigorous dislike as *well* as nerviness over being trapped into getting down and dirty with la vie botanica.

    Not to be *too* rude - having enjoyed five whole jardin-free days - I've gone green for the title.

    06 May 2006

    Sam the Sham

    Total fake. Don't know how Sam thinks he'll pull the wool over Mum's eyes.

    So we're drifting around the garden, checking for entwined couples and other flotsam, and Sam suddenly stops and shoves his conk down a growth and goes into this big savouring number as if he knew any more about parfums de fleures than I do.

    I snapped him all the same so Mum can have a good laff when she gets back.


    Maternal Returnal

    Confirmation from Athens that me mum is coming back today, so frantic dusting of nooks and crannies and disappearings of absinthe and bongs.

    Out, too, the strays and hangers-on ("Anyone seen that Fifi? No, the red-head's Petronella.").

    Haven't been out into the wotsit since mater left, so Sam and I did a quick recce to check it was still full of all those purpley and red thingies.pond

    Pond: Green liquidy pool at the lower level, goldfish flitting about.

    Sam seems to think it potable coz he gulped away. (Memo to self: Check S's water bowl. Better still, check if he even *has* one)

    Well, we know what a certain anti-jardinier's next chore will be. Aye, lick pond clean, replace poissons, tidy those bambooey shoots.

    view up

    Nice view to right looking up to the Christine Wing.

    More purpley plants.
    view upVIEW: Tangly greeny bushy vista. Probably terribly impressive to the jade-fingered.

    I snapped it for the red fleures on the bush but they didn't come out too bright. Another reason to drop botany: can't even show off. Posted by Picasa

    sam at sunset


    Richard sends me captivating snap of *his* faithful.

    I try to save-as and all the tricks but am defeated so can't share.

    We are both owned by dogs named Sam.

    Shrinking world syndrome.

    It's age.

    I read this man's mails and blogs and disturbingly good poems and wonder how we let the good guys slip by.

    Worked together, stalked the corridors of power ensemble; even sat oppposite as R conducted firmly effective confab-calls with bright vociferous colleagues on the sub.

    Could've perhaps taken time to share a curry or snatched tea and delved behind the work personna but no ... had to wait til I'm safely distant across continents.



    One of those dream put-downs one dreams of.

    Home after picnic, need cigs, buy, spot pals in restaurant, join.

    They're finishing, carrying the party on in their hotel room.

    Gale who i fancy needs cigs and sort of would like a bottle of wine. But they haven't the dosh.

    I say me neither but hey let's just get one on the slate, on me.

    Some dullard swathed in bling and wearing shades at midnight tells me, "It ain't gonna happen."

    I give him my "look". Vino, cigs? Bagatelle.

    "It ain't gonna happen, dude."

    I can't stand English cruds borrowing American, like I ^5'd my US buds but refuse to engage in it here.

    I catch the waiter's eye. In Greek, bottle of red, Marlboro cigs; dammit, make that 2." (And a brace of geese de mong)

    Oh, and I can't pay.

    Waiter shakes head but says he'll fetch da boss.

    Mister Bling: "What I say, won't happen."

    Tryphon emerges from his receipt of custom,

    "Kristos! I had no idea ....".

    Shake of hands. Rasp of cheek.

    "I just stopped by ... some friends ... if you could see your way to ..."

    Jerk of head to minion, inimitable Greek short-hand gesture to signify "Carte blanche" and T is gone.

    In fact, that Greek gesture speaks more along the lines of "I shouldn't even have to've been *asked* to OK such a trivial matter as signing over my business, my Mercedes, my wife, *your* virgin sister, to this valued friend ... be man!".

    Bouteille and cigs are produced, which I make a big point of handing to my lady.

    Bling berk doesn't bat an eyelid.

    "So why don't you do it for *me*?"

    From his perch, Tryphon leans out,

    "Because he no in fucking drag! (sic) Now go!"

    Lady under her breath as we hug g'night, "Replay to repay."

    I *try* to walk out like a winner, but is an oldie's stumble.

    05 May 2006

    Devil's in the Alley

    All this bucolic scene lacks is a .wav file of Roberto pumping Mississippi from the car stereo.

    Mule is *not* in his stall because I saw him trog by not a half hour back, black-clad hag on his back. Gave me suspicious look and I waved and tugged forelock and addressed in suitably respectful tones, "Good day, grandma. Have you eaten yet?"

    Probably the depth of rude nosiness to inquire after her tiffin but one greets people like that in Cantonese so I thought I'd try it.

    Lucky she didn't come back with a gummy,

    "Funny you mention that, because no, and I see you have there a goodly loaf and tin of sardines and - goodness - is that a flagon of ruby red wine there? Don't mind if I do.

    Not to mention a cackled,

    "And that wouldn't be the latest gossip on those young royals? Oh, do let's see .... "

    Is it just me, but are we getting just a tad tired of miss Keira Knightley, bless her pouting beauté and cut-glass accent? There were these mags in the glove compartment so I got them out for luncheon reading.

    I gather she's terribly nice and Johnny (Depp to you) speaks well of her but ....

    I'm probably just jealous that I've not been signed up for the John Prescott course of how to get over an excess of KK.

    "Been in Keira Knightley a da-a-y too long". Has a certain ring to it.

    Has earth anything to show more fair than a sunny day, glistening sea, sun burning down, and Mr Dylan growling in the background?

    God his voice is cool these days. Can one have an op to get that growl? Or do I just keep taking the Karelia til I get to croon thru a hole in my neck?

    Sparrow Hawk - don't you hate it when you read something that really *does* interest you and then you need to retrieve it in conversation and it's gone?

    In the past 2 days I read something about sparrow hawks, along the lines of:

  • Our earth-bound types can take in 80 "events" or sights per second while sparrow hawks take in 200, whatever that means.

    What it *does* mean is that what seems to us as miraculous speed and snatching of their prey is to them like a slow-mo plucking from the air of a hapless meal in leisurely flight. Well, not leisurely: the bird must be beating its wings like mad, but the hawk strikes in its good time. Apond would know *all* about it and probably has shots of the moment of striking.

  • Their bones are hollow, enabling their amazing manuevers.
  • They can spot a 2mm creature on the ground from some ridiculous height.

    I mention this because I fell into conversation with a passing hawker and his bird (on the wing) and lure and all those jessops and bells they bling up with.

    Damn'd good english, presumably from his time teaching some sultan how to do his desert thing.

    So there I was making informed conversation and I couldnt remember a damn'd thing I'd read.

    My father could read en passant an article in a magazine and recall it days later. I once brought out some book trade mags and he'd picked one up and then a few nights later a topic came up on which I spouted with my usual flimsy grasp of the fact, to which dad said "but surely, etc etc", quoting numbers. Amazed, I asked how on earth he knew that, to which he replied that, "well, it was in one of the The Booksellers you brought out. Don't you read these things?" Red face.

    I knew that his reports and memos were held up as models of conciseness but his old secretary told me once that his dictation technique was astonishing. He'd glance over a document, make one or two notes in the margin and then dictate - sans retraction - his measured message. No uming or ahhing, no going back - and these documents stood the scrutiny of time, including every single necessary fact and not one superfluity.

    biere n bookJOB - Dept of How Sad Is That? I brought out a notebook to doddle in and record my thoughts and just noticed it is my "Job" hunting notebook from when I was groveling for work back in Seattle. Every name and contact number and employment-clinching detail ... all to naught.

    But as I read some of the entries I live again that hope that springs as you write it down:

    "Right. See you Wednesday at 9. Yes, I'll email you my resumé and bring examples. Looking forward to that. Yes, it does sound hopeful, I'm so glad we had this chat. See you then."

    All duds and disappointments, enshrined there.

    Even more poignant, the personal stuff, such as one of the girls calling to fix a date and I've jotted down, "G - 10:30 ferry. Book Madoka. Get Craig book to surprise her?" or "A - sleepover with R but will see me pm. Check movies/DVDs. Clean apartment, hide cigs/hypodermics/French maid costume, etc".

    "Bank: ask about debt re-arrangement. Talk to Citibank ref cc payment.

    Rent: try for end of the week."

    All terribly sad in their utter banality.

    And now, cruising the countryside, good music, sun and sea, food, no rent.

    Oy, Alfie! What's it all abaht, then?

  • coastal roads

    Coast Roads

    Bored waiting for the phone and news of mater in her plush Athenian clinic. If she really does intend to fly back tonight, we had better get our skates on because all flights will be full with weekend returners.

    But I tell you, that gal is popular: the phone has been ringing non-stop since she left for the tests, well-wishers wishing news.

    Escape route: I notice that the fridge is stocked with exactly what I need for a good picnic so I gather victuals, vino and CDs and set out to trace some of those coastal roads that intrigued me as we came into land.

    Also, I need to stay clear of Gouvia because I have a horrible feeling that the streets will be lined with idiot tourists in sombreros drinking Cuervo and celebrating Cinco de Mayo. I desperately do not want to have to kill someone to keep these Ionian shores pure and free for sunset towels and miniature shaped bottles of the sacred ouzo.

    I also need to get away from CNN's insidious hold on me. I had all the news and TV back on Bainbridge. The rest of my life will be spent in meditation and purging the images of Dr Phil, Oprah, The Donald and, of course, those duchesses of diletante, messrs Couric and Lauer.


  • So Blair's taking a beating in the local elections - good. There's something inherently flakey about that man, besides which his wife has an extroadinary mouth that invites fantasies not suitable for a family blog.

    The Brits I've talked to here seem to be voting BNP and they're not by any means racists or hard core thugs. There's clearly a backlash in the country against the appalling multi-cultured inclusive drippy liberalism that's sapped the national character.

    The Independent is good on the BNP bit.

    Appalled to see that fat turd Prescott and his scurvy team are to be "trained" in correct screwing techniques when getting one's leg over the diary secretary.

    This sort of nonsense should stay over in America where it was invented and where such ridiculous gullibility has a natural home.

    Wasn't it Michael Douglas who ditched his wife of 20+ years to go off with the delectable Zeta-Jones and pleaded sex addiction. OK - so some guys can - and do - pull every chick they look at and have a great time. I know a lot of folks closer to home who'd like that talent but we don't go round needing training or giving it fancy names.

    Much more important - maybe even topping Iran - is David Blaine's latest crazy stunt to play goldfish and then hold his breath and then ... but oh my lord, his hands ... they're like plankton. It'll be months before any woman lets him fondle her. Bad move there, Davy.

    As I drive, I alternate between Dylan CDs and the local Greek radio. In fact, I almost went over a cliff thanks to 'Nashville Skyline'.

    I'm one of those dangerous fools who fiddle with music and lighters and radio dials while negotiating narrow roads with people like me coming in the opposite direction. I'd got bored with NS and ejected it and chucked it on the passenger seat (which should by rights be occupied by some shapely hitchiker but I suspect they're all down Gouvia strutting their stuff in the Pancho Villa wet T-shirt contest.) Anyway, I slung the CD on the passenger seat and was fumbling Dire Straits out of the jewel case and trying to find the slot, when I went round a corner and the Dylan caught the sun and totally blinded me with its reflection. Left spots in my eyes even as bikes and trucks whizzed past. Hell.

    Speaking of the saintèd Dylan, what's with this Theme Time Radio DJ stuff I'm reading? I'd LOVE to hear Dylan rumbling and rasping on about music.

    I must consult walking Zimmerman expert Wells-sahib on the matter.

    OK - laptop batteries waning and there's good vino to sink and feta cheese and salad to toss and chunky bread to munch and viandes and dips.

    Maybe when I get back, mum'll've called and we'll have a time and ticket as to when Olympic Airways delivering that precious lady back home.

  • Smart-ass Vocab

    The cool vocab one first gens up on is never what you actually need.

    The right headlight on the hotrod has gone and altho the mechanic at the garage showed me how to rub the connection to get it going again, it works in daylight and then funks out at night.

    You would NOT believe the delight with which the locals honk and gesture and shout and pout.

    I started out with my own stumbling apols and rueful gestures - you know, the standard one with which one succinctly signals

    "I know. The right headlight is out. The bloke showed me how to rub the fuse but it keeps going out so I'm *terribly* sorry to panic you with my imitation of a uni-bulbed motorcyle. I *am* having it seen to ..."

    Alanna has equipped me with the right jargon.

    Loosely translated from the fluent demotic :

    I know, I know !!Duu de! Like you're the first to tell me? (gestures)

    I'm taking it to the dealer tomorrow but what can you do? These Nissans, yeh?

    God bless me with a lottery win so i can pimp up to something decent like you're driving. Whoa! Them be wheels; know what I mean?"

    Friendly wave back. "Hey, no problem. Yeh, I almost bought one those but then the pa-in-law sold a stremata of marsh land to some stoopid English creep and I got me this beast. Hey, take care."

    "LOL. Those asshole Brits'll buy anything. Cruise on, mate."

    Even got pulled over by the fuzz.

    Different vocab:

    "Yes honourable inspector law-enforcer - I am aware that I'm driving dangerous like this and you are right to stop me.

    Let me pop the hood and ask your advice ... see, i rub here and-"


    "Well, I'm on an american one for now"

    "Ameriki? Which part?"


    I want to visit America

    It's great.

    Who told you to rub the fuses that way? Here, this is what you need do as a temporary measure

    There's a mechanic at the Kondokoli Shell, a fine mechanic

    Spiros? He's a fool. In fact he's such a fool he married my sister. OK, sir - drive on, but get it fixed.

    Thanks v much, Inspector. Good night

    It don't get no greener:I can't *stand* the way folks behind moi honk a nano-second after the lights go green.

    Aussie pal in Hong Kong used to get out and give a friendly wave and look at his rear end and then shrug and ask, "Thanks, mate, but what was the problem?"

    Of course, Tony could get away with it: built like a brick shithouse, nose flattened from taking a few mae-geris on the way to collecting a shotokan bronze at the Asian Olympics.

    But I've got it ready in my verbal knapsack:

    Efaristo poli! What's my problem? What? You were honking because the light went green? How long did you give me?

    Yeh right mate, about as long as it takes you to get it off with your fancy lady. beg pardon, missus - this your husband, is it? Impatient little cove, inne? Same to you, fellah - but this geezer honked when the lights had barely changed. Yeh, don't you just hate that? Wossat? Athenian plates? Hadnt noticed that. Yeh, total wankers. They should stick to their holidays on the Italian costa and leave decent Corfiots like you to drive in peace.

    Blimey, we've already wasted 10 mins as it is. Well, ta ra, I'll leave you two to sort it out."

    Plurality: Down to the kiosk t'other night to buy 2 packs of Karelia cigs.

    Realised I wasnt sure of how to ask for two packets.

    Remembered a tip from the great and late John Blackwell, editorial director of Secker & Warburg and our best man when I ringed the finger of the ex Mrs Busker, mother of my divine daughters and the only woman I'll ever love.

    Chap goes into a shop to buy a brace of mongoose/gooses/geese. Realises he's not 100% sure what the plural is so he asks, "Good day, my stout fellow. Give me a mongoose. (Pause) Dammit, make it two."

    I get to the kiosk. Usual greetings. Pack of Karelia, please. Oh what the hell, give me another (which I can say).

    04 May 2006

    Callous Callas

    They surface in the end. Those deep dark memories of shame.

    The house probably has hi-fi worth more than the car and cottage thrown in.

    I'm listening from one end of the house to Maria Callas soaring from Wharfedale speakers the size of radiators pumped from Magnavox/Ferrograph/Vortexion equipment.

    The Diva of divas sounds as if she's singing right here, personal recital just down the corridor.

    No idea what she's singing from: my bro sent mum a rip of a "Gallimaufrey of Callas" (spelling?).

    I am reminded of my hated school days. Hated.

  • Hated being across the other side of the world from home
  • Hated the beatings
  • Hasted and feared the 6-days-a-week compulsory thumping on the games field, wimp.
  • Hated being skinny
  • Hated how Mr Peters always took after-games showers and stroked our backs.

    Hated the sadist prefects who had it in their power to cane sans needing permission. (Thank god i wasn't a *pretty* junior like Ellison or Taylor.

  • Hated the teachers' sarcasm and the way the headmaster was so unctuous to our mothers and so mean when Exeat Sunday was over.

    I was Exhibit A crud weed spaz crybaby.

    MARIA: My housemaster at my second school was a Callas fan and we'd hear him playing her as we did prep.

    Perfectly nice codger but spineless and never questioned the prefects' punishment rosta.

    Tipping point came (thank you Mr Gladwell) when a little combo I put together - me on rhythm nylon string guitar, Dyer-Smith on acoustic bass, Dupe on steel string lead and Bastard (yes, his name) on very cool bongos. Now *there* was a pretty boy.

    We entered Yellow Bird in the open ensemble class, versus all the string quartets and piano duets etc - and we won.

  • The big cheese adjudicator judge up from London reckoned we were the best.

    He even mentioned my "firm command of the situation" which was reference to my re-starting us.

    We sat and I whispered encouragement and I waited for Dupe to count us in so we could all start with that big chord and bongo roll - and the blood fool just started on his own.

    "No no no," I said. "Come on Dupe. As we've rehearsed a thousand times, you count us in." I peered into the lights in the direction of the judge and said, "Do excuse us." Titter of laughter from the assembled school.

    We were superb. Really. Not a note out of place and not speeding up out of nerves.

    When we did that final C to B flat and back to C and ran the glissando  down to the bass BASS note, I knew we had performed it perfectly. Possibly more perfectly than it had ever been played before.

    "That's it," I muttered sotto voce  to the lads.

    "That. Is. It."

    And we walked off the stage to our seats, tumultuous cheers.

    When the result were announced, Big Cheese adjudicator said,

    "And the winner of the ensemble ... as the leader so rightly put it, 'That's it.'

    Eagle House for their rendering of the very charming and deceptively simple 'Yellow Bird'. And my admiration to them for having the presence of mind to start again. We all make mistakes and it takes courage to wipe the slate.

    Eagle House. Messrs Dupe, Bastard  - and I hope I pronounced that right - Dyer-Smith, and last but not least, their quietly assured captain and, I suspect, brains behind the operation, Master Holmes."


    Dyer-Smith: captain of rugger, captain hockey; school colours in boxing, judo and every other brutal sport on the curriculum. Five foot five of squat muscle, who only took up the guitar to pull the chicks. Someone who normally gave weeds like me narry a second glance. He leaned over and pumped my hand.

    "Holmesy! - Brilliant! You did it. You f****** did it. F****** hell, man! You did it!

    (Crooned) 'House colours for Ho-o-lmesee, house colours for Holmeseee.' "

    Alas for the school admin, triumphs in school comps carry honours such as 'colours' and a flash tie to wear that sets you apart from the ... well, jerks like me.

    Didn't matter to Dyer-Smith who had so many ties he could wear a different one for each day of the miserable week we were locked there, but for the rest of us it was one in the eye for The Man.

    That night in the dorm, our house master came up and, eyes blazing with insincerity, congratulated us.

    Next morning in Mr Holloway's Geography class - a nasty red-faced man - he actually started the class with a pointed reference to how ridiculous and misguided had been the verdict and that it was a disgrace that we had been awarded first prize.

    I got up, gathered my books and started to walk out.

    "And where do you think you're going, boy?!! Sit DOWN this instant."

    "I'm going to the head's study to await my beating for leaving this way. Then I'm writing a letter to our distinguished judge, thanking him for giving up his time to travel down here to judge and apologising for the dismissive attitude of the school."

    "Sit down this instant."

    "Good morning, sir. You know where to find me."

    I was beaten and made to deliver a written apology to the asinine Holloway. My housemaster was totally feeble and took the side of his colleague, even tho' we'd brought honour and valuable points to the inter-house scores.

    Something clearly snapped because I set about concocting a delicious repast of revenge for which, no thanks to being cooped up there for the next few years, I had all the time in the world to execute.

    Sometimes he locked his study, sometimes he didn't. There was constant traffic of boys leaving work for him to correct or permissions for him to sign to go out, come back, sneeze, breathe, jerk off, screw the village girls who worked in the kitchen; myriad stuff.

    We'd sometimes have study sessions there, so I knew where stuff was: his vinyl discs, fine books, alabaster figurines, photos.

    I'd taken to missing chapel - inconceivable hence rarely monitored, rather like lesbianism never joining male homosexuality in being outlawed in England because Queen Victoria refused to believe that women did too.

    I'd lurk somewhere and then emerge to a wonderful emptiness and just the sound of the assembled school singing or praying in the handsome chapel.

    With my Hong Kong-made burglar's torch emitting a pencil thin beam, I'd sneak down to Il Maestro's study and pull out a Callas and key it; or I'd break one over my knee and replace it; or take a book and rip some pages out; trample on a photo; empty the Quink bottle into his Underwood typewriter.

    In one inspired moment, I entered with a spool of thread, attached it to a porcelain figure and typewriter and other objets lourds which I balanced at the very edge of the shelves and then trailed the nylon out thru the ¼" gap in the half-locked window and along the grass and into my own study, which I shared with Braithwaite, an other-worldly swot who lived in his own world of calculus, Homer and brewing up stinky concoctions on the bunsen burner.

    Teacher: "Er, do we have the privilege of your attention, Braithwaite?"

    "With you in a jiffy, sir. Just need to distil this mezereon so it keeps its viscosity."

    "Well, you'll be the first to do so-"

    (Head down, sans looking up) "Just needs keeping at 80°, sir."

    "Hrrmph. Very well. The rest of you turn to page 83 in your Turner and Lyle.

    B: misprint in para 2, sir.


    (Still not looking up.) Para 2, sir. The formula's wrong. It should be 4 not 8."

    "Aaahh .. quite so. Page 83, everyone, and correct - neatly now - the 8 to a 4. Thank you, Braithwaite."

    Good man to share a study with.

    "You're a bloody fool, Holmes." (nose in math book)

    "Shut your cake trap, Braithers."

    "Still a bloody fool."

    "OK, what've you got for the Latin prep?"

    "What've you got?" Scribbling formula.

    "I can't get what Alcinous is saying; doesn't make sense:

    "Gaze on ... because ... something about a rope ... tie up your troubles in your old kit bag? ... Tie your money together? Because, let me tell you, this whole thing will end in tears ... can't be that."

    B: Sigh

    "Yet, lo - at such a moment your heart prompts you to seek the tale of my dismal fortunes, whose telling will wring from me yet deeper tears."


    Still a bloody fool.

    I'd hear the housemaster come down with his loud click-clack shoes and just when I calculated he was in ear-shot of his study, I pull on the thread and hear the eminently satisfying tinkle of breaking china and general destruction.

    The thread would then be pulled clear and in thru my window and tucked away.

    House master would enter to apparently locked window and scene of devastation.

    We had enquiries and grillings and threats and pleadings and even the fuzz at one point.

    The trick is to remember what you don't know and stick to that ignorance.

    The cop asked us "So what do you think about the records?" (about which we'd never been told). Good old Dyer-Smith thought he was talking about *atheletic* records, of which he'd broken a few, so he'd preen modestly and say it was just luck and a good wind behind him. I interpreted it as archives and said I didn't realise Mr Alban kept the school records in his study but that they were jolly useful if anyone came to update the history of our hallowed seat of learning.

    And now I'm listening to Maria singing her heart out and just loving it and thinking what a terrible thing to do to the old fart: gingerly removing the sacred disc only to see it cracked in twain or horrendously mutilated.

    Pure vicious uncalled-for act of hooliganism of a lonely boy lashing out at a world he neither understood nor wanted a part of.