28 September 2006

Toll Keen

My booksy antennae wave, my contacts send thru the needful.

Why do I shudder at news of Tolkien's three Great Tales:

  • 'The Children or Hurin', "reconstructed from its 'unfinished state' by Christopher Tolkien, edited together from multiple drafts" (groan retch) grabbed by the Prince of Darkness' Harper UK house. April 2007 release.
  • Nepotistic US rights, to once-classy Houghton Mifflin for same-time US bombardment.
  • 27 September 2006

    "Very special"

    Damn. You just can't tell when tears will spring.

    Very gallant gent:

    "When a rocket-propelled grenade exploded inches from his head during fighting in Iraq, Private Johnson Beharry, mere 24, sustained life-threatening injuries.

    Despite, he saved his buddies by driving his Warrior out of danger before losing consciousness.

    For this, and other gallantry, he's one of only 12 to be awarded the Victoria Cross since the Second World War.

    26 September 2006

    good dog, happy man

    Good Dog, Happy Man

    Actually, rather a good name for an album.

    I was going to head this post, 'Where the weather fits my clothes' or something wimpy.

    Actually, "Actually, rather a good name for an album" *is* rather a good name for an album, provided one is young and spikey haired with a spikey voice and collapsible eyes.
    autumn guitar

    Past one's salad days, the label insists on a "mature" title, "Wilted Salad" or ""Dun-greppin'".

    In fact, reading that back, it *could* read like 'Dung Repping' which is a joyous subtitle for my cubicle memoirs, 'Living Death in the Queues'.

    Ricardo will be on that in a flash, and I can hear rvaux' Yorkshire chuckle from here.

    Damn I miss those goodies.
    What can we do with this foreigner sponger?To muted Kondokoli where the last batch of tourists wander disconsolate and finger cheap belts and vulgar t-shirts.

    I pass 'Mythos' where they call me in for a cognac. No, I'm heading home for lunch.

    Lunch here!

    At your prices?

    For you free. But sit by window so people can see we have customer.

    Yo, we"Endaxi. Kick off with megalo ouzo to whet the appetite for the T-bone and feta salad and carafe of house red, after that Eurydice's pie and lashings of coffee and leave the brandy bottle on the table. Ta muchly.

    Driving with my bro in Italy, who hurls his Merc at breakneck speed and lightning reflexes, I was impressed by his identification of each region's number plate, goading them accordingly.

    I printed out the Greek regs (KY for Kerkira) so me and the girls could play games spotting the damn'd furriners.

    Like the Beach Boys croon, "Don't back down" and the Greeks *don't*, insisting in macho fashion that the *other* driver reverse.

    so when am i to be a grandpa?DIGRESSION: Dad and brother goading feisty daughter/sister: Guv'nor wants to be a grandpa and daughter ain't delivering.

    Hilarious exchange on the question of hubby lacking the needfuls

    Verdict: Below, dad pronounces: Nah, the boy lacks the cojones.nah, i dont reckon he

    Won't translate dutiful daughter's filial reply but it was along the lines that *his* weenie didn't even hit the loo pan.

    Family power.

    Anyway, back to the action:

    Pulling out to pass a delivery wagon, I found myself facing a vulgar SUV with Salonika plates which, to my surprise, refused to budge, the driver leaning out to shout something rude.

    I got out the car - very provocative - and advanced on the bully, but throwing up my hands in mock shock at his reg plate ID.

    "Honoured sir - well-padded lady - many apologies.

    I took you for local. I am reversing immediately. (Crowd emerging from the tavernas) I see your Salonika plates, I know your motors tactfully lack the difficult maneuver of reverse gear. I am reversing in an instant.

    Please, enjoy your visit to our garden isle."

    Eruption of laughter and much cuffing of forearms in dismissive mirth.

    The bit that gets the biggest laff is that "well padded" is a compliment to a woman's plush wardrobe and her man's wealth in keeping her in the latest fashion, BUT it has a double meaning of well bosomed. Also, I suppose, a compliment to the woman *and* her bloke for landing a hottie with a good pair to grab onto in the saddle.

    Anyway, face saved and the other driver waved, the woman blushed prettily and the bystanders guffawed and made rude gestures.

    "Hey, English, where you learn you good Grik? Come for ouzo, bring padded kopella. Oopah!"

    Living la vida loca.

    Man of Constant Borrow

    Chris Howse, good on religiosi, taking on the sainted one.

    25 September 2006


    Peon's Praise

    I am not worthy to cinch my former Bainbridge Islander strumming buddy Bill Frisell's capo d'astro even to the 2nd fret, but I have had some time since leaving Bezoshire to listen to his recordings in some detail and each playing humbles me. Awe comes into it.

    The tab 'genius' is bandied to devaluation but I'm lost for an alternative.

    His tone and understanding of the various guitars he plays is nigh perfect.

    In my humble way, I've acquired a touch or two on the six strings and can pick up a guitar no matter how crappy and find its worth and make it sing.

    Mind you, depending on how crappy it is, a fret either side can land you back in its crapdom, but I've seen owners double take at what i milk from their battered axes.

    Forget technique: Frisell plays the notes, period, leaving us to listen to the chording and timing and tone and just swoon.

    Check out or be dangerously deprived: his renderings of 'Shenandoah' on his stunning East/West live album and the studio Good Dog, Happy Man.

    Fluting Fauntleroyal accents seems to have some play here because I've got a gig down Taki's taverna, DJ'ing some of my Ionian Isle discs, now and then stepping down to thrum a ditty or two on the Ovation before passing it round to anyone in the audience who fancies 'emselves as a 5-chorder.

    Petra-fied: I thought I knew a bit about self-effacing virtuoso accompaniment.

    Frisell backs Petra Haden (daughter of noble contrebassiste Charlie) in the definitive performance.

    Hark to 'Yellow', hark to BF's solo on 'John Henry'.

    I could order 50 from Amazon and sell them at thrice price and be re-ordering within the weekend.

    Producer: I'm meeting a few local producers and bringing in local anglais talent in the unlikley case there's any mileage there for some Corfu-based album to be flogged round the bars and at the aiport and other sad scenarios.

    I play them my Frisell and they make 'poh poh' Greek gestures and shake their Greek locks at Lee Townsend's sheer mastery of the art.

    We can reel back aghast at the Frisell sound coming over the Wharfedales or thru the cans but it's unsung maestros like Lee T who deliver the actual goods. Tucker Martine another with the lovely Laura Veirs.

    Sales sans frontières : Honest idiot that I am, when I left Seattle I cut my ties with the lovely folks who sent me review albums.

    Doh! I get mails from Paxos to Piccadilly Circus, Tegucigalpa to Tenerife:

    "Yo, Chris - wha' happened? You turned me onto the amazing Bill Frisell. I wait to read your judgements of new ones but nothing comes.

    I buy it anyway, but what do *you* think."

    Ah, my darlings, I'm too busy chomping on lotuses and being happy man with good dog.

    23 September 2006

    crocus, apparently

    Yellow Flower

    My sketching mum suddenly excited about some fleure jaune that has sprouted and scampers to get her watercolours and sketchbook.

    I get my camera and click.
    the mighty crocus

    No idea what it's called but the yellow is so intense that I don't think the repro does it justice.

    Good exercise for the creaky bones getting down in the lower flower bed to snap.

    This shot seems boringly similar to the first one.

    crocusTried a gimmicky shot from above but I don't think it really comes off.

    21 September 2006

    Shucks darn gee whizz

    Waal pard'ner ... etc.

    Funny old world, or rather it isn't. It's a defiantly pompous - nay, blimpish - one from what I hear and see from my vantage point in my Tooloee 12x12 treehouse 16 feet up in the olive grove.

    Maybe I'm missing something, but whenever I'm in company of someone who's actually *lived* in a country down in which I've touched for mere days, and that in the air-conditioned conference room of the Ramada Renaissance, I tend to hold back on swingeing pronouncements and bad imitations of the native accents.

    But here I am staggering back from another swarayy among the local great and good, ladies and gents of the utmost sophistication and manners, euro-linguists of the finest BUT limited in their acquaintance with our brethren across t'Pond.

    My curio value has at last dwindled so I'm no longer trotting out the potted autobio wherein I own up to having spent the last 20 years in the land of the free and yes I suppose it IS odd that I still have my original accent, and so forth.

    But somewhere around the 3rd John Wayne accent and patronising quotes from Greene's Ugly American, I slip in the modestest self-effacing reference to a passing familiarity with the States ... to absolutely no effect.

    "Really? Twenty years, you say? You don't sound it - does he, darling? Remember Billy Ackroyd? Six months in Noo Yawk and he came back with THE most atrocious accent, wasn't it darling? 'Sure I'll have another beer ... hey, who was that cute broad you introduced me to? I'd sure like to visit with her some time, yeahh."

    I exaggerate but only just.

    Not sure where I'm going with this, except to vent.

    OK, vented. No need to bore anyone more than I am by the whole performance.

    Mama off to Londinium next week, leaving me lord of the manor with a dinner list of nice ladies that should swell the coffers of the local eateries.

    Have restrung the Ovation with gleaming new Martins and surreptitiously stacked my Bill Frisells, big bands, and Dylan ready for a serious blast out.

    Liquor store alerted to open a bible's length of credit on the class hooch.

    Sam is eyeing me uneasily.

    Watch this shpace.

    20 September 2006

    Almazon Mater

    Wherever I go, people urge me to regale them with tales of derring-do from my frontier fromgrep days with e-dominant Amazon.com.

    They's basic folk out here. They sing, they dance. How their eyes widen at the very mention of QA on "tone issues".

    At the same time, I like to keep them up to date on Jeffrey Preston's inexorable tread towards benevolent galactic despotism.

    Hence a quickie on the various 3rd-party "fulfillment" boosters being wheeled out offering - to quote the jargon - "access to Amazon's order fulfillment, customer service, customer shipping offers, and underlying website technology to improve the experience they offer their customers."

    A share in the world-beating Amazon customer service, egad.

    Competitors may as well close shop here 'n' now and go back to selling matches on the street.

    19 September 2006


    Last boy I took for the death needle was my good old Harry, 15-yr old lurcher, creaking with arthritis.

    This young 'un was a new experience.

    Had to be done: be practical, stop indulging self, etc.

  • Found him Saturday, healthy little chappie. Vet closed and at that point thought might keep him so was in training mode, nudging him from entry in prep for being outdoor dog.
  • Thunder n lightning storm, of which Sam is terrified and is usually allowed in.
  • "NO mixed messages," I tell mum. "If Sam stays inside, I'm not training a puppy to stay out.".
  • Between then, accept reality that pup must be put down.

    Meanwhile, I push the puppy gently but firmly from the door every time it makes to come in.

    Monday morn: Vet opens at 10.

    I might as well be there with the puppy, get it over with.

    Might as well feed the babe before the big needle.

    Open door and take food out, leave it open because what the heck if it comes in now?

    H..akes to enter and stops at door stoop.

    Get it to vet, tell him regret reason for delivery, vet nods and takes puppy to next room (doorless) and comes back to process 30 euro fee for put down.

    As we talk, puppy appears in doorway and starts to waddle across.

    Vet gets up to catch it and send it back but, instinctively, I say "NO! Not inside!" and pup retreats.

    Dino the vet looks at me: "How long you train this?"

    "Since yesterday."

    "You're sure you want to do it?" (Gesture of needle jab)

    I hardly nod.

    I give Dino his 30 euros and walk out, not looking to see what I'm sure is the pup sitting inside the door, waiting for my next instruction.

    Clever boy, swift learner.

  • 18 September 2006

    Tardy and Tempted

    Anguished Alliteration

    I'd not heard of skittish scribbler Amanda McKittrick Ros but she sounds a fount of fun.

    Her novels "provided the entertainment at gatherings of the Inklings, a group of Oxford dons including Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien who met from the 1930s to 1950s. They competed to see who could read her work aloud for longest before starting to laugh."

    Her novel are out of print - Irene Iddesleigh, Delina Delany and Helen Huddleston - but not for long, I'll be bound, thanks to exultant exposure at the "Celebrate Literary Belfast" festival.

    A sample:

    "The trials of a tortured throng are naught when weighed in the balance of future anticipations ... The living sometimes learn the touchy tricks of the traitor, the tardy and the tempted; the dead have evaded the flighty earthy future, and form to swell the retinue of retired rights, the righteous school of the invisible and the rebellious roar of the raging nothing."

    "Flighty earthy future", eh? There's some good imagery for the speech writers to reach for next time Dubya needs a surly bonds line with which to mourn the prang of some spacecraft.

    Quoth Frank Ormsby, editor of the invitingly titled anthology of her work, Thine in Storm and Cabin,

    "She alliterated obsessively. Even if one has forgotten her work for a few years, you only have to read a few paragraphs and you find the smile broadening on your face. You begin to realise why her work had such an appeal."

    16 September 2006

    Family Tree

    Uncheering to read Rachel P's succinct exposé in the Bainbridge Islander
    of the back-biting and squalid wangling behind the hounding of Nezam Tooloee to dismantle his kids' treehouse.

    The usual huffing and puffing and jargon of hypocrisy:

  • "City councilman charged with upholding the law broke it when he built a platform without permits on a protected slope above the beach."

    Shock horror! (We're actually talking about a 12' x 12' tree house, 16' off the ground in the branches of a maple tree).

  • NT is clearly in someone's sights and they're determined to get him via maggots in the city planning office.
  • 'City planner'Josh Machen knows his red tape garble: The offending platform is on "a geologically hazardous slope ... in a 50' native-vegetation buffer zone."
  • According to Tooloee, it was verminous city planning staffers *themselves* who ratted to the Planning Director, complete with photo (which is cheap even by city planner standards).
  • Sanity (and honesty) may still prevail: Sounds like Hearing Examiner Terry McCarthy brings needed common sense and moral fibre to the case, declaring, "I’m not going to judge this case on the basis of city politics; it’s improper and it’s wrong".

    McCarthy even intends to view the the treehouse before reaching a final decision.

  • World Headlines

    Crouching here with rake and secateurs in hand and lousy reception from CNN, I do occasionally need to sound vaguely clued-up on "current affairs" (Mafeking - did our chaps make it through on time?)

    Dotso packs a punch: latest world headlines sans dreary trawling thru numerous sites. Fast, easy to use.

  • No email address needed
  • No registration
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  • No username or password

    News Search also good.

  • 15 September 2006

    Militant Irritants

    Daily Telegraph piece on 50 annoyances.

    All 50 somewhat resonate with me ....

    • People who tell you that something or other has been "a learning curve".
    • Young women who continually rake long, wild, ringletty hair with their fingers in a gesture that is meant to imply "I am a free spirit".
    • Loudspeaker announcements about late train arrivals that apologise for any inconvenience they "may" have caused.

    #51 - could be pretentiosi who describe things as "resonating".

    mrs underwood

    Mrs Desmond Underwood

    Oh for heaven's sake - how formal can you get?

    I'm sitting here typing daft nothings and my eye is caught by the book on the shelf afore me, and the publishers' ridiculously polite nomenclature for the author.
    mrs UPublished by Billy Collins in 1971, so it's not as if it's some pre-war politesse.

    By golly, I'd've gone to town on that if I'd been an interviewer:

    "Not THE  Mrs Desmond Underwood?

    By my troth, what a rare honour."

    The Comfortable One

    BBC did a quiz a while back, asking readers what instrumental they'd take to a desert isle if they only had one choice. Usual stuff: the rippling keyboard of Horowitz, the sinuous Stradivarius of Oistrakh or Mehuhin.

    My Auntie Vick voted for the human voice. Not the treble of Callas but the warmer timbres of Ferrier or Sutherland, said she'd need the sound of another human to remind her. Nice point.

    If someone did the needful on me and banished the 'puter but left me one blog, I think I'd go for El Seditione.

    I'd want to be kept off balance, that mix of learning and mountain man sheer bloody mindedness.

    Biggie regret leaving WA state: Not being there to be fly on the wall - and I bet Ashers can tell me *exactly* what species to be - as his beaut daughter(s) (puella pondensia ) reach that age when unwary youths come calling.

    Chortle. Yon Lion of the Night Krü is gone be some fatha to get one over on.

    Then again, any daughter of his 'n' Julie's loins will be boxing clever herself, so it'll be a match of minds: thunder-brow pater versus foot-stamping babe.

    Groucho: The 'tached one wouldn't join any club that would have *him* as a member. I always feel that Lord Sedition wouldn't want as a groveling friend anyone who slavers my kind of admiration.

    Frankly, from this distance I don't care: He proposed marriage to THE best most worthwhile beautiful woman and she had the astonishing perceptiveness to say Yes, and they are my favouritest couple and their children are divine and when I hit the lottery, the first stop pilot Kosta makes is to collect them in my customized 747, deliver them to Kerkira airport where my customized chopper will airlift them to my poolside pad and I will hug that growly seditous mountain man and Mrs Sed will say "Hey what about me?" and I'll stammer 'Later, babe, first things first.'.

    Cancel my table au Cirque de Soleil; I'll go for the candid camera corner ceiling chez Ashers.

    I'm reminded of all this by his characteristically succinct Quinault post about the 'best bed', enhanced by my recent reading of Bill Bryson's account of his Walk in the Woods, them woods being the taxing Appalachian Trail.

    I so loved his punchline I sent it to my gruff bro', swearing to use it asap.

    "Not much point *you*", bounced the reply, "Mother's boy in lap of luxury. Me, I can use it everywhere I go, and will:

    Poland, Sardinia, Nice ... I'm having it translated sans delay.

    Great line. I'm constantly being ushered into sub-zero flea-ridden chambers where I bow and scrape and make a big to-do about pulling back the covers and then whip out the sleeping bag and nestle it over the more giving floorboards.

    Best place to deliver it is my Scottish clients, but I don't know where to go for a decent translation."

    I'm so not an outdoor type but in my youthier fitness I used to go down to stay with cousin Gethyn around Welsh Capel Curig and climb a rock or two.

    I have a vertiginous head when it comes to heights so I never looked down. One climb, we'd got a way up and were resting on an outcrop, untangling our ropes and congratulating ourselves on a major feat.

    Suddenly a hand appeared and up hauled a friendly face who secured his rope, accepted a cup of tea and then proceeded to lean to peer back down at what looked to be a 45 degrees angle at his companions. I felt sick just watching.

    dougalDougal Haston: As PR honcho for Cassell publishers, I had the privilege to promote Dougal'sIn High Places.

    On publication day, DH was up Mount Everest (pronounced Eve-Rest, please) being blown about by 300mph winds. They didn't make the ascent but the book was that month's best-seller in the UK charts.

    Cassell had just been bought by an American bunch so we were swarmed with ignorant MBAs and crew-cut smartie-pants. I'd made the error of lunching an biggie name author and not taking him up to meet the Big Guy.>p>When Dougal checked in to the office I said we'd better go round to the Red Lion pub where the boss held forth and let me introduce him to the guy whose book was currently #1 on the charts.

    Dougal shrugged and said he'd prefer to have a meat pie and Worthington White Shield someone less fancy but I was the boss.

    Enter the Red Lion, el supremo holding forth, I move thru the fray with Dougal behind me, bent on intro to my Lord and Master as instructed.

    "Fred? I'd like you to meet-"

    Foiled. One of the chief's many minion minders has spotted me moving in on the big guy's oration, some hippy pal in tow, "Not now, Chris!".

    Relieved, we left the pub and retired to the Venezia for fine nosh and jugs of Julia's chianti.

    Coda: At one of the parties the mountaineers held, I espied a totally unfit looking bloke, belly hanging over his belt, and commented to Dougal "who's THAT ?"

    "That's Don Whillans."

    "But he's ... been on the climb ..."

    "Listen ... we came to a rock we couldna handle. Don said stand aside you big girls' blouses, and up he chimneyed.

    Aye, he looks like he's due to give birth, but he's the mon."

    Dougal set up a mountaineering school in Switzerland ("Dangle with Dougal") and I heard he was buried 'neath an avalanche. Wiki has the facts but i don't read it. I took him round various interviews and there was a magnetism to the man that everyone felt.

    14 September 2006

    Weird Jap Accessories

    TechEBlog presents top 5 strangest Nippon accessories.

    Poisoned Pigeons

    Quick, where's my Tom Lehrer?

    God, I haven't laughed out loud like that in *aeons* ....

    Only in Texarkana:

  • Pigeon swoops into bank, craps on customer.
  • Bank boss vows revenge.
  • Pest control lays out poison that has them dropping - nay, nose-diving - to their death, "marring the city's annual festival"

    Oh lawd, someone's got to have filmed it - please tell me it's somewhere on the web.

  • brubeck

    More Vinyl

    Further digging under the rafters and more goodies.

    I almost overlooked this Brubeck album with its cutesy cover pic. I wonder what Dave and the boys thought of this one ... was there really a time when jazz was sold via fresh-faced cheerleaders?
    45sAhh - some of the 45s from my earliest days in Greece.

    Look at how well preserved they are. And the gorgeous artwork they used on the covers.

    I've had them on the Bang & Olufson and they sound great, even got me dipping and oopah!-ing. Creak, gasp.

    go bouzouki"Go Bouzouki Go", indeed!

    Who thinks these titles up?
    yepesNarciso Yepes, off whom I learnt the exquisite "Romance", or "Jeux Interdits" as it's known to those who met it as the theme tune from the French flick.

    Maybe not so exquisite now that it's a "hold" jangle down a million phones.

    Please admire Mr Yepes' 10-string guitar. I used to stare at it for hours on end when I first bought the EP. Posted by Picasa

    my life

    Life in the Day of

    You can spend a lifetime carefully posing lens or pushing pen to tell loved ones how life is.

    Then some offhand shots catch it in one.
    sam 1

    I'd been grubbing and groaning on the land and treated m'self to beer and nuts and a chaser side-shot of the hard stuff, plus a jingle on nylon-strung, and up came Sam to listen.

    I have *no* command over animals, but Sam seems to think I'm The Man.

    sam 2

    When I told him, either move out of frame or make like you're some obedient killer hound, he went for the vanity shot.

    He's not allowed in the house; he doesn't go outside the gates.

    When I trim the border shrubbery, he sits there and then gets bored and retires out of sight to some shady grove just by the gateposts.

    13 September 2006


    With Sandra and the crowd to the cemetery to mark a whole year since speedo Dave "Dodo" Bagnall decided cornering was sissy and took up biker hang-gliding off that bend down to Nissaki.

    Solemn occasion with flowers and sniffles and hugs and oaths at daft buggers and an all-seeing Deity that can't even pluck a solitary lunatic out of the air and place him gently back on terra firma, no questions asked.

    "I mean, no one else was aboot and the Dode wouldna known to tell, him being so pissed 'n' all."

    As we walk back, we pass two women standing over a recent gravestone. The tall one spat something and turned to go. Miriam stifled a giggle and I asked her what the lady had said.

    "She use slang, say 'Acting his age at last' ".

    I sneak back to peek - the dude was 75. Clearly a bit of a lad.


    Fine piece by the Speccie's Dot Wordsworth in her always stimulating "Mind Your Language" column. This week she takes on that spreading blight, multiculturism, of which chunks are worth posting here for a wider readership.

    "I can't find a univocal sense to multiculturism , and I believe people use it to mean quite different things. Yet ... Ruth Kelly said that she believed that 'we have moved from a period of uniform consensus on the value of multiculturism'.

    You could have fooled me. Surely no such consensus existed. Multiculturalism emerged two decades after multicultural , which popped up in 1941 in the New York Herald Tribune books pages with reference to a

    'fervent sermon against nationalism, national prejudice and behaviour in favour of a "multicultural" way of life.'

    The quotation marks suggest the word was novel but already in existence. It came loaded with a burden of value judgment.

    It seems to me that multicultural could fit either a polity in which several cultures co-exist separately, or one in which lots of cultures added their tuppenceworth to the stewpot, or mosaic. It wa perhaps this ambiguity that prompted Ruth Kelly to wonder about people's 'sense of belonging in multicultural town and cities.'

    RK ws launching a Commission on Integration and Cohesion (groan - my comment) ... Roy Jenkins once described integraqton as 'not a flattening process of assimilation but equal oppootintiy accompabied by cultural diversity in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance.'

    In Brewer's Politics  multiculturalism is identified as the view that 'it is wrong to impose a stereotyped national culture on those arriving from other lands'.

    What about vice versa?", asks Ms Wordsworth, to which I roar 'hear hear!' and clap the question in bold and give it its own paragraph. Well said that lady - a palpable hit.

    Multi- as a prefix generating words started in English modestly with John Lydgate (c 1370-1450) (multifary), with a variant from Nashe in 1593 (multifarious). From the middle of the 17th century such forms multiplied.

    There are some real duds. Multifaceted  is hardly possible to use with a straight face. Multi-tasking  has crossed over from sociology to business-speak. Even the respectable Latin multiplex  was appropriated by stuff little cinemas.

    As for multiculturalism , an attempt was made in the early 1990s to make it cuddly by use of the diminutive multiculti , but it remains a bear of very little brain."

    Cuddly, bah! Bear of little brain - LOL

    good tip ref ammonia from A


    Anyone know a good way of keeping rats away by *smell*?

    Poison is not good because they die on the lawn and the dawg gnaws it and then *he* dies.

    We don't do cats no more: they're the surefire anti-rodent stuff but they get loony and tear the place apart, or they get killed by the dawgs.

    Mama is full of old wives' remedies: tar, mint oil, carbolic acid (what?) but so far no silver bullet and I'm not allowed to tote the Webley at meals which is when I see them scurrying over the trellis.

    Cake of olive oil soap for the solution.

    September 11th, remembered

    Yes, indeed. Phew. Memory served. Mission Accomplished.

    The trick is to self-mockingly tell oneself (and all those around) that one's memory is hopeless and one is bound to forget *yet* again - and voilà! Succès.

    My brother Pete is *not* one of those to whom to send one of those red-faced cards with elephants with trunks in a twist and the message "Whoops! Forgot again - sorree ..."

    You either tie a knot in the hankie about his Sept 11 birthday or go hide under a rock.

    Clearly the Corfu air is stimulating the grey cells because we were right on the button:

    • Prezzies ordered in good time for Mr Amazon to deliver to Italy just before the day:
      • Two improving novels,
      • The new Bill Frisell
      • New La Bella black nylon strings
      • Some gardening gizmo that Mum said he'd like
      • And the Greek edition of his fave girlie mag. Sis in law frowns but it's excellent for learning t' lingo, at least that's our excuse and we're sticking to it.
    • Dawn phone call to wish "chronia polla!" before he went out to the jardin to plod and plough.
    • Breakfast champers our end to toast the golden boy

    Quick dip in the pool and then down to grotty yardwork of my own (groan), made slightly bearable thanks to having uncovered a freebie CD from some Daily Mail edition of "Easy Like Sunday Morning" anodyne tunes.

    Actually, rather a pleasant totter down memory lane:

    1. Louis Armstrong's We have all the time in the world
      • composers Hal David/John Barry, so I assume it appeared in some Bond flick
    2. Don't it make my brown eyes blue?
      • Crystal Gale's fine song, with which the memories flooded. Hearing it on Hong Kong radio and both of us going wow. Leaving work and finding the cassette in a shop and driving home with it as a surprise, putting it on over the evening drink. Is not one of life's pleasures a simple gift to an adored one that shows one listens and remembers?
    3. Hot Choc's I'll Put you together again
    4. Al Green Let's stay together, always a good 'un
    5. Bobbie Gentry falling for Son of a preacher man
    6. Deep-voiced Minnie Riperton Lovin' You
    7. Hollies Not being heavy, being my brothaahh
    8. Dr Hook's Sexy Eyes
    9. Spandau Ballet, True (good choice!)
    10. Blondie finding that the Tide is High
    11. Steve Harley and the Cockney Rebs Making me Smile
    12. Gerry Rafferty down Baker Street with that killer sax and ace guitar
    13. Bobby McFerrin Not Worrying, being happy, which was fine the first hundred times but since hearing it sung to me by a wall-mounted sea bass I've rather gone off it
    14. Pansy Donovan Leitch being Mellow Yellow
    15. Helen Reddy Being a Woman
    16. Beach Boys affirming that God Only Knows from the sublime Pet Sounds genius album
    17. Ben E. King down in Spanish Harlem (composed by Leiber/Stoller, no less. Those boys delivered!)
    18. Percy Sledge swearing Warm and Tender Love and reminding me to dig out the whole album to remind myself what happens when a man loves a woman.
    19. Peabo Bryson and the divinely voiced Roberta Flack getting lucky and Tonight, celebrating their love, lucky devils
    20. Aaron Neville Telling it like it is
    21. Paul Young finding it Easy

    Lunch with a local Greek authorette with a book coming out in October with launch party at the Corfu Palace. I make polite convo and ask about review copy distribution, display material for the major bookshops and singing session(s), local authors interviews on radio and TV, the basic basics. Nothing, so I offer to kick ass with the publishers and do some freelance agenting on her behalf. A job at last.

    Back home for siesta but I've suddenly worked out how to solve a problem with the shredder so I spend the pm on my backside fiddling with the rubber shield that's sprung a hole and catches the mushier shreds and backs up til it clogs the machine.

    Evening: whiskey on the terrace as the steaks grill, after which we decide to check out the TV. Nothing much on Greek news - Dubya at some ceremony looking like a mystified vole. I content myself gazing at the lovely Laura Bush. Talk about a pearl before voles.

    Switch to the movie channel where a Peter Sellers Pink Panther is showing, the subtitles cleverly adjusted to reflect his franglais accent.

    Pete calls to say hi and thanks again for the gifts and calls and give some tips on weeding round the pool. I tell him about my shredder fix and he sounds impressed. Apparently he hadnt added new strings on the Ramirez for 2 years and it sounds like a new guitar. He's got the Frisell on in the background and I say how tactful and he says no, really, it's good. It's Bill on guitar, Paul Motian on drums and Ron Carter on drums. I tell Pete that the last album he did that way, the drummer (a famous black batterie basher) got the date wrong and turned up a day late for the 2 days Bill had set aside for practice. "Asshole," comments Pete, "bet Bill was furious".

    11 September 2006


    Thanks to splendidly Grumpy Old Bookman, I have a new must-read blog to pass on and with which to thoroughly amuse myself.

    Madame Arcati dishes it like *I* would like to - and indeed can now strive harder thanks to this ace example of prose and homework.

    10 September 2006

    caper flower

    Capering Nimbly

    Much excitement.

    This flower has been spotted blooming outside the front door. "Caper" is its name, I gather.

    Mama scurried out with sketch pad but it seems to bloom at crack of dawn (0730 hrs when yrs truly is still abed), or after sunset when I'm occupied choosing the sounds and building the first drinks of the soiree.

    But I've managed to get some snaps for printing out for mater to draw from later.

    Not quite sure what the fuss is about but mum and bro chatted about it over the phone and seemed to have much to say.
    caper by flash

    Anyway, a planty image for those who like that sort of thing. Posted by Picasa

    09 September 2006

    Mug Shot

    To town for various shoppings and meetings and yet more photos for the avalanche of paperwork necessary to complete my guise as a Thracian shepherd and evade the posse.

    I pass a shop offering instant passport photos and decide to backtrack via there as the last chore before heading home.

    I also notice a large screen over the counter and in full view of everyone, including the street, a snap of singularly unattractive and podgy lady, and marvel at its choice as an example of the shop's skill in portraiture.

    Two hours later I'm back and get myself snapped and notice that now it's MY ugly mug on the screen.

    As I pay, I ask how long my picture stays up there.

    "Until next person wants picture."

    "But that could behours."

    "Can be days. Busy season over. Everyone go home." Ulp.

    Bloody hell. I could be some varlet on the run from creditors, learn that the Pinkertons are in town on my trail, and needing a swift forgery to get me over to Albania. I pop into the shop for a discreet photo and end up on display for the whole of Corfu.

    Mr Pinkerton et colleague are walking along, agreeing that their info' must have been wrong and that I'm nowhere around and they might as well head home. Walk past the photo shop and see my mug and return to the chase with renewed vigour.

    Free to drink martinis and watch the sunrise

    When a chap reaches a certain age, he likes to think he can look forward to a, how to put it, 'placid' existence free of the hurly-burly of his mis-spent youth.

    For some time now, I've been cajoled/promising/planning a pre-dawn pilgrimage to Corfu's own Table Mountain, Mount Pantocrator.

    I finally met my match in a charming lady who, hearing of my cut-glass vowels and talent for feigning education, approached me for "English lessons".

    Being of the legal profession, she had a specific brief which involved going through English language publications as subscribed to by our learned friends at the Bar as well as role playing around the topic. She had not met Rumpole and we are having a fine old time reading him out loud and giggling in unbecoming fashion.

    Instead of becoming more hardened to feminine wiles and charms, I find my resistance draining by the day, which is how I agreed to dine and dance her (ugh) and generally frolic til it was time to drive up to greet the dawn. Not at all my kind of thing but women have these "looks" and ways round a chap's obdurance.

    So into the jalopy we piled (full tank of gas; I wasn't going to fall for that gaffe) and as I looked over my shoulder and felt for reverse to ease out of her carpark, I joked that at least we'd get in some solid conversazione.

    The merest touch on my hand and a "I think maybe not" and she's handing me a gift-wrapped CD.

    Groan. Almost certainly some improving album of ethniki Greek folksongs sung in the original to accompaniment of screeching stringed instruments and percussion courtesy of jawbone of an ass.

    I fix rictus smile and remove the wrapping.

    It is the latest offering by one Robert Dylan Esq, Modern Times.

    I was literally lost for words. A couple of hours with the car's ace stereo pumping The Master is my idea of bliss.

    She'd asked my mama what sort of music I liked and, bless her, she'd remembered the hazy expression that comes over me when listening to Master D, so out went this honey and purchased it for the ride.

    Dilemma: be rude and listen in dazed silence, or be a gent and make chat and have it low in the background (sacrilege). The gent lost and quite right too.

    Sadly, madame hated the sound and wanted to know "what makes this so good?" to which of course there is no reply.

    But the thought and the timing totally threw me.

    We did finally turn to chatter during which she quoted back to me an unguarded moment when I'd down the phone, "Bollocks to that!", interested to know in which context she might use it.



    "Certainly not in court."

    "But it would be so interesting"

    "I don't doubt: Some Greek millionaire up on some charge in London has you flown over to defend him.

    Opposing counsel in full flow sees his chance and pounces,
    "My Lord, may I compliment my learnèd colleague for the defence on her expert grasp of the facts - and indeed of the language - but may I refer her to Jarndyce vs Synge when-"

    Miss Kollas: "Bollocks to that!"

    Prosecuting Counsel: "My Lord!"

    Presiding Judge: "Yes yes, Mr Pauncefoot, I take your point.

    Miss Kollas (trying to look stern behind fond gaze), I believe that in the demotic it's pronounced "V ollox", the B pronounced as a 'V'"

    Kollas: My Lord is well informed.

    Hizzoner: (flattered smile, the old goat) "Not really, but my good wife and I have enjoyed many holidays on your charming island of Kerkira."

    Kollas: "Next time you're there, you must be our guest. My parents have several town houses and servants that are never occupied."

    Hizzoner" "How very kind of you. Perhaps you could leave details with my clerk."

    Prosecuting counsel: My Lord!

    H: "Yes yes, Mr Pauncefoot, but these points of law need to be hammered out."

    But I stray from the point. Amazing album, about which Chris Ayres reported that,

    HELPED by a massive advertising campaign for iPods, Bob Dylan sneered and hummed his way to the top of America’s Billboard chart yesterday — marking his first No 1 album in 30 years.

    At 65, he is the oldest living person to send a new album to the top of the US charts.

    His album, Modern Times, knocked the all-girl pop group Danity Kane from America’s top position. None of the members of Danity Kane were even born at the time of Dylan’s last No 1 album, Desire — released not only before the invention of Apple’s iPod, but also before the compact disc.

    08 September 2006

    francoise hardy

    Kiss Me, Hardy

    Another nostalgic LP cover, this of the divine Francoise Hardy as she was back in the mists of time when she hit the parade with "Tous les garcons".

    I'd spent a school holiday in France where I heard her and came back to school to find that no one in the UK had the faintest idea who she was.

    Photo of girlfriend: Essential for any redblooded bloke was a photo of his bird, casually displayed in his horse box. Weedy moi had none, so I took a foto of the LP cover art and had them printed as if I had snapped some chick francaise during my Parisian sojourn.

    No one batted an eyelid and, since I was known as a guitarist weed, fully understood how I might have acquired a strumming pal.

    Shameful times.

    Vinyl of my Youth

    lp covers

    More albums from over the years, including some pretty risque ones of lovely ladies that had my senses inflamed in their day.

    Note the excellent upbringing I had: Lehrer, Ives, cocktail piano, calypso, Hank Williams, songs of torrid Spain ...
    lp coversYes, those piano medleys and Valentino dances and singalongs to torrid cantos were my roots.

    The 45rpm of Rosemary Clooney is missing or I could show you the first swelling cleavage I sweated over; likewise that lady swathed in cream on the Herb Alpert LP that I reckon we *all* listened to one-handed.

    I wish I had the Lonnie Donegan albums - bless him - the skiffler that turned me onto steel strings and an even strum technique.


    cheap guitar LP cover

    Excuse the punny title but since I live in Gouvia and affect familiarity with the fretboard, I thought I'd treat m'self.

    Have at last got round to clearing out the voluminous attic and storeroom dungeon and of course came across every vinyl LP the family has ever bought from - oh lord - since my most youthsome youthness.

    Some absolute gems, including disgracefully sexist cover art. In fact, on viewing them, I recall them being the very first loin stirrers. Over in the Blighty, my contemps might have been agonising over Playboy centrefolds, but out in Hong Kong I had to make do with sneaking peeks at my parents' record collection.

    Anyway, the cheapo Segovia rip-off, which actually turns out to be *two* out-takes by the maestro followed by pale imitators.

    I'd just caught the geetar bug and was plinking away at v simple stuff, meanwhile listening in awe to the real stuff.

    When I got this Allegro effort, I knew nothing, so I'd shove the LP on and gaze rapt at the cover pics, under the impression that those mitts were those of Andres lui-meme. LOL - Segovia actually had rather porky digits and not at all what one would think of as being able to finger all those chords.
    lp coverAnyway, in those days LP cover art *was* large enough to gaze on and imagine.

    As I sat there in the dusty attic, rats scurrying hither n thither out of sight (good hunting one afternoon: jug of retsina, the Posted by Picasa

    07 September 2006

    vine by study


    I whinge and gringe and unhinge about quadr-accursed yardwork, but outside how many folks' bedroom and work study is it given that luxuriant vines tangle?
      Posted by Picasa

    To Di For

    I'm an inveterate gossip trollop, specially where the Royals are concerned.

    I still smile at the way The Spitfire would die of shame in the Safeway checkout line as I plucked the latest tabloid rubbish from the rack with a loud, "Let's see the latest on my Royal Family."

    Jeeves by Royal Appointment, Paul Burrell, continues to milk his service with the fragrant princesse: publishers William Morrow will be bringing out PB's second book, The Way We Were (ghastly title) on September 12 "as part of a coordinated publication around the world."

    The copywriters have gone to town, billing it as "a final gesture to ensure that Diana's spirit, warmth and character is neither lost nor obscured, but revealed exactly as he knew her to be," promising to "end years of speculation and misinformation" about her relationship with Dodi Fayed.

    According to the NYDN, Burrell says Diana told him her Bulgari band from Fayed was not an engagement ring and said, "Wedding bells - I need a new marriage like I need a rash."

    All good stuff and I trust the Greek media will report fully.

    By the by, I've had it on *very* good inside info' that the Prince Harry is NOT the illegit son of cad Hewitt. Hmm. I still have my suspicions.

    05 September 2006


    Anyone noticed how positively Pooterish Boswell is in his slavish attention to Dr Johnson? No matter; his encounters with Il Dottore are pure bliss.

    I've been reading him while queuing for my resident's permit and Greek driving licence and they are gems.

    How many of us have dined out chez un pal and thought that,

    "This was a good dinner enough, to be sure, but it was not a dinner to ask a man to." LOL.

    Refute: doncha hate it when the media use it to mean contradict/disagree with/deny?

    Boswell chatted to the master about Bishop Berkeley's sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, that everything in the Universe is merely 'ideal'.

    Quoth Boswell: "Tho' we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it."

    "I shall never forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it,

    'I refute it thus' "

    Big words for little matters: The first time I heard 'awesome' misused was in October 1995 when, as a Microserf PR hack, I assured my manager that my 2 minutes' delivery to Bill Gates would include all Visual FoxPro 5's new features plus I would get in my editorial coups with the geeky press.

    "That would be awesome," she purred down the 'phone.

    Boswell preceded her, just prior to leaving Johnson for Harwich, chiding him that,

    "It would be terrible if he should not find a speedy opportunity of returning to London."

    "It would not be terrible ," roared Johnson, "Don't, sir, accustom yourself to use big words for little matters.

    The practice of using words of disproportionate magnitude, is, no doubt, too frequent everywhere; but I think, most remarkable among the French, of which, all who have travelled in France must have been struck with innumerable instances."

    The Frogs get it in the neck once again ...

    I reproduce Boswell's punctuation and, with glee, his spelling of 'travelled', for which I suffered much during my sojourn in the colonies.

    Driving in Greece

    Beware Greeks bearing down on you behind the wheel.

    Thanks to Kathy Tzilivilakis's brilliant piece in the Athens News, I drive happier and safer now that I know for sure I have nothing to prove and only my life lose.

    Everyone whose attention I've drawn to the piece has cackled with laughter and then blanched with knowing nods of its truth. Bravo Ms Tzilivilakis

    First off, anyone thinking of driving abroad, check out this
    excellent site

    By way of background, studies show that Greece has the highest per capita road fatality toll: About four times the lowest fatality rate in the European Union, according to researchers who conducted a cross-country analysis of social norms and traffic safety in the EU.

    The United Kingdom, Sweden and the Netherlands are the safest countries with fatality rates of 5.77, 6.26 and 6.53 (per 100,000 inhabitants) respectively.

    Greeks are not only bad drivers, but they have perfected the art of bad driving to the point of no return

    I thought it was just me, but KT nails it bang to rights with her Survival tips:

  • Never take a green light for granted. Always look left and right before proceeding
  • Always remember that Greeks see the yellow light not as a signal to slow down, but as a warning to put the pedal to the metal and get through the intersection before the light turns red.
  • When in a one-way street, keep to the right to allow for cars coming from the other direction
  • Never stop for a pedestrian because you could cause a multi-car pileup
  • Try not to use directional signals because Greek drivers are not used to them and it may cause confusion
  • Speed limits are arbitrary

    And I thought turning in or out of that Safeway complex was tuff driving ....

  • 04 September 2006


    Excellent September Oldie, starting with offer to subscribers to their mailing list of clever Webster's free 10pp web guide on How I Learned to stop worrying and Love the web (I know, we're such addicts we want to know how to *stop* loving the drat web and its siren blogosphere).

    Meanwhile, this month's Webster Superbyw@ys offers "Your guide to digital life: To blog or not to blog?" (Dread question!)

    Actually, that link is Webster's archive of columns, fine writing of run-don't-walk calibre.

    Other contents:

  • Good article by Ann Thwaite (wife of the poetising Anthony) whose Frances Hodgson Burnett biog I sort of promoted back in the 1970s. Even got to cruise down to Penshurst Place and be splendidly patronised by m'Lord de Lisle. Good days,
  • Absolutely murderous review by cattish Roger Lewis of my belovèd David Lodge, whose books I also hawked around the lit eds and whose seminal 'Changing Places' I was handed in typescript form on my very first day with Secker's by the late and very great John Blackwell, editorial director supreme whose like we shall not see again this side of the Pearly Gates.

    "Lodge seems unaware of what a doleful and vain comic figure he cuts ... [his] lack of zest is positively Pooterish ... flat, pathetic zero-wit ... Lodge comes across as one of those many late-middle-aged men of small talent whose idea of success is being able to refer to 'my London pad' and share a sandwich luncheon with Ian McEwan." Oy! Watch it, mate! Ian and I used to knock back pints of Youngs in the Tim Bobbin off the Wandsworth.

    Zounds - had I been still in the PR seat, I'd have had a couple of the lads call round on Master Lewis in his "imperial Austrian spa town of Bad Ischl" and show him a bit of zero-teeth and doleful kneecaps. Blimey.

  • Oldie Bookshop: wonderful offerings this month that I am losing no time in ordering as late prezzies for my sprightly mama's July 28 birthday (so hush anyone thinking of emailing her and spoiling la surpreeze).

  • Mr Harston's Most Excellent Encyclopedia of Useless Information ... who knew that none of the numbers from one to 99 contains the letter A? Or that on 22 July 1918, in the Wasatch Nat Park in Utah, 504 sheep were killed by lightning?
  • Stephen Fry's Book of Senior Moments (a bit premature for mama but definitely one for yours truly).
  • I suppose I could hold my breath and suspend my loathing of the G-word and include Henri Cuerco's Conversations with my Gardener. Sounds perfectly ghastly and the last thing with which to curl up on the divan, but no accounting for tastes ....
  • One for the girls in their ongoing development into the perfect angels they are: Tying the Perfect Parcel: Everything you should know how to do, giudance on such skills as how to be a good neighbour, how to throw perfect dinner parties, how to breathe (chest or stomach?), how to remove pongs, and so forth. Essential reference book for surviving solo or snaring that rich toff and silencing ma-in-law ever after.
  • I'm not paid to pimp but this is such a great mag that I'm happy to ease your queries to the Oldie Bookshop

    Ace reading from start to finish. Literate, to boot, actual jokes, witty cartoons, solid and accurate boots going into hated yoof culture.

  • 03 September 2006

    Maison Nuits Blanches


    To Nikos and Katarina for luncheon and swim.

    Their coastal hideaway is a "national heritage", being a perfect example of Venetian architecture untouched since whenever.

    pool2Joke is, it started as a freeze-hole punishment post for some luckless watchpoint, alert to invaders.

    Over the years it was developed and perfected until I came into Niko's family's hands.
    pool3Gorgeous place, declared a national treasure and not for bungling with, which is exactly what will *not* happen, thanks to the current owners' impeccable taste and equally impeccable wallet.

    I've more pics and more text to add but I'll settle for this brief memory of that day, for which you had to be there to fully appreciate the guffaw: one of the owners lived there with his mother, who became fed up with nothing but views and being so far from town and her pals. So, devoted son set mater up in Corfu central in a plush apartment and all mod cons of the day.

    As is the fate of faithful caring sons (hint nudge), the myth took flight that he actually booted poor momma out and she had to settle for some slum dwelling where she competed with the local rodents for her gruel and water. Indeed, this is part of the commentary of the tourist boats as they swing by.

    The day we were lunching, just such a boat came round and there indeed was some rasping estuary accent booming out the tale.

    Nik has a bullhorn on the patio for summoning the tender to take him to his yacht or warning tourist trash bathers not to come to close lest they supplement the dogs' nosh.

    I blame the excellent Armagnac on my boldness in seizing the foghorn and, as the idiot drew breath, booming out in my most Oxonian accent:


    "You there on the Adriadne tourist caique - you're being fed absolute codswallop! Dunno *where* your guide is getting this claptrap from, but if this is the level of commentary you're being fed, you deserve your money back.

    Mr Bidwell caved into his whining mum to let her join the jetset in downtown Kerkira and forked out a tidy sum to set her up in a divine pad in Capodistriou street, complete with MTV and broadband. So there."

    4Stunned silence, followed by bullhorn query from the captain to which N replied in such a fashion that drew howls of laughter and applause from the Greek crew.

    "Christopher, my friend," rasped Niko, "your mother whispered in my ear that you are driving and that the Armagnac does not travel to your end of the table. I beg to differ. That has made my day."