31 October 2006

Arma virumque cano

Yes, indeed: "Of Arms and the Man I Sing".

Extry extry! New translation of T'Aenid. Hmm, when I studied it under the lightning cane of Mr Mason, it was The Aeneid. O Tempora, O so forth.

Anyway, if I didn't tell you, you'd never know: That clever prof Robert Fagles has taken a new look at "THE AENID" which, if it (quote)"sells like RF's editions of The Iliad and The Odyssey, will eventually be known to hundreds of thousands of readers, by choice and by assignment."

Quoth the don,

"I think it's a poem about heroism and empire, about the glory of imperial hopes and the pain of having imperial hopes dashed.... I wanted to convey something about the modern understanding of war, and then about a man, an exile, a common soldier left terribly alone in the field of battle."

Aeneas is like Clint Eastwood, like Gary Cooper, a warrior and a worrier. He changes into the heroic tragic man, duty and endure, endure and duty."

28 October 2006


You could not write it blacker:

  • Father, his two children (6 and 7) and girlfriend visit Corfu for nice holiday, stay at reputable hotel.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning from leaking pipe
  • Childen dead, father and partner recovering in hospital - not yet informed of deaths until they are stronger
  • Mother of children flies out to scene of tragedy.

    The Corcyra hotel is part of the posh Cypriot-Greek "Louis" group and just down the road from us.

    Of course, the island is abuzz about the tragedy, rumour and hearsay piling on conjecture and plain rivalry malice.

    At first it was thought it was food poisoning but Reuters seem to have the latest.

    As I say, rumour and malice to the fore: one of the wilder suggestions I picked up was that some local trader, angered by the new-style all-inclusive hotelery that the Louis chain represents, sought to attract bad publicity by poisoning guests' food. That has been disproved by the gas verdict, but it shows how tongues fly.

    Apparently, "The toxic fumes entered the room where the children were sleeping from a leaking pipe connecting a gas-fired water boiler outside the room."

    The island awash with verminous journos trying to hunt down English-speakers from whom to get a juicy quote.

    On a more serious follow-up, I applaud any and every effort to repel tourist trash from these shores, but this seems to be going too far. I suspect this might deal a blow to next year's invasion.

    (I love the idea of jolly Brit plumbers jetting over to check out our local hotels' plumbing and heating. I must scour the tavernas for where they're boozing and engage them in nostalgic Brit-type chat such as wot I don't normally get out here.)

  • 25 October 2006

    Veil-less in Gaza

    (Or at least in the casbahs and sand dunes of sunny Yorkshire).

    Full marks in my book for any nail fired broadside into the coffin of current drivel about 'multi-culturalism'.

    Which is why I'm having such fun watching Britain's niqab knees-up over these faceless veils, not to mention stalwart House of Commons honcho, Jack Straw, going into cat/pigeon interface mode by asking niqab-toting women to uncover for better face-to-face interaction.

    Not so much 'better' than plain damn'd polite, if you ask me.

    When I converse with someone, I like to see the cut of their jib. Something suspect about a masked stranger.

    For those who like their controversies convoluted and spiced with buzz words of the likes of 'integration' and 'tolerance', try this busy little piece from my former daily reading.

    But beware: It contains brainy language and heavy theorising, such as that:

    "Some Muslim women in the West may choose this garb (which is not mandated in the Koran), but their explanations often reveal an internalized misogynistic view of women as creatures whose very existence is a sexual provocation to men."

    Dumbest Generation

    From the buzz about Mark Bauerlein's look at the soi-disant 'intellectual life' of our young, it sounds to be a gift for media coverage.

    "The Dumbest Generation" carries an eye-snagging subtitle: "How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future".

    Prof of English at Emory U, MB casts a spotlight on how the infantilization of our culture and the misplaced faith in the knowledge economy and its digital diversions are corroding young minds at a critical juncture.

    23 October 2006

    No Wider War

    Daniel Ellsberg interesting on the coming Iran punch-up.

    22 October 2006

    Two Muses

    I'm clearly a vindictive man because, other than Lurve, my other strongest Muse is Anger or Revenge.

    I can go months, years, without picking up the guitar to compose. Meet the right gal and shazam! I'm reeling out the lyrics and melody.

    Anger is a little dicier to play but I find myself in a frenzy of creativity no thanks to an incident of such pettiness that I'm ashamed that such a good song is rolling forth.

    Scenario: Mama phones me from London with request to set up a luncheon of favourite folks to meet her venerable and very interesting pal with whom she is flying back. I do so.

    One of the guests has folks staying, a major major actress from the 1960s on whom the whole world had a crush. He asks if he can bring her and her hubby along and I say yes, vowing to work day and night on the garden for Mum in return for screwing up the placement. As it turns out, Mama is rather happy to meet the mega name of yesteryear.

    Come luncheon morning, frenzied activity to prepare the gourmet meal that mama always delivers, purchase of wine of the finest, moi raking and sweeping so that chateau busker is at its tidiest.

    Guests arrive and mingle, I dance attendance, my mother at her charming hostessest best.

    But tiens! What is this? A pillar of the church has turned up - avec wife - no doubt to welcome the matriarch home and check that all is well.

    Nae problem: they will see that we have guests, accept the drink we press upon them (actually, NOT accept, if they have an ounce of sensitivity, and piss off) and make their excuses and leave.

    They stay and they stay and they stay.

    I have images burned on my memory:

    • My mother sitting at the far end of the patio, back to her guests, in conversation with PoC, as if to say "I know I invited you lot to lunch but you know what? I'm much more interested in my UN-invited guest
    • I'm scrabbling to look after our guests and keep glasses filled and keep the luncheon on track.
    • At my side is wife of PoC wittering away on her usual inconsequentialia.
    • Witterer meets 1960s shy icon: "Oh, I know who you are, you're Garbo" (for want of better name)
    • Meanwhile, our 90-year-old pal is being poured another glass of wine, on a soft head that needs food.

    They stay and they stay and our legit guests are looking at me and at each other like wha' the fuck?

    I'm ashamed: I failed to defend my guests. I should have marched over to Mama, she with her back to her guests, and said "Mother, we WILL do right by our guests.

    When Brad and Angie are on the guest list, we will look after them. Today, they are not, so they will enjoy their drink and I will escort them to the door and see them on their way with a merry wave."

    I did not, they overstayed and sent the lunch out of kilter, plus confirming that, come the crunch, Busker and mère lack the backbone to deliver. That rankles and it hurts.

    I may be a wimp but I'm a mean and thinking wimp and as I nursed my grievance, the saintèd Bobbie Dylan started growling in my ear in his wailing 'Man with a long black cloak' / Like a roller dirgey mode. I couldn't shake it.

    Church Pillar runs musical nights for the devoted and, having spotted my guitar, has been urging me to join the acts. Without hearing me pluck a single chord, Mrs Pillar has nailed me in one: "Let me guess, you do all the lovely singalongs ... you must sign up. It'll be good for you, and you'll meet all sorts of people. Who knows? (Knowing chuckle) You might meet a girlfriend."

    Praise Jesus - I'll meet a "girlfriend".

    I've made my modest excuses and side-stepped the invite but, you know what? I suddenly feel like taking that troubadour spot.

    The band I play with have the Dylan backing down pat - cushiony organ, 4-square bass, punctuating bouzouki - and the lyrics have appeared from nowhere. Well, not nowhere; they've appeared from rage and revenge.

    Early days yet, so bear with me. Imagine yourselves on some Ionian dig and you've come across scraps of ancient chansonnier hieroglyphics.

    Professor, over here - I think we've got something ... an ancient libretto of sorts .."
    "Steady on, Ginger ... close, but it's no libretto. They appear to be fragments of some sort of chorus. Let's leave Hussein to tackle the main verses and see what we've got ...."

    "You got yer hymn book and humbug,
    You've really got God power
    And you always turn up at the lunchtime hour

    There's a Calvary cross where my Saviour died
    And a Garden in Gethsemane where Judas lahd
    No need translation in that Babel Tower
    Comes the man, comes the luncheon hour

    Moses he said to Pharaoh, let my people go
    I've got a Red Sea to part
    And 40 years of woe
    Gimme my milk and honey and a hidden shady bower
    For when the Canaanites come cadging
    'N' crashing my luncheon hour

    Wail of harp, jangle of Fender

    Serpent of the apple, its virtues did extoll,
    "Chomp this little baby, Adam gonna rock 'n' roll,
    Eat it while the Big Guy's doing good works afar,
    Before the holy roller twigs it's luncheon hour"

    Cue mess of music and happy jamming, shimmering down to solo acoustic guitar and quavering sensitive vox:

    Camel thru eye of needle
    Jonah in that whale
    Whatever life throws atcha
    Ya bring yer own luncheon pail (harp wail)

    Feeding of five thousand
    Means exactly that
    It may sound fun, be five thousand 'n' one
    But we're dealing wit that crap

    (Swelling organ sound, pray god i can look holy scrounger in the eye as we launch into)

    The hart may pant for cooling streams
    When heated in the chase
    I have a hunch that kerm the crunch he won't crash the lunch at MY place

    Clash of Zy' cymbal here, Bob - make it loud)

    Joshua fit the battle of Jericho
    Noah rode out that shower
    Pharaoh let those people go
    But NOT  at the luncheon hour

    Lion lies with lamb but does not devour
    That cat got a different menu
    Planned for the luncheon hour

    21 October 2006

    Bees Knees

    Spent an afternoon with a secretive sort of cove who *says* he's from the dark side but you never know these days ... and is this true?

    Bees can be used to detect landmines?

    Tests have been made using honey bees that had been attuned to the whiff of TNT and were attracted to high explosives as if they were flowers?

    (At this point I can sense gentle readers booting off and wondering when *will* boy kick the sauce, like duude!)

    Up to now it's been dogs to find unexploded ordnance, right? Slow and dangerous work for both chiens and their handlers.

    But Mister Bee just flies across the mine field and hover around the naughty explosives sans risk of detonation and the swarm shows us where the stuff is. Brilliant.

    Having trained the little darlings to trace improvised explosive devices, we then move on to methamphetamine labs, corpses and all sorts of other uses, maybe even oil, heh heh.

    Oh and get this for a giggle: not only are the bees attracted to the landmines but they'll also *really* like buzzing round the guys who handled the explosives. When they go to land on their hands ... swat, shoo! STINNGG!! Woot!

    Can this be true? He looked serious enough thru his RayBans.

    Know Your Skin

    This is a gal thing so all you chap readers can glide your eye right on by.

    Whoever did this Liz Earle site deserves a medal: every time a lady mutters fishingly about her (usually flawless) skin, I've sent them here and a few days later they call up cursing me for sending them to a site that they can't stop exploring.

    It is rather well constructed with all the bells and whistles we gurls like to make us feel feminine.


    Mighty Rapist

    President Moshe Katsav of Israel is up on charges that he raped members of his staff.

    That model of morality and fair play, President Putin of all the Russias knows how *he* feels about his counterpart's behaviour:

    "What a mighty man he turns out to be!" quoth the putain, "He raped 10 women - I would never have expected this from him.

    He surprised us all - we all envy him!"

    Of course we do. That's how we wish all  politicians directed their time and energies.

    Questioned, a Kremlin spokesman admitted Mr Putin made a joke. "Yes really, these words were pronounced." But they were not meant to be overheard.

    Oh, then that's OK. Sorry to be listening in and picking up fag-ends. Totally our fault.

    All the same, it "in no way means that President Putin welcomes rape". Goodie.

    "The president was joking," he told the BBC's World Today radio programme.

    "Russian is a very complicated language, sometimes it is very sensitive from the point of view of phrasing.

    "I don't think that the proper translation is able to reflect the meaning of the joke."

    Rape ... mighty man ... envy ..."

    I wonder if I even want a 'proper translation'.

    20 October 2006

    Next stop, er, Kefalonia?

    Here's me and a coupla million classicists over the years thinking that Ulysses trogged home from Kerkira to scenic Ithaca.

    Wro-o-ong, say some Brit party-poopers, proposing an alternative site.

    What's the betting they've taken a backhander from the local tourism bureau to pitch nearby Kefalonia as our wandering home boy's home base.

    Indeed, so convincing do they want this ploy to seem that they're even sinking a borehole to test whether its western peninsula of Paliki is the real site.

    Can't you hear the rush of verminous "developers" and the anticipatory rumble of bulldozers?

    The lads hope to find evidence that Paliki "once stood proud, separated from Kefalonia by a narrow, navigable marine channel."

    It's only in the last 2,500-3,000 years - after  Homer's time, note - that the channel has been filled in (at least that's their story).

    18 October 2006

    Using the internet to self-medicate

    Yep, that's me - I knew I'd be fingered.

    Going out of one's way to hide internet activity? Totally me.

    From a New Scientist  report:

  • "Nearly 14% of respondents said they found it difficult to stay away from the internet for several days
  • 12% admitted they often remain online longer than expected.
  • More than 8% said they hid internet use from family, friends and employers
  • Same percentage confessed to going online to flee from real-world problems.
  • Approx 6% also said their personal relationships had suffered as a result of excessive internet usage."
  • Temporarily Pleasurable: Comparison even drawn between my compulsive drive to check email, make blog entries, or visit websites to substance abuse – "an irresistible urge to perform a temporarily pleasurable act."

    17 October 2006

    COPD Out

    So this is how I will cop it - the dread Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) with its delightful side-serving of "chronic bronchitis and emphysema (slayer of my dad) and leading cause of death worldwide" (very nice, I must say).

    At least I'll spot it: Begins with a cough leading to fatigue, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing as the lungs are destroyed.

    Actually, those are verry  familiar e'en now.

    16 October 2006

    Bingette Drinking

    As a dad of daughters and one who himself gazes too oft at wine when it is red, I worry about the trend of young ladies indulging in binge drinking that makes my salad day excesses look like a model of temperance.

    Disturbing, therefore, to read the Torygraph article that,

    "Instead of being told that they must accept responsibility for putting themselves at risk by getting insensibly inebriated, young women are to be shielded from the consequences of their own recklessness.

    This is what counts as a solution to the problem of female "binge drinking".

    Drunkenness of a degree and a regularity that would have had you classed as having a psychiatric problem in the United States [was] considered to be a sign of clubbable acceptability."

    Clearly a topical topic, for see the excellent comment from Mr ZW.

    14 October 2006


    She wanted to show me "Her Place", a secret she had discovered while driving around, trying to like something about the isle. No one else had seen it.

    We drove to the roof of the world, from where we walked the rest of the way.

    Breathtaking view, without wondering what lay ahead.

    Down in the sweeping bay is a lone rock - the 'ortholithi - jutting out to sea. There is a legend attached:

    An intrepid landlubber noticed a bees' hive halfway up and decided to have him some, climbed to the pinnacle and then lost his nerve coming down.

    Praying to the local saint, he promised half the honey proceeds if he got down safely. Which he did, and promptly forgot his promise.

    So, time passes and he rather likes his wealth so he decides on a seconf foray. Lowering himself on the rope, he sees a vicious serpent coiling to attack. Unsheathing his Bowie, he slices the scaley one in twain ...

    You got it, the 'serpent' was the dude's own rope, which he cut through, sending himself into the brine and down to Davy Jones' locker.

    The gods are not mocked.

    Up a narrow track she led us, me joking that it was exactly the rural outback where one *should* come across that rare sight, a black-clad crone astride donkey.

    Rounding the trail, there ahead *is* the very beast of burden, albeit sans hag atop.
    We clamber on up until we reach a tin shack (as it seems) whose key she turns and door opens to reveal a gem of a chapel with icons on every wall and the most exquisite candles and woodwork on the pews.

    We slip coins in the box and light candles and sit for a while, each lost in thought.

    For me, a mystical experience and I am lost for words when we finally make our way down.

    11 October 2006

    Fink Rat

    They should  be running scared out there if not actually crawling away to die a horrible death in some nook inaccessible to hound Sam.

    Instead, they are sitting around some water hole giggling their ratty tails off at me.

    In my quest to make Ranchero Busker a rodent-free zone, I have taken advice from all quarters:

    • Mama read somewhere that a whiff of tar will send them shrieking into the next county
      • I get myself (and much of the house and surroundings) thoroughly murky daubing the mucky stuff here and there (mostly *here* about my person)
    • Mountain man and lion of the nightcrew, the canny apond, tells me that a dab of ammonia behind the ears will speak of a 'serious cat presence'.
      • Jars all over the house - and blimey, that stuff don't half hit the nostrils if you stand over the open jar.
    • Pet store bloke shows me pills that they nosh on and crawl off to meet the Maker.
      • Succulent plates of the pills are distributed all around

    I'm left with the residue which I put downstairs in the toolshed, on a high shelf and all at one end: jar with tar; ammonia bottle; plate of pills.

    I go down today to fetch the shears to trim the Judas Tree and I happen to glance at the shelf: absolutely covered in rat droppings all  around the tar and ammonia and particularly *in* the plate of poison which they clearly enjoyed and came back for seconds.

    What galls me is that this is not an easy shelf to get to so they must really  have wanted to sample the fare.

    Dude Rat: 'Ullo doll, fancy coming out for some nosh and a bit of slap 'n' tickle after?

    Babe Rat: Ooh, cheeky - you are a one. OK then, where we goin' then?

    Dude: Well, it's a bit of a climb but werf it when ya gets there. Luverly food - you know, bit of home cooking, bit of exotic, and they do a luverly ammonia tiramisu

    Babe: Ooh, I love ammo' tiramisu.

    Dude: Orlrite then, we'll take my bike. Hang on tight

    Babe: Cheeky!

    pool equipment storage

    Cry Reptile

    As I've toiled in the grassier recesses of the garden, I have  been aware of a certain large and slithery presence.

    But I am shouted down when I mention it and told that I don't get out of slave labour as easily as that.

    (Also, I do rather have a tendency to imagine spooky jungle creatures - particularly after the third Glenlivet.)
    vacuum pipeWell, my dears, imagine my surprise when I went to get the hose and cleaning equipment to give the pool a vacuuming, and there on the pump room roof is this gorgeous but ginormous sloughed skin just lying there next to the storage crate.

    Yes, loves, very funny - I do see the blue python tucked away there - very drole. sloughed skin

    I tell you, I reached over for the cleaning gear with a respectful delicacy and caution.

    Almost enough to make me a dinky little handbag *and* have enough left over for that pair of scaley winklepickers I've been promising myself. skin with CDs

    Another shot with CDs for size.

    I can't *wait* to show it to the rest of them and watch them eat their words.

    Now I'm definitely nervous about grubbing around in the shrubbery.


    I always enjoy the quotes people run in their blogs - Binary is going thru a particularly good run these days.

    Which has nothing to do with the fact that as I scoot round the island, I can't help being repelled by the sheer blubber on our visting tourists.

    Of course, I too would be in that category were it not for the daily bending and hoeing in the garden, so I'd better watch what I say.

    What Saint Gregory says is both thoughtful and graciously phrased:

    "The Vice of Gluttony tempts us in five ways:

    1. Sometimes it forestalls the hour of need.
    2. Sometimes it seeks costly meats
    3. Sometimes it requires the food to be daintily cooked
    4. Sometimes it exceeds the measure of refreshment by taking too much
    5. Sometimes we sin by the very heat of an immoderate appetite."

    I used to think that I had never seen such vastness of thigh and bum until I came to America. Britain is fast catching up if not overtaken its American cousins.

    According to the ominous and depressing Bad Food Britain :

  • One in four British family homes doesn't even have a dining table
  • Three quarters of families eat together round the tele
  • Only a fifth of families eat together once a week.

    So saying, off I scurry for a slap-up brek at the Chandris Hotel of OJ, scrambled eggs and bacon, toast and marmalade, lashings of coffee - and best of all, an unhindered view across the table linen of the most beautiful girl in the world.

  • 10 October 2006



    There is something distinctly sinister about mantises ... er, mantii?

    Here's a fellah I met as I made my breakfast cuppa and who seemed quite taken with the tea strainer.
    killer lookHe seemed an amiable enough cove so I grabbed the camera and started snapping him in close-up mode.

    Soon as I shoved the lens in his face, he looked up and gave me THE most dirty scowl.
    stalking meLook at the bastard - if that isn't venomous eye-contact I don't know what.

    Lord of the Nitekrüe would know all about this lot ...

    Dueling Bellies

    Thanks to Wired and Table of Malcontents for this splendid belly dance to *that* instrumental with the great Eric Weissberg on banjo and Steve Mandel on guitar.

    Trouble oop 't paper mill: Reuters editor Joe Maguire "no longer works" for the wire service after giving his boss a galley of his forthcoming book, Brainless: The Lies and Lunacy of Ann Coulter.

    No one's actually admitting that he's been fired, but Reuters have confirmed that Maguire was granted conditional approval to write his book on the sizzling long-legged A.C.

    In a risible biz-speke statement such as might be spouted by a Bainbridge Island city planner, Reuters tried to "explain" Maguire's booting by quoting their principles of "integrity, independence and freedom from bias."

    Actually, it sounds *exactly* like a running dog yellow cur treehouse downing BI city planner ...

    According to a fellow employee, when staffers were told JM was no longer employed, it was made clear they "weren't allowed to ask why."

    Tsk - I could have told Maguire that it doesn't pay to mess with La Coulter. Not just a pretty face above distracting thighs; this tigress bites.

    09 October 2006

    rear patio

    Bird for Busker

    To His Excellency the Danish consul's to celebrate some scandiwegian festival involving - nay, requiring - the downing of large quantities of nordic firewater.

    the in-crowdH.E. in top form, conversing in every language under the sun. As I pass, he comments to his British counterpart:

    "I *do* admire your Tony Blair. It must take such fortitude  to contemplate such an unblemished record of failure.

    He seems to have achieved everything except success."
    being offered dianeI have an asinine haircut and look like a plucked chicken. Naturally, the night's sport is to find me a girfriend. Ha ha, very funny.

    The Consul's wife is the consummate hostess and caters for all her guests' needs.

    She offers me newly-arrived (and newly single-fied) hottie, Diane. I stammer thanks but say she looks rar  ther expensive. Madame Consul assures me that the delectable D's divorce settlement will more than provide. Still I dither so she throws in free shipping, much to the amusement of Olympic yachtsman Per Eitzen.

    me, diane and princessThe creature in black is the exquisite Princesse de Something de Other, heiress to some shipping fortune and currently schooling in Switzerland.

    I can never judge babes' ages so there I am chatting her up in my best francais and I ask her if she's married. She bursts out laughing and trills in cut-glass English, "For heaven's sake, you silly thing, I'm still at *school*."

    Deep blush and stammer.

    **Everyone** laughs and I am "Silly Thing" for the rest of the evening, except to Diane who is very understanding and agrees that the Princess looks oh, at least 18.

    Frighteningly self-possesed young lady, also conversing in multi languages. Studying to be an international lawyer (whatever that is) and already with places at two universities. I think she said she favoured Oxford but that Lausanne was 'tempting'.

    She had flown in for the party and to see her aunt and is flying out on Wednesday straight from a dinner party. I am not that easily fooled; I know the plane schedules and I catch her out by reminding her that there *are* no flights on Wednesday at that hour.

    princess and pilot

    She gives me a look of non-comprehension and patiently explains that her flight is when she says it is. Because I am being so obtuse, she points out her pilot.

    Burly dude in striped shirt.

    I am shocked.

    Since when have we taken to bringing the hired help to polite society?

    07 October 2006

    muggy morning

    Zimmer Un-manned

    Long night, early morn.

    I was too long on the guitar, too little attention to her, and we both know it.

    Blackmark to me.

    Still, she's accepted my lift home.

    As I turn the ignition, the CD kicks in and it's Dylan.

    She turns with a smile.

    Like a Rolling Stone and suddenly the misty morn takes life.streaky morn

    Is there another song - another singer? - that unites like Roberto?

    She knows the words; I know every *nuance* and as we drive I do my know-all act 'til she puts a finger to my lips for silence.

    The most intimate move in an evening that reeked of intimacy. It's perfect.

    No other cars on the road and I drive too fast, but at the speed that suits.

    view from spartillaUn-asked she finds my wad and rolls and lihts a perfect one, holding it up at windscreen focus.

    Not to drone, but I find new nuances or insults every time I listen to That Song.

    She knows the route better than I and asks me to pull over at the next bend.

    We get out to watch the morning move in, leaving the Merc's door open for the song to wail out as we hug and kiss.

    Google Sub Peony

    Look forward to learned counsel chatting up some distinguished geeks when Google subpoenas Amazon, Microsoft, Yahoo and their ilk over this book scanning case.

    Les Googs need low down on what the others  are up to - book lists, costs, estimated sales, dealings with publishers, dissing copyright owners ... I can hear the shredders cranking from here.

    06 October 2006

    oldie cover

    Cig Power

    With news of my belovèd France caving into the nico-nazis and approving a proposal to ban smoking in public areas, it really does seem that the nannies are winning.

    Only slight hope from an IHT article that "We French have a terrible contrarian characteristic that makes us reject anything imposed from above."

    Three huge cheers, therefore, to my favourite reading, The Oldie, for devoting their October issue to splendid cover art and good writing in praise of the cancerous art of hacking and wheezing.

    I'm not sure this is true, but word has it that the British busybodies want to set up an 0800 hotline for stoolpigeons to squeal on us persecuted puffers whenever we flout the smokes ban.

    Can't you just imagine the loathsome specimens they'll bring in to man such a hotline:

    "Thanks for calling CigSnitch. Your whistle-blowing is being recorded for training purposes.

    • Press one if you're reporting a cigarette smoked stylishly in the manner of a femme fatale
    • Press 2 for a secretive cig concealed in a cupped hand
    • Press 3 for a furtive fag behind the bike sheds
    • If you wish to report someone wearing nicorette patches in a flamboyant self-satisfied manner, press four ....

    Speaking of T'Oldie - which I do everywhere I go - Jerusha McCormack's oddly moving piece on Enduring Grief is online for bereaveds and others to read and gain whatever comfort they can from it.

    Basically, Ball in jar beats trad crap platitudes.

    Speaking of my beloved France, amused to see the old chestnut revived. You know the one, two reasons for the British to dislike the French: Firstly, they are too logical; secondly they own France - "a country which we have always judged to be much too good for them".

    Now it seems we Brits want to be  French.

    Well not me, if les francais are going to be so pusillanimous as to hound puffeurs of les bonnes gauloises. Greece seems to be the last bastion and I know that there's meant to be some ruling around the corner but I am assured by one and all that we will simply be very Greek and nod the sniveling legislation in and proceed to ignore it with the contempt it deserves. (Coughing will be believing.)

    Trademark cigar: A sad tale from the world of books concerning the once-proud house of Heinemann under whose umbrella my former employer, Martin Secker & Warburg, once preened.

    Last year, the Heinemann's childrens books section published The Life of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

    The cover featured the iconic shot of the great man - from which the pricks removed his cigar because - whimper mewl - they thought teachers wouldn't like it.

    Well, fuck you Heinemann - down whose corridors strode such giants as Tim Manderson, Tom Rosenthal and the Nigels Hollis and Viney, real  publishers with vision and backbone whose boot laces the current herd are not fit to lick.

    What a spineless toadying shower they've turned out to be, no longer fit to call themselves publishers and a disgrace to such distinguished back-list scribblers as as Maugham, Ustinov and Vidal.

    Rat Repel

    I once had an author who refused to have any competent or flattering photo on the back flap of his book on the theory that a writer should be writing  and not posing or poncing for some glamour shot that'd help his publicist place him with the media.

    Any crittur repelling bunch that can pack so many typos and mis-spellings into its site has  to be focusing more on what it's good at than pandering to English major pedants like me.

    05 October 2006


    Is someone hacking into me and playing silly buggers?

    Just noticed my locale had been switched from Greece to Guinea.

    Presumably PGN and I'm now expected to blog in pidgin (which I can, so beware).

    Prolly being paranoid among the crocii sieberi  but if not, Yo! low-life peterian hackista, beware coz I have friends in high places.

    I know the Dook of URL and if I have to get the Pondmeister on your case, yer balls gone be nailed to the nearest referrer log.

    As I say, probably no more than a case of the local djinn wafting around and snagging his curlicue sandals on this room. All cool.

    Blog Power

    I'm really really  pleased that dishy spunky Catherine Sanderson's Petite Anglaise has found a home between covers.

    Her account of a single mum living and working in Paris has been scooped up:

  • Shrewd Julie Grau for Spiegel & Grau
  • Maya Mavjee at Doubleday Canuck
  • Zoe Pagnamenta at PFD New York
  • Brit readers will thank Katy Follain and my brief publicist home, Michael Joseph.
  • Rights to Goldmann in Germany
  • RCS in Italy
  • De Bezige Bij in Holland
  • Film  rights, by God, in the sweaty paws of PFD's Jago Irwin.

    By Hermes, hope for us all.

    When next I'm over to Londinium, I must try touting the dulcet Julie Leung's output. Might get her producing a bit more and relieve my cold turkey for her excellent writings.

  • BAROQUE 'N' ROLL - Take 2

    pavel soloist

    Darlings, can you 'imagine' these jpgs attached to my earlier scribblings?

    the band

    And if someone can tell me what the deuce I'm doing wrong here to end up sans piccies, most grateful and there could be a bar of Apostoli's olive oil soap winging its way over to wherever.


    Good for complexion, digestion, sex life, peace of mind, smelling so good that chicks go umm as they pass on the street (oh right, I've covered sex life.

    should be pic here


    Oh bleagghh! None of the fricking fotos has come out.

    Well, I was going to say that,

    Just when one thinks one's shrugged off the dullards, along comes some peterian twit (see comment) to give the pearls/swine interface another drubbing. Seems like he has the last laff.

    Ah well, can't be fussy. If I'm to enjoy smart comments on mama's crocusia, I have also to entertain thicko contributions from the hosts of Midia.

    As Mubarak our camel driver once reminded, "The dogs bark, the caravan moves on".

    More sublime music to soothe my soul, this time on Genevieve's estate whose Venetian buildings include the spacious concert room.

    should be pic here

    Lovely acoustics, lousy lighting for puny cameras like mine, hence the rotten pics that do no justice.

  • Albinoni: Adagio
  • Pachelbel: Canon
  • Vivaldi: B flat concerto for violin, cello
  • Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

    I knew Seasons from countless playings on the stereograph but had never heard it en personne.

    For starters, it should not be given to us to compose such music. Second, it should *certainly* not be given to mere mortals to *play* such sublimity.

    I didn't know whether to risk vertigo just watching soloist Pavel Hula's rippling fingers, or close eyes and swoon at the swirling music and rich acoustics of the room.

    Nor have I ever heard the allegro played so fast without losing Vivialdi's intent.

    should be pic hereOn the final chord, we rose as one to applaud. We cheered, we wept; glimpsing a nearby vase of flowers, Panos wrenched them from their container and hurled the bunch at their feet.

    Later around the buffet I found myself reaching for a last pastry at the same time as Pavel.

    "Maître ..." I stuttered, standing back and gesturing for him to take it.

    Of course, these multi-lingual blokes have been trained all over the world and speak fluently, so he just grinned and thanked me.

    "Hungry business," he smiled, popping the crust into his mouth.

    "And that totally cool jacket?" I burbled, "Dude! Was it woven by Polish virgins from the fur of your finest lammas?"

    "Is ski jacket. I find it in Kitzbühel last time I take holiday. Is OK - like a matador. When I play Vivaldi, is like I am fighting bull and my orchestra they are my picadors." We laugh.

    "Tonight, sir, you were awarded both ears and the tail." We laugh again and raise glasses.

    Meanwhile, the local gentry are lining up to shake his hand, the ladies to curtsey and blush and wave their fans in unambiguous fashion."

    In a lull, I say that if he had a ring, we'd be kneeling to kiss it.

    He raises the killer left hand, "Ring not good for playing."

    "Was joke," I mutter.

    "Yes," he nods gravely, "Joke".

  • 03 October 2006

    Francis Bacon

    Interesting article on Francis Bacon reminds me of another unlikely name-dripping tale from back in my 1970s publishing days when the likes of me and Gwyn Headley (whom God preserve) bestrode the universe as Masters of the booksy PR scene.

    Muriel's: The Secker office was in Soho's Carlisle Place, a mere stumble down to the French pub and the Colony Room Club, better known as Muriel's after the razor-tongued owner (God rest her soul, where'er it be perched in some celestial dive).

    Serious imbibing and the clientele was a Qui C'est Qui of the louche and famous.

    Of whom two were Tom "Doctor Who" Baker (of the voluminous scarf) and Francis.

    First off, I may have been a thrusting young hackery turk commanding the publicity destinies of such worthy scribblers as Melvyn Bragg (Lord Bragg to you), Saul Bellow, David Lodge et co, but I never presumed to hobnob with the Bacon coterie.

    So one evening Francis was tottering around with his usual bouteille of champers (Have I told this before? Stop me if you've heard it), generously offering to one and all. When he came to me, tilting it towards my half pint of lager, I said without thinking, "Thanks but no. I won't sponge off you, Francis."

    Francis stopped mid pour and went over to Muriel:

    "Do you know what this divine boy just said to me?"

    "Leave him alone, you randy c**t (Muriel spoke only the refinedest U English), he's all right."

    "No, you don't understand. He said he wouldn't sponge off me.

    Ever after, he was always v friendly when we met.

    Baker's 23 million dozen: For some reason, Muriel's sported an incongruous ceiling-dangling TV that no one watched, of course, because we were too busy sponging and assignating and poncing around in our sideburns and kipper ties and Harilela suits.

    One evening, Francis pointed out to Tom that the bloke on the box with the Medusa locks and swathing scarf bore a bizarre resemblance.

    "Of course it looks like me, you daft c**t - haven't you heard of f****ng Doctor Who?" Shake of head.

    "See that up there? Twenty-three *million* people watch that. Do even 23 *hundred* know what a f****ng* 'Francis Bacon' looks like?"

    I forget the reply.

    And isn't there some story about someone preaching the tax-free virtues of Switzerland, to which Francis snorted in derision that he'd go mad looking at "all those effing views".

    Prolly apocryphal

    Greek Etiquette

    "When is it OK to be rude?" asks the excellent Athens News, and lets the witty Kathy Tzilivakis go to town in an article as funny as it is dead accurate.

    Some tips that I, too, have picked up here:

  • Dahling, kiss on *both* cheeks, even the raspy ones of male pals.
  • No, petal, do NOT make that chi-chi circular OK sign with your fingers; it's terribly rude and could get you a knuckle sandwich in the wrong company.
  • Don't talk to the hand: Another favourite of mine that stumps the tourist Brit oiks every time is the palm raised towards somebody. Yes, yes - to you and *me* it means "stop", or even Hi or Bye, but in Greece, it's known as the moutza and is the equivalent of giving someone the finger, a gesture I see to my dismay has crossed the Atlantic and is regularly used by the more asinine of my countrymen. Whatever happened to the good old "V"-sign, eh?
  • Say "Ta": Saying 'thank you' is very English. The Greeks will tell you to give it a rest. Theory is that we anglais have an insecurity complex and feel that, by saying 'thank you', we sort of cancel some sort of debt. Sounds bollocks to me but there you are.

    Aye, in Greece, people say 'thank you' a lot less often, but there is more a sense of giving to others without question.

  • Space: Ho ho, my pet peeve, that ludicrous piece of sensitive Americana, Personal Space. The Greeks have no truck with such pathetic daintiness and like to come up close and tap or touch or fondle or hug.

    Apart from their comic clothing and that inane stretched smile denoting solemn interest in all around them, you can spot the colonials by their backing away from those they feel are "violating" their 'personal space', rude dudes.

  • Smoking - guffaw. Most everywhere else - and it's spreading, dammit - smoking chez un non-smokeur is considered mauvais etiquette. Not in the blessed land of Homer: asking a smoker *not* to smoke is considered rude and inhospitable, if not laughable.

    Hosts are expected  to supply ashtrays for guests, and quite right, too.

    Yep, Greece is a non-smoker's nightmare, non-smokers are a minority, and despite puny non-smoking legislation in stores, restaurants, cafes, banks and the like, everyone lights up without a second thought.

    Yes, restaurants have caved in to special seating for non-smokers, but the best tables are reserved for smokers. Comme il faut, or the Greek equivalent.

    Fine article; noble country.

  • Dashboard Mu'hammad

    Oh boy, oh boy ... someone had better be verry  careful.

    Me, for starters, once I start puttering around downtown Kerkira with Kyrios M bobbing in time to the potholes - and everyone I'm giving him to as the perfect Yuletide prezzie.

    Caveat Intemperate Language: Gentler readers should not  click, but there is a rather funny Hate Mail section for those who can ignore the blunt language.

    02 October 2006


    Look for flicks made in your area.

    I look up WA's Bainbridge Island and it only gives Disclosure. Wasn't Davy Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars also filmed a bit there?

    And, what's with Officer and a Gemmun belonging to Bremerton? Every visit to Port Townsend had some grizzled local blaring on about the academy building on the hill.

    01 October 2006


    Food of Life

    To Vivienne's for one of her brilliant concerts.

    Perfect night, perfect weather.

    I went out of duty and left drained by the exquisite music.

  • Dvorak's 'American' string quartet
  • Mozart's clarinet, A major
  • Mendelssohn Octet in E flat maj (written, I'm told, at the venerable age of sweet 16, the tosser)
  • River in Egypt

    I ran the PR for the UK edition of All the President's Men so I have soft spot for Woodstein and the guys were total pros (of course) when they came over to promote.

    That was back in the early 1970s when we were all sprightlier.

    Bob Woodstein has gone on to be the grand old man of ace exposes and I can't wait to read his latest pronouncements on the State of Denial in which Dubya has dumped us.

    I take it that the press "over there" is full of leaked reviews of the book and highly placed deniable comments.

    In my inbox is (equally well-placed) pals' take on the hullabaloo:

  • NYT bought Bob's STATE OF DENIAL (release next week), in time for front page story.
  • Brattish Daily News *also* bought a copy, even though the Times gets all the credit.
  • They say Woodward found himself "speechless" by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's repeated refusals to take responsibility or admit to how bad the situation in Iraq has become.

    "How could he not see his role and responsibility? I could think of nothing more to say."

  • Scramble by Woodward's *own* paper to throw up a story that mimics some of the other reports.
  • CBS get their skates on for the usual Friday revelations from Sunday's pre-release 60 Minutes interview.

    Back on the ranch, the cement dries on the drive and the rats are back.