29 August 2006



Random snaps from my guitar life out here.

I'd had this TEAC setup in mothballs since several past rockabilly avatars and had always intended to sell it.

Now I don't care what sort of fool I make of myself.Mireille

This total honey, Mireille, had been wandering around serving drinks and behaving like a waitress.

When the music started, she produced this horn and blew like Sonny Rollins' daughter.

Instead of being snooty, as would have befitted anyone wailing that well, she did the job and got on with partaying.

When I wake, I swim, then I plunk.

This shot sort of catches the moment.

I've had so many queries about Mireille that, with her permission, I post more pics below.

28 August 2006



Merveilleuse miraculeuse Mireille

I thought she was just one of the guests, floating around being friendly, serving drinks, finding ashtrays.

Then when the music started she grabbed her horn and started blowing.

Lovely sound, circular breathing, those scraped notes a la Johnny Hodges.
Even took time to give a master class to the kids.

A bunch of them sang the latest French and Greek songs and M played along, weaving in n out the harmonies and just making magic.
Great solos.

Total focus and you could tell she was Juilliard or wherever by the way she grabbed the tune and worked the heck out of the chords without losing the composer's intention.

She'd take the singers' last phrase and wail with it.

funWhat transformed her act and made her the belle of the ball was that she had fun ...

Here in Greece, we're not so liberal with our ogles and compliments as back in good old male cochon USA where one comes right out and fancies a bird.

If we *were*, I'd come out and admire that lush curve of the derriere and all-round smashing figure. Ahem.

California Guy

Actually, I once did wish I all could be a California guy, and thanks to Blogging Barman for tapping that madeleine memory.

Autumn '64, fresh out of 10 years of private schooling:

  • Floppy locks
  • Taut abs
  • Killer chops on a cutaway Gretsch thanks to close listening to Hank B. Marvin.

    What I didn't have was the body of Antoinette Whitcomb.

    That belonged to granite-jawed, Baltimore-born crew cut Jeffie Jefferds, he of cobalt laughing eyes and that slightly foolish hanging of the nether lip that had the chicks subsiding 'neath his brawny shoulders, lithe limbs asplay.

    I remember the moment: Jacqui Fischel had hinted that she'd wear my bracelet but the moment I walked in the club I knew I was sunk.

    Jan 'n' Dean on the juke mocking me about Surf City ("Two girls for every boyyyy"), my best mate Richard avoiding my eye ... as over by the mats, Troy Donahue-lookalike Jeff dancing groin-close with la Jacqueline.

    And Barkeep Tebster nails me bang to rights on the lie I told about brother Pete: Of course it wasn't his first visit to the States.

    He's been thrice round the world:

  • Food & bev manager for various Hyatts in US and Manila
  • Chevalier de Tastevin
  • Professional chef par excellence
  • Yadda yadda

    More to the point, I posted that tipster piece yonks ago but have only now  and only now been alerted to the comments thanks to Tebby's excellent contribution. And I now see a number of other equally helpful comments I missed at the time.

    How many others do I miss, I wonder?

  • 21 August 2006

    Anybody can become angry

    You have to have wasted a weedy life-time's impotent anger to grasp the beauty and common sense of Chip Gibbons' Quote Du Jour for Aug 19.

    "Anybody can become angry - that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy."

    — Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

    Chip's cleverly-titled and consistently common-sensical and topical Binary Circumstance blog is a joy and education to read.

    There are many people I left on Bainbridge whom I'd have liked to have known better.

    Mostly hail-fellow-well-met types I could meet in the Safeway queues and suggest a cleansing latte down at Bagels.

    Kyrios Gibbons would have been a more difficult and time-staking quarry to stalk but it would have been worth putting in the time to draw out the wit and anecdotes:

  • Stalking him in the video store as he added to his polyglottal stops, checking out that DVD on learning Urdu
  • Cadging another ride to some mayoral candidate's posh waterfront do.
  • I know my fieldcraft.

    Seriously, I may have swapped the chilly waters of Puget Sound for the azure Ionian but I remember chances missed and potential friendships left strangled.

  • Günther Grass

    The author of 'The Tin Drum' outed for being a member of the Waffen SS.

    If I was an idealistic German, that might be a deal but I met him simply as a Secker & Warburg author whose "The Flounder" it was my job to promote.

    I'd heard of but read nothing of his and I admit to being taken aback at the reverence and interest from the media in lionising him.

    Two memories lodge in mind:

    One of Grass's visits to London coincided with his being awarded the Schlegel-Tieck prize at the heavily fortified German embassy.

    I collected him from his hotel - GG looking his usual walrus-tached, corduroy jacketed, shambly self, and me my usual suited and tied facsimile of a PR smoothie hack.

    The warm-up was the usual teutonic bowing and heel clicking until Günther sidled up and grumbled about needing a smoke. I suggested we take the air because I too fancied a puff.

    Out we went sans demur from security and G fiddled with his usual scruffy roll-up and we puffed in silence til it came to return to the party when we found ourselves locked out and unable to convince the very cockney doorman that an essential element of the upstairs festivities was there before him. Nor did he speak German and GG seemed secretly pleased not to try too hard. I on the other hand was panicking at the next day's headlines.

    There then followed pure farce when a suited gent passed by to whom I called out "Are you in the party upstairs?" Yes, he was and it was indeed for Gunther Grass and no the gent with me could not be Herr Grass because the great man was upstairs receiving a distinguished prize at which point GG butted in and there was a short exchange followed by flustered bowing and escorting in and up to the room just as madame chairman announced that year's winner. It reads flatly but I tell you it was dramatic at the time.

    PR's Dream: Every press officer's dream is to stick it to the all-powerful media. Of course we don't because we need them too much for the next book and the next book.

    But there was this one producer of a powerful TV current affairs prog who'd really been getting my goat.

    In fact, I'd actually been in the studio once with an author when another PR officer phoned thru.

    "Tell her I'll give her my decision on Tuesday. I don't care if it's too late - they need us more than we need them."

    "'Them' being us weedy book hacks," I enquired meekly, "and 'us' being you shot-calling powerful TV types." He gave me a 'look'.

    So over comes Grass to attend an exhibition of his etchings and up phones Mr Us and Them TV honcho with oily request to have him on the show.

    "He's here to promote his exhibition, and nothing else."

    "That's what we want to talk about."

    "Come off it, Panorama doing an etchings exhibition? Who've you got for the interview?"

    "Ludovic Kennedy."

    "Yer joking. Forget it. It'll be 'Welcome Gunther Grass, over here for an exhibition of etchings at a gallery whose name I forget. Now, Herr Grass, you leave a Germany in some turmoil over the latest reports of Willy Brandt etc etc.'"

    I was assured not and greed got the better of me, with a proviso: one hint of politics and I took Grass out, there and then.

    Absolutely old boy.

    Even Grass was sceptical when I told him the good news of Panorama covering his exhibit. No worries, I told him, I have the producer's assurance and I've faxed him confirmation of our agreement.

    "One hint of politics and I myself shall beckon you out."

    Grass was cutting into a dinner to do the show so I was warned that I had better have got it right.

    We arrived, I introduced GG to the slimey producer, much bowing and scraping as I once again asked for assurance that no politics would be raised. None whatsoever, old boy.

    Forty-five seconds into the interview, Ludo turned to the topic of Brandt and I left the control panel, went down to the stage floor and told a thunder-browed Grass that we were out of there.

    Pandemonium, particularly since the interviewer had been told nothing about the agreement. Shouts and threats from the producer as I led Grass away, the last author they'd do of ours, and he'd be phoning my managing director to have me fired as an incompetent and a liar.

    Big deal.

    Couple of months later, a book called 'All the President's Men' was making a few headlines and Woodstein were coming over to do interviews. Purring phone call, all oozy first names and promises of top billing.

    That was the only time I played the man with the media and God bless Herr Grass for enabling me to show that muscle.

    18 August 2006

    Blogging: "won't take much time."

    Poignant post by Grumpy Old Bookman.

    I don't normally cite GOB because my devotion to his blog is a private part of my earlier life as young turk master of the booky universe, but this time he hits home.

    "Holtzbrinck are inviting authors from all of their tradegroups -- Holt, St. Martin's, Farrar/Straus, Tor, and Picador -- to set up blogs through the company. The invitation notes: 'In terms of effort on the author's part, a successful blog needs to have at least three posts a week, and it only takes a few minutes to post a new message, so it won't take them much time.'

    It was at that point that the air started to change colour.



    That ol' time political correctness

    To another posh party the other night where visiting old fart Brit fogeys were thick on the ground.

    I'd been sounding off about my relief in leaving ultra-correct US of A for the splendid male piggery and everything else about Greece and everyone nodding politely and tutting in unison.

    Later over the cognacs as I took my cigar out to the patio, one of the fartier farts (as I'd surmised) joined me and we stood in silence for a while til he said with a chuckle that, you know, this political correctness wasn't all that new.

    "I remember when Guy Burgess took up his first diplomatic post in Washington. We all knew his reputation for drink and loose behaviour and pretty unashamed homo-sexuality and it fell to me to 'lecture' him on the high standard of moral and social behaviour expected of us Brits.

    The racial situation at the time was also pretty fraught and I hinted that sensibilities of our host nation were not to be offended in this matter.

    Guy heard me out with his usual amused smile and sardonic tolerance and then gave me a charming smile,

    "What you really mean, dear boy, is that I musn't f*** Paul Robeson."

    Pearl one, jam one

    Such beaut pics and evocative write-up by rwells of his Pearl Django al fresco  gig that i had to dig out my set of Stephane and Django and play it full blast over the jardin as i toiled.

    My brother Pete and I both took lessons from the great Emil Bibobi who first introduced us to Django's playing.

    Years later, we got to know Stephane Grappelli thanks to him staying with Pete in his Tuscan hideaway and later visiting my family in Hong Kong where I have pics of him holding and kissing a very young Anna, same name as Steph's mother.

    Pete told me that every time S came to stay and was practising in the other room, he (Pete) would subtly take his guitar and plunk out a Django tune from the Hot Club days. Steph never took the bait, nor did he *ever* refer to Django in conversation and would sidle off topic if it was raised.

    16 August 2006

    American "Highway Code"

    When I crawled ashore in 1984 on an unmarked beach in San Antonio, first thing I asked was for copy of the local Highway Code so I could drive my ma-in-law's vast Chevy. No such thing, I was told.

    Same thing when I took my test again in Bawston Mass so I could mingle with the Hahvard grads round Quincy.

    Can't remember what happened in WA state. I probably just slipped the Paulsbo lady a fiver and that was it.

    But there *is* a sort of page and, for all my pals prepared to bear the new security assault course and head west to make their fortune, it's here.

    Safe driving.

    15 August 2006

    Websites that changed the world

    Uh ohh ... why is it that we Brits ever-so slightly get it wrong when we take on webby matters?

    Sunday rag, the Observer, despatched its 'Net specialist' to "chart the web's remarkable early life and ... tell the story of the 15 most influential sites to date".

    I leave y'all to spot the funny bits and dodgy selections.

    rainy day woman

    Musical Soirée

    To G and P's for a music evening al fresco, except that the heavens decided to gush so we were denied the open-air buffet in their sumptuous grounds and the whole nosh caboosh was moved to the Corfu Palace hotel.

    But the music was divine.

    The shudderingly beautiful Svetlana Smolina played like an angel:

  • Extracts from the Nutcracker
  • Chopin's étude op 25 #11
  • Ginastera's Arentinian Dance

    Maxim Mogilevsky (the guy in white shirt in the pics):

  • Chopin Nocturne op 3 #9 in Si Maj
  • Korsakov's Bumble Bee
  • Stravinsky's Danse Russe from Petrushka (lovely clanging chords, just what we like out here)

    Duet on Samuel Barber's Hesitation Tango from Souvenirs. Hugely enjoyed.

    Singer Marina Theodoropoulo on a selection of Greek songs never before performed in public. Marina is the one in black and white top around the piano; gorgeous lady, studied at York University and sang with Emma Kirkby for whom I actually plunked a few chords at party given by Alisdair Clayre.

    As I say, we were meant to have ended the evening dining in the grounds but it rained so hard that the whole lot was whisked off to a hotel where we scoffed in splendour and then gathered round the piano for songs and hugs and friendship.

    I have no idea who the lady at the joanna is but she rocked.

    I should be tastefully embedding the pics in with this report but I prefer to leave them to be scrolled down and enjoyed full size.

    Gorgeous house; everyone in their finest finery except for the host who was in plain white shirt; everyone utterly relaxed and unphoney.

    Speaking of white shirted host, when we arrived I couldn't make out who he was, what with my mama embracing all and sundry and introducing me in fluent Greek which led them to believe me equally au courant. Anyway, this unassuming bloke asked me what I was drinking, I said whiskey and water so off her trotted and I saw him thru the pantry window fixing it for me, pouring a separate jugette of water, adding ice and bringing it to me. Blow me down if it wasn't mein host lui-même, said to be one of the top 10 richest honchos in Europe.

    Minions scurrying everywhere and he goes off to fix yours truly a mug of hooch.

    Class act

  • svetlana, maxim and our host G

    pianist, marina and svetlana

    svetlana and maxim (right)

    I listened from outside and got this relaxed shot of some fellow audience.

    The guy in the white shirt is some major corruption buster in the Greek police, with a price on his head for defying the mobsters and bringing in the bad guys.

    I asked him where his minders were but he said that *he* was his minders' minder.

    Gentle - and gentlemanly - dude, very quiet and unassuming. Said that he used to play piano but his karate stuff bust his knuckles too much so he'd taken up rock guitar.

    We talked Clapton and Jeff Beck and Fenders and Burns and I gave him that tip about using a skinny *banjo* string for the top E to get that effortless Steve Vai bend.

    He was gracious enough to pretend he hadn't heard it before.

    He didn't know Bill Frisell so I said I'd rip a compo of what he might enjoy.

    Just a wonderful friendly evening.

    Blurred long shot of concert room

    Wish this had come out better: the pool has this bower from which I listened to most of the concert. Just divine, and flunkeys scurrying with refills.

    Look at that heart-felt expression of Marina's as she croons the old songs we all knew and in with which we all joined.

    Lovely shot of Marina enjoying the whole scene.

    Hard to make out, but that's Svetlana at the Steinway with adoring audience.

    11 August 2006

    girls n dad


    Necropsia. What my Greek dictionary gives for Post-mortem.

    Rather appropriate sounding, except it it feels more like ante -mortem - pre-death of the lonesome living yardworking kind.

    4am, 9/11: Speaking of yardwork, apart from that - and driving around for shopping and chores - there isn't much else to do or think on except "the emotion recollected in tranquility". Extreme tranquility, such as a month and five days after everyone has gone. This is the edited version so far, and no doubt it'll be fiddled with further from time to time by way of comfort.

  • My girls gone; my swash-buccaneering engineering gardening cooking flamboyant brother gone
  • All the tables back in place
  • The stacks of cutlery and crockery back in place. At six to table, we were washing up after every meal. Now it's just mater and me, it'll be like every fourth meal that the washer needs running.
  • The exotic drinks back in the larder.
  • The cool music into plastic bags and into storage.
  • The partying is over.

    I had thought to leave it a while, the emotion recollected in tranquillity and all that, but I return to it yet again: the emotion-recollected-in-tranquility recollected in tranquility, so to speak.

    What I physically feared did happen: my girls came and went and shone a blinding light on my brain-dead existence.

    The French have it right - elles me manquent  - not I miss them but they  are a chunk missing out of *me*.

    The house echoes with happy ghosts. Every flip of a flop has me looking round; the tang of sunoil makes me instantly nostalgic; I reach for an album Pete and I enjoyed and reject it as too loud or too weird.

    Yardless in Gaza: what a glorious gardening-free time it was. I ended up driving the girls the short distance to the cottage at the end of each day, thus saving me ever actually walking the garden paths. Respite!

    Speaking of The Cottage, I haven't thought of it one way or another, save as a rather cool hermit's pad at the bottom of the property. But having seen the girls' mess all asprawl, I wish I'd taken a snap of it while they were here.

    I went down to clear up after they'd gone and of course it was full of them: everything neatly folded and swept and put away.

    Sigh - despite having dropped leaden hints to conceal all "evidence", there were still two cig butts by the sink - the Marlboro and a kindly aunt's wafer-thin Stuyvesant - and the two empty packs of Greece-purchased Marlboros for which I have no idea where the Spitfire got the cash.

    Ash on the divan; tell-tale butts behind the Cottage. Naughty me - I'd have joined her for a puff and a slug of whatever she fancied.

    I now realise that everything I've been doing since arriving in Corfu has been in preparation for their arrival.

    All my railings against abominable yardwork have been but a mocking challenge:

  • Death, where is thy strim?
  • Jardinerie, what ho your evil instruments of toil?

    Mastered by all I survey: Now I gaze out over the Ionian landscape and see nothing but horticultural captors with their terrible treadmill of verdancy.

    Greek lessons? Fallen by the wayside. I just can't seem to make the changes from the lickspittle total loser mindset so vital to knuckling down to even a half hour's loam-licked drudgery, and the appearance and self-esteem required to pose as an adult linguist capable of conversation and acquiring one or two new words per week in the language of the country.

    To mount the treadmill of futility that is yardwork is to take on the role of beaten cur, there to be whipped on a daily basis and on the same routine.

    Things undone: there were activities I promised myself I'd do with les filles but which seemed to fall by the wayside.

  • Sit on the Heart-to-Heart bench last thing at night and conspire against the rest of the world.
  • Go into town and cover all the little museums and exhibitions within a radius of Rocco Square, then go off and have ginormous ice creams or milk shakes in a sidestreet cafe and read the junkie US and Brit papers and marvel at what another galaxy it was all happening in.
  • Swing the girls in the dangling bamboo seat that I cleaned specially and brought up from the basement for their stay.
  • Visit beaches and lunch on picnic hampers, then snooze, then play silly games with the lilos and squirt guns.
  • Walk down Gouvia during the witching hour and look into each club to see the patrons whirling and bopping.
  • Go through the photo albums and marvel at their parents (and grandparents) looking so young, gay and effortlessly confident in the future.
  • I'm sure there were more ....
  • 04 August 2006

    Birthday Snaps

    A, view up to San LucaThe Spitfire at bottom garden with house in background
    LMH birthday partyMum's birthday kicks off with bro pouring the bubbly and younger gal showing leg as she preens with her glass of prosecco
    Mes fillesMy gals