29 January 2007

Letters to the Editor

Good reason if needed for taking the paper version of the Daily Telegraph as well as  checking out the abbreviated online version: the letters section.

Two delightful offerings in the Jan 27 edition.

Andrew Baxter writes from Banbury, Oxon, with a fool-proof method of identifying the class of people - by using the car test:

"A couple taking another couple for a drive would seat themselves thus

  • Working class, men in front.
  • Middle class, man with his own partner in the front
  • Upper class, man with other partner in the front."
  • Spot on absolutely right. Now I'm wondering how it would go in the US?

    Letter 2 from Tim Sugg of Hope Valley, Derbyshire:

    "At traffic lights in Bradford, a large van drew alongside. The sign on the side read 'Khan & Khan Builders.'

    Underneath was the slogan: "You've tried the cowboys - now try the Indians."

    Return to form

    Surf's up.

    The inhibited prohibitive one is blogging again.

    Hurry to savour while stocks last and before his bird hauls him back under the duvet covers.

    I love living in Greece more than you #4

    Morning spent fiddling with pool, backwashing and filtering and hoovering 'n' that.

    Rush to garden party lunch date in posh Acharavi where the law of the land is two air kisses either side. Mwah! Mwah!

    "Darling," breathes K, "I *love* the smell of chlorine in the morning. Means a man has a pool."

    "How do you know it doesn't mean a man is a pool *cleaner*?"

    K swivels me to face our hostess's pool.

    "Sweetie, you look half your age, have a divine bum and only the teensiest of middle-age spread ... but *that* is a pool cleaner."

    I follow her be-ringed finger: a tanned youth netting leaves. Frayed shorts, unbuttoned shirt revealing corrugated abs. Puissant thighs and legs as perfect as a tennis player's.

    "Isn't he divine? Albanian."

    I scoop a drink off a passing tray.

    "Bloody immigration laws. Slack as hell since the colonels left. Bring back the cat, I say. And while you're about it, whatever happened to jolly old 'Droit de Seigneur'?"

    28 January 2007

    Sad-eyed strummer of the Hielands

    Quick - winner of the most unlikely headline.

    Bob Dylan, laird of the glen.


    And Here.

    Rwells will already know the tartan on the McZimmerman kilt and be adding bagpipes to his autoharp renderings of the sainted one's greatest hits.

    27 January 2007

    I like living in Greece more than you #3

    First off, plaudits and gratitude to the seditious one for providing such a wonderful catch-all title for all manner of posts.

    My fix of brown-nosing over, to business, and this is such a marvelous scenario I hope I can do justice.

    Scenario: our Greek lessons are at week 41 of 50 and glimmers of parlance are showing through, thanks to the lovely Joanne who chivvies and bullies, cajoles and caresses her bovine herd of pupils along.

    When we started, we were a motley bunch - still are - and very defensive and antagonistic.

    We're all here under different pretences and pressures. I still don't know all their real names but I know precisely who we all are and how we see each other:

  • Yours Truly - fluting lord fauntleroy (but with convincing accent; pity about dismal vocab). Anyway, basically an arrogant lighweight.
  • Mother of Fluter (to whose apron strings he is clearly and pathetically attached - losah): 30 years in Corfu, nice lady, too fluent to need to be in the class. Ah, forgot - sonny boy can't be out alone.
  • Dai the Chin: tough working class Welsh bloke, no nonsense, retired out here, no idea what's going on. Better learn the lingo, bach.
  • Marina Bill and Billette: Sailed the world, arrived in Kerkira, liked it and are staying. Better gen up on how to order pie and mash.
  • Dowager Duquesa: distressed gentle Italian folkette, wants to bring tour groups over from the land of Caesar.
  • Lucca and his bird: Loudmouth Italian yob whom we hate for his youth (early 20s) and his totally hot chick with the inviting smile
  • Lonely Lavinia: Single Brit lady of uncertain age, meek and mild
  • Russian Ivor and his bosomy ladies: Sinister hulk, says little and what he does say is in caricature KGB intonation

    You get the drift ('We do, we do. Get on with it' - Ed)

    So, lovely Joanne has us read aloud and practise dialogues, which we at first hated but had to get used to over the weeks.

    Context: what we read has names and places filled in so we don't use our own names.

    OK, cut to the chase.

    There's only one main supermarket the foreigners shop at - German "Lidl" - and we've spotted each other there in the past but ignored each other.

    The other day - now vaguely proficient in clasroom Greek, remember, if not able to converse with the natives - a bunch of us found ourselves cruising the aisles and ending up queing with the locals at the checkout counters at the same time.

    My fault. I cheekily greeted 'Mousy Red-head' with the very first word we learned, "Yeia sas!" Hello!

    What followed was pure Pavlovian verbal slapsticks and I wish I'd had my camera to clock the expressions of the natives.

    Imagine this in perfect Greek but excruciating pronunciation, each of us chiming in with the next bit from the lessons book as we realised what was happening:

  • "Yeia sas! Hi!"
  • Yeia sas! How are you?"
  • I am well. And you?
  • I am buying a vegetable
  • What joyous weather. My name is Yanni Maratos. And you?
  • I am named Maria Karagianni
  • From where do you come?
  • I come from Mexico. Kai eseis?
  • I am from Austria. Where in Mexico?
  • Madrid
  • Oreia! Bravo! And you? Where in Austria?
  • Palestine. Loipon! So! What business do you do?
  • I am a teacher
  • Very good. And you?
  • I am a mechanic
  • That is good

    At this point, the locals are agape.

    "Do you like living in Greece?

  • I lust for life here. And you?
  • I like dogs
  • Since how long are you here in Greece?
  • Since 4:30
  • ??
  • I apologise. Since the fourth of yesterday
  • Are you married?
  • My husband is good looking
  • Do you know a good dentist? I want to buy some oranges
  • The weather has turned cloudy
  • Truly, this is my daughter
  • She is very handsome.
  • All this in absolute staight-faced exchange from line to line.

    The expressions on everyone around was classic.

    When we got out to our cars we just fell into each other's arms in laughter and high 5's.

    Good times out of nowhere.

  • Fake Sheikh

    On this joyous day when the guttersnipe News of the World has its nose further bloodied in the Courts for illegally hacking into royal mobile phones, it's worth remembering another reptile in this rag's ranks, the loathsome Mazher Mahmood, undercover reporter known as the "fake sheikh" for his poses to gain his targets' trust.

    No sewer depths are too rank for Mahmood to sink to, no values too dishonest but he takes them as his own.

    Targets have included society figures, most notably Sophie, Countess of Wessex and the beguiling Princess Michael of Kent. He also exposed Prince Harry's drug taking.

    The wider this low-life's image is broadcast, the more likely people will spot him on one of his vile escapades and thwart his efforts with a thorough drubbing.

    26 January 2007


    Blogger upgrade reveals ancient unmoderated comments

    Being a 2-blog chappie (the sadly retired 'Busker',and the current botanophobic 'Corfucius'), I've been denied the Blogger upgrade til now.

    The proud owner of Blogger Mark II (which works brilliantly), I now see that I had quite a few 'Busker' comments waiting for approval before publication.

    How rude you must have thought me:

  • rwells chasing a post-BI email address (I think we've solved that)
  • The parish of Bremerton's own Beat-nik, the always readable Steve Gardner, noting my choice of nik for my adored Spitfire, turned Simmering Sixteen this very day, so what good timing, Steve. I must tell you about her one day; amazing gal, as is my elder.
  • The lovely Elise Wright who sounds terribly fanciable so perhaps I left WA state just in time.
  • Rich Man Wisco reminding me of those heady Peddy days. God, we had fun. And what about that sleuthing Nickum gal, eh? By Achilles' Heel! They don't make 'em like that no more - no doubt much to hubby Nicker's huge relief.
  • And assorted others whose comments I've published sans further burble on my part.

    Bless you all!

  • LGE

    Props where due: it's not just "Life is Good" at LG Electronics (such a silly motto tie-in), but their customer service is right up there:

    I'd lost the battery cover for my LG B2000 cell phone and padded all over Kerkira in search of the agent or some dealer. Zilch.

    I wrote to the US branch and got a feeble reply back that they only handled US inquiries, what with different countries using different technologies etc. (Yo! I'm only after the bit of plastic that slots into the back).

    I wrote to the UK office and got an instant response, giving me TWO contacts including phone numbers:

  • CRC Communicaid
  • Clockwork Logistics

    Both of their CS lines were manned by clued-up types who knew exactly what I needed and what they needed to do for *me*.

    If any big shot over in the South Korea LG chaebol wants to know how their UK business is running, it's in capable hands, sir, and dishing out excellent service, to boot.

  • 24 January 2007

    Stormy Wednesday

    Went into town to lunch with pals in feeble attempt to forget the lady I miss.

    But it was all so goddam dismal and bleak.

    Here's how the summer paradise looks with the first bit of blustery weather.
      Posted by Picasa

      Posted by Picasa

    Your taking offence offends ME 

    I'm sick to the bloody gills with all this whingeing and caterwauling over which Big Sister said what to the other - and speaking of big, that Jade creature is a frigging manatee, nothing but blubber. Now there's  an eyesore to get riled about - forget the asinine quotes that have flowed from all and sundry.

    (Actually, here's a tip: try saying Miss India's mumbai mumblings with your best jai hind accent and they sound rather good.)

    But honestly chaps - what a load of hypocritical garbage. Below-the-belt aggression masquerading as injured innocence.

    Have you noticed just how devious offence-taking is? Like those squabbles you have with the missus, pretending its about one thing when it's really about summat else entirely:

  • Projecting personal insecurities on to the world and making others' problems a neurosis one really should be adult enough to keep to oneself.
  • Or just a power game - win/win crap where you get to slay the other side but still emerge as the cute loveable victim. Know that one? I'm an expert.

    And have you noticed how skilled in this art of offence-taking are some of the most evil and dangerous creeps? IRA and Sinn Fein great performers, as is the modern Islamist movement:

    "Know what, chief? we're so upset at what the Pope said in an obscure speech that none of us has actually read that we're going to have to bump off a few Coptic padres, and won't that just serve you right for being so rude?"

    Instead of pointing out the difference between legit free speech and murdering innocents, what do we do? We bleat about 'Oh dear, blimey, we've offended them. Can't have that. Quick everyone, feel really bad about this and blame ourselves and blame the Pope. In fact, jolly nice of those tolerant muslim johnnies not to have blown up more churches and whacked even more prelates.'

    So, we're never allowed to take offence at anything? Not quite. There are all sorts of offensive things we're perfectly entitled to get het up about: for a start, inviting you for dinner and then not bringing on the nosh til way past 10. Oh, and phoning during the siesta should be a capital offence.

    Seriously, this increasing trend of taking offence has bad undertones, all to do with single-issue power politics and a conspiracy to sanctify victimhood. Very American and becoming British by the day.

    Come on, chaps - get some perspective. Offence isnt something which inflicts itself on one willy-nilly. It's a state of mind. You can choose to take offence or you can choose NOT to be offended. Can't we be a little more grownup about our emotional responses?

  • Austen Addict

    Lawks, I must keep track of this tasty sounding offering:

    Scribblerene Laurie Viera Rigler has just delivered to her publishers her Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, "a literary homage, comedy, and exploration of identity, destiny, and the nature of time, that tells the story of a contemporary 30-summat LA woman (and Jane Austen fan) who wakes up inside the body of an Englishwoman in Austen's time."

    If LVR has pulled it off, I smell celluloid.

    23 January 2007

    Wicker Man

    In the break, I asked Tom Rush in the Tractor Tavern hadn't there been any way to block sonorous-voiced Scott Walker from screwing up Tom's "No Regrets"? Came the shrug, not really.

    The Wicker Man has been fucked up by Neil LaBute, Nick Cage playing a biker cop hunting a missing gal on a remote Pacific Isle.

    The inexplicably un-knighted Christopher Lee (Lord Summerisle) was asked his opinion of this latest execry.

    :"What do I think of it? Nothing."


    The great and good rwells sends me this killer link that acts as a proustian madeleine to gigs perdus with my Bainbridge Bagels buddies. Speaking of which, why did I never manage to haul Ricardo over to sit in? Fool, moi.

    busker and mikeGod that photo hurts.

    Me riding high in those days, ergo toting a $2000 Taylor (careful of that link, it has "sounds").

    And wonderful wonderful gravel-voiced Mike.mike and georgia

    Mr Wells is my guru on the saintèd Bob Dylan, through whom I've come to understand more about Zimmerman sahib than I deserve.
    bass playerI miss those days, even tho' you'll see from recent postings that I now plunk amid bottles of Chinon tilted by attentive garçons and seated with sophistiquées sirens from deepest Anjou.

    Look at that guy: totally cool. ZZ Top comes to Winslow-on-Sound.

    Bless you, Richard, paithi mou - it's this kind of inspiration from outta left fret that keeps one going.

    Waiter! Another pint of ouzo over here, parakalo!


    Or, Silly Addictive Acronym Game Clinches Work Slacking

    "A random sequence of letters, an acronym, is shown to all players. The players must come up with a sentence from these letters.

    Players then vote for their favorite sentence.

    The player with the most votes after 10 rounds wins the game."

    Slack away, chaps.

    busker and sam

    Bolthole in Belgravia

    Busker mère has a bijou pad down fashionable Sloane Street, a mere poppadom's frisbee from toff grocer, Harrods. I must check its re-value.

    Check this out for real estate nonsense:

    "... thought to be smallest property ever to go on sale in the UK:
  • Uninhabitable 11ft 3in x 7ft 3in former cleaner's cupboard in Chelsea, west London.
  • Asking price, a mere £170,000 - plus around £30,000 to make it habitable.
  • Refurbished, will allow single bed, shower and Lilliputian cooking area.
  • Bijou, compact, economic ... *but* just a dash from the luxury stores.
  • Not the first extortionate mini pad: A 62 sq ft former cupboard in Notting Hill was valued at £100,000 two years ago but has yet to come on the market.

    A scruffy garage on sought-after Sandbanks of Poole, Dorset, sold for £200,000 in 2005. And last week, it emerged that a converted broom cupboard in Knightsbridge, London, was valued at £150,000.

    21 January 2007

    Hunk Watch

    eduardo de bourg de bozace, or something like that

    A certain lady who is standing over me and whose favour I am *trying* to curry demands that I include one of the audience whom she finds "yummy".

    In fact, she asked me if it was Ben Afleck on the sofa.

    No, m'dear, that is an excessively cool Frenchie (no relation to Caroline and nor did he seem inclined to chat her up, thank goodness) with some title to boot.

    Nice guy, too, the bastard ....
    Oh, *I* know why madame wants me to post pics of m'sieur le comte de wotsit: it's so she can ogle the rude statue in the club with its devilish lighting.

    The tramp!

    Of course, you have to ask yourself did the latin smoothie sit there deliberately? God you have watch your women when these continentals are around.


    My beloved Bagels & Beanz it ain't, but I don't mind slumming.

    I have at last found where the local strummers hang out. Friendly crowd, not too proud to join in, some of them can even hold a note.

    Here's some shots of last Friday's singalong with a very pleasant South African bloke, English lady, and that's Kosta on the right with the classical axe adding some classy soloing.

    As keener-eyed readers will spot, the nosh and booze is of quite a high standard and candelabra, to boot.

    My dears, your roving Busker has definitely gone up in the world.
    Garçon! The chap in the white chemise who looks as if he is pouring wine?

    Glad you asked: he is the, ahem, butler  and that is exactly what he is doing, refilling one of the audience's glass.

    Julie Leung lookalike Caroline

    Soirée Jam

    Strummed a shy number (not photod coz too shy to ask anyone to snap me). Audience applauded like mad, just like the old days. Everyone terrifically talented.

    In came Caroline (Karo-Leen, française, dis donc) and found a vacant seat right by yours truly.

    Too much to ask of a man that he sits watching an attractive woman enjoying strummers and chanters when he knows he can step in and blow the opposition away ....

    the trio

    Alors! Shy retiring Busker drops all sorts of delicate hints that he's like sort of familiar with which way's north on a fretboard and might not need *too* much arm twisting to be dragged up front to "perform".

    "Allez!" purred Caroline, resting a hand on my quivering plectrum.

    "Oh ALL right," I grumbled, barging my reluctant way to the front and sending a tray of canapes flying.

    No guesses which decadent ditties I trundled out to watch mamzel's eyes glow: Busking the Cost (yawn groan) and the Bainbridge Ferry song, with Seabold Saturday as reluctant encore (yeah right ... bobbity lurch)

    Unfortunately, so dazzled was I by la C that i completely forgot to ask someone to snap ME.

    Duhh ...

    I blame it all on Caroline looking a bit like, or at least reminding me of, the lovely Julie Leung (whom God preserve) who will absolutely hate  being included in such a despicable looksist sexist posting but one is allowed to fancy other men's wives out here so who am I to defy tradition? Besides, when Ted comes after me with a meat cleaver, Mrs Pantopoulou from #21 has promised me she'll misdirect him out of Pyrgi and up towards Spartilla where he'll get lost in the olive groves, buying me enough time to don beard and silly nose.C being served another portion of puddingLook - I speak not with forked tongue: we had an actual butler serving us as we stomped and clapped and yodeled and did all the things music lovers do when they're bopping to Burl Ives and Trini Lopez covers (by Hermes that dates me).

    Psst, regardez the sheen on la belle Caroline's tresses. I couldn't take my eyes off her.

    (Also a touch of the divine Julie Vick (sigh).

    Dude! What IS  it about these Julies? Like, move ON , man ...)

    20 January 2007


    I like living in Greece more than you. #2

    I meant to take this down to revise in more pretentious fashion because, in my pretentious fashion, I had fancifully thought it contained germs of a wider story. Perhaps it does, but I'm not the writer to do it justice.

    Instead, let me just tighten and let the incident tell itself.

    To the airport to see the almond-eyed one off. Next up in the queue, Exhibit A family: be-joweled father, all red-faced grumbles, even more shapeless mum, and mid-20s faun daughter who seems to be eyeing the entrance in tell-tale fashion.

    The queue moves to check-out and, as it threatens to disappear into Customs, Faun tells her folks to "go ahead".

    Suddenly, thru the sliding door struts designer-stubbled adonis. Daughter breaks ranks to run to his arms where she stands immobile and enfolded.

    Mum goes "Oh my gawd"

    Dad emits elongated F-oath. "How'n bleeding hell he  get here?

    Mum: Leave off, Stan, I'll handle this. Come on, El', it's done wiv, girl. Just *leave* it, luv."

    'El' and her Greek stud stand immobile.

    Dad goes over ("Stan - i'm telling yer, leave it!") and delivers unwisely sharp jab to the Greek's shoulder ("That's enough. Whyn't you just get the message and move on.")

    Doe-eyed daughter looks up: "Dad, I'm telling you ...."

    Her man - fit and muscular bugger - opens one sleepy brown eye and the look needs no translation.

    "Except that I have this woman in my arms.

    Except that you are - pause for incredulity effect - 'father'

    You, mister, would be looking at a very different day"

    19 January 2007

    What American accent do you have?

    At last a site to help me plumb my American pals' - nay, daughters' - accents.

    Throughout my time in the States - San Antone, Boston, WA state - as well as from visiting pals and the strays I met around my travels, the message drummed into me has been that everyone else  has an accent but not the actual person addressing me.

    Now for the acid test, and also a chance for me to find out my *own* inner accent.

    Result of accent test: Dude! I've just taken the test with as truthful answers as I could muster and my very best ear to how I would say the words, and

    "That's a Southern accent you've got there. You may love it, you may hate it, you may swear you don't have it, but whatever the case, we can hear it."
    Nothing could be further, as pals and loved ones will attest.

    Silly test.

    18 January 2007

    Bags of Bovver Boots

    Sapristi! Do the Devil at 4! (and She wears Prada)

    No sooner do I post about the mother caique than my fashion-conscious Spitfire mails me this link from her Queen Anne eyrie with a plaintiff "Aww, Dad - this is so cool ."

    17 January 2007

    Goodness Gracious Me!

    Or, "Who's sari now?"

    Oh PuLEEZ, as my pal Kristine taught me to say ...

    Big Brother bullying : As if this yob-culture TV programme didn't already plumb the depths of lowest common taste, viewers are now affecting correctitude sensitivity by complaining about the treatment by her animal housemates of a dark-eyed vedette from the sub-continent.

    HellOO  (also for which thanks, Kris) ... that is the whole point of the spectacle.

    It's like the Coliseum mob crying spoil-sport over a gladiator kicking sand in the face of an opponent, the better to net and slice him with that kinky trident they wielded in those days.

    In fact, the only reason to set aside my Socrates to tune into this must-watch taj mahal of triteness is to check out the latest in:

  • Boors and bigotry
  • Racism, sexism, looksism, and any other -ism my compatriots may have come up with behind my back
  • The latest in guttersnipe jeers and taunts
  • Latest inarticulate ridiculings of: ethnic background, dietary habits, family tree and/or parental legitimacy, those quaint native garbs to be seen around Lancaster Gate, religious practices ... by George, the full monty.

    Shilpa: If that's her name, we're off to a flying start. The dusky lass is a knock-out babe, totally fair game for the quasimodos to lay waste to. She also sports a gift of an alluring accent that sends goose-pimples down my spine and is ripe for the mimic.

    Rage on, you Mumbai moaners, but our cup runneth over.

    'Clearing out the myths' : I do hope Carolyn Churchill is scribbling with curried tongue in cheek in her Herald piece :

    "It could also be envy. Shilpa is beautiful, successful, wealthy, charming and very dignified.

    If it is true racism it is unacceptable ...

    When she entered the house, Shetty said she wanted to 'clear out the myths and misconceptions of Indian people: we are modern, intelligent and glamorous'."

    Not for long, you ain't, if you've got to over-protest to that extent.

    Beautiful, successful, wealthy, charming, dignified? Versus 'true' racism?

    (Yes, please, whatever you do, spare us the pseudo bile)

    Of course it's envy, you big girl's blouse! By the jockstrap of Hermes! What a pathetic state the country must be in if it's sunk to platitudes of that  banality.

    Put it away, please: When Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren did a quaintly amusing duet yonks back, Sellers donned a first-rate Indian accent that would have had the record company burned on the pyre in today's emasculated times.

    If Big Brother is heading for a clean-up, it will lose its whole raison-d'être. The only hope is that this whole brouhaha is a clever PR stunt and that the Big Bro inmates will be cleared to produce even more offensive tricks from under their dhotis.

    Incidentally, Sellers had THE most gi-normous unrequited crush on Loren which was a bore to one and all. I was dating a girl who knew his daughter and we'd go round with tea and sympathy for what a nutty father he was. Heard all about his posturings and lapdog pleadings for the diva to junk elderly Carlo Ponti and flit off with the multi-voiced PS.

  • 16 January 2007

    morning from the guest wing

    I like living in Greece better than you #1

    This one will 'resonate' with fellow shipmates from my Rum, Bum and the Lash days below deck on the pirate galleon, Bezosia.

    May 2006: I go into the local TIM shop to set up a standing account to pay my cell phone bills via direct billing of my UK Visa card. Sandra Bullock-lookalike Maria looks after me and nods approvingly at all the correct documents with which I've come armed: credit card, passport, utility bill, proof of residence.

    She taps in the data and hits 'Enter'. Error message. Maria frowns and enters it again. Still error. She grabs the office Blackberry and calls head-office billing. Natter natter, glare at the monitor. Then she bawls out my CC details for all to hear.

    To a man raised under a regime that castrates tyro reps for much milder confidentiality gaffes, this is "distracting". Better is to come: Billing is not satisfied.

    "Please. Your PIN number."

    "My PIN? Why do they want my PIN ??"

    "For fixing your account."

    "But this is very private ... and where do they enter it?" She gives me a uniquely Greek raise of the eyebrows that would take an Iliad's length to even sketch: "You can write it on this paper."

    She is young and comely and her eyes caress me. I write it down.

    Sans a second's glance she hollers the numbers over the hub-bub: "Tesera - eksee - tesera - okto!"

    I glance round white-faced but everyone is too busy recording my numbers for posterity. Somewhere in Piraeus, a large cargo ship rocks gently under the weight of assorted household goods and plasma screens being loaded aboard, courtesy of the Busker plastic.

    July 2006: The direct billing is still not fixed and I am getting fed up trogging in to pay by cash. Maria is the soul of efficiency and tells me that Visa UK is refusing to pay. I call Visa and get the usual arrogant estuary accent that is British 'customer service' these days. I am informed that TIM have my expiration date wrong. Ah so.

    I tell Maria and she looks it up and they do NOT have it wrong. She calls me round to her side of the keyboard and we lean in together in a moment of thrilling intimacy. She gives me a conspiratorial wink as if to signal "Yes, indeed, how's that for a fringe benefit?"

    I hit redial and of course get another rep who puts me thru completely different hoops. Where am I calling from? Oh, Greece. Oh, right. Nice there, is it?

    I mentally fail her: Room for a roomful of effing Improvement.

    "Maybe they're entering it wrong. Maybe they're not entering the slash right."

    "What do you mean entering the slash. You *can't* enter the slash."

    "Oh yeah ... Maybe they use different dates over there and they think 04/09 means it expires on September 4th?"

    "What the bloody hell does it matter *how* they enter the numbers??" Maria's eyelashes flutter demurely at this outburst and she gives me a smile fit to make a Pappas set his chasuble aside. A man of action. I am made to apologise by the rep at the other end, which I do. Maria moues disappointedly. A mouse after all.

    I'm asked how they're entering the numbers. Are they using that thingy button by the space bar? "What? Do you mean are they tabulating?" Yes, because it doesn't always 'connect' that way. They should use the mouse to be sure of the connection. I almost explode again but keep my temper and tell her I'll try it a few other ways and report back. I ring off and roll my eyes. Maria smiles: "You were angry with her. I can tell." Her Bullock-lookalike nose wrinkles and her Mariah Carey jut-alikes heave under her taut uniform.

    January 2007: I have given up and am now paying in used Euros. This is not good enough for Maria, with whom I am now on first name terms and get served ahead of the queue-jumpers. She insists I call Athens, which she does on my behalf. I explain the problem and the lady looks up my account and tells me "There is a distance between Greek computer and English Visa computer." The way she pronounces 'distance' leaves me in no doubt that it is also a de haut en bas  distance, the superior Greek machine looking down from a great height on clunky messrs Visa in Northampton.

    "You cannot pay by this way. We do not accept foreign credit card for this manner of pay."

    "What? No one in Kerkira pays their bill by credit card standing order?"

    Patient pause. "Not in all Greece not pay this way." Ah so.

    I thank her and explain it to Maria so that they don't waste time on the next foreigner who applies for this service.

    She passes this on to Hector the manager who looks bored and shrugs.

    Yeah, like there's more like me out there.

    Wrinkled Globes

    Lovely quote from the brilliant Sacha Baron Cohen on hearing Borat announced as contender in best comedy section:

    "This movie was a life-changing experience," he said before regaling the audience with descriptions of the scene in which he wrestles his naked co-star Ken Davitian.

    "Ken, when I was in that scene and I stared down and saw your two wrinkled golden globes on my chin, I thought to myself, 'I'd better win a bloody award for this'."

    15 January 2007

    Only Connect

    James Kilpatrick good on use of 'only'.

    "Four little letters! When put properly together they spell O-N-L-Y, and when "only" is properly positioned in our writing, the gods of prose composition are greatly pleased.

    Seriously, no little dog trick of the writing art is easier to master or more attractive in its application than the effective placement of this 14th-century adverb. Every year in this column we use the same shifting example of an altercation on a playground:

    • Only John hit Peter in the nose. (Other combatants may have hit Peter in the eye or belly or back, but only John hit Peter in the nose.)
    • John only hit Peter in the nose. (John didn't knife him or shoot him; he only hit him in the nose.)
    • John hit Peter only in the nose (or John hit Peter in the nose only). (He didn't hit him on the eye or back or arm; he hit him only in the nose.)
    • John hit only Peter in the nose. (John didn't hit anyone else in the nose.)

    The trick, of course, is to place the "only" as close as possible to the word or phrase it modifies."

    09 January 2007

    Wild Oats

    Dimitri greeting partycrasher Ian DunaneAs blogged earlier, Maman held her annual Greek Epiphanatical knees-up for the great and good, to which came the distinguished gent seen here.

    I hadn't said much to him, him being clearly respectable and me being a grouch and sponger.

    D and party-crasher IanSuddenly he came up to me and started singing a jokey Greek song I had written 30 years earlier to pull the birds and ingratiate myself with the local taverna owners. How the deuce did he know the words?

    He gave me a big hug and asked, "Christos! Is you! You don't remember me?" I did not but he filled in the gaps. Mon Dieu - that Dimitri.

    internal shot of dimitri being the perfect guestBack in the jungle that was Kerkira circa 1974, I was running amok with pater's Fiat Spider and a Yairi nylon-string, and one of the baaddest dudes around was a shaggy-haired entrepreneur, hated by all but feared for his money, ruthless ways and brilliance as a sirtaki dancer. Dimitri.

    Spotting my pied piper ways with the chicks, he took me under his pterodactyl wing and virtually gave me carte blanche  with his discos and eateries.We embraced and summoned large brandies for the toast.

    I reminded him of a splendid incident that did my ego no end of good:

    That year's disco of choice was D's Apollo Dancerie, which I naturally frequented and for which the beat was often silenced for yours truly to take the microphone and chant. Eeuww and megalo yukk, I know.

    Into this disco would come an odious type, loaded with money and swimming with lady friends of deep cleavage and vacant expressions. Dimitri took an instant dislike to him.

    One evening I found myself invited to a beach party for which I needed booze and cigs, so I asked the barkeep if I could have a bottle of red and pack of his finest Papastratos "on account".

    "F- me, mate," said moneybags with a sneer, "You'll be lucky."

    Dimitri was in earshot and snapped out, "TWO bottles! NO CHARGE!" The twit's face was a picture.

    I laughingly reminded Dimitri of his splendid gesture, at which his expression darkened.

    "I said that? Christos - I am so sorry. I should have said 'Two bottles wine, one brandy, my most beyootiful barmaid ... NO CHARGE."

    "Hang about," said Larisa his exquisite wife, who'd sidled up to see what the love-in was all about.

    "That was me. Remember?"


    Why is it just me finds this news flash funny? Why have I had to 'explain' it to everyone to whom I've read it aloud?

    Let me test it on the 'A' crowd.

    Little news paragraph on page 5 of Athen News for Jan 5:

    Drugs at the border

    Greek police near the border with Albania arrested two men allegedly trying to carry 400 kilos of hashish into the country on January 1.

    One man used a mule to carry the drugs.

    Er ... ?

    08 January 2007


    A splendid day - marvelous weather, full complement of favourite guests, the Pappas arrived on time and blessed us all ... and fine nosh and vino to see us all merry.

    More pics and text anon. 

     Posted by Picasa

      Posted by Picasa

    Disparate Reparations

    Hail 2007! Bold bicentenary of the Slave Trade Abolition Bill!

    In honour of which - and before I get stuck in on my own  petty quibbles - let's admire how the UK Spectator's Fraser Nelson kicks off his observation that, Two hundred years after its abolition, the slave trade will return to haunt Britain in 2007

    "It is hard to describe the Slave Trade Abolition Bill 1807 as a Labour victory, given that it predates the party by a century.

    Still, this does not deter Tony Blair or Gordon Brown from staking their claim to it.

    ‘The reactionaries told us that to abolish slavery was an impossible cause,’ the Chancellor recently declared to Labour members.

    Abolition was a great victory against ‘Tory money’, said the Prime Minister.

    On the eve of the bicentennial year of William Wilberforce’s legislation, both men are preparing to take a vicarious (if wholly undeserved) bow.

    Set aside the fact that Wilberforce was a Tory MP. Messrs Blair and Brown make a deeper error in presuming that slavery has been banished from Britain. It has come back — and on their watch. It now involves mainly Slavic or Asian woman, rather than African men. The slaves of 21st-century Britain work in bordellos rather than fields, and are bought and sold in airports rather than a Caribbean market place. The price is £8,000 a head rather than £200. And the trade has acquired a new name: human trafficking."

    Meaty stuff.

    My own bean-counting whinge is nowhere as current or punchy. All I want to know is, given this correctitude kerfuffle about compensating the heirs of those traders put out of business -

  • To whom does the money go?
  • And how much?

    Damn but we're talking global commerce. The shuffling shackled bent to the lash across:

  • Mesopotamia
  • Egypt
  • Hebrewshire
  • Greece
  • Rome
  • Persia
  • China
  • All them Mayan and Aztec civilisations
  • India
  • Africa, natch
  • New Guinea
  • New Zealand
  • Germany
  • And don't forget those horny-helmeted Viking raiders (from whom yours truly is proudly descended, courtesy of some brooding Danes over on a rape-n-pillage daytrip, liked it so much they set up holm in God's own county of Yorkshire.)

    That is a lot of senior slavers out of decent home help. No wonder we're looking to redress the balance.

    Related reading: From Accra/Cape Town, Manu Herbstein writes politely to put my niggardly cavils in perspective.

    "You might be interested," he suggests, sending me details of his very own Ama, A story of the Atlantic slave trade, and winner of the SABC's "Award for Innovative Use of New Media" at the 2003 Highway Africa conference.

    You know what, MH? Sounds rude and dismissive, I know, but I'm not. I'm here for the beer and to score cheap points with tasteless puns.

    But I am happy to recommend your worthy chef-d'oeuvre  to one and all and wish you hearty and deserved sales during this commemorative year. I trust your publishers have clinched all relevant tie-ins and grabbed prominent window displays along the busiest thoroughfares.

  • 07 January 2007

    Mrs A's Buttons

    The Fence Joker (itself a terrribly in joke) touts the Devil’s Dictionary X™ on his blog which gives me the idea to approach messrs Carr and Anastasi about noising abroad news of their splendid collection of Greek sayings, "Your Eyes Fourteen! A Mad Greek Dictionary". ('Ta matia sou dekatessera!' if you want to be terribly swanky and risk a Levantine biff up the hooter).

    How I know of this volume is from extracts on the back page of Athens News (after the International Herald Tribune, the only English language paper you really need read over here to stay au fait  with the news).

    The more arcane the better, as far as I'm concerned, and I *try* to use them when fellow tongue-tied non-Greeks are around.

    Latest one I've been bandying around is "These are Mrs Alexander's Buttons".

    Don't ask me whence it derives but it means something like, "Those are the facts" or "That's the truth."

    Word has it that it comes from the rag trade. Mrs A must have taken in some costly buttons to be sewn on a création, had them filched and replaced by cheapos.

    The proverbial recovery of the "real" buttons must have caused a stir in the biz, coming to stand for revealing the facts of the case.

    I use it in Greek as I do "That's all she wrote" in English, itself a phrase with a history.

    ('Is this another name drop?' - Ed. Yes. How did you know? 'Well make it fast')

    Wayy back in 1973, then-unknown-to-the-Brits scribbler Elmore Leonard passed through London and I had to get my skates on and fetch him some publicity.

    I whizzed copies out to the Lit Eds of his last two ignored novels (the preferred verb was 'privished') and begged them to at least meet 'Dutch' and feign interest. Not at all to my surprise, once forced to read a page or two (or go without the famous Holmes Christmas backhander), the literati loved them and demanded to know why I hadn't been more forceful in their original promotion.

    So there we were in his hotel room, everyone asking respectful questions and lovely Elmore replying with juicy quotes.

    Suddenly he came out with the closing phrase, "That's all she wrote."

    Everyone looked at each other non-plussed. Lovely line and delivered with impeccable gumshoe precision by our boy, but none of us had the faintest idea what the deuce it meant.

    Taking the cue from the others, I asked Dutch to translate. He pondered awhile and then gave a little laugh,

    "Ya know, guys, I'm not too sure myself - but I do know I used it right."

    Post-script on 14 eyes : Researching this odd phrase, I came across the utterly beguiling Greek-American Girl site that I simply must *speed* to my own Spitfire so that she's 100% clued when next she visits her renegade patera in his Albanian hole-in-the-wall hideout.

    Angry and defrauded

    Pondering anew on the vexed question of whom to reparate for loss of slave trade income, and how *much* per person (what is the going rate for a slave these days?), I revisited the writings of that splendid pied piper of British imperialism, Joseph Rudyard Kipling.

    In particular, the great man's poems where I came across his wry and uncomfortably topical Dead Statesman.

    I could not dig; I dared not rob;
    Therefore I lied to please the mob.
    Now all my lies are proved untrue
    And I must face the men I slew.
    What tale shall serve me here among
    Mine angry and defrauded young?

    Frenchies Fried

    or, How to cop a Parisian 'tude

    J'kid pas.

    No, seriously, chaps, everyone knows my love/hate/hate relationship with my French confrères and con-soeurs (gad that sounds rude), hence my hilarity at clever Max Davison's report on how

    "... Parisians have finally got wise to the fact that they are a byword for rudeness and launched a charm offensive.

    As reported ... a new tongue-in-cheek travel guide by the Paris tourist board deconstructs

  • The Gallic Shrug
  • The Moue
  • ... and some of the other magisterially dismissive gestures that so annoy visitors to the French capital.

  • Alors, you thought that waiter making juggling movements with his hands had dropped a croissant? Mais non. He was executing a gesture known as Les Boules, which is as offensive as it sounds.
  • You were baffled by that woman squeezing her thumb and forefinger together ..."
  • Clever stuff.

    Check out, too, Max's deft spoof on the repertoire of gestures and facial expressions in the Londoner  s' armoury, a section more suitable for our transAtlantic cousins than those rhino hides across the Channel: Whereas yer Johnny Frog would simply shrug gallically at Max's cheeky barbs, les Merkans would go into a tizzy and take careful note so's not to put a brogue wrong.

    Kate Middleton

    The paparazzi hounding of Miss Middleton will never now end. Even if she dumps my future monarch, she will still be bankable as the weirda who turned down a "normal" life for living death in the spotlight. As I say, silly gel.

    But to the more immediate serious problem of the reptiles harassing her where'er she goeth.

    Gosh - difficult one this: One can hardly lash out at these vermin without providing a gift of a pic and making news itself and a hero of the bruised reporter.

    But surely Willie boy has some anonymous pals in the ranks who can arrange a cast-iron untraceable 'tragic' accident? What do they teach the military these days? And what a brilliant advertisement for Britain's armed forces if they could pull something like this off under the very nose of Inspector Plod.

    Speaking of which, the police would be even better bets for a job well done: If they can chase an innocent bloke into the London Underground and pump him full of bullets, what could they do with Fourth Estate scum with a Nikon?

    Long gun versus long-distance lens? No jury would convict.

    Come on, chaps - thinking caps on. There's a New Year's 2008 honour in it for some clandestine hero.

    06 January 2007

    “For cristsakes, just come already.”

    OK, that's from the 2003 charts but it does remind me of the Resolution I *forgot* to make for 2007, namely to stop the heck citing/quoting from a certain Belial of the Bandwidth.

    With that out of the way, here's the infuriatingly viewable Top 101 Devil’s Dictionary X™ views for 2006.

    Mind Messing

    For my American family and pals, Davina Bristow's amusing Dis-Illusions - surprisingly, in the far from mind-messing Daily Telegraph.

    04 January 2007

    Amazon 30-day price guarantee

    Whether true or no, my fingers are ever a-twitch to share new news about my alma mother ship, the HMS Bezosia (Tel: 1-800-201-7575, extension 7).

    Slate's Timothy Noah has sleuthed its 30-day price guarantee.

    "What 30-day price guarantee?

    Like Amazon's customer-service number itself, the 30-day price guarantee is not something Amazon publicizes. For instance, it isn't mentioned on the "Refunds" page. If you click here you'll learn all about Amazon's 30-day returns policy, which provides a full refund for most unopened items returned within 30 days.

    But that's different from the 30-day price guarantee, which requires only that you pay attention to whether Amazon lowers its price within 30 days after you purchase your item. If it does, Amazon will refund you the difference.

    No need to box up your purchase or fret about receiving only a partial refund because you removed the plastic wrap."


    Wonderful weather. Chateau Busker looking splendid as we prepare for our annual Jan 6 12th-Night Epiphane open-house.

    The local Pappas comes up to bless us; mama's churchy pals are allowed in for tea and crumpets and to trample the flowers. Sam and I are on best behaviour.

    snowcapped albaniaThe mountains of Albania a fine sight today.

    100kms away, but clear as a whistle and magnifique.

    Busker and Sam looking formalNot by any means posed, but Busker and trusty hound looking rather 'prawper'. 

    Book Reviews

    I know what I keep meaning to do to get the message out:

    Plug the excellent Happy Hols Corfu so that those London publishing publicity pals whom I did *not* get round to seeing over Christmas can check out my review of Pat Storace's Dinner with Persephone and add me to their list of overseas reviewers who actually deliver.

    Any questions, email me and I'll also give you the Kerkira address to which to send your goodies.


    Dylan Spillin'

    What *is* it is about the sainted Roberto Dylan that makes his songs such a magnet for kamikaze inkompetence?

    I was at a session last night where we were all singing well in the safety zone - all the tupperware non-descripts that one seldom comes a cropper on: John Denver, Tom Rush, Ralph McTell, that other John - Prime, that's it - and some creep gets up and launches into Dylan's 'Rolling Stone' followed by a medley of others. A *medley*, fer chrissake. Even Dylan himself treads warily over medleys, and they're his own work.

    We sat there stunned and then grumpy and then headed for the bar where we talked loudly of the dustmen's strike and the merits of banjo strings on the bouzouki.

    But it did remind me of an incident back in my good old Seabold days when all concerned were ever-so much more polite but the wreckage no less great and grotesque: a perfectly nice young man of impeccable pedigree upped and 'delivered' the MOST ghastly rendering of Visions of Johanna.

    Oh Lord, I thought that was safely down the memory hole ... must have been good old Larry Dewey emailing me a few weeks back to say hi and remind me of those balmy evenings with the gang in the hallowed Bagels.

    Now I look back at that Busker blog, most of June onward has some really nostalgic postings. So perhaps it was worth the price of remembering the excisions of Johanna.