27 December 2007

Empoli ~ Firenze ~ Bologna ~ Bari

A rather wretched 10 days' hiatus over Christmas during which I didn't even need the camera handy: I have pics of the Italy place and it never varies.

  • Ill-lit and faintly depressing in its bankruptcy of owt to distract a non gardener.
  • Superbly cooked meals but of such richness that nights were writhings of indigestion
  • Booze booze booze for every meal ... and more booze and more witless twitterings as the drink too effect.
  • Apnean grunts and sleeplessness each night.

    The only thing that saved me and made my room a sanctuary was the well-channeled TV. Lifesaver.


    I kept a calendar on the wall and counted down the 10 days til it was time to catch that 0718 train from Firenze and ride, at which point I took the camera out and clicked.

    From Firenze, I changed at Bologna for the long ride down to Bari, and here my fellow passengers were the stuff of novels.

    sleeping neighbour

    My neighbour across the table looks a bit drowsy but he's listening to his iPod and was great company, catching my eye when a frosty old fogey clambered on and complained about everything, and also translating for me when the chatter picked up.

    punk neighbor 

    At one of the stations en route, a punkish figure joined us and sat next to Signor iPod, much to our joint dismay. But he turned out to be a decent sort and even mocked himself for all the calls he was taking and his mass of tattoos.

    He had a belt with some English pop group's name emblazoned but i had never heard of them so i was one big failure and poor representative of my musical race.

    phone chatter 

    This chap was reading Marquez' 'Time of Cholera' and was clearly some sort of business honcho if his important calls were owt to go by.

    Post-script pics: In my ungracious way, I had to check out Sinbad's commentarial links (as I choose to name him) in case they were as deadly dull and self-serving as I feared. As usual, I was completely wrong.

    • Wonderful bustling carriage, exactly capturing the spirit of my journey.
    • A charming and evocative portrayal of two young ladies, uncannily mirroring my companions and whom I would certainly have pestered and chatted up in their day.
    • Thirdly, an endearingly donnish self-snap of Sinners himself that I leave to anyone interested to look up for themselves,
      • This blog is here to stalk and feature comely damsels, not housemasterly types who could have been on duty at either of the loathèd schools in which I did time.
  • 26 December 2007

    Firenze to Bologna

     The countryside was endless shapeless greenery interspersed by long coastlines of beach and sea, deserted now except for amblers and joggers.

    dozing ragazzas 
    These two ladies are pensive or dozing now but were the greatest fun.

    I don't capture any of her startling beauty here, dammit, but the gal in red had ultra green eyes and the most feline freckles. I kept wanting her to look my way or for me to be brave enough to ask for a pose, but alas ....

    The chatterbox takes a break and reads.



    25 December 2007

    Yule in Tuscan-shire

    Some of the views from my bro's property are stunning.

    This was the setting sun from my freezing bathroom. At least, if I never got more than a tepid bath, I could gaze out the window and get eye candy.

    long view 

    The grounds swell and then sweep down in a valley far as one can see.

    view from paddock 

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    19 December 2007

    Athenian Trampler


    Give that man a large prosecco: pedestrian in Athens finds - surprise, surprise - a whacking great SUV blocking his pavement, so he just walks over it.

    I like to think he was in hobnailed boots with big sharp metal studs.

    That motorist behaviour is so normal around here, and i speak only for Corfu.

    Wonderful story and if i knew which account to which to send his legal fees, it would be in the outbox.

    Quote of the week:

    "Now I will be tried for property damage but police did not even bother giving the car owner a parking ticket."

    18 December 2007

    andy mckee - guitarist

    to fend off all those who mail or phone me at ungodly hours to plead, "in the name of charlie, play me 'drifting'."

    le voici.

    now can i go back to sleep?

    Challenging Brief

    Must-read Telegraph journo and parodist supreme, my old pal Craig Brown, gets my vote for best pre-Yule sighting:

    A challenging brief

    "A reader of my parodic A-Z of Eth!cal PR column by Su Barking has kindly sent in a cutting from the magazine PR Week, dated November 9, 2007.

    "Clew Communications is to provide PR support for the relaunch of the controversial drug Thalidomide," it reads.

    A photograph of the MD of Clew Communications, Mary Hicks, is captioned simply: "Hicks: challenging brief."

    "US company Pharmion has called in the agency ahead of an expected launch across the UK and Europe in 2008. The drug hit the headlines in the 1970s when it emerged that its use in treating sickness during pregnancy in the previous decade had resulted in birth defects," continues the report. "The agency's MD Mary Hicks said: 'The drug's history is a challenge but less so than we expected.'?"

    Quoth Brown, "It serves as a handy reminder that satire, however excessive, will always be outclassed by reality."

    Faggot faggot faggot faggot faggot

    (I feel better now)

    No, I don't.

    My stoopid blighted landofmyfathers benighted Blighty has sunk so low that cretins like Radio 1 can, with a straight face, even *think* of banning Fairytale of New York from their playlist because it includes the word "faggot".

    14 December 2007

    13 December 2007

    George Who?

    Quite clever George Clooney advert(s) for Nespresso ... or I think they are.

    A lady of my acquaintance thinks he is the cat's whiskers and since I think *she* is rather fine, there's a trickle down effect.

    Anyway, the UK Daily Torygraph newspaper is plastering their e-dition with this commercial and CNN Asia, which is what we get in Greece, ditto.

    Tom Petty - Running Down a Dream

    At the end of the day, when they cut my guitar open, 'Tom Petty' will be engraved there.

    Everything I thought I was composing had his influence in the background.

    The sneaky thing is that one thinks he's accessible, that you can be like him and that he's mortal and that you can get inspiration, not like the unattainables like Dylan. But, as the man says, Tom's a bad ass.

    Harvest Moon

    We were still in PacMed and I'd gone up one Sunday from Bainbridge to catch up with the customer survey I was running.

    Mr Zach Works (whom God preserve) had his desk just behind mine and he was in India, toting the white man's burden, bringing Fromgrep to the masses.

    Around lunch time I got bored so I ambled over to Zach's desk and borrowed a CD, which happened to be this person called Neil Young of whom I had vaguely heard, and the track I played happened to be 'Harvest Moon' of which I had never heard.

    I was considerably blown away and it's stayed a favorite ever since - and now here it is on YouTube with as nice a video as the song deserves.

    (Another huge favor Zack did me that day was have Iris DiMent on view for me to play).

    12 December 2007

    Zizzi Lop


    Not just at the title but for the poor man:

  • Dude enters London restaurant - in the Strand, no less
  • Lopes into kitchen, grabs knives, slashes self about a bit
  • Lops johnson orf.

    What *is* it with my god-forsaken bully state benighted Blighty?

  • 11 December 2007

    Busker's Big Baa-baa Fib

    33 years after the event, and after being branded fibber ... I can share this experience, and maybe the couple (in their early 60s now) will see this and understand.

    road from san luca; shepherd in distance

    The road I'm driving down in this picture was built 34 years ago by my parents for the builders to access the land on which the house was/is built.

    There was nothing but peasant paths and grazing land. No 'lectricity, no nothing.


    When I first came out on holiday, I stayed in a small room in Kondokali and drove up in my dad's Fiat Spider to check progress of the house and be what nuisance I could.

    After a decent interval pretending to lash the builders on, I'd collect my guitar and cool shades and zoom off to the softest sands, there to get on the outside of the coldest Mythos beers, strum the songs du jour and try to get on this inside of the warmest holiday chicks. Paradise, as I recall.

    One morning I was informed that I was needed to give up a few hours doing shepherd duty while Polydoros ('Many gifts') was in town on an emergency.

    Nothing to it, since a) the dog would do all the herding including keeping time, and b) the sheep could do it all themselves except that they were, um, sort of sheeplike and, um, needed someone there. But in a pinch they could see themselves home and into the pen etc.

    So I cruised down in my finery in the natty sports car and strummed a bit of guitar to while the time and drank a little ouzo and took a little sun and then across the field came two backpackers. As they approached, the girl looked in her phrase book and asked me which way to town. Giving her my greekest stare,I replied in fluent Oxford tones that the bus left every 20 minutes from outside the taverna.

    My! What good english i spoke; almost as good as a native, wouldn't her boyfriend say? BF nodded.

    And what was i doing there, may she ask? A swig and a swill and a wink and a plunk of the guitar. "Just a little shepherding before heading on into town for supplies." Goodness, and was that my car over there? "That li'l jalopy? Yes indeed. Nifty little machine when it wants to be."

    And so we bantered on until i noticed the hour creeping up when the faithful dog would rise and git them muttons back home to the toothless ma.

    Timing it perfectly, i begged their pardon as i got Fido to help me herd them home. "Yee haw!" I signaled just as the dog rose to do the job anyway. Then I got into the Fiat and slowly drove behind the herd as it shambled home. My new friends followed.

    As we neared the house, i stopped the car and got out and advanced on the house where the dog was shooing the sheep into a large pen whose gate had been opened by a toothless hag in standard black attire.

    "Ah mother!" I called out, "I met some friends back in the field and I thought I'd give them a lift into town, do a bit of shopping and gossiping with the lads, and be back for a spot of luncheon around ... ooh, who knows? Okey doke with you?"

    Not understanding a blind bit of what I'd just said, but seeing that I had fulfilled my bargain in bringing the mutton home, the old lady chucked my cheek and waved me on my way.

    I gave the pair a lift into town, gracefully acknowledged their continued admiration of my command of the english language - not to mention envy of my trade as playboy shepherd ... and tootled on my way to the nearest beach n bar.

    I never saw them again but wondered what tales they told of this immaculately tailored farm boy who drove a buzzbox car and sang Kingston Trio and lived the life of Riley ...

    Maybe someone will point this page out to them and they will finally know the truth.

    10 December 2007

    Greek Girls on Parade

    Under-*AGE* girls, I wouldn't be surprised, but let's not sink too incorrect or provocative.

    I only chose that title to inflame and enrage my B-list readership who keep me on my toes.

    photo rack of snaps of local school kids on parade
    As you see, the young folk out here know how to dress, how to carry themselves; they have a sense of duty and pride.

    Every time there's a saints' day or national occasion, out they come and they march to the sound of the big bass drum.

    And out come the patriotic paparrazzi to snap this flower of youth ....

    Can you imagine in America (or bully state England, come to think of it) walking past a streetside photography store and seeing a snap of your daughter/sister/girlfriend/self up there for any perve to buy - and nary a mention to you or permission asked? Huge guffaw.

    You would totally freak, and your attorney would hit them with a mega-buck law suit for privacy abuses.


    Not so out here in the cradle of democracy: we take things easier and no one thinks anything of it ...

    Look at some of the proud but incurious looks on this flower of corfiot youth - lads as well as lasses. Look, indeed, at some of those young stalwarts, period. I can well see why the lensman thought, "Ayup, here's a dead cert for centre rack."


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    A Little Closer Up



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    09 December 2007

    Morecambe, Wise and ... Grieg

    The classic sketch with conductor/ivories tinkler Andrew Preview (not to mention Mia Farrow furrower) ... God they were funny. Every single show a gem.

    08 December 2007

    Mafia-style flirting

    Soigné self-styled expert, Marco Gambino, reveals the secret of a good flirt: Most important is eye contact and the ability to maintain it.

    "Gazing is one of our weapons as Italians," boasts Gambino. "British men and women avoid eye contact because they're scared."

    Another common error: talking too much.

    "Body language is less open to misunderstandings," quoth MG, "Words can be misinterpreted, especially by women."


    1. Use your eyes. Fix the object of your desire with a steady, unwavering gaze.
    2. Carry yourself with confidence. This will help to make you look more attractive.
    3. Keep your body language open and responsive. Crossing your arms is a definite no-no.
    4. Be gently tactile. Just the brush of a hand is enough.
    5. Listen and be receptive. There's nothing more heady than someone else's full, undivided attention.
    6. Be light-hearted and playful. Don't mention train delays or problems at work.
    7. Make an effort with your appearance. There is no shame in a bit of grooming (as any Italian will tell you.)
    8. Be brave. The British get 'overattached to their lonely nests'.
    9. Avoid cracking jokes. British men often have a very restricted humour that only functions through mates and jokes, says Marco. "This means women feel ostracised."
    10. Don't talk too much; fewer words the better.

    06 December 2007

    fotoLibra Version 4

    My brilliant good pal Gwyn Headley has launched fotoLibra Version 4.0 and it is bloody brilliant.

    Do give it a look ...

    Drunk 'n' dishevel'd

    Every time I'm tempted to pop back to visit blighted benighted Blighty, they come up with something to remind me what a pigmy of a once-proud country it has sunk to.

    This time it's the government's surefire stocking-filler on How to Recognise Drunks.

    Yes, I have ordered some for loved ones' ire and amusement.


  • Be alert for the staggering and "dishevelled"
  • Listen for "rambling conversation"
  • Offensive language
  • Careless with money
  • Exhibiting inappropriate sexual behaviour
  • Bumping into furniture
  • Spilling drinks; drinking quickly and/or competitively
  • Losing train of thought
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Not understanding what's said
  • Glassy-eyed or lack of focus.

    The pub trade lost no time dissing this load of cobblers as "absolute nonsense", calling on the Government to focus rather on supermarkets that flog cheap alcohol.

    But Orwell lives: undercover officers will mingle in pubs this Yule and issue 80 quid fixed penalties to staff who knowingly sell booze to drunks.

    Know what would have happened in my day down the Wandsworth Road Plough? Some undercover Filth come in and start dishing out tickets to Ray and the staff? I don't reckon he'd've made it out alive.

    But fuck! Offensive language? Dishevelled? Sexy lingo?

    It's like those tests to find out if you're an alcoholic: answer 'yes' to just 3 out of 20 and you're on the slippery slope ... me, it takes ingenuity and rubbery lies to squeeze even *one* 'No' out of it.

  • 05 December 2007

    Self Epitaph

    This is utterly unlike me and I wouldn't think of posting except it gets me inside and a breather from hideous yardwork.

    I woke around 5am still with a clear memory of a dream and this silly 'verse'.

    I was in flat countryside with workers in the distance in what looked like paddy fields.

    A voice was intoning some lines and a stonemason a few feet away was transcribing them onto a headstone.

    I felt the voice's hand on my shoulder and I didn't want to turn round because I thought it might be my father. It wasn't his voice but it *could* have been in the post-Pearly Gates timbre they give you.

    It was delivered very calmly.

    I've edited and changed it as the day's gone on ...

    I'm so tired. Where can I sit for a view?
    Here will do. You go about your chores
    And we can meet up later, for petits fours
    It was such a silly rhyme, I worried about laughing.

    The stonemason was trying to finish it to some deadline and kept looking across at me as if the words were a portrait that required getting my likeness right.

    When he'd finished it, he laid it on his lap and the voice said, 'Now he must hurry' and I was led down towards the paddy workers where they pointed me towards a mini worldwind that scooped me up and whisked me waking to my bed.

    I sat up, grabbed a pen and marveled that I'd use petits-fours when i don't even know what they are. Some sort of After Eight post-dinner sweetmeats, no?

    I'll Google and add.

    Self-tuning guitar

    Go, you Gibson.

    04 December 2007


    the boss at work 

    Sam on air guitar 

    Rick and Lith in discussion 
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    Yule Muzak

    I'm standing in the post office listening to the piped Greek versions of the old familiars, and enjoying the way the locals are whistling and clicking along: Jingle Bells, Ave Maria, Greensleeves, Silent Night, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen ...

    And all I can think of - or hear - is the incomparable Tom Lehrer's take on the commoner carols.