31 December 2006

Amo, Amas, Amat

Gosh that takes me back ... 'Magpie' Mason in the Upper Fifth. He'd look over your shoulder as you translated and twist the hair above your right ear at each 'howler'. Fuck, it hurt.

Of course, he wouldn't get away with it nowadays: Some bolshie 5th-dan oick would stand up and lay him flat. But I digress.

Back in the mists of time, a prohibitively bright young fellah rode the range and cited Harry Mount's fine book in that blog he never keeps up.

Years later, news gets through to the unwashed masses and Mount's royalties are mounting.

First print was 4,000 but thanks to brisk demand, a further 115,000 have just been ordered and the bidding war among US publishers top a quarter million.

But sharp-eyed Eric spotted it first, so good on you, mate.

Shame about the blog: it showed promise.

It were sex wot done him in: after years of enforced celibacy and rejection, some discerning doe-eyed hottie spotted his true worth, hauled him onto her chaise-longue and he hasn't surfaced for air since.

Have I met anyone famous?

You talkin' to me?

Have I   met anyone famous?

The Seditious one poses this gift of a question but then plays dirty by inviting responses to some oddball blue-green-indigo link that instantly flatlines me by sending CPU usage up to 100%.

It takes more than that to thwart a true swanker.


First off - and to leave no doubt of my credentials as a lying braggart - I actually know El Seditio hisself. Yea, in all his splendour, and to cap *that* I have also dallied in the company of his lovely wife and far from seditious family.

After that it can only be small fry.

As book publicist to the gentry, I have mopped the brow of such media darlings as:

  • Saul Bellow
  • Carlos Fuentes
  • Melvyn Barg - sorry, Bragg (LORD Bragg to you)
  • The great Auberon Waugh
  • The sprightly Craig Brown
  • Piers Paul Read - and hence Argentinian 'cannibals' Nando and Roberto of 'Alive' fame
  • David Lodge and Malcolm Bradbury
  • Michal Ayrton
  • dauber John Piper
  • Woodward and Bernstein (see passim my silly story of Bob's phone call)
  • Edna O'Brien and Erica Jong
  • Gunther Grass
  • Jim Michener
  • Drone, bore, etc etc.

    As a footloose busker of no fixed abode, I've swapped capos with

  • Messieurs Jansch and Renbourn
  • Ralph 'Streets o' Londres' McTell
  • Tom Rush
  • Bill Frisell

  • 1964: Fresh out of school and back in the Hong Kong parental home, my makeshift band fronted for the Kinks. Sniff. Ray was perfectly horrid.

    Talk about "You really got me": Mister Davies really got my doll of an Eurasian girlfriend, sashaying off with her without a by your leave and returning her starry-eyed beyond repair. But I forgive him - one hell of a songwriter and performer.

  • Jimi Hendrix. No? Yes! What, Sedition *and* Hendrix? Go to the back of the class and here's some sandpaper for the nose.

    C'est vrai. I was pals with the brother of a cute chanteuse Lulu (who married a Bee Gee, albeit briefly) so I got tickets to go along to a show where - shock horror - Hendrix was a guest.

    Being too square and ugly, I wasn't allowed to sit in camera view so I was shoved in the back from where it was easy to slip out and search for the loo. As I was coming back, who should be weaving down the BBC's marbled halls but JH in all his bandanna'd splendour, also looking to leak.

    I showed him the way and pretended to need one m'self, meanwhile having nothing to say. He was purty zonked and afterwards asked me where he could have a smoke. Seeing that his exotic baccy of choice appeared NOT to be Sobranie Black Russian of finest Turkish leaf, I suggested we go outside and so down the stairs we went and out by the front door.

    The BBC commissionaire knew me from bringing boxer champ Henry Cooper and mountaineer Chris Bonington for interviews *and* making sure they stopped by his desk to say hello ('Does the list ever end?' - Ed).

    "He with you then, Mr Holmes? Coz if the gemmun is thinking of coming back in, it'd be best if you accompanied, if you know wot I mean?"

That'll do for now, and thanks to The Lion for this chance to reminisce and segue into 2007 on a high note.

Chronia Polla to all of you.

30 December 2006


My new unfavourite word.

Never even heard of it before the always-excellent Stefanie Marsh's column.

Strange, that, what with me having spent the past few months in close encounters just trying to decipher a certain Allemande.

Anyway, she seems to have just delivered the death blow by SMS.

Brave new world where we can electronically jettison our unwanteds sans all that messy eye-contact and pleading tears and pathetic pleads of "But why ... ?"

Bowls Up

Hollow red-faced laugh at the further total balls-up by the English cricket XI as they compound their humiliation Down Under.

    "OK, chaps, here's our ultra secret plan on how to bowl the Aussies out.

    Reggie will pass round laminated copies and I'll pin the master copy up here.

    Don't forget, chaps - mum's the word."

Blimey - and these are the proud sons of a nation that produced the cunning likes of

  • Kim Philby
  • Donald Maclean
  • Guy Burgess
  • Royal historian queen to the Queen, Sir Anthony Blunt


    Makes a chap ashamed to be British.

  • And God created woman ... er

    Actually, I rather fancy the lady au naturel but the transformation is fun and the final billboard shot is hot.

    Cable Network Noose

    Know what? This video of the rope going on Saddam H?

    I haven't yet been able to watch it past where the guy wraps some sort of black silk scarf round his neck and leads him forward ....

    Christmas post-mortem musings

    Snapshot recollections now that I'm back and letting the memories surface:

  • How boorish most of my fellow Brit males are, looking for a fight or argument, incapable of even contemplating discussion or apology
  • How many beer-bellied oafs sport foxy kind-faced wives
  • School-uniformed youths smoking at the bus-stops
  • Officiousness of minions at public services such as public transport and servers in shops ... and banks (see below)
  • Deft efficiency of those street-side newsagents, knowing exactly where their papers and mags are and accepting any large note and whipping out the precise change
  • Power-crazed meter maids (see also below)
  • Sit vacs in posh shop windows: "Fluent Russian essential"
  • Stunningly beautiful Russkie chicks everywhere, cooing into cells and packing wads of dough
  • Life-saving online reading courtesy of the Seditious one who's filing report after report of the finest.
  • Hearing the new Beatles compilation, Love

    Below: Banks - Last time I reported from London I'd just arrived from dulcet Seattle so of course i got a buffeting. Since then I've lived in Greece *and* have dealt with Barclays bank on their many cockups of my mother's investments and general banking, as a result of which I finally cornered a CS rep who owned the problems and solved them and even called me up to give me advice for any future hassles.

    Which I had, so when i called from London to the Hans Place branch round the corner (detoured via their Isle of Man call centre) I had all the data and was able to wrong-foot the rep all down the way.

    Social engineering: actually i was rather naughty.

    "Hang abaht, let me just log into yer site ... right ... see that file called "International Private accounts"? scroll down to 'corresp-johnston', got it? scroll to 'closure' and read ... er, let me see, yeah right, 4th para ... 'k? read from there and that might help."

    Reminds me of time when some of the Amazon heros had just been defenestrated from the mother ship and were calling in about their orders under new names.

    Fromgrep/Badbook: The nouveau CS types had none of our skills so we had the fun of sweetly enquiring, "really, you can't find my order? ok, dude, fromgrep XY, maybe try badbooking on this one ... yah ... cool."

    As the Bard of Bezos once penned,

    'Always fromgrep when you're in the queues
    Drat those duplicate customer email blues ..."

    Good days.

  • 29 December 2006

    Christmas 2006

    Wonderful Christmas and thank the Lord it's over and my liver and digestion can return to its *normal* rocky road.

    See below this post for more shots.

    • London ~ Tuscany ~ London ~ tail-end of my Kerkira buddies' knees-up.
    • Booze and baccy of the finest, courtesy of mine brother and mine host of the most discerning and generous.
      • No bottle allowed to approach quarter drained sans a replacement.
      • Music of the finest on an invisible sound system that rocked the foundations as Caesar's legions might have as they tramped by AD whenever.

    Weather of the gloriousest, allowing al fresco drinks on the terrace as we mused on last year's knee-high snow

  • Prezzies galore ("Oh, you shouldn't have ..." "Hold on, I'm just opening yours to me ... oh, right, I shouldn't.")

    No pics of London frolics because they exceed excess, speaking of which, binge boozing among les filles has now reached epic proportions and no man is safe from either being beaten up by some drunken slagette or having his Hush Puppies drenched in their vomit.

    London lovely if you know where to look and clog yer ears against the appalling estuary anglais they now utter. Posted by Picasa

  • P's house in Tuscania

    Moi-meme on the border of P's land. Great view.

    Long view of P's house

    Not a lute: a crossbow for jolly japes with the wild boar that cross into P's estate and trample his planty things. (Truth to tell, rather sympathise with them hogs but sshh, don't tell frater)

    My kind of healthy Christmas.

    20 December 2006

    Online Grotto.co.uk

    Speaking of the sainted 'Zon, a nifty bit of non footwork by its British boss, Brian McBride, as he lures mistresses Miles and Rumbelow into delivering yet another of those leaden interviews that are such a trademark of prefects of Bezosia. Jeff must insist that any promotion is back up by inarticulacy and dullness.

    I like the interview for its juicy upfront plug for .co.uk's sex toys section, "quietly added to the site six weeks ago."

    Gosh, I remember buying all my gal pals' fripperies from Ann Summers, so it's good to see her on the Amazon site. How old must Ann be these days?

    Psst, I do think it's going a bit far including Harry Mount's Amo Amas Amat with the sex toys pages, even if he does proclaim his book as THE route to becoming a latin lover.

    I didn't find the 'Zon that coy about its excellent addition: I just punched in "sex toys" and started from there.

    Working for Woodward

    This newsy item about Bob 'All the Prez's Men' Woodward looking for a sidekick reminds me of an Amazon.com incident so impossible and unlikely that I don't know why I bother to tell it.

    I was still a lowly rep at the time, chained to the cubicle, hammering out phone and email replies at a leisurely rate sufficient to satisfy genial Mark 'The Impaler' Schaler.

    Suddenly on the phone was a bespoke young man announcing himself as the great journo's "assistant" while, in the background, I could hear Woodward himself droning away to some shallow-tonsiled contact.

    What, the assistant wanted to know, was Amazon going to do about the availability of Bob's latest book slipping (in the last 15 minutes) in our website charts from 24-hr shipping to a dismal 2-3 days?

    What made this coincidence so hilarious was that, in a previous avatar as London book publishing's greatest publicist since Gwyn Headley, I had actually promoted Woodward & Bernstein's chef d'oeuvre and whisked the dynamic duo round the nation's media - a far cry from shivering in a Seattle dungeon, fielding customer service queries in between gobbles of the Bezos gruel.

    The answer was that the sensitive Amazon stock control computer was having trouble keeping track of stocks of the bestseller as it flew out the distribution centre. Like the weather, the availability message would be back in sunnier mood in just a jiffy.

    The young fellah sounded sceptical so I told him "I can hear Bob droning away in the background. Tell him it's his London PR supremo on the phone, from the Secker & Warburg days, and to stop being so paranoid and checking our website every 30 seconds for signs of waning popularity."

    Roberto and I did have brief words but the chat was so bizarre that my fellow reps either side left off their own calls to listen in.

    Maybe I should apply for this post.

    18 December 2006

    Sahib or Sahibette?

    Natch, le tout Kerkira agog at CNN's reportage of the he/she sprinter from the sub-continent.

    Wells-sahib will have the inside track on this but I have more immediate queries.

    Seems to me some deuced slippery reportage on this bizarre controversy. I mean, is she or isn't he?

    What tests are needed except a disinterested exploratory paw down her panties and if she's packing a johnson and a brace of brass monkeys, c'est ca, non?

    Less than meets the eye here, I'm wagering.

    A fellow athleterene spoke in her defence, saying that it isn't her fault so much as the Indian sports council who should have conducted an official check and saved the lithe darling all this hoo-hah.

    The lady herself expresses herself confused and unaware of what it's all about.

    Again I say, surely a leisurely fondle after lights-out would have alerted her/him to which side she was batting for?


    Lesson of Nine Carols

    Mama being pillarene of the local Anglican church, and I being charioteer, orft we jolly well went to the service of nine carols and readings from the Good Book.

    Usual old biddies and creaky gents stuttering their way thru the word of The Lord, but also this totally cool guy.

    Student at Reading University, county of Berkshire, UK (pronounced Redding, yo'). English mother, Greek pa, read the Greek translation of the preceding English text, lovely delivery, perfect accent.

    alexandros street

    Greek Internet Usage

    You never know, you could be nursing your pint of Theakstons in the snug bar of the 'Gilded Merkin' ("Fine ales to the gentry since 1764"), or at a loss for conversation on the Bainbridge ferry, and some wag pipes up, "Gee, I wonder what the figures are for those online Greeks?" and bingo, you'll be the club bore with the answer.

  • Population: Last census seems to have been in 1991 when the figure was 10,264,156, an increase of 524,000 (5.4 percent) over 1981.

    In 1991, population density was 78.1 persons per square kilometer--a misleading statistic because much of Greece's mountainous territory is uninhabited.

  • 25% of Greeks surf for information.
  • 61% use it as a work tool, 64.1% for email and chatrooms. Fewer for online purchases, travel and entertainment.
  • 24% of total Greek users are women
  • Men: 76%
  • 8% of users are over 50.
  • 41.3% in the 25-34 age range
  • 35-44 make up 26.8%
  • 90% go online on a daily basis, mainly from home (59.9%) and the workplace (36.9%).
  • I don't need interpret for you the blissful unwiredness those numbers convey.
  • 17 December 2006

    Trad Christmas Nosh

    Or should it be 'Traditional Crīstesmæsse Noshe' as per the marketing gurus' desire to posh it all up?

    Anyway, there's that lovely word again and not a zirconium menorah protruding from Santa's sack.

    Whatever the correct wording, I have instructed my brother in his Tuscan eyrie that mother and I are expecting to sit down on Christmas Day to the full monty repast.

    16 December 2006

    Prissy Pedestrianism


    We Corfiots abhor setting even a toenail off the sidewalk.

    The god voiture reigns supreme.

    shopping n sightseeing

    You can see how and why there isn't even a word in Greek for 'jay-walking'.

    alley down to the seafront

    Kerkira Yule

    One of the quiet side streets away from the bustle.

    Not an Etruscan menorah in sight as just around the corner everyone ramps up for a merry Christmas.

    Only a few years back, no one hardly knew about the dread C word but the marketing boys saw to that and now you can buy cards in every Diellas and AlphVita store in town.
    creaky penthouseSome lovely old empty properties in town that I'd love to acquire as a hideaway, but theyre worth a fortune and the owners are only waiting for the big money to be offered.
    orpheus cinemaLocal movie palace shows all the hits.

    Parking ain't too available so the boss uses the outside foyer.
    downtown kerkiraWhere isn't  traffic clustered at Christmas? Kerkira is no different. Posted by Picasa

    Conspiracy of Dunces

    If you wondered whither plans to turn this genius unfilmable comic novel into a movie, or just wondered how the heck it came to be published in the first place, Slate seems to have an update.

    14 December 2006

    Droles Paroles

    To keep the ball rolling, and show that it's not just a spectator sport, NASTURTIUM has long been a giggler for me.

    By way of guidelines, and I'm ready to be guided here, I think these words should be basically serious - the pompous the better - rather than easy-peezy stuff like 'codswallop' or 'gob-smacked' or 'prattle'.

    Let the games begin.

    12 December 2006


    I believe the astonishingly athletic black guy who leads James Bond a merry chase at the start of 'Casino Royale' is the *founder* of 'Parkour'.

    It started in France.

    These guys here are fit and crazy.

    11 December 2006

    Christmas Christmas Christmas Christmas Christmas Christmas Christmas Christmas Christmas Christmas Christmas Christmas

    Got it?

    Can you guess what I and mine will be celebrating this month?

    With a luverly big tree, and not an electric menorah in sight. Got it?

    I hope news of this Sea-Tac idiocy spreads until it's a world-wide farce and the rabbi Bogomilsky is hailed as the global buffoon he set out to prove himself.

    Vox Shrimpo

    Actually, it's more likely to be along the lines of vox malacostraca , but no matter.

    What's the loudest thing in the ocean?

    The blue whale might produce the loudest noise of any individual animal in the sea or on land, but the loudest natural  noise is made by shrimps. Pin back yer lug 'oles and learn:

  • The sound of the "shrimp" layer is the only natural noise that can white out a submarine's sonar, deafening operators thru their cans.
  • The noise of collected shrimps adds up to 246 decibels. Even allowing that sound travels five times faster in water, this equates to approx 160 decibels in air, louder than the 140dB of a jet taking off or the human pain threshold.
  • Imagine everyone in the world frying bacon at the same time.
  • Howzit done? Eh bien (or 'Lipon', as the Greeks say) - it comes from trillions of shrimps snapping their one oversized claws all at once. But wait, it gets more interesting:
  • Video shot at 40,000 frames per sec show that the noise occurs 700 microseconds after   the claw has snapped shut. The noise in fact comes from burst bubbles.
  • A small bump on the side of the claw fits into a groove on t'other side. The claw shuts so fast that a jet of water squirts out at 100 km per hour, fast enough to create expanding bubbles of water vapour. When the water slows and normal pressure is restored, the bubble collapses, creating heat as high as 20,000°C, a loud pop and light (new word for you, chaps: 'sonoluminescence', where sound generates light).
  • Shrimps use this to stun prey, communicate, and find mates (as well as buggering up sonar, the sharp noise also makes dents in ships' propellors)
  • 10 December 2006

    Ultimate Wingers

    It was harp blower supremo, the piratical Zach Works, who introduced me to the term 'wingman', still not widely used or abused across The Pond and I'm still not myself sure I know fully what's involved.

    I think of ZW every time I come across the word and my ambition is, of course, to *be* one or at least watch one in action.

    09 December 2006

    Guitar Technique

    A touch of the Stanley Jordans, hence of no earthly interest or musical value to anyone except the actual player.

    All the same, no-one that young and cool looking should be playing quite so athletically.

    Quite put me off picking up the Taylor for a full 15 minutes.

    07 December 2006


    Hunter shoots 5

    I've had a few testy words m'self with trespassing hunters, and  seen them ostentatiously thumb their safety catches, but this is a bit dramatic.

    Young victims, too.

    Must be more to it than just bad blood feuding.

    Everyone siding with the handsome killer son, of course.

    Personally I'm not so sure about those coups-de-grâce to the head.

    06 December 2006

    swiss army knife

    Call that a Knife?

    The new, 85-pounder Swiss Army Knife.

    I love these articles about nutty miscellany, and it's so good to see the Croc Dundee line go into wide usage.

    04 December 2006

    Lit Review Bad Sex Prize

    Always fun.

    Click on all the links to savour.


    Choose your instrument, get a soundbite.

    (So that's  what an autoharp sounds like.)

    Post-script : Excellent helpful comment from rwells: Sample tracks 7, 9 or 12 from Bryan Bowers' By Heart

    02 December 2006


    I'm such a moaner.

    I grind on and on about loathsome yardwork but it's not like I can't just hurl the tools to the ground and march off in petulant sulk.

    And some of the views are really pretty nice for one who affects to be in a botanical chain gang.
    I trough and sluice when and as I please.
    And this gig, editing the church website ... I have a pretty nice cubicle with mod cons and all that.

    I was looking at this pic and remembering one I have of the piratical Zach Works in similar pensive pose, taken on a 'take your spitfire to work' day when A came up to PacMed and they all went out to play frisbee.
    That was the day the Spitfire pronounced Master Works as 'hot' and the divine JV showed her how to run in a skirt.

    A pretty useful nay essential skill, i'd say, for one whose smile alone would make a preacher lay the Good Book down.

    Ah, that Julie .... Posted by Picasa

    Win '95 launch

    I have few claims to fame of having been anywhere when stuff happened, but I was in the engine room of the launch of Windows '95, thanks to nice Waggener-Edstrom ('tech PR to the wired gentry') having hired me, still dripping from swimming ashore from my Hong Kong sampan, as senior account executive.

    Wagg-Ed was the PR company 'of record' (whatever that means) for Microsoft, thanks to Pam Edstrom having worked with Bill G. Both she and Melissa Waggener were ace bosses and leaders, and my colleagues were unbeatable. A truly talented company.

    I ended up with the Visio account and then Visual FoxPro that got me onto MS's campus and meeting all sorts of competent champs half my age and thrice my energy.

    It ended in tears: Netscape moved up on the inside track and we were suddenly into the browser wars for which I had no skills or knowledge.

    Hefty handshake and out I went to lounge around and temp a bit before m'lud Jeff of Bezosia set up shop and I found myself in a cubicle churning out blurbs and taking phone calls in my fluting Oxford tones. Another great job and another bunch of ace colleagues.

    Anyway, I'll always have a soft spot for that Win95 package.

    Doctorow on the Prez

    Once again the sage rwells delivers the goods, pointing us to the run-don't-dally read of EL Doctorow pinning Bush to the mat:

    An Essay On Our President by E.L. Doctorow

    I fault this president (George W. Bush) for not knowing what death is.

    He does not suffer the death of our twenty-one year olds who wanted to be what they could be."

    Read on for yourselves.

    Whiter shade of Pale-giarism

    Where there's a hit there's a writ, and no sillier example than that Procul Harum organist zimmering out of the woodwork to claim composer's credit simply on the strength of his opening chords.

    Well, Pete Smaill sees him off with a splendidly erudite letter to November 25's Spectator, pointing out that:

    "JS Bach wouldn't last long in court suing Procul Harum for, er, 'adapting' the 'Air on a G String' to become 'Whiter Shade of Pale'. That's because he himself ripped off Vivaldi, copied Handel and even reset the popish 'Stabat Mater' by Pergolesi.

    However, conscious of the need to fingerprint several significant works, his putatively final masterpiece, the 'Art of the Fugue', is signed in German musical notation, BACH.

    Less well known is that his very first cantata, BWV 150, has a BACH verbal acronymn in the final four lines.

    If it is accepted that there is a code in which B=1, A=2, C=3 and H=8, then a whole host of works are signed with the magical gematric 14, including the 'Mass in B Minor' and 'St John Passion', not to mention the 14 sharps in the penitential 'Advent Chorale', 'Nunkomm der Heiden Heiland'

    Rather a good word, 'pale-giarise', (tho' I say so myself). Leaves no doubt about the feebleness of the filcher in only coming up with a pale shadow of the original.

    01 December 2006


    A whole week sans 'phone, ergo sans internet. Living death.

    Weather changed and we are now into mists and mellow fruitfulness. Gorgeous.
    Deprived of 'puter, I've been mooching around with chainsaw and shredder, short back n sides to all n sundry, hoping to make that fatal gaffe that will have mama finally veto me from all yardwork. Didnt work: huge kudos for herculean tasks achieved on time.

    No surfing means more strumming and if only I'd had Ricardo's Dylan chords link *before* I went into cold turkey, I could have licked my rendering of "Been in Missolonghi a da-a-y too long".
    Greek proficiency: Not us EEC types, but immigrants have to pass some test in Greek lingo and history etc before they can get Greekie citizenship.

    Rather than study up all that stuff, I am toiling on the definitive translation into Homeric verse of "Like a Rolling Stone". Not easy to get the vernacular in spirit but I'll make it.

    I have this cool vision of attending for my exam and viva. Instead of walking in laden with papers and theses and crib sheets, I'll saunter in wi' guitar and simply chant 'Stone' in flient cool Helleniki; maybe take along some buddy to do the whizzy bits on the bouzouki. Posted by Picasa